Film Review: The Scorpion King (2002)

Release Date: April 15th, 2002 (Netherlands – Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Written by: Stephen Sommers, William Osborne, David Hayter, Jonathan Hales
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Michael Clarke Duncan, Tyler Mane (uncredited)

BT Film, Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Let me tell you, after a hard day of looting and pillaging, there is no greater city than Gomorrah… except maybe Sodom.” – Arpid

This was the first ’90s Mummy-related movie that I didn’t see in theaters and that’s mainly because it just didn’t interest me, even though I love The Rock and I love sword and sorcery flicks.

I was just turned off from how bad the Scorpion King character was presented at the end of The Mummy Returns and the trailers for this looked terrible.

Visually, I thought that this looked more like a TV production that had more in common with The Beastmaster TV show than something epic and cool like 1982’s Conan the Barbarian or the original and awesome Beastmaster movie.

I wasn’t wrong, as the finished product does feel like a television level production and that’s just one problem with it.

Beyond that, the story is cookie cutter shit. You never care about any of the characters or their situations in the film and that’s kind of an amazing feat, as Dawyne “The Rock” Johnson is one of the most charismatic people on the entire f’n planet. But somehow, this made him come off as boring and uninteresting.

I also never liked Steven Brand as the villain, as he just didn’t look like a guy that could remotely be a threat to The Rock. In the movie, his character is smaller and he’s just a dude that’s really good with swords.

I truly wish that this would’ve been The Rock’s Conan and that we’d get sword and sorcery movies with him in it every few years. However, this is a dud in every way.

But hey, at least it was better than that third Mummy movie.

Rating: 4.5/10

Film Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Also known as: The Mummy 3 (informal title), Untitled Rick O’Connell Adventure, The Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon (working titles)
Release Date: July 24th, 2008 (Moscow premiere)
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Written by: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Randy Edleman
Cast: Brendan Fraser, John Hannah, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Michelle Yeoh

The Sommers Company, Relativity Media, Universal Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I hate mummies! They never play fair!” – John Carnahan

Fuck me. This was damn near unwatchable and getting through it was a hell of a challenge. But I wanted to complete the trilogy for the sake of reviewing them all.

This was so bad and weird that Rachel Weisz passed on it after reading the script and not wanting to play mother to a twenty-two year-old son. I guess Brendan Fraser came back after they threw like fourteen million dollars at him.

The only other returning cast member from previous films was John Hannah.

Somehow, Rick O’Connell has a kid that’s in his twenties, even though Rick looks the same as he did in the previous two movies. If you remember, the son was like seven years-old in the previous film and he wasn’t even born yet in the one before that. But whatever.

This time Evie is played by Maria Bello. Generally, I like Maria Bello but man was she poorly cast for this role. She doesn’t look like Evie, doesn’t act like her and it just breaks the movie. It’s a situation where the film would’ve been better off having the character omitted, whether that came from being an offscreen death or divorce.

In this story, the heroes go to China and we get a new mummy played by Jet Li. I hope Li got a fat paycheck too because this utilized him poorly.

Additionally, the special effects seem like they’re worse than they were in the previous movies.

Man, this just shouldn’t have been made. It’s absolute shit and I probably would’ve hated it more had I seen it in the theater back in 2008.

At least now, I can say that I’ve seen it, reviewed it and can go on to forget it.

Rating: 3.75/10

Film Review: The Mummy Returns (2001)

Also known as: The Mummy 2 (working title)
Release Date: April 29th, 2001 (premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velásquez, Freddie Boath, Alun Armstrong, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Imhotep Productions, Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 130 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rick] My friend, there is a fine line between coincidence and fate.” – Ardeth Bay

Let me start by saying that this is not as good as its predecessor, 1999’s The Mummy. That’s probably not a shock, though, as generally everyone agrees with that, critics included.

However, I will also say that this was better than I remembered it being and I think that fun adventure movies were in such abundance in this era that I may have taken it for granted.

My only big gripe with this movie is how atrocious the CGI was on the Scorpion King character at the end of the film. It looks like they took The Rock straight out of WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role for the PlayStation 1 and added pinchers to his hands. Man, I remember it being atrocious in 2001 and it looks even worse now. What’s really odd about it, is that most of The Mummy effects looked pretty good and held up fairly well. Even the worst CGI effects are still somewhat passable.

I thought that the story was just okay but I did like that Patricia Velásquez actually had a bigger role and I liked the material they came up with for her past connection to Rachel Weisz’s Evie. I also like that this allowed Evie to hold her own in the action sequences and that she was no longer just a typical damsel in distress.

I wasn’t crazy about the kid being added to the proceedings, as kid actors can wreck a movie and honestly, his scenes are mostly annoying. I’d hate to blame the kid, specifically, and I think it has more to do with the script and Stephen Sommers’ directing.

One takeaway from this and the previous movie, as well, is the fact that Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bay is such a cool f’n character and even though The Rock became a massive star, I think that the producers should’ve probably given Fehr his own spinoff movie first.

Anyway, this is mostly more of the same but it does feel like it’s happening on a much larger scale. However, for some reason, when Imhotep is resurrected in this film, I guess the Ten Plagues of Egypt aren’t a factor anymore.

One doesn’t watch these sort of movies to be overly picky about details, though. This is just supposed to be fun, mindless escapism, which is something I praise a lot. This movie really works in that regard until the finale where we get PS1 graphics Dwayne Johnson.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: The Mummy (1999)

Release Date: April 16th, 1999 (Portugal)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan Hyde, Kevin J. O’Connor, Oded Fehr, Erick Avari, Stephen Dunham, Corey Johnson, Tuc Watkins, Omid Djalili, Aharon Ipale, Bernard Fox, Patricia Velásquez

Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“I only gamble with my life, never my money.” – Rick

I was a big fan of this movie when it originally came out. However, in the years since, it’s kind of gone down the memory hole due to its sequels and spinoffs, which each seemed to get worse. Also, the more I saw from Stephen Sommers, the more I disliked him as a director.

However, I wanted to see this with pretty fresh eyes, as its been nearly twenty years since I last watched it and a lot of the details have been lost. Granted, these details came rushing back to me, as I watched the picture again.

I loved this so much in 1999 because of three reasons.

The first is that I had been yearning for something Indiana Jones-like since that series ended ten years earlier with 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The second is that I have always loved the Universal Monsters franchise and this reboot of one of Universal’s classic monsters was something that got me really excited.

The third is that this starred Brendan Fraser as a lead in a blockbuster. I was a fan of the guy and loved watching him move up the Hollywood ladder since seeing him in the early ’90s in Encino Man and School Ties.

So seeing this now, I pretty much fell in love with it again. It also made me wish that Hollywood could just stop with the crap and make fun summer movies again. Sure, the occasional fun blockbuster comes out now and again but these things used to be really common and they were also made to entertain the audience and allowed them to get lost in the magic of Hollywood for a few hours. This reminded me of how big blockbusters coming to theaters were really big events in pop culture. It feels like that’s been gone for a few years and not just because of COVID; it started before that.

While I felt like the overall story, here, wasn’t particularly strong, it didn’t matter as much as the spectacle and scope of the film. This was ambitious for 1999 but it succeeded and probably much more than what was anticipated for it.

The special effects wowed audiences and they are mostly still good, even though some of it does look a wee bit dated. However, the big CGI heavy sequences still play well and nothing really pulls you out of the movie.

I really like the cast of this picture and thought that Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were a good pairing with nice chemistry. I also thought that Fraser and John Hannah had solid camaraderie and it grows throughout the movie.

Arnold Vosloo was a pretty solid choice for Imhotep. He didn’t have to say anything but did a fine job acting with his facial expressions and body language. He was believable as an undead mummy trying to resurrect his long lost Anck-su-namun.

All in all, 1999’s version of The Mummy is much better than the recent Tom Cruise take on the franchise. I’m sure they’ll attempt yet another reboot in the future but this is a hard one to top outside of the 1932 original with the legendary Boris Karloff.

Also, this is the best movie that Stephen Sommers ever made, as everything went downhill from here.

Rating: 8/10

Documentary Review: Bloodsucking Cinema (2007)

Release Date: October 26th, 2007
Directed by: Barry Gray
Written by: Barry Gray
Music by: Don MacDonald
Cast: Uwe Boll, John Carpenter, David S. Goyer, Corey Haim, John Landis, Kristanna Loken, Leonard Maltin, Cheech Marin, Greg Nicotero, Joel Schumacher, Stephen Sommers, Stuart Townsend, Stan Winston, Len Wiseman, Marv Wolfman

Insight Film Studios, Vamp Productions, 56 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my Starz queue for a long ass time, so I figured I’d give it a watch to clear out some of the stuff that’s been there for too long.

Overall, this was a pretty boring documentary with a lot of talking head interviews edited together pretty sloppily.

There didn’t seem to be a clear direction or objective about this short documentary other than having a bunch of actors and directors talking about vampire films they’ve been apart of.

Frankly, this felt random as hell and features a slew of films that no one cared about when they came out and certainly don’t care about now. While they talk about some solid films like Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn and Vampires, they also spend a lot of time talking about shit movies like Van Helsing, BloodRayne and Queen of the Damned.

I wouldn’t call this informative or entertaining. It’s a pointless, shitty production that only barely scratches the surface on the history of vampire cinema and would rather showcase Uwe Boll and Stephen Sommers rambling about their atrocious movies.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: sniffing hobo farts.

 

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Also known as: Dark Sky: First Strike (fake working title), G.I. Joe (Czech Republic, Japan, Spain)
Release Date: July 27th, 2009 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett, Michael B. Gordon, Stephen Sommers
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Byung-hun, Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Said Taghmaoui, Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Karolína Kurková, Brendan Fraser, Kevin J. O’Connor, Gerald Okamura, Grégory Fitoussi

Spyglass Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Hasbro Studios, Sommers Company, Paramount Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Technically, G.I. Joe does not exist, but if it did, it’d be comprised of the top men and women from the top military units in the world, the alpha dogs. When all else fails, we don’t.” – General Hawk

*Let me preface this by saying this review will have a massive amount of profanity. You have been motherfucking warned.

Directed by Stephen Sommers, a man that shouldn’t be allowed to touch a camera after The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing, this movie is a massive piece of shit and a huge disappointment to any fans of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, whether in cartoon or comic book form.

I don’t know where to start, as everything about this is bad but I have to point out the biggest issue with it and that’s the fact that it has no idea what G.I. Joe is, who these characters are or why any of this is awesome and really hard to fuck up. That is, unless you’re just someone that doesn’t give a flying fuck about the property your adapting and just see it as nothing more than a cash cow with a massive amount of built-in merchandise already attached to it.

Frankly, Hasbro needs to respect their own properties more and stop whoring them out to anyone willing to write stories and make movies and shows based on them. They’ve forgotten what their core brands represent and why they resonate with people. Between this film and the live action Transformers movies and that awful Jem film, Hasbro needs to get their shit together.

Anyway, they couldn’t have chosen a worse director than Stephen Sommers. Okay, they could’ve gotten Uwe Boll, but his film probably would’ve at least been fun and ridiculous for the right reasons.

What I hate the most about this is that none of the characters apart from the ninjas, are even close to who they are in the cartoon series or the comics. For fuck’s sake, Larry Hama wrote amazing comic stories that all could have translated well to screen. The cartoons even had some great epics mixed in that could have been adapted. Stephen Sommers and his staff of a half dozen writers couldn’t come up with a single scene in a two hour film’s script that represented anything close to what was great about the source material.

One of my favorite characters, the Baroness, wasn’t even close to what her character is. She is an incredible character with a great backstory and is really, the most vicious member of Cobra. Here, she is just a brainwashed American girl that can’t be the badass she should be because she’s got a hard on for Channing Tatum the whole picture and turns back into a good guy and helps defeat Cobra. What in the holy fuck?! This is the goddamned Baroness we’re talking about!

It’s not just her though, Cobra Commander was a joke, Destro was boring, Duke was lame, Ripcord was annoying and Scarlett was so terribly uncharacteristic that she should have just been named Ginger Brainy Girl.

In one of the biggest action sequences in the film, we get Duke and Ripcord running around Paris in generic Iron Man suits. Why? Those suits never existed once in any G.I. Joe continuity that I’ve ever seen and I’ve read and seen everything. This was a poor attempt at trying to piggy back off of the success of Iron Man a year earlier. But, Sommers, this isn’t a Marvel film, it’s G.I.-fucking-Joe!

Also, in the big finale, Cobra Commander tries to destroy the Joes by blowing up the ice shelf above them. What does ice do in water people? It fucking floats! So how in the hell does the ice come crashing down like boulders in the goddamned ocean? How?!

But there’s still so much more wrong with this motion picture.

Why does Snake Eyes have fucking lips?! He’s a ninja in a ninja mask. He doesn’t need rubber lips. His head looks like it was ripped from a full size sex doll.

Why does Duke have to be restrained from punching a hologram? It’s a fucking hologram!

How does Ripcord’s jet plane go from Moscow to Washington in just a few minutes? How?!

I mean, there are a lot of other stupid things in this film too but you probably get the point by now.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was an expensive movie, given to a four year-old, mentally challenged kid, that just wants to play with his G.I. Joe toys in the bathtub. I’m talking about Stephen Sommers, for the record. And while that may sound harsh, it’s not as harsh as Sommers was to this beloved franchise. Fuck this guy, he’s one of the worst directors of the last two decades.

I never wanted to see this film again but I suffered through it just to review it. The sequel to this was actually better but still far from great. Hasbro needs to stop whoring out their properties unless they can learn how to vet these filmmakers better. Seriously, Hasbro, G.I. Joe is a franchise deserving of a great motion picture. Hell, I’ll make it. I can certainly do better than this film and I know these characters because I’ve spent over 35 years with them.

Seriously, Hasbro. Call me.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequel, as well as the crappy live action Transformers movies.

Film Review: Gunmen (1993)

Release Date: May 21st, 1993 (Hungary)
Directed by: Deran Sarafian
Written by: Stephen Sommers
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Mario Van Peebles, Denis Leary, Patrick Stewart, Kadeem Hardison, Sally Kirkland, Big Daddy Kane, Kid Frost, Rakim, Eric B., Doctor Dré, Ed Lover, Brenda Bakke

Davis Entertainment, Gary Gunmen Productions, Dimension Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Put the gun down? Put the gun down? I’m gonna put the gun down your fuckin’ throat!” – Dani Servigo

Gunmen is one of those ’90s action films that probably should have been a straight-to-video release but actually got a brief theatrical run. It wasn’t successful and sort of just came and went very quickly. While it’s not a very good movie, it is still decent and has a pretty solid early ’90s cast. Plus, it has cameos from a lot of legitimately good rappers from the era.

This is a buddy movie, where you never know when and if the buddies will turn on each other while seeking out the money they’re on the hunt for. They are also on the run from a drug kingpin’s minions, who also want the money for themselves. The buddies are played by Christopher Lambert and Mario Van Peebles. The drug kingpin is played by Patrick Stewart with his top minion being Denis Leary. Like I said, it’s an interesting and kind of cool cast.

For the most part, the film is fun but it also has a plot that just seems to be all over the place. It’s not well written and if it wasn’t for the charismatic cast, this film would be completely forgettable. It’s also minimal on the action. For something called Gunmen, I expected a movie similar to The Expendables or Predator without the alien or Commando with more than one buff badass.

The film does have a lot of good stunts though. There just wasn’t enough shoot’em up stuff for a film with a title that implies such. In fact, I don’t think Gunmen is an accurate title. And the poster implies a squad of badasses. But alas, we get a duo with a little help from Kadeem Hardison (a.k.a. Dwayne Wayne from A Different World).

I did like the location shooting and the look of the picture was good. It had a grittiness to it and where it was high octane, it really went for the gusto. I just wish it had more of those moments.

The finale was decent but nothing exceptional. The last twenty minutes of the film are the best, so at least it built towards something and delivered.

But ultimately, this is a run-of-the-mill ’90s action flick without a lot of flourish or much of anything to set it apart from the pack. But I really loved Leary and Stewart in this.

Lambert and Van Peebles would go on to co-star together in the third Highlander movie a year later.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Mean GunsPosseHighlander: The Final Dimension, Survivng the Game and Who’s the Man?