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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Anthony Milton

The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

But wait? He doesn’t fall down, or break his crown? Then, what’s the point of the song!

It’s been nearly a decade since Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), or, as he likes to now be known as, John Clayton III, left Africa to live in Victorian England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). He grew up there when his parents were killed and was taken in by the animals living in the jungle, where he learned the values and ways of survival. Now, as an ordinary Englishman, with something of a heroic history, he tries to live a normal life and start a family, even if he and Jane seem to be having issues getting that done. Now, both Jane and Tarzan return to Africa to save their land from the evil and treacherous Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), an envoy to King Leopold who is using the Congo for his own self-gain. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Rom plans to capture Tarzan and deliver him to an old enemy in exchange for diamonds. Neither Jane nor Tarzan know this, which is why, with the help of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), and their old friends and allies of the jungle, they both plan on saving the Congo, taking down Rom, and most importantly, saving the precious land for all that it is.

Eat your hearts out, men.

Eat your hearts out, men.

In all honesty, I’d feel like the Legend of Tarzan would be a much better movie, had the Jungle Book not already came out this year. Sure, while you could make the argument that they are totally two different movies, they still have plenty of features tied into one another; they’re both live-action reboots of the story, both stories have to deal with man-in-the-jungle, and they also both seem to feature a crap-ton of CGI to make up for the fact that they weren’t able to film actual lions, tigers, and elephants (mostly due to the fact that humans are terrible and continue to kill each and every one of them). That said, one is way less serious and dramatic than the other, and it also happens to be way better for that same exact reason, too.

Now, which movie do you think I’m speaking of?

And it’s not like there’s a problem with the Legend of Tarzan being a drop-dead serious, almost gritty reboot of a story that is, yes, serious and gritty, but there’s also something to be said for when your self-seriousness kills any fun or momentum you may have, while also not gelling fully well with the rest of the flick and what’s it trying to do. After all, the Legend of Tarzan is being heavily advertised as a fun, wild, and chaotic summer blockbuster; while it’s definitely a summer blockbuster, the other words like “fun”, “wild”, or better yet, “chaotic”, don’t really fit. Some bits and pieces of it can be considered “fun”, but they’re also too light and on-the-nose to really work with the rest of the film that’s more concerned with really putting us down in the dumps.

Director David Yates wants to approach this material in the same, epic-like way he did with the Harry Potter franchise, but the transition doesn’t work well; instead of being all wrapped-up in the dark and sometimes disturbing violence, you may actually get turned-off from it all, especially after the first five minutes and we’re already treated to a bunch of bloodless, PG-13 violence in which a bunch of people shot, stabbed and killed (one of which being, oddly enough, Ben Chaplin), for no apparent reason. When the action comes around, Yates does well – there’s one action-sequence in particular that happens on a train that reminded me a whole heck a lot of Snowpiercer – because he knows how to build it all up and focus on the stuff that works in the action-sequences. But everything that just so happens to take place in between, doesn’t always work because a lot of the script is weak and underwritten.

It's set in Africa, so obviously Djiumon has to be in it, right?

It’s set in Africa, so obviously Djimon has to be in it, right?

Take, for instance, the characters themselves.

Or, better yet, most importantly, Tarzan himself. As our half-naked hero of the hour-and-a-half, Alexander Skarsgård looks the part, what with his chiseled-abs and perfectly long, blonde locks, but I feel as if he’s not the right choice to play a character who is so clean-cut and good, that you could almost baptize him by the end. Skarsgård has that anti-hero look, where you know he can’t be trusted, but because he’s so good-looking, you get entranced by his aura and you fall for his evil games, again and again. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way, but so be it. Either way, Skarsgård tries, but ultimately, he didn’t quite work for me.

Margot Robbie also doesn’t get much to do as Jane, although she does get to have more fun than Mr. Serious Tarzan does. Robbie gets a chance to show Jane a fiery, brass and smart gal who, yes, may need to be saved from her man, but also isn’t afraid to say a nasty thing or two to the baddies. And as the baddie, Christoph Waltz is basically doing what he always does, except this time, his character is a whole lot more evil and distasteful than ever before. However, because he’s so mean, despicable and downright cruel, the rest of the movie kind of falters; it wants to reach the pitch black depths of hell, but at the same time, also realizes that it has to appeal to family-audiences out there and whatnot. So, rather than getting a story that really does explore these important themes about colonialism, extinction, and black market trading, the Legend of Tarzan will get scared, back up five steps, and just decide to show Tarzan swinging around in his loin-clothe, grabbing random tree-branches and getting his ass kicked by gorillas, without ever sustaining any serious injuries of any sort.

Then again, in a movie like this, certain stuff like that almost doesn’t matter.

Until it does and it’s totally Yates’ fault for that. Rather than allowing for the Legend of Tarzan to be a silly, rumpus good time where Tarzan flies around in the jungle and Samuel L. Jackson steals every scene he’s in, sounding and acting like he’s in the year 2016 (which is basically what happens), Yates decides that the story needs to unforgivably stark and serious. There’s no problem with that, but you have to do it right to the point of where it feels earned. The Jungle Book did that, with the added-on bonus of song-and-dance numbers and guess what?

Yep, it still worked.

Take notes, Yates (I’ve always wanted to say that).

Consensus: Though it gets the action right, the Legend of Tarzan‘s tone is wildly off, trying to appeal to everyone and yet, not totally working as well as other jungle-themed reboots have done this year.

6 / 10

"Tarzan want to bone Jane."

“Tarzan want to bone Jane.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Criminal (2016)

Some people’s brains are better left untouched.

Super, duper and incredibly well-trained CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) tragically dies while traveling to a secret location to meet a hacker who can launch missiles at will. Although all hope is, for a little while, lost, eventually, officials come up with an idea that will transfer Pope’s brain-particles and memory to somebody else’s, so that they’re able to figure out just where this evil and sneaky terrorist may be hiding out at. While they’re a bit stumped for solutions, the guinea pig for the procedure ends up being Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner), a violent and dangerous death-row inmate, who doesn’t know how to act in actual, civilized society, nor does he have any interest in doing so. Essentially, he’s the perfect person for a mission like this, because nobody cares if he lives or dies, not even his own self. And now that Jerico has Pope’s memory and knowledge, he decides to track down the terrorist, but at the same time, can’t keep himself away from visiting and being apart of Pope’s own family, who sadly, don’t know what to do or think after his death, nor do they know who to trust.

Take him in, fellas! He's made too many mediocre movies by now!

Take him in, fellas! He’s made too many mediocre movies by now!

If you take the sci-fi elements of a very “meh” movie from Ryan Reynolds like Self/Less, take the action-thriller elements of a very “meh” movie from Kevin Costner like 3 Days to Kill, then you’ve basically got a Criminal – an overall, very “meh” movie. For some reason, you’d think that with a premise that’s at least somewhat interesting, a solid, if surprisingly well-done cast, and Costner leading the charge, that a movie like Criminal would actually be tons and tons of fun. However, that’s not really what happens.

Instead, a good portion of the movie is spent as we watch, wait and see what happens with this whole sci-fi gimmick the movie seems to jam down our throats. While we get this idea that, apparently, through the sheer magic of science and all that junk, Costner’s new brain will also have a lot of memories and knowledge that Reynolds’ brain has, and therefore, he’ll be going through some sort of crazy transformation. Not just as a killer, either, but as a human being, too. This already hints at the idea that the movie may want to be a whole lot more serious and dramatic than it ought to be, which is why the moments where we actually to see the humanity in this character, or better yet, this silly story, don’t really work or matter in the grand scheme.

Basically, everyone showing up to Criminal wants to see it for guns, explosions, sci-fi stuff and Kevin Costner cursing and beating people up.

There is that in Criminal, however, it’s not always enough to keep interesting. Too often does it feel like the movie is making its plot up as it goes along, where we don’t really get what’s going on with the whole brain-stuff, nor do we ever get an understanding of who Costner’s character is supposed to be after, what that baddie does, and what he’s promising to do that’s so bad. Eventually, it all comes down to a hard drive, which is the classic, post-Y2k action movie trope that never gets old, but also makes that subplot seem a lot less important in the long run. All anybody really cares for is the action and Costner himself, and that’s about it.

And yes, there is action and it’s sometimes good, if a bit frantic. But really, what it’s here for is to just push along a story that doesn’t know where it wants to go, or what it wants to do – it’s just happy that it got a bunch of incredibly talented, famous people to be apart of it, so why waste their time, right? After all, they did come here for a paycheck and to do a little acting, so why not just give them crap material and leave it at that?

"Grrrrrrr."

“Grrrrrrr.”

Well, there’s no problem with that. Except that yes, it is, because you have a really great cast in here with Criminal and they’re all mostly wasted.

Costner is the only one who gets off just fine here and actually makes the movie somewhat watchable. It’s great to see Costner play a character that’s so despicable, so disgusting and so vile, that after awhile of watching him, you almost don’t want him to grow a heart and learn the error of his ways. Sure, with this being a movie and all, you know that’s going to happen, but still, there’s a certain joy in watching Costner steal people’s food, beat dudes up for their trucks, and touch nurses rumps that makes it hard to actually care about a plot. Just give me Kevin Costner acting like a prick for two hours and you can have my money.

And hey, next time, movie, if you’re going to give me that, might as well give me some better roles for the solid supporting-cast, too, okay? Because giving people like Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Alice Eve, Michael Pitt, Gal Gadot, and Amaury Nolasco, roles that don’t really challenge them or give them anything to do, is not just a waste of their time (except, not really, because they’re getting paid to do this), but mine as well. When I see that Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, and Gary Oldman are all reuniting for a movie, over two decades after JFK, I’m automatically excited, so why not deliver on those expectations? I understand it can be a bit hard to give the audience what they always want and desire, but come on, there’s got to be a little more here than what we get. Especially when you give Alice Eve five minutes of screen-time, or have Michael Pitt do a terrible, Russian-accent, and just leave Tommy Lee Jones there to sit around and mope.

Shame on you, movie. Shame on you.

Try harder next time.

Consensus: Criminal gets by on the strengths of its cast, but also doesn’t do much with a semi-interesting plot, except allow for it to fall into action-thriller tropes and conventions.

5 / 10

Now you see Ryan Reynolds? Cause in about five seconds, trust me, you won't.

Now you see Ryan Reynolds? Cause in about five seconds, trust me, you won’t.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Youtube, Pretty Famous

London Has Fallen (2016)

Always trust in your budding Americans to kick some terrorist ass.

Years after the assassination attempt made on his life,  U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) are still together, joking around with one another and, generally, seeming like the best of friends. After all, the worst that they ever had to face, came and went, so for now on, they’ll just live out the rest of the presidency in absolute and complete peace. However, that all changes when Asher is called to appear at a funeral for the British Prime Minister, and all hell breaks loose. Major tourist attractions start blowing up, people start dying, and terrorists begin to pop-up left and right. Though they hit a few close calls, Banning and Asher are able to get to safety, and await to see what their next best move is. Even though it’s absolute chaos in London, Banning believes that the best tactic is to get Asher, as well as himself, to the British embassy where they’ll hopefully be safe and tucked away from the terrorists who want to kill them, as well as anyone else that they see fit.

"Look out, ISIS."

“Look out, ISIS.”

People will mistake a movie like London Has Fallen as a “serious one”, and it makes sense. Just like its predecessor, it’s dealing with some very realistic situations, where gore, violence, and death is abound, and not really trying to have a great time with them. Instead, it’s trying to be a very dramatic, emotional, and flag-waving patriotic movie about the triumph and the spirit of the citizens of the United States and how terrorists, no matter what shape, color, or religion they come in, will always fall prey to our power.

Clearly there’s an audience out there for this kind of movie and given today’s political race, it’s almost no surprise that a movie like London Has Fallen, actually exists.

It’s one, where instead of really getting down to the idea of why someone would retaliate to a botched drone strike, or why certain political ideologies, whether violent or not, exist, it’s more concerned with blowing things and people up. Nothing’s wrong with this, as evident this film, as well as Olympus Has Fallen, there can be some fun in watching as terrorists get mowed-down, all in the name of the red, white and blue. And while I’m talking about that movie, it’s actually a lot better than people give it credit for; sure, it’s overly serious in a sort of corny, 80’s movie kind of way, but it’s so unabashedly passionate about what it’s doing, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in all of the grisly action that takes place. And even though it’s been a near three years later, it’s surprising how dated the movie may appear to be, given that there’s clearly a climate out there in today’s society that isn’t about shooting first and asking questions later.

Which is why, with a movie like London Has Fallen, it’s hard not to think about the real life situations and issues countries are currently facing. Whether they be relating to religion, warfare, or just general politics, London Has Fallen takes place in a world that is almost a tad too real to the one we currently live in and it’s why this movie can be a tad hard to get through, what with all of the innocents being mindlessly killed, even if it wants us to all have fun and, most importantly, enjoy ourselves.

After all, this is what going to the movies is all about and that’s why, London Has Fallen, can occasionally be a stirring, if exciting action-thriller.

"Man, why won't anyone let me be President?"

“Man, why won’t anyone let me be President?”

Director Babak Najafi knows that his strong suit isn’t really the drama, or the characters, or the humor of the script, but instead, the action. That’s why, when the going gets going and the action starts up, London Has Fallen can be a pretty fun movie. Its characters may be rote, its one-liners may be cheesy, and its politics may certainly be troubling, but when it pushes all that aside and decides to just let the guns, knives, explosions, and muscles speak for themselves, it’s difficult to be bored. The first movie, in my mind, is still better, but there’s a certain appeal of watching a half-hour action-thriller that does what it needs to do and is over before you know it.

This is what really works in London Has Fallen‘s advantage. Though it features a heavy onslaught of solid actors like Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, and, uhh, sure, Gerard Butler, none of them are really doing anything worthy of their talents. Is it a tad disappointing to watch Oscar-nominees and, in some cases, winners, to sit around a desk, in a 4×4 room, look at a screen and talk about what’s going on with the plot, while occasionally trading witty barbs? Yes, but at the same time, London Has Fallen doesn’t focus too much on this aspect to remind us of this fact.

Instead, it just wants to give us plenty of action, excitement, and politics that are as dated as you can possibly get without humming Hulk Hogan’s theme song. This may tick some people off, but for me, I’m fine with it. Just don’t expect me to remember what everybody said or what the point of it all was, because really, I won’t remember.

I’ll just be fine with having seen an alright piece of action-thriller.

Consensus: Over-the-top, incredibly serious, and corny, Lond040on Has Fallen is exactly what you’d expect, given its predecessor, but it’s still fun and exciting enough that it almost doesn’t matter just how troublesome its politics are.

5 / 10

"Hey, agent - just keep giving me these movies. I'm fine with playing the same person, again and again."

“Hey, agent – just keep giving me these movies. I’m fine with playing the same person, again and again.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire