REVIEW: “THE MUMMY” (2017) Universal Pictures

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Remember the 1999 version of The Mummy? How fun it was and you loved it! Well this isn’t that. This one take us to the old school premise of The Dark Universe, a creation of creatures that put Universal on the studio map back in the 30’s. Though the franchise had been struggling ever since the original 1999 movie was released, as the sequels to the first fun film gradually got worse. The first “Mummy” was slick, well made and entertaining; the second was your typical sequel movie, not the worst but far from the best, and then with the third installment it was clear that Hollywood had given up on the franchise and wanted to squeeze out one more pay-check.

Well skip forward to 2017 and we have Tom Cruise leading this one. While it may appear to have something just as good as the original, sadly it falls short of that kind of fun. Sure, for some, the flashy visuals or the (occasional) uninspired dialogue, may work – but most will see right past all this. However, there is no doubt that a lot of money was invested in making this film look good, and it does an okay job of doing that.

(L to R) Nick Morton (TOM CRUISE) and Chris Vail (JAKE JOHNSON) in a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: “The Mummy.” From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, “The Mummy” brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.

To summarize up the plotline quickly, Tom Cruise is Nick Morton who along with his fellow partner in crime, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), are supposed Army men, but really are just there to loot antiquities from local Iraqi war zones. Archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is there trying to stop that from happening while having a little liason with Morton. What they find though is the mummified remains of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who was the sole heir to Egypt’s throne before her Pharaoh dad found a second wife and had a son. Furious that she wouldn’t be Queen, she vowed revenge, killing all three and making a pact with the bad-news Egyptian god Set. But before she could sacrifice a lover, who was to become the god’s human embodiment, she was captured and “mummified alive.” The ceremonial dagger with which she intended to make the sacrifice was split into two parts, putting its magic powers on hold until the about-to-wake-up Ahmanet can put the pieces together again. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) – yes, THAT Dr. Jekyll – is the holder of one of these parts and of course wants to use it for his own means.

I think that it’s important to remember that you’re not seeing anything ground- breaking with this film. It’s not the same type of storyline as the originals nor is it going to have the same impact as those and it certainly isn’t going to steal the show at the Oscars, with the acting by all the leads, Cruise, Wallis, Crowe & Johnson being very stilted. But it has its moments of adrenaline-pumping action, some well-crafted visuals and of course the lead in to what The Dark Universe is set to bring us.

Some of this 1hr 47min Egyptian-fetish flick feels a bit clunky, and the story is all too familiar sounding (disturbing an ancient evil which comes back to wreak havoc on everyone), but when you consider that there have been worse redux films, The Mummy does have its entertainment value. It has its action, but it also has some cracks in its sarcophagi which will, hopefully, be ironed out when they inevitably make another of these in two or so years time.

Not the worst, not the best, and hopefully they will step it up some for the rest of the Dark Universe series for us.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening in IMAX 3D: Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “SNATCHED” (2017) 20TH CENTURY FOX

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The premise of SNATCHED is simple. Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) gets fired from her retail job in an very funny opening scene, then dumped by her boyfriend Michael (Randall Park) in another good comedic scene and convinces her super cautious house-bound mom Linda (Goldie Hawn), to go on this ‘non-refundable’ vacation with her to Ecquador. While on vacation Emily meets James (Tom Bateman), the stunning hot Brit who has some of the funniest scenes with Schumer of this whole hit-n-miss film. As for Emily and her mother, well they fall into in a completely predictable but hilarious tale, that despite a few lulls here and there, will make you laugh for most of the 90 minute run time.

The shenanigans which ensue is what makes this film a comedy, and while it might not match up to Trainwreck, it’s definitely a must see for some good laughs with just enough sentiment added into the mix for Mother’s Day. The rest of the cast features Ike Barinholtz as her mamas-boy brother Jeffrey, Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as the hysterically funny duo of Ruth & Barb. Add in a couple of essential co-starring roles and you have Christopher Meloni doing a short but oh-so-sweetly-done stint as funny-man, Explorer/Trader Joe’s store manager’ Roger Simmons, and Bashir Salahuddin as State Dept. Agent Morgan Russell who constant hilarious phones calls with Emily & Jeffrey add some good laughs into the mix.

Make no mistake though, this is Amy Schumer’s movie and she defnitely takes center stage in this one and pulls it off – not as completely as say she did in Trainwreck, but still does a commendable job. And yes, you will need to like her brand of comedy to be able to find the fun so to speak. Goldie is well..Goldie, and at one part showing pictures her younger-self just takes you back in time for a moment. Of course there are some completely implausable situations, but for the most part they pull them it off. I will say though, if you’re planning to take your mom for this one and she doesn’t like in your face comedy, you might get grounded as it’s R-rated for a reason. Lastly, director Jonathan Levine along with producers Peter Chernin and Paul Fieg, knew what they were doing here on run-time as they didn’t overstay their welcome and try to make it last longer than needed.
Is this the best comedy you will ever see..no it’s not, but it’s definitely a passable way to spend 90 minutes.

Grade: C
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Media Review Screening: Monday, May 8, 2017 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “ALIEN COVENANT” (2017) 2OTH CENTURY FOX

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So here we are 10 years after “Prometheus” and a whopping 38 years after the original, we have Ridley Scott’s continuation of the well-known “ALIEN” film series with “ALIEN COVENANT.” Question proposed here – is there really anything new to add to the saga?
You know the formula of these films by heart by now. There’s usually a spaceship, an unknown planetary destination, a crew – most of whom will not survive, a diversion of some sort, and lastly..the Alien itself. It’s how well they are done and actually take the story forward (or in some cases backward), that make the film. Here the crew of the colony ship “Covenant” is on the way to a remote planet at the other end of the galaxy. There they discover something that first appears like an undiscovered ‘paradise’, which in this case means an atmosphere humans would be able to survive in and colonize. When in fact, it turns out to be a dark and dangerous place when they discover what and whom it’s actually occupied by, we are not really surprised.

Without going into any spoilers, which by the way you will be able to figure out within the first hour, we open with a rather creeped out scene set before the events of the previous film between Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland and David (Michael Fassbender), who is fresh off the assembly line. Thankfully it gives us a touch into the idea of what’s to come but still doesn’t really answer why David does what he does. Also we do find out what happened to Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the severed android head of her android David, but it’s not all that compelling and for those of you who can remember all of Prometheus I give you kudos, because I couldn’t.

As for the cast, you’ll get to know them pretty quickly and effectively even if you won’t remember them all by name because the casuality list is long and fast. Mercifully they are not made to look like dunces in the way that the crew of the Prometheus ended up as. Danny McBride as Tennessee is one of the stand outs though, working surprisingly well in a serious role as a cowboy hat wearing pilot, along with his wife Faris (Amy Seimetz). Katherine Waterston as Daniels tries aptly enough to fill Ripley’s shoes here as the the ships second in command, and the main character for most of the action in the film.

Billy Crudup also delivers a solid performance as Captain Oram, who is thrust unexpectedly into that role during the opening space mission scene and is constantly at doubt with himself when it comes to decision making. The constant reminders that he is a man of faith and is often at odds with the rest of his crew on those decisions does get a little heavy handed at times. But it is because of exactly this reason, he is also one of the few crew members you will actually remember along with Sgt. Lope (Demian Bechir) as the head of the security unit. And lastly, oddly enough the cameo from James Franco as Jacob Branson, the start-off Captain of Covenant, will remain in your head throughout the film.

When it comes to Fassbender, without spoiling anything let’s just say that he builds upon his creepy with the dual roles here. Watching the David/Walter scenes together though are some of the most slow, too lengthy moments of the film with even their fight scene coming in at a sort of head-shaking weird.

Lastly, the aliens themselves..well I won’t lie to you, they are pretty typical for a film of this type. There were moments of the eyeroll type laughter from the audience when and how they first appear. You also won’t find the type of tension here that you found when you saw the previous Alien films – you know – the whole ‘not knowing’ buildup of tension & excitement. There are no surprises nor really just any of that edge of your seat/don’t look tension here. You know when and how they are coming and who’s not going to make it pretty quickly in. A solid enough sci-fi thriller, with some gory jump scares about sums it up perfectly with the final scene being the best, and of course leading you into the next film in the series.

Grade: C+
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Media Screening Review: Friday, May 5, 2017 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, May 19, 2017

REVIEW: “WILSON” (2017) Fox Searchlight

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Based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes.Woody Harrelson is Wilson, probably one of the most random and least liked characters I’ve come across so far this year. He starts and goes throughout the film, with a random series of unpleasant tics of being the most annoying person in the world, rather than a convincing human being. This problem extends to the film itself. It thinks it’s intelligent and possibly a comedy as it supposedly gives us earth-shattering insights into the human condition with establishing Wilson’s unreliability at the outset, pitting his self-righteous voiceover narration against the realities of his condescension toward strangers. But the character we end up seeing never really adds up to more than the sum of his vulgar outbursts and flagrant disregard for conventional social graces, schizophrenically flipping from pessimism to arrogance to sentimentality sometimes within the same scene and not done well, with the character coming off as more mentally unbalanced than anything else.

The film’s events are driven by the death of Wilson’s father, which inspires in an increasingly lonely Wilson a desire to reconnect with his ex-wife, Pippi (Laura Dern), and the daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara), he discovers she didn’t terminate the pregnancy as he had assumed, but put the child up for adoption. But his oddly portrayed idea of a conventional nuclear family doesn’t track with his distaste for what he sees as the soul-sucking suburban lifestyle, a contradiction that the filmmakers either don’t recognize or refuse to address for the sake of indulging in easy potshots at suburbia. Such contradictions are simply part and parcel of the film’s confused whole. Throughout its running time, Wilson lurches from melancholy to cartoonish slapstick, to dropping f-bombs for the sheer sake of no reason whatsoever, but to be more annoying and it’s just unable to settle on a consistent tone.

Wilson, Pippi and Claire are surrounded by caricatures oddly done mix of middle-and upper-class insularity. The worst is Polly (Cheryl Hines), Pippi’s sister, who’s so monstrously judgmental of her sister’s lifestyle that she’s willing to lie to Wilson about what Pippi does for a living when he embarks on his quest to reconnect with his ex-wife. Clowes might have intended this graphic novel to be a critique of the kind of out-of-touch smugness Wilson represents, but the film often feels like an symbol of just that toxicity. Add in the factor of bad acting from everyone except for the two-minute scene with Alta played by the always strong Margo Martindale, to the fact that it’s not funny in the slightest should have many skipping this one till they can see it on VOD.

Grade: D
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
Nationwide Release: Friday, March 24, 2017

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REVIEW: “KONG: SKULL ISLAND” (2017) WARNER BROS.

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**IMPORTANT NOTE: Stay for the credits — You won’t regret it!

Is it just me or does it just seem like writers might be a bit bored these past few years and are perhaps running out of ideas? Hasn’t this been done already and then done again? Or did the box office success of movies like Jurassic World inspire studios & producers to opt for remakes instead of the road not taken. Well I don’t have the answer to all those questions BUT…I didn’t hate this remake in all it’s CGI super-glory.

To be clear – Kong: Skull Island is not simply a remake of a film that has been re-made time and time again. It is kind of what you could refer to as an ‘re-imagination’ of the original. If you ever lost sleep at night wondering what it would have been like if King Kong was not sedated and taken to New York to be pointed and laughed at and swatted away little planes with a Faye Wray or Jessica Lange or hey..even Naomi Watts, in his possession. Well fret no more, as that is exactly what this film explores.

The premise here is it’s 1973 this time and a group of eager-beaver scientists discovers what they thought was an uninhabited island a LandSat (land mapping satellite) has taken pictures of. An elusive island called – you guessed it – Skull Island, that although rumoured to exist it’s never been proven to…until now. Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are eager to be the first to explore and geologically map the island, so they persuade the US government to back the expedition by supplying them with the support and expertise of some US Army soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his team, Chapman (Toby Kebbell), Mills (Jason Mitchell), Cole (Shea Whigham), Slivko (Thomas Mann), to name a few of the supporting crew, who are conveniently just leaving Vietnam and can stop on over. They also pick up a British ex-special forces “tracker” James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) a former British Special Air Service Captain and an “anti-war” photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson).

They start the mission by dropping bombs on the island to map the bedrock, ostensibly to look for mineral deposits. That’s when Kong shows up to smack the helicopters out of the air, and generally wreak mayhem on the team. The scattered survivors then have to survive on an island filled with oh-so-many-monsters and have to try get to the extraction zone. One group finds Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who brings a well-done dose of humour to the production and who has been stranded on the island for 29+ years with all the non-speaking island natives where KONG is ‘god’ and most definitely King of this island.

And that’s about all I’ll say about the story, so as to avoid serious spoilers. The story line is fairly conventional with very little arc to the characters except just as in the past, you ARE cheering once again for KONG. In many regards it actually sets up more like a horror movie than action/adventure movie. In fact, there are numerous jump-scares and other basic horror movie devices throughout the movie. Sorta of reminded me of the old school Godzilla vs. whomever monster films and while KONG might be the main guy, he is definitely not the only monster in town here.

In some ways, it felt like the movie couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be between a monster movie and a horror movie… Or was it an action movie with an anti-war theme? It’s a toss up. There are also numerous characters who seem like they were intended to play more significant roles but then don’t. For instance they bring along a biologist, San (Tian Jing), who does no absolutely no biology (or good acting) at all and seems to mainly appear to allow another character to give a statement of sorts. Similarly most of the LandSat team seem to be around for comic relief, even if it is just horror movie style comic relief. Even some of the major characters do little aside from provide a single plot piece and I’m sure you can already guess, no one is going to be winning any awards for acting from being in this pic.

As for KONG himself, I think they could have spent a bit more time developing him, partly as a character as again, his name is in the film’s title after all. The CGI was quite good not only for KONG himself, but his fellow monster buddies as well.

I think there might have had just too much going on, and not enough time for this movie to be really good. As it is, it’s an entertaining enough of a movie that is fun, if you go in with a somewhat low-bar intention, so I enjoyed it completely on that level alone.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, March 7, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
NATIONWIDE RELEASE: Friday, March 10, 2017

REVIEW: “TABLE 19” (2017) Fox Searchlight

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Director Jeffrey Blitz and The Duplass Brothers writing team takes the approach with this one that I know many wedding guests would prefer – skip the wedding and head straight to the reception. Another wise move is assembling a very talented ensemble of funny folks. This cast proves they can get a laugh from dialogue and moments that would probably otherwise not elicit much of an audience reaction because frankly, it’s only the fact that they are talented that makes it happen.

The initial set-up drags a bit as we are introduced to the characters that will soon enough populate the dreaded Table 19 at the reception. Tony Revolori is Renzo, the longing for love high schooler who might be a bit too close to his mother (voiced by Margo Martindale). Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson are Bina & Jerry Kepp, a mostly unhappily married couple who own and run a diner together. June Squibb is Jo Flanagan, the bride’s long-forgotten nanny who sees and knows more than most. Stephen Merchant plays the outcast nephew/cousin Walter Thimple, who has been recently released from his prison sentence for white collar crime. Lastly we have Anna Kendrick as Eloise McGarry, the fired maid of honor and former girlfriend of the bride’s brother Teddy (Wyatt Russell), who also happens to be the best man and is now dating the new maid of honor Nikki (Amanda Crew)
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This is the island of misfit wedding guests known as Table 19, and purposefully placed in the back corner as far as possible from the family and the other more ‘favoured’ guests. Of course we know immediately that this Team Reject will unite for some uplifting purpose at some point. Comedic timing in a group setting can often come across on screen as forced, and it’s a kudos to the cast that can bypass that..somewhat. Stephen Merchant is our shining star here on that note with his droll Brit humour.

Make no mistake though, this is Anna Kendrick’s movie. She plays Eloise as we would imagine Anna Kendrick in this real life situation. Sure, a wedding reception is low-hanging fruit for comedy, but it’s the third act where Kendrick comes up with comedy drawn from emotional pain, because we’ve all been there and thankfully can look back and laugh at it. The melo-dramatic moments that creep in are oh-so-predictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s all lost. The scenes with Kendrick and Russell are best at the emotional part, but not enough so that it would really leave you wishing for more. In actuality that’s where this film slips up. I was hoping for more comedy, less emotional drama and while we get about a 2/3 – 1/3 ratio of drama to comedy, I wish it would have gone the direction of more laughs as the emotional front isn’t enough to sustain the film as a whole.
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Don’t worry though, the film features the required wedding cake mishap, a flirtatious hot-Brit wedding crasher named Huck with a secret of his own (Thomas Cocquerel) and a drunken mother of the bride (Becky Ann Baker) singing karaoke to Etta James’ “At Last”. It’s designed to be a crowd-pleaser, and while it doesn’t quite step up enough to really down and out laugh, it does somewhat succeed as rom-com-ish with a blend of silly, cute, and emotional tugs. Just not enough laughs.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
Nationwide Release: Friday, March 3, 2017

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REVIEW: “LOGAN” (2017) 20th Century Fox

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First and foremost – you don’t need to stay for the end credits! And with that important piece of information out of the way…. We all know that Wolverine solo films are always a completely different type of story, sometimes good and sometimes so-so, and in some way or another do link themselves up to the X-Men films. This one is no different and I’m keeping it simple and not spelling out the whole plotline or giving out spoilers, because no one ever should and every X-Men fan should just be able to go watch for themselves.

For seventeen years, we’ve been watching the life and career of Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in the movies. And we have all grown a bit older. Nevertheless, it is surprising to see that mutants also grow old. And then what? This film answers a lot of questions about what happens to the mutants when the many struggles have left scars on the body and soul that no longer heal. Like the dementia that has struck Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Who ends up caring for them as they really have no family other than each other. These questions are all answered for you in James Mangold’s third part of the Wolverine series as it presents not only its history, but a storyline of the how the X-Men concludes.

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To start off with, Logan plays 25 years in the future in the year 2029 and in an America that appears almost post-apocalyptic. Trump’s wall is not built, there are the old border fences. But otherwise the society seems to be one in which, if perhaps unintentionally, could well be the result of the new American policy. The mutants have been persecuted for a long time and only a few remain. Those who do, hide. Logan himself is now a limousine driver on the American-Mexican border. His residence: remote Mexico in an old factory. Here, with only the albino-mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant) to provide care, he hides Professor X, on whom dementia has taken a toll which leads to problems with his telekinetic brain. If he is not constantly medicated with the drugs that Logan is getting on the black market, his attacks can and do trigger seismic activities that can kill hundreds of people. Logan himself is as he always was: cranky, constantly pissed and always on guard. But he too is aging. His powers have been dimishing now for some time, his body is littered with scars. And with declining healing power, the adamantium he was injected with years before is slowly poisoning him and he relieves the pain with a constant consumption of alcohol. It feels as though these last few mutants are just waiting for the end to happen when there will be none of them left.

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But then comes Laura (Dafne Keen). The young girl is a mutant, even if an artificially created one, who escapes the Transigen labroratory she’s been created in with the help of a nurse, Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez). She needs Logan’s help to quickly get to a certain place in North Dakota, which she knows only from the old X-Men comic books. Of course though, there is an army of mercenaries from the lab lead by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) after them.
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Logan is a somewhat unusual hybrid film. What first catches your eye is the violence that this film entails. It surpasses the predecessors in a big way with this. And it’s the one part that truly bothered me as it’s done mostly with kids. Not 13-15 year olds, but kids around the ages of 9-12 years old. I found it somewhat disturbing to say the least watching countless people slaughtered here, by kids. Dozens of times we see claws hitting heads, limbs are cut off, people mutilated. Trust me when I tell you this is no “family-friendly” film here, Logan has been given an R rating and is worthy of it. While the film has kids in it, it’s not a film to take your children to.

Oddly enough with all the violence of the film is somewhat counteracted as Logan goes a very different way. Apart from the usual slaughter, there is hardly any use of mutant forces. It’s much more melancholy than I’ve ever seen an X-Men film be. Logan is a work about the aging, about the pain which determined the last days of these mutants, who have lost everything even though they tried so hard to save it all. It is a film about people who are tired and the world has nothing left to offer and who no longer have the power to revolt against a society they do not want. Logan and Xavier are tragic heroes in the classic Shakespearian sense. Their common friendship, which is almost that of a father-son relationship, is what makes Logan really interesting on a human and emotional level. The two have only each other and Logan nurses him at the end of his days. It is quite unusual to see these once powerful characters as they are here in this film weakened by age and illness.

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Mangold pulls the perfect ending for the X-Men. Of all the mutants and superheroes, they have always distinguished themselves as those who have fought for their dignity and humanity during their lives. And while the film has a few points at the beginning that didn’t flow well right off, it’s a satisfyingly dignified and yes, surprisingly sad finish.

Grade: B
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Media Review Screening: Thursday, February 16th, 2016 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, March 3, 2017

Thanks all for taking the time to give this a read. Let me know your thoughts if you liked this film or not. Don’t forget to give this page a follow or a follow on twitter as well @pegsatthemovies. Cheers!