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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The Nice Guys: Movie Man Jackson

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No, these are not The Other Guys. They are The Nice Guys, though nice may be a bit of a misnomer. Private Investigators Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) do the same job, but in different ways in 1970’s Los Angeles. Holland is a bit neurotic, and Healy a little more no-nonsense.

A possibly interconnected mystery involving a death of a famous porn star and the disappearance of a young lady forces their paths to cross. In between all of the glitz and glamour the City of Angels provides, something shady may be going on, and two heads, instead of one, are going to be needed to unravel this tangled web.

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Neo-noir is not a genre seen a lot in the 21st century, and that may be a good thing, Though it would be great to see it more in the mainstream, the times we do get it often makes for a breath of fresh air. Shane Black’s The Nice Guys takes the genre, some talented lead actors, and a good crime story and turns it into a watch that is immensely fun.

Compared to the blockbusters usually seen around this time of the summer season, The Nice Guys is positioned as counter-programming for the “smart adult” moviegoer. That is sort of true, but only in lack of spectacle. Yours truly would argue that The Nice Guys is as “summer-y” as any blockbuster one is likely to see this year, only missing the CGI and large environments. It’s light, quick, snappy, and bright.

The 70’s-set locale in LA hearkens itself to the disco era, with tons of orange and yellows and neon lighting making up the predominate color palette of the film. Music junkies of that era, rejoice, as licensed songs by Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Temptations, and Brick along with others all make appearances and make it impossible not to bob your head along to what is shown on screen. Additionally, a good score composed by John Ottman and David Buckley punctuates some of the action scenes well. After seeing his contributions to Iron Man 3, I wasn’t expecting the action here to be so satisfying, but it is. Very interested to see how The Predator looks in a few years now.

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It’s no surprise to see that Black, who made his name as a writer, takes that responsibility upon himself in The Nice Guys yet again. He uses a few well-worn cliches that epitomize the buddy-cop genre, and anyone who has never been fond of the subgenre is likely not to find anything here to change that sentiment. For a little while, the screenplay is sort of scattered, and it is hard to see how these leads our duo takes looks at fit together. But they finally do, and a nice twist gives an interesting addition to the final act, which shifts our leads from a focus on doing their jobs to doing the right thing.

The success of buddy cop movies hinge a lot on their stars, and Black decided to cast some big ones in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Their chemistry is infectious, starting through the hilarious first scene the two share together and on. On their own, they are great as well. Crowe is the straight man of the two, while Gosling is more of the buffoon who still possesses the smarts when needed. There is a know-how that is needed in both roles, perhaps more so Crowe’s, that these two get right. A surprise revelation is the young Angourie Rice playing the daughter of Gosling’s character. Not ready to say she’s a scene stealer in this film, but she is awfully close and infuses the screenplay with an emotional component that may not exist without her.

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Nice guys don’t always have to finish at the bottom, and though its box office returns in coming weeks are likelier to be closer to the bottom of the top 10 than the top, it will be no indication of how much summer (really any season) amusement is to be had with The Nice Guys. The ending leaves open the possibility of more adventures with this oddball duo. I say bring it on, and stuff.

A-

Photo credits go to collider.com and ubertopic.com.

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