Mortal Kombat (2021)

Mortal Kombat
Director: Simon McQuoid
Writer: Greg Russo, Dave Callaham
Based on: the video game
Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Joe Taslim, Mehcad Brooks, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Chin Han, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Mel Jarnson
Seen on: 22.6.2021

Plot:
Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is a MMA fighter and has gotten his fair share of beatings – as long as he can earn some money for his family (Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent), he’s happy to do it. What Cole doesn’t know, though, is that he is actually the descendant of a legendary fighter, a champion of the Mortal Kombat, which in turn makes Cole eligible to fight in the next Mortal Kombat, too. Since Earth lost the last nine tournaments against Outworld, another loss would mean that Earth goes to Outworld. Permanently. That’s why Shang Tsun (Chin Han), leader of the Outworld fighters, won’t take any chances and has sent Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) to kill all possible champions before the tournament starts. Next on the list: Cole, who finds himself on the run with Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), trying to figure out his powers.

I was overjoyed to see that Mortal Kombat still got a cinema start after all, but I seriously misjudged the film. I really didn’t expect it to be as bad as it is.

The film poster showing a face in a mask that shows only the eyes, the left side is Scorpion, glowing with fire. The right side is Sub-Zero frosted over with ice.
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Chaos Walking (2021)

Chaos Walking
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Patrick Ness, Christopher Ford
Based on: Patrick Ness’ novel The Knife of Never Letting Go
Cast: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Demián Bichir, David Oyelowo, Kurt Sutter, Cynthia Erivo, Bethany Anne Lind, Mads Mikkelsen, Nick Jonas, Ray McKinnon
Seen on: 21.6.2021

Content Note: cissexism

Plot:
Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) is the last boy in Prentisstown, a settlement town on another planet. When the human settlers arrived, the men got telepathic powers. Shortly after their arrival, the native inhabitants killed all the women and girls. Todd grew up knowing nothing but the Noise of the men around him, and as the youngest settler is just about to reach adulthood. But one day he is out and about with his dog Manchee and finds a crashed spaceship – and a girl (Daisy Ridley). He lets the Mayor (Mads Mikkelsen) know, but soon has doubts about how the girl is treated. Doubts that his guardians Ben (Demián Bichir) and Cillian (Kurt Sutter) strengthen. In no time, Todd and the girl – Viola – are on the run together.

I only recently read the book this is based on and hated it. But I watched Chaos Walking anyway because the cinema has air-condition and I knew I’d be getting my puppy a few days later which means no cinema for a while. And, okay, for Mads Mikkelsen. And even though my expectations were lower than low after my experience with the book, I was still underwhelmed.

The film poster showing Todd (Tom Holland) and Viola (Daisy Ridley) superimposed over an eclipse and a moon and a rocket.
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Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writer: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham
Sequel to: Wonder Woman
Based on: William Moulton Marston‘s comics character
Cast: Gal GadotChris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro PascalConnie NielsenRobin Wright, Lilly Aspell, Amr Waked, Kristoffer Polaha
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 21.6.2021

Content Note: rape (dubious consent at the very least), racism, white saviorism

Plot:
Diana (Gal Gadot) has been living among the humans for decades now, occasionally making an appearance as Wonder Woman, but trying to keep those anonymous. For her day job, she works as an anthropologist in the museum where she meets her new, rather eager colleague Barbara (Kristen Wiig), as well as TV personality slash investor Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). While Diana does take a liking to Barbara, she distrusts Lord immediately. And with good reason – as an artifact that supposedly grants wishes goes missing. But not after fulfilling Diana’s biggest wish and bringing back Steve (Chris Pine).

Given it’s late cinema start, the cat was out of the bag regarding Wonder Woman 1984 and its quality, or rather lack thereof. With my expectatons approriately lowered, the film was ultimately okay, apart from the things that were categorically not okay.

The film poster showing Diana (Gal Gadot) as Wonder Woman in a golden, winged suit with the glowing lasso of truth.
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Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

Raya and the Last Dragon
Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
Writer: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim
Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk, Dichen Lachman, Sung Kang
Seen on: 2.6.2021

Plot:
There used to be one country called Kumandra. But after a terrible plague, the Druun, that turned everybody it touched to stone, and that could only be stopped with the dragons – who all turned to stone themselves – the country split into five realms: Fang, Tail, Talon, Heart and Spine. The last of the dragon powers in form of a stone is in Heart, guarded by King Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) and his daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran). Benja would like to bring the five realms together again, but his plans don’t come to fruition. Instead, the magic stone is broken and the Druun return. There is only one hope for Raya now: finding Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon who supposedly was just lost and not turned to stone.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a beautifully animated, emotionally touching film. It is pretty much what you hope for when you go to watch a Disney princess film – an absolutely satisfying experience.

The film poster showing Raya standing in the middle, with Sisu above her. The rest of the image is separated in five parts, four representing one of the film countries and the fifth showing Raya and Namaari charging each other.
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The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)

The Mitchells vs the Machines
Director: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe
Writer: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe, Alex Hirsch
Cast: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Michael Rianda, Eric André, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Charlyne Yi, Blake Griffin, Conan O’Brien
Seen on: 9.5.2021

Plot:
Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) can’t wait to finally go to film school where she has found nerdy people like her. She will miss her little brother Aaron (Michael Rianda) and her mother Linda (Maya Rudolph), though things are a little more complicated with her father Rick (Danny McBride). When Katie and Rick get into a fight on Katie’s last night, Rick changes their plans to make up for it. To Katie’s horror, he arranges everything to drive the entire family across the country to drop Katie off at college himself. The road trip is tense, and things get even worse when a newly developed robot line gets out of hand and starts to capture all humans. As unlikely as it may seem to all of them, it’s up to the Mitchells to stop the robot apocalypse.

The Mitchells vs the Machines is an extremely well done animated film that had me laughing out loud. The story may be a little predictable, but it has more than enough charm to make up for that.

The film poster showing the Mitchell family in their car, flying through the air, their pug sitting outside on the hood.
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Love and Monsters (2020)

Love and Monsters
Director: Michael Matthews
Writer: Brian Duffield, Matthew Robinson
Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Dan Ewing, Ariana Greenblatt, Ellen Hollman, Tre Hale, Pacharo Mzembe, Senie Priti, Amali Golden, Te Kohe Tuhaka
Seen on: 25.4.2021

Plot:
7 years ago, the world basically ended. There was a meteorite heading towards earth. To stop it, humanity blew it up, but the chemicals that got blown back to earth changed things forever, creating monsters and forcing people underground. Joel (Dylan O’Brien) is one of those people, living in a community in a bunker. Joel is not a fighter, so he hasn’t actually left the bunker, but through a radio, he has found Aimee (Jessica Henwick), the girl he dated when everything went down. Her colony is only a week or so away, but a week among monsters is a very long way. But after the radio dies, Joel decides that he has had it – he will make the trek and find Aimee. Easier said than done, though.

Love and Monsters is cute enough. Not great and probably not a film that will become a favorite of mine, but I enjoyed it while it lasted for sure.

The film poster showing the main characters, including a dog, in various sizes in front of a desolate landscape.
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Pachamama (2018)

Pachamama
Director: Juan Antin
Writer: Juan Antin, Patricia Valeix, Olivier de Bannes, Nathalie Hertzberg
Cast: Andrea Santamaria, India Coenen, Saïd Amadis, Marie-Christine Darah, Vincent Ropion, Jean-Marc Pannetier [I saw the film in English, these are the French voice actors]
Seen on: 23.3.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) colonialism

Plot:
Tepulpai (Andrea Santamaria) wants to become a shaman like Shaman (Saïd Amadis). When its time to prove that he is willing to sacrifice his most treasured possession to Pachamama and thus prove that he is becoming an adult, he can’t do it – unlike Naira (India Coenen) who is ready to sacrifice her small llama Lamita. When a tax collector shows up in their village and takes not only more than the village can afford, but also their Huaca, a sacred idol, Tepulpai hopes he can prove himself after all – by bringing back the Huaca.

Pachamama is a really beautiful film with a political core, but the story and the voice acting didn’t quite work for me.

The film poster showing Tepulpai and Naira flying on a big Condor bird. Lamita is watching them from the ground.
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A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell
Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s novel
Cast: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, Bellamy Young, David Oyelowo
Seen on: 22.3.2021

Plot:
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is an unusual child from an unusual family. Her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a scientist, as is her father (Chris Pine) – who has been missing for a while. He was working on tesseracts when he just disappeared. Meg’s genius little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) seems to know more about it. And he has made some strange friends who know even more than that: Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey). The three women prompt Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg’s class mate Calvin (Levi Miller) to go looking for her father – all through the universe.

I was rather disappointed when A Wrinkle in Time never got a big cinema release here in Austria, and I still think I would have appreciated seeing it on the big screen – the film is at its best, after all, when it just creates visuals. Other than those, it is very fine, but not great.

The film poster showing the main characters arranged in a circle.
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Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (2017)

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Director: Sydney Freeland
Writer: Shelby Farrell
Cast: Ashleigh Murray, Rachel Crow, Lance Gray, Danielle Nicolet, Arturo Castro, Gage Bradley, Nick Moceri, Sasheer Zamata, Missi Pyle, David Sullivan, Tim Blake Nelson
Seen on: 7.3.2021

Plot:
Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) would like to worry about her college applications and how she can possibly afford to college in the first place. But instead her mother Marigold (Danielle Nicolet) is arrested and Deidra has to worry about paying bills, and taking care of her younger siblings Laney (Rachel Crow) and Jet (Lance Gray). Her dad, railway worker Chet (David Sullivan), is of no help, but when he mentions how easy it is to rob trains and how nobody gets hurt by it because everything is insured, Deidra starts making plans. But she needs Laney’s help for it to work.

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is a fun, entertaining film that moves along at such a brisk pace, you almost miss the very serious and critical core that lies beneath all those entertaining bits.

The film poster showing Laney (Rachel Crow) and Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) standing back to back with their arms crossed.
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Akher Wahed Fina [The Last of Us] (2016)

Akher Wahed Fina
Director: Ala Eddine Slim
Writer: Ala Eddine Slim
Cast: Jahwar Soudani, Fethi Akkari, Jihed Fourti
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2019

Plot:
N (Jahwar Soudani) is making his way from the desert in Africa towards the continent’s North, hoping to cross over inte Europe. But things don’t work the way he planned. In a desperate attempt, he steals a boat in Tunisia, hoping to make the crossing on his own. Instead he ends up shipwrecked – which is just the start of a very strange journey for him indeed.

The film poster showing a drawing of a forest in black and white.
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