Cinemas are back and they're open every day.
It’s the school holidays, cinemas are open (again!), and there’s a backlog of quality viewing just waiting for you to check out.
We may not have checked out the new Paw Patrol movie just yet – sorry about that – but here’s our guide to (almost) everything else you might want to see this weekend with a big bucket of popcorn in hand.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shaun (Simu Liu) spends his days parking cars at a hotel in San Francisco with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) and his nights singing karaoke, again with his best friend Katy. Her family thinks they’re wasting their lives; his family… isn’t mentioned. Then a mysterious band of thugs attack them on a bus, it turns out his previously unmentioned martial arts skills are irrepressible, and one demolished bus later Shaun / Shang is off to Macau with Katy in tow to find his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang). Turns out their father is Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), possessor of the legendary Ten Rings and chief of a thousand year-old crime society. Wenwu put his crime life into hibernation when he fell in love with their mother (Fala Chen), who was the guardian of Ta Lo, a mysterious supernatural village. She’s been dead for over a decade – only their father, now back on the evil side of the street, thinks he has a way to bring her back…
A run of decent fights early on and some fun chemistry between the two leads provides some strong bedrock for what turns out to be a fairly solid, if only moderately spectacular, Marvel origin story. Putting some effort into developing the character of the main villain (a definite rarity for a Marvel film) pays off big time as well, though the rest of the supporting cast – with the exception of Michelle Yeoh – largely fade into the background. As a superhero movie it’s a lot of fun, a done-in-one package that provides all the required thrills – and a few surprises – while hitting all the required notes with impressive force. As a martial arts movie it’s a little flat; the fights are good and generally well framed (so we can tell what’s actually going on) but the CGI required for the superhero effects detracts from the feel of seeing real people doing real stunts that makes the best fights so thrilling. That’s possibly why the final act, which swerves into all-out fantasy, works so well.
Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an artist who’s lost his drive artistically and with it his already precarious place in the Chicago arts scene. His girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris) is an art gallery director who’s going places, and his failure to keep up is causing friction. Looking for inspiration in his community – well, not his actual community, because his community isn’t interesting to white buyers, but in the increasingly gentrified former slum known as Cabrini Green – he hears about the legend of Candyman. Candyman’s angle – his hook, if you will – is that after you say his name five times in a mirror he turns up and kills you.
You’d think would rapidly thin out the number of people stupid enough to do that and surprise! This film is (in part) directly about that. It’s also about gentrification, black culture and where it’s situated in America, cycles of social unrest and abuse, myth-making, and why both cops and art critics deserve to die. That’s a lot, and the dreamy, almost aimless storytelling early on that enables it to touch on so many different angles is one of this film’s biggest strengths. It’s only when it tries to tie it all together that this stumbles, as the reason of sorts behind all this is too little, too late, and too muddled to really pay off on all the creepy promise of the earlier scenes. This version of Candyman is covering a lot of ground culturally, and even a hook-handed killer swarming with bees can’t do everything.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a NPC (non player character) in a Grand Theft Auto-style world, only he becomes self-aware thanks to the power of love (take that, Skynet) and inserts himself into his dream-girls quest to uncover the dark secret at the heart of Free City. Said dream girl, Millie (Jodie Comer), is a player from the real world, the dark secret is corporate theft, he has to level up to even get her to notice him and yeah, this movie does have a few dodgy moments around the area of personal relationships. The plot is a bit all over the place too, as Guy’s journey of self-actualisation doesn’t have much to do with Millie’s real-world struggle to gather proof that her game design was stolen by Taika Waititi’s evil corporate video game company.
Still, most of the time this manages to be an interesting car crash of a film. That’s in large part because Reynolds is an actual movie star playing a clearly defined character and it’s amazing how far that can go to hold a movie together. All the male-female relationships here are kind of creepy, the “oppressed peoples rise up” subplot is tonally weird, a brief comedy insertion of some Disney IP would be an amusing gag if it didn’t explicitly state that Disney IP is superior to anything created for this movie, and gamers outside of a handful of guest stars are presented solely as little kids or basement-dwelling creeps. But yeah, a lot of things explode, in-jokes abound, and Reynolds remains charming: it basically all evens out.
Don’t Breathe 2
Don’t Breathe 2 took it’s time getting here. The original was released in 2016 and slotted into the then-current trend for “elevated horror” despite mostly being a fairly grungy high concept horror where a trio of would-be thieves broke into an old blind guys house only to discover it’s full of traps, he’s basically Daredevil as far as hearing goes, and there’s a twist with a turkey baster nobody saw coming. It’s also a sequel where we’re supposed to forget all that turkey baster stuff, because this time the bad guy, Norman Nordstrom, AKA “The Blind Man” (Stephen Lang) is more badass than bad dude. The real lead is eleven year old Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), who lives with Norman and spends her days being taught survival tactics because they live in Detroit 2021. On an extremely rare trip to the outside world, Phoenix and Hernandez (Stephanie Arcila), Norman’s only link to humanity, encounter a scuzzy group of van-dwelling dirtbags while a TV in the background talks about a missing Doctor wanted for organ-legging. Could these things be connected? Yes, but not in the way you’re probably thinking.
The middle chunk of the film is basically a retread of the first film; criminals turn up at Norman’s house looking to grab something, only to realise they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. He’s still a blind man taking out the trash, but he’s struggling with it and not all the trash gets taken all the way out to the bin. Because this isn’t quite a horror film, it’s able to pull off a few minor gear changes during the home invasion scenes that keep things slightly more interesting than “find them and kill them”. The third act throws in a few twists (including a location change) that may not be entirely plausible for a crime film but work just fine as this slides a little further down towards the horror end of the scale. Everything here is nuts if you think about it, but it’s all equally nuts so it evens out – leaving Lang, who is a great screen presence, the clear winner.
Visit Village Cinemas in Geelong here.