The Week in Old Entertainment: June 28th, 2013

Phonograph

 

Although I really wanted to do a full review about the hilarious This is the End I find I am unable to really categorize that as Old Entertainment as of yet. However, the consumption of Milky Way bars in this household has shot up by about 386%.

The past week of Old Entertainment brings me to one movie I patiently waited to see and a trilogy of movies I know too well and wish I didn’t: Hitchcock & the Mummy movies.

Hitchcock, unlike Hancock of a few weeks ago, is a movie I tried to see when it was new and had some difficulty finding a convenient theater showing it. At the time, I thought that was odd, especially in the light of Sir Anthony Hopkins portrayal of the well-known director and the film’s clear motivation to get into the Academy Award nominations. At long last, the Netflix DVD arrived and watch this movie I did.

What a delight! My better half admitted during the movie that she wished she knew Hitchcock’s movies a little better, but the film does a fantastic job of laying on a certain amount of deliberate “Hitch-schtick” that mimicked his style quite nicely. Interestingly, the movie has much to do about director Alfred Hitchcock’s making of the film Psycho, but much more to do with the relationship between he and his wife, Alma, portrayed by the brilliantly reserved Helen Mirren. Hopkins and Mirren trade withering sarcasm, genius wit, and passive-aggressive flares in two very sharply written parts that was a pleasure to watch. They were a perfect couple, too, in that when one wasn’t filling the screen with acerbic banter, the other stepped in to do the job.

This movie hit every nail on the head, for me, it was exactly what I wanted it to be! So why no box-office or award love? The Hitchcock makeup on Hopkins didn’t really make him look all that much like Alfred H., but he certainly had the correct profile and figure. There’s not a true and dynamic threat in plot of this movie, which might be being overly critical since it is a biopic, but the cute and quick-thinking dialogue of the film more than made up for any lack of dramatic weight. Come to think of it, the shooting of the famous Psycho shower scene with Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson is a thrilling moment…  I have no clue as to the lack of this film’s success. I highly recommend it.

Hitchcock gets a score of 9 birds (and a chipmunk) sitting outside your window. Looking in. Right at this moment.

I’m going to give the Mummy series with Brendan Fraser a little credit: the 1999 “loose” remake of the 1932 Boris Karloff classic is a fun movie. It’s not Pirates of the Caribbean, but the two movie trilogies deserve a strong comparison as to where the three movies fit with one another. Just to have something on in the background while I work, or while playing, I put movies I know really well on in the background, so I recently put The Mummy in the player and gave it a half-view. Some minor plot-points aside, The Mummy holds up rather well. I’m not sure why, but Arnold Vosloo is a fun guy to watch in that little cloth diaper as he stalks about ancient ruins and crowded Cairo streets. Brendan Fraser does his thing, and I am accepting of that, only because Rachel Weisz strikes gold as the befuddled, yet still librarian-sexy Evelynn, and we also get the mysterious and likable Oded Fehr playing the guy trying to protect the secret of the mummy’s tomb (I could tell you his character is named Ardeth Bay, but who remembers that? I just want him to play the Red Viper in Game of Thrones, Season 4!).  If only movie studios had the restraint to leave a good thing be. To let it rest and retire like a cowboy riding off into the sunset.

Alas, The Mummy Returns was made two short years later with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hyped up in the billing. The Rock is in The Mummy Returns for about 6 and a half minutes, I think. I had to re-watch the beginning of this movie a number of times just to see his line deliveries in made-up ancient Egyptian. Did you ever have to make film projects for foreign language classes in high school? Delivering your lines with little or no inflection or modulation whatsoever? That’s the Rock before he became comfortable on screen as Dwayne Johnson.

The Mummy Returns is the kind of movie described in Hitchcock as “stillborn.” It’s almost insulting, like someone specifically made this movie only to provide wasted1930’s chase scenes to life. There’s the mummy/double-decker bus chase scene in London, the atrocious CG of Imhotep’s face as a tidal wave chasing a blimp through a narrow canyon, the awful plot montage of Fraser & Weisz’s son leaving sand-clues as they go from one iconic Egyptian structure to the next. Most of the so-called plot is thrown aside anyway in favor of poor CG-monsters like Anubis’ jackal-headed army of death, pygmy skeleton warriors, and the triumphant center-piece of this pu-pu-platter: a hybrid man-scorpion demon with the Rock’s head superimposed on the top. Best part about re-watching The Mummy Returns? Realizing that the female antagonist character is played by the same woman who portrayed Arrested Development’s Marta – Patricia Velasquez. I don’t know if one role yielded the other for that actress, but one phrase for her must have been familiar: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Then, for no sane reason, they made The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I think someone noticed in 2008 that neither Jet Li and Brendan Fraser were doing anything in particular or maybe these two got drunk at a club down on Sunset Blvd? Regardless, this movie was made, without Rachel Weisz and without the Egyptian setting. The movie succeeds in a few areas, namely any scene that had Michelle Yeoh in it, Jet Li turning into a dragon or shooting firebolts out of his eyes, and all the scenes acted by the hard-working and woefully underpaid CG-Yetis. This movie was won, and the plot, too, on the backs of CG-Yetis.

OK, the first offering is good and then the movie studios tried to wrench blood from a turnip with sequels – this is the story of both The Mummy and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. What I never understood about The Mummy Returns and Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is how the script tried justifying Brendan Fraser’s ridiculous character. He’s portrayed in the first sequel as a man unable to retire (at his golden age of what – 38?) and in the second sequel as a man unable to connect to his son, who’s also a wooden actor unable to correctly portray an emotional range (oh, cruel irony). I would have dispensed with the justifications and seen Fraser do his funny-faced shouts and gun show.

As a whole, I would give the Mummy movies score of 4 tombs plundered. The first in the series was grand, but the series presented as a whole is dreck.

Although I’m not ready to review them as yet, I have been re-reading both my Sandman Chronicles, by Neil Gaiman, and the subsequent spin-off Lucifer, by Mike Carey. Sandman is past iconic, it’s a building block of modern comics and a key piece of meta-physical fantasy and as such I cannot review them. They are past review.

Lucifer is different. Few I speak to know of it, but those who do really love it. The premise alone is worth the ticket price: the angel Lucifer abdicates the throne of Hell and opens a classy piano bar in Los Angeles. From there the series explores themes of divinity, control, destiny, fate, free will, and the end of the world. It will get its own review as I continue to re-read, but one should know already that I love it and you should give it a shot.

Lucifer

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About recalcitrant041

Andrew Babcock has manifest destiny on his mind. The road west is paved with basketball, psychic dreams, passable egg-toast, Dungeons & Dragons, and haiku.

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