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  • A whole new world – ‘The Outside Story’
    A whole new world – ‘The Outside Story’

    Being out in the world can be difficult. So often, we find ourselves wanting nothing more than to forget about what’s out there and bury ourselves into the insular realms that we have built for ourselves. Some believe that all the connection we need can be found within our own four walls.

    But what if the ones we love want more? And what if we’re forced by circumstance to venture forth and engage, even if it’s the last thing we want to do?

    “The Outside Story” offers answers to those questions. Written and directed by Casimir Nozkowski – his feature debut in both capacities – and starring Brian Tyree Henry, it’s a quirky and intimate look at urban life reflected through the eyes of an introvert who is forced by circumstance to engage with his immediate surroundings in a way he never has before.

    Driven by thoughtful, grounded performances, it’s a story of what it means to be a part of the world. It’s about what can happen – both good and bad – when we are forced out of our comfort zones. We can struggle against it or fully embrace it, but either way, we will be changed by the act of engagement.

  • The dysfunctional side of the singularity – ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’
    The dysfunctional side of the singularity – ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’

    I like it when a movie surprises me.

    Maybe it’s a narrative surprise or an aesthetic surprise or a thematic surprise – doesn’t really matter to me. I dig it when a movie does something that is genuinely unexpected, when it becomes something different than anticipated.

    And when it’s a kids’ movie? Let’s go.

    “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is the latest from the folks at Sony Pictures Animation. Directed by first-time feature director Mike Rianda and co-directed by Jeff Rowe from a script co-written by the two, it’s a CG film that manages to bring together two fairly disparate concepts together in a way that is both functional and fun.

    Basically, what we have here is a movie that is a dysfunctional family road trip comedy AND a dystopian battle against the machine uprising. It really shouldn’t work, but somehow, the film manages to maintain its sense of goofball whimsy while also conveying genuine tension regarding the end of the world. It is heartfelt and hilarious animated fun that balances its seemingly incongruous parts with aplomb.

  • Michael B. Jordan can’t save generic ‘Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse’
    Michael B. Jordan can’t save generic ‘Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse’

    I’ve never read a Tom Clancy novel. I’ve seen a few adaptations of his work and have a general sense of his fundamental airport-fiction-with-militaristic-themes vibe, but I can’t say that I have a deep familiarity with his oeuvre.

    But it’s all a matter of taste – the dude has topped the NYT best-seller list 17 times and has overall sales figures in nine digits, so what do I know?

    However, I have to imagine that the new film adaptation “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” doesn’t necessarily live up to the man’s legacy, even with his name right there in the title. Directed by Stefano Sollima and co-written by Taylor Sheridan and Will Staples, the Amazon Studios original is a bit of a mess, with a convoluted plot and motivationless characters careening from set piece to set piece without a whole lot of rhyme or reason along the way.

    Now, the film has Michael B. Jordan as its lead, which helps compensate for the more egregious flaws, but the reality is that as talented as he is, he’s just one actor. And even with all those muscles, he can’t lift this film out of the chaotic morass; he’s definitely an action star, but even a star’s shine can’t hide the ragged edges of this one.

  • When predictions go wrong: My 2021 Oscar pick misfires
    When predictions go wrong: My 2021 Oscar pick misfires

    It’s important to own your mistakes.

    As someone who has been writing about movies professionally for well over a decade, I’ve had my share of bad takes. Whether it was early praise of a film that failed to hold up upon closer inspection or condemnation of a movie that ultimately proved its excellence, I’ve got some misses on my resume.

    That carries over to the Oscars as well. This year marked the 14th time that I’ve predicted the outcomes of Hollywood’s biggest night. As with everything else, I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to making these picks. Some years are better than others, but every time out, I whiff on plenty of choices.

    This year was no different. And so, in the spirit of accountability, I’m going to discuss some of the predictions where I went awry. Any pundit can bask in the praise that comes with being right, but precious few will take the time to own the moments where they were wrong.

    This week, I’m here to own those moments.

  • Can’t fight this feeling anymore – ‘Mortal Kombat’
    Can’t fight this feeling anymore – ‘Mortal Kombat’

    If 21st century cinema has taught us anything, it’s that everything old is new again. We’ve watched as IP-driven blockbusters and nostalgia-trip remakes have dominated the box office over the past couple of decades.

    Hollywood is a flat circle. We should never be surprised when a property from the past gets a shine-up and gets released onto a new generation of unsuspecting moviegoers.

    So it is with “Mortal Kombat,” currently in theaters and available for streaming via HBO Max. Based on the iconic video game series of the same name and directed by first-timer Simon McQuoid, the film tries to breathe new cinematic life into the characters that have proved so popular for nearly three decades.

    Tries and … sort of succeeds? But not really?

    It’s a good faith effort, to be sure, but while we do get some narrative expansion, it proves to be awfully muddy and convoluted in ways that detract from the fundamental appeal of “Mortal Kombat.” By attempting to graft new characters and situations onto the already-extant foundation, we’re left with a film that can’t seem to get out of its own way. Yes, there’s some first-rate magical martial arts action – and a pleasantly surprising amount of visceral gore – but the clunkiness of the story development effectively caps the film’s potential.

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