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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Rob Cohen
Cast:
Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Russell Wong
Writing Credits:
Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, John L. Balderston (1932 screenplay), Stephen Sommers (2001 screenplay)

Tagline:
A New Evil Awakens.

Synopsis:
Brendan Fraser is back and takes you on a fun and thrilling quest as he battles a ruthless dragon emperor, Jet Li, in this electrifying movie that promises even more mind-blowing action and breathtaking visual effects than ever before!

Box Office:
Budget
$145 million.
Opening Weekend
$40.457 million on 3760 screens.
Domestic Gross
$102.176 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DVS 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 12/16/2008

Bonus:
DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Director Rob Cohen
• Extended and Deleted Scenes
• Previews
DVD Two:
• “The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” Featurette
• “From City to Desert” Featurette
• “Legacy of the Terra Cotta” Featurette
• “A Call to Action: The Casting Process” Featurette
• “Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li” Featurette
• “Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy” Featurette
• “Creating New and Supernatural Worlds” Featurette


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (Deluxe Edition) (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 8, 2008)

After seven years away from the screens, the modern Mummy franchise returns with 2008’s Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. A prologue sets up events in ancient China. We meet an ambitious and evil king (Jet Li) who seeks to rule all he surveys. He essentially succeeds and becomes Emperor of China.

This doesn’t satisfy the Emperor’s desires, however, as he wants to control everything - even death. He hears of a sorceress named Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh) who knows the secret of immortality. When she delivers the goods, the Emperor betrays her and kills her lover, General Ming (Russell Wong).

This backfires for the Emperor. It turns out that Zi Yuan cursed him and his army, so they become earthen mummies. However, the possibility they could someday arise from their slumber exists – if someone breaks the curse.

Which becomes more possible when young Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) excavates the Emperor’s tomb in 1946. The son of Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evy (Maria Bello) from the first two films, Alex dropped out of college to follow in his parents’ tomb-raiding ways.

As for the elder O’Connells, they worked as spies during World War II, but since the conclusion of hostilities, they’ve gone for a more subdued lifestyle. They agreed to stay away from danger and grow old gracefully.

Unfortunately, neither one enjoys that at all, so when they get an offer to transport a priceless gem called the Eye of Shangri-La to China, they leap at the chance. When they arrive at the Egyptian-themed Shanghai bar operated by Evy’s brother Jonathan (John Hannah), they discover that Alex left school – and also find the potential damage that can be done by the combination of the Eye and the mummified Emperor.

A group of military rebels led by General Yang (Chau Sang Anthony Wong) wants to awaken the Emperor so he can lead China back to greatness. He starts this process but needs to get the reanimated Emperor to the Pool of Eternal Life in the Himalayas to finish the process. As is their wont, the O’Connells attempt to stop him.

When the original Mummy hit screens in 1999, it provided a surprising reinvention of the genre. At no time did it become a classic, but it mixed monsters and Indiana Jones to exciting effect. 2001’s The Mummy Returns proved less interesting but it still delivered decent entertainment value.

All of which goes down the toilet in the wholly forgettable Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In terms of positive, I appreciate the fact that the new flick branched away from the plot elements of the first two. Returns didn’t remake the first film, but it walked down a similar street. Tomb takes things down a different path, so I give it credit for its shift toward a different story.

And that’s about the only thing here that deserves credit, as the rest of Tomb is a mess. For instance, the chronology makes little sense. The original took place in 1923, and this one happens in 1946. That makes their son about 22, I guess. However, the filmmakers did nothing to age Rick, who looks about nine years older than in the first film, since Fraser actually is nine years older than in Mummy.

It's a nonsensical decision in a nonsensical movie. Continuity goes out the window. Why does their son speak with an American accent when he grew up in Britain? The young Alex sounded very British in Returns, but here he sounds like he's from Brooklyn - even though he's played by an Australian.

All of this comes during a dull, pointless movie. As I mentioned, I liked the original very much, and I dug Returns to a lesser degree. Tomb was tedious and monotonous. The action scenes never become remotely involving, and the characters are flat as pancakes run over by steamrollers. There's not a memorable scene or line in the flick.

I thought it was a real mistake to recast Evy. Rachel Weisz is too well known to replace, and why the heck they brought in an American for the role is beyond me. Bello's talented but seems all wrong for the part. She displays a natural toughness that makes it impossible for her to replicate Evy's bookishness. No, Evy shouldn’t give off the same librarian vibe from the first flick, but I’d like to see some vestiges of that person. Since Weisz didn’t want to return, they should've just killed off Evy or found some other way to leave her out of the movie. Weisz’s absence becomes a prominent distraction.

And they should've taken the kid with them! That was the biggest mistake: the use of Alex as a new action hero. Ford plays the part without the slightest hint of charisma or charm; he's just a big dull lump on the screen. Whenever he appears, he sucks the life out of the movie.

Granted, the movie sucks enough on its own, but his sucking makes it infinitely suckier. As a fan of the first two movies in the series, I hoped for the best from The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Unfortunately, it brings back the franchise with an incessantly stupid, boring experience. There’s little enjoyable in this fractured, dull “adventure”.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio A/ Bonus B+

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The flick provided a good but not flawless transfer.

The most noticeable concerns related to sharpness. I witnessed mild edge enhancement through the film, and that led to softness in some wider shots. Nonetheless, the majority of the film looked well-defined and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and source flaws remained absent.

Colors fared well. During the film’s first half, Tomb favored a fairly warm, earthy palette, while matters took on an appropriately chilly blue tint when the participants went to the frigid Himalayas. The DVD delivered the tones with good clarity. Blacks seemed dark and firm, while shadows appeared clean and well-developed. Only the edge enhancement and occasional softness marred this otherwise solid presentation.

Virtually no concerns stemmed from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Tomb. With its many action elements, the audio boasted plenty of opportunities for vivid audio, and the film took advantage of them. It featured massive battles, fireworks, gunfire, explosions, aircraft, and a host of other exciting components. The soundscape allowed them good localization as well as the room to breathe. This meant they were able to engulf us and create a consistently involving soundfield.

Audio quality delivered as well. Speech was natural and concise, as I noticed no edginess or other issues. Music seemed lively and vivid, and effects were always really strong. Those elements showed great range and clarity; low-end respond was deep and firm, so expect your subwoofer to get a lot of use. The audio of Tomb excelled.

Plenty of extras appear across this two-disc Special Edition. On DVD One, we find an audio commentary from director Rob Cohen. He offers a running, screen-specific chat that looks at story, characters and historical influences, cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts, action and effects, visual design, audio, and a few other production issues.

Cohen doesn’t make particularly good movies, but he offers interesting commentaries. He goes over all the appropriate subjects here and keeps the track moving at a good pace. I expect some listeners won’t be happy to hear Cohen inject his politics into the equation – he makes a pre-election plug for Obama – but that section passes quickly. Cohen throws out a lot of good info and makes this a winning discussion.

Nine Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes, 46 seconds. We find “Secret Lovers” (1:22), “General Ming’s Death” (0:32), “Conversation In Shanghai” (1:00), “Night in Himalayas” (2:07), “Tea Time: Yang and Choi” (0:37), “Motorcycle Grenade Toss” (0:22), “Female Fight in Cog Room” (0:45), “Emperor Reassembles” (1:18), and “Jonathan and Maguire at Club” (2:43).

The majority of these simply provide minor extensions to existing scenes. Nothing particularly noteworthy appears, though we do see a more graphic depiction of Ming’s demise. “Club” adds to the film’s ending, though not in a useful way; it simply gives Jonathan a slightly different departure. The scenes are mildly interesting to see at best.

DVD One opens with some ads. We get promos for The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, Coraline, My Own Worst Enemy, Beethoven’s Big Break, Blu-Ray Disc and the Wanted: Weapons of Fate videogame.

A mix of featurettes crops up on DVD Two. The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor runs 22 minutes, 48 seconds and includes comments from Cohen, producers Stephen Sommers, Bob Ducsay and Sean Daniel, costume designer Sanja Hays, carpenter William Picard, set decorator Anne Kuljian, 2nd unit assistant camera Taylor Matheson, action unit director Vic Armstrong, stunt coordinator Mark Southworth, Fire for Hire’s Colin Decker, Production Services Company representative Bill Kong, special effects coordinator Rick Thompson, 2nd unit 1st AD Terry Madden, and actors Luke Ford, Brendan Fraser, David Calder, Isabella Leong and Maria Bello. The show looks at Cohen’s impact on the production, sets and locations, stunts and action, effects, and a few other aspects of the shoot.

“Making” combines the standard “behind the scenes” featurette with the feel of a production diary; though it branches off at times, it tends to follow the shoot from start to finish. The emphasis on footage from the set makes it more interesting than usual. The interviews fill out the visuals well and turn this into a useful program.

During the 15-minute and 44-second From City to Desert, we hear from Cohen, Bello, Ducsay, Armstrong, Fraser, Sommers, Calder, Armstrong, 1st AD PJ Voeten, director of photography Simon Duggan, executive producer Chris Brigham, producer Sean Daniel, boom operator Louis Piche, line producer Lee Chiu Wah, and actors Michelle Yeoh, John Hannah, Anthony Wong, and Jet Li. The show looks at the flick’s locations and related issues. It covers those topics well and give us more interesting behind the scenes footage along the way.

After this we head to Legacy of the Terra Cotta. It lasts 13 minutes, 35 seconds and features notes from Cohen, Daniel, Sommers, Ducsay, Fraser, Li, Hays, Bello, Kuljian, Ford, Rhythm and Hues senior artist Mike Meaker, and set decorator Daniel Carpentier. We learn about research and influences on the movie’s story, the depiction of the Emperor and his army, and the Asian settings. “Legacy” follows in the footsteps of the first two shows, but it often feels a bit redundant. Though it offers a fair amount of new material, more than a few notes repeat from the earlier pieces. Still, we continue to observe good behind the scenes shots, so “Legacy” works reasonably well.

We hear about the actors in A Call to Action: The Casting Process. The show fills four minutes, 45 seconds with remarks from Cohen, Ducsay, Sommers, Li, Bello, Fraser, Yeoh, and Ford. “Action” examines actors new to the Mummy series and tells us a little about returning performers as well. It’s a quick overview that tells us little.

Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li goes for 10 minutes, 41 seconds and features statements from Cohen, Ford, Bello, Fraser, Southworth, Yeoh, Ducsay, Li, and fight choreographer Mike Lambert. Though the title implies it’ll focus on Fraser and Li, “Battle” actually covers the action elements for all the main actors. That makes it more valuable than it otherwise might’ve been, so it becomes another good program.

For the eight-minute Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy, we hear from Cohen, Ducsay, Digital Domain VFX supervisors Joel Hynek and Matthew Butler, and Digital Domain lead CG effects artist Marten Larsson. “Mummy” goes over the ways the film used visual effects to bring the cursed Emperor to life. It boasts more hard information than its occasionally fluffy predecessors, so it packs a lot of punch into its short running time.

Called Creating New and Supernatural Worlds, the final featurette runs eight minutes, 35 seconds. It includes info from Cohen, Duscay, Sommers, Ford, Yeoh, Bello, Fraser, Daniel, Kulijan, and associate producer Marc Pitre. This piece emphasizes the design and creation of the flick’s sets. It includes some good notes, though it occasionally tries too hard to impress us with lots of praise for the creations.

DVD Two also includes a Digital Copy of Tomb. This lets you transfer the flick to your computer, iPhone, iPod or other modern gizmo the youngsters love. I’ll never use it, but it’s there if you want it.

While the first two Mummy movies entertained, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor turns into a massive dud. Virtually no aspect of it works, as it simply throws out random action and story elements without much coherence or excitement. The DVD provides good picture, excellent audio and a pretty informative collection of extras. I can’t complain about this solid package, but the movie itself disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main