King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Full Review)

There is a scene in this film where King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is rapidly retelling a soldier the story of his scuffle with a Viking. The soldier becomes confused and repeatedly asks for clarification. It is hardly relevant to overall plot, but ends up being a great scene in that it is a microcosm for the entire film: A scatter brained, poorly paced retelling of a story we don’t really need to know.

King_Arthur_LotS_posterThis reimagining of King Arthur, directed by Guy Ritchie, involves a war with wizards (referred to as Mages) that eventually leads to Arthur’s uncle Vortigem (Jude Law) uniting with dark magic to overthrow the King (Eric Bana) and take over the kingdom of Camelot. Before he dies, the true king preserves his magical sword, Excalibur, and helps his young son escape. Decades later, tests to find the true heir to the thrown leads to Arthur reclaiming the sword. Along with a young mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and his father’s old allies (Djimon Hounsou and Aidan Gillen), a reluctant Arthur is forced to embrace his destiny and overthrow his uncle.

Conceptually, there are several elements within King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that can make you understand the attempt. The inclusion of magic and mythology is intriguing and both Hunnam and Jude Law do their best to elevate their characters from cliché caricatures with emotion and charisma. But the overall product just ends up being a convoluted and often boring mess.

Much of the blame has to go to Guy Ritchie (The Man from UNCLE, Sherlock Holmes) whose overindulgent cinematography is stuffed with hokey CGI fight sequences, dizzying camera angles, excessive slow motion effects, and awkward pacing. The rest of the blame goes to the script itself, which fails to find a central arc and instead crams far too much information and lure into a film that is moving too fast for its audience to grasp it all. Important elements are given montages that turn what might’ve been intriguing  character building moments into rapid footnotes that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor if they weren’t going to be expanded upon.

There are also far too many characters to learn and become attached to, many of which serve the same purpose. While some, such as Aiden Gillen’s Goosefat Bill and Berges-Frisbey’s mage have wit and charm, the vast majority are immediately forgettable and just take up valuable screen time that could’ve been spent elsewhere. Thus, despite having an interesting foundation, an attempt to be a unique take on a classic story ends up making King Arthur: Legend of the Sword one of the most disorienting films in recent memory.

FINAL GRADE: D

MOORE REVIEWS Grading Scale:

A = Must See/Top 10 Nominee

B = Good film. Flawed, but still very entertaining

C = Not Bad, but highly flawed/Probably better off waiting for Redbox

D = Terrible Movie with a few redeeming qualities

F = I wanted to walk out/Don’t waste time or money

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Full Review)

The Legend of Tarzan (Full Review)

If you’re like me, the only big screen memory you have of Tarzan is the 1999 Disney animated film. So, unlike the majority of Hollywood’s remakes and reboots, it actually seems like the right time to make a live action film about the man raised by Apes in the jungles of Africa. With David Yates (Director of the last 4 Harry Potter films) at the helm and Rise of the Planet of the Apes-style technology at his disposal, the elements are there for Legend of Tarzan to at least be a viable summer adventure.

The_Legend_of_Tarzan_posterThe Legend of Tarzan begins with Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) now going by his birth name, John Clayton, and living happily with Jane (Margot Robbie) in his late parents’ London estate. While there are flashbacks shown to give the character’s origins, this movie is not an origin story. It probably should’ve been though, because the plot is ridiculously too complex for its own good. And it’s noticeable pretty early on.

Sure, some are familiar with the Tarzan story, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be retold or re-imagined. Instead of getting a simpler story that focuses more on the characters and Tarzan’s growth and inner struggle to find his identity, we get a bunch of flashbacks that often disrupt pacing. The actual plot involves Belgium’s occupation of the Congo and a corrupt Belgian captain (Christoph Waltz) attempting to trade Tarzan to a rival African tribal leader (Djimon Hounsou) in exchange for access to diamond mines. And none of it works. The drawn out set up makes the first half hour a bore and when the set up of a movie is dull, what reason is there to care about the rest of it?

It would be nice if the action were a saving grace. But the CGI is noticeably not as strong as anticipated and several of the battles make no physical sense. Sure, being raised by apes makes Tarzan strong and his reflexes elevated but no human being would be able to survive a vicious thrashing to the spine by a full grown gorilla let alone be able to stand and fight shortly after.

Samuel L. Jackson brings welcomed humor and fun to the film as George Washington Williams, a real life African American journalist who penned a letter to Belgian’s King regarding the inhumane treatment of the tribal natives. And for what it’s worth, none of the other performances are bad. But an overly complicated plot coupled with a poorly put together narrative and clunky action makes The Legend of Tarzan feel like one big, forgettable attempt at something that could’ve been really good.

FINAL GRADE: C-

The Legend of Tarzan (Full Review)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

Really good family movies are often hard to find. And when I say family movies, I don’t necessarily mean movies made for families, because frankly that encompasses most animated films nowadays. What I mean by ‘a good family movie’ is a movie that succeeds at having elements that each member of the family can enjoy. Moms, Dads, little boys and girls, grandma and grandpa… etc. With How to Train Your Dragon 2 there’s something for everyone.

Image2010’s How to Train Your Dragon was a surprisingly fantastic film about a young boy who goes from nerdy wimp to brave hero by showing his dragon fearing clan that they can coexist with the dangerous creatures. Part 2 picks up five years later. The hero of the first film, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has grown older and wiser and now spends his days flying on his dragon companion, Toothless, and discovering new worlds. Along his journey, he uncovers more dragon hunters led by creepy villain Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) and a swarm of new dragons under the careful protection of the mysterious Valka (Cate Blanchett).

As with the previous movie, and most movies by Dreamworks, the animation is beautiful. The scenery is so captivating, you’d swear you were watching a live action film and not CGI. The dragons, which is what most of the kids come to see, are even more fun and fascinating than before. The Alpha dragons, massive ice breathers who can control the smaller dragons, are the most impressive newcomers (I’m only subtly biased in loving them).

But nowadays nearly every animated film has funny characters and elegant animation. To be a truly noteworthy animated film, you have to have a story that will capture those characters in a relatable light and give them interesting challenges. Dragon 2 does just that. Hiccup’s personal journey to live in his father ’s (Gerard Butler) footsteps is a story we can all relate too. And anyone with a pet can’t help but love his relationship with Toothless. Even Drago Bludvist comes with the intimidating mysticism and tragic back story that help make up all of the best film antagonists.

There are shades of other animated films that may make Dragon 2 seem familiar. But with animated films, horror movies, superhero films or any other over saturated genre, that is to be expected. The movie isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, it only intends to satisfy everyone who comes to see it. Parents will laugh and tear up, kids will smile and cheer… what more can you ask for in a summer animated film?

FINAL GRADE: B+

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review