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Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)


Tom Cruise has come a long way since he converted to Scientology and stopped aging. He may have found the fountain of youth, trail-blazed a comeback and reinstated himself as a Hollywood legend, but as tall as he is on that pedestal... he's far from perfect as evidenced in his latest film, The Mummy. One thing that's missing from Tom's repertoire of talent is comedy... the elusive genre that many actors turn to as they age, maybe it's just Bob De Niro. While he was memorable as Les Grossman in the war spoof Tropical Thunder, he was playing it straight just like he did in Risky Business, Knight and Day, Rock of Ages and Edge of Tomorrow.

"Straight with ice" is his thing, which he plays off quite masterfully in some action vehicles with most of his comedic appeal coming from poking fun at him. Ironically, it took killing Tom Cruise over and over again in Groundhog Day style for people to laugh in Edge of Tomorrow. He's the epitome of steely-eyed determination, making us admire him but never truly warming hearts if you count Jerry Maguire as a fluke. All of this is to say he's been miscast in The Mummy, a big budget reboot, which appears to have been written for Chris Pratt.

So you've caught yourself a big name star like Tom Cruise, a Hollywood tiger who can sell your movie based on his name alone. How do you make him fit? Well, you ensure there's plenty of action recalling the airplane disaster from Edge of Tomorrow and the underwater scene from Mission Impossible... cast a co-lead actress to try emulate the chemistry he had with Emily Blunt and then add a superfluous sidekick for a stab at buddy movie charm. While Cruise is sheer perseverance and managed to sell himself as Jack Reacher, this role as Nick Morton in The Mummy is out of reach.

In much the same way as X-Men: Apocalypse, a long-dormant all-powerful ancient evil is resurrected and terrorises the earth. In this story, the evil embodied by an Egyptian princess inadvertently swipes right on our dear friend Nick, who becomes integral to her fulfilling her dark mission. Through a slow-burning seduction, he becomes locked into a deadly love triangle between Jenny, his archaeologist crush, and Ahmanet, a grown up and tattooed version of The Ring's Samara.

The Mummy 2017

"Nick I want you to know I would've settled for the last Rolo..."

The Mummy series starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz was characterised by a charming, fun-loving blend of treasure hunting romance and epic adventure similar to Jewel of the Nile - supersized by CGI and ancient Egypt horror. In an attempt to be refreshingly different, the latest The Mummy is trying to capture the tricky dark cult comic adventure tone of Army of Darkness. Unfortunately, they don't have Bruce Campbell, his boomstick or the twisted horror comedy balancing act that is Sam Raimi. The script flat lines, veering unexpectedly into the strange territory of Cabin in the Woods and failing to tap into the dark cult comedy of films like Shaun of the Dead and Reanimator.

It's as if they're trying to snare the indie spirit of a low budget horror comedy with a blockbuster budget and 13 rating. The result is devastating. Alex Kurtzman may have a rich history of producing blockbusters, but much like the live-action pantomime, Maleficent, a director transplant can result in serious complications.

The first of these is the miscast lead, Tom Cruise, who seems too dignified and street smart for this dumb tongue-in-cheek role. The second is a lack of chemistry with his picture perfect yet flat co-lead, Annabelle Wallis, who comes across like a bland hybridisation of Emily Blunt and Rosamund Pike. The third bent nail in the sarcophagus is the film's tone, which wavers from stoney-faced action thriller to ridiculous horror comedy on the hunt for epic adventure. What starts like American Sniper Lite turns into a wacky Tomb Raider misadventure that should have been gifted to the more adept genre-benders, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Much like The Mummy 2, the latest The Mummy is overloaded with special effects, which range from epic to irritating. While the preamble to the title is promising, connecting Crusade knight tombs and Egytian mythology as if it was gearing up to become a rip-roaring National Treasure style yarn, it simply begins to crumble. The pacing and eye candy is good enough to keep a cat mildly entertained as you switch your brain to standby mode. Unfortunately, this is where you remain as Russell Crowe talks about being in the business of evil and cheesier one-liners punctuate the dead air.

Going into The Mummy expecting a turkey will soften the blow, but the film's tonal shifts make it bizarre, mustering up a half-wink to signal we're in on the joke only for us to realise it's not winking, it's died. You'd do well to watch the original The Mummy or Romancing the Stone again rather than immersing yourself into this chasm of unfunny and cheesy mayhem that is The Mummy. This is big budget Uwe Boll when they really needed a film-maker like Sam Raimi and a cheeky star like Chris Pratt to truly excavate its true potential.

The bottom line: DOA


 
Talking Movies with Spling - The Founder, Sachin: A Billion Dreams and It Follows


Spling reviews The Founder, Sachin: A Billion Dreams and It Follows as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
Movie Review: Toni Erdmann


Toni Erdmann is an unconventional comedy drama written and directed by Maren Ade, portraying a father desperately trying to patch things up with his estranged daughter. A practical joker with a fake teeth and wig disguise that recalls early Leon Schuster pranks, Winfried tries to reconnect with his hard-working daughter, Ines, by resorting to his outrageous alter ego, Toni Erdmann. From retired "slacker" to business coach, Winfried's attempts to win his daughter over go from nuisance to social time bomb as he associates with her colleagues and becomes more entrenched in her working life.

For the most part, this German language coming-of-age drama is a two-hander, focusing on the fractious relationship between the father and daughter. By means of a fly-on-the-wall account, we experience the amusement, history, irritation and uneasiness of the familial bond, as Winfried arrives unexpectedly in Romania, where Ines is brokering an important business deal with a big client. Part serious about being married to her job, part wanting to let go and burst out laughing at her father's bold and incredibly silly interactions as Toni Erdmann, we experience several layers of dysfunction in this candid dramedy.

Toni Erdmann 2016

"My people will contact your people."

Like a German version of About Schmidt, we journey with the pairing as the complete opposites learn from each other and try to find a way to repatriate. It's a heartwarming, silly and fun-loving film, which moves from stupid pranks to outrageous and daring social experiments. Spending more time with family, not working so hard or taking life less seriously seem like lifelong goals, yet serve as the underlying message in this touching albeit ridiculous comedy drama.

Peter Simonischek is reminiscent of Gerard Depardieu in terms of his physical presence and clownish demeanour, delivering a delightful and easy-going performance. Sandra Hüller's tightly-wound turn completes the comic duo as she serves up a complicated mix of amusement and irritation with her unorthodox yet persistent father. At 2 1/2 hours, it does seem long, but remains entertaining by virtue of its voyeuristic docudrama style, warm natural flow of comedy, undercover travelogue and heartfelt family drama.

While there's nudity and one unusual sexual encounter, Toni Erdmann has a playful tone and operates like a bag of tricks, constantly surprising one with its low-key blend of authentic drama and silly comedy. The chemistry and performances from Simonischek and Hüller make it seem so, and much like a cabaret, it's a delight to see what they'll throw at us next. While it's not on par with About Schmidt, it remains a memorable, quirky and entertaining father-daughter portrait.

The bottom line: Enjoyable


 
Talking Movies with Spling - Mogadishu Soldier, Mama Colonel and Deep Blue/Middle C


Spling reviews Mogadishu Soldier, Mama Colonel and Deep Blue | Middle C (screening as part of the Encounters Documentary Film Festival in South Africa) as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
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