Category: Movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

At one level you know exactly what to expect when you select a movie based on a video game.  Any film worth its production costs needs to bring general audiences into the world, the director and writers need to then build that world, establish heroes, fight battles, provide over-the-top action and effects, and the hero(es) must achieve some kind of goal.  The stakes are high, often the fate of the entire world.  And that rarely leaves room for character development.  Entries include Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, Resident Evil, Warcraft, Monster Hunter, Prince of Persia, Rampage, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a slew of Pokémon movies, and they go back decades to the original concept film Tron, which had a video game at its center that players didn’t get to play until after the movie.  Lesser rated entries include movies like Hitman, Max Payne, Doom, Street Fighter, and In the Name of the King.

This year’s big-budget release Mortal Kombat, both a remake and a reboot and adaptation of a series of martial arts fantasy games going back to 1992, leans heavily into Asian action movie culture.  It arrives in a growing marketplace for API and AAPI films, in a year including Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.  

So where does Mortal Kombat land in comparison?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Insidious.  That’s the nature of the threat to all life in the trilogy of novels called Star Trek Coda, which winds-up in David Mack’s character- and action-packed novel Oblivion’s Gate, coming to bookstores tomorrow.  Star Wars gave us the Death Star, but at least you could try to negotiate with the Empire.  The enemy here is more like a virus, where resistance may–this time–actually really be futile.

For every effort worth fighting for, somebody will stand in the way, attempting to thwart actions even when they are aimed to benefit everyone.  In this tale that role falls to Will Riker, although readers will find a different twist, different from doppelganger Thomas Riker but also similar, more Tuvix actually.  And despite the twist this Riker is as brilliant as ever.  As with Coda book one, Dayton Ward’s Moments Asunder (reviewed here), and book two, James Swallow’s The Ashes of Tomorrow (reviewed here), Mack pulls some of our favorite supporting characters in for a swan song of epic proportions.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When I was a kid in school, periodically we were given book orders, full of discount versions of books, but also posters and popular magazines like Dynamite, and lots of tie-ins with the latest news on current movies and TV shows.  Anything Star Wars was quickly added to our book order form, and that’s what Titan’s latest tie-in reminds me of most.  Star Wars Insider: The Galaxy’s Greatest Heroes looks at 16 of the biggest heroes of the franchise from the creators and actors behind them.  But after nearly 45 years, the book allows a greater opportunity for even more people behind the scenes to offer their commentary on fan-favorite characters, with something for every Star Wars fan.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The first two episodes–a full third of the series–have arrived for Marvel’s fourth live-action series of the year on the Disney+ streaming platform and it’s a good start, already faring better than those prior series.  Hawkeye is about Jeremy Renner’s unassuming superhero Clint Barton aka Hawkeye from the Avengers movies–and yet it isn’t.  Although the first episode gets off to a slow start, it’s Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, who replaces Hawkeye in the comics, who proves quickly she’s going to be an exciting fixture for the next iteration of the Avengers line-up.  She’s in good company, joining Black Widow’s Florence Pugh’s new Black Widow to take the franchise forward, along with Natalie Portman as new Thor in next year’s movie Thor: Love and Thunder, and Tatiana Maslany as She-Hulk in next year’s series She-Hulk. 

Hawkeye is billed as a holiday show and it is, but it falls short in that department, probably because Marvel/Disney didn’t use a key arrow in its quiver: the creator of your second favorite Christmas movie.

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Next year Firefly is getting a reboot–a jump start–as its current monthly series from BOOM! Studios winds down.  The series will be titled All-New Firefly, and it catches up with the crew of the Serenity following the events of the movie Serenity.  Kaylee Frye is now Captain Frye, stepping into Mal Reynolds’ shoes, taking on the same kinds of jobs fans of the TV series will be familiar with.

The series will be written by David M. Booher with artwork by Jordi Pérez.  Primary cover art will be by Mona Finden, with variant covers from Dan Mora, Ethan Young, Dani Strips, and Junggeun Yoon.

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Milla Jovovich’s badass superheroine Alice in the Resident Evil franchise, from 2002’s first film through five sequels–Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010), Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)–has given us the 21st century version of Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner.  And speaking of Connor, the trailers for the next chapter of Resident Evil, a prequel called Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, looks a lot like Terminator 3–plus lots of zombies.

Check out the first trailer and a profile on Hannah John-Kamen’s character Jill Valentine, below:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a rare thing.  For more than 50 years TV series have fought back after cancellation to snatch a TV movie or several (see The Incredible Hulk and Veronica Mars) or holiday special (see Columbo, Kojak, The Brady Bunch, and a lot of classic TV) or moved to another network (see Medium and Community) or extra seasons years later (see Twin Peaks and The X-Files) or even a big screen movie (see Serenity) but rarely capture the spark of the original.  Let Psych join Longmire and Leverage as the rare exception.  The second “sequel to a sequel,” Psych 3: This is Gus, arriving this weekend on Peacock, is a marked improvement on the first two movies, showing that James Roday (now reclaiming his real name as James Roday Rodriguez) and Dulé Hill′s hilarious crime fighting duo “still got it.”  Better yet, the entire gameplay of the storytelling is back, thanks to creator, writer, and showrunner Steve Franks giving fans a lighthearted mystery just as witty and silly and fun as an original episode from Psych′s eight-season run.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fans of either of the three stars of Red Notice will probably flock to this latest direct-to-Netflix movie just to see their favorite star in their next picture.  But Red Notice, which arrived on the streaming platform this weekend, is another production that falls into the vibe of the old direct-to-VHS movies–it’s something you’d watch for free on cable but probably wouldn’t pay full movie ticket prices for it.  Going back to the first of Netflix’s exclusive production/distribution projects, Brad Pitt’s War Machine, subscribers began to see this trend, which, despite enormous box office budgets and big-name directors and actors, deliver only ho-hum content.  These include The Cloverfield Paradox, Extinction, IO, Polar, The Irishman, and Mank.  That isn’t to say Netflix never gets it right.  Roma, The Highwaymen, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Extraction, 6 Underground, and Rebecca are exceptions.

But how do you go wrong with Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot?  When that’s the only thing you deliver.

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Just as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has been a great relief to fans of the character after so many years of just not getting it right, moving upward to replace Tony Stark as leader of the new Avengers, Sony Pictures seems to be bringing it all crashing back down to earth.  Earth of the past.  Or that’s how it looks in the latest trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home, with the full pantheon of villains–ghosts of Spider-Men past–make their way into the Multiverse of Madness, revealing the true leader of the Avengers is probably Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange.

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Jungle-Cruise-Movie-Trailer-Dwayne-Johnson-Emily-Blunt

Review by C.J. Bunce

Some movies are exactly as advertised.  Count Jungle Cruise in that category.  And yet–it’s bigger and bolder and braver than you might have guessed from its trailers.  Comparisons to the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean, Romancing the Stone, and African Queen are all completely warranted.  Jungle Cruise is a big, sweeping adventure–and visual amusement park ride–that draws out the best of stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.  First previewed in autumn 2019, it’s another pandemic delay that has the scope and spectacle that would have made it the perfect box office hit in a normal year.  But at least now audiences can see what they’ve been missing as Jungle Cruise arrived this past weekend on the Disney Plus streaming service.

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