Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Movie Review: Mortal Kombat 2021 (R – 110 minutes)

 

Be sure to listen to me and fellow LAMBs discuss this flick on the LAMBCast: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/lambcast/episodes/2021-05-04T11_49_57-07_00 

Now that I am fully vaccinated, I was lucky enough to see the new Mortal Kombat in my local theater which has new  procedures to ensure the safest experience, and I am very grateful!  It also dropped on HBO Max the same day, which I saw as a huge benefit. After watching the movie in the theater, I immediately came home and rewatched several bits of it on HBO Max.


The Mortal Kombat video game debuted in arcades in 1992 as a simple player vs. player button-smashing fighting game with unnecessary Ks replacing Cs. Sure, the characters had special moves, but like many other fans, I played by hitting as many buttons as possible as fast as possible. I did stumble across Scorpion’s fatality and have never forgotten how to pull that off on MK1.  My family played MK1 and MK2 on our Commodore 64.  Since then, there have been nearly countless versions of the games. My favorites are the ones with the largest assortment of characters to choose from, which includes MK Trilogy for the PS1, Armageddon on the PS2, and several of the reboots for PS3 and PS4.  Inevitably, there will be another game for PS5 any day now.


With the popularity of the game, the first Mortal Kombat movie was released in 1995 and is one of my favorites.  It was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and features several martial artists and camera work that shows the fights from a distance so that you can appreciate their skill – something I continue to look for in action movies with a lot of hand to hand combat.  It was followed by a sequel so bad it is not worth mentioning. Since then, there have been a couple of live-action shows and one animated movie, but this reboot is the first one that stays true to the game and honors the fans in the best way possible. 


The premise of Mortal Kombat is that there are various realms sending their best fighters to a once-a-generation tournament. If any realm loses 10 in a row, the winning realm can invade a losing realm.  In this movie, we begin generations ago in feudal Japan and witness the destruction of Hanzo Hashashi and his family in the Shirai Ryu clan at the hands of Bi-Han and his Lin Kuei clan. I absolutely loved that Bi-Han, who will become Sub Zero, is speaking Chinese and that Hanzo, who will become Scorpion, is speaking Japanese.  These are the two core characters from every game back to 1992, and beginning the movie with an incredible fight between them feels appropriate.


Jumping forward, we are introduced to MMA fighter Cole Young, his wife and daughter, and his MK Dragon-shaped birthmark.  Jackson Briggs visits him to comment on the birthmark, just in time to save Cole and his family from Sub Zero by telling them to find Sonya Blade, but lose his arms in the process, which is not a surprise to anyone familiar with the games.  At this point, let me mention that the movie sticks to the brutal violence of recent versions of the game and is rated R for a reason. Why there were so many kids in my showing is inexplicable.

Young meets up with Blade and meets Kano and gets in a fight with Reptile. Sonya tells Cole about the tournament because she has learned about it through research and tracking down ‘champions’ chosen to fight.  The three of them head to Raiden’s temple where they meet Lui Kang and Kung Lao to begin their training.  Meanwhile, the Outworld sorcerer Shang Tsung is gathering champions of his own and has decided to buck the rules and kill the Earthrealm champions before the tournament even starts – winning by default. Once you get a look at Outworld, you understand why, it is a bit of a mess.  Cole has to find his true fighting spirit – his ‘arcana’ (a neat way of explaining why the kombatants have supernatural powers) and defend himself, his family, and his friends.  Basically – hijinks ensue.


The movie is directed by Simon McQuoid, and while the fight scenes are great, I would have loved even more of them. The hand-to-hand combat is wonderful and because this is a pre-tournament movie, the careful set up of each fight individually from the 1995 version is not present here. Basically, everyone is fighting for their lives. You can tell that the director, writer, and cast all have a respect if not raging fandom for the games and first movie. There are plenty of fan-service moments, from trick moves to fatalities, to quips and bits.  Personally, I really felt the scene where Lui Kang repeatedly uses a leg sweep on Kano multiple times in a row during training - having lost many a fight to someone who figured out that one button movement.  Despite striving for brutal violence in some of the finishing moves, the tone still manages to balance the fighting with some fun, and the movie feels like the perfect set up to a new franchise. The cast is wonderful and beautifully inclusive.

Lewis Tan was fantastic in both Into the Badlands and Wu Assassins (both currently on Netflix). While the addition of Cole Young felt a little strange in an IP that has dozens of characters available (in case you are curious, here’s the full list of existing karacters https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mortal_Kombat_characters), he was the audience ‘in’ to this fantastical world. Everyone else around him got to be big and weird, so he has to be the ‘straight man’. Hopefully he gets to cut a little lose in the sequel.


Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade and Mechad Brooks as Jax are fantastic and feel true to the games. Josh Lawson as Kano was fantastically irritating – exactly as he should be. His interactions with Kabal were spectacular. Who knew Kabal would be one of my favorite characters in the movie?


Joe Taslim as Sub Zero and Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion gave both characters depths and charisma. I loved their fight before they become the characters and loved the fight in full costume once they are fully immersed.


Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden and Chin Han as Shang Tsung get to quip at each other while each trying to give their team the edge. I loved Raiden’s lightning effect but wanted a little more from Shang Tsung’s soul-sucking effects. Also, since Cary Tagawa is one of my favorite parts of the 95 movie, nothing Chin Han did for me for going to feel right – not his fault.


It did feel strange to have a Mortal Kombat movie where Lui Kang was not the central focus, but again, he may move more central in the sequel. I hope so, because Ludi Lin was very interesting and I wanted to see more of him. I felt like Max Huang’s Kung Lao was the one character that felt plucked directly out of the game and plopped on screen between the costume and the moves. Also – I enjoyed his level of snarkiness.


I do want to mention Sisi Stringer as Mileena, because Mileena has always been one of my favorite characters from the games. I do wish she was wearing a mask until the reveal of her teeth, but hey – I’ll take it. Mel Jarnson briefly appears as Nitara and Shang Tsung’s obsession with her was more than a little creepy.  Nathan Jones played Reiko as he continues to pop up when I least expect him.


Overall, I found the movie to be really fun and very entertaining. The fights were great and the characters engaging. It was a little strange that the entire thing is pre-tournament, but that really sets up some options for a sequel to be very tournament heavy. I cannot wait to see additional characters in sequels (Baraka, Jade, hell – even D’Vorah). I was disappointed that Goro had no lines, the Goro puppet dining with Kano was one of my favorite bits from the 95 movie.  I also would have liked some of the kostumes to be a little more accurate to the game, basically a little more kolorful. Sub Zero had barely any blue in his outfit, and Mileena was not wearing any purple. But again, that’s a minor komplaint.

9 out of 10.

Also – I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, if you have not activated the Mortal Kombat skill on your Amazon Alexa, you should. It is very fun!



Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Movie Review: Thunder Force (PG13 – 106 minutes)

 

Netflix continues to offer new movies on the regular. A few weeks ago, they released Thunder Force, which the perfect balm while trying to wade through the swamp of depressing Oscar movies.


The movie takes place in a world where an event caused some to be gifted with super powers, but for whatever reason, only enhanced those that were already bad - essentially creating a ton of super villains and no heroes.  Emily Stanton’s parents were scientists killed by one of these ‘miscreants.’  Her best friend, Lydia Berman, takes her in. Lydia becomes obsessed with becoming a genetic scientist herself, intent on finding a way to stop miscreants and find justice for her parents.  Her studiousness clashes with Lydia’s carelessness and the girls have a falling out near the end of high school.


Years later, Emily’s scientific company is growing, and Lydia reaches out to ask her to come to a reunion.  Lydia stops by Emily’s office to see her, and accidentally wanders into one of Lydia’s experiments, ending up with super strength. Emily takes the second half, resulting in invisibility. Together, the two team up to stop evil-doers and bring down The King – a local villain.  Hijinks ensue.


Honestly, regardless of the plot, you are watching this to see Spencer and McCarthy have a good time together in some insane situations.  The two have been friends for more than 20 years, and it lends a genuineness to the friendship in the movie. Even with as irritated as Emily is with Lydia, they know they have each other’s support. Ben Falcone (Mr. McCarthy) has directed this as he has done many of McCarthy’s other movies. He gives her the leeway to slide into the crazy, which is what she does best, but I did want the movie to commit to going a little farther into the silly. At some points, it almost takes itself too seriously.

McCarthy and Spencer are delightful together and again, the real friendship shows in the on-screen friendship. They work really hard, but I did want more full-out belly laugh moments.  Bits about the cool car being impractical and the fact that they could not wash the suits were great. The training sequences were also fun, but the movie could have leaned into a few more scenes of them building their team skills and doing some general around-town hero-ing before they immediately shifty to fighting their big bad.


Bobby Cannvale is dependable as always as the King, and I enjoy him opposite McCarthy. Pom Klementieff gets to ‘twist her mustache’ as relentless miscreant Laser.  

Melissa Leo is completely unused as Emily’s head of security, and Kevin Dunn continues to be reliable as a local businessman.  I really enjoyed Taylor Mosby as Tracy, Emily’s daughter. She was smart, funny, and determined to help even when told to stay out of it.  

The true gem of the movie is Jason Bateman as Jerry the Crab. Bateman in a comedy is typically gold and he absolutely stole each scene he was in. Particularly when he scooted away sideways. Also – he has mastered the mid-sentence wink better than any other actor.


Overall the movie is certainly fun but had the potential to be truly hilarious.  I enjoyed it, and it is a great streaming watch. Again, I found myself wondering if I would have liked it as much if I had paid to see it in a theater, but at home with a big bowl of popcorn, it’s just right.

6 out of 10 - taking away extra points for the raw chicken eating scenes – even if it is specially prepared slices of pear, which I know – it still is really gross.



Sunday, April 25, 2021

LAMBs Devour The Oscars 2021: Visual Effects

 

The Academy Award for Visual Effects (VFX) is awarded to the movie and crew the Academy feels have done the best job that year of creating environments and creatures through computer animation (visual effects) and practical effects like puppets and sculptures (special effects).  I enjoy this category because it honors one of the unsung jobs on a film that can have incredible impact on the overall finished product.  These are the folks working behind the scenes to make sure the final movie feels seamless. This year, there are five nominees.  

Love and Monsters (Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt, Brian Cox)

This is the simple story of a young man in a post-apocalyptic world making his way from one compound to another to join his high school girlfriend through fields of monsters. The impressive effects in this movie include creating an apocalypse, world-building, a robot, and lots of monsters.   



In a movie with ‘monsters’ in the title, of course the monsters have to be impressive.  The movie feels inspired by classic Harryhausen effects with giant bugs and creepy crawlers.  The combination of computer and practical effects make the finished product visually stunning.  Currently, you can rent Love and Monsters on Amazon Prime for $4.99.



The Midnight Sky (Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon, David Watkins)

The Midnight Sky is another post-apocalyptic movie that follows Augustine, a scientist, as he tries to stop a group of astronauts from returning to earth.  Augustine is dying of terminal cancer and he sets out to reach a weather station to communicate with the crew of the Aether to warn them that Earth is not habitable.



The effects here are used to create the landscape of a new world that the Aether discovers, the look and feel of the Aether as it travels through space, and various space-travel and decimated earth radioactive-ice storm scenes.  The team created computer facial replacements for scenes of astronauts in space.  Industrial Light & Magic helped by using a smaller version of the “Volume” used for The Mandalorian for Clooney’s Artic observatory and ice storms. You can currently stream The Midnight Sky on Netflix.



Mulan (Sean Fade, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury, Steven Ingram)

Disney was nominated in this category for the Lion King remake last year and this year the Mulan live-action version got a nomination.  The team at Weta Digital helped to create the Imperial City based on actual historical maps and architecture.  Filling in crowd scenes with computer generated people helped add scale to the feature.  



The movie looks amazing, the battle sequences are astounding and the city expansive.  Finding a smooth way to integrate computer enhancements into battle sequences without them looking cartoony is tricky.  Digital extras are one of the best advancements of CGI technology and can really provide scope without hiring hundreds of extras. Weta refined their digital extras for this movie, creating more realistic looking crowds. You can stream Mulan on Disney+.



The One and Only Ivan (Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones, Santiago Colomo Martinez)

The One and Only Ivan brings to life a popular children’s book. It tells the story of a silverback gorilla in captivity who promises to do what he can to help free a baby elephant. Each of the animals in the movie is created with computer effects. Ivan is done through performance capture.  



Photorealistic animals are always impressive, and difficult. They need to look realistic but still be able to convey emotion so that the audience connects with them. The crew from MPC Film was able to create a digital gorilla that can still give an emotional performance to bring the audience with him on his quest for freedom.  You can stream this movie on Disney+.



 

Tenet (Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Scott Fisher)

Tenet tells the story of a ‘protagonist’ as he joins a group of international agents who are working to stop an impending global war by inverting time.  Yes, inverting time – not time traveling, as they explain in the movie. But that’s about all the explanation you get. You really do have to turn off your brain and just enjoy the crazy effects.



Director Christopher Nolan used few computer effects, instead shooting most of the effects in reverse and combining the forward and backward action together to create the dizzying action sequences. While the story may be confusing, the fights are fantastic, and the movie almost requires multiple viewings to truly appreciate the high level of artistic crazy at work. The team at DNEG had to invent some new techniques to pull of the execution of the inverted sequences. Also, incredible stunt work across the board. You can currently rent Tenet on Amazon Prime for $5.99.



Who Should Win:

Admittedly, I have not seen many of the nominees this year. This is strange as typically this is the category that features movies I have seen willingly, but last year was strange all around. I did manage to see Tenet in the theater and the effects are fantastic – mainly because the majority are practical and layered together beautifully and the stunt work is absolutely incredible. That is the movie that gets my vote.  JDW balancing that espresso cup with one hand is not an effect, he managed that skill on his own.



Who Will Win:

There does not seem to be a front runner this year and the internet seems to think that The Midnight Sky and Tenet are neck and neck.  The Academy does tend to favor the effects that are the least showy – those that recreate historical locations and events rather than creating new and fantastical situations. None of the movies this year are historical dramas, but Mulan is the closest in that area. But even with the historical touches,  I do not think that will win, I think that Tenet will pull it out this year.

 



Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Movie Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (PG13 – 113 minutes)

 

We have hit the first big budget summer-type blockbuster of the year – Godzilla vs. Kong dropped on HBOMax the same day it debuted at theaters.  The two first met 58 years ago in King Kong vs. Godzilla from 1963. 


I watched this on HBOMax, but my second vaccine shot is scheduled in a week, so I hope to be able to see it in the theater too as it truly is a big-screen flick.

This is the fourth entry in the recent Monsterverse after Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).  After multiple teases in the previous movies, here we finally see Kong square off with Godzilla. The opening credit sequence summarizes all the previous movies in a literal tournament-style bracket until we are left with the two alpha titans, Kong and Godzilla.


Godzilla has been dominating his movies, emerging as an alpha titan that has defended most of humankind against worse titans, most notably, King Ghidorah and his three heads.  Kong was last seen wandering around his own island in the 70s after squishing Sam Jackson.  It was pointed out in that movie that he was still growing. This movie opens on Kong growing increasingly annoyed with the Monarch crew observing him on Skull Island Truman Show-style.  The observation team is growing increasingly concerned about relocating Kong as a storm has rendered the island nearly inhospitable, wiping out the native humans save one. Meanwhile, Godzilla has been growing increasingly aggressive against various locations of the tech company Apex. Apex has grown increasingly worried about humanity surviving titan attacks.   


The human folks in the movie include some from previous movies and some new ones.  Like the previous movies, there are far too many human characters.  Ilene Andrews has been leading up the Kong observation team with a little girl named Jia, the last of the humans from the island. Ren Serizawa is working at Apex for Walter Simmons on a project to defend against rogue titans and Simmons sends his daughter Maia to gather a new energy source with Dr. Nathan Lind from the 'hollow earth' hidden land in the center of the planet. They team up with Dr. Andrews hoping that Kong can not only lead them to hollow earth, but that he will be safe there instead of his crumbling island.


Conspiracy theory podcast host Bernie Hayes believes Apex is up to no good and has teamed up with Madison Russell and her friend Josh Valentine. Madison checks in briefly with her father Mark, who seems to still be working with Monarch after the whole situation with her mother creating the ‘orca’ in the last movie. All those various storylines culminate in a climax of epic proportions.


The movie is directed by Adam Wingard and comes in just under two hours, which is where it should be. The action is epic and intense, the Hollow Earth scenes are lovely – I particularly enjoyed the bit where Kong goes to the highest mountain point and jumps through the gravity inversion to the land above.  Most importantly, the movie definitely delivers on the Godzilla – Kong fights. There are three major fight sequences, all of which are fantastic.  There are far too many humans, and it is mystifying why so many of them are new that could have been characters from previous films recurring.

Rebecca Hall’s character of Ilene Andrews is one of the unnecessary additions. Why was that not Ziyi Zhang’s character from the previous movie? She apparently was supposed to be in this be was cut. I did enjoy Kaylee Hottle as Jia who is the little girl who humanizes Kong through her connection and communication.


Alexander Skarsgard’s Nathan Lind is equally puzzling as Bradley Whitford’s character from the previous movie was the one who brought up the Hollow Earth theory. 


Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler as the Russells provide a link to the previous movie, but both have very little to do here. Pairing Brown with Julian Dennison and Brian Tyree Henry does provide some comedy relief, but they storyline for those three is also unnecessary. They learn that Apex is up to no good, but any one of the other multiple characters could have discovered that too.  Dennison is the bright point of the movie and has a natural comedic sense.


In terms of the ‘villains’, Demian Bichir as Simmons is chewing all the scenery and chewing his moustache, which is on tone for this movie, but also could have been Charles Dance from the epilogue of the previous film, since the Ghidorah skull he was shown collecting is a key plot point for Simmons. His daughter Maia played by Eiza Gonzalez has nothing to do but go with the Hollow Earth expedition and be a jerk about everything. 


Shun Oguri playing Ren Serizawa is the son of Ken Watanabe’s character from the two previous Godzilla movies but that was not mentioned at all.  Honestly, you could have removed both Simmons’s and let Oguri’s Serizawa cover all of that ground.


Also – Lance Reddick and Chris Chalk are both in this, just enough to get you excited that they are there, but then disappear so quickly that you almost feel like you hallucinated both. And Jessica Henwick was apparently cast but then cut. 

Despite the disconnect with the majority of the human characters, the true stars are Kong and Godzilla, although I will say this felt like a Kong movie with Godzilla featuring.  Kong would have qualified for Best Actor nominations and Godzilla for Best Supporting, if that clarifies the roles. Appropriate, since Godzilla had two previous films in this franchise and Kong only one. Yes, of course they are both heroes, so they inevitably team up to tackle something worse. And while that is predictable, that is exactly what you want from this movie. Kong gets the most character development of any character – human or titan – in this movie. The animators do an incredible job of illustrating a full range of emotions across his face. His connection and communication with Jia enhances his ‘humanity’. Seeing him in chains is always painful and in this movie, particularly devastating since he could tell Jia how scared and upset he was. 


Godzilla, on the other hand, continues to be doing his best to save humanity from both themselves and everything else.  In this movie, he seems to have a Danny Glover quality – definitely too old for this shit but taking up the fight when needed.  He goes after Kong initially because there can be only one Alpha, and he’s it.  He keeps going after Apex bases because he knows what they are creating is bad news. Once he realizes he is in over his head, he reluctantly teams up with Kong save the day and quietly swims off into the sunset after acknowledging that maybe there can be two alphas at the same time. He is big and beautiful and will always be my favorite titan.


Overall, this movie is exactly what we needed at this point. Big, loud, splashy, and over the top. It delivers what it promises and despite having too many humans (my standard complaint for titan-based Monsterverse movies) it is a swift and enjoyable watch. If you are able to safely see it in a theater – do it.

8 out of 10

#TeamGodzilla





Friday, April 2, 2021

Movie Review: Moxie (PG13 – 111 minutes)

 

Continuing to find movies from home, I watched Moxie, a new Netflix release. 



Moxie is based on the YA book from 2015. The movie tells the story of a high schooler named Vivian who has coasted through high school to date with her best friend Claudia, ignoring the cloud of sexism and misogyny that hangs over the school.  She meets a new student, Lucy, who is determined to not ignore what is happening and instead call attention to it and get it corrected.  Vivian is inspired by her other’s old memorabilia to create a ‘zine’ called Moxie and distributed it in the school. Along the way, she collects a group of new friends, gets friendly with the right guy, and starts a rebellion.


Amy Poehler directed the movie and manages to find a perfect balance between fun entertainment and powerful heart. I certainly can relate to the star of the football team getting away with anything, and I am sure most people in this country have similar high school memories. The group that Vivian accidentally pulls together include a variety of girls, all upset for various justifiable reasons. The movie tackles dress code issues, privilege issues, and the frustration of wanting to change a system that prefers to be ignored.

Hadley Robinson gives Vivian the all-in emotional instability of a high school girl and the friendship between her and Lauren Tsai’s Claudia feels genuine and lasting, even when encountering serious bumps. 


I really appreciated Nico Hiraga as Seth, a kid Vivian has known forever but just recently had the growth spurt into hotness.  His character is important because he completely supports what the girls are doing and the necessity of the message, without any ulterior motive. He is an ally and for some reason that felt pleasantly unusual to see in a movie like this. It would have been easy to portray all the guys as sexist idiots, but this helps point out that the sexists are actually the smaller group, just louder and more privileged.  He also gets to call Vivian out on some of her teen girl angst and misplaced anger. 


Alycia Pascual-Pena plays Lucy and is really key as the girl who will not simply accept the status quo – calling out the injustice when she sees it. She is the actual hero of the story.


Patrick Schwarzenegger plays the head football idiot very well.


The rest of the cast, including Sabrina Haskett, Sydney Park, Joshua Walker, Anjelika Washington, Josie Totah, and Emily Hopper are really well-rounded and provide more depth than your average high-school movie. Each one get just enough development to enhance the story.


Overall, the movie is very good and was definitely a surprise for me. This movie was smarter and funnier than I was expected. It is certainly worth watching and recommending to any high schoolers you know.  Now, I will say that I did find it problematic to have a white lead suddenly become a hero when watching the plight of a woman of color and not making any obvious choices to support that classmate – instead choosing to publish an anonymous zine. Vivian has been quietly ignoring all this behavior for years, and it takes Lucy standing up to it to spur her to action. Lucy does get to be a leader, but because the movie focuses on Vivian, it can feel uncomfortable in some scenes. There is a moment when Claudia points out to Vivian that her white privilege allows her to start this rebellion without having to think about the consequences as much as some of her non-white classmates. That could have been explored a bit more but gets glossed over. I still really enjoyed the movie – but that did add an interesting layer that left a little to be desired.

7 out of 10 – Leaves you feeling hopeful.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Movie Review: Boss Level (R – 94 minutes)

 

We are all familiar with the time-loop film at this point. Groundhog Day is such a prime example that it has become a descriptor of the situation. If you feel like things are repeating you would probably call it a Groundhog Day situation.  Palm Springs used the method to great success last year and now Hulu has a second time-loop movie, this one an action flick rather than a rom-com. 



Boss Level immediately drops you into the action with Roy Pulver who is repeating a day where multiple assassins are after him.  We join as he is already more than 100 days into the loop. Each time he is killed, the day restarts. He has begun to work out how to avoid each of the assassins and is starting to make progress on who or what caused this situation to come up with a plan on how to get it to stop. Each time he makes it a little further through the day, comparing it to working through a video game, restarting with each death hoping to eventually make it through to the final stage, meeting and beating the boss – hence the Boss Level, very clever. And relatable, if you’ve ever been stuck on a boss level for what feels like forever.   



Roy eventually realizes it has something to do with his ex, Dr. Jemma Wells. She is working on a top-secret project for Colonel Clive Ventor who seems to be private security company executive?  Jemma, knowing things were about to go very bad (end of the world bad), met with Roy yesterday (which for Roy feels like several months ago) and set him up for this loop. Now, Roy needs to figure out how, why, and what to do to stop it, all while learning the patterns and tactics of each one of the many killers after him and finding time to bond with his son.


The movie is directed by Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team) who first worked with Frank Grillo in The Grey in 2011. He wanted to make this movie with Grillo then, but studios had no interest in making the movie with a relative unknown in the lead.  Now, after Grillo is best known as the MCU’s Crossbones (despite multiple other credits) the movie finally came to be and thank goodness Carnahan waited until he could do it with Grillo.  Grillo is a fantastic lead in a picture like this, custom made for him – he feels completely genuine and at ease as Roy. He is tough and brutal, while still managing to be charming and engaging. Casting his real-life son, Rio, as his son in the movie gives added chemistry to the scenes of them reconnecting.  Grillo and his 3% body fat carry the movie, nearly every other actor in it is a cameo-level appearance.


Naomi Watts gets to rattle off the science mumbo-jumbo as Jemma and does a fine job. It’s not worth spending too much time thinking about the science here, just trust that it is sound and focus on the action.


Seeing Will Sasso as Brett, Ventor’s head of security, was an absolute delight. And since small doses of Mel Gibson are all I can handle, he was fine as Ventor. Honestly, he’s exceptional as a villain and should really only be playing bad guys. Although, I do spend time wondering who could have replaced him and I think Carl Weathers would have been a good choice.

Sheaun McKinney, Michelle Yeoh, and Ken Jeong all briefly appear as allies Roy meets along the way.  Michelle Yeoh (always incredible) was perfectly placed as the sword expert that Roy takes lessons from in an interesting parallel of the piano lessons from Groundhog Day.


The group of assassins range from insane to hilarious including Annabelle Wallis, Meadow Williams, Armida Lopez, Buster Reeves, Eric Etebari, Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans, and a very random Rob Gronkowski appearance. 


The standout was Selina Lo as Guan Yin, mostly because she kills Roy multiple times and states her name each time. This seems like a sound operating mentality and makes me wonder if I should be doing that more often – it is certainly memorable.


Overall, the movie is a fast-paced fun action movie that is perfect for popcorn-fueled couch viewing. Be forewarned that it is a hard R – the assassins do kill Frank brutally and graphically over and over (falling, exploding, shot, beheading, etc.) so make sure the kids are in bed before you start streaming this one.

9 out of 10 – so much fun. I am Jeanette Ward and Jeanette Ward has written this. Maybe Guan Yin was on to something!