"The Mitchells vs. The Machines" stars Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Mike Rianda, Eric Andre, and Olivia Colman. Released on Netflix on April 30, 2021, the film is about a family who encounters a tech uprising during their road trip.
The film featured the directorial debut of Mike Rianda, who is known for his involvement with "Gravity Falls". Don't you hate it when a family road trip gets interrupted by technology? I'm not talking about people's eyes being glued to their devices all the time. I'm talking about actual machines ruining a family's bonding time by plotting to enslave the human race. This family sure does. The folks at Sony Pictures Animation are back to tackle an original property with producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller after delivering recent follow-ups based on monsters and angry birds. The animation studio has plenty of films coming out this year, and today, I'm taking a look at one film that involves a family road trip and a robot apocalypse. It was initially planned for a theatrical release last year under the name "Connected". Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it wound up being canceled for the sake of keeping its younger audience safe from the virus. Eventually, Netflix bought the distribution rights to the film and have it released on the streaming service under its former title "The Mitchells vs. The Machines". I thought "Connected" is a better name for something like this, but that's just me. That would make this one of three films from Sony Pictures Animation to be released on Netflix, with the other two being "Wish Dragon", which was released theatrically in China back in January, and "Vivo". It's pretty fitting since Sony made a deal with Netflix to stream their upcoming films next year. The animation studio has been producing some hit-and-miss products for families since 2006, with their best one so far being "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" in my eyes. From the looks of its reviews, it appears that the studio has another critical hit on its hands. Was it able to prove me right with those calculations? Let's find out.
The story follows Katie Mitchell (Jacobson), an aspiring filmmaker who lives with her dysfunctional family, which consists of her father Rick (McBride), mother Linda (Rudolph), and younger brother Aaron (Rianda). Katie doesn't usually see eye-to-eye with Rick, who isn't into technology as much as his family. Rick then decides to take them on a road trip for one last bonding experience before Katie goes off to film school in California. Their family bonding time was quickly interrupted by a robot uprising lead by a rogue AI named PAL (Colman), who was created by Dr. Mark Bowman (Andre). With the whole world resting in their hands, the Mitchells must learn to come together as a family and shut down PAL for good. The film has the usual ingredients you would expect from a Sony Pictures Animation project: frenetic energy, vibrant colors, surreal humor, and a well-known celebrity voice cast. The glue that holds these qualities together is its themes. Not only did the film's story showcase the importance of family, but it also represented some social commentary about the reliance on technology. Whether it's cell phones, iPads, or even video game consoles, technology has been a handy tool for society and will continue to do so until the end of time. However, it does have its faults in terms of how we use them. We've become so reliant on our tech that we often lost connection with the people around us. So to give credit where it's due, we have an animation studio that's not Disney and Pixar tackling this type of commentary in an animated film. But does its attempt translate into another hit for families? Absolutely! Under the direction of Rianda and packed with a ton of visual creativity, the film is a hilarious and superbly entertaining comedy that celebrates the power of weirdness and a connection more powerful than an internet server. One of the things that worked for me was its story. Despite its predictable plot elements, the film had enough heart and wit in its quirky script to provide some suitable depth in its characters, especially Katie and Rick, as well as its themes. It's also well-paced, constantly hectic, and stylishly amusing. It's just like any other film from Sony Pictures Animation, but more tolerable. The voice cast was also delightful in their roles, ranging from Jacobson as Katie to Olivia Colman as PAL, who happened to be one of the best parts of the film, in my opinion. PAL is the type of antagonist who balances their menacing persona with comedy, resulting in a fun baddie that I couldn't help but love. This was all thanks to Colman's brilliant voice work. I also immensely enjoyed the malfunctioning PAL robots (voiced by Fred Armisen and Beck Bennett, respectively) who assist the Mitchells. When it comes to comedy, these two robots know how to obey their programming. Speaking of which, I already mentioned that the film was hilarious, but I'm going to repeat it anyway. This film was absolutely hysterical. Everything about the humor worked exceptionally well in its favor, such as the visual gags, the dialogue, and the commentary. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have made some stellar comedies throughout their careers, and I'm happy to say that this is one of them. Another thing that stood out to me was the film's animation. It's like if "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" married "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse", and they have a baby together. That baby turned out to be "The Mitchells vs. the Machines", and my God, was it adorable! The lighting, the colors, the 2D sketch effects. They all looked top-notch from start to finish. It didn't come close to what "Into the Spider-Verse" offered, but it did show that the animation studio's creativity is still there. It's one of the films that express surreal imagination through the art of animation and delivers solid storytelling to back it up.
Overall, like the titular family, "The Mitchells vs. the Machines" is not only downright wacky, but it's also insanely charming and fun. Sure, it did have some minor glitches in its storytelling. However, its system has enough humor, heart, and style to overcome these irritating flaws. The story and characters were well-developed, the comedy was surreal and hilarious, and the animation was imaginatively unique. It didn't overthrow "Into the Spider-Verse" as the best film from Sony Pictures Animation, but it came pretty close. It also further proves that the studio has improved upon themselves in terms of their storytelling, and I hope they continue down that path in the future. If you and your family are looking for something weird, fast-paced, and undeniably heartwarming, this film is your best bet.
"Without Remorse" stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Luke Mitchell, Jack Kesy, Brett Gelman, Colman Domingo, and Guy Pearce. Released on Amazon Prime on April 30, 2021, the film is about a U.S. Navy SEAL who attempts to avenge his wife.
The film was directed by Stefano Sollima, who also directed films such as "Suburra" and "Sicario: Day of the Soldado". It is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy. When will people learn? Never mess with a Navy SEAL unless you're prepared to feel their wrath. After serving as a supporting character in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series via film, John Clark is finally given a chance to star in his own adventure in the form of an origin story. I was pretty excited to see Michael B. Jordan headline another potential franchise. However, I was also curious about how I will feel towards it for one good reason: I wasn't familiar with the world of Jack Ryan. I haven't watched any single adaptation of Tom Clancy's franchise that came out before "Without Remorse", including the "Jack Ryan" series that's on Amazon Prime. While the source material has plenty of action, thrills, and patriotism, it sadly didn't capture my interest as much as "Mission: Impossible" and "Fast & Furious". So I was hoping that this film would be good enough to get me attached to the franchise. With that said, let's see if John Clark is capable enough to kickstart his own series of adventures.
The story centers on John Kelly (Jordan), a Senior Chief who leads an elite team of U.S. Navy SEALs. They have accomplished their mission to rescue a CIA operative from ex-Russian military forces. A few months later, a squad of Russian assassins murdered John's team and his pregnant wife Pam (Lauren London) in apparent retaliation. Fueled with devastation and rage, John, along with Lieutenant Commander Karen Greer (Turner-Smith) and a CIA black ops team, sets out to find the person responsible for his wife's murder. They later discover a conspiracy that could spark another war between the U.S. and the Russians. As I stated earlier, the film serves as an origin story for John Clark, who went from being a Navy SEAL to working for the CIA. So if you're interested in watching his humble beginnings unfold on screen, this film has got you covered. Unfortunately, it did very little beyond its intended goal to satisfy specific newcomers such as myself. The marketing described this as a full-on action movie, but in reality, "Without Remorse" is a slow-burn thriller that's filled with patriotism, espionage, shootouts, and plenty of dialogue. Even though I didn't mind this approach due to its cast, I found the execution to be pretty sluggish regarding the direction and pacing. Not only was the film's story formulaic and subpar, but it was also overly determined to set up a potential follow-up rather than provide an engaging plot with solid characters and timely themes. There were times where it attempted to make us care for the characters and themes but wound up being underwhelming and tedious in the process. However, I found a couple of things that made it watchable for me, such as Michael B. Jordan as John Kelly. While far from his best performance, Jordan still managed to depict John as a strict yet broken-hearted person who's willing to do whatever it takes to seek justice. His fascinating performance as John clearly showed his undeniable talent of bringing his characters to life. Jodie Turner-Smith also turned in a satisfactory performance as Karen. Not as stellar as her role in "Queen & Slim", but OK enough for me to continue supporting her talent. Another thing that impressed me was its cinematography. The film had plenty of well-framed sequences that benefitted from its sharp editing and gritty settings, including the shootouts, which were nicely choreographed. My only issue with the action scenes was that most of the shootouts looked like they were filmed with a PG-13 rating in mind. Despite the film being released with an R rating, the action scenes were surprisingly tame and not as exciting as I thought they would be. Maybe it was the lack of blood that made them like this or the dull direction it was given for these sequences? Whatever it is, I was pretty disappointed with how they turn out. They're stylish to look at, but all of that style presented in the film couldn't reach the intensity it was hoping to gain.
Overall, the film adaptation of Tom Clancy's "Without Remorse" has plenty of moments that should please some fans of dialogue-driven thrillers and Tom Clancy's book series. However, its severe absence of invigoration and depth caused it to miss most of the targets it was aiming for. The fact that it's only made to serve as a franchise starter further dampens its appeal from a storytelling perspective. Jordan's performance and the film's sleek cinematography are sadly not enough to shoot past its dull and formulaic plot, average characters, and Sollima's direction. I was hoping that this would be a solid introduction to Tom Clancy's world for me, but alas, that's not the case. Let's hope that its follow-up based on "Rainbow Six" can get the job done. If it happens, of course.
"Mortal Kombat" stars Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Released on April 23, 2021, the film has a group of fighters battling to protect Earthrealm from Outworld.
The film features the directorial debut of Simon McQuoid, and it is based on the video game franchise of the same name created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. It also serves as a reboot of the "Mortal Kombat" film series. The video game movie trend continues with the latest adaptation of a franchise that causes parents to lose their minds. "Mortal Kombat" is one of the most popular gaming franchises to ever hit store shelves in terms of its characters and concept. But it is also one of the more controversial ones when it comes to its graphic violence, most notably the fatalities. The sight of someone rip another person's head out of its body was enough for people to push for the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board system. Despite all of the controversies, bans, and negative complaints from parents that it got, the franchise spawned many sequels, spin-offs, and two live-action film adaptations in the 1990s. The first "Mortal Kombat" film from Paul W. S. Anderson was a solid hit for fans despite some mixed reviews from critics and its soft-core PG-13 rating. Its sequel, however, well, I'm sure you know what happened with that one. Less than two decades later, the franchise finally gives the big-screen treatment another shot via a reboot, complete with a gritty setting and an R rating. So you better think twice before taking your kids to see this one, parents. While I haven't played the games myself, I still managed to follow the brand, thanks to its recent installments. Since then, I've grown to appreciate the characters and violent lore that made the franchise a household name. So it would be fascinating for me to see how it translates as a film as both a regular critic and a "Mortal Kombat" fan. Was it a flawless victory or a massive fatality? Let's find out.
The story centers on Cole Young (Tan), a new character created exclusively for the film. He's a former MMA champion who holds a mysterious dragon mark on his body. After being targeted by an assassin with supernatural abilities known as Sub-Zero (Taslim), Cole later discovers that he is chosen to compete in a tournament called Mortal Kombat, in which the winning realm will conquer the defeated realm. It also turns out that Outworld is at the brink of victory against Earthrealm, having won nine out of ten tournaments. With the world in danger, Cole must join forces with Sonya Blade (McNamee), Jax (Brooks), and the protectors of Earthrealm to defeat some of Outworld's greatest fighters. The film offered a fresh and grim take on the "Mortal Kombat" story that fans have known about since the franchise's humble beginnings. It also took some inspiration from the recent installments in terms of the character designs and some Easter eggs. Along with some memorable catchphrases and fatalities, those things are enough to satisfy plenty of fans of the video game franchise. But will the newcomers be able to enjoy it as well? Well, it will have to depend on how they'll feel about its story, which to me is anything but flawless. The prophecy storyline in "Mortal Kombat" was something that we've seen a dozen times in other movies before, and the narrative did happen to have some rushed parts that they could've expanded on a bit more. While the story's execution was reasonably decent, the film itself wasn't nearly as exciting as it could've been, even with its darker tone. What kept it from suffering a fatal blow was its faithfulness to the source material. You can see that Simon McQuoid understood the qualities that made "Mortal Kombat" a success for fans: the characters, the fatalities, and the characters' abilities. As someone who has followed "Mortal Kombat" for quite some time, I was impressed to see how well the filmmakers incorporate those qualities into this film. This was something that also made the "Sonic the Hedgehog" movie a success. Whether the film is good or not, they made sure that it stays true to the games it's based on. As for the cast themselves, I thought they did a suitable job with how they portray their characters. Lewis Tan delivered a respectable performance as Cole Young despite his character not being as memorable as the other well-known characters from the games. I also thought that Hiroyuki Sanada and Joe Taslim were well-cast as Scorpion and Sub-Zero, respectively. The former wasn't in the film that much as he only appeared in two scenes. However, Sanada's performance made those scenes worth watching, especially the fight sequences between him and Sub-Zero. The only actor that stole the show throughout the entire film was Josh Lawson as Kano. Not only was his performance highly satisfying, but his portrayal of Kano's personality was exactly on par with what I was expecting from him. Yes, he's a selfish jerk, but he's a narcissistic jerk that you love to hate. My only minor issue with Kano was that his constant use of the F-bomb became tedious after a while. The action sequences were also immensely entertaining, primarily due to its decent choreography and some brutal kills, and I do mean "brutal". If you're uncomfortable with adult-rated violence, this is something that you'll be okay avoiding. They were also backed up by some well-detailed visual effects, primarily for some of the characters' abilities and Goro's design. It almost had the feeling of playing the game without actually playing the game, which usually means that they did something right.
Overall, the 2021 iteration of "Mortal Kombat" tested its might and managed to come out on top. Its story does suffer a few significant blows to the head, but it's enjoyable enough to prevent a fatality or two. The cast was decent in their roles, its entertainment value was acceptable, and the action scenes were nicely directed and unsurprisingly brutal. It's what you would expect from a "Mortal Kombat" film and nothing else, which should impress some fans of the franchise. It's far from the best video game movie in existence. However, if you enjoy bloody violence and people with superhuman abilities, this film is right up your alley.
“Arlo the Alligator Boy” stars Michael J. Woodard, Mary Lambert, Haley Tju, Jonathan Van Ness, Brett Gelman, Tony Hale, Annie Potts, Flea, Jennifer Coolidge, and Vincent Rodriguez III. Released on Netflix on April 16, 2021, the film is about a humanoid alligator who travels to New York City to search for his long-lost father.
The film featured the directorial debut of Ryan Crego, who is a story artist for films like “Shrek Forever After”, “Kung Fu Panda 2”, “Puss in Boots”, and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”. With Netflix releasing its films every week, it has become elementary to spot some weird or lesser-known content that the streaming service has to offer. This film is possibly one of them. This is another animated feature from Netflix that saw a former member of a successful animation company taking over directorial duties for the first time. This time, it’s Ryan Crego, a storyboard artist for DreamWorks Animation. A lot of you may not have noticed this was out until it caught your eye while you’re trying to decide the next show to binge-watch. I already found out this was coming out while watching one of Saberspark’s Youtube videos a while ago. After researching the film along with its cast and concept, I immediately figured that this was something that might be right down my alley. The question is, is it good enough for me to recommend it to its target audience?
The story centers on Arlo Beauregard (Woodard), a young boy who is half-human and half-alligator. He’s spending his sheltered life in the bayou with his adoptive mother, Edmée (Potts). When Arlo discovers he’s from New York City, where his birth father (Rodriguez III) resides, he decides to leave the swampy life behind and journey to the city to find him. During his quest, he befriends many unusual creatures, such as a human giantess named Bertie (Lambert) and a tiger girl named Alia (Tju), and tries to outrun two villainous hillbillies. The film serves as a starting point for the upcoming Netflix series “I Heart Arlo”, set to premiere later this year. If its target audience managed to like “Arlo the Alligator Boy”, they have something to look forward to. The question is, am I a part of that audience? Well, sort of. The film had plenty of potential during the first act, considering its story and heartfelt message about staying true to oneself. However, once it got to the second act, it wound up being stranded in a swamp without a boat and a paddle. It’s a simplistic and watered-down fish-out-of-water story that lacked any substantial depth in its scenario and characters. It felt more like a 90-minute pilot for an upcoming children’s show than an actual animated feature. But I will admit that the film’s heart was in the right place, even if the narrative was far from creative. Despite their basic personalities, the characters have a suitable amount of charm and humor to ensure their healthy future in their upcoming series, especially Arlo. Arlo is the type of character who’s full of curiosity and has a can-do attitude, which I believe young viewers can easily relate to. The likability of these characters was strongly due to the voice cast. In addition to some well-known names like Tony Hale, Annie Potts, and Jennifer Coolidge, the film also featured the acting debuts of Michael J. Woodard and singer/songwriter Mary Lambert, who voiced Arlo and Bertie, respectively. Woodard is known for being a Top 5 finalist in the 16th season of “American Idol”, while Lambert worked on the hit single “Same Love” with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Both of them delivered some solid performances in terms of both their speaking and singing roles. Yes, the film is, in fact, a musical with several songs written by Ryan Crego and Alex Geringas (who also did the film’s score). While I’m not expecting one of them to make its way to next year’s Oscars, I can easily say that the songs were pretty darn catchy. They were also backed up very nicely by its upbeat tone and vibrant animation, which was developed by Titmouse, Inc. Outside of the musical sequences, which were the highlights of the film’s style, the animation wasn’t anything too special. It’s not groundbreaking or anything, but it had enough energetic flair and color to keep its viewers glued to the screens.
Overall, there are lots of charm and heart present in “Arlo the Alligator Boy”, but its execution towards its story and message was admittedly swampy. Ryan Crego’s directorial debut should suit well for children and some casual viewers thanks to its voice cast, respectable musical numbers, and dazzling animation. However, it’s no “Over the Moon”, another Netflix film that featured a directorial debut of a former worker from a major animation studio. As a 90-minute pilot for an upcoming children’s show, it’s a fine feel-good adventure that I actually wouldn’t mind seeing what happens next. As an actual film from Netflix, it’s a harmless and flawed piece of animation that’s surprisingly more tolerable than living in a swamp.
“SAS: Red Notice” stars Sam Heughan, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, Hannah John-Kamen, Tom Hopper, Noel Clarke, Owain Yeoman, Ray Panthaki, Anne Reid, and Tom Wilkinson. Released in the United Kingdom on March 12, 2021, the film has a Special Forces operator battling an army of mercenaries.
The film was directed by Magnus Martens, who also directed “United” and “Jackpot”. It is based on the novel of the same name by Andy McNab. I’m supposed to start this review off with something remarkable about this film, but unfortunately, I have no idea how. So let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? This weekend sees a lack of well-known big movies for me to check out, possibly due to the pandemic forcing studios to play musical chairs with their release date changes. To fill that void, I decided to take a look at a film that not a lot of people have noticed, especially me. This latest action thriller is an adaptation of one of the fictional novels written by Andy McNab, a former British Army infantry soldier. So there might be some authenticity within its world of Special Air Service. It made its debut in the United Kingdom last month by Sky Cinema, followed by a U.S. release this weekend. Luckily for me, my closest cinema was one of the very few theaters to get it. This was one of the perfect excuses for me to go check it out, with the other being the fact that I was in a mood for some thrills. With that said, let’s see if this mission is a success or a colossal failure.
The story centers on Tom Buckingham (Heughan), a Special Forces operator who is taking his girlfriend Dr. Sophie Hart (John-Kamen) to Paris via train to propose. What seems to be a smooth and relaxing trip through the Channel Tunnel immediately transitioned into a stressful and dangerous one. A team of heavily armed mercenaries, lead by Grace Lewis (Rose), infiltrate the train and hold its passengers hostage. They threaten to blow up the Channel Tunnel and expose the British government’s secrets if their ransom demands are not met. With no weapons at his disposal and no counter-terror team by his side, Tom will have to outsmart Grace and her team and rescue the passengers, including Sophie. There’s no denying that the plot has the same formula as the other thrillers that involve terrorists hijacking something. Think of it as an unofficial “Die Hard” film, but instead of Bruce Willis coming in to save the day, it’s Jamie Fraser from “Outlander”. I will admit that the film accomplished its mission in providing some thrills in its formulaic scenario, but sadly, it didn’t offer anything else beyond that. After getting off to a promising start, the film quickly derailed itself into mediocrity with a narrative that’s unnecessary overlong and surprisingly underwhelming. For a movie that’s as simple as cracking an egg, I don’t think it needed to be two hours long. I would be okay with it being an hour and 40 minutes, but two hours? Especially with a script that’s both subpar and a bit convoluted? That’s going to put a damper on those who wanted a fun and straightforward action thriller and nothing else. Even the characters themselves didn’t carry that much of an interest. The cast managed to do what they can with their performances, including Sam Heughan and Ruby Rose as Tom and Grace, respectively. Unfortunately, they weren’t enough to inject some depth into their uninspiring characters, especially the relationship between Tom and Sophie. Not even the great Andy Serkis can help save his character from being dull. Admittedly, I will give it some credit in delivering some suitably directed action sequences. None of them were highly memorable, of course, especially when taking the cheap-looking explosion near the third act into account. Still, they were thrilling enough to watch due to the editing and camerawork.
Overall, “SAS: Red Notice” has its share of thrills, as one would expect from a Special Forces-related action film. Sadly, its execution towards its by-the-numbers story makes this mission easily forgettable. It’s not the worst film I’ve seen as I thought the cast and the action were tolerable at best, but it’s also not a fun watch, either. With its formulaic plot, mediocre characters, and stretched-out runtime, the film failed to rescue its audience from the dangers of blandness. This is something that might’ve been more appropriate if it was released on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu instead of in theaters.