Before you start wondering if I’m attending the church of Scientology, and declaring all of my recommendations as suspect, this is not going to be a Tom Cruise love fest. If anything, that’s where Universal screwed up. Casting him was equivalent to building on an ancient Indian burial ground; sure it’s a gorgeous house, but, no thanks.

That said, Cruise pulled it off. His performance was a flashback to the Top Gun and Risky Business days when he wielded a swagger that inspired Christian Bale’s portrayal of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

But this isn’t about why you shouldn’t see the movie, this is why you should see it.

It’s easy to have missed this film when it was in theaters, but you can find it at Redbox. At the time of its theatrical release, it had to compete with Wonder Woman, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, another Transformers movie that I wasn’t going to see, and Captain Underpants. Looking at the posters, you would think it was the Tom Cruise show, with him prominently shown in all of his Cruiseness along with his name alone on the marque. Sure you got a few flashes of the Mummy (Sofia Boutella, known as the fabulously bad ass, blade-footed Gazelle from Kingsmen and Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond) in the trailer, but it did not do her justice, and you wouldn’t have known that the first character you see in the movie is Dr. Jekyll (Russell Freaking Crowe), who plays a huge role in the plot.

And then you had the “Brendan Fraser forever” crowd who boycotted the movie because of a deeply rooted love of the 1999 Mummy movie and its sequels… well, maybe not the third one, but anyway.

To that, I say there was probably an old timer who boycotted those movies as part of the 1932 “Boris Karloff forever” crowd. What’s that? You didn’t realize that the Brendan Fraser movies were a reboot from Universal Studios who own all of the classic movie monsters? Or that Universal made the 2017 movie as an attempt to start a modern shared monster universe called Dark Universe? You are NOT alone.

Luckily, I am Universal Monsters devotee. Some of my fondest memories from a very young age was watching the old black-and-whites with my dad on Saturday nights. When they announced that Dark Universe was going to start up, a venture not announced until The Mummy was about to launch due to copyright issues, I was all about it, the TC word be damned.

Side note: Universal also owns 1931’s Dracula… and 2014’s Dracula Untold, which I very much hope they pull into Dark Universe because it was just that good, and Luke Evans (currently starring in The Alienist) is still very much relevant.

THE MOVIEThe Mummy (2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xJfibT0KI4

If you are a fan of the old Universal monsters, I thoroughly recommend this movie. One of the best things about Universal making a shared universe (ala Marvel) is all of the Easter Eggs. If you watch, you will see nods to a great deal of other movies, like Creature from the Black Lagoon (COUGH*Shape of Water*COUGH). There is even a major and obvious nod to the Brendan Fraser movies, to which everyone cheered in the theater.

The premise:  We start the movie with Dr. Jekyll running a shady organization as tunneling efforts in London uncover a crypt from Crusader times. From there, he goes into a monologue flashback to ancient Egypt and where Ahmanet (the Mummy) gets her powers and why.

Flash forward to present day Iraq where Tom Cruise plays a Master Sergeant in the Special Forces who is trying to steel ancient artifacts before ISIL destroys them for sale on the black market along with his soon to be ghost friend (reminiscent of American Werewolf in London) Chris (Jake Johnson from The New Girl). Where did he get his map and info from? He stole that, too from archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis from X-Men-First Class, Annabelle, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and Peaky Blinders), who works for Dr. Jekyll. They inadvertently find the crypt and shenanigans ensue as the Mummy goes on a rampage to regain her powers and unleash the god Set in the backdrop of modern day England until reaching a climax that sets the stage for all of the other franchises.

Where does Dr. Jekyll play into all of this? Watch the damned movie. Does Mr. Hyde kick Tom Cruise’s ass in the movie? Yes he does, which is worth the price of admission.

The movie was directed by and partially written by Alex Kurtzman. He’s not known as a director, which is why there were rumors that Cruise pretty much called the shots as Universal’s bell cow on the project, but the guy has serious writing cred to his name. He wrote or co-wrote films like Watchmen, the first Transformers, the recent Star Trek movies, Ender’s Game, and the Now You See Me movies.

If you are interested in Dark Universe, go to: www.darkuniverse.com/

The next movies in the shoot will be: Bride of Frankenstein (February 14, 2019), directed by Bill Condon, starring Javier Bardem (Frankenstein’s Monster), and then The Invisible Man, starring Johnny Depp (title role).

This really is a fun movie and worthwhile movie. I recommend you see it.

THE WINE:  Chateau La Paws Red Wine Blend Red Blend (no year on bottle) (California)

http://www.chateaulapaws.com/the-wines/

About $13.00 a bottle.

For our Ghost Night meal, rolled out the grill and BBQed some burgers. Since I’m a foodie that isn’t about to have a bottle of wine with a regular burger (okay, I probably would), we had burgers mixed with cheddar and bacon and some mixed with black pepper and bleu cheese, topped with pepper jack.  For a side, we had garlic and black pepper tots.

The classic combination with red meat is always going to be a red wine. Since these were burgers with blue cheese, black pepper spice and potatoes, a medium bodied red was the way to go rather than a heavier Cabernet or Zinfandel. This wine had a pronounced scent of dark cherry from the moment it was opened. To go with the cherry, it also had red berry flavors like raspberry up front and lingering notes of vanilla on the back end.  Perfect for the evening.

As many of you know, I am an animal lover. I was happy to buy this bottle because the winery (as the name suggests) supports No Kill Shelters around the country. Visit www.chateaulapaws.com to learn more.

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