Tag Archives: Hiroyuki Sanada

Army of the Dead (2021) Review

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Army of the Dead

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Dave Bautista as Scott Ward
Ella Purnell as Kate Ward
Omari Hardwick as Vanderohe
Ana de la Reguera as Maria Cruz
Theo Rossi as Burt Cummings
Matthias Schweighöfer as Ludwig Dieter
Nora Arnezeder as Lily
Hiroyuki Sanada as Bly Tanaka
Garret Dillahunt as Martin
Tig Notaro as Marianne Peters
Raúl Castillo as Mikey Guzman
Huma Qureshi as Geeta
Samantha Win as Chambers
Director: Zack Snyder

After a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries takes the ultimate gamble by venturing into the quarantine zone for the greatest heist ever.

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Army of the Dead was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. I’m not a massive fan of zombie movies, I don’t mind them or dislike them, and in fact I enjoy most of them. It’s just that nothing much draws me into them. However, the fact that Zack Snyder is directing had me interested. His first feature film was a remake of Dawn of the Dead, so it was nice to see him go back to his roots. It’s also the only other movie from him other than Sucker Punch which isn’t based on a source material, be that an existing movie, a comic book/graphic novel or a book series. The prospect of a zombie movie meets heist movie, and one set in a zombie filled Las Vegas, sounded very entertaining. So, I knew at the very least it would be a good time, and having watched it I can say that it certainly was that.

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As advertised, Army of the Dead is a mix between a zombie movie and a heist movie, with a team brought together to pull off a job with the twist that they’re up against a lot of zombies. Some could say that the plot is pretty standard and predictable, and in some ways it was, but it worked alright for the film and had enough interesting things to make it feel fresh. Overall, the script was pretty good, all the subplots meld perfectly together and I was satisfied everything by the end. There isn’t a lot of time to go deep into character backgrounds but there are moments given to make us care enough about the characters and see why they are there. The worldbuilding is also amazing, the world of this movie is really fleshed out, with a lot of potential for future stories. This is also Snyder’s most comedic movie, while being one of his darkest. Some moments work better than others for sure, but the comedy mostly worked for me, and the dark humour really gives the movie a lot of personality. Despite the premise and how it’s advertised, I wouldn’t say that Army of the Dead is a dumb movie that you turn your brain off before watching. It actually does have some motives beyond just being another zombie movie. There’s even some social and political commentary. Much of the movie revolves around a refuge crisis, and has quite a cynical view of the US government and people in general. That’s quite in line with a lot of other “of the Dead” zombie movies, which quite often have present social commentary. It is also surprisingly serious at points, while there might be some familiar emotional beats, it doesn’t feel forced in and is sincere. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun movie, but ultimately at its core, Army of the Dead is about a man overcoming grief and trying to reconnect with his daughter. The importance of family and the pain of less is at the centre of the movie, making the film a weirdly fitting pair with Snyder’s other 2021 film, his Justice League. It is a long movie at 2.5 hours, and while that can be daunting, I thought it was the right length even if you really felt the length. It takes its time in the first section but it’s worth it, as it’s setting up and establishing the world and the characters. After that point, I was completely on board with the movie all the way to the end.

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The cast are all great and I generally liked most of the characters, each of them served their own role in the story. The standouts for me were Matthias Schweighofer, Tig Notaro and Nora Arnezeder. Dave Bautista is in the lead role as a former mercenary takes to gather a team to pull off the heist, and he’s great. Bautista has been good in past movies like Blade Runner 2049, Spectre and the Marvel movies, but this is definitely the best performance I’ve seen from him so far. The relationship between him and his daughter (Ella Purnell) felt very convincing. The rest of the cast including Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Raul Castillo, Samantha Win and more also do well in their part.

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Of course there’s Zack Snyder’s direction to talk about, which is all around great. I really wish that I got to watch it on the big screen instead of at home on Netflix, because it really felt that it was meant to be seen in the cinema. Army of the Dead actually sees Snyder helming the role of director of photography himself, and as expected, it’s a great looking movie. The practical and digital effects are pretty good, as is the makeup on the zombies, and I really liked how the zombies were portrayed here. There are a lot of fantastic action sequences, very well shot and choreographed. Not to give too much away but the highlight action scenes were one mainly involving Samantha Win’s character that felt something straight out of a John Wick film, and the entire third act which escalates the insane action. Army of the Dead also joins other Snyder films like Watchmen, Batman v Superman and Justice League for very stylish and excellent opening sequences. Junkie XL’s score fits the movie perfectly, and even makes many of the scenes better, especially the moments of action.

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It really is no surprise that Netflix is all in with Zack Snyder and Army of the Dead, with a prequel film and anime-style tv series in development already. The action is satisfying, the cast are great and memorable, and I was quite entertained and invested throughout. If you enjoy any zombie movies, it is worth checking out for sure. It’s so far among my favourite movies of the year, and I’m looking forward to seeing more Army of the Dead follow ups and spin offs whenever they come out.

Mortal Kombat (2021) Review

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Mortal Kombat (2021)

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Lewis Tan as Cole Young
Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade
Josh Lawson as Kano
Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden
Mehcad Brooks as Jax
Ludi Lin as Liu Kang
Chin Han as Shang Tsung
Joe Taslim as Bi-Han/Sub-Zero
Hiroyuki Sanada as Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion
Director: Simon McQuoid

Hunted by the fearsome warrior Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) finds sanctuary at the temple of Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano). Training with experienced fighters Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) and the rogue mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson), Cole prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions to take on the enemies from Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe.

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I have played Mortal Kombat 9, 10 and 11, I’m a fan of the series but I wasn’t confident in the upcoming live action adaptation. Video game movies aren’t known for succeeding that well, and although the Paul WS Anderson Mortal Kombat movie in 1995 was one of the better video game movies, I wasn’t sure that it would be anything beyond just okay. Despite the mixed reactions, I decided to check it out, and I’m glad I did. It had plenty of issues, but I had fun with it.

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Many people expected this already, but the story isn’t great. There are plenty of things that don’t make sense, there’s some conveniences, and there’s a ton of explosion that is given by multiple characters. However I was constantly entertained by what was going on that it didn’t really matter. The first act is introducing characters and the story, and the third act is the climax with a lot of fighting, the weaker link is the second act. During this the pacing suffers and the movie can drag quite a bit. In the movie, a tournament is coming that could decide the fate of earth, so the main characters have to prepare to be Earth’s champions for said tournament. In a sense, that means that this movie is a more of a setup to the coming tournament, which will actually happen in the sequel. It does mean that the climax of this movie does feel like it is missing something at the end, even if it is enjoyable. This movie definitely has sequel bait, however I’m actually interested in a sequel so I guess it works.

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Now about the tone. I can see some people saying that this movie has a dark take and is actively trying to avoid being cheesy. While it certainly is more serious than the 90s Mortal Kombat movies, I was constantly entertained for what it was. So many of the dialogue and moments were so cheesy and silly that it still felt reasonably self aware. There’s so many things that were here that were really silly and ridiculous that for most of the movie, I couldn’t take it seriously (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing). The one confusing aspect with regard to tone is with its opening scene. This scene is a flashback involving the character Scorpion, and it’s actually the best scene in the movie. It is dark in tone, it’s shot and performed greatly. It feels like a genuinely great martial arts movie with some fantasy elements. Then that scene ends, and the tone switches and doesn’t change again. It legit felt like a different director was brought in to do that scene, or that it was from a completely different movie entirely. So in a way that’s a positive and a negative. Mortal Kombat is pretty faithful to the video games they are based on, more so than the 90s film at least. There are plenty of references to the lore, the world and other characters that fans will recognise. There’s also moves, lines and other references which fans will really appreciate. There’s particularly a rather meta joke involving Liu Kang and Kano during a practice fight which I loved. If you’re not a Mortal Kombat fan you could probably still enjoy the movie but you won’t quite get the full experience that fans would have. Also it might just be me, but with some of the absurd things that happen in this movie I just thought that it was very typical for Mortal Kombat, which is why I was willing to go along with them.

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The acting for the most part isn’t great, but they are decent, and they were cast to almost near perfection. There’s a surprising amount of iconic Mortal Kombat characters in here, including Sonya Blade, Jax, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, Raiden, and Kano. The villains were also greatly done here with Kabal, Mileena, Kabal, Shang Tsung, and Sub Zero. This movie particularly did a great job of showcasing them, showing off their powers, fighting styles and overall characters and personalities greatly. The standouts out of all of the characters for me were Scorpion, Sub Zero, and Kano. Hiroyuki Sanada isn’t in the movie a ton as Scorpion, but the casting is great and he’s really good when on screen. Joe Taslim as Sub Zero is the closest thing to a main villain for this movie (even though Shang Tsung is really the big bad), and he was a great screen presence. Kano was the biggest surprise though. Josh Lawson is effortlessly entertaining, charismatic and hilarious in this role and a scene stealer for sure. Would love to see him in a Mortal Kombat sequel. There is just one issue with the actors and characters, that being Lewis Tan as the lead character Cole Young. Cole is actually an original character and not from the video games, which is fine if the filmmakers wanted to bring something new to the Mortal Kombat universe. However, he is really the audience surrogate character who is there to ask a whole lot of questions and has a lot of exposition dumped on him. Beyond Tan’s rather average performance, Cole is just not an interesting character. All there is to him is that he has a family he wants to defend, he has some hidden power with him which he discovers by the end, and that’s literally it. There is no other characteristic or personality trait that he has, and he especially suffers when just about every other character is at least memorable in some way.

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This movie is directed by Simon McQuoid. This is his first feature film, with his past work being from working on commercials. For a filmmaking debut, it’s decent enough. One thing that does hold the movie back a bit is that the budget is at $50 million which is pretty low for a blockbuster, especially one from Warner Bros. In some ways with the way things are shown, it does feel like a high budget fan film, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. People are here for fight and action scenes, and they absolutely deliver. They are violent, choreographed well, and energetic and exciting to watch. Speaking about violent, one of the notable differences between this and the 90s movies is the blood and gore, with this version having an R rating. The Mortal Kombat games are known for the over the top level of violence from the fighting and especially the fatalities. This movie has the freedom now to represent that on the big screen. At the same time, it was done with the right balance. It’s definitely a priority to include that, but it didn’t feel forced, and they also knew when to hold back, if only to space them out a bit. So people hoping for some brutal kills will be satisfied here. The visual effects aren’t that great (something brought down by the lower budget), but I thought they were good enough for this movie, especially the ice effects. Something that does bring down the action scenes a bit was the editing. Thankfully it wasn’t in a Taken 3 sort of way where it has 10 cuts within 4 seconds of an action scene. It was more like that sometimes it quickly cuts from one fight to another fight, it does this a bit too much and it just felt jarring. Benjamin Wallfisch composes the score, and while it isn’t as memorable or iconic as the music from the 90s movie, it still works well enough here.

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Mortal Kombat is not a great movie, I would not confidentially call it a good movie either. It’s a bit of a mess in many areas including the story and even some of the technical aspects. With that said, I enjoyed it quite a lot. The fight scenes are energetic and satisfying, the Mortal Kombat characters are portrayed well and enjoyable to watch, and the silliness really added to the whole experience. If you are a fan of Mortal Kombat, I do think that you’ll have some fun with this. If you aren’t a fan but enjoy action movies and don’t mind them being a bit messy, I think you’ll at least like some of it. I’m actually looking forward to a sequel, I just hope they learn the right lessons from this movie.

Speed Racer (2008) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer
Christina Ricci as Trixie
John Goodman as Pops Racer
Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer
Matthew Fox as Racer X
Benno Fürmann as Inspector Detector
Hiroyuki Sanada as Mr. Musha
Rain as Taejo Togokahn
Richard Roundtree as Ben Burns
Director: The Wachowskis

Born into a family business of race cars, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is one of the track’s hot stars. Sitting at the wheel of his Mach 5, he consistently deflates the competition. When Speed turns down an offer from the head of Royalton Industries, he uncovers a secret. Powerful moguls fix the races to boost profits. Hoping to beat the executive, Speed enters the same arduous cross-country race that killed his brother.

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The Wachowskis haven’t always been making the best movies in recent years. For every Cloud Atlas they make there’s a Jupiter Ascending. Even though Jupiter Ascending was a really terrible movie (hilariously bad) I don’t actually think it’s their worst movie. That dishonour has to go to Speed Racer, a movie that oddly enough seemed to have been gaining a cult following recently. With its conflicting tone, obnoxious style it was honestly a real pain to sit through. I’m not sure how this movie could end up being this bad with the amount of talented people involved.

I never really found this story interesting at all, not once did it really grab my attention. This film really doesn’t know what it wants to be. On one hand it goes all out crazy with it’s fast and in-your-face style and it’s obnoxious and childish comic relief (which I’ll get to later) but at other times it tries to be serious. I haven’t watched the cartoon it was based on but I have a feeling that it never should have been turned into a live action movie, certain shows don’t translate well to the big screen. This movie is way longer than it needed to be, over 2 hours long, after a while it somehow became boring. The dialogue was most of the time cheesy, the comedy was really bad, but it mostly comes from the comedic relief, which I will go into more later on. So overall the story was uninteresting, the dialogue was cheesy and often terrible, and the comedy was awful.

Most of the actors are fine here, but I have no idea what many of them are actually doing in this movie. Like, what is John Goodman, Christina Ricci and Susan Sarandon doing here? They are way too talented to be in this movie. The acting for the most part is tolerable, so in a sense its really the best part of the movie. With that said, it also has one of the worst parts of the movie, the comic relief, which consists of a kid and a monkey, which are some of the worst comic relief I’ve seen in a movie, they are worse than Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Jar Jar Binks from Phantom Menace. That’s saying a lot. They offer absolutely nothing to the movie. They aren’t likable, they aren’t funny, they are obnoxious, there’s absolutely nothing to like about them, yet the film constantly forces them into scenes and dedicates entire scenes to their antics and ‘comedic moments’. I hated them.

I didn’t think the movie would be very good going in but I thought that there would at least good action scenes as the Wachowskis are involved. However that’s not the case, every car action scene looks like a McDonalds toy commercial, not a big budget movie. The way they filmed action wasn’t very entertaining. There were 2 fight scenes, the first was fine but the second was absolutely obnoxious. Even the editing is horrible, during driving (or whatever) there are heads that scroll in front of the screen for no reason. If there’s one thing that really annoyed me about the movie, it’s the style and direction. It was so obnoxious.

I’m of the opinion that Speed Racer is the Wachowski’s worst movie (yes, worse than Jupiter Ascending). The style and editing was obnoxious, the comic relief was irritating, the action scenes were poorly filmed and the film somehow becomes tiring in the worst possible way. The only aspect which didn’t flat out suck was the acting from most of the actors. Aside from that, I have to say that Speed Racer is one of the most painful movies I’ve watched, and that is saying a lot.

Life (2017) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Contains violence, horror scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as David Jordan
Rebecca Ferguson as Miranda North
Ryan Reynolds as Rory “Roy” Adams
Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Murakami
Ariyon Bakare as Hugh Derry
Olga Dihovichnaya as Katerina Golovkina
Director: Daniel Espinosa

Astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds) aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extra-terrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined.

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Life was a movie I was curious about. This movie did seem very familiar and similar to other sci-fi horror movies, but because of the very talented cast involved, I was willing to check it out. I have to say, Life actually surprised me quite a bit. It’s nothing really that special and it is quite predictable. However, the film did carry out its story quite well, with its pretty good direction, great acting and actually some scary scenes.

The first act of the movie was rather slow and really didn’t interest me. As soon as the alien starts to attack, that’s when the movie started to really get my attention, that’s when the film really picked up. Most of the movie is fairly predictable, with the exception with something that happens at the end of the first act and the ending of the film, you can just tell what’s going to happen, though a lot of that has to do with the fact that we’ve seen so many of these types of movies, so we can usually tell what direction it’s going in. The film is quite effective with its scares (I’ll go into more detail later on). Overall the execution of this story is what makes this movie work so well.

This movie has a small but talented cast with Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare and Olga Dihovichnaya. The characters they play aren’t really that interesting and due to the writing, there’s not much reason to care about them, aside from the fact that they are characters who are stuck in this situation. But the actors do a great job in their roles despite the lack of development in their characters.

This film is directed by Daniel Espinosa who has directed some movies which I haven’t seen but I’ve heard are ‘okay’ (Safe House, Child 44). I will say that with Life he did a really good job. This film is shot well, the CGI is used quite effectively. Direction-wise, the only issue I had was early in the movie, there is an unnecessary long take shot. These can be quite impressive but it wasn’t really needed at that moment, and it’s not even like the film featured these types of shots throughout, it was a one-off, and wasn’t needed. That’s really it though. This film handles its tension quite well, while the film does have it’s jumpscares, it wasn’t the majority of the scares, and the jumpscares never really felt forced or obnoxious. I found the most effective scares came from the alien itself. The alien itself is quite effective, the way it moved, the way it looked, the movie made it seem like an unstoppable and terrifying force. Plus, we don’t exactly know exactly what it is, the unknown element really helped with the horror.

Life is not one of the greatest sci-fi horror movies out there, it does take a lot from superior sci-fi horror movies like Alien and it is rather predictable throughout. However, if you do like these type of movies, I would recommend that you check out Life. The acting from its talented cast is good, the direction is solid but most of all, this movie is also actually scary, with a very dangerous and threatening antagonist.