The Mummy (2017) Movie Review

9 years since The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Universal Pictures aims to reestablish the OG of the Cinematic Universe, the Universal Monsters Universe, with a new name: the Dark Universe.

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Directed by Alex Kurtzman (co-wrote The Legend of Zorro and the reboot Star Trek franchise), The Mummy is the first of a series of remakes by Universal Pictures in hopes of establishing a cinematic universe revolving around monsters such as Dracula, the Frankenstein’s monster, the Invisible Man, and the Wolf Man. They already did this in the 1920s to 1950s  with great success.

This version, set in the present day, revolves around the character of Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), a former US military officer, who unearths the tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) and unknowingly placed a curse on himself. With the help of a shady organization called Prodigium, led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), Nick attempts to stop Princess Ahmanet’s plan to summon Set,the Egyptian god of death.

First of all, I looooooove the dedication Tom Cruise has for his movies. Watching his scenes in this movie proves that he still gives it all. At the age of 54, he still does his stunts! Sure, this is not as cool as him hanging on a plane’s door in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, but it is still astounding to know he pushes himself beyond his age. Nick Morton, his character, reminds me a lot of Mortal Kombat‘s Johnny Cage because Nick is very charismatic. Without a doubt, Tom Cruise is the biggest positive in this movie.

The set designs look cool! I had my eyes peeled when the Prodigium HQ was shown. true enough I saw hints of the Gill-Man (The Creature from the Black Lagoon) and a vampire skull.

There were Easter eggs to the Sommers Mummy franchise (the one with Brendan Fraser), too.

And that is where the positives end…

The story of this movie is messy and all over the place. If taken piece by piece, it is enjoyable and fun. That is true, especially the first scene. But if we are to look at the big picture, which we should to all movies, the viewers will realize that this movie could have been an easy trilogy. A lot of things are happening. Often, it happened in random ways. This movie had SIX writers, and it is pretty evident they had a hard time narrowing the story down.

Also, the character of Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is completely forgettable and unnecessary. Besides being the damsel in distress and the bridge between Nick and the Prodigium, there is absolutely nothing she had offered as a character. Try to remove her in the story. Will we have the same story? Yes! Then, why include her?

Also, much of the humor in the movie does not work for me. Some of it was provided by Jake Johnson, who portrays Nick’s close friend Chris Vail. It felt too forced, and it strays away much to the supposedly feel of the movie. However, I like how the movie incorporates elements of horror in it, somehow resonating the 1932 original.

Lastly… and a bit nitpicky, I had issues looking at Sofia Boutella’s pre-final form (the one where she is Sofia Boutella but with a cracked nose and a cheek hole). The VFX on her face looks so plastic to me. I end up looking at the background everytime her pre-final form face shows up.

If it is what is about to come from Universal’s Dark Universe, The Mummy should be a warning to viewers to be cautious on the next installments (The Bride of Frankenstein will premiere on 2019). Despite the charismatic Tom Cruise in the lead, its disorganized plot has led me to conclude that this film is…

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

“The worst pirate we’ve heard of” returns in the fifth installment of the franchise.

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If The Fast and the Furious can get 8 movies, then Pirates of the Caribbean can do so as well. In its latest addition to the franchise, Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush welcome new characters portrayed by Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, and Kaya Scodelario.

Five years after On Stranger Tides, Captain Jack Sparrow is down on his luck; he lost his crew, his ship, and a sense of purpose. Imprisoned, he meets Henry Turner (Thwaites), the son of William Turner (Orlando Bloom), who asks for his assistance in retrieving the Trident of Poseidon and informs him that Captain Salazar (Bardem) and his cursed Spanish crew are coming their way to kill him. With the help of the intelligent Carina Smyth (Scodelario) and Jack’s old pirate crew, they sail away in search of the infamous artifact.

Though this is the first movie in the franchise not to feature Hans Zimmer’s music, the soundtrack is still beautiful to listen to. The main theme still has remnants of the past theme, yet it is still fresh.

Both Thwaites and Scodelario are effective as solo characters. Their own character arcs are well-motivated and relatable. Their romance sub-plot, however, feels forced and is just a bootleg version of Will Turner-Elizabeth Swann.

Captain Salazar has the motivation of almost all Pirates bad guys, but Bardem manages to make it feel personal. His Captain Ahab-level obsession to kill Sparrow has lead to his demises (yeah, plural). There were time when I had a hard time understanding him though.

Johnny Depp has portrayed the character for over 14 years (sometimes in Disneyland). Evident in the latter movies, Jack Sparrow walks in a very thin line of being a parody or caricature of himself. The Curse of the Black Pearl portrayal has always been my favorite.

The story in itself is nothing new. Change a few character names and artifact names here and there, and you soon realize you’re basically watching the same thing.

SPOILER ALERT

However, the scene between Barbossa (Rush) and Carina, who was revealed to be her long lost daughter, is completely surprising and emotional…or maybe I have a soft spot for father scenes/stories.

Also, despite appearing to be the last movie in the franchise, the post-credits scene at the end tells us otherwise.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales features the same story with minute differences. Let us all hope that the next movie ends this franchise with a satisfying bang because Dead Men Tell No Tales is…

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The Great Wall Movie Review

Despite what Wikipedia says, the Chinese apparently built the Great Wall because of dragon-type monsters…

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Directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero and House of Flying Daggers), this movie stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Andy Lau, and Pedro Pascal.

Set in the Song dynasty, the movie revolves around William (Damon), a European mercenary who stumbles upon the Great Wall in search of blackpowder. In the Great Wall, he and fellow mercenary Pero Tovar (Pascal) witness a centuries-long battle between man and monsters.

One of the great things about this movie is the chemistry between Damon and Pascal. It really felt like that their characters know each other for a very long time. Pascal provided an incredible amount of humor.

As expected from the director of Hero, the action sequences were also good, especially the first half of the movie. To me, it is like watching The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies because the movie is just one big mega-fight.

Costume design is a bit of a mixed bag here. For one thing, they are visually appealing. Each troop has their own color designation, and each armor is well-crafted. On the other hand, I just can’t help thinking about how historically inaccurate the armors are. There is this one shot where they all look like Ancient Chinese Power Rangers.

And then we look at the casting choice and character development… William’s character is really just another one of those white men who can miraculously save an ethnic group. Though the director claims that it has the most number of Chinese actors in a film of such a scale, it cannot ignore the fact the the Eurpean characters have more character development, more intrigue, and conflict.

Furthermore, the story was executed very simply (or lazily…). There were no surprises because every scene that follows is exactly how you picture it. It is simply a generic monster fantasy.

Lastly, common sense seems to be thrown out! Why use gymnast women with spears when you already have cannon, gunpowder, and a revolving blade?!

The Great Wall is a generic monster movie. Despite the chemistry between its actors and some of its the action sequences, this movie is…

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Passengers Film Review

Jennifer Lawrence as your only companion in space? SIGN ME UP!

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After the commercial and critical success of 2014’s The Imitation Game, director Morten Tyldum enters the sci-fi genre with Passengers, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.

In the deep void of space, Jim Preston (Pratt), a passenger of the space ship Avalon, prematurely wakes up from hibernation and finds himself the only man awake in the ship. Months later, he meets Aurora Lane (Lawrence), the only female passenger awake. Meanwhile, something causes the entire ship to malfunction.

The first act of the film gives us “Cast Away in Space”. Christ Pratt delivered enough emotion to convey the fear of being alone. The scene where he hugged a space suit showed how companionship is a vital element in a person’s life. This explains the need for one of the film’s biggest plot point (and one that is arguably wrong to do).

The addition of Jennifer Lawrence to the story may be due to her Hollywood appeal and the fact that she is hot right now. However, one might wonder if “50 Girls 50” is better than “Cast Away in Space”. There was so much potential for an “I am alone” space movie, but I guess filmmakers needed to gross more money, so they added J. Law. But it does not change the fact that J. Law. delivered in this film.When Pratt conveys doomed acceptance, Lawrence conveys fear of the inevitable.

The visual effects of the film served its purpose both as a visual marvel and a nonparticipating companion to Jim.

My biggest concern in Passengers is its linear plot. If one omits or rearrange certain plot points/acts, the film would have been a lot more interesting. Plot twists and big reveals would have felt more impactful. Because of its linear plot, the film felt like a passable movie. Scenes that were supposed to feel big felt less than it should have been.

Passengers has amazing visuals, good chemistry between characters (though it may be weird when one considers its narrative origins), and a potential that was sadly not utilized well due to the filmmakers decision to present it in a manner that was done a lot of times. Because of that Passengers is…

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Assassin’s Creed Movie Review

For almost 2.5 decades, video game-based movies have been greatly disappointing. Will this be different?

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Well, the short answer is no.

Director Justin Kurzel and the entire crew behind this movie failed to capture the spirit of the game its based on. The reason? A heavy reliance on CGI and too much setup for a sequel that will not anymore see the light of day.

The movie revolves around Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender). Abstergo Foundation, a modern day Templar front, captured him to relive his ancestor’s memories through the use of a machine called the Animus. Through the orders of Alan Rikkin and Sophia Rikkin, Callum journeys through his ancestor’s past as an Assassin. The Rikkins’ goal is to acquire the Apple of Eden, a relic that contains the genetic code for free will. Through the exposure of the Animus Project, however, Callum learns of secrets that will shape his future…and also that of the world’s.

Everything does not feel right with this movie. Since the game franchise has such rich mythos and lore, one would think the filmmakers would give the viewers enough time to soak it in. But no! A lot of things happened way too fast, but the viewers barely had enough time to digest anything.

It shows in the basic execution of the narrative, and it is still present in the action sequences. Obviously, great stuntwork has been used, but the filmmakers opted to utilize such flimsy camerawork.

Even the character motivations are rushed. One moment Callum does not care about his heritage; the next, he is a proud Assassin… with little to no moment to show the transition. The same goes for Sophia’s character.

Lastly, after the disappointing film it presented, it assumes we wanted a sequel (as the last scene teased us).

Assassin’s Creed destroyed the hopes and dreams of gamers who want to see a good video game-based film. Sadly, with its use of camera work, sloppy pacing, and horrible switches in character motivations, this movie is definitely…

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Rogue One Film Review

A spin-off prequel better than the prequel trilogy.

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Do you remember that opening crawl from Episode 4: A New Hope (1977)? Director Gareth Edwards and his writers managed to make a movie out of it. Is this really a necessary movie to make? With rumors circulating about other spin-offs focusing on Han Solo and Boba Fett, the Star Wars franchise seems to be in a brink of “Milking the Cow” Syndrome. However, as you may have noticed in my intro, for now, that is not the case.

Starring Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Casian Andor), and Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic), Rogue One is about a group of Rebels (mostly) undergoing a mission to take the blueprints of the Death Star, a space station with enough firepower to destroy an entire planet.

The film features a dirtier, more grounded, fresh take on the series. After 7 films in the series, cartoons appearing out of nowhere, and multiple other media, one might think Star Wars has told it all.

The first act of the film was pretty slow, especially the Saw Gerrera part. However, that seems to be an necessary evil because it helps us learn more about Jyn’s backstory. Once the 2nd act starts, everything went great.

One of the biggest pressures of Rogue One that it is a Star Wars movie. It has come to a point that everything Star Wars (especially in the silver screen) has huge expectations. It’s a matter of “hit or miss”. Fortunately, Rogue One hits the good notes.

Right off the bat, audiences see that there is no opening crawl at the start of the film. This represents the movie’s departure from the two trilogies. Even the music is different. Eventhough there are cameos and references regarding the other Star Wars films, Rogue One manages to have its own identity.

The cast did their jobs well. Donnie Yen (Chirrut Îmwe) and Alan Tudyk (K2SO) are the scene stealers of the show. Yen’s physicality and Tudyk’s voice work breathes life to an already energetic story. Another wonderful thing the film did is to show that the two sides (the Empire and the Rebellion) are not as easy as black and white. Director Krennic’s motivation to lead the Death Star project is relatable, and Andor’s actions as a Rebel are questionable at times.

Rogue One is a masterpiece. With its well-built characters, rich mythos,  and proper connection to both Star Wars trilogies, this film is definitely…

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Moana Film Review

There are two things I learned from the stars of the latest Disney film: Dwayne Johnson can do anything and Auli’i Cravalho is a star everyone should watch out.

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Directed by  Ron Clements and John Musker (the guys who gave us Aladdin and Hercules), Moana stars Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson as the titular Moana and the demi-god Maui, respectively.

The film stars Moana (Cravalho), a daughter of a chief on a small Polynesian island. When crops started to rot and fishes left the area, Moana learned that a 1 000 year old robbery done by the demi-god Maui (Johnson) causes the said disaster. With the encouragement of her grandma Tala (Rachel House), she sails away from her island to look for Maui and return the stolen gem/heart to its rightful location.

Right off the bat, it has to be officially said that Dwayne Johnson can absolutely do anything*! He has done action, comedy, music, and wrestling. We can now add voice acting to the list. WWE has branded him “the most electrifying man in sports entertainment”. Well, Johnson has truly brought energy in the film. His song You’re Welcome was just perfect for his voice. The character of Maui is such a well-rounded character, but it was such a waste not to explore on his past or his motives that much.

Auli’i Cravalho is a promising talent. Her song How Far I’ll Go proves that Disney hasn’t lost its touch with musicals. The future is bright for this lady.

The film’s soundtrack is another marvel. All of the songs were magnificent. Jemaine Clement’s Shiny is a gem on its own.

Round of applause also for Alan Tudyk’s take as Hei Hei the Chicken.

Moana is a feel good film that the entire family can enjoy. The actors’ voice acting, the soundtrack, and the incorporated Polynesian mythology make this film…

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* Figuratively, of course…

Doctor Strange Film Review

The MCU delves into the mystical art of CGI…

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The fourteenth film in the series, Doctor Strange is Marvel’s latest contribution to the superhero genre. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelsen, this film attempts to offer something new to the MCU table.

The film is about arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange…I mean, DOCTOR Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch)… looking for ways to heal his brutally injured hands (car accident). His search led him to Kamar-Taj, where he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who offers to teach him sorcery. Meanwhile, a rogue student of the Ancient One, Kaecilius (Mikkelsen), attempts to open a portal that will welcome Dormammu, the ruler of the Dark Dimension, to our world.

If you want your eyes to feast the evolution of CGI, watch this. The multiverse, the dimensions, and the scenery manipulation were visual ambrosia. The chase scene was a hell of a trip!

The usual Marvel humor is ever present in this film, and most of them worked. Wong (Benedict Wong) and Strange’s chemistry works well, which makes that Adele/Beyonce jokes work.

MINI-SPOILERS

However, the film suffers again from Marvel’s ultimate nemesis … WAS (the Weak Antagonist Syndrome). Besides Loki, MCU’s list of bad guys are forgettable. And even when Dormammu shows up, he was presented as an even weaker bad guy.

Doctor Strange has amazing visuals and good action, but weak villains drag the MCU films away from truly being great. This film is…

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The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

Being one of the most portrayed characters in movies, this 2016 Tarzan has been given the Hook treatment. Did it make the loincloth wearing man a more interesting character?

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Harry Potter director David Yates attempts to give new life to Tarzan, a character who is portrayed more than a hundred times. With Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie in the lead, The Legend of Tarzan should deliver something new to the “man-ape” sub-genre.

The story takes place years after the Tarzan story we know. Tarzan (Skarsgard) now resides in England as Lord Greystoke with his wife, Jane Porter (Robbie). After hearing from George Washington Williams (Samuel Jackson) that King Leopold II of Belgium is using African slaves to export minerals, Tarzan decides to go back to Congo. Unbeknownst to him, Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) plans to capture him in exchange for diamonds from Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), Tarzan’s old enemy.

One does not want to sound negative immediately, but there’s something definitely wrong in The Legend of Tarzan. Yes, sure enough, the Tarzan action sequences are great. Tarzan swinging around the jungle still has that sense of awe.

Yes, Margot Robbie gave us another reason to wait impatiently for Suicide Squad.

But, The Legend of Tarzan lacks the “Tarzan feel”. Audiences will not feel the thrill of adventure the same way older Tarzan films did. Heck, even the Disney version made me feel it. So what caused this lack of thrill? Perhaps the film tried to ground itself on reality too much. The movie forgot that Tarzan is all about the wonders and mysteries of the jungle.

Any sense of wonder, mystery, and thrill is left in the flashbacks… The Tarzan origin. This is incredibly frustrating since the Tarzan flashbacks are the best thing in the entire movie. in fact, that is exactly one will be looking for in a Tarzan movie!

MINI-SPOILER ALERT!

Another one of its blunders is how they treat Tarzan as this unstoppable force of nature, which was briefly alluded to…fine…, but a story is such a bore if nothing can challenge the hero. Even Rom’s weapon of choice, which was established as a dangerous weapon, gives little trouble to Tarzan.

The Legend of Tarzan could have been more, and it should have been more. Because of this, this movie is only…

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