Free Guy Review

Free Guy movie posterSynopsis
Guy (Ryan Reynold) is a character in the video game Free City, only he doesn’t know his world is not real. That is, until he meets Molotovgirl, aka Millie (Jodie Comer).

Review
Before the pandemic delayed much of the films expected to release in 2020, Free Guy was at the top of my list of films to see in 2020. Ryan Reynolds making a version of The Truman Show centered around a video game? Yes please! Despite whatever expectations I had for this film, it surpassed them and then some.

At this point, Ryan Reynolds is just playing himself in his films and I’m here for it. His sense of humor and delivery was on point and single-handedly carried this movie. Don’t get me wrong, actors like Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Taika Waititi, and Lil Rel Howery were all great too but honestly, this movie would not have been as enjoyable if not for Reynolds at the forefront. Every scene is full of non-stop laughs. I can see Reynolds as Guy in a future conversations about perfectly cast roles.

As a gamer myself, films such as this that look at video game worlds or the video game community (this film looks at both) are so much fun for me. There are plenty of call outs to video game tropes or staples that other gamers are sure to pick up the references. Streaming on platforms such as Twitch is a huge part of the gaming community these days and this film incorporates several big streamers from all across the world into the story. Their time on-screen is brief but their inclusion is a major shout out to how big game streaming has become.

Several years ago, as you might recall, Twentieth Century Fox was bought by the entertainment conglomerate know is Disney and renamed to Twentieth Century Studios. Free Guy takes full advantage of the fact that Twentieth Century Studios lives within the Disney umbrella. I’m not going to spoil it but towards the end of the film, there is a fantastic and perfectly executed cameo from a famous Marvel actor. It served as the feather in the cap to an already reference-filled experience.

I thought Free Guy was GREAT πŸ˜€ I’m a sucker for feel good films and this has shot high onto my list of favorite feel good films. Everyone in the cast makes this movie so much fun and the gaming references and easter eggs are just icing on the virtual cake. If more films had the heart and humor of Free Guy, the world of cinema would be a much better place.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Shawn Levy – Director
Matt Lieberman – Screenplay / Story
Zak Penn – Screenplay
Christophe Beck – Composer

Ryan Reynolds – Guy
Jodie Comer – Millie / Molotovgirl
Joe Keery – Keys
Utkarsh Ambudkar – Mouser
Taika Waititi – Antwan
Lil Rel Howery – Buddy
Britne Oldford – Barista
Camille Kostek – Bombshell
Mark Lainer – Hostage
Mike Devine – Officer Johnny

The Suicide Squad Review

The Suicide Squad movie posterSynopsis
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad, on a mission to country of Corto Maltese, to destroy a secretive experiment there known only as β€œProject Starfish.”

Review
When the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) first started, Warner Brothers tried a darker feel, similar to the successful Dark Knight trilogy, to build their interconnected cinematic universe. However, after a string of arguable failures, WB has given the creative forces behind their latest films more creative freedom to tell their stories featuring DC’s superheroes without being concerned with the connectivity with other DC films. Director James Gunn takes full advantage of this new approach, injecting The Suicide Squad with a flamboyancy not seen in any previous DCEU film.

In an online featurette, Gunn comments that WB gave him permission to kill any character he wanted, which he clearly took to heart. The movie opens with guns blazing (literally), killing multiple characters, setting the tone for the rest of the film and driving home that no character is safe. By the end, you will be surprised who does and, more particularly, who doesn’t make it to the end of the film. While I do enjoy the overarching characters and plots in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it is refreshing to see superhero movies that tell the story they want to tell, without being concerned with building that shared universe.

Gunn is no stranger to creating stories around quirky and dysfunctional teams, he is the man behind The Guardians of the Galaxy films after all, and that experience fits perfectly into The Suicide Squad. It’s clear that Gunn went wild with his ideas, especially after being given the go-ahead to hold nothing back. The whole movie is filled to the brim with humor, insanity, violence, excitement, and heart.

And at the heart of the film are Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melchior, and Bloodsport, played by Idris Elba. Melchior brings a softness to a film that is filled with brutality and ferocity. This is her first major film and I am excited to see what projects she picks up from here because she was great in this film. Elba is always a dependable actor so it should be no surprise that he carries the film along side Melchior. Margot Robbie was born to play Harley Quinn and I’ve already said as much in my Birds of Prey review so I’m not going to go any more into her fantastic portrayal of the character. John Cena is another of my favorite additions to the team. He plays Peacemaker with such a deadpan attitude that somehow works perfectly with Elba’s Bloodsport that their scenes together make some of the best and most humorous of the movie.

I thought The Suicide Squad was GREAT πŸ˜€ While it introduces many new characters, the core ones are given the room they need to develop and make you feel for them. This film is James Gunn unleashed and he subverts much of what is expected in a superhero feature. Overall, there is an emotional depth that I wasn’t expecting, and it’s that depth that really makes this movie stand out in the DCEU.

Favorite Quote
Bloodsport: No one likes a show off.
Peacemaker: They do if what you’re showing off is dope as fuck.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Dunn – Director / Writer
John Murphy – Composer

Viola Davis – Amanda Waller
Joel Kinnaman – Colonel Rick Flag
Margot Robbie – Harley Quinn
Idris Elba – Bloodsport
John Cena – Peacemaker
Daniela Melchior – Ratcatcher 2
David Dastmalchian – Polka-Dot Man
Sylvester Stallone – King Shark
Jai Courtney – Captain Boomerang
Michael Rooker – Savant
Nathan Fillion – TDK
Flula Borg – Javelin
Pete Davidson – Blackguard
Mayling Ng – Mongal
Sean Gunn – Weasel / Calendar Man
Steve Agee – John Economos / On-Set King Shark
Tinashe Kajese – Flo Crawley
Jennifer Holland – Emilia Harcourt
Peter Capaldi – Thinker
Juan Diego Botto – Presidente General Silvio Luna
Joaquin Cosio – Mayor General Mateo Suarez

Cruella Review

Cruella movie posterSynopsis
Estella (Emma Stone) is an up-and-coming fashion designer. She gets her big break when The Baroness (Emma Thompson) recognizes her talent. However, to rise in the fashion world, Estella will have to go through The Baroness.

Review
I’ll be honest, when it was announced that Emma Stone was going to play Cruella de Vil, I couldn’t see her playing the young villainess. However, being the Emma Stone fan that I am, I was all in. I don’t know why I had any doubts because Stone was brilliant and well worth the price of admission alone.

While Cruella does follow in the footsteps of films like Maleficent and tell the origin of its villainess, it breaks away by not making her a sympathetic character like what happens to Maleficent in her film. Cruella is a villain through and through and this film doesn’t try to convince you otherwise. Cruella is all about Estalla embracing her madness and her transformation into the villain we see in 101 Dalmatians. I’m really glad Disney took this approach because someone who wants to skin puppies does not need to be sympathetic in any capacity. Sometimes a villain can be bad for bad’s sake. This movie adds layers to Cruella without taking away from her character in the other films.

As I said before, I am a big fan of Emma Stone and she absolutely slays in this film. Her turn into the villainous Cruella is one of her best transformations to date. I normally associate Stone with the more β€œgood” characters but after this film, I can see her taking up more antagonistic roles in the future, and I’m all for it! Across from Stone was the other Emma of the movie, Emma Thompson, who might have just stolen the film from Stone (which is saying something given how fantastic Stone was). Being a bigger bad than Cruella de Vil is a tough task but Thompson tackles that task with ease. Thompson is another actress that I don’t usually associate with being an antagonist and that just goes to show her acting ability to pick up any type of role and make it absolutely brilliant.

Cruella clocks a run time of over two hours but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. It has a kinetic energy about it that keeps the film always moving and never really slowing down. Despite this, it never feels disjointed or jarring. Each scene flows into the next, carrying the energy from the scene before. The progression of of Estella’s decent to her Cruella persona feels smooth as the film progresses as well.

Now, for what may be my favorite part of the film: the costume design. Holy smokes is the costume design fantastic! I guess that should be no surprise given that Cruella is all about a fashion designer. So many of Cruella’s outfits are simply gorgeous and look amazing. Not to be outdone, The Baroness and Artie (John McCrea) have wonderful costumes as well. I don’t often comment on costume design so this movie definitely deserves recognition at the next Academy Awards.

I thought Cruella was GOOD πŸ™‚ As far as the recent slate of Disney’s live-action films go, this is definitely up there as one of the better ones. Even though it is a prequel, it doesn’t force much into the story just to align the characters to where they need to be. Instead it tells its own story that still fits within the larger canon. Emma Stone and Emma Thompson carry the film with their amazing villainous turns. The supporting cast of Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, and John McCrea hold their own with the two leading ladies. Topped off with an engaging story, as well as dazzling and lavish costume design, Cruella delivers on creating a compelling story for one of Disney’s most vile villains.

Favorite Quote
Artie: I like to say that β€˜normal’ is the cruelest insult of them all, and at least I never get that.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Craig Gillespie – Director
Dana Fox – Screenplay
Tony McNamara – Screenplay
Aline Brosh McKenna – Story
Kelly Marcel – Story
Steve Zissis – Story
Nicholas Britell – Composer

Emma Stone – Estella / Cruella
Emma Thompson– The Baroness
Joel Fry – Jasper
Paul Walter Hauser – Horace
John McCrea – Artie
Mark Strong – The Valet
Kayvan Novak – Roger
Kirby Howell-Baptiste – Anita Darling
Emily Beecham – Catherine / Maid
Ed Birch – Baroness Head of Security

Mortal Kombat (2021) Review

Mortal Kombat (2021) movie posterSynopsis
Cole Young (Lewis Tan) finds himself embroiled in a multi-dimensional tournament known as Mortal Kombat, fighting for the fate of Earth.

Review
Adapting a movie from a game franchise has had notoriously poor results. Some have fared okay while most have been disastrous. Thankfully, the latest adaptation of the popular fighting game of the same name finds itself on the better side as far as video game adaptations go. Mortal Kombat is by no means a thought-provoking or life-changing movie, but it does provide a good two hours worth of popcorn entertainment. The film opens with a brutal scene set in seventeenths century Japan, setting up that this film will be just as violent as the game series it is adapting. This movie actually does a good job of balancing the action scenes with character scenes. Unfortunately, because the film does provide a lot of time for character development, there are pacing issues towards the latter portion of the film when the movie finally gets to, and rushes through, the β€œtournament.”

The Mortal Kombat games have been around for nearly 30 years and has a roster consisting of dozens of characters that the film can pull from. Thankfully, it only uses a handful of these characters as to not overwhelm the story with trying to fit as many characters as possible. There are bound to be fan favorites left out but if they’re lucky, they’ll see their favorite characters in any potential sequels. There are also many easter eggs and homages throughout Mortal Kombat that audiences are sure to pick up, whether they are casual or hardcore fans of the games. Some of these call outs did feel forced but overall their inclusions were a nice touch.

I thought Mortal Kombat was GOOD πŸ™‚ If you are a fan of the game franchise, there is going to be a lot here that you’re going to enjoy. The focused cast, stylishly violent action sequences, and plenty of humor from Josh Lawson combine for a fierce and entertaining ride from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Simon McQuoid – Director
Greg Russo – Screenplay / Story
Dave Callaham – Screenplay
Oren Uziel – Story
Benjamin Wallfisch – Composer

Lewis Tan – Cole Young
Jessica McNamee – Sonya Blade
Mehcad Brooks – Jax
Josh Lawson – Kano
Ludi Lin – Liu Kang
Max Huang – Kung Lao
Tabanobu Asano – Lord Raiden
Hiroyuki Sanada – Hanzo Hasashi / Scorpion
Laura Bent – Allison
Matilda Kimber – Emily
Jose Taslim – Bi-Han / Sub-Zero
Chin Han – Shang Tsung
Sisi Stringer – Mileena
Mel Jarnson – Nitara
Nathan Jones – Reiko
Daniel Nelson – Kabal
Ian Streetz – Ramirez

Raya and the Last Dragon Review

Raya and the Last Dragon movie posterSynopsis
In a hope to rid the world of evil spirits known and the Druun, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) searches for Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon.

Review
With theaters slowly opening up, I looked to book tickets to Raya and the Last Dragon at a local theater. To my surprise, none of them around me were showing the film! I would have thought that the Disney brand would for sure have filled seats so it didn’t make sense that a theater would not be showing their latest movie. But alas, I settled for watching it on Disney+, which was a shame because the allure and scale of this movie deserved to be seen on the big screen.

From the get-go, it’s clear that Raya and the Last Dragon isn’t going to be like other Disney princess films. There are no dance numbers here. The first scene is an explosive fight sequence from a young Raya with choreography that rivals live-action martial arts films. From there, the action sequences only get better. There is also a grander sense of adventure that most Disney princess films, save maybe Moana. This higher sense of adventure and action lends for a pretty fast-paced film. At an hour and a half run time, a lot is packed into it. The fight scenes between Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and Namaari (Gemma Chan) especially are exciting. Since it is shown early on that these two could have become friends, their scenes are particularly emotional because you have a sense of the relationship these two could have had.

As Raya travels throughout the land of Kumandra, she recruits a new member for her adventuring group from each of the lands. Every one of these characters was fun and brought something unique to the group. Most of their motivations for joining the group are based around their lives being affected in some way by the Druun, the evil spirits who turn people to stone, and not much more. While it may seem thin, it is enough and works in the film. The point of the story is that people from different backgrounds from all across the land trust each other and work together, which is one of the central themes of the movie.

Disney has clearly found an animation style that it likes. Much of the character design in Raya and the Last Dragon is similar to recent Disney animated films such as Frozen II and Moana. However, that doesn’t take away from its beauty. The world of Kumandra absolutely pops with vibrant colors. There are a variety of atmospheres, from deserts, to a water village, to a mountain village and many places in-between. Each place feels unique and full of life. Sisu’s character design is simply gorgeous, combining elegance with strength. Unfortunately, regardless of how beautiful the movie looks, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve seen the style of animation before, taking away some of the awe of it all.

For as exciting and empowering as this film is, my biggest issue with it is the same issue I had with last year’s Onward, and that is that it lacked that big emotional moment for me. While it is full of emotion, there wasn’t that one moment that the truly great Disney or Pixar films have that pull at the heartstrings. Also, it had a Moana vibe to me. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since I think Moana is Disney’s best film to date. However, because of that feeling of familiarity, it took away some of the uniqueness of Raya and the Last Dragan.

I thought Raya and the Last Dragon was GOOD πŸ™‚ It is immediately apparent that Raya isn’t like most princesses in the Disney canon. Starting with a gripping action scene, this film offers one of the most exciting and adventurous films from Disney in a long time, which is saying something. The animation, while gorgeous, feels familiar when compared to films like Frozen II and Moana. The biggest thing missing from this movie was that one, big emotionally impactful moment Disney films are known for. Despite these minor gripes, Raya and the Last Dragon is a tremendous addition to Disney’s princess library, full of adventure, as well as fun and memorable characters. This princess doesn’t need a musical number and that’s perfectly okay.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Don Hall – Director / Story
Carlos Lopez Estrada – Director / Story
Paul Briggs – Co-Director / Story
John Ripa – Co-Director / Story
Qui Nguyen – Screenplay / Story
Adele Lim – Screenplay / Story
Kiel Murray – Story
Dean Wellins – Story
James Newton Howard – Composer

Kelly Marie Tran – Raya (voice)
Awkwafina – Sisu (voice)
Gemma Chan – Namaari (voice)
Daniel Dae Kim – Benja (voice)
Izaac Wang – Boun (voice)
Benedict Wong – Tong (voice)
Thalia Tran – Little Noi (voice)
Sandra Oh – Virana (voice)
Alan Tudyk – Tuk Tuk (voice)
Jona Xiao – Young Namaari (voice)

The Little Things Review

The Little Things movie posterSynopsis
Former Los Angeles detective and current Kern County deputy sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) returns to LA to pick up some evidence. While there, he notices similarities between one of his unsolved cases and a current case being investigated by Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malick). Deacon teams up with Baxter to solve the case.

Review
A good psychological thriller will find a hook that gets you into the story then won’t let you go and keep you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. The Little Things manages to do just that. The film finds new ways to pull you in as it goes on, adding new wrinkles to the story, providing new revelations and tension. It manages to keep a good mystery and paces itself well for the most part. As the mystery deepens and more is revealed, we the audience have just as much information and as many details as the characters on screen have, making the story more engaging as we are trying to solve the case at the same time as Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) and Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek). For the majority of the film, the lens is on the the three leading men of Washington, Malek, and Jared Leto. Together, they carry the film expertly and naturally play off each other. Leto in particular was fantastic and easily the stand out of the trio. As is typical in this type of story, the movie is a bit of a slow burn, and as such it feels like it can drag out at times. The cryptic ending doesn’t wrap things up as much as expected but at the same time, it leaves the resolution open to interpretation, which feels fitting for this film.

I thought The Little Things was GOOD πŸ™‚ It’s easy to find similarities between this film and other crime psychological thrillers, but it does everything it’s supposed to do. An engaging story and a core cast that’s at the top of their game provide thrills right up until the very end.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
John Lee Hancock – Director / Writer
Thomas Newman – Composer

Denzel Washington – Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon
Rami Malek – Jim Baxter
Jared Leto – Albert Sparma
Chris Bauer – Detective Sal Rizoli
Michael Hyatt – Flo Dunigan
Terry Kinney – LASD Captain Carl Farris
Natalie Morales – Detective Jamie Estrada
Isabel Arraiza – Ana Baxter
Joris Jarsky – Detective Sergeant Rogers
Glenn Morshower – Captain Henry Davis
Sofia Vassilieva – Tina Salvatore


There is still plenty of time to join the Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021. For all the details, check out the announcement post.