Jiu Jitsu: It’s Predator with Martial Arts and Nic Cage – Netflix Review

Despite that description, though, the movie mostly falls flat.


War hero Jake Barnes (Alain Moussi) is injured fighting something in Myanmar and falls into the sea. He’s rescued and turned over to the US Military, but it is revealed he now has amnesia. Myra (Marie Avgeropoulos), an Army Intelligence officer, tries to interrogate him but mostly ends up failing. He’s rescued by Keung (Tony Jaa), a master martial artist. It turns out that Jake is a member of a group of warriors who all practice the martial art of Jiu Jitsu, which was apparently taught to humans by an alien warrior. Now, every six years, an alien champion named Brax (Ryan Tarran) challenges a number of champions in combat. If the humans win, Earth survives. If not, well, that’s all she wrote. Jake is assisted by teammates Keung, Carmen (JuJu Chan), Harrigan (Frank Grillo), and Wylie (Nicolas Cage). Unfortunately, what Jake mostly forgot is that he was Earth’s best hope, and he needs to remember that before Brax takes him down.

Yes, this is the lead in a movie about Jiu Jitsu.


This movie should be amazing. It’s a movie where an alien that usually cloaks itself while hunting (Predator) challenges a number of humans to a martial arts tournament (Mortal Kombat) for the right to invade Earth (also Mortal Kombat) with Nicolas (not Johnny) Cage and Frank Grillo. Nicolas Cage plays a near-insane older martial arts master, something that should be amazing on its own. In fairness, I enjoyed most of the scenes with Cage, because, whether you like him or hate him, he’s a hell of a presence. Unfortunately, he’s criminally underused here, probably because, and I’m speculating a bit, they could only afford to have him on set for a week or so. 

The actual film itself has a lot of great martial arts sequences, but it’s tough because you have to suspend the disbelief A) that these people can martial arts their way past machine guns, B) that the alien created Jiu Jitsu, C) that the alien’s technology is designed for a “fair fight,” and D) that the people delivering the lines in this movie sincerely believe A, B, and C. It’s not even that these are bad performers, it’s that it’s really hard to try and describe this movie sincerely. Even if you were undergoing these events, you probably wouldn’t react like any of the characters do, aside from maybe Nicolas Cage, who seems to be completely aware of how ridiculous this set-up is.

This alien makes no sense.

The cinematography is okay during some of the fights, but it still seems to be incapable of properly helping the audience recognize that many of these people are really, really good at what they’re doing. JuJu Chan (from Wu Assassins) and Tony Jaa (of Ong-Bak fame) are both massively underused. When you have people who can really do top-level martial arts movies and shows, you should probably not reduce them to second-string characters. 

A lot of talent on the cast, but it never feels like it gets used properly.

Overall, sadly, this isn’t a great movie. If you really like Nic Cage, maybe watch just his scenes. 

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Boss Level: The Ultimate Action Game – Hulu Review

Frank Grillo, Naomi Watts, Michelle Yeoh, and Mel Gibson bring us a new take on time loops.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Roy Pulver (Grillo) is a retired special forces soldier who wakes up every day being attacked by a group of professional killers wielding weapons ranging from machetes to swords (wielded by the great Guan Yin (Selina Lo)) to helicopter-mounted miniguns and explosives. Having been stuck in this time loop for over 140 times, he has managed to figure out how to survive the attacks for longer periods of time, but inevitably dies every time. It turns out that his ex-wife Jemma (Naomi Watts), was messing with things beyond the natural realm of science, and her boss, Col. Ventor (Gibson), is planning on using it to be a supervillain. Roy has to figure out how to avoid the assassins and stop the time loops, possibly with some sword lessons from Michelle Yeoh (who has a character name, but it’s Michelle Yeoh). Oh, and he kills just so many bad guys.



When people talk about “development hell,” they’re talking about movies like this. This movie was set to begin production almost a decade ago, then finally got shot in 2018, at which time it failed to get distributed. There was a free screening as a promotion at some point, but then it didn’t get sent to theaters and its studio just dropped the film, leading Hulu to pick it up and finally put it out. Admittedly, this movie might have been a little better if you saw it before the recent run of time-loop films, which it should have preceded by literal years, but I still enjoyed it.

These are some grizzled faces.

It’s weird that I can’t think of another movie that has casually drawn the connection between time-loops and video games. From the title to the opening shot to the opening narration, this film makes it clear that this situation is basically just a high-intensity action game that Roy has to beat. That makes some of the more ridiculous characters forgivable, because video games often have insane supporting casts and heavily styled bad guys (there’s a redneck with a harpoon, a little person explosives expert, twin assassins, etc.). It even justifies one of my favorite elements, that Guan Yin has a literal victory pose and phrase “I am Guan Yin, and Guan Yin has done this.” The movie even has Roy’s son Joe (Rio Grillo) into old-school video games in order to make it even more tied in. It’s not like the movie is actually taking place in a video game, it’s just drawing the comparison so that you can accept the conceit more easily. I also appreciate that the film tries to avoid having to devote half its budget to continuity just by saying that there are “slight variations” on each run-through.

She is Guan Yin, and she f*cking did this.

The main thing that makes this film work is that Frank Grillo is basically the modern version of an ‘80s action hero. That’s why he was so good as Crossbones, because he seems like the kind of guy who could tear through hordes of men on his own. Since he narrates most of the movie, he’s a little more of a wisecracking type action star, which gives the film a level of humor that is needed to get you through some of the more repetitive parts. It helps that there is a strong amount of character growth, particularly when it comes to Roy and his son. I admit that it helps that his son is played by Grillo’s actual child, which makes their scenes more genuine. The supporting characters, naturally, are pretty great, even though most of them are only there to kill Roy as quickly and humorously as possible.

And yes, there’s a small part with Ken Jeong.

Overall, I really thought this was a fun film. It might have needed a bit more editing, and it definitely wastes some of its better actors, but it gives you a decent ride. 

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Netflix Review – Stephanie: Amazing Set-up, Follow-Through Needed Budget

Everyone knows kids can be really creepy. If a small child looks me in the eye and says “The specter of death looms large over your future,” then I say “How did you get in my apartment and why are you floating and oh god the burning has already begun.” Pretty sure everyone has had that happen before. Anyway, the point is: Kids can be f*cking creepy.

This is a movie about a creepy, creepy child. It’s not original in that aspect, but I’ll say that the way they handle it actually is.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Stephanie (Shree Crooks) is a child who has been abandoned in her home by her parents. She plays around with a toy turtle, watches TV (which occasionally mentions something about an apocalypse happening before she flips it to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), makes her own food, tries to befriend a bunny, and starts swearing because her parents aren’t there. Remember Home Alone’s montage when Kevin realized his family was gone? It’s that, but with a young girl.

This is her learning she can say “shit” out loud.

Then, we start to find out that things are wrong. Stephanie is stalked by a shadowy figure that never seems to catch her. The body of a young boy, revealed to be her brother, Paul (Jonah Beres), is in a bed in the house and is decaying. Stephanie at first appears to be talking to it sadly, but then starts to blame it for her parents leaving and hits the body repeatedly.

Who hasn’t smacked a corpse with a bat?

Eventually, her parents return, but that only starts adding to the mystery of what happened with this world.


Eventually, her parents (Frank Grillo and Anna Torv) return and apologize for leaving. They bury Paul, but Paul’s body is thrown back into the house that night. Stephanie’s dad asks her what she thinks happened when Paul died. It’s revealed that Stephanie killed Paul using telekinetic tentacles that appear to be made from her shadow. The apocalypse is actually a dark force possessing children around the globe. The monster that’s been stalking her is a manifestation of her own powers. Her parents knock her out and try to perform a procedure to disable her powers, but she awakes and destroys the makeshift lab.

Her parents try to poison her, but her tentacles save her. Her father then shoots her multiple times, killing her. He returns home to his wife, but Stephanie reappears, revived. She brutally murders both of her parents, destroys the house, throws away her stuffed turtle, and walks away psychically destroying her entire neighborhood. A shot of the Earth reveals this to be happening everywhere.

END SUMMARY (End Spoilers)

This is a Blumhouse picture, which means that the budget was probably so small it hurt parts of the film. However, as Get Out proved, this can encourage some really inventive filmmaking with a focus on good story and concept to compensate for the lack of effects. This movie comes so close to that, but it just can’t quite keep it going. Admittedly, the lack of quality of the effects at the end is a little bit of an issue, but it’s mostly the way the film tries to handle the third act.

When the parents return, the movie starts to drift.

At the beginning of the film, the mystery of what is happening to Stephanie is delivered slowly, with some odd hints surrounding the fact that we’re seeing a small child living on her own. She makes a lot of bad decisions and does goofy things, because she’s an unsupervised child, but we also see some slowly building evidence that the situation is much direr than it seemed. This part of the film is great. Since the director is A Beautiful Mind’s Akiva Goldsman, there should not have been any doubt that we’d really be able to grasp that we’re watching a kind of madness progress.

Admittedly, it’s a different kind of madness.

As far as the performance goes, Shree Crooks does a phenomenal job. She conveys all of the nervousness blended with excitement that you’d expect from a child who finds themselves allowed to do what they want. The scene where she first realizes that she can swear is perfect, with every line and action and look building to something that’s both hilarious and adorable, which gives us a break in the tension while still reminding us of the situation. It’s a great scene, and there are several like that at the beginning of the film.

She also conveys the fear well.

The progression of Stephanie’s disturbing behaviors is solid, going from mostly innocent behavior that shows she might be haunted by something to showing that she herself is frightening and unhinged.

The movie really just starts going downhill when her parents return, with much of the mystery being revealed with too much exposition and too little demonstration. Then, the ending was intense, but it still felt hollow. It feels like all the weight of the film has been removed by that point, instead replaced by some generic horror mixed with some, admittedly clever, deaths.

She’s going to eat your soul… or a taco.

I liked the movie for most of it, I just wish that the ending had felt more profound or more like a continuation of the first act rather than a completely different movie that had been stapled on. I don’t know what exactly caused this, but the fact that the beginning of it, and some parts of the end, are so well-done says that this team could definitely make a hell of a film if they had a little bit more consistency towards the end. Since Goldsman’s next film is an adaptation of Firestarter by Stephen King, given the parts of this movie that worked, I think that movie should be amazing.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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