REVIEW: THE EAST

CAST

Brit Marling (The QA)
Alexander Skarsgård (The Legend fo Tarzan)
Ellen Page (Juno)
Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four)
Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood)
Julia Ormond (Che)
Patricia Clarkson (Easy A)
Jason Ritter (The Intervention)
Danielle Macdonald (Trust Me)
Billy Slaughter (Click)
Wilbur Fitzgerald (Freejack)
Aldis Hodge (Hidden Figures)
Jamey Sheridan (Arrow)

Jane, an operative for the private intelligence firm Hiller Brood, is assigned by her boss Sharon to infiltrate The East, an underground activist, anarchist and ecologist organization that has launched several attacks against corporations in an attempt to expose their corruption. Calling herself Sarah, she joins local drifters in hitching rides on trains, and when one drifter, Luca, helps her escape from the police, she identifies the symbol of The East hanging from Luca’s car mirror. Sarah self-inflicts an arm injury that she tells Luca was caused in the escape so he can get medical attention for her. He takes her to an abandoned house in the woods where members of The East live and one of the members, Doc, treats her cut.Sarah is given two nights to recover before she must leave the squat. At an elaborate dinner involving straitjackets, Sarah is tested and fails. Exposing how selfishly she and many others live their lives. Sarah is caught one night when spying by the deaf Eve and has a conversation in sign language with her. Sarah tells Eve that she is an undercover agent and threatens Eve with jail if she stays with the group; Eve leaves the next morning. Sarah is recruited to fill the missing member’s role on a “jam,” which is an old fashioned term for a direct action. After seeing the effectiveness of the pharmaceutical jam, compounded by her growing attraction to charismatic Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), Sarah gradually questions the moral underpinnings of her undercover duty. Sarah reluctantly participates in The East’s next jam and comes to learn that each member of The East has been personally damaged by corporate activities. For example, Doc has been poisoned by a fluoroquinolone antibiotic and his neurosystem is degenerating. The East infiltrates a fancy party for the senior executives of the pharmaceutical company responsible for Doc’s poisoning and puts a strong dose of the risky antibiotic into everyone’s champagne. The East announce this action via YouTube and over time one executive’s mind and body begins to degenerate as a side effect of the antibiotic, revealing publicly the extreme risks of the drug.Another East member, Izzy (Ellen Page) is the daughter of a petrochemical CEO. The group uses the father/daughter connection to gain intimate access to the CEO and forces him to bathe in the waterway he has been using as a toxic dumping ground. This jam goes wrong when security guards arrive and shoot Izzy in the back as she and the others flee. Back at the squat, because of his poisoning, Doc’s hands tremble too much for him to perform surgery on Izzy. Sarah offers to do it for him and he tells her what to do. She manages to remove the bullet from Izzy’s abdomen, but Izzy dies and is buried near The East’s house.Even though Sarah and Benji have grown closer and Sarah implores him to just disappear, he insists that they go together to complete the final jam. Sarah refuses at first but finally gives in and the two begin a long drive, during which Sarah falls asleep. When she awakens, she realizes that Benji is driving her to the Hiller Brood headquarters outside Washington, D.C. He reveals that he has always suspected her of being a Hiller Brood operative, and that Luca also thought this, but brought her in as a test. Benji wants Sarah to obtain a NOC list of Hiller Brood agents all over the world, which will be The East’s third and final jam, to “watch” them. Having successfully obtained the NOC list using her cell phone’s memory card, Sarah runs into Sharon in the hall. She confronts Sharon about the firm’s activities, thus revealing her new allegiances. Sharon has Sarah’s cellphone confiscated as she leaves the building. As Hiller Brood was sharing information about their activities with the FBI, The East’s hideout is raided and Doc is arrested. He sacrifices himself to ensure the getaway of the remaining members. Sarah tells Benji she has failed to get the NOC list. Benji reveals he means to use the list to expose publicly all the Hiller Brood agents. Since they are undercover, however, it is likely they could be killed. Sarah chooses not to go on the run with Benji. She and Benji part at a truck-stop as Benji heads out of the country. In truth, Sarah has the NOC list (because it was not on her phone, she had swallowed the memory card instead). It is clear that her time undercover with The East has changed her. The film ends with an epilogue of her personally contacting her former coworkers (those undercover) and attempting to demonstrate what nefarious corporate crimes Hiller Brood clients want to protect. She hopes to change each operative’s mind about their undercover activities and perhaps join her in ecological activism. She is paying tribute to the things The East believes in and attempting to make a difference in her own way, without causing harm to anyone.In spite of occasional misfires, the screenplay is exceptional especially in its efficiency: there is so much going on that there isn’t much time to devote to individual characters or relationships – Marling and Ritter’s suffers the most – but Marling and Batmanglij make every second count as each line is weighted with enough subtext to tell us the stories implicitly and thoroughly nevertheless. The major characters are very well-drawn; even though we only get glimpses into Skarsgard, Page and Kebbell’s pasts, we feel we know them inside and out. The film moves along at a fluid, adrenaline-pumping pace and the tension is genuine and organic rather than forced – the audience’s investment in the story grows from affection for the characters and connection with their ideals rather than cheap editing tricks, manipulative music and stylized lighting or sound. Music is used so sparsely that when The National’s “About Today” plays over a silent montage of Marling’s character breaking down, its emotional weight surprises and stuns. The ending is comparatively underwhelming, but the overall package is one of the best, most provocative thrillers in years.

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REVIEW: THE GIVER

 

CAST

Jeff Bridges (Iron Man)
Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)
Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent)
Alexander Skarsgard (The Legend of Tarzan)
Katie Holmes (Batman Begins)
Odeya Rush (Goosebumps)
Cameron Monaghan (Gotham)
Taylor Swift (Valentine’s Day)
Emma Tremblay (Elysium)

Following a calamity referred to as The Ruin, society is reorganized into a series of communities, and all memories of the past are held by one person, the Receiver of Memory. Since the Receiver of Memory is the only individual in the community who has the memories from before, he must advise the Chief Elder, and the other Elders, on the decisions for the community.  Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is a 16-year-old boy who is anxious about the career he will be assigned (along with everyone else). His two best friends are Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush).On the day of graduation, everyone is assigned a career. Jonas is briefly skipped, as he has not been assigned a career. Instead, Jonas is to become the next Receiver of Memory, and progressively receive memories from the past receiver, The Giver (Jeff Bridges). Upon assuming his role as The Receiver, Jonas learns of the Giver’s past and of his child, Rosemary (Taylor Swift), who preceded Jonas as Receiver of Memory. She was so distraught from the memories that she committed suicide, by what the Community calls “Releasing”. They regard its nature as mysterious; the audience learns that it is death by lethal injection. Jonas begins to teach his findings to his friend Fiona, with whom he decides to share the idea of emotions. Fiona, who is unable to fully comprehend the idea of emotion, is unsure how she feels. Jonas then kisses Fiona, an action which is antiquated and unknown to the community, which Jonas gained through memory.Jonas also shares his memories with the baby his father brought home to their house, Gabriel, and develops a close relationship with him after discovering he shares the same mark on his wrist Jonas does, the mark of a potential Receiver of Memory. Jonas decides that everyone should have the memories of the past and eventually, The Giver and Jonas decide that the only way they can help the community is to go past the border of what they call Elsewhere, beyond the community, therefore releasing the memories back into the community. Jonas sneaks out at curfew, and decides to get Gabe at the Nurturing Center, who is to be released due to his general weakness. Asher, his other longtime friend besides Fiona, tries to stop him before he leaves the neighborhood, but Jonas quickly punches him. Asher lies on the ground, stunned, and Jonas rides his bike to the Nurturing Center. He tells Fiona his plan and wants to take her with him, but she refuses and instead helps him retrieve Gabe. Before he leaves, she kisses him and helps him escape.Meanwhile, Jonas’ mother (Katie Holmes) and Asher go to the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) to tell them Jonas is missing. Guards are sent to contain Jonas, who they say has become “dangerous”, but Jonas gets one of their motorcycles and drives off the cliff near The Giver’s dwelling into “Elsewhere”. Asher is assigned, by the Chief Elder, to use a drone to find Jonas and “lose” (kill) him, but when Asher finds Jonas stumbling through the desert, he instead captures him with the drone. After Jonas implores Asher to think that, if he ever cared for Jonas, he would let him go, Asher drops him into a river, setting him free. Jonas stumbles through the land of Elsewhere, while Fiona has been condemned to be “released” for helping him. Just as she is about to be lethally injected by Jonas’ father (Alexander Skarsgård), The Giver steps in and stalls the Chief Elder with memories of his daughter, Rosemary, trying to call out the Chief Elder, but is unsuccessful. Eventually, Jonas finds a sled like one he rode in a memory from The Giver and makes his way beyond the border of Elsewhere, releasing memories and color back into the community and saving Fiona because Jonas’ father realizes what he was really doing. As this happens Jonas’ mother sheds a single tear finally understanding the feeling of love. Jonas and Gabe return to the house of his memories, where people are singing Christmas carols, and his voiceover says that, back in the community, he swears he hears music, too, or possibly just an echo.Based on a novel written by Lois Lowry published in 1993 this ambitious, thought-provoking dystopian SF film is an intriguing exploration of totalitarianism set in an apparent post-apocalyptic world where society has been reorganised into a series of peaceful self-contained isolated communities. Brenton Thwaites certainly gives an assured performance as the protagonist and there are sound, restrained supporting performances from Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes. The cinematography is interesting and the limited use of CGI ensures that there is no distraction from the kernel of the movie. I liked it.

REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN

CAST

Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood)
Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane)
Christoph Waltz (The Green Hornet)
Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady)
Djimon Hounsou (Stargate)
Casper Crump (Legends of Tomorrow)
Hadley Fraser (Les Miserables)
Genevieve O’Reilly (Avatar)
Simon Russell Beale (Spooks)
Ben Chaplin (Cinderella)

As a result of the Berlin Conference, the Congo Basin is claimed by King Leopold II of the Belgians, who rules the Congo Free State in personal union with the Kingdom of Belgium. The country is on the verge of bankruptcy, Leopold having borrowed huge amounts of money to finance the construction of railways and other infrastructure projects. In response, he sends his envoy Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to secure the fabled diamonds of Opar. Rom’s expedition is ambushed and massacred, with only Rom surviving. A tribal leader, Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), offers him the diamonds in exchange for an old enemy: Tarzan.The man once called “Tarzan”, John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke (Alexander Skarsgård), has long since left Africa behind and settled down in London with his American-born wife, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie), and has taken up both his birth name and ancestral family residence. In the eight years since returning from Africa, Lord Greystoke’s story as Tarzan has become legendary among the Victorian public, although Lord Greystoke himself wishes to leave the past behind him. Through the British Prime Minister (Jim Broadbent), he is invited by King Leopold to visit Boma and report on the development of the Congo by Belgium, though Greystoke politely declines the invitation. An American envoy, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), who recognises John from the stories of “Tarzan”, privately reveals to him that he suspects the Belgians are enslaving the Congolese population, and persuades him to accept the invitation in order to prove his suspicions.Jane is disappointed when John tells her that she cannot come, as he believes the trip to be too dangerous, remembering how both his parents died as a result of the jungle’s brutality following their shipwreck there – his mother of disease and his father later killed by the Mangani apes – leaving the baby John to be raised as Tarzan by his Mangani “mother” Kala and “brother” Akut. However, Jane reminds him that she grew up in Africa as well, and misses her home. John relents, and allows Jane to accompany him.John, Jane and Williams take the trip to the Congo. There, the trio encounters a tribal village and villagers who knew John and Jane during their stay in the jungle. Jane explains to Williams that her husband was once considered an evil spirit by the African tribes, including that of Chief Mbonga. She recalls how, when she was younger, she and her father lived in the tribal village helping to care for local children. There she met Tarzan (made feral and physically enhanced by his life with the apes) who shielded her from a vicious mangani attack, saving Jane’s life but being severely injured in the process. Jane took the injured Tarzan home, nursed him back to health, and the two fell in love. That night, as the tribe sleeps, Rom and his mercenaries attack the village and kidnap John and Jane and kill the tribe’s leader. They then escape to a nearby steamboat with Jane and several of the tribe’s members, but Williams is able to rescue John before he can be taken to the boat.With the aid of the tribe’s warriors, John and Williams intercept a Belgian military train carrying captured slaves, providing Williams with the evidence he needs to expose King Leopold. They also discover that Rom intends to use the diamonds to pay for a massive army to subdue the Congo, and allow Belgium to mine its wealth for Leopold’s benefit. As John and Williams continue onward, John encounters the adult Akut, who is now leader of the apes. Aware that Akut considers him a deserter, John prepares to fight Akut, though he soon loses. That night, as John recovers, Williams recalls the massacres of Native Americans during the Civil War, comparing his actions to be as bad as Rom’s and Leopold’s.On Rom’s steamboat, Jane dines with Rom, before escaping and swimming to shore. Jane stumbles into a group of mangani apes, where she is rescued by Rom, whose men then shoot and kill many of the apes. John saves the remaining group, reconciling with Akut, before pursuing Rom. He is cornered by Mbonga and his tribe, where it is revealed that John once killed Mbonga’s only son for previously killing Kala. A defeated Mbonga tearfully accuses John of lacking honor, as his son was just a young boy when John killed him. John spares Mbonga, just as Akut and the manganis arrive to subdue the tribe. Rom takes Jane and the diamonds to Boma, where he plans to take control of the army. John, Williams and Akut trigger a massive stampede of wildebeest through Boma, destroying the town and distracting the soldiers, allowing John to rescue Jane. As Rom attempts to escape by boat, Williams sinks it with a machine gun as John swims aboard. Rom incapacitates John by strangling him and then tying him by the neck to the ship’s railing, before trying to escape again. John then summons crocodiles with a mating call to devour him, before escaping the destroyed vessel himself.Williams returns to England and presents the Prime Minister with evidence exposing the slave trade in the African Congo. One year later, John and Jane, having remained in Africa and settled in Jane’s father’s old house, welcome their first child, as John, Lord Greystoke, returns to his rightful place among the great apes as Tarzan.They finally portrayed the Tarzan character more like Burroughs wrote him! This is the best Tarzan movie I have ever seen. The acting is superb, and the settings are beautiful. The movie was so good that it seemed like I wanted it to last longer. It was sheer entertainment!

REVIEW: ZOOLANDER

CAST

Ben Stiller (Dodgeball)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Christine Taylor (Tropic thunder)
Will Ferrell (Elf)
Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil)
David Duchovny (The X-Files)
Jon Voight (Transformers)
Jerry Stiller (The Heartbreak Kid)
Judah Friedlander (Meet The Parents)
Nathan Lee Graham (Hitch)
Alexander Skarsgård (Battleship)
Christian slater (Hollow Man 2)
Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire)
Natalie Portman (Thor)
Davie Bowie (Labryinth)
Garry Shandling (Iron Man 2)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Justin Theroux (American Psycho)
Andy Dick (Dude, Wheres My Car?)
Jennifer Coolidge (2 Broke Girls)
Nora Dunn (New Girl)
James Marsden (Superman Returns)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Sandra Bernhard (Footsteps)
Stephen Dorff (Blade)
Vince Vaughn (The Break-Up)
Billy Zane (The Scorpion King 3)

The dim-witted but good-natured Derek Zoolander is ousted as the top male fashion model by the rising star, Hansel, and his reputation is further tarnished by a critical article from journalist Matilda Jeffries. After his three roommates and colleagues are killed in a “freak gasoline-fight accident” (where they spray each other with station gasoline and one of them lights a cigarette), Derek announces his retirement from modeling and attempts to reconnect with his father Larry and brothers Luke and Scrappy by helping in the coal mines. Derek’s delicate methods make him an impractical miner, and his family rejects him.
Meanwhile, fashion mogul Jacobim Mugatu and Derek’s model agent Maury Ballstein are charged by the fashion industry to find a model who can be brainwashed into assassinating the new progressive-leaning Prime Minister of Malaysia, allowing them to retain cheap child labor in the country. Though Mugatu has previously refused to work with Derek for any show, Derek accepts Mugatu’s offer to star in the next runway show. Mugatu takes Derek to his headquarters, masked as a day spa, where Derek is conditioned to attempt the assassination when the song “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is played. Matilda, feeling partially responsible for Derek’s retirement, becomes suspicious of Mugatu’s offer and, tipped off by an anonymous caller, tries to enter the spa, but is thrown out. Matilda tries to voice her concerns to Derek once he leaves, but he ignores her.
Matilda follows Derek to a pre-runway party, where, upon being challenged by Hansel, Derek loses to Hansel in a “walk-off” judged by David Bowie. Matilda receives another anonymous call to meet at a nearby cemetery. Matilda along with Derek find the anonymous caller is hand model J.P. Prewett, who explains that the fashion industry has been behind several political assassinations, and the brainwashed models are soon killed after they have completed their task (J.P. escaped because he himself is a hand model and so is smarter than the “face and body boys” like Derek.) Before J.P. can explain more, Katinka, Mugatu’s tough henchwoman, and her aides attack the group, forcing Derek and Matilda to flee. They decide to go to Hansel’s home, the last place they believe Mugatu will think to look, and Derek, Hansel, and Matilda bond. Matilda admits the reason she hates models is because, as a child, she was bullied for being overweight and developed bulimia, and she believes models hurt people’s self-esteem. Derek and Hansel resolve their differences while partaking of Hansel’s collection of narcotics and participating in group sex with Matilda and others. While recovering, Derek also finds that he is falling in love with Matilda. Derek and Hansel break into Maury’s offices to find evidence of the assassination plot, but cannot operate his computer to find them. Derek leaves for the show, Hansel following later with the computer in hand, believing that, as told to him by Matilda, “the files are in the computer”.
Matilda tries to intercept Derek before the show, but Katinka thwarts her attempt. As Derek takes the runway, Mugatu’s disc jockey starts playing “Relax”, activating Derek’s mental programming. Before Derek can reach the Prime Minister, Hansel breaks into the DJ booth, and switches the music to Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”, breaking Derek’s conditioning. Hansel and the DJ have a brief “breakdance” fight before Hansel eventually unplugs the system, moments before Derek was about to snap the Prime Minister’s neck. Mugatu attempts to cover up the incident, but Hansel offers Maury’s computer as evidence, smashing it to the ground which he believes would release the incriminating files. Though the evidence is destroyed, Maury steps forward and reveals he had backed up the files, and offers to turn over the evidence of the assassination plot after years of guilt for his complicity in the conspiracy. Mugatu attempts to kill the Prime Minister himself by throwing a shuriken, but Derek stops him by unleashing his ultimate model look, “Magnum”, that stuns everyone and causes the shuriken to freeze in the air in front of Derek’s face and fall harmlessly to the ground. At Derek’s hometown, Larry is watching the event on TV, and proudly acknowledges Derek as his son. Mugatu is arrested, and Derek is thanked by the Prime Minister.
In the film’s dénouement, Derek, Hansel, and Maury have left the fashion industry to start “The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too”. Derek and Matilda are shown as now having a son named Derek Zoolander, Jr., who has already developed his first modeling look.

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are back again in this hilarious insight into the male modelling profession.  this film is not to be taken seriously and all thoughts of realism should be left behind before you press play. ‘Zoolander’ has a great array of characters, each with their own comedic style and a certain amount of quirkiness. ‘Zoolander’ is a great comedy film .

REVIEW: BATTLESHIP

 

CAST

Taylor Kitsch (John Carter)
Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood)
Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
Rhihanna (Bates Motel)
Brooklyn Decker (The League)
Tadanobu Asano (Thor)
Hamish Linklater (The Crazy Ones)
Peter NacNicol (Ghostbusters 2)
John Tui (Power Rangers SPD)
Adam Godley (Powers)
Josh Pence (The Dark Knight Rises)

Erich and Jon Hoeber (Red) wrote the screenplay “Based on HASBRO’s Battleship” which Peter Berg (The Kingdom) directed. The film includes a pair of brothers. Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood) is Commander of a ship in the Navy, and his brother Alex (Taylor Kitsch, Friday Night Lights) is a Lieutenant in the Navy, but is more of a renegade and screw-up that his brother has to always cover and apologize for because of his roguish behavior and covert insubordination. Alex is dating Samantha (Brooklyn Decker, Just Go With It), who is the daughter of the Admiral (Liam Neeson, Unknown). Kind of sounds like a general conflict story that we have all seen before, right? How wrong you are! The Hoppers’ participation in a Naval exercise with Japanese sailors (an occasional occurrence, since they are stationed in Hawaii) soon becomes pear-shaped, as a mysterious presence comes to Hawaii. They are, in fact, aliens, who have come to Earth to establish contact with their home planet in the hopes of future colonization here.

The basic framework for the story is decent enough for the first act or so, but then it starts getting a little weird in its execution. The premise for the aliens coming to Earth is that they are responding to a signal that Earth is sending to other planets of similar atmospheres, in the hope that people of Earth can explore other planets. So , the aliens are not only beating Earth to the punch, but taking it a step further and occupying our house before we did the same thing to theirs. It’s this scientific element which allows us a bit of access to Cal (Hamish Linklater, The New Adventures of Old Christine), a computer scientist who knows what the signals are like and what’s coming. However, when the invasion/occupation starts to unfold, his scenes are scant, occasionally getting time next to Decker’s character, who is a physical therapist who works with wounded soldiers in their Iraq and Afghanistan recoveries (particularly one ornery character who returned home with no legs and is getting used to replacements). And the simple fact of the matter is neither Decker nor Linklater carry the story or provides moments that make them look engaging or charismatic. Though admittedly Decker is nice to look at.

Which brings us back to the action. The aliens are formidable, some of the action makes for exciting moments, but other parts of it just look silly and overreach. The aliens begin to move inland and damage other things like roads and an airfield to further isolate Hawaiian residents who are already several thousand miles away from the mainland. But like other films before it like Independence Day who set the stage for a seemingly unbeatable alien force, there always a fatal flaw that is academic and somewhat stupid. I won’t reveal it here, but suffice to say it is Shyamalan-esque. And as a tangent, allow me to vent on the bait and switch that seemingly occurs both in the film’s marketing and in the film itself. Neeson is all over the trailers (or at least was from my memory), but is in the film for a cup of coffee. This goes to a certain degree for Skarsgard. As a result Kitsch is the focus of the action, playing to a degree off of fellow FNL alum Jesse Pleamons (who plays a crewmember on the Hoppers’ ship) and singer Rihanna. THAT Rihanna. Far be it for me to bring up her personal life when discussing her acting, but she should stick to singing. Her acting is wooden, she is not a very likeable person on screen, seemingly assigned to perform the film’s one-liners, which she can’t even do right, much less entertaining.

And another thing; this movie is long. Way too long. At credits it runs two hours and twelve minutes, and the epic moments of alien transformation eventually morph into story flaw after story flaw, resulting in a third act battle on a stage that is simply not believable. It uses said stage to do things that are not believable, and result in stupid ‘pat themselves on their backs’ moments after the film that are also for lack of a better phrase ‘not believable.’ Really, the Navy is going to have an awards ceremony after a good portion of Hawaii has been destroyed and/or obliterated? Child, please. Even at its base levels, Battleship not only asks you to leave your suspense at the door, but wants you to bury it in the backyard before renting it.