*MOVIE RECAP: THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS

It is hard to believe that it has been over 20 years since the original Matrix was released in theaters. Back then, when the Matrix was released in 1999, I was a young buck, working for AMC theaters as a projectionist, so naturally, I clearly remember this movie’s cultural impact when it came out.

It was a revolutionary film — we had never seen anything like it before; from all the groundbreaking special effects, the wild action sequences, bullet time effects, and the fantastic fighting scenes — it changed filmmaking forever.

Movies in the 90s were failing miserably to integrate new technology like the internet into their plot lines. And their attempt to utilize new cutting-edge special effects was falling hopelessly flat.

Primarily, films released in 1995 had a rougher time — movies like Hackers (1995), The Net (1995), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Virtuosity (1995), and Assassins (1995), to name a few — they struggled to use the internet and futuristic technology in their storylines. They were all clunky and unimpressive movies. However, Assassins wasn’t that bad; it had lots of potential to be a better movie, but it was made in the 90s, and the studio butchered the original screenplay — they should’ve waited a few years to make this movie.

Interestingly enough, Assasins was also written by the Wachowskis.

However, in 1999, The Matrix figured out how to properly integrate internet technology in a film. The mind-twisting storytelling inter-mingled with Eastern philosophy felt radical and fresh. While at the same time, The Matrix helped usher in the internet generation.

Sadly, the sequels didn’t live up to the same level of the original film. For me, their overall storylines felt convoluted. But overall, The Matrix Reloaded (2) and The Matrix Revolutions (3) had terrific special effects and action sequences. Most notably, the highway chase sequence in Matrix Reloaded was outstanding. Oh, and I can’t forget that rave slash dance floor orgy scene in Zion — it was one of the coolest scenes in the entire trilogy. Additionally, The Matrix 2 was a fun and exciting sequel — it introduced cool new characters like the Merovingian, Seraph, Niobe, the ghost twins, the key maker, and so on. And it also expanded on the world-building from the original Matrix film.

But Matrix Revolutions (3) disappointed me and left me perplexed. So, as a result, I was beyond skeptical upon hearing about a 4th Matrix movie. Especially since Neo clearly dies at the end of Matrix Revolutions by sacrificing himself to bring peace between humans and the machines. But we never really saw what happened to Neo’s body after the machines took his dead body away. So as the title of this 4th movie implies, there is a resurrection.

It has been 60 years since Neo died at the end of Matrix 3, and things are way different. The Matrix has evolved; no more dial-up is needed to hook into the Matrix. The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) has replaced the Architect as the new mastermind behind things. Let’s remember that because of Neo’s sacrifice at the end of the original trilogy, humans were supposed to co-exist with the machines and be skeptical of technology. Instead, humans have now entirely embraced it.

The opening scene is an almost identical redo of the opening scene from the original Matrix, but with new character Bugs instead of Trinity. It is important to note that this movie was shot digitally, while the original trilogy was shot on film.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) is back inside the Matrix with no memory from his past — He is now a video game developer who has dreams and visions that resemble Neo’s past from the 3 previous movies. Neo has created a virtual reality game that comes close to the likeness of the characters and narrative of the original Matrix trilogy — By the way, the game is also called The Matrix.

Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is also resurrected and back inside the Matrix under the name Tiffany — she lives a normal life, is married with kids, and has zero memory of her past. Amazingly, the on-screen chemistry between these two is stronger than ever.

Agent Smith, the AI program, returns, but now he is played by Jonathan Graff and not Hugo Weaving. Jonathan Graff is outstanding in this new version of Agent Smith, Graff had some flashes of weaving’s version, but this character is an entirely new take on Agent Smith. There is a new version of Morpheus played by (Yahya Abdul-Maten); this new version is a computer program based on the original Morpheus played by Laurence Fishburne — this new Morpheus annoyed the hell out of me. On the other hand, It was great seeing Naobi (Jada Pinkett-Smith) return as an older version of her character and she is now the leader of the new Zion. Also, brand new character Bugs (Jessica Henwick) is a solid addition to this series.

It has taken me some time to process and reflect on this movie. The premise is bold and daring. Writer-Director Lana Wachowski has created a smart and sophisticated movie with multiple themes. This film attempts to revisit and revise what reality is and what we perceive as real.

All be told, there was no wow factor here like in the previous 3 films. The action sequences are mostly meh until the last action scene of the movie — which was a pretty impressive action scene. The rest of the action sequences are unremarkable and not groundbreaking, like in the previous films. Also, Neo never uses a gun here, which was a refreshing and bold choice. Still, there are some beautiful shots throughout this movie.

There is also this brilliant self-awareness to this movie when they take a direct shot at Warner Bros for making movies about the Matrix, based on Neo’s video game. There is a scene where we hear about Warner Bro’s threatening to go ahead and make a movie with or without Neo’s blessing. Similar to how Warner Bros planned to make this 4th movie with or without the Wachowskis.

The whole concept of a digital self-image was innovative. I loved seeing the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) making a quick cameo, looking Like a crazed hobo —ranting like a lunatic. Massive fan service points for including Sati (Priyanka Chopra) in this new storyline. Sati was an essential character from Matrix Revolutions (3), and now she is again a crucial character in this 4th movie. But I wonder what happened to the “Kid” (Clayton Watson) from the previous films. I thought that maybe he was the heir apparent to Neo, and he is not even mentioned here.

Ultimately, The Matrix Resurrection is a love story between Neo and Trinity — so yes, they are the ONE together. And although somewhat forced, this 4th movie does connect and ties in with the original 3 films. It manages to convey a distrust for the “real” world and the notion that we are being manipulated — and how our whole idea of reality is distorted. You have to go in with an open mind and be free of any expectations. I sense other movies in this series might be coming. I, for one, would love to see live-action prequels.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

The Matrix Resurrection (2021).

*MOVIE RECAP: THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD

At a glance, Those who Wish Me Dead had the makings of a terrific movie. For one, it is directed by Taylor Sheridan and based on a novel of the same name by Michael Koryta. The adaptation was scripted by Taylor Sheridan along with Michael Koryta and Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond, 2006). On top of all that, the casting assembled here is impressive but very underutilized.

Angelina Jolie plays Hanna, a disgraced firefighter and smoke jumper, haunted by the death of a colleague and three young kids due to a mistake on her part. For the confused, a smokejumper is someone who combats forest fires and wildfires.

Hanna now spends her time alone in a fire tower, where people live for months and months in total isolation looking for wildfires. 

We also have Connor (Finn Little), a young boy on the run from assassins. Connor’s father, Owen (Jake Weber), is helping the local DA build a case against some bad people. The DA gets blown up by two assassins, and Owen is the next target — So they have to flee. For me, this whole running from the killers’ premise was a bit weird and convoluted.

In any case, Connor and Hanna cross each other’s paths, and they both have to fend off the hired killers.

The two hired killers have zero redeeming qualities, but they are excellent together; Assassin 1, Jack (Aidan Gillen, little finger in Game of Thrones) is evil and remorseless; Assassin 2, Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) is creepy as fuck. The chemistry between these two psychotic contract killers is outstanding, and the humor is solid.

The rest of the characters lacked more depth and development. Jon Bernthal’s character needed more screen time and more dialogue. Also, Tyler Perry’s character went nowhere and seemed unnecessary. However, Allison (Medina Senghore) steals the movie — She has some of the best action sequences and some of the strongest scenes of the entire film.

Taylor Sheridan has a good track record of well-written and well-developed characters that feel genuine. Unfortunately, this is wasn’t the case here, so this film feels underwhelming. There were no socio-economic themes like in his previous work. And there are plenty of holes in the overall storyline and premise.

The special effects looked silly and not very realistic. Except for the dry lightning storms, those scenes were pretty cool. In addition, the dialogue and overall premise seemed flawed. As a result, the whole movie comes off as a sloppy popcorn movie. In essence, it has an old-school 90s throwback action movie vibe. Most reviewers have compared it as a mixture of The Client (1994) meets Firestorm (Howie Long’s 1998 movie).

Ultimately, Those who Wish Me Dead is not that bad; it is just pretty unremarkable. And it didn’t really do it for me, but it is a short movie to watch, so it is definitely worth seeing at least once.

Two out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021).

*MOVIE RECAP: 8-BIT CHRISTMAS

I’m a sucker for nostalgia-driven movies and TV shows, especially 70s, 80s, and 90s stuff. So this movie is right on my side of the street.  

8-Bit Christmas is based on a book of the same name by Kevin Jakubowski, who also wrote the screenplay. It follows a father, Jake Doyle (Neil Patrick Harris), telling his young daughter, Annie (Sophia Reid-Gantzert), a story about his obsessive quest to get his hands on a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) during the 1988 Christmas season. 

The story is set around a working-class family in the suburbs of Chicago. Young Jake Doyle (Winslow Fegley) tells his parents that he wants a Nintendo for Christmas. But, unfortunately, his parents feel that video games are bad for kids. As a result, young Jake, along with his group of misfit friends, has to develop a plan to convince his parents to buy him an NES or find a way to get one on his own.

Jake and his group of friends are a hilarious and diverse bunch. Most notably, Jeff, the liar (Max Malas) who makes up wild stories and cannot stop lying about anything and everything. In addition, little Conor Stump (Jacob Laval) is a scene-stealer, this young actor was remarkable in the HBO limited series The Plot Against America (2020), and he is great here again. 

The egotistical Timmy Keane (Chandler Dean) is hysterical as the richest kid in the neighborhood who owns the only NES in town. Timmy makes all the kids jump through insane hurdles while selecting only a handful of them for the privilege of playing Nintendo with him. Also, the school bully Jagorsk (Cyrus Arnold) is pretty notable.

As the town parents come together to push for the banning of video games in their community, the kids have to pool all of their resources together and figure out creative ways to get a Nintendo console for Christmas. And at the same time, setting themselves free from Timmy Keane’s tyrannical hold on the one and only Nintendo in town. 

The adults hold their own amongst the little scene stealers here. Steve Zahn (John Doyle) delivers a convincing and heartfelt performance. Jake’s mother, Kathy Doyle (June Diane Raphael), is solid, and her comedic timing is excellent. David Cross is brilliant as this shady but lovable dealer of black market goods. 

Yes, the premise is similar to A Christmas Story (1983), and it borrows some elements from other similar holiday movies. However, it still manages to feel fresh and original. All of the nostalgic throwbacks hit on the mark — Like the infamy of the NES Power Glove, the scarcity and popularity of Cabbage Patch dolls, and other 80s pop culture stuff. But, it all comes together nicely.

Personally, I related to this movie in many ways. First, it rang true to me because for a short time, I was the only kid in my neighborhood who owned an NES, and my friends would come over and play with me. But I wasn’t a little prick about it like Timmy Keane was. Second, Nintendo dominated the late 80s and early 90s — Games like Mega-Man, Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Tetris, and The Legend of Zelda, among many others, were the obsession of kids from my generation as well as mine. So all of that resonated with me.

8-Bit Christmas is a fun and charming holiday movie, one of the best in recent years, and it belongs amongst the classics. It’s a good throwback to the 80s in the spirit of the Goonies and Stranger Things. It hit home for me; it brought back many memories growing up. I will definitely be adding this movie to my favorite holiday movies list.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

8-Bit Christmas (2021). Streaming on HBO MAX

*MOVIE RECAP: THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK

Mob movies will always capture my attention, especially over the top, cartoonish, bumbling New Jersey mafia guys like the characters from The Sopranos. 

Many Saints means Moltisanti in Italian, which pretty much tells you that this movie is really all about Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) and indirectly about a young Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini).

Nonetheless, we still get to see a younger version of Anthony Soprano growing up in Newark, New Jersey, idolizing his uncle Dickie and becoming a man. As we slowly see young Tony picking up some street smarts — I found similar Michael Corleone overtones here, where both characters don’t want anything to do with their family businesses at first.

The casting is impressive across the board. It was fun recognizing the younger characters, and while some of the actors are obviously doing straight-up impressions, they all did an excellent job.

Vera Farmiga captures Livia Soprano brilliantly. Finally, we get to briefly see some of the early toxic relationship dynamics between Livia and Tony from the first season of the Sopranos. Further exploring the relationship between Livia and Tony in the next movie will be crucial — of course, if there is a sequel to this prequel — there should definitely be another movie.

Corey Stoll is outstanding here — he nails all of the Maneurismns from Junior Soprano. We get to see how petty and insecure Junior can be even as a younger man. And how Junior schemes and manipulates his way into more positions of power.

Ray Liotta delivers a convincing performance playing dual roles as twin brothers “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti. Liotta makes both parts stand out; Hollywood Moltisanti is mean and abusive towards the women in his life. In contrast, twin brother Sally Moltisanti is more philosophical and reflective. Ray Liotta is mobster movie royalty, so having him involved in this movie gives it a sense of gangster movie legitimacy.

The power structure of the DiMeo crime family is not fully explained or broken down like I wanted to, but we still get to see early versions of Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen), Pussy Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakiola), and Silvio Dante (John Magaro). The backstory of Silvio’s hair and eventual toupee is hilarious.

I wanted to see more of Tony’s father, Johnny Soprano (Jon Bernthal); he was relegated to more of a background character here. Hopefully, the next film will feature Johnny Soprano in a more prominent role.

Plus, we have a pre-teen and a teenage version of young Artie Bucco. Also, teenage versions of Carmela Soprano (Lauren Di Mario) and Jackie Aprile (Chase Vacnin), all of these three characters, provide some memorable scenes. The teenage version of Janice Soprano (Alexandra Intrator) stands out as a fascinating character to explore further as the Soprano extended universe moves along in other movies or TV projects.

However, the performance by Alessandro Nivola is exceptional — I think that this is an Academy Award-worthy performance. Dickie Moltisanti was always a present memory throughout the series, and Nivola’s performance cements Dickie’s importance and legacy in the general scope of all things Sopranos.

Dickie is a highly conflicted man, wrestling with inner demons, extremely menacing and out of control, while at the same time trying to do the right thing for the people in his life. Alexandro Nivola brings this character to life beautifully.

The women in Dickie’s life are remarkable; His wife, Joanne Moltisanti (Gabriella Piazza), his mistress, Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi), and even Livia Soprano — all of them assert a particular type of influence on Dickie.

On top of all that, we have a racial component that serves as the backdrop of the whole story. Harold (Leslie Odom Jr) runs numbers, collects money, and works as a street enforcer for Dickie. Through Harold’s eye, we begin to see the cultural and social changes starting to take place in New Jersey and the brewing racial tensions between the established communities living in Newark. Additionally, the 1967 Newark riots are a crucial plotline here, which is a pretty remarkable thing, considering that I cannot recall this historical event ever featured anywhere in cinematic history.

Anyhow, there is plenty of things to dissect here. There is lots of fan service with plenty of references to the TV series sprinkled throughout the movie, so you have to pay close attention — It is a lot more enjoyable if you are familiar with the show.

The voiceover of Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) at the start of the movie was cool. I know it is weird because he is dead, but don’t think about it too much or try to make sense of it — let it take you along for the ride. After all, there were many esoteric and supernatural themes throughout the series. So the movie opening this way and being narrated by Christopher throughout parts of the movie is right on brand.

Oh, and there is this brilliant scene of baby Christopher’s reaction to meeting his young uncle Tony for the first time.

Anyway, liking or not liking a movie is a concept pretty hard for me to put together in simple terms of like or dislike. So my measuring stick has always been based on whether a movie or TV series is engaging or not engaging. And whether it is memorable or unmemorable.

The Many Saints of Newark meets all those requirements; it is a fascinating and pretty memorable movie. In essence, it is a fascinating story as it relates to the Sopranos TV series.

So, yes, this Soprano story holds up as a standalone movie. It feels like an origins story; it is a film aimed at fans of the series, as it spends time setting up, putting pieces in place for things to make sense, primarily for fans of the show. It does not taint the legacy of the show, but it actually manages to extend specific themes and storylines from the series

This movie serves as the perfect setup for more Soprano movies and content, especially the impending rise of Tony Soprano within the DiMeo crime family. And the inevitable confrontation between Harold and Tony.

For one, there is tons of space between the end of this movie and the first episode of the Sopranos TV series, which is why David Chase should continue to make more prequels and more Sopranos-driven content.

In any case, I didn’t realize how deep and invested I got into this movie, that when the opening theme song from the series started playing, I was like, fuck, they got me!

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Many Saints of Newark (2021).

*MOVIE RECAP: ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE (SNYDER CUT)

There is this unique pleasure for movie nerds like myself to watch a director’s cut of a movie — you know, watching a movie as originally intended to be seen.

My measuring stick determining how good a movie or a TV show is — has always been based on how memorable or unmemorable the movie or show ends up being.

Having said that, by my own personal metric, the theatrical cut of Justice League directed by Josh Whedon, or also known as the Whedon cut, was not a memorable movie. It was way over the top, cheesy, and unfocused in terms of storytelling, with plot holes all over the place. Nevertheless, the Whedon cut wasn’t as awful as most fans have expressed; it was actually pretty watchable and, at times, somewhat entertaining, but it was far from what it was expected from this ensemble cast of superheroes. It was very forgettable, to say the least.

I blame the studio for this meh version of the Justice League. First, they jumped the gun and rushed to make their own version of an Avengers type of movie. And, unfortunately, it was way too soon — Because they were still introducing and developing movies featuring the characters that make up the core team of the Justice League members.

Everybody reading this blog probably knows by now that Zack Snyder had to drop out of Justice League in the middle of the shooting of this movie due to a family tragedy. Josh Whedon stepped in, and the rest of the story lives on perpetually in motion picture infamy.

The controversy between the two versions of this movie prompted an online campaign to release the director’s cut, or the Snyder cut as it is now officially known.

There are people out there who are disgusted by the fandom for pushing Warner bros. hard to release the Snyder Cut. Calling these hardcore fans toxic and such. However, I don’t see it this way; Fans should absolutely have a say in how things are being presented and sold to them. We, the fans, spend our money on movies, toys, merchandise, and all kinds of media entertainment products. Mediocrity will not be easily accepted anymore. This is a lesson for movie studios to pay close attention and to learn from all the outrage this Whedon Cut created.

This version is 4 hours long; I watched the whole thing in 2 seatings — and I was very much engaged in it throughout the 4 hours. It is more than a Director’s cut; it is an entirely different movie. It is leaps and bounds better than the theatrical cut. I think this version could’ve worked in theaters as a two-part movie, just like the Avengers two-parts Infinity war and Endgame movies.

Although my comic book knowledge of the DC Extended Universe is far from being encyclopedic, this movie is the best and the closest thing you will ever get to a superhero comic book slash graphic novel on film. Sin City (2005), 300 (2006), and Watchmen (2009) are my favorite graphic novels adapted into films. Coincidentally, Zack Snyder directed both 300 and Watchmen. I have some issues with 300, but for the most part, I thought Watchmen was actually a pretty damn good adaptation (except for changing the ending from the graphic novel).

This Snyder Cut has epic vibes to it — the CGI looks clean and pretty. It is beautifully shot, a gorgeous movie to watch. And, it is darker, grittier than anything Marvel has released. Dark superhero stories are what I like to see.

Here are the main differences from the theatrical version:

Aquaman is way more involved in the story, and his character has Godlike vibes here, similar to the way Thor was presented in the Marvel universe.

The cyborg plotline here is another vast improvement from the Whedon Cut. Unlike the theatrical version, Cyborg here is an integral part of this movie. We got to see how Cyborg is a God amongst men in terms of his powers and how those powers are unique within the modern technological world.

The Flash is more compelling here and funnier. But I still don’t know much about him and his powers. So I’m looking forward to The Flash stand-alone movie.

Superman kicked ass. I loved seeing this version of angry, pissed-off Superman — and the black suit made things even more extraordinary.

Wonder Woman is also better here than in the theatrical cut; she is presented as an old God in terms of her level of strength and power. But there is zero continuity with the events of Wonder Woman 84. I have no clue how they are planning to make WW84 fit into the larger scope of things.

We get a much better version of Batman and Bruce Wayne. This is the version of Batman the fandom wanted to see or close enough to it. The nightmare scene between Batman and the Joker was incredible. — it teased us on what happened with Robin (it seems like Joker killed Robin). This version of Jared Leto’s Joker was impressive.

We finally get to see Darkseid and how powerful, menacing, and evil he really is. The fighting sequence between the old heroes and gods against Darkseid was terrific. Watching Zeus, Artemis, Ares, King Arthur, and even a Green Lantern in battle was fucking awesome.

The whole premise of the Mother Boxes was better presented. There was also more depth to Steppenwolf. Introducing Granny Goodness on film was an outstanding idea. Let’s remember that both Darkseid and Granny Goodness were original Jack Kirby creations.

The Snyder Cut was an excellent movie-watching experience. I was fine the 4 hours; it didn’t feel like it dragged too long. I think the 4 hours were just about right to move the story forward for the sake of storytelling and character development. This type of long format should be the standard from now on — Maybe even breaking them down in parts might be the way to go. It just feels like it is meant to be consumed that way.

Zack Snyder has pulled off something awe-inspiring here. As movie and superhero fans, we are fortunate to have seen a 4 hour never before seen version of all these unique comic book characters. The next online fan campaign should be for Warner to restore the Snyder verse.

Five out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021). Streaming on HBO MAX.

*MOVIE RECAP: MORTAL KOMBAT

It is hard to believe that it has been 28 years since the first time I played Mortal Kombat, the arcade game at an actual Arcade Center — Man, where the hell have the years gone?

I can still clearly remember how my friends and I would religiously meet up after school at my local neighborhood arcade center for a chance to play this groundbreaking video game. The ridiculous violence of the game was incredible; the blood, the gore — the fatalities. There was nothing quite like this game before 1993, and video game-playing kids from my generation were utterly mesmerized, to say the least. I loved playing Mortal kombat at the Arcade, I wasn’t good at it as my friends, but I still loved playing it.

Hollywood has never been good at adapting video games into movies. The first film adaptation of this game, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), was cheesy as fuck and almost unwatchable. The video game adaptation of the other 90s sensational fighting Arcade game, Street Fighter (1994), was also a god-awful mess of a movie. Another clear example was the adaptation of Super Mario Bros (1993). The 90s were pretty rough for video game adaptations.

Notwithstanding, I came to this 2021 Mortal Kombat reboot completely open-minded. Still, my expectations were pretty low. 

Mortal Kombat 2021 is not all bad; many things worked well for me, and a few things did not. The opening scene slash fight sequence between Sub-Zero and Hanzo is terrific. I assume that this movie is supposed to be an origins story based on the original characters from the Arcade game, while at the same time adding new characters to the franchise like Cole Young (Lewis Tan).

The premise is pretty absurd and unclear. The main plotline here is that Earth’s greatest champions made up of mercenaries, martial artists, and super-powered fighters, have to fight Earthrealm’s supernatural enemies from the Outer world realm. The tournament rules are never clear, and the actual tournament never really takes place — the whole thing seems confusing.

There is this mysterious Dragon marking on the bodies of random people who are chosen to represent Earth against the supernatural warriors of the netherworld. If they have this Dragon mark on their body, they have to be recruited and trained to fight for Earth.

And while in their training sessions, these chosen warriors are supposed to unlock their unique superpowers and abilities. This Dragon marking concept is a new thing; this idea did not come from the video game.

The movie is a lot more enjoyable if you are already familiar with the characters. The casting is pretty solid, Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), Kano (Josh Lawson), Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang), and Shang Tsung (Chin Han) are all excellent.

All the original characters from the game are back except for Johnny Cage. Spoiler alert! A poster with Johnny Cage’s name shows up at the end of the movie. I assume he will be in the Sequel; if there is a sequel — there should be a sequel.

Sub-zero (Joe Taslim) was fantastic, and so was Hanzo Hasashi/ Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada); their fight scenes are awesome. The video game references like Scorpio’s “Get Over Here” phrase is fan service at its best. It is never really explained why Hanzo choose the new name slash new persona of Scorpio. This should be addressed in the next movie.

Also, the killing of crucial characters was weird and felt somewhat convoluted in terms of those characters possibly returning from the dead in future films. The killing of rogue mercenary Kano was unexpected — He lit up the screen in every scene he was in. And although Kano seemed to be used primarily for comic relief, his character was one of the highlights of this movie.

The same thing goes for the characters of Mileena and Liu Kang, they are fan favorites, and they felt wasted here. There was way too much time spent on the new character Cole Young. He was an uninspiring and underdeveloped character — Cole was by far the most uninteresting character here.

We still don’t know what set of rules we are dealing with, or if there are any, and how those rules can determine the return from the dead of the characters already killed off. Hanzo came back from the dead, so I have to assume other warriors will follow.

This movie packs lots of things and storylines — those things feel forced and awkward at times. This reboot was supposed to be the launching point for a new franchise and series of movies. However, the nostalgic connection to these characters worked best for me; if it weren’t for the fond memories surrounding this game, I probably would not have enjoyed this reboot as much as I did.

Two out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿

Mortal Kombat (2021.

*TV SERIES RECAP: RUN (Season 1)

RUN was a guilty pleasure watch. The premise and concept of this limited HBO series are somewhat irresistible to me. We have two former lovers, Billy (Domhnall Gleeson), and Ruby (Merritt Wever). They made a pact to each other during their college years, that if either one of them ever texted the word “RUN” to the other, followed by a return text with the same word—then they will both drop whatever they are doing, and meet at Grand Central Station and be there for each other.

Now in their 30s, Ruby is married with kids. Billy is a successful motivational speaker and author. It seems like they have previously texted RUN to each other throughout the years, but this is the first time that the text was actually returned. The ex-lovers meet up and embark on a cross-country Amtrak train ride.

The whole idea of dropping everything in your life and making a wild run has crossed my mind multiple times, and perhaps this is why this show appealed to me from the get-go.

Episodes for the first season are roughly about a half-hour long with 7 episodes. Pretty easy to power through the whole thing in one sitting. It is a fun show, with lots of tension and slow revelations. Layers and layers of information about the characters are slowly revealed, so you have to be patient to see where the story is actually going. The tension keeps on building up with each episode.

The supporting characters are essentially the main obstacles in this love story. Billy’s assistant Fiona (Archie Panjabi), is stalking and blackmailing Billy — she is holding some dark and compromising secrets regarding Billy.

Ruby’s husband, Laurence (Rich Sommer), seems to be aware that his wife has run off to be with someone and is willing to forgive her if she returns home to her family. All the supporting characters added along the way add a very compelling dynamic that worked well for me. Most notably, the inclusion of the character Laurel (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), A taxidermist, who collects roadkill, and gets involved in the plot.

There is this exciting sub-plot between Laurel and police officer Babe Cloud (Tamara Podemski) that develops midway through the first season,

Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson have solid chemistry together. I was all-in on the idea that these two were once lovers. The sexual tension was believable. Wever’s performance is pretty intense and remarkable. She has this uncanny ability to deliver lines in a very deliberate manner. The character flaws between both characters are worth exploring further…. if there is a second season, which I hope there is.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

RUN (2020). Streaming on HBO MAX

*MOVIE RECAP: GODZILLA VS KONG

As much as the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” might be valid for appraising works of literature, it’s downright true with this movie. The movie title says it all; it is all about two giant monsters punching and kicking each other into oblivion.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth and latest installment in the cinematic MonsterVerse series. The first movie in this monster series was Godzilla (2014), which was a pretty good movie directed by the exceptional Gareth Edwards.

The second entry into this shared universe was Kong: Skull Island (2017), a highly entertaining, fun, and at times, pretty compelling movie. I had a good time watching this 2017 version of King Kong.

The third movie was Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). This movie had a lot of stuff to unpack. It wasn’t bad at all; I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. The whole concept of the Titans as the original and rightful rulers of the planet was awesome. The plot twist about Monster Zero as an invasive species, an alien creature not meant to be on Earth, was brilliant.

Sadly, Godzilla vs. Kong is not as memorable as the previous three Monsterverse movies. The storyline or plot (if you can call it a plot) centers around Getting Kong to his original homeland, which is supposed to be somewhere deep within the Hollow Earth. We learned that there is supposed to be some type of ancient historic rivalry between Godzilla’s ancestors and Kong’s ancestors.

We have the Apex corporation, a shady biotech company keeping Kong in a containment dome type of structure that resembles Skull Island. This sinister biotech company is using the skeleton remains of Ghidorah from Godzilla: King of the Monsters to engineer a monster of their own to challenge and kill Godzilla.

The human character component is pretty weak here. Despite the impressive casting, the characters are all poorly developed. Except for Jia (Kaylee Hottle), she is the last remaining member of the now-extinct Iwi people from skull island. She is deaf and communicates with Kong through sign language; her relationship with King Kong was the most interesting part of this movie.

The Hollow Earth concept is a fascinating idea. Watching how this myth is given such a prominent role in the storyline was interesting; however, this movie’s overall approach towards the Hollow Earth theory was beyond silly.

The only redemptive feature in this movie was the monster fight scenes; they were my favorite thing from the whole movie. Those scenes alone are worth watching this movie.

Godzilla vs. Kong is the less impressive movie out of all four MonsterVerse films. Nevertheless, this movie is a wild big-screen spectacle. The CGI, Sound effects, and all of the special effects are fantastic; the whole thing is meant to be enjoyed better on the big screen and IMAX. You have to suspend disbelief for however long this movie runs and let it take you along for a ridiculous action-packed ride.

Two out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).

*TV SERIES RECAP: THE OUTSIDER

The legend of El Cucu finally gets a spot on mainstream TV — Based on a Stephen King novel and adapted for TV by best-selling crime novelist Richard Price — The Outsider is not a straightforward murder mystery like I initially imagined; it is a detective crime drama with a huge supernatural component.

The premise is not as simple as it seems: A kid has been murdered in a small town, and all of the forensic evidence points to the local little league coach Terry (Jason Bateman) as the killer. But coach Terry seems to be well-liked by all the town locals. However, plenty of evidence points to him being miles away from town at a conference when the murder happened.

Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) is a grief-stricken cop who has tragically lost his kid recently. Ralph is hell-bent on solving this crime and is convinced coach Terry is guilty.

The paradox of being in two places at the same time becomes, at first, the main obstacle our protagonist must solve. This is a dark but slow and steady show. It can be a bit frustrating if you are not into slow-moving plots. Nevertheless, there are some solid elements to The Outsider that merits watching it.

There are some weird but pretty cool camera shots and angles. We have different and exciting characters that feel real; they seem like regular people confronted all of a sudden with the supernatural, and we get to see how they attempt to rationalize things that they cannot explain rationally. The entire ensemble cast of supporting characters is excellent.

The character of Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo) is the best thing about this show; she adds a particular dynamic and energy to the plot. Stephen King fans will immediately recognize this character from the novel Mr. Mercedes (2014). This show introduces her as this quirky, weird private investigator who has this extraordinary ability to see things from a unique perspective.

El Cuco (The Coco) is a shape-shifting supernatural entity, primarily known in Hispanic cultures, but there are versions of this entity in just about every culture worldwide. It is also known as El Cucuy, El Cucui, and Coca. However, the lore of El Cuco was mildly presented and loosely explored in the show. Nonetheless, they explained that this entity feeds on the suffering, grief, and sorrow people feel after a tragedy and how it copies the identity of people it has come into contact with by scratching them.

If there is a second season, I would love to see them tackle more of the folklore of El Cuco and expand on this entity and its connection to similar cases all over the world.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

THE OUTSIDER (2020). Streaming on HBO

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