Kong: Skull Island

March 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”)
Written by: Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”) and Max Borenstein (“Godzilla”) and Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World”)

What if “Apocalypse Now” was remade today, but with a twist:  instead of the Viet Cong, you replace them with King Kong? While the movie isn’t shameless enough to title itself “Viet Kong,” instead “Kong: Skull Island” foregoes subtlety—and, damningly, simplicity—to sort of retell Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece with a giant ape and connective tissue to other giant monsters in the pipeline ready to star in their own film franchises. In short, “Kong: Skull Island” is a weird fucking movie, albeit one that squanders that weirdness by bogging it down in a swamp of exposition, an overabundance of characters, and weird shifts in tone.

After a prologue shows us a pair of pilots, one American and one Japanese, crash landing on an island in the South Pacific during World War II and encountering our title character, we’re thrown ahead nearly 30 years to the waning days of the Vietnam War. Satellite photography and mapping is all the rage, and would-be explorer Bill Randa (John Goodman) uses the threat of Russian discovery to convince a senator to finance an exploratory mission with a military escort to Skull Island, which is permanently surrounded by storms.

The military enlists Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a career soldier looking for a fight after having to “cut and run” in Vietnam, and his men to facilitate the expedition. Along for the ride is former British special forces tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), the latter of which provides the story with its inevitable “Beauty and the Beast” allegory. As soon as the team arrives and sets off bombs for, uh, some reason, they’re met with a fury by Kong himself, swatting helicopters out of the air and leaving Packard with a thirst for revenge.

Cool monster fisticuffs aside, “Kong: Skull Island” ends up a mess as we’re expected to follow too many different poorly-drawn characters (big ape included) as they make their way across the unclear geography of Skull Island, during which moments of would-be or unintentional comic relief mar what comes down to a movie about a crazed Samuel L. Jackson taking on King Kong. I mean, that sounds badass, right? But then what the hell is with Tom Hiddleston tossing on a gas mask and grabbing a katana to knife through a flock of pterodactyls in a poisonous gas cloud in slow motion? Is THAT supposed to be badass? Because it’s just sort of laughable. And the glut of characters leaves fine actors, like Goodman, Brie Larson, Shea Whigham, and Toby Kebbell, either stranded with nothing to do or with so little motivation the whole thing feels like a byproduct of bad editing.

The Bourne Legacy

August 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachael Weisz, Edward Norton
Directed by: Tony Gilroy (“Duplicity” “Michael Clayton”)
Written by: Tony Gilroy (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) and Dan Gilroy (“Real Steel”)

After both star Matt Damon and go-to director Paul Greengrass passed on doing a fourth film featuring Damon’s badass amnesiac Jason Bourne, the studio behind the series (Universal Pictures) had a decision to make. Should they recast the role with a new actor? Maybe they could reboot the franchise and start from scratch. All the studios are doing it these days. Or perhaps they could just leave well enough alone and be content in having produced a fantastic trilogy of solid action movies that redefined the genre for the 21st century and move on to something else. With none of those options deemed suitable, Universal pulled a “Teen Wolf Too” and made a movie where everyone knows who Jason Bourne is, but since he’s not around they just made the story about this other guy who’s just like him instead and called it “The Bourne Legacy.”

“Legacy” stars Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, a Bourne-like agent from Operation Outcome, a sister operation of the previous films’ Operation Blackbriar. When Jason Bourne brings down Blackbriar, the high-level CIA suits, led by Eric Byer (Edward Norton), order all of Outcome’s agents killed. Cross manages to escape, however, and enlists an Outcome scientist (Rachel Weisz) to help him get the drugs he needs to survive.

Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter behind all three of Damon’s entries in the series, takes over the director’s chair in addition to his writing duties this time out. Gone is the kinetic, handheld camera feel Greengrass brought to the series, and with it most of the excitement. Gilroy doles out the series’ trademark action sparingly, peppering it in here and there between long scenes about pharmaceuticals and people talking about what the never-seen Jason Bourne is doing at the moment. With a good portion of “The Bourne Legacy” taking place at the same time as the events in “The Bourne Ultimatum,” you may start to feel like you’re stuck in a theater showing a dry political drama while the whole time you can hear the rumbles coming from the awesome action movie playing next door.

Jeremy Renner, who you may remember from “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “The Avengers” as the guy who was along for the ride while the real heroes did their thing, steps in to the lead and does an okay job, but doesn’t come close to matching the desperate intensity and anger Damon brought to the series. It doesn’t help that Renner’s Cross isn’t suffering from memory loss, trying to regain the life that the CIA stole from him. Instead he’s a modern day Captain America – an injured soldier with a low IQ given drugs that turn him into a super soldier. That’s right, Renner’s ass-kicking powers come from a daily dose of drugs, a revelation that’s nearly as disappointing as finding out that Jedis are only Jedis because of the high amount of midichlorians in their blood. Throughout the movie we’re told over and over that Jason Bourne wasn’t the only one. But he should have been.