Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Legendary

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Film Review

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi

Directors: Michael Dougherty

Synopsis: Since the emergence of Godzilla, the monster organisation Monarch has uncovered several other titans hidden in locations around the world, and a battle ensues between man and titan for global supremacy…

Review: It was the major aspect of 2014’s Godzilla that left hardcore fans of the King of the Kaiju so disappointed. Namely that for a film called Godzilla, he was but a minor spectator for the most part. Though when he did atomically roar his way into the proceedings, it was marvellous movie Monster magic. Hence, for the third film in the MonsterVerse, after a trip to Skull Island, the King is back and there are quite a few new monsters who are challenging for his throne.

In the aftermath of the Godzilla VS MUTO battle that laid waste to San Francisco, humanity has found themselves recovering from the devastation and preparing themselves for the eventuality of Godzilla resurfacing. We see this primarily through the perspective of the Russell family, with Emma ( Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Brown), who’s torn between her mum and her father (Chandler). Simultaneously, the Monster organisation Monarch, has been working to discover the locations of other gargantuan monsters that are in hidden locations on the planet, posing the very real risk of these titans being unleashed upon our world.

Definitely not a fan of the man upstairs it would seem…

As entertaining as it would be to just watch two uninterrupted hours of Godzilla scrapping it out with other monsters, a core component of these monsters movies is the accompanying human element. The previous film had a compelling human element that started off brightly, but was ultimately horrendously squandered. Here there is potential to recapture that promise, but in spite of a staggeringly large collection of human characters, very few really stand out. Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison and the emotion that her family is dealing with shows the most intrigue, and the ever reliable Charles Dance delivers some compelling moments. Yet for the most part, all these characters are basically just exposition mouthpieces to move the story along.

Though admittedly they are the secondary characters, it would have helped enormously if the script could have given these actors more, and in some cases better material to work with. The script leaves an awful lot to be desired as there’s no development on the vast majority of them, and nearly all of the attempts to cracks some jokes rarely get the laughter muscles moving. The bigger problem though is that there are far too many characters all vying for screen time, and it really bogs down the over-arching story, which could definitely have done with some refining.

However, the big selling point of these films is the throw-downs between Godzilla and the other titans. Director Michael Dougherty ensures that anyone who was left frustrated by the lack of Godzilla will not be disappointed this time around. These scenes are what these films are really about, giant monster mayhem, and it’s all edge-of-your-seat stuff. The epic scraps especially between Godzilla and his fellow titans are edge-of-your seat entertainment.  The design and CGI for these monsters is fantastic, and King Ghidorah makes for an extremely compelling villain.

Yet, in spite of the three films that the MonsterVerse has provided us, it simply hasn’t quite managed to capture that perfect balance between crafting compelling human characters, and the enthralling movie monster carnage. Though it definitely has, for the most part, got the latter right so far. It’s clear from what we have seen that all of the elements of the perfect monster movie are there within their reach. With the fourth film set to stomp onto the big screen, one can hope they can perfect that formula and unleash the mother of monster movies that pleases man and titan alike.

The scraps between Godzilla and his fellow monsters are glorious, but the film is hampered by mostly bland human characters and a shaky script that prevent this monster melee from soaring to great heights. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

A Quiet Place (2018)

Image is property of Paramount Pictures and Platinum Dunes

A Quiet Place – Film Review

Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Director: John Krasinski

Synopsis: In a desolate post apocalyptic future, creatures that hunt based on sound are roaming killing anything that makes a sound, one family must live in absolute silence in order to survive…

Review: If one were to somehow measure the decibel level of Planet Earth, one would imagine that it would likely be quite loud. As a species, it would be fair to say that humanity makes quite a lot of noise as we live our day-to-day lives. Therefore to live in a post-apocalyptic world where making even the slightest of peeps will likely be a fatal mishap, seems an extremely daunting prospect. For one family dwelling in a desolate US city, this is a predicament they find themselves in.

It is 2020, and with many of humanity presumed to have suffered a terrible fate at the hands of our nameless antagonists, we meet the Abbott family who are desperately fighting to stay alive in this dire situation. As well as directing and writing, Krasiniski stars as Dad Lee, and Mum Evelyn (played by real life wife Emily Blunt), and their children Regan (Simmonds) and Marcus (Jupe).

We are thrown right in the thick of this crisis, and with a mere few shots and not a single line of dialogue, it becomes crystal clear that this world is a terrifying place to inhabit. It is a brave choice to have pretty much no dialogue for the first half of your film. In so doing, the film relies on sound to convey the imminent danger facing the family, and thanks to some sterling work from the sound department, that danger posed by these ghastly monsters is almost instantaneously, and brutally, established.

Don’t. Make. A. Sound….

The post-apocalyptic world is a very familiar scenario for sure, but the screenplay, written by Krasinski, along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, gives the film a very unique and fresh feel to it. To say it is suspenseful, would be quite the understatement. The world that these characters are inhabiting is an extremely tough situation in which to try and stay alive. Consequently, right from the very first shot the tension begins to build, and despite a few lapses, the tension remains high throughout.

To write, direct and play a lead role in the film is a lot of work but Krasiniski does all three to wonderful effect. Equally terrific, as she almost always tends to be, is Blunt as his wife. Their chemistry is very strong, which isn’t surprising given they’re married in real life! What’s equally strong is the relationship they have with their children, the standout of whom is Millicent Simmonds as their deaf daughter, the fact that the actress herself is deaf adds a great deal of authenticity to this story of one family’s struggle to survive.

It is not easy to convey fear and every other emotion without making a sound but all of the family members pull it off tremendously well. Krasiniski might be best known for his comedic acting chops, but his direction is meticulous in its execution. Every time one of our family find themselves in danger,  the tension is racketed up a few levels and the audience feels that as they watch these characters desperately try to survive. In addition, the score provided by Marco Beltrami also plays its part to help build that tension.

Though it is a little slow in the initial stages, the film manages to be a very innovative piece of horror/thriller cinema, all while racketing up the tension without a great deal of dialogue being uttered, an achievement well worth shouting about, just not in this world.

A simple premise, but one that feels refreshingly original and excruciatingly tense almost from the first shot, with excellent performances across the board. Whisper it quietly, but we might just see future ventures into this genre from Krasinski.

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.