King Arthur: Legend of the Sword-Movie Man Jackson

Hear ye, hear ye. Born in a brothel, the streets of Londinium has become home for young Arthur. The streets have molded him into a tough, confident, yet still honest individual who does the right thing more than not. Now older, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) gets by as a Robin Hood-esque character of sorts, providing for his hometown what they need and dispensing justice where applicable.

One particular incident puts Arthur in the path of King Vortigern (Jude Law), who has ascended to the throne via treacherous means. Knowing of Arthur’s royal lineage (unbeknownst to Arthur, he’s the son of the deceased king Uther (Eric Bana)), Vortigern looks to exterminate him. Wanting no part of this, Arthur so wishes to go back to his normal life, but he who has the strength to draw the fabled sword Excalibur from the stone must use it, and topple Vortigern once and for all.

Unless you’re The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, medieval/Middle Age/mythology movies and productions have a tough go at drawing audiences to the theaters, at least here in America. From a critical perspective, they might as well be poison in most cases now (see Seventh Son, Clash of the Titans, Warcraft), with people often making up their minds as to the actual quality of them and refusing to be wavered in thinking anything different. Most aren’t great, but every now and then the genre is fresh enough to deliver some legitimate fun. Enter the latest telling of King Arthur. By no means amazing, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ends up being, all in all, an energetic summer movie.

Holding the directorial sword in King Arthur rebooted is Guy Ritche. Ritchie is an individual who brings a noticeable imprint to any movie he does, and that doesn’t really change here. Expect a whizzing, hyperactive camera to intercut whenever characters deliver exposition, or give context to (what is supposed to be) pertinent information. It isn’t nearly as funny as Ritchie thinks it is. This style doesn’t 100% work in the movie, but does keep the energy up, and sort of makes up for a story that can feel stretched at times, especially in the latter third before the climax.

 

However, from an action perspective, Ritchie’s style does work in the world that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is composed of. The 180 pans, stop-start shots, and the like just goes well with all of the magic and supernatural elements. Save for some questionable CGI near the end that stands out in a negative way, there’s a real sense of “epicness” that Guy brings to the proceedings in various scenes. But, the real MVP of Legend of the Sword may be composer Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs), who creates a standout score that goes against sonic genre type and truly elevates the film.

Only two characters really receive proper attention and development in this King Arthur fable. Of course, one is the titular character portrayed by Charlie Hunnam. Arthur is a little more grittier and less proper in this retelling, and Hunnan is the perfect fit, providing physicality yet everyman likability to make a character worth rooting for. His opposition is played by Jude Law, clearing having a good time while getting some scenes to showcase his range and flesh out his despicable king.

As the supporting cast goes, the enigmatic Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) is the most intriguing individual; there’s a lot of potential with her if future movies come to fruition. Unfortunately, most who make up the fabled knights of the roundtable come off as generic spacefillers, even Djimon Hounsou. At least he’s not playing a secondary antagonist like he’s been doing as of late (Furious 7, Seventh Son, The Legend of Tarzan).

After the financial performance of King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, it may be long time until the sword is removed from the stone again. Though far from perfect, it’s a shame. I for one, wouldn’t mind seeing another Excalibur stab taken at expanding this tale.

B-

Photo credits go to liveforfilm.com, blastr.com, and warnerbros.co.uk.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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The Legend of Tarzan: Movie Man Jackson

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You can leave the jungle, but the jungle never leaves you. As a young boy, John Clayton the Third (Alexander Skarsgård) grew up in England with two loving parents. On a trip to the Congo, his parents died, and Clayton had nowhere to turn to, except the jungle. He was raised by it and its inhabitants, and thus, The Legend of Tarzan was born.

Now living back in England with his bride Jane (Margot Robbie), Tarzan still carries the legend but has no desire to return to his native environment. But, some potential shadiness brought to light by American George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) indicates that his environment could be in trouble, as could he. Envoy to Belgian King Leopold, Leo Rolm (Christoph Waltz) has plans on capturing the Lord of the Jungle in exchange for diamonds that can be used to essentially rule the Congo in some fashion. Tarzan must go back, to protect what is sacred to him and others.

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The Legend of Tarzan, in a way, feels like a 21st century postmodern movie on race relations and xenopobia and people from other groups learning to accept outsiders as their own without flat out saying so. This could totally be yours truly overthinking this, or perhaps finding some positive in a movie during the turbulent times in Baton Rouge and Dallas over the past week at the time of this writing. The latest big screen adaptation of The Lord of the Jungle isn’t as bad as most takes paint it to be, but it certainly can be more of a chore to sit through than anticipated, at least through the first half of the movie.

Director David Yates, easily best known for his contributions to the Harry Potter film franchise, sets up the story as a part origin and part adventure story, oscillating between the two. Truth be told, a 100% origin story probably wasn’t needed anyway (how much can really be told or explored about a man who is raised in the jungle?), but the pace never gets going for this period. Visually, almost all of the scenes early on take place in the same dark jungle lighting that’s pretty obscure and just adds to the overall “blahness” of it all. It’s a shockingly serious film, almost one that forgets it is supposed to be a blockbuster.

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But as stated, Yates does get TLOT going in the second half. There’s vine swinging, beautiful lush scenery, Tarzan fighting animals, Tarzan working with animals, basically everything that one would expect and desire with watching a Tarzan film. So, some surprisingly well-looking set pieces are present…it just takes a while to get to. Rupert Gregson-Williams contributes to the score, which also kicks into gear just as the movie does.

From a casting perspective, the movie is filled pretty well. Tarzan’s more of a role where if a person looks the part, they’re gold. Sure there’s speaking involved, but it is generally a physical role. Alexander Skarsgård definitely looks the part, and if there were to be a sequel, he does enough to warrant another turn as the jungle hero. His chemistry with Robbie, who plays a good and strong Jane, isn’t amazing but sound.

A bright spot is Samuel L. Jackson, bringing the humor at times. But, he feels like he’s totally in a different movie as well, with everything and everyone around him being so brooding and heavy and his character being so light, and it ends up making for an odd tonal disconnect in places. Djimon Hounsou, seemingly firmly rooted as a secondary villain in features nowadays, does what is to be expected. Speaking of firmly rooted, Christoph Waltz once again finds himself playing a baddie, and it isn’t all that different from his turns in Horrible Bosses 2, Big Eyes, or SpectreMight be time to take another role?

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The jungle should never be dull, but that is what The Legend of Tarzan is for a good chunk of its runtime. But as the second half shows, Tarzan can absolutely be a fun character to watch. You Jane, Me Tarzan, this movie, OK.

C

Photo credits go to Collider.com, moviepilot.com, comingsoon.net, and moviepilot.com.

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Furious 7: Movie Man Jackson

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“They say open road helps you think about where you’ve been. Where you’re going.”

Going into Furious 7, it would be wise to heed the advice once said by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to his special forces team in Fast Five: Make sure you’ve got your funderwear on. London’s successful mission in bringing down Owen Shaw has brought Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Mia (Jordana Brewster), and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) back home to Los Angeles with clean slates. The narrow escape of the past “adventure” provides realization to all involved: It is time to leave these lives behind…

but Deckard Shaw, (Jason Statham) brother of Owen, will not allow that. Driven by vengeance, Deckard will not stop until every one of Toretto’s crew is lying six feet under. There is no choice but to bring the gang back. Getting to Deckard isn’t a easy task, and to do so the gang is going to have to play along with a mysterious government official known as “Mr. Nobody” Frank Petty (Kurt Russell) to retrieve a powerful program that is deadly in the wrong hands. Dom, Brian, and company are going to need every bit of their family bond to survive this one.

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November 30th, 2013. That is the day that Furious 7 became more than just the seventh installment in one of cinema’s highest-grossing franchises. On that day, Paul Walker sadly passed away, and F7 became one of the most talked about, analyzed, and scrutinized movies leading up to April 3, 2015. What would the studio do? What should they do? Should Walker be replaced? Should production even continue? It is almost impossible not to think about the circumstances involving this movie, and the movie doesn’t necessarily make the viewer forget them either for that matter, but Furious 7 should be most of what fans desire: Unfathomable action, quality time spent with its universe’s characters, and a tasteful and deftly executed sendoff for Paul.

Since the series-altering shift in Fast Five, what exists in the scripts of these films serve as just enough glue to connect wildly entertaining sequences to a plot. F7 presents a compelling setup with the common but tried and true revenge angle, and that never truly leaves the duration of the film.

But, it does take a backseat to the A plot. Without spoiling too much, there is a lot of globe-hopping and more opposition than ever before, but with that, some rough edges are found. Perhaps they are present because of the reported rewrites that came about because of the tragedy, which no one could have planned for. There’s a feeling that may be had that everyone did the best they could with the circumstances given, plot included. It isn’t a shoddy one, per se, but more disparate than I would have liked.

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What does hold the “over here, over there” plot together however is the theme of family, both in the world these characters live in, and in the real one. Even through the most ridiculous stunts, family links exist, and have only become stronger with each installment. Never once is there doubt that these characters wouldn’t put their lives on the line for each other (getting to seven movies will do that), and never once is there doubt that Vin, Michelle, Paul, Tyrese, Jordana, Dwayne, and Ludacris aren’t legitimately enjoying each other’s company. This gives some of the dialogue (not the corny but highly entertaining one-liners) about sticking together and realizing what is important more emotional heft, amplified by a score composed by longtime F&F music contributor Brian Tyler. It is fourth-wall breaking in a sense, but not bludgeoning to the point where it becomes the sole mission of the movie.

Walker’s untimely demise usually found its way in any talks about Furious 7, but what went under the radar despite being just as important is the new face driving behind the directorial seat. Justin Lin’s four movie run ended with F&F6, and in steps perhaps the most popular producer and director there is today in horror: James Wan. The result is pretty good for a guy who’s only real exposure to action was Death Sentence, and that is nowhere near the action levels that F7 possesses.

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Wan does a lot of solid things, one of them being (with the technical crew) the difficult task of having to complete Paul’s scenes with CGI and voice-over. To be honest, yours truly hardly noticed where the real Brian and the produced Brian were. Sure, an educated guess can be made where Wan and company had to work a little harder. Some scenes choose to linger entirely on other characters while Walker is speaking or use really quick cuts as to not linger on Walker’s visage, but as a whole, especially in the action, a magnificent job is done integrating what could be a hindrance seamlessly.

Wan excels at showcasing the all-out, vehicular mayhem and wide-scale insanity that Lin perfected with each subsequent movie, and it is even possible that he may have Lin beat in this arena. But from a pure hand-to-hand comparison, he lacks the expertise that Lin brought to the table. There’s a lot of rapid, somewhat odd camera angles with some of the clashes, which doesn’t totally dull the fistfights, but it removes some of the visceral impact they could have. Most directors don’t immediately come equipped to capture action right away, especially in a blockbuster. He’ll get better, because he isn’t bad to start with.

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Enough has been said about the returning characters. Not much is different with them, which can be good or bad depending on your point of view, although there is a well-crafted arc with O’Connor that is developed from the beginning and earned. It can be wondered if the rewrites took screentime away from Dwayne Johnson, but being the persona he is, his presence is still felt. As for the notable newbies, Statham may be the best definitive villain in the entire franchise, but he really only appears when convenient. Djimon Hounsou is a standard bad guy in what may have been the role Denzel was offered. Wherever the franchise goes next, Kurt Russell looks to be a substantial cog. His character is an interesting addition.

Furious 7 marks the end The Fast and the Furious franchise. Not literally speaking of course, with the money to be made with this one, but figuratively and spiritually. There’s a finality that exists amid the spectacular crashes, humorous one-liners, and death-defying stunts. Furious 7 goes out the only way it knows how to: By riding out together.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to cinemablend.com, businessinsider.com, mashable.com, and usmagazine.com.

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Seventh Son: Movie Man Jackson

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“You live in a world now where nightmare and legend are real.”

In a world where nightmare and legend are truly real, only a certain man can save it. And not just any man, but a seventh son of a Seventh Son. Master John Gregory (Jeff Bridges), a seventh son, is a spook, essentially a protector of his town from the dastardly demons, ghouls, shapeshifters, and the like. Father time waits for no one though, and Master Gregory has been actively trying to find an apprentice to fill the eventual void. Problem is, none of them have survived long enough to learn the trade.

It takes another seventh son to ensure the continued safety of the land, and Gregory recruits Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes) as his heir apprentice. For Tom, he’s going to have to grow up fast, as the baddest witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) has escaped confinement to wreak havoc once again. Destiny beckons, and it is time for Tom to answer the call.

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Development hell. Whether a movie, album, television show, video game, or otherwise, the term usually spells doom for said project. Like anything, there are exceptions. However, if the troubled project is lucky (or maybe unlucky) enough to reach the light of day, often it can be seen why it had so much tumult around it. Seventh Son, a movie conceived in 2011 and mired in its share of development hell, shows why throughout.

Seventh Son isn’t completely worthless. At times, it does look respectable with solid CGI and functional action, directed by foreign filmmaker Sergey Bodrov. This is truly a film that looks better, not amazing, but better, when stuff is happening be it battles, shape-shifting, etc. This is a film that looks terrible when characters are doing nothing more than standing idly in the background talking to one another. The characters are superimposed against skies and environments that are not convincing whatsoever. Where did the budget go?

Admittedly, yours truly just isn’t a huge fan of fantasy/sword & sorcery-type films, save for a few exceptions such as the original Conan the Barbarian. Really, the story in this film isn’t jumbled or unclear, but it is devoid of even a shred of originality. At the end of the day, it is the standard good v.s. evil that exists in some form everywhere, with a large helping of the chosen one realizing their destiny tale.

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It works OK for what it is, but for something that was likely intended to be the start of a franchise, it is very surprising that hardly any attention is given to expanding the characters or even the town they inhabit. Unless I missed it, the town’s name wasn’t even mentioned here! The film is based on a novel, and it is possible the novel never states where it takes place. Still, it feels odd that nothing is ever really known about this town or the mythos of its inhabitants.

All of this just further speaks to the main issue of the movie: Save for a few scattered moments, all in all it is just quite dull, lacking any flair or intrigue. As stated before, a main part of this is the coming of age aspect. It is a little flat for one reason: The star is already of age, literally. I’m not saying that Ben Barnes is an old-looking guy at 33, but he isn’t exactly easy to buy into as a teen who seems to be written as no older than 18. It is just a really puzzling casting decision. Kit Harrington, who appears here briefly—and forgettably—would have at least looked the part more. As it stands, Barnes fails to bring any charisma, chemistry with his romantic counterpart, or screen presence to the role.

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While Barnes is the main character, the reliable ones are played by Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. Neither’s role is enough to bump this up to an average level, but they are enough to save it from a failing one. Bridges is the war-tested type here as the guy who’s been through all of the trials and tribulations to last a lifetime, with some goofiness thrown in with a weird accent for good measure. Julianne Moore is an adequate villain, and she does what she is able to. For as talented as Djimon Hounsou is, he seems to be in a comfort zone as a henchman in the last few flicks he has been in, this included.

With so much swords, sorcery, and otherworldly aspects, the last thing a fantasy movie should be is a bore. But that is what Seventh Son primarily is. Perhaps it would have been better to leave this in development hell.

Grade: D

Photo credits go to screenrant.com, aceshowbiz.com, and joblo.com.

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