Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

The Northman (2022)

© Universal Pictures, Regency Enterprises and Perfect World Pictures

The Northman  – Film Review

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, Willem Dafoe

Director: Robert Eggers

Synopsis: A Viking Prince swears brutal revenge after witnessing his father’s death at the hands of his traitorous uncle…

Review: Over the last few years, there have been several up-and-coming directors who have made a significant impact with their careers, establishing their reputations as sought after talent, with every film they make becoming event-worthy. One such director would be Robert Eggers. His first two films, The Witch and The Lighthouse, with a combined budget of $15million, became indie darlings that were both released to critical acclaim. With that success to his name, it has given Eggers the platform to go all out, backed by a studio’s considerably larger budget (between $70 and 90 million), and make his biggest and most visually striking film to date.

Prince Amleth is a happy young Viking boy living with his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) and his mother, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). Aurvandill is aware that the time will come for Amleth to one day assume the responsibilities of King in his stead. However, before Aurvandill can properly prepare him for his role as King, Auravandill is betrayed and murdered by his brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang). Faced with the prospect of certain death at his uncle’s hands, Amleth is forced to flee but vows brutal revenge against his Uncle for his crimes. Several decades later, the now-adult Amleth (Skarsgård) has transformed into a fierce and brutal Viking warrior. Having lost sight of his original mission for vengeance, a chance meeting with a seeress (a brilliant cameo by Icelandic singer Björk), reminds him of the promise he made to himself all those years ago.

Welcome to the Viking gun show…

Based on the legend of Amleth, which served as the inspiration for the character of Hamlet in the famous play by Shakespeare, Eggers and the Icelandic poet and novelist Sjón, have crafted a screenplay that is so steeped in the richness of Norse mythology, that there probably could be a whole short film devoted to the extensive research that undoubtedly went into the making of the film. While it is first and foremost a tale of one man’s mission for revenge, Eggers takes a lot of time in the first act to establish the culture and the mythology that was central to the civilisation at the time, while simultaneously incorporating the visually striking aesthetics he’s renowned for.  By taking his time to explore the complexities of Norse mythology, Eggers is able to immerse his audiences with scenes of wild rituals, songs and spells and sacrifices. While it is true that at its heart, the plot is very much one man’s quest for bloody revenge against the man who committed a terrible atrocity against him many years ago. However, that does the plot a disservice, as there’s so much more meat on the bones to this story.

Such a physical and brutal film requires a committed leading performance, and in Alexander Skarsgård’s leading turn as Amleth, you have that and then some. His physical transformation for this role is extremely impressive, practically at times having transformed himself into a terrifying feral creature that’s more animal than man. He’s an absolute behemoth of a warrior that you would categorically not want to find yourself in battle with. While his physical prowess cannot be denied, there’s unfortunately not a lot of room for character development, beyond his desire for revenge. The character of Fjölnir could have been a very cliched villain who commits an act of betrayal against his family out of jealousy towards his brother. But as a terrifying and ruthless antagonist, Claes Bang imbues him with nuances and motivations that flesh him out.

Re-teaming with Eggers, after The Witch, Anya Taylor-Joy’s Olga is perhaps the character who is given the most development as the sorceress Olga. A witch who’s resourceful and with a cunning intellect, she works closely with Amleth to help him achieve his goal. A further reunion comes in the form of Willem Dafoe, who is clearly having a riot in his small but significant role of Helmir the Fool. Given she’s reduced to a cameo appearance in the first two acts, you’d have been forgiven for forgetting Kidman was even in the film at all. However, this all dramatically changes as she really stamps her authority onto the scene during the climactic third act.

As this is a tale about vengeance, some violence was inevitable, but this time around, Eggers holds nothing back. The violence is uncompromisingly brutal that will test even the strongest of stomachs. The thrum of the booming drums that make up a considerable chunk of the score is the perfect complement to the sweeping visual majesty of the rip-roaring spectacle. Even with one or two pacing issues in and around the middle, it’s not enough to drag down the sheer epicness of what Eggers brings to this tale. Into the halls of Valhalla, we go!

Bloody, ferocious and wildly entertaining, with an exceptional cast and an extraordinarily committed leading performance from Skarsgård, an ascension into the halls of the greatest revenge films of all time awaits.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Legendary

Godzilla vs Kong  – Film Review

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Kaylee Hottle

Director: Adam Wingard

Synopsis:  When the Monarch corporation seeks to use Kong for a secret mission, their plan puts Kong on a direct collision course with Godzilla, and almighty battle for monster supremacy ensues….

Review: It feels like that for as long as cinema has been around, the cinematic powerhouses of King Kong and Godzilla have roared and stomped their way to establish themselves as iconic pop culture titans. Titans that in years gone by, would have no problems drawing massive crowds into packed cinemas across the world. While the former made his first big screen appearance in 1933, and the latter in 1954, their first on screen meeting came in 1962. Yet, ever since the wheels of the MonsterVerse were first put back in motion in 2014, it feels like the franchise has been building towards another clash between these two legendary monsters. Nearly half a century after their first meeting, and armed with the wonders that modern CGI can produce, these two cinematic behemoths are once again, scrapping it out for titan supremacy.

The film picks up a number of years since the events of King of the Monsters. In that time, the Monarch corporation has been observing Kong at his home on Skull Island. A team of scientists led by Nathan Lind (Skarsgard) and Illene Andrews (Hall) are seeking to locate what they believe to be some kind of unique power source that supposedly can be found in a mythical location, somewhere on the planet. For this mission to succeed, they believe that Kong is best placed to guide them to this mystical location. However, before they can get started with their mission, they cross paths with Godzilla who is seemingly being provoked into hurting people, which may or may not be connected to something another sinister corporation’s mysterious activities. So when these two cross paths, a gargantuan clash between two of cinema’s greatest titans erupts.

When it comes to these films, the audience is there for one thing, and that is to see giant monsters beat the ever living shit out of each other. To their credit, all of the films have had their satisfying moments with these enormous showdowns, though admittedly some have done it better than others.  With Godzilla Vs Kong, the battle scenes depicted here are potentially some of the best that this franchise has ever produced, as they are extremely entertaining to watch, and the work that is done by the visual effects artists is extraordinary. With these monsters movies, a sense of scale is imperative, you need to feel the size and the scale of these monsters, and with the enthralling showdowns that the film gives us, they succeed whilst making us humans feel like teeny ants by comparison.

For all the fun and exhilaration that the gargantuan showdowns, this franchise has (with the odd exception) had a difficult ability to craft human characters that are well developed and to really make the audience care about them. Once again, for the most part, the human characters have the most minimal amount of development, and exist in this franchise to mainly serve up exposition to the audience. It has been a common theme in this franchise to have such talented actors involved, only for them to be serviceable pieces to the plot, when they have the potential to be so much more. While the overwhelming majority of the human characters here, both old and new, are once again serviceable to the plot at best, the one exception to this is the connection that Kong has with Jia, a young deaf girl. The arc of her character ensures that she is, by far and away, one of the most well developed human characters this franchise has produced.

The plot concerning the human characters is extremely silly, and one can definitely question whether any aspect of the screenplay makes one iota of sense. However, that isn’t strictly necessary when it comes to a film that features a giant ape and a giant lizard squaring off against one another. You come to watch two cinematic titans having a good old scrap, and that is exactly what this film delivers. Furthermore, in a year that has been turbulent for the big screen experience that has seen cinemas for the most part stay shut, this is the sort of film that audiences need to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride that is depicted on screen. As Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) said way back in 2014’s Godzilla said, “Let them fight,” and watch the monster mayhem unfold in all of its glory.

While beset with the familiar issue of (mostly) uninteresting and disposable human characters, when it comes to the main event of titans engaging in a fight to the death, this epic showdown is a roaring success.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Long Shot (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate, Good Universe and Point Grey Pictures

Long Shot – Film Review

Cast: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård

Director: Jonathan Levine

Synopsis: As she is preparing her bid for President of the United States, Charlotte Fields (Theron), recruits childhood acquaintance Fred Flarksy (Rogen), an outspoken journalist, as her speechwriter…

Review: In these very politically charged times, to make a film that is very politically orientated is an extremely brave decision to make. It is even more bold to take a genre that you wouldn’t normally associate with politics, like rom-com, and to add a bit of political spice into the mix. The final outcome is an interesting hodgepodge of genres, and while it is not quite a landslide victory, it isn’t too far away.

Fred Flarksy is an outspoken journalist who is down on his luck having just lost his job. As he bids to get back on his feet, he runs into Charlotte Fields, who he once knew as a child. While his life is somewhat in limbo, she is flying high in US politics as the Secretary of State. However, she has her eyes on a much bigger prize and is poised to officially announce her bid for the Presidency. A chance meeting reunites them both, and sensing she can use Fred’s writing skills to pep up her speeches, and boost her ratings, she offers him a job on her official campaign as her speechwriter. Of course, though they don’t seem like the most ideal couple, that doesn’t stop them falling for one another, and an unlikely romance starts to brew between them.

As with any romantic comedy, its primary objectives are to be both romantic and funny, and this film puts an X in both these boxes. Rogen’s background in comedy certainly helps with the comedic aspect as there are plenty of laughs to be found.  As she has proved throughout her career, Theron, is effortlessly watchable as she brings class and sophistication to her performance, a polar opposite to the brash, loudmouth nature of Fred’s personality. However, when the situation requires it, she can also be extremely hilarious as she engages in some amusing shenanigans.

As a pairing, Rogen and Theron certainly seem far from a match made in political heaven, but the chemistry between the two of them is very strong and as the film wears on you completely buy them as a couple and hope to see, in spite of the difficulties of the situation, to make it work between them. Of all the excellent supporting cast, O’Shea Jackson Jr is by far the best of the bunch as Fred’s extremely entertaining, supportive long time best friend. Though it is for the most part extremely entertaining, not all of the jokes hit their targets, as some of them can be extremely cringey.

The world of politics is a very fraught arena right now, and the screenplay from Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling uses that to its advantage. It takes some not-so-subtle digs at certain news organisations, and their CEOs. In addition, it puts the current US political climate under a microscope, analysing a plethora of topics most notably, the intense scrutiny that political candidates, especially female ones can find themselves under. Though it does have plenty of things to say about numerous topics. However, the pacing is not perfect as it does lose its way about half way through the film. There are some familiar rom com tropes, yet the performances of the leading duo ensure that the film has charm and sets it on its way to success in the polls.

 A blend of romance, comedy and politics is an unlikely mesh, but with the backing of the great performances of its leads, Long Shot gets the votes it needs to set it on its way to success.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

tarzan
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-