Week Of 08.01.2021 Movie Reviews

Reviewing Jungle Cruise, The Green Knight, And Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning

- S Grade; 5.0 Stars: The Best Film One Has Ever Seen, Everyone Has An S Film
- A+/A- Grade; 4.0/4.5 Stars: One Of The Best Films Of The Year, If Not All-Time
- B+/B- Grade; 3.0/3.5 Stars: Worth A Trip To The Theatre For First Viewing
- C+/C- Grade; 2.0/2.5 Stars: Watch From Home For First Viewing
- D+/D- Grade; 1.0/1.5 Stars: Don’t Bother Watching This At All If You Can Help It
- F Grade; 0.5 Star: One Of The Worst Films Of All-Time
- Reminder: Reviews For These Films Can Change Over Time And Will Be Reflected Over At Our Letterboxd

- The Plot: Dr. Lily Houghton enlists the aid of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree that holds the power to heal – a discovery that will change the future of medicine.

- The Review: Another live action Disney spinoff and yet once again we see critics a bit divided (Though more on the positive side), “Film Twitter” debating amongst themselves, and general audiences doing what I feel too many cinephiles these days seem to forget to do sometimes - have fun at the movies. And as someone who finds himself bouncing back and forth between the various factions of movie fandoms, I had no clue as to where I was going to land on this one though I could read this as a movie there would be bubbles and niche reactions to from several rivers away.

The movie has what could be admittedly glaring flaws, which seem to have become big enough ones for some to have jumped on this as a labeled failure for them. Predictable story beats, derivative and contemporary tropes, some potentially insensitive cultural depictions, CGI that isn’t the worst but isn’t Disney at their best necessarily, and an overlong runtime that overstays its welcome by the time the film is reaching its third act.

And yet…I still think there’s enough here to have a blast with this one and enjoy the thrilling adventure this offers.

The strongest points to this movie, which even those who have derided have given it points for, is the chemistry between Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt as our two main leads. That said there is a solid ensemble here which features Jack Whitehall as a lovable enough third wheel, Paul Giamatti playing up the few scenes he’s in, Edgar Ramirez as a mysterious side villain, Veronica Falcon as the one and only Trader Sam, and Jesse Plemons who is clearly having way too much fun as the villainous German prince. And by the way the story does take a very interesting and frankly unexpected turn at one point with a major character in the film as we transition towards the third act that I really appreciated.

The movie does feature some thrilling scenes and action sequences and some are throwback tributes to other adventure flicks like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE MUMMY, or especially PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL. If you’ve been craving films like that again, you’ll have a blast with this. There’s plenty of tributes to the original Disney theme parks’ ride as well for you Disney parks’ fanatics like me - right down to the dad jokes from the cruise. The comedic relief moments will and did hit with my screening’s audience, and this is definitely a movie that should be seen with a crowd to better appreciate some moments.

This is yet another example of a movie that those who seem to take themselves just a little too seriously are out for blood with. And once again the actual movie-goers who show up at the theatres and pay their hard earn dollars to see these escapist adventures are loving it and getting what they wanted from it. And once again I find myself as a man of the people on their side with this one. This was a fun escapist adventure that may not be among my personal favorites of the year, but is among the most fun. Like CRUELLA, this is a flawed but fun flick. B+ for JUNGLE CRUISE. A nice film to go have fun at the movies again…some of you remember that right? Having fun at the movies?

- The Plot: An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men.

- The Review: If JUNGLE CRUISE is a film that has left professional movie critics and cinephiles and the Letterboxd crowd mixed while mainstream movie go-ers have been having fun with it, the reception for this one has been the reverse. A24’s product can historically be very niche in who enjoys their content, generally seeing cinephiles and casuals in completely different worlds from one another. You do have feel-good films like THE FAREWELL and MINARI which hit well with casuals, but for the most part its mainly for a very specific type of movie fan. I personally have found myself time and time again in the middle liking to loving some of their films while not really buying into the hype of some of their others. For instance, ZOLA from just a month ago which I ended up underwhelmed by.

But this is their most expensive movie yet and the ad marketing for this has been promising a grand quest in a re-telling of a beloved and long surviving Arthurian tale in poetic form. Where a brave a Knight seeks out a stranger who looks to return the favor of having his head chopped off. No matter the trials or tribulations or even temptations along his way, he completes his journey and passes the test of courage. If you think that’s giving away too much before seeing this film its really not as the film’s script detours away from both its hero’s characterization in the source material and even changes up the finale to have one of the most open-ended endings in perhaps all of cinema’s history. What we get rather is a much gloomier and cynical take on a legendary and iconic tale.

I can see why the cinephiles and professional critics are losing their minds for this one. I mean I for one was highly anticipating it, coming into my screening expecting to come away loving it and putting it in the A tier; and this has been a highly anticipated movie in the film community for some time now no doubt. Second, the movie is beautifully shot and frankly is my current pick for best Cinematography of the year so far; giving us at times absolute art up on the screen that is a sight to behold in itself. Third, the acting here is great especially from Dev Patel as our main protagonist and Alicia Vikander who plays two roles in this and does a stellar job with both. Fourth, Director David Lowery has great direction in this allowing the beautiful shots to wow us whenever they get their chance to shine and word is he spent all the Lockdown re-editing the film countless times until he got the version he liked.

But I can also see why mainstream audiences have been less than enthused for this one, and unlike JUNGLE CRUISE where my audience for that screening had enjoyed themselves, it was clear my audience for the screening of this film left kinda’ disappointed. The film’s pacing just didn’t work me, and I found myself looking at the time at a certain point in the film. The movie’s artsy style can get in the way of itself and feel a bit pretentious at times and I say this as someone who can enjoy an arthouse film or two (NOMADLAND, MINARI, and PIG are among my A tier films of the year). The editing can leave much to be desired at times even with how amazingly beautiful the movie is to look at; and there’s a decision to veer so off the source material towards the third act that I just felt like the movie was trying too hard to be deeper and more cynical than it ever should’ve been given the material at hand. Leaving me feeling like the film that as beautiful and well acted as it was, it felt like a slog to get through at times. And finally there’s that ending which just kind of left me annoyed with the movie for trying to be so open ended ended when the source material has a very clear climax.

This is a movie that is going to have an audience there that will build this into a cult classic in time - if not already. It will show up in Best of the Year lists, show up in some critical awards’ nominations at the end of the year, and will maybe even see a Criterion release in the future. But I can see why the Academy ain’t touching this, and why mainstream audiences are leaving feeling “eh.”

I really wanted to join the bandwagon and love this film. I really, really, really, wanted to you guys. Particularly given that there’s enough in this to appreciate that I get why some of you are walking always calling this among the best of the year. But I have to go with my own personal opinion and that’s that this didn’t live up to the hype for me. I came in expecting to fall in love with a new favorite, and instead walked away saying to myself “That was decent, not sure if I’ll revisit it again, but boy was it pretty to look at…and boy was it slow.” B- for THE GREEN KNIGHT. While I didn’t hate this as much as some casuals seem to (Far from it), I did leave disappointed that I couldn’t enjoy this as much as cinephiles have. I end up kind of stuck in the middle like I seem to do most A24 releases.

- The Plot: Kenshin Himura goes up against mysterious weapons dealer Enishi. He controls the underworld of China. The secret of Kenshin Himura’s “Jujishou” will also be revealed.

- The Review: I’ve stated my position on the Rurouni Kenshin film adaptations in a past review of mine from earlier in the year. The first film (A+) is a masterpiece of modern samurai flicks, the second (A-) is a solid follow-up, and the third (B-) and fourth (B-) are decent but more flawed climaxes to the films’ library. Now here we are at the final film for the franchise, ironically a prequel to the previous four and one that was hinted at heavily in the fourth film which was the finale of the films’ order of events. That one was released earlier this year and as I already just stated I liked, but didn’t love it like I did the first two films and thought it was more in league with the third film. I was expecting to feel the same way about this one, but I’m happy to report I think this is the best since those first two films.

While it quite doesn’t reach the storytelling pace and action as those films, it does do a better job at pacing in my mind than films three and four; also as a sucker for romance I have to admit this tragic romance story did plenty for me in that department. As with the previous films we get the good to great direction, acting, costume and production designs, set pieces, fight choreography, and respect to the original source material that we’ve come to expect from these movies. But what helps this one stand out in the higher end among the five films is that were as the third feels like an overlong climax and the fourth feels like an overlong short story, this feels more like an overall individual story of tragedy that can stand on its own.

Its not perfect as it does seem more bleak than the first two films which do a better job than this with some comedic relief, and you are coming into a bleak film that won’t work for all. Not to mention it could be criticized for overstaying its welcome a bit.. That said I’d put this between the great first two films and the decent enough last two films as one I really enjoyed. B+ for RUROUNI KENSHIN: THE BEGGINING. A tragic romantic origin story for one of the best fictional samurai stories we’ve ever seen come to the art of storytelling in any medium.

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