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 2010-2019, Film Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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Image is property of Chernin Entertainment, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Film Review 

Cast:  Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman,  Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell
Kodi Smit-McPhee

Directors: Matt Reeves

Synopsis:  Ten years after the events of the first film as humanity has been devastated by the virus. The colony of Apes, led by Caesar are prospering . However when  a last batch of surviving humans resurface, tension resurfaces and it is poised to erupt into a war  to establish control over the planet.

Review: Sequels, seemingly an ever present in the world of Hollywood and film making.  Sometimes, they come along and disappoint, failing to top its predecessor, or nothing more than a cash grab. Yet when a sequel takes the first film and tops it, in many ways, it is something to be admired. 2014 showed itself to be the year of remarkable sequels.  With the Matt Reeves directed Dawn, a sequel to 2011’s Rise, we continue that great sequel trend with a beautifully directed and riveting story that will ensure that the Planet of The Apes franchise is not going anywhere any time soon.

With humanity obliterated in the wake of the Simian virus that was unleashed at the end of Rise, Caesar, once again brilliantly motion captured by Andy Serkis, and his crew of apes have their spot where they live. With a whole community established, it is enthralling to watch the apes interact with each other. They have their own language and their population is thriving. There are no humans about (or so they think) and all is right in the ape world. They live, and they prosper. This is, until a group of humans come along looking for something to help their population return to normality. Instantaneously,  conflict threatens to break out once more between the two factions amid uneasy truces. Distrust is brewing in the ranks of both camps and it threatens to completely boil over into all out war as there are those on both sides who simply do not trust the other. In some cases, these reasons are clear and in others, they are not.

Through the marvel of motion capture realised by WETA Digital, it is Andy Serkis in the role of Caesar who completely steals the show once again. His performance is incredible to watch, it is almost as if it is not brilliant computer generated imagery and is actually a real life ape communicating with the humans. He is the glue that binds the ape community together and he is the star of the show. The motion capture technology looks astoundingly for all of the ape community, with different actors playing different apes, the different personalities of all of the apes shine through. Yet Caesar’s not the only ape who takes the limelight, the more hostile angry Koba, portrayed by Toby Kebbell is an ape on a mission, to eradicate humanity. He is vicious and angry, and is determined to gain the revenge on the humans.  The computer generated imagery is flawless and it is a strong contender to scoop some awards for its breathtaking visuals in this year’s awards season. With great apes also come some interesting human characters, namely Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) also come into conflict about what to do with the Apes. One wants peace, the other wants war, and it threatens to boil over at any given moment.

The action in this film is taken up a notch from the first movie, with some enthralling battle scenes. 2014 offered some sweet action scenes but some of the battles in this sequel are some of the stand out moments of cinema in 2014. As the title poster illustrates, apes on horses is a sample of this brilliance. Under Matt Reeves’ masterful direction, Dawn provides a compelling and somewhat moving story about a fight to survive, mixed with compassion and a desire for both species to co-exist, whilst some factions of both communities strive for supremacy over the other. With a third film in the works, once again directed by Reeves and scheduled to be released in 2017, more Apes goodness will be on the way.

With incredible visuals, interesting human characters and even more interesting apes, combined with a really well told and interesting story, this is arguably the best entry of the revitalised Apes franchise, and with Reeves returning for a third outing, the stage is set for something special. 

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