It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still feels too soon for another remake. Thankfully, this is actually a sequel (perhaps it should have been titled Tarzan Returns), and along with a first-rate cast, this movie has a surprisingly beefy script that hints at a much more high-brow adventure epic. But clearly the studio preferred to make a mindless bit of blockbuster action.
After leaving the jungle, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) has settled into life in damp 1880s England as the Earl of Greystoke with his American wife Jane (Margot Robbie). Meanwhile, deep in the Congo, Belgian diplomat Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) has made a deal with Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), who has a personal grudge against Tarzan. Planning to hand over Tarzan in exchange for diamonds, Leon lures Tarzan back to Africa, accompanied by Jane and the American explorer George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), who suspects that the slave trade hasn't ended. On arrival, Leon pounces, and Tarzan must revert to the instincts he learned from the gorillas who raised him, while calling on help from old friends.
The plot is actually quite compelling, sparking lots of whooshing action (including plenty of vine-swinging) while grappling with some bigger themes involving colonialism and racism, plus more personal issues of identity and responsibility. The actors pack their scenes with textures that touch on these ideas, while also providing a spark of wit. With his impossibly sculpted physique, Skarsgard looks rather too gym-fit for the role, but he gives Tarzan a soulfulness that makes him likeable. He also develops some steamy chemistry with Robbie, who shines in her role as a feisty woman happy to return to the village where she was raised. The best scene in the film is when she has dinner with Waltz' sneering villain, gleefully swapping innuendo. And even with the action and gunplay, this is Jackson's deepest role in years.
Continue reading: The Legend Of Tarzan Review
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's complete lack of originality keeps it from being something memorable. Centring on a committed performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, it's always watchable, but it's rather annoying that every time an interesting theme is raised the script sidesteps into yet another boxing-movie cliche.
Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope, an orphan raised in the system who rose to become the world light heavyweight champion. He has savvy wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) at his side, smart young daughter Leila (Oona Laurence) cheering him on and the fiercest manager (Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson) in the business. But personal failures, unexpected tragedies and financial crises suddenly bring an end to his millionaire lifestyle, leaving him alone and wandering the New York streets in search of a place to live. He seeks help from grizzled gym owner Tick (Forest Whitaker), who helps Billy rebuild himself so he can take on his nemesis (Miguel Gomez).
Billy is such a hot-head that he's not easy to like, continually blowing his top to make everything much worse for himself and his family. Gyllenhaal is an astonishing mass of muscles, scars and tattoos, with a burning inner rage that's startlingly believable. He also works hard to earn the audience's sympathies, despite the blunt superficiality of Kurt Sutter's script. Whitaker's role is even less nuanced; he's little more than the formulaic gruff trainer who's always played by an ageing Oscar winner. McAdams injects some snappy energy in her too-brief role, and it's actually Laurence who emerges as the film's most resonant character, effortlessly stealing her scenes right out from under Gyllenhaal's smashed-in nose.
Continue reading: Southpaw Review
Alan Riche and Peter Riche - New York premiere of 'Southpaw' for THE WRAP at AMC Loews Lincoln Square - Arrivals at AMC Loews Lincoln Square - New York, New York, United States - Monday 20th July 2015
This charm may not be entirely expected. After all, it is (1) an adaptation of a 1970s cop show, (2) arriving maybe a decade after the peak of seventies nostalgia, (3) assembled by director-writer Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School), whose previous movies were only funny to the extent that the actors could overcome his aimless, slapdash staging (Will Ferrell, no problem; Breckin Meyer, less so).
Continue reading: Starsky & Hutch Review
Tomcats wins, hands-down, the lowest common denominator award so far this year. It's a trashy, sexist, crude comedy revolving around the values of commitment, honesty, and screwing your friends over for half a million dollars. In the process, it throws us numerous sex partners, Bill Maher playing a thug named Carlos, true love, and an escaping testicle.
Continue reading: Tomcats Review
In case that hasn't tipped you off, my gripes about The Mod Squad, a movie based on a late-sixties, early-seventies TV show that wasn't that great to begin with, should probably clue you in. I am not saying starring, because anyone who would act in this film and consider themselves a star for it is either a drunk or has an agent that's a drunk, probably the latter. I can forgive Giovanni Ribisi, on the account of the fact that he's acted in good movies (unlike Epps and Danes, who rarely even get close to a good role). He's been in Gus Van Sant and he even does a good job among the twentysomething shoot-the-actors while making them popular sitcom of Friends, where several good actors seem to go to work the bad acting out of their system (i.e. Lisa Kudrow). I maybe can forgive Dennis Farina, who is at least killed off before the movie gets really bad.
Continue reading: The Mod Squad Review
What do you do when you discover that evil capitalists are secretly planning to turn the fun, laid back, quirky independent music store you work at into a "Music Town" (e.g. Music Warehouse, Tower Records, etc.)? Why you steal the nightly deposit and take it to Atlantic City, of course. Or so confused outsider Lukas (Rory Cochrane) assumes. But after an uninspired - both visually and luck-wise - trip to the craps table, Lukas is forced to return empty handed and face the music (pun intended). However, lucky Lukas has the coolest boss in the whole world, and they get together with the rest of the Empire Records crew to fix the money problem and keep the store's capitalist pig owner and the threat of Music Town at bay.
Continue reading: Empire Records Review
But when this good-natured Wall Street mega-titan puts his life on the line to save a convenience store from a firefight, he makes a big mistake. Because that kid with the pistol (Don Cheadle) is no ordinary hoodlum -- he's some kind of wacky angel or ghost-of-Christmas-in-a-parallel-universe or something. And little does Jack know, as he lay himself down to sleep on Christmas Eve, that he'll wake the next morning to the life he could've had if only he'd married his college girlfriend (Téa Leoni, Deep Impact) instead of following his ambition to become one of the world's richest, most powerful men.
Continue reading: The Family Man Review
The story is familiar - genetic tampering makes sharks brilliantly intelligent - and they want nothing more than to eat people. Along the food chain are Samuel Jackson, Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, and Michael Rapaport. But most notable is rapper LL Cool J as a cook/preacher who provides much-needed comic relief to the proceedings.
Continue reading: Deep Blue Sea Review
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