COVID-19 halted many of our favorite pastimes. From sports to live concerts and public theater, odds are if it was a public event, it didn’t happen. For me personally, it was the movie theaters closing down that really killed me, however after my well published vaccination and the appropriate two additional weeks wait, I decided it was time I returned to my home away from home with my strangest double feature since I saw Last Flag Flying and Justice League (2017) in the same day.
Movie Time One
My first film was in the middle of the afternoon and it was a ghost town. I saw maybe three other movie goers in the entire building. I made my way to the concessions stand and bought my signature movie drink, a cup of Mellow Yellow Limeade, a soda that looks like it could create the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
On my way to the theater, I saw a few signs of times.
I was not surprised to find that my theater was completely empty when I arrived.
That serenity would not last, as right before the movie started, I was joined by a man who ate an entire bag of popcorn and fell asleep one third of the way through, only waking up during the final scene.
Together Together was written and directed by Nikole Beckwith and stars Patti Harrison and Ed Helms. The plot revolves around Anna, who becomes a surrogate for Matt, a middle-aged single man. While Anna would like to make this a relatively simple process, Matt has planned a wide variety of activities to do things “right”. As they continue to spend time together, they begin to develop a more personal relationship that challenges gender norms, boundaries and forces them to ask what they mean to each other.
This film’s strongest asset is the dialogue between Anna and Matt, and fortunately it’s in no short supply as nearly every scene features the two of them in some capacity. While the majority of scenes are set inside various rooms the film never feels claustrophobic, and there are plenty of great supporting performances from Tig Notaro, Julio Torres, Nora Dunn and Fred Melamed. The film is very lucky someone as beloved as Ed Helms was cast, as Matt has many opinions on what Anna should be doing with her body and a less charismatic actor would not have been able to win the audience over after that. Patti Harrison also provides an incredible performance as someone who’s been hurt before and has an apprehension to caring that much about someone again. I could go into further detail but to be entirely honest this movie is a treat and spoiling any more of the plot would deprive you of the joy of watching the plot unfold. You should see this movie whenever you can, that is all.
Movie Time Two
My second film was a proper evening screening. I stocked up on some more snacks and headed into the theater.
This flick was shown in AMC’s Dolby theater, the largest and best screen in the building. The seats were relatively packed, with the nearest person being just one spot over from me.
Mortal Kombat was directed by Simon McQuoid and written by Simon McQuoid and Dave Callaham and based on the video game series created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. The plot follows Cole (Lewis Tran), a terrible MMA fighter with a heart of gold who discovers he is the only living heir of legendary ninja Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada). Due to his heritage, Cole has been given the dragon marker, which means he has to compete in the Mortal Kombat tournament in which the chosen champions of earth fight against the demonic inhabitants of Outworld. The bad news, if the Outworld wins ten consecutive tournaments they can take over the earth, and the earth has already lost nine in a row. The good news is the champions of earth can develop superpowers if they can figure out how to channel them. Cole joins military expert Sonia Blade (Jessica McNamee), professional hitman Kano (Josh Lawson) and recent bilateral upper extremity amputee Jax (Mehcad Brooks) in a journey to a mysterious desert temple in hopes of saving the world.
I did not have much fun at this movie. I think the main issue is that the writers clearly didn’t care a whole lot about the plot, but at the same time there is so much of it. There is at least twenty minutes dedicated to Sonia Blade dully untangling the mess of story that at the same time doesn’t explain much of anything. Combine that with an incredibly dull performance from Lewis Tran and a lot of this “insanely violent action movie” bored me. The few action scenes are also a problem, as most of the characters are well beloved video game staples and therefore the action can’t be as urgent and frantic as the John Wick movies, but the characters’ powers don’t play off each other as well as the marvel movies. They could have really used some Jareks for the characters to dispatch in between the larger set pieces. It wasn’t all bad, Kano was hilarious throughout the entire film, and the makeup and costume design was legitimately terrific. There is a superior way to watch this movie, as the opening sequence is easily the best scene in the movie, so I would recommend watching this instead and using your imagination to fill in the rest. Despite what this review may sound like I didn’t hate this movie. I would need to have felt something to hate it, and really the worst thing a Mortal Kombat movie can be is boring.
The Theater Experience
Being back in the theater was…weird. I was shocked at how many people joined me for the Mortal Kombat screening, including at least four young children. To be honest, I felt uncomfortable. I imagine that might just be how going back to “normal” feels now. We have all lived through one of the most traumatic experiences in human history, and we shouldn’t expect going back to the way things were to be easy at all. In conclusion, although I personally have gone through some major changes, I’m glad this is still a place I can come to for some brief relief from the TERRIFYING outside world. Now we only need to get that Ms. Pacman machine working again.