Monday, October 09, 2017


Year: 2017
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dohmnall Gleeson, Kristen Wiig

Plot: A couple's tranquil home is disturbed by sudden unexpected guests.

Review: Much has been said about Mother! recently. Some call it brilliant, some call it garbage. After seeing it, I can say this: it's not meant for everyone.

Writer and director Darren Aronofsky's new film is an allegory of sorts, one that I can't say too much about, lest it spoils the true plot of the film. The closest thing to an idea of what it's about that I can mention is that it's a message from Aronofsky about the way the world is. To say anything more would be wrong to those of you who have yet to see it.

But let's cut to the all important question: is it good? Well, yes and no. If one were to view it the way Aronofsky does, then yes it would be. But movies are so much more than just seeing through the director's eyes and feeling it through your bones. It's about being entertained and experiencing emotions like excitement and sadness. If that's what you're looking for, you're going to be somewhat disappointed, for Mother! is not that kind of film.

The impeccable cast all deliver sterling performances, whether their appearances are minor or major. Javier Bardem still commands the screen well, and Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer and Dohmnall Gleeson all contribute in their own way. Pfeiffer in particular comes off suitably sinister for the most part. But Mother! truly belongs to its main star Jennifer Lawrence. As much as I abhor Lawrence's role choices, she delivers a tour de force performance here. Her job is basically to make the audience feel the same way she does, and she accomplishes that perfectly. 

I'm aware I'm not giving you much to go on with this review, but it's better that way. It's a divisive film, and one that is difficult to comprehend fully even when you think you get the idea. You'll either love it or hate it, or like me, you'll find it fascinating but confusing at the same time.

If you're the curious type, then by all means, go check this out. If you want to be entertained, stay away from this. (7/10)

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

Year: 2017
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Lennie James, Carla Juri, Hiam Abbass, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, Barkhad Abdi

Plot: 30 years after the events of the original Blade Runner, the Tyrell corporation has been bought over by Niander Wallace, who now manufactures replicants who obey. The older models are still being hunted by blade runners. K, a blade runner who is a replicant himself, finds a clue about his past which leads him back to Rick Deckard, who has been in hiding for three decades.

Review: The original Blade Runner wasn't a success story at first, but has since become a cult favorite. Fans would say that the sequel can't possibly top it, but acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve has proven them wrong.

Thirty years removed from the first film, Earth hasn't changed that much. It still rains a lot and looks rather bleak. K, a replicant blade runner who hunts down his predecessors, finds a box of bones next to a tree along with a clue that ties in to one of his memories. He is aware that his memories aren't real, so his curiosity leads him to the origins of the memories and to whom those bones belong to. Meanwhile, Niander Wallace, the new man behind the creation of replicants, is also after the same thing, and the clues lead them both to Rick Deckard, the original blade runner.

But unlike the original Blade Runner, 2049 explores its protagonist's background and develops his character thoroughly. K isn't just a replicant programmed to obey, he actually is as they say, more human than human, judging by his need for companionship in the form of Joi, a holographic consort. He is still required to take tests to show his emotional detachment, which is all part of his struggle in walking the line between human and replicant. Without a doubt, 2049 is K's story, and Deckard only steps into the picture in the third act. Villeneuve and writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green (Fancher wrote the original as well) have certainly outdone themselves here.

From a technical standpoint, 2049 is gorgeous. The great Roger Deakins, who worked with Villeneuve on Sicario and Prisoners, once again turns in superb work, coupled with great production design and visual effects, making it look like a world we'd easily want to step into ourselves. Credit also goes to Renee April for the costume designs and the pair of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch for the music score. Some, if not all of these departments are due for Oscar nominations next year.

Almost every cast member is on point. Ryan Gosling nails it as K, exuding magnetic presence without much effort. Harrison Ford plays the other human heavy role as Deckard, and still shines despite having limited screen time. All the other supporting actors, from Robin Wright as K's superior, to Sylvia Hoeks as Wallace's strongwoman, to Lennie James as a child labor boss, to Mackenzie Davis as a hooker who is part of the replicant freedom movement, also turn in great peformances. Even Dave Bautista impressed me in his small role as an older model skinjob, who will easily get your sympathy here. Special mention goes to Ana de Armas as Joi, who like K, longs to go beyond what she was made for. Oddly enough, it is Jared Leto's Wallace that becomes the weak link among the cast. Not that Leto wasn't good, it's just that his eccentric performance was predictable, even though it suited the role.

Despite running at a lengthy 163 minutes, 2049 doesn't really feel that long, thanks to Villeneuve's solid direction. Aside from Leto, the only other flaw would be the subplot about the replicant freedom movement which isn't fully explored.

It must be said; Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best sequels ever made, and is one of the best films of 2017. I do recommend watching the original before checking this out. (9/10)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Foreigner

Year: 2017
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Fearon, Michael McElhatton, Rory Fleck Byrne, Charlie Murphy, Lia Williams, Orla Brady

Plot: When his daughter is killed by a bomb blast perpetrated by a group of Irish rebels, a middle aged Chinaman seeks revenge. He targets the deputy prime minister of Ireland, whom he suspects knows more than he's letting on.

Review: Now here's a rare opportunity: to see Jackie Chan in a serious action film. No comedic flips, no slapstick punches. In fact, Chan barely smiles throughout the whole film.

Chan plays Quan, whose daughter dies in a bomb attack by a group of Irish rebels who are targeting Great Britain. Quan goes to meet Liam Hennessy, the deputy prime minister of Ireland, and asks for the bombers' names. Hennessy, who was once part of the old faction himself, denies any knowledge, but as the story goes on, it is clear that he is connected to the incident, even as he tries to handle the matter on his own. Quan continues to harass Hennessy to give up the names, and the game turns more dangerous as the film moves on.

Director Martin Campbell, working with a script by David Marconi based on Stephen Leather's novel The Chinaman, has made a film that wouldn't look out of place among the many Bourne knock offs that have emerged over the years, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. We have explosions, gunfights and fistfights here and there, and Chan plays it straight here. No nonsense whatsoever, which is good for him.

However, Campbell and Marconi spent a significant amount of time developing Hennessy's involvement with the bombers, his handling of the matter and how his closest acquaintances may or may not be on his side. All this takes away too much attention from Quan's story, who is simply a father seeking justice. There isn't enough time spared for Quan to properly grieve or ponder the consequences of his actions, thereby making this story rather uneven.

Chan shines as the vengeful Quan, who seems mild mannered on the outside, but is capable of taking down much younger guys. Pierce Brosnan is solid as Hennessy, playing him as someone who isn't immediately sympathetic or otherwise. I only wish they had spent more time developing scenes between the two men, as the film only allowed for three.

While I approve of the few twists the film throws in, it still adds up to a rather overcomplicated plot that didn't really need to be that way. Brosnan also doesn't get to partake in any action sequences, so if you're a fan of his Bond days, you may be disappointed.

In the end, The Foreigner is a solid action vehicle for Jackie Chan, but is slightly let down by a convoluted plot and unbalanced direction. (7/10)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Year: 2017
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum

Plot: When a drug lord poisons every drug user in the world with her new revolutionary drug and destroys the Kingsman's headquarters, Eggsy and Merlin head to the U.S and joins forces with their American covert relatives, Statesman, where they discover Harry, the original Galahad, is still alive.

Review: Matthew Vaughn's KIngsman: The Secret Service was a surprise hit, even for me as I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. That success paved the way for this sequel, where Vaughn expands on Kingsman's universe.

As far as our young hero Eggsy is concerned, life couldn't be better. He's a top agent who's in a relationship with a Swedish princess, but it all goes south real quick when Poppy Adams, an eccentric drug queen, destroys each one of Kingsman's secret bases and kills all their agents, save for Eggsy and Merlin. The duo discover the existence of the American version of their organization, Statesman, and travel there to seek their help. They find out that Harry survived the supposed fatal gunshot in the first film and now suffers from amnesia. The two spy teams join forces in an effort to stop Poppy, who has poisoned every drug user on earth and will only save them if the President shuts down their war on drugs.

In essence, The Golden Circle is a lot like The Secret Service, minus the part where Eggsy has to learn the ropes on how to be a super agent. We have more ridiculous stunts, fights, violence and another over-the-top villain with an over-the-top scheme. But one can't help but feel that Vaughn was overindulgent here, as he spends a lot of time on exposition and taking the long way around to get to his point, which results in this sequel being 141 minutes long. There were definitely a few things that could have been edited, including a supposedly dramatic twist at the climax which led to another excuse for a ridiculous fight sequence.

Taron Egerton and Colin Firth are still the main stars here, still kicking ass as Eggsy and Harry respectively. Egerton in particular seems to have settled in with his role quite well. Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges only make minor appearances as Tequila and Champagne respectively, leaving Pedro Pascal with most of the Statesman's action as Whiskey. Halle Berry is okay as the Statesman's tech support Ginger Ale, but doesn't get much to do other than speak about being underappreciated by her peers. Mark Strong still scores as Merlin while Julianne Moore, like Samuel L Jackson before her, hams it up as Poppy, but comes off being more annoying than intimidating. Look out for Elton John playing himself as a prisoner of Poppy, it's quite funny actually.

Besides the overindulgence above, I was also displeased with Vaughn for eliminating a few characters from the first film here, whom I felt deserved to continue appearing in future instalments. Then there's the music choices, which were terrible, except for Take Me Home, Country Road.

All in all, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an imperfect but fun sequel, which could use some tighter editing. (7/10) 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

American Assassin

Year: 2017
Director: Michael Cuesta
Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Taylor Kitsch, Shiva Negar, Scott Adkins

Plot: A young man hell bent on taking revenge against terrorists is recruited by the CIA to join their special team of elite killers.

Review: The success of the Bourne films have generated a massive number of similar copycat films over the last decade. Some films like Salt and Safe House were successful, while others like Hitman: Agent 47, The Expatriate, The November Man and Survivor were only so-so. Now we can add one more to the genre.

Based on one of the Mitch Rapp novels by the late Vince Flynn, American Assassin tells the story of Rapp, whose girlfriend is killed by a terrorist attack in Spain. Fueled by vengeance, Rapp trains himself to become a killer all on his own and successfully infiltrates the terrorist cell responsible. CIA deputy director of counter intelligence Irene Kennedy sees potential in him and recruits him to join Orion, a special black ops team under the tutelage of former Navy SEAL Stan Hurley, a no-nonsense instructor. Rapp turns out to be an efficient spy despite having problems taking orders from people. When the CIA discovers a former student of Hurley's attempting to make a nuclear bomb, Hurley and Rapp are sent to handle the problem.

The storyline here is rather similar to Skyfall, where a spy has gone rogue and wants to get even with his handler, though this particular plot isn't fully explored. The idea of two spies, in this case Rapp and Ghost, his predecessor, being pitted against one another by people who have or is pulling their strings, and having so much in common, would have been interesting to watch. But director Michael Cuesta (Kill The Messenger) spends most of the film focusing on Rapp's training and his drive for vengeance or getting things done his way. Ghost's intentions here only seem to be getting even with Hurley, which is fine, but makes him a less cerebral antagonist.

As far as the action sequences go, Cuesta doesn't hold back on the violence, just the way I like it. The opening terrorist attack was a sight to behold, and there are some well choreographed fights and a decent torture sequence, so overall Cuesta got it right.

Dylan O'Brien is splendid as Rapp, looking very different from playing Thomas in The Maze Runner films. Here, he's intense and mostly angry, but still easy to root for. Michael Keaton scores the most points here as Hurley, being convincing enough as the tough spy trainer with experience during the Cold War. Sanaa Lathan's Irene Kennedy is mostly a suit-wearing bureaucrat here, but she makes it work, while newcomer Shiva Negar does alright as a Turkish agent working with Rapp. As for Taylor Kitsch, he is believable enough as Ghost, the man who has an axe to grind with his superiors, but doesn't quite get enough time to show what he's really capable of, which is a pity. Initially I thought his acting would be a letdown, but he kinda impressed me. I am disappointed though, that B-movie action star Scott Adkins is reduced to playing an unlucky second fiddle agent, since he's supposed to be a badass.

In essence, American Assassin doesn't quite break new ground on the spy genre. If you've seen the Bourne films already and seeking something innovative, you won't find it here. Personally though, I found it entertaining. I've learnt that some movies need not be original to entertain the audience, that one can go see an action movie and enjoy it for what it is, and American Assassin is that kind of film. (7/10)  

Sunday, September 10, 2017


Year: 2017
Director: Andy Muschietti
Cast: Jaden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Bill Skarsgard

Plot: In the summer of 1989, seven high school kids battle a demonic clown that has been kidnapping and eating children in the town of Derry, Maine.

Review: The much hyped remake of Stephen King's It has finally arrived. This reviewer only has vague memories of the original TV miniseries, so he won't be making comparisons here.

We begin in October 1988 as the film shows how the evil Pennywise the dancing clown kills seven year old Georgie Denbrough while he was playing with his paper boat in the rain. Cut to eight months later, where we are introduced to a bunch of high school kids who are considered "losers" by their seniors: Ben, a tubby kid who loves listening to New Kids On The Block; Stanley, a Jewish boy struggling to pass his upcoming Torah test; Eddie, a hypochondriac kid; Richie, a fast talking boy who isn't as cool as he thinks he is; Beverly, a young girl who is a victim of sexual abuse by her dad; Mike, an African American kid working at a meat factory; and Bill, Georgie's stuttering older brother who still believes he's alive. Each of them encounter Pennywise on different occasions, and when they realise this, they decide to band together and take the fight to him.

Director Andy Muschietti skilfully balances the drama and horror elements here, and even manages to throw in some humour while he's at it. The horror here is based on what frightens the kids the most and how Pennywise uses them to his advantage, so we get a variety of scares here, from a dark library to an abandoned house, to a flooded basement, a scary painting etc ....though my favorite one involves a bathroom sink. To be honest, if you're a seasoned horror fan, none of these scares might seem original, but Muschietti uses them well and films them perfectly (the cinematography by Chung Hoon Chung is sublime), so none of them feel out of place at all. 

Performance wise, all the kids chosen to play the losers put in stellar performances, but personally I enjoyed Jaden Lieberher and Sophia Lillis' work the most as Bill and Beverly respectively. Lieberher, recently seen in Midnight Special, is very convincing as the boy struggling to come to terms with his brother's demise, while Lillis, who resembles a young Elizabeth Olsen, is perfect as the tough yet vulnerable Beverly. As for Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgard does a good enough job here, but I personally didn't find him scary. I wouldn't blame this on Skarsgard though, perhaps the script just didn't paint him as dark as he could have been.

On the flipside, the film does take a good amount of time to build itself up to the final battle, but it's well worth the wait. Muschietti doesn't hold back on the violence here, so this is definitely not for the faint-hearted. 

In the book, the kids will return as adults to face the clown one last time, but we will have to wait for the sequel to see this. No worries, It is a solid horror flick which will perform well enough at the box office to earn the sequel it needs. (7.5/10)

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Cage Dive

Year: 2017
Director: Gerald Rascionato
Cast: Joel Hogan, Josh Potthoff, Megan Peta Hill

Plot: Two brothers and a girl travel to Australia to participate in cage diving with sharks, and plan to film their entire experience so that they can appear on a reality show. But when their boat gets hit by a tidal wave, the trio are forced to survive in open water surrounded by sharks.

Review: Cage Dive is supposed to be the third film in the Open Water franchise, though the film itself didn't use the Open Water title. Anyway, let's get to the review.

Jeff and Josh are a pair of half brothers, who along with Jeff's girlfriend Megan, plan on signing up for a reality show, and for their entry video, they travel to Australia to go cage diving with sharks. Naturally, things go wrong when their boat is hit with a tidal wave and they wind up in the ocean with no protection against the deadly sharks. Will they be rescued before they become shark food?

Considering this is a found footage film, you already know the answer to that. The film begins with a broken camera found on the ocean floor by a diver, who retrieves the memory card and plays back the footage for the audience. They even include interviews with the brothers' cousin living in Australia and some news footage to make it feel authentic. And while it is a nice touch by director and writer Gerald Rascionato, it doesn't hide the film's weaknesses. 

The main weakness here is Rascionato's attempt to give the trio a background, which lasts for quite some time. The first third of the film features the trio preparing for the trip, as Josh acts on his secret feelings for his brother's girl, which creates a love triangle that comes into play towards the end of the second act. Personally I felt that this angle wasn't necessary and only felt like padding on top of a story that could work on its own, and it made the film feel longer even though it only runs 80 minutes.

Another thing would be Rascionato's decision to have Megan commit a bone headed move in the second act. Now, I know all about people making dumb decisions in horror movies, but this one takes the cake. This move was a means to an end, but Rascionato could have justified it way better than that.

Acting wise, Joel Hogan, Josh Potthoff and Megan Peta Hill are convincing enough as Jeff, Josh and Megan respectively, but the occasionally poor writing lets them down and makes them look bad.

On the plus side, the cinematography is good despite it being shaky due to the found footage aspect. Like most films of its kind, it utilises night vision during the night scenes, and even throws in a handful of blackouts every now and then when something bad hits the camera. Authenticity is the one thing the film got right.

In the end, Cage Dive is merely a decent shark attack film which uses its found footage aspect well, but not much else. (6/10)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

SPL: Paradox

Year: 2017
Director: Wilson Yip
Cast: Louis Koo, Wu Yue, Gordon Lam, Chris Collins, Hanna Chan, Jacky Cai, Tony Jaa, Ken Lo

Plot: When his daughter is kidnapped in Pattaya, a Hong Kong cop travels there and teams up with a Chinese born local cop to find her.

Review: Paradox is the third entry in the SPL anthology of films, which began with Donnie Yen, followed by Wu Jing and Tony Jaa as the heroes, and now Louis Koo and Wu Yue in those roles.

Koo plays Lee, a Hong Kong cop who raised his teenage daughter by himself after his wife's death in a car accident. When she travels to Pattaya and subsequently gets kidnapped by an organ trafficking ring, Lee heads there and joins forces with Chui, a Chinese born local cop, (himself an expecting father) to find her. But their investigation is hampered by interference from someone in the higher ranks of the police department, who is in the pocket of the mayor's assistant. The mayor is in dire need of a heart transplant, and Lee's daughter is a candidate for an involuntary donation.

From the way this movie was filmed, and the fact that organ trafficking is once again the chosen subject matter (SPL II covered the same crime), one has to believe that director Wilson Yip wants to highlight the seriousness of this issue, and to that end he succeeds. This is a despicable crime that goes from the ruthless criminals running the syndicate, to people in power that are willing to abuse that power to keep it going smoothly. Yip shows all of that in a gritty, no holds barred manner, focusing more on the violence than the action that the film keeps marketing.

Koo does well as the desperate dad who is willing to overturn every stone in Pattaya to find his only child. Wu is also equally commendable as the expecting father who tries to uphold the law while helping Koo in his quest. Gordon Lam plays the cold mannered, goal driven mayor's assistant to perfection, though he isn't really the film's main villain. That role belongs to Chris Collins, who although fights very well, isn't quite a convincing actor. Tony Jaa unfortunately only gets a brief appearance here as Wu's partner, though he manages to squeeze in one solid fight sequence with Collins, so if you're a fan of Jaa, you might be a bit bummed like I was.

Sammo Hung, the man himself, did a splendid job in choreographing the fight sequences, even managing to make Koo (an actor not well versed in fighting) look good. Granted, Koo's style is mostly grounded, while Wu is given the more complicated sequences with Collins, but bottom line is Hung has done a great job here.

The only issues I have with the film are a couple of scenes that didn't quite make sense, and Jaa's brief appearance (along with his precognitive ability which is not explained). Otherwise, Yip deserves credit for tackling this subject matter and not sugarcoating the outcome.

Overall, SPL: Paradox is a commendable action thriller worth checking out. (7.5/10)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard

Year: 2017
Director: Patrick Hughes
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida

Plot: A skilled bodyguard is tasked by his ex-girlfriend, who is an Interpol agent, to escort a hitman to The Hague in order to testify against a brutal dictator charged with war crimes. The problem is, the bodyguard and the hitman have a past, and they have to keep themselves from killing each other while being chased by the dictator's men all the way to the court building.

Review: The concept behind The Hitman's Bodyguard is quite familiar by now: two people who can't stand each other have to set aside their differences and work together to stay alive. 

We are first introduced to Michael Bryce, a top dollar bodyguard whose reputation goes down the drain after one of his clients gets killed. One day he gets a call from his ex-girlfriend Amelia, an Interpol agent, who needs to transport Darius Kincaid, a mouthy hitman to The Hague in order to testify against President Dukhovich of Belarus, who is being charged with war crimes. Amelia can't trust her own team after they're attacked in broad daylight, so Bryce gets the call. However, he and Darius have a history of trying to kill each other, which they must now put aside if they want to make it to court on time.

Since this is an action comedy, you can expect Bryce and Darius to continuously get on each other's nerves and arguing all the way there, and eventually bonding and coming clean with certain things. This is the predictable part of course, but The Hitman's Bodyguard isn't trying to break new ground on the genre, it's just trying to get the audience to have fun, which it does for the most part. Director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) does a splendid job keeping the film steadily moving with one action sequence after another, and all of them well shot. The final third of the film is pretty good as Hughes treats us to a car, bike and boat chase simultaneously, which then moves to a car chase and a foot chase in parallel. As far as the action goes, the film doesn't disappoint.

The jokes however, are hit and miss. Half the time, it works, usually when Darius and Bryce are arguing, but it misses when Darius tries to make fun of his unwilling partner, or when Salma Hayek's character (Darius' wife) goes on a rant in her prison cell. In fact, Hayek's presence here is quite a waste as she spends most of her screen time away from the two leads, and only has a small connection to the main plot.

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson work very well together as Bryce and Darius respectively, with Reynolds being a less verbose version of Wade Wilson, and Jackson being the slightly reckless, shoot first ask questions later kind of guy. Gary Oldman plays Dukhovich the same way he played the villain in Air Force One, which is nothing new but works nonetheless. Elodie Yung is underused as Amelia, not being allowed to show her ass kicking skills we know she has.

Another miss for the film is the soundtrack, which varies from eighties hits like Hello and I Want To Know What Love Is, to loud heavy metal music. Hughes should just stick to one genre.

Overall, The Hitman's Bodyguard is an enjoyable action comedy which won't stay in your mind when it's over, but it's at least fun to watch. (7/10)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Annabelle: Creation

Year: 2017
Director: David F Sandberg
Cast: Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Stephanie Sigman, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Grace Fulton, Philippa Coulthard, Samara Lee

Plot: A dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and six orphaned girls into their home, years after they had lost their own daughter in an accident. Once there however, the girls start to sense an evil presence in the house, which is connected to one of the dollmaker's creations, Annabelle.

Review: John R Leonetti's Annabelle, made in 2014, was little more than to capitalize on the success of James Wan's The Conjuring, and simply wasn't scary. Thus, Annabelle: Creation, a film that goes back even before the first Annabelle, now arrives, hoping to do what its predecessor failed.

The story begins with Samuel and Esther Mullins, a dollmaker and his wife, who live happily with their beloved daughter Annabelle "Bee" Mullins, until she is tragically killed in an accident. Twelve years later, the Mullinses welcome a nun and six orphaned girls into their large home. Soon after they arrive however, strange things start to happen, and it's all centred on a forbidden room in the house, where a porcelain doll in a white dress resides. It's possessed, and it wants a soul, and it has targeted Janice, the girl who walks with a limp.

Director David F Sandberg (Lights Out) has done a stupendous job in generating the scares, using darkness, creaky doors and floors, and of course, objects that move by themselves, from the Annabelle doll itself to a scarecrow and even lightbulbs. His style is quite similar to Wan's, but it works very well. Almost every jump scare here is well earned.

What this film also has is something that Annabelle did not have: a convincing relationship. Much like Ed and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring films, Creation has a solid relationship here as well; a sister-like friendship between two of the orphans, Janice and Linda. Janice's handicap makes her an outcast among the other girls, except for Linda, who treats her like a best friend and always stays by her side. This connection is truly crucial as the audience can't help but care about what happens to these two girls as the story moves along.

Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson are the standouts here, giving believable performances as Janice and Linda respectively. Wilson, who last wowed audiences in Ouija: Origin Of Evil, is on the mark here, this time playing scared instead of scary. Bateman is also superb as the target of the evil spirit, displaying a palpable sense of vulnerability. Stephanie Sigman gets the token disbeliever role as Sister Charlotte, but much more likable than Ward Horton's John from the first Annabelle. Veteran actor Anthony LaPaglia also shines as Samuel Mullins, being emotionally cold for the most part, due to his personal loss, while Miranda Otto doesn't get much screen time as Mrs Mullins, but plays a crucial role in the third act.

As with most horror films these days, the downsides usually involves questionable decisions by its characters, like why do they go into a forbidden room, or why not run when something scary is coming etc. But the best way to enjoy this film is to just suspend disbelief a little bit and enjoy what unfolds.

All in all, I enjoyed Annabelle: Creation thanks to Sandberg's ability to scare audiences formidably, and tying this film to the other Annabelle film. Stay tuned till the credits finish rolling for another brief scene. (8/10)

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Dark Tower

Year: 2017
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Jackie Earle Haley, Katheryn Winnick, Claudia Kim, Dennis Haysbert, Fran Kranz

Plot: In a parallel universe, warriors known as Gunslingers protect the Dark Tower, the source of protection of all realms from the darkness beyond. The last Gunslinger alive, Roland must now protect a young boy from Earth, whom a mysterious Man In Black intends to use to destroy the tower.

Review: I almost decided not to watch this film after hearing about the poor reviews it got. After seeing it, I have to say it's not too bad. Much like last year's Warcraft, The Dark Tower suffers from not making enough time to explore its universe, though compared to the former, it is at least more comprehensible.

It's basically the story of two men and a boy. Roland, the last Gunslinger, has given up his duty to protect the Dark Tower and only wants revenge against Walter a.k.a. The Man In Black, who had killed his father. Walter needs a special child with strong enough psychic abilities to destroy the tower and unleash hell on the universe. Jake, a boy from our world, is the child in question, and now Roland has to protect him from Walter at all costs.

If you're looking for a straightforward action fantasy movie, The Dark Tower pretty much fits the bill. The CGI is good, the action is well shot and the old fashioned tale of good vs evil is the film's centrepiece. In short, if you lower your expectations and just have fun with this film, chances are you'll enjoy yourself, just like I did. Director Nikolaj Arcel, who co-wrote the film with Akiva Goldsman and two others, does a decent enough job in pacing the film and keeping things coherent for the most part. A film where characters jump from one universe to another can get complicated but Arcel is up to the task.

Idris Elba is perfect as Roland, balancing perfectly between weary hero and father figure to the boy. He also excels in the action sequences; I gotta say, watching him shoot and reload his guns is the coolest thing about this film. Matthew McConaughey plays Walter with a mixture of devilish charm and cold calmness, and a worthy opponent for Roland. I only wish the film was a bit longer so we can see more of him. Tom Taylor is splendid as Jake, a boy who misses his late father and looks up to Roland as a friend and surrogate dad.

Apparently, test audiences didn't like the film and reshoots were done, so if you've seen the trailers, you'd notice a few missing scenes; even the climax of the film ended pretty abruptly. And, as mentioned, like Warcraft, you get the feeling there's a whole backstory to this that could have been explored or at least briefly explained, like Walter's origins, or why a child is needed to bring the tower down, or who made the portals that allow them to travel between universes. 

To sum it up, The Dark Tower is fun, but it's over way too soon. With a bit more time spent on its story, it could have been truly memorable. It is written by Stephen King, after all. (7.5/10)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Baby Driver

Year: 2017
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, John Bernthal

Plot: A young getaway driver plans to break free from working for a crime boss after meeting the girl of his dreams, but his boss has other plans.

Review: Call me crazy, but I don't really enjoy a film when it has too much fun with itself. There are a few notable exceptions, like say Shoot 'Em Up or Con Air, being so silly that there's only one way to enjoy them. Baby Driver isn't quite like that, though it tries hard.

Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a young man constantly attached to his iPod who works for Doc (Kevin Spacey), a crime boss with a knack for planning heists. Baby is a tremendously gifted driver, thus his skills are really useful to Doc. He falls in love with Debora (Lily James), a cute waitress, and plans to run away with her once he squares his debt to Doc. But the old man will not let him just walk away, and hires him for a heist alongside three very volatile criminals; Buddy, Darling and Bats.

Edgar Wright, who wrote and directed this film, set out to do only one thing: create a fun filled action comedy driven by his favorite songs, and to a certain extent, he succeeds. The car chases are good (the opening chase is the standout, the others don't come close), the dialogue is funny (Jamie Foxx's lines are the best) and the acting for the most part, are spot on.

Elgort is reasonably charming as Baby, and makes a great pair with James as Debora. Spacey is just oozing cool and mean at the same time as Doc, while Foxx is just batshit crazy as Bats, with Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez being both magnetic and deadly as Buddy and Darling respectively. Foxx in particular is hilarious, even when he means business.

Now, here's my problem. I do not dig Wright's move to dictate pretty much everything in this film by song and song beats. I get it, Guardians Of The Galaxy was cool for the most part because of great music choices, but let's not get carried away. Wright doesn't just put in killer tracks in the background of nearly every scene, he also sets what happens on screen to the beat of the music, from Elgort's dancing and strutting (which I found quite annoying) to gunshots and action beats etc. It's overkill for me. It's like Wright is trying so very hard to make this film look and sound cool, when he really doesn't have to. I also felt that the editing could be a bit tighter and the third act was a tad messy for my liking.

With all that being said, Baby Driver is reasonably entertaining thanks to a fine cast and great dialogue, but after reading all the hype from reviewers everywhere, I have to say this film is quite overrated. It's fun, but much easier to run with if it was simpler. (7/10)

Sunday, July 30, 2017


Year: 2017
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, James D'arcy, Harry Styles

Plot: On May 26th 1940, British soldiers were trapped on the beach of Dunkirk by German forces. This is the story of how they made it back home.

Review: Only director Christopher Nolan can actually succeed at making a war movie that is both tense and compelling without resorting to violence and gore. But then again, Dunkirk isn't so much a film about fighting the war, but more of an escape from it.

Nolan's latest feature is seen from three different viewpoints: a British soldier and a French soldier attempt to flee Dunkirk by sea, though the lack of available ships make it almost impossible; an elderly man, his son and his son's friend set out by boat, answering Churchill's call to British civilians to bring their troops home; and a couple of RAF pilots do their best to shoot down German bombers in order to secure their comrades' safe evacuation. Nolan shifts between these three storylines seamlessly until they all come together by the film's end, but even on their own, each story is taut and gripping.

The tension already begins in the first scene as the British soldier dodges enemy fire on the streets of Dunkirk before reaching the beach, where he teams up with a French soldier and attempt to board a ship. Although their story is undoubtedly the most tense and interesting of the three, the other two stories have their own appeal. The elderly boatman faces problems as soon as he rescues his first soldier, one who is still in severe shock. The pilots engaged in aerial dogfights with the Germans have to stay alive while making sure they have enough fuel to return home. There isn't a dull moment at all as Nolan slowly raises the intensity and weight of each storyline right until they merge at the end.

As it is with every Nolan film, the technical aspects are well covered. Hans Zimmer provides what could be his best score yet while Hoyt Van Hoytema, who last did excellent work for Interstellar, turns in superb cinematography here by placing cameras in cockpits, underwater and wherever else necessary. Needless to say, Nolan's production team succeeds in doing everything humanly possible to make the audience feel as if they were in the film themselves.

Cast wise, Nolan opts for a combination of old and new faces. Mark Rylance puts in a subtle but memorable performance as Dawson, the elderly boatman while Tom Hardy is also solid as one of the pilots. Cillian Murphy, another frequent Nolan collaborator, is excellent as the shocked soldier Dawson saves, while well known British actors Kenneth Branagh and James D'arcy are also good as the superior officers supervising the evacuation. Fionn Whitehead, a rookie actor, shines as the British soldier while One Direction member Harry Styles is quite good as another soldier that Whitehead rescues.

I don't really have any qualms about this film, other than the fact that you won't see much war action here. But Nolan makes up for that by putting our heroes in one tense situation after another, the best of which is whenever a ship starts to sink, and there are at least three of those!

To sum it up, Dunkirk may be one of the least flashy of Nolan's films, but it may well end up being the most important, judging by how it ends. Recommended. (8.5/10)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

Year: 2017
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Rihanna, Sam Spruell

Plot: Space agents Valerian and Laureline find themselves embroiled in a plot by one of their superiors to cover up the accidental destruction of a planet and its inhabitants.

Review: This movie is based on the French comic series Valerian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres. After seeing it, one can't help but compare it to director Luc Besson's sci-fi spectacle The Fifth Element.

The story focuses on two space agents, Valerian and Laureline, who are assigned to retrieve a tiny animal called a converter, but soon they find themselves in a middle of a plot that involves a cover up of a planet's destruction. At the same time, Valerian is trying very hard to propose to Laureline, who refuses, knowing that he has trouble committing to a relationship.

It is said that this is the most expensive independent film ever made, as Besson crowd sourced and funded the film himself. Visually, the film looks fantastic. It feels like Star Wars meets The Fifth Element, with a buddy cop element thrown in. Besson has certainly gone out of his way to create outstanding visual effects, which I'm certain involves lots of green screen and motion capture technology. It all looks incredible, and I'd be surprised if this film isn't up for the Visual Effects Oscar next year.

Besson also deserves credit for his slick direction, especially in the action sequences. It's reminiscent of the work James Cameron did for Avatar, where actors and motion capture actors have to seamlessly work together, and Besson pulls it off well. Save for a slow second act, Besson keeps things running smoothly for the most part.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne play off well against each other as Valerian and Laureline respectively. Their chemistry is convincing enough as they bicker and fight, all the while trying to finish their mission. Clive Owen is slightly wasted as their superior while Ethan Hawke attempts to be flamboyant as a pimp here, but doesn't quite hit the mark though. Rihanna tries to be serious as a shapeshifting performer, but her poor acting skills are still quite obvious. In fact, I'd say Besson hired her so that she can pull off this flashy shape changing performance on screen in the second act, which was a waste of time in my opinion.

The romance between Valerian and Laureline also feels rather hollow since we're never told why he loves her, or how they were made partners in the first place. I would have also preferred a proper prologue for the story instead of a sequence backed by David Bowie's Space Oddity, followed by a pointless cameo by Rutger Hauer.

In the end, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is a solid summer action sci-fi spectacle which is bound to entertain you, but not much else. (7/10)  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

War For The Planet Of The Apes

Year: 2017
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson. Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Terry Notary

Plot: When a ruthless army colonel and his men kill a large number of apes including Caesar's wife and son, Caesar vows revenge. However he soon finds out that vengeance has a large price.

Review: The events of Rise and Dawn have led to this film, where the apes must now fight for survival against an army of marines who will not stop until they have wiped out every ape they find. While Dawn focused more on apes than humans, this one is actually even more so, as Caesar's journey from leader to vengeful patriarch takes place.

In an attempt to save his kind, Caesar plans on moving his community to the desert, away from the marines currently hunting them. But his personal quest to take revenge after his wife and son are killed leads him down a dark path, one that may cost him more than the last film's events. Along the way, Caesar meets two individuals; a mute girl and a clever ape that will play a part before the film reaches its finale.

Director and co-writer Matt Reeves pulls it off again as he gives audiences a thoughtful and dramatic story about two species and their quest to survive; one peaceful, the other desperate. The story, more than anything, focuses on Caesar and his journey, culminating in a thrilling climax (which I'll admit was a bit over the top) that more or less caps off his story that began in Rise. Here, even more so than in the past two films, the apes are shown to be more human than the vengeful humans themselves. The colonel who leads the marines isn't as two dimensional as I had expected, although for the first half of the film he seemed very much so. Other than him and the mute girl, not much is explored of what's left of humanity.

Andy Serkis once again does an amazing job as Caesar, not having lost a single beat. Woody Harrelson is a perfect fit as the colonel, playing him as a brutal man, but not totally without reason. Credit also goes to Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, a talking monkey who assists Caesar and the young Amiah Miller as Nova, the mute girl.

If I have a complaint, it's a slight lack of tension in certain scenes. But despite its long running time at 140 minutes, War For The Planet Of The Apes scores many points in terms of plot, acting, CGI, cinematography and set design. Even Michael Giacchino, who turned in disappointing work in last week's Spider-man: Homecoming, comes good here with his great music score.

Needless to say, WFTPOTA is the sleeper hit of the year and a must watch. (8/10)

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Year: 2017
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier

Plot: After the events of Civil War, Tony Stark puts Peter Parker on standby in case he is needed, but Parker, in his eagerness to become a hero, is disappointed when the call doesn't come, and he is tired of merely catching small time crooks in his neighborhood. All that changes when Adrian Toomes, a disgruntled city employee who has amassed technology left behind by the Avengers' many battles, builds an arsenal of high tech weapons, one of which is a suit with wings, and plans to steal even more tech from Stark to sell at the black market.

Review: I'll give director Jon Watts and his five fellow screenwriters one thing: they set out to do a completely different version of Spider-Man and managed to do just that. The problem is, I could never relate to Spider-Man back in the day, and Homecoming doesn't change that. Don't get me wrong, the old Spidey films featuring Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were quite entertaining (except maybe Spidey 3), but I never really put the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker and his alter ego at the top of my comicbook heroes list.

I'm gonna do something unprecedented as far as my reviews go, i.e list my pros and cons in point form. Here goes:

- Tom Holland makes a rather likable Peter Parker, even though his hyper eager to please attitude for the first 20 minutes of the film was grating on my nerves. Thankfully he matures quite well as the story moves along
- Michael Keaton is awesome as Adrian Toomes aka The Vulture. Toomes is basically a sympathetic villain; a blue collar worker trying to make ends meet until Stark's rich and powerful team of white collar suits take over, thereby forcing him to do whatever it takes to level the playing field. Keaton never hams up his performance and always keeps things cool, making him that much more convincing. Don't be surprised if you find yourself rooting for him at some point.
- Robert Downey Jr is still cool as Tony Stark, even in smaller doses. I also liked the PSA videos from Captain America, Chris Evans rocks.

- The different thing about Homecoming as compared to previous incarnations of Spidey is the non origin plot, which means they skipped the Uncle Ben's death thing, which is fine. But in its place is the kind of story you would see in a teen movie, which involves pining for a girl in high school, trying not to get in trouble with your teachers, dodging questions from your aunt, trying to be cool at a party etc. I mean, after they all watched John Hughes' films reportedly before filming this, is this the best they came up with?
- Peter's best friend Ned is quite annoying, sorry. I know he's the sidekick and he is supposed to be that way, but he can be quite dumb, at least till the third act.
- Why are they trying to sell Marisa Tomei's Aunt May as being hot? Seriously? I know some of you feel she is hot, but I don't. Again, sorry.
- The inclusion of Zendaya as Peter's outcast friend Michelle adds nothing to the entire plot, other than providing variety to his social circle, which includes a poorly written Flash Thompson.
- The final action sequence was filmed in bad lighting, making it difficult to see what's going on.
- Other than Michael Giacchino's orchestral score of Spidey's theme song at the start of the film, the music here is pretty disappointing.
- How the heck does a talented actor like Logan Marshall Green end up getting a forgettable supporting role as Shocker #1? 
- There's a cameo towards the end which I totally despised, since it was not necessary at all and adds nothing to the film.
- Lastly, they spent a bit too much time making Peter look stupid tumbling all over the place while trying to figure out how to use his suit or land properly.

Overall, I don't hate Homecoming, just felt underwhelmed, kinda like how I felt after I finished Alien: Covenant. If you're a Spider-Man fan, I'm certain you'll like it, but if you're not, this won't change your mind. (6.5/10) 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

47 Meters Down

Year: 2017
Director: Johannes Roberts
Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine

Plot: Two sisters vacationing in Mexico decide to take a trip in a shark cage, but things go south in a hurry when the boat's crane snaps and the cage plummets 47 meters to the ocean floor. The girls now have to figure out how to survive with limited oxygen and sharks surrounding them.

Review: This film was originally set to be released on DVD, but then a studio that bought the rights to the film decided to release it in theaters. One wonders if they were trying to capitalize on the success of The Shallows from last year.

As the film's story goes, two sisters, Lisa and Kate are vacationing in Mexico. Kate, being the more adventurous of the two, persuades Lisa to join her in a shark cage experience in the ocean. Lisa, still healing from a breakup, agrees. Then trouble ensues when the boat's crane breaks and the cage sinks to the ocean floor. The sisters are trapped at the bottom, with air running out and sharks circling them. What will they do?

Writer/director Johannes Roberts makes 47 Meters Down as simple as possible for his audience. Two victims, trapped at the bottom of the ocean, there are sharks and time is limited. Nothing complicated, which is how most survival horror flicks should operate, and for the most part, he succeeds. Roberts makes good use of his environment and manages to create a handful of suspenseful moments, and unsurprisingly it usually involves a shark getting too close. It does take a while for the action to begin as Roberts spends a bit of time introducing us to the sisters, but once tragedy strikes, the pace picks up considerably. 

Mandy Moore and Claire Holt are convincing enough as Lisa and Kate respectively while Matthew Modine is alright in his short appearance as the boat captain. Credit goes to Roberts for not creating a cliched scenario where the sisters blame one another for the mishap.

However, other predictable cliches do turn up, making the ending much too easy to anticipate. There are also other elements that could have been avoided, like the girls constantly checking their oxygen meter and saying out loud that their air is running out, or the script's flimsy excuse for Lisa's breakup. But thankfully, these are minor faults, and Roberts still succeeds in filming this tightly so it doesn't overstay its welcome.

47 Meters Down isn't quite as awesome as The Shallows for sure, but it's a little more than decent entertainment, and can be quite fun if you allow it. (7/10)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Despicable Me 3

Year: 2017
Directors: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda and Eric Guillon
Voice cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker

Plot: Gru has his hands full dealing with a new villain named Balthazar Bratt, and the discovery of his long lost twin brother, who tries to persuade him to become a villain again.

Review: So after discovering he is capable of being a surrogate father in the first film and finding love in the second film, what's next for villain-turned-hero Gru? This time it's finding out he has a twin brother.

Gru's twin brother Dru is not bald, wealthy and quite a charmer. Upon meeting Gru, Dru sees an opportunity to become the villain their late father was, and tries to persuade his elder brother to show him the ropes. But Gru, now a father and happily married to Lucy, isn't keen on it, especially after losing his job at the Anti Villain League due to failing to capture Balthazar Bratt, a villain obsessed with the 80's era. To make matters worse, his Minions throw a revolt and quit when he refuses to go back to being a villain again.

Director Pierre Coffin teams up with his Minions co-director Kyle Balda and character designer Eric Guillon to present another Despicable Me instalment that pretty much gives audiences what they naturally expect from these films. The theme of family is front and centre as usual, with Gru bonding with his not-so-good-at-being-a-villain brother Dru, while Lucy tries to bond with the girls as their new mother. Some of these sequences work, some of them not so much. Personally I found Dru to be a tad annoying and clumsy, and not in a good way. A subplot about Agnes trying to get a sighting of an actual unicorn is alright and might make you go awww, but it's always like that when it comes to Agnes.

The film works better when it focuses on Gru battling Bratt, with a nice mixture of humor and action thrown in, and some 80's dance music to follow as well, like Bad, Sussudio etc. And of course, the obligatory Minion segments are present, though most of them are pretty meh, save for the sequence where they break out of prison.

My main gripe however would be how quickly Gru and Dru resolve their differences in the third act, but it's a cartoon so it's more or less forgivable. The final sequence featuring a battle between Gru and Bratt while Lucy rescues the girls is quite entertaining, and is on par with similar final fights in the previous instalments.

All in all, the third Despicable Me film is solid entertainment if you liked the first two films, and a good way to spend 90 minutes. (7/10)  

Transformers: The Last Knight

Year: 2017
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Isabela Moner, Santiago Cabrera

Plot: The Transformers' home planet, Cybertron is on a collision course with Earth. A brainwashed Optimus Prime is determined to help his maker destroy the planet. The only ones who can stand in his way are Cade Yeager, an Oxford professor, a young scavenger girl and the remaining Autobots.

Review: There's a first time for everything, I guess. In this case, it's the first time I'm unable to emphasise the good parts of a Michael Bay directed Transformers film. Most people say that Bay's Transformers movies are bad, and I can understand that. But I was always able to see the positive elements underneath the crappy parts and enjoy it as best I could. Well, not this time.

In The Last Knight, humans and Transformers no longer co-exist. The Transformers Reaction Force (TRF) now monitor and hunt any Transformers that exist and capture them. Meanwhile, Optimus Prime has found his maker, but Quintessa the creator isn't about to let him stop her from destroying Earth and brainwashes him into becoming her soldier. In order to save Earth, Cade Yeager, chosen by a dying Cybertronian knight, has to find Merlin's staff, given to him centuries ago by another Cybertronian knight, for it is the only thing that can stop Quintessa.

That plotline actually sounds good, right? For the first third of the film, The Last Knight wasn't too bad. Yes, the crappy comedy elements and the unfunny human traits of the Transformers still linger, with a few bad ideas added in, like the token black sidekick and baby Dinobots (seriously, the writers should just stick to what works). But for the first 45 minutes or so, I was okay with it. Then the second act went into the lengthy process of finding the staff and establishing the relationship between Cade and Laura Haddock's professor character, Vivian. Most of this section was a bore, except for the moments when Anthony Hopkins was on screen. His eccentric performance as Sir Edmund Burton, a descendant of King Arthur's knights, at least kept some sense of levity and genuine humor going. Outside of Hopkins' screen appearances, the script just failed to keep me engaged and I was just waiting for them to get to the point.

By the time The Last Knight gets to the final third, when Optimus Prime finally shows up and the destruction begins, I was too tired to care. There was a lot of stuff going on and I could barely make out what was happening. I know Bay made a humongous effort in filming this at the best quality he could muster, but the action sequences were just too hard to decipher overall. It's a pity, because underneath all this mess lies a probably decent movie that I would have enjoyed.

The human performances were mostly decent, from Mark Wahlberg to Haddock and Isabela Moner as the young scavenger, and even Josh Duhamel making a return as Lennox. But none of them are able to elevate the film above the bad script, poor editing (there were six editors overall!) and messy directing by Bay. At the very least, Optimus Prime still commands the screen when he appears, being the heart and soul of every Transformers film. 

Bay may have said this is his last Transformers film, but judging by how it ended, there will be more. It's just a matter of whether he will direct the next one too. If he does, I hope he listens to his critics for once. I really wanted to like this film as much as the other four, but I can't. Maybe I'll appreciate it more if I watch it again someday. (5/10)  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Mummy

Year: 2017
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Russell Crowe

Plot: An American soldier accidentally discovers an Egyptian tomb in the deserts of Iraq and awakens an imprisoned ancient Egyptian princess inside, who proceeds to continue where she left off i.e. bring about the rebirth of Set, the God of Death.

Review: For the longest time, I can't recall Tom Cruise ever making a bad film, or at least one that fell below expectations. Well, looks like he finally did.

This certainly does not bode well for Universal Pictures' new Dark Universe franchise they're attempting to promote, with The Mummy as its first feature. One wonders how their future films, including Johnny Depp's Invisible Man, Javier Bardem's Frankenstein's monster and The Bride Of Frankenstein will fare. They will certainly have to be better than this.

Now, on paper, The Mummy has all the makings of a summer blockbuster. Action, horror, an exciting concept and Cruise, the world's biggest star in it. And for the first 30 minutes or so, The Mummy actually works. Then, right after the plane crash (which you've probably already seen from the trailers), things start to slide downhill.

Cruise's Nick Morton ends up becoming the object of Sofia Boutella's Ahmanet's affection, and thus starts getting nightmares and visions of his dead friend Vail. This leads to repeated false jump scares thrown at the audience, which becomes ultimately frustrating since it only serves as exposition and does not move the story along. And if this isn't happening on screen, we get to watch Cruise getting tossed around the screen over and over and over by mummies, rats and Ahmanet instead. Even Russell Crowe's Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde gets in on it, and it gets tiresome real quick.

All this made the entire second act really punishing to sit through (despite the fact that a lot of action was happening on screen) and leads to a rushed finale that makes little sense overall. While director Alex Kurtzman can be forgiven for his inexperience since it's only his second directorial attempt, experienced writers Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp were strangely off their game as their script is mostly uneven and dull. Their attempts at humor were very poor too, that even Cruise, with all his charm, can't make it work.

As for the cast, thankfully they're mostly on point, but they're unable to shine thanks to the above mentioned poor script. Cruise never has a problem being a leading man, but he doesn't quite click well with Annabelle Wallis' Jenny Halsey. Boutella makes a good villain in Ahmanet and Russell Crowe is actually perfect as Jekyll and Hyde. It's just unfortunate that you probably won't remember them after the film is over.

In conclusion, if you want to watch an entertaining Mummy film, go for Stephen Sommers' 1999 movie. It's pretty campy but at least it's never boring. Considering the huge expectations riding on Kurtzman's film, it's safe to say that a lot of moviegoers looking forward to the Dark Universe are gonna be disappointed. Let's hope the next one can deliver, as the potential is there. (5.5/10)


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