BARE BONES: THE MUMMY and SNATCHED

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THE MUMMY (2017)

Universal’s second attempt…Dracula Untold was the first, but they distanced themselves from it when it failed to draw box office blood… to start their Dark Universe is a bigger clunker than their Dracula flick. Convoluted plot has adventurer Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) finding the tomb of cursed Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who gets unleashed and now raises the dead across England as she tries to find both Morton…who she has plans for…and a sacred dagger…which she also has plans for. Also interested in the little mummy honey is a certain Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe)…who has his own plans for the Egyptian princess.

Directed by Alex Kurtzman from a messy script by three writers, the flick is a CGI drenched bore that won’t do Universal any favors in starting it’s Marvel-esque monster series. Cruise is strictly phoning it in and has far more screen time than the actually mummy whose schtick is basically rehashing the same gimmick from the Stephen Sommers movies, but with a girl mummy this time. It’s just plain silly to have Jekyll involved, though at least Crowe got the material and would probably be a fun Jekyll/Hyde in a much better movie. Boutella had a few effective scenes, but otherwise it’s a snoozefest of CGI and a very miscast TomCruise.

-MonsterZero NJ

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SNATCHED (2017)

The idea of teaming up comic legend Goldie Hawn and funny girl of the moment Amy Schumer wasn’t a bad one, it’s just too bad they weren’t in a much more solid comedy. Flick has recently dumped and fired Emily (Schumer) going on a vacation originally planned with her now ex-boyfriend. She takes her mom (Hawn) instead and the two head off to Ecuador. The mother and daughter are kidnapped by an Ecuadorian crime lord (Óscar Jaenada) and now must find a way to escape both the criminal and the jungle in one piece.

Directed by Jonathan Levine from a so-so script by Katie Dippold, this flick starts out funny when it is about mother and daughter trying to bond and get along at the resort. It takes a more serious and far less funny tone once they are kidnapped and then escape with the vengeful criminals hot on their heels. There are some deaths along the way, which the film unsuccessfully tries to make funny and the film only regains a little of it’s comic footing when Schumer’s Emily and some strange women (Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack) mount a half-assed rescue when Hawn is recaptured. Shame the script wasn’t funnier as Schumer and Hawn had a nice chemistry.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: AREA 51, BURYING THE EX and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROUGUE NATION

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AREA 51 (2015)

After the smash success of Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli returned to the director’s chair for his sophomore effort in 2009…and the movie has since languished in post-production hell for the last six years…now we know why. Found footage flick has a silly plot with three young friends (Darrin Bragg, Reid Warner and Ben Rovner) concocting an absurd scheme to break into the infamous Area 51 military base. They have the help of a former employee’s daughter (Jelena Nik) and succeed where many have failed.

Obviously, they are not happy with what they find…and neither are we. Flick takes a ridiculous 70 minutes for anything interesting to happen and at about 95 minutes long (including it’s slow crawl credits) that’s simply too long to wait. What we do get is amusing, but exactly what you’d expect to get in a flick about Area 51 and it’s fleetingly glimpsed and over far too quickly. There is barely anything resembling scares or suspense and what we do finally encounter is very predictable and been done before, especially in the X-Files…and done better. Area 51’s actual secrets may still be a mystery, but why this flick sat for six years and was quietly dumped onto VOD and home media, isn’t.

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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burying the ex

BURYING THE EX (2014)

Director Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) has made quite a few classic films, which is why it’s disappointing that his latest effort is so sadly mediocre. Story has horror movie fan and slacker Max (Anton Yelchin) dating the hot but extremely bitchy, Evelyn (Ashley Greene), while he could be with the sweet, horror movie-themed-ice-cream-shop owner, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). The wrong words said in front of the wrong magic item in the shop Max works at, ensures he will be with Evelyn forever…even when she is hit by a bus and killed. Now, as he desperately wants to date Olivia, Max’s girlfriend is back and there’s going to be trouble.

Flick’s problems lie in it’s uninspired and sadly unfunny script by Alan Trezza. Dante tries to give it some life and it is colorful and filled with the horror movie references and imagery Dante excels at, but the script is unimaginative, predictable and let’s Dante down at every turn. The premise has been done before, but still could have made fun use of it’s scenario, instead it is routine and without the wit to really make this a good time. At least Dante get’s good work out of the cast as Yelchin, Greene and Daddario…who is especially endearing as the ultimate horror geek girlfriend fantasy, Olivia…do their best to get something out of their thinly written parts. With a better script this could have been a real treat as it had a great director!

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (2015)

I originally was not a fan of this series, but to be honest, each installment has been an improvement over the last with this and the previous installment, Ghost Protocol, being a lot of fun. Dare I say this series has finally hit it’s stride with it’s fourth and fifth entries. This chapter finds the IMF being dissolved by the government right in the middle of Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) mission to track down “The Syndicate”, an organization that is the IMF’s equal, yet dedicated to disruption and terrorism. Now considered a rogue agent and being hunted around the world, Hunt must team with Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther (Ving Rhames) and mysterious agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) to bring the syndicate down.

As written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation is fast-paced and entertaining with some great camaraderie between Cruise and his team, especially Pegg. There are some fun action sequences and some thrilling escapes with the usual espionage and covert operations mixed in. The only thing holding it back a little, is that the action is nothing out of the ordinary, despite being well-staged and the main villain (Sean Harris) is rather weak. Otherwise this is a fun spy/action flick and Swedish actress Ferguson gets to steal a few scenes from Cruise…which isn’t an easy thing to do. Also stars Alec Baldwin as a CIA thorn in the IMF’s side. Fun!

 -MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)

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EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)

Edge Of Tomorrow is a completely derivative yet, actually pretty enjoyable Sci-Fi/Action flick starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The film is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Manga All You Need Is Kill and tells the story of a not too distant future where an alien invasion force has landed and taken a strong foothold in Europe. The beings called ‘mimics’ seem to anticipate the united armed forces’ every move until a victory in Verdun, France, led by Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), gives the Earth a glimmer of hope that the enemy can be defeated. A U.S. military PR man Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is brought in to sell the world… though not sure why the world would need to be ‘sold’ when the situation is so dire… on a massive armed attack on the beaches of France by covering the attack from the front-lines to which the cowardly Cage protests and even tries to blackmail his way out of. This gets him arrested and busted down to foot soldier to now to join the invasion in actual combat… where he is killed within minutes. But, Cage wakes up from death the morning before when first being sent to his new squad and relives the day till being killed again… only to awaken 24 hours earlier once more. With full memory of the previous days, he gets better and better at staying alive until he runs into Sgt. Vrataski who knows what’s going on… it’s happened to her too! His encounter with the blood of a special alien drone known as an ‘Alpha’ has given Cage the alien ability to re-set time and now teamed up with “The Angel Of Verdun” Cage must keep dying till the two successfully destroy the hidden alien power source and stop the enemy before all is lost. But, the re-set power is not permanent and one of Cage’s deaths could be his last… if his own forces don’t lock him and Vrataski up for being crazy first.

Sure this flick is a Groundhog Day, Starship Troopers, Battle: Los Angeles, and Aliens thrown in a blender with a bunch of other movies but, under Doug Liman’s direction it’s actually a lot of action-packed fun. The action is staged well and the film moves at a good, steady pace and really avoids becoming the mess it could have been with such a convoluted story. The SPFX are flawless and while the design of the film gives us little new, it is suspenseful and has enough of a sense of humor about itself to get past any familiarity. We also get some likable characters to become endeared to and they are well cast. Sure we may not like the cowardly Cage early on but, the more he grows as a soldier and a person the more we like him and are right there with him when he graduates to full blown hero. The time travel elements are also kept pretty basic and while there are always questions when time travel is concerned, Edge keeps the glaring problems to a minimum by not getting too over enthusiastic with it’s use and while certain story elements will fold under too much scrutiny, the film moves fast enough to keep you from thinking too much about it. Liman also gives us some intensity but, keeps the tone of the film from getting too dark and the mix blends just right to keep things on an entertaining level. The script by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth never gets too complicated and is smart enough to change up the formula about half way through to avoid predictability or monotony even though we still have a good idea how things will work out. The only real stand-out flaw is a an ending that is a little too neat and convenient in order to keep this flick a crowd-pleaser but, it’s not bad enough to not go along with it or, seriously hurt the movie.

A big plus is a good cast that perfectly understand the material. Cruise has fun playing a sniveling coward for a while before transforming more into the action hero he is renown for. And once that happens he is as solid as always. Blunt is obviously enjoying being able to play such a badass but, one that doesn’t loose her humanity or femininity. Vrataski is tough but, very likable and sexy and we certainly wouldn’t mind a post battle celebration in her bunk after the war. We also have fan favorite Bill Paxton as a scenery chewing Southern Master Sergeant who leads Cruise’s platoon of misfits into battle over and over and refuses to believe him when Cage has said he’s done this before…. which leads to another small peeve, that in such a dire situation and despite how much foresight Cruise’s Cage seems to have, no one ever gives him or Vrataski even the slightest benefit of the doubt that they can end the war and defeat the invaders. No matter how much info they seem to know, they are completely dismissed. True, it’s a far fetched story but, the world is about to be lost you’d think someone would at least entertain their notions except for his oddball platoon, who are the ones least likely to believe him… especially when they have a physicist to back them up… but, even the physicist is cast aside despite his wealth of knowledge. Makes no sense.

But, despite it’s flaws and being basically a mash-up of things we’ve already seen, Edge Of Tomorrow is an entertaining 113 minutes and was far more satisfying then expected. Go in not expecting much and you might actually come out surprised and having had a good time. A fun Summer movie.

3 and 1/2 sexy sergeants.

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REVIEW: OBLIVION (2013)

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OBLIVION (2013)

Oblivion is set in a not too distant future where fending off an alien invasion has left Earth ravaged and all but uninhabitable. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) also know as Tech 49 is left on the now evacuated planet with his communications officer and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), his job is to maintenance the armed drones that watch over and protect large floating machines that are turing sea water into fusion energy for use on the human race’s new home on the Saturn moon, Titan. But, despite having his memory wiped, Jack has dreams of a pre-war Earth and a mysterious and beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko). He finds himself drawn to the relics of the past earth though told to leave such thoughts behind by Victoria and his superiors in the massive command station that hoovers in orbit called The Tet. But, as the remaining alien forces know as ‘Scavs’ escalate their attacks on the drones and power stations, Jack continues to feel like something isn’t right. And as a ship crash lands on Earth carrying the very woman he dreams of and she and Jack are captured by the Scavs, Jack soon finds out that all is not what it seems and maybe he isn’t either. What I really liked about Writer/Director Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is that it reminded me of the pre-Star Wars science fiction films of the 70s, when they were more story driven and less action oriented. And a lot of it’s story elements and visuals seem to draw from films like Silent Running and Omega Man and even more modern epics like Independence Day to name a few. Kosinski gives the film a leisurely pace as Jack slowly finds out more and more about the true nature of the world and life he thought he knew. There are some nice action scenes and these are well staged and move fast but, overall Kosinski wisely lets his story develop over the course of the film and we are along with Jack as he learns some hard to accept realities. The film has a beautiful visual style. I was not a fan of Kosinski’s Tron: Legacy but, it was a gorgeous looking film as is this. Sure the visuals seem to be inspired by past post-apocalyptic epics but, I still though the look and design was captivating. As for it’s minimal cast, Cruise is excellent as Jack. I feel Tom Cruise can be… well, Tom Cruise in a lot of his recent flicks but, here I saw and accepted him as Jack and he portrayed well the emotions of a man with a burning curiosity about things he’s told to accept as is and who finds his life may be a lie. Riseborough is fine as his partner in all respects. She seems sweet and she generally cares about Jack especially when his curiosity has him defy orders. Kurylenko is appropriately mysterious at first but, as the story progresses she meets the demands of the script. Rounding out the cast are Morgan Freeman and Game Of Throne’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who are fine as other humans Jack encounters. The production is relatively flawless with a really cool score by French band M83. When all is said and done I enjoyed Oblivion. I didn’t feel like I had seen anything new or innovative, and it’s secrets are not hard to figure out beforehand. It seemed like a lot of influences from past films blended together… though, very well, I might add… but, ultimately nothing groundbreaking or too surprising. I could probably pick out a lot more films whose elements I recognized but, Kosinski and company have crafted an entertaining sci-fi flick that warmly harkened back to an age where spaceships and laser guns were there to enhance a story and were not the point of the story so, I ‘ll give them a bit of a break. In conclusion Oblivion is an entertaining and very well made film that may not be anything new but, was still a refreshing return to when science fiction was about the story and characters and not Transformers and superheroes.

3 drones!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: LEGEND: DIRECTOR’S CUT (1985)

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LEGEND: DIRECTOR’S CUT (1985)

In 1985 when Ridley Scott tested the 113 minute cut of his fantasy epic Legend, it didn’t test well with audiences and it was deemed that it took far too long to get to the action. The film American audiences finally saw was 89 minutes but, the film was a box office failure anyway. Now the film has been restored to Scott’s original 113 minute cut and has been beautifully presented on blu-ray for fans to finally see the film Scott intended. But, is it a better film then what I originally saw in a theater in 1985? I think so. I will agree it does take a lot longer to get to the questing and rescuing but, a lot of the fairy tale elements and atmosphere have been restored with this edition of these removed sequences and a lot more story and character interaction does enrich the film and make it less a music video and more a fantasy film. The restoring of Jerry Goldsmith’s score also changes the atmosphere and gives it more of an epic fantasy feeling. I like Tangerine Dream’s work on the theatrical cut, but, it does give it more of the before mentioned music video vibe. Remember MTV was still new and a big thing when this was released so, I wouldn’t doubt that was what they were going for. Legend tells the story of lone woodsman Jack (Tom Cruise) who is trying to woo a princess named Lili (Mia Sara). He decides to take her to see the last pair of unicorns whose magic keeps the sun rising and good and light in this fantasy world. But, the evil Lord Of Darkness (Tim Curry) plans to destroy the unicorns and bathe the world in darkness so he and his minions may rule. When the unicorns are distracted by the innocence of virginal Lili, one is poisoned and it’s horn stolen by Darkness’ goblins. Soon they capture the last remaining unicorn and Lili as well and Darkness plans to kill the magical animal and wed the girl. Now it is up to Jack and an assortment of Wood Elves, Brownies and Fairies to rescue Lili and save the unicorn from within Darkness’ lair. Whether it’s the director’s cut or theatrical cut, Legend is an amazingly beautiful and sumptuous visual fantasy feast under Ridely Scott’s lens. The visuals are stunning and without benefit of CGI and they, even by today’s high-tech standards, are breathtaking. There is plenty of action and a lot of strange creatures both good and bad and all rendered with some fantastic make-up FX from The Thing’s Rob Bottin. Tim Curry’s Darkness has become an iconic character and is truly remarkable to see. Again, no CGI. As for the acting, Cruise and Sara are fine but, it was early in both careers and the performances are not as strong as they would be today, now that both are veterans. Curry on the other hand, radiates both evil and malicious charm through the layers of latex and even though he looks completely inhuman on the outside, he gives the Dark Lord a vivid personality and makes him a threatening villain worthy of such an epic fantasy film. Overall, we have a lot more moments with all these characters together with the expanded cut. To me it adds a richness to the film that wasn’t there in the theatrical version, especially in Jack and Lili’s relationship, their feelings for each other are far more explored and we get a better idea of why Jack risks so much for her. I feel this Legend is far more a fairy tale in this version then fantasy themed action movie and like Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings films decades later, it’s worth sitting through more of these little moments to emotionally enrich the film as it only gives the action scenes more depth. I still think the theatrical cut has it’s merits as a fun, breezy 90 minutes of fantasy action but, if you want more depth and don’t mind spending a bit more time reveling in Ridley Scott’s beautiful fantasy world, then the director’s cut is for you.

3 and 1/2 Lords of Darkness!

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