Unleashing a new 'Mummy'

By Tom Von Malder | Sep 11, 2017
Photo by: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis star in "The Mummy" update.

Owls Head — The Mummy (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 110 min.). Tom Cruise sure has fun making his films, as he does nearly all his own stunts and often pushes the envelope. This time it includes filming a plummeting plane scene in zero gravity. "The Mummy" also is the latest franchise picture Cruise has been associated with, after the "Mission Impossible" and "Jack Reacher" series. In fact, this film, directed by Alex Kurtzman, is the first in Universal's new "Dark Universe" cinematic world, where the legendary monsters of the first third of the 20th Century are reborn and encounter each other as they did in the classic Universal horror films that starred Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man and so on. This time, the Mummy is female and meets up with Dr. Jekyll.

Cruise plays Nick Morton, an Army sergeant stationed in the Middle East, who has a lucrative side job finding antiquities and selling them, rather than turning them open to the proper authorities. His often unwilling accomplice is fellow soldier Vail (Jake Johnson), who provides some comic relief in his buddy-buddy relationship with Morton, and later serves a role akin to one in "An American Werewolf in London." In fact, "The Mummy" many times recalls previous films, such as the post-prologue scene in which drilling for an extension to the London Underground subway system reveals an ancient Templar tomb. It is very much like a scene in "Quatermass and the Pit" (1967, Hammer Productions), also set in London. Morton, described in the extras as a man who "has to lose his soul to gain his soul," has stolen a map from archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), leading him to a small city in Iraq.

A U.S. military bomb strike reveals an underground cavern that has Egyptian markings and artifacts. The  underground burial area includes a mass of camel spiders and, surrounded by six guardian statues facing inward toward the sarcophagus of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Halsey and the military remove the mummy and place it aboard a plane headed for England. However, birds destroy the plane as it comes across Dover. Ahmanet is released, comes back to life and starts rebuilding her body by sucking the life force out of the humans she encounters. (Yes, eerily similar to the film "Lifeforce" [1985, Cannon Films].) Back in Iraq, Ahmanet had developed a psychic connection with Morton, which comes into play more than once.

Meanwhile, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe playing thee Robert Louis Stevenson-created monster that is not part of the Universal horror classics, but is one in the public domain), who keeps his alter ego Eddie Hyde in check through injections, heads Prodigium, a group that identifies monsters and supernatural entities, finds them and kills them. Ahmanet is Prodigium's latest target. Thus, the second half of the film basically becomes one long chase sequence, including a scene that recalls the recent "Doctor Strange" (Marvel Films). Some of the stunt work is exceptional, including scenes in the plane as it is plummeting to the ground.

There is a strong group of extras, including how part of the plummeting plane scenes were filmed weightless in a ZERO-G Airbus 310 (7:32). Others look at Ahmanet and Boutella (7:39), Cruise in action (6:09; lots of behind-the-scenes footage), Crowe becoming Jekyll and Hyde (7:10), and a closer look at creating chaos in downtown London and at the National History Museum (6:35). There is an excellent, very relaxed, sit-down conversation between Cruise and Kurtzman, who also worked together on the first and third "Mission Impossible" films (21:15). Kurtzman also does an audio commentary with actors Boutella, Wallis and Johnson. There are two deleted and two extended scenes (4:52 total), with one adding more to the Ahmanet prologue. A look at the sets, alternate designs for Ahmanet and the real Charles Darwin artifacts used in the film is very interesting (6:52), while Morton as a man in search of a soul is examined (5:43) and there is an animated graphic novel of Ahmanet's former life (3:52) that is quite creepy at times. The film sets up a sequel or a series of films. Grade: film 2.75 stars; extras 3.75 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

It Comes at Night (A24/Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 92 min.). Continuing a general horror theme, this film, written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, bases its horror on anticipation of bad things to come. The film is well-acted and very intense, although the ending was a bit of a disappointment.

In the near future, apparently a plague has wiped out much of mankind. The film opens with a sick grandfather shot and his body burned to avoid spreading the disease. The rest of the family wears gas masks and gloves. Much of the film deals with the effects of these acts on his 17-year-old grandson, Travis (a strong performance by Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who is basically trapped in his home with only his parents (Joel Edgerton as Paul and Carmen Ejogo as Sarah) and his dog, as the family has isolated itself from the world to stay healthy. One night, though, an intruder (Chris Abbott as Will) enters the house, saying he thought it was abandoned. After treating Will roughly for a day or so, Paul comes to believe his story and Paul and Sarah decide to invite Will, his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their young son to live with them. Will has food, chickens and goats to contribute and, as Sarah says, he already knows where they live.

The film is very tense for not much happening. There is a lot of paranoia building up between the two families and Travis is subjected to horrifying nightmares, as he tries to process his grandfather's death and his growing attraction to Kim, only the second woman he has ever seen. The film comes with audio commentary by Shults and Harrison and a making-of featurette (29:37), in which Shults said he started the film after his father's fast death from cancer. The director laments that he had not talked to his father for 10 years prior to his becoming ill. Grade: film 3 stars; and extras 2.75 stars

Dead Again in Tombstone (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 99 min.). Danny Trejo returns as Guerrero de la Cruz in the sequel to "Dead in Tombstone" (2013). The new film, in which Guerrero actually dies three times,  starts with a recap of the first, which shows Guerrero, a gang leader in the Old West, get double-crossed by his followers and striking a pact with the Devil, after entering hell, to he returns to life to kill the men who murdered him. In the meantime, he has been killing other souls for Satan, some 50 souls.

In "Dead Again," again directed by Roel Reine, Guerrero decides to visit his hometown of Silver River, where a gang of ex-Confederate soldiers, led by Jackson Boomer (Jake Busey), have been searching for him. Still in town is the remains of Guerrero's family, including his estranged daughter, Alicia (Elysia Rotaru). Boomer is after an evil artifact with which he will raise his dead soldiers. Thus, we have a supernatural Western with zombies. There are four large shootouts, including two in saloons, during which Guerrero basically mows down his opposition. There is not much depth to the story, but the actors look like they were enjoying themselves and the action is engaging. Best is a sequence that keeps flipping back and forth between an attack on a stage coach and a fight in a whore house, with both culminating in explosions. This is pure popcorn cinema.

Extras include audio commentary by Reine, editor Radu Ion, director of photography Rolf Dekens, writer Ethan Wiley and Grid VFX CEO Jan Goosen; a montage of deleted shots (5:23); a making-of featurette (4 min.); and a look at Trejo as Guerrero (3:47). The film was shot in the open spaces of Alberta, Canada, something that is evident as one can see the actors' breath even during indoor scenes. Grade: film and extras 2.5 stars

The Hatred (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 94 min.). This horror film has pluses and minuses. I like how all the background is presented as a lengthy (21 min.) prologue, rather than having numerous flashbacks during the film. It also contains three legitimate scares.

In the 1968 prologue, we see what happens to the family of Samuel Sears (Andrew Divoff of the "Wishmaster" films), a former Nazi, his wife and their daughter Alice (Darby Walker), now living in America and operating an orchard of some kind. In similarities to "It Comes at Night," Samuel wears a mask while treating the trees and he forces Alice to have no contact with the outside world. One day, he receives one of Adolph Hitler's most prized relics -- an iron cross, which we later learn was stolen in France -- and hides it in a basement wall. A later Internet search reveals the iron cross collects the fear and anger of the wearer and affects those around it. The connection is never made that the iron cross causes the two deaths during the prologue. In fact, the film leaves a lot of connections up in the air, as if the writing was rushed. It is hinted at that perhaps Samuel's relocation to American was part of some Nazi plot, but again, the idea is never followed through.

In the present, four college-age women are to house sit for the home's new owners and babysit young Irene (Shae Smolik). Regan (Sarah Davenport) is the actual one who is friends with the family; the other three are her friends. They are Layan (Gabrielle Bourne, Betaine (Alisha  Wainwright) and  Samantha (Bayley Corman). The whole house situation is rather vague as to how long the new owners have lived there. At one point, Regan refers to it being Irene's first night sleeping there, yet Irene already has been contacted by Alice's spirit. Nonetheless, the young women are not complete morons (no stripping of clothes or sneaking in boyfriends), although they do decide to play hide-and-seek, with two of them going in the basement, where they find a bunch of Nazi-related papers. My question is why would the new owners just leave those papers out down there and why leave Alice's room as it was nearly five decades ago?

The prologue is interesting, but the quartet's arrival is a bit dull until the hour mark, when the film turns all creepy as strange things start happening. It takes 73 minutes for the first good scare. The ending, however, falls a bit flat. Going back to "The Mummy" for a minute, this film features David Naughton, one of the stars of "An American Werewolf in London," as Irene's father. Extras include a 12-minute behind-the-scenes look and audio commentary by writer/director Michael G. Kehoe and producer Malek Akkad. Grade: film 1.5 stars; extras 2 stars

Maurice (1987, Cohen Film Collection, 2 Blu-rays or standard DVD, R, 140 min.). This is a new 4K restoration, 30th anniversary edition of director James Ivory's adaptation of E.M. Forster's groundbreaking novel, which, although written at the height of his career, was withheld from publication until after his death, due to its controversial nature. The film won three major awards at the 1987 Venice Film Festival, including Best Actor (shared by James Wilby and Hugh Grant), Best Director and Best Music (Richard Robbins). It also was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costumes (Jenny Beavan and John Bright).

Set against the stifling conformity of pre-World War I English society, the film is a moving story of coming to terms with one's sexuality and identity in the face of disapproval and misunderstanding.

The moving film centers on students Maurice Hall (Wilby of "Howards End," also based on a Forster novel, and "Gosford Park") and Clive Durham (Grant of "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Love Actually"), who find themselves falling in love at Cambridge. It is a time when homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment, so the two must keep their feelings for one another a complete secret. After a friend is arrested and disgraced for "the unspeakable vice of the Greeks," Clive abandons his forbidden love and marries a young woman. Maurice, however, struggles with his identity and self-confidence, seeking the help of a hypnotist to rid himself of his undeniable urges. But while staying with Clive and his shallow wife, Anne, Maurice is seduced by the affectionate and yearning servant Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves of "The Madness of King George," "Where Angels Fear to Tread"), an event that brings about profound changes in Maurice's life and outlook. The film also offers broader social critiques, including on class divisions, domesticity as a cover for true feelings and far-fetched cures. As for the latter, Ben Kingsley plays a hypnotist.

Bonus features on the DVD include a new on-stage Q&A with Ivory and Pierre Lhomme (22:59), and "The Story of Maurice" (30:29), with fine interviews. The two-disc Blu-ray edition includes the above, as well as Ivory and Lhomme talking about the making of the film at Cohen's headquarters (15:44); a new director's perspective conversation between Ivory and Tom McCarthy (director of "Spotlight") (40:08); an archival conversation with filmmakers Ivory, Ismael Merchant and Robbins (12:51); and deleted scenes and alternate takes with optional audio commentary by Ivory (39:03). There also is a 20-page booklet with a note from Ivory; a interview with Wilby by Claire Monk; and an essay by John Pym. Grade: film and extras 4 stars

Lifetime Scary Movie Set: Big Driver, Manson's Lost Girls, Hush Little Baby, Devil's Diary (2007, 2014, 2015, Lifetime/Lionsgate, 2 DVDs, NR, 352 min.). With the new version of Stephen King's "It" setting box office records this weekend, it is time to check out other King adaptations. This four-movie set includes his "Big Driver" (2014, 90 min.), starring Maria Bello as Tess Thorne, a mystery novelist who is raped and left for dead by a man who approaches her after she has a flat tire. Instead of contacting the police, she decides to track down her attacker herself. The film also stars Will Harris, Ann Dowd, singer Joan Jett and Olympia Dukakis. This is the best of the four films.

In "Manson's Lost Girls" (2015, 90 min.), Linda Kasabian (Mackenzie Mauzy)falls prey to the charms of Charles Manson (Jeff Ward), who draws her into his criminal activities. Manson's hippy commune is located on elderly George Spahn's old western movie set. The film stars the offspring of several  successful actors: Eden Brolin (Susan Atkins), the daughter of Josh Brolin; Greer Grammer (Leslie Van Houton), the daughter of Kelsey Grammer; and Christian Madsen (Tex Watson), the son of Michael Madsen.

"Hush Little Baby" (2007, 86 min.) stars Victoria Pratt as Jamie, whose young daughter drowns. Two years later, Jamie has another daughter, but after a series of suspicious accidents, she comes to believe her new child is inhabited by the vengeful spirit of her first child. In Devil's Diary (2007, 86 min.), friends Domenique (Alexz Johnson) and Ursula (Magda Apanowicz) find an ancient book in a graveyard. The book has the supernatural power to grant any evil desire written within it. Ursula embarks on ever increasing acts of vengeance.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982, Warner Bros., 4K Ultra HD + 2 Blu-ray + 1 DVD, R, 117 min.). With the new film, "Blade Runner 2049," coming to theaters Oct. 6, the original film receives a 4K Ultra HD release. That is the "Final Cut" version (2007) of Ridley Scott's great science fiction film. There are at least four other released versions -- the original theatrical cut and international theatrical cut, both 1982, the 1991 director's cut and a workprint feature version -- that have been released of Blu-ray in 2007 and 2012 sets.

The Final Cut, Scott's preferred version of the film, includes every narrative adjustment that he thought of over the years, while fixing numerous mistakes that resulted from rushed production and a post-production besieged by conflict and financial pressures. "Blade Runner" is set in 2019, but the world is not digitally dominated, so it does not seem dated. In the dystopian future, synthetic humans, known as Replicants, are used as slave labor on off-world colonies. The Replicants are as intelligent as the scientists who created them, so they develop their own emotions after a few years of life, and these veer towards violence and anger. As a precaution, Replicants are given a four-year life span. In the story, four renegade Replicants make their way back to Earth and seek their creators within the Tyrell corporation. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a Blade Runner police officer, assigned to kill any Replicants who make it back to Earth. However, something is up with Deckard.

The film has wonderful production design and has been very influential on subsequent films. The Ultra HD version look spectacular and sounds more immersive. While this edition contains more than seven hours of bonus material, it does not include all the extras from previous releases. There are no new extras, except for a trailer. Most of the extras are the same as in the 2007, five-disc collector's edition, including three separate audio commentaries and an introduction by Scott to the Final Cut. Three of the discs from the five-disc set also are included, including a Blu-ray  version of the Final Cut, with the same commentaries and intro; the bonus standard DVD disc with the excellent "Dangerous Days" documentary, culled from more than 80 interviews and hours of outtakes and on-set footage (211 min.) and the Blu-ray disc with three earlier versions of the film (the workprint version is the only one missing). Grade: film and extras 5 stars

Supernatural: The Complete Twelfth Season (Warner Bros., 4 Blu-ray or 6 standard DVDs, NR, 969 min.). After battling with God, aka Chuck, against his sister Amara, aka The Darkness, in season 11, the producers scaled back things for season 12, with a heavy emphasis on family, as, after 30-plus years in heaven, Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) has been returned to her sons, Sam and Dean, by Amara. Sam really has no memories of his mother, while Dean has few. It turns out Mary was a hunter and a very good one, but like Sam did at one point, she walked away from the lifestyle. She goes off on her own for part of the season and gets involved with the British Men of Letters, who, in effect, have invaded America to kill supernatural beings and possibly Sam and Dean, if they do not fall in line. The British Men of Letters have no moral compass and simply kill all supernatural beings and even witnesses. The Winchesters do not believe all supernatural beings are bad and allow some to live.

Early on, Sam is shot and tortured by a British Woman of Letters, but in a lighter vein, the now-escaped Lucifer takes over the body of a rock star (Rick Springfield as Vince Vincente). Castiel teams up with Crowley to hunt down Lucifer, and the Winchesters encounter a crying baby ghost. Another unusual episode has Adolph Hitler's soul trapped in a pocket watch from the 1930s. We get to see more hunters when they gather to honor Asa Fox. Sam and Dean have to threaten the president, when Lucifer takes over POTUS's body; however, Lucifer already has impregnated a woman, Kelly Kline, who is to give birth to a nephilim. The season leads to a deadly clash between the American hunters and the British Men of Letters, as well as a showdown with Lucifer over his soon-to-be-born child.

Bonus features include three entertaining Winchester Mythology features. The first deals with Mary Winchester (9:48) and her return; the second, with hunters' style of living (15:41), covering the hunters' history, origins and organization; and the third, with the clash with the British Men of Letters (14:58), who believe the ends justify the means. There also is a funny gag reel (11:10); a deleted scene from each of five episodes and multiple deleted scenes from two episodes; and the 2016 San Diego Comic Con panel (31:27), featuring executive producers Robert Singer and Andrew Dabb and actors Jared Padalecki (Sam), Jensen Ackles (Dean), Misha Collins (Castiel), Mark A. Sheppard (Crowley), Smith and Ruth Connell (Rowena). Additionally, there are three audio commentaries: by Springfield and composer Jay Gruska on "Rock Never Dies"; by actors Adam Fergus (Mick Davies) and David Haydn-Jones (Arthur Ketch) and writers Eugenie Ross-Leming and Bard Buckner on "The British Invasion"; and by actor Connell and writers Buckner and Ross-Leming on "Family Feud." Grade: season 4 stars; extras 3.25 stars

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