On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 13, 2021

I don't know if it's due to going without movie theaters and therefore big-budget blockbusters for nearly a year, but between this and Godzilla vs. Kong it has been a pleasantly surprising return to the tentpole extravaganzas that had become almost too common to pre-pandemic life. That isn't to say 2021's Mortal Kombat is anything more than someone with the loftiest of expectations might hope it to be, but it's an assured piece of both filmmaking and storytelling that knows what it is, embraces everything about its own ridiculousness, and runs with all of it to the point it almost forces viewers to genuinely care about what is going on with this silly yet compelling multi-dimensional death battle. Of course, one's level of enjoyment with the film may come from their affection for the now iconic video games and its catch phrases that have made their way into the everyday lives of an entire generation. Some enjoyment (or complete distaste for, honestly) may come from the nostalgia-tinted glasses those who loved the nineties movie adaptations still wear, but even if you're an audience member with little to no brand recognition or fondness for the property what is both slightly unexpected but also an advantage to this new iterations success is that Greg Russo (his first feature) and Dave Callaham's (2014's Godzilla, Wonder Woman 1984, and the upcoming Shang-Chi) screenplay makes it an accessible adventure for anyone inclined to see what all the fighting is about. That is to say, Russo and Callaham build out the worlds Mortal Kombat encompasses in a simple and straightforward fashion that doesn't overwhelm the audience with too many levels nor does it dig too deep into the politics of the tournament itself, but instead takes what everyone loved about the games and puts them front and center: the characters. I'll backtrack slightly on this point as the film does introduce a new character into the Mortal Kombat mythos with its main protagonist Cole Young (Lewis Tan), but other than providing this surrogate who will take the audience through and into this universe the movie is otherwise all about bringing these characters viewers will recognize to life in what is ultimately fun and entertaining ways. Sans a pretty impressive opening sequence that admittedly sets the bar too high for the nonsense that follows, nothing about director Simon McQuoid's film is what one might label as "good", but almost everything about what it does in service of re-capturing that feeling of sitting in front of your cousin's tiny TV in their bedroom and mashing buttons in hopes it will result in a combination that will defeat said cousin in a bloody battle to the death is one thousand percent enjoyable. Full review here. C+

Wrath of Man
, writer/director Guy Ritchie's first collaboration with Jason Statham since both of them more or less "broke out", is a silly little heist film that somehow manages to take itself completely serious while simultaneously having this knowing sense of what it is even if there's nothing in the execution to support as much. Featuring a rather interesting collection of "that guys" as led by Statham's H, Ritchie's script is something of a third cousin to Christian Gudegast's 2018 film Den of Thieves as both deal in cash truck companies and bank robbery crews clashing over plans for what are seemingly impossible heists. Where Thieves possesses an ambitiousness to its audaciousness and a perfectly in check tone it takes Man a little longer to find its groove which is especially glaring in the film's odd and awkward opening five minutes where the level of "trying" it's doing to convince the audience this is a movie about tough guys is astronomical; we know this is a movie about tough guys - just show us Statham - but Ritchie goes the extra mile with dialogue that ultimately feels as uninspired as the set-up for this four quadrant genre thriller. That isn't to say the film doesn't have its charms as the presence of Statham and the combination of his swagger and his chemistry (or a distinct lack thereof with certain characters) create that tone Ritchie is working so hard to inspire when in reality he has the only tool he needs right in front of him. Statham, his wardrobe, his stoic facial expressions as well as the rest of his broad, but blunt body language convey all that Wrath of Man needs to say: I'm going to do things my way whether you like it or not. It's in the second half of the film where Ritchie finally seems to grasp the power his once supporting player now commands. As the roster of characters grows with the likes of Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Jeffrey Donovan, Scott Eastwood, Laz Alonso, and Any Garcia all showing to varying degrees of severity the focus and the investment of the audience shifts not to anyone else, but remains on the cool passion of Statham's H. Like the movie itself, its protagonist does things his way leaving the audience to deal with how they feel about it on their own - the difference being that we largely appreciate the presence more than the bigger picture. Video review here. C

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, the third feature film in the SpongeBob series, follows SpongeBob and his best friend Patrick Star's adventure to save Gary the snail after he's kidnapped by Poseidon and taken to the Lost City of Atlantic City.

Writer Director Kourosh Ahari's feature directorial debut The Night, an IFC Midnight release that was also the first American film released in Iran after the Iranian revolution, is a horror/mystery about an Iranian couple living in the US who become trapped inside a hotel when insidious events force them to face the secrets that have come between them, in a night that never ends. 

Brothers Jake and Conor Allyn collaborate on No Man's Land, Conor serving as the director and Jake as the co-writer and star, a film about a vigilante border patrol that turns fatal forcing Allyn's Jackson Greer to flee on horseback to Mexico and seek forgiveness from the victim's father while falling in love with the land he was taught to hate. Frank Grillo, George Lopez, and Andie MacDowell also star. 

Ben Sharrock's feature writing and directing debut, Limbo, follows a promising young musician who becomes separated from his Syrian family and winds up stuck on a remote Scottish island awaiting the fate of his asylum request. Starring Sidse Babett Knudsen, Kenneth Collard, Amir El-Masry, Vikash Bhai, and Ola Orebiyi the film was an Official Selection of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, but was not screened due to the cancellation of the physical festival in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunatley, the film went on to gain largely positive reviews and be nominated for two British Academy Film Awards, including Outstanding British Film. 

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