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.

Jurassic World

June 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)
Written by:  Rick Jaffa (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), Amanda Silver (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) and Derek Connolly (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)

There’s some reasonably sharp meta humor bubbling under the surface during certain scenes in “Jurassic World” referencing the notion that, 20 or so years after the world in the film became aware that dinosaurs had been genetically-engineered back to life, the public has grown bored with T. rex and company. “No one’s impressed with dinosaurs.”  The titular theme park- envisioned by John Hammond in the ‘90s – has now become a destination resort filled with kitschy souvenirs, Margaritavilles and families wanting more than the thunder lizards they’ve been seeing for the better part of two decades now. This not-so-subtle commentary alludes to the real-life trajectory of 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” the movie that not only started this franchise but is also nearly entirely responsible for the CGI special effects revolution that has dominated the summer movie season and beyond ever since. With knowing winks at the past and some fresher spins on the formula, “Jurassic Work” finally offers fans of the series a truly worthy sequel to the modern Spielberg classic.

Finally a fully-operational theme park to rival anything Disney has to offer, Jurassic World boasts 20,000 visitors a day, but executive Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) recognizes the park needs to evolve to survive financially, and that calls for and exciting (and dangerous) new dinosaur. After the on-site lab cooks up an unstoppable killing machine, the Indominous Rex, billionaire park CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) insists on bringing in an expert to check the safety of the paddock. Thankfully, there’s one on site in Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a wiseass dino trainer with his own pack of semi-loyal velociraptors. When I-rex inevitably uses its genetic modifications to escape its enclosure, Claire and Masrani are determined to capture the valuable beast without evacuating the park. Of course this doesn’t go as planned, and it’s up to Owen and his dinosaur pals to stop the I-rex before InGen mercenary Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) can use it in his plan to militarize dinosaurs.

Messy and over-written, “Jurassic World” nonetheless overcomes whatever misdeeds it may commit in its overstuffed screenplay by giving us some thrilling dinosaur action. With no less than six different plots going on—four of them not interesting at all—the movie thrives when focusing on the banality of modern society in the mall-like atmosphere of an over-engineered theme park, filled with tourists staring at their phones, and cramming it up against the very real danger of unleashing murderous monsters into that ecosystem. The climax of the film, offering up a bronto-sized shout out to longtime fans of the series, is just the right kind of goofy craziness to leave you cheering and laughing at the same time. Finally, we have a reason to return to Jurassic Park.