Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

kong-imdb.jpg

Kong is still king in the latest entry in the MonsterVerse. (Source: IMDb)

It’s been over eighty years since “The Eighth Wonder of the World” made his first appearance. In 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, no one had ever seen a movie as ambitious as King Kong. Created through stop-motion effects (by special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien) and giant models, this giant ape became one of the first memorable movie monsters. The classic is still loved by generations of film buffs and filmmakers.

Kong travelled to Japan to fight monsters including Godzilla until settling in America to prove he’s the king. This aspired two remakes featuring Kong. The silly yet decent 1976 Dino De Laurentiis production saw him fall for our female protagonist on the island, but the big difference is he fights on top of the World Trade Center rather than the Empire State Building in both the original and the 2005 remake. The overlong yet marvelous 2005 version, directed by Peter Jackson, became a dream come true for the filmmaker. The 1933 original is what inspired him to make movies in the first place. If the world didn’t have Peter Jackson, we wouldn’t have another movie featuring King Kong.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts marks the return for the monster in Kong: Skull Island. This reboots screams the 1970s. The Vietnam War. The Nixon administration. The Peace Corps. Creedence Clearwater Revival. And, most importantly, it pays tribute to Apocalypse Now.

The year is 1973. Bill Randa (John Goodman) hires a diverse team of experts including British Special Forces Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to map out Skull Island. Once they arrive, they encounter various creatures as well as Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been stranded on the island since the end of World War II. He is the perfect guy to ask about the island as a whole. As the team help each other off the island, they encounter the king himself.

As someone who enjoys monster movies, I couldn’t imagine if there would ever be a franchise featuring two of the most memorable monsters in cinema: King Kong and Godzilla. After seeing the 2014 version of Godzilla, I got the feeling of anxiety about the fact of another movie universe. With the MonsterVerse being a thing, it’s an awesome feeling to see a wonderful monster grace the silver screen once again in this day and age. The creatures in Kong: Skull Island easily overshadow the human characters. It’s not to say they are all forgettable.

The movie proves Hiddleston needs to be the next James Bond; he’s got the charisma and the badass fight choreography to pull it all off. Fresh from winning an Oscar for her performance in Room, Brie Larson is becoming one of the best actresses of this generation. She provides the bravery in her role as the photojournalist pushing the gender boundaries of the time. John C. Reilly steals every scene he’s in providing just enough laughs to even out the visually stunning and heart-pumping action.

The 2014 version of Godzilla and the 2005 version of King Kong both follow the roots of Jaws, where it takes an awfully long time to know the main characters before seeing the monster that the audience has been anticipating to see. With Kong: Skull Island, it doesn’t take long at all. The audience is introduced to the team and they are put on a wild ride. Once Kong makes him introduction, he is the biggest ape of them all—ranging about 100 feet tall. He’s aggressive yet defensive about his territory.

While the first act can be a bit rushed and some of the dialogue can be cheesy, there is enough visual beauty to feast the eyes. I can’t wait for Kong and Godzilla go at it in 2020.

3/4

Advertisements

Top 10 Best Movies of 2014

Now we’re working our way to the top. There are several great movies that I have missed in theaters this past year, like Whiplash, Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything, John Wick, Foxcatcher, and St. Vincent. But I was lucky to catch lots of fantastic movies in theaters. Here is my list of the best movies of 2014.

Honorable Mentions: 22 Jump Street, American Sniper, Belle, Big Eyes, Big Hero 6, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chef, Edge of Tomorrow, The Fault in our Stars, Fury, Godzilla, How to Train Your Dragon 2Interstellar (even though it was overhyped, there was plenty to like about this movie), Into the Woods, The LEGO Movie, Noah, Wild

Snowpiercer10. Snowpiercer – This is one of the best movies that got snubbed in this year’s Oscars. Korean director Bong Joon-Ho makes a futuristic picture with a George Orwell vibe. Global warming has been reversed, which causes humanity to be killed off. The remaining survivors aboard a train that is separated by three classes. Sitting in the caboose, one of the survivors (Chris Evans) leads a group of low-class citizens to make their way to the front of the train. Featuring an all-star cast, thought-provoking themes involving society, brutal action, and amazing special effects, Snowpiercer is worth the train ride.

hobbit-battle-armies9. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – I personally consider The Hobbit as the most underrated film trilogy. It was great going back to experience the magical world of Middle-Earth while reuniting with characters that I’ve known, loved, or loved to hate; as well as meeting new faces. This trilogy has been a long, unexpected, and downright exciting journey. Even though the trilogy changed the main focus to be on Thorin Oakenshield than Bilbo Baggins, it still stays true to J.R.R. Tolkien’s book. Being the shortest film in the franchise (144 minutes), The Battle of the Five Armies ends the trilogy with a bang. A lot of emotion, breathtaking battle scenes (especially the final battle being the best since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), and an amazing song by Billy Boyd playing during the end credits is enough to become one of the year’s best. Thank you, Peter Jackson, for making two of the best film trilogies in recent years.

THE IMITATION GAME8. The Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch is becoming one of my favorite actors. From playing detective Sherlock Holmes to the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy, now he plays Alan Turing in an exquisite performance. If you don’t know who he is, he was a leader of the breaking of the Enigma code during World War II. Then, he became convicted for his homosexuality, which was considered illegal in the U.K. in 1952. Despite the problems he went through, he became the inspiration for the computer that I’m typing my blog posts on. I don’t give a damn if this movie is historically inaccurate. A historical piece doesn’t have to be accurate. I loved every bit of this funny, heartbreaking, and moving historical piece.

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past7. X-Men: Days of Future Past – Bryan Singer came back to direct the sequel to X-Men: First Class eleven years after X2: X-Men United. Not only is it one of the best movies from the summer, it’s also the best in the X-Men franchise. It’s great to have Brits Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprising their roles of Professor X/Charles Xavier and Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr. But the focus is on Logan/Wolverine, as always excellently played by Hugh Jackman, as the team uses his consciousness to send him back to 1973 to prevent robots from taking over the world. Along the way, he encounters the younger versions of Xavier and Lehnsherr (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) to help him to save the past to prevent the future. This movie had just enough action, special effects, character development, and humor. Not to mention the scene involving Quicksilver in the White House kitchen with Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” playing in the background has to be the funniest and the coolest action set piece of the decade. I cannot wait to see how Quicksilver would be portrayed in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I don’t know if Joss Whedon will make him as funny as Bryan Singer did in X-Men: Days of Future Past. We’ll see.

Dawn-POTA6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Three years ago, Rupert Wyatt directed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a reboot of the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes. I couldn’t have asked for a better climax – with similarities of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes – building up to its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Matt Reeves takes the franchise to a completely different level. Even though it has similarities of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, this throws the sequels out of the water. This movie reminds us why there is motion-capture. I hope Andy Serkis gets a special Academy Award for bringing motion-capture to life. His performance as Caesar is as powerful as in Rise. The scene in which he watches a video on a fully charged camcorder of himself as an infant being taught by Will the scientist is one of the most emotional scenes of the year. I think that’s why I prefer Rise and Dawn over the original Planet of the Apes films. Because they offer more emotion.

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy5. Guardians of the Galaxy – One of the biggest surprises of the summer, indie director James Gunn introduces a group that a lot of people have never heard of. He puts enough wit and charm into these characters to make us connect with them. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy three times in the theater, I had a blast each time I saw it. When Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, in an awesome performance) turns on his Walkman and dances to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” on an abandoned planet, I knew I was in for a treat. Even though it features breathtaking visuals and exhilarating action, the main focus is the memorable characters and the witty dialogue. Not to mention the best soundtrack in recent memory. Cannot wait for the sequel.

Ben Affleck in Gone Girl4. Gone Girl – There are several movies this past year that made me speechless once the credits started rolling. Gone Girl is one of those movies. Based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel, Ben Affleck delivers the performance of his career as Nick Dunn, who becomes a suspect of his wife’s disappearance. I always like a good mystery. But there was rarely one where it had me on the edge of my seat from the first image. Kudos to a great marketing campaign, David Fincher and his team make an atmospheric thriller that gives a realistic glimpse of the media. With dark humor, many twists and turns, and a haunting score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Gone Girl has the feeling of a film noir. The gorgeous Rosamund Pike plays the craziest wife I’ve ever seen in a movie. She is an enigma to the characters as well as the audience through narration and flashbacks. I want her to beat Julianne Moore for the Best Actress Oscar.

07GRAND-articleLarge3. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers. I love almost all of his films. Unlike most filmmakers, he has his own unique style. Moonrise Kingdom is the first film that introduced me into his colorfully surreal world of zaniness. After seeing all of his early films, I wasn’t disappointed with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson has made the funniest film of his career. I couldn’t picture anyone else playing a better performance as Monsieur Gustave H. other than Ralph Fiennes. He has so much wit and charm as the flirtatious concierge who embarks on a journey to clear his name after being accused of murdering his former lover. His timing is spot-on. With a terrific ensemble featuring F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, and newcomer Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely worth the visit. I’m surprised it got nine Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) this year.

Birdman2. Birdman – Nominated for nine Oscars including Best Picture, Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is the greatest film that Alfred Hitchcock or Alfonso Cuarón never made. Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki make the most technically ambitious film of the year, using various film and editing techniques to make it look like it’s one continuous shot. The scene where washed-up actor Riggan Thomson holds a grudge on a New York Times theatre critic who is going to give his play a negative review before opening day proves that Michael Keaton might win the Oscar. This is a funny, satirical, bizarre, philosophical, and moving picture that reminds us why movies are made.

Boyhood-11. Boyhood – There has never been a film from 2014 that moved me as much as Boyhood did. Richard Linklater started production on this 12-year project in 2002 using the same actors and the same crew. It feels like he didn’t just make a film, but rather a lesson on adolescence. Linklater naturally depicts how kids and teenagers behave. Even though there aren’t any subtitles on what year we’re in, the audience sees the main character Mason (Ellar Coltrane, in a wonderfully convincing performance) grow up right before their eyes when his voice deepens, his hair grows longer, or if there is a conversation about the war in Iraq. This is a film that made me relate the fun times and hard times I had as a child and the responsibilities I’m going to have as an adult.

There are times in the film where Richard Linklater references his early films. There are scenes involving Mason having conversations with his father (amazingly played by Ethan Hawke) about a possible Star Wars sequel, getting advice, and talking about their day. They connect to Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Patricia Arquette needs to earn her Oscar as Mason’s mother who is trying to do the best she can for her kids.

To quote Richard Roeper: “There are so many things that could have gone wrong with this project when you really think about it. What if young [Ellar] Coltrane grew up to be a terrible actor in his teens? What if Lorelei [Linklater] decided five years ago she didn’t want to be in her dad’s movie anymore? Fortunately, for Linklater, and for us, it all came together beautifully.”

Boyhood is the most special movie-going experience I’ve ever had at the movie theater. Not only is it the best movie of 2014, it’s also the best movie of the decade so far and one of my favorites of all-time. This is a movie that should be seen by everyone.

I hope you enjoyed reading my choices for the best films of 2014. Feel free to leave a comment on what your favorite films of 2014 are. I cannot wait to see more great films this year. Take care.

2014 Summer Movie Review: Godzilla

The famous Japanese kaiju threatens San Francisco in Gareth Edwards' reboot of "Godzilla"

The famous Japanese kaiju threatens San Francisco in Gareth Edwards’ reboot of “Godzilla”

In 1954, there was a film about Japan facing with a disaster unlike anything they have experienced before. Was it a massive earthquake? Was it a flood? Or was it Godzilla, a giant radioactive lizard?

After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which ended World War II, Japan became genuinely invested in making nuclear power plants and bombs. Not only were they using the bombs as tests, but they use them for a much more serious purpose. That is to kill Godzilla. The movie became a huge worldwide success. It set a new ground of out-of-this-world special effects, and made Godzilla become one of the best giant movie monsters, along with King Kong.

60 years later, Gareth Edwards, the director of the 2010 indie film Monsters (made for a budget of a mere $500,000), attached his name to direct the reboot of Godzilla. He used new film techniques (i.e. CGI) to capture the iconic kaiju providing an old-fashioned concept that would make Steven Spielberg proud. For someone who has yet to see the original Japanese version, I acknowledge the historical value that went into the making of Godzilla.

After a brief montage of nuclear physicists setting up nuclear bombs to test them, Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai and Inception) calls to the Philippines to examine skeletons in a mine. He recognizes an egg had hatched, and something has escaped into the Pacific Ocean. That “something” is the giant lizard himself, Godzilla.

Meanwhile, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston, Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad), a nuclear specialist is concerned about the disastrous events that happened over the years. When he tries to find the answers he’s looking for, he finds out that not only Godzilla is threatening humanity, but two parasites, known as the MUTO, are also coming to destroy the world. As the monsters target San Francisco, Joe lets his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kick-Ass), an officer in the NAVY, to get rid of the monsters.

I guess you can call Godzilla, “this year’s Pacific Rim without giant robots (jaegers)”. If any of you are expecting Godzilla to have a lot of screen time, then you would be no less than disappointed. In terms of the story, it’s reminiscent to Jaws. Where he have to wait an hour to see the monster in its entirety. It’s not to say the human drama is totally redundant. Of course, it drag at times but it has enough to build up to the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Unlike the earlier versions of Godzilla, this reboot has a much serious and devastating feel. Edwards doesn’t need to use humor to make the story compelling.

With the exception of Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, some characters have limited development. Aaron Taylor-Johnson portrays a decent protagonist and gets the job done, but he barely gave any emotion at all. Making it look like he’s the new Hayden Christensen. Elizabeth Olsen as Ford’s wife, again, she delivers a decent performance but her character development is very limited. She doesn’t bring that much depth into her role rather than being a nurse.

Once Godzilla first appears on the screen an hour into the movie, we forget that he’s just a CGI creation. The “God of Monsters” looks so real that it makes our jaws drop in awe. As he rises a massive height of about 400 feet from the ground, he lets out a roar so loud that it literally shook the entire theater, and sending chills down everyone’s spines. When Godzilla fights the MUTO in the year’s best climax thus far, we root for him until the end. I’m glad I went to see Godzilla.

3.5/4

2014 Summer Movie Preview: May

2014 started the year off with a bang for movies. It included a lot of bad-looking movies that I was glad to skip (I, Frankenstein and Pompeii). There was a movie that gained a lot of controversy before its release (Noah). Lastly, there were  movies in which I loved to death, and can’t wait to see again (The LEGO Movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Grand Budapest Hotel). Today, is the beginning of the summer movie season. The season in which the most anticipated blockbusters come out to see what they have to offer.

I have a feeling this summer is going to have entertaining movies. Over the next four months, I’m going to give my thoughts on the highly anticipated summer blockbusters and some independent films. Without further ado, let’s get started on the month of May.

May 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – I really enjoyed the 2012 predecessor – The Amazing Spider-Man. It felt like a much more realistic take on Spider-Man’s origins than in Raimi’s trilogy. Director Marc Webb revisits some of the plot points from the 2002 film, and giving them a vivid glimpse of what happened. Andrew Garfield was the definitive choice to portray Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire. He acted more like any teenager would; funny, charismatic, and a bit of a smart-Alec.

I am looking forward to seeing him springing into more web-slinging action in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, despite the mixed reviews it has been getting. It might head into that Spider-Man 3 territory where there will be too much going on, but I’m still hoping for it to be good. Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn and Jamie Foxx as the main villain? Couldn’t be much better than that.

belle

Belle – With it coming out today in limited release, this will expand across the country throughout the month of May. Belle is one of those films that gives history I never heard of. It follows the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed race daughter of Royal Navy Admiral, trying to end slavery in England while being raised by her aristocratic great-uncle. Featuring a stellar cast including Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Tom Felton (Malfoy from Harry Potter) nifty-looking sets and costumes, Belle looks like a brilliant period-romance piece.

May 9

neighbors

Neighbors – There hasn’t been a lot of hilarious comedies lately. If you think the comedy genre is, for the most part, dead, it looks Neighbors – the latest from the creators of last year’s overrated comedy-horror ensemble This Is the End -will probably bring back the big laughs. A raunch-fest with Seth Rogen as a dad with a newborn baby against Zac Efron and his frat boys, a variety of amusing movie references, and a lot of energy? I’m so in!

May 16

Godzilla

Godzilla – This looks like this year’s Pacific Rim, but without the giant robots. Although I have yet to watch the original 1954 Japanese version featuring the iconic radioactive lizard, this version simply looks jaw-dropping. From the destruction to the look of Godzilla, the special effects look outstanding; giving the movie a realistic feel. This movie cannot get any more awesome even with it starring Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad fame), Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and Ken Watanabe.

million_dollar_arm_ver2

Million Dollar Arm – Don Draper as a sports agent training cricket players from India to play in Major League Baseball? I don’t know about this. Even for a sports movie by Disney, it looks standard.

May 23

X-Men - Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past – The only X-Men movies I have seen are X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, and The Wolverine. Although I didn’t enjoy X-Men Origins, the latter two were more than just superhero movies, but rather interesting character studies. With Days of Future Past being about the original characters from the X-Men trilogy going to the past to team up with their younger selves, this looks unbelievably fascinating.

blended

Blended – Remember when Adam Sandler used to be on Saturday Night Live? Making everyone laugh so hard that tears would roll down their face? Now that his SNL days are behind him, his comedy is starting to become boring. His new movie Blended is no exception. It’s a shame, because I liked him, alongside Drew Barrymore, in 50 First Dates. Boy, I never felt so embarrassed from watching the trailer. I’m definitely giving this one a pass.

May 30

Maleficent

Maleficent – It seems like every classic Disney cartoon is being remade into a live-action Disney film. With Maleficent and Cinderella, I think it’s unfair for the original cartoon. It’s not to say Maleficent looks bad. The movie looks visually stunning, although looking like Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Oz: The Great and Powerful combined. Angelina Jolie is downright perfect for the role of Maleficent. Elle Fanning is not a bad choice for Princess Aurora, but her fake English accent ruins it. However, this dialogue between the two characters gets me pumped up for the movie:

Aurora: “Don’t be afraid”

Maleficent: “I’m not afraid”

Aurora: “Then come out.”

Maleficent: “Then *you’ll* be afraid.”

million_ways_to_die_in_the_west

A Million Ways to Die in the West– Written, produced, directed, and starring Seth MacFarlane, the idiot who can’t cancel Family Guy, A Million Ways to Die in the West looks like a grittier version of Blazing Saddles. It seems to satirize the Western genre in a disgusting way. Even though it has a great cast including MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, and Liam Neeson, the trailer didn’t make me laugh. It might be good, but it doesn’t look any good, in my opinion.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Godzilla

Least Anticipated: Blended

I hope you enjoyed reading on what my thoughts are on the upcoming movies for the month of May. Tell me in the comments on what are your most anticipated movies for the month of May. Stay tuned for a movie preview for the month of June on Memorial Day.