The New Mutants (2020) Review

A DARKER, MORE PSYCHOLOGICAL LOOK INTO MUTANTS

The New Mutants film has been on our radar for a very long time. Between delays and COVID-19, this film felt doomed from the get go. With a cast of young stars: Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things), Henry Zaga (13 Reasons Why), Blu Hunt (The Originals), & Alice Braga (Queen of the South), it seemed the film would be a hit. Sadly, the Box Office won’t have a say in the matter, since the film went straight to HBO Max in 2020.

The trailer (below) lays out an action based film with thriller undertones. When we first saw it, it immediately intrigued us. Yet, once again we face promotional materials that present one thing when the film is another. Let’s start at the beginning.

We open right in the middle of action. Dani Moonstar’s (Blu Hunt) father wakes her up and drags her away to safety. After that bit of hair-raising, we’re in the primary location for the rest of the film – a hospital. But this is no ordinary hospital. It’s one for young mutants to come into their powers and learn how to control them. 

This becomes the film’s strength and weakness, all in the same breath. The unique location, it’s history and creepy feel, lends to setting the mood throughout. The fact that patients cannot escape from the grounds is a parallel within their inability to escape their powers. Yet, while the trailer shows us the location and action – it doesn’t show you the spaced out scenes, slower pace or delve too far into the unique history of the building. We’re only shown snippets of what the hospital really is. 

If the film dug deeper into the background, instead of abstract hints, we might fear those who run the hospital. The tension might be more palatable. Instead, we are left to fill in the gaps while the story hurriedly moves on.

Thus begins the biggest issue with this film. It all feels like a psychological study of emerging mutants. There are elements of group dynamics and developing relationships – all interesting to watch. Yet, for someone coming into the film looking for action/adventure similar to previous mutant films – they will feel cheated. The film puts pressure on these characters to provide the continuity of story without the explosions or fear inducing moments to pull your attention away from thin sections. 

One thing that stuck out and was the continuity thread throughout the film was Dani’s proverb about the bear. She says: “Inside every person there are two bears, forever locked in combat for your soul. One bear is all things good: compassion, love, trust. The other is all things evil: fear, shame and self-destruction.” She asks which one wins out. Her father answers, whichever one you feed. 

It’s a beautiful proverb that they utilize throughout the story. We don’t want to spoil one of the better parts of the film, suffice it to say we really enjoyed this underlying theme.

Overall, this is a fun watch with a much deeper psychological element. If you are looking for explosions and action sequences filling most of the runtime – this is not your film. This lays the foundation for additional entries. If Disney picks this up for a sequel, it would be very interesting to see how they would proceed.


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Army of the Dead (2021) Review

SHUT OFF YOUR MIND & JUST LET THE ZOMBIES HAVE FUN

Army of the Dead (2021) dropped on Netflix on May 21, 2021. With Zack Snyder being not only the director but also part of the writing staff, given that his “Synder Cut” of Justice League received great reviews from fans, Army of the Dead should be winner… right?

Well, that depends. If you are looking for a heist film in the vein of The Italian Job or Oceans 8, 11, 12, 13, it’s not that. If you are looking for a 24 Days Later, or a Resident Evil-esque fun Zombie film, it’s not quite that either. It feels like the film smashed two things together and tried to make them blend. Sadly, neither one is fully developed to be truly successful.

The rundown of the film seems simple enough. The military envoy is transporting a secret package. After an accident the package, an alpha zombie, breaks free, slaughters everyone and walks over a hill to see the bright lights of Las Vegas. The city becomes overrun and the government seals it off with shipping containers. Scott Ward (Dave Bautistsa) creates a team to go into Vegas, empty a casino vault and split the money with the owner and his party. 

But we all know it isn’t that simple. There’s a lot of betrayal, lies, and senseless death. It’s a zombie film but we’ve all seen this before. The characters are thin; the story has plot holes that looks like Swiss cheese. Zombie bites affect different people in different ways with no explanation. 

Basically, the film is fun if you just don’t think about it. Sit back on your couch, have a bowl of popcorn and just laugh at the absurdity of it all. There’s no genuine connection to any of the characters. When one dies, it more about the fantastic slow motion or the blood splatter. If that was the whole point, then Snyder and his team score much higher than our rating.

After watching the trailer, marketing once again led us astray. We wanted… we expected more from this film. There were so many excellent plot points the film could have explored further, but seemed to just let the opportunity slip away. If there is a sequel, maybe they will circle back to all of that.

In the end, the film is okay even if it is a bit too long for what they’re presenting. Like we said earlier, if you want a mindless film to laugh at while stuffing popcorn in your mouth, go for it. Otherwise, skip it.


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Things Heard & Seen (2021) Review

THINGS HEARD & SEEN HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL, BUT FALLS FLAT

Things Heard & Seen, based on the best-selling novel by Elizabeth Brundage, is a 2021 film released on Netflix. According to the summary on IMDB: “An artist relocates to the Hudson Valley and begins to suspect that her marriage has a sinister darkness, one that rivals her new home’s history.” It seemed like the basis for a classic scary movie.

The film starts like most in this genre do: a seemingly happy couple moves to a small town into a house that just needs some TLC. Neighbors watch the new owners from a distance. It’s a good setup that sort of keeps the charade of a haunting ghost story for a little while. Somewhere along the line though, it stops being about the ghosts and becomes something more akin to a bad drama about greed, desire, and philandering.

While one could have attributed these behaviors to the ghostly inhabitants of the house, the film isn’t clear about it at all. There are still supernatural moments, but less of the scary variety and more of a cool roommates kind of way. 

After the first half of the film, the fear of the supernatural is gone and replaced with the disdain for a character you suspected from the beginning. The script falters and loses sight of what worked in the first half to leave you feeling cheated in the second. The cliches, predictable actions of characters, and an ending that made no logical sense… all combine to make this film fall flat and leave you wanting your time back. 

In this case, we will say we watched it so you don’t have to. 


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