Movie Review – The Mummy (2017)

TL;DR – This is a good start for the Dark Universe and I really enjoyed it, but there were just a couple of things that needed to be worked on that held it back a bit

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

P.S. – There is NO end credit scene

The Mummy banner

Review

Now from the start, I have to say I do have a lot of love for the 1999 Brendan Fraser Mummy film, I mean I even like its only follow up The Mummy Returns because they were wonderful camp fun with a horror veneer. Indeed I will always remember the first time I saw The Mummy as a kid, it was at a friend’s place and there was a whole lot of people crowded around the TV and VCR and someone was passing around cups of tea when the mummy awoke and it scared them so much tea went everywhere. So whether I like it or not, I’m going to bring those memories and that nostalgic feeling with me when I go see The Mummy because it has to hold up to the ones that came before and for the most part I think that it does. So today we will breaking down how well The Mummy does as a standalone film, how well it does as the starting point for the Dark Universe, and also look at some areas where the film needed improvement.

So let’s begin by setting the scene, well setting the scene twice actually. To begin it is the New Kingdom of Egypt, well they say it was, but then they also say the sarcophagus is 5000 years old which would put it more in the Old Kingdom but I digress. Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was the only child of the King Menehptre (Selva Rasalingam), and all her life she knew she would be Queen and ruler over all the land. She trained every day and night to be a good ruler but then her father had another child, a boy, and in one moment everything she worked for was ripped out from underneath her. So what do you do when your world has fallen apart, well you form a secret deal with the god Set and go about killing your family as a sacrifice. But before Ahmanet could bring Set into the real world she was stopped, mummified alive, and buried in a tomb far, far away from Egypt, which of course is a plan that never goes wrong. Flash forward to today and two very important things have happened, first a crew digging a new railway tunnel find a hidden Knights Templar crypt, and in Iraq two US Army scouts Nick (Tom Cruise) and Chris (Jake Johnson) have stumbled across Haram where something once buried and forgotten now lays in wait and an archaeologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) might dig too far. Now, this set-up has a lot of working pieces that have to get into place, but when all three of these plot lines come crashing together it propels everything forward.

Sofia Boutella shows the power of acting with your eyes

Sofia Boutella shows the power of acting with your eyes

One area that I think they did very well was in casting because you have to build a franchise off this and you only have one chance to have your Robert Downey Jr. moment. Now I’m going to start with the big bad because if you have read my Kingman or Star Trek reviews you would know that I am a big fan of Sofia Boutella and her work. Her dancing experience gives her a remarkable physicality but more than that, she has one of the most expressive eyes in the business. Here even under the CGI and prosthetics, she had an amazing performance and honestly, I would have liked to see more of her in the film. As well as this, I did like Jake Johnson, he was perfectly cast as the witty sidekick to Tom Cruise’s Nick, and their banter together was one of the highlights of the film. This might be the perfect character for Russel Crowe because it lets him show his range, from that prim and proper gentleman we’ve seen in movies like Master and Commander, a side note, we need another Master and Commander film, and then also the brawler. Annabelle Wallis is an interesting addition and she holds her own in scenes with Tom which is not easy to do. One possible exception to this is Tom Cruise who it does fell at times that they had him playing a stock standard Tom Cruise action character, which does limit his character arc a bit. However, what you do get with Tom is an actor that throws himself into the action like very few people working in Hollywood do, and you see that here.

Now one of the highlights of the film has to be its action sequences that are peppered throughout. You have car chases, you have escaped from insurgents in the desert, you have monsters in the dark, and of course, you have one of the most spectacular sequences I have seen in quite a while. Now with this, I am talking about the sequence on the plane which I assume they filmed it on a reduced-gravity aircraft, I’m not sure you could film it on a rig but if they did wow that must have been some rig set-up. It is a great scene because first, it has a slow build as we see Chris get sicker and Nick starts to hallucinate, we know something bad is about to happen, but what. This is followed by something to distract you, then bang the first bird hits, and everything goes to hell. Now not every action sequence is as good as this, but it shows you how you can engage the audience and not resort to hundreds of cuts when trying to convey what is happening. Now I’m not generally a big fan of the horror genre because I tend not to find these movies scary, so this time I brought along my mother, and if her reactions were anything to go by there was some scary stuff. Ok even I jumped at that ambulance scene, are you happy, you wrought it out of me.

One of the highlights are the well constructed action sequences

One of the highlights are the well constructed action sequences

One area where The Mummy excelled is in the technical side of the film, the editing, music and effects. It might be a small thing but I am really fascinated in how you cut within a sequence and also how you transition between sequences, and so often no thought or more likely no money is put into making them visually interesting. However, here we have some really interesting transitions, especially between the hallucinations and the real world. I do want to give a special mention to Brian Tyler and his musical score, I’ve been enjoying his work ever since the score of the Dune miniseries and here he is so on point. The music is just as creepy as the movie, he uses discordant strings at infrequent intervals to really put you in the state of unease. Music is such a powerful medium to convey the story and it is really great to see when people use it creatively to effect the mood of the viewer. Of course, I have to mention the fascinating effects from Industrial Light and Magic. From sandstorms, to a murder of crows, to ghouls of all kinds, it is an impressive array of effects. I think the standout, which was a mix of practical and visual effects, was the first steps of the mummy which had almost stop-motion feel to it, a wonderful call back to the films of the past. But more than visual effects I have to give a shout out to the set designers, some of those sets felt expansive, and real and there is just something tangible about them that you don’t often see in this day and age. This was all helped by some great framing and good use of light and dark to create interest as well as contrast on the screen.

When it comes to the issues I had with the film they are not big but smaller little things which persist after you have left the film. The end of the second act and the start of the third did seem to drag a bit because it did kind of feel the movie was put on pause while they start introducing the universe. This meant that the slow build the movie was going for did not quite work as well as it could have. Also what was actually happening in that third act, a bit of explanation was needed. Finally, I just kind of feel that the last scene in the film was missing something, I can’t go into any more details or else I hit spoilers, but it felt like it could have ended on a stronger note.

It will be interesting to see where they go with this Dark Universe

It will be interesting to see where they go with this Dark Universe

So one thing we need to do is talk about how well The Mummy was as a launch platform for Universal’s Dark Universe. Now because this means we have to look at the story more in depth there will be [SPOILERS] in this paragraph. So this is a risky move for Universal, even though the Monsters might have been the first shared universe in cinema back in the day. This is because a lot of their classic monsters are actually in the public domain so there is a chance of them being undercut, also with the dominance of Marvel, and DC only just getting their act together with Wonder Woman, there is a possibility that we may be seeing a saturation in the market. Indeed with Wonder Woman outperforming expectations, there is a very real chance that The Mummy might get overshadowed, which is not where you want to be with your opening salvo. So with The Mummy they take less of an Iron Man ‘spoiler in an end credit scene’ approach to franchise building, and a bit more of a hands-on approach. Now as I said in the last paragraph this does lead to the movie taking a pause but it does give us an insight into the structures behind this universe. Monsters exist, and there have been people hunting them for a while to keep evil at bay, and at some point there is a distinction between monsters that are good and those who are bad, setting up the dichotomy for the future. I’m sure as they swept through Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory you would have picked up more than a few references to those classical monsters of cinema’s past, indeed it will be interesting to see just how many Easter eggs there are. I will say the one interesting thing I noticed is that one of the Books  in the library was the Book of the Dead from the 1999 Mummy film, which raises some interesting questions was this just a reference like the head appearing out of the sandstorm, or is it implying that they are part of these movies canonically. Look more so than in say Batman v Superman I am actually interested to see where they go in this universe from here. Though next time, don’t give away things like Russel Crow’s character before hand, if would have worked so much better if the Dr. Jekyll was a big reveal, instead you leaked it as part of a promotional trailer. [End of SPOILERS]

In the end, I have to say I did enjoy this first entry into the Dark Universe, sure my heart will always be with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz gallivanting around 1920s Egypt. Well we can’t go back in the past, we can only look to the future and I’m interested to see where we go from here.

 

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Alex Kurtzman
Screenplay by – David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie & Dylan Kussman
Story By – Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet
Music by – Brian Tyler
Cinematography by – Ben Seresin
Edited by – Paul Hirsch, Gina Hirsch & Andrew Mondshein
Starring
– Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Selva Rasalingam & Russell Crowe
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13

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Movie Review – Office Christmas Party

TL;DR – This is the same kind of movie as every R-rated comedy of the last couple of years, but thankfully with a bit more substance than usual

Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars

Review

So as we race to the end of the year, and in the lull before Star Wars destroys the box office, in its wake, we have Trolls and Office Christmas Party fighting it out to see who will get that dollar, dollar bill. Since I don’t have children I don’t have to be subjected to that Trolls nonsense (truly you guys are the MVPs) which I was over about the same time JT was performing at Eurovision, so instead this week we have Office Christmas Party. OCP is another in a long line of R-rated comedies that have sprung up in the aftermath of Hangover and Bridesmaids, and has many similarities with other films that we have looked at this year like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Bad Neighbours 2, Grimsby, and Dirty Grandpa, indeed it fits into the same category as The Night Before which was last year’s R-rated Christmas comedy, and more so it seems to be taking a lot of queues from Unfinished Business with its plot, but somehow OCP makes it work when most of these other films were a mess.

So before I start, I a pretty sure I can tell you if you would be interested in watching this film with the following description, this movie contains, among other things, Sex, Nudity, Language, and Drugs, and at this point you probably have indeed decided if you will be giving this film a wide berth or not.

This image kind of sums up the film

This image kind of sums up the film

Office Christmas Party has a very simple yet effective set up, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) is managing the Chicago branch of Zenotek, a tech company, under his manager and carefree son of the recently deceased founder Clay (T.J. Miller), then Clay’s sister and company CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) arrives and tells them if they don’t land a client in 3 days she is shutting the branch down. So, of course, what do you do to land that big client, well you through the biggest Christmas Party you can. As far as set-ups go, as I said it is quite simple, but this allows you to save time on explaining everyone’s motivations as it is all pretty clear what they all are. When it comes to the rest of the plot, well it’s all pretty straightforward, you can probably guess the arcs of every character in the first 10 minutes and you’d probably be right. So while there are no real surprises here at any point, it is executed quite well.

While as I said the story is quite simple the actual filmmaking is a step up from a lot of the similar films in this genre, even though this is just an R comedy they still show a good eye for composition and visual storytelling. For one I appreciated that there were very few jump scare jokes which permeated this enter genre for some reason. I also liked how they used visuals to set up jokes without jamming it down our thoughts, for example [Spoilers] at the start of the party there is a snow blower that has little bags of white powder that you drop into it so it shoots fake snow around. As soon as you see that set up, you know at some point someone is going to put cocaine down with the white bags and someone is going to put it in the machine by accident, which of course happens, but so often they would go out of their way to go ‘oo I sure hope people down put anything into that other than those little bags’ wink, wink nudge, nudge, we get it we know, and here thankfully we are spared this. So while this film is not The Revenant or even Kung Fu Panda 3, I did appreciate people trying to make it visually engaging.

Ok I'll admit it, that looks kind of fun

Ok I’ll admit it, that looks kind of fun

When it comes to the casting, everyone is playing characters that they are well versed in and have a lot of experience portraying. So, on the one hand, it means these actors have a lot of experience in these roles which shows, but on the other hand, it all does start to feel a bit too familiar. I’m not sure how many films Jason Bateman has been in since Arrested Development where he plays the exasperated straight man to everyone else’s shenanigans, but here we are again. Jennifer Aniston overly stuck up boss is as well as can be expected, and indeed her relationship with T.J. Millier’s character is one of the things that elevates OCP above many of its contemporaries. Also, Kate McKinnon nails the high-strung yet really weird HR Manager Mary, in a role that might have been written just for her.

Is it a perfect film, oh good grief no, there are a lot of issues once you start looking into it, and to do so we need to [ENGAGE SPOILERS] for the rest of this paragraph as we will be talking about the ending. Firstly let’s be honest the moment things started flying out of windows and onto the pavement below the police would have been in there shutting that party down, in fact probably before then. Also with regards to the technology used in the film I checked this with people in the industry, who confirmed it as being the ‘Highest Order of Bulldash’. I am old enough to remember dial-up and good luck uploading through that. Also, just for a moment let’s imagine that is did work as described in the film, as soon as it was released that is the person that destroyed Chicago’s internet was the same company that then let people access it through a new method, that person would be arrested/sued, like seriously even without that he would be jailed for the crash for at least driving under the influence.

You don't want to mess with Jennifer Aniston in this film

You don’t want to mess with Jennifer Aniston in this film

So can I recommend Office Christmas Party, well as I said up above you already know if you are going to go see it or not, and I doubt this review has changed you mind one way or another. What I can say is that Office Christmas Party is better than a lot of its contemporaries, but that’s not a very high bar to cross.

Directed by – Will Speck & Josh Gordon
Screenplay by – Justin Malen, Laura Solon & Dan Mazer
Story by – Jon Lucas, Scott Moore & Timothy Dowling
Music by – Theodore Shapiro
Cinematography by – Jeff Cutter
Starring
– Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Vanessa Bayer, Rob Corddry, Randall Park & Courtney B. Vance
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; NZ: R; UK: 15; USA: R

Movie Review – Terminator Genisys

TL;DRA Bit of fun, and a good watch, if you don’t take it too seriously

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Review

So the basic premise of all the Terminator films are in the deep dark future of 1994 a computer system called Skynet rose up and nuked the world and now it and the remaining humans are fighting for survival. Skynet feeling that it is losing does what all computers do, cheat and sends back through time a terminator to kill one of the Connors. Since the best film in the series Terminator 2: Judgement Day, we have had one ok but mostly forgettable sequel, one TV series that started strong, got messed with by executives and then finished strong but not strong enough to stave of cancellation and another movie sequel which was a train wreck from start of filming to the end. So how does this film hold up? Not bad, generally speaking.

Schwarzenegger still has it

Schwarzenegger still has it

The Good – Schwarzenegger is as good as ever, he really owns this part, and something I keep forgetting is that he has some really good comedic timing in his actions and mannerisms. Jai Courtney is really quite good as Kyle Reese, he’s not had the most stellar range in the past, but here he really works quite well with all the cast and that is quite important, as his character is kind of the glue that holds all it all together. Wow, Matt Smith, he is barely in this film and still, he steals every scene he is in. Also, J.K. Simons is as delightful as always. The special effects in this film are really quite good, the opening scene depicting the nuclear devastation in the world is quite compelling. All the action is quite good, it is staged well and there are the appropriate amount of explosions, stabbings, morphing robots, explosions, weird rules that state you can’t wear clothing in the time machine, explosions.

The Bad – Oh uncanny valley you strike again, looking back to when this has been tried before Tron Legacy tried very hard to pull off a young Jeff Bridges and it almost worked save for the eyes, but this was 5 years ago, and the young terminator is this film looks worse than that 5-year-old attempt. Also, why don’t you know, oh amnesia, oh well that has never been used in a movie before. Finally, the last scene in the film is really awkward, like really watch it and try not to get weirded out by it.

Terminator Genisys 2

It does get a bit over the top at times

The Only Ok – Look, Emilia Clarke, is a perfectly wonderful actress but she has the unfortunate role of following on from Linda Hamilton, Hamilton is a tough act to follow and I don’t feel Clarke quite pulled it off. There are a lot of actors that only appear for moments seem important and then disappear from the film, and while they don’t wear ‘I will be important in the sequel’ name badges they might as well, in fact, you can feel that a lot of the problems with this film are that they have held back plots for the next film.

In the end, it’s a good film, the best one in a while and a generally good couple of hour’s entertainment.

Directed By – Alan Taylor
Written by – Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier
Starring – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyim, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance & Lee Byung-hun
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Ireland: 12A; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13