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 Returns

Synopsis
Meela (Patricia Velasquez) the reincarnation of Anck-Su-Namun, locates Imhotep’s (Arnold Vosloo) body in the city of Hamunaptra. She hopes to use Imhotep’s powers to defeat the Scorpion King (Dwayne Johnson) and take control of the army he commands. Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr) calls upon Rick O’Connell (Brendan Frasier) and his wife Evy (Rachel Weisz) to once again defeat Imhotep.

Review
What makes The Mummy so enjoyable is that it never took itself seriously and just had fun with its story. The Mummy Returns is much of the same which, like any sequel, is both a good and bad. The core group of Brendan Frasier, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, and Arnold Vosloo returns and have the same fantastic chemistry from before. Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay has a much bigger role this time around and syncs with the group very well. The film’s sense of humor is pretty much the same as before, although the comedy is not as prominent this time around. It seems this time, there was more of a skew towards the action-adventure side of things instead of a pretty even balance like before. Not that that’s good or bad, it just gives the film a different feel. Newcomer Shaun Parkes as Rick’s pilot pal Izzy is my favorite of the new members of the cast but he feels underused, especially since he is a funny addition. The Mummy Returns is Dwayne Johnson’s first big movie role. I say big but he only appears in the opening scene and as CGI in the final battle scene, which has not aged well at all.

I thought The Mummy Returns was GOOD πŸ™‚ While not nearly as charming as The Mummy, it is still a decent popcorn flick.

Also read my reviews of The Mummy and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stephen Sommers – Director / Writer
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Brendan Frasier – Rick O’Connell
Rachel Weisz – Evelyn Carnahan
John Hannah – Jonathan Carnahan
Freddie Boath – Alex O’Connell
Arnold Vosloo – Imhotep
Oded Fehr – Ardeth Bay
Patricia Velasquez – Meela / Anck-Su-Namun
Alun Armstrong – Mr. Hafez
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – Lock-Nah
Shaun Parkes – Izzy
Dwayne Johnson – The Scorpion King

The Mummy (1999) Review

The Mummy (1999) movie posterSynopsis
Evy (Rachel Weisz) is a librarian who is interested in Egypt’s history. When her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) introduces her to Rick O’Connell (Brendan Frasier), who has been to the hidden city of Hamunaptra, the three of them set off for the city. While in Hamunaptra, they inadvertently release Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), an ancient evil who had been sealed away for more than three thousand years.

Review
If you’ve read my list of my five favorite films from my childhood, then you will know that The Mummy was a go-to film for me in my younger years. If you didn’t know that, well then now you do. Sometimes watching a film as an adult that you loved as a child can skew your viewpoint as to whether or not the film is actually good or you just like it now because you liked it then. Could this be the case for me with The Mummy? Do nostalgia goggles make me like this movie more than I should? No, not at all.

Even after nearly 20 years later, I still find myself continually enjoying this film. A lot of that comes from the three main protagonists. Brendan Frasier, Rachel Weisz, and John Hannah are simply marvelous together. It’s hard to pick a favorite our of the three. Frasier as Rick O’Connell has the action side of things down. O’Connell is the leader of the three, showing them how to get to Hamunaptra, always ready for any fight, whether that is with his fists or with one of the many guns in his arsenal. Evy, played by Weisz, hasn’t been out in the field much but is very knowledgeable in Egyptian history, easily filling a role neither of the boys could do. Even though Frasier gets many of the film’s comedic moments, most of them belong to Hannah’s Jonathan, Evy’s kleptomaniac and somewhat self-centered brother.

Besides perfect casting, the three leads have great synergy. The three of them together result in several of the best scenes of the film. It is clear that they were having a good time and were having fun making the movie, which makes it more enjoyable for the audience in turn. Each character had their own voice and personality, allowing for each one to have a unique part so they didn’t all feel like similar characters, which it feels like some comedies do. It wasn’t just the heroes who stand out but the main villain as well. Arnold Vosloo was great as Imhotep, the titular mummy. Vosloo has noble malice about him that fits Imhotep perfectly.

One of The Mummy’s strongest aspects is that it has a clear sense of identity. Yes, the film is based of the 1930s horror classic, and it payed homage to that by trying to add a few scares every here and there, but it is primarily an action/adventure/comedy film and it understood that. There was a good balance between the action and the comedy. It’s also a little cheesy but it embraced it. I think a lot of this came down to the actors. As I said before, they were clearly having fun and it prevented the moving from taking itself too seriously, embracing itself for what it is.

This sense of identity and balance between action and comedy gave the movie a good pace. It moved quick but not too quick. There was plenty of action but it never became too much. The story was understandable but not too complicated or too simplistic. It kept moving forward without being bogged down by unnecessary side plots or characters. Writer/director Stephen Sommers did a great job finding the perfect balance.

I thought The Mummy was GREAT πŸ˜€ It is hard to pick what I like best about this film. Brendan Frasier, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, and Arnold Vosloo all did fantastic with their parts and meshed well together. The story is simple yet fun, and the film feels much shorter than it is. I find myself watching this movie on a regular basis and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Also read my reviews of The Mummy Returns and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Favorite Quote
Evelyn: You lied to me.
Jonathan: I lie to everybody. What makes you so special?
Evelyn: I am your sister.
Jonathan: Yes, well that just makes you more gullible.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Stephen Sommers – Director / Screenplay / Story
Lloyd Fonvielle – Story
Kevin Jarre – Story
Jerry Goldsmith – Composer

Brendan Fraser – Rick O’Connell
Rachel Weisz – Evelyn Carnahan
John Hannah – Jonathan Carnahan
Arnold Vosloo – Imhotep
Kevin J. O’Connor – Beni Gabor
Jonathan Hyde – Dr. Allen Chamberlan
Oded Fehr – Ardeth Bay
Erick Avari – Dr. Terrence Bey
Stephen Dunham – Mr. Henderson
Corey Johnson – Mr. Daniels
Tuc Watkins – Mr. Burns
Omid Djalili – Warden Gad Hassan
Bernard Fox – Captain Winston Havlock
Patricia Velasquez – Anck Su Namun
Aharon Ipale – Pharoh Seti I

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets Review

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets movie posterSynopsis
After being presented with evidence that his great-great-grandfather was part of the Lincoln assassination, Benjamin Gates (Nicolas Cage) goes on a quest to clear his family name. To do so, he must follow clues that could lead to the legendary city of gold, Cibola.

Review
If you’ve seen National Treasure, you will know what to expect out of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. What makes this work as a sequel is that it keeps what was great from the first film and puts it into a new story. The same characters are here doing the same thing, which might sound like a rehash but it is no different than Indiana Jones or Lora Croft going on another adventure. It may be the same concept but the execution is different.

Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, and Diane Kruger all return and maintain their great chemistry. The banter between the three of them, like the first film, is so much fun. Together, they make the film work. Helen Mirren was an absolute joy and a great addition to the cast. She fit right in with Cage, Bartha, and Kruger and is clearly having as much fun as they are.

The baddie this time is Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris), the man who presents the evidence against Gates’ ancestor. Ian Howe was a good counterpart to Gates in the previous movie but he didn’t feel menacing. I didn’t not like him, which can actually take away from a villain. Mitch was one of those characters that I love to hate. Like Ian, he proves that he can go toe-to-toe with Gates but Mitch has the attitude to feel like the bad guy. Maybe it was the difference between Sean Bean and Ed Harris or maybe it was the way the characters were written. Either way, the villain was much stronger this time.

Since this is the second film, we know all about these characters and what they do. Therefore, National Treasure 2 doesn’t waste any time before heading out on the search for the treasure. Within the first scene, the hunt is set up and the Ben (Cage), Riley (Bartha), and Abigail (Kruger) are on their way. It helps get the film moving and spend maximum time watching them on their search.

National Treasure was all about US history and our founding fathers. National Treasure 2 is still about US history but it also incorporates international locations as well. One clue leads the group to France and another send them to England. Since our history is influenced by many others from many different countries and nationalities, it was fun to see that aspect of our history integrated into the story.

I’m going to talk about some spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film, skip this paragraph. OK, so the whole hunt was to prove that the reason Thomas Gates (Ben’s ancestor) tried to destroy the page from Booth’s diary was to destroy the treasure map, while Mitch claimed Thomas burned the page to hide his involvement in the plot to assassinate President Lincoln. Finding the City of Gold was somehow supposed to prove Ben’s point. But the film never answers why Thomas’ name was on page in the first place. Following the map and finding where it leads doesn’t prove that he wasn’t involved. Although as the viewer we can assume that Thomas wasn’t involved in the assassination plot and he burned it to destroy the treasure map, we are never actually given an explanation as to why his name is on the page.

I thought National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets was GOOD :-). The great chemistry between the three leads returns and the villain is much more threatening this time around. If you enjoyed the previous film, there is no doubt that you will enjoy this film as well.

Also check out my review of National Treasure.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jon Turtletaub – Director
Marianne Wibberley – Screenplay / Story
Cormac Wibberley – Screenplay / Story
Gegory Poirier – Story
Ted Elliot – Story
Terry Russio – Story
Trevor Rabin – Score

Nicolas Cage – Ben Gates
Justin Bartha – Riley Poole
Diane Kruger – Abigail Chase
Jon Voight – Patrick Gates
Helen Mirren – Emily Appleton
Ed Harris – Mitch Wilkinson
Harvey Keitel – Sadusky
Bruce Greenwood – The President
Ty Burrell – Conner
Michael Maize – Daniel
Timothy V. Murphy – Seth
Alicia Coppola – FBI Agent Spellman
Armando Riesco – FBI Agent Hendricks
Joel Gretsch – Thomas Gates
William Brent – Charles Gates
Brent Briscoe – Michael O’Laughlen
Christian Camargo – John Wilkes Booth

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies movie posterSynopsis
After dealing with the dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)), who had been living in the dwarf home of Erebor, Thorin (Richard Armitage), and his soldiers must now protect it from those who wish to take the vast treasure for themselves.

Review
I think it is interesting how much The Hobbit films have mirrored the Lord of the Rings films.Β  Each movie did a great job of building the characters and tension from the last. The second entry of the two series leaves each Baggins and their respective groups in interesting places for the third one to pick up.Β  Then the third film offers the biggest and best action sequences of the trilogies.

The Battle of the Five Armies picks up exactly where The Desolation of Smaug leaves off, with Smaug heading off the destroy Laketown.Β  I’ve compared The Hobbit series to the Star Wars prequel trilogy before and I’m about to do it again.Β  Slight spoiler warning.Β  Smaug’s treatment in this film was like Count Dooku’s in The Revenge of the Sith.Β  They were both the big bad from the second film in their respective series, and then they don’t last past the first scene of the third film of their series. It’s slightly disappointing because he was the best part from the previous movie.Β  For Smaug to appear for such a short amount of time made him feel out of place. I almost wish they would have finished his portion of the story in his film.Β  I know that The Desolation of Smaug was already long enough but with the power of editing it could have worked.

Like many modern blockbusters with heavy action sequences, this movie piles on the CGI.Β  When dealing with something like five large armies, it is to be expected, but some things that could have been done practically (and would have looked better if done so) weren’t.Β  For example, the leader of the large dwarf army, Dain, is completely animated and it is very easy to tell.Β  There are several close up shots of him that would have looked several times better if Billy Connolly had been in a costume.

One scene I found particularly interesting was not even one of the many action scenes.Β  After Smaug is defeated and Thorin is consumed by the large treasure, he walks into a great hall where a vision-like sequence begins.Β  My friend was telling me that this scene seemed to divide fans but I thought it fascinating.Β  The symbolism of him being consumed by the gold and him falling victim to the same greed that befell his grandfather, something Thorin swore to never do, was apparent without saying a single word.

Just like The Return of the King, the action sequences are on a much larger scale than the previous two movies.Β  There is also little time for the characters, or the audience, to catch their breath.Β  After the short Smaug sequence, there is a little breather where we see Thorin and how he and his relationship with his friends have changed since they started on their journey.Β  But before two long, the titular battle starts and it consumes the rest of the film.Β  The sheer scale of the battle is impressive, and very action packed.

I thought The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was GOOD :-). Β Like The Return of the King, it gave the trilogy some of its biggest and best action scenes.Β  Although I think Smaug should have been confined to one movie rather than feeling stuck into this one and the CGI was overused.Β  But all in all, it gave a very epic and exciting conclusion to the series.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Hobbit trilogy:Β An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Toro – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori
Adam Brown – Ori
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Evangeline Lilly – Tauriel
Lee Pace – Thranduil
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Ian Holm – Old Bilbo
Mikael Persbrandt – Beorn
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Luke Evans – Bard
Stephen Fry – Master of Laketown
Ryan Gage – Alfrid
Manu Bennett – Azog
Lawrence Makoare – Bolg
Billy Connolly – Dain
Benedict Cumberbatch – Smaug (voice) / Necromancer (voice)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug movie posterSynopsis
Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen),Β  Thorin (Richard Armitage), and the rest of the dwarfs, continue their journey to Erebor, the dwarf homeland. Bilbo and the dwarfs come face to face with its protector, the dreaded dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)).Β  Meanwhile, Gandalf looks for the source of a mysterious, rising evil.

Review
In The Lord of the Rings series, The Two Towers is where the series really began to take off so I was interested to see if The Desolation of Smaug had the same affect for the Hobbit films.Β  I’d say it did a pretty good job.Β  Again, with all the set up out of the way in the first film, this one is able to keep up the pace. Outside of the elves, not many new characters are introduced.Β  One of the hurdles The Two Towers faced was introducing so many new characters throughout the movie. Since The Desolation of Smaug had very few characters they had to bring into the mix, it was able to keep the focus on Bilbo, Thorin and the rest of the dwarfs, as well as keep it moving.

Since the dwarfs were introduced last movie, this movie was spent building their relationship.Β  Their camaraderie was really fun to watch. The way they joke together, fight together, it was easy to tell that they are a family.Β  Since there are a lot of them, they don’t all get a ton of development, but they get enough that you can feel out the rest.

One thing this franchise hasn’t lacked is action.Β  And Desolation of Smaug is no exception.Β  This movie offered some of the most unique of the series so far.Β  One of my favorite scenes was the river fight sequence.Β  The dwarfs escape their capture buy going down a river in barrels.Β  As they go down the river, they are chased by both orcs and elves.Β  The way that the three parties were fighting is unlike anything I can think of in another film. Β I had a smile on my face the entire scene.

Smaug was hands down the best part of this film.Β  Everything from the animation of his sheer size to Benedict Cumberbatch voicing him was just spectacular.Β  I’m not overly familiar with Cumberbatch’s work, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of him as Smaug.Β  He nailed it.Β  I want to see him voice villains more often.Β  The character himself was pretty interesting, too. He knew his strength so he wasn’t afraid to toy with Bilbo.Β  He took up a good portion of the film so it was a good thing he was done so well.

I thought The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was GOOD :-). Β Like any good sequel, it ups the stakes and keeps moving.Β  The action is some of the most unique of the series and Smaug offers a significant threat to the characters.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Hobbit trilogy:Β An Unexpected Journey and The Battle of the Five Armies.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Toro – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori
Adam Brown – Ori
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Evangeline Lilly – Tauriel
Lee Pace Thranduil
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Benedict Cumberbatch – Smaug (voice) / Necromancer (voice)
Mikael Persbrandt – Beorn
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Luke Evans – Bard
Stephen Fry – Master of Laketown
Ryan Gage – Alfrid
Manu Bennett – Azog
Lawrence Makoare – Bolg