The Films of Alex Kurtzman
People Like Us (June 20/12)
People Like Us follows Chris Pine's Sam as he reluctantly attends his estranged father's funeral and is subsequently stunned to learn that he has an adult sister (Elizabeth Banks' Frankie) and a scrappy nephew (Michael Hall D'Addario's Josh), with Sam's head-scratching decision not to immediately divulge this information to Frankie laying the groundwork for a narrative that stretches credibility at every turn. Filmmaker Alex Kurtzman, working from a script cowritten with Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert, has infused People Like Us with a slick and extensively generic feel that is, at the outset, counterbalanced by the compelling performances, as star Pine's irresistibly charming turn is complemented by an off-kilter supporting cast that includes, among others, Philip Baker Hall, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Duplass, and Jon Favreau. The movie's bland yet watchable atmosphere persists right up until Sam begins passing himself off as a random stranger to Banks' character, with the hopeless artificiality of this twist adversely coloring everything that follows and ultimately rendering the movie's positive attributes moot. (It doesn't help, either, that the film's pace grows more and more plodding as time progresses.) There is, as a result, little doubt that Kurtzman's climactic attempts at eliciting an emotional response from the viewer fall entirely (and palpably) flat, and it's finally difficult to recall a movie leveled so definitively and so pervasively by a plot development (ie it's just that hokey and unbelievable).
A fairly forgettable and ill-conceived summer blockbuster, The Mummy follows Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton as he unwittingly awakens a centuries-old Egyptian princess and must subsequently stop her from essentially destroying the planet. It’s interesting to note that The Mummy, before it goes seriously downhill, fares quite well in its opening stretch, as director Alex Kurtzman delivers an Indiana Jones-like adventure that boasts a number of genuinely exciting and high-energy sequences – with the affable atmosphere perpetuated by Nick’s fun chemistry with sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson, going full Jake Johnson here). Kurtzman does an effective job of peppering this portion of the proceedings with a number of memorable moments, including a fairly captivating interlude detailing the chaos that ensues aboard a cargo plane after said Egyptian Princess begins to wreak her havoc. It’s clear, then, that The Mummy begins to lose its tenuous grip on the viewer as it progresses into its oddly static midsection, as the action shifts to a bizarre underground bunker in which Russell Crowe’s Henry Jekyll delivers what feels like a solid half hour of exposition – with the momentum-killing nature of this stretch paving the way for a dispiritingly tedious final half hour that’s jam-packed with run-of-the-mill, special-effects-laden set pieces (eg a massive sandstorm that threatens to overtake London). By the time the final battle and silly twist ending roll around, The Mummy has definitively squandered any good will afforded by its comparatively masterful first half – which is too bad, really, given the expectedly committed work from star Tom Cruise.