Friday, April 23, 2021

Mortal Kombat (2021)

Streaming Services: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: Mortal Kombat (2021)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: New Line Cinema, NetherRealm Studios, Atomic Monster, Broken Road Productions, Karo Premiere, Universal Pictures International, Warner Bros. Pictures Germany, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Singapore, Warner Bros., HBO Max
Director: Simon McQuoid
Writer: Greg Russo, Dave Callaham, Oren Uziel, Greg Russo, Ed Boon, John Tobias
Actors: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Joe Taslim, Mehcad Brooks, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Chin Han, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Mel Jarnson, Nathan Jones, Daniel Nelson, Ian Streetz, Yukiko Shinohara, Ren Miyagawa, Mia Hall, Angus Sampson, Damon Herriman
Blurb from IMDb: MMA fighter Cole Young seeks out Earth's greatest champions in order to stand against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m so glad I didn’t see this in theaters for my first watch.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing it on the big screen would be a hell of an experience, but I was 100% unable to control my excitement the whole time. I was whooping, and laughing, and making all sorts of noises that would have been unacceptable at the theater.
I get my second vaccine in a couple of days, then I’ll be hitting my local theater for a second viewing.
This right here is the R-rated masterpiece that fans always deserved.
I’ll admit that it’s not perfect. There are a few bits that felt awkward or strangely acted. Like it tried to be campy in those parts but missed the mark. Those moments were noticeable, but not nearly enough to ruin the effect of the entire thing.
Cole Young, the main character of the film – portrayed by Lewis Tan (Sacrifice, Mortal Kombat X: Generations, Iron Fist), has not appeared in any games. He adds an unknown factor, and I’m glad they included him. However, it does mean there’s a bit of an ‘origin story’ feel at times.
Mortal Kombat, like the games, pulled no punches. It was brutal. Fatalities were included, and they were just as insane as they are in the games. There was blood, gore, and death. It was glorious.
The graphics were such an upgrade. Obviously, that was expected. The original film was made in the 90s. Technology has come a long way. Still, it was nice to see that the production company, and creative team, took the flick seriously enough to put together such a gorgeous film.

Any time there was lightning, flames, ice, or any other ability, on screen – it appeared flawlessly. Even Goro looked really realistic.
Most of the actors perfectly fit their characters.
I raved about the images of Sisi Stringer (Bloody Hell, Children of the Corn, Matt Gaffney Must Die) as Mileena before the film came out. She could have used a bit more screen time, and she was great, but she certainly wasn’t the best of them.
Mehcad Brooks (Supergirl, True Blood, A Fall from Grace) as Jax was absolutely perfect. In pictures, I wasn’t sure how well he translated into the character, but in motion he was Jax. There was no one else who could have been more Jax.
Josh Lawson (The Little Death, Long Story Short, Holly Slept Over), also, fully embodied Kano. He added a much-appreciated dose of comedy. Without that, the brutality might have been a bit much. Joe Taslim (Star Trek Beyond, The Raid: Redemption, Fast & Furious 6) did great at making Sub-Zero threatening and terrifying. He had the intimidation aspect down. Max Huang (Police Story: Lockdown, Time Raiders, Sense8) brought Kung Lao to life and humanized him. Huang made the character feel relatable, but still almost untouchable.
I could go on and on about the cast. I wasn’t overly in love with the way Liu Kang was portrayed, but there were no other flaws that I could see.
It was a good film. It honored the feel of the controversial Mortal Kombat series. It didn’t seek to remove that controversy, and it gave fans what we wanted.
It paid complete respect to the games while still bringing a new life to the story. This is what a video game movie should be.
Production companies should take note.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been giddily anticipating the release of this new Mortal Kombat since I first heard about it. I have been a fan of the franchise for a long time.
While I was lacking gaming consoles in my youth (unless using a friend or relative’s), I did enjoy playing the original Mortal Kombat game when I found it in arcade settings. It was an iconic and controversial game that had fans clamoring for it and parents railing against the graphic violence. When the original movie released in the summer of 1995, just before my senior year of high school, it was the hot ticket in town. I still listen to some of the songs from the soundtrack today.
Of course, that first movie, while satisfying at the time, did have significant room for improvement. I’ve often questioned the casting choice for Lord Raiden. I love Christopher Lambert (Bel Canto, Shadow of the Wolf, The Blacklist), but really? Of course, his signature raspy voice was what likely garnered him the role. He’s still voicing the iconic character in subsequent iterations of the game – most recently Mortal Kombat 11 (2019). I was over the moon when I saw that this new production was getting a more culturally appropriate upgrade with Tadanobu Asano (Battleship, Thor: Ragnarok, Midway) in the electrifying role.
Honestly, hats off to the casting of this movie. They really hit it out of the park with this one. I could prattle on about them forever. I’ll spare you that, though, and hit the highlights.
First, the martial arts talent is off the chart. Both Ludi Lin (Power Rangers, Aquaman, The Ghost Bride) and Max Huang, playing Liu Kang and Kung Lau respectively, are both former members of Jackie Chan’s (Rush Hour, The Foreigner, Iron Mask) stunt team ‘family.’ Their training with Chan was a considerable asset to the film, especially since Huang was able to draw on that training background in order to assist in making the fight choreography better. While I wasn’t able to dig up the information on the whole cast, I can confirm that they, as well as the actors for Sub-Zero, Hanzo Hasashi, and Cole Young all have extensive martial arts backgrounds and perform their own fight scenes and stunts.
Cole Young is an original character introduced by this movie, but I am a huge fan of the actor that plays him already. Lewis Tan caught my attention during Into the Badlands (2015-2019) and Wu Assassins (2019-). He is well-deserving of this role here. While some of the iconic characters from the video game franchise didn’t make it into this movie, I think the reboot benefited from a little bit of ‘fresh blood’ with a new take on the story.

I was also doing fangirl cartwheels internally when I saw that Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin, Helix, The Catcher Was a Spy) was cast here as Hanzo Hasashi. He’s one of my favorite Japanese actors and his range is phenomenal – both dramatically and in action scenes.
As I said, I could ramble forever. Though, I’ll try to reign myself in by switching up here. Let’s talk setting and special effects.
This Mortal Kombat film is said to be the biggest budgeted movie to film in South Australia, and I think they got a lot of bang out of those budget bucks because of the location. The use of the scenery to give a remote and otherworldly feel to the film was amazing. Further, the special effects weren’t too over-the-top. They enhanced the supernatural aspects of the film – such as Raiden’s lightning, Sub Zero’s ice, and Liu Kang’s fire, etc. – without making things cheesy. It’s said that the director wanted to use as little green-screen as possible.
Some might wonder about the well-known brutality of the fatalities involved with the fighting. Mortal Kombat pulled no punches with those. There’s a lot of blood and gore to be had with some of these fights. This film is definitely deserving of its R-rating. Keep the little kids out of the room when you watch this one.
I am seriously impressed that this was Simon McQuoid’s directorial debut. Of course, he did have a great team of producers to back him up – including James Wan (Insidious, Furious 7, Aquaman). I’m definitely looking forward to what he has in store for us in the future, and hope that there is a sequel in the works, at the very least.
For anyone that had any doubts about this new iteration of the beloved game franchise translating to the movie screen, I can assure you that this movie didn’t disappoint at all. I’m not even mad about the characters that were absent from this story – because that leaves room for more stories in the future. The ending here certainly left room for that to happen. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
I have a feeling that this is going to be the next movie to break pandemic box office records, considering the trailer alone has already smashed streaming records. If you have the chance to safely see it on the big screen, I encourage you to do so. Otherwise, HBO Max is an excellent alternative.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 56%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 89%
Metascore – 44/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Night in Paradise (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Night in Paradise (2021)
Genre: Crime, Drama
Length: 131 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Goldmoon Film, Netflix
Director: Park Hoon-jung
Writer: Park Hoon-jung
Actors: Tae-goo Eom, Yeo-bin Jeon, Seung-Won Cha, Dong-in Cho, Park Ho-San, Bong-sik Hyun, Soon-bae Cha, Byung-ho Son, Lee Gi-yeong, Mun-shik Lee, Se-bin Ahn, Jang Young-Nam
Blurb from IMDb: Hiding out in Jeju Island following a brutal tragedy, a wronged mobster with a target on his back connects with a woman who has her own demons.

Selina’s Point of View:
We have had a lot of dark movies recently, and this one is no exception.
Films reflect the culture that makes them. Not just in setting and language, either. Audiences from different countries prefer different endings, content, concepts, character types, etc. In the USA, audiences tend to prefer a happy ending. That’s why you see stuff like The Descent (2005) and 28 Days Later (2002) with alternate endings for showings in different countries.
In fact, the entire content of a film could be drastically different just based on the culture of the writer/director/studio. Whether there are sex scenes, gore, or even just extended scenes with child actors, depends on what culture claims a film.
There are exceptions, of course. I’m going into this specifically to explain how I generally alter my expectations going into a foreign film.
I’m a big fan of Korean cinema. I’ve even started learning Korean so that I can eventually watch it without worrying about dubbing or subtitles. (It’s slow-going, but I’ll get there.) Because of that, I knew Night in Paradise would be brutal. I find that Korean films go much harder than people tend to expect.
With a mob story, even in the USA, very few of them have any kind of happy ending. So, I had no idea how it would translate, culturally.

It was GRIM. It may have been the bleakest film I’ve ever seen. Not in a bad way, mind you; but ‘depressing’ doesn’t quite say enough.
It was an interesting watch. Never-the-less, it’s one of those films you never really go back to, because of just how dark it is.
There were parts in the beginning that were a bit disjointed – specifically where time-line was concerned, but it was only a scene or two. Otherwise, it drops the audience right into the story and never slows down again.
Netflix labels it a ‘slow burn’. I disagree. I didn’t feel like there was any down time at all.
Night in Paradise was a good movie, but it was long. If you really like this style of film, and you’re a fan of Korean movies, you’re not going to feel time pass. If you’re not already a fan, however, this is not the place to start.
Personally, I really liked it.

Cat’s Point of View:
Night in Paradise is one of the movies that caught my attention when we came across the trailer. It didn’t make my Top 20 list, but only by the narrowest of margins.
At first blush, the trailer promised a story about a Korean mafioso laying low and meeting a girl with a grim outlook in the process. There were flashes of gunplay and action scenes. It was very effective at drawing me in. Of course, the bonus is that Netflix also offers an English dubbed version if you aren’t up for subtitles. It seemed like it would be a win-win, really.
In the wake of the final credits, I found myself torn.

On the one hand, the movie delivered what the trailer promised. Some aspects were absolutely glorious. Unfortunately, the film was overburdened with a lot of fluff in the scene transitioning that made the whole thing drag out forever. They could have probably shaved off an hour and it would have been fine.
The lengthy scenery shots almost lost me in a few places. Fortunately, the story kicked right back in and spared me from boredom.
I enjoyed the characters, the acting, the action was on point, and the story was satisfying. In any other situation, I would be raving that everyone has got to see this gem of a film. Unfortunately, with the bonkers turtle-like pacing, it knocks the overall enjoyability of the movie down a few pegs.
Still, if you can take the length with a grain of salt, I’d say it’s worth a watch.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 73%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 71%
Metascore – 59/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, April 19, 2021

Boys from County Hell (2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Boys from County Hell (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: Six Mile Hill Productions, Blinder Films, Endeavor Content, Screen Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen, Automatik FX, Egg Studios, Inevitable Pictures, Shudder
Director: Chris Baugh
Writer: Chris Baugh, Brendan Mullin
Actors: Jack Rowan, Nigel O’Neill, Louisa Harland, Michael Hough, John Lynch, Fra Fee, Morgan C. Jones, Robert Nairne
Blurb from IMDb: A crew of hardy road workers, led by a bickering Father and Son, must survive the night when they accidentally awaken an ancient Irish vampire.

Selina’s Point of View:
This is the flick I’ve been waiting for all month. It’s horror comedy, it’s Irish… it’s got so much of what I love. I’m happy to say, it didn’t disappoint.
As it got started, I began to get a slightly darker Shaun of the Dead (2004) vibe. That didn’t last. The deeper I got, the darker it got. When the horror aspect really got going it came out of left field and caught me completely off guard.
By the end of it, I couldn’t really compare it to the 2004 Edgar Wright zombie comedy that I thought it would be lumped in with. If I had to compare the feel of it to anything, now, I’d say it’s closer to Fright Night (2011). It had that same kind of realistic humor meshed with fear.
The biggest difference is that this flick definitely went ten times harder with the terror aspects.
I enjoyed the aesthetics of the vampire more that I can accurately convey. I’ve always been more of a Nosferatu (1922) girl, when it comes to the ancient blood suckers. Interview with the Vampire (1994), or stuff like Vampire Diaries (2009-2017), is fine, but I prefer fear over romance.

No one is taking the vamp in this film home to meet mom.
The creature had a terrifying visage: jagged teeth, long stringy hair, a hooked nose, bone-tight skin with veins pressing to the surface and blood dripping over the dark, nearly blue, flesh. He was gorgeously hard to look at.
I spent the entire hour-and-a-half runtime glued to the screen. Every time the horror got so dark that I thought there was no coming back, they inserted enough humor to add that essential balance that horror/comedy so desperately needs in order to work.
I did notice a couple of errors in the timeline that kind of irked me. It did pull me out of the story a tiny bit, but not enough to ruin the whole thing.
Boys from County Hell was absolutely remarkable.
Boys from County Hell will be available to stream on Shudder, April 22.

Cat’s Point of View:
When you mention Ireland and vampires, you generally don’t find them in the same sentence. That could often be held true for horror and comedy. However, every once in a while the two go together quite well and you can end up with something absolutely fan-freaking-tastic like Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010).
At the same time, that is a really tough comparison because it’s hard for other movies to live up to that unicorn standard. I am happy to report that The Boys from County Hell reasonably succeeded in this particular attempt at the genre blend. The overall story here, albeit, is significantly darker.
I will admit that I’m slightly biased when it comes to Irish-based movies and stories in general. Irish lore, accents, music, and landscape seem to speak directly to my ginger soul. That being said, I’ve immersed myself in a lot of it over the years. I can’t say that I’ve run across many mentions of vampires.
The topic is a patch of common ground that pop-culture horror enthusiasts can latch on to. You say ‘vampire’ and it’s immediately recognizable by most. Unless you’re talking about banshees or leprechauns, you don’t get that same sort of recognition with the scarier of the Irish bogeymen. The Dullahan doesn’t ring bells for most, even if the legend bears a close resemblance to The Headless Horseman.

The interesting tidbit here is that there is an actual Irish legend of Abhartach. I won’t get into detail here, however. Spoilers! If you give the movie a go and are interested in a little more background lore on the subject, give that name a search and I imagine you’ll find it interesting. I digress…
I really liked how this story was pulled together. Urban sprawl and its side effects are concepts familiar to many, and the price for those that live in areas under development is often unpleasant. The characters were also relatable, and I found myself invested in them. The humor was spot on and you wouldn’t have to entirely understand the nuances of Irish culture to get it. There were a few words here or there that were unique to Irish slang, but it shouldn’t be a worry.
The effects were also solid. Nothing looked hokey or too fake. There was one bit that actually had me cringing a bit because of the realistic nature of a particular wound in a scene. I mean, ow. I believed everything that they were selling. 
Well done for the relatively new Six Mile Hill Production for this gem. Good acting, good story, and I had a great time watching. Shudder has scored a good one with The Boys from County Hell. It’s one of the many that make it worth the reasonable subscription fee. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
P.S. If you’re not overly familiar with Irish accents, you may need captions.
Movie Trailer: