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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Stephen Parker

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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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

The Danish Girl (2015)

No Kardashian drama here. Just drama in general.

In the mid-20s, Danish painter Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) was living what appeared to be, the life. Married to his beautiful artist wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), was able to have as much fun as he wanted to, by going out to lavish parties, drinking all sorts of fine drinks, and, occasionally, getting a chance to dress up in women’s clothing to model for his wife’s paintings. At first though, it all seems like fun between a couple who clearly can’t be more in love. Eventually though, all of the fun begins to change and become, surprisingly, quite serious; now, instead of just having fun and wearing the women’s clothing for the hell of it, Einar is now wearing it all the time and doing it because he really feels the need to. Also, not to mention, that whenever Einar does dress-up, he does so under the persona of “Lili,”. Because, at is appears, Einar wants to be a woman, but considering that this is the early 20th century, it’s mostly frowned-upon and unheard of. But as his feelings become more conflicted with his feelings of being trapped in the wrong body/gender, friction between he and his wife start as they’re left to wonder what to do next with their relationship, as well as their own lives.

Wait? Stephen Hawkin?

Oh yeah. I can totally see the Stephen Hawkin comparisons now.

Around this time every year, there’s always that one movie that’s drenched in so much Oscar-bait, it’s almost embarrassing. These are, quite frankly, the kinds of movies that, on the surface, are pretty, handsomely made, edited, acted, and feature many “big” moments that demand your attention. But by the same token, these are also the kinds of movies that care so much about how many nominations they tally during awards season, that they forget what makes movies work so well in the first place: You know, things like heart, emotion, and most of all, importance. This isn’t to say that the Danish Girl, given the current world of media, isn’t important, but it is, at the same time, also the kind of movie we’re all used to seeing around this time of the year.

Meaning that, yes, the Danish Girl is safe, conventional, hardly surprising, and most obviously, accessible to just about each and every person who is the least bit interested in what this subject material is all about.

But I’m actually kind of conflicted in my feelings about that fact. For one, it’s nice to see a movie like the Danish Girl not be tied down by its subject material and instead, be able to tell its story the way it wants. Sure, there’s some full-frontal nudity and racy sex that will most definitely upset the elder ones in the crowd, but they don’t carry the movie down, or feel gratuitous; they work, given the context of the story. If anything, I’m more surprised that the movie itself wasn’t slapped with a NC-17 right off the bat, but hey, I guess there’s a true sign that we’re growing as a loving, caring and accepting society.

Still though, the Danish Girl is also too safe that it feels like it doesn’t really care about going hard or deep enough into this story to really have each and every person connect to it. This isn’t to say that unless you are in some way, shape, or fashion, trans, you won’t find something to be touched by with the Danish Girl, however, the movie doesn’t really set out to grab ahold of anyone. It has a story to tell here, which it does so well enough that it’s easy-to-follow and understandable, however, also feels like it’s just going through the same sorts of motions we’ve seen a story such as this go before.

It should also be noted that Tom Hooper, of the King’s Speech fame, directed the Danish Girl and clearly seems invested in what this story represents and discusses. That Einar’s constant need and desire to be accepted for who he was and not what others wanted him to be, is a universal enough feeling and idea that makes it easy for anyone to connect to. Granted, most of the Danish Girl is spent just watching as Einar goes from one scene to the other, trying harder and harder to hide his feminine ways, but still, given that this story takes place nearly a century ago, there’s something interesting to see and take note of; that everyone Einar goes up to to ask for “help”, is already prepared to fire up the lobotomy machine, or call up the cops, already gives you the right idea of just how controversial and forbidden homosexuality was.

"Why does he want me to paint him like one of my French girls?"

“Why does he want me to paint him like one of my French girls?”

This isn’t anything new, obviously, but Hooper presents it in such a way that’s neat to watch.

Problem is, like I said before, the rest of the movie moves at such a languid pace, it’s hard to ever get wrapped up. That’s a problem, too, because this tale of Einar’s own self-discovery, is supposed to be the one we feel apart of right from the very start – instead, it’s more of his wife’s story and just how she accepts the strange and unexpected turn her life has just taken. This isn’t to disregard Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Einar/Lili, as anything but good, because he really is; after awhile though, the character does become one-note and eventually, it’s easy to predict just how he’ll act when thrown into a certain situation.

The one I really couldn’t help but get wrapped up in was Alicia Vikander and her character’s story. 2015 has, for the most part, been Vikander’s year – she’s appeared in nearly 8 films this year, most of which, she’s done something new and interesting within each one. While this role is most likely to be her the one of hers that garners the most attention, there’s no denying the fact that she, as well as the role, deserve it. What’s so interesting about Gerda is how accepting and supportive she is of her husband, even despite the fact that he’s clearly starting to drift further and further away from her and more into his own world.

It would be easy to chalk Gerda up to being “annoying” and “pathetic”, because of for how long she decides to stick by her husband, no matter how much pain or turmoil he causes her, but it’s obvious from the very start, really: They’re in love. And when two people are in love, it’s hard for the other to just get up and leave, regardless of the situation. Though Vikander does so much crying here that I was actually worried her tear-ducts would just split open, she’s still so effective here that, if the movie wins for anything, I hope it’s for her. She’s the heart and soul of this movie that always seems like she knows what she wants the most, even in the most confusing of times.

Which is, yes, absolutely what love’s all about.

Consensus: Lush, well-acted, and relevant, the Danish Girl is a fine film that’s easy to admire, yet, at the same time, feels so safe and conventional, that it’s also easy to not ever actually get too involved with.

7 / 10

Perfect make-up partners!

Perfect make-up partners!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire