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Review: ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ Swings Low, But Roars Well

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 1999, Disney perfected the adventure and fun of Tarzan by transitioning from the man of the jungle from swinging on vines to surfing tree branches. What could possibly be accomplished from live-action adaptation The Legend of Tarzan that wasn’t already delivered in animation?

While director David Yates doesn’t exactly make Tarzan’s tree hopping all that original, he does delivers a welcome alternative take on the hero. It still ends up being popcorn entertainment, but not as generic as I expected.

The Legend of Tarzan MovieSpoon.com

Tarzan returns to his roots in ‘The Legend of Tarzan.’

What helps makes this version of Tarzan so much different than previous incarnations is how the picture glazes over the origins, which are reduced to short flashbacks. The Tarzan we meet in the 19th century, played by a buff Alexander Skarsgård, is a domesticated chap, uprooted from the jungle to trade in his loincloth and tree house for a suit and a castle. He finds himself being called back to the Congo on business, reluctant to return for the enemies he has made.

Tarzan’s wife Jane (Margot Robbie) is ecstatic to return and George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) is eager to tag along to expose the slavery issue of the country. But when the corrupt Belgian envoy Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) kidnaps Jane in exchange for Tarzan, it’s time for the muscle-bound jungle man to rip off his shirt, grab a vine and smack around some bad guys.

The Legend of Tarzan MovieSpoon.com

Skarsgard and Robbie have great chemistry as Tarzan and Jane.

For an adventure movie that takes place in the Congo with native tribes, violent gorillas and sneering soldiers, it’s a project that could have easily gone south. Surprisingly, however, Tarzan narrowly avoids these pitfalls that could have made the movie condemnable. Every enemy Tarzan faces has a history and every action has a purpose to the point of actually saying something about slavery and the ravaging of civilizations.

But in trying to make the picture safe, Yates appears to have inoculated some of the spirit. This doesn’t exactly make the picture fall apart, but it does hold it back from being a grand epic as it favors a more standard adventure that’d fit right at home in the late 1990’s.

The Legend of Tarzan MovieSpoon.com

As always, Samuel L. Jackson’s humor is right on the mark.

That being said, it’s a standard adventure with a few surprises along the way. Perhaps the most positive trait of The Legend of Tarzan is how much it pulls back from plot elements that could have gone awry. In particular, the origin is light on length and dark in presence, offering up the essential cliff notes that most moviegoers are familiar with by this point.

The overall plot is established quickly with a few opening exposition titles, a thrilling action sequence and a clear statement of Leon’s goal to trade Tarzan to a tribe for diamonds to build his army. Tarzan and Jane have been trying to have a child, but have been unsuccessful. This is only alluded to twice in the picture and never reaches the expected point where Jane discovers she’s pregnant amid the action. And the trademark call of Tarzan is understated enough to prevent it from being seen as too ridiculous.

The cast is all very solid as well. Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie have real chemistry as an on-screen couple that has a history and a passion for each other. Samuel L. Jackson provides the comic relief as the wisecracking, gun-toting sidekick with a handful of amusing scenes. He’s a slight miscast in terms of setting, but a decent addition for some simple laughs. Christoph Waltz usually hams up his villain roles with that devilish grin and giddy attitude, but he appears subtler in this role hiding behind a mustache.

The Legend of Tarzan MovieSpoon.com

Djimon Hounsou is a worthy adversary.

It can be seen as a waste of Waltz, but I can’t blame the director for trying to find more than just the usual cackler of such an antagonist. Armed with a rosary made out of spider silk, he’s a capable enough villain to battle Tarzan and present a threat to those around him. Lastly, Djimon Hounsou plays a tribal elder that may only be a secondary villain, but he proves once more why he’s THE guy you need as a secondary villain.

Read more to watch the trailer for The Legend of Tarzan:

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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