Film Review: OUTLAW KING (UK 2018) ***

Outlaw King Poster


David Mackenzie


Bathsheba Doran (screenplay by) (as Bash Doran), David Mackenzie (screenplay by)| 3 more credits »

OUTLAW KING, a lighter version of BRAVEHEART chosen to open this year’s Toronto 

International Film Festival is also known to be a Netflix original movie.  Netflix has come a long way at producing movies and can now be known for some good solid cinema.

OUTLAW KING, based historical events takes place after BRAVEHEART, though the story of the war between the English and the Scots never ends.  Few dramatized segments like the reunion of King and kidnapped queen on a deserted Scots beach help spice the movie.

MacKenzie has mounted a handsome production at a cost of $120 million, quite different from his last entry an American heist film that also starred Pine.  Here in OTULAW KING, it is horses, mud and the beautiful but dreary Scots landscape.

There is a lot of history to be told in the film, before the story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) begins.  MacKenzie effectively gets this out of the way in the film’s first segment when King Edward of England forces Robert into allegiance with the English.  The villain of the piece is Robert’s old friend now a sworn enemy, the Prince of Wales (Billy Howle, the handsome lad from ON CHESIL BEACH looking sufficiently ugly and nasty for this role) who seems to be an uncouth loud-mouth that nobody respects, not even his father, King Edward.

Relief from the war is provided by the romance between King Robert and his wife, Elizabeth de Burgh (Florence Pugh) given to him by Edward, King of England (at the start of the movie).  She is a feisty female who stands by the side of her husband and not afraid to say what she feels is right.  Robert has a daughter, Marjorie from his wife who died while giving birth.  They remain chaste on their wedding night and consummate the marriage much later.  Audience will find the wait worthwhile in a steamy sex scene that lasts too short a time.  An additional bonus includes Pine’s full frontal nudity shot when he takes a dip in the river later on in the film.  The romance makes the film more personal as audiences can relate to a family.  When Robert promises to fight a foe, one-on-one the next day, the worry of a wife for her husband rings real.

There is a lot of story that goes with the film – how Robert became King of the Scots through the priests (only briefly shown) , his allegiance to a new ally, James Douglas (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and how Robert rounds up an army of Scots with the help of Lords still loyal to him, who are willing to go back to war.  Director MacKenzie effectively gets this out of the way to prepare for the main course – the battle between the Scots and the English at Loudoun Hill.

MacKenzie, no stranger to gut violence and gore, having made his mark also in horror films, shocks his audience with a few stomach-turning scenes like the live gutting of a Scots by the English.  The battle scenes are also sufficiently violent with lots of screaming and blood.

The TIFF version ran close to 2 and a half hours, but Netflix cut the film down to a 2 hour version, the one that is being reviewed.  This new edit arrives just the week before the film opens on Netflix.  I have not seen the longer version, but this one is sharp no-nonsense story-telling that is compelling enough for the average moviegoer from start to finish.


Film Review: WONDER WOMAN (USA 2017)

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wonder woman.jpgBefore she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

Director: Patty Jenkins
Writers: Allan Heinberg (screenplay), Zack Snyder (story by)
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston,
David Thewlis

Not to be confused with the two other WONDER WOMAN films made in 2009 and 2014, this updated expensive $149 million film has been marketed well and is one of the most anticipated films this summer.

Gal Gadot is WONDER WOMAN though the term WONDER WOMAN is never used even once in the film. She is known as Diana. The character played by Gadot, and reasonably well by her, combining sexiness and a certain ferocity was first introduced to excited audiences in BATMAN V. SUPERMAN. She gained 17 lbs. of muscle while training in martial arts for the role. Now audiences can see her for a full 140 minutes or so.

Diana first appears as a little girl fiercely intent on becoming a fighter much to the chagrin of her mother, the queen (Connie Nielson). Diana’s aunt who is also the general (Robin Wright) trains her eventually to become the warrior with special gifts destined to save the world as it is written in the Book of the Gods. The film’s voiceover informs that Diana is made from clay by the God Zeus and she must destroy the evil Ares before mankind is destroyed. As such this bevy of beauties appropriately named Amazons live on a Greek-like paradise island till a World War plane crashes into the waters nearby with the pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) saved by Diana. How the two worlds collided is never fully explained.

With the world of the Gods brought into the human realm, the film grows more interesting. Diana is drawn into fight against the Germans in WW1. The trouble with all this is that Diana, Trevor and a assorted troupe of fighters kill Germans one by one to save innocent people as well as allied soldiers. This is a very simplistic look of things as German soldiers killed are people too. The script does attempt to discuss this problem but not too convincingly. Diana is shown to be naive as to the human world, with humour thrown in whenever possible.

For a $149 million production, there are as expected, lots of special effects and pyro-technics. In addition, there are a lot of sexy fighting (but ridiculous) poses by Diana.

The film contains three villains as if one is not enough. David Thewlis plays the main one, The God of War Ares in human form. The other two villains are more comical than sinister, two Germans, one a female doctor, humorously named Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) with a disfigured face and the other a sinister German General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) who will stop at nothing to win the war.

Business wise, WONDER WOMAN cost $149 million to make, thus requiring to gross at least $460 million worldwide to break even. The estimate for the opening domestic weekend is $100 million so it likely will bring Warner Bros. a tidy profit.

The fourth film of the DC Comic Universe after SUPERMAN, BATMAN V. SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD, WONDER WOMAN is the best of the lot with a good combination of action and tongue-in-cheek humour. But that is not saying much considering how awful the first 3 were.


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Happy Birthday: Chris Pine

chrispine.jpgChris Pine

Born: August 26, 1980 in Los Angeles, California, USA

[2009] I’ve seen what can happen to an actor when he’s just working for the sake of working. All of a sudden it’s ten years later, your career’s happened, and you haven’t had any control. I still assume that, any day, I’m going to be exposed as a fraud. That, like I once heard Gene Hackman say, the acting police are going to burst in and take away my card.

dir. Joe Carnahan
Chris Pine
Jessica Alba
dir. Tony Scott
Denzel Washington
Chris Pine
dir. �lex Pastor
David Pastor
Chris Pine
Piper Perabo
Star TrekStar Trek
Directed by
Chris Pine
Zachary Quinto
dir. James Keach
Chris Pine
Anjali Jay
dir. Randall Miller
Bill Pullman
Chris Pine
dir. Peter Ramsey
Hugh Jackman
Alec Baldwin
dir. McG
Reese Witherspoon
Chris Pine
dir. J.J. Abrams
Chris Pine
Zachary Quinto
dir. Kenneth Branagh
Chris Pine
Kevin Costner
dir. Donald Petrie
Lindsay Lohan
Chris Pine


Movie Review: THE FINEST HOURS (2016)

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the_finest_hoursTHE FINEST HOURS (USA 2016) **
Directed by Craig Gillespie

Starring: Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck

Review by Gilbert Seah

Following hot on the heels (or rather on the keel) of Ron Howard’s recently released sea adventure, the critically and box-office flop IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, THE FINEST HOURS follows a crew of men fighting the elements, which is just as intense though without a Moby Dick-type monster. The plus of the two films is the authentic claustrophobic atmosphere in the vessel when the men are sailing, something that will surely discourage those intending to take a cruise some time soon.
The title ‘based on a true story’ immediately flashes on the screen at the film’s start and the film is clear to remind its audience of this fact throughout the film.

The film is a Hollywood account of the daring 1950s rescue mission by the American Coast Guard. An oil tanker, the Pendleton is split in half by a perfect storm. The surviving sailors are left adrift with no means of communication exempt to blast the horn. A member of the nearby community hears the call and a coast guard boat led by the hero, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) with his crew then risk their lives to find and rescue the sailors. On the tanker’s side, the hero is the chief engineer, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck).

Director Gillespie spends too much screen time at the start with the romance between Webber and Miriam (Holliday Grainger). All this is to emphasize the heroism and sacrifice of both the men and the women by their side. Gillespie directed LARS AND THE REAL GIRL and therefore uses his past experience in putting in relationships into this film. As in most Disney films, the money making formula is kept to a ’t’.
Romance, action, a happy ending with good heroic dialogue like: “We are all going home.” The problem resulting is a too predictable film.

There is one segment in which all power is lost in the town as a result of the storm and the rescue boat, without a compass needs to find land. I could predict all the cars turning on the headlamps to signal the boat way before that scene occurred.

Once the storm occurs, Gillespie crosscuts between the action in the oil tanker and the action in the Coast Guard boat. It is a 50-50 division. What occurs inn the tanker turns out the more interesting, aided by the fact that the script emphasizes problems between Ray and a disagreeable mate (Michael Raymond McTavish) who has his own ideas on survival. The introduction of a singing cook (Abraham Benrubi) lifts the spirit of an otherwise too serious film.

But one can only endure special effects (not bad ones though) for only so long.

Disney’s THE FINEST HOURS ends up one of the most boring tales of an incredible true mission despite all the enormous effort put in. THE FINEST HOURS is a tad better than IN THE HEART OF THE SEA but that is not saying much.


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