Be Kind

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a top contender for weirdest movie ever made. The directing duo Daniels was previously responsible for the equally bizarre Swiss Army Man. Everything Everywhere All at Once is just as independent, but it became a surprise hit for A24. The movie seemed to come out of nowhere, even with the Rosso Brothers attached as producers. I didn’t officially become interested until people started comparing it more favorably to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Can you believe it’s more strange than a movie with “Strange” in the title? The multiverse is a concept that’s been continuously exploited in the last few years. Everything from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to Rick and Morty. It’s hard to believe Daniels had their multiverse idea before either were released.

Everything Everywhere All at Once has already been called one of the greatest movies ever made, but I’ll be that one person who doesn’t completely understand why. It does check a lot of boxes in modern Hollywood. Everything Everywhere All at Once is told in 3 parts of the title. Everything is almost indistinguishable from a foreign film. Though intended for Jackie Chan, the lead works better with Michelle Yeoh as a struggling Chinese-American mother and wife who owns a laundromat. Evelyn Quan Wang feels like the biggest role of her career since she’s asked to do things I never expected to see from her. At first I didn’t recognize the actor playing Evelyn’s goofy husband Waymond, but that’s Short Round himself Ke Huy Quan making an unexpected comeback.

Can’t say I was surprised to see James Hong as Evelyn’s disapproving father since he’s literally in everything. You don’t have to be Asian to appreciate the movie, but I still can’t relate to a strained mother-daughter relationship. Newcomer Stephanie Hsu not so surprisingly plays Evelyn’s lesbian daughter Joy seeking acceptance. The few non-Asian cast members include Jenny Slate as a “Dog Mom” and Jamie Lee Curtis as an IRS inspector auditing the Wangs. All the multiverse stuff comes out of nowhere, but feels very reminiscent of The Matrix. Mostly because people from an “Alphaverse” are able to verse-jump in order to tap into other versions of themselves throughout the multiverse by doing something unusual. The unusual actions push the R rating a little too far into gross-out territory.

Evelyn discovers her full potential by tapping into a universe where she has badass martial arts skills. She uses it to fight the surprise villain Jobu Tupaki with limitless power who wants to destroy the multiverse. Evelyn tapping into too many universes is what leads to Everywhere. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a swirl of genres that does take advantage of the creative possibilities of a multiverse. But to avoid spoilers, I’m only going to say random things out of context. Googly eyes, movie star, racoon, Ratatouille, hot dog, fingers, rocks, piñata, anime, and everything bagel. I know the ending makes a majority of people cry, but I’m not crazy about the nihilistic tone. The message to “Be kind” does kind of save it. All at Once resolves every conflict no matter how absurd. Everything Everywhere All at Once isn’t always for me, but I can commend its commitment to originality.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Evelyn does kung fu

From Ladies Man to Family Man

The Change-Up is a different kind of body swap movie. This time they’re both grown men, but they lead very different lives. Dave Lockwood is a responsible married father of three with a white-collar job in a law office. Mitch Planko is a single womanizer who takes small acting roles. Since Jason Bateman plays Dave and Ryan Reynolds plays Mitch, they’re basically playing themselves. So when they swap bodies, Bateman being more profane and Reynolds being more reserved is the only way to tell.

Since it’s a raunchy comedy, Dave and Mitch swap by peeing in a fountain and wishing they had each other’s lives. Mitch finds that he can’t handle Dave’s stressful home life and Dave ends up in increasingly awkward situations with Mitch’s women. Leslie Mann plays Dave’s frustrated wife Jamie that Mitch almost sleeps with. Meanwhile, Dave lives out his fantasy to also nearly sleep with his hot assistant Sabrina played by Olivia Wilde. Mitch is a total douche already, but even Dave ends up looking bad until they realize what they’re missing.

The Change-Up pushes the boundaries with way too much profanity, gross-out gags, and unsexy nudity. Every nude scene involved either prosthetics, body doubles, or CGI. Most of the jokes cross the line, but I’ll admit the lead actors can still get a few chuckles out of me. I really do enjoy the body swap formula, but raunchy R rated comedies don’t always work for me. The Change-Up has a good message trying to get out, but it’s bogged down by too much crudity.

The Change-Up

Mitch and Dave talk about their lives

When I Was a Young Man

17 Again is Big and/or 13 Going on 30 in reverse with a touch of Back to the Future and Mrs. Doubtfire. Body transformation movies aren’t exactly their own genre, but I do notice when they pop up. 17 Again is the opposite of Big with a grown man becoming a teenager. Matthew Perry makes a rare movie appearance as 37 year old Mike O’Donnell. A former basketball star who gave up a scholarship to raise a family with his high school sweetheart.

Since Mike turned into a loser with a failing marriage, a mysterious janitor played by Brian Doyle-Murray grants his wish to be 17 again. Zac Efron is still practically Troy Bolton one year after finishing High School Musical. Mostly because both characters play basketball. With the help of his super nerdy best friend Ned, Mike poses as Mark in order to live his lost dream. Ned has his own subplot with a hot principal that he constantly pursues. I enjoyed the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings references, but 17 Again is really about Mike fixing the relationship he has with his family.

Like Mrs. Doubtfire, Mike secretly gets to know his wife, daughter, and son a lot better. He helps his bullied son Alex played by Sterling Knight by giving him self confidence. His daughter Maggie played by Michelle Trachtenberg is dating the bully Stan, and he helps by convincing her he’s bad. Of course it does lead to an awkward, but funny Back to the Future scenario. Just as awkward is Mike rekindling his love for wife Scarlet played by an increasingly confused Leslie Mann. Reversing the age of the character isn’t always as hilarious as previous movies, but 17 Again has the heart to make it work.

17 Again

Mike (Mark) reminisces with his wife Scarlet

From Mean Girl to Lowlife

The Hot Chick is a cruder version of Freaky Friday. Most of the time I enjoy a good body swap movie, but I’m not the biggest fan of Rob Schneider. Especially ones from Happy Madison Productions. Unlike most body swap movies, The Hot Chick is a pretty one-sided Schneider starring vehicle. Although he swaps with Rachel McAdams, she wouldn’t become a big star until Mean Girls, 2 years later. Ironically, McAdams plays a similar pink loving mean girl named Jessica Spencer. She’s like any other popular teenager who’s mean to the not so popular, but she is shown to have a heart early on.

The Hot Chick surprisingly begins in an early Abyssinian kingdom where the method of swapping bodies is revealed to be a pair of magic earrings. When Jessica swipes them from an African artifact store, she swaps with bumbling lowlife Clive Maxtone. Almost all the attention is given to Jessica trapped in a man’s body. Expect several penis jokes and other cringy gender related hijinks. Although Anna Faris is pretty good as Jessica’s best friend who develops a pseudo-lesbian crush on her/him. Like Big, it’s a catchy clapping song that convinces her.

Of course Jessica does have a boyfriend played by a very uncomfortable Matthew Lawrence. Jessica’s family is pretty over-the-top, but it’s actually her Blasian friend who gets her own subplot for some reason. Adam Sandler, the Mowry twins, and singer Ashlee Simpson all have cameos. McAdams feels like a cameo until Clive is shown working as a stipper until they swap back. I’m immature enough to find some of the jokes funny, but The Hot Chick probably would’ve been a guilty pleasure if I’d seen it sooner.

The Hot Chick

April helps Jessica wax

Once There Was a Hushpuppy…

Beasts of the Southern Wild is about as Independent as they come. It debuted at Sundance, was distributed by Fox Searchlight, has a miniscule budget, a very short runtime, a completely unknown cast, and first time writer, director, composer Benh Zeitlin shot the film on 16mm. Beasts of the Southern Wild is the little film that earned major recognition at the Academy Awards. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, but my interest was immediately peaked with Best Actress. At only 9 years old, Quvenzhané Wallis became the youngest Best Actress nominee of all time.

I was rooting for her all throughout the awards season, but it’s hard to argue with Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in The Silver Linings Playbook. Though Wallis delivers a poetic performance that’s wise beyond her years. Although male in the original one-act play Juicy and Delicious, the role of Hushpuppy is more fitting for a young girl. Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub. Like The Green Mile, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a great example of magical realism. The movie is a very realistic depiction of a small tight-knit, but impoverished community on the Louisiana bayou that faces a devastating natural disaster.

Real life Hurricane Katrina survivor Dwight Henry is also notable for playing Hushpuppy’s tough father Wink who tries to teach his daughter to fend for herself. The most unusual thing about Beasts of the Southern Wild are the titular prehistoric aurochs that slowly approach Hushpuppy and are somehow tied to her father’s health. Hushpuppy’s missing mother is also a metaphor for something I didn’t fully understand at the time. All I know is that Beasts of the Southern Wild is about being part of something greater than yourself.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Hushpuppy encounters a beast of the Southern wild

I’m Tired, Boss

The Green Mile is a long and emotional road. After the Oscar nominated success of The Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King wrote The Green Mile. Both stories are set in prison while dealing with intense themes and an interracial friendship. Frank Darabont wrote and directed both films, but they couldn’t be more different. I’ve been wanting to see The Green Mile for years, despite how depressing it was. The Green Mile is a realistic depiction of death row with supernatural elements. Though not quite the same as fellow 1999 Best Picture nominee The Sixth Sense. The Green Mile is over 3 hours long, but it was the only way to understand every inmate and prison guard. Tom Hanks gets very prominent top-billing as Warden Supervisor Paul Edgecomb. The movie is from his perspective as an elderly Paul (played by Dabbs Greer in his final film role) talks about being a warden in the Great Depression.

Paul does his job effectively, but he suffers from a severe bladder infection since Tom Hanks can’t make a movie without peeing. Paul is joined by several supportive guards including David Morse as second-in-command Brutal. The cast is especially impressive with small roles for Harry Dean Stanton, Bonnie Hunt, and Gary Sinise in his third and final role alongside Hanks. Jeffrey DeMunn and William Sadler are the only actors who also appeared in The Shawshank Redemption. James Cromwell plays the head warden who oversees the process. Everything you never wanted to know about the electric chair is explained in graphic detail. Like most Stephen King antagonists, Doug Hutchison plays one of the most hateable movie villains of all time. Percy is a sniveling prison guard who gleefully torments the inmates in their final hours. Most of the inmates are infinitely more sympathetic than he is.

Graham Greene briefly appears as Native American inmate Arlen who sets the executions into motion. Michael Jeter is the friendly Cajun inmate Del known for his bond with prison mouse Mr. Jingles. Mr. Jingles is an iconic trained mouse who adds much needed levity to the depressing film. The only irredeemably evil inmate is Wild Bill played by a scene stealing Sam Rockwell in his breakout year. But The Green Mile truly belongs to the late great Michael Clarke Duncan. The 6ft. 8in. John Coffey is the very definition of gentle giant. Forced perspective made Duncan massive, but his genuinely kind-hearted acting should’ve won Best Supporting Actor. Coffey remains in the background until he displays his miraculous power to heal others. He manages to heal Paul and the warden’s terminally ill wife played by a very appreciative Patricia Clarkson. Though it’s clear Coffey didn’t commit the awful crime he was convicted of, he’s simply tired of living in such an ugly world. I couldn’t stop crying from Coffey’s powerful speech and first viewing of Top Hat to his inevitable execution. The Green Mile is a genuine milestone.

The Green Mile

Paul and Brutal escort John Coffey down the Green Mile

I’m the Greatest Sorcerer!

Willow gave Warwick Davis his much deserved time in the spotlight. After getting his start in Return of the Jedi, George Lucas wrote the movie especially for him. It is rare to have a little person in a lead role afterall. After Star Wars and between Indiana Jones, Lucas intended the fantasy epic to be his next big thing. Despite hiring his buddy Ron Howard as director, Willow wasn’t the success he was hoping for. I know Willow has a cult following, but I never made an effort to see it until now. I had no idea Willow was about a baby until I saw it. According to a prophecy, a baby girl is destined to one day overthrow the evil Queen Bavmorda. So she orders her minions to find the infant at any cost.

If that sounds just like Sleeping Beauty, the difference is the baby Elora never grows up. I expected a time jump, but it’s not that kind of story. This fantasy world is divided between tall people called Daikini and little people called Nelwyn. Willow Ufgood is a young Nelwyn with a wife and kids who finds the baby in a basket. If that sounds just like the story of Moses, I’m sure that was intentional. Willow wants to be a great sorcerer, but his unsureness holds him back. He reluctantly agrees to take Elora to her own kind in order to fulfill the prophecy. On his first quest, Willow is accompanied by a small band of warriors. If that sounds just like The Hobbit, get used to those similarities.

Willow does feel overlong and not as special as it should be. Willow’s quest changes several times and he’s joined by a revolving door of companions. Like Val Kilmer as the likeable rogue swordsman Madmartigan or Joanne Whalley as the warrior daughter of the evil queen. There’s also a pair of comedic brownies and a cursed sorceress who helps Willow perfect his magic. Speaking of magic, Industrial Light & Magic made a crucial technical leap in a scene where the sorceress morphs into a variety of animals. Other effects aren’t as impressive as they probably were in the 80’s. Willow has plenty of heart, but nothing new to contribute to the realm of fantasy.

Willow

Willow on a horse

Brought to You By Popeyes

Little Nicky is the comedy from Hell. It officially marked the downfall of Adam Sandler in the early 2000’s. Even when I was 5, I knew Little Nicky looked stupid. As a Christian, I had a feeling I would be offended as well. Little Nicky is so bad that I can’t really be offended by it. Sandler plays Nicky, the annoying one note weird talking son of Satan and an angel. Nicky lives in a very crappy looking Hell populated by equally cringy demons. Heaven isn’t seen until the end where angels have minor mistreatment.

Nicky is forced to go to Earth where he has to stop his evil brothers from damning all of humanity. It’s there that he wears heavy winter coats, works with a talking bulldog, falls in love, gains metalhead followers, and eats obnoxious amounts of Popeyes chicken. I have no clue why they agreed to appear in the movie, but I’m more baffled by all the celebrities they managed to get. Future award winner Patricia Arquette degrades herself as Nicky’s nerdy love interest. Harvey Keitel plays Satan and Reese Witherspoon plays Nicky’s angel mother Holly.

They even got poor Rodney Dangerfield to play Lucifer. I tell ya he gets no respect. Rhys Ifans and Tommy Lister Jr. put a little too much effort into playing Nicky’s demonic brothers. There are way more celebrity cameos that get stranger and stranger as the movie goes on. I didn’t understand Rob Schneider’s Waterboy cameo, but Carl Weathers reprising his role as the deceased Chubbs from Happy Gilmore is moderately clever. This was the first Adam Sandler comedy under the Happy Madison banner, but there’s no way he thought he was making a good movie. Little Nicky is freaking awful.

Little Nicky

Nicky eats Popeyes with Mr. Beefy

Flawless Victory

Mortal Kombat (2021) got over a 2 decade absence from the big screen. While the 1995 Mortal Kombat was campy fun, the 1997 Annihilation was one of the worst movies ever made. The video game franchise remained incredibly popular when the reboot was stuck in development hell. When the 2021 movie was finally announced, my brother and I made sure to play Mortal Kombat (2011). Although it was simultaneously streamed on HBO Max, we saw it in theaters among like-minded fans. I’m not a diehard fan, but I do have more expectations. Since every game’s fatalities got progressively more violent, it was nice to know the movie would actually be R rated. It also meant a lower budget which is obvious when the movie doesn’t even include the titular tournament. Earthrealm or Outworld rarely feel grand despite the literal gods and monsters on display.

Costumes are grittier, but a little too detailed for my liking. Specifically the armoured look given to Scorpion and Sub-Zero. The movie begins with their bitter rivalry centuries in the past. Despite having the iconic catchphrase “Get over here!,” Scorpion and Sub-Zero speak Chinese and Japanese respectively. Mortal Kombat (2021) includes many important characters, but makes the idiotic decision to omit characters for the sake of being PC. Fan favorite Hollywood actor Johnny Cage is left out to leave room for Lewis Tan as original Asian American character Cole Young. There are literally dozens of characters on their roster yet they chose to make something up. I absolutely hate anything having to do with the character. Kitana is also left out, but Sonya Blade fills the void. She has a kind of pointless arc where she has to prove herself as a champion. Despite their attempt to keep the story Asian focused, Australian mercenary Kano is still the biggest scene stealer.

Former Jimmy Olsen Mehcad Brooks got jacked to play Jax and Raiden actor Tadanobu Asano already had experience with a thunder god. They could’ve once again made Liu Kang the star, but he spends more time training the others with Kung Lao’s help. Shang Tsu isn’t the imposing force he should be, but he gets the job done. His motley crew of enemy opponents consists of Mileena, Nitara, Reiko, Kabal, and Goro. The latter is obviously CGI, but the four-armed monster loses his menace when he has to fight Cole in a barn. The climax captures the spirit of the game, but there’s too much emphasis on Arcana. Scorpion and Sub-Zero have their final dual, but Scorpion’s revenge was done a lot better in the much more faithful hyper violent animated movie of the same name. The movie finishes with serious sequel baiting for an uncast Johnny Cage. Mortal Kombat (2021) is far from a “FATALITY,” but it’s barely a “FLAWLESS VICTORY” either.

Mortal Kombat

Liu Kang and Kung Lao ready to fight

Reboot of: Mortal Kombat (1995)

Prince Dastan and the Quest for the Time Dagger

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was Disney’s first attempt at trying to recapture the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. Both are rated PG-13 with swashbuckling action/adventure. Disney also enlisted Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell and even made dated LEGO sets for the movie. The difference is Prince of Persia being based on a video game. Something I wasn’t aware of when I decided to go see the movie by myself. The 2003 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made. I never played or even heard of it beforehand, so I judged the movie without expectations.

Prince of Persia is actually one of the more entertaining video game adaptations, but just as flawed as the rest. The unnamed Prince is given the name Dastan and Jake Gyllenhaal was chosen to play him. Gyllenhaal is more than capable of doing a big budget action role, but the Prince is basically Aladdin if he were Persian. Gemma Arterton and Toby Kebbell have the same problem as Dastan’s love interest and brother respectively. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina are the only actors who fit as the obvious twist villain and untrustworthy mentor figure respectively. They do manage to capture the action of the game with a heavy emphasis on jumps and parkour. The adventure kicks off when Dastan retrieves a magic dagger from an enemy kingdom.

Like the game, the dagger contains the “Sands of Time” which allow the user to travel back in time for one minute. A useful power that isn’t used as often as it should be. Prince Dastan goes on the run with the shrewish Princess Tamia in order to stop a plot to take over the Persian kingdom. Along the way fighting snake henchmen, spike throwing assassins, and his own uncle with a very cliché motivation. Like most time travel movies, the solution to undo everything kills a lot of character development. Regardless of quality, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has more effort put into it than most movies based on video games.

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time

Prince Dastan evades enemies