Critics Are Burying Tom Cruise In ‘The Mummy’

If you were going to indulge in some ’90s nostalgia with The Mummy reboot later this month, you might want to rethink your plans — the early reviews are in, and they’re not looking good.

Starring Tom Cruise, The Mummy is the second ’90s reboot to hit our screen in the last few weeks, following on the disastrous return of Baywatch. But despite negative reviews, it seems like Hollywood just can’t help itself.

In the coming months, we can expect more reboots of all your childhood favorites like Tomb Raider, Rambo, The Matrix, Resident Evil — and Top Gun, which after the reviews of Cruise’s performance in The Mummy, makes us more than a little concerned.

Aside from the original Mummy never being that good in the first place, the main issue with the release is that this isn’t a stand-alone movie. The Mummy is the first of a series of releases to come out of the newly-formed Universal Monsters Movie Universe.

It’s similar to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe but instead of Wonder Woman, Iron Man and Spider-Man, the universe is based around famous literary figures such as Frankenstein, Invisible Man and Wolf Man. So even if (or when) this tanks, we can probably expect quite a few more Mummy appearances.

Read the reviews below and then if you’re still not convinced, see The Mummy for yourself when it hits theaters June 19.

The Good

“An odd but frothily entertaining genre cocktail, which coasts on the charisma of its two biggest names and keeps things just fun enough to forgive its considerable lapses in narrative.”

Dan Jolin, Empire

The Meh

“I’m not sure that this aimless, lukewarm, but occasionally rollicking take on The Mummy is how the studio dreamed that its Dark Universe would kick off. But it’s just good enough to keep you curious about what comes next.”

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

“The Mummy tries a fresh spin on the classic monster with a gender-swapped villain and Dark Universe connections but winds up a stale action reboot.”

Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

“The Mummy’s true curse is that it’s doomed to sacrifice its moments of fun, breezy spectacle for overwrought world-building.”

Clint Worthington, Consequence of Sound

The Bad

“Obviously the worst movie that Tom Cruise has ever made.”

David Ehrlich, indieWire

“It will be argued that this one was made not for the critics but for the fans. Which is no doubt true. Every con game is played with suckers in mind.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times

“Whenever the action stops, though, the film becomes derivative and empty headed, Strip away the bandages and there really isn’t very much here at all.”

Geoffrey Macnab, Independent (UK)

“How meh is The Mummy? Let me count the ways. For all the digital desperation from overworked computers, this Tom Cruise reboot lands onscreen with a resounding thud. Epic fail”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“It’s hard to muster anything like desire for another Dark Universe flick after seeing this limp, thrill-free debut.”

John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

“A depressing watch, and not only because it’s an awkward, misshapen mess. It’s also because it finds the last classic movie star giving up and giving in.”

Matt Prigge, Metro

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Princess Diana of Themyscira was sculpted from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, brought to life by Aphrodite and bequeathed her superhuman powers by the Greek gods. Over the 75 years she has been kept off the big screen, her fitful appearances on the small screen, most notably in the Lynda Carter TV series and on animated shows like Super Friends and Justice League, have made it easy to forget that Wonder Woman is not one of us. She wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider or transformed by some environmental cataclysm and instead was born a demigod, above and apart from the flaws and frailties of humankind.

Of the many things the new Wonder Woman gets right, the first and most important is a triumph of scale, of emphasizing the alien immensity of Princess Diana before she mingles with humans and accepts her civilian alter ego, Diana Prince. In that respect, director Patty Jenkins has successfully modeled the classicism of the original 1978 Superman, which also builds up the alien mythos of its hero before Clark Kent turns up in nerd glasses and identifies more closely with the denizens of his adopted planet.

It’s not unfair to say that Jenkins has gone the conservative route, adopting a risk-averse strategy that is closer to the tightly managed Marvel Cinematic Universe than that of Wonder Woman’s DC Comics. With its World War I adventure plot, in fact, Wonder Woman could be tagged a gender-reversed Captain America: The First Avenger. But the conservative choice also happens to be the right one, and the film has the scale and storytelling clarity to sell the mythology and give Princess Diana the stature her many titles suggest. Here, she is a figure of remarkable totemic power.

The most critical stretch of the film — and the best — comes at the beginning, when Diana (Gal Gadot) is growing up among the other Amazon women on Themyscira, an island cloaked by an invisible shield to protect its inhabitants from Ares, the god of war. Over the objections of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana starts training with her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), for the epic battle they’re all certain will eventually reach their shores. For as long as it remains untouched, the island is an appealing feminine utopia of benevolent values and esprit de corps, a powerful contrast to the fractious world outside its magical borders.

That innocence is lost when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a U.S. fighter pilot, crash-lands on Themyscira and brings the war with him. After she and her fellow warriors fend off Steve’s German attackers, Diana takes an interest in him — he is the first man she has ever met, after all — and in the call to end World War I, which she is certain is Ares’ handiwork. Packing her bulletproof bracelets, her golden “Lasso of Truth” and a “God-Killer” sword with which to slay Ares, Diana ships off to London with Steve, joining his covert mission to dismantle a weapons program headed by a power-mad general (Danny Huston) and a chemist named Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya).

Before sending her off into war, Wonder Woman takes advantage of the fish-out-of-water comedy of Diana leaving her tranquil island paradise for the soot-choked gray of industrialized London, where women don’t enjoy the freedoms to which she is accustomed. Gadot’s physical presence as Wonder Woman was established in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but she handles the Diana Prince side with equal dexterity, whether puzzling over the excessive formalities of early 20th century womanhood or trading banter with Steve and his abashed comrades. Diana’s near-invulnerability to human dictates gives her the freedom to dismiss their social mores, which can be played as alternately funny and empowering.

Wonder Woman loses some of its edge when the uniqueness of her origin story and her acclimation to people and a new environment gives way to more familiar effects-driven conflict. The original comic had Steve and Diana fighting Nazis, and while the shift back to World War I is a sensible choice, given the overwhelming nature of Nazi iconography, it occasionally flattens the film into rote action-adventure. Once the showdown with Ares finally materializes, Jenkins can’t solve the common problem that god-versus-god matchups tend to result in two characters tightening their faces and shooting beams of light at each other.

Even in its weaker moments, Wonder Woman honors the scale of a superhero who stands alongside Superman and Batman in the DC lexicon but has never had a vehicle worthy of her. Jenkins and Gadot do the hard work of properly establishing her stature on screen for the first time. She can go anywhere from here.

Woman-Only Wonder Woman Screenings Piss Some Nerds Off, Naturally

There’s a certain subsection of our culture that has become addicted to the siren call of unadulterated internet-based rage. You know who they are. They’re the perpetual contrarian who trolls through the comments on youtube videos constantly questioning the sexual orientation of every positive reviewer. They’re the rage-tweeter who rails against the injustices of safe spaces on campuses and refugees who are given the chance to not be bombed to death. They’re… assholes, basically. And once again they’ve rallied under the cause of trashing an event so they don’t have to dwell on how little they’ve got going on in their personal lives.

The Alamo Drafthouse—one of the country’s premier movie theater chains, which we recently wrote about in a long feature, this week announced their intention to have a “women only” viewing night for forthcoming Wonder Woman film. The film is already touted as a sort of pro-feminist empowerment film, so it almost makes too much sense to try and have an all-female screening of the film. It’s a decent marketing strategy guided by legitimately good intentions. And it’s not like Alamo Drafthouse exists in a vacuum; there are plenty of other, cheaper theaters willing to let women and men co-mingle while watching what is ostensibly a movie for nerds.

The Alamo Drafthouse website offers a very tongue-in-cheek description of the event:

The most iconic superheroine in comic book history finally has her own movie, and what better way to celebrate than with an all-female screening? Apologies, gentlemen, but we’re embracing our girl power and saying ‘No Guys Allowed’ for one special night at the Alamo Ritz. And when we say ‘People Who Identify As Women Only,’ we mean it. Everyone working at this screening, venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team, will be female. So lasso your geeky girlfriends together and grab your tickets to this celebration of one of the most enduring and inspiring characters ever created.

Naturally, this horrendous affront to the oft-marginalized subsection of America known as “men” couldn’t slip past unnoticed. For many, they saw it as not only their prerogative to voice their displeasure at such injustice—nay, it is their duty. As Americans, as men, they demanded the right to watch one of the first, large budget female superhero films alongside these “real women” they’ve heard so much about. To separate them is akin to discrimination. Or war crimes.

The 20 Blockbuster Movies You Have to See this Summer

As the weather shifts in most parts of the country, the calming breeze of summer also brings with it all the audible booms, laughs and spectacle associated with blockbuster season at the movies.

Viewed in Hollywood as a time to present some of the biggest and most expensive films produced all year, the sheer number of returning franchises, A-list directors and stars showing up this season feels like there is more available to consume than is humanly possible.

Have no fear. We’ve sifted through the summer slate to guide you towards the 20 films that should be on your release radar this year — no matter if you favor remakes, reboots or originals.

Alien: Covenant

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When: May 19

According to its official synopsis, Alien: Covenant follows the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy when they discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world whose only inhabitant is David (Michael Fassbender), the sole surviving member of the Prometheus expedition.

Many view Ridley Scott’s film as the bridge between what occurred in Prometheus — a tepidly received film that still made $400 million USD worldwide — and the events of the film that introduced him to the filmgoing public in 1979, Alien.

“I thought I’d left science fiction for too long, that I had better climb back in. Prometheus was a great experience for me,” Scott told Empire. “Chasing number two, we can start evolving the grand idea.”

According to an early review, “[Scott’s] latest Alien: Covenant is really an Alien spinoff in name only — it is basically a sequel to Prometheus. But clearly Fox thought it might have more commercial potential going out under the Alien franchise. All that said, Scott’s latest effort in the genre is a decent, extremely well made but not startlingly different version of all that has come before.”

Baywatch

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When: May 25

Baywatch seems to be cut from a similar cloth as the 21 Jump Street reboot starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. In both cases, the sensibilities and plausibly seems distinctly 80’s/early ’90s, but that doesn’t really matter because these type of films rely solely on the chemistry between the leads.

In the case of Baywatch, The Rock dons the signature red swimsuit and finds Zac Efron playing his quizzical, right hand man.

With humor and raunchiness seemingly ratcheted up to a 10, it looks like the type of film where you can laugh with and at it.

War Machine

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When: May 26

The entertainment slate if certainly changing when one of the most bankable movie stars in recent memory, Brad Pitt, is starring in a war-based film that is available to Netflix subscribers as opposed to theatergoers.

War Machine finds Pitt playing a thinly fictionalized story of the fired U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, a general who was profiled in Rolling Stone which played a large part in his undoing.

As “General. Glenn McMahon,” Pitt takes the absurdity of war to new heights — without ever teetering on mockery of those on the ground or in the trenches.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

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When: May 26

Although there is a little bit of malaise when it comes to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (this is the fifth installment), the films are never dull and you never once feel like the actor is merely phoning it in.

With Javier Bardem installed in the role as chief nemesis, Captain Salazar, the plot involving the unlikely bond between Sparrow and two unlikely heroes definitely evokes feelings of the first film in the series, The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Wonder Woman

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When: June 2

A lot of the criticism about the superhero universes — whether it be Marvel or D.C. — is that it lacked any perspective other than that of a white male.

That’s all changing.

Director Patty Jenkins, has joined three other females filmmakers, Kathryn Bigelow and Lana and Lilly Wachowski, as the only four women helmets to ever to be handed a hundred million dollar production budget.

Best known for Monster — which starred Charlize Theron in an Academy Award–winning role — Jenkins hasn’t been shy about the arduous journey to bring legitimacy to Wonder Woman who is getting her first live-action standalone feature.

In an interview with Empire, Jenkins was asked about her thoughts about female representation — both in front and behind the camera — stating, “I think it’s pretty significant, but I also didn’t think about it that way at all. I tried not to think about it, and that’s the great thing about being a woman director doing it, is I was like, “Oh, I’m just making a superhero movie.” I’m not looking at her as being any different than any other superhero. And that’s the victory. I think the reason that there wasn’t a woman superhero made for a long time is because people were assuming that it had to be a different kind of thing. Or more rarefied, or something. This is Wonder Woman. There’s nothing different. There’s Batman, there’s Superman, there’s Wonder Woman,” she continued. “She’s the full-blown real deal. So it’s very significant, but I also just went forth trying to make a great superhero film the same way I would have with any of them, which was great.”

The Mummy

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When: June 9

It may seem head scratching to some that Tom Cruise is joining another franchise when he’s already got Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher. But with an impeccable taste for smart and high-octane action, clearly he saw something in The Mummy which last hit theaters in 2008.

Unlike other installments, the titular nemesis will be played by a woman — Sofia Boutella — while Russell Crowe takes on the infamous role of Dr. Jeckyll/Mr.Hyde as Universal Pictures looks to expand into what industry insiders have called a “Monsters Universe” that will featured the notable doctor, Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and Van Helsing.

Director Alex Kurtzman has commented on the tone of the film and his hero, stating, ” I think that our goal is to make a movie that’s full of suspense, full of adventure, that has moments of horror but that isn’t defined as “a horror movie,” and that will ultimately scare the shit out of you. This goes back to the requirement, I think, of having an unpredictable Tom Cruise in the movie. Because if you remove from the audience’s mind, “Oh I know he’s going to save the day,” and in fact go, “He really might not, he has no idea what to do here,” now I’m in a situation where I’m kind of scared FOR him because I don’t know what he’s going to do and I don’t know what’s coming.”

All Eyez on Me

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When: June 16

Music biopics can certainly be hit or miss. For every Ray, there is Notorious. For every Walk the Line there is Nina.

As one of the most notable hip-hop artists ever, here’s hoping that Tupac Shakur’s life story falls in the former category.

Newcomer actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. is in the role of Tupac and Walking Dead star, Danai Gurira, is Tupac’s activist mother, Afeni Shakur — two casting choices that feel based in natural fit as opposed to relying solely on biggest name recognition.

But theatergoers should still be weary. The Benny Boom-directed film hasn’t received full support from the Shakur estate.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Insiders say they view the film as a lightweight movie that isn’t particularly accurate.”

Here’s holding out hope that the film is steeped in truth; even if that means painting Shakur in a negative light in certain circumstances.

Rough Night

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When: June 16

Directed by Lucia Aniello — in her directorial debut — and written by Aniello and frequent collaborator, Paul W. Downs, with whom the pair has shined as some of the chief creatives behind Broad City, Rough Night focuses on five female best friends who gather for a wild bachelorette party in Miami and end up killing a male exotic dancer.

With Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz as the friends in question, the trailer has hints of Bridesmaids but with a much darker tone to it.

Transformers: The Last Knight

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When: June 21

You know if Michael Bay is calling this Transformers film his swan song, he’s going to go out in an explosive manner with more over-the-top pyrotechnics and CGI-laden madness than a person can manage.

With Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci reprising their roles from Age of Extinction — alongside Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and John Turturro from the first three films — The Last Knight focuses once again on humans and transformers are at war — but with one major caveat: Optimus Prime is gone and the key to saving Earth lies in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

Baby Driver

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When: June 28

Although the “one last job” is a tired trope — even in Hollywood — the congregation of talent assembled for Baby Driver makes it certainly one of the most intriguing films of the summer.

Spearheaded by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Ansel Elgort is installed in the role of “Baby” — a seasoned getaway driver who finds himself overwhelmed by the demands of a criminal kingpin (Kevin Spacey) and introduces him to a band of characters played by the likes of Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm.

What makes the film so different is that the action is fueled by Baby’s love of music. Its not that he enjoys music, it’s that he’s obsessive about it — so much so that it threatens to derail tasks that have dire consequences.

As The Atlantic noted, “The heist scenes and car chases are expertly matched to these songs, turning Baby Driver into a sort of jukebox musical-slash-caper movie.”

The Hollywood Reporter echoed their sentiments, calling it, “a Gone in 60 Seconds for the La La Land crowd.”

The House

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When: June 30

Playing off the notion that parents will do just about anything to ensure a better life for their children, The House centers on a married couple (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) who resort to opening an underground casino in their own residence as a means of finding enough cash to send their daughter to college.

While it would be one thing to simply invite a few people over to play games of poker in the garage, the hilarity seems to stem from the idea that if you cultivate an experience more akin to Las Vegas — despite being restricted to a single family home — the money will come that much quicker.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

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When: July 7

Everything you know and remember about the previous five Spider-Man films should be thrown completely out the window. There’s no place or relevance after Sony managed to bring the webbed one back to Marvel after the superhero factory sold away the rights for $7 million USD in 1999.

What’s particularly fresh about this new iteration is that although Peter Parker is indeed special, filmmaker, Jon Watts, is focusing more on what it’s like to tell a coming-of-age story in a world where superheroes already exist.

“What’s great about Spider-Man is that he’s a regular kid,” said Watts. “So by showing his story you also get to show what the ground level is like in a world where the Avengers exist, which is already, I think, a great premise for a movie.”

Actor Tom Holland steps into the role previous held by Andrew Garfield and Toby McGuire, while Michael Keaton assumes the role of his chief nemesis, Adrian Tomes.

For those wanting a little substance and nuance with your heroes, this seems to be the film for you.

“We will not see him swing down Fifth Avenue in this movie,” said producer Eric Carroll. “We will not see him 40 stories off the ground, acting like that is not the most terrifying thing he will do that day. It’s something we’re going to show him working up to. He’s going to work up to being the Spider-Man we know he’ll become someday.”

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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When: July 12

As both a writer and director, Luc Besson is responsible for some of the biggest action spectacles in recent memory like The Fifth Element, The Transporter, Taken and Lucy.

His latest — Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — in which he assumes the duties of both writer and director, the film adaptation of one of the most successful graphic novels in Europe centers on Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) who are special operatives for the government of the human territories charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Under directive from their Commander (Clive Owen), Valerian and Laureline embark on a mission to the breathtaking intergalactic city of Alpha, an ever-expanding metropolis comprised of thousands of different species from all four corners of the universe. Unfortunately, not everyone on Alpha shares in these same objectives; in fact, unseen forces are at work, placing their race in great danger.

With a budget of €197.47 EUR, — making it the most expensive French production ever — the film has over 200 different alien species and has all the makings of an immersive a world as presented in The Fifth Element.

War for the Planet of the Apes

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When: July 14

What continually keeps the Apes franchise so fresh and exciting is that the it’s the animals like Caesar — and not the humans — who audiences root for. This radical idea completely turns genre tropes on their head and creates a new template for what it means for the fate of the world to be at stake.

Simply put, who’s world is it?

That question with be answered in the third film of the franchise as filmmaker Matt Reeves (who is taking over the Batman franchise) and producer, Peter Chernin, have stated that this will be the final chapter in Caesar’s story.

“We made a very conscious decision, frankly, when we started thinking about this seven or eight years ago, to look at these three movies as a trilogy in a lot of ways,” said Chernin. “It was inevitable from the moment apes gained intelligence that apes and humans were going to be on a collision course for what would be the dominant species on Earth. And this movie is the war to resolve that dominance. We’ve always looked at this as a three-part story. And the appropriate ending of that story is to see which species dominates.”

Dunkirk

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When: July 21

When it comes to filmmakers like Christopher Nolan who choose their projects very carefully, there’s a certain amount of trust that he’s already established thanks to a nearly flawless track record which spans multiple genres.

Trading the allure of space or Gotham City for an epic World War II drama, Dunkirk in Nolan’s own words, “is not a war film. It’s a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film. So while there is a high level of intensity to it, it does not necessarily concern itself with the bloody aspects of combat, which have been so well done in so many films.”

Splitting the film into sections relating to exploits in the land, air and sea, the film is supposedly light on dialogue and boils down to one central idea: which of these men will make it out of this harrowing experience with their lives?

Atomic Blonde

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When: July 28

With a precedent already set thanks to kick-ass heroines like in Salt, Hanna and Lucy, Atomic Blonde follows in that tradition and stars Charlize Theron as an undercover MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, who is sent to Berlin five days before the Berlin Wall falls to uncover a conspiracy that led to the death of a fellow agent.

Highly stylized, energetic and featuring a soundtrack featuring the likes of George Michael, New Order and Flock of Seagulls, the film is directed by John Wick helmer, David Leitch, who has also taken over the Deadpool franchise and who supposedly achieved a six-minute fight sequences without ever yelling “cut.”

The Dark Tower

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When: August 4

People have been clamoring for a film adaptation of Steven King’s popular Dark Tower series since the late ’80s. For every stride forward — thanks to attachments/commitments from filmmakers like JJ Abrams and Ron Howard — any hope would ultimately be derailed when they fell out and pursued new projects.

Not only are we finally getting a Dark Tower film, but the two chief thespians in the role of Roland Deschain and The Man in Black, Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, suggest that all of our patience will ultimately lead to a version that can actually live up to the hype.

For those that have read the books, it’s believed the story will pick up where the first novel starts.

“I expect that the movie will start where the book starts,” King explained. “You know, ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,’ so I think that nails it right in place for people. I’ve been pretty insistent about that, and I think everybody’s pretty on board with it.”

However, the story will bridge many novels and may jump to the third book of the series, The Wastelands.

“It starts sort of the middle of the story rather than the beginning,” King added, “which may upset some of the fans a little bit, but they’ll get behind it because it is the story.”

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

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When: August 18

With an A-list pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a film ripe with irony thanks to an arrangement which finds two rival bodyguards forced to work together after years of being on opposite sides of the bloodshed.

While the film could have steered into a more serious tone, instead it’s decidedly more comedic as the new and unexpected union certainly bares fruit as they take on a ruthless European dictator.

Death Note

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When: August 25

Based off the Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, Death Note is Netflix’s attempt to bolster their supernatural/thriller fare.

When a teenager gets possession of a mystical notebook, he soon learns that whoever’s name he writes down inside will die. Thus, he decides to take on a hoard of evil men and do away with the poison they are injecting into the city.

But when a detective begins to put the pieces together, it sends the two on a collision course for one another.

American Assassin

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When: September 15

With revenge deep-seeded in his heart due to his childhood upbringing and later the death of his fiancee, Dylan O’Brien’s Mitch Rapp is certainly a lost soul until he is given new direction for a specialized assignment within the CIA to top a mysterious operative who is intent on starting a world war in the Middle East.

Movie Review: Alien: Covenant

Warning: mild plot spoilers ahead for the upcoming summer film Alien: Covenant, though we plan to focus more on the overall Alien sci-fi franchise and some of the science depicted in the movie.

So, are you excited for the 2017 movie season? U.S. Memorial Day weekend is almost upon us, and that means big ticket, explosion-laden sci-fi flicks and reboots/sequels. Lots of sequels. We recently got a chance to check out Alien: Covenant opening Thursday, May 18th as the second prequel and the seventh film (if you count 2004’s Alien vs. Predator offshoot) in the Alien franchise.

We’ll say right up front that we were both excited and skeptical to see the film… excited, because the early Alien films still stand as some of the best horror sci-fi ever made. But we were skeptical, as 2012’s Prometheus was lackluster at best. Plus, Prometheus hits you with an astronomical doozy in the form of the “alien star chart” right off the bat, not a great first step. Probably the best scene is Noomi Rapace’s terrifying self-surgery to remove the alien parasite. Mark Watney had to do something similar to remove the antenna impaled in his side in The Martian. Apparently, Ridley Scott likes to use this sort of scene to really gross audiences out. The second Aliens film probably stands as the benchmark for the series, and the third film lost fans almost immediately with the death of Newt at the very beginning, the girl Sigourney Weaver and crew fought so hard to save in Aliens.

How well does Alien: Covenant hold up? Well, while it was a better attempt at a prequel than Prometheus, it approaches though doesn’t surpass the iconic first two. Alien: Covenant is very similar to Aliens, right down to the same action beats.

The story opens as the crew of the first Earth interstellar colony ship Covenant heads towards a promised paradise planet Origae-6. En route, the crew receives a distress signal from the world where the ill-fated Prometheus disappeared, and detours to investigate. If you’ve never seen an Alien film before, we can tell you that investigating a mysterious transmission is always a very bad idea, as blood and gore via face-hugging parasites is bound to ensue. As with every Alien film, the crew of the Covenant is an entirely new cast, with Katherine Waterston as the new chief protagonist similar to Sigourney Weaver in the original films. And like any sci-fi horror film, expect few survivors.

Alien: Covenant is a worthy addition to the Alien franchise for fans who know what to expect, hearkening back to the original films. As a summer blockbuster, it has a bit of an uphill battle, with a slower opening before the real drama begins.

So how does the science of Alien: Covenant hold up?

The Good: Well, as with the earlier films, we always liked how the aliens in the franchise were truly, well, alien, not just human actors with cosmetic flourishes such as antennae or pointed ears. Humans are the result of evolutionary fortuity, assuring that an alien life form will trend more towards the heptapods in Arrival than Star Trek’s Mr. Spock. Still more is revealed about the parasitic aliens in Alien: Covenant, though the whole idea of a inter-genetic human alien hybrid advanced in the later films seems like a tall order… what if their DNA helix curled the wrong way? Or was triple or single, instead of double stranded?

Spaceships spin for gravity in the Alien universe, and I always liked Scott’s industrial-looking, gray steel and rough edges world in the Alien films, very 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Now, for a very few pedantic nit picks. You knew they were coming, right? In the opening scenes, the Covenant gets hit with a “neutrino burst” dramatically disabling the deployed solar array and killing a portion of the hibernating crew. Through neutrinos are real, they, for the most part, pass right through solid matter, with nary a hit. Millions are passing through you and me, right now. The burst is later described as due to a “stellar ignition event” (a flare? Maybe a nova?) Though the crew states there’s no way to predict these beforehand… but even today there is, as missions such as the Solar Dynamics Observatory and SOHO monitor Sol around the clock. And we do know which nearby stars such as Betelgeuse and Spica are likely to go supernova, and that red dwarfs are tempestuous flare stars. An interstellar colonization mission would (or at least should) know to monitor nearby stars (if any) for activity. True, a similar sort of maguffin in the form of the overblown Mars sandstorm was used in The Martian to get things rolling plot-wise, but we think maybe something like equally unpredictable bursts high-energy cosmic rays would be a bigger threat to an interstellar mission.

The crew also decides to detour while moving at presumably relativistic speeds to investigate the strange signal. This actually happens lots in sci-fi, as it seems as easy as running errands around town to simply hop from one world to the next. In reality, mass and change of momentum are costly affairs in terms of energy. In space, you want to get there quickly, but any interstellar mission would involve long stretches of slow acceleration followed by deceleration to enter orbit at your destination… changing this flight plan would be out of the question, even for the futuristic crew of the Covenant.

Another tiny quibble: the Covenant’s computer pinpoints the source of the mysterious signal, and gives its coordinates in right ascension and declination. OK, this is good: RA and declination are part of a real coordinate system astronomers use to find things in the sky… here on Earth. It’s an equatorial system, though, hardly handy when you get out into space. Maybe a reference system using the plane of the Milky Way galaxy would be more useful.

But of course, had the crew of the Covenant uneventfully made it to Origae-6 and lived happily ever after stomach-exploding parasite free, there would be no film. Alien: Covenant is a worthy addition to the franchise and a better prequel attempt than Prometheus… though it doesn’t quite live up to the thrill ride of the first two, a tough act to follow in the realm of horror sci-fi.

Wonder Woman Goes to War, Kicks Ass in Final Trailer

After initial concerns that there wasn’t enough advertising for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, the trailers are out in full force now — and Diana of Themyscira is certainly forceful in them. The final trailer, which premiered on Sunday night during the MTV Movie & TV Awards, shows Wonder Woman heading off to World War I to kick all sorts of ass and reveals more of the plot and one of the film’s villains: Doctor Poison.

The trailer opens with little Diana talking with her mom, Hippolyta, before bedtime. Diana wants to fight (and promises she’ll be really careful and just use a shield), but Hippolyta warns that fighting does not make you a hero. This scene is intercut with shots of an adult Diana stepping out of the trenches on the trenches on the Western Front under a hail of gunfire.

From there, Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor crash-lands and explains WWI to the Amazons. He says they’re in danger, warning that the evil, masked Doctor Poison is creating terrifying weapons. Diana wants to go back with Steve to help put a stop to the fighting (pretty heroic, no?), but her mother won’t have it. So, instead, she steals her iconic weapons and armor from the armory and heads off to war.

Wonder Woman will be released in theaters on June 2, 2017.

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Movie Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2’

To clear the record, I liked “Guardians of the Galaxy” quite a lot. The fact that I didn’t love it as much as some should be noted going into this review of the sequel.

I was way down for the first movie’s irreverence and the pure fun of its space action. I was less down for a busy plot that had the unenviable job of introducing a full team of players. I’ll bet a lot more people remember the fun they had than the actual events of the film.

This leaves “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” less weighed down with introductions, but facing the expectations of its successful predecessor. And, just as I was in the minority on the like/love spectrum for the original, I may be in the minority with this position: I like “Vol. 2” even better.

There’s still plenty of plot, but this time we know most of the players. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still leading the team, battling baddies and his own demons shaped by the space father he never knew.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is dealing with her own family drama in a reunion with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), making for a pretty fierce sibling rivalry.

Bringing both humor and some surprising emotional depth are the muscle-y Drax (Dave Bautista) and the rodent-y Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). And, yes, as you’ll recall, we’ve also got Baby Groot (voiced, apparently, by Vin Diesel, though it’s hard to tell). Groots gonna Groot.

There’s also returning baddie Yondu (Michael Rooker) and a new character played by Kurt Russell. Hmm, I wonder who he could be …

Director James Gunn still has a lot of plates to spin in terms of plot and characters, but operating under the assumption that the audience is caught up, things feel more focused than the original. This gives him more room to do what he does best: make audiences in movie theaters have as much fun as possible.

A whimsical action set-piece that runs over the opening credits is a great tone-setter — and also the first in a number of moments that make this one a recommended upgrade to the 3-D experience. The Guardians battling a massive interdimensional creature as Baby Groot boogies to oldies is the perfect way to set the plate.

The cast is still charming, and the effects are a three-dimensional eye orgy. But what made “Guardians” (and then “Deadpool”) such refreshing additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the winking and wisecracking humor. That’s on full display here, as “Vol. 2” remixes all the elements into a great popcorn/space-buddy flick.

Don’t Feel Bad For ‘Netflix Spring Bingeing’

Call it Netflix’s spring binge.

At the end of March, Netflix released the critically acclaimed “13 Reasons Why.” April featured new shows “Girl Boss” and “Bill Nye Saves the World,” while May’s lineup includes the second season of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” along with the return of binge favorite “House of Cards,” back for its fifth season.

Many will relish getting lost for hours on end in these shows. But others might feel guilty about their extended screen time, seeing it as sign of laziness. Or maybe they’ve seen an article about one of those studies linking binge watching to depression.

As a professor of communication studies, I’m interested in understanding the ways people use TV, video games and social media to improve their well-being. And I’ve learned that even though watching TV gets a bad rap as the “junk food” of media diets, it can be good for you — as long as you give yourself permission to indulge.

Why TV gets the shaft

My colleagues and I collected some data suggesting that there is, in fact, a double standard for how we think about different media bingeing experiences. We administered a survey that recorded participants’ thoughts about reading or watching TV for certain amounts of time.

Respondents associated more attributes like laziness and impulsivity with people who consume several hours of a television show in one sitting, compared to those who do the same with novels.

This finding probably comes as no surprise.

Although reading a novel for several hours at a time for entertainment can arguably be just as sedentary and addictive as watching TV, no derogatory term like “bingeing” exists for the act of devouring an entire Harry Potter novel in one night. We simply call it “reading.”

Just think about the pejorative term “binge,” which conjures images of excess and abuse (as with binge eating or binge drinking). Contrast this with “marathon viewing,” which connotes accomplishment, and has traditionally been used to describe the experience of consuming multiple installments of film – not TV series – in rapid succession.

Why is it that we “binge” when we watch a lot of TV, but it’s a “marathon” when we watch a bunch of movies?

Perhaps this double standard is rooted in television’s lower status as a source of entertainment. Historically, TV viewing has been considered a mindless activity, capable of dulling the intellect with “a vast wasteland” of shallow, lowbrow content. Watching TV has also been regarded as a lazy activity that displaces time spent on more active, productive pursuits. Avid viewers of the “boob tube” or “idiot box” will get stereotyped as “lazy couch potatoes.”

Meanwhile, headline-grabbing research linking TV viewing to depression and loneliness hasn’t helped binge viewing’s reputation. These correlational studies may give the misleading impression that only depressed or lonely people engage in binge watching —– or worse, that binge viewing can make people depressed and lonely.

In truth, it’s just as likely that people who are depressed or lonely due to unrelated life circumstances (say, unemployment or a break-up) simply choose to spend their time binge watching. There’s no evidence to suggest that binge watching actually makes people depressed or lonely.

The good news about binge watching

But binge viewing TV has become popular for a good reason: Despite its negative reputation, television has never been better. We are in the midst of a golden age of television, with a variety of shows that provide a steady diet of novel premises, long-running, elaborate plots and morally complicated characters. Far from dulling the intellect, these shows create more suspense, interest and opportunities for critical engagement.

According to journalist and media theorist Steven Johnson, watching these shows may even make you smarter. He argues that because television narratives have become increasingly complex, they require viewers to follow more storyline threads and juggle more characters and relationships. All of this makes the audience more cognitively sophisticated.

Gorging on stories is pleasurable, too. When individuals binge watch, they are thought to have what’s called a “flow experience.” Flow is an intrinsically pleasurable feeling of being completely immersed in a show’s storyline. In a flow state of mind, viewers intently focus on following the story and it’s easier for them to lose awareness of other things, including time, while they’re wrapped up in viewing. One study found that viewers will continue viewing additional episodes in order to maintain this positive flow state, so there is an addictive quality to binge viewing. Interruptions like advertising can break the continuous viewing cycle by disrupting the flow state and drawing viewers out of the story. Luckily, for TV bingers, Netflix and Hulu are ad-free.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits binge watching can offer is psychological escape from daily stresses. What better way to decompress than watching four (or seven) straight episodes of “House of Cards”? A 2014 study found that people who were particularly drained after stressful work or school experiences watched TV to recharge and recuperate.

Unfortunately, this study also found that TV watching didn’t help everybody. Individuals who bought into the “lazy couch potato” stereotype enjoyed fewer benefits from watching TV. Instead of feeling revitalized after watching TV, they felt guilty.

The researchers believe that the shame associated with TV watching can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, making it hard for viewers to reap psychological benefits.

For this reason, we need to shake the notion that bingeing on stories we engage with on TV is somehow less worthy leisure pursuit than bingeing on stories that we consume other ways, like novels. Immersing ourselves in narratives on TV can be good for us, even in heavy doses, but only if we truly appreciate it for what it is: a pleasure. Not a guilty pleasure, simply a pleasure.

The 10 Best New Things on Netflix This Month

At first glance, it looks like May is going to be a great month for Netflix subscribers. We’re getting new seasons of both House of Cards and Master of None, some excellent sci-fi and fight movies, some educational documentaries, etc. But when we look at what’s leaving, we can’t help but wince: The Jurassic Park trilogy, Invincible, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Seasons 1-5), Graceland (Seasons 1-3), Bob’s Burgers Season 2, and quite a few others. So it’s going to hurt, but let’s look on the bright side.  May is still offering us far more good than bad. Here are the 10 best things coming to Netflix in May.

Sense8 Season 2

May 5

If you’re into action, drama, and sci-fi, Sense8 is going to be one of those shows that blows your mind. The show revolves around the lives of eight random strangers from all over the world who suddenly become emotionally and psychologically linked. These eight people can lend each other certain skills and powers, and if it sounds like a bit of a mind fuck, it’s because it is. Importantly, the show finds interesting and unique ways of addressing different real-world issues like gender, politics, race, and identity—which we definitely appreciate.

The Mars Generation

May 5

If you’ve paid attention to the news at all over the last few years, you’ve noticed that America—once the world’s largest pioneer of space exploration—has dialed back quite a bit on its plans to live among the stars. Not a great way to honor the legacy of the Moon Landings, but maybe we can make up for it. The Mars Generation is a Netflix Original documentary about a group of kids who are training and studying to ensure that this generation will be the first one to put footprints in Martian soil. Look for interviews by esteemed scientists and space travel pioneers like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Elon Musk, as well as the kids with their hearts and eyes focused on what’s out there (and more).

Mindhorn

May 12

A serial killer is on the loose and the only man that may be able to stop him is… A washed up actor from a forgotten 1980’s detective crime drama? Yup. The film’s writing and humor is distinctly British (as is its cast), and it’s great to see a new way of dealing with the nostalgia people have for the 1980s.  Tint those glasses rose as deeply as you’d like, 80s entertainment was cheesy as hell.

Master of None Season 2

May 12

The second season of the acclaimed Netflix Original series Master of None debuts May 12, and we’d be willing to bet Season 2 is going to be a whole new type of adventure. What makes Master of None so good is that it’s always funny, but adds to that incredible honesty and relatability. It accomplishes something a lot of “funny shows” tend to miss out on—purposeful authenticity. From the trailer, it looks like Alan Yang (Ansari) somehow winds up in Italy/Europe, rides a scooter, meets a ton of new women he probably won’t date, etc. For that and whatever else he gets up to, we can’t wait.

Inglourious Basterds

May 22

We’re gonna be doing one thing and one thing only, and that’s killin’ Nazis! Ugh, we love this WWII action comedy from Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs). The film stars Brad Pitt (in a role eerily similar to the one he’ll be playing in War Machine) as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a member of the First Special Service Force tasked with putting together a team of Jewish-born American soldiers to go kick Nazi ass. It’s hysterical, crude, and particularly gory. And unless you like Nazis, you’ll likely love this film.

Southpaw

May 24

We love a good fight movie, and when it’s brilliantly written and stars an all-star cast? More please. Southpaw, written by none other than Kurt Sutter and starring Jake Gyllanhaal, Forest Whitaker, and Rachel McAdams, follows the rise, fall, and redemption of Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllanhaal), a prized boxer whose life is destroyed after his wild antics and hot head result in the murder of his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams). Billy hits rock bottom and loses his fancy house, as well as custody of his daughter. Billy seeks out the help of trainer Titus “Tick” Wills (Whitaker), who eventually reluctantly agrees to train him for a fight against Miguel—the very man responsible for the death of his wife. It’s a tad on the overly dramatic side, but definitely worth the watch.

Bloodline Season 3

May 26

The only real way to describe Bloodline is: “A complete and utterly mind bending cluster fuck.” It truly is one of those shows you watch, gripping your couch the whole time and yelling, “Oh holy shit!” over and over and over again. We could write paragraphs on the show’s twisted and all-over-the-map plot line, but there just isn’t time. Instead, imagine the hands-down worst family you’ve ever seen, complete with psychotic behavior, murder, and all the other fun stuff bad families are made of. Few would argue that Season 2 was anywhere near as good as Season 1, but we’re optimistic that Season 3, which debuts May 26 and will be the show’s final season, will once again bring the heat.

War Machine

May 26

As years-long subscribers, we’ve been blown away by how much of a media giant Netflix has managed to establish itself as over the last couple years. And if anyone was in doubt of that status, try this. You know you’ve made it when Brad Pitt is starring in one of your original movies.

War Machine stars Pitt as four-star General Glen McMahon, a decorated leader tasked with bringing the war in Afghanistan to an end after eight long and trying years. The film is a brilliant satire/parody that explores the relationship between war and politics, and how the media influence the lives of the world’s shot callers. Pitt isn’t the only name to look out for, either. Notable additions include Topher Grace (no, really), John Magaro, Anthony Michael Hall, and the one and only Alan Ruck. We’re betting this one’s going to be a winner.

Doctor Strange

May 30

The Box Office smash (more than $677 million!) Doctor Strange also makes its way to Netflix in May. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Vincent Strange, a disgraced former surgeon-turned powerful sorcerer who must protect the world from Kaecilius, an evil sorcerer hellbent on destroying everything. Critics and comic book nerds alike praised the film, and we have to agree—if you haven’t yet, check this one out.

House of Cards Season 5

May 30

Another “Oh holy shit, what’s even happening right now?” kind of Netflix Original series,  House of Cards debuts its fifth season May 30 and boy, if you thought our actual political sphere was in total chaos, wait until you see this shit. It’s a lot to get into, but the show follows the political career of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), from his time as South Carolina Congressman to his rise to President of the United States. Season 4 ended in tumult with the Islamic Caliphate (yeah, we know), which appears to have led to a full-on world war (yeah, we know). We’re excited to see where Season 5 ends up, especially knowing the show’s history of going everywhere viewers never thought possible.

Here’s Why April 26 Is “Alien Day”

Today is “Alien Day,” an unofficial holiday for fans of the iconic space-horror franchise and a big promotional event for the studio behind the upcoming Alien: Covenant. This year will see the release of a new Alien VR experience, a Q&A session about Covenant, and the return of the original 1979 classic to select theaters. But why April 26 of all days? The answer is a fun little Easter egg — one that hopefully won’t hatch into a Facehugger.

Aliens, the 1986 action sequel to Ridley Scott’s original, takes place on a colonial moon known as Acheron. However, before it was given a proper name the moon was known as LV-426. Hence, Alien Day is on 4/26. The first official Alien Day was only last year to celebrate Aliens’s 30th anniversary, so it made sense.

For 2017’s Alien Day, though, the big event is probably the livestream, which you can catch over at Alien Universe starting at 1 p.m. Eastern. There will be a Q&A with the cast of Covenant along with exclusive footage from the upcoming movie. For more information about some of the minor Alien Day events, including merch revivals and details about Alien screenings, go to the website.