Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

This has been a huge week for movie releases as well as releases on streaming platforms. Of significance is “WandaVision,” whose ninth episode series finale was released Friday on Disney+.

In addition to “WandaVision,” I am also reviewing the films “Coming to America 2,” a sequel thirty years after the first film, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” where SpongeBob and Patrick meet up with Keanu Reeves, Snoop Dog and Danny Trejo, a journey back to old school cartoons with “Tom and Jerry” and the mind-altering mental palindrome of a film “Tenet.”

It’s a lot to pack into one article, so here we go:

“WandaVision”
9.8 out of 10

My quick quote: “Marvel and Disney raise the bar for the mini-series VOD world. By far the best thing I have ever seen on an episodic series. Even if it rips my heart out once again.”

WandaVison series poster

Synopsis: Living idealized suburban lives, super-powered beings Wanda and Vision begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.

My review: Over the course of the past nine weeks on Disney+, I ask myself, “What the heck did you just do to me Marvel Universe?” I literally embarked on a journey that I will never come back from. On several occasions, I held my hand over my wide-open mouth, aghast at what I was experiencing. My emotions were at an all-time high, and I was reminiscent of the feelings I had experienced during “Avengers: Endgame.”

Admittedly, I was a bit turned off at first, not reeling the depths Marvel was going to go based on the introduction of Wanda Maximoff, played spectacularly by Elizabeth Olsen, and the Vision, played by Paul Bettany, who find themselves acting as the two key characters in a series of television sitcoms.

I wasn’t certain what was happening and I loaded up on preconceived notions of what I thought was happening.

As Marvel fans are aware, the Vision was killed by Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame” and considering the Vision is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe — a superhero with the powers to control his density, meaning he could be a ghost in terms of his ability to walk through walls, or become harder than a diamond, with incredible strength and intelligence — I was devastated with his death.

So I thought, “Is Marvel toying with my passion for this character?” The answer is “yes” of course as Marvel always toys with my emotions.

So as I began to watch the episodes, a bit turned off by the campiness of the sitcoms-style interactions, I nearly stopped watching, at least temporarily. I will talk to you the way I would have talked to myself: “With everything you might consider, by all means, keep going, you won’t be disappointed.”

So I pressed on. And it was an incredibly good decision. Marvel and Disney raised the bar for the mini-series Video-On-Demand (VOD) world. “WandaVision” is by far the best thing I have ever seen on an episodic series. Even if it ripped my heart out once again.

I’d like to give a special shout-out to my favorites on the series Darcy Lewis, played by Kat Dennings, who is super-hilarious and who I seriously wish could get powers of some sort to become among the heroes. I also enjoy the work of Randall Park as Agent Jimmy Woo and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau. I am curious as to her part in the Marvel Universe, I suspect we will see her in future projects involving Captain Marvel.

If you haven’t yet watched the series, I would suggest going on to my next review. Below are spoilers that I simply have to address. If you are skipping the spoilers, I understand. Because the reveals in this series are so comprehensive they affect the rest of the Marvel Universe.

My thoughts on everything “WandaVision” (Spoilers)

Marvel did it to me again, they ripped my heart out with the ultimate loss of the Vision. Or did they?

I hated the beginning of the series, not because of anything negative, but because I felt they were making a mockery of the relationship between Wanda and the Vision. But when I realized Wanda was holding the town hostage in an attempt to hold onto their love, my heart dropped.

That’s why there were sitcoms, that’s why they had children and overly campy neighbors. I was completely mind blown.

So what’s the deal with Pietro Maximoff? At first, I thought Marvel was trying to address the elephant in the living room, the X-Men movies, “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” have Quicksilver/Peter running around as a member of the team, yet the Avengers killed the character. So was this a way to create continuity on a damaged timeline? Can Wanda give a regular person superpowers?

And just when I thought they answered the question, they pulled the rug out from under me when he was revealed as a possible actor by the name of John Bohner.

Then there was the Agnes Harkness reveal. She was the show’s bad witch, who did a beautiful job of bringing disarray and hopelessness to the series. Will she resurface after being banished to live as an overly-nosey neighbor? Wanda’s abilities in taking over an entire town certainly indicate her incredible abilities, but you never know in the unexplored world of witchcraft as of yet.

But here is my biggest #NativeNerd prediction. I suspect we have not seen the last of Vision. In the series finale, the Vision and the White Vision came head-to-head after some incredible and epic fight scenes. The Vision touches the head of the White Vision, sharing memories ... or was it a transfer?

Could we see the Vision come back? Considering the Vision is not human, and his sentience has always been a question, could he come back as a version of himself?

Everything in the Marvel Universe happens for a reason. This #NativeNerd will be there at every twist and turn.

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run”
8.5 out of 10

My quick quote: “Sponge on the Run was a blast, even if the midpoint of the movie came across as a preschool SpongeBob series ad. The show-stealers were Keanu Reeves as Sage the tumbleweed and Danny Trejo as El Diablo.”

The SpongeBob Movie 'Sponge on the Run' movie poster

Synopsis: When SpongeBob SquarePants' beloved pet snail Gary goes missing, a path of clues leads SpongeBob and his best friend Patrick to the powerful King Poseidon, who has Gary held captive in the Lost City of Atlantic City. On their mission to save Gary, SpongeBob and the Bikini Bottom gang team up for a heroic and hilarious journey, where they discover nothing is stronger than the power of friendship.

My review: I love SpongeBob, I always have. And though I wholeheartedly recommend this latest movie — where SpongeBob and Patrick must find the whereabouts of Gary the snail — I found it a little bit lacking when the film’s story delves back into the origins of his friendships in his hometown of Bikini Bottom.

I was ready for a great story, and when SpongeBob and Patrick travel to a western ghost town to battle zombie ghost pirate cowboys after meeting with Sage the tumbleweed, portrayed by Keanu Reeves, I was super excited. Then when Danny Trejo came into the story as El Diablo, I was even more excited.

Snoop Dog as the gambler, who also raps in the film, undoubtedly did it for the benefit of his kids who are surly excited their dad is in the film. Heck yes, I would do it.

But that was their only real exploration outside Bikini Bottom. They make their way to the lost city of Atlantic City, and after getting captured by King Neptune, have to explain their way out of the situation.

Then follows a series of SpongeBob meeting his lifelong friends. Over and over again the story reveals the ways SpongeBob meets Sandy the Squirrel, Patrick the starfish and more. I found it cute, but mildly tiresome. I question, “Is this an advertisement of sorts for a preschool version of sorts for a new SpongeBob series for preschoolers? I suspect it probably is.”

So in as much as I loved the film, I was mildly put off by the midpoint. That said, your kids will surely love it. Hashtag #SaveGary.

In memory of Steve Hillenberg, the creator of SpongeBob, who passed on in 2018.

“Coming 2 America”
8.0 out of 10

My quick quote: “It took a minute to get started, but ‘Coming 2 America’ is a funny film graciously continuing the stories of all the characters introduced by Eddie Murphy thirty years ago.”

Coming 2 America movie poster

Synopsis: Set in the lush and royal country of Zamunda, newly-crowned King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his trusted confidante Semmi (Arsenio Hall) embark on an all-new hilarious adventure that has them traversing the globe from their great African nation to the borough of Queens, New York — where it all began.

My review: Right off the bat, I was mildly worried the movie might become a bit campy with no real investment into the characters of the original “Coming to America.” Some of the jokes seemed a little corny and interactions were a bit over the top, but when the story dives into the whereabouts of Prince Akeem’s long-lost son Lavelle Junson (excellently portrayed by Jermaine Fowler) the movie took a tremendous turn for the better.

Once the movie gets going, the resurrection of the characters in all of their hilarious splendor returns. Eddie Murphy as Clarence the barber is as funny as he ever was.

Arsenio Hall, as Semmi and Reverend Brown, was hysterical. And to add to the magic of the movie were the fantastic comedic actors and two of my favorite comedians Tracy Morgan as Uncle Reem and Leslie Jones as Murphy’s baby’s momma Mary Junson.

The standouts for me outside of Murphy were Wesley Snipes as General Izzi, who to me did an incredible job playing a man who was both a tyrant as well as a charismatic leader. Kiki Layne as Princess Meeka also did an exceptional job as the eldest daughter, who one day would take her position as a leader in the kingdom.

The movie was fun, the dances and display of African culture were beautiful and mesmerizing and Eddie Murphy, with all of his abilities to perform, brings a lot of fun back to the world of Prince Akeem.

“Tenet”
9.5 out of 10

My quick quote: “Led beautifully by protagonist John David Washington, ‘Tenet’, an exceptional action-packed film, dives into a concept of twisting time in a way never explored before. I’m adding this to my permanent library.”

Tenet movie poster

Synopsis: Armed with only one word, “Tenet,” and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real-time.

My review: “Tenet” has been on my radar for over a year and admittedly I lost track of its trajectory in the midst of the COVID crisis. I feel sorry for the films that unfortunately had scheduled release dates in 2020.

I finally managed to access the film on Amazon Prime, opting to pay for the rental even though film companies are kind enough to offer press review screeners. It was $5.99 incredibly well-spent. In fact, I am going to buy the film as I definitely want to watch it again as one of my all-time favorites. It’s an exclusive list of films that make it into the #NativeNerd permanent library.

(Related: A #NativeNerd list: My top ten all-time favorite movies)

“Tenet” is exceptional in that it introduces a concept I have never seen before. Unknown people from the future have a way for people and other physical items to travel backward in time. Essentially their trajectory is reversed and can travel back to create havoc or alter a trajectory that is traveling toward it.

This concept is addressed and readdressed in so many complex ways over the course of the film and caused my mind to work so hard, I dreamt about the concept the night after I watched it. It is that immersive.

As I wrote in my statement, “Tenet” is led beautifully by the film’s protagonist John David Washington. I sincerely hope to see Washington again and again. His acting is so great, I am going to research what he has done before so I can watch his other performances.

Robert Pattinson, who I did not realize was in the film until I watched it — and is slotted to play Bruce Wayne/Batman — also delivered an amazing performance as the co-protagonist, Neil. Additional nods to the commanding performances of Elizabeth Debicki as Kat and Kenneth Branagh as the ominous arms dealer Sator.

“Tenet” is a brilliant film filled with some of the most mind concept-altering film threads I’ve ever viewed. The movie, courtesy of the skills of Washington, has one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen when the actor comes into contact with a group of Sator’s thugs.

“Tom and Jerry”
9.5 out of 10

My quick quote: “A fun throwback to the original cartoons by Hanna-Barbera, ‘Tom and Jerry’ is lighthearted and a welcome nostalgic look at the comical cat and mouse from my childhood”

Tom and Jerry movie poster

Synopsis: A legendary rivalry reemerges when Jerry moves into New York City's finest hotel on the eve of the wedding of the century, forcing the desperate event planner to hire Tom to get rid of him. As mayhem ensues, the escalating cat-and-mouse battle soon threatens to destroy her career, the wedding, and possibly the hotel itself.

My review: Truth told, I didn’t expect much, but soon into the film, I was pleasantly surprised about the fun way in which “Tom and Jerry” delivered a message acknowledging the old watchers (like me) while bringing in a new generation.

I try not to take a look at film reviewers, but I couldn’t help noticing “Tom and Jerry” got a lower rating than you might expect on Rotten Tomatoes. I almost passed on the film but decided I need to make up my own mind. I am glad I did.

“Tom and Jerry” was a lot of great fun. I smiled throughout the entire movie and truly enjoyed the silliness of Kayla, played by Chloë Grace Moretz and her opposition Terence, played by Michael Peña. Moretz and Peña brought great, fun energy to the film and I laughed at their silly interactions constantly with Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse and the hilarious hotel manager Mr. Dubros played by Rob Delaney. You might remember Delaney from his role as Peter (the superhero without superpowers) in "Deadpool 2."

But overall, I don’t see the issues of why critics would be so tough on this film. Yes, there is a lot of silliness and exaggeration, but for gosh sakes, lighten up. The film isn’t seeking an Oscar for best cat and mouse cartoon duo, it is a film trying to make people laugh and have fun. Which I absolutely did.

I was so appreciative of the movie for so many nostalgic nods to the original cartoons, the funny screams as they fell from electrical lines, trying to tap head bumps back into the head with a hammer and Jerry the mouse floating toward cheese due to smelling the fragrance smoke lines. The nostalgia and revisiting old familiar cartoon characters was a lot of fun. There is a cameo moment with one of my all-time favorite cartoon characters from Hanna Barbera in the film. Let me know on social media when you see him in the clinic scene. 

If critics want to get caught up on the Oscar-worthiness of a cartoon mouse, instead of actually enjoying the fun and lightheartedness of a fun cartoon, I’ll let them venture off into the world being grumpy. Meanwhile, while I’ll get to sit back and laugh at something silly and funny.

Go get your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews and go laugh together. Or heck, be like me and watch it on your own.

Native Nerd Phone

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