Disney has recently remade some of their older favourites into live-action, big-budget mainstream films, the last one being the incredibly successful and well-reviewed Jungle Book remake earlier this year. This week brings us The Legend of Tarzan, another visual spectacle that is above par in the looks department, even if the plot is somewhat drawn-out and sometimes tedious. Alexander Skarsgård plays the legend, though one must note at the movie’s start we meet him as John Clayton, Lord of Greystroke. In a series of flashbacks that play out as if the audience had missed a previous film, we learn that Clayton nee Tarzan did indeed grow up in the jungle and still feels connected to nature, and all of this is fused with the historical breakdown of the Congo and British control over the people for diamond harvesting. Director David Yates, who incidentally helmed the last four Harry Potter films, has done a decent job in employing the usage of Belgian and British resource pillage as part of the historical/plot breakdown and having Margot Robbie as Jane (excellent!) and Samuel L. Jackson as an anti-colonialist who aides in the protection of both Tarzan and the tribe he and Jane are considered family in. However, while the film touches a lot of different historical elements and the eye candy is delicious, the film still needs a clearer and better fleshed-out premise. After all, we already had a great guy-in-the-jungle survivor story this year from Disney…and it was top notch. ###-1/2
Now You See Me 2 follows up on its extremely successful predecessor by not pulling too many punches and diving headfirst into the comedic action that made the first film such dynamite. However, it doesn’t work so well this time around. The Horsemen return—magicians played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco and comical personal fave, Woody Harrelson—and are transported to Macao to take on their biggest case yet, which brings in none other than Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, as a cute baddie hellbent on stealing a computer chip that can control all other computer chips. TV’s Masters of Sex star Lizzy Caplan steps in as Lula, the sweet thing who once pulled a hat out of a rabbit (…voila magician!?), such is the level of clever in the script by Ed Solomon. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo all make supporting appearances in this convoluted mess. The first film played to its strengths, while this one just plays for, well…the hell of it. No thanks! ##-1/2
From the exquisite films Cinema Paradiso and Malena to The Unknown Woman, Guiseppe Tornatore has been an Italian director with a human touch always added to his films. And he certainly tries to replicate that with his latest offering La Correspondenzia (Correspondence), starring Jeremy Irons and Olga Kurylenko. Unfortunately, what starts off as grounded and curious soon turns loose and slightly annoying. In the film, Amy Ryan (Kurylenko) is a grad student in astrophysics (nerd alert!) and a stuntwoman for action pics. She’s also involved in a six-year affair with the considerably older Professor Ed Phoerum (Irons), a warm albeit bookish expert, also in astrophysics. Since Ed has a family in Edinburgh and Amy lives somewhere in England, their relationship is largely expressed via Skype, letters, emails and SMS. Then, at a conference, someone announces that Professor Phoerum has died and everything changes. And the film, while desperately trying to keep its story afloat (and boy does Kurylenko do a damn good job of trying), eventually just loses its grip on the viewer’s sense of reality vs. suspension of disbelief. I’ll pass this time around, grazie! ##
Terence Davies is an eccentric British filmmaker who has always had a knack for distilling the vivid essence of life, which often does not give you much in return….check out The Long Day Closes and The House of Mirth. In his latest film, Sunset Song, we see him taking a Tornatore-style misstep in a fiercely sad and uncannily ‘bad-luck-for-this family’ angle. The film tells the story of an Aberdeen farm girl Chris Guthrie, played by lovely model Agyness Deyn, who, along with her siblings, strives for their freedom after dealing with their demigod-like father, who is abrasive, abusive and then a proverbial pawn in a list of bad things that happen to the family. And that is why the film starts to feel like a beautifully-shot but sad love song that you eventually need to turn the heck off. I’m not mad at the gist of the film, but I do think that a man with such a previous knack of semi-autobiographical study pieces on celluloid could have hashed this one out better. Next time, perhaps! ##-1/2
Mmmm…I’ll see you in NYC next week!