No Time To Die – A Movie Review

I’ve seen most of the James Bond movies, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan. In fact, when I talk to true James Bond aficionados and tell them that Sir Roger Moore has always been my favorite Bond, the look on their faces confirms my belief that James Bond isn’t really for me.

That being said, I do like Daniel Craig as the super spy. In fact, I’d say he’s my second favorite Bond. I also deeply enjoyed Casino Royale, Craig’s first outing as Bond.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I much favored Craig’s subsequent Bond movies. If I’m being honest, I remember being confused through much of them, never quite understanding what was going on.

Sadly, No Time To Die continues this tradition.

At two hours and forty-three minutes, No Time To Die appears to cover a lot of ground. Yet, in the end, even with such a long runtime, they didn’t invest enough of it in the emotional foundation that was to serve as the gut punch during the final act. More on that in a moment.

My problem with the Craig era is that while they do seem to continue a running storyline, they don’t always remind the audience of what came before, and I’m not sure they always even conform to what was previously established. For me, this results in a lot of confusion.

This could be considered a spoiler, so consider yourself warned. At the beginning of No Time To Die, Bond is on a trip with his wife. Yes, you read that right. Now, as I’m watching the beginning of this movie, I’m thinking to myself, “Did Bond marry this woman in the previous film?” He then suspects her of being a secret agent, puts her on a train, and tells her he’ll never see her again. Flashforward ten years, five of which Bond has spent in retirement, and she’s reentered his life. He spends a lot of time saving her life, protecting her, and running around. By movie’s end, he tells her that she was the only happiness he’d ever known. What?! He’d spent more time talking to Q in the movie, yet we’re supposed to believe that?

There was also a plot about poison being delivered through DNA and M having something to do with it … I don’t know. Craig’s Bond movies, to me, seem so overly complicated that they get boiled down to nothing more than action. Or maybe they’re not overly complicated; maybe they’re just nonsensical and the action is what drives the movie.

In my heart of hearts, I do believe Bond movies can be simple, full of action, and under two hours. They used to be that way. They can be again. But they tried with No Time To Die. They really did try to shake it up a little.

You may have heard that there’s a female 007 in No Time To Die. Again, this is a slight spoiler, but there is. She’s played by Lashana Lynch and she’s great. Handles the action very well. You also perhaps heard about Ana de Armas being in it as well–after all, her name is on all the posters. She is indeed in the movie, has a great moment, but that moment regrettably ends after about twenty minutes. I don’t know if they were setting her up for a spinoff or what, but she seemed very shoehorned into the film (while stealing every scene).

Léa Seydoux plays Bond’s former wife, Madeleine, and does so just fine. I personally felt no chemistry between Craig and Seydoux nor did I believe they ever actually loved each other. I certainly didn’t believe that the brief time we saw them as husband and wife were the happiest moments of Bond’s life. At movie’s end, they desperately need us to believe this in order to hit an emotional payoff, but for me … not so much.

And that’s where No Time To Die got itself in a bit of trouble. Beyond the typically overly complicated “bad guy” plot, it also tried to walk an emotionally complex tightrope in the hopes of grabbing us by the heartstrings at story’s end.

Furthermore, I don’t mind a funny Bond, after all, Moore is my guy. Craig seemed a little out of character, though, when he would toss in a wisecrack or two. I don’t remember that side of Craig’s Bond, not to such an extent, and it struck me as awkward.

Finally–the action. At least with a Bond movie, no matter what, you’re going to get some killer action. I found myself underwhelmed on this front as well. There were exciting moments, to be sure, but nothing that amazed me. I think the Mission Impossible movies have spoiled us a bit in that regard.

Even with all of that being said, Daniel Craig is STILL my second favorite James Bond, and I’ll continue watching James Bond movies even if I don’t ever particularly love them. I think the attempt they made at modernizing him a bit in No Time To Die was well-intended, they just hit the wrong notes at the wrong times. James Bond can still thrive as a movie franchise, but I think it’s time to take him back to basics on one hand, and on the other hand, I think it’s time to rethink his entire mythology. That’s a topic for another day, though.

In the end, No Time To Die is fine. It’s Craig’s last hurrah as James Bond, so that alone makes it worth watching.

The Last Duel – A Movie Review

On paper, The Last Duel had a lot going for it. Obviously, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver are major draws due to their established talent.

Jodie Comer, if you’re not familiar with her, is brilliant in Killing Eve, and I’m very happy to see her transitioning into major motion pictures.

And, of course, The Last Duel was helmed by the legendary director, Ridley Scott. You know Ridley Scott as the genius behind Alien, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, The Martian, and many, many others.

That being said, as you would expect, The Last Duel looks amazing. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time to medieval France. The architecture, the armor, the clothing, the landscapes, the weaponry, the messiness of the era–it all looks grounded in absolute reality. This isn’t surprising considering that it’s a piece of historical fiction.

Damon, Driver, and Comer nail their roles. Damon is hugely unlikable, Driver is both charming and horrible, and Comer is potently restrained.

But in the end, I found the entire premise of the movie distasteful and the tone uncomfortable. Yes, the movie is based on actual events, yet that alone did not dictate the direction and artistic choices made by the creatives. After all, The Last Duel is not a documentary.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, Damon’s character marries Comer’s character in order to amass more land and to produce an heir. His friend, played by Driver, finds himself favored by royalty and continues gaining advantage after advantage, which enrages Damon’s character. Comer’s character eventually accuses Driver’s character of raping her. It is then decreed that Damon’s character will battle Driver’s character in a duel to the death. The winner will supposedly be chosen by God, and that will determine whether an actual rape occurred or not.

The premise is troubling enough as it is, but the execution of the film is where it truly lost me. The film is broken into three components–first from the perspective of Damon’s character, then Driver’s, and then Comer’s. The script seems to want the audience to believe that Comer’s character was in love with Driver’s character and set him up, which ultimately was not the case at all. I found that manipulation alarming. In this day and age, blaming the victim is simply reprehensible. They also chose to depict the rape of Comer’s character three separate times, a little differently each time, which stuck me as gratuitous and unseemly.

I hoped that at some point, there would be a message in this movie. There would be something we could learn about the human condition. There would be something that reinforced the fact that human rights and individual dignity must take precedence no matter when or where a story takes place.

That did not happen. Perhaps the filmmakers intended a deeper meaning. Maybe they wanted to convey a criticism of the horrors women have endured throughout history. However, in my opinion, the film simply seemed to relish in its disturbing plotline.

As I said before, it’s not a documentary. The filmmakers may argue that they simply reconstructed actual events. I would counter by saying that the actors playing Frenchmen in this film did not even use a French accent, so I’m not sure how beholden they were to authenticity. In other words, they made choices, and I disagree with many of those choices.

I do not recommend The Last Duel.

The French Dispatch – A Movie Review

I truly wanted to see The French Dispatch when it was in theaters but simply couldn’t find the opportunity. Fortunately, it found its way to Blu-ray in record time. Thanks to my local library, I was able to watch it the other night.

The French Dispatch is Wes Anderson’s latest film. You know Wes Anderson as the director of Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

If you enjoy Wes Anderson’s general style, you’ll love The French Dispatch as well. Although, I have to admit, it is slightly edgier than his normal work. More on that in a moment.

The French Dispatch is about an American man who started a branch of his father’s newspaper in a French town. The film delivers five separate vignettes depicting local stories in the newspaper’s final edition. Why is the newspaper coming to an end? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

As usual, Wes Anderson manages to deliver something new with each of his works. The French Dispatch utilizes some fascinating angles, lighting, use of black and white, and even animation. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Furthermore, in my opinion, The French Dispatch is a touch more adult than previous works. There is quite a bit of full frontal nudity, which is completely related to a particular story within the movie, as well as a bit of violence that I found unusual for him as well. In fact, those five vignettes are thematically linked but fairly unique from one another, which is perhaps why we see some atypical offerings from Anderson. Of course, as you would expect, each story within the movie is all at once whimsical, revealing, thought-provoking, irreverent, and bold.

Anderson brings back his old favorites as well as some new faces for The French Dispatch. You’ll recognize Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet, Tony Revolori, and even Henry Winkler.

I happen to love Anderson’s approach to film. I’m not sure a casual movie-goer would find The French Dispatch all that enticing, but for fans of the filmmaker, it’s a noteworthy addition to his body of work.

Finch – A Movie Review

If you like any combination of dogs, robots, or Tom Hanks, Finch is perfect for you.

Found on Apple TV+, Finch is an Apple Original Film starring Tom Hanks and … well, mostly just Tom Hanks. He’s an engineer who survived a massive solar flare that ultimately wiped out most of civilization. He happened to be at work when it occurred, a robotics firm, and pretty much just stayed there. He mostly wants to survive in order to care for his dog, Goodyear, and has devised many ingenious ways to use robotics to help him scavenge for food, tools, and general supplies. However, St. Louis–his city–is about to undergo a cataclysmic storm that even his bunker won’t survive. Furthermore, the brutality of a depleted ozone has taken its toll on him–he knows he doesn’t have long to live. His goal? Build a caregiver for Goodyear, get Goodyear out of the city, and then leave Goodyear somewhere safe in the caregiver’s capable hands. That caregiver? Jeff.

Jeff is a robot that Finch builds to care for Goodyear, and this is when the movie really starts to shine. Voiced by Caleb Landry Jones, Jeff starts out very childlike and provides much of the film’s levity, but as time goes on, Jeff begins to understand both Finch and Goodyear, as well as the very special bond the two share.

Because Finch essentially only shows one human being–Tom Hanks–it’s very easy to get strong Cast Away vibes. There are parallels, to be sure. However, that’s really where the similarities end. After all, Finch isn’t about a man trying to save himself at all–it’s all about that dog.

The real achievement of Finch, however, is the special effects. Jeff the robot looks completely grounded in each and every scene. Hanks truly appears to be interacting with Jeff at the actual scale of the robot. I haven’t watched any “making of” specials on Finch, so I don’t know where practical effects end and CGI begins, but I never caught myself noticing the special effects as anything other than part of the film’s reality. That’s meant as a sincere compliment.

Finch is a mostly lighthearted film with touches of suspense, violence, and sadness, but overall it’s an exploration of what exactly it means to be “human.” Is it our capacity to care for others that makes us special, and, if so, are blood, bone, and flesh required?

Werewolves Within – A Movie Review

I honestly had no idea this movie was based on a video game, nor did I really know anything about it. I wanted to see it for one simple reason, and one reason only–Sam Richardson.

In my opinion, Sam Richardson is one of the funniest guys out there. I first discovered him on VEEP, and that’s where he won me over for life. Apparently, I’m not the only one. His IMDB page suggests he’s getting plenty of work!

Werewolves Within is about a very nice–maybe too nice–forest ranger (Richardson) sent to a small town called Beaverfield. This tiny town is warring with itself due to a proposed gas line that wants to run right through the middle of it. Half the town wants the money, half the town wants to preserve the envrionment.

Richardson’s character, Finn Wheeler, quickly befriends a new postal worker named Cecily Moore, played by Milana Vayntrub (the former AT&T lady). Richardson and Vayntrub have superb chemistry with each other, and Vayntrub proved far funnier than I ever suspected.

Besides the pipeline controversy, the town soon appears to suffer from a violent creature picking off residents, pets, and generators. That creature? A werewolf!

Before long, Richardson, Vayntrub, and a host of hilarious actors are trapped in a bed and breakfast as the werewolf prowls outside. Personally, I got major Clue vibes at this point, and that’s a total compliment. Of course, as you expect, they quickly begin to suspect one another as the actual werewolf. At that point the film quickly reaches a climax and draws to a close.

I have to say that I found Werewolves Within highly entertaining with some truly funny moments. However, be warned, at times it’s surprisingly violent and even a little scary. Furthermore, I actually became invested in the mystery concerning the werewolf’s true identity. Not to worry, it is revealed by movie’s end.

If you like horror and comedy, and you want a quick, 90-minute film, I recommend Werewolves Within. Richardson is great, as always, and Vayntrub proves she’s got comedy chops as well. (And after researching her IMDB page, I feel stupid for writing that last bit about her. She’s been on fire for years and years.)

The Matrix Resurrections – A Movie Review

It’s all in the title, folks.

The Matrix Resurrections is about bringing things back to life: characters, storylines, themes, a franchise.

That being said … I liked The Matrix Resurrections.

Bear in mind that I did not conduct a Matrix series re-watch before seeing Resurrections, but I watched the other Matrix movies enough over the years to generally remember the major beats. What I remember most is LOVING The Matrix, finding The Animatrix really cool, hating The Matrix Reloaded, and being okay with The Matrix Revolutions.

The Matrix Resurrections most resembles the original Matrix is that it splits its time pretty evenly between the digital world and the real world, which I appreciated. I also loved the fact that The Matrix Resurrections found itself far more interested in further exploring Neo and Trinity’s relationship than anything else. I won’t go so far as to say that this is a “character driven” movie, but those two were definitely the driving force of the film.

I also enjoyed the fact that, in this film, Trinity is “The One” for Neo, whereas Neo was “The One” to the entire world in The Matrix. Only “The One” could save the world, but what if “The One” needed to be saved by his “The One” in order to do so? It’s a fascinating development appropriate to this day and age. I wouldn’t say Trinity was treated only as a plot device in the previous movies, but she’s certainly given far more importance in The Matrix Resurrections. (Of course, if you know the background of the film’s creators and their evolution over time, a rather complex think-piece could be written exploring “artists and their art.”)

Consequently, Resurrections establishes that a certain “happy ending” occurred thanks to Neo and Trinity’s previous sacrifices, one that I found hopeful. Equilibrium … balance … these seem to be important themes in The Matrix Resurrections.

In keeping with that idea, I was thankful that they did not touch up Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss’ appearances in Resurrections. These are two beautiful people, obviously, but they clearly look twenty years older than their original introduction. In fact, the filmmakers go out of their way to make Neo unkempt and unfashionable compared to his previous incarnation. People age, and, as Resurrections conveys, with age and experience can come wisdom and self-realization.

Part of the reason I loved The Matrix so much was because it introduced some very big, even mind-blowing, ideas. Resurrections never achieves that level of ingenuity, but it does indeed call out our society over the last few years. There are several lines about falling victim to fiction and believing big lies that did not go unnoticed. I suppose, though, that compared to other recent movies, a blockbuster sci-fi film driven by love is pretty rebellious.

Finally, The Matrix Resurrections seemed a little more willing to laugh at itself this time around. There were several metafiction gags that brought forth a chuckle.

On the flipside of that, though, those gags came dangerously close to becoming cringeworthy. Furthermore, some of the characters, such as Morpheus, were making fun of themselves while never clearly establishing why. I’m still not exactly sure who “Morpheus” was in this film, by the way–a facsimile or the original? A hybrid program? I considered this a shame because the original Morpheus was such a cool “wizard/mentor” archetype.

Which brings me to another point: I was confused for quite a bit of this movie. I didn’t totally understand the primary antagonist’s motivations, I didn’t fully grasp former villains’ new roles, nor did I comprehend Neo’s “the matrix” within “The Matrix.” I think he called it a “modal.” Why did he make it? What purpose did it serve?

I also thought the film kept one foot a little too much in the past. There were many, many literal flashbacks to the other films, and many of the scenes themselves mirrored scenes from the predecessors as well. A touch would have been fine, everybody loves nostalgia, but it got a little heavy-handed.

On that note, The Matrix Resurrections didn’t appear to break any new ground regarding visuals, which I found very disappointing. The Matrix melted my mind back in ’99. I saw things in that movie I’d never seen on screen before. Resurrections had some cool moments (mostly revealed in the trailers), but nothing that made my jaw drop. With today’s technology and the filmmaker’s trailblazing spirit, I honestly expected revolutionary special effects. We didn’t get them.

In the end, though, Neo and Trinity proved more than enough. They were the heart and soul of The Matrix (along with Morpheus, who sadly got sidelined in this film), and seeing them on screen again together more than made up for any of the film’s shortcomings. They’re older and grayer, to be sure (aren’t we all?), but they are also more fully rounded and emotionally realized.

Full disclosure–I didn’t like The Matrix when I first saw it. I didn’t get it. However, after dozens of re-watches over the years, I fell in love with it more and more. It’s entirely possible I didn’t completely understand The Matrix Resurrections on my first viewing. I absolutely plan on watching it again and I’m sure I’ll pick up on some new things and better comprehend the plot. But the good news is that I did indeed like it. Do I want more from The Matrix universe? On the one hand, I’d watch anything with Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves acting together. On the other hand, I don’t see much potential for this story to continue in fresh, innovative ways. The Matrix Resurrections seemed to be a nice send-off for the characters rather than a launch pad to new horizons.

The Power Of the Dog – A Movie Review

I remembered The Power Of the Dog having quite a bit of buzz last summer, so now that it’s available on Netflix, I thought I’d give it a try to see what the critics liked so much.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, The Power Of the Dog takes place in 1925 on a ranch in Montana. Two brothers, Phil and George, run the ranch, but they seem to be drifting apart. Phil, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a supposed genius who prefers dirt and livestock, while George, played by Jesse Plemons, wants to settle down and join high society. George meets a widowed woman named Rose, played by Kirsten Dunst, and her nearly grown son Peter, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. George and Rose marry, move into the brothers’ massive home with her son in tow, and Phil promptly makes everyone’s lives miserable because he is a malcontent in the truest sense of the word. However, though he once ridiculed Peter’s effeminate mannerisms, Phil soon befriends the young man, just as an older man named Bronco Henry once befriended him. However, Phil’s relentless bullying of Rose proves a real problem for Peter, one that he simply won’t let go.

If I used one word to describe The Power Of the Dog, it would be “subtle.” The audience is led to suspect many, many things about every character in this movie ranging from homosexuality to murder, but nothing is ever explicitly on display. And even though there is little to no action in the movie, and even though it moves at a slow, uncomfortable pace, I found myself mesmerized by both the acting and the fact that it forced me to watch and think from start to finish.

Of course, the real star of the movie is the beautiful scenery. Though it’s supposed to be Montana in the early 1900s, I’ve read that New Zealand served as the film’s actual location. The hills and countryside in this movie are simply breathtaking. I recommend the film for the cinematography alone.

But do I recommend the film in general? Not for the casual viewer, no. I don’t think those looking for a popcorn experience would find this particularly enjoyable. For those interested in character studies or filmmaking, though, I think The Power Of the Dog would prove quite thought-provoking.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw – A Book Review

I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I absolutely grabbed Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw off of the shelf at my local library because its cover jumped out at me. Also, it’s very thin–just 124 pages–and I’ve been on a novella kick of late.

In my opinion, even for such a short book, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is overwritten with flat characters and incessant redundancies.

The book is told from Cat’s perspective. She, Phillip, Faiz, Talia, and Lin are spending the night in an abandoned mansion in Japan. They are a group of friends who love ghosts–the mansion is supposedly haunted–and Phillip became ordained specifically so that he could marry Faiz and Talia. Everyone has history with everyone, the mansion is indeed haunted, they bicker through most of the book, and then the mansion exacts its will upon them … thankfully.

From start to finish, Phillip is the rich, good-looking one. Every single time he’s mentioned, there’s an accompanying bit describing his handsomeness. Cat, the narrator, is sad, has dated two-thirds of the men in the group, and does not get along with Talia at all–the tropes are strong. Lin shows up late and doesn’t seem to like any of them but Cat. Faiz is just glad Talia is willing to marry him. There’s zero chemistry between these characters, and I honestly found them the epitome of “one-note.”

Which leads to my other criticism of the book–there’s far too much unnecessary description. People, objects, emotions–they are described more or less in the same way, just with different words, throughout the piece. The constant descriptions struck me as “filler” while nothing in particular happened until the very end.

Though I finished it, I can’t particularly say I embraced Nothing But Blackened Teeth. It clearly wasn’t for me. However, I still love that cover.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife – A Movie Review

I’ve always been a lifelong Ghostbusters fan. I loved the movies, had the toys, watched the cartoon, and even tried to make my own proton pack out of cardboard boxes back in the day. I constantly wanted more of Peter, Egon, Ray, Winston, and the rest of the gang up on the silver screen, but it never seemed destined to happen. Heck, I even supported the Ghostbusters reboot with Kristen Wiig (and still do)!

So when I saw the photo of the Ecto-1 covered in a tarp while in an old barn, I got very excited, but also a little confused. What exactly was going on there? Was this Wiig’s Ghostbusters? Was this another reboot? Was it the old gang getting back together? How is that possible due to the unfortunate passing of Harold Ramis in 2014?

Without spoiling anything, Ghostbusters: Afterlife disregards Wiig’s Ghostbusters and essentially functions as Ghostbusters III. It fully acknowledges the 80s Ghostbusters and, in a very real way, continues that storyline.

The plot centers around a grown woman whose father passed away in Oklahoma. She is down on her luck, broke, and completely estranged from her dad. She gathers up her 12 and 15 year old kids and heads to Oklahoma in the hopes of gaining some kind of inheritance. All she gets is an old, creepy house, a dirt farm, a dilatated barn, and–for some reason–Ecto-1.

The two kids, played by Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard, actually carve out their own little niche in the small town as their mom, played by Carrie Coon, becomes involved with a local teacher played by Paul Rudd. The first half of the movie focusses on the kids’ slowly discovering who their grandfather actually was as they tinker with his gear and experience strange abnormalities. Before long, as you would expect, ghosts start popping up. The last half of the movie is full-on fun, surprisingly sentimental, and overflowing with just the right amount of nostalgic fan service. I mean that as a real compliment–no snark here.

If you loved the 80s Ghostbusters movies, you’ll love Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The music is similar, the effects are similar, even the story is honestly pretty similar once you reach that last half. It’s no accident that Jason Reitman wrote and directed Ghostbusters: Afterlife. His dad, Ivan Reitman, directed the original two. This is obviously a love letter to what came before and a proper goodbye to Harold Ramis.

Yet, even though the nostalgia is high, Ghostbusters: Afterlife also sets up a lot of future possibilities. I wouldn’t say it’s a coincidence that Finn Wolfhard is in this film. He’s one of the kids from Stranger Things as well as the two recent It movies. I think they plan to partly build the franchise around him. Mckenna Grace plays his sister, and she’s actually the star of the film. Her character, Phoebe, has the most in common with her grandpa and is a ton of fun to celebrate. Plus, her only friend named Podcast, played by Logan Kim, is an absolute joy. You’ll see what I mean.

Let’s not forget the two Hollywood heavyweights in the movie–Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon. It doesn’t get much better than these two. Reitman has a cast with ample chemistry and oodles of charisma. I’d be more than happy to keep watching them all together for years to come.

But … there’s even more to it than that. I won’t give anything away, but there are two distinct future storylines already at play, one for the old, and one for the new. I have no doubt they’ll eventually converge. Speaking of which, be sure to sit through ALL of the credits.

So, I could have saved you a lot of time by simply writing this one phrase: If you love Ghostbusters, you’ll love Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Free Guy – A Movie Review

I’ve been meaning to see Free Guy for awhile now because I heard it was really funny and had some great cameos. It finally arrived on DVD, so I checked it out at my local library because … as previously established … I like my movies free.

I’ll be honest — the first hour dragged a bit for me. But the last hour — superb!

The premise is this — Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a nonplayable character in a video game. He doesn’t realize he’s in a video game, though. All the action stars of his world wear sun glasses, and we quickly realize those are the gamers. One day, after experiencing a kind of love at first sight, he gets hold of a pair of sunglasses, puts them on and … becomes free. From that moment on, we begin to get a glimpse into the real world, how programmers played by hot commodities Jodie Comer and Joe Keery influence Guy and his environment, and whether a game company owner villain extraordinaire played by Taika Waititi will end Guy’s life as he knows it.

Free Guy is big on action, hilarious on comedy with work buddies Lil Rel Howery and Ryan Reynolds exhibiting superb chemistry, and surprisingly complex as issues of video game ethics, artificial intelligence, and morality come into play. Plus, there’s a good old fashion love story.

Before it hits its stride, though, Free Guy is a little bit jarring. Ryan Reynolds plays Guy as a cross between Buddy from Elf and Emmet from The Lego Movie. It then moves into territory akin to The Matrix in terms of reality versus the digital world. But, once you wrap your head around the concept, it’s a super fun ride with a solid story.

Plus, there are some fantastic cameos and Easter eggs. I won’t spoil them, but be on the lookout for visual and audio standouts. Remember, technically speaking, this is a Disney film.

If you’re looking for an action comedy with a pretty engaging storyline, give Free Guy a shot.