Mortal Kombat and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros
Directed by Simon McQuoid
Honestly, I was never much of a Mortal Kombat fan. More of Tekken guy when it came to fighting games, but there’s no denying the cultural impact that the franchise has had and it’s impressive just how long they’ve been going with the series for it to only get better and better as time goes on. I remember Mortal Kombat 9 being an excellent reboot that got me into the series for a bit, but even at the games’ peak it still can’t touch that AWESOME 1995 movie directed by Paul WS Anderson! I just rewatched that movie like a year ago and it still holds up as a fantastic martial arts movie that finds the right balance between what fans want from the games and making into a coherent movie. There have been other attempts since then to get the series off the ground in non-video game forms, but this is the first big step WB has taken with it since acquiring the franchise in 2009. Does this bring Mortal Kombat to the big screen for a whole new generation of fans in a bold and exciting way, or will we all still be clutching our VHS tapes of the original film by the end of this movie? Let’s find out!!
As you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat movie, the story is set right before the start of the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament where Earth Realm’s greatest fighters try to overcome the unstoppable warriors of Outworld, and after nine consecutive losses in a row it’s Earth’s last chance to avoid complete and utter devastation as Outworld will finally be able to invade Earth if they win this time! So who exactly will be participating in this generation’s tournament? Well we’ve got some of the classic standbys from the franchise like Liu Kang, Jax, and a begrudging Kano (Ludi Lin, Mehcad Brooks, and Josh Lawson), but the real hope for humanity comes in the form of Cole Young (Lewis Tan); a new character for the series and someone with an unexpected history to this tournament that slowly reveals itself as he is recruited by Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) to seek out Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) and his crew so he can learn the techniques and Mortal Kombat Magic necessary to win this tournament! All is not as cut and dry however as Outworld’s leader in the tournament Shang Tsung (Chin Han) has his own crew of Mortal Kombat characters and is not waiting for the tournament to begin before sending them out to destroy the fledgling Earth team. With opponents such as Sub-Zero, Mileena, and Goro (Joe Taslim, Sisi Stringer, and Angus Sampson) hunting them down, do these heroes of Earth even stand a chance of MAKING it to the tournament; let alone becoming strong enough to win it? What is Cole’s history with this tournament, and will it be the key to Earth finally getting one over on Outworld? You know, most Fight Camps are AT LEAST eight weeks, so shouldn’t Raiden have gotten these guys together BEFORE the tournament was like a week away? And we all wonder why Earth Realm lost nine times in a row!
Godzilla vs. Kong and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Adam Wingard
It’s no secret that I was not a fan of King of the Monsters which was particularly surprising to me as I always get a kick out of seeing giant monster movies! There was just too much pretention and import without enough depth or butt kicking fight scenes to justify how lethargic much of it was, but if there was anything about the movie that caught my interest (aside from them using the Blue Oyster Cult song for the credits), it was the promise of seeing Godzilla and the King Kong from Kong: Skull Island lace up the gloves and duke it out in a battle to end all battles! Well the one thing that giant monsters were not able to overcome was the Pandemic as this got pushed back for several months, but the day has finally arrived and they even put it on HBO Max to boot! Is this the titanic clash between two legendary movie monsters we’ve all been waiting for, or is this a bigger letdown than Batman v Superman? Let’s find out!!
Following the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Monarch has decided that instead of leaving Kong alone on his mysterious island that is probably not even on Godzilla’s radar, they’ll capture him, chain him up, and put him in a fake jungle so that… I guess he and Godzilla don’t have a punch up. It seems that Kong himself wasn’t consulted on this as he’s constantly wrecking up his cage and has to be restrained whenever he’s out of it, but in any case, along with that there’s a new Super Science company in town named Apex run by some dude named Walter (Demián Bichir) who believes that there’s some sort of Unobtanium-like SUPER OIL that requires drilling even deeper into the Earth to get. How deep? Well so deep that apparently you empty out into a whole new world which is where the monsters they’ve been dealing with are actually from. A rag tag team of scientists are assembled to try and prove this Hollow Earth theory and since they’ve already got a giant monster under lock and key, they can use his… something something science babble to help them find the entrance to the Hollow Earth and make perhaps the greatest discovery in all of human history! Said team is made up of some geologist dude (Alexander Skarsgård), Kong’s caretaker (Rebecca Hall), her adopted daughter (Kaylee Hottle), and Walter’s very annoyed daughter (Eiza González) along with like five or six nameless army dudes. Now all this however assumes that Godzilla, the supposed protector of Earth, doesn’t come in and wreck Apex/Monarch’s plans, but hey I guess if they’ve got Kong on hand anyway, why not let him punch the giant lizard a few times along the way? Oh, and Millie Bobby Brown is back on a Goonies adventure to discover the secrets of Apex along with a nerd (Julian Dennison) and a conspiracy theorist (Brian Tyree Henry) who has no problem dragged teenagers along on a life threatening adventure. Then again, Rebecca Hall has someone even younger tagging along with her, so either way there seems to be way too many irresponsible grown-ups running around here. Will Apex and Monarch be able to find the hidden entrance to the Hollow Earth and perhaps find some answers about Kong as well? What does Apex want with this new energy source, and could Godzilla’s recent aggression towards them be somehow connected? Am I the only one picturing a better movie where the giant ape and the giant lizard just say SCREW this and work together to destroy everyone involved with this ridiculous venture!?
Nobody and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Ilya Naishuller
I recently got around to catching up on Better Call Saul (at least the seasons on Netflix), so Bob Odenkirk has been on my mind lately and is definitely one of those underrated actors that should be getting more mainstream roles. Of course there are plenty of mid-tier TV actors like that, most of which were also on Breaking Bad, but Odenkirk is one of those fun cases of a guy who started out in comedy and found a way to effectively bridge that into more dramatic roles; and the fact that he discovered Tim & Eric and even works on most of their shows landed him a soft spot with me! Hearing that he was in a movie about getting the crap kicked out of him definitely perked my interest as it means he’ll be taking another step outside of his established comfort zone into the realm of Dad Action Heroes, but can he find success hoping genres once again, or is Bob more comfortable playing characters who talk the talk instead of walk the walk? Let’s find out!!
Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is your typical suburban dad. He goes to work each day, forgets to take out the garbage before the truck arrives, and has kids who could take or leave his presence. In and out, it’s always the same and while he’s not exactly HAPPY he seems at least content enough to let this routine keep going until it runs its course. That is until his house is broken into one night and he just lets the thieves go instead of even TRYING to take them down. His son (Gage Munroe) is pretty upset that he didn’t do anything during the robbery (especially since he himself took a punch to the face), but he heeds them no mind as he returns to his very normal life. That is until it turns out they stole something that belonged to his daughter, and something finally clicks within him as he seems to have a lot more anger in his heart and skills in his head than he was leading on about, and he needs to find a way to get back at them for what they did. In the course of doing this, he crosses someone who has some VERY high connections and so becomes a target of a city wide manhunt, and so can’t just put the genie back in the bottle after his little rage relapse. He now has to contend with the Russian mafia who are not just after him but after his family as well, and so now has to dig up all the guns, pull all the skeletons out of his closet, and perhaps give up this comfortable life the he had set up for himself. What exactly did Hutch do in his past that made him such a formidable butt kicker, and how did he wind up in the suburbs? Will he still have a family to go back to once this is all over, or will this be the last hurrah for a man who just couldn’t make the simple life work for him? Is it just me, or would he have made a MUCH better Joker than the one we got in Joker? Or even Justice League for that matter…
Coming 2 America and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios
Directed by Craig Brewer
Coming to America is not a movie I have much nostalgia for. I didn’t see it until I was well into my twenties and while I found it amusing it wasn’t exactly an all-time classic for me, so while I’m not giddy with anticipation to see where Prince Akeem ended up thirty years later, I shouldn’t be particularly bummed if it doesn’t live up to the original. Frankly, the Eddie Murphy from my childhood peaked with Dr. Doolittle as I didn’t see any of his classic movies until I was much older, and it’s only been in the last few years that he’s buckled down and tried to be more discerning with his roles so perhaps this will take to heart the harsh lessons he learned over the last few decades and will actually be something true to the spirit of the original and to the comedy legend that he was at the time! Yeah okay, I don’t think that’s going to be the case either (especially with them putting a 2 in the title), but let’s find out!!
Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy), the soon to be king of Zamunda, has been living the last thirty years in luxury and bliss with his wife Lisa (Shari Headley) and their three daughters (KiKi Layne, Bella Murphy, and Akiley Love) in the beautiful palace that I’m sure is not an opulent eyesore and a constant reminder of wealth inequality in the region! Surely not when they are being menaced by the neighboring warlord General izzi (Wesley Snipes) who wants his own son to be married to Akeem’s oldest. After all, the law says No Chicks Allowed and therefore a woman can’t be the leader, so perhaps Akeem’s happy little life is about to get quite complicated. As luck would have it however, the King (James Earl Jones) has been keeping a secret from Akeem as it turns out he has a son living in Queens that he conceived during his trip there thirty odd years ago. Must have happened when we weren’t looking I guess. We were probably all getting more popcorn. So Akeem, with the help of his loyal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall) must return to the United States and bring his son back to be groomed as the next Prince and eventual heir to the throne; something that doesn’t sit right with his eldest daughter who was hoping to find a way to ascend to the throne as well as his wife who’s a bit perturbed that he conceived a child about a week before they started dating. His son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) has his own reservations as it’s a pretty sweet deal to be plucked out of obscurity to become a big shot, but being a Prince isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be even if it means the easy life for his mother (Leslie Jones) and his uncle (Tracy Morgan). Will Prince Akeem be able to ascend to the throne as King with a competent heir by his side, or will the culture shock for Lavelle be too great for him and his family to handle? What will General Izzi do now that his master scheme is about to be unraveled, and will Lavelle suffer the consequences of his newly found father’s machinations? Or will it be about none of that and everyone will spend most of the movie spouting lines from the first one?
Tom & Jerry and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Tim Story
The pandemic has been awful for everyone, but I have no doubt that a few movies were relieved to avoid having to release in theaters and have dismal box office returns; particularly the movies that were already being pushed further and further back looking for the least competitive window possible to MAYBE scrape by at number three on slow weekend. My Spy certainly springs to mind, as does this movie which didn’t exactly light the world on fire with its trailer and frankly I was not looking forward to sitting through it when Warner Bros put it on their HBO Max slate. Still, even if it looks a bit cheap and cheesy for the big screen, perhaps it plays a bit better on the smaller one and will find its niche in the streaming market. Is this a fun little romp for the kids that captures the spirit of these classic characters, or is it yet another lousy cash-in that’ll come and go faster than the LAST time they tried to bring these characters to the big screen all the way back in 1992? Let’s find out!!
Thomas D Cat and Jerome A Mouse are two critters roaming the streets of New York City; one looking for a place to stay that has lots of cheese and the other hoping to be the world’s most famous keyboard playing feline right after Keyboard Cat. Their paths cross when Jerry interrupts his concert in the park and after a series of convoluted antics; one ends up in a fancy hotel chomping holes into walls and stealing food while the other is left homeless and with a broken keyboard. Try to guess which one is which! Said hotel by the way has a new employee named Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) who faked her way into the position and is trying to prove herself by fixing the hotel’s mouse problem in preparation for an upcoming celebrity wedding that will take place in the hotel’s banquet hall. The current supervisor (Michael Peña) is skeptical of Kayla and is looking for any excuse to get rid of her, so she has to bring in a mouse catching ringer and decides to hire this cartoon cat that clearly has it out for the little mouse. Will Tom be able to stop Jerry’s antics and earn a decent salary to fund his hopes and dreams? Will the wedding go off without a hitch, or is there more going on with the celebrity couple that can only come to light via cartoon animal violence? I know the movie is out and I’ve sat through it already… but are we sure this is even a real movie?
Willy’s Wonderland and all the images you see in this review are owned by Screen Media Films
Directed by Kevin Lewis
You know, Nicolas cage may not be in big Hollywood movies anymore but he’s got a decent eye for the VOD and Indie markets. He’s worked with guys like Panos Cosmatos, he was in probably the best HP Lovecraft movie in I don’t know how long, and that Brian Taylor movie Parents was an absolute trip and frankly should have gotten much more attention than it did. Now he’s starring in an unofficial Five Nights at Freddy’s movie which would otherwise looks like an Asylum knock off. Say what you will about Cage, at least he hasn’t gotten to Carmen Electra, C Thomas Howell, and Danny Trejo levels yet! Does Nicolas Cage prove once again prove his savviness at picking low budget projects, or was this just an easy paycheck for all involved? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a mysterious stranger (Nicolas Cage) getting the tires on his car ripped apart on a random country road near a dead end country town. How much of a dead end is this town? They don’t just lack any sort of internet service here, they don’t even have the infrastructure to support ATMs which means that Cage can’t just pay for the tires; he has to do this the old fashioned way with a favor and a handshake. The town Business Guy (Ric Reitz) offers to pay for Cage’s new tires if he spends the night cleaning his janky as heck pizza place called Willy’s Wonderland; a children’s pizzeria with a cast of animatronic characters that love nothing more than to sing their happy songs for the children. Unfortunately the little pizza shop has a VERY sordid past but that’s about to change as our local Business Guy is hoping to fix it up and get it running again which is all going to start with a little bit of elbow grease and a lots of window cleaner! Cage silently agrees and is locked inside for some reason, but he doesn’t mind because he’s got a job to do and a bag full of PUNCH COLA to keep him nice and hydrated! All is not as it seems however as some local kids led by Liv Hawthorne (Emily Tosta) are trying to burn the place to the ground but decide to try and convince Cage to come out first before they do it. And why would they want to do that? Well if the creepy animatronics and shady deal with the Business Guy wasn’t enough of a clue, it turns out this place is haunted for some reason and that she has some very grisly experiences with the place, so turning it to ashes will bring some degree of closure for her. Still, seems like a bad idea to just run into the pizzeria full of haunted and murderous robots no matter how fluffy their fur is and it turns into a fight for survival as the teens try to escape the death trap and Cage continues to clean up stains wherever he finds them! Will the horrors of this place finally be put to bed with the help of our mysterious stranger? What exactly is keeping this place standing all these years, and why is Business Guy so gung ho to reopen in the first place? Will Nicolas Cage clean the floors so well that you could eat off of them!?
Bliss and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios
Directed by Mike Cahill
So hey! Either studios are getting bolder in 2021 and are actually releasing stuff, or I’m finally paying attention and now have about two months’ worth of releases to look forward to across my various streaming services! I’m definitely ready to get back on that movie reviewing horse (even though this review is coming out almost a week after the movie did), and what better film to herald this renewed vigor than a movie literally named after a word for happiness! So does Amazon’s sci-fi take on a less action heavy Matrix (or a less dreamlike Eternal Sunshine) prove to be as good as the title promises, or is the true bliss the moment you decide to turn the movie off? Let’s find out!!
Gregg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is your typical upper middle class miserable white dude. He’s recently divorced, he hates his job, and while he loves his kids they’re pretty much grown now and there seems to be some issues there he doesn’t feel like confronting. Instead, he spends his time drawing pictures of a better life which may be cathartic for him but because that’s ALL he does at work he ends up getting fired. Just as well, I mean the place is a dismal office building with all life and personality scrubbed out of it, but in the real world you can’t just get fired and let everything fall to the wayside. Or can you!? Drinking his misery away, Gregg meets a woman named Isabel Clemens (Salma Hayek) who recognizes him as someone special and whisks him away on an adventure of homelessness and telekinetic powers! Why? Well according to Isabella, this is a fake reality that she built and that nothing here matters! The people are fake, the boredom is fake, the lousy jobs are all fake, and she’s here to show Mr. Wittle that’s he’s not so Wittle after all! Seems like an enticing proposition and there is certainly some evidence to support this, but there are also many questions as well that Isabel either has a convenient technobabble excuse for or is outright hesitant to confront, so does Greg dare to hope that his boring meaningless life can be changed in an instant by this benevolent benefactor? If everything is a simulation though, doesn’t that mean his kids aren’t real either? How would you even define if they are real if the feelings are genuinely there? Can we call Morpheus in to explain this? He’s pretty good at this kind thing.s
Sightless and all the images you see in this review are owned by MarVista Entertainment Directed by Cooper Karl
Alright, look. As much as I would LOVE to do nothing more than watch wrestling and play Halo until the world gets back to normal, I need to get back into some regular routines and that’s going to start with reviewing some movies. Yes, this movie was released last year and I could have watched it on digital, but it just got its Netflix release and frankly I never even HEARD of it until I was looking for something to watch. Warner Bros is going to do its best to keep me relevant in the coming months with their movies coming straight to HBO Max the same time as they hit theaters, but I’ll be filling the cracks with whatever catches my eye and, perhaps most importantly, whatever I can watch with the BAJILLION streaming services I’m already paying for. So then! Does this thriller deserve a second chance at relevance now that it’s graced the front page of Netflix, or is this just more filler for an already bloated catalog of films that no one has heard of? Let’s find out!!
Ellen Ashland (Madelaine Petsch) is having a rough go of it. Not only was she attacked by a masked stranger, they sprayed her in the eyes with a chemical that has left her permanently blind and now she has to move to a new apartment to adjust to living a life without vision. Thankfully she comes from money and her brother not only covers the apartment but also pays for a nurse named Clayton (Alexander Koch) to take care of her and ease the transition. Ellen is certainly not taking this turn of events with good humor and spends a lot of her time feeling miserable for herself despite the constant efforts by Clayton to get her to open up and embrace her new life, but as the days stretch on she starts to notice strange things around her. There’s a couple next door that seem to be hiding some awful secrets, she starts to feel and hear things that may or may not be there, and you’d think she’d get at least one Get Well card! I know that forwarding mail can be a pain, but still! All of these strange things quickly add up and she finds herself in a situation where she can’t trust anything; least of all her own sense. Is Ellen stuck with a bad case of paranoia after such a terrible attack and a life changing event? Is there something in her past that’s coming back to bite her now that she’s in a much more vulnerable situation? Is it just me, or does this dude look like five hot guys mashed into one; from Tom Welling circa 2003 to that Philosophy Tube guy.
Now that we’ve got the bad movies out of the way, it’s time for us to focus on what was good because despite EVERYTHING that went oh so wrong this year, there were more than enough highlights to help us get through it all. With hope (and a lot of hard work) on the horizon, we’ll take one last look at the films that made 2020 more than just a dumpster fire before jumping into 2021 with renewed vigor and a spring in our step (and a few prosecutions against the outgoing administration wouldn’t go amiss either)! Let’s get started!!
Honorable Mention: MOVIES IN THEATERS
In the US we got about three months of movies before everything shut down, and while there were some absolutely DREADFUL ones (particularly in January), it was actually shaping up to be a pretty darn good year! There were movies that looked good and lived up to those expectations like The Gentlemen and Birds of Prey, but we had a LOT of surprises; not in terms of movies that turned out to be five star classics, but movies that SHOULD have been terrible but were actually pretty decent! I mean think about it, can you imagine a world prior to 2020 where a Sonic the Hedgehog movie WASN’T going to be in everyone’s worst list or that a Vin Diesel vehicle would have decent writing? Sadly the COVID pandemic cut everything short; not just the big blockbusters we know about like No Time to Die, Black Widow, or Dune, but all the other movies that don’t get months of buildup and turn out to be great regardless. For years I had been seeing two to three movies a week and while a lot of them weren’t great there were more than enough to make it all worthwhile. Now that everything is either streaming or pushed back, it’s difficult for me to find that passion to just try and watch everything when I could just as easily watch reruns of It’s Always Sunny or The Simpsons with just as much effort and without spending an extra penny. Maybe the days of rushing to the theater every other day are gone for good and I won’t be returning to it even after this is all over, but that’s how I saw a lot of the movies I still love to this day and that’s how I saw some pretty darn good movies this year!
It’s certainly been one heck of a year, hasn’t it? Well it’s finally about to end so you can stop hearing me prattle on about it (we’ll see how 2021 goes), and before we end any year we must take one look back to reflect and see what we can learn. This year more than most, there’s SO many important lessons to take away, but in my little sphere of film criticism it’s feeling less and less important to rage against the disappointments that were had; especially considering the circumstances that everyone was trying to work around at every turn. Like last year this will hopefully be more of a CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM list than a merciless spanking of movies I didn’t like, and I decided to post this one first because I’d rather end this year on a good note with the BEST OF list instead and using this space to scream one more time at everything that went wrong in 2020. Let’s get started!!
Honorable Mention: ALMOST ALL THE COVID ERA RELEASES
Yeah, let’s just head butt the elephant in the room right off the bat! With COVID shutting down theaters it was one big game of chicken as studios with more to lose tried to hedge their bets on later releases while those with less confidence were more apt to let them go on streaming services. Because of that, a lot of the mediocre movies we would have gotten parceled out throughout the year were frontloaded in the summer and a lot of the movies we were most looking forward still haven’t come out yet. We still haven’t seen the new James Bond movie or Black Widow, but Scoob and Trolls World Tour? Sure, why not give them twenty bucks to rent it? Even the bigger movies that eventually limped their way to the home market like Mulan were hardly worth all the fuss, and even the one movie I saw this year with the nerve to sneak out to theaters (I saw it at a drive thru) was New Mutants; a movie destined to fail whenever it came out so why not make it an even bigger joke by releasing it when it’d be dangerous to do so? We have the vaccine now, but it’s looking like it will be almost another year before things get back to normal, and with Warner Bros getting into fights with production studios over releasing movies on HBO Max it’s not clear if everyone will be on board with calling 2020 films a wash and just letting them come out so the next slate of movies can have their time shine. There were a few highlights here and there but 2020 was pretty much a nightmare across the board, and while 2021 seems like it will be no less… interesting, hopefully it will be the start of something better for everyone.