Tag Archives: russell crowe

The Mummy – Review

14 Jun

Since 1932, The Mummy franchise has gone through many different variations. There was a whole classic Universal monster series that started with The Mummy in 1932 starring Boris Karloff and spanned all the way to 1955 with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Then Hammer Studios made their own series which started in 1959 and ended in 1971 with Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. I did a whole review on this series so you can see my thoughts on that there. In 1999, it was revamped by Stephen Somers which went on until 2008 with Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Now, we have a whole new Mummy movie which is meant to kickstart Universal’s Dark Universe. While I’m sure they wanted this to start with a bang, it’s more like a very loud thud.

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his partner, Chris (Jake Johnson), are two treasure seekers who use their military travels as an excuse to find hidden artifacts around the world. Their latest find comes as something of an accident. In Iraq, the two find the lost tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a member of the Egyptian royal family who was cursed and buried alive for attempting to unleash the evil force that is the dark lord Set. While wanting to keep the find for himself, Nick reluctantly hands the find to archeologist Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who loads it into a cargo plane en route to England. The plane soon crashes and Nick is presumed dead. This doesn’t last long, however, since he soon wakes up in a morgue only to learn that Ahmanet wasn’t found in her sarcophagus, while also being haunted by visions of death and the past. Realizing he is cursed, and with Ahmanet wreaking havoc across London, Nick and Jennifer have to team up with mysterious forces to stop the mummy from giving Set life and overtaking the world with their dark powers.

If I can surmise something from The Mummy, it’s that Universal doesn’t seem to have any intention of making their Dark Universe scary in the least. This is the first majorly disappointing thing about this movie. The original Universal series and the Hammer series mainly focused on the eeriness of the curses and the slow but strong force that were the mummies. When Stephen Sommers made the reboot, it was more of an action movie, but there was more than enough horror with the scarabs and other effects to keep me entertained. This one feels more in the vein of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, except that it’s nowhere near as awful. What I’m getting at is that this is more of an action film, so it’s appropriate Tom Cruise was cast in it, even though this character is so boring I’m pretty sure anyone with half a brain could have played it. Looking at it as an action movie, there are some pretty cool sequences, but Princess Ahmanet is really only responsible for one of those cool scenes. I thought this movie was called The Mummy. Sofia Boutella really tries to bring this character to life, but there just isn’t enough for this particular monster to do, and that’s another major disappointment.

What this movie did really succeed at doing is making me curious about what is to come with this franchise. There’s a part of the movie that I won’t spoil that became way more interesting than the main plot with Ahmanet and the curse. This had to do with Russell Crowe’s character and the place he’s in charge of. This whole segment is a major divergence from the plot, but it did give me hope that the studio has big plans for what they want to do. This is where a lot of exposition happens as well, but it also give Boutella to do some more acting and actually put some passion into a role that seems almost completely devoid of anything cool. Crowe is also excellent in his role, which again, I will no spoil. Let’s just say I demand more of him in the movies to come.

When the movie isn’t in blockbuster action mode, there really isn’t a whole lot to say about it. It starts off pretty well with some exciting moments and the character set up isn’t bad. The film also showcases some good CGI along with pretty well done practical effects and make up. Anyone who knows me or reads this knows I’m a fan of practical effects, so it was cool to see some in this movie. When all of this slows down, however, and we spend time with just the human characters talking about the curse and the mummy, it’s really not all that interesting. In fact, they utilize so many flashbacks and tricks with losing time that I was just getting annoyed. There’s way too many flashbacks and way too much basic exposition. I saw that there were a lot of writers attached to this film which makes me wonder if the script got bounced around so much that something more subtle was just lost in translation somewhere down the line.

I can’t really say I’m too disappointed because I didn’t go into The Mummy expecting much. Even with those low expectations, I felt like they missed out on something that could have really kickstarted this franchise well. There have been plenty of really good Mummy movies in the past, so I know the concept can be done well. Of course, this one balances setting up a whole universe, but I still believe it could have been done much better. This film isn’t awful and it is watchable, but it’s also very underwhelming and since the days have passed since I’ve seen it I can also say it isn’t all that memorable. Hopefully future movies in the Dark Universe will bring something more to the table.

Final Grade: C-

The Nice Guys – Review

2 Jun

The first time I watched the original Lethal Weapon, I knew that the person behind the screenplay was a truly original voice who has to have more work. Of course, I was a bit late to the party and Shane Black already achieved what I wanted him to. This guy can write some of the funniest, action packed screenplays and I honestly envy the wit that he has. As if the envy wasn’t strong enough, now we have The Nice Guys, which is without a doubt one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time and possibly the best written movie of 2016 so far.

timthumb

Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is an “enforcer” who was hired by a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) to stop the man who has been looking for her. Thinking this man to be some sort of stalker, Healy goes to the home of Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a private detective who was hired to find Amelia, and is intimidated into dropping the case. Meanwhile a porn star that went by the name Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio) is brutally murdered, and all signs point to Amelia being the next victim. This coincidence brings Jackson and Holland together again, but this time to find and protect Amelia while also digging up the conspiracy as to why all of her known associates are turning up dead.

When it comes to comedy, I can be pretty hard to please. One of my favorite comedies is actually a Shane Black movie from 2005, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, so based on how much I love that movie, The Nice Guys had a lot to live up to. Luckily for me, it’s absolutely hilarious and contains all of the whip smart dialogue I’ve come to expect from Black’s writing. This movie walks a fine line between over the top slap stick and a more sophisticated, quick kind of humor. These two blend very well together, and there were only a few times where the jokes fell a little flat. We still get a perfect blend of action, comedy, and some pretty heavy hitting drama. A lot of this is due to Black, but a lot of credit also has to go to the two stars that absolutely knock it out of the park.

the_nice_guys-620x412

There’s no doubt that Shane Black has a certain kind of formula he uses to make his movies. In Lethal Weapon, we have Murtaugh as the straight man and Riggs as the wild card. In Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Perry is the straight man and Harry Lockhart is the wild card. Pretty basic comedy right there, except these guys are detectives. Crowe’s Healy is the straight man and Gosling’s March is the wild card. What I love about these two, however, is that I know them as being very serious actors. Watching Gosling have a complete freak out in the middle of a gun fight is absolutely hilarious, but what’s just as funny is Crowe reacting in the mellowest of ways to what he’s doing. The chemistry between these two feels like it’s been forged on the Mt. Olympus of film, and I’d love to see these two as these characters again. I also have to give a major shout out to Angourie Rice, who plays Holland March’s daughter. She has a really fun part in the movie, and this kid plays it very well and is very believable. She’s just as much a memorable character as March and Healy.

I think I’ve emphasized enough how funny this movie is, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The Nice Guys also works great as an action film, a mystery film, and in some scenes as a nice character drama. The action in this movie is an absolute blast, and while it does get silly at times, I was so roped into what was going on. Our protagonists are also detectives of sorts, which means there’s a huge trail of clues they have to travel on until they uncover what big conspiracy is going on. When a movie can make me laugh while also keeps me completely invested in the story and the bigger picture, I consider it a huge success. I love me a good mystery, and this one was very satisfying. Finally, the characters in this movie feel very complete, with all of their flaws, successes, and shady pasts. Part of the reason I want a sequel is so these characters can be examined more. Their situations are so unique and they feel so organic that it’s hard not to care about them.

I had high hopes for The Nice Guys, and not only did it meet my expectations, it also exceeded them. The bottom line is that this is just one hell of an entertaining movie however you look at it. There’s plenty of action, loads of humor, and also a nice mystery sprinkled with some real human drama for good measure. It simply has everything I could want in a movie. If you hate having a good time, then stay clear away from this movie. If you’re like everyone else and enjoy having fun, it’s guaranteed entertainment.

Man of Steel – Review

30 Jun

Superman has never been my favorite super hero. In fact, he’s pretty far from it. I always found that his near indestructibility and countless super powers made things a bit too easy, and I was never too fond of Clark Kent as a character either. That being said, when the trailers for Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel began coming out, I began thinking that this incarnation of DC Comic’s most prized creation may not be too shabby. I can’t say that I was at all disappointed, but Man of Steel is certainly not a perfect movie.

ManofSteelFinalPoster

The distant planet of Krypton is close to destruction due to the large amount of exploiting the natural resources of the planet which has affected the planet’s core. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) stores a genetic codex in the cells of his newborn son Kal-El and sends him to planet Earth after General Zod (Michael Shannon) stages a coup with the hope of saving the planet. Zod is banished to the Phantom Zone, but is freed after Krypton is destroyed. On Earth, Kal-El is found by farmers Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), who rename him Clark and raise him as their own son. After years of learning to control his super abilities caused by his biological reaction to being on Earth, an adult Clark (Henry Cavill) learns of his extraterrestrial past and vows to protect the Earth. This responsibility comes sooner rather than later when Zod arrives to retrieve the codex hidden within Clark and form a new Krypton so his race can survive.

There is a lot that happens within the two hour and twenty minute running time of the movie. Much like with Snyder’s previous film, 300, the pacing of this movie is what really hurts it. In this reviewer’s opinion, we spend way too much time on Krypton. By the time we got to Earth, I felt relieved since I felt like the “prologue” was finally over. As Clark grows up and learns of his powers and his past, most of the story is told in flashbacks, which is very jarring when mixed with the adult Clark trying to find his way. This really is the only effective way that this could have been pulled off, but there is just so much crammed in there. That being said, this is an origin story, and origin stories aren’t always the easiest to make because it’s the responsibility of the writer and director to establish this character’s past enough so that we understand them and beliefs.

Henry-Cavill-in-Superman-Man-of-Steel-2013-Movie-Image-2

This being a Zack Snyder movie, there is sure to be an excess of special effects that go right along with over the top action. In this category, Man of Steel delivers. Once the action starts, it never seems to let up. It almost becomes exhausting. If you think New York City had it bad in the finale of The Avengers, just wait until you see the destruction that befalls Metropolis. Buildings, trains, jets, helicopters, you name it. I will say that there was a lot of characters getting thrown into buildings. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. It happens so many times that I almost wanted to say, “That’s cool Zack, but I get the picture.”

Henry Cavill was definitely the right choice to play Superman, but I still can’t really say his character is all that interesting. I may be biased in saying that because I always thought he was kind of a bland character. Amy Adams is acceptable as Lois Lane, bringing an appropriate amount of curiosity and interest. The real scene stealers are Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe. These two seem so into their characters and the universe that they inhabit that it really is just a joy to watch them, especially when Michael Shannon would lose his temper and yell a lot. That was fun.

teaser-man-of-steel-shannon-e1365999108756

 

I have never really been a fan of Superman. The whole concept behind the hero always seemed kind of cheesy. After seeing Man of Steel, I’m beginning to realize that part of the reason has been the presentation. This most recent incarnation of Superman offers outstanding action, the deepest the characters have ever been, and a good origin story. The pacing is kind disjointed and the movie is overly long, but saying that I didn’t have a really good time at Man of Steel would be a downright lie.

The Man with the Iron Fists – Review

17 Mar

The Wu-Tang Clan are best known as being one of the most influential and popular rap groups of all time. They also had a huge part in an underground revival of kung fu films, taking unknown trash and re-releasing them on video under their own names. That being said, it seems only appropriate that RZA, a member of the group, direct an homage to these “beloved” kung fu films of the past. With the help of Eli Roth, a script was written and a film was made.

First_official_poster_of_MWIF

 

In feudal China, clan leader Gold Lion is charged with delivering the Emperor’s gold to awaiting soldiers. The gold never arrives, however, since Gold Lion’s lieutenants Silver Lion (Byron Mann) and Bronze Lion (Cung Le) betray and assassinate him. Now in possession of the gold, there are other parties moving into Jungle Village to claim it for themselves. These parties include a rogue soldier Jack Knife (Russell Crowe)and a madame of a brothel, Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu). Finally, a Blacksmith (RZA) is caught in the middle of it all, and takes it upon himself to defend the village and the woman he loves, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung).

Personally, I think kung fu is a pretty cool genre when done correctly. I really like Wuxia films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and HeroThe Man with the Iron Fists take these two styles and blends them pretty well. It has the cheese of Kung Fu and the wire work of Wuxia. What’s not to like? Well, believe it or not, a lot of stuff. This is a really sloppy movie both in the way the story is told, the editing, and the effects. I had much higher expectations for this movie and have not felt so disappointed in a film in a long, long time.

the-man-with-the-iron-fists10

 

I do feel a great sense of appreciation by RZA and fellow writer Eli Roth. All of the tropes and cliches of the genre are there from the gold worth dying for, the over the top violence, and the cheesy dialogue. I recognize all of these, but it really doesn’t save the movie. The most distracting thing here is the acting. Pretty much all of the actors do subpar jobs, which I feel has a lot to do with the writing. I understand that Kung Fu films aren’t supposed to have the best dialogue, but some of this stuff is so derivative and corny that it’s painful to listen to. Thank goodness Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu have scenes to balance it a little bit. Crowe delivers his lines like a champ and Liu relishes the silly dialogue she has been given and provides a wonderfully over the top performance.

I will give massive props to the production design. The brothel, the Pink Blossom, looks awesome. It is bright and, as the name would suggest, very pink. I think that’s a pretty bold move to have a completely pink set in such a violent film, but hey, it works great. The costumes are also really nice looking. The only problem with the look of the film is some of the special effects. One character turns completely into brass when struck, and that looks so cool. There are some quick special effects shots, such as a bell shattering, that have such cool potential but look so fake it’s annoying. I can’t say it enough, I know I shouldn’t over think this movie, but when things are so bad it’s distracting, I have to say something.

The-Man-with-the-Iron-Fists5

 

The action does look pretty cool sometimes, and I’ll go so far as to say there are some really, really awesome shots of crazy gore and slow motion goodness. Unfortunately, the pacing of the movie is absolutely dreadful. There is a huge chunk in the middle of the movie where the pacing changes so abruptly from fast moving to not moving that it’s jarring. My attention felt like it was literally thrown out the window. It got so boring. When it eventually did pick up again, I already lost so much interest in the movie that I didn’t really care about what I was watching.

As much as it pains me to say this, I didn’t like this movie too much. Out of almost two hours, I only really like twenty minutes worth. The rest is completely forgettable. The characters are dull, the acting is horrible (save for Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu), and the action scenes were pretty sloppy and suffered from some weird editing issues. I expected a lot more from The Man with the Iron Fists, but instead, I feel completely let down.

The Next Three Days – Review

16 Jul

Thrillers are a difficult genre for me because these movies have to be really good for me to enjoy them. If they move too slow, I get bored. If they move too fast, the suspense lacks. This made me have a feeling that I wasn’t going to be too into The Next Three Days , but I actually really did, despite a few plot contrivances and implausible scenes.

John (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) Brennan are living the American Dream complete with fine jobs, a comfortable house, and a young son. This is all ripped away in a matter of hours when Lara is abruptly arrested from their home and charged with murder. All the evidence points to Lara’s guilt, but John refuses to accept that, and after years of appealing to the courts he decides he’s going to have to get Lara out on his own. John soon finds himself planning not only a breakout, but a new life and fending off the criminal underworld getting closer to his front door.

The intriguing thing about this movie is that it isn’t about politicians, spies, or criminals (for the most part). Our protagonist is just an English teacher at community college. Crowe’s character starts out as just a confused and broken man, torn to pieces by the accusations made towards his wife. However, over time, we get to see him evolve into a man who is willing to do anything to save her. This may sound overused or cliché, but the way it is done in a slow paced and meticulous way makes me believe in this evolution.

The plot begins to collect more and more contrivances as it nears towards the end, but the do not have to do with Crowe’s character. The beginning of Act 3 introduces to new characters who are detectives and on John’s trail. They not only figure out what he intends to do but does so in a manner of minutes (no spoiler here). If we got to travel with these characters and were shown over the course of the movie how they worked, then I wouldn’t have a problem. As it stands, the writing for them is just pretty lousy.

Although the writing for these characters is pretty bad and half-assed, the rest of the screenplay is exciting and well crafted. One of the hardest things to write for with a thriller movie (or any movie in general) is a correct pacing that will keep the viewer engaged. The smart dialogue and character development and relationships were enough to keep me going, along with the gripping and dramatic story.

But all of this would hardly mean anything if it wasn’t acted well, and Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks put their all into their roles and shine. Crowe displays the correct balance of sadness and anger, which drives him, along with the love for his wife, to attempt to break her out of prison. Elizabeth Banks isn’t in a lot of the movie, but her time onscreen is powerful enough to make her a memorable character. Great performances all around.

I’m glad that I can find thrillers that excite me, because it is a really cool genre. Unfortunately, are bores, like State of Play, which also stars Russell Crowe. This is something entirely better. I cared about the characters, their plight, and the outcome. There are also great nail biter scenes that will make the most avid film goer nervous with anticipation. If you’re a fan of thrillers, Crowe, or prison break stories, The Next Three Days is just for you. Hell, check it out anyway. It’s worth it.