Movie Review ~ Nobody 

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Hutch Mansell, a suburban dad, overlooked husband, nothing neighbor — a “nobody.” When two thieves break into his home one night, Hutch’s unknown long-simmering rage is ignited and propels him on a brutal path that will uncover dark secrets he fought to leave behind.

Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Aleksey Serebryakov, Christopher Lloyd, RZA, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon, RZA, Billy MacLellan, Araya Mengesha, Gage Munroe

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Rated: R

Running Length: 92 minutes

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: It’s coming.  The time for theaters to re-open and welcome movie-goers back in larger numbers is getting close and even now you can see there are more films premiering only in cinemas and not available via streaming or On Demand.  On the one hand, I get it.  Studios want to stay in the good graces of theater chains while also preserving the overall experience for their audiences.  On the other, even though the country continues to be vaccinated at a good rate there is still a long way to go before people (including myself) would feel comfortable sitting for an extended period in an enclosed space with others we aren’t acquainted with.  Until then, I’ll feel lucky that I can see a theatrical-only release like Nobody (from Universal Pictures) in the comfort of my own home so I’m able to let you know if it’s worth the risk to venture out to your local multiplex.

Though I’m still always going to advocate that you avoid unnecessary social interaction outside of your own home and hold out until a movie you want to see is available to rent or buy via streaming, I suppose if you were looking for a comfort-food casserole sort of action movie to sate your thirst for mindless fun, Nobody would be a full flavor meal to dine out on.  It has a bruised-knee charm that makes it a decent watch and a leading performance from an unexpected star which keeps it always surprising and surpassing your expectations.  It’s pulpy and loud but isn’t insignificant in the way it wins you over on sheer chutzpah.  Plain and simple — it’s worth putting some real pants on for.

The most notable thing about middle-aged Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk, Nebraska) is that he keeps to his routine. His suburban life with his pretty wife (Connie Nielsen, Wonder Woman 1984, Sea Fever) and two children isn’t boring, it’s just standard.  He’s not complaining he’s just…settled.  Working a number pushing job at a factory seems to get him through the day and although he aspires to one day own the factory, his mild-mannered attitude might be drowned out by a more emphatic employee who the boss (Michael Ironside, Scanners) takes more notice of.  It’s a beige life for a beige guy.  At least that’s what it looks like on the surface.  A late-night home break-in is the catalyst that begins to pull back the curtain on Hutch’s life before the wife, kids, and 9-5 job entered the picture.  It awakens a side of him that few have seen…and lived to talk about.

Over the next several days, Hutch will run afoul of a karaoke-singing Russian crime boss (Aleksey Serebryakov, in a performance of golden gusto) who quickly sets his sights on eliminating this unexpected thorn in his side.  They’ll also be car chases, knockdown brawls leading to broken bones and worse, and a booby-trapped finale that will remind you of a certain Christmas classic.  It’s all eager to please and screenwriter Derek Kolstad (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) doesn’t miss an opportunity to find a clever way to clean house.  It’s also up to director Ilya Naishuller to not let us get too far ahead in Kolstad’s script – though Hutch’s shadowy past might seem obvious at first, the full truth is more fun.

Even though it’s ultimately just a less flashy version of the John Wick films (no shocker, Kolstad wrote all three) set to a soundtrack filled with so many on the nose up-tempo tunes I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a wedding DJ watching that uses it exclusively at their next gig, Nobody whizzes through 92 minutes without pausing much to let us catch our breath or think through how silly it all is.  A lot of that has to do with Naishuller’s breakneck pace and caffeine-hyped editing but don’t forget to give Odenkirk much of the credit for making Hutch such a standout character.  Sure, he’s playing a seemingly dull guy that’s just harboring a lot of well-kept talents, but there’s more to him than his bag of tricks.  I’ve yet to truly take much notice of the actor until now but he’s an astonishingly credible action star, an everyman that takes a licking and keeps on ticking, absorbing the blows but finding creative ways to dole out punishment as revenge.  It’s all Odenkirk’s film so even strong supporting work from Nielsen (sadly underused considering the butt kicking we’ve seen her do recently in Zack Snyder’s Justice League and more) and a neat appearance from Back to the Future‘s Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s irascible father.

With its short length, Nobody would be a good option if you are thinking of dipping your toe back into the theater-going experience because it’s a breeze to sit through.  If anything, make time for it when you do see it pop into your at home options in several weeks because this side of Odenkirk was exciting to see.  With his popularity at a peak nowadays with TV’s Better Call Saul continuing to earn him strong notices, Nobody is something to behold indeed.

Movie Review ~ Mortal Engines

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The Facts
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Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world where cities ride on wheels and consume each other to survive, two people meet in London and try to stop a conspiracy.

Stars: Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Frankie Adams, Colin Salmon, Stephen Lang

Director: Christian Rivers

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 128 minutes

TMMM Score: (5.5/10)

Review:  In my review of the recently released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse I bemoaned the turgid same-ness that is starting to torpedo genre films.  With most superhero movies following the same mold, it takes an outside of the box approach to make the film truly memorable and one that will keep it in your memory long after you leave theater.  The same rule applies to adaptations of YA novels.  While the Harry Potter films kicked off the current generation of lucrative franchise pictures based on popular novels for young adults, the genre really took off with the success (and superiority) of movies that were made out of The Hunger Games series.  With many imitators along the way (Divergent, The Maze Runner, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), nothing has met the success or longevity of the Harry Potter or Hunger Games films and sadly the latest entry Mortal Engines joins that list of non-starters.

After a devastating event that caused much of the world to become unstable and uninhabitable, mankind has taken to living in cities on wheels that routinely swallow up smaller communities and use their resources for fuel.  The opening of Mortal Engines plunges us right into such a hunt, when the mobile city of London goes after a tiny salt mining town that’s no match for the former UK’s massive (and massively impressive) super metropolis.  It’s a jarring start to the movie and, without much context, leaves audiences to find their own bearing in a sea of character names and made-up terms.  It actually feels like the opening of a second or third film in an already established series, which has the effect of keeping the viewer at an outsider’s arm’s length from the outset.

On the confiscated town is Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar, Anna Karenina, an Icelandic actress playing American not totally succeeding in losing her Nordic accent), a scarred young woman that has hoped for exactly this outcome.  She wants to gain access to London because that’s where Thaddeus Valentine is.  Valentine (Hugo Weaving, The Dressmaker) and Hester’s mother had a complicated history and Hester has come to settle a longstanding score.  When ambitious Londoner and historian Tom (Robert Sheehan) intercepts her attempt to assassinate Valentine only to then find himself on the run with Hester, the two are soon at the center of a plot that threatens any city in Valentine’s path.  At the same time, a resurrected creature (voiced by Stephen Lang, Don’t Breathe) relentlessly pursues Hester with his own agenda that Valentine uses to his larger advantage.

Based on the first of four novels in author Phillip Reeve’s bleak version of the future, Mortal Engines has been adapted for the screen and produced by Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies).  It’s interesting to note that while Jackson wrote the script, produced the film, and had his Oscar-winning special effects WETA workshop design the impressive visuals, he left the directing duties to first-timer Christian Rivers, his long-time story boarder and protégé.  Rivers is no Jackson, though, and while his work assembling a visually appealing movie is impressive there is little in the way of emotional heft to make the film more than just an excuse for special effects and rousing soundtrack cues.

The movie also has a strong sense of post-production tinkering.  Why else would characters that seem to be of greater importance vanish for long stretches of time only to return when necessary or not at all?  Valentine has a spunky daughter (Leila George) that feels like she’s getting her own B-storyline but aside from a few quick intercuts of her in London while Hester and Tom are dodging steampunk kidnappers (in a nicely bizarre nod to a New Zealand-y Mad Max: Fury Road) she’s largely absent from the proceedings.  Then there’s a band of outlaws led by Anna Fang (Jihae, delivering her lines with dramatically committed sincerity) set to protect Hester who are barely-there sketches of your standard rouge gallery of grunts.

Though it boasts an impressive team behind the scenes, Mortal Engines doesn’t have enough gas to make much of a fire.