Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac Entertainment.

The Legend of Tarzan – Film Review

Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L Jackson, Djimon Hounsou

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: Tarzan, now going under the name John Clayton, lives in London with his wife Jane, until he is forced to return to his roots as plans for a mining colony threaten the wildlife.

Review: For many people of the younger generation, their first introduction to the character of Tarzan was Disney’s 1999 animated movie, but he is in fact a character who first appeared in the novel Tarzan of the Apes, which was first published over 100 years ago. He has been represented many times and now director David Yates, famed for his sterling work in bringing the Harry Potter franchise some of its best films, now attempts to give his take on the Lord of Apes for a new generation, and well Tarzan certainly knows how to swing from branch to branch effortlessly, but this retelling of Tarzan’s story does not come out swinging, instead falling somewhat flat on its face after missing its aim.

Tarzan has moved on from his jungle days by the time we meet him and has settled down with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) and living in rather comfortable quarters in London. He is determined to move on, but of course, he is forced to revert to his animal like mannerisms when the area where he was raised comes under attack, principally from Ernest Rom. (Christoph Waltz) So off comes the shirt and Tarzan is reborn!

With a director of the quality of David Yates behind the camera, fans of the character must have been optimistic for a solid portrayal of the titular character. There’s no question that Alexander Skarsgard got his physique but his performance is painfully wooden in more than a few places. Naturally you root for him as he’s the protagonist but he’s not exactly a hero to get your blood pumping, in a way that a character like Tarzan very easily could. Margot Robbie gives everything she has as Jane but the script is on the whole a bit weak, with character development being on the scarce side including the main antagonist Rom. Waltz has shown he can be a really compelling villain to watch in the past, but here, not so much as his villain is just bland and uninteresting. The bright spot is by far and away Sam Jackson’s character, as he brings some much needed humour to the story, but it’s not enough to save the movie from its slow, dreary pace.

Yates certainly manages to bring some nice visuals to the story here, with some very impressive sweeping shots of the landscape, but these are negated by some less than impressive visuals of the animals. It’s rather obvious that these are CG creations, and it takes you out of the experience, as with today’s technology, it’s very possible to make CG creations look genuine and authentic but its almost as if the production had reached its budget and had to make the CG animals at the last minute. As such, the action scenes, while they are very well handled, certainly do not engage the viewer as much as they could and maybe should.

Rupert Gregson Williams’s score is decent enough, but it is not enough to save this latest retelling of the tale of Tarzan from its mediocrity. It is baffling how a quality director like Yates, who gave us some of the best Harry Potter movies, can’t take a character like Tarzan and make him a lot more compelling. Tarzan remains a loved literary figure, yet one can only hope that this retelling of his story is a “Legend” that will be forgotten soon enough.

A thoroughly uninteresting retelling for the Lord of the Apes, with a poor script, bland characters and some inexcusably bad CGI, this is certainly not a Legend, in any sense of the word. 

C-

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions and Alibaba Pictures

Star Trek Beyond – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Sofia Boutella, John Cho, Anton Yelchin

Director: Justin Lin

Synopsis: In the middle of their five year mission, the Enterprise is lured into a trap by a deadly alien threat by the villainous Krall, who threatens to tear the Enterprise, and indeed Starfleet apart.

Review: It has been an incredible fifty years since Gene Roddenberry’s first television series carrying the title Star Trek burst onto small screens. Since then, thirteen feature films have made their way onto the big screen, and we have had plenty of spin-off TV shows. While not all of these have endured the kindest of reactions from Trekkies and critics alike, one thing cannot be disputed, the franchise has prospered through this half a century, making its mark on popular culture. When it came to the third installment of the rebooted franchise, with its golden anniversary on the horizon, fans were surely hoping that the franchise would strike gold once again, and well they are in luck, as its thirteenth feature film has done exactly that.

With the man behind Star Trek and Into Darkness, a certain Mr JJ Abrams going off to a galaxy far far away, a number of directors were in the frame to take over the responsibility of the director’s chair, with producer Roberto Orci at one stage at the helm. However, that responsibility ultimately went to Justin Lin, of Fast and Furious fame. When the first trailer dropped many feared that this would be Fast and Furious but in space. However, credit where credit is due, as Lin has put together a very enjoyable and extremely well made movie that feels like a Star Trek movie should. With Scotty himself, Simon Pegg helping to write the script, they certainly aimed for a film that would please fans, given how Into Darkness was not very well received by some sections of the Trekkie community. The action here is once again of a very high quality with more than a few pulse racing sequences, the best of these scenes are by far on the hostile alien world that the Enterprise crew find themselves on. A few shaky cam scenes aside the action is put together very well and there are more than a few very funny moments packed into the movie’s run time.

JJ Abrams may have returned in a producer capacity only, but full credit must go to him for putting together this amazing ensemble because once again, each and every one of them deliver great performances. Yet again it is Chris Pine who really shines the brightest, with major kudos also going to Quinto and Karl Urban as Spock and Bones respectively. The latter duo in particular share a lot more screen time in this installment, and all the better for it as they make an effective duo! In terms of new arrivals, the standout by a considerable distance is Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. Her work in Kingsman showed how much of a badass she could be and likewise here. The real let down here is the villain played by Idris Elba, an actor of immense talent, but his character could have been a little bit more fleshed out, and given a little bit more to do. He’s better than Nero from the 2009 reboot, but he’s by no means on the level of Cumberbatch as Khan, not even close.

That being said, those who may have feared that this film would fall out of warp and crash and burn were proven to be very wrong indeed. The score by Michael Giacchino is once again of a very high quality. Thirteen maybe an unlucky number for some, but not for Star Trek, Star Trek is showing no signs of slowing down, and indeed, a fourth film is already in the works. Mr Roddenberry would undoubtedly be pleased to see the prosperity the franchise has enjoyed, and is continuing to boldly go where no franchise has gone before!

The foundations that were laid by Abrams have been greatly added to by Lin, the cast remain excellent, as does the chemistry between the leads, with the quality action sequences also being maintained. At this rate, the franchise is at full warp speed and nothing is going to stop it!

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions and K/O Paper Products

Star Trek Into Darkness – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Director: JJ Abrams

Synopsis: When Starfleet comes under attack, the crew of the Enterprise are challenged to apprehend the culprit, a man who goes by the name of John Harrison, a man who is on his personal mission of vengeance.

Review: JJ Abrams certainly undertook his own almost five year mission when it came to his work with the Star Trek franchise. After directing its enormously successful 2009 reboot, and with a little break in between in which he directed 2011’s Super 8, the director sat back down in the Star Trek director’s chair once again for its 2013 sequel. Under his guidance, the franchise returned to prosperity with the first movie in the rebooted franchise, and this installment of the franchise certainly helped to continue that trend.

Abrams certainly understood that what makes Star Trek is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Despite being friends, they still have their differences and come to several disagreements which threaten to tear them apart. This is until a very frightening threat emerges against Starfleet in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, a man we initially know as just John Harrison, but if you have seen the movie, you know that he is hiding some secrets about his true identity. The first film suffered from a lack of a really compelling villain. However with Cumberbatch, there was no chance of that repeating as he is electric to watch. His work in the Hobbit movies certainly showed he has a very menacing and sinister way of delivering his lines, and he was completely compelling to watch, as he battles with the Enterprise, it makes for some really entertaining moments.

Although Cumberbatch steals the show, the Enterprise crew certainly also show their credentials once again, with Chris Pine remaining excellent as Kirk. Much like Cumberbatch, he is very compelling to watch, and even more so when the two of them clash. In addition, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana certainly command more screen time than the others, with Simon Pegg once again providing the comic relief as Scotty. The acting remained of a very stellar quality and the action remains just as exciting here as it was in the first movie. Abrams once again demonstrated his tremendous skills when it came to the action sequences. Once scene in particular that takes place on the Klingon home-world shows Abrams at his best. The film never stops, and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman back on script duties do some tremendous work to provide newer fans of the franchise to enjoy, whilst also throwing things in there that should satisfy every Trekkie on the planet.

The prosperity returned to the franchise under Abrams’s tutelage and direction without a doubt, despite what some Trekkies may tell you. The movie has suffered over the years and was voted the worst film in the franchise, yet it provides plenty of entertainment for everyone to enjoy. Although he moved on to direct this franchise’s great rival in Star Wars, it is hard to argue against the terrific job Abrams has done for the franchise, he brought it back to prominence and at the end of his four year mission, he has vacated the chair, and certainly left the franchise in a better position than when he found it, of that there is no question.

Certain Trekkies will undoubtedly argue otherwise, but this chapter continues from where the first film left off, with great action sequences, a really deep and emotional story and a tremendous performance from Cumberbatch as the antagonist. Live long and prosper indeed!

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Trek (2009)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions and Spyglass Entertainment

Star Trek – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Director: JJ Abrams

Synopsis: James Tiberius Kirk is a young man with seemingly no future ahead of him, until he is persuaded to join Starfleet and follow in the footsteps of his father.

Review: Reboots certainly are a very common occurrence in Hollywood movies these days, with every popular franchise getting one. So of course, it was only a matter of time until Star Trek underwent the reboot treatment. A franchise that has endured the test of time, and has had its fair share of setbacks and disappointments. Seven years after 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis was released,  fresh after directing the third Mission Impossible Movie, JJ Abrams came on board, sat in the director’s chair and fired this franchise into warp speed and in very impressive style too.

The film focuses on a young James T Kirk, a man who is sort of on the road to nowhere and likes gets into a few fights. He is looking for something to give his life significance and meaning and he eventually finds this in Starfleet. Also arriving on the Starfleet scene is the Vulcan Spock, who due to his human mother is almost looked down upon by his fellow Vulcans. Through this the two of them form an understanding of what it’s like to be cast aside, and a friendship of sorts, is formed, but it’s not without its problems. With the timeline in this movie dramatically altered, Abrams almost gives himself a clean slate to work from, but he also knew how to make this reboot work and work well. Yes it is cool to see ships travel at Warp Speed and to see impressive planets, but at its heart, Star Trek is a franchise that focuses on its characters, as the brilliant pairing of William Shatner and the late Leonard Nimoy demonstrated in the older films.

The new cast certainly give credit where credit’s due, but they all make the roles their own. Special mentions must go to Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Much like Messrs Shatner and Nimoy, the pair of them are brilliant in the roles of Kirk and Spock respectively. They may bicker and clash about almost anything they can, but there is a connection, a mutual admiration in many ways between them. Also great is Karl Ubran as Dr Leonard McCoy AKA Bones. He gives off that typical Karl Ubran gruffness, and he is a little bit grumpy for sure, but there is sincerity and depth to his performance, as is just about everyone else. Star Trek is nothing without the crew of the Enterprise and this crew all give very fine performances, and you enjoy watching them work.

Abrams certainly showed with MI that he knows how to handle action, and here he displays it once again. The action is glorious to watch and there’s plenty of it too. From the epic clash in the opening sequence to a enthralling space jump sequence that is packed with his trademark lens flares in more than a few scenes. One could certainly never accuse Abrams of lacking style. He brings a very exciting style to the way he directs and it works very well for the film.  However, the main thing dragging this movie down is the villain Nero played by Eric Bana. He looks menacing enough for sure, but he is in many ways a throw away villain, and will not leave the viewer with a lasting impression when the credits begin to role.

That being said, despite his predisposition to the Star Wars Franchise, Abrams gave the Trekkies just what they needed after seven years. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, along with Abrams certainly set out to please the fans, and bring new people on board to the franchise, and they certainly did just that! It was just about the perfect start for this new Star Trek franchise with all phasers set to thrill!

A really smart reboot with brilliant acting from Pine and Quinto, with some great action scenes and superb direction from Abrams. The more than five year mission to get here was certainly worth it!

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