Culture Film & TV

Film 2016: July in review

Plenty of long-awaited films finally hit the big screen this month - here's what Caroline Malcolm has to say about them.

This July, quite a few long awaited films have been released in UK cinemas. With so much hype surrounding them, I decided to review them and see what all the fuss was about.

NOW YOU SEE ME 2

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Now You See Me is one of my favourite films.

I like films that break the mould. Ones that have intelligence behind them and don’t just regurgitate the same old clichés throughout its make-up.

The first film saw four talented magicians, Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) be mysteriously approached by the secret society, The Eye. In return for entrance into the group, they had to blindly follow a series of complex and staggering instructions.

A year later, they appeared in a popular Las Vegas act and took the world by storm as they robbed a bank without even leaving the stage. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) was assigned the case and is determined to find out how they pulled it off.

But with no evidence to find, the shadowy four are free to leave and go on to do one fantastic trick after another.

Still, in the end, what was it all about? And how did they do it? Well, Now You See Me was a film that blew me away. Not only was the story original, but the way it was played out, the way the audience was tricked, made it truly innovative.

The best part of course, was finding out that Rhodes was in on it all along and the orchestrator of the whole furtive plot for historical reasons.

So now the second film has come along, I felt pretty disappointed. Why? Well because the first one had such a strong element of surprise from every angle, the sequel was left looking and feeling a bit lost. After such a fabulous impact the first time, round two was really underwhelming.

The film starts with the Four Horsemen (their group name) feeling forgotten and on the run from the law. They are desperate to move forward with their lives, and more importantly, they long for an audience.

So when a new job comes their way, they leap at the opportunity. But it all goes horribly wrong and they are captured by a rather determined young nutter, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe).

In a fraught attempt to escape with their lives, the Four Horsemen, now with Lula (Lizzy Caplan) as part of the group, must work together to pull off their biggest series of tricks yet.

But why was I disappointed? Well like I said, the first one was so incredibly well done, that this one couldn’t help but fall short.

The first film kept me guessing, it lulled me into a false sense of security. But this one decided to bring me into the game, to make me part of their secret world. And as fun as that was, it wasn’t such an adrenaline rush.

But on a more positive note, this film was more interesting from a character perspective. The first film was more about narrative thrills and action, but this was much more intimate. It gave us a more personal insight into the Horsemen and into the rocky psychology of Rhodes and what really makes him tick.

So all in all, Now You See Me 2 wasn’t complete rubbish. In its own right, it progressed really well and had a lot of style and class. However, as a sequel, it didn’t fill the very large shoes of its predecessor.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN

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The Legend of Tarzan was unfortunately a big disappointment for me.

I admit, the only previous knowledge I have of the story comes from the 1999 Disney Tarzan film. So apart from making me think gorillas spend their time singing and composing music, I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

So this film showed Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) as Lord John Clayton. The story begins with him in his grim country home as a perfectly polished gent. He lives with his spirited wife, Jane (Margot Robbie) and they both feel depressed in grey old England.

But with a commission to go to the Belgian Congo and meet King Leopold, Tarzan returns to the wild lands where he grew up.

But once he is out there, things become ugly as it turns out Tarzan has been lured into a trap. It turns out that an African warrior wants the legendary man dead and the Belgians plan to exchange his life for priceless jewels.

Needless to say, Tarzan quickly gets back to his roots and unleashes his wild ways to save his wife as well as the country and animals he loves from destruction.

But with a lot of dramatic CGI, cheesy lines and vastly emotional moments, the end scenes are a bit of a cheap thrill.

So there were a good few reasons why I didn’t like this film. The main one was that I thought it was a bit disorganised. Before I saw it, I thought it would be about Tarzan’s life growing up in the jungle and his discovery of Jane and the development of their love. The fact that it began with him in England was a surprise. But hey-ho.

Still, with a film that has a lot of flash-backs and an unusual narrative thread, the progress and positioning of these need to be very clear and purposeful indeed. However, in this film it just seemed weak and the power of the story fizzled away as a result.

The second issue that was a bit annoying was Tarzan’s ability to fit into Victorian English society without a flaw. He spoke, walked and behaved just like a truly well groomed nobleman and not like a man who had grown up feral.

And last but not least, his relationship with the gorillas and the portrayal of the gorillas was more about conflict than heart melting moments. One of the central elements of Tarzan is the strong connection between man and animal and how species can live together in harmony.

But in this film, his relationship with them was constantly aggressive and they were shown to be mainly bloodthirsty.

So, The Legend of Tarzan was one of those films that was more about on screen exhilaration rather than thoughtfulness. I think I’ll stick with the signing animated apes and talking elephants thank you very much.

GHOSTBUSTERS

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For many people Ghostbusters has been the film they’ve been waiting for all summer.

With the original being such a success and a classic, there were high hopes and high concerns about this newbie.

Well I for one really enjoyed it. I thought it was fresh and modern but kept all the goof and comedy of the old times.

As I am sure most of you know, the story goes as so…after New York is invaded by ghosts, paranormal activity geeks and scientists, Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) come together to drive them away.

But the ghosts aren’t going to make it easy and it’s going to take a big plan to save the city.

It might take a lot of green gloop and wacky inventions, but they get there in the end…after the phone was rescued out the fish tank of course. After all, who you gonna call?

Now as I said, this film was always going to have a lot of critics. But I for one was impressed. As a woman and a promoter of equality, the whole female thing was just great.

And with actresses like Wiig and McCarthy, the comedy was left in very expert and capable hands. And these women and the crew behind them, came together to create a really fun and quirky remake of a golden oldie.

So I would say so far, this is the only July film I’ve seen that will be making it’s way onto my DVD shelf, along with the rest of 2016’s successes.

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