The Legend Of Tarzan – Review

Rating: 12
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz.
Directed by David Yates
Written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer
Length: 110mins

In 2016 David Yates brought the story of Tarzan back to the big screen. Originally books, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, the story of the boy raised by apes certainly captured the attentions of a wide range of audiences; assisted, of course, by Disney’s animated musical adaptation. There have been several film versions since so why make another? This film succeeds in taking a well known story and finding a totally fresh angle. While including the charm of a childhood classic it’s full of action, romance and friendship – a true family film and perhaps a modern classic.

Part of the intrigue of this film is that it’s main story is somewhat separate from ‘the boy raised by apes’. The movie starts with the setting of the scene – the African Congo divided and King Leopold of Belgium running up enormous debts in his attempts to discover his new colonies’ riches; in desperation he sends Leon Rom (Waltz) to source the legendary diamonds of Opar who is met by a mighty tribe determined to defend their land and its heritage…or so it seems. Our first introduction to Tarzan (Skarsgard) is as John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke, a gentleman thriving in his adult life with his wife, Jane (Robbie). A whirlwind of events follow in a plot filled with a wonderful originality for a legendary story remade many times.

For those hoping for a nostalgic experience, you will not be disappointed. Though this film does lack amusing little musical numbers and talking animals, we are presented with familiarities of the legend through flashbacks and reminiscent dialogue. This movie doesn’t strike me as one that aimed for particular accolades within the film industry and though armed with a hugely talented award winning cast, it really feels like the storytelling is at it’s heart. The editing and the score fit perfectly with the essence of the overall production. This seemingly ‘simple’ approach, by simple I mean a key focus being plainly on the telling of the story, is what makes it so watchable. Through my watching and re-watching of this movie it has highlighted and elicited a desire to pull out the truth from amongst the story. Though this particular storyline was created and developed, King Leopold of Belgium and the horrors that he imposed onto the Congo were very real; slavery, exploitation, kidnap, ransom and genocide. It is my view that if a fictional story can highlight an issue enough to encourage it’s audience to research how much, if any, of it’s story is true, then it’s a vitally important tool.

Alexander Skarsgard manages to portray a truly believable character, one difficult for many in western civilisations to comprehend. Though many will understand ‘Tarzan’ to be a fictional character there are some who believe that Lord William Charles Midlan, an earl who lived in the wilds of Africa between 1868 and 1883, was the inspiration for the original story. There are many true stories of children taken in my primates and though they most likely didn’t ‘speak’ to the animals, a level of communication and learning must have developed. Fascinating scenarios that really do add to the enjoyment whilst watching a film like ‘The Legend of Tarzan’.

While the country is in lockdown this is a perfect film to sit down and watch with the entire family, with little flashes of humour, action and a whole load of originality it should capture the attention of all ages. As previously stated this film encourages research, be it into the original inspiration for Tarzan (Lord Midlan), into cases of humans taken in by animals or into the historical injustices that cover the worlds history. If one of those areas interests you I urge you to look into it and see what you can learn.

Charlie’s Angels – Review

Rated: 12A
Cast: Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by Elizabeth Banks
Written by Elizabeth Banks, David Auburn and Evan Spiliotopoulos
Length: 118mins

As soon as I heard about a third Charlie’s Angels movie I knew that people would love it or hate it. The first two films (2000, 2003), starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz, are not typically considered ‘great films’ and I would absolutely agree with the general consensus. The 2019 movie had a make over – new cast, writers and director, as well as a more contemporary approach to the whole thing. If, like me, you loved the idea of the first two films but cringed at the cheesy moments and physically impossible ‘stunts’ then I urge to you give this new film a go. If you hated everything about the originals then perhaps, I would suggest, this one isn’t for you.

This revamped story of female spies working for the Townsend Agency isn’t a retelling. It’s not replacing the characters of old and just jazzing up their story. It widens the world of the original, including a few nice subtle ‘nods’ to the past films without forcing it’s audience into confusion if this is the first Charlie’s Angels film they’ve watched. I think the one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this so much is because they made it that little bit more believable – in a world where so many films are about superheroes, I quite like that the film makers created a world with heroes that could, in theory, exist. Although it compliments the older films with little throwbacks, you don’t need to have seen them to watch and enjoy this film.

While not particularly complex, the story does have a couple of twists and turns which keep you gripped. The film is kept light by the comical moments, brilliantly executed (usually) by Kristen Stewart. My least favourite element was the somewhat comical villain, played by Sam Claflin. Don’t get me wrong, I really like him as an actor, but there are a few scenes where his squeals and slightly panto-esque facial expressions changed the tone of certain moments. I imagine they were choices made for comical effect, but for me, they weren’t really funny and cheapened it slightly.

One theme, explored in both the older movies and the new, is considering women and how they were/have been/can be perceived. I actually found the attempts from Banks to try to modernise the gender politics appropriately pitched – there were powerful messages of intelligence and strength alongside a sharper awareness of how men might underestimate the skills and physical competency of women which is nicely heightened. The leading trio are made to be sexy without being turned into sex objects. Equally, the film isn’t perfect, and it’s important to remember that one film will never cover all areas and, alone, wont impact the masses into social change.

If you pull this movie apart and analyse every frame, you’ll struggle to find cinematic genius or deeply powerful undertones. But I do believe that if you enjoy a bit of fast paced fun then you could thoroughly enjoy the watch and might find one or two moments that speak to you outside of the story.

The Gentlemen – Review

Rating: 18
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding and Hugh Grant.
Directed by Guy Ritchie.
Written by Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies.
Length: 113mins

The Gentlemen is, on the surface, exactly what you expect it to be – it’s a Guy Ritchie, fast paced, gangster movie about the British drug industry. Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) is right-hand man to the UK’s biggest weed dealer Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). When Raymond gets home late one night he finds Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleezy journalist who’s waiting for him. Fletcher has a story he’s ready to sell to the highest bidder involving Mickey, drugs, violence, and more, and as we watch that story unfold it serves as an introduction to a mixed bag of characters who’s stories intertwine whether they want to or not…

The 18 certificate is undeniably down to the sheer level of bad language and violence. I don’t mind either of these elements as long as they are telling a truthful story, if it’s all within context. I felt like some of the language in this movie was just thrown about and wasn’t necessary which tainted the overall experience. What surprised me was the carefully considered story line which was executed really well. The viewer experiences most of the narrative through the lens of Fletchers blackmailing story which was really effective, it doesn’t feel like it disjointedly jumps between the present and the past, it’s much more smooth which also reflects the characters and their natures.

The film is well formed and pretty to look at. While that’s aided by the brilliant cast, credit is deserved for the cinematographer Alan Stewart and costume designer Michael Wilkinson. Every scene has an air of class about it in both the way its shot and the wardrobe giving each character their own sense of style and purpose. They’re clear in our minds even before the characters have opened their mouths to speak, and their outfits become an extension of the kind of men they are at heart. From the beautiful suits to the leather jackets to Farrell’s track suit, it assists in the overall telling of the story.

Several of the actors fall into their comfort zones with these characters and that is not a negative comment, it’s exciting to see people do something they’re so good at while wrapped up in a story that could take a different route at any point. Charlie Hunnam is both smooth and terrifying all at once with a real sense of danger in every slight gesture while maintaining a gentlemanly front, McConaughey is just brilliant, as he always is, commanding the attention of each scene. But the biggest surprise for me was just how wonderful Hugh Grant’s portrayal of Fletcher is. He’s the total opposite to the charming, awkward leading man we’ve seen so many times before but is so committed to this funny little character. I found it both hilarious and captivating and really enjoyed seeing him play out of his typical casting type. I also enjoyed Michelle Dockery’s portrayal of Mrs Pearson – again the complete opposite of her role which shot her to stardom in Downton Abbey, she settles into the role naturally and doesn’t over compensate, she still carries a classy nature while expressing a believable link to the criminal world with flashes of danger that she carries both independently and in communion with her on screen husband.

This film seems to have gone slightly under the radar. I’m not sure whether that’s down to it’s certification or the fact it’s not a part of a mega franchise but it really is one to watch if you enjoy a good gangster movie. The intelligence of the story gives it more layers than just guns and egos and while painted with a classic sweep of Guy Ritchie it’s exciting and captivating with dashes of humour.

1917 – Review

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Rating: 15
Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George Mackay, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden.
Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Length: 119mins

‘1917’ tells the story of two soldiers who must deliver a message to a battalion set to advance on the German front. The story may at first appear quite simple, but with time against them, land that no other soldier dare cross ahead and desolate areas of war which no longer feature any nature, but rather the cold wiring and metal of human influence, the narrative of ‘1917’ presents its own complexities and terrors.

Perhaps best described as an ‘anti-story,’ the events which occur throughout the narrative of ‘1917’ all work against the outcome which both the audience and the protagonist wish for. Rather than a piece of entertainment, the film presents itself as more of a dutiful respect to those who endured the horrors of war. Every step in the necessary journey which Schofield and Blake must carry out is another step towards our conclusion, and any event which distracts them from this is only a greater enemy to the overarching resolution of this story. Put simply, the audience desires to see them reach their goal before time runs out.

It would be unjust to describe ‘1917’ as simple. Of course, the narrative does remove many of the complexities which are found within a typical drama, but this is necessary for the sake of the realism which is created. Director Sam Mendes allows for a clear distinction between the goal-oriented plot and the wider thematic story. A multitude of relevant topics are touched on throughout the film, as our two leads articulate their approach to honour, family and trauma in ways which any two young men would. They don’t deliver any elegant monologues on what should be owed to those who lay down their lives, because that isn’t what their character would do. Instead, short anecdotes and simple sentences build a basis for what they feel is right in a world of conflict.

There are two key elements of film form which build on such an idea of personal perspective – the cinematography and the sound. Roger Deakin’s deserves all the praise that he has received for his contributions as the cinematographer of the film. Not only is the illusion of the ‘one-shot’ perfectly executed and used in a manner which is relevant to the story, as it allows for the narrative to develop in a way which can build tension or hold a moment of beauty with apparent ease, but also the ideas conveyed through the visuals compliment the message of each scene excellently. Composer Thomas Newman also provides another layer to the film, with an accompaniment which feels not only articulate but necessary. Each scene is developed as a result of his contributions. I also appreciated his decision to abstain from any leitmotifs – a recurring musical idea which accompanies a greater theme or idea – as this would lack relevance to the diegesis. Once these characters leave for the mission, their entire purpose is deliver the message they carry. Every second is a further exploration into the unknown, and the composition reflects this.

‘1917’ is an experience which brings to light many ideas. Not only from a film making perspective, but also in the way we remember and appreciate the sacrifices given by these young soldiers, with so many just wanting to do the best that they could for those around them, and those that they love.

Midway – Review

Rated: 12A
Cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Luke Evans
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Wes Tooke
Length: 138 mins

Director Roland Emmerich brings us a lengthy but passionate presentation of the story of the battle of Midway in the 2019 movie simply named ‘Midway’. Throughout the film we explore the events leading up to the battle of Midway in WWII and get to know some of the heroes along the way. With a strong cast we not only follow the historical timeline but get to know some of the characters, based on real people, who made such an impact.

I think where this film excels is in it’s determination to allow its audience into the lives of several characters and pinpoint the enormity and truth of victories and losses in battle. If you struggle to pay attention during war films then you might find this one difficult as it is long and there are a lot of characters. It’s easy to miss names or who is talking about who but, if you can keep with it you get to witness a presentation of history that I found to be powerful and thought provoking.

I’ve already mentioned the length of this film – at 2 hours 18 minutes it isn’t the longest film of 2019 but I did find myself aware of the time passing. I love that this film bounces between several people doing their jobs for a united goal but, naturally, that means creating a bit of a story around each individual so the audience can relate to the characters which adds to the length of the film before you even get to the main ark of the story. I didn’t think everything included was necessary, for example the character of Roy Pierce could have been cut and it wouldn’t have affected the film as a whole. As well as this I felt some of the Pearl Harbour scenes could have been cut down – I appreciate that setting the scene and building the emotion is important, but most of the audiences will have a basic knowledge of what happened and I’m sure that they could have found a shorter method to serve this purpose.

One thing that admire about this movie is how it shows both sides of the story. I was quite moved during a couple of scenes that I felt were very effective but subtle, seeing how the Japanese officers spoke to each other and to the young pilots and just how similar the conversations and motivational speeches were to those of our ‘heroes’. I found it helped humanise the ‘enemy’ and for me, assisted in presenting the war and a glimpse of it’s horrors without instilling hate towards a race.

I’ve rated this film 7/10 based mostly upon my general enjoyment of the storytelling. The visual effects didn’t blow my mind, the story was based upon truth and the script was good but the performances were great – but the standout was undoubtably Ed Skrein who brilliantly played the heroic (but not perfect) Dick Best. I would recommend this film for the historical truth and to honour the brave individuals who made an impact in the real events.

Jumanji: The Next Level – Review

Rated: 12A
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Awkwafina, Nick Jonas
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Written by Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg
Length: 123mins

2017 introduced a new generation to the thrilling and captivating world of Jumanji with a whole new take on the 1995 movie starring Robin Williams. With a fresh approach which saw our heroes pulled in to the game, rather than characters from the game entering our world, some were nervous that the new movie wouldn’t even come close to iconic original. The masses flocked to see the brilliant Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black play video game avatars, taking on the personalities of teenagers and audiences were taken aback by the hilarious performances, brilliant writing and completely fresh idea to compliment the original movie. Is making another film pushing it that bit too far? Or has Jake Kasdan managed to pull off another hit sensation?

Jumanji: The Next Level see’s our heroes returning into the world of Jumanji expecting to find the same ‘game’ as last time but are surprised to find a whole new quest. Not only are there new levels to face, but different bodies, skills and weaknesses. Part of the charm of the Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) was it’s originality, it had never been done before and was funny to all ages. While still funny, this presents the issue that the audiences know roughly what to expect, it takes some of the ‘wow-factor’ out of it and requires more thought to captivate and hold it’s audience.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) explored themes of friendship in high school and looking beyond individuals differences. Jumanji: The Next Level carries on with similar themes, but considers taking friendships further as you enter a more grown up world and, through the brilliant Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, the importance of forgiveness and the value of long lasting friendships. I love how there are two storylines intertwined throughout – as you would expect, the bulk of the story, humour and attention is on the world of Jumanji and it’s avatars, but the action that takes place at the beginning and end with the ‘real’ characters is just as interesting and entertaining. Separate stories, connected perfectly. The writers have managed to create characters that we as an audience are so drawn to in their ‘real’ forms, that it affects how we view their avatars and to me that is just incredible. Yes, of course this is hugely assisted by the wonderful cast and their detailed, intricate performances, but I found myself caring for the personality of the avatars, not just their amusing characteristics within the game.

There’s not too much more I can comment on without introducing spoilers and this is a film that will be best enjoyed if you go in with no expectations. But I would highly recommend this movie as a bit of exciting, family fun over this festive period. It has laughs for all the ages, with sufficient action, good pace and important underlying themes. A brilliant piece of lighthearted film making that you can share with everyone.