The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Review

Synopsis
Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford), trying to escape the shadow of his famous parents Rick (Brendan Frasier) and Evelyn (Maria Bello) O’Connell, locates the cursed first Emperor of Qin (Jet Li) in China. However, General Yang (Anthony Chau-Sang Wong) is also after the Emperor to resurrect him to rule the world. When the Emperor is awakened, the O’Connells must once again stop a terrible evil from taking over the world.

Review
It seems that in today’s movie landscape, studios try to milk their successful franchises for every cent they can. Brendan Frasier’s Mummy series is one such casualty. Released seven years after The Mummy Returns, Universal brings Rick O’Connell (Frasier) out of retirement to once again battle a mummy, one that is not Imhotep this time, and does so with a different creative team. The results, as you might guess, are a bit of a mixed bag.

The mummy this time, known as The Emperor, is played by Jet Li, who does well with such a one-dimensional character. Although his good performance might be because the role is much more action-heavy this time than Arnold Vosloo’s role as the mummy and Li excels at such action sequences. However, the character seemed to lack any motivation except for personal power, which is pretty generic. I wasn’t expecting anything deep from this sort of film but at least Imhotep’s actions were fueled by his love for Anck-Su-Namun.

Rachel Weisz did not return for this film. Instead, the role of Evelyn was played by Maria Bello. As Evy, I don’t think Bello did a bad job. She held her own during the action sequences and I don’t really have anything negative about her acting. However, throughout the entire movie, there was this small feeling like there was something off. She merely lacked the chemistry Weisz did with Frasier. It felt like they were simply going through the motions and didn’t feel like they were having as much fun together as Frasier and Weisz did. Although, Bello did have a good introduction scene which clearly noted she was not the same Evy as before.

Speaking of no chemistry, an older Alex O’Connell (who lost his English accent somewhere over the years) is played by Luke Ford. Alex forms a relationship with Lin (Isabella Leong), a protector of the Emperor’s tomb because how dare there be a young, handsome man in an action movie who doesn’t have a love interest. Like Frasier and Bello, Ford and Leong lack the chemistry to make their characters’ relationship feel genuine. That’s not even including the writing that makes it feel forced. Their entire relationship feels shoehorned in because they wanted a new couple by the end of the film.

I think this movie’s biggest flaw, though, is that it lacks the fun the previous two Mummy movies possessed. It is much more action-oriented than the previous films and lacking the comedy element. Which is not entirely a bad thing since there are plenty of action movies that don’t have a comedic component. However, there was a sense of whimsical fun the other films had that made them extremely entertaining, even if slightly campy. There is just too much seriousness in this film for the franchise it is a part of.

I thought The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was OK 😐 As an action movie, it’s pretty good but when it is compared as a Mummy movie to the rest in the series, it doesn’t hold up. The sense of fun feels left behind and there is a lack of chemistry between the actors. This is one franchise where the studio should have left well enough alone.

Also read my reviews for The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rob Cohen – Director
Alfred Gough – Writer
Miles Miller – Writer
Randy Edelman – Composer

Brendan Frasier – Rick O’Connell
Maria Bello – Evelyn O’Connell
John Hannah – Jonathan Carnahan
Luke Ford – Alex O’Connell
Isabella Leong – Lin
Michelle Yeoh – Zi Yuan
Jet Li – Emperor
Anthony Chau-Sang Wong – General Yang
Jessey Meng – Choi
Liam Cunningham – β€œMad Dog” Maguire
David Calder – Roger Wilson

Lightning Review: The Mummy (2017)

The Mummy (2017) movie posterSynopsis
Nick Morrison (Tom Cruise) and his friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) accidentally uncover the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient Egyptian princess who had been buried for fear of her supernatural powers. When Ahmanet’s powers begin to return, Nick is chosen to finish the ritual Ahmanet started before she was entombed and he is thrust into an unknown world of monsters and dark creatures.

Review
As a cinefile, it is usually very easy to say whether or not I liked a movie but sometimes it can be hard to determine the why. This is the case for me with The Mummy. On the surface, it has many elements that I like in a film. Tom Cruise brings excitement to the action scenes. Jake Johnson, one of my favorite actors from New Girl, is a good comedic relief character, even if he does seem slightly out of place. The gorgeous Sofia Boutella as the titular mummy has an air of terror around her and gives a horror factor to the movie. So there are all these film elements that I enjoy, so why didn’t I enjoy this one? Maybe the issue is that I didn’t know what kind of movie I was watching. There were action pieces, humorous moments, and horror situations. There were all of these components that I couldn’t figure out what this movie was trying to do. Was it trying to be exciting? Scary? Funny? Individually, these parts are good and enjoyable here but when put together, they lose their strength and make for an inconsistent experience.

I thought The Mummy was OK 😐 When I hear β€œThe Mummy,” I always think of the 1999 Brendan Frasier version. What keeps bringing me back to that version is it is adventurous and fun and cheesy and it knows it and embraces it. This movie tries to incorporate some of that but also tries to go back to its horror roots of the 1930s original. The final product is a movie that doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be and it hurts the overall experience.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alex Kurtzman – Director / Story
David Koepp – Screenplay
Christopher McQuarrie – Screenplay
Dylan Kussman – Screenplay
Jon Spaihts – Story
Jenny Lumet – Story
Brian Tyler – Composer

Tom Cruise – Nick Morton
Annabelle Wallis – Jenny Halsey
Sofia Boutella – Ahmanet
Jake Johnson – Chris Vail
Russell Crowe – Dr. Henry Jekyll
Courtney B. Vance – Colonel Greenway
Marwan Kenzari – Malik

Here’s Jack Blogathon 2017: A Few Good Men

Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, is a huge fan of Jack Nicholson. To celebrate, she has invited bloggers to review as many Nicholson films as possible.Β A Few Good Men is my entry into her three-day celebration. Click on the banner below to head over to her site to see the rest of the blogathon entries for today.

A Few Good Men movie posterHere's Jack Blogathon 2017 BannerSynopsis
Navy defense attorney Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), along with JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) and Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack), are assigned to prove that Harold Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and Louden Downey (James Marshall), two marines accused of murder, are innocent and were merely acting under orders.

Review
I will begin by saying courtroom dramas aren’t really my type of movie. I don’t find them very exciting and think more often than not they are fairly predicable. A Few Good Men is a perfect example of this. Story-wise, I didn’t feel invested in the case that the three attorneys were working on. And honestly, I didn’t care for Tom Cruise’s character, Daniel Kaffee. He is the skilled-but-arrogant character that Cruise played often earlier in his career but it doesn’t feel like he grows very much by the end of the film. His biggest step is actually taking the case instead of trying to make a deal and that happens fairly early. Which brings me to my next point: this movie feels too long. Although, that might be because I just wanted to get through the movie quicker since I wasn’t very interested.

The only thing that really kept me invested in this film was the cast. The main three, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Kevin Pollak, had such great chemistry. Despite my lack of interest in Cruise’s character, I enjoyed his performance. He brought a lot of energy and emotion to the part. The same goes for Moore. Her performance was so emotionally driven that she made for a good counterpart to Cruise. The dialogue between Cruise, Moore, and Pollak felt very real and genuine. Kudos to Aaron Sorkin for writing such believable, and not too ridiculous banter, between the leads. Despite not being in the film for much time, Jack Nicholson is the standout of this movie. The final scene with Nicholson and Cruise battling it out in the courtroom was absolutely riveting and almost made up for the dullness of the rest of the film.

I thought A Few Good Men was OK 😐 My lack of interest in courtroom dramas aside, I found this to be somewhat enjoyable. Although I didn’t much care for Cruise’s character and felt it ran a little longer than necessary, the performances from all of the actors, especially from the main three and Jack Nicholson, kept my attention long enough to finish watching.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rob Reiner – Director
Aaron Sorkin – Writer
Marc Shaiman – Composer

Tom Cruise – Lt. Daniel Kaffee
Demi Moore – Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway
Kevin Pollak – Lt. (J.G.) Sam Weinberg
Kevin Bacon – Capt. Jack Ross
Jack Nicholson – Col. Nathan R. Jessup
Kiefer Sutherland – 2nd Lt. Jonathan Kendrick
JT Walsh – Lt. Col. Matthew Andrew Markinson
Wolfgang Bodison – Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson
James Marshall – Pfc. Louden Downey
JA Preston – Judge Julius Alexander Randolph

Lightning Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell movie posterSynopsis
Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A perfect human / machine hybrid. However, she has no recollection of her past before becoming the weapon she is today. When she confronts a mysterious terrorist known as Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt), she soon begins looking for answers about the truth of who she really is.

Review
Ghost in the Shell had the difficult task of luring in fans of both the original 1995 animated film and proceeding anime of the same name, as well as a new audience. Because I have yet to see the original film, I fall into the latter, but found myself right away getting drawn into the movie’s world. What hooked me in the beginning was its fantastic science-fiction neo-noir version of Tokyo. The bright colors from the advertisements, signs, cars, and lights create a stark contrast against the more muted-colored buildings. When it comes to sci-fi films, I like to be sold on the world it is looking to create. Almost every character has some sort of cybernetic enhancement and this movie shows how integral these enhancements have become in this world. Say what you will about Scarlett Johansson being cast as Major, she did a great job in the role. She made her movements rigid and less fluid than what you are used to seeing. This motion sold that she had a robotic body despite her appearance as flesh and blood.

As philosophical as this movie wanted to be, it never fully examined the themes it was trying to bring across. They were touched on and hinted at several times through the film but it still felt like the message or commentary it was trying to provide was not delved into as deeply as this movie thought it was. I think it is funny that this is the case because a lot of time was spent on exposition. However, it never seemed to move past a superficial level or into any deep exploration of its themes. This also made the movie feel like it was often not going anywhere because there wasn’t enough action to make up for the lack of depth. It’s a shame these ideas never found much ground because the concepts of artificial intelligence and identity are very interesting to me.

I thought Ghost in the Shell was OK 😐 Its futuristic neo-noir world is extremely well realized and Scarlett Johansson was great casting as Major but despite much of its run time is spent on exposition, the themes and commentary it was trying to bring across aren’t explored past high-level concepts. This movie isn’t bad by any means, but there are flickers of good ideas that never came to fruition to make it something special.

Trivia
Several original voice actors from the 1995 animated Ghost in the Shell reprise their roles for the Japanese dubbed version of this film. Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, and Koichi Yamadera voice their parts as Major, Batou, and Togusa respectively.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rupert Sanders – Director
Jamie Moss – Screenplay
William Wheeler – Screenplay
Ehren Kruger – Screenplay
Lorne Balfe – Composer
Clint Mansell – Composer

Scarlett Johansson – Major
Pilou Asbaek – Batou
Takeshi Kitano – Aramaki
Juliette Binoche – Dr. Ouelet
Michael Carmen Pitt – Kuze
Chin Han – Togusa
Danusia Samal – Ladriya
Lasarus Ratuere – Ishikawa
Yutaka Izumihara – Saito
Tawanda Manyimo – Borma
Peter Ferdinando – Cutter
Anamaria Marinca – Dr. Dahlin

Lightning Review: Predator 2

Predator 2 movie posterSynopsis
In 1997 Los Angeles , Lieutenant Harrigan (Donald Glover) is in the middle of a gang war when, unbeknownst to him, he is targeted by a Predator (Kevin Peter Hall). He must figure out why his squad members are disappearing while dealing with a government official, Special Agent Peter Keyes (Gary Busey), who is taking over his investigation of the cartels.

Review
One of Predator‘s strongest features is its simplicity. A team of commandos is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Predator 2 tries to keep the same simplicity but in an urban jungle instead of a lush, green one. It’s an interesting concept to move to such a dramatically different environment but I don’t think the film fully took advantage of the setting. Maybe it was the way the Predator hunted this time wasn’t as exhilarating or maybe it was the film’s pacing. Either way, I didn’t feel the suspense I felt in the previous movie. The film has a good cast who do what they can with what little script they are given. Danny Glover is a good follow up to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch. I particularly liked Bill Paxton as the quick-talking Jerry Lambert. The character’s attitude is much some of Paxton’s other characters I like, such as Private Hudson in Aliens or even more recently John Garrett in Agents of SHIELD TV series. Similar to the Xenomorphs in Aliens, Predator 2 expands on the Predator’s as a species, apparently called the Yautja (e-wat-ya), more by showing they hunted a variety of species, not just humans, as well as expanding their arsenal.

I thought Predator 2 was OK 😐 It tries to be simple like Predator but it doesn’t have the same thrill or suspense so it ends up feeling dull at times. The great cast does well but they can only do so much with the little material they have to work with. This is a rare case where the plot was too simple and to have a twist or two would have kept it interesting.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stephen Hopkins – Director
Jim Thomas – Writer
John Thomas – Writer
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Kevin Peter Hall – The Predator
Danny Glover – Lieutenant Mike Harrigan
Gary Busey – Peter Keyes
Ruben Blades – Danny Archuleta
Maria Conchita Alonso – Leona Cantrell
Bill Paxton – Jerry Lambert
Robert Davi – Captain Phil Heinemann
Adam Baldwin – Garber
Kent McCord – Captain B. Pilgrin
Morton Downey Jr. – Tony Pope

Tron Review

TRON movie posterSynopsis
Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a computer hacker who was fired from the company Encom. When searching for proof that his rival in the company, Ed Dillinger (David Warner), stole his code, he gets transported to inside of the computer system. With the help of a security program called Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), Flynn must make his way to the Master Control Program to escape the system.

Review
With movies like Rogue One and Furious 7 literally reviving diseased actors on screen and recent visual marvels like Doctor Strange, it’s truly impressive to see how far CGI has come in cinema. Considering where we are today, it can be a bit jarring to see animation that was done with less computing power than the phone currently in my pocket. But as the old saying goes, it had to start somewhere. There is a lot to like and be fascinated with in Tron but it has its flaws, too.

Tron‘s director Steven Lisberger was ahead of his time when he wrote Tron, particularly in where he saw the future of computers. Being a programmer myself, I always enjoy when movies try to visualize and create a world inside of computer. In the early 80s, personal computers had just become a thing, with the Apple I and Apple II being released only a few years prior to this film’s released. Most people were in the midst of entering a world where computers were more than just an academic tool used in universities. For Lisberger to imagine this world inside this fledgling technology, as in-depth and detailed as he did, is impressive to me.

Now having geeked out about some computer history, I’m going to disappoint a lot of people. There is a very distinct feel to the world inside of the computer compared to the real world. Everything is monochrome with bright colors running through as highlights. I like the idea of the black and white color palette because it mirrors the binary nature of computer data and the color highlights could be imagined as data flowing through everything. Despite the uniqueness about it, I found it to be very distracting. Other movies have used this type of effect before with beautiful results, so I don’t think it was the idea of black and white with color highlights but rather its execution. It’s not very crisp here and it ends up being a distraction.

I don’t really know what it was but I couldn’t get into the story. With this featuring scientists and computer hackers, you would think this would be something I would be into. As flashy as the visuals are, they merely act as a distraction to catch your eye so you don’t notice the relatively flat characters and uneven pacing. The move is only an hour and a half long, so it breezes through the story quickly. With the two worlds, the computer world and the real world, it has two sets of characters to juggle. As a result, no one gets much development.

All the story focuses on is getting Flynn (Jeff Bridges) from point A to point B within the computer. It never stops to breathe, moving from one computer animated display to the next. This movie is more focused on showing off this new technology rather than using it to enhance the story. One of the reasons that Toy Story works so well is because although it was revolutionary in a similar vein as Tron, it told a story first then put the technology on top of that. I feel like I am watching an extended 1980s tech demo when I am watching Tron.

I thought Tron was OK 😐 At the time, films like Star Wars were pushing the boundaries of special effects while Tron was pioneering what was possible with the infant field of computer animation. It’s not hard to see it hasn’t aged well but to some, that turns into part of the film’s charm. I appreciate this movie for its historical significance and what it accomplished in computer animation but for me, I didn’t get into the story or behind the characters. It is quite the dazzling spectacle, unfortunately that isn’t enough this time to carry the film.

Also check out my review for the sequel, Tron: Legacy.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Lisberger – Director / Writer
Bonnie MacBird – Story Writer
Wendy Carlos – Composer

Jeff Bridges – Kevin Flynn / Clu
Bruce Boxleitner – Alan Bradley / Tron
Cindy Morgan – Lora / Yori
David Warner – Ed Dillinger / Sark / Master Control Program
Barnard Hughes – Dr. Walter Gibbs / Dumont
Dan Shor – Popcorn Co-Worker / Ram
Peter Jurasik – Crom