Dark Universe Resurrects an Ancient Evil! “The Mummy” (2017) review!


Entombed under the volatile sands of what’s now the Iraqi dessert, an ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet, who made a pact with an evil God named Set, lies and waits for more than 500 years to rise again and fulfill a destined promise to birth hell on Earth and rule the world. Ahmanet resurrects after being mistakenly unearthed by loose cannon treasure seeker Nick Morton and curses a reign of archaic terror over Nick and all of modern day London in search for a gem cladded dagger to make good on her pact. With the help of a well-funded secret organization called Prodigium ran by mysterious physician Dr. Henry Jekyll, and skillful researcher Jenny Halsey, the cursed Nick will need all the help he can muster to save himself and humanity from a mummified, hellbent she-devil.

Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” is the gateway reboot that’ll give life once again to Universal’s classic monsters and place them in Universal’s newly established realm known as Dark Universe, think what Marvel accomplished with Marvel Comic Universe but with monsters. The kickoff action-horror has the delectable adventure wit seen from the Stephen Sommers directed, Brendan Fraiser starred trilogy from 1999 to 2008 while channeling the Boris Karloff mysticism and menace that made a frightening black and white classic. So, how did Kurtzman exactly provide new breath to an ancient, decrepit mummy that’s been redone two times over and has been spun off more ways than wrapped? One major way was to be the inaugural launch of Universal’s Dark Universe that opens the door for other classic monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In fact, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makes a brief appearance as the head of the Prodigium, the ringmaster that’ll be the epicenter connecting creatures together. In another aspect, Kurtzman isn’t afraid to use practical effects, such as Ahamanet’s mummy minions, while also lighting up the screen with some brutal thrilling moments, such as murdering a baby and killing pilots with a murder of crows, that clearly separates the 2017 film from it’s 1999 predecessor, but watch for the quick scene easter egg that pays homage to the Fraiser film.

Upon first hearing Tom Cruise would star in a reboot of “The Mummy,” a long moment of hesitation washed over like a cold wet blanket as the “Mission Impossible” star hadn’t tackled a horror film since the adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1994 Lestat film “Interview with the Vampire” during a time when Cruise bathed in dramatic thrillers and added quite a bit of finesse to his characters. However, with every passing year, Cruise becomes more and more involved with not only his love for acting, but sides heavily with the unquenchable need to a part of action films and “The Mummy” promised to display his enthusiasm for accomplishing his own rigorous stunt work and the script provided the heart-throbbing intensity that’ll sure to awe audiences. Cruise’s performance as a shoot first, ask questions later Nick Morton snugly fits the razor sharp mold the megastar has equipped himself ever since the first “Mission Possible” film over two decades ago, but as a selfish knucklehead, Cruise short sells the charm with a flat expressive tone and doesn’t progress his shell of Nick Morton to a enlightened savior battling for the fate of humankind. Yes, there are other actors in “The Mummy” other than Cruise. Russell Crowe fills the mighty big shoes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, splitting his personalities into two and fulfilling both characters to the very epitome they’ve been classically scribed. Love interest Annabelle Wallis (who was also in John Leonetti’s “Annabelle”) sparked little-to-no chemistry with a overpowering Cruise and she felt rather like a Robin sidekick in a Joel Schumacher Batman film, but Wallis did a fine job as a historical researcher with a lifelong goal of discovering ancient artifacts. Algerian actress Sofia Boutella as the titular character was almost non-existent until the filmmakers had to scramble to redesign the villain due to similarities in another film, but the dark features of Boutella and her elegant performance made Ahmanet lustfully scary with dual irises and body-riddled tattoos, like a wild animal with deep blue eyes, and she sinks into Ahmanet’s malevolent soul and embraces the darkness that is the mummy. Jake Johnson (“Jurassic World”), Courtney B. Vance (“The Last Supper”), and Marwan Kenzari, who will star in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming “Aladdin” film, costar.

Now while “The Mummy” is overly successful and generally positive, an itch of amiss pains a slimly slithering way nearly through the entire runtime. Perhaps because the premise involving a mummy sets itself more in the dank and dark allies of London rather than in the hot Egyptian sands where thirst, heat, and isolation provide a slew of dangerous possibilities. During multiple scenes, a looming sensation that Jack the Ripper would pop out with blade in hand ready to strike at Jenny Halsey’s non-prostitute neck, but like a good adventure film, the story’s progression goes through numerous UK hotspots such as the Natural History Museum and tries to blow up London with every Mummy superpower. Ahmanet compounded concerns about her powers such as the introductory prologue of her characters, told in flashback scenes, where after she obtains all this evil power, the princess is easily taken down by Egyptian guards with blow darts and spears. You figured a Demigod like Ahmanet would be able to summon creatures to her aid, mold the sands of Egypt to free her, or resurrect other Egyptian dead, but none-the-less she was mummified alive and buried thousands of miles away under a giant crypt.

“The Mummy” is a win for the first of many Universal reboots under the Dark Universe label. The September 12th release of the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, with also a digital copy, clocks in at a hour and 50 minutes and is presented in 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 aspect ratio with no flaws in the image, quality is crisp, and the coloring is naturally lively. The digital effects don’t exhibit an amateur hour complexion that was more attuned to the 1999 film, a different time two decades ago. The Dolby ATMOS is booming with LFE action that reverberates nicely with every nail-biting mummy scenes; certainly balanced with the surround sound. The dialogue is coarse at times during these intense sequences but overly prominent and clear for the most part. Extras on the release are about as monumental as the antagonist with deleted and extended scenes, Cruise and Kurtzman: a conversation, Rooted in Reality – a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Mummy,” Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash, Meet Ahmanet – the stark villain, Cruse in Action – a segment involving Cruise’s action in the film, Becoming Jekyll and Hyde, Choreographed Chaos, Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul, a graphic novel about Ahmanet, and featured commentary. “The Mummy” is all Cruise, all the time, but lives and breathes like a true Universal classic monster movie in modern day, providing superb visuals, an engrossing storyline, and delivers an action-topping-action ferocity. A whole new line of respect must be bestowed upon star Tom Cruise for his insane work ethic and his dedication to any project, especially a one half horror film that redesigns the gender of the iconic villain while maintaining the values of the original.

Pre-Order your Copy of “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise right here!

All Evil Plans End Tragically. “Reckless” review!

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Ex-cons Victor (Tygo Gernandt) and Rico (Marwan Kenzari) kidnap a young woman named Laura (Sarah Chronis) in hopes to extort a four million dollar cash payout from her wealthy father. The two men are methodical, precise, and focused on their task, constructing a sound proof room, buying burner cell phones, and keeping one step ahead of their captive’s thoughts on escape. Keeping her tied to the bed in a vacant apartment, Victor and Rico don specific roles in their plan; Victor leaves the apartment to negotiate the ransom while Rico oversees their money making hostage. When Laura cleverly works on getting the upper hand on one of them, she discovers that there might be a secondary plan involving her willing participation and leaving the other ex-con high and dry without a payday. Victor and Rico hold a surprising secret amongst themselves as well, making this crime thriller a cat-and-mouse game between the three where tensions are high, trust is low, and the end game won’t be pretty.
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The Netherlands thriller directed by Joram Lürsen seems to be the polar opposite from the director’s previous directorial work. The “Reckless” niche focuses on being tight and concise. The film only credits three actors: Tygo Gernandt, Marwan Kenzari, and Sarah Chronis. That’s it and there isn’t even a voice over from a phone call or anything else of the sort, forcing the actors to only work off each other instead of being able to pick and choose who to bank off their banters and abilities. Secondly, the majority of the setting is in this small apartment that has become Laura’s cell which becomes another tight spot, literally. Finally, the story focuses on minor details with strict guiding dialogue that pieces together the story’s outcome and doesn’t make the plot wander into oblivion.
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The story, which is a remake of the 2009 British thriller “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” strives off being simplistic; a kidnapping for ransom gone awry. However, there lies a mid act twist that keeps the situation fresh where constantly guessing to the real intentions of the characters is more fun than actually watching the ploy play out. Tygo Gernandt perfectly fits into the shoes of Victor by portraying the role extremely well of a hardened and a rule rigorous ex-con. Marwan Kenzari as Victor’s accomplice Rico relieves the other half of the tension Tygo’s aura emits with his soft eyes and gentle appeal toward Laura, but Rico scrambles to keep Tygo under control and that creates nail biting scenes between the three actors. Sarah Chronis as Laura offers so much to the table being the golden nugget for Victor and Rico, being their ticket for a new life in another part of the world. Chronis conveys being naive, conniving, and afraid well and acts upon her forced nudity with proper accordance to the situation and also uses her nudity, seductively and convincingly, to plan her intended escape.
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However, where “Reckless” strives on being a successful crime thriller, it’s also the film’s ultimate downfall and suffers sequentially from “Psycho” syndrome. Remember when Gus Van Sant remade Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” nearly shot for shot and critics condemned Van Sant’s film? The same situation happens upon “Reckless” where nearly every character quality has become a carbon copy from “The Disappearance of Alice Creed.” Yes, “Reckless” is a true to form remake and a good reproduction as well, but for the Lürsen film to stand out, to be something more, “Reckless” doesn’t break the established mold. Instead, the film relies on it’s actors to accomplish a more riveting appeal and that’s hard to do when Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston, and Gemma Arterton already made a great first impression in the original.
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The Artsploitation Films distributes “Reckless” in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with super clear picture quality. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix clearly appropriates the dialogue from the ambience form the soundtrack. The optional English subtitles sync well with the Dutch language track. I’m a little disappointed in the DVD cover as it resembles something that Dimension Films would have produced back in the early 2000s and doesn’t really speak to the film’s thrilling storyline. Overall, “Reckless” is a quality remake release for Artsploitation Films and for production company Topkapi Films that gave alternative, yet still quality, actors a chance to redo a role already grounded and established.