Tony Ludwig

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The Legend Of Tarzan Review

Good

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.

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Bride Wars Review


Good
Code Name: The Cleaner. BloodRayne. Grandma's Boy. White Noise. Elektra. Are We There Yet?

These are not preliminary selections for the inaugural class of an as-yet-unfounded Hollywood Hall of Shame. They are instead the most recent cinematic abominations to have been released in the early weeks of the new year, dating back to 2005. My colleagues and I regularly joke that if a studio hopes to bury a movie in the cold, efficient style of the mob hiding Jimmy Hoffa, they release it in early January (late August is a suitable alternative). And I've long believed if an intelligent studio sought a surefire hit, they'd counter-program a halfway decent film against the post-holiday garbage, then sit back and watch the box-office receipts pour in.

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Starsky & Hutch Review


Excellent
How gratifying to laugh at a movie starring Ben Stiller again. Not just occasional chuckles, as in Duplex or Along Came Polly, but big, genuine, generous laughs. A solid, well-timed comedy can be such a relief; Starsky & Hutch is no more than that, but that's part of its charm.

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).

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Tomcats Review


Weak
The one statement used in defining a film that drives fear and loathing into my heart is invariably "an outlandish comedy." They try in vain to recycle the originality of American Pie, Porky's, Road Trip, or South Park, attempting to meld a T&A gross-out contest with a love story, and they always fail miserably.

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.

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The Mod Squad Review


Terrible
As anyone who has read my last two reviews: short films that studios and people alike have never heard of and are available for free download via the internet, you can probably guess that I have it out against the current regime of Hollywood movies, which, after seeing basically crap for about four months, is beginning to make Communist Russia under Stalin seem like a pretty friendly place.

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

Empire Records Review


OK
"Don't let the Man get you down." That teen angst/rebellion catchphase that everybody understands but doesn't actually mean anything is Empire Records' most cherished line of dialogue, and it also nicely captures the film's theme: Rebellion is wonderful when it doesn't mean anything. Empire is not alone. A whole spat of teen films came out in the latter half of the 1990s, trying to represent the dissonant voice of the growing "alternative" movement (e.g. grunge, Nirvana, etc.): Reality Bites being the best example. But Empire manages overcome all the rest just by the sheer number of teen film tropes and stereotypes it is able to cram into one film.

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.

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The Family Man Review


Very Good
Just in time for Christmas comes a story worthy of both Ebenezer and Jimmy Stewart, with Wild at Heart's Nicholas Cage cast in the role of the out of touch rich guy. Jack Campbell (Cage) is not a bad man. He's not even a callous man. He's just a regular guy who happens to believe that millions of dollars, a beautiful blonde lover, and a Ferrari in the garage are ample compensation for whatever he may be missing in the way of mediocre suburban living.

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

Deep Blue Sea Review


Very Good
It's been a few years since a good shark movie, and while Lake Placid played games with the monster movie genre, Deep Blue Sea aims to please with an old-fashioned thriller where, once again, the beasts are much smarter than the prey (the people).

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.

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Tony Ludwig Movies

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Bride Wars Movie Review

Bride Wars Movie Review

Code Name: The Cleaner. BloodRayne. Grandma's Boy. White Noise. Elektra. Are We There Yet?These are...

Starsky & Hutch Movie Review

Starsky & Hutch Movie Review

How gratifying to laugh at a movie starring Ben Stiller again. Not just occasional chuckles,...

Tomcats Movie Review

Tomcats Movie Review

The one statement used in defining a film that drives fear and loathing into my...

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The Mod Squad Movie Review

The Mod Squad Movie Review

As anyone who has read my last two reviews: short films that studios and people...

The Family Man Movie Review

The Family Man Movie Review

Just in time for Christmas comes a story worthy of both Ebenezer and Jimmy Stewart,...

Deep Blue Sea Movie Review

Deep Blue Sea Movie Review

It's been a few years since a good shark movie, and while Lake Placid played...

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