Warner Bros. // Directed by Michael B. Jordan // Starring Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Mila Davis-Kent
People say a sequel is the hardest movie to write, but I’d argue that the third movie in a franchise, series, or trilogy is the toughest to crack. By now, audiences are comfortable with the characters, or at least accustomed to them, and, if the development has been done successfully, expectations are even higher for a satisfying conclusion or continuation. Enter Creed III, the next installment in Adonis Creed’s journey and the ninth overall in the Rocky saga - and this entry finds the series moving out from the shadow of Balboa and crafting its own identity. Sure, the story in Creed III isn’t mind-blowingly fresh - Jordan’s retired ex-champ Creed is challenged by his childhood friend Dame (Majors) who has spent eighteen years in jail stewing over his friend’s success, success he believes was stolen from him - but by shifting the focus to this generation of Creeds, and the future, the movie as a whole feels fresher. Jordan also picks up the mantle of director for the first time and he delivers some encouraging flourishes to suggest he has a bright future ahead of him behind the character, especially in the anime-influenced fight scenes. There are times that Jordan occasionally overplays the stylistic approach but crucially not to the detriment of the story overall - certain techniques during the fights are overdone and the visuals aren’t always up to par but when Creed III comes out swinging, it’s a damn near knockout. Jordan slips back into his role as Adonis with ease whilst Tessa Thompson is afforded way more screen time and impact than in the previous movie. The two titans of the movie, however, are Mila Davis-Kent as Amara (Adonis and Bianca’s daughter) and Jonathan Majors as Dame Anderson - Davis-Kent delivers a performance that felt so genuine and heartwarming whereas Majors was intense, vulnerable, terrifying, and nuanced all at once - he is a genuine star. Similarly to 1976’s Rocky, Creed III deals with the characters first and foremost, taking a keen eye towards their struggles, past and present, as well as inner demons, and, with the clever use of flashbacks, succeeds more often than not. It would be easy to focus on the action and the testosterone (like some of the old Rocky sequels) but Jordan strikes a fine balance and imbues some real emotion throughout - though, how the main characters end up in the big fight is questionable, and, frankly, a bit daft. Proving that the Rocky saga doesn’t necessarily need Rocky himself, Creed III continues to build and improve on what came before, whilst also showing it can stand alone as a fine movie in its own right.
Paramount Pictures // Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett // Starring Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Jack Champion, Mason Gooding. Devyn Nekoda, Liana Liberato, Jenna Ortega, Hayden Panettiere, Courteney Cox
What’s your favourite scary movie? You wouldn’t be wrong if you said 1996’s Scream - because it is damn good. The resulting sequels have ranged from solid to excellent and the franchise continues on with its sixth entry…Scream…6? 2022’s Scream…actually, screw that, Scream 5 was a surprisingly great return that played to the series’ meta leanings, the need for nostalgia, and of course, some great kills. Just over a year later we are back, but not in Woodsboro, instead in the Big Apple (via Montreal) for a much-needed change of scene with the characters from Scream 5 returning alongside a smattering of newcomers. Sounds very much like the classic Scream formula but does the sixth installment continue the good run? Yes, yes it does. The premise is simple enough, the Carpenter sisters Sam (Barrera) and Tara (Ortega), along with their buds Mindy (Brown) and Chad (Gooding), find themselves targeted by a new Ghostface and must fight the killer(s?) and the rules of the series in order to survive. Of course, there is much more to the movie and that’s very much the plot in a nutshell but nobody wants spoilers, do they? Don’t expect too much in regard to dialogue, character development, and decisions (not that any of these aspects are poorly handled per se) but do expect brutal killings, tense set pieces, and some deliciously bloody visuals… but also expect some eye-rolling “how are they not dead” moments. Jenna Ortega’s meteoric rise continues as she steals the show here alongside the effective Barrera, though Jasmine Savoy Brown’s Mindy was afforded no help with some OTT dialogue and gags - the 'Meeks' of it all was ramped up tenfold and it just didn’t work. The decision to deviate somewhat from the tried and tested format did work though, make no mistake this is still a Scream movie through and through, but the Radio Silence team takes some unexpected swings to keep things fresh, though, in the end, I couldn’t help but feel that more could (and should) have been done to shake the franchise up - if a Scream VII does happen (and reports suggest it will), please bring back a genuine sense of stakes, please do not drop the stakes for the sake of twists. All that being said, Scream VI boasts two great final girls, some vicious kills, cleverly constructed sequences utilizing the new locations, a keen eye for visual flair, killer pacing, a banging soundtrack, and a genuine sense of fun amongst the darker tone. Is it slightly too meta for its own good this time around? Possibly. Is it still a total blast? You bet.
Sony Pictures Releasing // Directed by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods // Starring Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman, Connor Taylor
Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs? Sign me up. Sign me up as many times as I am eligible to be included. It turns out that Scott Beck and Bryan Woods have delivered just this with 65, a sci-fi action thriller that transports us back in time to the tune of sixty-five million years. Alongside Driver, playing a pilot called Mills, is Ariana Greenblatt - continuing to add to her already impressive filmography - who takes the role of Koa, a young survivor of a doomed mission helmed by Mills. The movie follows the pair as they traverse an unknown planet following a collision with an asteroid as they were en route to an assignment on a ship filled with colonists - well, it was, anyway. Not only is the planet teeming with dangerous flora and fauna but it’s also populated by dinosaurs - angry, hungry dinosaurs. Written and directed by the team behind A Quiet Place, 65 had slam dunk written all over it. What a shame then that it really isn’t good. You have ADAM DRIVER FIGHTING DINOSAURS and somehow the experience was uneventful, devoid of tension, and boring. Aside from the dino duels, Becks and Woods attempt to inject emotion into the narrative including Mills' family life - his daughter is unwell and his two-year assignment will help fund her recovery - which, initially, began promisingly, and the relationship between Mills and Koa which never took off. Koa not speaking the same language as Mills (who speaks…perfect English) was a huge hindrance and their interactions boiled down to Mills talking to her and her not understanding whilst occasionally repeating words back to him. It really did not work, and, as their relationship was the core heartbeat of the movie, the lack of chemistry and cohesion was a huge hindrance. Because of that, and the lack of excitement provided, this is one of the longest-feeling ninety-minute movies I’ve watched in years which seems wild given the potential of the premise. 65 is slathered in sci-fi, horror, and action tropes and elements but never commits to any of them with any real conviction. The horror moments lack atmosphere, the sci-fi elements feel hollow, and the action felt low stakes - things would just happen and then the story would just move on (case in point, a bug crawls into a character's mouth and leaves them a frothy mess until they need to move the story along thus rendering that entire sequence pointless and unnecessary) There are movies made where you are told to “switch your brain off and enjoy” in order to overlook the avalanche of flaws within them, but some films are just not good. 65 sits comfortably in the latter category. The use of modern costumes didn’t help either…
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Entertainment One // Directed by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley // Starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Hugh Grant
Dungeons & Dragons has been around for fifty years…and I have no idea about any of it - the lore, the world, any major characters, and so on and so forth - thus when a movie was announced based on the classic property, I wasn’t particularly excited. It also seemed like everything was in place for this to be another big-budget fantasy flop that had tons of potential but no end product, but, turns out that isn’t the case - Honor Among Thieves is actually a pretty fun ride. Now, I still didn’t fully understand a lot of the lore that was exposited throughout, the first half of the movie is dedicated to explaining everything the newbies need to know, but I understood enough to find the movie enjoyable, and, frankly, the narrative is conventional enough for it not to matter. Chris Pine’s Edgin (a charming thief) leads a motley crew, comprised of Michelle Rodriguez’s Holga the Barbarian, Justice Smith’s sorcerer Simon, and Sophia Lillis’ druid Doric, on a quest to retrieve a mystical relic in order to bring down the nefarious Forge Fitzwilliam (Grant) and his powerful Red Wizard assistant, Sofina (Head) - en route they must conquer vast enemies and forge unlikely alliances. Honor Among Thieves delivers fun, exciting action sequences that are visually pleasing (without feeling too chaotic) and maintains a charming swashbuckling tone throughout - I felt vibes and echoes of The Mummy at times. Much of the charm comes from the ensemble cast, especially Chris Pine - who is clearly having a blast, and his natural charisma is afforded the freedom to shine through here - Michelle Rodriguez, and the devilishly handsome Regé-Jean Page as Xenk Yendar, a legendary knight and ally to the cause. Directors Goldstein and Daley keep the tone relatively light throughout with their constant use of gags and humour, most of which land, though some jokes do fall flat but their decision to incorporate a father-daughter relationship - between Edgin and Chloe Coleman’s Kira - adds much-needed emotion even if it isn’t entirely hard-hitting. The movie certainly isn’t perfect, it’s arguably too long and it isn’t always simple to follow but it is certainly enjoyable. From the tabletop to the big screen, Honor Among Thieves is a surprisingly appealing adventure - its action scenes are entertaining and well constructed, the characters are affable, and it manages to be FUN - most importantly though, I saw a dungeon and I saw a dragon. Boom.