Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Image is property of Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Kong: Skull Island – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Toby Kebbell, John C Reilly

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Synopsis: The discovery of an uncharted piece of land in the Pacific Ocean leads a team of scientists and soldiers right into the home of some larger than life beings, including a giant ape, who don’t exactly welcome them with open arms…

Review: It seems that in the wake of the success that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed, almost every studio nowadays is looking to form their own cinematic universe, because as Marvel has demonstrated, it can make some serious dough. Some cinematic universes have enjoyed success, whilst others have yet to really click. Now Legendary and Warner Bros, in the wake of 2014’s Godzilla are launching their MonsterVerse. A Godzilla Vs Kong film is being lined up for release in 2020, but before the Kings of Monsters can battle, we are reintroduced to this latest version of the Eight Wonder of the World, for his eighth foray on the big screen.

This time however, rather than be brought back to the human world, a human venture is lead right into the land Kong calls home, with Bill Randa (Goodman) in charge with Preston Packard (Jackson) as the stern military leader. Also along for the ride are photographer Mason Weaver (Larson) and expert tracker James Conrad (Hiddleston). It isn’t long before Kong enters the fray, in what must surely be the largest Kong ever put to screen, and he’s certainly not happy, which is understandable given what some of the humans do immediately upon arrival.

“GET OFF MY LAND!!!!”

When Kong last graced the big screen courtesy of Peter Jackson back in 2005, you empathised with Kong and the connection he felt with the woman he falls in love with. What’s more, there was a connection between a handful of those human characters, as a select few were well developed, fleshed out characters you cared about. In this instance, these humans are just SO bland and frankly boring. The bright sparks are that of Sam Jackson’s Packard, your no-nonsense military man who just wants to get the job done, and there’s John C Reilly who without saying too much has come to know Kong quite a bit, though how he acquires that knowledge is somewhat baffling. The rest, however, are really bland, uninteresting and severely lacking in character development which when given the talent of the likes of Brie Larson, John Goodman and Tom Hiddleston, is just baffling.

What is good however is Kong himself, the CGI for him is decent, but isn’t nearly as good as Jackson’s version of the character. That being said, he’s still far more compelling than just about any of the human characters. Yet the screen time he receives is just not as much as you would like him to have. So when he isn’t on screen, the film isn’t nearly as compelling as it ought to be. You’re left with characters who aren’t well developed enough for you to care about at all, but then again, the script that they’re given to work with isn’t the best quality either. There are some great action scenes involving the eponymous  gargantuan ape and a few other inhabitants of the island. Though there’s great cinematography with some superb wide shots of the island, the directing is extremely choppy and yet again the CGI for some of these is not up to the standard it should be, which is extremely perplexing given the substantial budget of the film.

With the two films now in the bag, the MonsterVerse is taking shape, though it hasn’t had the roaring success it would have wanted so far. The monsters have for the most part been well realised, but the human characters in both movies have left a lot to be desired. The difference is that Godzilla had a select few characters that were well developed, but the same cannot be said for the characters in this new Kong adventure. There is an admittedly cool post credits scene, but you’ll be left wondering what could have been, given that the end product is the equivalent of a giant piece of ape shit.

A classic case of style over substance, some decent CGI and a few good action scenes cannot mask the disposable characters and a frustrating lack of screen time for the titular monster.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

King Kong (2005)

Image is property of WingNut Films and Universal Pictures

King Kong – Film Review

Cast: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Thomas Kretschmann, Evan Parke, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: A venture to make a film, led by an eccentric film-maker in the hope of capturing an uncharted piece of land on film leads to the discovery of a truly terrifying place, home to among other things, a giant ape…

Review: Of all the monsters to have featured in monster movies that have been released down the decades, there are perhaps only two monsters that have a claim to being the most iconic monsters to have ever graced the silver screen. One of these is of course Godzilla, and the other is of course Kong.  Both have featured in many films in the past and have been pitted against each other once before (and will do so again in 2020!) For Kong however, his first foray on the big screen came in 1933, at a time when the World was in the midst of the Great Depression, and so for director Peter Jackson, having just come off his phenomenal success with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, decided to tackle this story about a gargantuan Ape.

Interestingly, the 1933 film was Jackson’s inspiration for wanting to become a filmmaker and it’s clear in each frame that Jackson creates that he has an immense passion for this story, and as such wanted to do his utmost to pay tribute to the original. Indeed, Great Depression USA is where he sets the scene where Ann Darrow (Watts) who’s been made redundant is seeking work and she comes across Carl Denham (Black) an eccentric filmmaker seeking a female lead on an adventure to film the mysterious Skull Island, which Kong calls home. When they foray to said island and Ann is taken prisoner by Kong, a rescue mission is launched, and some monkey mayhem ensues.

The story of this giant ape is mainly told through Ann’s eyes, and Naomi Watts is superb in this role. It might seem impossible that a woman and an ape could become so close, but her performance makes it so believable. As Ann’s human love interest, Adrien Brody also gives a stellar turn as Jack Driscoll, a famous playwright whom Ann is an enormous fan of, and there’s Jack Black’s Carl, who despite his ambition, is ultimately not a really nice fellow. The focus is primarily on these three, although there is perhaps a bit too much focus on some other characters who you don’t care about enough. As such, a considerable chunk could have been taken off its 3 hour running time.

Jackson, with the Lord of the Rings trilogy showed off his ability to make some jaw dropping compelling action scenes. Though there are some that feel a bit scrappy and in some ways incomplete, there are more than a few others that are just  brilliant to watch, with more than a few iconic shots thrown in there for good measure. The special effects are truly phenomenal, all of the Skull Island residents are tremendously well realised, and if you have a fear of insects, one scene in particular might chill you to your core. Jackson again uses the New Zealand scenery as Skull Island, and there are more than a few spectacular shots. It’s so well realised it doesn’t feel like a movie set. The motion capture work that brings Kong to life is utterly tremendous and yet again Andy Serkis deserves enormous plaudits for his work with the technology in bringing characters such as these to life. That Oscar will surely come eventually. Although the film did manage to scoop three well deserved gongs, including one for visual effects.

When you think about a story about a 25 foot gorilla and a human female meeting and almost falling in love seems like a concept so ridiculous it should have been laughed out of production. Yet in 1933 it worked, and in 2005 it worked again, to great effect. It’s so effective that you might find yourself fighting back the tears once the dramatic final showdown on the top of the Empire State building has come to a close. And after this adventure has reached its conclusion, there might perhaps be just one question on your mind, does Beauty truly kill the Beast?

A remake done good with plenty of heart and emotion, and some chest thumpingly great action sequences, the King of the Apes roared again.