Tom Cruise

SH S3E20: The Mummy & Dark Universe

SH S3E20: The Mummy & Dark Universe
Screen Heroes

 
 
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Universal Studios is launching their Dark Universe with The Mummy, now in theaters. First, we talk a bit about The Mummy, including why it’s not as bad as people say, even when looking at the box office numbers. Then it’s on to the Dark Universe with our fan casting! We cast a dozen different characters we expect or want to see in the upcoming Dark Universe movies including the Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Van Helsing, plus more.

Also, go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

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Ian Turner

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Derreck Mayer

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Derreck Mayer

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Flying Killer Robots

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SH S3E20: The Mummy & Dark Universe

Knowing the Future is Boring

Minority Report and Blindspot both debuted their pilot episodes recently, with both shows relying heavily on a mysterious in-world phenomena that lets the characters know aspects of the future before it happens.  Minority Report, set as a sequel to the Tom Cruise-starring 2002 film of the same name, features one of the trio of ‘precogs’ returning to the city and wanting to help prevent the murders that he sees, but the visions he receives on his own never allow him to get to the victim in time to do more than watch.  Blindspot introduces us to a ‘Jane Doe’ who has had her memory almost completely erased, but is covered head to toe in intricate tattoos.  The FBI team managing her case quickly discover that the tattoos provide information on where and when crimes will be committed that the FBI would be invested in solving.

Outside of the common framework of providing the central characters with pieces of the future to act on in the hopes of preventing something bad from happening, both shows share another feature: they’re set up as fairly standard crime procedurals.  There will be a crime every week that they’ll need to prevent, and for some reason standard law enforcement procedures will consistently prove inadequate to meeting that challenge.

Both shows also seem to have some kind of ongoing mystery that intend (supposedly) to slowly unravel over time.  For Minority Report, the closing scene of the pilot shows the other two ‘precogs’ discussing a vision one of them had, where the trio are once again taken by the government by force to serve some unknown end.  For Blindspot, the origin of Jane Doe’s tattoos, as well as the character’s own origin ,since she appears to have been a highly trained special forces operator, will provide the same essential mystery.

After one episode each, I’m nearly bored to tears at the idea of knowing scraps of the future.

For starters, neither show is doing anything particularly new or interesting here.  As I’ve already stated, Minority Report is set in the same world as the film, so there isn’t really any new ground to tread there.  Substitute Jane Doe’s tattoos and apparently high level of training for ‘expert knowledge of everything’ and Blindspot becomes the 2002 series John Doe, which only lasted for a single season.

On top of that, we have an abundance of crime procedurals on television these days.  Some have been running for more than a decade.  NCIS started back in 2003, as a spinoff from JAG, which started in 1996.  Law and Order, or some show with those words in the title, seem to have been on television since the beginning of time.  And then there are the various CSI: Random Location series.  We have an abundance of this kind of show and none of them really interest me.  Usually this is because the crime-of-the-week is the priority over telling any kind of ongoing story about the characters we see every week.

This is one of the reasons that Person of Interest is one of my favorite shows on TV right now.  It started out very much the same way, being set up as a crime procedural with tidbits of information about the future.  But as the show has progressed, we’re at the point now where while there is still generally a crime of the week to be solved, the last two seasons (and hopefully the upcoming fifth season) have focused much more heavily on the story of The Machine that provides the information to prevent those crimes.  The story of an Artificial Intelligence that watches everyone, all the time, and correctly predicts not only potential terrorist threats before they take action, but also normal premeditated crimes, opens up a lot of questions for a writer beyond “how do we solve the next crime?”  And to the credit of the show runners, Person of Interest is now taking the time to address those kinds of questions head on.  Because that story is significantly more interesting than saving yet another random person/famous guest star week after week.

That’s what worries me about both Minority Report and Blindspot.  The criminal case of the week, for both shows, was rather uninspired.  And since both shows are dealing sources of information outside of the ordinary, neither show will feel much of a need to depict any kind of real police work.  Meanwhile, the story I actually care about, that is interesting, will (at best) be doled out in tiny doses here and there.

As bad as it is to say, I don’t care about the crimes being committed each week in these shows.  I care (or at least, the show hopes that I care) about the characters we’re going to see every week.  That’s the people investigating the crimes, not the victims.

For Blindspot, I care about Jane.  So I want to know where the tattoos came from, why her memory was erased, who trained her.  There appears to be an entire conspiracy behind what happened to her.

For Minority Report, I care about Dash, the naive precog that just wants to help save people, and how there appears to be a looming threat to once again abuse him and his siblings for their abilities.  But watching Dash clumsily make his way from crime to crime, with a cop in tow, trying to stop the next murder before it happens, sounds repetitive and boring.

For either of these shows to keep me coming back, they need to change gears fairly quickly, and ditch the crime-of-the-week format.  I don’t care about it.  At all.  Tell me the story about the mystery that’s been set up in the first episode.

This is the point where I ironically point out that I’m going to predict the future, in a blog post that talks about how knowing the future is boring.

blindspotheaderIn all honesty, I don’t see either of these shows lasting long.  As I mentioned, Blindspot seems like someone wanted to take a second stab at John Doe, which only got a single season. Jaime Alexander does amazing work as Jane Doe and I’m tempted to keep coming back just to see her portrayal of this incredibly damaged yet mysteriously competent character.  But I don’t want to have to slog through weeks of ‘our next case’ to see anything more develop from it.

CLwj7qVXAAAir5HMinority Report is airing on Fox, which has a reputation for killing even beloved science fiction shows (Dollhouse, Terminator:The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and of course Firefly), because (one assumes) that the executives just don’t know what to do with the show once they have it.  And so far Minority Report is not as good as any of those shows were.  I like the concept more than Blindspot‘s, since there’s infinitely more information that a psychic can ultimately provide than a tattoo’d body can, but the cast, writing, and execution of the show are a lot weaker than Blindspot.

So tell a coherent story this season.  Focus on unraveling the mystery that’s been set up, and give it a satisfying conclusion.  If you get a second season, that’s great, I’m sure you can find ways to tell a new story with the same characters next year.  But don’t try to drag out this mystery for as long as possible.  Do you know what happens when you do that?  The show gets cancelled and I, as a member of your target audience, am left without ever sense of resolution.  And I hate that.

Knowing the Future is Boring

Box Office Numbers: July 31- Aug 2, 2015

Two films hit the box office this weekend, Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and reboot VacationRogue Nation is the fifth film in the spy franchise and comes to us from Paramount and Bad Robot starring Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ving Rhames. Vacation is a reboot\sequel of the 1983 Chevy Chase film of the same name. The new version stars Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, and Steele Stebbins with Chris Hemsworth. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo both return, though I would expect those roles to be primarily cameos.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Domestic Box Office Numbers for July 31st – August 2nd Weekend

  1. Vacation (2015)Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ($56 million in opening weekend across 3,956 theaters)
  2. Vacation (2015) ($14.85 million in opening weekend across 4,311 theaters, totaling $21.17 million in 5-day opening)
  3. Ant-Man ($12.62 million in third weekend, totaling $132.15 million)
  4. Minions ($12.2 million in fourth weekend, totaling $287.39 million)
  5. Pixels ($10.4 million in second weekend, totaling $45.61 million)
  6. Trainwreck ($9.7 million in third weekend, totaling $79.71 million)
  7. Southpaw ($7.52 million in second weekend, totaling $31.578 million)
  8. Paper Towns ($4.6 million in second weekend, totaling $23.82 million)
  9. Inside Out ($4.52 million in seventh weekend, totaling $329.6 million)
  10. Jurassic World ($3.8 million in eighth weekend, totaling $631.5 million)

As the numbers show, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation won the box office by more than double even with Vacation getting an extra day with their Wednesday opening. Ant-Man continues to fall about 50% per week but based on domestic numbers alone, it has finally passed its $130 million budget, making it profitable. Pixels is having a rough time falling to just $10 million in its second week and still just about 50% of the way to its budget of $88 million. Meanwhile, Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck is nearing $80 million on its $35 million budget and Southpaw just passed its $30 million budget. The big summer hitters, Inside Out and Jurassic World hold on to the last two top ten spots with Terminator: Genisys falling to 13th after five weeks in theaters, bringing its domestic total to just $87.65 million with a budget of $155 million.

Coming Soon to the Box Office

Fantastic Four (2015)

  • Fantastic Four (2015)
  • The Gift (2015)
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie
  • The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Underdogs (2014)

What movies are you most excited to see in theaters? Did you find anything on this week’s box office list surprising? Comment below!

Box Office numbers provided by Box Office Mojo.

Box Office Numbers: July 31- Aug 2, 2015

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Review

The latest Mission: Impossible installment hit theaters this weekend. Here’s my spoiler free review of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

Overview:

Following the events of Ghost Protocol, the IMF is under investigation for their often explosive tactics. Leading the investigation is CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin). Amidst the political problems, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has found evidence of a terrorist organization known as the Syndicate. As the IMF is under threat of being permanently shut down, the ranking head of the IMF, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), urges Ethan to hunt down and expose the Syndicate in what could be his last mission.

Rogue Nation – The Good:

1. There are many returning faces in Rogue Nation. In addition to Renner, Ving Rhames, and Simon Pegg reprise their respective roles of Luther Stickell and Benji Dunn. It was nice to see Luther back as he only made a cameo in Ghost Protocol.

Simon Pegg reprises his role as Benji Dunn in Rogue Nation.

Simon Pegg reprises his role as Benji Dunn in Rogue Nation.

2. Rogue Nation also has a few new characters as well. Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) serves as the head of the Syndicate and as a sort of Moriarty to Ethan. We are also introduced to Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), an agent of the Syndicate whose own loyalties prove to be a mystery throughout the film. It was nice to have another female character in the franchise who was quite competent and also has an interesting background.

3. The opening of Rogue Nation is hands-down the best one of the series. It features the exceptionally real airplane stunt performed by Tom Cruise instead of a stunt double. The scene is intense and fun with Cruise hanging onto the airplane as it takes off. In addition to serving as an excellent hook for the audience, it also leads right into the rest of the plot rather than just being a standalone scene.

Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust in Rogue Nation.

Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust in Rogue Nation.

4. The film follows all the rules of a Mission: Impossible movie with action, twists, as well as an “impossible” break-in to a well-guarded complex. The formula is an old one, but it still seems to work for Rogue Nation.

Rogue Nation – The Bad:

Since Mission: Impossible III, we have been seeing a lot more returning characters to the sequels. But once again, the previous female agent, Jane Carter, from Ghost Protocol is not among them. It felt a bit unbalanced with a team of guys working together instead of at least one female. And yes, we get Ilsa, but, as previously stated, she is a wildcard. We don’t know where her loyalties lie until the very end of Rogue Nation.

Rogue Nation has plenty of action.

Rogue Nation has plenty of action.

Conclusion

 

It’s sort of strange to think that Tom Cruise has been making Mission: Impossible movies for almost 20 years, but he’s still throwing himself headfirst into the role. It’s unclear how many more of these movies he has in him, but, as long as they prove to work with the excellent formula set up in the previous films, I for one will continue to watch them. Rogue Nation still does not surpass Mission: Impossible III for me, but it’s a fun movie that has earned a place in the franchise.

Have you seen the latest installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise? Let us know your thoughts on Rogue Nation in the comments below!

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Review

Ranking The Mission: Impossible Movies

Since its revival in 1996, Tom Cruise has starred in five Mission: Impossible movies. The fifth one, Rogue Nation, hits theaters today. These movies are a testament to the time in which they were created. The somewhat over-the-top gadgets have gotten more advanced and less clunky over the years, the plots have adapted to the times, and the action sequences have become more complex. This list will rank the Mission: Impossible movies starting from the worst and working our way to the top. So let’s plunge right into what the worst that the franchise has to offer…

4. Mission: Impossible II

Mission: Impossible 2

After the successful first movie, it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. However, this movie had a very different tone from the original Mission: Impossible. This could be attributed to the new director, John Woo, who specializes in making action movies, as opposed to Brian De Palma, who can certainly do action but is also known for making thinking and complex movies The Untouchables and Scarface. There was certainly a lot more action going on in this film. However, that is the nature of a Mission: Impossible film. More problems lied with poor supplementals. By supplementals, I mean production values. First, the music was atrocious, which is a surprise from Hans Zimmer, who is a prolific composer nowadays. His overuse of the electric guitar as a lead instrument did not work well for this movie. Second, the cinematography is flashy and oftentimes irrelevant. Whether it’s strange fights in the sand, four different angles of Ethan Hunt aiming his gun before he fires, or the birds flocking in a cellar, the cinematography draws the viewer out of the movie with its lack of subtlety.

Supplementals aside, this movie had some problems in the story department as well. The romance plot was terrible. We knew Ethan Hunt would never end up with a thief, and their romance being almost entirely built off of a narrowly-avoided car crash is a sloppy addendum. Lastly, there was the supposed twist. The first Mission: Impossible made the twist almost entirely about the masks, which worked well with that film. Mission: Impossible II tried to use the masks as well. Unfortunately, the twist was fairly predictable and lackluster, like the rest of this movie. Mission: Impossible II remains the worst of the franchise.

This film gets one fancy camera angle out five.

3. Mission: Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol

There is not much bad you can say about this film. It has a strong cast with Simon Pegg reprising his role as Benji from M:I:III and Jeremy Renner as a former IMF agent with tragic past. However, after Mission: Impossible III, this film felt like a step down. This was not a personal story for Ethan Hunt and lacked the character development of the previous. It also lacked Luther, who only provided a brief cameo in the film. However, the plot is fun and, while Ethan Hunt does not have much character development, the supporting cast has plenty with Benji entering field service for the first time and the revelations of Renner’s past. And let us not forget the cool stunt work on the skyscraper.

This film gets three and a half skyscraper climbing stunts out of five.

2. Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible served as a revival of the franchise from the 1960s. It even featured a character from the old show, Jim Phelps, as played by Jon Voight. This film is a meticulous spy movie in the same realm as From Russia With Love. Danny Elfman’s musical score perfectly creates this tone without much bombast. There is not as much action as any of the others, but the twists and turns keep the film from getting even close to boring. We also have some rather enjoyable gadgets with the gum explosive and the camera eyeglasses. With its twisted plot and ’90s technology, this film is a fun trip down Nostalgia Lane.

It gets four NOC floppy disks out of five.

1. Mission: Impossible III

Mission: Impossible III

After the lackluster second movie, it was nearly six years before audiences saw another Mission: Impossible film enter cinemas. The wait was well worth it with J.J. Abrams taking the helm as director. Mission: Impossible III‘s primary objective was to focus on Ethan Hunt as a person and it does so wonderfully. Ethan is no longer on active field duty but instead trains recruits. He is engaged, which further keeps him from wanting to go back into the field. However, when his superiors ask him to take one last assignment, Ethan’s personal life becomes threatened. Throughout the film, it is the protection of his fiance that drives him, which is why this film has found its way to the top of the list. Of course, Mission: Impossible III has incredible action sequences, a wonderful score from Michael Giacchino (who was just beginning to become well-known at that point), and a solid cast. One would be remiss in not mentioning Philip Seymour Hoffman’s incredible job as the villain.

Mission: Impossible III gets four and a half wind farm chase sequences out of five.

Do you agree with our list? How would rank them? Let us know in the comments!

Ranking The Mission: Impossible Movies

Mission: Impossible – Treating Women like People

I didn’t intend to write anything about Mission Impossible, even with the latest installment of the series debuting in a few days.  But Netflix conspired against me and put the first two movies in the series up on the Recommended for You list.  Inevitably I ended up watching both of them, and there are some things that I feel need to be said about them.

We give Disney and Marvel a lot of grief since, despite all of the things they do right, they have continued to be extremely hesitant to dedicate any time or money to developing their female superhero characters into being much more than supporting characters.  Black Widow easily deserves her own movie.  Hopefully, we’ll see a lot more of Wasp after Ant-Man…but who knows at this point?  We’ll get Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers in a few years, but until then, that’s pretty much it.

The renewed attention to this inequality made it impossible for me to watch the Mission Impossible films and not apply the same concerns here.  So lets look at each movie briefly to see how it treats the female characters vs male characters.

There will be spoilers for the first 4 movies in the franchise, but not for Rogue Nation.  Since the previous entry in the series was released in 2011, I feel no guilt about discussing spoilers.

Mission: Impossible – Franchise Analysis

 

Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible

The movie seems to start out well, as the 6 person team that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is a part of is split right down the middle: 3 men, 3 women.  But that observation falls apart as soon as you examine what each character does.

For the men, we’ve got the Team Leader (Jon Voight), the Point Man (Cruise), and the Computer Guy (Emilio Estevez).  What do the women do?  One of them got a job at the embassy before the action even started, so anything cool or impressive that she did happened completely off camera.  The second’s entire job seems to be to simply stand around, wearing sunglasses indoors, watching how a specific person moves through the crowd.  Definitely not a job that could be performed by a computer or someone hacked into security feeds.

And the third female member of the team?  Her sole qualification seems to be that she is the wife of the Team Leader.

By the time that first team mission is over, the first two female characters have been killed off and the Team Leader’s wife also dies towards the end of the film.  Where her loyalties lie is one of the turning points of the plot, but it’s never particularly clear what skills she brings to the team or why she is even there, other than “the plot demands it”.

 

Mission: Impossible II

mi2

Right off the bat, this movie commits the sin of sending Ethan Hunt to recruit Nyah (Thandie Newton), ostensibly for her skills as a thief, only to upend that assumption when it is revealed that her entire purpose is due to her previous relationship with the movie’s villain.  Whatever skills the character may have are irrelevant.  What’s important is that the character is a woman, and that she’s pretty, and that the villain wants her in the worst kind of way.  At no point does the movie treat her as anything more than a prize to be won.  In fact, it gets worse once she injects herself with the movie’s supervirus, which turns her into a literal prize to be won and woman to be saved.

 

Mission: Impossible III

Mission: Impossible IIIThe only female characters of note in this film are Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell) and Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), respectively Ethan’s protege and fiancé (and later wife).  Lindsey dies at the conclusion of the mission that opens the movie.  Julia is largely a non-presence in the movie, and primarily seems to serve as a plot device so that Ethan can be killed via an electric shock and then brought back, since Julia is a nurse.

 

We do get a female agent, Zhen Lei (Maggie Q), but it’s been a long time since I watched Mission: Impossible III, and the Wikipedia page for this movie doesn’t say anything about this character or what she does in the movie, other than the fact that she exists.

 

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Apparently the marriage to Julia was never meant to last (who knew?), because at the start of this movie she is believed to be dead.  At the end of the movie she is revealed to be alive and well, and that her death was faked in order to protect her while Ethan continues to do crazy stuff for the IMF (while threatening to quit at the end of nearly every movie).  Once again, the character is used as more of a plot device than a character.

It took until the fourth movie in the franchise to give us a female agent that doesn’t die in the opening sequence and isn’t a traitor.  I can’t help but think there’s something wrong with that.  Yet Jane Carter (Paula Patton), for as competent as she is in combat, is effectively a blank slate.  We learn nothing about her history or her character, other than “competent, loyal agent”.   And yet in the same movie we get William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who actually has a story and character arc built around him in the movie.

The Verdict

I suppose an argument can be made that these movies are primarily Tom Cruise movies.  He is the star of the movies, after all, right?  Except that as the movies have progressed we get more and more characters that stick around for the next movie.  Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) has been in every single one of the movies along with Tom Cruise.  Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) joined the team in Mission: Impossible III, with Brandt in Ghost Protocol.

So whoever is running the franchise has absolutely no problem creating new characters to add to the team and building new movies around, so long as they are male.

And that’s the biggest issue I’m having with these movies right now.  The feeling I get coming away from them is that the movie thinks, ultimately, women are interchangeable with each other.

From what I’ve seen of the marketing for Rogue Nation, I can’t say that I’m particularly hopeful that this movie will change things at all.

What do you think about the Mission: Impossible movies? Are we missing any strong, significant female characters? Comment below!

Mission: Impossible – Treating Women like People