film

Review: Kong Skull Island, or “Hold onto your butts… again!”

As the second entry in Legendary’s newly established Monsterverse, “Kong: Skull Island” revives one of cinema’s oldest icons in a colossal way. The film begins with two pilots, one American and one Japanese, crash landing on the beaches of Skull Island near the end of World War Two. They fight, chase, and scrap their way into the jungle and are quickly met by the giant ape himself. Fast Forward to 1973, just as the Vietnam war is coming to a close, and we’re met with an introduction to the Monarch corporation as it tries to secure funding for one last venture into the mists of the unknown, a journey to the fabled Skull Island. “A place where God never finished creation” is how John Goodman’s Bill Randa explains it in his pitch, however it’s his associate Houston Brooks, played by Corey Hawkins, that sells the idea to the gatekeeper by suggesting that the Russians and Chinese will have the same data they do soon enough, and if there is something to benefit from, shouldn’t America be the first ones there?

“Kong: Skull Island” quickly introduces us to the remaining heavy hitters in the cast’s lineup. There’s former British SAS tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) who’s recruited after showcasing his barroom brawling skills, Brie Larson’s Mason Weaver as the anti-war Vietnam photographer, and Samuel L. Jackson’s Preston Packard- a discouraged Vietnam Army officer that leads the military helicopter escort to the island. Once assembled they fly into the storm forever swirling around the eponymous island. Once there they quickly begin dropping bombs to survey the land and retrieve the seismic data. This immediately triggers the first large scale set piece wherein Kong smashes the entire fleet of helicopters like the annoying gnats they are to him.

So let’s talk about what the film does right. From my perspective, this film adequately does what a giant monster movie should do. It focuses on the monsters. It keeps the pace breezy and yet tense. The film gets its tone right. Most importantly though, Kong is a constant force throughout the film. Kong’s motivation was also clearer than that of say, Godzilla in Gareth Edwards 2014 iteration. Kong is the protector of the island, he respects nature and those who care for it, and he chooses peace over violence unless provoked. In Godzilla’s case, it seemed to simply be his need to challenge and reign supreme over the M.U.T.O.s? Or to align some monster’s code of balance?

Anyhow, back to Kong. I loved Sam Jackson’s revenge storyline with Kong, he went full Ahab and Kong was his white whale. Though admittedly I never tire of Jackson’s Shtick, it just works for me. John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow, was also incredibly noteworthy. He gets the most complete storyline, and while he provides some comic relief, he never wanders into any zany or out-of-place performances. His character retains the heart of the flick, and it shows in palpable ways throughout the runtime. He’s also the connection to the natives of the island, which were represented not as savage tribesmen, but as a small peaceful community trying to survive in this hellish environment.

Speaking of the cast, I know the film has been steamrolled at times for “wasting” such a talented cast. However I don’t think they were wasted in the least to be honest. It’s a giant monster movie with “B-genre” aspects throughout it. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect any Oscar nominations to come from a King Kong movie, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be the most fleshed out and layered monster movie-Godzilla certainly wasn’t with Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character, not to mention that film actually wasted Bryan Cranston. To that end, story and background information can be told in ways other than dialogue. The sets, locations, subtle acting, and even over-the-top acting all combine to tell a story. Sometimes it feels as though people simply watch films to point out as many problems and issues with a performance or story as possible, and that’s a shame. When did we all become so consistently cynical? Honestly, if you don’t love something, that’s okay-not everyone has to enjoy everything.

In the end I had a ton of fun with “Kong: Skull Island”. I loved the shameless “Apocalypse Now” influences. I thoroughly enjoyed the chaos, the variety of monsters, the fight sequences, and of course the king himself, Kong.

Final Score: Two Kong-sized thumbs up

 

 

 

 

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film

Review: Logan or “Old Man learns new Snikt”

Finally, after 17 years we’re getting a ‘rated R’ Wolverine movie. However, the real question we should be asking ourselves is; is it any good? Rest assured comic fans, and western fans for that matter, because this Wolverine solo flick is leagues ahead of the notoriously awful “X-men Origins”, but it’s not necessarily perfect.

The year is 2029, and the mutants have all but disappeared.”Logan” begins with a ragged and hungover Wolverine waking to a bunch of thieves trying to steal parts from the limo he drives for petty cash. This bloody scene brilliantly sets the stage for the rest of the story that is about to unfold. This Wolverine is tired, he heals slower, he drinks away his days making ends meet while he hides an increasingly sick and potentially dangerous Professor X south of the border in Mexico. Eventually they become entangled with a new young mutant, Laura. Perhaps better known as X-23, young Laura is a feral and mostly mute ball of fury from the moment she enters the screen. Thankfully she develops beyond this stage later in the film. Such is the state of old man Logan’s life when the picture begins.

There is some superb acting in Hugh Jackman’s performance. He feels more human and yet more calloused as he tries to keep everything from falling apart. His claws don’t always fully protrude, having to pull them into place at times, he limps after skirmishes, he is flawed here. There is a great sadness in Logan’s eyes and it is palpable. Professor Xavier on the other hand isn’t faring much better, in fact he is definitely in a worse condition. His seizures cause quite the chaos and he seems to go in and out of fully realizing his surroundings. They both live and strive together with Caliban, an albino mutant that can sense other mutants, he helps to keep the professor medicated while Logan finds and funds the aging Xavier’s medication.

From a filmmaking perspective, there is an ubiquitous western influence throughout the film. They even go so far as to point this out by having the characters watch “Shane”, the hugely influential 1953 western. “Logan” borrows and pays homage to this through it’s cinematography, emphasizing scale and embracing the ominous landscape backgrounds of “the old west”. The score itself was adequate, but it never felt bombastic or powerful. It was happy to match the movement and run parallel to the story, but it was never noticeable or standout. The incredible action sequences are well choreographed and nothing ever feels too ridiculous. It doesn’t feel like the characters are swinging from wires like in “X-men Origins”, however there is one scene where Logan is a bit exaggerated in his leaping ability, but it was an emotionally charged sequence so I’ll let it slide.

The film attempts to balance the somber and melancholy aspects of its characters and setting by counteracting it with a gratuitous helping of extra bloody violence. For me, personally, it was a joy to see Wolverine hack and saw through bad guys like a child attacks a birthday cake, but just as with cake, eventually it can be a bit too much. I feel this is what threw the film off for me at times. An excessive amount of gusto for the R rating they finally achieved is admirable, but sometimes it clashes with character. For example, having Professor X drop a F-bomb once or twice would set the tone and be incredibly funny or deadly serious depending on the scene, but having him do so as much as he did in the film felt over-excessive, it didn’t feel in tune with his character. The reveal of X-24 speaks directly to this issue. That whole “character” and how he was utilized was a disappointment in my eyes. I understand the obvious thematic ideas behind it, but there wasn’t enough done to differentiate it/him, or to make it any more useful than say “something to fight Logan”. I can only speak for myself, but sometimes the film went a little overboard. Hey, a few claws directly in the face of several bad guys-that’s cool and shocking, but over fifty incredibly gory stabs directly into people’s faces and heads.. it can get away from itself at times.

In the end this is the best Wolverine solo movie out of the three we got and it will likely be remembered for how well executed it was. X-23, or Laura, was an excellent addition to the film and it will be interesting to see if anything is ever done with the character again. If you’ve been hankering for a bloody western starring Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, you’re in luck, this one’s worth the price of admission.

Final Score: Six razor sharp SNIKTS!

 

film

Mystery Blogger Award!

The Vern’s Video Vortex (a pretty cool movie blog you should check out, link posted below) recently nominated me for the mystery blogger award (A Thousand Thank yous!)! The fact that anyone reads my articulate nonsense is great to hear. So, here I am to respond and nominate others in turn.

All acknowledgements/shout-outs go to Okoto Enigma for creating this award. It’s an excellent way to connect bloggers!

The rules of the tag/award are:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 people.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question.
  • Share a link to your best post(s).

THREE THINGS ABOUT ME:

1 While I am not directly involved in any filmmaking in a profitable sense, it is my goal in life to make movies. I’m moving forward in the most shoestring budget of ways to obtain gear and write out ideas for shorts and features. Somehow, someway, I will be involved in the filmmaking process.

2 In high-school I was voted most likely to write a book and get it published. I intend to do that at some point. Film is my favorite medium of storytelling, but authors do have an advantage over directors and cinematographers; imagination doesn’t have budget restrictions.

3 I will literally watch any movie at least once. I feel I can’t rant or rave about a flick until I’ve seen it completely. I’ve seen a great many awful, yet oddly entertaining, horror movies because of this. See: ThanksKilling, Carver, I spit on your grave (either version), Black Christmas, Scanners, Exorcist 2: The Heretic, and many, many others. Also, Hellride. That’s not a horror movie, well, it IS a horrific movie-It’s a direct to video flick about warring biker gangs with some of the most awful (yet hilarious) dialogue and line delivery you’ll ever find. I don’t recommend it. See this link for more details: https://spacecortezwrites.com/2015/09/03/rant-time-hell-ride/

THE VERN’S TOP 5 QUESTIONS:

1 Q: ScreenTrax(screentrax.net) is a new podcast I’m starting that reviews movies and the soundtrack that goes with them.  What is your favorite Movie Soundtrack?

A: Currently, it’s “La La Land”, but that should come as no surprise. Of all time though? There are so many to consider! “O’ brother where art thou?” comes to mind, certainly “Moonlight”‘s score was powerful as well. I think I’d have to settle on “Raiders of the Lost Ark” though as my final choice among favorites.

2 Q: If you had the chance to live inside the world of one movie for a year.  Which one would it be?

A: I’d have to go with “The Lord of the Rings” (specifically Fellowship). I enjoy nature quite a bit and it would be both challenging and rewarding to live and move around that universe, carefully avoiding places like Mirkwood forest and any treacherous caverns or caves. And, as great as modern technology is, it would be refreshing to have to live without having to be constantly “plugged in” for a bit.

3 Q: What do you find frustrating about the status of movie criticism and blogging?

A: The process of attributing scores and points to film, or art in general, seems to me, to be problematic at its core. I understand that we all want to know the status of “Who’s winning at the Box office?” Or “What’s their score on rotten tomatoes?” but the focus should be aimed more at meaningful conversations about the merits, or perceived failures of any such film. Some do this, quite well even, but all art is subjective in the end and the scores don’t really matter. If you loved a movie that’s hated unanimously, or despise one that’s universally loved, well- that’s your opinion and you’re totally allowed to have it. I don’t generally approve of going out of your way to crap on any one movie-unless it’s funny. I’ve been relying mostly on ‘youtubers’ for film reviews lately and most seem to understand the idea of having a conversation about film-rather than racing to the scoreboard.

4 Q: What do you find rewarding about being a  movie critic or blogger?

A: I just love talking about movies. Another medium to feed into this love (obsession?) is always welcome! Some day I’ll get around to making one!

5 Q: (Funny One/ Weird One)  You have 45 days to find a partner.  Otherwise you will be turned into an animal of your choice.  Which animal do you pick?

A: I’d choose the Southern Royal Albatross, it’s a large seabird that lives mostly around New Zealand and the average lifespan is 58 years!

MY NOMINEES:

dbmoviesblog  https://dbmoviesblog.wordpress.com/

Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)  https://jordanandeddie.wordpress.com/

Geekritique  https://geekritique.net/

Dan The Man’s Movie reviews  https://dtmmr.com/

Honoring the Heroines  https://swanpride.wordpress.com/

Zen Ron’s The Most Enjoyable Day  https://themostenjoyableday.wordpress.com/

Film The Madman  https://filmlefou.com/

Cine Muse Films  https://cinemusefilms.com/

CFY Movie News and Reviews  https://contentforyoublog.wordpress.com/

Cinetactic  https://cinetactic.com/

MY BEST WORK:

I’m rather proud of my movie pitch for an adaption of Ernest Shackleton’s “Endurance”. It took me awhile to consider who would be involved, and who could make interesting or clever choices with the material, after all acting is all about making choices. Mostly though, I just want to watch this movie!

https://spacecortezwrites.com/2016/09/22/movie-pitch-adaption-of-endurance-ernest-shackeltons-fated-antarctic-voyage/

SPACECORTEZ’S TOP FIVE QUESTIONS:

1 If you could remake a film, how would you change it? Anything goes.

2 Who is your most admired person in the film industry? This could be anyone involved in the process, director, writer, actors, even editors- they need love too!

3 What’s your favorite black and white film? What makes it your favorite?

4 What is your favorite movie that has come out since 2000, and why?

5 (Funny/Weird one) If you had to occupy the headspace of any one film character and act as a sort of conscience, a disembodied consciousness that said character would be able to hear perfectly, who would you pick?

The VERN’S VIDEO VORTEX link below:

https://videovortex.wordpress.com/

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The Ten Commandments for Cinephiles.

Some wise words for anyone considering writing about film!

The Vern's Video Vortex.

charlton-heston-10-Commandments-Moses-HornsEvery person who writes for a movie site can agree on one thing.   We all have a undying love for films.  We may not all agree on every one, but we all share a common love and joy of watching them.  It’s doesn’t matter if you prefer the art-house over the multiplex.  Action over drama.  As long as you are honest about what you write.  You are considered to be a cinephiles in my book.  No I don’t have an actual book.  It’s just a figure of speech, but I do have ten guidelines that I follow.

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A Triple Shot of Mystery Blogger Awards.

Many Thanks to The Vern for nominating my film blog! My own response article/post will arrive soon.

The Vern's Video Vortex.

mystery-11-4-16

Right now I am feeling extremely humble because I have received, not one but three Mystery Blogger Awards.  They come from three very talented sites whose links will be listed below.  They are Rhyme and Reason, DB Movies Blog, and Plain Simple Tom’s Reviews.   I am very thankful that they each nominated me, and I do apologize for the lateness of this post.

A big shout out goes  to Okoto Enigma for creating this award in the first place.  It’s damn good thing that this exists so we can help support each other.

The rules of the tag/award are:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Nominate 10 – 20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask your nominees any…

View original post 800 more words