Michael Woodel

Michael Woodel joined the Capital Journal as a reporter on March 29.

The Capital Journal is now bringing you movie reviews every Saturday. Some you can watch from the comfort of the couch and others in the theater. Either way, reviews come straight from the Capital Journal staff.

With apparent permission and even encouragement from my editor and publisher, I, reporter Mike Woodel, now have an outlet to moan about the state of motion pictures.

This week's movies are Mortal Kombat, Things Heard & Seen and Stowaway. Warning: As with the vastly superior Millard at the Movies, these reviews contain minor plot spoilers.

Mortal Kombat: State 123 Pierre Theatre and HBO Max

First spoiler: I've never played any of the games. That aside, check your attitude toward games-turned-movies at the door and there's fun to be had with "Mortal Kombat," though it might be hidden behind the endless instances of Kano (Josh Lawson) providing comic relief before much has happened to provide comic relief from. Most of the rest of the film’s opening hour is merely a chance for franchise fans to point at the screen and shout “Look! It’s [insert character from the game here]!” The concluding 50 minutes then play out like an all-CPU round of the game, with the gore returning from an extended absence but well after those who came specifically for blood will have headed for the exits. Lewis Tan does a fine job in his starring role as MMA fighter turned worldsaver Cole Young, it’s just unfortunate that he was handed a script with such wooden dialogue. Mike's mark: 58/100.

Things Heard & Seen: Netflix

You’re likely better off picking up the Elizabeth Brundage novel “All Things Cease to Appear,” because the film on which it is based, while styled as a horror thriller, has little horror and not too many thrills. There isn’t one performance that particularly stands out in “Things Heard & Seen” as the house that Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) gradually finds to be haunted seems to steal the show. The rest of the film feels largely like a retread of prior ghost story tropes braided together with an early ‘80s setting to create… something. Seyfried turns in a decent enough performance, and it's nice to know that Natalia Dyer ("Stranger Things") and Rhea Seehorn ("Better Call Saul") are picking up plenty of work outside their trademark TV blockbusters, but beyond that, “Things Heard & Seen” is better off neither heard nor seen. Mike's mark: 44/100.

Stowaway: Netflix

To be clear, the trouble-in-space formula hasn't really changed in a good while and this cross between "The Martian" and "Gravity" isn't going to make waves enough to find itself a watershed moment, either. But "Stowaway" still manages to stand on its own two feet after the good bit of crawling that follows the very abrupt revelation that gives the film its title: a support engineer (Shamier Anderson) has fallen unconscious in a spaceship’s life support system prior to launch. When he wakes up, it means trouble for the intended three-person crew (Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim) as oxygen becomes precious. Ultimately, “Stowaway” doesn’t take too much care to explain the science of its science-fiction as it goes along, but the dialogue keeps things within grasp for the non-PhD viewer. The film also presents a plausible and at times painful dilemma that seems unresolvable to the very end. Mike's mark: 76/100.

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