The Mummy: Movie Man Jackson

Power isn’t given. It’s taken. In ancient Egypt resides Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). She has power, but she desires more, and goes about attaining it in a sinister way. She comes close to doing so, but is thwarted at the last moment, mummified into a tomb for her transgressions, and cast out of the ancient land.

Fast forward to present day Mesopotamia, aka Iraq, where soldier-of-fortune Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and accomplice Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are looking for the next big score to sell to the black market. After surviving a battle, they come across the massive tomb of Ahmanet. Unwittingly, Nick releases her back into this world, and as a result, becomes a target for the resurrected princess who looks to complete the sacrifice she was unable to thousands of years ago.

Peace and love and universes, man. That’s what it feels like in 2017, with Marvel leading the way, DC playing aggressive catch-up, while Warner Bros (on a vastly smaller scale despite ironically featuring two of the biggest monsters in the world) and Universal feeling like they’ve got the IP to launch their own interconnected offerings. Just in case one didn’t know, Universal wants to make sure it’s known that The Mummy is the launching pad of the “Dark Universe” by saying so before The Mummy even begins in Universal font. It’s a bit much. But the end feeling walking out of The Mummy is that of a competent, yet somewhat disposable, summer blockbuster.

The Mummy 2017 serves as director Alex Kurtzman’s (People Like Us) first big-budget feature. He’s got a little bit of a difficult task in not only reestablishing a major monster character, but a larger universe. He mostly succeeds in this, at least in the first two-thirds. Though getting off to a bit of a rough start with some overlong story exposition (more of a writing fault than anything), Kurtzman generally settles into a directorial groove, with the highlights being some thrillingly fun action sequences peppered throughout adjoined by a solid score from the popular Brian Tyler. There’s been better CGI in summer blockbusters, but what’s found here gets the job done. One caveat: Stay away from the 3D offering, as it does little to nothing to enhance the overall presentation.

Surprisingly, the movie handles its juggling of a singular world along with introducing bigger matters fairly well. But, by the end, The Mummy bookends itself with more obvious exposition and promises of “a world of gods and monsters,” just in case it wasn’t known already. A simple mid-credits scene may have worked just as efficiently. Any attempts at emotional or intellectual investment fails to register much of a pulse, such as an inorganic, hot-shotted romance that seems to be exist only because the two leads are good-looking. Humor is hit and miss—sometimes a really big hit—but other times undercutting what intensity may be there.

There aren’t many legitimate mega movie stars that exist nowadays, but Tom Cruise still serves as one of them. He’s playing a role that many people could play in Nick Morton, but Cruise still brings some excitement if only because he’s Tom Cruise, running and delivering comedic lines like only he can. However, he’s got the same problem that Jake Johnson (takes a while to realize anytime ‘Nick’ is said in The Mummy, they’re not referring to Jake), has in this movie: They’re playing themselves, which I don’t think The Mummy is going for. Johnson’s character in particular, though occasionally funny, would fit better in a different production, like a Halloween episode of New Girl or something.

Little can be said for the person Annabelle Wallis stars as. Initially appearing to be an interesting, do-it-herself character, her character is ultimately revealed to a basic damsel archetype with no chemistry had with Cruise. Two standout performances come from Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella. The trailers have done a great at hiding who exactly is Crowe, and the reveal as to how he fits into this upcoming world may be the best aspect of The Mummy. It’s excellent casting and perhaps the biggest reason to get excited about this future universe and a few age-old monsters. Boutella’s been knocking it out of the park recently in Kingsman and Star Trek: Beyond; this role doesn’t allow her to be as physical as those, but her presence is notable.

 

There’s absolutely nothing new or overly impressive hiding in the tomb of The Mummy. But for a 110 minute feature in the heat of the blockbuster season, there are worse fates than being a middling big-budget film made for eating popcorn during and not thinking much about afterwards.

C+

Photo credits go to flickeringmyth.com, impawards.com, indiewire.com, and cheatsheet.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Let’s Be Cops: Movie Man Jackson

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“F*** you, I’m using the lingo. The lingo is half the fun.”

It is the age old question: Does the uniform make the man, or does the man make the uniform? Both views can be seen in Let’s Be Cops. In it, Justin and Ryan (Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson) are best friends and almost 30-ish roommates who are unsure of where their lives are going in the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles. One random day, the duo get invited  to a “costume” party and with their options limited, decide to go as boys in blue.

For one reason or another, everyone totally buys into them as cops. Trepidation on Justin’s part be dammed, the two ride with it and revel in their new roles, which brings an excitement that was previously lacking in their day-to-day routines. Of course, the innocuous fun can only last for so long until the guise becomes dangerous.

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It has taken me longer to view this and give thoughts on it, but MMJ keeps his eye on the streets  movie blogosphere. The complaints have been read, from a lazy script to it simply not being funny. Going in with tempered expectations, I just wanted something average, and yet I got more. Comedy is truly more taste based than other genres, which segues perfectly into the next statement: Let’s Be Cops may just be my favorite comedy of the year so far.

Buddy cop films, whether comedy, action, or a fusion of the two, have been around for seemingly forever. Most if not all follow the same template that everyone is familiar with, especially in story and main characters. LBC is really no different at its core and the wheel isn’t exactly reinvented. But one thing it does possess is an original premise that gives the usual tropes found in these films sort of a slightly different twist. People impersonating other figures has definitely been done, but civilians impersonating cops? If it has been done before in film, never to the length these two take it to.

The biggest reason why this works so well is the chemistry stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. possess. Clearly, the time these two spend on the FOX TV show New Girl has paid dividends here. They may not be as well known as say those guys who set up shop on a certain well known street, but no matter. Both play off each other impeccably, made more impressive that reportedly 70% of the dialogue was improvised. It is a comedy that relies more on its dialogue and less on slapstick. There are some great lines, and there is a lot of future potential with the duo. Another movie (not a sequel) featuring the two would be welcomed in a heartbeat.

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It is also a nice touch to see Damon playing the relative straight guy of the two, while Jake is the lovable douche and idiot, which is a bit different from their characters they play on TV. Their comedy roles are dynamic enough though in that each gets the chance to be the dunce and the sane one when the situation calls for it. The idea that these guys commit so quickly to being cops (mainly Ryan) is disturbing…and utterly hilarious. Is it far-fetched that no one questions these guys? Sure, but realism shouldn’t be expected in most comedies. The fact that no one does so made the movie that much more of a riot in my opinion. There was hardly a dull moment in this.

Supporting comedic fire is laid down by Rob Riggle and Keegan-Michael Key, who both meld nicely with the stars of the feature. While she doesn’t offer much more than a cute face, Nina Dobrev is alright in her role as one of the guys’ love interest. Really, the only weak part of the cast are those villains. They are as stereotypical as you could imagine, from the crimes they commit to the general look they have. They are passable enough when things naturally go down. As seen in many buddy cop movies, sometimes the third act can be somewhat different than the first two. (SLIGHT SPOILER) The shift is noticeable in Let’s Be Cops, but it is also a shift that was needed, because it plays into the movie’s subtle theme of taking responsibility for your actions. For this reason, it wasn’t as forced or drastic as other similar movies, and it felt right in place here. (END SPOILER)

At 104 minutes, LBC moves at a steady clip but at the same time the first 10 minutes come off as slightly rushed. We know that the film wants to get into the meat as fast as possible, but the early writing in this is akin to putting something on a fast-moving conveyor belt to get it to the next station as fast as possible. Additionally, there aren’t necessarily gaps in storytelling but there are two or three times where the film more or less assumes things have been happening or already happened, so it isn’t always tight. There are some pleasant surprises in the directing, and while this won’t win any awards for cinematography, certain locales and shots techniques seize the mood in the respective scene. Even the soundtrack snaps wonderfully into the film, which wasn’t something expected. Many of the tracks are definitely making their way on my phone.

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As crazy as it sounds, Let’s Be Cops is one of the better comedies of the year…subjectively speaking of course. Its absurdity can be picked apart, but on laughs supplied it does the job a comedy is supposed to do. More than enough for me, and I think I know what I want to be for Halloween.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to filmhdwallpapers.com, usatoday.com, and flicksandbitscom.

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21 Jump Street: Movie Man Jackson

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“Are you ready for a lifetime of being absolutely badass mother****ers?”

High school. You may have peaked in it, or you may have suffered through it. At any rate, once you are done, you never are forced to go back…unless it is part of your job. This is the situation Jenko and Schmidt find themselves in during 21 Jump Street. Way back in 2005, Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) were but a few of the average high school stereotypical students. Jenko is the average dumb jock, while Schmidt is a socially inept but smart dude.  Being on complete opposite ends of the high school food chain, it isn’t exactly shocking to see these two never interact. The off times they do, it goes as one would expect.

Enter 2012, and the two find each other in the police academy. Instead of remaining in high school mode, both end up helping the other with weaknesses they struggle with and ultimately forming a bond that leads to their graduation. After an odd mishap one day on patrol as bike cops, the duo is reassigned to the 21 Jump Street division, a program revitalized from the 80’s. Led under the direction of the always-angry Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), this tag-team is assigned to go undercover as high school students in an effort to snuff out a new drug known as HFS. Sounds easy enough, but 2012 in high school is nothing like 2005.

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If you have never seen the TV series sharing the same name of this film, do not fret. In all honesty, the only link the show and its remake share is the title. The 2012 version of 21 Jump Street eschews the seriousness and drama from its predecessor and opts for a lighter and humorous take. From start to finish, laughs are to be had at a pretty consistent clip.

Within the first few minutes, it is evident that this movie never takes itself too seriously. Whether it be through a simple moment of the main characters locking eyes over expertly timed music cues reminiscent of iconic 80’s movies, or expecting the obvious explosion to occur after shooting numerous flammable objects, it pokes fun at itself, the implausibility of the scenario, and staples of the buddy cop genre. The film also gets commended for going in an unexpected direction. At its core, I got the message of change in the fact that nothing stays the same and what was once cool can easily become outdated. It would have been real easy, and lazy, to keep Jenko as the ultra-suave and straight man while sticking Schmidt as the loser with no chance at progression. Thankfully, it goes a different route.

This “meta-ness” alluded to previously extends to the duo themselves. The stereotypes that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum embody here are in a way what others think about them in real life. Hill to a lot of people is or at least comes off as an insecure and occasionally douchey guy, and Tatum for the longest time (perhaps still) was only thought of as eye candy with not much to offer anywhere else. Maybe I am looking too much into this, and if I am so be it. It’s just something that worked into my mind when watching.

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Being able and willing to take shots at yourself is well and good, but the characters and the actors playing those said characters still have to be interesting enough to make it matter. Luckily, they are in 21 Jump Street. Jonah Hill has proven his comedic ability previously before this, but he is in top-notch form here. Not so much a shock to see him score so many laughs, but it was refreshing to see his character with a fair amount of heft. His character allows for more connection with the audience, as many have been there at some point in time.

Channing Tatum is the real revelation in the film from a comedic standpoint. He gets many great lines and serves them up with exceptional delivery. He is really shaping as a versatile guy in Hollywood, something I never would have thought possible during his roles in Coach Carter and Step Up. As a duo, their chemistry was infectious and appeared natural, which is a must for buddy cop films.

The supporting cast is nothing to scoff at though. Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, Ellie Kemper, Brie Larson, DeRay Davis, and a few others bring humorous moments to varying degrees. But Ice Cube as the police captain steals the show as Captain Dickson every time he appears on screen. Based on a stereotype like Tatum and Hill’s characters, he is consistently angry throughout the movie in the most over-the-top way. His delivery and timing is flawless, and whenever he spars with Jenko and Schmidt is a riot.

As a whole, the dialogue and writing is pretty strong, if occasionally overdependent on the F bomb. For the most part it works more often than not, and it it pretty realistic of what is heard in most high schools. There were just a few times where it came across as a crutch, but it is to be expected with a R-rated comedy. What wasn’t expected in the way it was carried out happened to be the last third of the movie. Unlike the previous thirds, the last 30 or so minutes serves more as an action movie. Not that there is not still comedy to be had, but the tone obviously shifts and it is a bit jarring to see blood spraying and bodies dropping.

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More of a re-imagining than an remake/reboot, the film incarnation of 21 Jump Street is good entertainment through and through, bolstered by self-referential humor and a strong (covalent) bond between main characters. Maybe going back to high school isn’t such a bad thing.

Grade: B

Photo credits go to sonypictures.com, movieforums.com, & totalfilm.com.

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