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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.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 19 February 2020 13:51

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ runs amok

It’s a bit of a Hollywood truism – video game movies are bad.

Unlike a lot of things that “everybody knows,” this is actually more or less true. That isn’t to say that they don’t make money – some do all right at the box office even when they’re terrible – but in terms of quality, they never measure up.

So it was with some obvious apprehension that I sat down to watch “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Considering the long and arduous road to release the film had – including extensive redesigns following the internet’s collective horror at the initial trailers – and the fact that I myself was always a Nintendo guy instead of Sega, it’s fair to say that my expectations were low.

Imagine my surprise when “Sonic” exceeded them.

Not by much, mind you – we’re not talking greatness here, to be sure – but still. This movie is … OK. It’s fine. And the reality is that “OK” and “fine” are words that have only rarely been associated with video game adaptions.

Sure, it’s all a bunch of dumb jokes and already-dated pop culture references, but the truth is that the target audience loves those things. Kids will dig it and adults will be able to tolerate it, which is no small thing. And there are occasional moments (all of which feature Jim Carrey cranking the weird to 11 and snapping off the knob) that are even better than that. For a movie that threatened to be an unhealthy dose of nightmare fuel, that’s a win.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 14:41

Monster mash – ‘Rampage’

Despite its best efforts, Hollywood remains unable to properly transition video game properties to the big screen. There are plenty of obstacles – some obvious, others not so much – and while studios have proven able to overcome many of them, they have yet to fully solve the problems inherent to the necessary shift in storytelling.

So it should come as no surprise that “Rampage,” based on the essentially plotless arcade game of the same name, doesn’t present a particularly compelling narrative. What DOES come as a surprise, however, is that despite the presence of everybody’s favorite action star Dwayne Johnson and some big-budget CGI, “Rampage” isn’t even all that much fun.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 20 March 2018 16:48

Ordeals and Croft – ‘Tomb Raider’

There has never been a genuinely good movie based on a video game. Not a particularly spicy take, but an accurate one. That’s not to say there has never been an enjoyable video game; tastes are tastes and there are plenty of ways to have a little fun.

Still, filmmakers have long struggled to translate the stories of video games – driven as they are by the agency and sense of utility of the player – into traditional big-screen narratives.

With the latest entry into the genre – a remake of “Tomb Raider” – that struggle continues, though it comes as close to success as any of the films that preceded it. Yes, there are plenty of ways in which it doesn’t work, but there are more ways in which it does than any video game-based movie we’ve seen.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 01 February 2017 14:02

Alice doesn’t live here anymore

Sixth “Resident Evil” film claims to be “The Final Chapter”

Published in Movies

Video game adaptation an unengaging experience

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 11:53

Warcraft' what is it good for?

Video game adaptation offers interesting visuals, messy narrative

Video game adaptations have long been among the toughest nuts for Hollywood to crack. Despite the fact that video games have become one of the most massive entertainment industries in the world, with beloved franchises inspiring millions of people to spend billions of dollars, the transition from small screen to large has rarely been a successful one.

Published in Movies

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