Movie Review – Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island

Kong Skull Island

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Will Brittain, Miyavi, and more.

Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts Screenplay by: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly Story by: John Gatins Cinematography by: Larry Fong Music by: Henry Jackman

Premise: In 1973, just as the Vietnam War ended, a researcher convinces a senator to allow his team to go with a survey group to a newly discovered island. The helicopter squad assigned to take them there gets a nasty surprise when they drop seismic testing bombs in the jungle. The destruction brings forth a creature worse than any enemy they’ve fought before. Getting off the island will be much harder than getting in. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of great performances from the cast! Tom Hiddleston is a man stuck between worlds as James Conrad. Samuel L. Jackson plays Preston Packard – an Ahab looking for his white whale (aka giant gorilla) nemesis. Brie Larson was both spunky and full of feeling as photographer Mason Weaver. John C. Reilly was a hoot as Hank Marlow.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Saw this in 3D but wish we’d been able to see it in IMAX 3D. Some truly phenomenal backgrounds mixed with special effects. The giant auroras around the island at night were amazing.

The outside view of the perpetual storm around Skull Island was very reminiscent of “Star Trek the Motion Picture.” Once they go inside the cloud, the “wow” factor went way up. The entire ride was amazing! Fabulous images with the off colored lightining~!

Kong looked great. The scars from previous fights were a great touch. They did a terrific job with all the creatures – the dangerous and the non-dangerous ones. 🙂

There are tons of explosions, machine guns, gas, rifle fire, napalm, and more. The scenes when the group first meets Kong were fabulous. You do not willingly mess with a giant gorilla, people!

3) Story – Thumbs Up: The entire film seemed to be not only a giant monster movie but one paying homage to all sorts of other films. Think “Apocalypse Now” meets “Moby Dick” with a dash of “Enemy Mine” and “African Queen.” They even throw in bits from the Millenium Falcon’s hyperdrive malfunction and the storm around Voyager from Star Trek. In-jokes abound!

The big theme of the film is soul consuming obsession. Bill Randa’s obsession got them to the island, Packard’s is what almost gets all of them killed. The hubris of man knows no bounds. It’s your fault if you start blowing things up, and the locals take steps to show you they aren’t happy about it. Duh! And you should never assume monsters are stupid! (These sure weren’t!) Not if you want to survive or make your sacrifice mean anything. 😛

Lots of light moments, which help diffuse some of the tension. It was used well to show the bonds between and the differences of some of the characters. They spent the time to let us get to know them a little, which is ideal for making the audience care about them and not wanting them to getting killed. Plenty of faceless ones to get ground up, though, so expect a high body count.

Aside from the impromptu scares to make you jump, the plot is pretty straight forward. Lots of mayhem, monsters, and fights to keep everyone entertained, though.

SUPER IMPORTANT –  You must sit through ALL the credits! When you see the black screen – do not move! There is more! Wait…for…it! 🙂

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Most of the gags are CGI based, but still look darn cool. The main actors still get whipped around, thrown, attacked, and more so there was plenty of work to go around. 😛

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Filmed in Hawaii, Vietnam, and Australia, we get a ton of fun sites and beautiful photography. Add in some of the cool effects for the aurora or a giant gorilla standing in the middle of signature backgrounds, and you’ve got a visual winner. 🙂

Conclusion: If you like giant monster films, action, explosions, and craziness, wrapped around a simple frame this movie won’t disappoint. Good “just for fun” fodder.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)

 

Movie Review – The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Christoph Waltz, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Rory J. Saper, Christian Stevens, Sidney Ralitsoele,  Djimon Hounsou, and more.

Directed by: David Yates Screenplay and Story by: Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer Based on the Novels/Stories by: Edgar Rice Burroughs Cinematography by: Henry Braham Music by: Rupert Gregson-Williams

Premise: Lord Greystoke is invited by the King of Belgium to tour the innovation and advances put in place in the Congo in Africa. Greystoke turns the invitation down. Until an American convinces him it would be the perfect cover to investigate growing rumors of slavery there. Unbeknownst to Greystoke (aka Tarzan) there is a deeper plot afoot – one in which he plays a major part. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Alexander Skarsgård, and Margot Robbie all gave great performances for the film. They made for a great cast combination.  Everyone involved did a great job. Due to how the story unfolds, Mr. Skarsgård show us different facets of Lord Greystoke. Including the battle he wages internally between the life his parents wanted for him and that which he lived in his youth. Margot Robbie plays the American raised in the Congo and Tarzan’s love, Jane. Fighting her own battles during the adventure, Margot does a great job going toe-to-toe with Christoph Waltz. Samuel L. Jackson added a lot of the comedic touches as well as pulled out pieces of Tarzan’s story for the audience. Watching him deal with his wounded pride as the ‘ignorant natives’ prove much more hardy and crafty than he expected was fun to watch.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Multiple companies were employed for the special effects and they were well worth it. The gorillas, the elephants, the lions, they all looked fantastic. The head rubbing scene between Tarzan and a lioness he’d know as a cub was awesome to behold. (I was so jealous!)

The Mangani apes were fabulous. Each was distinct enough the audience could easily tell which was which. Kala’s, Kerchak’s and Kala’s ape son’s expressions and body language spoke volumes.

The scene with the ostriches was cool and a lot of fun. All the animals were amazing. The fog special effects in the region of Opar were very well done. Several explosions, a ton of bullets, and some massive destruction filled the special effects docket. 🙂

But the most impressive special effect, in my opinion, had to do with Tarzan’s hands. Living among the apes since he was a baby, Tarzan’s muscles and bones developed differently from the human norm. The hands appear more like a gorilla’s. Though an unspoken thread in the plot, the fact Kala gave him a rock to help him shape his hands so they could be more effective makes a large impact. It is quietly referenced several times and is a facet of his inner struggles.

3) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: Per the Edgar Rice Burroughs website there have been 41 Tarzan films and 57 one-hour television episodes made. So rather than do the expected origin story in this film, the writers took a different route to get us acquainted with the characters. One that I think made the film different from other retellings and worked well to craft a good film.

Rather than as the Lord of the Jungle, we meet John Clayton as Lord Greystoke. He’s been years away from the Congo and has been serious in taking care of his duties as the heir of Greystoke. John has embraced the land of his birthright as if he’d never been anywhere else. He is refined, well educated, intelligent. With small flashes back to his time in the jungle, we do get bits about his origin. But they take a back seat to the overall story arc, so it enhances what is going on, but doesn’t over shadow it.

Jane’s love for the people and country she was raised in was a lovely surprise. Her relationship with the small village her father taught in was bright and heartfelt. You could feel they were all family.

There are hidden bits of homage and in-jokes sprinkled through the film for both the books and the previous films/tv shows. There are also bits of humor interspersed throughout. (My favorite was the warriors leaning out of the way on the back of the train. lol. You’ll know when you see it. 🙂 )

A lot of themes are explored. The meaning of family, not quite fitting in, what it is that makes us who we are, how actions have repercussions, and more.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: While many of the stunts are CGI, there were still plenty of real stunts to keep the department quite busy. Fights, gunplay, avoiding stampeding animals – they had plenty to keep them occupied.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Between several locations in England and those in Africa, there is much to delight the eyes. Add in some CGI and all the vistas were quite impressive. Long panned views of the grasslands, aerial shots of the jungle, or just pockets in the trees – every shot told its own story. In fact, towards the end, they actually do.

6) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: From presenting Lord Greystoke in his finery to slowly divesting him of clothes, the department did some nice costuming work. The makeup was excellent as well. They gave the different tribes their own distinct looks, helping to show their diversity. The work on Tarzan’s bite from both the special effects and makeup department was outstanding.

Conclusion: The Legend of Tarzan is a lovely new take on the old tale. There is lots of action, cool vistas, villains, and heroes.  All the fun things that have made Tarzan the icon he’s been since the first story hit the stands back in 1912.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Pay Full Price to See Again!)