Saturday, 10 June 2017



The Universe Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

107 Mins. Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance & Russell Crowe. Director: Alex Kurtzman.

Unwrap Universal's layers of their new 'Dark Universe' productions that take it back to the vintage classics of early Hollywoodland horrors, in a chest thumping, throwback year of 'Kong: Skull Island's and 'War For The Planet Of The Apes' and you'll see more than what meets the splitting eyes. Peel back the iconic bandages of one of the most infamous characters in this land of Gods and Monsters, behind those black void circled sunglasses and top hat and you just may see peculiar persona actor master Johnny Depp's 'Invisible Man' (or not as the case may be). Flip the switch until Igor's alive with the same electricity as that classic line and you just may witness 'Pirates Of The Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales' co-star and go-to villain Javier Bardem wake and bolt up as Frankenstein's most monstrous creation. Even 'Gladiator' Russell Crowe is hiding a beast inside...and we aren't talking about his raging cameo alongside Brad Pitt's 'War Machine' (and can we even talk about that yet?). But first before darkness falls on this universe, we are welcomed to this new world of Gods and Monsters by the real bandaged up, legendary movie-villain of almost a century gone and ancient Egyptian legend...'The Mummy'. And whose your daddy in this one? Who else but the most movie marketable even in middling-age, Tom Cruise? Hollywood's leading man top gun for over 30 years who is already getting back in a plane for Univeral's globe-span this year (the fortune favours the bold, dream looking 'American Made'), before his long-awaited, finally cleared for take-off 'Maverick' sequel. Still he's more Tomb Raider here though as keeping mums the word goes to a former Madonna back-up dancer, who sliced 'Kingsmen' with her ice-cold villainous heels, took Kirk's 'Star Trek' beyond where he's boldly been and kissed Charlize Theron's 'Atomic Blonde'. French-Algerian model/dancer Sofia Boutella moves magically as 'The Mummy'. But with a burying backlash by critics looking to mummify all of this. Before this 'Dark Universe' gets going is it already a wrap?

Cruise is in complete control here however. Running through this former Fraser franchise like he has his 'Mission Impossible' and lately 'Jack Reacher' a matter of fact like he does, super-cutting through all his big blockbusters. From the early 'Days Of Thunder' to the new sci-fi cult classics of 'Oblivion' and 'Edge Of Tomorrow', living and repeating again and all over again with death-defying self-stunts. Bringing Brendan brand humour, but also his own 'Tropic Thunder' and 'Rock Of Ages' proof that he doesn't take himself as seriously as we all think. He's silly and straight here...and as actioneering entertaining as ever in the hero fold role. Yet in this blockbuster horror he still brings a refreshingly real feeling of fear and vulnerability here like he did when he faced a daily death, 'Groundhog Day' wake up call in the 'Live.Die.Repeat' of 'Edge Of Tomorrow'. Not normally akin to the actions of an All-American leading man. Especially on the dark raven descent of the same military grade war bird he fingertip hung on the side of to begin 'Rogue Nation', that sees him plummeting with no parachute in zero G's in one of this movies most stirring scenes. From the mummy passenger anxiety of takeoff, to the screaming of a crash landing that should leave everyone toe-tags and body bags. Tom has a reason to be scared like Jerry (and we aren't talking about Maguire). The Mummy is haunting his every thought and Boutella won't release her bounty on him. Sofia cops the role that's been waiting for her ever since she slipped on her Vogue dancing shoes or 'Kingsmen' blades. No one could quite play this Egyptian scorned queen with a hell fury deal with the dead quite like her. And the mesmerizing make-up and sand and dust bone, bandaged up C.G. only accents this. She even honours the old stop-motion '32 classic with a zombified, 'Thriller' walk at a Nebula break and reset bone pace. After 'The Secret Service' of Saville Row kings and her almost unrecognisable scene stealing in 'Star Trek-Beyond', Sofia owns this as she now becomes a star. Laughing devilishly as a close up of her eyes see her pupils dilate into two so wickedly good. All eyes are on her now.

Unraveling through this yarn that sometimes rips but always roars is so much more. 'King Arthur-Legend Of The Sword', 'The Tudors' and 'Peaky Blinders' star Annabelle Wallis-who had her own pupil changing cameo in 'X-Men: First Class'-is great at uncovering the secrets that lie beneath that some want to steal here, in a film that has as many wonder women as it does a league of extraordinary gentlemen. Just like funny 'New Girl' boy Jake Johnson in the stereotypical best friend role gone against type. That starts strong but then wears gaunt thin, serving as an unnecessary 'Basil Exposition' plot device that tries to keep this Cruise vehicle going. This cool, but crazy entry could do with some Jack Johnson calm. Because we can already tell what's going on and down. We don't need to have this explained to this like a Denzel Washington 'Philadelphia' six year old. Thankfully the court Cochran of 'The People vs O.J. Simpson's Courtney B. Vance brings us needed relief as a general speaking for the soldiering scenes and the bantering ones. But it's 'Nice Guy' redemption return to form, Russell Crowe that steals the show as 'Robin Hood' gives back to the cult fans. Playing a well-to-do accented Dr. Jekyll-yes that Henry Jekyll-so well we can't wait for his own monster mash movie. And just wait until you see his more Down Under Aussie vibed, vein strained Hyde side. This Crowe amongst the ravens really calls. Even if some critics are crying, "never more". Still like Russell's Jekyll and Hyde character this 'Mummy' movie doesn't know who or what it really is. A Brendan Fraser era like sequel complete with easter eggs by the book? A new reboot, monster movie franchise spawning house of horrors? A comedy of entertaining errors? Or something more self-serious and substantial? 'Mission Impossible III', 'Star Trek' and 'Transformers' writer, producer and first time director Alex Kurtzman hits some rookie walls of script and scene placement confusion. But once he hits the ground he's running through dust foggy London with action aplomb, as glass shatters like sand and sprays like water from the shard to the Fawkes fogged Houses of Parliament. Making for some thrilling set-pieces that trash green and yellow ambulances, big red double-decker buses and everything else, save black hackney taxi-cabs. And even if this movie could have done with a bit more ancient civilisation and less big smoke it'll still be a fun ride by the sands of time. Depp doesn't need to go invisible quite just yet, because Universal's new pyramid scheme will still look for its peak amongst this tipping point. And save the tears as you go crying to your mothers so quickly. This 'Mummy' is still a monstrous beast like the Bardem bride of Frankenstein. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'The Mummy (1932)', 'The Mummy Returns', 'Edge Of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat)'.

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