May 5, 2021

[Movies] Not-So-Nostalgic Sequels (A Triple Review)

Mortal Kombat (2021) | Bill and Ted Face the Music (2020) | Coming 2 America

It has been quite a while since I last wrote a movie review for the Geeky Guide given my decision to focus on other things, but after watching several movies that clearly tried to play on nostalgia, I figured some sort of a thematic discussion was in order. And I do miss writing these things, I really do.

Sequels and reboots tend to have a bad rap as we naturally expect them to be less entertaining than previous material save for certain exceptions. And for the most part, these movies were starting to feel that way to me at one point in time or another during our watching. Tobie and managed to survive the experience - but at what cost?

On to the reviews!
Mortal Kombat (2021) is not a sequel but a reboot of the Mortal Kombat movies. It was directed by Simon McQuoid in his first major movie production...and it shows. This story had the onus of being a reboot of a video game movie franchise no less, which is another type of movie that is notorious for being automatically bad. To add insult to injury, they centered the movie around a new character created for the movie in the form of Cole Young (Lewis Tan), which always feels like a weird play when it comes to an existing IP.

The movie provides a new premise for the infamous Mortal Kombat tournament that has always been at the heart of the franchise as a whole. But this time it involves magical dragon tattoos that act as clear signs of who is fated to represent humanity against the forces of Outworld. But this time around they're seriously cheating and trying to kill the champions before the tournament even starts, as is the way of these things.

The movie suffers from really poor direction, which is best illustrated by the ridiculous number of cuts worked into each fight scene that denies you the chance of seeing how good the fight choreography probably was. The story was sadly convoluted and the introduction of "arcana" as the explanation for the franchise's more exotic abilities is right up there with midichlorians as some of the worst contrived ideas in movies. 

Very sad movie. I wish we had never watched it, but I guess you can't blame us for being curious.

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) is the third movie in the film franchise. It was directed by Dean Parisot, who is the guy who did Galaxy Quest, which is a really funny movie and a great example of genre movies. So what happened here?

The movie's premise was pretty interesting as the great world-uniting song that Bill & Ted were fated to create somehow never came to be after the end of the last movie. And now Bill & Ted are losers who still can't play decent music (what more write the greatest song in the world) with their marriages on the brink of ruin. They are summoned to the future and given an ultimatum to create the much-needed song by 7:17pm, otherwise, all of reality will come to an end. 

It was amusing for all of 5 minutes to see Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their titular roles as Bill and Ted. But it sort of went downhill quickly as you have to rather grown men still acting like airheaded idiots with little to show for it. The movie's supposed saving grace is in the form of their daughters, Thea Presto (Kristen Schaal) and Billie Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine), also going on a time travel adventure which a predictable end. 

The movie at least still got a few laughs out of us and it did have a good number of nostalgia moments along with interesting cameos from actors or characters from the previous movies. But it's the sort of experience that I'm okay to have gone through it once but I doubt I'd ever be in the mood to watch this movie again. The plots of these movies have never been the most complicated ones out there, but we really could have done a lot better with this project.

Coming 2 America (2021) is a sequel that sort of came out of nowhere, but I guess such is the case for many Amazon Prime Video projects. It's a direct sequel to the original 1988 movie and was directed by Craig Brewer.

Of the three movies, this is the one we watched last but enjoyed the most. It was nice to go back to the fictional country of Zamunda. Some things have changed, but surprisingly other things haven't and Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) is poised to take the throne soon. But all is not well with the nation of Nexdoria threatening to resort to violence should Akeem not agree to marry his daughter off to the son of their dictator. But when the revelation of Akeem having somehow conceived a bastard son without his knowledge (or at least memory) opens a new option that protects Akeem's daughters but placates Nexdoria.

I was a little skeptical about the introduction of Akeem's son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) together with his mother Mary (Leslie Jones), but they eventually find their way into the narrative and fit in with the rest of the antics. Arsenio Hall is as funny as ever and he's great back in the role of Semmi, Akeem's best friend and aide as in the first movie. 

There are a LOT of smart choices in the movie in terms of how it was written to just how the story is told. I was worried that some of the quirks of the original movie including the likes of Murphy and Hall portraying multiple roles would get old really fast, but this ended up still being funny and not too dated. 

This is definitely lighter fare, but of a quality that is cinema-worthy and not just some direct-to-streaming creation. I am happy that we watched this - quite the pleasant surprise and a creative celebration of the unique humor of the original movie but translated for a modern audience. 

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