Mum’s the Word: 60s story with 2000s Style

Mummy

 

Monster movies, an epic genre that at one time scared the pants off many before you know… things got out of hand with modern cinema. Legendary creatures like the Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein filled the theater with actors decorated in epic make-up with often beautiful costars to face their “terror.” The stories they told remain timeless, but sadly the graphics are a little outdated for most modern movie-goers… until now.  This evening my buddy and I hit the theaters for a retelling of a classic tale in hopes of sparking a new trend to get us hooked on and make money.  As you can read, my review is on the Mummy tonight starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, and Sofia Boutella. Will it be a success, or are we cursed to another mediocre film?  Let’s find out.

 

LIKES:

 

True Monster Movie:  Where most creature films have been turned into gore-tastic bouts of killing, the Mummy returns to the roots of monster movie story telling.  A creature starts to rise to power and it is up to the group to uncover the mystery of how to stop it.  The Mummy focuses on the story telling dynamic, bringing character development, background information, and a dynamic tale that revives the classic genre. Even better is how the movie focuses on the story of this film, instead of building up for an inevitable sequel, something that is rare given the franchise aspect of Hollywood.  The result is a stronger story that is a little more captivating.

 

Comedic relief: Much like the 2000 series, this rendition brings some comedic magic to the desolate desert scenery.  The writing in particular is funny, with well-timed quips that range from simplistic insults and banter to clever puns that are more precious than the treasure under the sand.  Cruise and Wallis work well together with a chemistry that feels like rivals/love interests, and each delivers their humor in their own style that works. However, I laughed the hardest at Jake Johnson whose energetic and erratic style is reminiscent of a giant man child trying to face the curse.  The dynamic style keeps the laughs coming, but doesn’t get overused as we often see.

 

Impressive graphics/action:  While the Mummy certainly takes the story of the 1960’s monster franchise, its graphic presentation is clearly that of the more modern series. Nostalgia runs thick at the various curses our female monster throws including swarming birds, flesh contorting strikes, and yes, face in perilous sand.  The old tricks have never looked better and the technological feats are beautifully integrated into a smooth performance that is somewhat exciting. And speaking of the excitement, the action of the Mummy provides a faster pace than the classics, moving at breakneck speed and loaded with spectacular pyrotechnics.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Out of Place Components: The Mummy does well on the story aspect, but there are parts that felt out of place.  Certain qualities of the film curtail to setting up for the next movie of the franchise (yes, Universal is planning to revive the classics).  These moments are a change of pace (good), but divert a little too much from the path into the cheesy, overdramatic styles that we sometimes see.  I’ll agree that they are impressive displays of technology, but this just proves that not everything has to be covered in movies (hence sequels).

 

Action:  I said the action kept the pace fast and the movie engaging, but the action still has some improvement for me to get the seal of approval from me.  It’s a lot of running, praise to Cruise’s fitness level. Unlike the predecessors in 2000, this Mummy as fewer bouts of gunplay or combat, much of the time the cast dropping their guns to run some more.  They tried to throw some brawls in the mix, but that didn’t work to well for me. I missed the dynamic sequences and thrills they brought, but hey it’s the first film of a long line and there is sure to be more stunts in the future…maybe.

 

Rushed tactics: The heading is tough, but there are some rushed components to this film that needed some fine tuning.  In many proceeding films, it takes time for the bandaged monstrosity to rise to power, requiring gradual offing of characters in suspenseful sequences.  This version was a little short sighted, reduced to a monotonous ploy that lacked little more than repetitive spasms of poor extras.  Many may like the spin on this movie, but this (among other ploys) felt a little underdeveloped and soon became stale to watch.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Mummy is certainly not the movie I was expecting, and on many levels this is good.  While not the wild thrill ride from the 2000s, this spin brings the modern technology to the classic story, giving it a unique feel that was refreshing to see.  With comedic relief, decent acting, and impressive visuals, it has a number of qualities beckoning for a trip to theater. Yet, there are some editing limitations that need tightening up to make it flow better and the action component needed some sprucing up to further expand on the thrills.  All in all, a solid start to upcoming monster franchise, but there is work to be done in the future.

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

It’s The Circle of Dull! Yet Politically Smashing

The circle

 

Robbie K back, after being off the grid for a week.  Tonight’s review is on the latest “dystopian” feature film called The Circle.  Former Hermione Granger, and more recently Belle, Emma Watson leads the film as she attempts to take us into the workings of a technological conglomerate who has knowledge as its key principle.  Yet the trailers paint a much darker secret hidden in its stony walls, one that promises to be a real nail biter.  Will this movie deliver those thrills, or are we stuck with another wash out?  I’ll do my best to answer that question, so sit back, and please read my latest thoughts.

 

LIKES:

 

  • Nice tool development
  • Emma Watson
  • Culturally Relevant Film
  • Solid Moral Lesson

 

Summary:  We all know technology is becoming the heart of the world, if not already the heart of this country.  And certainly, we all know that these technological marvels often require laborious development and maintenance to get the bugs out.  The Circle portrays this very well, helping to develop the very tool that we all love.  Throughout the journey, you’ll get to see the development of the two-faced beast that is technology, and how it requires tweaking to get just “right”.  Not the highest selling point for a movie, but pretty cool.

 

Of course, we all know many are going to go for the lovely Ms. Watson, to support the super actress they adore.  Good news, Watson does a solid job holding up most of the movie, as she is primary the only main character of the film. Watson brings her charm to the screen once more, portraying intelligence, fortitude and inspiration in a manner that many will latch on to. Her accent is pretty sound (though it fluctuates at times), but she manages to deliver her lines with a decent balance of emotion, to sell her points… most of the time.

 

Yet the biggest strength of these movies is how culturally relevant it is to the audience.  If you didn’t gleam it from the trailers, The Circle is essentially a modernized version of the novel 1984 that once more addresses the issues of control, life sharing, and privacy.  The film is certainly very political, but has a number of powerful lessons to teach about the place of technology and how easily it can be twisted. I myself liked the comments from Emma’s followers, a fantastic representation of the shallow, superficial, and often selfish focus that the internet provides.  The scenes are well developed to deliver the full emotional punch, which while not the most unique, can really shock you to the core at how true it can be.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Cheesy acting at times
  • Other actors diluted
  • Missed character development
  • Ignorant/Idiotic moments
  • Lack of Suspense

 

Summary:  Despite Watson’s strong performance, she is involved in some overly cheesy moments. On many of the emotionally heated moments, she loses her balance and stretches into the overdramatic region, losing her accent and dialogue forte in the process. But even her worst acting doesn’t hold a candle to some of the supporting characters who give either emotionally dull deliveries or lackluster performances.  These moments are noticeable enough to offset the momentum of the movie, and derailing it from the quality the trailers promised.

 

An even worse quality for me was how the other actors of the star-studded cast were reduced to simplistic roles.  Legends like Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt and even the late Bill Paxton are reduced to very linear roles, with little character development or expansion beyond what you’ve seen in the trailer.  With such a strong cast, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the missed potential of this movie and how much this all-star cast could have done to amp up the quality of this movie.

 

Even worse, some of the characters, primarily Emma Watson’s character, become so blindly ignorant that the intelligence they worked so hard building is diluted to an idiotic level.  As a result, I found myself starting to loathe the character and how 180 they took the character. Yes, I understand the premise behind the movie, but it didn’t work for me. Other characters also fell into this mix as well, each built to have this incredible skill that was either not used or rapidly reversed to make the characters seem weak.

 

Yet the most disappointing aspect of this movie…is the lack of suspense. The trailer made this film out to be a mystery meeting dystopian policing. Not the case at all. The Circle has no mystery, laying all the facts on the table and leaving little to be uncovered.  You would think there would be intense moments of espionage, or policing by superiors to build up excitement, right? Sorry, this film doesn’t have that either, with the “exciting climax” not showing up until the last twenty minutes of the movie.  As such, the movie is pretty dull and lacks the entertainment quality you might have been seeking.

 

The VERDICT:

 

The Circle is indeed a “scary” film, but it’s mainly due to the reality check provides concerning the dangers technology can provide.  This strong message is certainly the strongest aspect of the movie and Emma Watson was a fantastic choice to deliver it.  Unfortunately, the weak characters, diluted roles, and lack of suspense took away from the entertainment quality of the movie.  Such a dull delivery, leaves me recommending this one for renting at home, or at least recommending you read the book (or books) it is based on.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0

The King Has Returned

Kong

 

Giant monster movies are always toss up when it comes to quality.  They either really impress us, or turn us into monsters as we tear the movie apart.  Tonight, the “King” of monster returns to the silver screen, in what looks to be a high-definition adventure made for the theater technology. With an all-star cast including Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and John Goodman this could be the giant monster flick we have been hoping.  Robbie K is back with another review, hoping to shed some light on Kong: Skull Island.

 

LIKES:

  • Human perspective
  • Awesome Visuals
  • Awesome Soundtrack
  • Action
  • John C. Reilly

 

SUMMARY: Most monster movies are often focused on the monster (or man in a rubber costume) wreaking havoc on the environment, only occasionally panning on a human actor. This rendition of Kong shifted that balance back to the humans, putting the tale more from there trek across the killer island.  Don’t get heated though, because Skull Island has plenty of moments centered on the big ape and all his…naked glory.

Kong isn’t the only visual the movie has to offer though, as the team is able to create the nightmare that is skull island in fantastic displays of CGI and real life setting. The environment has a culmination of setting that capture both the beauty and horror that an isolated, prehistoric ecosystem has to offer. The flora, and inanimate stone structures, aren’t the only impressive visual though.  Skull Island’s fauna are also stunning to watch, imaginative creatures that fit well into habitats they call home.  Both my friend and I agreed the team did an awesome job crafting monsters that dwell in your darkest dreams, giving them bark, bit, and in some cases slime to truly be deadly.  Visuals aside, the soundtrack also has some diversity to it.  Our humans theme song seems to be songs from the 70s that will have you classic rock groupies smiling with glee. While those who like powerful symphony work, will enjoy the edge the orchestra brings to the more exciting parts.

Speaking of excitement, Kong: Skull Island brings the action to the full front.  Unlike Godzilla (2014), Kong doesn’t skimp on the monsters actually doing something other than walk around. Much of the movie involves the humans lighting the creatures up with their guns as they dodge lethal appendages.  Yet Kong himself has his moments to shine, in heart pounding, special effects laden sequences that will have you screaming in delight.  I myself was impressed with Kong’s sweet wrestling moves, including the epic finishes our WWE guys only dream of copying. Sound like too much action? Not to worry, John C Reilly has got you covered with well-timed, well-delivered comedy to lighten the mood.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Story is okay
  • Uneven characters
  • Rushed Scenes
  • Cheesy Moments

 

SUMMARY: The story of King Kong has been told in so many iterations, but most of these renditions give the beast a lot of character outside of wrestling champion. In this telling, the story takes a major dip in favor of the action.  As laid out in the trailers, Skull Island’s main premise is survival, with a majority of the plot focusing on our human casts journey to get off the land. Oh sure, they try to inject a few other morals into the mix (including vengeance and love) and they do try to give Kong some other qualities in an attempt to develop him.  However, many of these extra points shallowly developed, lost to the special effects and battles waiting in the jungle. I missed the deeper nature to Kong’s character, but I give props for venturing off the traditional path.

In addition to the simplistic story, Kong’s Skull Island also has some editing/developmental issues for me.  First off, the uneven characters. Our band of humans is a little skewed, with some getting decent development to others being just another pretty face (that may or may not get devoured).  It’s the problem when hiring big casts, but this reviewer would have liked a little more backstory to add some emotional turmoil to the mix.  The shallow character development paints predictable targets on most of their backs, leading to rushed moments where a character is abruptly, and in some cases pointlessly, eliminated.  Sure, it keeps in theme with the island is always hungry, but Skull Island’s team needed to go in a clean-up these hasty moments.  Ironically, the one thing (outside of the action) they focused on was the anger/hate between Kong and Jackson.  Yours truly found the intense stare off and peeing contest between the two to be a touch overdramatic and drawn out. Suspense building? Maybe. Ridiculous? You bet it is.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Both my friend and I agree that Skull Island is one of the better portrayals of the King of the Jungle. With impressive visuals, dangerous environment, and fantastic battles, this is the monster movie we have been waiting for. While there are some story elements that need tweaking and some balance restored, the film gives me faith for future giants vs. human films and the inevitable sequels to come. With all the special effects and action, yours truly recommends this one for the theater, and could see it having some extra oomph in 3-D. And despite what you may expect, one should stick around when the lights go down. You might just find yourself stoked for what is to come.

 

My Scores:

Action/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

His Reach Fell Short!

reacher-2

Seems this weekend is all about prequels/sequels coming to the theaters. Robbie K here reviewing Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, which promises to have some mystery, action, and comedy to entertain us.  But will Hollywood deliver on its promise, or will we get another lackluster sequel from the generic mold?

 

LIKES:

 

  • Fast Pace
  • Comedic Timing
  • Solid casting

 

In my experience, crime stories tend to drag out a bit before getting to the juicy drama and violence.  While this film is a little slow and convoluted at the beginning it does cut through most of the boring fat to get to the action packed meat. The pace continues to pick up through the movie, as constant pursuit from the enemy keeps our small band on their toes throughout the country.  While some of the slower character building moments are integrated into the intense game of hide, seek, and run, they are often short, entertaining sequences that are there to set up for the impending “excitement”.  Rest assured, Reacher’s latest journey connects the dots in rapid succession to get you to the answers as quickly as possible.

And like the last installment, you might be hoping for some witty comedy to help relieve the tension of the constant chase.  Good news, the writers adapted the book to provide Reacher’s famous dry humor.  For those who don’t know, this movie’s style isn’t slapstick and stupid one-liners to be endlessly quoted.  Instead Reacher’s comedy is dry where timing is the main punch line rather than mindless babbling.  Seeing Cruise react to some of the scenarios or deliver a sarcastically flat response were the funniest components of the film.  I felt the comedy was well integrated into the tale and not abused to keep the laughs as fresh as possible.

Of course the comedy and story would be nothing without a good cast, and Reacher has a great lineup to keep you entertained.  All of the cast feels like a solid military crime family, each playing that stereotypical, no nonsense attitude cinematic soldiers seem to have. While not as tall as book Reacher, Cruise’s rogue nature mixes well with Smulders modern age warrior woman to craft a realistic, crime solving MP duo. Ms. Yarosh as the edgy teenager from a broken home also played her part well and added a twist that both worked and annoyed me at times.  And as for the hunter, Heusinger played him well but I don’t think the character direction worked for me (more on that later).  Still the cast overall make you feel part of a government conspiracy, which gets a plus in my book.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Action is short lived
  • Annoying character tendencies
  • Little mystery and suspense

 

The trailers paint for action, but sadly that action has been greatly reduced to Reacher being in small scuffles that usually detail some poor extra getting knocked unconscious in a single punch.  Occasionally you get some gun play involved and a chase scene displaying Cruise’s agility, but even this lackluster at times. While a former veteran appreciated the realistic battles, I was hoping for a little more excitement and tension to grace the screen. This nearly happened at the end, but that scene crossed into a drawn out, ridiculous torture that while justified, did little but make my eyes roll.

While the action scenes may have been annoying at times, there were a few characters who ground my gears. Samantha in particular was an irritation, as her portrayal of an edgy teenager, whining about everything did little to entertain me. Samantha’s arrogance can be entertaining at times (and was important for character development), but there were a good number of shots that had me hoping Reacher would slap some sense into her. And as for the hunter, well he doesn’t win the award for scariest motive, merely a mercenary with delusions of grandeur to feed his obsession. His skills are certainly impressive, but his drive is lacking and kind of stupid.

Yet the biggest disappointment had to be the lack of mystery and suspense in this movie. In the first installment Reacher had to dig deep to find the perpetrator by pushing his skills to the limit and using ingenuity.  In this film though, the quest was almost too easy for Reacher, with all the pieces falling to conveniently into place that is uncharacteristic of a crime thriller. The source of the corruption was sloppily revealed in the form of pointless character I cared little about and lacked the twist of the original. Of course the surprise isn’t helped by obvious foreshadowing introduced in what would be perceived as unnecessary scenes.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

Overall Reacher’s latest adventure is a more diluted version of its predecessor.  For me the cast is the strongest aspect in this fast paced adventure who will set the stage for the adventure. However, the lack of a challenging mystery was a major disappointment that didn’t have the action to make up for it. If you are looking for some realistic crime/adventure you might check this out, but I recommend most wait for RedBox to pick this flick up.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Crime:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6

 

Take Flight to Realism and Fantastic Acting.

sully

 

It’s a new weekend and that means a new wave of movies to flood the local theaters. Robbie K here starting the round with the latest drama based on real life events that centers on an American Hero named Captain Sullenberger. Yes, I’m talking about Sully, the film that once again delves into whether or not the pilot who landed on the husband is indeed a hero or a delusional zero.  So fasten your seatbelts, make sure your trays are in the upright position, and cell phones off as we take flight into my review.

 

LIKES:

  • The Realism
  • The insight into Sully’s mind
  • Tom Hanks acting

 

When you look into a movie based on true events you hope there is more truth than Hollywood fiction.  Fortunately, this is one movie that puts reality before fantasy. Sully’s 96 minute run time is a recreation of the treacherous nightmare that plagued the skies in 2009.  Audience members will be wowed as they are dropped into the cockpit of the US airline flight as it soars into the Hudson.  The combination of camerawork and modern computer technology will immerse you into the full experience, perhaps fooling you into thinking you are a passenger on the plane.  In addition, the team manages to give you multiple perspectives of the flight, not only advancing the realism, but also adding more pieces to the proverbial puzzle. Yet, the other component that brings the realism is the airplane jargon that fills a majority of the dialogue. According to the retired pilot sitting next to me, Sully’s writers were very accurate in the technology and maneuvers used to land the plane.  Will most care about this component? Probably not, but this reviewer appreciated the extra effort to make this movie real.

What helps provide more answers to the mystery though is getting a visualization of Sully’s internal thoughts. Much like a book, our team was able to illustrate the dark fears that plagued our captain as he waits for the investigation to finish.  These memories are well placed into the story, helping to develop Sully while also helping advance the plot in a timely manner.  Those who have read the tale and hoping the movie will mirror it are certain to enjoy this presentation, and those who choose a less literature based approach will find this method entertaining and engaging.

But of course the headliner of the movie is by far the legendary Tom Hanks playing Captain Sully.  No surprise that Hanks is capable of bringing this role to life. Hanks certainly commits to his role and manages to mirror the reported personality of the Sully. His lines are delivered with grade A accuracy, and yours truly gives the actor props for handling the lead role with such a powerful performance that will most likely net him an Oscar. While most of the other cast certainly plays a hand in recreating this story, Hanks is by far bearing the brunt of the load and handles that responsibility quite well.

DISLIKES:

  • The Drama Flare Added
  • Some perspectives not needed

As I stated, seldom is a movie safe from getting the dramatic touch added to the tale. Sully is no exception as some components take on that Hollywood magic to spice things up and make them more “entertaining.” Some of this editing is in the nature of the crash itself, the dragged out drop to the river, support personnel going into near break downs to add a touch of sympathy, and even the rather stretched portrayal of Sully’s wife.  Yet all those moments are nothing compared to the direction they took the lead investigator Charles Porter. Instead of playing an agent just looking into the entire scenario, Porter’s character was like the lead marauder in a witch hunt with a single-minded goal to bring Sully down. This could have been fine if this was the true character, or even if they mystery was deeper. Unfortunately, neither of these cases seem true, and Porter’s stubborn as a mule attitude inspired nothing more than anger and eye rolling for me.

The second dislike comes in the form of editing and the director’s decisions to split the incident into so many perspectives.  While I appreciate the integrated approach to fully envelop you into the moment, there were some components that really weren’t necessary.  One major moment was from the civilian perspective watching the plane come to land, or the random passenger trying to swim the cold waters due to their panic.  I appreciate the realism in all manners of this flight, but these moments added little to me other than trying to expand the movie out to a longer run time.  A minor error sure, but the editing could have been tapered down a bit to remove some of these pointless moments.

 

The VERDICT

When it comes to Sully, this reviewer has to give props to this movie. A realistic portrayal of the hero with fantastic acting and attention to detail are sure to attract the nonfiction lovers to the theaters for this one.  Sure it could have found a home on Netflix or PBS as a 1 hour special, but I have to admit that this movie was one of the better productions I’ve seen in a while. So is it worth a trip to the theater?  I would say yes, especially to pay tribute to Hanks’ wonderful performance.  The recommended audience is anyone in love with nonfiction/true stories, Tom Hanks fans, or those looking for another tale of a trip gone wrong (with Hanks again being the captain. Guess I won’t be traveling with him anytime soon.)

 

My scores are:

Biography/Drama: 9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0