What to watch | Mortal Kombat reboot, Black-ish creator's new show and a topical sci-fi thriller

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Jax (Mehcad Brooks, left) 
gets more than he bargained for when taking on Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) in Mortal Kombat. (PHOTO: Warner Bros.)
Jax (Mehcad Brooks, left) gets more than he bargained for when taking on Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) in Mortal Kombat. (PHOTO: Warner Bros.)

Mortal Kombat ***

Fantasy action. With Lewis Tan, ­Hiroyuki Sanada and Chin Han. ­Director: Simon McQuoid. 16LV.

Almost 30 years since Mortal Kombat changed the gaming landscape forever, comes the latest movie version based on this popular and extremely gory video­game. 

The movie starts in 17th-­century Japan when the assassin Bi-Han (Joe Taslim from the TV series Warrior) – who possesses ice powers –  and several members of his clan attack Hanzo Hasashi (The Wolverine’s Sanada), a ninja from a rival clan, killing his wife and son.

The action jumps to the future where fighters from the Outworld dimension have won nine out of 10 Mortal Kombat tournaments against the Earthrealm, where humans live. If the Outworlders win one more time, it’ll spell the end of Earthrealm, so evil Outworld sorcerer Shang Tsung (Han from Skyscraper) plans to rig the last tournament by killing off the enemy champions beforehand. 

This leads to former mixed-­martial artist Cole Young (Tan from Into the Badlands), a new character in the Mortal Kombat universe who doesn’t know anything about the tournament, being targeted by Shang’s assassin Bi-Han, now known as Sub-Zero. 

As can be expected from a movie based on a fighting game, Mortal Kombat isn’t for viewers who dislike violence. Almost every scene is action-­packed and it’s one brutal brawl after another. 

Fans of the game should enjoy the film and can look forward to seeing many of their favourite characters faithfully brought to life.

Unfortunately, the storyline and character development are sometimes lacking, and several characters die far too early to make an impression. Viewers unfamiliar with the games might also struggle to figure out who’s who. 

There’s more than enough action to keep Mortal Kombat fans happy, but some will be disgruntled by the fact that the main event – the tournament – is left for the sequel. – LARA ATSON

AVAILABLE ON GOOGLE PLAY AND APPLE TV+.

#blackAF ***

Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones, BlackAF
Kenya Barris and Rashida Jones in BlackAF. (PHOTO: Netflix)

Comedy. Black-ish creator Kenya Barris plays himself in an edgier ­version of his hit series – not unlike Matt LeBlanc in Episodes or Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. 

Rashida Jones co-stars as his wife (and co-wrote and directed some episodes), and his TV house is an accurate replica of his real-­life mansion.

The series marks Barris’ acting ­debut, which he’s described as “the hardest thing ever! I had a good time because [the cast] became my family, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he told Newsweek magazine.

The show is, well, a bit strange. There’s not much in the way of character arcs – episodes are styled as part of a documentary his daughter is filming – and it’s hard to discern if Barris is satirising himself and his luxurious lifestyle, or if it’s all some sort of mid-life crisis of self-reflection, or work as therapy, if you like.

That said, it is often funny, albeit with storylines that are frequently similar to those we’ve seen already in Black-ish, which was also based on his life and experiences. 

The main difference is that #blackAF is much, much edgier, ­often to the point of being surprisingly mean-spirited.

Barris has said that the show “was such a personal story . . . The biggest thing for me to do is to keep doing work so I can keep showing more versions [of black people] and show how non-monolithic we are – show how many versions of us there are and show all our different lanes”.

The show has been renewed for a second season, which hopefully will be a bit more focused and a ­little less self-indulgent. – DENNIS CAVERNELIS

2020. 8 EPISODES. 16L. AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX.

Songbird **

KJ Apa, Songbird
KJ Apa in Songbird. (PHOTO: STX Films)

Sci-fi thriller. One of the first ­movies to capitalise on the global pandemic, Songbird takes place in the not-too-distant future, where Covid-23 is now airborne, with massive casualty rates.

The story follows bike courier Nico (KJ Apa from Riverdale), who’s immune to the virus and can roam about an empty Los Angeles to his heart’s desire. When the mom of his love interest (Descendants’ Sofia Carson) falls ill, it’s a race against time before both are taken to the Q-Zone, an overpopulated quarantine area where no one survives.

Although there are similarities with what’s happening in the world, the movie feels more like fantasy, with none of the realistic situations portrayed in films such as Contagion (2011). The supporting characters, ­although interesting, feel removed from the deadly virus and can seemingly come and go as they please without any consequences. 

Logic also flies out the window to suit the plot, such as when armed forces seem only interested in those who are reported as sick, rather than people breaking curfew.

A fair attempt at a disaster movie with enough drama to keep you watching – but it ends up being just another love story that’s been told many times before. – DEWALD POTGIETER

2020. 90 MIN. 16LV. AVAILABLE ON GOOGLE PLAY AND APPLE TV+.

A: All ages   D: Drugs   H: Horror   L: Language   N: Nudity   P: Prejudice   PG: Parental guidance   
S: Sex  V: Violence



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