“Tomb Raider”: a Worthy Adventure Starring a Great Hero

Though a Tomb Raider reboot wasn’t something that I would have pegged as a likely success, this little action-adventure film starring Alicia Vikander does far more right than it does wrong. Trailers would suggest that this is your generic, action-packed, thrill-a-minute blockbuster, but it is actually far more subtle and considerate than that. The primary draw is definitely Vikander and her portrayal of Lara Croft, a character that director Roar Uthaug develops in interesting ways and who enjoys a complete arc over the course of all of this tomb raiding (which is quite entertaining and well thought out). It’s also a movie that knows that it is important to have a bit of fun now and then, though it certainly isn’t goofy. The film is far from perfect; the action is a little frenetic and full of cuts, and most of the plot beats predictable and by-the-numbers. But, for the most part, Tomb Raider is an enjoyable little adventure.

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“The Last Jedi” – Rian Johnson’s Rebellious Spark

There’s an underlying kernel of irony at the center of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film is the freshest film in the Star Wars franchise since George Lucas decided to add to the original trilogy. For all its flaws, it pushes the boundaries of the universe in many different directions, intent on being something new. At the same time, it is the tenth film in the franchise (three originals, three prequels plus the Clone Wars animated film, and the two Disney films). The routine solution for the tension between old and new has always been to side with the established lore of the franchise, occasionally to ridiculous levels. To the chagrin of many fans of the franchise, writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) bucks this trend violently.

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“War for the Planet of the Apes” Earns Another Victory for the Rebooted Franchise

Remember how Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a James Franco-laden disaster with John Lithgow wandering around forgetting everything and apes rampaged over the Golden Gate bridge being attacked by police helicopters? How far we’ve come. This Planet of the Apes reboot may be one of the most artistically successful reboots of a beloved franchise in the history of Hollywood, and it is almost entirely on the strength of the final two films – first with 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and now with War for the Planet of the Apes.

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“The Mummy” Something Something Stupid “Wrapped” Pun

There’s an off-hand moment early on in The Mummy when Egyptologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) draws attention to the importance of the discovery that she and Nick Mortion (Tom Cruise) have made by referring to the age of the sarcophagus:  5,000 years.  Trouble is, Wallis clearly mouths “three”, not “five”.  Oh well, ADR happens.  Maybe there was a re-write where they realized that 3,000 years wasn’t enough for the Egyptian period they wanted.  So they fixed it.  That’s fine, if a bit distracting.  Later, Tom Cruise calls “the chick” 3,000 years old.  They left that one in.  Maybe Tom Cruise is too busy to do ADR.  Maybe no one caught it.  Maybe no one cares.

Ladies and gentleman, this is The Mummy in a nutshell:  falling over its own presumed intelligence, never paying enough attention to what it is doing for it to matter.

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“The Lost City of Z”: an Ode to Obsession

There’s a wayward flavor to obsession, a feeling of being swept off one’s feet by some new passion.  In James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, the expedition that began as Percy Fawcett’s chance to restore glory to his family name morphs into a lifelong zeal for exploration an discovery.  Based on the book of the same name by David Grann, Gray’s film follows the life of British soldier Fawcett and his exploits throughout the Amazon rainforest.  The film boasts expert performances, cinematography that conveys the paradoxical claustrophobia of the untamed jungle, and a plot that leaves the spectator insatiable, always hoping for additional revelations and understanding.  Though the themes waver a bit and employ the noble savage stereotype to its full effect, The Lost City of Z beautifully surveys the spirit of adventure and obsession that consumes each and every one of us – in one way or another.

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