Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Mummy (2017)

Image is property of Universal Studios

The Mummy – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Synopsis: An Ancient Egyptian Princess is awoken from eternal damnation and seeks to bring terror onto our world and has set her sights on Nick Morton (Cruise).

Review: It certainly seems fair to say that right now, a considerable amount of major studios are pouring a lot of time, effort and considerable sums of money into building shared cinematic universes of popular characters. Yet it’s all well and good conceiving these ideas, but it’s vital that the foundations of the universe are done, and done well enough so that it won’t all apart several films down the line. When it’s done well  (see the Marvel Cinematic Universe) it is delightful but when things have gone a little pear shaped, it can be troublesome to steer things back on course. For Universal, this reboot marks the launch of their Dark Universe, but in terms of laying those solid foundations to build upon, they’ve come up just a little bit short.

The film is set primarily in good old Britannia, but occasionally blasts back a thousand years or so to Egypt focusing on Princess Ahmanet. A woman who has consumed herself with jealousy and rage, and as a consequence, is locked away to spend eternity being mummified. Except when Cruise’s Morton stumbles upon a very ancient grave which sets off the chain of events leading to Ahmanet being freed from her damnation and now she’s on the hunt for someone, to help her rule the world (because what else do bad guys and gals really want to do besides that?) For writers as talented as Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp, it is quite a surprise that their combined efforts result in such a lacklustre script that features really insipid dialogue, and a plot about as generic as they come. What’s more, some of the line delivery is nothing short of atrocious.

This lady is not looking for a hug…

Cruise has shown his talents across many decades as an actor and as a man who really commits himself to the stunts he performs, but here his performance is just as generic as you can get. He tries to come off as this roguish badass that, to be fair, he has done throughout the Mission:Impossible series. Except under the direction of debut director Alex Kurtzman, it simply doesn’t work. Russell Crowe is again another fine actor, but much like Cruise, there’s just nothing to get excited about in terms of his performance, likewise for Annabelle Wallis’s character whose dialogue with Cruise is extremely cringy and gives an extremely wooden performance.

Having risen to prominence in films such as Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond, Boutella is by far and away the film’s leading light (or should that be darkness?) Though she isn’t helped by the film’s weak script she does her damn best to put some meat on the bones of her character, but they are threadbare and it’s just a mighty disappointment given the talent of the actress to not make her more of a compelling, and menacing presence, given that the script and the tone of the movie is all over the place.

There are some exhilarating, well filmed action scenes, packed with decent CGI, and accompanied by a fine score from Brian Tyler. There are plenty of shots of shots of Cruise running. which let’s be honest is is to be expected whenever he appears on screen, given that it has literally become a meme! It’s a shame then that these scenes are just not enough to prevent the film from being a complete mishmash that is trying so hard to get its Universe off the ground. It focuses so much on this, and as a consequence large forgets to be an entertaining movie by itself, and that is a monstrous disappointment.

With a real potpourri of mismatched tones, some very exposition heavy dialogue, and a collection of bland and uninteresting characters, the Dark Universe is off to an extremely uninspiring start.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Gladiator (2000)

gladiator-movie-poster
Image is property of Universal Pictures, Scott Free Productions and Red Wagon Entertainment

Gladiator – Film Review

Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: Popular Roman GeneralMaximus Decimus Meridius is betrayed by the elderly Emperor’s corrupt son, who seizes power for himself. Having lost everything, Maximus, becomes a gladiator, determined to get revenge.

Review: Whenever you learnt about history, be it at school or university, odds are good that you would have learnt about the Romans and their considerable Empire. Their presence in history is certainly vast and indeed the impact they have on the world today equally so. As such, many film-makers have taken the task of representing the Roman Empire in film. 1959’s Ben-Hur or 1960’s Spartacus certainly come to mind, but no movie has arguably come quite as close as capturing Ancient Rome in all its glory quite as well as Ridley Scott in Gladiator. 

It is 180 AD and Maximus (Russell Crowe) is leading the Roman Army in a battle against the “barbarians” of Germania. All goes swimmingly and the general has the affection of the elderly emperor Marcus Aurelius. Unfortunately he does not share this love for his legitimate son Commodus, which does not end well for all parties. In committing his treason, the usurper must dispense with Maximus and his family. This plan goes somewhat awry but not before Maximus can save his family from a brutal fate. Furious with grief and anger over the murder of his Emperor and family, the fallen General sets out on a path of vengeance, against the corrupt Commodus, determined to bring justice on all those who wronged him.

Scott is a director who made his name with science fiction, but he captures Ancient Rome in all its glory perfectly. Everything looks perfect right down to every detail. The costumes, the production design and sets all look exceptional, with extras aplenty, one can only imagine the sheer amount of work that must have gone into the detail. Of course there is CGI, being used for the Colusseum scenes, but the wow factor is not diminished in the slightest. The movie scooped the Oscar for Best Costume Design among others including Best Picture, and very well deserved ones at that, as well as nominations for art and set decoration.

Of course the attention to detail would have been nothing without a compelling story, which we most certainly have courtesy of the screenplay by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson. The screenplay fuses perfectly the intense battle scenes with the behind the scenes political manoeuvring. From the very first battle onwards, the story is gripping, from a very climatic opening battle to some scenes with some very personal, emotional moments between these characters. Russell Crowe completely shone as the lead Maximus, he’s a loyal man, to his emperor and to his family, and a brilliant soldier. Strength and Honour are two words that absolutely define him. So when he becomes a gladiator, that compassion is gone, replaced by a ferocious hatred against those who committed horrific acts against those closest to him, but his honour remains absolute. Joaquin Phoenix is also on great form as the slimy, cold Commodus who has an alarming desire to sleep with his sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen). The late Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius and Oliver Reed as Proximo also both deliver excellent performances in what is an outstanding cast.

There are more than a few superb action scenes packed into the movie’s run time. Scott helms these scenes excellently, and you have battles of all sorts, including a battle with chariots and in one instance, tigers. The action is edited superbly well and the scenes are completely gripping to watch from the scenes in a Roman Province right to the superbly recreated Gladitorial battles that take place in the Colessuem. Russell Crowe certainly showed his action chops in these scenes, and he delivered a career defining performance in this role, that won him a well deserved Oscar. In addition, with an immortal line of dialogue when faced against the treacherous Commodus will go down as one of the best lines of dialogue in any movie, ever, Maximus can certainly lay claim to being one of the best movie characters of the 2000s.

A brilliant historical spectacle, fused with fictitious elements.  Superb action and a career defining performance from Crowe, Gladiator can certainly lay claim to one of Scott’s best ever movies. 

Rating: A+

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Nice Guys (2016)

the nice guys
Image rights belong to RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Waypoint Entertainment, Silver Pictures and Warner Bros Pictures

The Nice Guys – Film Review

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Margaret Qualley, Angourie Rice

Director: Shane Black

Synopsis: Two unlikely detectives are pitted together to solve the case of the death of a porn star, and soon find themselves on the hunt for a missing girl.

Review: Everyone loves a story about a detective, or a private investigator. Stories such as these are packed into popular culture with the many portrayals of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock coming to mind. So often you think of these private investigators as good guys, doing a job for the good of the community, investigating crime and so on. Yet in the case of the comedy duo at the centre of the new film from Shane Black, as the film’s poster suggests, they’re really not nice guys, but they do try to make the world a better place and are given the chance to do just that when a case falls into their hands.

Shane Black’s last directorial outing, Iron Man 3, was a little bit different after his smash hit and directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but here he returns to that genre with great aplomb. It’s 1977 Los Angeles, and our two detectives Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) become involved in the hunt for a missing girl named Amelia, whose disappearance leads to a whole series of interconnected events that are occurring. The duo are the most unlikely partners and given how their first meeting goes, it is somewhat amazing that they agree to work together. Yet this makes their relationship all the more interesting, and hilarious to watch as their efforts to crack this case develop.

The script, penned by Black and co-writer and Anthony Bagarozzi, is absolutely hilarious. The laughs are packed throughout the run time of the movie, which may be odd given the nature of the story about a missing girl, but they make it work, they make it work very well. Part of that is down to the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe, their characters are completely opposite to each other in terms of their methods, but as they say opposites do attract and it’s certainly applicable here. The daughter of Gosling’s character, played by Angourie Rice is also excellent. Young actors can be the kiss of death in movies, but she is not the kiss of death in the slightest. The script also keeps you hooked as you watch the case develop and see all the clues that they acquire gradually form the big picture.

While Iron Man 3 is far from the greatest Marvel movie ever made, Black showed there that he certainly knows how to handle action sequences, and he demonstrates that here once again. There are some gripping and tense shootout scenes, packed with some terrific camerawork, that again manage to weave humour into them and it’s done very well indeed. Black from his previous written works certainly knows the genre well and how to make it pretty damn entertaining.

There are some characters that you would have maybe liked to have seen a bit more of, but it cannot be denied that Black has come up trumps with a very witty, hilarious and original piece of film-making, packed with some great performances, that will have you laughing all the way through.

Brilliantly funny, with great lead performances from Crowe and Gosling, with an amazing script, the King of the Buddy Cop movies is back on his throne!

a