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Uncharted Review | Indiana Holland is Good as Gold



Nuns, why does it always have to be nuns?” asks Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake in the film adaptation of Uncharted. This is just one of the many references (some subtle, some not so subtle) to the great Indiana Jones, whose fingerprints, along with Lara Croft, are all over Uncharted. From the outfits Holland and Wahlberg wear to the Indiana Jones-like flyover of a map to the attitude of Nathan Drake in the video games, Uncharted owes a lot to the archeologist in a fedora. And while the latest attempt at a video game adaptation won’t please all fans of the video game franchise, it’s one of the best attempts at commercializing a franchise in recent memories, mostly in due part to the fact that you’ll forget it’s an adaptation of anything, quite frankly. Tom Holland is not a perfect Nathan Drake; at times it’s hard to see the stoic and blunt Nathan Drake of the video games, but it’s the boyish charm that has given Holland the career he’s had thus far that’ll make you smile whenever he quips while hitting people with bottles of alcohol, as cheesy as some of these moments are. Uncharted is a great adventure movie, and far better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a movie even I, a bit fan of that franchise, have a soft spot for. As hard to believe as it is if Disney and co. want to take a few pages out of the playbook of Uncharted, it may be in their best interest to bring them back to their roots.

Uncharted follows Nathan Drake, who is roped into an adventure by Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), to hunt down the treasure of the Magellan expedition. 

We kick off Uncharted with a big action set piece: Tom Holland playing leapfrog across cargo crates (so great we get to see it twice!). Right when it starts getting good, we do the cliché action movie trope of (slickly) transitioning from one shot to another of Nathan as a young boy. This is where we get the brief backstory of Nathan and Sam, Nathan’s brother who likely listened to Only The Good Die Young one too many times, and then we’re reintroduced to Tom Holland who is, like Peter Parker, in NY. Nathan is a nighttime bartender and bracelet-stealing scoundrel, using his charm and bag full of magic tricks, by this I mean a lighter that can barely set alight given to him by his brother 15 years prior, to steal valuables unbeknownst of his victims. One night, Sully (Wahlberg), offers him an in on an operation that could make both of them a fortune, thus setting our adventure on its course.

Tom Holland stars as Nathan Drake in Columbia Pictures’ UNCHARTED.

The Nathan Drake of the video games, to my knowledge (of about two hours of playtime of Uncharted 4), is the amalgamation of two of Harrison Ford’s most iconic characters, Han Solo and Indiana Jones. The smug and witty nature of Nathan was always something I doubted Holland could pull off. Luckily, this young version of Nathan hasn’t had his heart hardened quite yet, just give it a few more years of chasing Chloe (Sophia Ali) to no avail, and that boyish nature has some more “shits” and drinks sprinkled that remind you that Holland is indeed an adult. More in line with the video game version of Nathan is Sully, played by the great Mark Wahlberg (more on him later).

It’s no secret that I’m oftentimes very critical of Tom Holland. As a teenager, I loved him as Spider-Man, but the gawky looks grew tired after a while. And while he doesn’t necessarily reinvent himself in Uncharted, even striking a Spider-Man pose or two, he plays the role of the hero well and with enough charm that it’s hard to not root for him. Part of that charm, however, is that “gee-whiz” energy when he exclaims: “Oh my god, I’m so sorry! It was completely reactionary!” after dodging a crate and watching it hit one of the nameless henchmen in pursuit (something I called would happen coming into the film). If you heard his voice when reading that quote, I’ve done my job and you’ll understand what I mean.

But Holland is undeniably good at playing the protagonist, and his Nathan Drake is still learning the game. Oftentimes too trusting, Nathan gets his ass kicked on numerous occasions as a result. It’s clear that this is a story devoted to showing the progression of Nathan, he seems far more confident by the mid-credits scene, and while waiting until the very end of a first movie in a (hopeful) franchise usually weighs down movies, see Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, seeing another few movies would be welcomed from this Indiana Jones lover.

Tom Holland stars as Nathan Drake in Columbia Pictures’ UNCHARTED. photo by: Clay Enos

Sully, like Nathan, was always going to be hard to nail. You had to pair someone with Holland who could pull off a mentor role, but he also had to be a little snarky in order to keep up with the expected quipping. Wahlberg plays Sully by “Mark Wahlberg-ering” his way through lines, which is not a completely bad thing (who doesn’t love Mark Wahlberg?), but this is where the commercialization of this film comes into play. Wahlberg is, more than anything, a big enough name to go second billing to Holland and draw some more butts in seats. Diehard fans of the game were likely upset, and that’s fair. But as far as a Hollywood version of the film goes, it worked. He’s sarcastic, throwing zingers right back at Holland (one about Holland’s height), and the two make for a fun duo. The same lesson from Nathan Drake applies: Go in with no expectations of his this character should be portrayed, and you’ll be fine. It’s perhaps a cop-out but think of Uncharted as a movie that takes inspiration from the video games, rather than a straight adaptation. More than Nathan’s right-hand man, this version of Sully is more like Sapito (Alfred Molina) in Raiders of the Lost Ark with a significant upgrade in lines.

Holland and Wahlberg are the standouts, mainly because they’re shoved down your face for most of the runtime, but out of all of the supporting cast, Sophia Ali is the standout by a wide margin. I don’t know her character of Chloe, but her scenes with Holland and Wahlberg made for fun banter. There’s a chase sequence involving Chloe and Nathan, and it was one of the most engaging scenes of the film. Antonio Banderas is kind of in the film, playing your typical Indiana Jones villain with daddy issues, but is hardly remarkable. He shares one scene with Holland, and perhaps to avoid going into any spoiler territory, his presence left a lot to be desired. An antagonist shouldn’t have enough screentime to barely cover a pee break, and it’s truly hard to remember any scenes with Banderas. It’s awfully possible he didn’t want a part of Uncharted, but he was willingly in Doolittle. He will appear in Indiana Jones 5, so maybe he was just holding out on us. Tati Gabrielle plays Sully’s rival, Jo Braddock, but even despite being in the film significantly more than Banderas, she wasn’t that memorable either. She holds a knife up to people’s necks enough times that it would get you a buzz if you took a shot with each instance, but that’s about it. I guess a fight in an international Papa John’s was cool.

Tom Holland, Sophia Taylor Ali, and Mark Wahlberg star in Columbia Pictures’ UNCHARTED. photo by: Clay Enos

Now, Uncharted’s biggest flaws are not doing much to raise its stakes. I get it, it’s an attempt to blossom into Holland’s “side hoe” franchise to the MCU, so inherently, the stakes were never going to be sky-high. But while a basic plot can be forgivable, (literal and metaphorical) constant double-crosses are not the way to go in an attempt to compensate. You’ll see them a mile away, and if any heist/adventure movie taught you anything, don’t trust anyone, except the lead character. Most of these double-crosses will likely come with no gasps from audience members, and it’ll make Death on the Nile‘s twists seem like shocking revelations.

The action set pieces are about as ambitious as a standard MCU outing. They’re visually engaging enough, nothing special, but the amount of hand-to-hand combat is welcomed. Yes, they’re filled with some cringe-worthy quips, but I don’t remember another movie where Holland was put in situations that he had to exchange fists to get out of.

There is some choppy pacing, which should be talked about. While Uncharted will never bore you, it comes at the expense of basking in a scene. As stated, the opening of the film is a set piece, jumping right to Nathan’s introduction and within what feels like 20 minutes, we’re already on a heist mission with Nathan and Sully. It’s great that it doesn’t slow, I’m not sure these characters need much expansion, but there are far too many montages while characters “research,” or should I say stare at maps and postcards, and those Indiana Jones-like map moments occur on more than one occasion.

Uncharted is a ton of fun because, well, it’s not trying to be a faithful adaptation of the video games. I’m sure there are plenty of nods to the series, I recognized a few story beats even though I am a very casual player, but it works as an adventure franchise movie that we rarely get nowadays. It’s just pure popcorn fun and likely accomplishes what The Lost City hopes to do later this spring. Don’t be scared off by the February release date, Uncharted is anything but your standard “Q1 disaster.” Maybe Sony wanted to ride off of the Spider-Man wave, but a spring/summer release date would have been even better.

Sony will release Uncharted on February 18.

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Choose or Die – A Miss For Netflix



Netflix’s home page suggestions can always be hit or miss, and unfortunately its latest release ‘Choose or Die’ falls into the category of the latter. Captivated by Asa Butterfield on the poster, I was curious to see what this film had to offer and begrudgingly it didn’t have a lot.

We follow Kayla, a broke student who has a lot to deal with in terms of her family situation and being the sole provider for herself and her mum. She then stumbles upon a retro video game from the 80s which forces her to choose and ultimately leads to various chain reactions of horrific events involving people close to her.

Lola Evans as Kayla and Asa Butterfield as Isaac

The premise of the film sounds interesting, however, I think it swings and misses quite early into the film’s first act. Eddie Marsan sets the tone and trail of interest for Choose or Die as we are introduced to this sadistic game and the chain of events it will inevitably pursue. 

Choose or Die doesn’t make it easy to empathise with its characters, finding any connection to Kayla or Isaac was difficult. This ‘are they aren’t they’ subplot lingers throughout the film’s narrative but adds nothing to the overarching story. The supporting characters, such as Thea and Laura, are much more interesting and genuinely have you intrigued as to what decisions they will make.

What stood out to me was the violent and gore-like scenes of 80s horrors, with some pretty good stomach churning special effects make-up. Those intense scenes, one involving a rat, had me genuinely glued to the screen, anticipating what may happen next. Choose or Die’s strongest component are the early moral decisions Kayla has to make and ultimately demonstrate Meakin’s passion for the horror genre.

Ioanna Kimbook as Grace in Choose or Die, seen here in the diner in one of the more grotesque decisive moments for Kayla

The way in which this film is shot, felt very “student-esque” with its lackluster camera movements and setting. The set design lacked little depth, except for Isaac’s room which is full of detail, therefore making the world feel small and less three dimensional. An element which pulled me out of this cinematic experience, was the fact that this was evidently filmed in the United Kingdom, and the cast contained predominantly a lot of British actors doing an American accent so I wasn’t fully immersed into this world. 

Meakins clearly uses his passion for the horror genre to influence this film’s dark tone, from it’s leading characters’ moral compass as well as the gorey visuals that inevitably come with those decisions. The whole world feels cold and derelict, be it the place in which Kayla cleans or the housing estate of which she lives in, this is an unwelcoming world that no-one wants to comfort you in. 

Choose or Die isn’t a film that will stick out as one that defined 2022, however I’m sure someone will take something away from this film, be it’s reference to 80s gaming or the violent and graphic elements that the director is clearly passionate about. 

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Anaïs in Love Review | The Worst Person in France



Right on the heels of the stellar film, The Worst Person in the World, a film about a woman named Julie (Renate Reinsve), who is in a transitional state in her life and going through a millennial “mid-life” crisis. Enter Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s Anaïs in Love, a film about a 30-year-old woman named Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) who is down on her luck and can’t find true love. Both Joachim Trier’s capper to the Oslo trilogy and Anaïs in Love tell authentic stories about millennials, and while the latter doesn’t pack quite as much of an emotional punch as The Worst Person in the World, it’s a strong character piece about not just finding what you want in life, but taking it.

The similarities between Julie and Anaïs, while perhaps a tired comparison, are too prominent to ignore (lead actress Anaïs Demoustier could even be mistaken for Renate Reinsve in a certain light). For one, they are similar in age; perhaps resulting in their similar struggles. While Anaïs doesn’t go on quite as experimental of a sexual journey as Julie, neither can find true love. Neither feel ready for kids—at least at the beginning of their respective films. The former can’t even sleep in the same bed as another guy (or ride an elevator, for that matter), much less stay committed to a guy. They also both work in a bookstore but this similarity isn’t as important as it was amusing for me. And yet, despite wanting someone who knows what they want, Anaïs struggles with this.

Anaïs Demoustier is a great leading actor and plays the character of the same name with the right balance of indecision and innocence. There’s also a wide-eyed, cheery aura about her akin to a young child. Take, for instance, the scene where Anaïs first encounters Emilie. She is overjoyed to be speaking with her, and she’s overjoyed as if she has just seen a face that she won’t forget the time or place where they met (yes, that’s a Beatles reference). Demoustier is an experienced actress with plenty of credits to her name, yet she is someone that I was not familiar with coming into Anaïs in Love but am now eager to check out some of her other roles as she is really good in Anaïs in Love.

A still from Anaïs in Love. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Opposite Demoustier is Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Emilie, the woman that Anaïs falls in love with in the film. She is also great, with her playing the more mature one in the “fling.” At some point in the film, she exclaims that at the age of 50, she’s no longer scared by much, if anything at all. It’s a reflection of what Anaïs strives for, and yet, in the end, Emilie is not able to hold back as much as she’d like. But Bruni Tedeschi’s cherry on top comes in the form of a monologue towards the end. What is said will not be spoiled here, but both Bruni Tedeschi and Demoustier give great performances in this scene. It’s by far the most human and relatable part of the film, and applause is deserved for the directing, writing, and acting in this particular scene.

A still from Anaïs in Love. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Imagine this: You’re sleeping with someone and then end up falling for their partner. As absurd as it sounds, this is exactly what happens to our titular character, Anaïs. Emilie is one of Anaïs’ favorite authors and just so happens to live with Daniel (Denis Podalydès). After following her to a stop on her book tour, Anaïs only falls harder for Emilie like a teenager and their first love.

Smartly, Anaïs in Love doesn’t just hand the audience what they want. Reading the synopsis of the film, it’s clear that Anaïs is going to fall for Emilie at some point or another, but Bourgeois-Tacquet takes her time getting to this—the two don’t have a substantial encounter until about an hour in—and as Billy Joel said, “she only reveals what she wants you to see.” There is a lot of scenes of “sexual tension” as the kids say, and it does eventually pay off, but one can appreciate the choice to make the film a marathon, not a sprint.

Director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Within the span of a few months, there have been two movies for millennials that are going through crises. While it doesn’t quite reach as much of millennial life as The Worst Person in the World, Anaïs in Love tells a story of love and maturing on its own terms; and that’s quite special. Excellent film and one that should not be slept on.

Anaïs in Love is in select theaters now and will be available on VOD Friday, May 6.

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | Non-Spoiler Review |



If nothing else, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a reminder of how the theatrical experience and the MCU go together like Al Pacino and screaming. With the sheer number of MCU projects to keep tabs on, it can feel overwhelming and redundant in all honesty. For as well-acted as Moon Knight is and as unique WandaVision was — at least for the first eight episodes — but something about a tentpole film needs the big screen to fully do it justice. No, Multiverse of Madness is not as good of a multiverse movie as Everything Everywhere All at Once, but Sam Raimi’s stylistic panache bleeds through enough to make it feel different than other MCU projects; at least for portions of Multiverse of Madness.

Maybe it’s just the comfort of seeing a character such as Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has really grown into the likable hero that the MCU needs to lead them into the foreseeable future. His first outing was rough; it felt as if the MCU was trying to force him into being the next Tony Stark like the WWE did with Roman Reigns and John Cena way back when. But over time, with cameos in Thor: Ragnarok and a prominent role in Infinity War, Cumberbatch and the creative teams have worked to make the character more likable. They have succeeded for my money, and while Cumberbatch is capable of so much more, he’s a really good Dr. Stephen Strange for what it’s worth.

Joining Strange on his quest across the multiverse are Wong (Benedict Wong), the Sorcerer Supreme, and newcomer America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). The former plays the same role he has in all of his other appearances, that’s not a critique as much as an honest observation. The banter you’ve been hearing since Infinity War (perhaps the first Dr. Strange film as well, I loathe it and didn’t rewatch it ahead of time) is found in the Multiverse of Madness. Gomez brings much-needed youth to the forefront, and while she is a damsel in distress and the MacGuffin of the film, her energy and chemistry with Cumberbatch make her a stand out.

Promos for the Multiverse of Madness made it appear as though this was Wanda’s origin story. There’s a brilliant line about how Wanda bending the rules gets looked down upon as compared to when Strange does, and the conflict between the two is gripping. Elizabeth Olsen has come so far as Wanda and is becoming one of the best parts of the entire MCU. This is her best performance by a long shot, even better than WandaVision, due in big part to the turn she takes. There isn’t much more to say without spoilers, but it’s the Elizabeth Olsen show.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

[Insert Raimi camera swerve] In regards to Sam Raimi’s vision, for those concerned, there are the signature camera movements expected from a Sam Raimi film. And there are some actual horror elements for what feels like the first time in the MCU. It’s not a PG-13 horror film on the same level as Lights Out, but it’s a refreshing change of tone when the scenes of horror play out. And leave it to the creator of the Evil Dead franchise to have a character covered in blood for an entire fight sequence. Many directors have come and gone in the MCU, but Raimi undoubtedly makes his presence known more than the rest.

Again, Everything Everywhere All at Once really nailed the multiverse in a way that makes it hard to top. There’s an emotional weight in that film that is absent from the Multiverse of Madness. Yes, I get it, Wanda is still recovering from the events of WandaVision and Dr. Strange is dealing with the aftermath of past decisions in his first solo venture and Infinity War, but the film keeps up a fast pace and doesn’t stop to marinade in the sorrow for very long. One similarity the film does share with Everything Everywhere All at Once is how Wanda channels other variants of herself. No, there are no paper cuts or chewing gum from beneath a desk, but it was a similarity worth noting.

On left: Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Perhaps above all of the other minor issues that are found in the Multiverse of Madness—a lackluster script, spotty CGI, failing to set something exciting up for the future of the MCU—the biggest one of all is that for as good of an effort as Raimi puts in to make the film feel outside of the box, the Multiverse of Madness still fits into that box more often than not. It’s very much a dog scared of its own shadow in the way that Raimi’s style only carries the film so far. There is some extra gore, a few PG-13 jump scares, and far more dark elements than other MCU projects, but the action sequences feel like an MCU action sequence and the film very much follows a linear three-act structure.

The film hits the ground running, getting right to its first action sequence within minutes, but it follows the basic formula of a nightmare proceeded by the hero waking up in a panic, attending some mundane event (a wedding in this case) before it is interrupted by some big force that requires the help of a superhero. From there, Strange fights the giant squid which reminds me of the giant eye in The Suicide Squad. Oh, and to clarify, that nightmare “wasn’t just a dream, it’s the multiverse” as America Chavez states.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Another common flaw that the film, with just about every other MCU movie, has is that there are no real stakes. Not every film needs world-ending stakes, but being that this is a sequel film to an established character, you could play with the audience. For example, how fun is it to watch professional wrestling if you’re sitting there thinking, “Hey, this stuff is fake!”? There has to be suspension of disbelief in the case of professional wrestling, and MCU movies need to add stakes in films that don’t have the scope of films like Infinity War or Endgame.

In the end, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a really cool comic book flick. You can’t take away the fact that it can sometimes feel different from other MCU projects and is likely the closest thing the MCU will make to a horror film. And while it doesn’t always work or land with the emotional punch it wants, the film is able to entertain and is unlikely to bore casual MCU viewers. It should be stated that while there are some awesome cameos, don’t go in expecting cameo galore (the best one shines in the post-credits scene, by the way). Danny Elfman’s score also kicks all kinds of ass with a guitar riff that features the level of tenacity The Edge had on Love is Blindness. Good stuff, Marvel.

Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be released on May 6.

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