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Review: “Tomb Raider” Trades Dumb Adventure for Dull Grit

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Tombraider

The original Tomb Raider movies received a lot of flak for being silly, but they were honestly no more silly than most James Bond style treasure hunting films. Those directors and Angelina Jolie were smart enough to know that you can’t make movies about the Illuminati, attacking statues, and golden spheres too seriously. Still, most fans and critics didn’t seem to dig it, and this remake aims to avoid all the ridiculousness of its predecessors. There are no goofy gadgets, silly outfits, over-the-top action sequences, or even supernatural hijinks. All the stuff that was considered too stupid for whatever dignity the Tomb Raider series had is now replaced with a bland adventure, smeared in dirt and melodrama.

Alicia Vikander now plays Lara Croft as a young troublemaker, not too keen on inheriting her missing father’s fortune. She’d rather be boxing and bike riding than being stuck in boardrooms and conferences calls. It turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when she discovers her father’s secret lair of his treasure hunting side-project. Perhaps there’s a clue in all his documents about where he disappeared to for all these years. Perhaps he was seeking some ancient artifact of untold power. Perhaps there’s some evil man who wants for himself.

All of this is to be expected, and Tomb Raider doesn’t stray off course from this subgenre. The writing is so narrowly focused on uncovering the secret of the mythical Himiko and her death curse that it never stops to let a character catch their breath. This pacing quickly kicks Vikander into a number of intense action scenes where she gets to leap from boats, scale rocks, and escape from a crashing plane. This direction also doesn’t allow much room for character, making her daughter-father arc so unbelievably cheesy it practically nullifies whatever darker tone the film was going for.

To compensate for the lack of charisma, Tomb Raider goes the extra mile to turn Vikander into the ultimate action star by having her get down and dirty; she’ll battle a man to the death in the mud and pull a glass shard out of her belly. It gets pretty brutal at times and would be enjoyable if not for the sad fact that I knew all of this would be leading up to a tomb with traps and curses that will explode.

The villain of the picture is played by Walton Goggins, a man who can dominate the screen if allowed to. Unfortunately, he’s stuck in a role where he can only act like a crazy tyrant by merely saying he is crazy. He also has two daughters that he misses, but you won’t see them past a mere mention. We just have to take his word for it that he’s a maniacal figure working for an evil organization. Which organization and what do they want? Therein lies the film’s ultimate twist which, while unexpected, teases a much better story had it not been saved for a climactic stinger.

While there’s no shortage of action, it’s amazing how a film such as Tomb Raider strives to be so lackluster with its supporting elements, threatening to not fall into typical trope traps, only to end up being boring by avoiding them. Dominic West could have carried some emotion as Lara’s dad, but he’s oddly restrained in moments where there should be more to film’s indulgent sappiness. Daniel Wu plays the supporting role of a sea captain that may fancy Lara, but he does little more than provide cover fire as his pathos is kicked to the curb. Even the tomb feels par for the course as far as movie deathtraps go, with the usual decorations of spiders crawling over skeletons and hidden spikes that spring out of the floor.

For as uneven as Tomb Raider plays, I must admit it does share a commonality with the video games in the puzzles Lara must solve. Himiko’s tomb can only be accessed by spinning rims in a specific order and matching colors to light. All that’s missing is the onscreen prompt of “Push A” and you have yourself a bonafide full-motion video game right there. Unfortunately, this is a movie and one where I wish the quick-time events slowed down over the two-hour running time to allow for characters and energy as strong as Vikander’s kicks.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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