The Mummy

June 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman (“People Like Us”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”) & Christopher McQuarrie (“Edge of Tomorrow”) & Dylan Kussman (debut)

I have fond memories of 1999’s “The Mummy” starring Brendan Fraser. As a goofy knock-off Indiana Jones for the CGI age, the film opened weeks before “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” and people were already camped out to buy tickets for that when I left my first screening of “The Mummy.” One of the friends I saw “The Mummy” with ducked out to wait in that very line. Oh, and the movie was fun, too—junky and shallow, sure, but fun. There’s even a pretty fun roller coaster based on it at Universal Studios!

Anyway, here we are 18 years later, and now a reboot/remake/secret sequel(?) of “The Mummy” is here, set in modern times to kick off a Universal Monsters cinematic series—dubbed the Dark Universe—which will allegedly feature an Avengers/Justice League-style team-up featuring the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolfman. And Universal is bringing the big guns to the fight, casting Tom Cruise as the lead, but unfortunately the movie wrapped around him is a mess.

Cruise plays Nick Morton, who the script would have us believe is a criminal U.S. soldier in Iraq, a tomb-robbing looter, stealing artifacts from historical sites with his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) and selling them on the black market. When they deviate from a mission to check out a potential location to swipe antiquities from, Nick and Chris become pinned down by enemy gunfire. A last-second airstrike saves them, and opens up an ancient Egyptian tomb in the process—which clearly doesn’t belong in Iraq. Enter Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who along with Nick and Chris enter the tomb to explore it and, in the process, reactivate an ancient, too-evil-to-bury-in-Egypt mummy named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), and she’s looking for a mate. Since he’s the one that released her, Nick becomes cursed, able to survive a plane crash and lots of brutal punishment at the hands of Ahmanet’s reanimated goons. He also becomes the target of Prodigium, a sort of magic-focus SHIELD led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), looking to rid the world of monsters.

First things first, this is a Tom Cruise movie, and he’s absolutely the wrong choice. The notion that we buy into Cruise playing a war criminal is ludicrous at first, and the script, credited to three writers and three more with “story by” credits, doesn’t ever seem to be comfortable committing to the notion of Cruise’s Nick being a real shitbag. There are flashes of humor, much of it on Jake Johnson’s capable shoulders, but the film stops dead when Dr. Jekyll (sigh) shows up to exposition the whole thing into a sarcophagus. At least the Brendan Fraser movies were fun. Universal would be wise to remember that.

Star Trek Into Darkness

May 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Damon Lindelof (“Prometheus”)

Already having given audiences the best “Mission Impossible” film of the series with the third installment in 2006 and the best “Star Trek” movie with his hip revamp in 2009, director J.J. Abrams attempts to top himself again by joining up with the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” a solid follow-up to Abrams’ first foray into space seven years ago. It’s more proof that you don’t have to be a Klingon-speaking geekboy to find this franchise one of the more fascinating big-budget sci-fi projects to hit the mainstream in the last four or five years.

Of course, if you are one of those hardcore “Star Trek” fans that won’t be happy with the shape of Mr. Spock’s ears in comparison to Leonard Nimoy’s or looking forward to nitpicking any number of creative choices Abrams makes that are different from the original TV show, then it’s probably best if you stay home and Netflix “The Trouble with Tribbles.” This isn’t your grandfather’s “Star Trek.” For those interested in another fresh take from Abrams and have the open-mindedness to let things go, then “Into Darkness” just might be the popcorn movie of the pre-summer.

Working loosely off 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which is what most “Star Trek” aficionados agree is the best of the original films, we join the crew of the Enterprise as they search for John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former commander who has gone rogue. On his trail and reprising their roles from the 2009 film are Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, who was recently relieved and then reinstated as Captain; Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock; Zoe Saldana as Uhura; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Anton Yelchin as Chekov; and Alice Eve as new and attractive science officer Carol Marcus. When they catch up to Harrison on a Klingon planet, the crew is shocked to learn there is more to their manhunt than simply eliminating a powerful villain.

Aside from the outstanding action sequences and set pieces that packed its predecessor, “Into Darkness” also takes an effective emotional turn with the relationship between Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. Kirk’s massive ego and bullheaded nature and Spock’s reluctance to break regulation frame their interaction very well. Pine and Quinto once again take command of the characters in the same way William Shatner and Nimoy did in the late 60s. Sorry, purists, but those roles are theirs now.

With today’s technology catching up to Gene Roddenberry’s creation, the universe feels even more volatile, which makes for an exciting adventure with this crew. Who knows how long Abrams will stay on board (now that he’s been dubbed to lead the new “Star Wars” movie in 2015), but he’s laid some great groundwork for a dozen more and has taken the storytelling to a place few directors have gone before.

Cowboys & Aliens

July 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”)
Written by: Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”), Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Mark Fergus (“Iron Man”), Hawk Otsby (“Iron Man”), Damon Lindelof (debut)

Throughout movie theaters across the country, the trailer for “Cowboys and Aliens” was met with uproarious laughter when the title card was revealed. Although seemingly not any more preposterous of a plot than a teenager infused with spider DNA, audiences chuckled incredulously. With audiences laughing at the mere concept of the film, there was added pressure on director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) to keep a serious tone and to strike a convincing balance between the western and sci-fi genre. What we actually get is a film with no true identity.

The film opens with Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) waking up in the middle of a desert not knowing where or who he is and with a strange device attached to his wrist. When he heads into the nearest town, Lonergan discovers that he is a wanted criminal and is set to be turned over to the feds. While Jake is intercepted by the begrudging Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), aliens attack the town of Absolution, taking many of its residents with it. Though confused and shocked by the events, Jake, Colonel, the mysterious Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), and others band together to go on a rescue mission to fight the alien race and recover their loved ones who have been abducted.

For a film starring two strong actors and a supporting cast to match, the acting in “Cowboys and Aliens” is incredibly flat. Both Craig and Ford seem to be going through the motions, giving plastic performances with only a few explosive moments. Not even the always-dependable Sam Rockwell (“Moon”) can muster a memorable performance.  However, the actors are not totally at fault here. With a cheesy, cliché-ridden script, the writers (five accredited ones to be exact) take a solid cast and give them nothing to do with their characters. No effort is made to give us a reason to root for these people other than the obvious “us vs. them” reasoning.

One of the biggest problems surrounding “Cowboys and Aliens” is that it attempts to combine two genres, and in the process fails on being a good version of either. The Western elements are not nearly compelling enough. While the familiar costumes and sets are there, the swagger and strong characters of true Westerns are sadly missing. The film incorporates its sci-fi elements with generic and predictable action beats, there for the sole purpose of showing the aliens and what they can do. It has the same tired and predictable sci-fi moments that you’ve seen a hundred times before.  You know when an alien is going to meet its end and you know when some unsuspecting human is going to get snatched.  It’s been done before, and in much more interesting ways. When coupled with some spotty CGI work, the end product is a film that turns out being a mediocre sci-fi movie set in the Old West.

But beyond all of its shortcomings at mashing genres and at a run time of about two hours, the biggest problem is that “Cowboys and Aliens” is unnecessarily long-winded and isn’t very much fun. It relies so heavily on mesmerizing you with its visuals that no care is given to the story.  And while the trailer provided audiences with laughs, the actual film is more likely to produce yawns.

Transformers 2

June 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro
Directed by: Michael Bay (“Transformers”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”)

The robot war wages on in the inevitable summer blockbuster that is “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” While the 2007 film may have filled a void for fans of the 80’s animated TV series and Hasbro action figures, director Michael Bay and crew prove that bigger, louder, and more obnoxious isn’t always better when it comes to nonstop action sequels. Who knew endless explosions and computer-generated combat could be so tedious?

In “Revenge of the Fallen,” actor Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Whitwicky, the geeky high school kid in the original who is now on his way to college and looking forward to putting the intergalactic battle of two years ago behind him. Sam wants a regular life and even goes as far as leaving his beloved Camaro Bumblebee in his parent’s garage. Even more irrational, he leaves his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) behind and hopes occasional web chats will be enough for their relationship to survive a long first semester.

Sam goes to school just long enough to meet his roommate, Leo Spitz (Ramón Rodríguez), a conspiracy theorist who runs his own website on the subject. Before Sam realizes it, the two shape-shifting robot species, the Autobots and the Decepticons, begin to butt machine parts again in an attempt to save the universe and destroy the universe respectively.

In the sequel, many of the same robots are back. You can’t have a “Transformer” movie without leaders Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving). For diehard fans, more advanced characters rear their metal heads on screen including Jetfire, Sideswipe, Soundwave and, of course, The Fallen, who is considered one of the original and evilest Transformers. There are also annoying additions to the CGI cast like Mudflap and Skids, who are about as funny as electric shock therapy.

Aside from the chaotic and devastatingly long script penned by return writing team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and newcomer Ehren Kruger (“The Ring”), “Revenge of the Fallen” is brash and boring and exactly what you would expect from director Bay, whose cinematic track record is consistent at best. It’s always the same with Bay. There is no volume button; no room to breathe; no climax. Everything he does is in one whirling motion where by the end of it you feel more scatty than satisfied.

It might be a visual bonanza when you can actually tell what’s going on as the robots fight to the death (that’s probably why we see more slow-motion action in places where you can’t distinguish one metal appendage from another), but “Revenge of the Fallen,” like its predecessor, is a meaningless diversion that’s an hour too long and devoid of any human value or emotion.

Star Trek

May 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible 3”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Transformers”) and Alex Kurtzman (“Tranformers”)

Welcome me with open arms Trekkies worldwide.

While I may not know the difference between photon and polaron torpedoes and can’t speak a lick of Klingon, the new J.J. Abrams-helmed “Star Trek” has created a new fan – at least of the most recent film.

Commanding the Starship Enterprise is a young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), the son of a former captain whose reign was short-lived after being attacked by a Romulan ship the night his wife gave birth to James. Leading the enemy ship throughout the film is Nero (an unrecognizable Eric Bana), a Romulan who wants nothing more than to make anyone he comes in contact with suffer, especially the Vulcan race.

The back stories to the most influential characters of the series, including Kirk, Spock, and “Bones” McCoy are extremely fascinating. Give credit to screenwriting team Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman of the overblown “Transformers” movie for reenergizing this franchise. With so much material to work with in “Star Trek” folklore, Orci and Kurtzman do well in dabbling in both the old and the new aspects of what has made the franchise popular for so long.

As the new half human-half Vulcan Spock, actor Zachary Quinto is spot on, not only with his pointy-eared look but when what he brings to the character. The scenes he shares with the original Spock (Leonord Nimoy) are well-written and fit in nicely with the new story. The most important thing about this small cameo is that Nimoy doesn’t feel like he was thrown in as a gimmick. His contribution to the film is integral and Abrams uses the short time he has with him to expand the story by light years.

Once Kirk enlists in the Starfleet, “Star Trek” never lingers. It’s an extraordinary action film complete with impressive special effects and solid performances by the entire cast.