‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ Review

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Director: Burr Steers

Writer: Burr Steers

Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Douglas Booth, Sally Philips, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, and Lena Headey

Synopsis: Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge – and army of undead zombies.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a very short scene in the middle of the credits*

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has had a very troubled and long production. Natalie Portman was originally set to star until she dropped out because of scheduling conflicts – although she stayed on as a producer – and David O. Russell was going to direct until he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts as well. Lily Collins was then going to replace Portman but turned it down, and then the studio landed on Burr Steers to finally direct. What we finally ended up getting was a better than expected adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s take on Jane Austen’s classic story of “Pride and Prejudice.” Of course, one has to get over the concept that zombies are added into a classic novel, and if you can get over that, then you’ll enjoy the film a hell of a lot more.

Just like the original – the Jane Austen story – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set in 19th century England and places its focus on Elizabeth Bennet (James) and her sisters: Jane (Heathcote), Lydia (Bamber), Mary (Brady), and Kitty (Waterhouse). Their mother, played by Sally Phillips, is determined to find them wealthy and eligible suitors so they can get married, since once their father dies, they get nothing. Of course, Elizabeth is very independent and headstrong with little to no interest in giving up her swords and martial arts training to be a married woman and to follow the norm of society. However, during all this, zombies – a term they actually use in the film – are overtaking England. This is where changes into the Austen’s story take place and where Grahame-Smith’s take kicks in.

From Left to Right: Ellie Bamber, Bella Heathcote, Lily James, Suki Waterhouse, and Millie Brady

The Bennet Sisters have been trained since they were girls and thanks to their father, played by Charles Dance, were sent to be trained in China, were the “wise” parents send their children to train as opposed to the rich parents who send their children to Japan. Certain families have gone the countryside to hide under their lands which includes the Bennet’s. When Mrs. Bennet finds out a new wealthy suitor in Mr. Bingley (Booth) has arrived from the warfront, they go to a ball where Bingley and Jane fall for each other. At that same party, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy (Riley), now a general in the army against the undead. The love story between them starts off as standoffish and trying to up one another every chance they can get. However, when George Wickham, a lieutenant in the army and one that has a past with Darcy comes into town, Elizabeth starts to fall for him, and where the love story starts to take place. Of course, everything comes to head once the story picks up in the final act that leads to an explosive and its own spin on the love story ending.

Sam Riley and Douglas Booth

Again, if you can get past the concept of zombies being injected into the story and the fact that now all the characters know martial arts and fight with swords, then sitting through the movie will be a hell of a lot better. However, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a pretty enjoyable and fun movie anyway. Director Burr Steers and Co. do a great job of balancing the different tones of action, horror, and comedy and make them blend together fairly well. The tonal differences could have really hurt the film, but thankfully Steers control the tones and make them work for the film instead of against it.

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That’s not to say that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies isn’t without its faults and missteps. The film is good, but could have been better with some better pacing in the middle of the film and expanding some of the new concepts they bring in that includes a Horsemen of the Apocalypse angle that leads nowhere expect some nice visuals. Some visuals do work, while others fall flat especially an early one in the film, but for some it doesn’t help that some scenes are very poorly lit. The low lighting really makes one particularly scene hard to see anything, which doesn’t help since the scene feels like it’s important scene, but since we can’t see anything, the scene just fails.

Lena Headey

Jack Huston’s Wickham also falls a bit flat, although his story with Darcy is solid, it’s a bit rushed so the emotional impact and feeling fails to grab a huge amount of attention. Also felling underwhelming is Lena Headey’s character Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Heady also has a few scenes in the film, but none of them really stick out too much. It’s a shame really since her character is described as one of the deadliest and most skilled swordswomen in England, which is accompanied with a nice visual, but other than that, the character doesn’t really go anyway.

Riley, Matt Smith and James

As for the rest of the cast, they all do well with the material presented in front of them. Lily James nails Elizabeth Bennet is every way possible, making her easy to root for and a kickass character at that. Sam Riley’s Mr. Darcy is one of the characters you grow to like as he comes off as a bit full of himself, but sees his actions as necessary to protect everyone from the zombie plague. Bella Heathcote’s Jane Bennet gets really the third billing of the movie since her arc with Douglas Booth’s Mr. Bingley is the main arc in the first act of the film, although they both disappear during the middle of the film in order to drawn Elizabeth and Darcy’s arc. The other three sisters are a bit interchangeable unless you remember who’s playing who. Matt Smith, who plays Parson Collins, is a big highlight in every scene he’s in and could easily steal the film for some people.

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All in all, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a hell of a lot of fun and more enjoyable than some will give it credit for. While it fails on some levels, like pacing and some underdeveloped scenes, that stop it from being great, everyone involved make the crazy concept worth the watch. If zombie action with a little classic romance is your thing, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies should fill that right up.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

4 out of 5

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Jupiter Ascending Review

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Dir: The Wachowskis

Writer(s): The Wachowskis

Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Tuppence Middleton, and Eddie Redmayne

Synopsis: In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by a ruthless son of a powerful family that live on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

The Wachowskis broke on to the scene with their smash and cult-hit The Matrix. Everyone fell in love with them, and then they started to go downward with a lot people after the sequels to The Matrix and Speed Racer, even Cloud Atlas had fans divided. Nonetheless, The Wachoski siblings have always been passionate about their projects and put a lot of work into creating the world and trying to get the audience into the world as much as possible. All of that can be said for Jupiter Ascending, problem is the film falls flat in areas and while there are highlights, ultimately the film is nothing more than an tiny bit average film.

 

The film follows Russian immigrant Jupiter Jones (Kunis), who works as a house maid but unbeknownst to her, she possesses the same genetic makeup from a powerful galactic royal family the Abrasax’s. She then finds out that she has some rights to Earth, (yes, the planet Earth). Because of this Jupiter is targeted by the three Abrasax siblings; Balem (Redmayne), Titus (Booth), and Kalique (Middleton). Lucky for Jupiter, she had a hybrid soldier turned mercenary in Caine Wise (Tatum) to help her. Unfortunately, they get caught up in a family feud and have to try to survive with the help of only a limited few.

 

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Again, Jupiter Ascending isn’t a perfect film and while it has some great things about it, it fails to capture on those things to help it move forward. The set design and costumes are beautiful to look at and add to the  whole building a bit, in the sense that you get where these characters are coming from and how they go about their life, but that’s all they are there for, to look pretty.

 

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Even some of the cool straight sci-fi stuff, like Caine’s gravity boots are really cool to see the first few times, but after a while they lose a bit of their specialness. The guns make the sound you would think sci-fi intergalactic weapons would make, and while cool to look at, they stop using them around the first half of the movie. The ships are another story. One of the main ships the characters use is nice to see fly through the streets of Chicago and destroy any building in sight, but once they get into actual space it, again, lose something at it even though the design of the ship looks great.

 

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The real problem with Jupiter Ascending is the story itself. While it’s nice to know what the creatures are and how everything works for these galactic characters, sometimes it is just better to let the audience enjoy the film and everything around it. I don’t really consider this nitpicky, just an observation because we see other films that don’t explain every single thing and still turn out to be good. I get that the Wachoskis are trying to get us invested in this world, but by the end of the film only a few things they explain turn out to be important and relevant.

 

The cast here is okay. It’s a nice change of the norm to have a female hero in a big sci-fi film like this with Mila Kunis playing Jupiter. Kunis gives Jupiter an equal level of being naïve, determination, and some unfortunate lack of seeing the bad in people. Let’s just say she gets caught in pretty much the same situation twice in the span of a half hour. Channing Tatum’s Caine Wise is a soldier that has wolf DNA in him, which gives him the fearlessness of a wolf and will do anything to protect Jupiter. His character isn’t just in it to protect her either, even though there is a somewhat forced love story, Caine does have a motivation to helping Jupiter.

 

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The other supporting characters are kind of forgettable. That’s not a knock on the actors playing them, it is just that they don’t really do anything and don’t really get fleshed out that much. Sean Bean is one of the noticeable supporting characters as he plays a character named Stinger, who has a history with Caine and tells Jupiter –and the audience – what is really going on.

 

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The Abrasax siblings don’t really do much. We get a quick scene of them all together, the only scene mind you, and then they disappear with the expectation of Balem. Redmayne looks to be enjoying himself chewing up the scenery while talking in his above whispering voice and occasions shouting. Out of the three siblings, Redmayne’s Balem is the most fleshed out character, even though he has about twenty minutes of screen time. Douglas Booth’s Titus is the “playboy” of the three and does something kind of creepy which you’ll know when it happens. Tuppence Middleton’s Kalique Abrasax is really just kind of there, she only serves one purpose of telling Jupiter what the Abrasax really do; she is the weakest of the three.

 

All in all, Jupiter Ascending isn’t a perfect movie, but there is some fun to it. You can get lose in the action scenes, especially the Chicago scene (maybe I’m biased), but there are a lot of characters that show up and do nothing for the film and then disappear – which includes two bounty hunters. Visually the movie is great to look at and while the story fumbles with itself, you’re going to have at least some fun watching it, kind of.

 

Jupiter Ascending

3 out of 5

‘Noah’ Review

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Dir: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, and Anthony Hopkins
Synopsis: A man is chosen by God to undertake a momentous mission of rescue before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world.

 
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review of this interruption of the biblical tale.*

 
Whatever your faith or how much you believe or don’t believe in the story itself, the tale of Noah is inherently a tough one – this is a story involving just about all of humanity wiped out, all at once. And this film doesn’t shy away from that at all, both in the grand scale of those killed by the floods and also in smaller, more intimate and, arguably, more disturbing ways. There is one scene in particular where Noah makes a choice that is frankly shocking to see. Director Darren Aronofsky and Russell Crowe walk a delicate line here with audience sympathy, yet manage to convey that this is a man doing what he truly believes must be done, no matter how difficult it is to comprehend at face value. According to Aronofsky, and something I come to see as well, Noah is person that suffers from the ultimate survivor’s guilt. This movie touches on that but also asks another question, what happens when you give a man an extremely life changing mission?

 

The opening (including some text onscreen that, essentially, gives you the grand scale of things with some cool Aronosfky visuals) establishes that God, here called “The Creator”, is certainly believed in by everyone, but also has gone so long that it’s assumed he long abandoned or moved on from the people he put on the Earth. The exception to this, of course, is Noah (Crowe) who begins to have visions sent to him by the Creator, warning that thanks to humanity’s misdeeds, the end is coming, in the form of a great flood.

 

With the aid of his grandfather, Methuselah (Hopkins, although he is only referred to as Grandfather by everyone in Noah’s family and Noah himself), Noah realizes he is meant to build a massive Ark, which will hold animals and Noah’s own family, all of whom will be the key to re-starting society all over again. Although Noah takes pride in his task at the outset, he starts to doubt if anyone, including his family, is worthy of being saved

 

Noah is assisted by his family from the start, including his wife, Naameh (Connelly) and his sons, the oldest Shem (Booth), the middle child Ham (Lerman) and the youngest Japheth (McHugh Carroll). And then there’s Ila (Watson), who they saved as a little girl and raise among their family – where she and Shem are romantically involved.

 

This version of Noah is obviously a different interpretation told than before. Besides Noah’s family, Noah is helped by others in the form of the Watchers, angels that are envisioned as giant rock creatures trapped in their current form as a punishment by the Creator. The Watchers have an angelic light inside them that makes their eyes and mouth glow, making them feel like something out of Lord of the Rings. The design is interesting as they’re so massive they kind of just lunge around but when its time to take action and protect the Ark, they become one of the highlights of the film, even though we never really get to know their names expect for Og (voiced by Frank Langella) and Samyaza (voiced by Nick Nolte).

 

The cast for the most part really works. Crowe can convey toughness and determination and is, for this interpretation, the right guy to play someone as focused as Noah is, who will not let anything get in his way. He also gets to show some other pretty intense emotions as the film continues and Noah begins to believe that perhaps the Creator’s intentions are even more difficult than it seemed, on a personal level. He’s also a bit of a badass. We see Noah early on defend himself from three attackers and when the Ark is under attack from Tubal-cain (the always reliable Ray Winestone) and his army, he does what he has to do to complete his mission.

 

As for the other men in the film, Lerman who plays Ham is the most conflicted amongst Noah’s sons, and has some understandable concerns and jealousies. Ham’s conflict brings him into the growing struggle between Noah and Tubal-cain, a villain who also has a unique position in the film. He does do awful things but he says things in such away you almost feel wrong agreeing with him. Douglas Booth’s Shem, the oldest son, isn’t given a lot to do but protect Watson’s Ila. Finally, Anthony Hopkins for the short amount of screen time he has does his usual best

 

But beside Crowe and Winstone, the women really do take center stage here. More specifically Emma Watson as Ila. Thanks to being attacked as a child she is unable to have children – something that is a concern to her given that she is the future of mankind. Watson holds her own with Crowe and have some great chemistry together, especially near the end. But, Watson is excellent at conveying Ila feelings as she looks at her place in this family. Jennifer Connelly’s Naameh, doesn’t have much to do at first, but Connelly stands out in one particular scene near the end as Naameh stands up to Noah; for the first time believing her husband, who she has supported for so long, is the wrong about a decision he’s making.

 

Not shockingly, Aronofsky’s visuals are gorgeous, highlighted by a sequence in which we see the Creation Story play out in a dynamic, thrilling manner, that expertly mixes time-lapse photography with special effects.

 

There are some iffy CGI at points (mostly with the animals but considering the scale of this project it’s kind of okay) and, despite its huge scale, Noah does have some moments where it hits some bumps. As I mentioned earlier, the promotional material surprisingly hasn’t given away much. We actually see and spend a good chuck of time in the Ark. Here is where the movie slows down a bit, but with great acting scenes and the dilemmas the characters, mostly Noah, have to make it adds some tense and emotional sequences that make the time in the Ark worth while.

 

All in all, Noah will, obviously, play very differently depending on how you interpret the Bible or even care about religion. Some will probably find it boring or uninteresting, which is fine, but given the bold approach that Aronofsky takes I hope people appreciate the movie just for what it is (I know, that’s asking a lot).

 

Noah
4 out of 5