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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Three movies

This week I did more than worry about the election, I watched some new-to-DVD movies: Star Trek Beyond, X-Men: Apocalypse, and The Legend of Tarzan. I liked them all :) Here's a bit about each of them ...

- Star Trek Beyond ...

is a 2016 American science fiction adventure film directed by Justin Lin .... It is the thirteenth film in the Star Trek film franchise and the third installment in the reboot series, following Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles as Captain James T. Kirk and Commander Spock, with Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin reprising their roles from the previous films. Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella also join the cast.

Here's a little from Richard Roeper's review (3 of 4 stars) ...

[...] “Beyond” picks up some 966 days into the five-year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise. (Geek alert! The original series debuted on NBC in September of 1966: 9/66.)

Kirk and Spock are questioning their commitment to the mission, for very different reasons.

In fact the whole crew is in something of a rut. Another day, another encounter with an alien life form, another threat to the ship and crew, another victory, another lesson learned about the importance of disparate cultures learning to get along. To what end?

Kirk applies for a supervisory position that will ground him. Spock and Uhura are “on a break.” Spock is driving Bones crazy. Sulu and Chekov are stuck in background shots, waiting to deliver what precious few lines they have. Scottie’s crabby.

Maybe this collective funk contributes to the crew of the Enterprise falling for an obvious trap in which a rescue mission leaves them vulnerable and under siege.

Forced to abandon ship, trapped on a hostile planet teeming with aliens that want to kill them and separated into pairs or alone, the crew of the Enterprise has to set aside internal differences and figure out a way to band together to save themselves and of course save the universe, because what’s a sci-fi adventure without a megalomaniacal villain who wants to blow up all of creation so he can rule what’s left of the rubble? .....


This film was notable for a few things. One was that the character of Sulu was shown to be gay - there was much about this in the news when the film first came out (The Star Trek Movies Finally Have a Gay Character, and, Surprise, It’s Someone You Know). Another thing was that Leonard Nimoy, who played the original character of Spock and who had a recurring role in the new Star Trek movies, died before the movie was filmed - the film acknowledged his death by having his character die as well (Leonard Nimoy, and the many dimensions of Spock). The third thing was that the actor who played Chekov in the movie died shortly after the film was made (How Anton Yelchin’s Death Changes Star Trek Beyond).

Here's a trailer ...



- X-Men: Apocalypse ...

a 2016 American superhero film based on the fictional X-Men characters that appear in Marvel Comics. It is the ninth installment in the X-Men film series and a sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past. Directed by Bryan Singer .... the film stars an ensemble cast, led by James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, and Lucas Till. In X-Men: Apocalypse, the ancient mutant En Sabah Nur awakens in 1983 and plans to wipe out modern civilization and take over the world, leading the X-Men to try to stop him and defeat his team of renegade mutants.

Here's the beginning of a review from the San Francisco Chronicle ...

This is turning into the season of superheroes battling other superheroes, but “X-Men: Apocalypse” is the first one to do it right. One of the best of the “X-Men” films, the new entry is full of finely crafted action, all of it in the service of interesting and well-thought-out ideas. Resting on neither formula nor audience goodwill, the “X-Men” series is going deeper and getting better as it goes along.

The first title card — 3600 B.C.E. — brings a mild feeling of oh-no-must-we-go-there, but this evaporates virtually from the first shot, as we realize that director Bryan Singer intends to do this for real. For a little pre-credits sequence, he re-creates ancient Egypt — not just a little room somewhere in Egypt. He shows us a parade, where we can see the opulence of the era, and the pyramids when they were new, and the faces of the slaves.

The idea at work here is that the Egyptian rulers were actually the first mutants, and that the top ruler — known as Apocalypse, so you know he’s not nice — had the ultimate power. By inhabiting the bodies of a series of mutants, he has maintained his youth and acquired multiple abilities. But then there’s a mishap, and Apocalypse is rendered unconscious, which is a very good thing for the course of civilization.

Singer illustrates the passage of time from ancient days through the late 20th century by catapulting the viewer through a twisting corridor, in which we see glimpses of the crucifixion, Renaissance art, the rise of Nazism and the emergence of the Cold War. Finally, we arrive in the promising era of the 1980s. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has all his hair, as well as a school for mutants. And Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is living happily and anonymously, as a family man and factory worker in Poland.

So everything is going along swimmingly ... and then Apocalypse wakes up ...


The X-Men movies are getting more complex, if only because they are taking place at different times and in different timelines and with different actors - those set in earlier times have James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto, while those taking place in the present (or future) have Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in those roles instead. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is one of the few characters who shows up in all the movies. This film features a prominent role for Quicksilver, the speedy son of Magneto. He can move so quickly that everything and everyone around him seems to be standing still. Here's a scene from the movie in which he visits Professor X's school only to find it's in the process of being blown up - he manages to save almost everyone there, including a pizza-eating dog :) ...



Sadly, I've read that this is the last X-Men movie in which Hugh Jackman will appear, with one more film starring just him and Patrick Stewart to come: Logan.

- The Legend of Tarzan ...

is a 2016 American action adventure film based on the fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Directed by David Yates and written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer,[3] the film stars Alexander Skarsgård as the title character, with Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, and Christoph Waltz in supporting roles.

Here's the beginning of a review of the film at NPR ...

Edgar Rice Burroughs published the first of his Tarzan stories in 1912, just four years after, as the opening title cards of the long-in-development The Legend Of Tarzan inform us, Belgium's King Leopold II was forced to cede control of the so-called "Congo Free State" to the Belgian Parliament. He'd spent the prior couple of decades enslaving millions of residents of the Congo and using their forced labor to extract the region's rubber, diamonds, and other resources for his personal enrichment.

Film versions of the Tarzan story have numbered in the hundreds, the earliest ones arriving almost a decade before the movies got recorded sound. Clearly, you can't drop a $200 million-ish new gloss of this archaic material without some nips and tucks, by which I mean a top-to-bottom existential rethink. And so screenwriters Craig Brewer and Adam Cozad have retconned the story as a who-could-argue indictment of colonialism, and made Margot Robbie's Jane — so often a hostage — a head-butting, lock-picking, quip-making Marion Ravenwood type. (Still a hostage, though.)

The filmmakers even attempt to dodge the material's in-built White Savior problem by casting Samuel L. Jackson as journalist and historian George Washington Williams, who began reporting on the atrocities committed by Leopold's "Force Publique" in 1889. A Pennsylvania-born veteran of the Civil War who later enlisted in the Mexican army to fight the French, Williams fears the genocide of "Indians" (his word) in his home country is about to be repeated in the Congo ....


One of the things I liked about the movie was its tie-in to real historical figures like George Washington Williams (Jackson) and Léon Rom (Waltz). I also liked that there were a lot of animals and that they were all CGI, which I think is the humane future for animals in film. Here is a scene where Tarzan has come back to the Congo after having lived in London for years, and is reunited with friends :) ...



And here is a 2-in-1 trailer ...



Of the three movies, I like the one about Tarzan best.

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