Secret Invasion | D+
This isn’t the abomination against humanity which tons of critics and viewers have claimed, but it’s still quite bad. “Secret Invasion” is an utterly insignificant, unremarkable, and forgettable television series made only to add more content to Disney+. It takes one of the most iconic and compelling Marvel comics storylines (which could’ve made for an entire saga with multiple phases, by the way) and morphs it into a boring footnote of a story.
It also continues the trend of godforsaken and hellish MCU writing. The dialogue is so horrendous that it’ll make viewers ashamed of themselves just for listening to it. The pacing is all over the place, sometimes rushed and sometimes lagging behind. Worst of all, it takes characters we loved from previous MCU projects and obliterates them, particularly Nick Fury. Remember the badass, mysterious, hyper-intelligent super-spy from “The Avengers” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier?” Remember how cool it was seeing him to go toe-to-toe with godlike beings? Well he’s long gone now. What this show brings us is a sad old man with the IQ of an 8-year-old who is revealed to have never been all that competent or important. Apparently, he used shape-shifting Skrulls to move his career forward all along, never having actually accomplished anything remarkable on his own. Why does Marvel want to tear down its own characters? I don’t get it.
Anyway, there are some redeeming qualities here. Olivia Coleman is fantastic in her role as the hyper-intimidating yet elegant Sonya Falsworth, who’s really what Nick Fury should’ve been. I also appreciate how this show doesn’t have forced humor and tries to be an adult-oriented spy thriller. It also has a memorable score (that’s unfortunately accompanied by an AI-generated opening title sequence). Ultimately, “Secret Invasion” is actually one of the better MCU Disney+ series, which just goes to show how wretched Marvel has become.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem | A-
Wow, what a pleasant surprise. Mutant Mayhem is an extraordinary coming-of-age film reminiscent of the brilliant teen dramadies by John Hughes, only with humanoid turtles rather than people. It has an excellent wit to it, with snappy dialogue that keeps the film lively and the characters grounded. The turtles all interrupt and talk over each other, making that dialogue feel organic and spontaneous. They feel like actual adolescents, and this film benefits immensely by focusing on the Teenage element of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” more than anything else. Donnie’s voice still hasn’t dropped, Mikey hasn’t hit his growth spurt yet, Raph is full of teen angst, and Leo is distracted by his crush on a girl. The animation is also really unique and perfectly fits the chaotic and youthful nature of the turtles. My only real issue with the film is that the final battle was a little forced and had too many characters and events happening simultaneously. The movie comes to a natural thematic conclusion and then continues for another ten minutes just to get some action sequences in for the trailer. Overall though, this was a wonderful experience that has made me a TMNT fan.
Bottoms | B+
Like Mutant Mayhem, “Bottoms” is another pleasant surprise. It follows two lesbian high schoolers who decide to create a school fight club to become popular. The film is incredibly volatile and crude, and that approach worked for the most part. There’s some hilarious jokes that really go for it; nowadays most comedies are prohibited from taking risks, and “Bottoms” isn’t afraid to get offensive and in your face. I laughed out loud multiple times in the theater, which almost never happens to me. Co-leads Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri (who are close friends in real life) have radiant chemistry and despite their characters’ deep flaws (especially Sennott’s), you can’t help but adore them and root for them. The film moves at a brisk pace that never lets up, and despite its small budget it oddly feels larger in scale than it actually is.
Now, the film has two glaring issues: one is what I call “‘Superbad’ Syndrome” — like so many high school comedies since that film’s release, “Bottoms” shares too many similarities. Sennott essentially plays Jonah Hill’s character and Edebiri essentially plays Michael Cera’s character, and they even have a McLovin-esque sidekick who Sennott (like Jonah Hill) berates constantly. Both plots revolve around “nerds” trying to get popular and catch the attention of their crushes. Now, “Bottoms” isn’t a “Superbad” rip-off (that movie’s called “Booksmart”), but the 2007 film’s influence was distracting. The second issue is this movie’s struggle with realism. At times it’s somewhat grounded in reality and at other times (especially the gory ending) it’s about as realistic as “Moonfall.” There was some major tonal whiplash going on. Yet despite its flaws, “Bottoms” put a huge smile on my face and was one of the funniest comedies of the past few years.