The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy (1999)

Directed by: Stephen Sommers  Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 2 hrs. 4 mins.

Studio: Universal Pictures   Screenwriter: Stephen Sommers

Cast:  Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, John Hannah, Patricia Velásquez

Movies often hold up a pair of their characters, in the most trying of circumstances, and get them to the point of asking, ‘Is our love worth dying for?’ Well, that setup applies to stories in general, but let’s stick with cinema here. In Stephen Sommers The Mummy, that is the introductory sequence. The actions of High Priest Imhotep(Vosloo) and his love, Anck Su Namun (Velásquez), set a solid foundation for the plot. Less than five minutes in, and you’re hooked.

Universal Pictures trailer for ‘The Mummy’ via YouTube channel The Trailer Guy

The Mummy has a strong plot and story about, well, a mummy who won’t stay dead and aims to bring his lost loves soul back from the underworld. To that end, there is action, mystery, light comedic touches, and suspense. It’s not a horror film, though kids 10-12 may find certain scenes momentarily graphic (it’s a movie about a mummy and not the bandaged groaning kind).

American Rick O’Connell (Fraser) is a French Legionnaire who is wrangled into taking Evelyn Carnahan (Weisz) and her brother Johnathan (Hannah) to a lost Egyptian city. A city guarded by the Medjai, decedents of the pharaoh’s guards, led by Ardeth Bay (Fehr). The trio has a map to this fabled city, and they’re not the only ones searching for it. Evelyn wants to prove herself to her fellow scholars; everyone else is in it for treasure. 

This is the project that introduced me to Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, and Rachel Weisz. Despite his small role in this film, Fehr displayed a believable presence and talent as Ardeth. 

Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep/Mummy in Universal Pictures ‘The Mummy’ via Screenrant

Vosloo’s portrayal as Imhotep/The Mummy is fantastic! He has very few lines and none in English (there are subtitles), so his role is mostly hitting his mark. That is, being where he needs to be at the right time. Special effects took a giant leap forward in 1999 after this film came out. So props to Vosloo for pretending to be all that’s required of an actor that will later become a gooey mummy who unhinges his jaw in post-production. 

The Mummy is the only film that I like with Brendan Fraser in it. His character isn’t a tomb raider or archeologist and yet comes off like a watered-down Indian Jones. Done poorly, it could have ruined the movie, yet it works. The same can be said for Weisz’s character, Evelyn. 

Erick Avari, Oded Fehr, Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah in Universal Pictures ‘The Mummy’ via Netflix

Evelyn is a bookworm. A librarian in a museum. She scurries off on an adventure with no experience and no team. Rachel Weisz is a wonderfully talented actress, and she takes this character and makes her likable. Weisz explains things to the novice characters, as an actual museum worker might. Therefore Evelyn’s lines in many places come off as natural instead of condescending. Weisz depicts her in a way that doesn’t have me groaning at the glaring, unbelievably of the whole situation. 

As moviegoers, we expect movies to be logical enough that we can see it happening or working out. Perhaps, even so, we could picture ourselves as specific characters. The Mummy doesn’t have all the logical bits to fill in the gaps, but it’s okay. It’s a lasting example of what movies were designed to do, entertain and distract.

Kevin O’Connor in Universal Pictures ‘The Mummy’ via Looper

In the decades since its release, this movie still holds up as a good story with watchability. I viewed this film digitally on a 4K TV with HDR. WOW! Some scenes don’t upconvert as nicely as others, but I was really pleased with the viewing quality. I expected the whole thing to be grainy (noisy) and the fact that it’s not made rewatching this so much better than pre-Blu Ray. 

The Mummy is a great film to see and worth a place on your watchlist. Don’t forget the popcorn! 

—a pen lady

Minority Report (2002)

Minority Report (2002) 

Directed by: Steven Spielberg   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 2 hrs. 26 mins

Studio: Dreamworks Pictures & 20th Century Fox   Screenwriter: 

Adapted: Short story “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick

Cast: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Neal McDonough, Max von Sydow

In the year 2054, there’s no murder in Washington D.C., and it’s been that way for six years with the use of Pre-Crime in Minority Report

Pre-Crime is a division of the police that arrests people before they commit murders. How is that possible? With the use of ‘pre-cogs.’ The pre-cogs are three people that were given birth to by drug addicts and, as such, caused the babies to have a severe mental handicap. A doctor who sought to cure them of their afflictions caused an unintended anomaly to manifest in some—the ability to see future murders. 

Dreamworks Pictures & 20th Century Fox ‘Minority Report’ Trailer via YouTube

Minority Report is an overly complicated story of a murder, the vehicle for the plot, but, to me, is secondary to the film’s themes. These themes ask things of the audience that are overlooked by most of the characters. What are the ethical and moral obligations of using technology in many avenues of life? Doesn’t it take away free will? How can due process be ignored? In America, we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but what if we haven’t committed said crime yet? There is a line between thinking of doing something and actually following through. The story follows the philosophical logic that events are bound by causality. That past events/actions/choices are always the cause of future events. 

Yes, the movie is a melding of action and ideas while solving a crime, but it has a huge plot hole that isn’t recognizable until the ending. I’m not talking about the gigantic question about how Pre-Crime can work long term when it’s based on three people. What happens when they die someday? That’s not even the plot hole; that’s just a huge, logical question. 

‘Minority Report’ Image: Dreamworks Pictures & 20th Century Pictures

For 2002, the film utilizes the technology available to create visually impressive “future” tech vibes that twenty years later have worked their way into our lives. There are no spider drones, but we have drones. We don’t have manually powered cycling sonic guns or fly around in jet packs. Our streets don’t look that nice anywhere in America, but the self-driving cars are sleek and sexy. Eat your heart out, Tesla. I also had Westworld vibes! 

Minority Report moves along well enough but drags at times. Specifically, when the main character, Chief of Pre-Crime, John Anderton (Cruise), sinks into his depressed, self-loathing, and self-destructive habits. Cruise is in charge in this role, and runs, jumps, climbs, and gets shot at repeatedly. That just described ninety percent of his career. It’s an a-typical performance and nothing spectacular from anything else he’s done. His ex-wife Lara’s addition, beyond old videos, is a crutch and isn’t needed if only to satisfy Spielberg’s sappy cliché ending. 

Samantha Morton in ‘Minority Report’ Image: Dreamworks Pictures & 20th Century Fox via Wired.com

While Colin Farrell (Danny Witwer) and Neal McDonough (Fletcher) don’t have as much screen time, they do bring great energy when on screen. Witwer is out to find the flaw in the system because he’s against over-reaching on people’s rights. Fletcher is second in command and is tasked to bring in John when determined he will commit a murder. 

Cruise may be the principal character, but it’s Agatha (Samantha Morton) who stole the show for me. Agatha is one of the three pre-cogs. All three live in a sterile room in a pool of specialized, nutrient liquid while constantly hooked up to provide a live, recordable feed from their minds of murders that haven’t happened yet. Sedated every moment of their lives, barely able to move or speak. A slave from the moment their minds opened up, unable to close again. At one point, she asks, “can you see?” and while Agatha is asking about something specific, it carries a double meaning for all of the themes presented throughout the movie. Her character is the most energetic and emotionally engaging in terms of performance. 

Tom Cruise in ‘Minority Report’ Image: Dreamworks Pictures & 20th Century Fox via Wired.com

Minority Report is this oddly lit movie that highlights the depth some will go to circumvent the system. No matter how advanced we get, humans are still materialistic, dirty, emotional creatures of habit at our core. The movie is part crime-solving, part action, and mystery. If you like crime, action, or sci-fi films, Minority Report is worth a place on your watchlist, even if you need to rent it. 

—a pen lady

Knives Out (2019)

Knives Out (2019)

Directed by: Rian Johnson  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 2 hrs 10 mins.

Studio: Lionsgate  Screenwriter: Rian Johnson

Cast:  Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon,  

Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Kathrine Langford, Christopher Plummer

When the patriarch of an eccentric, privileged family’s death triggers an investigation, no one is above suspicion in Knives Out. The film aims to be an ode to classic whodunit stories. 

Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) works with local police to investigate the death of crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). His estate is reminiscent of something from an Agatha Christie novel, with its distinctive and eclectic presence. Its grandeur can only be matched by the robust and self-centered family members. 

‘Knives Out’ trailer from Lionsgate via YouTube

Whether it’s the interviews with suspects to the story moving along in general, there is enough information to establish each character. To flesh out what makes them tick, and perhaps what would give them motive, is this effortless display of character development. The group is dysfunctional, what family isn’t, and yet they all have presence. Each respective role is depicted well, and that’s what a viewer wants from an actor; to do a good job. To be believable. The cast is layered, funny at times, and portrays a level of family tension that absolutely rings true. 

Ringing true is Rian Johnson’s ability to create such a script. Movies are not made like this typically; they just aren’t and that’s a travesty. I’d take a great story with a pinch of violence and a dash of language over the way the majority of films are made in America any day. Really, who needs wanton violence, skin, and language if the story is fantastic and well-acted? 

Kathrine Langford, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Riki Lindhome & Jaden Martell in ‘Knives Out’ Image: Lionsgate

The details that went into ensuring the audience doesn’t figure out what really happened is pure genius. It was jarring to hear Daniel Craig with a Southern accent, and I personally hope to never hear again. Mr. Blanc needed an accent, or he would have come across as a hard investigating cop. Craig’s performance was reminiscent of Hercule Poirot at the end, with his break down of events and clues, with the accent, but Poirot is far superior. 

At the mid-way point of the film, I was like, okay, I have all this information, and there’s an hour left in the movie. It felt like the pace needed to quicken to keep my interest, and I was not disappointed. From there, the story shifts gears, the viewer is equipped with all the details they think they need, yet the plot dives deeper still. The plot twists and creates new perspectives and questions that all weave together to strengthen the suspense of determining how Harlan died. 

Ana de Armas in ‘Knives Out’ Image: Lionsgate

While this all-star cast gives good performances, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans really sell the later part of the story with Daniel Craig. It’s got laughs and begs you to try and solve it before the end. 

Knives Out is a fantastic homage to classic whodunit stories for the modern age. With suspense, family drama, laughs, a compelling story that will leave you engaged from beginning to end, and an ending… Knives Out should unequivocally be on your watchlist! You won’t be disappointed carving out time in your schedule to see it. 

—a pen lady

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Directed by: Michael Dougherty   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 2 hrs 12 mins

Studio: Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

Screenwriter: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Charles Dance, Bradly Whitford, Vera Farmiga

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the second film in the “monsterverse” trilogy. The first was Kong: Skull Island. Where Skull Island had a much better storyline, tone, and pace, it also, more or less, had a better logical explanation of the monsters. ‘King of the Monsters’ fails at this. 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is basically monster porn with the weakest plot and cringy lines. If you’re a big fan of monsters, then this film probably won’t put you off. Though keep in mind the trailer’s tone compared to the actual movie is misleading.

Warner Bros. Pictures Final Trailer for ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’

The human characters have a purpose but have no depth. They exist merely to justify the limp excuse for a plot that moves along with the smoothness of a newbie learning stick shift. A story that revolves around culling the infectious human race with monsters—one of which is an alien. Seriously? This film is convoluted enough without that add-on. The whole justification for monsters existing in the entire trilogy is tenable until this screenplay, which is an exercise on how to fail film school. It’s meant to set up the third film, Godzilla v Kong

If I had watched these in order, I never would have watched the third film. Instead, I was under the impression I didn’t need to see this film, so I saw ‘Skull Island’ and then Godzilla v Kong. Viewing the third film, I was confused as hell, so if you can make it through this film, more power to you. 

While watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I stopped three times. My brain simply didn’t want to process the fecking train wreck in progress. Forcing myself to finish this is a crime against my brain cells. I just can’t. I don’t care about it enough to know how it ends. That’s a sad admission for any movie-goer. 

The first film is like the first act of a movie, the setup. The second film is the middle, where the plot thickens, and lots of other details are learned. Finally, the third movie is the climax, the action, or reveal, and conclusion. Keeping that in mind, that is what this “monsterverse” is set up to be. The filmmakers are playing a long game. Trying to reinvent and expand beyond every monster film before them. 

‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ Image: Legendary Pictures

Kong: Skull Island is a good start; this film is the equivalent of X-Men the Last Stand. The bastard, hot-mess of a franchise everyone wants to forget about. Godzilla v Kong is like a constant show of rock em’ sock em.’ However, if you understand the setup, it’s acceptable as such. You know what you’re getting going in. 

Some argue there should be fewer humans in these movies; I disagree. The monsters can’t communicate, so the audience will understand, they were not designed to be. Therefore you need the human component. 

If you like monsters, action, a believable story, and brain cells, there are far better movies to watch. Pacific Rim is an excellent, more recent example to see. Not this! Anything but this travesty of plot and logic. Godzilla: King of the Monsters should never make it onto your watchlist. Read a spoiler about it online and skip to the third film if you want, but forget it was ever produced. 

—a pen lady

Max (2015)

MAX ( 2015)

Directed by: Boaz Yakin   Runtime: 1 hr. 51 mins.   Rated: PG  

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures & MGM  Screenwriter: Boaz Yakin, Sheldon Lettich 

Cast:  Carlos, Robbie Amell, Josh Wiggins, Mia Xitlali, Lauren Graham, Thomas Haden 

Church, Luke Kleintank

The people who put together the trailers for their respective movies and create something like Max’s trailer should have them fired or smacked upside the head. Bad trailers happen with alarming frequency. Max is another film that suffers from morons while editing. It should be a category for a Razzie award. I add the trailers to the movies I review as a convenience to you, the reader. However, if I add the trailer for Max, it’s like I’m giving the plot away. I usually don’t watch movies where I feel like I just saw the film after seeing the trailer. What would be the point of that? Yet the trailer for Max does just that. Back when this film came out, I still had a Belgian Malinois, like Max, so I saw it based on that. 

Max is a film based on a fictional American military working dog of the same name. Max (Carlos) is handled by Marine Kyle Wincott (Amell), who dies in Afghanistan. The events that lead to Kyle’s death leave Max unable to perform as trained, and he is sent back to the United States. Kyle’s family is given the option of what to do with Max, as he cannot be handled due to his PTSD. The one person he ‘accepts’ is Kyle’s younger brother, Justin (Wiggins). 

Robbie Amell & Carlos in ‘Max’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures & MGM

Justin is several years younger than Kyle. Wiggins portrays the self-absorbed, sulky teenager with a chip on his shoulder better than most “teenagers” are depicted. Compared to the rest of the humanoid cast members, Justin’s character is the only one with depth. The film, more or less, is about Justin and his relationship with Max, so it’s bearable. 

While Max is semi-predictable and lacks any deep character development, it does highlight its themes well. How processing grief is healthy, courage, and character. For what it does well in those areas, it creates stereotypes in others. 

Carlos, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake, Josh Wiggins in ‘Max’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Wincott family hasn’t had Max long in their home when a friend and former service member Tyler (Kleintank) arrives back in town. He and Max clearly don’t like one another, yet no one seems to notice. Yakin does nothing to hide that Tyler is trouble; in the same way, Justin’s parents (Church and Graham) are obliviously stupid when necessary. Yakin also put no effort into anyone in this movie, sounding like they are from Texas. It’s not complicated. 

So, Justin learns how to own a dog, let alone one like Max, with the help of his friends (not his parents). The plot unfolds with Justin’s mistrust of Tyler’s reason for leaving the Marines. Deepening into more of an edgy, back-to-school special, modern-day Mystery Inc. storyline. If Scooby-Doo was a fearless bad-ass and not a cowardly eating machine and the gang all got around on bikes and not in a van. 

Lauren Graham, Luke Kleintank, Josh Wiggins, Thomas Hayden Church in ‘Max’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures & MGM

This film is full of areas I can point out as logistically wrong. Still, its target audience is best appreciated by those 10-16 years old. Or those like me who enjoy seeing a Belgian Malinois on the big screen. Really, it makes me miss my dog. Sometimes we all need a dose of sappy. Max is a decent film that’s pace moves along well enough to keep a parent or kid engaged until the end. 

This movie is undoubtedly under the lens of Americans and their working dogs in Afghanistan. It can also be appreciated by anyone connected to or served with K-9 handlers from any country. Yakin tried to honor the working service dogs of the military, and does to a point, but could have done more with a better script.

Max is a feel-good movie that is meant to tug on your heart, to make you appreciate the efforts of K-9 military service animals. It does that, more or less in a tolerable way. While adults may like it, many younger viewers will love it. With that in mind, Max should find its way onto your watchlist. 

a pen lady

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Pt. 2

Jumping right back into part two of this review!

PART 4

Another scene has Steppenwolf and parademons fighting against the hero’s in Gotham, fine. The audience should remember this film was shot after Wonder Woman yet pre-dates Wonder Woman 84 technically. So where did Diana/Wonder Woman get a sword again? Of all the things better explained in this version, this never comes up. Yet, in this entire movie, she has a sword that can stand up to the paces of a demigod’s use and battling against parademons and Steppenwolf. She’s never been back to the Themyscria. Am I the only one who’s curious about this? Is my nerd showing too much? Moving on, the transition could have been smoother from this sequence to the next scene, but Snyder seemed to have little options. So, like a hangnail, you do what you need to do and move on. 

The mother boxes are supposed to be these super-powerful objects that are science but appear like magic that communicate with one another somehow. That’s easy enough to believe, and I am grateful Steppenwolf no longer talks to them, calling them “mother” like a disturbingly devoted child. However, it’s difficult to accept the boxes can “decide” to tell/show Steppenwolf something. Or how they just know what a user wants out of them, period. How that is possible is never established and seems like it’s there just so Snyder can throw in more material. Snyder vaguely sets up the second plot within the storyline at just over the film’s halfway point. The plot within a plot he attempts to foreshadow is aggravating and bloats the film. 

Still of ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ via polygon.com Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures/HBO Max

Snyder takes too long to develop the characters and establish the point of the movie. Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman have already been established in previous films by this point, so why does it take so long to flesh out the other three? It shouldn’t. This obsessive need to put in every detail makes the movie’s pace, overall, slow and dull. 

Eventually, the name Darkseid is uttered. Unfortunately, the writers of this film can’t come up with a better introduction to the whole point of plot 2 without Steppenwolf mansplaining to DeSaad about Darkseid. Yes, the audience gets told by default, which is the point, but it’s so far-reaching. The buildup to what happens with the boxes is established early in the film, and the audience is invested. To throw in everything after this is a lame attempt to cobble together what should be two films. Like the outcome of plot 1 could fuel plot 2 in another film. The pace would be better, at least. 

Listening to what Steppenwolf says to DeSaad about Darkseid made me write it down. Why? The whole explanation is confusing, and I needed to break it down because I thought I heard it wrong. I didn’t. It is a bunch of illogical rubbish! Snyder does a shite job of setting up or explaining or alluding to any of what is said beforehand. If Snyder had bothered doing that, weaving these details or backstory into the film from the beginning, his plot within a plot wouldn’t seem like an afterthought. But, that takes talent, and that’s something I’ve felt the writers of the “Snyderverse” have always lacked. 

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/HBO Max ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ via Screenrant.com

After the movie’s soggy midsection is Cyborg, again. His transformation from Victor to Cyborg is further explained and reveals how the mother boxes work. This is important because this makes the team seem less spur of the moment and crazy for wanting to use it in the crashed Kryptonian ship than they appeared in the 2017 version. 

There is this touching representation of humanity between Martha and Lois when they share their mutual grief with one another about Clark/Kal-El. Or that’s what I thought, but then Snyder goes in and dangles another add-on. Just randomly throws in something else that doesn’t even come up again until the absolute end of the movie. I’m sure he did it to make this fanbase happy, but I say it’s a giant waste of potential! Ultimately it’s a letdown that he should have just left out of the movie. 

PART 5 

While the pet cemetery joke is gone in this version, Barry finds himself, with the others, digging up Clark’s body. What, you thought it magically got to the Kryptonian ship? 

Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/HBO via Entertainment Weekly

I still don’t agree with Arthur wearing Atlantian armor because he hates Atlantis. It makes zero sense. However, I’ve established what I think about Zack Snyder’s lack of professionalism towards the other directors involved with this ensemble. 

The Kryptonian ship doesn’t like the mother box, big surprise. I do like the explanation for why the team can use it and how Victor’s father could use it on him without waking it. The devil is in the details, and this is an area where they were logically fleshed out. 

In the 2017 Justice League, Lois is used as bait for a resurrected, powered alien with a temporary blank slate of a mind. How her character is utilized in this version is preferred. She takes these daily walks to the memorial near the ship (okay, this is a baby-sized spoiler), and it gives her a natural, believable reason to be there and “run into Clark.” It really highlights Clark and Lois’s bond and relationship as something real and substantial. Something the other version didn’t care about. 

Amy Adams as Lois Lane in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures via comicbookdebate.com

So, it’s in the trailers; Superman lives again! Yeah! In the process of making that happen, Victor is ‘shown/sees’ a possible future or alternate reality; by either the ship or mother box, which is unclear. It’s logical for Victor to see what Bruce has seen. However, accepting Batman’s “premonition” or “Knightmare” from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a stretch. It’s one of Snyder’s attempts at alluding to what’s to come, which only makes logical sense from Victor’s position, never Bruce’s. Yet, it’s from Bruces’ POV that is the springboard for more Snyder-bloatware. 

Superman/Kal-El/Clark is not enjoying his resurrection party that makes its way outside the ship. Points I’d like to point out as dumb. 1. You’re a cop or soldier, and you see a flying man with Superman’s face; why shoot at him? Can’t you tell it’s him without the suit on? 2. Batman and Lois saying “Clark” within earshot of said cops and soldiers…just stupid. 

PART 6 

Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures via radiotimes.com

Bruce tells Diana about his dream/premonition, not because it’s of any relevance to this movie or logical again in any way. If there was a snowball’s chance in hell of Snyder getting to do another film, this would be relevant, but it’s not gonna happen. He knew that and left it in any way. The film could be so much shorter without him trying to get the audience to believe Bruce has premonitions. Much of this movie could have been done without or in smaller doses, and the runtime would be tolerable. 

At this point, there is an hour left in the film. 

Evident from the trailers, Superman dons a black suit. Many people didn’t like this, and it’s hard to blame them. Nowhere in the film is a reason for the choice, though it would have taken ten seconds or less for Superman to respond to any of the team or Lois asking about it. Not that Henry Cavill looks worse in all black, it’s Henry Cavill. Still, the precedence for it is based on the comics. Only the most devout comic nerds would know that. 

So near the end of the film, the team works together to deal with Steppenwolf and the mother boxes. Darkseid lurks nearby while all the action is happening, like some bigger foe the team didn’t see coming and must deal with. Snyder’s second plot. If you’re a fan of the comics and think that Snyder will give you an epic showdown with him, nope. 

Henry Cavill as Superman in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Both of the trailers for this film are misleading cockteases. The tone of the film is not the same as the trailers, nor is the pace. Alluding that Darkseid has a substantial role in this film is false. His character is in the movie, but I feel it’s fair to warn you Alfred (Irons) gets better screen time. 

There’s so much more I could talk about in this part of the movie, but it’s difficult to do without giving stuff away. So I won’t. Just understand that the film could have ended here, and it would be a runtime of 3 hours 34 minutes. At this length, all of the Lord of the Ring and Hobbit films had better storytelling, tone, pace, and character development than “the Snyder cut.” 

EPILOGUE 

With twenty-eight minutes left, ten of those are spent on short bits that the audience will appreciate. Tying up loose ends is an excellent way to describe it. While the movie could have ended already, it definitely needed to end here. It didn’t. 

Henry Cavill as Superman in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

All I could think of was what the fook, just end the movie already! So there are ten more minutes of Zack Snyder’s inability to let go and move on. What is shown has nothing to do with the actual movie. It’s like a movie trailer tacked on at the end. The super-secret clip shown only to the attendees at Comic-Con or something. It’s literally a scene he made to go into another movie. Catnip dangled out for all his fans to salivate, obsess over, and probably bully the studio for years to make. It’s pathetic. 

Don’t worry. The last eight minutes are the credits and just the credits. 

VERDICT 

Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio should never have been given the reins of this franchise. 

Yes, I’m a fan of Marvel comics and the MCU, but here is a fact, a person can be a fan of both Marvel and DC! Millions of people are. The two take incredibly different approaches to their storytelling. Understood. What Snyder did was make films based on an obscure and darker take on Superman and Batman. Those who are not devout comic book fans have a hard time accepting that take on these iconic characters’ first cinematic outing together. That’s fair; I even agree with it. 

I could have been on board with the death of Superman storyline with a twist to it. If they merged that with another storyline where the characters come together. Cyborg and Aquaman wouldn’t be in that, but Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter would be. A better writer and director could have made something truly epic and wonderful. Something to build upon. A franchise with continuity that supports the standalone films as well as the larger ensemble ones. Those are just attributes of good storytelling when you have so much material to work with as one does with comics and superheroes. 

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ promo image via cbr.com Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures ?

Zack Snyder was given another chance to tell a story. A story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. He failed at that. He chose to create a four-hour-long 4.3 aspect ratio example of why more isn’t always better. 

If you never saw the 2017 Justice League spare your butt the nap it will get watching this. Unless you’re bedridden and bored out of your mind, it’s not worth the time. If you did see the other version of this film, there is little satisfaction to be found. Sure, there are many changes, but unless Cyborg is your favorite character, he’s the one with the most significant differences. Don’t bother.  

I love the Justice League and the actors that portray the characters; they all did a fantastic job with the given material. No-fault can be found there. Still, this movie isn’t worth putting on your watchlist; no film that feels this long should be. The Justice League may one day be shown justice on the big screen, but not today. 

—a penlady

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Pt.1

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Directed by: Zack Snyder  Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures  Runtime: 4hrs. 2 mins.   

Screenplay by: Chris Terrio   Story by: Zack Snyder & Chris Terrio and Will Beall

Cast: Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher,  

          Amber Heard, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons  Rated: R  

**This movie is LONG! Unpacking it is a chore, so I am breaking my review/commentary on it into two parts. Look for the second half on Monday. Thanks everyone!**

Zack Snyder’s cut of the Justice League movie was born from the efforts of a devoted fanbase. That is why this movie exists, pure and simple. They are all proud of this, and I might applaud their efforts if most of them weren’t so toxic. That is a conversational beast that doesn’t belong here. My review isn’t for them. They need no convincing to see this film one way or the other. 

Once a bell is rung, it cannot be un-rung. In the same way, I cannot un-see a movie already watched. The memory is there, that crucial first impression ingrained. My goal is to review just ‘the Snyder Cut’ without comparing it too much to the 2017 Justice League.  

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Official Trailer via ING, YouTube.

That said, the first scene in Zack Snyder’s Justice League shows the audience the end of the fight scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Except that it’s not. This scene is clearly meant to imply this sequence happened, but it didn’t. Basically, Snyder added it to this film in a show of ego of how he could improve something he didn’t have the foresight to do the first time around. This intro sequence certainly would have improved upon Lex Luthor’s (Jessie Eisenberg) lines said at the end of Dawn of Justice. Cementing the seriousness of what was to come in ‘Justice League.’ That aggravating clarification aside, Snyder does get points for including information in this introduction in a concise, straightforward way that explains how Lex knew certain things in the first place.

Kal-El’s (Cavill) cries are like a supersonic whistle that only three guarded boxes can hear. Pushing aside the 2017 Justice League movie, assuming you, the reader, haven’t seen that film, this introduction works:

  1. It connects this film better to the previous one.
  2. It sets the tone.
  3. It sets up the plot.

All in the first five minutes without one spoken line. Not bad. 

Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via cbr.com

This film’s premise is that Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) has been warned of a force coming to destroy the Earth in the wake of Superman’s death. With a fresh resolve to make up for his previous notions of Superman before his death, Bruce seeks out metahumans, with Diana/Wonder Woman’s (Gadot) help to protect Earth. Snyder presents this task and journey in the film into seven parts.

Sectioning off the film into parts doesn’t come across as chapters in a narrative as smoothly as they could have been. If anything, they serve to avoid jagged scene transitions. Personally, I find that lazy. Let’s review the film by these parts, not because I’m lazy but because it will act as headers and make it easier to read. 

PART 1 

In the 2017 film, I didn’t know who to blame for giving Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) ice-blue eyes, Whedon or Snyder. They both knew a stand-alone Aquaman film was in the works, so why not consult about the character? In the 2017 film, his eyes were better looking than in ‘the Snyder cut’ because there is more color and brightness. Snyder has this depressing, overcast, muted tone thing going on in this movie. It loses the effectiveness of the choice to have his eyes this color the first place. Since then, the Aquaman movie came out and Zack Snyder’s choice to not change Arthur’s eye color to match is ridiculous. When establishing a movie franchise universe with different directors and visions, SOME consulting should be a given! A professional courtesy. 

Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via Looper.com

You’re probably thinking I’m just ranting and not reviewing, but I am. This lack of acknowledgment is repeated frequently in this film. When a director and studio allow this to happen, it can damage what is trying to be built. It also can confuse the audience. I’m giving my thoughts without giving anything away. Or trying to, at least. 

The introduction and general use of Lois Lane (Adams) are better here. It connects her relationship to Clark, and the loss, in a way that is relatable for anyone who’s lost someone important. She’s not just a last resort plot mechanism.

There is a sequence in a bank where Wonder Woman busts out some unbelievable moves. Diana has impressive reflexes, true, but she’s not faster than the Flash. She’s not faster than (modern-day) speeding bullets either. It’s an example of speeding up a character beyond their established capabilities. It also made me question if children in Europe actually go on field trips to banks? We don’t in America, so it seems like a comic cliche add-on. 

Steppenwolf in 2017 ‘Justice League’ on LEFT & ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ on RIGHT. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via ScreenCrush

A favorite DC setting is brought back, the island of Themyscira. Here we get a look at another aspect of Amazonian responsibility. This is where Steppenwolf, the antagonist of the movie, is introduced. Previously, in the 2017 version, he looked more organic. In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, he resembles the shiniest, chrome-plated Decepticon ever seen. An expansion of what happens on the island in this version shows what goes down is more than just a short keep-away game. In that, and this is in the trailer, so it’s not a spoiler, think what it would take to destroy part of an island created by a god. 

PART 2 

Steppenwolf’s goals and place in the universe are made more evident in this film. The audience gets a sense of it when DeSaad materializes to converse with Steppenwolf about his progress towards redeeming himself to Darkseid. The being Steppenwolf answers to. However, Snyder struggles to effectively elude to his ultimate plot within a plot.

Snyder does give a more intimate, personal introduction to Victor Stone/Cyborg’s (Fisher) storyline than he previously received. Ray Fisher does a wonderful job of portraying Cyborg, which I discuss in my review of the 2017 film.

Ray Fisher as Cyborg in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via The Hollywood Reporter

The scenario where a woman jumps, climbs, or runs in high heels is a personal gripe I have every time it happens on TV or cinema. It’s a great example of men writing women characters poorly. Diana, who’s always in heels, jumps in hers and lands with them intact. Doesn’t break her shoes or ankles. She really is a Wonder Woman.

There are two moments where I question the musical choice for scenes. Like, what kind of mood are you trying to create from the one I was just in. The tone change doesn’t transition well. One is with Aquaman, the other is later with the Flash. Music is a fantastic tool in cinema, and this film’s musical scores did nothing for me. Both ‘Everybody Knows’ by Sigrid and ‘Come Together’ by Gary Clark Jr. & Junkie XL from the 2017 film are removed in the Snyder Cut. The removal of ‘Come Together’ is understandable; its tempo is too energetic for Snyder. Sigrid’s song is great, but there is no place for it in this movie, even one four hours long.

After almost an hour, Vulko (William Dafoe) finally refers to the three boxes as ‘Mother Boxes.’ I still don’t like how the boxes were adapted from how they are utilized in the comics. This scene could have benefited from Aquaman director James Wan and Snyder swapping notes since it messes with what ends up being part of Arthurs origin story. 

Darkseid in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via Looper.com

In part two, Diana explains to Bruce who/what Darkseid is. She recounts the story of when he came to Earth before, and the wording is ambiguous. It’s frustrating because the script is so vague here. The writers hope the audience isn’t paying too close attention to details because they are not concise in their storytelling. They simply lack the imagination to connect this part of the storyline to a future plot point. I could sum it up, but that would involve spoilers. It creates questions for me about Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s original stories. Snyder blows some of that away without a care to the directors who gave fans notable films and storytelling. It’s so professionally fucking rude! 

Who needs continuity in a franchise or any story? Right?

PART 3

The Flash’s intro. In the 2017 version, Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) was the best part of the movie for me. He was a mix of vulnerable, funny, and honest, appreciating and in awe for what he was joining. His reactions were tremendously different from everyone else. He’s what a young Flash should be, too bright for his own good, quick with quips and occasionally putting his foot in his mouth, but in an enduring way. Zack Snyder got rid of that. Pity. In his version, Barry/Flash starts off as an excuse-ridden idiot with attention issues. 

His intro sequence involves the introduction to Kiersey Clemons as Iris West. She’ll be in the stand-alone Flash movie for relevance. That said, she’s only in one scene, and frankly, it could have been shortened or cut altogether. The entire sequence does nothing for Barry’s character overall. There is an Easter egg here. This is the other scene when the musical choice makes me feel like I’ve been transported momentarily into a different film.

Ezra Miller as The Flash in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via Screen Rant

Victor Stone’s story is fleshed out more and elaborates better on how he became Cyborg. Every time his character’s backstory comes up, the audience sees a well-rounded character in development that you want to follow along with. 

Barry meets Bruce, and that’s the same. There wasn’t anything wrong with that whole setup. What is tweaked is how Diana and Victor meet for the first time, but she is still patient and empathetic towards him, and that matters. 

Steppenwolf goes to Atlantis, and I think Mera (Heard) is fleshed out a bit more, but not much. As is King Orm, who is only mentioned but gives the audience an idea of who he is before the Aquaman movie. I do wish Mera’s magic was utilized more; it’s an underused attribute of her character. A significant example in this section of the movie contradicts Mera’s character in this film against the Aquaman stand-alone. It’s like Zack Snyder has never bothered to see James Wan’s Aquaman! If you see this movie, can you pick up on it? 

**Come back for the second half of this review!**

–a pen lady

Chef (2014)

Chef (2014)

Directed by: Jon Favreau  Rated: R Runtime: 1 hr. 54 min Screenwriter: Jon Favreau 

Studio: Aldamisa Entertainment, Fairview Entertainment

Cast:  Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Emjay Anthony, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Robert Downey Jr. 

Warning, if you love food, this movie might cause you to drool like my Great Pyrenees begging for food. 

Many adults are merely content with their jobs or careers. In Chef, however, Carl Casper (Favreau) loves what he does. To cook. To create. In real life, it’s inspiring to see such a person who enjoys what they do. Favreau creates and depicts such a person, character with chef Carl Casper. 

‘Chef’ Officail Trailer via YouTube–Movieclips Trailers

Carl is head chef at a popular LA restaurant owned and operated by Riva (Hoffman). When a review one night by famous food critic Ramsey Michel (Platt) ruffles feathers, a Twitter war ensues. Shit happens, and Carl is left looking for a place that will appreciate his creative, delicious endeavors. 

Outside the single-minded vortex of food and cooking is Carls family. His ex-wife Inez (Vergara) and their son Percy (Anthony). While there isn’t a backstory per se of their marriage, the audience understands Carl’s priorities and how parental responsibility isn’t high on his list. He isn’t so self-centered that he won’t spend time with Percy or go on a trip last minute with him and his ex-wife, essentially to be a babysitter for a weekend for his own kid. I’ve never met ex’s that get along so well, so in terms of believably take what you will from this part of the script/character development. 

Going along with the believability…is when Carl meets Marvin (RDJ). Awkward…and Marvin gives Carl a food truck because Inez talked them into it. You know what, it’s okay. It’s a fun movie, really, so go with it. 

Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony, Sofia Vergara in ‘Chef’ from Aldamisa Entertainment via Entertainment Weekly

The actual girth of the film is Carl’s journey of discovery and self-reflection. The best ingredients for this plot and character arcs involve Percy and Carl’s former line-cook, Martin (Leguizamo). There is such great chemistry between them; you see the love, inspiration, respect, and bonds.

Anthony’s Percy comes off just right. Not too bright for his character’s age and not so whiny or dejected that you wish he wasn’t there. It’s hard to get kid roles right. Leguizamo is a welcome addition to everything I’ve ever seen him in. He adds humor, authenticity, and energy to contrast Carl’s more serious side. 

A film needs good pacing, just like a kitchen and this movie has it. While it is about Carl’s journey, it’s also about the food. Unlike a regular person Instagramming every meal they make at home, the food in a film based on a chef should be a focal point. The creations chef Carl makes are well presented and colorful. If you choose to see this movie, don’t do it on an empty stomach. That would be worse than going grocery shopping while hungry. 

Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo in ‘Chef’ by Aldamisa Entertainment Image via IMDb

This movie is stacked with a wonderfully talented cast selection; they all do justice to their respective roles. An easy film to have missed when it came out; Chef is an under-appreciated, relatable story with a comedic backbone. 

Chef is undoubtedly worthy of your time and a place on your watchlist, provided you view it on a full stomach. 

—a pen lady

A Quiet Place (2018)

A Quiet Place (2018)

Directed by: John Krasinski   Screenwriters: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski 

Studio: Paramount Pictures, Platinum Dunes   Rated: PG-13    Runtime: 1 hr. 30 min.

Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

We’ve all seen, heard, or read about narratives that involve aliens, zombies, or an apocalyptic hellscape that is Earth after some catastrophe. A Quiet Place is different in so many ways. The audience is tossed right into the story in progress and stays full speed ahead—never stopping to assume the viewer is too daft to understand. 

When aliens land on Earth and hunt anything that makes noise, you’d think the human race was doomed. Yet, life will out! There are always those who survive…that endure. 

Paramount Pictures Australia Final Trailer for ‘A Quiet Place’ via YouTube

The audience is introduced to the Abbott family, parents (Krasinski and Blunt), and their three children. The eldest is deaf, just like the actress who plays her (Simmonds). In a world where you must be silent, I applaud the inclusion of such a character and their perspective! Not only does it help fuel the tension, but it highlights the increased risk to a person who can’t tell what makes a sound or when danger is near.  

In A Quiet Place, you cannot make a sound. “If they hear you, they hunt you” is the tagline for this film and an absolute mantra. The minimal use of sound or speaking creates tension. It sets the tone of the movie immediately, fueling the suspense.  

I love Emily Blunt as an actress, and she is impressive in this film. There is a scene (that I won’t spoil) with her when one of the creatures is in the house that blows my mind. She’s in the process of doing something that would typically involve an enormous amount of noise, and she stays silent. Many viewers can imagine themselves in the same predicament. The magnitude of how the film connects with the audience in this scene is fantastic. 

Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds in Paramount Pictures ‘A Quiet Place’ Image via Bloodydisgusting.com

Acting with gestures, established signals, and sign language creates an aspect of the Abbott’s environment that the audience recognizes as necessary yet believable in terms of reality for the characters. Moving and responding to something that’s not really there with authentic reactions is always great to see from actors. Now, if the audience can also suppress their urge to scream or yell,…even better!

A Quiet Place is so well-written. It flows from one scene to the next with a pace that is so thrilling and suspenseful, packed with so much detail it’s hard to believe this film is only an hour and a half long. 

The design of the CGI aliens is fantastic, disturbing, and refreshingly original. What sound is heard in the film is exceptionally edited. It enhances the dynamic effect silence plays, created to keep up the suspense of the plot. 

Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds, John Krasinski in ‘A Quiet Place’ Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

A Quiet Place unfolds, basically on one set. It’s full of compelling narrative (if silence is narrative!) and drama that leaves you on the edge of your seat and still leaves you wanting more when the credits roll. A movie like this should definitely be on your watchlist.

Ideally, a Quiet Place should be watched in a quiet environment where you won’t be bothered. You can thank me later. 

—a pen lady

The Illusionist (2006)

The Illusionist (2006)

Directed by: Neil Burger    Rated: PG-13    Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins

Studio: Bull’s Eye Entertainment, Bob Yari Productions    Screenwriter: Neil Burger

Adapted from: Short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser

Cast: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel

The Illusionist is a film based on a short story in which the screenwriter takes liberties to make the story more robust for the big screen. Meshing the art of illusions with the tired trope of forbidden love and abusive relationships. Those familiar with European history will note a parallel to this story and the events leading to the start of WW1.

Childhood friends Eisenheim (Norton) and Sophie (Biel) are separated by their class differences only to meet again as adults. How serendipitous. He is now an illusionist who pulls in crowds, and she is a Dutches set to marry Crowned Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). The Prince is a limply developed character who is allegedly a woman beater and murderer. His stance and arrogance are a facade that fools no viewer. Sewell does a good job of making the audience want to rip off his absurd mustache, all things what they are. 

Rufus Sewell and Paul Giamatti in ‘The Illusionist’ Image Credit: Bull’s Eye Entertainment via medium.com

Inspector Uhl (Giamatti) is in charge of the authorities and works for Prince Leopold on the side. The Prince often has Uhl remove those who speak out against him or challenge his power, as the Prince neurotically believes as Eisenheim’s goal. Giamatti is a supporting actor in this film and is the most passible for a “normal” person. His role is the glue that ultimately ties all of the four main characters together. 

Duchess Sophie Von Teschen (Biel) is the rope in the tug-of-war game that inadvertently ensues between Prince Leopold and Eisenheim. Biel’s performance is like everything else she’s done, nothing to write home about. She’s a static filler to move the plot along. A plot device added by director and screenwriter Neil Burger from the original short story this movie is adapted from. Any other actress could have been thrown in, any, and it wouldn’t have made a difference in this film’s case. It’s the script. It’s dry yet smooth. If the story had been more robust, Biel’s portrayal of Sophie would stick out like a nail in a tire. The notion that she still pines for her lost childhood love is absurd. The actress that portrays her younger self invoked more emotion!

Edward Norton is the type of actor who can be dropped into any role, and he makes something out of it. He proves this again as the renowned illusionist, Eisenheim. The character calls for a calm and reserved manner, and that’s precisely what Norton provides. When I said the story was dry, it is, but with Norton’s style as the titular character ruling most of the scenes, it seems purposeful. Allowing the film to move in a way that it’s not overly distracting. 

‘The Illusionist’ upscaled movie trailer from Movie Predictor via YouTube

Three main things that grate me about this film are the accents of all the characters, the love story, the viewing. 

Actors, by definition, are paid to portray the characters they assume. Why is it such an arduous task to get actors to try for accents of the countries they are set in? Or, cast those with natural ones. Who knew Vinennians sounded so American! 

Norton’s Eisenheim conveys more believable emotion towards Biel’s Sophie, and yet it’s still such a stretch to believe them. Since this is the backbone of Burger’s adaptation, it makes this film such a letdown. A few more vastly better-written scenes for these two could have made a huge difference! With a runtime of just under two hours, there is room to expand without making the film feel too long. 

This film is from 2006, and I’ve watched plenty of movies before that which show better than this film. Literally, show better. Even the trailer is grainy. This film’s cinematography used sepia tones, blurry corner cropping, and visual vestiges of being filmed in the early 1900s. In 2006 this worked, but fifteen years later, it doesn’t up-convert at all. I own this on BluRay and put it into my 4K player that up-converts everything else, even DVDs, with ease. This movie looked liked crap when I tried to watch it! I opted instead to watch it on Amazon Prime for free. That was a much better viewing experience! Though I despise IMDb’s TV scene cutting skills. There is a time and place to cut and add commercials! 

Image from the 2006 film ‘The Illusionist’ Credit: Bull’s Eye Entertainment via denofgeek.com

Those three issues aside, watching the story unfold and the illusions that Eisenheim has crafted to astound and beguile his audiences is well prepared and displayed. You will have yourself asking how does he do it? Any of it. For being set in the 1900s and pulling off such visual spectacles, one has to appreciate the genius behind the man that creates them. While Eisenheim the Illusionist entertains others think he’s really in tune with the dark arts. Which is true? What is true, and what is an illusion? This is what you should see this movie for. Not the class-crossed love story but for everything else. See it for what Norton’s character brings to Vienna, and Inspector Uhl tries to solve. 

If you like mysteries and drama with a now you see me, now you don’t flavor, you will not be disappointed with The Illusionist as an option for your watchlist. Just make sure you’re seeing the movie is not distracted by grainy or discolored displays to interrupt your viewing experience. 

—a pen lady