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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Luke Hope

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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The Imitation Game (2014)

Being liked by others is so overrated.

During WWII, when Britain needed him the most, number-crunching genius Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) stepped up to the plate. However, it wasn’t easy for a fella like him. In Bletchley Park, Turing became involved of a top-secret program where he, as well as a few select others would try to decipher the German’s Enigma Code. Not only would it help them understand what the Nazi’s were going to do next, where and when, but it would also give the British an upper-hand in the war and possibly even allow them to win it. But problems arise with Turing’s personal life, as he’s definitely not well-liked by those he works with and, mostly due to his secretive homosexuality, hardly ever opened-up to those around him. The one exception to his rule was fellow number-cruncher Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who Turing develops something of a friendship with, even as hard as it may have been for him. But the fact of the mater remains: There is a war that needs to be fought and won, and Turing was not going to stop one bit in finishing it once and for all. Even if his own life and reputation depended on it.

"Quick! I need a three-letter word for 'being twee'!"

“Quick! I need a three-letter word for ‘being twee’!”

Everything about the Imitation Game screams “Oscar-bait”, and reasonably so. It’s not just produced by the incredibly sneaky and conniving Weinstein’s, but looks and feels just exactly like the King’s Speech. It’s handsomely-made with its production-values matching every single bit of detail it’s mean to portray; features a lead character that has many personal problems that may, or may not, hinder his effectiveness at the job he’s called on to do; and there’s even a female love-interest thrown in the mix as well. Overall, the movie has a very old-fashioned feel to it, that makes me feel like it’s the kind of movie I could see with my grand-mom and pop-pop, rather than seeing all by myself, or with my buddies, after we’ve had a few at the local bar.

But that doesn’t necessarily always mean a bad thing – it just means a thing. A movie can absolutely, positively hit every beat you expect to hit, yet, still not be bad. It’s just conventional and easy to predict a mile away. Once again, nothing wrong with that, especially when it’s done in the right way it should be.

And that’s where the Imitation Game works most of its magic – it has an old-time look and feel, but feels like it actually moves along at a fine pace, building both its plot, as well as its characters. Mostly though, it works with the former, in that it develops this lead character, Alan Turing, in a way that’s respectful enough to the history that he holds behind him (and reasonably so), but also shows us that well, yeah, the dude wasn’t perfect and more or less, had many problems that ended up getting in the way of his day-to-day human connections. Didn’t make him a terrible person, but just a person who possibly you, nor I would ever want to get stuck with talking to at a dinner-party.

If it was Benedict Cumberbatch playing any other character, then yeah, I’d totally want to hang out with him all day and night. But as Alan Turning? Sorry, Ben!

But, anyway, like I was saying about Turing here – the way he’s written and developed over time is well-done. We see him in all sorts of shades, and while they all may not be effective in their own ways, they still at least give us a bigger-impression of who this person was and why he matters to any of us, whether we be from Britain, the United States, Germany, or Niagara Falls. The movie definitely spells itself out as being important in nearly every frame, but it never became bothersome to the rest of it; it’s just a story about a person who deserves to be appreciated.

Though, there is something to be said for a movie that clearly wants us to sympathize and even identify with its lead character, yet, have him act in such ways that don’t seem believable, even by today’s society standards. For instance, back in the old days of England, being gay was considered “a crime”. It didn’t matter if you were a nice citizen who paid your taxes, lived a comfortable life and hadn’t done anything bad to anybody, ever; if you were gay, you were considered a bad person who needed to be locked away, or ticked, tooled, and played around with, as a way to hope that the government would be able to “get the gay out of you”. In case you couldn’t tell by my writing, it sounds all so very ridiculous and crazy, but that’s just the way the world was back then and it’s the way we, as a society, have to live with in knowing and understand as fact. Doesn’t mean we can’t move on from it and grow as a better, more well-adjusted society, but it also doesn’t mean that we have to forget about it neither and act as if it never existed in the first place.

What bothers me though about the way Turing’s written here, is that they make him out to be a guy who not only seemed like he had relatively serious case of Aspergers, but was openly letting people know that he was a homosexual, if push ever came to shove. My problem with this wasn’t that he told people and they were mostly fine with it, but it was more that he was telling people about it in the first place, even if it meant he would be locked away and possibly drugged-up for the rest of his entire life. This isn’t mean throwing out my own personal opinion, because it feels and reads-off as phony, especially given that the rest of the movie wants to be seen as something of a history-lesson.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soliders in this scene.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soldiers in this scene.

The bits and pieces about Turing actually cracking the code, what he and the rest of his crew had to do with that code, and for how long, were very interesting and seem like they’re trying more to actually inform the audience about history, much rather than actually give them an interesting, compelling story. It works as being such, to be honest, but for the most part, it feels and reads-off as being pretty legitimate and interesting. However, while the other bits and pieces about Turing’s personal life and how those around him approached it, while interesting at first, slowly dissolved into seeming unreasonable and almost like a liberal’s apology for all of the bad things the past had done to certain people of a certain group/demographic. It didn’t fit right with me and made the movie as a whole, feel like it was just taking a lot of liberties with its story.

That said, where the movie got very interesting was whenever it portrayed the relationship between Turing and his possible love-interest, Joan Clark. Though the movie has a bit of a hard time portraying someone as beautiful and charming as Keira Knightley as “plain”, it still gets by on showing how these two interact with one another, why there’s something of an attraction between the two, and why it’s a total shame that they can’t be together in an acceptable way. They both clearly have an attraction to one another, even if it isn’t simply by attraction. Knightley also does a solid job with a character who feels like she’s trying so very hard to be accepted from her male counter-parts, but ends up being a sweet, somewhat sad girl who just wants to be loved, even if it isn’t in the most ideal way imaginable.

Just anything would suffice for her and because she’s such a bundle of joy, it would suffice for us, too.

Problem with Knightley being so good here, with such a small-role, it makes Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing seem a bit one-note, although that’s maybe not fully his fault. The way Turing is written here is to be made out like some sort of weirdo, who doesn’t communicate with those he’s supposed to be communicating with, and even when he does, doesn’t know how to do so in an normal manner. Sometimes, it seems like he has Aspergers, other times, it seems like he as Autism. And while the movie never fully says what Turing’s problem was when it came to socializing, it still feels like the kind of character we’re supposed to be rooting wholeheartedly for, yet, we never get the chance to understand well enough to do so. That doesn’t mean Cumberbatch isn’t good in this role, it’s just a shame that he wasn’t given a whole lot more meat to chew on.

All in all though, what the Imitation Game is, is a tribute to the legend of Alan Turing. A man who deserves to be known by many more people and here’s to hoping that maybe this movie will give everybody a chance to. Even if, you know, a Wikipedia read will probably do some a lot more justice.

Consensus: While ordinary and by-the-numbers, the Imitation Game still presents an interesting enough view into the life of a man people should know more about, regardless of whether or not he’s portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more computer-devices.

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more shirts and ties.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

In case you didn’t know, he’s an analyst.

CIA junior analyst Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) works on Wall Street in hopes that he may spot some dirty trading going on between big-time politicians and terrorist organizations, in hopes that he can stop a possible a terrorist attack if the situation calls for that. However, his latest bout of curiosity gets the best of him this time with one Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a smart, charming and rather sinister Russian who plans on taking down the whole economy for his, as well his own Mother Russia’s self-gain. But the problem isn’t that Ryan can’t stop this, it’s that he’s not too sure about it in the first place to stop it, that’s when his superior (Kevin Costner) decides to promote him to being a field-agent. That means Jack’s going to have to do a lot more than just talking, crunching-numbers and writing some valuable information down – he’s actually going to have to kick some booty! If the situation calls for it, that is. And more than likely, the situation does call for it, however, it gets worse once Ryan’s long-time girlfriend, nurse Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), gets involved with the mission by pure accident and has to go through the same motions as her boy is going through, in hopes that she not only doesn’t get her or Jack killed, but thousands and thousands of Americans in New York.

"How ya doing, son? And to answer your question: Yes, being 58 does look this good."

“How ya doing, son? And to answer your question: Yes, being 58 does look this good.”

There’s been a lot of chatter going on about this new Jack Ryan movie and even from the very start, I knew that none of it was deserved. See, January movies have the reputation for being terribly shitty, worthless, forgettable and only released so that the major-studios can make a quick buck; and rightfully so, too, because more than often not, that has been the case. But that’s the weird dilemma that Jack Ryan finds itself in: Should it have moved its release-date to being placed in the dreaded month of January, in which everybody is practically playing “Oscar catch-up”? Or, should it have tried to stick it out on Christmas Day like it was originally intended to be?

Well, to be honest, I can’t answer that question because, as we all know, there’s higher-powers out there in Hollywood that manage this type of stuff and no way in hell are any of them going to listen to a 20-year-old blogger, who is currently typing this now as we speak, in a Heisenberg T-shirt and polka-dot boxers. So yeah, obviously I have no say or pull, but it still brings up a big question nonetheless: Do all January movies have to be so shitty?

The answer is a resounding “no”; and I think that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is definitely going to turn-over a new leaf in hopes that we at least get a bit better-quality movies in the month in which time pretty much forgets about (especially for movie-goers).

Anyway, all of that business-talk aside, there is a movie to discuss here and like I hinted towards earlier, it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be, based solely on its release-date and rather vague trailers. And to be honest, yes, they weren’t all that promising to begin with but I knew that deep down in my heart, with the talent involved here, that I wasn’t going to be let-down. Because, let’s face it, each and every one of us were surprised by the fact that not only was Thor a pretty good movie, but it was a pretty good action movie. Better yet, make that pretty good action movie, directed by none other than Mr. Kenneth Branagh himself. Seemed very strange at the time, but in hindsight, it surprisingly worked in the way that a superhero movie, let alone a Marvel superhero movie needed to: It was fun, quick, punchy, humorous and had all of the drama only a dignified Shakespeare-thespian could fully understand.

Like we all know though, Branagh didn’t return for the sequel, which meant that he wanted to do this and I’m glad he did because for some reason, it feels a lot more “classier” with him around. It’s not like the movie harkens back to any of those old-school, 70’s/80’s/early-90’s thrillers, but it definitely reminds you of a good, old-fashioned thriller that doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel by any means necessary, but does try to give you enough jumps, thrills, spills, chuckles and fun for the whole time you spend with it. That’s why I think Branagh, despite a few hiccups here and there along the way, gets the job done quite efficiently, without ever focusing too much on the story, or the action. We get a nice-balance between the two and makes this feel like a thriller, with some substance for anybody that may be searching for some.

Also though, it should be noted that the guy knows how to rack-up tension pretty damn well, in certain ways I didn’t even know he had the capability of. For instance, there’s this pretty nifty sequence in which Jack Ryan goes from one building to another and has to hack into a computer-system; but while he is doing this, simultaneously, Chervin is getting worked over by Ryan’s girlfriend, with a clock just tick, tick, ticking away in the background. It’s a sequence in which we know how it’s all going to end, but we don’t know how the pieces are going to fall and align together, and to watch as Branagh keeps us guessing, while on-the-edge of our seats at the same time, truly is something fun to be apart of.

Branagh also does something smart in how he’s able to get a good cast together and make something, out of nothing. Mainly, the character of Jack Ryan, who, as we all know, has never been an easy character to pull-of. For one, he’s incredibly smart and has to make you believe that he can punch, and/or yell-out numbers like it’s what he was born to do, while also assuring you that he can kick some fine booty, if the situation ever calls for it. However, as hard as that balance may be to work with, Chris Pine does a very nice job in giving us both sides to this character, without ever losing the charm that’s made him such a lovable-presence in the first place. There’s some knowing-winks here and there, and you may even get a Captain Kirk-like wisecrack or two, but altogether, Chris Pine is Jack Ryan and if the franchise was to continue on with him in the lead role, I think they’d definitely be in some safe hands.

"Excoose me, meece, but vould you vike to come back to vy humble abode and drvink some VVVVVodka with vme?"

“Excoose me, meece, but vould you vike to come back to vy humble abode and drvink some vodka with vme?”

Everybody else is pretty fun, too, although I have to still give credit to Kenneth Branagh for keeping everything small and sweet for what it was. We only get a few big characters here and there, and the rest are all window-dressing – which is all fine, considering that the heavy-hitting, big characters are played pretty-well by the cast. I’ve never seen a director cast himself as the villain in his own movie, but for what it’s worth, Branagh’s pretty fun, charming and suave, in a “I’ll kill you with a blink of my eye” kind-of-way. He’s certainly hamming it up, but it’s all in good fun, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy. Same goes for Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, who both play sides on Ryan’s end, while never making you so sure what they’re going to do next. Especially Costner who, by now, has pretty much cemented his role as the steel-faced, dead-pan guy you can call on to deliver what is basically exposition, but deliver it in such a compelling way, you’ll feel like you must need to listen. A lot of credit goes to Knightley, too, who is sadly given the role of the “annoying girlfriend who just wants love and attention from her boyfriend”, but handles it well, and in ways, gets her own chances to shine and show that she can stick-up for herself when the going gets going.

Still though: She’s no Anne Archer. Then again, no woman could ever be.

However, as much as I go on and on about this, I do have to state the fact that this is not a perfect movie by any means: there are a few times where the action gets a bit too indecipherable with all of the shaky-cam going on, and certain plot-points/twists are a bit confusing, especially to the common-ear. But in all, when it comes right down to making this a fun, action-thriller, that just so happens to be trying to catapult a new franchise onto the horizon, I have to say that I feel like we’re stepping with the right foot this time.

Now, granted, this movie could definitely bomb, and bomb BIG TIME at the box-office, almost to never be heard of again, but I for one hope that isn’t the case. If Branagh continues to direct, then I definitely don’t want this franchise to just stand and collapse with the blink of an eye; there is some nice, nifty details here and there that could definitely spin this story into some new foreign territory, in which we continue to see characters develop more, but also the action, along with the budget, get a lot wider and more expansive. Then again though, this could be all me just talking out of my arse by hoping for the best, while expecting the worst, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: Not the most memorable action-thriller involving spies you’ll ever see, but still fun, thrilling and exciting enough to make Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit a good time at the movies, as well as possibly the first of a soon-to-be franchise. Fingers crossed, people.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I guess the Enterprise was in the shop?

I guess the Enterprise was in the shop?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net