Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings
(Destin Daniel Cretton)
In some ways, Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is your basic Marvel origin project, introducing a familiar comic-book character into the ongoing movie project so that character can team up with established characters down the line. But the hero’s relative obscurity gives director Cretton and co-writers Dave Callaham and Andrew Lanham licence to start fresh, introducing Kim’s Convenience star Simu Liu as Shaun, a San Francisco everydude who just happens to be fluent in multiple languages, and really good at kicking people in the face when he has to. He’d really rather just work an undemanding job and hang out after hours with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina)…but then, of course, destiny comes calling. Some parts of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings work better than others, and its first two-thirds are stronger than the last, which turns into the usual epic CG action tornado. But there’s always something a little unexpected in there, and Liu is unexpected in a different sort of way: it’s genuinely thrilling to watch his fight scenes and realize the camera doesn’t have to cheat the angles to hide a stunt double’s face. It makes the movie feel even more fantastical, and the casting even more perfect. 132 min. Some subtitles. In theatres Thursday (September 2).
Only Murders In The Building
When a young money manager is found dead in his Upper West Side apartment from what looks like a self-inflicted gunshot wound, three of his neighbours—a former TV detective (Steve Martin), a self-absorbed Broadway director (Martin Short) and a young woman (Selena Gomez) with an enigmatic connection to the deceased—become convinced his death wasn’t a suicide and launch a true-crime podcast to solve it. That’s the spark for this inspired comedy, created by Steve Martin and showrunner Hoffman, which functions equally well as a New York City comedy, a satire of the true-crime genre and a satisfying mystery in its own right; it’s also a gleeful skewering of a certain breed of narcissistic showbiz lifer. (If you liked that Documentary Now! parody of Original Cast Album: Company, this will be right up your alley.) Everyone’s having a ball, the filmmaking is inventive and even innovative, and for those of us who’ve missed Martin’s impeccable screwball timing, it’s just a pleasure to see him back on screen in a role specifically tailored to his strengths. Not that Short and Gomez aren’t equally enjoyable to watch here, mind you. But you’ll see. New episodes Tuesdays on Disney+.
When Mogul Mowgli turned up at Toronto’s Reel Asian festival last fall, it seemed strange that Riz Ahmed should follow the riveting Sound Of Metal with another movie in which he plays a furious performer derailed by sudden illness. But within 10 minutes, it becomes clear Mogul Mowgli is a very different animal, set in a different world, and its star is, if nothing else, a very resourceful chameleon. Co-written by Ahmed and director Tariq, the taut character study casts Ahmed as MC Zed, a British-Pakistani rapper whose meteoric rise is abruptly stopped by the onset of an autoimmune condition. With no prospects, Zed has to move back home to London and seek treatment over the objections of his conservative father (Alyy Khan), who doesn’t trust doctors. What happens after that is best left undisclosed, but I can tell you this: it’s deeply tied to Ahmed’s own relationship to the South Indian diaspora, and it is very, very different in execution from that other film, as Tariq spins the story into an almost experimental mode to illustrate Zed’s internal conflicts, and Ahmed takes the conceit as far as he possibly can. You can’t take your eyes off the guy. 89 min. Some subtitles. In theatres Friday.
We Need To Do Something
(Sean King O’Grady)
As a ferocious storm approaches, an ordinary suburban family—Mom (Vinessa Shaw), Dad (Pat Healy), teenage Melissa (Sierra McCormick), and kid brother Bobby (John James Cronin)—takes shelter in the safest room in their house: the bathroom. But once the storm passes, another threat keeps them trapped together—a relentless, possibly supernatural menace that Melissa seems convinced is her fault. Written before the pandemic but shot during the 2020 lockdown, We Need To Do Something is an intense and generally satisfying lockdown movie, hampered only by director O’Grady and screenwriter Max Booth III’s need to break away from the claustrophobic location with flashbacks to Melissa’s activities the day of the storm. It’s fine when they’re quick, ambiguous glimpses, but as things get worse for Melissa and her family—and they get much, much worse than communal confinement—the extended cutaways wind up letting the air out of the story’s corkscrew tension. Still, the leads do their best to keep the horror going: McCormick, recently seen chasing UFOs in The Vast Of Night, hits just the right pitch of hysteria and guilt in every scene, while Healy gives his usual affability a malignant spin as Melissa’s overmatched father and Shaw moves from stunned competence to ferocious resolve as her mother. 97 min. Available on Apple TV and the IFC Films Unlimited channel on Amazon Prime Video Canada Friday.
Available on VOD
All Light, Everywhere
Documentary directed by Theo Anthony
Eric Bass, Francesca Eastwood, Melora Walters; directed by Bill Yukich
Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans; directed by Liesl Tommy
12 Mighty Orphans
Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Luke Wilson; directed by Ty Roberts
We Need To Do Something
Sierra McCormick, Vinessa Shaw, Pat Healy; directed by Sean King O’Grady
When I’m A Moth
Addison Timlin, TJ Kayama, Toshiji Takeshima; directed by Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak
Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer, Jesse Eisenberg; directed by Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.
Guy Pearce, Matilda Lutz, Travis Fimmell; directed by Andrew Baird
Disc of the week
Dune (Arrow, 4K and Blu-ray)
Sure, everyone’s looking forward to Denis Villeneuve’s new adaptation, which is barrelling toward its premiere like a sandworm charging at a desert cruiser. But if you’ve always felt David Lynch’s earlier adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic tale of empires falling, families betrayed, and messianic prophecies got a raw deal, Arrow’s newly remastered Ultra High Definition edition gives it the presentation it’s long deserved.
The film itself remains as splendid and frustrating as ever, a truncated adaptation that reduces Herbert’s plot to a flurry of bullet points but still looks like nothing else ever attempted, a proto-steampunk vision of a far-flung future where technology and the occult are indistinguishable from one another. And Kyle MacLachlan’s performance as chosen-one Paul Atreides now feels intentionally naïve rather than simply blank, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks having retroactively taught us how to understand how Lynch uses the actor. (In repeat viewings it’s fun to watch his costars try to figure out how to react to his intentional stiffness, everyone coming up with a different solution.)
Arrow’s release is built around a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, with the original stereo soundtrack and a DTS-MA 5.1 surround mix available. The supplements—which spill over onto a second Blu-ray disc—are a mix of old and new material, with featurettes produced for earlier DVD releases sharing space with new, even more eccentric looks at the makeup effects, Toto’s score and the attempts to build a toy line out of the film’s grotesque characters.
The Sleeper Must Awaken: Making Dune, a new retrospective documentary commissioned for the package, was cancelled at the eleventh hour; it looks like 2003’s Impressions Of Dune—available here for the first time in North America—remains the closest we’ll ever get to a comprehensive look at the production. And Dune super-fans will want to hold on to Universal’s two-disc set Extended Edition DVD, which remains the only place to find the three-hour cut assembled for Universal Television—which Lynch has disowned, but which still offers a sense of the genuinely epic scale the filmmaker was aiming for—but Arrow’s special edition is still pretty special.