‘Dunkirk’ Review

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the real event during World War II, and one of the most disastrous military missions in British history, Dunkirk is told through the perspective of three different viewpoints with imagined characters director Christopher Nolan made up, and a few characters that were based off real people. However, that doesn’t make Dunkirk any less of an important history film. I personally didn’t know anything about the real event at Dunkirk, and held off reading anything about the event until after the movie. This isn’t also your typical Nolan movie either, which makes the experience so much better. So let’s not waste any more space and get to what makes Dunkirk so damn good.

Nolan does do some experimenting with this film as it jumps across three different timelines that weave together in a slow fashion – all of them dealing with the British evacuation of Dunkirk. There’s the shoreline nicknamed The Mole, which takes place over the course of a week and follows British soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and a fellow soldier he comes across played by Damien Bonnard, as they try to get out of Dunkirk. There’s “The Sea” that takes place over a day and follows Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and George (Barry Keoghan) who sail to Dunkirk as a rescue party and pick up a soldier (Cillian Murphy) along the way. Finally, “The Air” which takes place over the course of an hour and follows British pilots Collins (Jack Lowden) and Farrier (Tom Hardy) who provide air support for the ships.

One of the things you obviously notice right away about the film, despite big names like Hardy, Murphy, Rylance, James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh appearing, they are nothing more than supporting roles. Although, I’d make the argument that Rylance is one of the leads of the film, but I’ll leave that up to you. Also, considering this is a war film, you’re probably expecting buckets of blood and a hardcore brutal look at war like Saving Pirate Ryan right? Well, you don’t get that. However, you did get something better, for the lack of a better word – a cold, relentless and unforgiving look at war.

There never is a real safe place in their film, which adds to the tension every time we get what could be a moment of peace. Combine that with Hans Zimmer’s amazing score with a ticking clock that is both unnerving, but blends right into the scenes perfectly. Considering that, I was surprised like most people were that Dunkirk’s runtime is only an hour and forty-six minutes. Not that war films have to be long, but even with that “short” runtime, Dunkirk tells the story it is trying to tell.

I don’t know if people will see this as a negative, but Nolan doesn’t really get into any back stories of the characters. Everything is very in the moment, despite the non-linear narrative Nolan is putting on. You get a sense on who the characters might be by their actions, but Nolan doesn’t really give anyone an exposition dump to tell their story. The only real person that gets a ton of dialogue is Branagh’s Commander Bolton who is trying to get everyone out of Dunkirk. The other characters like Whitehead’s Tommy, who opens the film, can be seen as the lead of the film, but since the film jumps around I was okay that he wasn’t the central focus – but again that could be me

That said, the cast is great with everyone holding their own and not stealing the spotlight from anyone. Whitehead spends the majority of the film with Harry Styles, who surprisingly is not that bad. This could easily be seen as stunt casting, but the singer isn’t bad in his acting debut. Cillian Murphy is terrific as the soldier pleading with Mark Rylance’s character to turn back and go home. Speaking of Rylance, he does fine job as Mr. Dawson and his two main co-stars Barry Keoghan as George and Tom Glynn-Carney’s Peter. Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy as the pilots are only involved in the dogfights, which are great and enthralling to watch.

Even with the great cast, this movie belongs to Nolan and the crew. Specifically, the already mentioned Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, who gives us the massive scope, but captures the intense dread and desperation of the characters, especially the ones on The Mole as they hear the German planes fly over them dropping bombs on them.

All in all, Dunkirk is an intense film that doesn’t let you go until the very end. Christopher Nolan was able to do something different in the war genre that I hope people appreciate and find the nuances with the great cinematography and score.

Dunkirk

4.5 out of 5

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Review

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria and Amiah Miller

Synopsis: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mystic quest to avenge his kind.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Planet of the Apes was a movie that changed the movie scene due to its amazing practical effects, visual storytelling – apes of horses! – and vision of the future. Sure the series went to some crazy places and out there ideas. No serious watch them or look it up, but the series always had a special place in people’s hearts, and after a lackluster attempt with Tim Burton’s version – although credit where credit is due with those practical effects – the series got a much needed shot-in-the-arm with the reboot back in 2011 in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Lead by motion-capture pioneer Andy Serkis with WETA Digital helping with the groundbreaking special effects, Rise became an instant hit with fans and nonfans alike. Serkis’ Caesar was a compelling character that made us feel and root for him to win, which meant yes, humans are the bad guys and had to be stopped. We then got Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which added an extra layer, it wasn’t humans vs. apes, it was humans vs. apes vs. apes, thanks to Toby Kebbell’s Koba, who hated what humans did to apes, and Caesar, who saw the good in humans once and believes that there could be peace. Now, of course, we get War for the Planet of the Apes, a great end to a great trilogy.

War picks up a couple years after the events of Dawn, and we now sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) with the remaining apes living in hiding in the woods from a group of soldiers lead by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After two attacks on their home, Caesar has had enough and decides to get revenge. Breaking away from the apes, and sending them to a new promised home, Caesar is followed by his trusted and closest friends in Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Eventually they come across a young girl, played by Amiah Miller, who has lost the ability to speak, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), an ape that has learned to talk just be being around humans. What follows is Caesar struggling with his darker side to get revenge, but also still trying to remain the leader to his people

Despite the summer releases of all the films, and the massive – and impressive –special effects, this Apes franchise never really feels like a summer movie. They could have easily turned this into a full-fledged apes vs. humans series, but instead they made every film about making Caesar a fully fleshed out and complex character. The film could be looked at as character study on both sides. Are the apes the heroes, or are the humans. Yes, there are good humans like James Franco’s Will or Jason Clarke’s Malcolm, but for every good few humans, there are extremely bad humans like Harrelson’s The Colonel, who take the extreme.

Caesar fights for his people and to keep them safe, but so do the humans, and in this case Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel has a reasonable case for his actions. Although anyone in that kind of position will probably say their position is right, but in this case, he’s somewhat right. That said, that is another reason why I love this rebooted trilogy. It gives you both sides of the argument and lets you choose, but Caesar is such a great character and seeing his journey for three films now, you have to root for him.

Of course, some of that goes to Andy Serkis. Serkis’ subtle nuances always made Caesar feel more human, if that makes some sense. Here it’s the same, Caesar is still conflicted, but still has his purpose but is stuck figuring out if he wants to continue doing things his way or if he falls for the darkness that Koba told him he would and should do. That’s why his advisory here in Harrelson’s The Colonel is a great one. Like Caesar, The Colonel only has one purpose and will do whatever it takes to complete it.

When it comes to the rest of the cast, it’s hard to really judge all of them considering they are mostly all motion-capture. When it comes to the new characters in Bad Ape, he brings some humor to the otherwise dark toned film, and all of it works and is not forced. Then there’s Amiah Miller’s character who is a huge homage and Easter Egg to the original series that ties in where the future of the series can go, but also do their own version. Also, credit to Miller, who’s still relativity new to Hollywood, on what she was able to pull off here given that she doesn’t talk at all.

Speaking of homage and Easter Eggs, War does have a few more besides Miller’s character, but there is something that I really liked that they added that connects to the original. It was something that feels small, but when you look at past films, and potentially future films, it completely works and makes sense – although part of me kind of wishes they don’t make any more after this.

All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes has it all; action, drama, humor, beautiful cinematography by Michael Seresin and score by Michael Giacchino. More importantly, War is a fitting end to a near perfect trilogy that gave us a great character in Caesar played by Andy Serkis. While part of me would somewhat like to see where this franchise goes from here, the other part of me hopes they leave it at that.

War for the Planet of the Apes

4.5 out of 5

‘Baby Driver’ Review

Director: Edgar Wright

Writer: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, CJ Jones, Jon Bernthal and Kevin Spacey

Synopsis: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway drivers himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’m not going to make this a secret – I love Edgar Wright. Every movie he’s done I’ve either loved or thoroughly enjoyed to no end. So when he dropped out of Ant-Man and moved on to Baby Driver, I was both a little upset (I was really looking forward toward his Ant-Man) and excited to see what he was going to do with this. Thankfully, from the very first trailer I was completely in. Then the early reviews and reception came out and everyone was saying how great and awesome it was. However as the release date loomed, and the reception kept getting better and better, I started wondering, is it really that good? Yes, yes it is.

Baby Driver centers on Baby (Ansel Elgort), a skilled, but reluctant getaway driver working off his debut to Doc (Kevin Spacey). However, he’s a not a normal getaway driver, he constantly listens to music to drown out his tinnitus in his ears that was a result from a car accident where he lost his parents as a child, and it’s his inner soundtrack that makes him the best. One day he meets waitress Debora (Lily James), and finally sees a future where he doesn’t have to be a getaway driver. However, as he and Debora get closer, Doc ropes him back into the game on a big job alongside Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). What follows is Baby trying to escape in more ways than one.

Like I mentioned, Baby is constantly listening to music and acts like not only his own personal soundtrack but ours as well, giving us a sense at what Baby is feeling at the certain times. At one point, during Baby’s second job working with Jaime Foxx’s Bats – when he’s introduced – JD (Lanny Joon) and Eddie (played by Flea), Baby restarts a song because the timing in off. The funny thing is that it doesn’t come off as awkward or weird, it comes off as funny and almost necessary. I read somewhere that the film is almost a reverse musical, instead of people bursting out into song, its Baby’s music that pushes the story forward a bit.

I don’t know how people will feel with music almost constantly playing, but Edgar Wright makes it work so well that it is rather impressive. Also, the fact that the music syncs with the action and the choreography to perfection makes the film that much better. Speaking of the action and the choreography, it’s highly impressive what Wright was able to bring out of everyone, and what he’s able to accomplish with all the car stunts is damn cool.

When it comes to the cast, they are also all fantastic. I’m not the biggest fan of Ansel Elgort, but he’s not that bad here as Baby. He’s a man of few words – expect when he’s talking to Debora – and lets his soundtrack and driving do the talking for him. Kevin Spacey chews up every scene he’s in, which isn’t many, but he does leave his impression felt. Jaime Foxx as Bats is, well, crazy and a bit unhinged and does act as the primary villain, although you can argue that they’re all bad guys, expect Baby who’s a reluctant bad guy. Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez play the happy couple of Buddy and Darling, who are crazy about each other and Buddy actually likes Baby and sees something special in him, which plays a bigger factor than you think in the film near the end.

Lily James as Debora is, unfortunately, a little underdeveloped. She does have a story behind her, but it’s only her telling it so it could have helped if we’d see a little more of her. Jon Bernthal isn’t underdeveloped, he’s underused. Bernthal is part of the opening heist of the film, but isn’t seen after that. It’s a bit of a shame, but he’s great in the time that he’s there. CJ Jones also appears as Joseph, Baby’s deaf foster father who wishes Baby would leave the criminal life.

All in all, Baby Driver is a fantastic film with great car chase sequences with an awesome cast and an equally great soundtrack that perfect fits with the action and how Ansel Elgort’s Baby is feeling. Moreover, while Baby Driver isn’t as personal as Edgar Wright’s other films, it is as stylized as them and filled with more action. Do yourself a favor and go watch Baby Driver in the biggest and loudest theater you can find.

Baby Driver

4.5 out of 5

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Review

Director: Michael Bay

Writers: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Santiago Cabrera, Tony Hale, John Turturro and Anthony Hopkins

Voice Cast: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Erik Aadhal, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Omar Sy, John DiMaggio and Jim Carter

Synopsis: Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

Five, count them, five Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay have now cursed us been released, and I still can’t figure out why none of them have been any good. Sure, the first movie was okay, but since then the series has gone downhill. The lack of story, and really any sense of direction, make these movies really hard to follow, root for and really enjoy overall, yet, there are fans out there. The Last Knight, which is Michael Bay “last” movie in the series, is another entry of all style and no real substance.

The movie starts off on a somewhat good note setting it during The Dark Ages as King Arthur and his army in a midst of battle as they wait for Merlin, played by Stanley Tucci, who has already discovered the Transformers and pleads with them to help Arthur and his army. They do and give Merlin a staff, this beings the secret history and long place for the Transformers. We then cut 1600 years later and see Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) floating in space aimlessly only to get sucked into his broken home planet of Cyberton. There he meets Quintessa (Gemma Chan), who says he is the “Prime of Life” and tells Optimus he can have his home world back, but only if Earth is destroyed because of its hidden secret (spoiler territory which I won’t get into).

Then there is, of course, the human characters. We first meet teenager Izabella (Isabela Moner) who has her own Transfomers and is living in the fallen section of Chicago after the events of Dark of the Moon. She gets rescued by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), now a fugitive from the government and famous for helping the Autbots that are still around, who now operates a junk yard where Autobots Bumblebee, Hound (John Goodman), Drift (Ken Watanabe), Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) and the Dinobots – the only scene we see them in – are hiding from new agency in TRF, who are hunting down Transformers and killing them.

Cade gets involved in the bigger scheme of things when he comes across a medallion that attracts the attention of Megatron (Frank Welker) and Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins). Burton brings together Cade – with the help of his own Transformer butler Cogman (Jim Carter) – and an Oxford professor Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) who is an important part of not only the medallion’s history, but why Cyberton is coming to Earth. We also have Optimus Prime acting unlike himself.

So, as you can see Transformers: The Last Knight has a lot – A LOT – going on, and that makes it an even bigger mess than it already is. The problem, well at least one of them, is that The Last Knight is adding too much mythology and lore way to late in the game. Also, some of it doesn’t make any sense. We see in the trailers that the Transformers have been on Earth longer than we thought. They also been there for big events like World War II – which of course was never mentioned in the films, especially with Bumblebee, who gets his own little flashback scene attacking a Nazi headquarters. Which when you think about, if the Transformers were helping the Allies during the war, shouldn’t it have ended quicker?

It’s almost like the film is insulting us that they think we can’t remember anything from the previous movies. Because you know, Stanley Tucci was in the last film, but is only seen here are Merlin during the Dark Ages segment in the movie. Even the Dinobots, and even mini-Dinobots introduced here, which were made to be a big deal in the last movie film, are not even a factor here. Also, if the world didn’t completely known about Transformers before the events of the first movie, how come we see paintings of King Arthur with the three-headed Transformer behind him in Oxford? It’s just dumb how these movies just throw something for the sack of story and plot, logic and proper storytelling be damned.

Yeah, I know. You don’t watch a Transformers movie for its story and plot; you watch it for its action scenes. Look, even I’ll admit, the series so far has had some pretty descent and great action sequences, but that only takes you so far, and eventually it just becomes noise and incoherent action. It also says a lot that the best action piece in this movie is the fight that’s been promoted heavy in Bumblebee taking on Optimus Prime, and even with that said, we pretty much see almost most of it in the trailers and TV spots.

The real problem is that Transformers shouldn’t be this bad. It’s actually hurts to even think about how bad these movies are. The human characters aren’t interesting enough, cringe-worthy humor and stupid – and I mean take you out of the movie stupid – puns, and once again, stereotypical/slightly racist robots that serve no purpose other than trying to get a laugh or connect with a young audience. Seriously, there are Decepticons here that get introduced similar to a scene ripped right out of Suicide Squad, which could have been fun but the Decepticons and Megatron do absolutely NOTHING in this movie. Are they in it? Yes, but do they serve a purpose? No. Not even close, but you forget they’re in this because they disappear for half an hour or longer. Also, the introduction of Hot Rod (voiced by Omar Sy) is wasted here as he doesn’t really serve a real purpose other than having another fan favorite Autobot and showing off his power of slowing down time.

But going back to the humans, Wahlberg looks like he’s at least trying in some scenes, but this could be his last movie. Laura Haddock comes off as snobby when she’s teaching her students, and while her family history is important to the film, that fact that she doesn’t know it makes no sense since it’s pretty much her job. Josh Duhamel comes back as Lennox from the first three movies, and honestly, doesn’t do much – so his character remains the same. Isabela Moner as Izabella plays the tough teenager wants to help the Autobots, but while her character plays a big role in the first act, her character just doesn’t matter for the rest of the movie. Finally, Anthony Hopkins – poor, poor Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins at least adds some star power to the film and rambles on for long periods of time giving off five minute exposition’s dumps. His role is suppose to feel important, but sometimes it just sounds like an old man rambling, which is a shame considering its Hopkins. He also has a dumb sub-plot with the returning John Turturro that goes on for far too long.

So let’s get to Optimus Prime, who has been the center of the promotional material since he goes “evil.” He also disappears once he gets saved from space. Optimus spends the first half of the movie – where he has about ten minutes (if that) screen time – with Quintessa and is gone for the whole second half of the film to finally appear in the final act to have that fight – and yes – become good again. Is that a spoiler? Come on, we all know he wasn’t going to stay evil.

All in all, Transformers: The Last Knight is more or less of the same thing from the other movies. If you’re a fan, you may like it, but if you’re like me, The Last Knight may finally be the last straw. Its one thing to make a bad Transformers movie, it’s another thing to continue to make them thinking they’re good. The adding of mythology and lore does not do the movie any favors as it’s already bloated enough with nonsense action. However, you know what the biggest problem is? Despite it being the last Michael Bay movie – maybe – he can’t help himself from adding a post-credit scene to story he won’t – potentially – be involved in anymore. If Bay truly wanted to leave the series, he would have left the new director enough room to do their own story and thing. But no. Finally, let’s face it, I can sit here and write “this movie is a steaming pile of combined shits that you only fuel by buying a ticket,” but The Last Knight will still make a crap ton of money.

Transformers: The Last Knight

2 out of 5

’47 Meters Down’ Review

Director: Johannes Roberts

Writers: Johannes Roberts and Ernest Riera

Cast: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Chris Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura and Matthew Modine

Synopsis: Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Shark movies can be both serious and straight-laced or they can be cheesy and dumb fun – or straight up campy – but there is no doubting you are probably bound to have some fun watching them.  While shark movies – not you Sharknado – have kind of come and gone, there is one that eventually comes out and could surprise us. So is 47 Meters Down worth the deep dive? Let’s find out.

The film follows sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) as they are vacationing in Mexico. Lisa is recently getting over a break-up, and just wants to stay in the hotel, while Kate is the more adventurous sister, who is happy her older sister dragged her out on vacation. After partying with two locals in Louis (Yani Gellman) and Benjamin (Santiago Segura), they tell him they should trying cage diving with sharks. After some convincing from Kate and the guys, Lisa agrees. The next day they meet the guys and Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine), who put them in the cage and lowers them.

Everything goes well at first, but eventually the winch on the boat snaps and sends the cage with Lisa and Kate in it down to the ocean floor. With their oxygen running low, and sharks within the area ready to attack, the sisters have to find a way to survive and make it back up to the surface.

47 Meters Down is a bit frustrating. Not because it’s a overtly terrible movie, it’s actually pretty descent, but the movie is extremely underdeveloped. None of the characters are really fleshed out enough, which makes it a little hard to really root for them as we should. Sure we are hoping they’ll be okay when the sharks show up, but even when they scream and panic, it’s still a little hard. We know the bare amount of Lisa and Kate – Lisa is overly-cautious and doesn’t get out of her comfort zone enough, while Kate is the more adventurous and despite being the younger sister, she has to calm and convince Lisa into everything. The supporting characters are almost non-existent with Louis and Benjamin disappearing as soon as they appear, and Matthew Modine’s Captain Taylor is heard through a walkie-talkie the sisters have and even comes off as shady when he’s introduced.

The movie does work better on the technical side of things. Cinematographer Mark Silk sets up some effective low-light shots that makes the shark attacks unpredictable and adds some much needed tension to the film. Also, it helps that there is not music building up to a potential attack either, essentially putting us in the Lisa and Kate’s shoes for most of the film. Even on that end, director Johannes Roberts makes some of the action hard to follow and lingers on other shots for far too long, which doesn’t make sense since the film clocks in at right under an hour-and-a-half.

All in all, 47 Meters Down is only a descent movie that never reaches its potential full potential. Even with some okay scares with its great cinematography, the characters are never fully developed which hurts the film at the end. There is also a little something thrown in at the end that I’m eager to see how people react too. Personally, the film doesn’t really earn it.

47 Meters Down

2.5 out of 5

‘Cars 3’ Review

Director: Brian Fee

Writers: Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich

Voice Cast: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Nathan Fillion, Margo Martindale, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Kerry Washington and Chris Cooper

Synopsis: Lighting McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The Cars series is arguably the one series that isn’t beloved by fans. Whatever reason you have, Cars didn’t click with many and maybe it was because some knew the series was a lovechild of Pixar head John Lasseter. Personally, I didn’t mind the first Cars, but it definitely isn’t one of favorites, and Cars 2 was panned by not only critics but by fans as well – I didn’t see it. So I’ll admit that was a little reluctant to even watch Cars 3, but the first teaser that teased a potential darker film, of course not too dark since it’s a kids movie, peaked my curiosity. So, is Cars 3 worth driving out to see? Let’s dive in and find out.

Cars 3 follows Lighting McQueen (Owen Wilson) who is happily winning race after race and becoming a champion. However, when a new, and a more technologically advanced, racer in Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) comes into the scene and beats him in a race, everyone starts to question McQueen’s capability to be the star he once was. McQueen defiant in that idea pushes himself too far and crashes leaving his future in question, leaving Storm to take in all the glory. Lighting recovers and wants to get back into the scene leading him to trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). Together they train to find Lighting’s confidence back, and even teach Cruz a thing or two as well.

Again, not having seen Cars 2, but knowing the film followed Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) rather than Lighting, it’s nice to see Lighting get the spotlight since he’s was the main character in the first film. Also, the story itself leads to a story we’ve seen before. It’s not just redemption that Lighting is looking for, but also where his legacy will leave him. Will he be the old timer among the technologically advanced race cars? Or will he overcome and show them that the old car still has some tricks?

Of course this leads to one of the other themes of the film that working together can lead to potentially great things. It doesn’t matter that technology can improve your performance – which Storm represents – and give you an edge, leaving the old ways behind isn’t always best thing to do, and doesn’t mean you’ll always win. It’s a nice message for a kids movie, especially nowadays, but it’s pretty safe messaged compared to other Pixar films. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but again, it’s something that Pixar has somewhat touched on before.

The voice cast is fine, it’s hard to judge voice casting for me to be honest, but Armie Hammer does bring the passive-aggressive Jackson Storm to life. But the highlight could be Cristela Alonzo’s Cruz Ramirez. She brings a certain life to it all with her perky but tough attitude when she’s training other racers and then solely Lighting. However, her story does get fleshed out as the film goes on and for the better. One more voice casting I want to point out is Chris Cooper as Smokey, someone Lighting looks for since he trained his mentor Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Cooper fills the void of the wise mentor well. Of course, Paul Newman sadly passed away, but his character plays an important role in Lighting’s journey in this film making the scene where people are talking about him resonate even more because it makes you think about Newman himself. Those scenes are probably my favorite because they are so touching.

All in all, I didn’t mind Cars 3 and was somewhat surprised especially since I’m not the biggest fan of the first film. Is the movie trying to sell toys? Yeah, probably, but some of the bigger and touching scenes do work very well. Lighting and Cruz’s story is what keeps the film driving – no pun intended – forward and it is something you are invested in until the end. Will Cars 3 change your mind about the series, I don’t know, but it is something you should be willing to try.

Cars 3

3.5 out of 5

‘The Mummy’ Review

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Writers: David Koepp, Dylan Kussman and Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari and Russell Crowe

Synopsis: An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Universal Pictures’ shared monsters universe, called Dark Universe, is finally here. The originators of shared universe are set to bring their monsters back to the big screen in a big way, and they started it all with The Mummy. I’ve been looking forward toward the Dark Universe since it was announced, because I’m a fan of the classic black-and-white horror films and the iconic characters – if you haven’t seen them, I highly recommend you do. So my hope for The Mummy is that it started off the shared universe strong. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely the case. The Mummy stumbles to create the universe off on a strong note, but is there a glimmer of hope? Let’s find out.

The film opens with showing us the history of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) and how she got mummified for her terrible actions toward the Pharaoh. We cut to the present and find soldiers Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) in Iraq, who after failing to discover a treasure, accidentally discover an ancient and mysterious tomb. This introduces archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who has been searching for something like this for years. There they discover an ancient sarcophagus that belongs to Ahmanet, and that’s when things start to pick up.

After awakening from a plane crash that he should not have survived from, Nick starts to see visions of Ahmanet telling him he’s chosen for something. This leads Nick and Jenny going to London to meet Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who runs a mysterious organization called Prodigium, which keeps tabs on the world’s greatest evils and monsters to see how much of a threat they really are. With Ahmanet’s power growing, and Nick’s visions getting worse, everyone is in a race against time to stop Ahmanet from unleashing her fury to the world.

I’ll give The Mummy credit in getting a great cast together. Tom Cruise is already well-versed in big films like this and can handle himself thoroughly. I’ll also give the film credit in trying to make Nick unlikeable to some degree, but of course once everything starts happening to him he changes more than one way. Sofia Boutella as Ahmanet/The Mummy has a great look to her, but is surprisingly underused. Despite being called The Mummy we don’t really see her breakout in her full terror glory like I think the film needed. Sure she does some pretty terrifying things, but never to the point where the build up for her is really worth it.

Annabelle Wallis’ Jenny is more of the straight character here, and isn’t too bad, but overall she doesn’t do too much other than fill us in on the history of everything. However, holding your own against someone like Tom Cruise is a feat on its own. Jake Johnson’s Chris Vail brings the comedy relief, and his chemistry with Cruise is fantastic that I hope these guys do another movie together. Finally, Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, and yes, his alter ego “Eddie” Hyde – that’s what he calls himself. Crowe and Prodigium will most likely be the connective tissue for the Dark Universe as their headquarters is filled with some noteworthy Easter Eggs. Crowe himself is fine, although it should be interesting to see how his character goes from here. Even with his split personality, his character can go from welcoming to serious, and I don’t know if they were just trying to rush this tease for the bigger scope of shared universe, or if it was written poorly.

The action is okay, although the highly promoted plane sequence is pretty much what we see in the trailers. Personally, my favorite action set-piece is when Mr. Hyde shows up, I won’t get too into it, but it’s pretty cool. However, when it comes to the horror moments they lack the certain tension that the film should have had. Especially considering that it’s already been announced the universe will a mix of horror and action-adventure. While The Mummy has that in full, the execution of it lacks the punch.

Another thing that doesn’t help is the film has a little too much going on. We have the introduction of Prodigium and what they do, Nick’s visions and Ahmanet’s reign of terror that has a subplot attached that doesn’t have enough time to breathe, which is kind of a shame because it could have been awesome to see fleshed out more.

All in all, The Mummy isn’t the best start to Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe but there are glimmers of what could be a good new shared universe. While the film is a bit too packed for its own good, and leaves certain things underdeveloped and underwhelming, The Mummy does have a good cast and some descent action set-pieces to keep you entertained.

The Mummy

3 out of 5