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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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The reviews promised epic awfulness, but The Mummy is just dull.

June 11, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →


Sofia Boutella in Kingsman could slice and dice The Mummy.

I love bad movies, not for the movies themselves but for the opportunity to laugh at them. Between a movie that’s just dull and mediocre, and a movie that is full-on garbage, I choose garbage. It is hard to describe blandness without boring yourself, but mocking the truly terrible is fun. And if the awfulness comes from a major studio with a huge budget and superstars, mocking it feels like dispensing justice.

(Just the other day, I felt the black clouds hovering above my head so I put on my favorite bad movie to chase them away. The movie is The Oscar starring Stephen Boyd as a petty criminal jerk who becomes a Hollywood star, treats everyone like dirt and sets the stage for his own downfall. Harlan Ellison (!) is one of the credited writers. Watching The Oscar is like drinking liquefied jamon serrano through a straw. If you love The Oscar, too, we can hang out.)


Cholesterol!

Hollywood these days is all about franchises, and Universal was feeling left out at not having any superhero or space opera or fast car melodrama properties. What it has are monsters, so it has launched its “Dark Universe” starting with The Mummy. No, you are not having déjà vu—versions of The Mummy were made less than 20 years ago with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, and there was even a spin-off called The Scorpion King starring The Rock. The new The Mummy is about an ancient, ageless being who is out to rule the world, and who knows more about that than Tom Cruise.


If you had given Tom the Oscar for Jerry Maguire or Magnolia he might’ve had higher aspirations.

The Mummy is an evil alien who is dropped into a volcano which is then blown up with atomic bombs, scattering Thetan spirits, who then possess the souls of newborn babies—no, wait, that’s Tom’s religion. The Mummy is an Egyptian princess who makes a grab for power, and then invites the God of Death to take mortal form. Clearly, she did not think her plan through.

The Mummy opened last week and got dismal reviews. My favorite is the one that says it should be sealed in a crypt for a thousand years. Imagine my expectations—I was sharpening my tongue as I lined up for a ticket. “Mummy awakens after thousands of years to ask Tom for beauty advice!” Seriously, Tom looks younger than he did in last year’s highly enjoyable Mission Impossible: 578 and Jack Reacher: Why does this sequel exist? Tom is a couple of years older than Russell Crowe, who plays Dr. Henry Jekyll (as in Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde) and looks like his dad. (Dr. Jekyll’s office functions as the S.H.I.E.L.D.) The scariest scene in The Mummy happens near the beginning, when Russell Crowe pauses inside a cistern. For one terrifying moment, I thought he was going to sing again.

My hopes for epic badness were quickly dashed as The Mummy fell into the usual contrivances and overwrought mayhem that pass for thrills in the franchise era. It is not good, but it is not much worse than the typical big budget Hollywood drivel Transformers, Jurassic Worlds and Hunger Gamesss. What those blockbusters have that this flop does not are characters we can care about, even if our allegiance is really to the actors playing them. Sorry, Tom, charm cannot carry this.

One may argue that The Mummy is more honest than other movies because it openly admits that its ambition is to take our money for years to come. It is not about art, or love for the cinema, or the sense of wonder, its aim is purely cynical. It is devoid of spark or inspiration. It just wants us to show them the moneyyyy.

If Universal wanted a proper monster series, it could’ve just turned Penny Dreadful into a movie. It already had Amunet, the Egyptian goddess who kept trying to take over Vanessa Ives (Eva Green). It had the Wolfman, Dracula, Jekyll/Hyde, Victor Frankenstein and his creatures, Dorian Gray, and a fey Egyptologist. It had well-defined characters and a story, neither of which The Mummy can claim to have.

Forget it.

The Lost City of Z: Meanwhile, another Amazon casts a spell

June 08, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, History, Movies No Comments →


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The passion of Marty: Scorsese pens a stirring defense of cinema as art

June 05, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →


Do we still have to identify the movie this came from?

I think Martin Scorsese may be even better as a teacher than as a filmmaker. In reviewing Silence, a critic disparaged the cinema. Scorsese accepts criticism of his work, but you do not say that about the movies. Go Marty, the mayor of our imagination.

I am neither a writer nor a theorist. I’m a filmmaker. I saw something extraordinary and inspiring in the art of cinema when I was very young. The images that I saw thrilled me but they also illuminated something within me. The cinema gave me a means of understanding and eventually expressing what was precious and fragile in the world around me. This recognition, this spark that leads from appreciation to creation: it happens almost without knowing. For some, it leads to poetry, or dance, or music. In my case, it was the cinema.
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We really needed to see a woman beat the crap out of murderous maniacs. Thank you, Wonder Woman.

June 03, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 5 Comments →


Achtung: Spoilers.

For two hours we were charmed, fired up, and inspirited by Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins and embodied by Gal Gadot. After a week of terrible news we were so cheered by the tale of an Amazon meeting the outside world for the first time, that towards the end when the movie suddenly dove into a pot of cheese fondue, we decided to overlook it. Truly casting is half the work, so whoever thought of putting Gal Gadot in the costume: You are brilliant. We know she was an Israeli army combat instructor, so we hope to see her fighting in long takes and not those slowed down-sped up cuts. (DC, please stop recycling your final fight scene.)

As Steve Trevor, Chris Pine is not photographed as lovingly as he is in Star Trek and elsewhere—sometimes he looks pudgy. This makes sense, as no one should out-gorgeous Diana, and it actually boosts Pine in the Chris rankings because it means he’s not overly concerned with his looks. And the DC Universe has added a color to its palette (blue), yay. As the Amazon general Robin Wright is so fearsome, there should be a remake of The Princess Bride in which Buttercup is also Inigo Montoya. She should be the President in House of Cards. Also if you’re a Chris playing a Steve in a world war, stay away from the plane carrying the weapon.

There is no end credits sequence. If you’re planning to catch the movie tomorrow, get your tickets now because they’re almost gone.

* * * * *

Patty Jenkins directed Monster, which won Charlize Theron her Oscar, in 2003. Since then she has directed for TV, but Wonder Woman is her first movie in 14 years. Success is sweet.

My friend who is indifferent to superhero movies says she was not prepared for how Wonder Woman affected her. It was the No Man’s Land scene that made the movie for many viewers. In her case it was the Amazons training on the beach at Themyscira, and seeing Artemis, a black woman and a senator.

And beautiful as Diana/Gal Gadot is, her Wonder Woman is not sexualized or ogled by the camera. In fact her beauty is a weapon to disarm the patriarchy.

More women filmmakers, please.

Personal Alert Levels and the book and video therapies

May 24, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 4 Comments →

My anxiety levels (5 being the highest) and the books, movies, and TV series I use to deal with the dread/prevent myself from going completely bonkers.

1: Tranquil

Detective novels
Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul
Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot

2: Ordinary, everyday tension

Seinfeld
Kate Atkinson novels
Early Cameron Crowe movies (Say Anything, Almost Famous)

3: Worrying over nothing in particular but unable to stop

The Avengers
Preston Sturges screwball comedies (The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels)
P.G. Wodehouse books

4: Screaming inside

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
The Once and Future King

5: Screaming outside

Wouldn’t be able to hear the movie or myself.

What are your anxiety alert levels?

Now watching: Buffy Season 1

The things I love about the myth of King Arthur are not in the movie

May 22, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

The best part of Medieval English Lit class, where one could become catatonic from reading Piers Plowman, was studying the many versions of the story of King Arthur. I have loved T.H. White’s The Once and Future King since I saw Walt Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, and I enjoyed reading the sources of the tales, including Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chretien de Troyes, the Mabinogion, and later, Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

These source materials do not figure in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, not that we expected them to. The movie is blithely unaware that it takes place in the Middle Ages. There is no point in reviewing this King Arthur, which is the laddie movie reunion of Charlie Hunnam and Aiden “Littlefinger” Gillen of Queer As Folk. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is more faithful to the sources (seriously). So is John Boorman’s Excalibur, though the acting makes it campy (Merlin, please). So are Robert Bresson’s meditative Lancelot du Lac and its very colorful tights, and in its way, Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King. We will not mention any TV series.


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