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Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: The Mummy (2017)

Horror-wood 3

mummy posterHonestly, there is no reason this movie should be given a spotlight on this blog-a-thon. However, it does tie into the theme of “cult classics” (somehow) and the Universal Studio Monsters franchise is normally watched around Halloween. On top of that, I’m certain EVERYONE had something to say about this dusty turkey. And yet, if I had to toss my two cents in, The Mummy is without a doubt, on my roster, for being the worst movie of 2017.

Let’s back up a little and talk about some history. Universal Studios has been desperate in every way to try and bring new life to their horror themed franchise. Back in the 1930s, movies about Dracula, Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera and many others are what put the studio on the map.  These are iconic pictures that leave a lasting impact upon the public, regardless if one doesn’t like black and white features. There is a glowing haunting impact that is still left from the ideas and building atmosphere.

Universal Studios has been toying with their creature features for a long time. I can’t tell you how many times they tried to get a Creature from the Black Lagoon remake off the ground. Even John Carpenter nearly got the chance to helm it; that is if a certain Invisible Man movie with Chevy Chase didn’t bomb at the box-office. Bottom line, this studio has been trying. They tried a new Wolfman in 2010, it didn’t do very well. They tried to give Dracula an origin story, it did moderately well, yet critics put a stake right into it.

Now, the new plan was to reboot everything and create a shared universe along the lines of Marvel Studios. Not a bad idea, but there is one crucial problem. In order to achieve it, you need to introduce your monsters individual first. Give Marvel some credit, it took time and effort to establish who their superheros were and why are they all connected. It made the debut of The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble in International waters) the more satisfying seeing characters we already saw. The concept of a shared universe seemed not needed when you consider there already exists a movie with all the monsters meeting (more on that later in the month).

Come the summer of 2017, a string of sequels and reboots that never seemed to catch on with some exceptions. Arriving to the big screen is The Mummy, a movie Universal Studios is confident will be a huge hit and ignite a massive interest in making a shared universe. And let me tell you, for a movie called The Mummy, it’s sad to see it plays out more like a 2 hour trailer for a franchise as opposed to a standalone feature.

the-mummy3Every problem can be summed up in the opening. First, there is a 30-second flashback to Medieval Times were knights hide a powerful ruby. Cut to modern times where a group of FBI-like agents find a tomb carrying said ruby. Then, it flashes back to show the origin of the mummy and how she came to be. What should be a simple introduction is really a massive exposition dump. There is too much being addressed and it doesn’t know what information is crucial to the narrative. It literally throws everything at you and expects a sense of understanding.

So, now your probably asking how is the rest of the movie? Well, here’s a hint. Notice how the focus of this article is about Universal’s choice to make a franchise. When you boil down to it, there isn’t much of a movie, or a story, to discuss. Tom Cruise is a treasure raider who finds a mummy, mummy curses him in a weird set up that sounds stolen from Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, Russell Crowe shows up as Dr. Jekyll to talk about a set of agents who prevent monsters from going loose and that’s it.

the-mummy-russell-crowe-dr-jekyllEverything I summed up in that small paragraph is all you need to know. Sure there are things I didn’t talk about like the performances, a subplot involving a dead friend that is taken from An American Werewolf In London, the complex origins of the mummy that make no sense, the rampage on London near the end and the obvious tie-ins to “future entries.” Honestly, who cares? If Mummy just stuck to one story line, it would have been fine. Instead, it feels like different scripts were bunch into one and then hacked down with a chainsaw. All we get is a set of shreds that don’t add up. Stuff happens, but there is rarely any connection.

I tried to think of anything positive about this movie and I could only come up with two things. Tom Cruise plays the lead and, regardless of ego, he tries to be entertaining. His performance goes for a very goofy-action hero tone that matches Brendan Fraser, but it feels weird knowing he’s more equipped when it comes to spy movies. And for what little we see of Sofia Boutella, she tries to bring a sense of menace to her take of the mummy. Under all the poor CGI effects they paint over her face, she is really trying to stand out. Unfortunately, her presence is literally buried under Cruise’s rampant ego and “too many cooks” trying to steer this popcorn flick.

la-et-film-title-the-mummy-20161205I really can’t even do much justice to recommend this train wreck. Your better off seeing the original 1932 Mummy with Boris Karloff. That one was more scary in atmosphere and selling the concept of reincarnation. Why can’t we have a movie like that anymore? A horror film that sells on scaring you with atmospheric tone and concept as opposed to jump scares. I’m certain there are some out there, but I can only imagine how few there are. This movie is pure proof that certain executives can’t keep up with the times on what audiences want. A lesson that is learned again and again as time goes on. Just when Hollywood thinks they know what people want, they come out with a movie too late once that previous obsession has died down. We are pass the bar of shared universes. Some can work, but this one doesn’t.

Avoid at all costs.

 

“MI: Rogue Nation” is the best one yet

The stakes are raised and its for the better!

The stakes are raised and its for the better!

The “Mission Impossible” franchise is far different from the ordinary spy thrillers or even the Bond films for that matter. For the past entries, there is a certain formula it has been following even right from the first film. Have one intense set piece after another and care little of the plot. This is very clear in the first film as most of the story is hard to follow but it depends on how well you pay attention in order to connect the dots. “Rogue Nation” is a step up as it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where it improves.

Tom Cruise is back as Ethan Hunt and honestly, the series is nothing without him. Tom’s commitment to the stunt work really shows that no matter what hurdle his character comes across, there’s a way to achieve it. This is clear in the opening heist when Ethan finds himself hanging on for dear life to a cargo plane taking off into the air. There is something very refreshing to see a practical stunt at play and shows how brave some actors can be to ditch the blue screen. Dare I say Ethan’s character feels more like a daredevil than a spy at times but how many moments he puts this life on the life. Truly a vast improvement of the character.

Another big highlight that is worth the admission price is Simon Pegg as Benji. The tech wiz is back and more prominent than ever. What works well is Simon’s chemistry between Tom as comedy clashes with action in a beautiful yet very entertaining way. When these two banter on screen, it never drags and establishes where they stand. Benji is almost like Ethan’s conscious trying to veer him from this dangerous stuff even when he knows the only way to perform the dangerous task is to do it. There is never a moment that went by when I wished the comedy between them would end. It perfectly blends solid character depth and comedy that is better than any buddy cop movie to date.

The plot is a near improvement but I still feel less is more. A mysterious man known as the Syndicate (Sean Harris) plans to cause an uproar around the world even when he’s already doing it. Despite the amount of build up to this antagonist and a near chilling performance, I felt there should have been more scenes with him to establish the menace more. I also say near chilling because at times Sean’s voice feels like a whispery Marlon Brando that is trying to be eerie and sinister. It just came off a touch bothersome but then again, the focus is on our leads more than the problem.

Rebecca Freguson also joins the ride as Ilsa Faust, a spy that is attempting to gain back her place in the world while serving as help to Ethan. The chemistry between these two is sleek and sexier than Mr. and Mrs. Smith by how much they play off each other. One or the other knows they are in for a double cross as they try to remain one step ahead while showing how much they care for each other. As Ilsa fights for an identity, you keep asking just who side she is one while admiring the romance and how clever she can be in a tight situation.

The biggest highlight of these movies are the stunts and boy, they outdo every single one from the past films. To mark down each one would be ruining a child’s Christmas gifts the day before so I will only use one as an example. There’s an scene when Ethan and Benji have to stop an assassination at a opera house in Vienna, Austria. In a sense, the way its filmed rivals the finale to The Godfather Part III (which I feel is criminally underrated thank you very much) as the fist fights and operatic score match the action on screen. A perfect blend of art and blockbuster fun that rivals Mad Max: Fury Road.

From each action set piece that comes by and for every gadget that is seen, I never wanted “Rogue Nation” to end. In fact, the climax is far different from the usual “blow up” as we get a much quiet alternative. Some might want something to top the helicopter subway tunnel chase from the first film, but this ending works too. I won’t spoil too much but it leaves the door open for another entry than rather end with a bang and wonder how they will think of a way to top the last entry.

Let me tell you, this summer has been an explosive one and if I had to pick three movies that were the “cream of the crop,” they would be Mad Max: Fury Road, Jurassic World and this one. In terms of which one delivered more, surprisingly this one. While I was highly satisfied with an amusement park of dinosaurs and an artistic apocalypse, I felt there was more to “Rogue Nation” that had me sold. You have great performances, a perfect balance between humor and drama along with the right amount of explosions and intense stunt work to give you the perfect summer movie. Should you choose to accept that ticket to this must see flick is on your part but I couldn’t be more happy to see a nearly flawless action film.

Rental Corner: “Edge of Tomorrow” silly sci-fi taken serious

Watch. Suffer. Critique.

Watch. Suffer. Critique.

The current DVD and Blu-ray cover of “Edge of Tomorrow” has done something rather strange lately. Instead of posting the title of the movie in its glory, the tagline “Live. Die. Repeat.” appears to be centered as the focus. Almost like they wanted that to be the title of the film while its real one is down in the far bottom in tiny lettering. After seeing this movie, I can imagine why Warner Bros would try to “re-title” its film by means of addressing the tagline more than the real title. It even appears on the disc label almost in a way its trying to cover up just unbelievable bad this film gets. Which is sad because it has a good idea in place but only if it was executed right.

Tom Cruise is  Major Cage, a public relations officer living in a post-apocalyptic Eurpoe where aliens have crash landed and consumed a good portion of the Earth. The human armies are trying all they can to prevent total extintction by somehow the aliens creatures called “Mimics” seem to be one step ahead of them. Cage somehow gets recruited under force to fight among the soldiers but when killing an alien, it somehow causes a time loop.

The gimmick is that each time Cage dies, he keeps repeating the same day and going through the same things from waking up in a military base to finding that alien race is far more advanced. This is sort of a science fiction version of Groundhog Day that has some promise but I couldn’t help but laugh a little every time Cage repeats a day. Maybe its the unintentional nature but something is just funny about how a man keeps reliving the same day under different casualties. And there are times when his multiple deaths feel like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon but more head scratching is how many times this character has to keep track of the different outcomes in order to stay alive. Its like he needs a pen and pad of paper to keep track of the actions.

Honestly, I would be fine with this if they didn’t give an explanation for the time loop. Cage later meets up with a Sergeant played by Emily Blunt who experienced the same problem he did. Apparently, one of the “mimics” he kills was an alpha and after being hit with its blood has to experience the same day again and again with the only option is to kill the Omega Mimic to ensure humanity is saved. Again, I address this. The blood of an alien is the reason for these time loops as these creatures are one step ahead of the human race and constantly use time to know when they will attack and be ahead. Even reading this on paper, I can’t believe how silly it sounds. Even the aliens are uninspired as they look like leftovers from the Matrix as a batch of mechanical tentacles and bizarre metal bone structure that looks to over used.

“Edge of Tomorrow” has some decent performances but I still can’t get over just how silly the execution is. From what I head, this was based on a Japanese light novel called All You Need Is Kill and from what I read up on it, sounds a tad more interesting than its live-action counterpart here. Perhaps somethings got lost in translation but “Edge” just feels like a video game that keeps getting reset. And when you repeat a level on a video game, you grow tired of the repetition playing that difficult level to the point you abandon it for something else. That’s the feeling I get from this movie. It doesn’t take many risks as Cage walks through the danger knowing if harm comes, he can always relive it. And again, you really have to be so smart to remember EVERYTHING in order to end the time loop. Without giving too much away, there is a risk factor at the end when he losses his time loop power knowing if he dies for real then humanity is doom but I already feel exhausted at this point. Somewhere there is a good movie here but with all the repeated deaths and dull “end of the world” dystopia theme that has been exploited over these years, the final product is more laughable than something thought provoking.

Box Office: “Fault” scores big while “Edge” is a sci-fi blow

The Fault in Our Stars was a surprise hit this weekend taking in the top spot with $48 million. Considering the recent pattern and franchise debuts that came in May, this is a huge surprise. But if one takes into effect that popularity of the book (which has over 10 million copies in print), one could be assured just how big this would catch on. Also, its successfully managed to reach its target audience that being of young women. According to Fox Studios, about 82% of viewers were female and about 79%were under the age of 25. Even the opening weekend gross compared to The Vow ($41.2 million) and Dear John ($30.5 million), this marked a new high in romantic films.

But not all new openers can be big hits. Tom Cruise and his latest sci-fi epic shows critical praise with  but something went wrong. It ended up taking third place with $28.8 million which is even lower than John Carter ($30.2 million) and even Elysium ($29.8 million). Perhaps one can pinpoint this on the marketing for making it look like another grimy-war like future epic that we have seen before. That or perhaps the star power of Tom Cruise is unfortunately dwindling. Or maybe it bared too many similar traits to Oblivion from last year. Either way, this will be a hard one to see cross the $100 million mark that is if word of mouth will boost it.

In other news, Maleficent took the second spot with $34.3 million and has earned $128.2 million in the domestic ranks. X-Men: Days of Future Past dropped to fourth place with $15.2 million with $189.6 million domestically. And lastly, A Million Ways to Die In the West is literally dying hard with a really dismal drop to 5th place, a weekend gross of $7.3 million and has so far earned only $30.3 million domestically. Seth better be ready to bounce back because there is short chance this one will reach the $50 million mark.

Overall, this is not a bad start to June as we are only warming up.