Tag Archives: Margot Robbie

Jungle Swinger

New ‘Tarzan’ a rollicking tale of adventure, romance and eye candy

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The Legend of Tarzan

Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz & Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by David Yates

PG-13

You probably know Tarzan, one way or another. Edgar Rice Burroughs launched the “ape man” into popular culture in magazines and novels in the early 1900s. Several other actors had already portrayed him before former Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller put on a loincloth and grunted his way though the 1930s and ’40s for a dozen films, which ran endlessly on TV in the following decades.

Ron Ely and others played him on television. Walt Disney turned him into a cartoon. And there were other Tarzans, too, in some 200 movies and TV shows between 1918 and today.

Now the original “Lord of the Apes” returns to the big screen in a sumptuous, sprawling epic that blends his backstory with a rollicking new tale of adventure, romance and enough eye candy to attract audiences of all sorts.

Christoph Waltz again makes a dandy villain.

Christoph Waltz again makes a dandy villain.

Swedish-born actor Alexander Skarsgård (from TV’s True Blood series) stars as British nobleman John Clayton, raised as a feral child by mighty apes of the African Congo after the deaths of his parents. Now an adult for years resettled in his ancestral home with his beautiful wife Jane (Margot Robbie), he’s lured back to the Dark Continent by a plot of deception involving slavery, revenge, railroads, diamond mines and a corrupt Belgian megalomaniac (Christoph Waltz).

Director David Yates, who made his bones with all four movies of the Harry Potter franchise, works with all the tools in his impressive kit—and what must have been every nickel of his mega-budget. The visuals are grand: mist-shrouded mountain passes, jungles with impenetrable foliage; armies of Congolese warriors; fearsome gorillas; a stampeding herd of hundreds of wildebeest. Even though most of the film was reportedly shot on soundstages and sets in England, you’d never know it: When the action shifts to Africa, you’re transported there, too.

Margo Robbie

Margo Robbie

Margot Robbie is terrific as Jane, who was raised in the jungle, as well, the daughter of a missionary teacher. A real spitfire of spunk and spirit, she’s so much more than a “damsel in distress.” Samuel L. Jackson plays George Washington Williams, an American envoy to Britain who accompanies Tarzan and Jane on their return trip to Africa. He’s got a backstory of his own, and though he may not be in prime shape to keep up with Tarzan step for step, he comes in pretty handy with a gun.

Waltz, as usual, makes a dandy villain, and Djimon Hounson (from Gladiator and Guardians of the Galaxy) has a necessary, if somewhat nasty, role as a tribal leader looking to stage a major grudge match.

LEGEND OF TARZAN

Ladies will swoon—as Jane does—when Skarsgård initially reveals his sexy, sculpted torso, in a flashback scene that recalls their first steamy jungle encounter. And moviegoers in general will thrill when Tarzan finally gets around to doing what he does best: working those jungle vines, baby!

Late in the movie, we get to hear the iconic Tarzan yell, rolling across the miles—he’s coming. “Tarzan,” says Waltz’s character, relishing the moment, knowing the man he’s been trying to catch is close. “It sounded different than I thought…better.”

Different, and better, like this movie. After years of musty, rusty so-so and too-many Tarzans, now there’s a new, sexy big-screen Lord of the Apes—and he’s swinging again.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Slick Willy

Will Smith is supercool scammer in international con caper

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Focus

Starring Will Smith & Margot Robbie

Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Rated R

In Hollywood, everyone loves a con man. From The Sting to American Hustle, movies about charismatic con artists, scamp-ish scammers and fun-loving flimflammers have been parting moviegoers from their money for decades.

Will Smith, once one of the most bankable movie stars on the planet, takes on the genre with Focus, a sleek and stylish caper flick that combines the con with comedy and romance. In Hollywood shorthand, they call that a rom-con.

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Margot Robbie

Smith plays Nicky, a smooth, charming career criminal in charge of a hipster crew of pickpockets, thieves and other masters at separating unsuspecting schmoes from their credit cards, wallets, watches, jewelry and other valuables. In the opening scene, he turns the tables on the beautiful Jess (Margot Robbie), a small(er)-time hustler who quickly becomes his partner and his protégé—and, soon enough, his lover.

Nicky and Jess swap life stories, hop in and out of the sack and embark on a stealing spree in New Orleans over Super Bowl weekend that nets over $1 million in swiped goods. But the movie doesn’t really catch fire until fully 45 minutes in, when they encounter a high-rolling businessman (B.D. Wong) at the big game who entices Nicky into a round of ridiculously high-stakes gambling. The drama builds to the tune of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” which, we later find out, is something quite more than just a song on the soundtrack.

But in this movie, with everyone on the take and on the make, and some kind of sleight of hand in practically every scene, nothing is quite what it seems—and you can’t really trust anyone…or can you? This is especially true in the second half of the movie, when the story jumps ahead three years and across the globe, and all the characters end up in a completely different scenario, in different “roles.”

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Adrian Martinez

Gerald McCraney comes onto the scene (and possibly onto Nicky); Brazilian movie superstar Rodrigo Santoro plays a suave Formula 1 racing stud; and Adrian Martinez, who’s been in some 80 moves and TV shows as a supporting player, provides a lot of levity—and much of the reason for the movie’s R rating—as Nicky’s loyal sidekick.

Focus keeps you guessing. And it’s gorgeous to look at with two beautiful co-stars, often bathed in sensuous, sexy close-ups. Robbie, who made such a splash in The Wolf of Wall Street, makes a particularly strong impression in this constantly evolving cat-and-mouse game. The on-location shots, especially when the action shifts to Buenos Aires, are golden, sunbaked vistas that will chase away even the deepest winter blues. The director-writer team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Bad Santa; I Love You, Phillip Morris; and Crazy, Stupid Love) know how to keep things lively, luscious and lovely.

The dialogue can be dumb and clunky, the action isn’t quite as crisp as it could be, the danger never quite sharpens to a knife’s edge of worry about anyone, and some of the extremely complicated scheming requires some big, big stretching to swallow. But Focus has so much eye-candy razzle-dazzle, and it all looks so fabulous, it makes you forget about many of those pesky things, lost in its cool, groovy vibes and its long-con gamesmanship, and—hey, just a minute: Where’s my wallet?!!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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