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

Lightning Review: Baywatch

Baywatch movie posterSynopsis
Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) and his team of lifeguards protect the beaches of Emerald Bay, Florida. When drugs start appearing on his beach, Buchannon and his team, including new recruit and former Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron), work to expose the criminal behind the drugs, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra).

Review
I don’t know much about the Baywatch television series, other than it starred Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff as lifeguards, as well as gratuitous amounts of slow-motion running. Based on the cast of Baywatch and the tone of the trailers, I figured this movie would have little to do with the show its characters come from. So while I can’t make any comparisons to the source material, I can tell you how it stacked up as a movie: it was hilarious. Both Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron can be very comedic actors. Yet, if they don’t have a good person to bounce off of, their one-liners can only do so much. These two together have fantastic chemistry and are absolutely side-splitting. Every scene had jokes flying rapid fire and while not all of them stuck, they were onto the next one before you could really process it.

Most of the jokes between Johnson and Efron consist of crude and insulting jokes and one-liners. Like all humor, it is subjective, so it might not be your cup of tea but if you’ve read any of my other comedy reviews, you’ll know that this my kind of comedy. Of course, the rest of the cast was good as well, particularly Yahya Abdul-Mateen and Pryanka Chopra. Abdul-Mateen has some funny lines as a local police officer exhausted of the lifeguards trying to be investigators. Last summer I binged season one of the show Quantico, which stars Chopra as the protagonist. It was fun to see her on the other side as the antagonist. Since the setting for this movie is on a beach, there are a lot of shirtless men and bikini-clad women. No matter your preference, there is plenty of eye candy for everyone. πŸ˜‰

I thought Baywatch was GREAT πŸ˜€ I’m sure that if compared to the original Baywatch television series, these two have nothing in common. However, as a film taken on its own merit, it is fun and humorous. In the next few years, it will be interesting to see how the film and the jokes hold up. It feels like a generic action-comedy you would expect these days, but it is a generic action-comedy I enjoyed from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Seth Gordon – Director
Jay Scherick – Story
David Ronn – Story
Thomas Lennon – Story
Robert Ben Garant – Story
Damian Shannon – Screenplay
Mark Swift – Screenplay
Christopher Lennertz – Composer

Dwayne Johnson – Mitch Buchannon
Zac Efron – Matt Brody
Alexandra Daddario – Summer Quinn
Kelly Rohrbach – CJ Parker
Ilfenesh Hadera – Stephanie Holden
Jon Bass – Ronnie Greenbaum
Rob Huebel – Captain Thorpe
Pryanka Chopra – Victoria Leeds
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Sgt. Garner Ellerbee
Amim Joseph – Frankie
Jack Kesy – Leon
Hannibul Buress – Dave the Tech
Oscar NuΓ±ez – Councilman Rodriguez
Clem Cheung – Murray Chen

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 movie posterSynopsis
After a botched job, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the rest of the Guardians are being chased by the Sovereign. They are found by a man named Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter’s long-lost father. They go to Ego’s planet to search for the truth behind Peter’s mysterious heritage.

Review
In 2014, Marvel put their blockbuster powers to the test, releasing Guardians of the Galaxy. It was filled with lesser known characters, even to some regular comic readers, who are unique unto themselves. It turned out to be one of Marvel’s best films and now comes the inevitable sequel. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has all of the qualities that made the first so much fun and enjoyable, albeit without the surprise of what to expect.

As I said, everything that made the first film so fun and enjoyable has returned. Everything and everyone are just as quirky and zany as you have come to expect. Chris Pratt as Peter Quill is the main funny man, but Dave Bautista’s Drax get his fair share of comedic moments. Zoe Saldana is the green-skinned bad-ass Gamora. Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel, is more adorable than ever and Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, wants to get a hold of everyone’s prosthetics simply to see their reaction. All the while, it has a rocking soundtrack in the background.

Doctor Strange is probably Marvel’s most visually vibrant films to date, but this movie give that one a run for its money. The most notable is Ego’s planet. The moment the team sets foot on it, it just pops. The fauna are colorful, the buildings are shiny and bright, even the soil is a vibrant color unlike what you would expect. However, it’s not just Ego’s planet. The opening battle between the guardians and an interdimensional creature (a big part of the trailers) and scenes where Yondu’s ship is jumping through several wormholes are also vivid scenes worth mentioning. At the very least, your eyes won’t be disappointed.

One of this films best characteristics is its character development. Most of the second act is spent really diving into the characters and their relations with other members of the team. Some you would expect, like Peter and Gamora, but there are some that you wouldn’t, like Rocket and Yondu or Drax and newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff). These interactions do a great job of building the characters and lead to some strong, emotional moments.

Much to my surprise, Yondu (Michael Rooker) has one of the greatest arcs of the film. His moments with Rocket and their similar histories really tug at the heartstrings. As Peter’s adopted father, he had to deal with Peter finally meeting his real father, Ego (Kurt Russell). In the previous movie, he felt like a throwaway character; someone who was there when the plot needed it but didn’t feel like he had much importance. This time, he is front and center and gives the film’s most emotional scene. Speaking of Russell, he was a great as the living planet Ego. Like most villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he isn’t going to have any lasting presence, but Russell gave one of the more memorable villainous performances is the MCU. The relationship between Peter, Yondu, and Ego would make a great conversation starter between step-children and step-parents.

I wasn’t as in love with the soundtrack as I was with the first Guardians movie. It was still bouncy and fun and integrated into the movie well but it wasn’t as entrancing as before. Maybe it’s because I was unfamiliar with more of the songs this time around or maybe it was that I expected a rocking retro soundtrack and it wasn’t as much of a surprise. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t blown away but I still was rocking out nevertheless.

This might sound contradictory, but despite all the great character development throughout the second act, it also felt like the weakest part of the move. Weakest isn’t the right word but I’m not sure exactly what word I’m looking for. During this time, the team is split into two groups. The bouncing back and forth between the groups, as well as the balancing of those serious moments with the humorous ones gave it a really weird pacing. Whenever the movie slowed down to give the great character moments, it immediately went into a joke / gag or changed scenes. I liked that they managed to get as much development in as they did but the jumping around made my head spin after a while.

I thought Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was GOOD πŸ™‚ This movie is a good example of a movie studio giving a director the freedom to do their movie their way. James Gunn brought as much heart and soul into Volume 2 as he did in Volume 1. A slow and somewhat oddly paced middle act does not deter from what this movie does well: great characterization, a fun soundtrack, and plenty of humor to rival any comedy film. It can feel like much of the same but if you liked it the first time, you’re going to like it here as well. Once again, I left the theater excited to see where these characters go next.

Favorite Quote
Yondu: He might be your father, but he ain’t your daddy.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Gunn – Director / Writer
Tyler Bates – Composer

Chris Pratt – Peter Quill / Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana – Gamora
Dave Bautista – Drax
Vin Diesel – Baby Groot (voice)
Bradley Cooper – Rocket (voice)
Michael Rooker – Yondu
Karen Gillan – Nebula
Pom Klementieff – Mantis
Kurt Russell – Ego
Sean Gunn – Kraglin
Elizabeth Debicki – Ayesha
Chris Sullivan – Taserface

Wild Wild West Review

This review was originally posted for the Ultimate 90s Blogathon, hosted by Tranquil Dreams and me.

Wild Wild West movie posterSynopsis
Army Captain James West (Will Smith) is tasked by President Grant (Kevin Kline) to work together with US Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) to find the ex-Confederate scientist Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can take over the United States government.

Review
Wild Wild West was a go-to movie for my friend and I back when we were growing up. Between the two of us, we could (and still can!) quote the movie in its entirety. Having watched this many times over the years, I acknowledge that the nostalgia factor might affect my enjoyment of the film, as I have found several flaws since watching it as a young lad. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be enjoyed on its own merits.

Right out the gate, this movie is goofy. Not funny, although it is that too, but goofy. Artemis Gordon’s inventions feel a little too perfect for the situations they get Gordon and Jim West out of. Arliss Loveless’ beard rivals Crane’s beard from The Hunger Games for most intricate movie beard, acting as the proverbial β€œI’m the bad guy” sign. Loveless’ invention to bring the β€œUS government to its knees” is a giant, steam-punk tarantula. Everything about this movie screams β€œSaturday morning cartoon.” Nevertheless, it has a sense of fun that many film miss, which is why it still works for even as I’ve grown older. Wild Wild West never takes itself seriously, making it fun for both the actors and the audience.

The humor can be seen as a little juvenile, like the scene below, but that kind of humor is what I like. Will Smith and John Kline are enjoyable to watch together. This film came out relatively early in Smith’s film career. It is fun to see how he has brought the same energy and personality to his characters throughout all of his movies, whether they were in the 90s, when he started film acting, or today. I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of Kline’s films to compare Artemis Gordon to his other roles but his comedy here is more subtle than Smith’s which works because having two boisterous comedians would be too much.

Besides the two leads, the other two big supporting actors, Salma Hayek and Kenneth Branagh are clearly having a good time too. The often scantily clad Hayek is obviously there for the eye candy and to give West and Gordon someone to compete for, but it doesn’t appear to bother her and she gives a memorable performance. Branagh gets fully into the maniacal villain role. It’s cartoonish and over the top but he steals his every scene he’s in.

I thought Wild Wild West was GOOD πŸ™‚ It isn’t afraid to be silly and have fun with itself, which might turn off other viewers but I really enjoyed that. Everyone, from Will Smith and Kevin Kline to Salma Hayek and Kennith Branagh, feel like they are enjoying themselves. I grew up watching this film regularly and although its imperfections have become more apparent over the years, it still is every bit the fun, adventurous romp I remember it to be.

Favorite Scene

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Barry Sonnenfeld – Director
Jim Thomas – Story
John Thomas – Story
SS Wilson – Screenplay
Brent Maddock – Screenplay
Jefferey Price – Screenplay
Peter S Seaman – Screenplay
Elmer Bernstein – Composer

Will Smith – James West
Kevin Kline – Artemis Gordon / President Ulysses S Grant
Kenneth Branagh – Dr. Arliss Loveless
Salma Hayek – Rita Escobar
M. Emmet Walsh – Coleman
Ted Levine – General β€œBloodbath” McGrath
Frederique van der Wal – Amazonia
Musetta Vander – Munitia
Sofia Eng – Miss Lippenrieder
Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon – Belle
Bai Ling – Miss East

Ultimate 90s Blogathon Kickoff: Encino Man

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Welcome! Welcome, one and all to the Ultimate 90s Blogathon! For the next several weeks my co-host Kim, the mastermind behind Tranquil Dreams, and I will celebrate films of the rad 90s with our fellow bloggers.Β  There is quite a mix of movies reviewed so I’m excited for you to see what is in store.Β  Kim kicked off the blogathon on her site as well with reviews of several of her favorite Robin Williams movies. She is also keeping a page of all the blogathon entries, which you can see here, that way you can get them all at one easy-to-find location.Β  Now let’s get this party started!


Encino Man movie poster

Synopsis
Dave (Sean Astin) just wants him and his best friend Stoney (Pauly Shore) to be one of the cool kids at high school. When they find a frozen caveman (Brendan Fraser) in Dave’s backyard, Dave tries to use their discovery to get in with the popular crowd.

Review
For this blogathon, all the entrants looked at β€œUltimate 90s” as their favorite film from the 1990s. Well I’m going to look at it from a different point-of-view. I’m interpreting it as what movie I think best encapsulates the 1990s. Before I get to my review, here are a few reasons why I picked Encino Man as my Ultimate 90s movie:

  1. The Vocabulary. A good way to figure out what era a given movie is from is by listening to what slang is used. The 90s were littered with terms like β€œdope,” an excessive use of the word β€œbabe,” and creating custom words by adding β€œ-age” to the end of words. Let’s not forget the ever popular β€œas if.” Encino Man has all of the above and then some, which very easily lets the viewer know it very clearly takes place during the 90s.
  2. The Fashion. 90s fashion was defined by bright colors and crazy patterns. Oh, and jean jackets and leftover 80s aerobics outfits. All three of the main characters check these fashion crazes. Plus the girls’ hairstyles are exactly what you remember from the 90s.
    encinoman-hair
  3. Pauly Shore. Pauly Shore hit his heyday with his MTV show Totally Pauly. After Encino Man, he began to work on more movies, which lasted through most of the 90s then slowed down significantly in the early 2000s. So really, the Pauly Shore era is primarily the 90s.
  4. MTV. Speaking of MTV, believe it or not, this TV station actually PLAYED MUSIC at one time in history. Unlike today where it is filled with reality shows. I know this isn’t exactly a great way to tell that a movie takes place in the 90s but at one point in the movie, there is a glimpse of MTV playing music with the MTV logo from the 90s.
    mtv-90s-logo
  5. Freeze frame before credits. It was very common for movies and even television series in the 90s to do a freeze freeze before fading to credits. Encino Man is no exception.

Encino Man is far from the best film of the 90s, and it hasn’t aged extraordinarily well because it is so very clearly 90s but that is why I still enjoy it. This film is a snapshot of the 90s. As a child of the 90s, it takes me back in time. The lighthearted story keeps the movie from becoming too serious but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like there is much of a conflict either. Although I guess that isn’t the worst thing for a comedy. The plot is not the most original, an unpopular kid want to be popular and try to win the girl of his dreams, and filled to the brim with cliches but Sean Astin, Pauly Shore, Brandan Fraser bring an undeniable charm to the film. All members of the cast feel like they are enjoying themselves, which comes across and makes a better experience for the audience. It is very easy to turn this film on, sit back, relax and have an enjoyable ninety minutes.

I thought Encino Man was GOOD πŸ™‚ It may not be the most exciting or the most genre-defining teen movie but it still has a certain appeal to it. This could have easily been a terrible film to try to ride the rising popularity of Pauly Shore. Instead, Shore’s trademark personality and Fraser’s antics create a fairly pleasant experience that acts as a time capsule of being a teenager in the 90s.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Les Mayfield – Director
Shawn Schepps – Story / Screenplay
George Zaloom – Screenplay
J. Peter Robinson – Composer

Sean Astin – Dave Morgan
Pauly Shore – Stoney Brown
Brendan Fraser – Link
Megan Ward – Robyn Sweeney
Robin Tunney – Ella
Michael DeLuise – Matt Wilson
Patrick Van Horn – Phil
Dalton James – Will
Rick DuCommun – Mr. Brush
Mariette Hartley – Mrs. Morgan
Richard Masur – Mr. Morgan
Ellen Blain – Teena Morgan