All eyes will turn back to the box office with the cinematic reboot of "Mortal Kombat" and anime "Demon Slayer: Mugen Train" are both given a wide theatrical release. Both films have already opened overseas where "Mortal Kombat" has made around $10 million and "Demon Slayer: Mugen Train" has racked up a massive $384 million. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch "Demon Slayer: Mugen Train." So, I can't comment on its quality. Here's a look at what I did spend my time with this week:
"Mortal Kombat" is a mess. That's not particularly shocking. Anyone who has played the game knows that the franchise was built around its brutality, not its story. What is surprising is that the opening scene and pieces of the end of the film are actually really good. This is partly because Hiroyuki Sanada is a fantastic actor who is equally skilled in combat. It's also because it is one of the few scenes in the film where the underlying emotion is grounded in something real. What happens in between is a lot of violent gobbledygook. Fortunately, violent gobbledygook is exactly what fans expect and likely want from a Mortal Kombat film. Director Simon McQuoid promised epic fights and gory kills and he delivers. A coherent film with believable performances? No, not so much.
Where to watch: Theaters, HBO Max
Shadow and Bone
I haven't read Leigh Bardugo's novels or short stories that make up the Grisha Trilogy or the related Six of Crows duology. What I do know is that "Shadow and Bone" is a story built on a very familiar frame. It's a story where the least likely character is the most likely to save the world from whatever evil that lurks in the darkness. There is, of course, also a complicated love story. I wouldn't say it is too derivative to enjoy. I suspect that Bardugo, though American, has an interest in Russian history and literature. The Russian flourishes to the story do help to separate the story from the steampunk aesthetic of Mortal Engines without feeling too much like the Durmstrang Institute of Harry Potter's Wizarding World. However, the world building feels incredibly rushed. We're thrown into the middle of a story with a fairly complex history. "Shadow and Bone" could have spent a little more time on establishing the various factions while still pushing the narrative forward.
I like "Shadow and Bone." I just don't know that it feels essential or distinctly different enough for me to miss it if it were to suddenly disappear.
Where to watch: Netflix
Boys from County Hell
"Boys from County Hell" is an Irish tale that concerns a small town where Bram Stoker may have spent the night and the local vampire folklore may have been inspired to write "Dracula" during his brief visit. True or not, it brings in a handful of curious tourists to look at a pile of stones that mark the resting place of the local vampire. The area that houses the local curiosity is slated for to become a road. Tourism and supernatural consequences be damned, the rocks are going to have to go.
"Boys from County Hell" is caught somewhere between a comedy and a horror film and isn't particularly dedicated to being scary or funny. It also doesn't quite hit the emotional notes it is stretching for and is unlikely to keep the attention of those who aren't already head-over-heals horror fans.
Where to watch: Shudder