Sunday, July 24, 2016

STAR TREK BEYOND (2016) Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg

Director:     Justin Lin
Writers:       Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
Actors:        Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana

The first five minutes are nostalgic and quiet, funny and filled with charm.  Captain Kirk is considering leaving the Starfleet, so it’s time for serious reflection.  After this last assignment, then perhaps he’ll quit.  And then… ATTACK!  All hell breaks loose.  The enemy is comprised of a hive mentality, and the ships are like bees swarming to engulf the lone Enterprise.  There is no way the Enterprise can withstand such a blitzkrieg attack.  And they don’t.  The ship breaks apart and dozens of life-pods eject the desperate crew members onto a hostile planet occupied by the enemy.  Kirk and his team are split into different factions, and they each adventure forth to find and rescue the survivors of the debacle.  When the individual teams find each other, they unite to create an impossible plan to escape the planet and then conquer the enemy somehow.

Filled with humor and charm, this is a very satisfying episode in the Star Trek franchise.  What made it outstanding for me was the focus on the humanity of the group.  They care about and for each other and are willing to include so-called “alien” species into their embrace.  The topography of the enemy planet is beautiful and terrible all at once and seduces the very stretches of our imagination.

Chris Pine has matured into a believable Captain.  His passionate rush into danger has been tempered somewhat, and our respect for him grows proportionately.  The same goes for the inimitable Spock, always so true to himself.  The other characters live up to our expectations and it’s easy to  draw more colors into the spectrum of their personalities.  Director Justin Lin has an intimate understanding on how to maximize the filming technologies of today.  CGI effects are incredible… don’t walk out before end credits because they are breathtaking… scrolling against a panoramic view of our wonderful solar system.  In short, this is a frabjous film!
TAGS:  Star Trek Beyond, Justin Lin, Simon Pegg, Doug Jung, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Alba

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel Jackson, Margot Robbie

Director:  David Yates

Writers:  Adam Cozad, Craig Brewer



 Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel Jackson,  Rory J. Saper, Christian Stevens, Margot Robbie

COMMENTS:   The 6’4 Alexander Skarsgard is not my ideal vision of the legendary Tarzan.  I come from the Johnny Weismuller generation and Skarsgard is just too blond and Nordic.  This version tells the story of Tarzan after he  has been educated and “civilized” in England as Lord Greystoke.  His background as Africa’s Tarzan is told in flashbacks, which are well conceived and successfully believable. I found myself emotionally engaged in him as a child being raised by the apes.

So far, okay but not heart-pounding.  Lord Greystoke agrees to accompany American Samuel Jackson to explore slave-labor shenanigans in Africa to mine diamonds which the bankrupt King Leopold II of Belgium desperately needs.  Christoph Waltz plays Leon Rom, who will do whatever it takes to make King Leopold’s goal happen.  Leon, sleazy and ruthless, is a worthy villain to match Tarzan’s prowess. Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) agrees to help Rom get the diamonds if Tarzan is delivered to him. The Chief needs vengeance against our hero.

Once we’re in Africa and Tarzan reunites with the jungle animals, the screen explodes. Not only does the shirt come off – exposing Skarsgard’s magnificent body – but so does the genteel layer which has entrapped the passionate ferocity of a man who survives according to the laws of the untamed jungle.  Now, he must rescue his beloved Jane from the wily Rom.  If that were all to Tarzan, audiences would be happy enough.  Surprisingly, Skarsgard brings emotional fragility to his role as well.  There’s one beautiful scene where director David Yates frames a closeup profile of Skarsgard’s forehead and eye in the foreground, with the apes and villainous natives he’s looking at in the background.  The brilliant light shining through Skarsgard’s blue eye depicts the vulnerable essence of humanity which must confront the feral savagery of the jungle and its natives,  An unforgettable, beautiful scene.

Director Yates has also captured the beauty inherent in nature undisturbed, featuring Africa’s many breathtaking landmarks. The CGI scenes are transcendent.  We watch Tarzan gliding through the jungle treetops, one vine to the next, and we feel the same exhilarating celebration of freedom in the journey.

The script is well written, establishing relationships which make the storyline work on all levels.  I wish the opening scenes were shorter, because it doesn’t quite hook us in right away.  Still, once Lord Greystoke becomes Tarzan again, okay, we’re in for the ride.  I was happy to see the versatile Samuel Jackson play a hero for a change.  He makes a great sidekick, his wise-cracking, irreverent character injecting welcome humor to Tarzan’s intense heroics.  Djimon Hounsou's role was too small for me.  He fills the theatre with his charismatic onscreen presence, and the scene where he comes to terms with Tarzan is a powerful and satisfying one.

In summary, this is a fun adventure film, and a magnificent Skarsgard Tarzan.
TAGS:  Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel Jackson,  Rory J. Saper, Christian Stevens, Margot Robbie, David Yates, Tarzan, Adam Cozad, Craig Brewer, jungle, Africa