Archive for the Movie Reviews Category

Revisited: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT: (spoiler alert!!!):

In ancient China, a brutal and tyrannical warlord unites the country’s kingdoms into an empire and becomes the Dragon Emperor. He orders the construction of the Great Wall of China to bury and curse his dead enemies, eventually learning power over the traditional Chinese Wu Xing elements of fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Emperor Han soon grows fearful that his death will end all he has accomplished and summons Zi Yuan, a sorceress who is said to know the secret of immortality. She seemingly casts a spell on Han in Sanskrit, before he executes General Ming, his trusted friend and Zi Yuan’s secret lover. He stabs Zi Yuan with a dagger, but having foreseen this event, she immolates and imprisons the Emperor and his soldiers in clay, transforming his army into the Terracotta Army, and flees.

In 1946, Alex O’Connell, Rick and Evelyn O’Connell’s son, and his archaeology professor Roger Wilson locate Han’s tomb. Though attacked by a mysterious woman, they succeed in bringing the coffin to Shanghai. Meanwhile, the British government entrusts the O’Connells to take the Eye of Shangri-La back to China. However, they learn that Wilson works for a rogue military faction led by General Yang, who had provided the financial backing of Alex’s expedition. Yang believes that Han is the one who can lead China out of the chaos following World War II and plans to resurrect the Emperor using the Eye, which contains the Elixir of Life. They open it, but it accidentally lands on the statue of the carriage driver, which is revealed to actually be Han’s mummified body. He accepts Yang’s service but kills Wilson and escapes.

Along with Evelyn’s brother Jonathan Carnahan, the O’Connells and the mysterious woman, Lin, travel to a stupa in the Himalayas that will reveal the path to Shangri-La when the Eye is placed on top of it. With the help of Yetis summoned by Lin, the group hold off Yang’s soldiers but Han discovers Shangri-La’s location. Alex attempts to trigger an avalanche. Han throws a dagger at him, but Rick shoves Alex and is stabbed instead. Lin takes the group to Shangri-La, where Zi Yuan still lives and heals Rick’s wound. The group discovers that Lin is Zi Yuan’s daughter, both rendered immortal due to the power of Shangri-La’s waters. As Rick heals, Alex and Lin have grown attached to each other, but Lin refuses due to her immortality, unable to bear falling in love with Alex only to watch him grow old and die, just as Zi Yuan mourned for General Ming.

Han and General Yang eventually arrive and attack them in Shangri-La, and Han bathes in the mystical waters, which restores his human form and youth, and gives him the ability to shapeshift. Transforming into a dragon, Han kidnaps Lin and flies back to the tomb, raising his Terracota Army, planning to cross the Great Wall, where they will be invincible. The O’Connells and Zi Yuan pursue Han to the Great Wall where she sacrifices her and Lin’s immortality to create an undead army from beneath The Great Wall, led by a revived General Ming. As Alex rescues Lin, Zi Yuan fights Han and is mortally wounded, but secures the dagger. Zi Yuan gives the dagger to the group before dying. Meanwhile, Han goes into the Great Wall to use his elemental powers to negate the undead spell. Rick and Alex fight off Han while Evelyn and Lin fight and kill Yang and Choi. Han gains the upper hand over Rick, but Rick and Alex manage to stab Han in his heart with the dagger, killing him and defeating the Terracotta Army. Ming’s army briefly celebrates before finally moving on to a peaceful afterlife.

The O’Connells return to Shanghai while Jonathan decides to move to Peru with the Eye of Shangri-La, as he wants to go somewhere with no mummies. However, in postscript, it is revealed that upon his arrival, mummies were discovered in Peru.

REVIEW:

Ten years ago, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor began my journey as a movie critic blogger type person. It seems fitting that I revisit it as a way to bookend all 2,743 entries. Aside from that, we still have a film to talk about here. A film that sees our intrepid hero, Rick O’Connell once again messing with the undead. Many times the third time is not the charm for film franchises. Could that be the case here? Let us find out, shall we?

What is this about?

The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen continues the tale set into motion by director Stephen Sommers with this globe-trotting adventure that finds explorer Rick O’Connell and son attempting to thwart a resurrected emperor’s (Jet Li) plan to enslave the entire human race. It’s been 2,000 years since China’s merciless Emperor Han and his formidable army were entombed in terra cotta clay by a double-dealing sorceress (Michelle Yeoh), but now, after centuries in suspended animation, an ancient curse is about to be broken. Thanks to his childhood adventures alongside father Rick (Brendan Fraser) and mother Evelyn (Maria Bello), dashing young archeologist Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) is more than familiar with the power of the supernatural. After he is tricked into awakening the dreaded emperor from his eternal slumber, however, the frightened young adventurer is forced to seek out the wisdom of his parents — both of whom have had their fair share of experience battling the legions of the undead. Should the fierce monarch prove capable of awakening his powerful terra cotta army, his diabolical plan for world domination will finally be set into motion. Of course, the one factor that this emperor mummy failed to consider while solidifying his power-mad plans was the O’Connells, and before this battle is over, the monstrous monarch will be forced to contend with the one family that isn’t frightened by a few rickety reanimated corpses.

What did I like?

Out of Egypt. I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I think of mummies, the first place that comes to mind is Egypt. If I’m not mistaken, that’s where the legends were born that led to the other film’s in this franchise, the classic mummy that we know from old cartoon and tv and, though I hate to bring this up, the recent film with Tom Cruise. With that said, it is a nice change of pace to have mummies from and in China, especially one that has these superpowers and is based in actual history. Now the question is, who would win in a fight, the Dragon Emperor or Imhotep?

Action-packed. Movies today seem to forget that audiences don’t want to sit in an already darkened theater looking at a dark alley with people talking for 3/4 of the film. No, if we go to an action film, then that is what we want to see. Perhaps it is fitting that this director is from the Fast and the Furious franchise because it has come as a surprise that those film have been raking in the bucks of late. Truth is, they are mindless action, an escape from reality, and that is what people want. In this film’s case, much like the Indiana Jones films, we come to see a normal guy kicking ass while fighting off supernatural beings. I would say he also is fighting to get the girl, but he got her in the first film.

Fun. This franchise has always impressed me with how fun it is. Not just with the action and comedy, but with how it captures the feel of an old Hollywood swashbuckler or the serial comics from that time. It is interesting that I bring this up, because it was around the time that this film came out that films shifted toward darker, more serious tones. Even this flick is guilty of that, but it manages to keep the fun factor. I mean, the dead emperor barges into Shangri-La and bathes in the rejuvenating pool only to re-emerge as a 3 headed dragon! That’s some video game boss level stuff there. I love it!

What didn’t I like?

Weisz she gone? I don’t want to take anything away from Maria Bello. She is a beautiful woman and a fine actress. However, she is not Rachel Weisz. What I mean to say is that there was a certain chemistry Weisz had with Brendan Fraser and John Hannah, as well as certain feel for the character of Evie that Bello doesn’t seem to have. To me, she felt like if your starting quarterback on your fantasy football team got hurt and you have to scour the waiver wire hoping to get a player that will put up decent numbers, but it just isn’t the same (and may cost you some games…not that I’m speaking for personal experience, mind you).

Daddy issues. Why is it no one if movies today has issues with their mother? It’s always about Daddy? If you will recall from The Mummy Returns, Alex was the precocious son of Rick and Evie O’Connell. Fast forward a few years and he is now estranged from his parents and an adventurer in his own right. Not to mention, he seems to take after his dad as a bit of a flirt. When we finally see the three of them together, we learn that he and his dad aren’t exactly on speaking terms. I could list for days films that have a similar subplot, especially with how it resolves. Personally, I think this whole thing could have been left out in favor of more development of Michelle Yeoh and Isabella Leong’s characters.

Try, try, try again. For everything that worked in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, changing location and doing the same thing doesn’t fly with this. You have an all powerful mummy and the famed Terracotta army, not to mention Yetis and the Great Wall of China, yet almost all of these are wasted and/or underused. With Imhotep, we spent the both films getting to know him, both with his actions on-screen and a history “lesson” from Evie. The Dragon Emperor is introduced to us in the opening and when he appears in modern day, he is actually more intimidating than when he becomes human again. The only redeeming scene for him is when he becomes the 3 headed dragon or when the filmmaker’s realized it was Jet Li and let him do some martial arts.

Final verdict on The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I probably have made this sound worse than it is. Truth be told, this is a film that would be enjoyable on a Saturday afternoon when you just need something to watch. However, this was meant to keep the franchise going, or at least revive it, but instead it seemed to kill it (along with other factors). There is obvious effort here to make a worthy film but, in the end I cannot in good faith recommend this to anyone, unless you just want to complete the trilogy.

3 out of 5 stars

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Coco

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.

What people are saying:

“At every imaginative juncture, the filmmakers (the screenplay is credited to Pixar veteran Molina and Matthew Aldrich) create a richly woven tapestry of comprehensively researched storytelling, fully dimensional characters, clever touches both tender and amusingly macabre, and vivid, beautifully textured visuals” 4 stars

“None of Coco‘s few flaws can fatally undermine the film because it is, most of all, a smart and enduring piece of storytelling with a satisfyingly twisting narrative and richly complex theme. ” 4 stars

Cocos rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly—and deeply affecting—approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death” 5 stars

“The topic this movie handles is unconventional, but it doesn’t take away from the humour, the fun and the insanity that we come to expect from Pixar. They balanced the topic well and respectfully to the culture the topic relates to. Truly one of the best movies in it’s class.” 5 stars

“Once again, leave it to a kid flick to show the adults how to tackle a film about inclusiveness, acculturation and celebrating heritage. Young Miguel Rivera disobeys his family’s perplexing ban on music to pursue his dream of becoming an accomplished, strumming virtuoso. Pixar strikes tear-jerking gold with its first lead Latino character and a story that resonates in a climate where Dreamers face unknown, frightful futures and accepting those with different beliefs and backgrounds still proves a challenge.” 3 1/2 stars

Spring Breakers

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 25, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez) have been best friends since grade school. They live together in a boring college dorm and are hungry for adventure. All they have to do is save enough money for spring break to get their shot at having some real fun. A serendipitous encounter with rapper “Alien” (James Franco) promises to provide the girls with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for. With the encouragement of their new friend, it soon becomes unclear how far the girls are willing to go to experience a spring break they will never forget.

What people are saying:

“If Michael Mann was to take a lot of hallucinogenics and shoot a Girls Gone Wild video, it might look something like this” 4 stars

“…this attractively fizzy pic may be a shock to the system for fans of teen queens Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, but remains pretty toothless titillation by its writer-helmer’s standards” 2 stars

“Korine’s story is a searing indictment of today’s hedonistic, nihilistic youth, and his script is loaded with sharp, telling dialogue that exposes the rotten moral cores of its characters.” 4 stars

Spring Breakers tries to be more than the typical party movie, and that is admirable, even if it doesn’t always work. The movie has a pretty strong social commentary and satirical vibe that is fascinating to watch. The characters are interesting enough and the standout performance in the movie is the one given by James Franco. I thought the movie starts off strong but really fizzles out at some point in the middle. The movie’s structure also feels somewhat repetitive at times and I was exhausted by certain parts of it. Some scenes like they’re a bit too over the top but I think it just comes back to the tone the movie is going for. It’s a movie made with a lot of energy and is unlike anything else this genre has seen before and for the most part its a good thing.” 3 1/2 stars

“I didn’t expect to hate this film as much as I did, I watched it not expecting much, and well…that’s exactly what I got! Sure the film looks good and the girls looked hot in their bikinis BUT! The acting was horrific apart from surprisingly.. Selena Gomez. I love James Franco but not in this movie, he looked stupid, was very repetitive ( in fact the whole film was) he sang a Britney Spears song and gave sexual pleasure to a couple of guns (very strange) All in all this has to be one of the worst films I have ever seen.” 1/2 star

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the sequel to the hit comedy Sister Act, Whoopie Goldberg reprises her role of Deloris Van Cartier, a Las Vegas entertainer who hid out with in a convent of nuns to avoid a nasty bunch of gangsters. In Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Deloris is persuaded to return to the convent by the Mother Superior (Maggie Smith), because her help is needed in teaching their choral students at St. Francis High in San Francisco. However, St. Francis is in a crisis, since the administrator running the school (James Coburn) is threatening to shut the place down. If the gospel choir wins first place in a singing contest in Los Angeles, St. Francis will be saved from the priest’s plans.

What people are saying:

“While the kids may sing a storm when at last they get down to mixing Beethoven, gospel and rap, in the good clean fun department this is monumentally weak and derivative.” 2 stars

“One must remember this is sequel and will probably not be as good as the first movie. Personally I really don’t like sequels all that much but see them anyway. Most of time they have the same plot as the first one. If the first film made a lot of money, It will continue on the same theme without being that good because they don’t have be to make money. So one should keep that in mind when viewing this movie. It’s okay but with no suprises. Whoopi Goldberg usually does well in comedies and will probably to continue with this type of role. In this movie she helps school children with their music abilities they don’t seem to know that they have until she as a nun comes along. A good movie but certainly not a great one. See the movie and form your own opinions. ” 3 stars

“I love this movie — Lauryn Hill singing, Maggie Smith vs. James Coburn, just wonderful music. I don’t know why it got such a low rating…I’ve gotta watch it every year at least. It’s such fun! Look at the discrepancy between the audience reviews and the critics — critics can’t always tell you what’s going to life your heart. She even quotes my favorite poet/philosopher Rilke. I’m a songwriter with major label credits and I just love the music — Lauryn Hill singing His Eye Is on the Sparrow slays me…and the final competition number is absolute joy. Glee fans should enjoy it too!” 5 stars

“Unfortunately, the sequel took a very cliche attempt of “reaching the children’s hearts” and tried for a more heartwarming feel good kind of film while the plot seemed to kill whoopi’s skills in comedy, since her comedy from the first film would have been somewhat inappropriate for this film. However what wasn’t filtered of Whoopi’s humour is worth at least knew watch even though it’s more or less a film that has you saying “I’d rather watch the good one”. Whoopi at least saves ut to be a half decent movie even though the script seems fairly unbelievable and predictable.” 2 1/2 stars

“It’s heart is definitely in the right place, but only the Good Lord Above knows where the hell its brain is. Goldberg throws her nun disguise back on for absolutely no reason, other than to lead an aged plot concerning a class of unruly kids learning to respect one another, and themselves. It turns out to be nice enough, and the music is as awesome as ever. But while the first one was loveably daft, this one’s just numbingly stupid.” 2 stars

Footlight Parade

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , on August 23, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The last–and to some aficionados, the best–of choreographer Busby Berkeley’s three Warner Bros. efforts of 1933, Footlight Parade stars James Cagney as a Broadway musical comedy producer. Cagney is unceremoniously put out of business when talking pictures arrive. To keep his head above water, Jimmy hits upon a swell idea: he’ll stage musical “prologues” for movie theatres, then ship them out to the various picture palaces in New York. Halfway through the picture, Cagney is obliged to assemble three mammoth prologues and present them back-to-back in three different theatres. There are all sorts of backstage intrigues, not the least of which concerns the predatory hijinks of gold-digger Claire Dodd

What people are saying:

“…generates laughs at a criminal rate” 4 stars

“What a gem! Saw it in the TCM’s on demand line-up, started it and just was transfixed. Dated, but in a timeless way that goes back not just to the 1930’s but to what it must have been like in vaudeville. Cagney is in top form and terrifically supported by Blondell, Keeler and a all round great cast. Powell is ok, being not nearly as annoying as he usually is. Great music/dance numbers with pussy cats, a honeymoon hotel, a waterfall and – the topper – Shanghai Lil. All of it wrapped up in snappy, risqué dialogue.” 4 stars

“It has singing. It has drama. It has comedy. It has a story. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made … period. If you can’t enjoy this movie, then you must be either asleep or in some kind of mental disarray. In “Yankee Doodle Dandy” James Cagney sings and dances his way to an Academy Award; but in this movie he is BETTER! This is James Cagney at his quisessential BEST! He’s fast with the one-liners! He’s fast with his feet! It’s nonstop action. And the song-and-dance skits are classics, especially “Shanghai Lil.” And the supporting cast is great; and the entire movie is upbeat, fast moving, and exudes confidence. And even though this movie was made over 70 years ago, it’s still watchable, even today. And of course, this movie features Miss Ruby Keeler (who was married to Al Jolson). She is the perfect partner for James Cagney … and Dick Powell too! If you like upbeat, fast paced movies, with lots of singing and dancing, this is the movie to watch.” 5 stars

“This is an example of one of those “super cutesie” type of flicks. Every character is loveable and silly in their own way. Though the Busby Berkeley dance numbers aren’t the best, the achievement of complexity and style is still in others choreographers left field.” 5 stars

“This fabulous movie must be viewed knowing that millions scraped together 10 cents to see it and forget the gloomy day-to-day economic conditions during the 30’s. Remember, 10 cents bought a loaf of bread back then, so this was a minor luxury for many people. It’s testimony to how Hollywood did its best to make the USA feel a little better about itself. You’ll note that with the studio system in Hollywood at the time many of the actors and actresses were type-cast in similar movies, e.g. James Cagney, William Powell, Ruby Keeler, Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell and Guy Kibbee . Then too, branches of the U.S. military were always respected with enthusiasm and patriotism as in the use of military precision marching by the great choreographer, Busby Berkeley, at the end.” 4 stars

The Dark Tower

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

What people are saying:

“I’ve been told that The Dark Tower books are jam-packed with dense plot, wonderful characters, and a sprawling mythology – which is what made the movie so hard to make for all these years. Well, the solution seems to have been to just scrap all that and release a shockingly short 95-minute movie that just kind of glosses over everything to the point that has any meaning or purpose” 2 1/2 stars

“Elba, eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, delivers a one-note performance of weary stoicism, while McConaughey fails to embody evil incarnate, though he does at least display the odd flash of malevolent wit.” 2 stars

“What an abomination. Any resemblance between this and the Stephen King novels that inspired it(?) is purely coincidental.Elba is the best thing in it and I admire his ability to stay in character instead of running screaming from the set. Poor CGI, disjointed story,strained dialogue, indifferent acting other than the three leads, it’s a hodge podge of the worst B movie traditions. Tedious and boring. King deserves much much better.” 1 star

“Going into the movie without knowing the story it was quite entertaining. If you just enjoy the movie rather than worrying about low reviews you will likely enjoy it. decent story about good vesus evil.Several really great action scenes and you actually care bout the two main actors. Well worth a rental.” 4 stars

“I don’t know why people complain about non-compliance with a book. You read to stoke YOUR imagination. Do you expect a director to please everyone else who read it? Thus we come to the quality of the movie–never read the books. This is above average for the genre. McConaughey is so brilliantly evil. Elba and the boy bond beautifully. Well paced and written, the story line worked for me as presented. Better than 20 hours and six films of Hobbits, etc. to get the story. It’s a well done and entertaining movie.” 4 stars

Belle of the Nineties

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on August 16, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this film, Mae West is cast as cabaret entertainer Ruby Carter, plying her trade along the Mississippi. Having no trouble surviving on her own terms in a man’s world, Ruby fends off the unwarranted attentions of a steady stream of libidinous males, reserving her affections for a muscular boxer.

What people are saying:

“It’s fast, fun and funny — and the best-looking movie Mae West ever made, having the shimmery luster you only saw in Paramount movies.” 4 1/2 stars

“…a hopelessly forgettable effort that seems to have been assembled around a series of admittedly strong one-liners (ie the story is generic to an almost absurd degree).” 2 1/2 stars

“Mae lacks a charismatic male lead to play off here, so this is less funny than it could be. but the surreal vision of Mae as the Statue Of Liberty is worth the ticket price – and some great musical numbers with Duke Ellington’s band.” 2 1/2 stars

“Mae West throws all the curves in this one as a singer (?) in the 1890s who dumps her boxer boyfriend in a mix-up and runs off to New Orleans to perform and live there. She’s featured in a stunning musical number where she models a shimmering gown against which numerous costumes are superimposed by a projector! One pose has her as lady liberty. Unfortunately, this is a less liberated, somewhat cleaned-up Mae West. She still likes to have fun, and enough gags remain to make this one worth a few solid laughs. Good production by Paramount.” 3 stars

“This movie is classic Mae West, full of one-liners with carefully disguised meanings to escape the censors. It’s interesting to note that this is the movie where she really began to fight with the Hays Office and the Breen Office to get her movie past the censors…She had to change the title from “It’s No Sin” (people picketed in the streets with signs that said, “Yes, It Is”). Therefore, this movie could be seen by some as not quite as good as her 3 previous movies. However, it is still a gem from Mae’s classic period. Everyone should see a Mae West movie at least once…” 3 1/2 stars