Tag Archive: Universal Studios


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you try to get a modern generation of moviegoers to explore the entertainment of the past, you may learn quickly it often just doesn’t work out.  One of the entertainment realms of the past that successfully spanned multiple generations is the Universal Studios monster film series.  The “Universal Monsters” began in the 1920s and stretched into the 1950s, beginning with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera and continuing on into the “modern” technology of 3D in 1954 with The Creature from the Black Lagoon (reviewed here previously at borg.com).  Kids who grew up in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s continued to watch and re-watch the film series years later.  As the horror genre is concerned, it doesn’t get more “classic” than the Universal Monsters.  Now that we’ve entered the month of Halloween, it’s time to start binge-watching the best of the horror genre, and for audiences of all ages the Universal Monsters is a good place to start.  But for the younger crowd not willing to go for the classics, especially black and white classics, you may want to give the new Universal Studios reboot a try–the new “Dark Universe.”  The introductory chapter to the Dark Universe, this summer’s The Mummy starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella, is now streaming on multiple platforms and available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD

The Mummy won’t be for everyone.  Purists loyal to the classic films are the first group that may not go for it–it doesn’t adhere very much by way look or feel to Boris Karloff’s 1932 original version, although the core concept is similar: resurrecting an ancient Egyptian royal entombed without being mummified, followed by a pursuit to resurrect The Entombed’s lover after The Entombed is brought back to life by an archaeologist.  The other group that may pass on the new film are fans of Universal’s more recent decade-long film series that originally starred Brandon Fraser and Rachel Weisz (and later Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), which spanned seven films in all and an animated television series between 1999 and 2008.  Ultimately the best audience for this year’s version of The Mummy will be audiences looking for a new film to rent or stream during this holiday season with a horror flavor.  The Mummy isn’t a romp like the recent film series or memorable like the original, but it is light as horror goes, full of action and plenty of monsters (actually zombies) without much actual gore, and overall it’s a fun way to step into the Halloween zone for general audiences.  And who doesn’t like a zombie movie?

The Mummy stars Tom Cruise as adventurer/soldier Nick Morton (along the lines of Matt Damon in The Great Wall) who, along with another soldier played by Jake Johnson (New Girl), tries to find buried treasure after Nick romances and steals a treasure map from an archaeologist named Dr. Jennifer Halsey, played by Annabelle Wallis (X-Men: First Class, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword).  Not among Cruise’s top films (see last week’s review here of American Made for that) fans of Cruise movies will still find this in the realm of his Mission: Impossible roles.  The mummy of the title is a woman in this incarnation of the horror tale, Princess Ahmanet, played by Sofia Boutella, in a performance that becomes the best aspect of the film.  As with her several recent performances (Atomic Blonde, Star Trek Beyond, Kingsman: The Secret Service), it’s always exciting to see Boutella immerse herself into a role.  The actress who gained early fame as a dancer in Madonna and Michael Jackson music videos seems to easily take on the physical coordination required for this first monster of the Dark Universe.  One of Ahmanet’s powers is raising the dead into zombie defenders, and in several key action sequences the film becomes a full-scale zombie horror flick.  The zombie factor, plus big-budget production value and stars Cruise and Boutella may be enough to satisfy a broader audience’s desire for something new this Halloween.

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We’re at the beginning of something potentially exciting for moviegoers.  The release of the new Universal Pictures movie The Mummy is just the beginning.  Instead of rebooting or adding another sequel to the trilogy of movies from the most recent Universal series titled The Mummy beginning back in 1999, Universal is taking the lead of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and creating a new franchise of interconnected movies.  Beginning this year with The Mummy co-starring Star Trek Beyond’s Sofia Boutella, Tom Cruise, and Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, the classic “Universal Monsters” will be resurrected (literally and figuratively), including Frankenstein’s monster, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein.  Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll represents the first step in that crossover networking of characters across movies that Marvel does so well.

Cruise and Crowe are bringing the star power to ignite this franchise, with Boutella, the latest and greatest kickass action heroine actress, playing a role that evokes for us the power and energy of the DC Comics character Enchantress (who appeared as the villain in last year’s Suicide Squad).   In the latest trailer for the film, released this week, Cruise is clearly in his signature Mission Impossible mode, and the entire trailer has a Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe.  The movie has received buzz for Cruise continuing to rack up performances doing his own stunts, this time in an actual Zero G environment for the airplane attack scenes.

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, known for rebooting and remaking anything and everything they can get theirs hands on, are part of the team putting this new universe together.  Kurtzman will direct The Mummy.  Speaking of the Marvel universe, the music for the film will be created by Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World, and Iron Man 3 composer Brian Tyler, also known for music in several franchises including The Expendables, Now You See Me, Fast and the Furious, and Final Destination series, plus Rambo, Sleepy Hollow, Aliens v. Predator, and Star Trek Enterprise. 

Check out the new trailer for The Mummy:

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mummy-boutella

The release of Universal Pictures new movie The Mummy is already off to a bumpy start, with its release date already bumped a few times.  Instead of a reboot or sequel to the trilogy of movies from the most recent Universal series titled The Mummy beginning in 1999, Universal is branching out to have a go at something like Marvel Comics and DC Comics franchises of sprawling films.  The classic “Universal Monsters” will be resurrected (literally and figuratively), including Frankenstein’s monster, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein.  The go-to producer team for every genre remake these days–Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, is being tapped to put this new universe together.  Kurtzman will direct The Mummy.

Tom Cruise headlines the new film in his next Mission Impossible-style action role, along with Russell Crowe, whose role sounds even more interesting.  He will play Dr. Jekyll.  Star Trek Beyond star Sofia Boutella is the mummy of the title.  The movie co-stars Annabelle Wallis (X-Men: First Class), Jake Johnson (New Girl, Jurassic World), and Courtney B. Vance (The Hunt for Red October, Terminator Genisys).

the-mummy-reboot-poster

Sean Daniel, who produced the most recent Mummy trilogy, is also a producer on the reboot movie.

Check out the above poster released this week, and this first teaser for The Mummy:

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Sing movie

We at borg.com are fans of anthropomorphic animals, whether they come in the form of Muppets or found in Alice in Wonderland or The Golden Compass.  A new movie coming from Universal Studios’ Illumination group, the studio that released Despicable Me, features animals pursuing their musical dreams in the city.  Sing features an all-star cast of actors’ voicing an American Idol-inspired competition.

A trailer released this week reveals a host of endearing competitors.  So endearing you cannot help but want to know… Who is going to win?

Sing stars Matthew McConaughey (a koala bear named Buster Moon who runs a movie theater in need of a kickstart), with contestants Reese Witherspoon (Rosita, a mother pig), Seth MacFarlane (Mike, a mouse), Scarlett Johansson (Ash, a punk rock porcupine), Taron Egerton (Johnny, a young gangsta gorilla), Tori Kelly (Meena, a teenaged elephant), and John C. Reilly.  The film is directed and written by Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

Ash Porcupine Scarlett J

Check out the trailer:

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Jaws19

Plenty of videos have arrived at YouTube for Back to the Future Week, including many on Back to the Future Day itself.  If you missed any, here is your chance to catch up.

First up, here is a Toyota Mirai commercial featuring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd:

Marty McFly and Doc Brown return to 2015 courtesy of The Jimmy Kimmel Show:

Universal Pictures produced a fun trailer for Jaws 19:

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creature from black lagoon poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

Who is my favorite Universal Studios classic movie monster?  I have always answered The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I first watched the web-footed and web-handed fellow with gills in 3D on local network television on one Friday night many years ago.  I am not sure cable TV was yet making its headway across the country, but the “creature feature” was something marketed for a few weeks over the summer.  The local CBS affiliate, if I recall correctly, teamed up with the local Hy-Vee grocery store to hand out those cardboard and vellum 3D glasses.  I knew early on that The Creature was the first and only one of the classic monsters filmed and shown in theaters in 3D back in 1954.  My trusty World Almanac told me it wasn’t the first 3D film released–that went to the African lion film Bwana Devil in 1952.

As part of my current quest to sample the best of 3D movies on Blu-ray, finding The Creature from the Black Lagoon on the very short list of released 3D films was a big win.  Back in 1997 in Seattle where basic DVDs were first released in a major U.S. market, I remember digging through a short box at the big Suncoast store but feeling similarly dismayed, until I noticed A Boy and His Dog among the early conversions to digital video.  The Creature is a great starting point for modern 3D, giving the current technology some historical context.

Creature in 3D

Thanks in large part to make-up guru Bud Westport’s incredible creature suit and mask, the film holds up as well as any modern classic.  In fact, viewing The Creature back to back with Predator 3D (reviewed here earlier this month), it’s surprising how similar the films are.  Take away the sci-fi intro to Predator and you have a jungle adventure with another otherworldly creature.  As with Predator 3D, the multi-layered jungle comes alive in The Creature, and the careful placement of actors onscreen gives a crystal clear dimensional image that doesn’t waver.  Better yet, you have to look hard to see The Creature’s air bubbles–mostly he swims for seemingly long stints underwater with no apparent breathing going on.  And let’s not forget both of these films are part of the horror genre–each character gets picked off one by one by the monster until only a few are left for a final life-or-death showdown.

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riddick-blu-ray-box-art

Review by C.J. Bunce

Many times when a movie is heavy with CGI and matte paintings, the overall look can suffer.  Not so with Riddick, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on January 14.  In his third live-action performance as Riddick, Vin Diesel finds his character marooned on an unnamed desert planet in its own primitive, almost Jurassic stage.  The first half of the film showcases the night-visioned anti-hero in an almost Conan the Barbarian-like quest for survival in a very Frank Frazetta-inspired fantasy world setting.  It’s a setting that really pops in the new hi-definition Blu-ray format.  We’ve previewed the Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios, including its extra features.

Riddick manages to surpass the epic second franchise entry Chronicles of Riddick with its more basic and tightly-written survival story.  We get a cameo from Karl Urban’s Vaako, including some of those great Necromonger soldiers and futuristic costumes familiar to fans of the series.  But this Riddick has more of the feel of the first entry into this world, Pitch Black, also written and directed by David Twohy.  Because Twohy has maintained control over the universe and its characters, the three films (plus the early animated entry, Dark Fury) all make for a cohesive and well-designed saga.  Twohy discusses his take on the character at length in the special feature “The Twohy Touch.”

Riddick and storm

Along with the stunning Monument Valley on Mars sets is some excellent CGI and motion capture creature work, including vicious mud-demons which take Riddick down a Ridley Scott-esque path toward films end, and some dog-like jackal beasts.  Riddick ends up raising one of these dogs as he finds his way through challenges to grasslands and an abandoned science station, where much of the remaining action takes place.  He sets off an S.O.S. beacon which brings two opposing groups of bounty hunter mercenaries, one to get the bounty for his head in a box, the other a military based group with a more personal agenda.  Their two ships become Riddick’s target for a plan to leave the planet.  His shadow ninja abilities allow him to drop in on these mercs, and create his own form of psychological war.  And his early encounter with the mud-demons plays into the coming rainstorm and his face-off with the mercs.

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