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.

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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back-Movie Man Jackson

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At least Tom Cruise runs in this one! After doing his thing in the shadows with a little help from his “contact” Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) the mysterious nomad Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) resurfaces again, hoping to pay her some thanks. Maybe even take her on a date.

But once he gets to Washington, D.C., Reacher finds out that Turner has not only been removed of her post, but thrown in jail under questionable circumstances. This sends Jack on a mission to figure out exactly what’s going on. All the while, a young teenage girl, Samantha (Danika Yarosh), is somehow connected to all of this, by the simple fact that she could possibly be Reacher’s daughter.

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Some films are hard to garner the desire to post thoughts about. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, is one of those films. Generic may not be the word to use, but little, if anything, is worth remembering. It honestly feels like one of the latest in novels that just don’t cut it on the big screen.

Out steps Christopher McQuarrie and in steps Edward Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai) into directorial responsibilities in the Jack Reacher franchise. Technically, there isn’t anything wrong with Never Go Back. The action, albeit sparser than I personally would like here, is shot good enough when it happens. Composer Henry Jackson has some musical highlights that accompany a few scenes.

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But, the action would be a lot more satisfying if there were a story worth even getting semi-invested in. For yours truly, an action movie doesn’t have to have the greatest of stories to be fun. Maybe the issue is I want Jack Reacher to be more of an action when it really isn’t. All of this is a long winded way of saying that Never Go Back is rather dull in its A and B plot, failing in execution to deliver emotional gravitas (tries so hard to bring some to the table), as well as compelling crime story  that can be summed up as “bad organization links to corrupt officials.”

The dialogue does the feature little favors, either. Whereas the first Reacher had some cheesy amusing bits of dialogue and one-liners, Never Go Back doesn’t. More times than not, the dialogue is nondescript, (which isn’t the greatest of descriptions though worse could be had). But, there are a few moments of cringeworthiness, most notably a scene midway through where the two protagonists talk about a seedy motel and what they’d do to each other. It’s all kinds of bad and awkward.

Cruise is still a movie star, and always will be. And while more times than not, a star raises the most average of movies to good status, not unlike a good quarterback taking a bad team from bad to average or average to good. This doesn’t always work, however, as some things just can’t be elevated. Tom is in that predicament with Never Go Back. His charisma, often ever-present in most of his appearances, is pretty nonexistent. Far from a bad performance, but it isn’t a Cruise entertaining performance.

He’s paired with Cobie Smulders for much for the runtime. There’s an argument to be made that they’re not supposed to have chemistry with their respective character personalities, but pushed as potential love interests they don’t have it. The damsel in distress role is filled by Danika Yarosh, leaning more towards annoying than endearing. Couldn’t tell you anything about the villains, except that the hitman is a poor man’s rendition of any hitman found in like-minded action movies.

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Never give in, never give up, never go back. That’s the tagline for the latest Jack Reacher film. Follow the first part as it pertains to viewing. If you didn’t (like me), make sure to follow the last.

C-

Photo credits go to imdfb.org, guruofmovie.com, and themoviemylife.com

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Jack Reacher: Movie Man Jackson

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He who drifts is not directionless. Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is a former U.S. Army Military police officer living away from society more or less. He’s impossible to find or locate. However, he’s drawn out of the shadows by by an old acquaintance who needs his help.

A man by the name of Barr has been accused of murdering five innocent people, and all of the evidence points to him. While not surprising to Reacher in the fact that Barr is the main suspect, something doesn’t exactly sit right with him. Along with Barr’s defense attorney Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), the two work to uncover the case, the killer’s motives, and of course, the right killer.

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It may feature the same star, but the silver screen treatment of the Jack Reacher character from the novels is far from what one (a.k.a me) might initially expect it to be. Mission: Impossible, this is not. Jack Reacher is perfectly content being a little more lowkey.

After the marvelous (and very, very unnerving) opening sequence with the sniper setting up shop, one of the first things noticed about this Christopher McQuarie feature is how it looks. It is hard to pinpoint exactly why, but Jack Reacher feels like a movie that would be right at home in the 90’s or the 80’s, maybe even the 70’s through camera angles, lighting, score, etc. Despite the heavier tone, I immediately thought of movies like Speed and Beverly Hills Cop when watching this.

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Plot-wise, Jack Reacher is sort of like a poor man’s The Bourne Identity. The few action sequences are well-filmed, with the highlight being a great car chase midway through. But this is more committed to telling a mystery, or, more accurately, at least how Reacher solves it. It starts off well enough, but by the midpoint, it is a tad tedious and the finale couldn’t come sooner.

As time wore on, one might find that they’re not watching the film for its plot but for Tom Cruise. Or at least, I was. The fun lies in the character, not the mystery that devolves into common corruption and foreign baddies. The wrong actor could have made this Reacher movie a big disappointment, but Cruise keeps it at a consistent quality level. Reacher’s a wise-ass who knows exactly how everything went down or didn’t go down in CSI fashion just because he’s that good, a hardened soldier, a ladies man, and a vigilante who isn’t pure good or bad, among other things. And Cruise embodies all of this, even with his diminutive height. Didn’t know it was an issue until some of the notes about the casting were read. Author Lee Child stated it best: “With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher. With Tom, you’ll get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height.”

The rest of the cast predictably comes nowhere near Cruise, but aren’t major detractors to the movie, either. Usually derided in much that he appears in, Jai Courtney is actually a pretty good, albeit generic, menacing antagonist here, much better than Werner Herzog’s character, who lacks intrigue and any real fear aspect. Rosamund Pike fits well with Cruise, and David Oyelowo is sound as an agent who doesn’t know what to make of Reacher. Robert DuVall’s gun owner character doesn’t appear until the middle and then becomes the wily sidekick of Reacher. Not that he isn’t entertaining, but the choice comes out of nowhere. It never feels like Reacher is that close enough with him to employ him as backup.

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Jack Reacher is a prime example of a true movie star elevating basic, cliched, and possibly boring in the wrong hands, material to something of a pleasing watch. Do I ever want to see Jack Reacher again? Sure, as long as Cruise is involved.

C+

Photo credits go to aceshowbiz.com, topgear.com, en.wikipedia.org, and cinemablend.com.

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Edge of Tomorrow: Movie Man Jackson

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“There is no courage without fear.”

War is unforgiving. Comprised of many battles and confrontations, it fatigues everyone involved both physically and maybe even more so mentally. Now multiply that mental fatigue by 100, and repeat it daily in the exact same fashion. The result is Edge of Tomorrow. In this film, malevolent alien beings knows as Mimics have engaged in a war with humans in continental Europe. They are flat out dominating us, and little hope is on the horizon.

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) isn’t a soldier, but he is a smooth talking guy the military has effectively utilized. It is his unlucky day though, as General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) orders Cage to the front lines in France after a heated meeting. Shockingly, the Mimics seem to have correctly anticipated a human assault, and consequently many casualties are suffered.

Cage manages to take down an Alpha mimic during the ruckus, but the blood emitted from the downed being burns and kills him. Except he wakes up the next morning, and the next, and the next, and relieves the same battle over again. A gritty female combat soldier (Emily Blunt) is the only person who can help him. Cage possesses the literal power to change the course of this war, but it is going to take a lot of sacrifice and careful attention to detail to do so.

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It is a shame that Edge of Tomorrow isn’t doing huge box office numbers domestically. As a pure summer movie, this is infectious entertainment. It may not feature the traditional lens to society that many sci-fi films yield, but there is more than enough here for a great time (it’s the summer anyway). EoT’s story is rather simplistic. There is a war, featuring aliens and humans squaring off for their existence, with some very logical time travel elements interspersed. It truly embraces the science fiction roots in visual style and setting, just minus the social commentary.

With this review being late, this has most likely already been said but it will be said again: Edge of Tomorrow feels like watching a video game on the silver screen. This sounds like a negative, but it is in fact a compliment. To me personally, it resembled some of Mass Effect 3 along with a dash of Gears of War and a hint of Call of Duty. The war witnessed came across as intense and as realistic from a futuristic standpoint as could be, with all praise to the cinematography and presentation.

Director Doug Liman has done a magnificent job framing all of the action in fluid and clear detail. Each bullet, collision, Mimic rip, etc. is captured in full, all without wonky camera angles or unneeded effects. He only has a misstep at the end. It is a little too muddled visually (and scriptually) that it ends up hitting an anticlimactic note. Still, along with Godzilla, this shares the mantle for best looking movie of the year so far. Supplementing the cinematography is an impressive orchestral score that raises tension when needed and further evokes the grim reality of the war.

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With its premise, one would think that reliving the same day a la Groundhog Day would make watching EoT a tedious drag after a while. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movie manages to feel fresh each time it loops because it hardly ever starts right at the beginning of Cage’s day. It sort of progresses like a video game checkpoint; once Cage has “mastered” a certain section, it really isn’t seen again. A nice decision to carry out the events this way, as if the loops were shown at the start of each day, it would have been a bore after a while.

Carrying out the premise this way is also proof that the filmmakers thought highly of the audience’s ability to think for themselves, a nice feeling to have. It is never shown how many times Cage has to relive this day. All we know is that he is able to get slightly further each time, but it can be imagined that maybe 40, 50, or hundreds of times were needed to master the previous section, and another 40, 50, or 100 times to master and advance the next section. Thinking about relieving that is mind-blowing.

Edge of Tomorrow is bleak, but not completely throughout. Seeing Tom Cruise perish over and over again is sort of depressing especially once you truly think about how many times he has to live, die and repeat. But honestly, it is laugh out loud funny in parts, however morbid that may sound. It keeps the film light enough in spite of its hero’s predicament. This may be a slight indictment of the other comedies I’ve viewed in theaters this year, but I easily laughed hardest during this film. There is something about how Cruise sells his situation through grunt or quip before execution that is nearly impossible not to laugh hard at.

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With this starring role, Cruise still shows he has what it takes to lead a blockbuster. Whether you care for the man or not, his commitment to his roles is undeniable. He has always been hit and miss for me, but his charisma and talent is exhibited here. William Cage is a likable enough guy to get behind, and his transformation from a shaken and unsure individual to a battle-experienced soldier is believable.

Not forgotten is Emily Blunt as all-around hardened war veteran Rita Vrataski. If people desire less conventional female depictions in cinema, this role is a great template. Rita doesn’t need her battles to be fought, she is pretty effective herself.  And yet, she needs Cage, and Cage needs her. In the process, they form a strong bond in the midst of devastation that gives the movie emotion. The rest of the cast is forgettable however except for Bill Paxton, who also brings humor as the average military tightwad. No one in J squad is memorable, and General Brigham’s (Brendan Gleeson) motives are never explained.

Thankfully this is a star driven film. Edge of Tomorrow may not crank out the cash it deserves here in the U.S, but it is without question a summer experience that should keep most viewers on the edge of their seats.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to itsartmag.com and comickbook.com.

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