Review: ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ (the long Congo con)

You can take the man out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the man.

Everyone knows the story of John Clayton, the infant raised by apes to become Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) after his shipwrecked parents died. The story begins long after John has returned to England, residing in his the estate of his parents with the love of his life, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie). John’s quasi-retirement comes to an end when he receives an invitation from Belgian King Leopold to see his accomplishments in Africa; after initially refusing, an American named George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) begs him to reconsider, explaining that the king is broke and his so-called accomplishments are likely due to enslavement of the Congo. With Jane refusing to stay behind, the three meet in Africa only to be attacked Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) in an attempt to fulfill a deadly contract.

The first act of The Legend of Tarzan isn’t particularly exciting, but it does set up important back story as well as establish the characters; once the ball gets rolling, the film never looks back. It’s of worthy note that the mandatory handling of John/Tarzan’s time in the jungle as a human child being raised among apes is done efficiently and mostly with selected flashbacks, keeping this from becoming an origin story and more like a return-to-form. Some of the film’s climatic elements may seem a bit farfetched, but it reveals how the King of the Jungle leverages his heritage to target those who’ve earned his ire.
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Review: ‘Django Unchained’ (Western Tarantino Style)

After taking on crime drama, pulp novelization, blaxploitation, samurai swordplay, grindhouse, and even war films, Quentin Tarantino set his sights on another classic genre to give it his unique sense of spin: the Western.

Just before the American Civil War, former dentist Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) acquires the assistance of a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx). The deal is simple: if Django can identify three men on the run from the law, he will be set free upon their death or capture and a few dollars in his pocket. As it turns out, however, Django has a natural skill for bounty hunting. After the two become good friends, Dr. Shultz agrees to help Django find and free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), but to do so, they’ll have to spirit her away from a ruthless plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Southerner who does not like to lose.

Writer/director Quentin Tarantino has never shied away from controversial subject matter. In fact, he seems to seek it out, intent in making films however he sees fit and to provoke a reaction that “safe” filmmakers actively avoid. Django is a buddy flick and revenge film driven by love and fueled by farce, a dangerous mix that proves entertaining all the way around. As usual, it’s a character piece, but that doesn’t mean the plot doesn’t have its twists and turns. After deadly serious films like Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds, there is an underlying silliness to Django that threatens to undermine the entire film but happily never derails it.

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