It Comes At Night – review

Trey Edward Shults directs It Comes At Night, a film centred on a small family living in the middle of the woods, trying to keep themselves safe from a mysterious illness, their equilibrium is disrupted by the appearance of another man and his family, the film stars Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Cerebral, psychological horror in the vein of Z for Zachariah, this film follows a similar set up but with a somewhat paranoid family living in a remote cabin in the woods, which is the set up for so many horror films in days gone by. Anyway the film works with simplicity and implied, insinuated horror, less can sometimes can be more and in this case, it works but doing it is risky as the simplistic approach to storytelling and world building can be either be an abject failure or a big success, with not many films falling in between.

What works for It Comes At Night is its components, with a very small, intimate cast, the performances needed to be on point and they are, the stalwart Joel Edgerton is utterly convincing in his role as Paul, a paranoid but caring father who is wary of anything from the outside world, he’s married to Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and they have one child Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr), who’s a teenager, a bit more trusting of the outside world and clearly wanting for a bit of fun and to possibly get outside. Meanwhile the side characters give some pretty great, naturalistic performances from bonding to arguing, they feel like very real people and it’s a credit to the good writing.

Going outside is the problem however, with an unknown threat lurking outside the cabin and seemingly causing a mysterious illness, somewhat frustratingly we don’t necessarily get all questions answered and the story is really kept between the small, main cast but without really getting to see the threat explicitly, we’re forced to use our imagination.

This is where a film and director will either lose their audience or keep them engaged but I remain engaged, how much of the events are ambiguous, are certain characters just overly paranoid? The questions are all interesting and they’re carried by an engaging plot that’s filled with a lot more drama and action than I anticipated actually and while there are some slower moments, they don’t take up huge swathes of the plot and the visceral nature of the story has events happening that are enthralling and gripping. Simply enough, not knowing the full details keeps the mysterious outside pretty terrifying and you put yourself in the shoes of the characters inside, you don’t know what’s out there and fear of the unknown remains a key, primal human fear. With the great cinematography in the film helping to emphasize tension in certain scenes, from giving us character perspectives to using long shots for scenes with extended dialogue for example. Ultimately It Comes At Night isn’t for everyone but for what it does, it does well, remaining a psychologically teasing horror film with some great acting and just as good cinematography, all of your questions about the story won’t be answered but the journey is well worth it.

7/10

. Has some strong performances, great writing to make naturalistic dialogue and interactions

. Great cinematography

The Dark Tower – review

Nikolaj Arcel directs The Dark Tower, an adaptation of a story from Stephen Kings famous series of the same name, set in modern day New York and also in an alternate reality, plagued by The Man In Black who wants to bring down an important tower to wreak havoc on both worlds, the only thing in his way is the last Gunslinger, the film stars Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Dennis Haysbert.

On the face of it, The Dark Tower sounds pretty intriguing, dark towers, a man in black, magical powers, the trailer really sold the film imo but upon execution, you realise that a lot more effort probably should have gone into its production and for a quick summary, the film feels a lot more like either an entry point to a series/trilogy or a TV film to be honest, with a lot of story being crammed into a tiny 90 minute runtime. And funnily enough, this is a time for a big blockbuster film that exposition was badly needed, for people unfamiliar with The Dark Tower which is quite a lot of people as it turns out, without any real explanation aside from a few lines thrown loosely, who were the gunslingers? What is the man in black, why does he have powers? What is the dark tower?

And that’s just off the top of my head, I’m sure more questions came to mind for viewers while watching and frustratingly not a lot of them really get addressed, you’re thrust into the story as a viewer and things just are, which is a shame because the world itself is interesting but could have used more context, oh there are just portals to the alternate reality that has existed alongside Earth in random places, okay….. how? Where did they come from? Who are these people who work for the Man in Black? The lack of context also doesn’t help with how the film comes across, with everything just feeling a bit rushed with a lot of story crammed into the allocated runtime,

Anyway, annoyances aside, the film is ambitious, to take on this story for a 90 minute runtime for one and the performances are good, Idris Elbra is good as Roland, a stoic, heroic protagonist who faces off against McConaughey the menacing Man in black, who does carry genuine menace about him I feel and the action, while nothing spectacular is bit cool with some inventive set pieces in the plot. But ultimately The Dark tower is just a bit of a wet blanket, not making much of an impact and nowhere near the impact it could and really should have made, with an inherently rushed plot that would have worked logically far better as TV series or a trilogy and not a standalone film.

6/10

. Lack of context for the world or plot points makes the world seem poorly constructed

. Plot feels way too rushed

King Arthur: Legend of the sword – review

Guy Ritchie directs his take on the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur, set around Arthur, a slum dweller in medieval England who is unaware of his birthright as true heir to the throne of England, though he is forced to face the truth after he pulls Excalibur from a stone, the film stars Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Honsou, Eric Bana, Aiden Gillen, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Freddie Fox and Tom Wu.

Guy Ritchie brings his signature flare and style to the middle ages in an interesting turn, mixing sword and sands with fast talking dialogue, lad-ish banter and bravado which makes for a fairly fun portrayal but a portrayal that just feels at odd with the history of the legend of King Arthur, the gritty depiction of Arthur is something different and that’s a good thing but different isn’t always better as the film clearly shows. I feel like the films tone, writing and style is just a bit all over the place and fair play to Ritchie for trying his hand at a completely different genre but the result feels really shoe horned in and falls way wide of the mark, quite a bit worse than the initial trailer made the film out to be in my opinion.

The performances are well…. decent, with nothing spectacular, Jude Law plays a convincingly evil usurper to the throne in the menacing Vortigern, who is decidedly one note, while Charlie Hunnam is again good in a leading role, charismatic and charming to a degree – though I’m sure many critics will disagree and mark this as another bad Hunnam performance, I think he was far from the worst thing about the film. I enjoy the squad vibe to the story which is something that underpins King Arthurs legend in a way, with the camaraderie around the Knights of the round table and Ritchie gives it a bit of a modern spin, imagining the knights as a group of mates just sticking out for each other sans armour and their ‘Sir’ titles.

But for all Ritchies stylization and differentiation with the film, he goes full Guy Ritchie and you never go full Guy Ritchie. Action sequences in the film look like scenes from a video game, with barely explained plot points that will leave you scratching your head while you watch certain sequences happening (a little exposition never hurt!) while a lot of fantasy elements are thrown into the story amd make things a bit ridiculous. I know giant elephants are cool but what does that have to do with King Arthur? I get that Merlin and magic is a bit part of the legend itself but these random elements thrown in make no sense, add nothing to the story and feel like a weird mish mash of things Ritchie though would look cool on screen but ultimately they make the film hard to follow and even harder to take seriously when it comes to the more dramatic moments.

And that’s a shame because King Arthur had potential, with an interesting take on the Arthurian legend, the result is a barely comprehensible mess of random fantasy, with Guy Ritchie-isms throughout.

5/10

. Lazy, generic action sequences

. Plot points aren’t explained at all, feel random

. Story feels rushed, especially in final third

Is JJ Abrams a good choice for Star Wars Episode 9?

So this isn’t exactly breaking news any more but as you may know, Colin Trevorrow left the directors seat for Episode 9 just a few days ago (by mutual consent we hear) and everyone was wondering what was going on and who would replace him.. and we found out who rather quickly, the somewhat divisive but generally liked JJ Abrams.

An interesting but not hugely surprising choice, a lot of people were pulling for Rian Johnson to continue to direct Episode 9 after The Last Jedi but alas, JJ is Disneys choice, the next question being, is he the best choice for the job? My initial reaction to the decision was a mix of being taken aback a bit to seeing JJ return but also a bit of disappointment, not because Abrams isn’t a good director but I was looking forward to see a relatively new directors (like Colin Trevorrow) take on a big blockbuster film like Star Wars, which is part of why I’m so excited for The Last Jedi.

Abrams knows how to do a good, exciting film that keeps you hooked, just look at Cloverfield and Star Trek 09 but a valid criticism of his directing and writing is that he sets up things brilliantly but doesn’t always execute his ideas that well, evidenced by the lacklustre Super 8 for example.

I just don’t know, Abrams is a safe choice as an established director, he along with others brought Star Wars back into public consciousness with Force Awakens, the 2nd highest grossing film of all time and a film that still holds several box office records that probably won’t be broken for some time to come but admittedly, the films story was a re-hash of A New Hope and while it brought some new elements, it felt far too familiar. The fear is that Episode 9 will do the same and re-tread ground that Return Of The Jedi already walked but who knows, things are very up in the air at the moment, Episode 9 was recently just delayed 9 months and everything’s falling apart!? Okay, maybe not but please JJ, no more Death Stars, no more generically evil villains and re-treading the same plot points from the original trilogy, sure you can pay homage but make the story your own, be creative and don’t be afraid to buck the trend.

I don’t mean go full Lord and Miller a la The Han Solo film and go fully off script (like JJ would even do that) but I don’t want safe and samey for Star Wars, I want innovation, nuance and something different – which is what we may get with The Last Jedi and interestingly, we’ll see how Episode 9 under JJ shapes up at the tail end of this trilogy, with two JJ film and one Rian Johnson films, will one seem drastically different to the other two? Better or worse than them? These are interesting things to think about and we’ll find out in just a bit over 2 years now, with that extra seven months giving JJ and Disney more time to re-think, plan and knock the trilogy out of the park, I hope!

What should Christopher Nolans next film be?

So hi, I’m still here, apologies for the lack of posts recently as I’ve been a bit busy but I want to bring some more varied posts to the blog, some more opinions and discussions, I suppose. And Christopher Nolan came to mind, with the iconic director having his most recent film out in war drama Dunkirk, a bona fide hit I think it’s fair to say but anyway I was wondering what his next film would be before it was announced he was doing Dunkirk and I’m again thinking forward to what Mr Golden touch may stray into next in terms of his film projects.

Here are a few options on what I think he could do.

A Western 

Alright so bear with me here… this idea might be the most left of field and out there for Nolan, though he’s already done a period piece in The Prestige, taking things a bit further back in time could be cool and with his dedication to production, use of sets and practical effects, it’d probably be one of the best looking westerns at least. I really like Nolan adding his own touches and ideas to film plots and I’d be interested to see what he adds to the setting of the wild west.

And with a great cast and a great story an emotional heart to it as Nolan tends to go for, I think a spin on the traditional Western lawman archetype could work, center the story on a former bandit/cowboy going good or against his gang for the greater good or something along those lines, there’s great potential for an engaging story here, whether it’s based on real history or a fictional story. Plus we all know Nolan can direct some frenetic, visceral action, which could result in some pretty epic, excellent shoot outs.

 

Another crime drama (no sci-fi)

Nolan has sort of done the crime thing with Memento, Inception (sort of) and The Dark Knight trilogy but what about another modern crime drama with an added angle to it, Nolan is brilliant at crafting character you can get emotionally invested in and care about, giving them strong motivations and that sort of characterization would be perfect for a crime drama. And maybe rather than focusing on just on a single protagonist, focus on two sides of the law/morality like Heat did perhaps, on top of this Nolan would for sure add some great spectacle, action and something extra that motivates character action, so I think this would be a great idea overall.

 

A psychological thriller 

Memento is more or less a thriller, mystery/psychological but I’m thinking more out and out horror, this would be the biggest step away from the norm for Nolan and I’d love to see what he could do with that genre, I don’t think Nolan would ever go full horror but maybe he could play with the idea and with audience expectations. I’m thinking along the lines of a main character questioning and wondering what’s real and what’s not and yes this has been done a few times before but with Nolans directing. It could be something interesting, beyond the “you thought it was X but it was possibly Y the whole time!” twist, what’s great about Nolans twists is that some are subtle and reference the entire plot before, making you question everything without un-ravelling the entire plot.

So yeah I think this idea would me an ambitious effort but when has ambition ever been something that hindered Nolan.

There you go, just a few thoughts on what I think Nolan could direct/dive into next, thoughts, opinions? Feel free to comment.

Sucker Punch – review

Zack Snyder crafts a visual feast in Sucker Punch, an adventure fantasy movie about a young girl who is institutionalized by her abusive step father, she escapes to fantastical worlds to escape her grim reality, the film stars Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Jamie Chung, Oscar Isaac, John Hamm.

The film centres on both the real and escapist worlds that the characters occupy, though the fantasy worlds that Babydoll (Emily Browning) creates are essentially in her head, Snyder is brilliant at crafting visually packed, loaded films and Sucker Punch is possibly the example to use if you wanted to highlight how he uses stylized visuals heavily in his films, which work well to serve the plot in this case. From the faceless institution that the characters occupy in the real world which is dark, cold and unwelcoming, the film as a whole has a lifeless, almost black and white colour tone to it, this is also reflected in the fantasy worlds, though they look more colourful and ‘alive’.

The plot is an interesting one and a different idea, a character escaping into fantasy to escape reality is a story that has been done a few times and definitely done better but the story does get you engaged in what’s going on, knowing what’s supposed to happen to the characters in the real world, namely to Baby Doll. Her desire to be free and triumph over the evil keeping her and the other girls captive is represented in them being a fighting force of heroes in her fantasies, a pretty creative element of the story I have to say and this does give it some nuance.

These fantasies are great spectacle with some wildly imaginative settings, giant samurai warriors, a world war I era type battle and so on, all shot very well and stylistically they’re great to watch, the fantasy elements n the film are great but the real world ones, not so much, Sucker Punch practically looks and feels like a comic book and equally has some black and white characterization to it. Not that Snyder doesn’t know how to write good, interesting characters but they’re absent from this film, the bad guys are bad and we don’t see any depth to them and the girls are clearly the oppressed, moral characters which is fair enough, but more depth to the main characters could really have helped elevate the story.

That being said, the performances in the film are okay, albeit a bit cheesy and cardboard cut out stereotypes for the characters, though Emily Browning works well with what she has though and is one of the better parts of the film. I suppose that tonal balance between the good and evil works for the story but it also stops it from being a great story and makes it just a cool looking film without much substance to it in the end and ultimately the film works better as a fantasy action film and maybe it should have just been that.

6.5/10

. Fantastic, creative visuals

. Strong albeit one dimensional characters

. Plot events may feel a bit futile by the end

September film preview

Well well, summer is winding down and there goes the best season of the year…. anyway, we still have 4 more months left in the year and plenty of big films to come, so here are some prominent ones coming out over the next month as the leaves start to fall, just like the temperature. (US release dates by default).

Mother! – released on the 15th of September

Directed by Darren Arronofsky

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson.

Psychological horror film set around a stable couple whose life is disrupted by the arrival of another strange couple who stay with them.

 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – released on the 22nd of September

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum,Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal and Sophie Cookson.

Sequel to 2014s’ Kingsman film sees the UK Kingsman now disrupted after their headquarters is destroyed by the mysterious ‘golden circle’, Eggsy and Merlin head to the USA to team up with the Statesmen, the US equivalent of the Kingsman, in order to face and take down the threat.

 

Jeepers Creepers 3 – released on the 26th of September

Directed by Victor Salva

Starring: Jonathan Beck, Meg Foster, Brandon Smith, Stan Shaw, Gina Phillips

Horror sequel set right after Jeepers Creepers, as we follow Sgt Tubbs and a group of hunters who set about trying to stop the creeper after its feeding frenzy.

 

Flatliners – released on the 29th of September

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemens.

Sequel to the 1990s original film and psychological horror set around a group of medical student thrill seekers who conduct experiments to indulge in near death experiences, though they uncover that their experiments may carry more danger than they first perceived.

 

American Made – released on the 29th of September

Directed by Doug Liman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson.

Biographical drama and true story set on the life of Barry Seal, a pilot who works for the CIA and becomes a drug runner in the 1980s.

Game Of Thrones season 7 x 7 ‘The Dragon and The Wolf’ – recap

So Thrones season 7 has now wrapped up with the season finale and let’s jump right in shall we – war. The army of the unsullied is in file and ready for action outside Kings Landing as Bronn and Jamie look on for the castle walls, both pondering on the battle to come, while the Dothraki come swooping in and add to their numbers, Bronn doesn’t seem to confident.

Meanwhile at sea, Tyrion, Varys and some of Danys cohorts travel to Dragonpit for the meeting between leaders, The Hound goes below deck to heck on the Wight and well, it’s…. still a wight. At Kings Landing, Cersei enquires about Danys whereabouts but is informed everyone but her is headed to Dragonpit, including Tyrion, she opts to go as well before giving the mountain orders to kill Dany, Jon and Tyrion if anything goes wrong.

Dragonpit

Tyrion, MIssandei and Jorah head to Dragonpit and discuss why it exists, as a place to house dragons in times gone by. Bronn, Brienne, Podrick and some Lannisters arrive to escort Jon and co to the meeting and The Hound spots Brienne and vice versa, awkwaaard. And speaking of awkward, the two converse over their past meeting and how they only fought over protection of Arya, The Hound is surprised to hear Arya’s still alive at Winterfell but as Brienne points out, the livewire Stark doesn’t need much protection anymore.

Tyrion tries to get Bronn to side with Dany but he’s not playing any dice. And now for the actual meeting, which is tense as you can imagine before a word is even spoken and holy re-unions Batman, Tyrion and Cersei, Theon and Euron, Jamie and Brienne, The Hound and The Mountain to name some, this meeting is full of people who want to kill each other, as you do. Where’s Daenerys, Cersei wonders…… and there she is, swooping down atop one of her babies and making quite the entrance, shocking Jamie a bit and Cersei too I’m sure, though she stays calm on the outside.

And as expected, the meeting is far from cordial, Tyrions opening statement is interrupted immediately by Euron who mocks both him and Theon but is asked back to his seat by Cersei (what a twat btw), anyway the conversation continues with the plans being laid out for a truce, though Cersei is doubtful of the truth behind Danys plans, not believing in the army of the dead which is perfectly reasonable, though she just saw a dragon and has a dead bodyguard at her side….  Anyway talking is getting nowhere as Tyrion points. so out comes The Hound with the Wight which is let loose, immediately charging for Cersei and making the point clear to everyone that hasn’t seen a Wight before, it’s dealt with by The Hound and then by Jon who points out how to kill them.

And… settle down, Euron is scared to say the least and opts to just get out of dodge pretty much, leaving everyone else to it, he says Dany should the same (what a twat!) but maybe not so surprisingly, even Cersei agrees to having a truce but wants Jon to remain in the North and not come south, Jon refuses as he’s already pledged to Dany, Jon dude you could have just lied… as Tyrion later points out. Angering Cersei who then retracts the truce and storms out of the meeting, Brienne tries to get Jamie to talk sense to Cersei but he points out that there’s not much use in trying anymore. Danys crew discuss how they’ve failed to gain any ground and how Jon should have just agreed to the terms but it’s no use now, Tyrion volunteers to go and talk to Cersei to smooth things out and that should be interesting.

An awkward re-union

Tyrion accompanied by The Mountain goes to Cersei, talking to Jamie first of all and while this seems like a terrible idea, it just could work. The two have a heated exchange as expected over past events and the state of the Lannisters, all Tyrions fault apparently and both sides have their valid points but Cersei refuses to just have Tyrion killed, though she could at any point. Things are complicated to say the least and Tyrion realises she’s pregnant, a point could be made about the future for her future child and a valid point at that.

Jon and Dany discuss the events of the day in Dragonpit, going over dragons of the past, after the dragons of old grew less influential, so did the Targaryens as Dany says, though Jon points out the noble family isn’t done with just yet. And result, Tyrion comes back to the pit with Cersei and co, annoucing she’ll pull her armies back to Kings Landing, agreeing to march some of her army north to fight the dead, importantly pointing out that she’s agreed to help out, which should matter after the war against the dead is over, what did Tyrion say I wonder….

In Wintefell, Littlefinger and Sansa discuss current events, including Jon leaving to go and help Dany, with Littlefinger implying Sansa could and should take the throne, though she seems doubtful over doing this, Sansa ponders over Aryas motivations in her actions and while we don’t know what this is, Littlefinger has an answer, “assume the worst”, lovely chap. And his plan is in motion, laying out a plan for Arya that may not really exist, this is all fictional of course and Sansa shouldn’t believe it but she seems to… Littlefingers plan seems to be working. In Dragonstone, Dany agrees to Jons plan to sail north to Whiteharbour with Jon, showing a united front to the Northern lords, though Davos has concerns over her safety.

Theon has a word with Jon over what Jon did at Dragonstone, being true and honest, Theon muses over his past actions and regrets over doing them, though Jon is forgiving and has choice words for Theon, reminding him who he is and what he did in the past doesn’t matter anymore and Mr greyjoy sets about to try and save Yara, the only person who came to try and save him from the cruel Ramsay Bolton. Theon tries to convince some of his soldiers to sail to Euron and try and save Yara and after a bloody battle and display of courage, he convinces the men to sail with him.

Back up north… and back South

Arya summons Sansa to the great hall where she stands accused…. Sansa and Bran sit at the high table while Sansa reads off the accusations of treason and murder, is it game over for Arya…… mic drop, no it isn’t, the accusations are for Littlefinger aka Lord Baelish who seems shocked and this whole thing was a ruse to out him. He denies the accusations stating no one was there to see what really happened with Lady Arryn, Ned Stark etc and he’s true… but Bran was, sort of, he’s the three eyed Raven now so he kinda knows everything, no way out for you now Littlefinger! The lying, scheming manipulator begins to panic as his plans are laid out, he wants to be escorted back to the Vale but is denied, his pleading gets a bit desperate but you know, what else do you expect to happen to you after all you’e done to the Starks and he is summarily executed by Arya, a huge character gone but good riddance.

And while seeing a cowering character die is always a bit cruel, in the world of Thrones you live or you die by your actions. In Kings Landing, Jamie prepares the expedition north for the Lannister family but what do you know, Cersei still wants to let Dany and Jon do their thing up north and stay in Kings Landing (the fool!), taking back land they’ve lost. Jamie is staunchly against betraying the truce but Cersei stands firm, The Golden company is the next step and the Iron Bank has enough money to get 20,000 soldiers on their side, it turns out Euron has sailed to retrieve the army and isn’t just running away. And after a tense encounter with the Mountain by her side, Jamie leaves Kings Landing, disillusioned and feeling betrayed, where is he off to I wonder?

Samwell arrives at Winterfell with his family, meeting the now woke Bran, learning of his new powers, Sam wants to offer his assistance but Bran brings a new bomb shell, the fact that Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, he’s not a Snow or Stark but he’s a Sand, R+L=J indeed. And Bran sees this in a vision, Rhaegar didn’t kidnap or rape Lyanna in fact and that whole story was a lie. Jons real name is ‘Aegon’ Targaryen.

Aboard a ship, Jon goes to make love to….. Dany, his relative, his aunt technically speaking. But yeah wow, this isn’t news to a lot of fans but Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne being a Targaryen but no one knows this apart from Sam and Bran, huge news that could disrupt their alliance and partnership and cause further tension.

Winterfell

Sansa and Arya muse over recent events in Littlefingers death, discussing their current roles, Arya the executioner, Sansa the lady and they look like they’re back to normal as sisters, as close to normal as they can get anyway. Bran is warging and in some crows and is by the wall, manned by Tormund and Berric and there they are, the army of the dead marching forth but wait they can’t get through the wall but an ice dragon can, breathing magical fire on the wall and down it comes in quite spectacular fashion, the dead are coming, led by the Night King on a dragon….

And well there is, we are at the last season of Thrones and with a pretty fantastic finale, it’s been… fun re-capping the episodes week by week and it certainly flew by, there’s a lot to wrap up and look forward to in the 8th and final season in, 2019, apparently?

. What good will the Golden company be for Cersei when and if the Dead win the North?

. What will Jamie do now that he’s officially done with Cersei? Plan to kill her and stop her plan?

. Is Cersei the master schemer in this episode, is she even pregnant or did she use that as a lie?

. What will Sansa and Arya do when they find out the Dead are coming?

The Mummy – review

Who you calling four eyes?

Admittedly I’m a bit late with this review (2 months or so) but bear with me.

The Mummy is the latest incarnation of the horror film of the same name, directed by Alex Kurtzman, set to be the start to Universals Dark Universe, set around ancient mummy Ahmanet who is awakened from a crypt, planning to bring destruction and evil to the modern world by bringing the God Set to life, the film stars Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis and Courtney B Vance.

Ah The Mummy, a sort of loved series and one of the longest horror film icons in film history but here we are with a new reboot in 2017 and it’s…. well it’s a lot of things, the set up to Universals criticised Dark Universe, a universe criticised before it’s even started mind you. And this version, while it looked sort of promising, people never seemed to be too excited for it for one reason or another, even with Tom Cruise in the fold and ironically, he may be one of the reasons why the film has turned out to be the critical failure that it is. And it’s not that Cruise is a bad actor or anything and at his age he’s still impressively doing his signature run and a lot of his own stunts but I feel he was just a bit miscast and ultimately the film plays out very much like a by the numbers action film that also happens to feature an ancient re-animated mummy.

And by this I mean the horror element is pretty far removed, aside from dessicated corpses that come about from the Mummy stealing peoples essence (which we’ve seen in Brendan Frasers Mummy films), there’s little to no actual horror or fear factor for a so called horror film, everything is very PG and sanitised which is definitely a missed trick, the film also brought nothing exciting or nuanced to the mythos of the Mummy. We again have a Mummy (Ahmanet) obsessed with a modern day human, using her powers to make a giant sand face thing, etc etc, while watching you can’t escape the feeling that you’ve seen it all before but this time around without the charm, humour or good storytelling.

The plot flies by but negatively as we sort of coast from plot point to plot point perhaps a bit too quickly in the sake of the overall story, with there barely being any time to stop and take in what’s happening or even have a genuinely good emotional moment, the closest coming to that being the relationship between Nick (Tom Cruise) and Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), though you don’t get a feeling they’re particularly that close and are more out and out buddies.  And even stranger is Nicks friendship with presumably long time co worker Chris (Jake Johnson) who is generally hilarious in his roles but used so oddly in the film for comedic value that it clashes with the more serious side of the plot, there’s humour thrown in at random points especially with Chris’ character but it pretty much always falls flat and just muddles up the tone.

A positive is the action, for the very little of it that’s done decently, it’s well shot and… yeah that’s about it really, Tom Cruise is again in cruise control and he does his thing, though a plot point in the final third involving his character was arguably the worst part of the film and really took away from any dramatic tension that might have been building up but negatives aside, Russell Crowe is quite good as Dr Jekyll, once again bringing gravitas to the role of a proper speaking Englishman. But to sum it up, The Mummy is a bit of a misstep, a weird tonal mis-balance of a film that feels rushed, charmless and suspense free, the ideas feel generic and like a re-hash of former films in the Mummy franchise and this one just brought nothing new to the table.

5.5/10

. Weird tone that makes for strange viewing

. Total lack of tension and suspense

. Russell Crowe is good but can’t save a weak film

Lights Out – review

Lights Out is a 2016 horror film directed by David F Sandberg, centred around Rebecca, now a guardian of her little brother who needs to protect him and uncover the secret to the mysterious entity that resides in darkness, that is tied to their mothers past, the film stars Teresa Palmer, Billy Burke, Gabriel Bateman and Maria Bello.

Right off the bat what I like about the film is that it’s different but this comes with a caveat that I’ll get to later in the review but on initial impressions, Lights Out occupies a bit of a niche in the modern horror genre, a film with a unique premise, centred on an entity that can only really exist and attack in darkness, something pretty terrifying and smartly, it taps into humans natural fears of darkness. Something we can all relate to in some form or can relate to having had a fear of as a child and from there on, the film doesn’t try too hard to expand on its ideas or set up and ultimately this is a negative point but the film does work decently enough with its simplistic approach to plot and storytelling.

The acting is… actually fairly decent, the evergreen Teresa Palmer puts in a god shift as caring sister Rebecca, taking care of her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) while their mother Sophie (Maria Bello) is a bit disturbed to say the least, taking pills for psychotic episodes that see Martin taken away from her. And yeah the family dynamic is a bit typical for a horror film with the ‘crazy’ mother being a threat to her kids but the film takes it to the next level, as you find out as the plot goes on. So what else does the film do good, well the scares are okay, I’m not particularly a jumpy watcher so I was never going to be terrified of a creature in the dark but seeing the entity in dark one second and vanish the next in light is quite the contrast, also knowing it can be anywhere in darkness makes for some particularly tense scenes.

The monster/entity itself is also pretty freaky and inhuman, seemingly being unable to defeat apart from using lights (which just keeps it at bay) and the best monsters keep audiences guessing on how to beat it and you know, scared and because of the light/dark dynamic, some of the set pieces are quite creatively done and are just different to a ghost or demon that can attack a character anywhere, this one can only attack in darkness. And that’s where my praise stops because beyond some decent scares, interesting set pieces and an intriguing premise, Lights Out is just a bit generic surprisingly, it doesn’t break the wheel and then again maybe it wasn’t trying to but nevertheless, the 2nd half of the plot especially is by the numbers, predictable and full of horror tropes that bring down the overall product for me, leaving it slap bang in by the numbers horror film territory.

And despite the cool effects with light and dark and Teresa Palmer being good, the film is just a bit meh, leaving no real lasting impact and its something you’ll forget about 2 weeks after watching it, nice idea for the film though.

6/10

. Final third of the film feels a bit rushed

. Plot is generic, by the numbers

. Some set pieces with light and darkness are cool

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