Movies

Megan Leavey

This is another war/drama movie with a fair bit of patriotic values that will resonate with American viewers that I found was a rather well told story. It is a biographical movie about a young Marine corps corporal who teamed up with a combat dog named Rex. She – the title of the movie – formed a bond with this dog, and after ending her tour tried to adopt him. Kata Mara plays the title character, and I really enjoyed taking this journey with her. She did a great job portraying the after effects of war, the trauma it leaves on a person, and how she coped with the loss of being Rex’s partner. The story itself did great at maintaining tension as you never quite knew where Rex might sniff out a bomb. The few scenes that were meant to serve as Iraq were tense and exciting and I wish they showed just a bit more of the types of missions that she and Rex went out on.

The supporting cast members that were her mom and dad, stepdad, Gunnery Sergeant, fellow dog handlers and soldiers were very good at creating the narrative and establishing the life of Megan Leavey. Common as the Gunnery Sergeant was a pleasant surprise, he’s always a joy to watch on screen. He’s got presence even if he’s just a minor character. Edie Falco as her mother did an excellent job at getting on your nerves because her character is a minor step away from being trailer trash. Bradley Whitford was a little bit of a wasted choice here, he didn’t really have much to work with. Tom Felton’s acting is always fun to watch, as one fondly remembers him from his Harry Potter movie days.

The thing that I enjoyed most about this movie, which also brought a tear to my eye, was the bond between Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) and Rex (Varco). That connection that a dog forms with their owner and partner is something truly special. Dogs form an attachment of love that is just so very touching and beautiful, and you can’t help but feel your heart be tugged when you see Rex light up at reuniting with Megan. Honestly, I watched it for the dog. And I was so very happy that the dog didn’t die during the movie. Although Rex, himself in real life, has now since passed away back in 2012.

Overall, I recommend watching this movie if you’re in the mood for a touching biographical look at this woman’s life and that of the dog. Besides the more patriotic moments that have no bearing on my viewing, the moments of tenderness between human and dog are a treat to enjoy.

Movies

Without Remorse

I went into this one straight away without watching the trailer because I am a fan of Michael B. Jordan, and I was curious as to how Amazon would treat another Tom Clancy property. I came away from it pleasantly surprised, and I see why a lot of other reviewers panned it negatively. It is not nice to American propaganda outside of the usual CIA fluff, which is obvious otherwise it wouldn’t be a Tom Clancy movie. You could see the ending a mile off, but that did not negatively impact my enjoyment. In fact, I was hoping it would be the case of what I thought it was and in that regard I was happy.

“I’ll show them what a pawn can do to a King.”

The plot, which is simple, and not indecipherable as several reviews I’ve read have said, is that John Kelly, played by Michael B. Jordan, goes on a hunt for the men responsible in the death of his pregnant wife and unborn child. Along the way he uncovers a conspiracy to frame the US and Russia in order to provoke them into war. The writer responsible for this movie is Tyler Sheridan, of Sicario fame. His script has similar themes to that movie, of the dirty business that the US utilizes to get results and/or wealth. You can see who is the main villain because of whom they cast in a certain role, for they wouldn’t cast an A list name if they didn’t have a larger purpose. I don’t mind that, because it is about the journey and how it is told.

The journey is accompanied by some spectacular action set pieces, carried by the strength of believability from Michael B. Jordan’s acting skills. Two particular scenes are still ingrained in my mind, one from the trailer – his jail cell fight, and the other involving a plane sinking into the ocean. There is plenty of hand-to-hand combat, along with shooting. These scenes are always fun, and the guns have a nice sound and heft to them when fired. It was gritty, and at times, a little intense. The scenes held my attention well – no looking at my phone.

Spoiler Alert

I’ll give you a second to avoid this. Skip down to the conclusion if you wish to not be spoiled.

Here Be Spoilers

I knew the big reveal was gonna be that the US, or rather, a corrupt D.O.D official was going to be behind everything and that it is because of money. Because nothing generates more war for a large country like the US than spending money on the horrors and tools of war. I particularly enjoyed the bad dude’s speech on how world war two was won for the economists because how much wealth it generated for them. I also liked that they said the problem is that the US has no real enemy anymore, that one half thinks the other half is the enemy and that doesn’t generate any real wealth. The people need a new common enemy to focus their anger and fear on. That fear generates the idea of patriots fighting for their country and in turn, the cycle of war and wealth continues. The spending continues. Corporate reviewers have to pan the movie negatively because of this, their bosses, especially in the US, are a part of the propaganda machine that always turns. Hence why the CIA are made out to be the good guys in the movie – luckily, hopefully, people still remember Gary Webb. So, no matter of propaganda will ever have the CIA be seen in a good light. Well, at least to those educated in such matters.

End Spoilers

Overall, I really liked the movie. The action was clear, and easy to follow along. The main character; that is, Michael B. Jordan is a bonafide action hero. He has that charisma to him, and believability that he can kick ass and take names. He also has the acting chops for when strong emotions are required. I enjoy watching his career with great interest. The other actors in the movie are sufficient at their roles, I wasn’t taken out of the immersion by anyone. Gunplay is solid, and I feel we have John Wick to thank for that. I feel that movie has positively affected every new action movie to have a certain standard when it comes to guns. I digress, I recommend this movie for a watch.

Movies

Mortal Kombat (2021)

As is tradition with the Mortal Kombat movies, this one, like all predecessors, will have a terrible plot and execution but the fatalities will be glorious. And after viewing, this was precisely the case. I understand now why Warner Bros released the first 7 minutes on YouTube. That opening scene is the best fight of the entire movie.

Let me list the good in the movie before explaining the bad. The good parts are:

  • Fatalities: gruesome and what fans of the games wanted to see.
  • Character quips: in-line with the games, and well deserving of the characters.
  • Special effects: the budget clearly was spent mostly on this and it shows.
  • Camerawork: easy to follow along with the action and clear focus.
  • Costumes: great job at adapting the video game characters into real life.
  • Game References: fans will catch many of these and put a smile on their faces.

To address plot, which one doesn’t come to see with a Mortal Kombat movie, it is an incredible shame that this film decided to, once again, make it a set-up and prequel to the tournament. You can’t and shouldn’t call this movie Mortal Kombat if there’s no tournament. I would have called it something like “The Defenders of Earthrealm: Mortal Kombat Stories”. That makes better sense and helps diminish the disappointment when someone watches this movie expecting to finally see the tournament, for once.

What we got was a poor man’s attempt to put a coherent story for this franchise. Which is doubly shameful because the video games, especially the most recent MK11, have an actually decent plot. In fact, you’d be better off watching all the cutscenes of that on YouTube and you’d have seen a better told story. This film starts with a great scene between Hanzo Hasashi versus Sub-Zero and then jumps to a piss-poor MMA fight scene with our new protagonist Cole Young played by Lewis Tan. The actor here did a great job with what he had to work with. His martial arts background was clearly displayed, and it helped with the camerawork because there were no rapid cuts between stuntman and actor. Anyways, the story quickly develops into Cole on the run from Outworld assassins and on a journey to Lord Raiden’s temple. And then it simply stays there.

Enough on the plot, let’s talk about the fights. Some were enjoyable, others were a bore. Some were CGI fests and required even more suspension of reality – Goro would have killed his opponent with one punch, or the many that he threw in the barn would have ended them. I actually found myself reading stuff on my phone several times because the fights were merely fluff on the way to the fatalities.

Overall, it’s a fun watch for fans of the game. Kano is hilarious at quipping, and often references the game. The characters are worthy of their in-game counterparts. And as often stated, the fatalities are worth the price of admission. I didn’t talk much about the actors/actresses or the screenwriters because this is Mortal Kombat, and all people want to see is gruesome death and combat. Acting skills are of little importance as much of the movie is stunt work. This isn’t a movie you take to pad your resume, but rather because you wanted to have some fun. However, for the screenwriters, this is the opposite. This will not pad your resume in the slightest because the writing was banal and atrocious. Inserting game quips is not a testament to your skill. Lines such as: “How’d you get that?” – “He was born with it.” – “What do you mean?” – “It’s a birthmark.” This will forever cement one as a terrible screenwriter.

Mortal Kombat is available now on most streaming services and in theaters.

Movies

New Gods: Nehza Reborn

What a captivatingly strange movie! I had no idea what it was about going into it and after finishing watching it on Netflix, I must say I was pleasantly entertained. An epic story about God and Demons and reincarnation. From what I’ve gathered in looking it up, it is based upon the character of Nehza from the Ming Dynasty novel Investiture of the Gods. It is a 3D Chinese animated fantasy action adventure film directed by Zhao Zi and written by Mu Chuan. There is the option to watch it in English, but I always opt for the original language instead with English subtitles. The animation itself was fantastic, and well done. The computer graphics were amazing, and so were the many effects such as water, fire, and hair. All of it was incredibly well animated.

The story itself was pretty easy to understand despite going into it without knowing a thing. Basically, from my understanding, is that the story takes place 3000 years after the Ming Dynasty at which point humanity has devolved into a cyberpunk/steampunk world. Motorcycle races are held to captivate the hearts of those that are trying to survive in this trying world. One such racer, who becomes a champion at the start, Li Yunxiang is the protagonist of the story. When he encounters the greedy Ao Bing, who wants Li’s motorcycle for himself, that’s when everything explosively starts. Li is the reincarnation of the God Nezha, who is a God of fire. Ao Bing, is an ice God, and a dragon prince. His father is the main antagonist, the Dragon King of the East, who covets power above all else. There’s also a lot more but I’d rather you watch it than me telling you everything!

The action is on an epic level, with an awesome soundtrack to boot. Rock riffs and guitar during scenes of action, to melodic instrumentals during moments of philosophical teaching. A fusion of classic Asian instruments and music with modern takes, the soundtrack was a joy to hear and helped pump up the viewer when our protagonist is kicking ass. There is heart, sadness, and joy to be found, along with comical elements too – the character of The Masked Man provides this in ample shades. The voice acting was great, and the progression of the story elements was good. There was no moments of unfounded edits or cuts in the plot. What I did hate, and I’ve noticed is a staple of Chinese movies, is that animals are not respected at all, and are often killed to motivate a character to action. It is a cheap tactic to get the viewer invested and emotionally hurt. So I will spoil that for you, and warn you, that the animals do die.

Overall, it was a highly enjoyable spectacle and I do recommend watching this. I will be looking forward to the next installment with great interest.

Movies

Justice League: The Snyder Cut

Where does one begin with this 4 hour epic? Do we discuss the runtime? Ah, I know. The comparison to the theatrical release. The version that was, without a doubt, butchered by Joss Whedon. Reportedly he had reshoots for 75% of the film. The result was a complete tonal difference from Snyder’s vision, like a Batman the quips jokes in the face of danger. Then we had his misogyny at play when Flash clumsily fell on top of Wonder Woman and his face landed between her breasts. Just not a good time. So much character development was cut in favor of constantly moving the narrative forwards. Cyborg and Flash’s entire origins and personal growth were cut, and Flash was reduced to a side gimmick to deal with a Russian family while a major battle is happening.

Snyder’s vision is immediately restored in the opening credits with a dark scene unfolding showcasing Superman’s death from the previous movie, and the shockwave from his death cry cascading across the planet. It sets up purpose as to why these dimension hopping soldiers of destruction invade Earth. The stage is shown for how truly powerful Superman is. The fear he brings to his enemies. From there, the plot establishes each of the superheroes. Arthur Curry is a kind man who helps those in need and he’s idolized by those he helps. And true to his character, not yet grown, he is not beholden to the surface or the oceans. He is his own man. Wonder Woman is a force for good who is not scared of killing her enemies or those that wish to do harm. Nor is she afraid of brutalizing them in defense of the innocent while still inspiring young girls to be anything they aspire to.

The Flash is a young man, Barry Allen, who takes random jobs here and there to fund his tuition for being a criminal justice student. He does so in order to find a way to save his father from prison, for a crime he did not commit. Barry is lighthearted and full of empathy and wonder. His powers are showcased in a short scene in which he saves a young girl from a car accident. This scene helps establish who he is, and provides a feeling of an origin. Cyborg has his entire arc reinstated. A young man lost in the world, feeling like a monster and resenting his father’s choices. His mother dead in an accident and him left clinging to life. His father breaking every ethical and moral scientific law to save his son however he can. Both Flash and Cyborg are similar in that they yearn for their fathers. This feeling is easily identifiable with, and helps humanize these otherwise otherworldly characters.

The movie does a phenomenal job at bringing all these different characters together for a singular purpose of defending the planet. Each character has a soul to them, they feel fleshed out and not merely caricatures of the comic book characters they represent. They have depth, and growth in an arc. Even Batman! “Faith, Alfred. Faith.” A man who previously would take even the smallest chance that someone could be his enemy and acted on it, rather than having faith that they could be a force for good. Talk about a turnaround. Together, they save the planet from the villain Steppenwolf and we, the audience, have a blast watching this wild ride.

Steppenwolf has actual purpose this time around. He is no longer a creepy dude that calls those boxes “Mother.” He merely wants to get back into the good graces of his Master, Darkseid – A god of destruction and death from another dimension. To that end, he strives to find the three Mother Boxes and to reunite them to create a calamity known as the unity – a cataclysmic event to scorch the planet and purge it of all life. Therefore making way for Darkseid to come and claim his grand prize. Even Steppenwolf’s appearance is a huge step up, wearing armor that seemingly reacts to his thoughts. The theatrical cut feels like an afterthought of bad CGI.

The movie itself is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio which gives the appearance of old cartoons. It invokes a similar feeling to watching animated shows on a Saturday morning. The score is heavy rock interspersed with each of the character’s themes. It gives weight to each battle, no matter how small and gets the blood pumping in anticipation. There are several scenes across the entire movie that serve no purpose in moving the narrative forwards but instill a sense of lore and weight for these characters. It helps establish and maintain the mythic feeling of several such as the Amazons or the Atlanteans.

Even Superman is changed, maybe not for the better but definitely more nuanced in that he’s a man (alien) reborn and thus no longer what he once was. This is even symbolized through the black costume he wears. He toys with his enemies and brings them extra agony than they would get normally. He’s got a bit of darkness in his heart and Lois Lane is the only thing that brings him back to the light.

There are plenty more references and nuances to be found within the movie that brings joy to fans, and continues to help establish this universe of superheroes. Overall, it’s a great and markedly improved version compared to the theatrical. It’s got heart, soul, and purpose. But is it what fans truly want of their childhood heroes? I’d say it’s not, but it is a great vision to have seen come to fruition. Zack Snyder definitely put his own twist on these characters and for this movie, it works. For the comic book characters that were represented, I’d say it’s a departure. That being said, did I enjoy the movie? Yes, I did. Despite its length, it held well. It had merits. It even set up the possibility for more. Would I want to see this reality explored further? No, I would not. Would I recommend this movie for fans of DC superheroes? Yes, I’d say definitely watch it and forget there ever was a theatrical cut.