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The Lovers • The Mummy

June 8, 2017

The Lovers (***) R

I really like Debra Winger and I’ve missed seeing her onscreen in the sixteen years since we last saw her in a theatrical feature. Her superb performance in The Lovers­—one of the best things about the film and something that almost single-handedly saved the picture for me—brought that all back to me in a way I hadn’t expected. Winger is one of those actresses having a certain something that’s indefinable but also unmistakable. Seeing her in The Lovers I couldn’t help but believe that I’d be inclined to see her act out sections of a telephone directory if that were the case.

The premise of The Lovers is certainly unique. At least I can’t recall seeing anything quite like it in my years of movie going. Here we have two people, Mary and Michael (Winger and the playwright and Tony-winning actor, Tracey Letts), married for decades, who’ve grown so bored and accustomed to each other that they’ve decided to conduct affairs. The passion has long dissipated in their relationship. Then one day, suddenly and without warning, the couple have a renewed interest in each other leading to complications wherein the couple have to begin making excuses to their current bedroom partners (Melora Walters, Aiden Gillen).

Their son (Tyler Ross), who’s grown to accept that his parents are going through the motions in their marriage, comes into the picture during the final act of the film.

Winger and Letts in The Lovers

He wants to introduce his girlfriend to his family and is quite taken aback when he discovers that his mom and dad seem to be crazy for each other. This, of course, is something he certainly wasn’t counting on and he finds it a bit disconcerting. 

It must be mentioned  that Tracey Letts, who plays the husband in the film, is also a very strong asset as well. Letts was in so many films last year in supporting roles that I lost count and he’s really becoming a welcome presence in films like this. Having him play opposite Winger in this film as a male lead is an incredibly brilliant strike of good casting and their chemistry is quite palpable in the film.

If there is a quibble to be made it would be at the ‘gotcha’ ending that concludes The Lovers. It never feels exactly like the logical ending and seems a bit as if it was thrown in just to surprise as opposed to an organic story development. Still, when you have actors as good as Letts and Winger it’s awfully hard to complain.

The Mummy (**) PG-13    

If there’s one thing to admire about the latest version of The Mummy (as if we needed another Mummy movie) it’s the film’s star, Tom Cruise. He’s fifty-six years old now and technically eligible for AARP status. Stop for a moment and let that sink in, if you will.     

And yet the star’s physical prowess onscreen is something to behold. In The Mummy he runs and runs and runs and jumps across obstacles as if he were a former track star half his age. In the film, I’m assuming that Cruise did some of his own stunts, if not all of them. Considering the fact that he’s done most of them in the last several installments in the Mission: Impossible franchise I’d say that’s a reasonable assumption. Whatever the case may be it’s safe to say that the novelty of watching an actor quickly approaching the age of sixty pull off the things that Tom Cruise does in this film is one of the assets to be found in The Mummy.   On the other hand, if The Mummy was a more interesting film I may not have had as much time to mull over the age of the film’s star as I did.

The Mummy provides a shaky start to what Universal Pictures, the film’s distributor, is hoping to be the launching pad for a new franchise that will showcase the studio’s rich history of movie monsters, which also includes Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, etc.

As seen in the film’s opening credits, the franchise has been labeled Dark Universe.

Annabelle Wallis & Cruise in The Mummy

Since franchise fever seems to have inflicted all of the major film studios these days it’s no surprise that Universal would want to mine the vaults of its properties in order to jump on that bandwagon. I just wish it were a better start to what may have had potential.  

For starters, The Mummy is probably one of the least interesting characters of all of the Universal monsters. The character certainly wasn’t served well in Universal’s previous series of Mummy films from the late 90s/early 2000s, which starred Brendan Fraser and were best forgotten. This version may be marginally better but the difference is somewhat akin to splitting hairs.  

The plot is the standard one found in these films wherein an ancient Egyptian ruler whose life was taken away, in this case a Princess (Sofia Boutella), is disturbed and seeks revenge. Cruise’s character, Nick Morton, is responsible for stirring up the ancient evil after attempting to get rich by carting off some of the riches found in those sacred burial grounds. If it sounds familiar that’s because it is. Even the presence of Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jeckyll (yes, that one) doesn’t really do much for the film as it eventually collapses under the weight of the bloated CGI action scenes.  

The Mummy has many problems, most notably the clunky feel of it story which is credited to three writers. The film is directed by Alex Kurtzman, a replacement for two previous directors who walked off the project due to creative differences. All of that creative turmoil should tell us something. The message it’s sending, however, may not be the one that the creative team would like us to receive.

The Lovers is playing in Charlotte and in Winston-Salem. The Mummy is playing everywhere.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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