War for the Planet of the Apes (Cinema Review)

12A – 141mins – 2017 – 3D


 

APE-POCALPYSE NOW

In my time as webmaster of The CR@Bpendium, I have noticed that a guilty tendency of mine is to lavish blockbuster sequels in franchises I adore with 5-star ratings. The Force Awakens and Rogue One, for instance, were always destined to be looked upon kindly by me, a long-time Star Wars fan. Yet more casual movie watchers may recognise issues, however minor, with both films which would impede a perfect score in the eyes of the general public.

… Keep Scuttling!

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The Legend of Tarzan (Cinema Review)

12A – 108mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE SPIRIT OF THE TREES

Before his imminent return to the wizarding world with November’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, director David Yates looks to older literary inspiration in bringing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Victorian ape-man back to the big screen for his umpteenth reimagining.

What makes The Legend of Tarzan unique, however, is that rather than again retelling John Clayton III’s (Alexander Skarsgård) oft-told origin story, we instead join up with Lord Greystroke eight years after he has returned to England with his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie), with crucial flashbacks to his formative years in the jungle integrated into this sort-of sequel.

Christoph Waltz, who I must confess I have never warmed to as an actor, returns to his moustache-twirling devious antagonist comfort zone as Captain Léon Rom, the corrupt envoy for Belgium’s debt-ridden King Leopold II. Rom devises a sinister scheme to lure the renowned Tarzan back to Boma in the Congo jungle, capture him and delivery him to an old enemy for a bounty of diamonds to save his dire government from bankruptcy.

Waltz’s Hateful Eight co-star Samuel L. Jackson plays second fiddle to the titular shirt-shy star as sharp-shooting American envoy George Washington Williams, who accompanies Tarzan and Jane on their overseas expedition, and aids in the rescue of Jane when Rom sees the sinister opportunity to lure his prey out of hiding with some wife-shaped bait.

Sumptuously imagined in a similar CG-heavy approach to Disney’s recent The Jungle Book reboot, this vine-swinging wild ride seems to have been somewhat lost in the wilderness of blockbuster season, receiving a trough of middling reviews where John Favreau’s uncanny Mowgli remake was lauded for its technical wizardry. Sure, the occasional shot is noticeably green screened, but there is far more to make you go “ooo!” than “ergh!” here.

The pacing isn’t perfect, with the grand riverboat finale reached prematurely, despite the action bobbing along nicely up to that point, but the film’s only major misstep is in expecting us to invest in little-seen African tribal leader Chief Mbonga’s (Djimon Air Hounsou) passion for revenge against the film’s hero – despite Tarzan’s earlier murder of his son only being briefly alluded to and never visualised.

Otherwise, I see no reason to lambast screenwriters Adam Cozard and Craig Brewer for their vision, which is as bestial, exotic and adventurous as a Tarzan story can be. Sadly, I fear this Legend going the same way as Disney’s doomed adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other shaggy-haired literary property, John Carter, which flopped for no discernible reason in 2012.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

Aaaaaaaah! (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 79mins – 2014


 

MONKEYING AROUND

With a title which handily doubles up as a review of the film, Aaaaaaaah! is the uncompromising brainchild of Sightseers star Steve Oram, who writes, directs and stars in this lo-fi quasi-horror satire on what would happen if man’s innate nature rose to the fore. The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, as well as a glut of other familiar faces, all pop up along the way to shed their dignity and go bananas in publicity-boosting roles.

Filmed in 2014 but only seeing release via the “Frightfest Presents” banner this past January, it’s not difficult to see why this brave/experimental cult status-destined statement on society struggled to find a distributor: even at a brisk 79 minutes it is a trying and perplexing watch.

Set in a surreal alternative universe (or it could be a post-apocalypse dystopia, this is never established) where humans have devolved to tree-humping, shit-slinging, ape-like savages, yet still wear clothes, drive cars, watch TV and live in houses, the film doesn’t take long to boggle your perception of reality, with alpha-male Smith (Oram) pissing on a wedding photo of his wife, before his beta, Keith (Fielding’s frequent collaborator Tom Meeten), obediently wipes his dick.

With dialogue completely replaced by primal grunts, we are forced to gawp in bewilderment at the often disgusting behaviour of these recognised faces, with Toyah Wilcox (seriously!) gamely dry-humping a cabinet, sticking her head in a microwave and being unceremoniously pelted with the dinner she has just made for her animalistic beau (Green Wing’s Julian Rhind-Tutt).

Violent, vulgar and often explicitly sexual (monkey’s masturbate a lot, see), this isn’t for the squeamish, easily offended or swiftly bored. Society is debased through acts of uncouth depravity (thieving, infidelity, abuse, gang war), but for all its perceived immorality, it’s all thoughtless and done without malice, simply to scoff, sleep, sex and survive – there are no ape expectations here.

With this outlandish scenario expanded beyond the everyday family dynamic to showcase examples of this society’s idea of sitcoms, cartoons, cookery shows (if you thought Nigella flaunted her cleavage, you ain’t seen nothing yet!) and video games, Aaaaaaaah! is a complete vision, but distractingly inconsistent. So mankind has evolved enough to make toilets and cutlery, yet people still shit on the kitchen floor and eat like savages? Likewise, how is it that cocaine exists as a recreational drug if people don’t know how to use it?

Props to Steve Oram for seeing his surreal concept through, it’s certainly a unique and unpredictable experience – not to mention a frightful prospect – and it marks him out as a filmmaker to look out for. However, as a piece of entertainment, his divisive debut feature is just too frustratingly uncanny to be devoured in one sitting – or maybe I’m just too much of a Neanderthal to appreciate it?

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars