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.

Inferno

October 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster
Directed by: Ron Howard (“Angels & Demons,” “The Da Vinci Code”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Angels & Demons,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdon of the Crystal Skull”)

Call me a philistine if you will, but I, like a lot of people in the mid-2000s, enjoyed the novels of Dan Brown. With titles like “Digital Fortress” and “Deception Point,” it should be abundantly clear what you’re putting your hands on: mindless distraction during your lunch hour that, maybe, you can talk about with someone else once you’ve finished. To further illustrate my point, I’ve also read a vast majority of James Patterson’s nursery rhyme-themed novels featuring Alex Cross for reasons I don’t fully understand, beside the fact that I’d been doing so for the better part of two decades. The works of either author are far from being considered high art—and their film adaptations aren’t really any better.

Which brings us to “Inferno,” the third movie in the series that includes “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” from director Ron Howard (based on the fourth book—sorry, “The Lost Symbol”) featuring Tom Hanks as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, a somewhat milquetoast professor who is a world-renowned expert in solving intricate puzzles based on or embedded in Renaissance works of art. This time out, Langdon wakes up in a hospital bed in Florence, Italy, having apparently suffered a gunshot wound and retrograde amnesia. This is all according to his young doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) who actually recognized Langdon from a lecture she attended when she was nine years old. The two must make a hasty escape, though, when moments after Langdon awakes, an Italian police officer comes in shooting. Langdon and Sienna retreat to her apartment, where Langdon discovers some gizmo in his jacket that projects an altered image of Dante’s 7 layers of hell, peppered with clues by bizarre billionaire Betrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), hinting at the end of the world. You see, Zobrist has created a supervirus that will wipe out half of humanity in a matter of days so as to save the earth from overpopulation, and it’s up to a 60-year-old professor and his young English doctor sidekick to stop Zobrist—once they shake the jack-booted thugs the World Health Organization (!!!) sends gunning for them, that is.

While bereft of fun and weighing heavy with a sense of “let’s just get through this” obligation, “Inferno” falls squarely into the same category as “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” before it: inoffensive and forgettable. Howard and Hanks, who I’ve never thought was right for the role, must be making a mint off of all of this, and they both seem like super nice guys, so what’s the problem, right? Plus, Irrfan Khan seems to be having a good time (and if the script had any eyes on a continuing the series, would have been less beholden to his character’s inconsequential fate in the book) and seeing Felicity Jones is a good reminder of how excited you’ll be to see “Rogue One” in a couple of months. Just pretend the movie is like one of the many museums the characters visit: you’ll buy the ticket and hope the experience goes by as quickly as possible, and maybe you’ll share a small conversation about it with someone at work on Monday. It really is the best case scenario.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

January 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh (“Thor”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Premium Rush”) and Adam Cozad (debut)

Though remakes, reboots and franchises have been the latest trend in Hollywood, few have had the longevity and staying power of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. Dating back nearly 25 years and including actors such as Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford, this series has brought about a consistent stream of films. In an original story not based on a novel, “Star Trek” actor Chris Pine is the latest to take on the role of the Marine-turned-CIA agent in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.”

As an injured Marine, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is convinced by CIA agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) to become an undercover analyst in the CIA embedded in the financial world. As the Russians threaten to take down the U.S. stock market at the hands of Russian Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), Ryan must transform from analyst to operational to try to save the United States from danger.

From the first moments of the 9/11 attacks being shown as the impetus for Ryan’s enlistment of into the military, the audience is clued into “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” being a fresh reboot of a long standing franchise. For a fresh start, Pine is an inspired choice to take on Ryan. Relaying the tremendous amount of charisma and personality in the “Star Trek” films, Pine is a perfect candidate to take on any role, despite the committed relationship nature of Ryan being a little less fun than his womanizing role as Kirk. While Costner and Keira Knightley provide fine, if not ho-hum presences, this is Pine’s film to carry and he does so with an ability that could prove profitable for future films.

Ryan is an interesting action hero. He is seen in the film, very briefly, as a Marine, but quickly loses his strength and ability to even walk from an injury he sustains in Afghanistan. As an analyst forced into operational duty, Ryan’s training comes into prominence as he is forced to do actions outside of his pay grade. The result is a showing of pretty standard hand-to-hand combat and action scenes. Where the film succeeds is in its build up of tension during scenes where Ryan must infiltrate the Russian compound and fight to save his love. There are two major sequences that are successful in building up said tension, yet they never feel like scenes that are worthy enough to create a climax for the film.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” has its moments of intensity and intrigue that is strong enough to capture one’s attention during the course of the film. But with a finished and final product that feels a little incomplete overall, it is likely a film that is easily forgettable in the long run.

Premium Rush

August 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez
Directed by: David Koepp (“Ghost Town”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Ghost Town”) and John Kamps (“Ghost Town”)

There is an obvious reason the name of the main character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception”) in the new bicycle action/thriller “Premium Rush” is Wilee. With a couple of references to Wile E. Coyote from Looney Tunes, a narrative built around a 90-minute chase scene, and always-eccentric actor Michael Shannon (“Take Shelter”) over-exaggerating every bit of his awkward dialogue, the whole thing plays out like a caffeinated cartoon. It’s unfortunate, however, that no one gets tossed off a cliff or smashed with an oversized mallet.

“Premium Rush” rides hard, but without much direction. It’s the sort of movie Google Maps would make if they could cinematize their website. In the film, Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a New York City bike courier being pursued by Det. Bobby Monday (Shannon), a corrupt cop who is after a mysterious envelope Wilee is delivering across town. Up to his neck in debt with an underground gambling ring, Det. Monday must intercept the envelope to earn the cash he owes. It takes screenwriters David Koepp and John Kamps far too long to explain why Wilee getting to his destination is so important. When the big reveal comes, you’ll wonder why it took a whole hour to explain such a messy storyline.

While there are effective bike stunts featured throughout the movie and some kinetic camerawork that will make you feel like you’re riding on these characters’ bike spokes, “Premium Rush” wears out its welcome with close ups of peddles spinning, traffic lights blinking and a screenplay that allows anyone to get anywhere in NYC in five minutes. It’s true, these bike messengers are fast, but not Roadrunner fast.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

May 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Spider-Man”)

The idea worked with Sylvester Stallone when he got back into the ring as “Rocky Balboa” in 2006. It missed the mark when he returned this year for another “Rambo.” Resurrecting a film series after its last movie hit theaters more than 15 years ago seems to be the hippest thing to do in Hollywood these days. So, when director Steven Spielberg was attached to a fourth installment of “Indiana Jones” (the last one, “The Last Crusade,” premiered in 1989), it really was no surprise, especially in a cinematic day and age where original screenplays are about as hard to find as Indy artifacts.

What is a bit astonishing, however, is how very aged this series feels with the newest edition of the epic adventure “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” No, we’re not talking about the fact that Harrison Ford is returning as the title character at the age of 65. Instead, it feels worn out because there isn’t any type of evolution after almost 20 years. Where “Rocky Balboa” developed was in the way it changed from over-the-top choreographed boxing matches to realistic pay-per-view bouts. And although the recent “Rambo” lacked in story, no one can deny that the violence in this one made the first three look as vicious as Estelle Getty packing heat in “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!”

In “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” Ford dusts off his fedora and goes on a search for an ancient, Mayan crystal skull said to have mystical powers. Actually, it is a group of Soviet KGB agents who want to get their hands on the skull and have forced the professor of archeology to come along for the ride. Leading the Russian antagonists is Irina Splako (Cate Blanchett), a dominatrix-looking (grab that whip Indy!), Ukrainian-sounding Soviet who kidnaps Jonsey and forces him to help her solve the skull’s secrets.

Set in the 1950’s (“Last Crusade” takes place in the late 30’s), Indiana is flanked this time by Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a huffy, motorcycle-riding greaser who comes to Indy when his grandfather (John Hurt), an old colleague of Jones, goes missing in Peru while searching for the lost city of gold.

Following the same exact formula as the prior films, we are given all the creepy-crawling bugs, blazing chase scenes, and basic humor the previous trio delivered. It’s a step slower, however, as screenwriter David Koepp mismatches genres and add some sci-fi to the mix, which really doesn’t work to the film’s advantage. There’s no question that Steven Spielberg knows his extraterrestrials (“E.T.,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “A.I.,” and “War of the Worlds”), but in “Crystal Skulls” the supernatural, alien storyline becomes careless and flat.

It’s been nearly 20 years since Indy fought Nazis in “Last Crusade” and Spielberg has gone on to bigger and better things (“Schindler’s List,” “Jurassic Park,” “Minority Report”). It’s almost like Spielberg has found his high school letterman toward the back of his closet and tried it on just for the heck of it. Sadly, it doesn’t fit. It might be nice to remember the good times, but with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” only the biased albeit faithful fans will enjoy another less-impressive journey.