The Adventures of Lovemore and Dash

The Lost City is basically Galaxy Quest if it were set in a jungle. The movie was only brought to my attention after I saw a trailer in theaters. It made me laugh, so I figured I’d go see it. Although I could’ve waited to see it on DVD or streaming, I miss those pre-pandemic days where I could see something brainless without thinking about it. Even the title The Lost City doesn’t try harder than it has to.

Loretta Sage is a disillusioned romantic adventure novelist who wants The Lost City of D to be her final book. Alan is her book’s hunky yet dimwitted cover model with a secret crush on her. When Loretta is kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire believing her book to be real, it’s up to Alan to rescue her. Imagine Anne Rice and Fabio if they were trapped in the jungle together. Sandra Bullock in a purple sequin suit is just as funny and attractive as she was in her younger days. I’m glad she hasn’t been cast aside like so many aging actresses.

Though she is significantly older than Channing Tatum, they both bring the same amount of energy to their respective roles. Daniel Radcliffe is younger than both, but I still buy him as the villainous billionaire. Loretta and Alan’s adventure is pretty basic and straightforward. Just to kill time, Da’Vine Joy Randolph has a subplot as Loretta’s publicist trying to find them. Not every joke lands, but Brad Pitt’s cameo as a stereotypical action hero is hilarious. The Lost City looks and sounds generic, but it’s actually sweeter after difficulty.

The Lost City

Loretta and Alan trek through the jungle

The Secret of the Unicorn

The Adventures of Tintin is Indiana Jones for kids. Tintin is a young journalist and globetrotting adventurer created in 1929 by Belgium cartoonist Hergé. His adventures took him all around the world, but many of his older stories are extremely dated. For decades Tintin stayed relevant with a series of European comic books, radio shows, cartoons, video games, and feature films both live-action and animated. Although I’m American, I knew about Tintin for many years. Mostly thanks to references made on The Simpsons and Arthur. So a major Hollywood motion picture didn’t surprise me too much. What is surprising is the impressive amount of talent connected to the movie. Hergé believed Steven Spielberg was the perfect director for a faithful Tintin movie after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark. It took several decades of development, but Spielberg finally honored his dying wish.

I’m not sure he was expecting a computer animated motion capture film shot in 3D. Which technically makes The Adventures of Tintin the only animated Spielberg movie. Although mo-cap directors James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis visited the set, it was actually producer Peter Jackson who made the suggestion. That way the movie could somewhat creepily recreate Hergé’s artwork with photorealistic animation. Most comic characters are present including Tintin, his faithful dog Snowy, their crusty companion Captain Haddock, and bumbling police duo Thomson and Thompson. The latter two were voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost since Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish wrote the film. Jamie Bell already proved himself to Jackson after appearing in King Kong. Andy Serkis was already a mo-cap expert, but now he had a chance to be funny. Snowy is entirely CGI and doesn’t speak since it would’ve been too distracting.

Although Tintin is a PG rated Nickelodeon movie, they aren’t above intense gun-toting action or Haddock’s comedic drunkenness. The plot draws heavily from the comic The Secret of the Unicorn. An adventure where Tintin meets Haddock and they both search for a lost ship connected to Haddock’s ancestor. Daniel Craig plays the British villain who constantly pursues the heroes. They face great dangers by plane, by boat, and by motorcycle. A motorcycle chase is particularly thrilling since it’s animated to look like one take. Unlike most adventure films, the treasure isn’t exactly found by the end. A sequel directed by Peter Jackson has been talked about for a long time, but nothing has come of it. Tintin was just a moderate success that only managed to win the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature. Shockingly, the only Oscar nomination it got was Best Original Score. Rango (another 2011 Nickelodeon movie) ironically won Best Animated Feature in its place. The Adventures of Tintin is a perfectly fine adventure that needed more name recognition.

The Adventures of Tintin

Tintin and Snowy read about the Unicorn

Failure is Not an Option

G.I. Jane gets the job done. Believe it or not, I’ve been meaning to watch and review G.I. Jane for over 3 years. So the recent attention the movie’s gotten is purely a coincidence. For one reason or another, it’s always been on my radar. I think I was drawn to the idea of a female soldier proving herself in the military. Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil is hand selected by female Senator Lillian DeHaven to prove women can handle basic training and combat in the U.S. Navy.

Demi Moore put herself through hell by putting on muscle and infamously shaving her head for the part. O’Neil’s training is rough, but she doesn’t want any special treatment or to be the poster child for women’s rights. It’s actually kind of inspirational. Especially when she wins the respect of her ruthless Master Chief played by Viggo Mortensen. Ridley Scott is no stranger to girl power after directing something like Thelma & Louise. Despite his direction, G.I. Jane drew a mixed reaction.

Demi Moore won the Razzie for Worst Actress, but I think she was unfairly treated after Striptease. Though they do find an excuse to get her naked. I honestly think G.I. Jane deserves a reevaluation, because it’s actually a pretty solid action movie. The feminist message isn’t too heavy handed and Moore gives it her all. I guess my only complaint would be the confusing direction Anne Bancroft’s Senator takes and the way Scott shot some of the war scenes. All I can say is G.I. Jane isn’t worth a slap in the face.

G.I. Jane

Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil falls in

Diving Without a Parachute

Uncharted is a video game adaptation several years in the making. Sony wanted to make a movie based on the Naughty Dog title ever since the first game was released. It makes sense since Uncharted has always felt very cinematic. The action/adventure franchise is a PlayStation exclusive popular for its classic treasure hunting premise. Most people would think Lara Croft is the quintessential video game explorer, but Nathan Drake is pretty cool too. My brother made sure we played Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune before the movie came out. Uncharted had a decade long development cycle that went through a revolving door of directors, writers, and stars.

Directing duties eventually went to Ruben Fleischer, but Nathan Drake was a different story. Although Nathan Fillion was born to play Drake, Sony went with their golden boy instead. Tom Holland is way too young for the part and calling the movie a prequel doesn’t make things better. Mark Wahlberg was another choice to play Drake, but he was instead cast as himself playing Drake’s ill-fated mentor Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Sully doesn’t even get his trademark mustache or cigar until the very end. Another important part of the game left out is Nathan’s main love interest Elena Fisher.

She’s instead replaced by later love interest Chloe Frazer played by Sophia Ali. Nathan Drake searches for the Magellan expedition treasure that his brother Sam was looking for. Sully and Chloe betray Nathan at every turn, but he manages to find the gold by the end. Antonio Banderas and Tati Gabrielle play villainous treasure hunters who also end up betraying each other. Despite a bizarre lack of gun use, fight scenes are pretty good. The central action scene are the perilous airplane crates that appear in the third game. Uncharted is as cliché as any other treasure hunt, but it is entertaining.

Uncharted

Nathan Drake holds on to crates

Falling Off the Roof

Assassin’s Creed assassinated any hope that an adaptation could break the video game movie curse. No matter how promising it seemed. I’ve never played Assassin’s Creed, but I know how iconic it is. The movie had a very long production with Michael Fassbender always intended to star. Although the games usually followed a different assassin, I’m sure creating original characters was their attempt to keep fans from turning on them. Fans are probably the only people who will understand it since the convoluted plot is barely explained to casual audiences.

Cal Lynch is a modern day death row inmate abducted by the shadowy Abstergo Foundation. His body is hooked up to an advanced Animus rig that uses his DNA to unlock memories from his ancestors. Cal’s ancestor Aguilar de Nerha is part of the Assassin Brotherhood who fight the Templar Order during the 1492 Spanish Inquisition. It’s probably a lot more fun to play then to watch. Since all of his memories play out without him affecting them.

All the wrist bladed fights, rooftop jumping, and leap of faith aren’t as exciting as they should be. It doesn’t help that the signature white Assassin cloaks are a painfully dull grey. Not even a respectable cast consisting of Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, or Brendan Gleeson can save it. The horribly cliché plot centers around the Apple of Eden that can affect free will. I honestly forgot most of the movie because it was so boring. Assassin’s Creed has such a unique premise that’s ultimately wasted on yet another video game failure.

Assassin's Creed

Aguilar de Nerha’s leap of faith

Prince Dastan and the Quest for the Time Dagger

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was Disney’s first attempt at trying to recapture the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. Both are rated PG-13 with swashbuckling action/adventure. Disney also enlisted Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell and even made dated LEGO sets for the movie. The difference is Prince of Persia being based on a video game. Something I wasn’t aware of when I decided to go see the movie by myself. The 2003 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made. I never played or even heard of it beforehand, so I judged the movie without expectations.

Prince of Persia is actually one of the more entertaining video game adaptations, but just as flawed as the rest. The unnamed Prince is given the name Dastan and Jake Gyllenhaal was chosen to play him. Gyllenhaal is more than capable of doing a big budget action role, but the Prince is basically Aladdin if he were Persian. Gemma Arterton and Toby Kebbell have the same problem as Dastan’s love interest and brother respectively. Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina are the only actors who fit as the obvious twist villain and untrustworthy mentor figure respectively. They do manage to capture the action of the game with a heavy emphasis on jumps and parkour. The adventure kicks off when Dastan retrieves a magic dagger from an enemy kingdom.

Like the game, the dagger contains the “Sands of Time” which allow the user to travel back in time for one minute. A useful power that isn’t used as often as it should be. Prince Dastan goes on the run with the shrewish Princess Tamia in order to stop a plot to take over the Persian kingdom. Along the way fighting snake henchmen, spike throwing assassins, and his own uncle with a very cliché motivation. Like most time travel movies, the solution to undo everything kills a lot of character development. Regardless of quality, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has more effort put into it than most movies based on video games.

Prince of Persia The Sands of Time

Prince Dastan evades enemies

Agents of Old

The King’s Man is the prequel to Kingsman that doesn’t need to exist. Since The Secret Service was such a big hit, it was quickly followed by the disappointing The Golden Circle. I thought it would end there, but franchise director Matthew Vaughn had other plans. Rather than continue Eggy’s spy adventures, The King’s Man goes all the way back to World War I when the Kingsman organization was first formed. I don’t think I was ever interested in the concept. Trailers and promotional campaigns tried to capture the feel of the previous movies, but they’re all false advertising. The King’s Man feels more like a serious WWI historical epic that happens to have Kingsman in it. When it tries to be funny, it feels out of place.

Despite the Fox/Disney merger, the movie at least maintains an R rating with moderately bloody violence and intermittent F bombs. Action scenes involving canes and sword pistols are probably when it most felt like the other movies. Otherwise, The King’s Man is most concerned with giving the audience a history lesson. Ralph Fiennes essentially fills Harry Hart’s role as Kingsman founder Orlando Oxford. Harris Dickinson sort of fills the role of Eggy as Conrad Oxford, but the trailers never indicated that they were father and son. Even though Orlando sets up a spy network, Conrad would rather join the war effort. Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou do their best as a spy maid and butler, but it’s just not the same.

Tom Hollander plays all three leaders of Britain, Germany, and Russia trying to prevent the Great War. Like the rest of the movies, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson is made to look bad when he doesn’t join the fight. Actors like Daniel Brühl as Hanussen are part of an evil organization of tyrants, but it’s Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin who was relentlessly marketed as the main villain. His performance is seriously over-the-top and doesn’t last the entire movie. Really it’s Matthew Goode as a shadowy Scottish war monger that’s technically the main villain. I wasn’t invested enough to care about the twist. Nor was I excited when Kingsman finally established its founding members. I’m not even sure a sequel set in World War II will ever happen. The King’s Man is better left untold.

The King's Man

Orlando hands his son Conrad a gun

Followed by: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Racing in SPACE!

F9 is officially running on car fumes. With no rhyme or reason, the title has now been shortened to simply F9 or the even more bizarre F9: The Fast Saga. We had to wait an entire year for it thanks to the Pandemic. This time Corona was their enemy. After 9 whole movies (and a spin-off), the Fast & Furious franchise continues to complicate a franchise built on fast cars and beautiful woman. Hobbs & Shaw was a dumb fun detour, but Dwayne Johnson officially wants nothing to do with Vin Diesel. So he had to be replaced by another professional wrestler turned actor. Except that John Cena ended up playing Dom’s long lost brother who conveniently hasn’t been mentioned until the 9th freaking installment. That’s one thing, but Cena also looks nothing like Diesel or Jordana Brewster. Despite being retired the same time that Brian was, Mia returns since there’s too much family drama at stake.

Jakob Toretto is a master thief, assassin, and high performance driver trying to take over the world with yet another McGuffin called Project Aries that can control all technology or something. A bratty Danish aristocrat finances his mission and Charlize Theron’s Cipher is now imprisoned with an even more ridiculous bowl cut. Dom and Letty come out of retirement after dropping off their son Brian with Brian. With Mr. Nobody out of the picture, the team now consists of: Dom, Letty, Rome, Tej, and Ramsey. Helen Mirren only returns for an out of nowhere car chase and Jason Statham only shows up for a surprise cameo. Since director Justin Lin returns after a 3 movie absence, Sung Kang returns as Han in the most nonsensical way possible. Despite the franchise spanning magnitude of his death, Han is only around to protect a girl linked to the doomsday device.

Normally I enjoy the increasingly convoluted franchise, but F9 feels off with a new writer and an overlong runtime. There are several flashbacks explaining how Dom and Jakob became estranged. Despite the out of nowhere presence of Cardi B, the only cars and butts scene is a classy all-white dress party. Jokes also have poor timing with far too much self awareness from Rome about how they keeping escaping death. At least the action is still awesome despite physics no longer existing. A car swings from a rope bridge, Dom tackles his brother from a zipline, and high powered magnets are used in several car chases. But F9 is the movie that finally sends the team into space. The crew from Tokyo Drift somehow became rocket scientists who send a car piloted by Rome and Tej into space. I have no clue where the franchise could possibly go from here, but F9 feels like peak brainlessness.

10. F9

Dom confronts his brother Jakob

Preceded by: The Fate of the Furious

There’s No Need to Fear

Underdog is a treat for the young and the old. As long as you don’t care how many times it’s been told. It’s yet another failed attempt by Disney to adapt an old Saturday-morning cartoon. Underdog is the only animated animal superhero lucky enough to get his own movie. I guess we’ll have to wait for the Mighty Mouse, Atom Ant, or Super Chicken movie. Since my mom enjoyed the 60’s series growing up, my brother and I decided to see the movie with her. Even though Underdog is basically Superman with a dog (Krypto?), we did enjoy it when it first came out. Despite all the changes and Disneyfication of the simple superhero story.

Underdog is a little more concerned with a “boy and his dog” story. Shoeshine is just a regular Beagle given that name after licking a shoe. When he gains superpowers, Shoeshine adopts the name Underdog, learns to rhyme, and fights some crime. Since he isn’t anthropomorphic, Underdog has a whiny teenager by his side named Jack. He has a standard deceased mom and a distant dad who used to be a cop played by Jim Belushi. The same year he did Alvin and the Chipmunks, Jason Lee voiced Underdog. He feels just as miscast here as he was there. The high pitched Underdog doesn’t exactly sound right with his My Name is Earl voice.

His reporter love interest Polly Purebred is also a regular Cavalier King Charles Spaniel now belonging to a high school reporter named Molly played by Taylor Momsen. Amy Adams ironically voices Polly several years before she played Lois Lane. Wolf gangster Riff Raff is also changed to a bully Rottweiler voiced by Brad Garrett. Peter Dinklage and Patrick Warburton are really trying their hardest as the wicked scientist Dr. Simon Barsinister and his dimwitted lackey Cad respectively. Just like Superman, Underdog stops petty crime, flies with Polly, loses his powers, and saves his city from destruction. It’s derivative, but at least his theme song is still catchy. There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!

Underdog

Underdog flies

Put the Bunny Back in the Box

Con Air is literally Die Hard on a plane and I love it. Between The Rock and Face/Off, I knew I needed to complete the Nicolas Cage 90’s action trilogy. I just wish I’d seen it sooner. Con Air is just as cheesy and far fetched as most movies starring Cage. Especially if it’s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer or directed by Simon West. This time Cage has an interesting Alabama accent and sports a glorious mane. Of course they play “Sweet Home Alabama,” but I never knew “How Do I Live?” originated from this film (or that it was Oscar nominated).

Cameron Poe is an Army Ranger turned convict who spends years in prison after defending himself from punks. He leaves behind his wife and unborn daughter who turns 7 by the time he’s paroled. Poe is transported on the titular Con Air airplane filled with murderous convicts. What could possibly go wrong? Aside from the guitar riff that plays whenever he does something badass, Cage isn’t the biggest overractor in the movie. The cast is loaded with familiar faces from the 90’s. John Malkovich is the insane, yet calculating Cyrus “The Virus” who organizes a prison escape. You got Ving Rhames as a black militant, Dave Chappelle as a coke fiend, Danny Trejo as a sex criminal, and several other criminals with their own trademark.

Steve Buscemi is a particularly fascinating serial killer who feels like he belongs in another movie. Poe’s only allies are his diabetic cellmate ironically played by Buba himself Mykelti Williamson and Rachel Ticotin as the only female prison guard. John Cusack and Colm Meaney take care of things on the outside as a feuding US Marshall and DEA agent. Although there’s an extended sequence at a landing zone and a tacked on climax on a firetruck, most of the action is on the plane. It’s tense, action-packed, and hilarious. The most memorable moment involves a criminal threatening the stuffed bunny Poe got for his daughter. Con Air gave Cage the perfect vehicle to unleash.

Con Air

Cameron Poe runs from an explosion