‘Kong: Skull Island’ Review

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Writers: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Thomas Mann, Tian Jing, Jason Mitchell, Eugene Cordero, Shea Whingham, John Ortiz, Toby Kebbell and John C. Reilly

Synopsis: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene*

 

King Kong is one of the most famous movie characters of all time, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood would try to bring him to the big screen as much as possible. Some have been great and some have been disappointing, but Kong: Skull Island thankfully leans more toward the great side. So, what exactly did director Jordan Vogt-Roberts do to make Kong: Skull Island a good King Kong film? Keep reading and find out.

Set during 1973, at the tail end of U.S troops pulling out of Vietnam, struggling government organization Monarch has two employees in William Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) who have a wild theory that an uncharted island could lead to major secrets. They manage to pull together a survey and mapping operation on the island with a military escort lead by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a former SAS Captain and expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and an antiwar photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). Once they arrive to the island – and after dropping bombs to map out the island – they meet Kong (motion-captured by Toby Kebbell and Terry Notary), who isn’t happy they’re dropping bombs in his backyard.

After surviving the initial attack, the group gets separated with Packard leading some of his men in Mills (Jason Mitchell), Cole (Shea Whigham), Reles (Eugene Cordero) and Randa, while Conrad, Weaver, and Brooks are with other Monarch members in San (Tian Jing), Slivko (Thomas Mann) and Victor Nieves (John Ortiz) before they run into Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been on the island for quite some time. What follows is both groups trying to make it off the island, avoiding Kong, but also finding out that Kong may not be the most dangerous thing there.

If you follow the news online, or are a fan of 2014’s Godzilla, Monarch is a connective tissue from the movie, and Skull Island was the studio’s way to introducing King Kong for the forthcoming mashup film between Godzilla and King Kong. However, Skull Island – thankfully – stands on its own making Kong a huge highlight and a force of nature. So since we’re talking about Kong, let’s go more into him. Obviously, Kong is someone you don’t want to mess with according the trailers. He’s king on the island as Reilly’s Marlow says, and that statement is proven the moment we meet as he takes over what felt like a dozen helicopters with ease, and going up against some of the Skull Crawlers. And when it comes to the Skull Crawlers, they do make an intimidating villains and great foes to Kong.

When it comes to the cast, they all play their part very, very well. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson have their characters fleshed out enough, while the highlights could very well go to John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson. Reilly’s Marlow has been stuck on the island for decades with the natives of the land, so his nuances are fun to watch unfold. Jackson’s characters fits into the time. Jackson is fueled by one thing after the first encounter with Kong: Find Kong and kill him. Jackson’s Packard is very much inspired by the time and films like Apocalypse Now. In fact the whole film feels a tinge like Apocalypse Now, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not so bluntly obvious that it takes away from the film. Two others that I want highlight personally is the pair of Shea Whigham and Jason Mitchell, the two have great chemistry together and is actually my favorite pairing in the film. One unfortunate casting misstep is Toby Kebbell, who gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the cast and story.

However, besides the cast and Kong, a huge highlight is the visuals and cinematography by Larry Fong. Kong and the Skull Crawlers are impressive sure, but of course we come across other creatures on the island that are either beautiful or scary as hell. Kong: Skull Island has a nice balance of the two, but it’s not just the creatures that impress, it’s the beautiful landscapes of the island. If Skull Island wasn’t filled with things that can kill you, you’d probably want to visit – maybe.

All in all, Kong: Skull Island is an enjoyable fun adventure film with a great cast, visuals, cinematography and soundtrack. While the film does slow down at times, it doesn’t do so without trying to flesh out the characters. Of course, the highlight of the film is seeing King Kong return to the big screen in all his glory.

Kong: Skull Island

4 out of 5

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March Movie Release

Hello there!

Can you believe it’s March already? Anyway, besides it being my birth month(!) there are some great films coming out in March that we can look forward to. Also, a large amount of limited releases to some big films, so let’s start shall we?

 

3rd

Limited Release: Table 19

Ex-maid of honor Eloise (Anna Kendrick) – having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text – decides to attend the wedding anyway only to find herself seated with 5 “random” guests at the dreaded Table 19. The rest of the cast includes Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew, Craig Robinson, Tony Revolori, Stephen Merchant and Lisa Kudrow.

 

Limited Release: Headshot

Iko Uwais returns to his ass-kicking ways in this new action drama that sees him play a man who washes ashore with no memories after a serious head injury. As he tries to move on with the help of the doctor that helped (Chelsea Islan), his past comes back to haunt him and he must not only regain his memories, but fight back. I got the chance to see this last year at the Chicago International Film Festival, and while the film has some tonal shift problems, no one is watching this for the drama parts, they are watching for the highly entertaining and kick-ass fight scenes. Also the film has a little The Raid 2 reunion as Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman appear. Also in the film is Sunny Pang.

 

The Shack (Drama – Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Netter Productions)

Based on the novel by William Paul Young, the film follows a grieving man (Sam Worthington) who receives a mysterious, personal invitation to meet with God at a place called “the Shack.” The film continues the trend of religious films getting a limelight, and with a cast like this and a powerful trailer, I don’t see this film falling on the wayside. The film also stars Radha Mitchell, Tim McGraw, Ryan Robbins and Octavia Spencer.

 

Before I Fall (Mystery Drama – Open Road Films, Awesomeness Films, Jon Shestack Productions)

Based on the novel by Lauren Oliver, February 12th is just another day in Sam’s (Zoey Deutch) charmed life until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over one inexplicable week, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she’s in danger of losing. The Groundhog Day with teenagers mystery angle may be enough to get some people in theaters, but I don’t think I’m sold on it. The film also stars Halston Sage, Diego Boneta, Elena Kampouris, Alyssa Lynch, Logan Miller and Jennifer Beals.

 

Logan (Action Adventure – 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Donners’ Company)

In the near future, a weary Wolverine (Hugh Jackman’s last performance) cares for an ailing Professor X (potentially Patrick Stewart’s last performance) in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant in Laura Kinney aka X-23 (Dafne Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark forces. The film has done nothing but impress fans and media outlets – who saw over 40-plus minutes of the film – so now that we get to see the whole film, I can’t wait to see how they close out this big run for Jackman. Logan also stars Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Doris Morgado, and Elizabeth Rodriguez.

 

 

10th

Limited Release: Raw (Horror)

When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her. The French film has been making waves at film festivals and those lucky enough to see it, and based off the trailers, I can see why.

 

Kong: Skull Island (Action Adventure – Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures)

King Kong is back! The film follows a team going to uncharted territory, mainly, Skull Island where they encounter a myth – and king of the island: King Kong. The film looks absolutely great, and I can’t wait to see how they handle this new King Kong. Kong: Skull Island has an impressive cast of Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Thomas Mann, Jason Mitchell, Tian Jing, John C. Reilly, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

 

17th

U.S. Release: T2: Trainspotting

Danny Boyle gets the band back together for the sequel to the cult following film Trainspotting. The film see the crew come back for some more misadventures.

 

The Belko Experiment (Action Thriller – High Top Releasing, BH Tilt, Orion Pictures, MGM, The Safran Company)

Written by James Gunn, in a twisted social experiment, a group of 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogata, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed. The film looks absolutely crazy, and with the Battle Royal and Office Space comparisons floating around, it sounds like we’re in for a fun ride. Josh Brener, Michael Rooker, Tony Goldwyn, John Gallagher Jr., Sean Gunn, John C. McGinley, and David Dastmalchian also star.

 

Beauty and the Beast (Musical Fantasy – Walt Disney Pictures, Mandeville Films)

An adaptation of the classic fairy-tale about a Belle (Emma Watson) who falls in love with a cursed and monstrous prince (Dan Stevens). This film has some major shoes to fill. Major. The animated to a lot of people, including myself, is a classic so hopefully it’s at least half-way descent. The film also stars Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Josh Gad, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Sline, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

 

 

24th

Limited Release: Wilson (Comedy Drama)

Based on a the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, who also scripts the film, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first film. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Cheryl Hines, Laura Dern and Margo Martindale.

 

Life (Sci-Fi Thriller – Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Skydance Media)

An international space crew discovers life on Mars. However, on their way back home the crew is put in danger from said lifeform. It should be interesting to see the film handles the material, but with a cast like this, I can’t imagine this being bad. At least one can hope. Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, and Hiroyuki Sanada.

 

CHiPs (Action Comedy – Warner Bros., Primate Pictures)

Directed and written by Dax Shepard, the adventures of two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers, Jon Baker (Shepard) and Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherllo (Michael Pena), as they make their rounds on the freeways of Los Angeles. There are already people saying this isn’t the CHiPs they grew up with, but the trailer makes the film look like a lot of fun to be honest. I wasn’t looking really forward to it, and I’m still not completely sold, but at least I’m looking forward to seeing what it could lead to. The film also stars Rosa Salazar, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, Jessica McNamee, Justin Chatwin and Vincent D’Onofrio.

 

Power Rangers (Action Sci-Fi Fantasy – Lionsgate, Saban Entertainment)

Based on the popular 90s show, a group of high-school kids are chosen to protect the world from an ancient evil with their new found super abilities. Look let’s face it, this has the chance of being cheesy as hell, but that’s kind of the point of Power Rangers, so that complaint won’t work. And honestly, the trailers so far have been pretty great – says the childhood fan in me. The film stars Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Dacre Montgomery, singer Becky G., and Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa.

 

31st

The Boss Baby (Animation – 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks Animation)

Based on the book by Maria Frazee, a suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his seven-year old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co. I’m not too excited about the film, it hasn’t really grabbed me, although I’m sure there will be an audience. The voice cast includes Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and ViviAnna Yee.

 

Step Sisters (Comedy – Broad Green Pictures, Los Angeles Media Fund)

An African American sorority girl resorts to desperate measures to get into a top law school. The film stars Megalyn Echikunwoke, Eden Sher, Alessandra Torresani, Gage Golightly, and Matt McGorry.

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Biography Drama – Focus Features, LD Entertainment, Scion Films)

Based on the book by Diane Ackerman, the film tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) and Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the Nazi invasion. The trailer looks powerful, but I hesitate only because it looks like the trailer gave a bit too much away. The film also stars Daniel Bruhl, Michael McElhatton, Anna Rust, and Iddo Goldberg.

 

Ghost in the Shell (Action Crime – Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks SKG)

Based off the popular anime film, a cyborg policewoman (Scarlett Johansson) attempts to bring down a nefarious computer hacker (Michael Pitt). The trailers have set a pretty good sense of the tone, and since I have no real connection to the anime, I think it looks pretty good. The film also stars Pilou Asbeek, Michael Wincott, and Takeshi Kitano.

 

What are you looking forward to?

New Podcast: Thor: Ragnarok Will Have Planet Hulk, Brie Larson for Captain Marvel, Rogue One Reshoots & Ton More

It was a crazy week for movie news and I did my best to manage it all for the podcast this week. We talk about the mentioned news items on the thumbnail, and the casting of Pennywise in Stephen King’s It remake and much, much more.

 

‘Crimson Peak’ Review

crimson_peak

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writers: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman, and Doug Jones

Synopsis: In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds…and remembers.

 

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

 

I should point this out right from the beginning, despite the ads and the heavy use of the horror elements, Crimson Peak is not a full blown horror film. Guillermo del Toro has instead created a wonderful, dark, twisted and beautiful gothic romance. The film also brings del Toro back to his Pan’s Labyrinth sense of wonderment and style, and it’s great to finally see him come back to it.

Set in the early 1900s, Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) is an aspiring writer who wants to be taken seriously. One day she is at the office of her father Carter (Beaver), a powerful businessman, who hears a proposition from Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston). The business proposition involves Thomas’ estate in England, Allerdale Hall, which sits on top of a valuable mine. However, during Thomas’ stay he manages to win Edith’s heart, much to Carter’s dismay, and his enigmatic sister, Lucille (Chastain). Eventually, Edith marries Thomas and relocates to Allerdale Hall where she finds out that the house not only holds dark and terrible secrets, but also ghosts, which remind her of a warning she got as a child from her departed mother, “Beware of Crimson Peak.”

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Again, Crimson Peak is as del Toro has said, a gothic romance and has stressed that it is not a horror film. The film does have many horror elements scattered throughout the film, but for the most part del Toro sticks to his word about it being a gothic romance. Matter of fact, Edith even says at one point when presenting her book that it’s “more of a story with a ghost in it.” This may turn off some people, especially those waiting for a full blown horror film, but don’t worry, there are enough horror elements in the film to hold you over.

The cast is pretty spot on here. Mia Wasikowska’s Edith is filled hopes and dreams, but seeing it slowly get taken away from her as the film progresses and seeing her go through the horrors and spirits she sees in the house. However, the character falters a bit, because all the ambition is put to the side once she enters the house, it’s not too surprising since the focus becomes Edith’s terrors, but a silver lining is that Edith becomes more powerful and her survival instincts take over. Wasikowska does great regardless.

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Tom Hiddleston’s Thomas is nicely layered as a charming, sympathetic and mysterious figure that fits him perfectly. You’re conflicted as to whether or not Thomas actually loves Edith or is he merely acting a part of whatever scheme he and his sister have up their sleeves. Charlie Hunnam pops in as an old friend of Edith and now a doctor that has his own practice. His character isn’t really used too much and it’s a bit of a shame, but he is the least interesting character in the film. Jim Beaver’s father character is surprisingly greater than I thought it would be, even though Beaver is great in pretty much anything he does. Burn Gorman also pops in as a investigator of sorts that works for Carter.

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However, this film belongs to Jessica Chastain’s Lucille Sharpe. Chastain is one of the best actress in Hollywood today and she always gives it her all in whatever role she in, and Crimson Peak is no different. Her portray of Lucille is closed off and cold to Edith most of the time, but there is something about the way she acts for the rest of the film is what makes her more interesting and mysterious, especially in the end, when we finally see her reveal everything.

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Of course, if you know Guillermo del Toro’s work, you know he has a knack for amazing visuals and Crimson Peak may be one of best works yet. Del Toro actually built Allerdale Hall and rigged the set to make it an actual character in the film, and there is no doubt that Allerdale Hall is a character in the film. The production design is top notch, and dare I say, del Toro’s best he’s ever done. Everything down to the clothing, the decaying house and the walls of the massive house even look like they’re bleeding (will make more sense when you watch the film). Even if whatever reason you don’t like the film, you’ll at least me impressed by how beautiful it looks.

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The film is a bit of a slow burn, with the last twenty or so minutes not only revealing everything, but also turning the film up a notch. The film is also surprisingly bloody. I know it’s teased in the film and in the trailers, but actually watching it was shocking to me. However, del Toro manages to make it fit and a part of the story, rather than just have violence for the sake of having violence. Moreover, the ghosts in the film also serve a purpose and are not there for the sake of a scare. The ghosts are rather creepy at first glance, but it seems that ghosts are all CGI, which seeing the production design, I can see why del Toro would rather go the CGI route since he probably spent most of the budget on the house alone.

All in all, Crimson Peak is a dark and twisted story that could be a hard watch sometimes, but there is something beautiful and touching in its own weird and twisted way. The film does take a while to get going, but the performance, especially the standout of Jessica Chastain, and subtle nuances laid throughout the story will keep you going along for the ride. While not a full blown horror film, the gothic romance angle of Crimson Peak is beautiful enough for me to appreciate.

 

Crimson Peak

4.5 out of 5

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‘Thor: The Dark World’ Review

Dir: Alan Taylor

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins

Synopsis: Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler review as always.  But I will say this, as with every Marvel movie, STAY FOR THE CREDITS! There will be a mid-credits and after credits scene.  Also if you watch the movie in 3D, you will get to see a 5 minutes preview of Captain America: The Winter Soldier*

 

Thor was probably the biggest question mark as to whether fans would understand the character enough to sit and watch a movie based on him.  Some were surprised when they saw the movie on how good it was (or bad for others) but once every one knew what the character was about and saw him team up with their other heroes they embraced him with open arms.  This continues most of the new found love for the character and changes things up.

The film kicks off with a prologue that finds Thor’s grandfather doing battle with an army of Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Eccleston), an angry elf who is hellbent on plunging the world into darkness with a powerful weapon called The Aether.  Thor’s grandfather ends up getting the Aether and hides it causing Malekith and a small portion of his army to hide.  Fast forward to present day, and Thor (Hemsworth) with Sif (Alexander) and The Warriors Three; Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Fandral (Zachary Levi, who replaces Josh Dallas) are busy cleaning up chaos in the nine realms.  Even though Thor is winning the adoration of his people and being groomed to be the new king, his heart is still with Jane Foster (Portman).

Speaking of Jane, she’s in London dealing with the fact that Thor hasn’t been around to see her since the events of the first movie.  She and Darcy (Dennings) find some weird going-ons and eventually leads to Malekith being awaken.  Of course while all that is going on, Loki (Hiddleston) is being held prisoner in the dungeons of Asgard for his crimes in Thor and The Avengers by Odin (Hopkins).

Bringing in Alan Taylor as the new director does give the movie a whole new look.  Not to knock on Kenneth Branagh but Taylor brings in that Game of Thrones style that works since the movie does go into the city life of Asgard, something the first movie didn’t do.  The movie’s battle scenes also have a different feel that really work for this movie.

The first half of Thor: The Dark World, is really all about the production design.  It’s an interesting blend of medieval style and futuristic space weapons that surprisingly works.  It also gives us the focal point of the movie about the Convergence, an event that has all the nine realms aligning and where the Aether is the strongest for Malekith to use.

The second half is where all the stakes are raised and where most of the pay offs are.  Thor has no choice but to free Loki and work with him to stop Malekith from using the Aether.  Of course seeing Thor and Loki together are the best scenes in the movie.  We’ve already seen their relationship develop in two movies now and when they come together it instantly clicks and makes sense.  However, we see some of the strains and some acceptances in their relationship that kind of make you wish they put them together sooner.

The movie does have its flaws. Some scenes probably over stay their welcomes just a tad long and there seemed to be a set up for a love triangle that doesn’t really play out in the end that well (if you’re a fan of the comics you’ll know it when you see it).  I’m pretty sure people will be a bit disappointed that there isn’t enough Loki in the movie but lets remember, this is a Thor movie and not a Loki movie.  Don’t get me wrong I love what Hiddleston has done with Loki and I love how he plays the character he’s not the focal point in the movie.

As for Hemsworth, he has truly made Thor his own.  Hemsworth gives Thor the perfect balance of arrogance – without being cocky – humility and maturely.  He knows what he wants and who he loves and will do anything to protect them even if it means he has to sacrifice himself.  Thor is a man of action and here he proves it.

In connection with that some of the supporting characters don’t really get to do much.  The Warriors Three become the Warriors Two with Fandral and Volstagg getting more screen time.  Sif shows off more her badassery this time but other than that she almost does nothing else as does Idris Elba as Heimdall, he actually gets to do some action this time around.  Stellan Skarsgard takes an interesting turn with his Dr. Erik Selvig character.  Rene Russo as Thor and Loki’s mother Frigga gets some cool moments that I would have loved to see more of and Hopkins as Odin this time around really just walks and sits around and doesn’t capture the powerful ruler he was in the first movie.

On the villain side, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who plays Algrim/Kurse is intense and a bit terrifying at times and is the right hand man of Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith.  Eccleston is under some heavy makeup and at times can come off as terrifying and a real threat but other times he’s just an obstacle in the way.

One of the things that really took me by surprise is the humor in the movie.  Don’t let this surprise you since Marvel has been injecting more humor in their movies as of late.  However, the humor doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the movie.  There are many big dramatic moments in the movie that make this movie really work along side the humor.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World is a fun, humor, and action filled sequel that, although its small flaws, does make me want to see more Thor adventures in the future.

 

Thor: The Dark World

4 out of 5