Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)

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Director: Alex Kurtzman

Writers: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrieDylan KussmanJon SpaihtsJenny LumetAlex KurtzmanRobert Louis StevensonJohn L. BalderstonRichard SchayerNina Wilcox Putnam

Stars: Tom CruiseRussell CroweSofia Boutella

Verdict: Trash garbage, mid one star. 

Is this what other cultures feel like when they’re appropriated..?

I think what I was telling my self going into The Mummy was that it would probably be “apocalyptically bad”, but go in with an open mind, and I did, but it was. 

I can’t remember what the plot was (it’s that boring), after about a week so here’s the official synopsis, “Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years.” and before I’d seen the film that might actually seem vaguely entertaining in a kind of post-but-also-knock-off Raiders of the Lost Ark way, but after I’ve seen the film, just reading the synopsis is sending me into a fucking coma. It, in theory, stars Tom Cruise, (Top Gun, MagnoliaMission: Impossible), and Russel Crowe, (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind)

It’s not just that The Mummy is boring, it’s badly put together, badly characterised, intellectually offensive, sexist, racist, militaristic, derivative and has effects that’s slightly better than the animation in Foodfight!. Or in the old The Road Runner Show cartoons when you’d always know what rock was going to explode because it was added on from a different palate and looked funny. It is just intergalactically stupid and I’m ashamed to have paid money to see it. 

Let me elaborate for a second. There are two female characters with speaking roles. Two only. One is the Mummy herself, played by Sofia Boutella, (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Star Trek Beyond), which the less said about that the better but fuck it. She initially is designed like, both in the art direction and her own physical performance, to be how I imagine director Alex Kurtzman, (People Like UsTransformers: Revenge of the FallenThe Amazing Spider-Man 2), pictures, in both he wet dreams and fever dreams his fantasy dominatrix. They then proceed to put her up in extreme bondage gear. The degrees of sexual repression contortionistics that it must take to pull this off is frankly mind-boggling. There is one other female character who – despite having a first scene that is frankly how a two year old would try to demonstrate that this character is quoteunquote ‘strong’ – only serves to be a piece of theoretically intelligent eye candy that Tom Cruise gets to drag around places. 

Then we get into racism. This one takes some explaining. There are different ways you can present the ‘Other’. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial chooses to make it cute and friendly and full of wonder, Alien chooses to make it fucking terrifying. Now, an Egyptian character really shouldn’t be ‘Other’ anyway, but she is presented just about as ‘Other’ as Cthulu. Considering it was written by a group of white men, the way that they present the ‘Other’ in the form of an Egyptian woman, seems to be; to fetishize it, then to box it, and beat it up. This by itself would probably be reading into it too much but then there’s how it approaches anyone who isn’t American, and considering it takes place in Iran and London, that’s just about everyone who’s not Tom Cruise or… a ghost… thing..? The film takes The Mummy from Egypt to the Middle East, it says, because she’s just that evil that they had to move her out of her country. The actual answer it seems is so that you can blow up terrorists and make a joke of it with no remorse, in a way that is depicted as jingoistic, militaristic, and superior. Exacerbated by the fact that Tom Cruise, tomb raider extraordinaire, is a soldier and calls in air bombings so he can uncover artifacts. America can just come in and steal your history and your culture by force of firearms and bombs and that’s fine and it’s the actual fucking military doing it. Then they move the action to London, where I live, and oh boy. Aside from the fact that the way they incorporate British history just makes absolutely no sense, any British person who is meant to appear at any point nice and is also important to the story sounds like they grew up in a private boarding school that a royal child also happened to be sent off to, and anyone else speaks like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Fuck me.

Then there’s the case of Mr. Hyde.

Hm.  

When he shows up he is depicted as, essentially, Bob Hoskins, (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Long Good Friday), with the black death. It’s actually hilarious and maybe played for laughs..?

Now, Alex Kurtzman seems like a decent guy, he likes the same movies as me, he is a particular fan of early Cronenberg works like Scanners and Videodrome both of which I love, and he clearly understands why they’re interesting and tried to take inspiration from them for this film. He clearly, demonstrably, understands the point of the original Universal Monster Movies like Frankenstein and The Mummy when he’s off camera. the film itself clearly tries to cite works like The Evil Dead and An American Werewolf in London, both of those films I adore or respect hugely. So where did he go wrong? I think the key can be seen in his other work. With stuff like Mission: Impossible III, he demonstrated himself as a fine writer, and he’s run some good television, the problem I think is that he’s a hack who’ll write anything for a buck but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something great in him if he ever just wrote something that took these inspirations in a more independent context. The Mummy, however, is quite clearly, painfully, and disappointingly, not that.  

Russel Crowe though, is absolutely fucking hilarious and the whole movie and franchise is worth it for more of him. He just knows he’s in a franchise’s worth of shit films and is trying to see what he can get away with and it is, fucking, glorious!

 

BTS GUTS + NEWS

Dear followers,

This video is just a wee update on how my filmmaking is going, the main reason I took this blog on a break in the first place. Reviews will restart imminently on this blog at least for a period until I go back to working in earnest on this film.

This is my YouTube channel where content that wouldn’t otherwise go on this blog will go, videos will be shared here but if you want immediate content subscribe to the channel.

I may be swapping platforms soon. I’d really like to get paid for the work I do on this blog because when the blog’s running I put a fucktonne of work into it so I’d like to move to a platform where I can make money without paying for a special layout or format. There are a few I’m looking at at the moment but hit me up if you have any suggestions.

Much love and thanks, James.

Movie Review: A Ghost Story

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Director:  David Lowery

Writer:  David Lowery

Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

Verdict: Fucking fantastic; a strong, strong, five stars.

I have a theory about A24, once they’d gotten over their middling indie era at the beginning with Spring Breakers and The Spectacular Now they started releasing hard hitting intelligent masterpieces like The Lobster, Green Room, and Swiss Army Man before picking up some Oscars with Room and Moonlight. Now they have a following they’re like, how far can we push this..? So now we have A Ghost Story which can only be described as 2001: A Space Odyssey for millennials.

Ok that isn’t exactly right, but the production design will press all of your hipstery millennial buttons. It plays somewhat like the last act of 2001: A Space Odyssey where Bowman watches himself grow older as a metaphor for artificial evolution in some kind of alien experiment. The difference is that this makes a lot more coherent sense, visually it is very literal unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey whilst also being incredibly expressionistic. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because it’s so much more than you think it is, or than I thought it was going in.

The cinematography is unique. It is presented in 4:3 which is a very televisual ratio with curved edges which makes you feel like you’re watching a moving polaroid like something out of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. You are watching memories through a moving photograph. The colour work itself is also incredibly evocative of this. You are detached, you are foreign in your own world, everything feels like something you’ve voyerisitically just stumbled across and happened to observe like you are yourself the titular spectre. This can at first seem irritating but slowly begins to make sense, and that’s part of why I need to see it again I need to digest this again knowing what I know now about the film. There are times when the film will just be going along how it does and something brilliant, and virtuosic and extraordinarily watchable will come out of no where and sideswipe you and leave you frankly, breathless.

The production design is incredible, it makes awfully mundane things seem awfully important and emotional. The score is exquisite and I’m getting it on vinyl. The sound design evokes works like that of Lynch, (Blue Velvet, Twin PeaksEraserhead), and Kubrick, (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange ) and Mallick, (Badlands, The Tree of Life), and it looks and visually references all of these films makers as well in a way that I really didn’t expect from the maker of Pete’s Dragon.

The film will divide audiences, but I thought it was just beautiful. It has something interesting and relevant and often profound to say about art and legacy and death and the afterlife and it has something to say about how our personal ghosts are just the memories that we attach to places and it inspires us to move on and it’s almost like the film is from the perspective of one of those memories. The nature of that life is what inspires us to leave it behind in a way few films achieve. I thought it was transcendent. I loved it, when it comes out in two months I’m going to do whatever I can to see it again. It might end up being one of my favourite films ever if it works out on rewatches. I need, I need to see it again right fucking now!

E3 2017: Playstation-The definition of a mixed bag.

The Game Hack

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Well, that was disappointing. For the past few years, Sony’s E3 press conferences have been a gamers dream with amazing reveal after amazing reveal that blows everything else out of the water and kicks E3 proper off in style. This, however, was just kind of limp, I hate to say it.

Now first I feel the elephant in the room should be addressed, The Last of Us II. Personally, I didn’t expect to see anything from it. It was only announced back in December with a conceptual trailer that was likely not in game footage and its release date is probably going to be around late 2018 to early 2019. I seemed to be alone in this pessimism, however, everyone and their grandma was banking on it closing the show and were thus left thoroughly disgruntled (to put it mildly). I get where they are coming from it would have…

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Night in the Woods- The brightest hidden gem of 2017.

The Game Hack

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We are only four months into 2017 and it’s already set to be a memorable year for gaming. Breath of the Wild has reinvigorated Nintendo and launched the Switch with one of the highest rated games of all time (much to my shame I have yet to play it). Guerrilla Games exceeded expectations with Horizon Zero Dawn’s rich world and engaging narrative that actually managed to treat women like people (how revolutionary!). Ubisoft has provided solid offerings with For Honor and Ghost Recon Wildlands while Nioh, Nier: Automata and more recently Persona 5 have impressed. Even this year’s first major disappointment Mass Effect Andromeda is, at least to this Bioware fan, a fun, addictive and pulpy adventure despite the wonky animations and some weak writing.

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However, in the midst of these heavy hitters, a Kickstarter-funded indie game from a tiny studio burrowed its way deep into my heart and has been…

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Movie Review: Rumble Fish

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Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Writers: Francis Ford CoppolaS.E. Hinton

Stars: Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane

Verdict: Allright… I guess..?

Well Francis Ford Coppola has had an eclectic career. The gangster epic of The Godfather, to the slightly less racist adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, to The Lives of Others and Blow Out preambler The Conversation, horror film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the trash he started off with like The Bellboy and the Playgirls, to, um, Jack, and Twixt. To, um, whatever this is..?

Based on a novel by S.E. Hilton, (The Outsiders), of the same name, Rumble Fish takes place in an era sort of post gangster, (even though there still seems to be gangs but whatever), there’s a kid called Rusty James, (I’m serious everyone calls him this), who’s brother, who’s earned the moniker The Motorcycle Kid, left for California when things at home got too bad, but to quote him, ‘California got in the way’. He then returns like the prodigal son. We then just kind of, hang around with these two kids for a bit.

I really, really wanted to like Rumble Fish. I remember seeing The Godfather and thinking that there’s great stuff in here but my god is it wayyyyy too long, I remember seeing Apocalypse Now and thinking, again, this is great but much, much, much too long, especially seeing as the novella it’s based on, Heart of Darkness could well be a short fucking story. So Rumble Fish, it starts off absolutely explosively. There is a fight scene that pretty much counts for half of the first act that is just absolutely mad, cut really unconventionally and just keeps up this mad pace that is clearly intentional. Then Mickey Rourke, (The Wrestler, Angel Heart), shows up and the film just flumps. It just suddenly stops and we just follow Mickey Rourke around for a bit. Now Rumble Fish is only just over 90 minutes, (94 exactly), and it already feels just way too long. Now, I never got bored, mainly because there’s a lot of very fine performances in there, and also some stuff that is interesting if not brilliant. There’s a great small performance from Dennis Hopper, (Easy Rider, SpeedBlue Velvet), essentially playing the same character as he did in Apocalypse Now. There’s a walk on performance by Diana Scarwid, (What Lies Beneath, Mommie Dearest), essentially playing Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire, which y’know is a potentially problematic character anyway and is done no favours in this film. There is an uncharacteristically low key turn from Nicolas Cage, (Leaving Las VegasNational Treasure), and actually I think that’s in a way representative for the whole film.

The problem is it never really kicks into gear. It has a tone that it’s going for, and it’s definitely got style but even when stuff was happening, aside from that fight scene at the beginning, I never really felt like anything was happening. I was having the experience I had with Near Dark of following it on a narrative level, but not on the experiential that the film would like me to. Francis Ford Coppola’s previous film had also been a S.E. Hilton adaptation being The Outsiders, and it had similar characters, and the story goes that Coppola made it for the studio, to make up for fucking up One from the Heart, and he was never really satisfied with it, and you can see that in Rumble Fish. I mean, it is clearly a very personal film, but you can also see that maybe it was a film made less out of a love for the story of the characters but more out of a place of wanting to go off and make something very styalistically his own. Now you could say Refn did that with Only God Forgives, but no one would say that was his best film. Now a phrase that a lot of people throw at Refn is style over substance and it’s a phrase I really dislike when overused, which it is, but it’s also a phrase that I think really aptly applies to Rumble Fish. It also has really ear scraping dialogue at times in how cliche it is. I mean West Side Story was a pastiche and still managed have better dialogue. It also seems conflicted on it’s idiology, what it’s trying to say. I won’t say it’s a bad movie, but it’s not nearly as good as I wanted it to be. 

Movie Review: Prevenge

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Director: Alice Lowe

Writer: Alice Lowe

Stars: Alice LoweGemma Whelan, Jo Hartley, Kate DickieKayvan Novak

Verdict: A whole lot of fucking fun

I promise, I PROMISE, I don’t just like this film because it has Alice Lowe in it. I PROMISE.

In Prevenge, (Pre-venge..? P-revenge..? This is Dennis Villeneve, (Arrival), all over again), a riff on post and antenatal depression from Alice Lowe, writer and star of Sightseers and star or Black Mountain Poets, both of which I just love to bits, Ruth, played by Lowe, is convinced her baby, also played by Lowe, is telling her to kill a whole bunch of people. 

I’ll level with you I wasn’t sold for like the first act or so of Prevenge. I mean I liked it enough, but it just seemed like the two forces of horror and comedy that lie in the film were completely at odds with eachother and I couldn’t quite settle in to the film’s surreal, dream like, almost hormonal tone. Which is a weird criticism coming from someone who likes the films I like and it’s clear that Prevenge and Alice Lowe herself also likes those films. I mean Sightseers had exactly that kind of thing going on. The film also has a very episodic nature that in lesser hands could make the film repetative. However, these two threads very quickly meshed together very well in some sequences that really walked the line between being both really funny and quite scary, which was then maintained throughout the rest of the film.

What’s really impressive though is that’s the only uneven patch in a film that was written in two weeks and shot in eleven days, (especially seeing as Sightseers took 7 years to get made), which it kind of had to be to fit the limited timeline of Alice Lowe’s actual seven and a half month pregnancy. The film despite this is, for the most part, extraordinarily accomplished.

It also has an incredibly soundtrack that recals the scores of John Carpenter, (Halloween, Escape from New York, The Fog), and Dario Argento, (Suspiria, Dawn of the Dead), as well as bit of Tangerine Dream, (Risky Business, Near Dark, Legend), and scores for more recent throwback horrors like Stranger Things and It Follows. It’s sparse and it’s motiffs are recycled endlessly but that’s not a criticism and if anything that minimalist approach pays huge dividends. It also has some wonderful cinematography that gives the whole film this alien, sci-fi aestetic that makes Ruth feel like a character in The Man Who Fell to Earth, or like her child is one of the villains of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Village of the Damned, or as some have said in the wake of John Hurt, Alien.

As a fan of cult cinema and surrealist body horror like Eraserhead and Videodrome, it’s so great to see that the tradition hasn’t died. The indie horror scene is one of the most intersting, and creatively free scenes going at the moment, and it’s about time the British got a slice of that pie. I’ve also been reliably informed that this film really acurately depicts what it’s like to be pregant and the anxieties therin, so you now have my permission if you’ve never been pregant to sympathise with your pragnant friends and say, ‘it’s OK, I’ve seen Prevenge, I understand’, because of course.

Thoughts on Trailer for The Beguiled

Sofia Coppola has always seemed terribly detatched, seemed like someone who likes to investigate cultures but never really explore it beyond aestetics. Whether it’s two Americans lost in Japan or people living in pre-revolutionary France but they still have contemporary vernacular and they dance around to the Sex Pistols. This looking to be the first thing Coppola’s done since the critically, ‘mehed’, A Very Murray Christmas, it looks like something new, much more genuine, much more exciting, and much nasty than anything Coppola’s done before which has always been a lot more lacidasical and insubstantial with works like The Bling Ring and Somewhere. It also looks a lot more stylishly made than any film previously that she’d done. It also looks like it might be that rare thing, a good remake, by someone who actually wants to make it, and frankly with the sparsity of good female directors being given chances in Hollywood, more power to her.