Kong: Skull Island
Apocalypse Now as a comedy with giant monsters. Sam Jackson as Ahab and Kong as the Whale. John C. Reilly as Ben Gunn the Maroon from Treasure Island. Sprinkle a dose of Avatar and puree In a blender.
What fun it was!
This was a nice re-boot of the Kong concept and presents an actual attempt at a logical premise for Kong and giant Kaiju monsters' origins. Set in the 70's as the Vietnam War is coming to a close, a scientific mission is sent to explore a newly-discovered island, backed by military escorts in full "Full Metal Jacket" mode. The ecosystem they discover is large and in-charge, Kong being just a part of it. ( be sure to stay past the credits for a teaser). The pacing of the film is breakneck, with Kong knocking down all the mission's helicopters about fifteen minutes into the movie, and the survivors divided between escaping in time to meet their rendezvous pickup or joining Sam Jackson's mission to kill Kong.
Loved the CGI and 3-d here; the battle scenes are stomach-churning in their visceral violence. The hard thing in Kong movies is the interface between the human-scale people and the giant models, and here the producers have been careful to minimize those interactions, but the ones that do exist are handled well and believably. There's lots of laughs in between the serious set pieces, though you wouldn't call this a comedy. Reilly is great, though, nearly steals the show.
Oscar-bait, this is not. A fun rental for dinner and a movie? Sure. Take the kids to a matinee? Well, the monster parts will be pretty scary for a kid under 13. I'd say it's okay for teens and up, but definitely needs a parent along to comfort and explain if the kids are younger.
I've seen a few movies in the last few weeks, and they all share a common theme... Beasts! Here's my thoughts on Kong: Skull Island and two other pretty hairy movies.
KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Premise: Mark nailed the premise already in his review. And also like Mark said, you need to stay until after the credits to see where this "franchise" is going. Which [spoiler alert maybe?] includes Mothra! Mothra! If they actually end up making a Mothra movie in the next five years I will be really happy.
Quality: It's a fun ride from start to finish, with some really inspired cinematography. Like, there's some pretty badass shots in this film. It's almost like the director wanted to make a memorable movie! I agree with Mark on the 3D, I saw this in IMAX 3D, and the 3D was actually good and held up for most of the movie. I was impressed for a change! It also has some good use of the loud surround sound speakers. I would recommend IMAX for this. Plus there's an insane IMAX Dunkirk trailer before it that makes your ears bleed.
Beast Factor: Considering that the plot is laughably thin (They go to the island! They want to get off of the island!), this movie banks heavily on the awesomeness of Kong and his giant island friends. And that delivers big time. It seems like every scene has something interesting to look at, whether it's a giant spider or a bipedal lizard beast, and it keeps it interesting. However, I don't think that any *single* scene in Skull Island quite compares to the craziness of Peter Jackon's "Kong vs. Three T-Rex fight"; but as a whole, the monsters in Skull Island are crazier than the ones in the 2005 King Kong movie.
Beast Odor: I've been to Tropic World at the zoo many times, and that smells like a damp porta potty wasteland, so I can only assume that Skull Island smells like a nightmare, and Kong himself probably reeks of monkey poop and dried blood. And those lizard things are constantly drooling bile everywhere, so I'm sure that smells like puke. And don't even get me started on that water buffalo thing that was just soaking in a swamp. How all of the characters weren't gagging from the odor that thing had to have been putting out almost took me out of the moment.
Beast Cuisine: Kong eats a few people, and then he takes down a giant octopus and eats a bunch of the tentacles. To be honest, it's a more balanced diet than I was expecting him to have.
Beast Grade: A+
Overall Movie Grade: B+
BEAUTY & THE BEAST: EMMA WATSON VERSION
Premise: It's that Disney movie from the '90s, but instead of havin' flat cartoons, it's done got some of them rounded type cartoons that can interact with real life people and such!
Quality: I'd say aside from a few new decent jokes and a new song that my wife really liked, this doesn't really do anything to *improve* on the Disney cartoon. But it's not really worse either. It's kind of the same movie. I think the '91 Beast is better, but that might just be because I watched like it twenty times when I was a kid. I will say, I'm very happy that they made this remake playful and colorful, because if they tried to go for Snow White and the Huntsman levels of cliché remake grittiness, it would have been undoubtedly awful.
But some stuff like "Be Our Guest" and the Ballroom scene were just more magical in the cartoon, whereas they were kind of cluttered CGI messes in this new one. If you want a surprising compliment for Beast '17, I laughed at Josh Gad twice. TWICE. That's pretty impressive for a movie to do that for a guy who makes my fists clench just by looking at his dumb face.
One final general note... The scene where all the servants fully transform into their household items was pretty gnarly. I was particularly disturbed how they showed the piano give one last pained gasp of air before the life got fully drained out of him. Pretty dark moment in a kids movie. "Mommy, how fragile is our existence?"
Beast Factor: As the title claims, I mean, he *is* a beast. Though, perhaps the most beastly thing about him is his rude 'tude. No real beast should have tailored dancing suits, just saying. Plus, he gets beat up by a bunch of sluggish wolves.
And I'm not sure I fully dug CGI Beast. Couldn't we have gotten Rick Baker in here do some sweet practical makeup? Or maybe a combo or practical and CGI, a la Where the Wild Things Are or something?
Beast Odor: He is technically a rich beast... And Emma Watson is never repulsed by his odor. So I'm gonna say that at the *very best*, he probably smells like a dog after you take it to the groomer. Not bad in any way, but he still definitely still smells like a dog. At his worst (pre-woman showing up), I'm sure he stunk like a horse stable filled with old socks.
Beast Cuisine: As we all know from the "Be Our Guest" song that one thousand of the Beast's imprisoned slaves sing, he likes to eat pretty classy food. I mean, he is a French dandy at heart. All we ever see him actually eat in the movie is two bowls of tomato soup, which is pretty gross, in my opinion. But I'm 99% sure there's a deleted scene somewhere of the Beast savagely eating a goat that accidentally wandered onto his property. You can't convince me that he went ten years of his life as a savage beast without murdering some stupid goat AT LEAST ONCE.
Beast Grade: C-
Overall Movie Grade: B-
Premise: In a Children of Men type future where no new mutants have been born in a long time, an aging Wolverine (and an even MORE aging Professor X) find a young mutant girl with Wolverine-like claws and he begrudgingly takes her to some place he doesn't feel like going to, but does anyway because he's kind of a softy at heart. Also, claw people have to stick together.
Quality: Watching Hugh Jackman mutilate a bunch of people's head's with his claws in this movie really makes you think about how stupid it was to not make everything Wolverine was previously in rated R as well. The story in this is pretty good too, especially for an X-Men movie. Or maybe it was just the likable characters and good chemistry they had together that made the story seem better than it was? I just know that this was probably the best X-Men movie since First Class, and maybe even the third best overall? Discuss amongst yourselves.
Beast Factor: Kelsey Grammar doesn't show up as the actual Beast, so that loses beast factor points... But Logan himself is basically an irritated animal that you've prodded one too many times to the point it flips out on you. You know what I'm talking about, right? C'mon, we've all regrettably agitated a garbage can 'possum at some point in our lives, haven't we? No? Oh. Neither have I...
Beast Odor: I assume a guy who cares about himself as little as Wolverine does probably stinks big time of B.O., and I'm sure he doesn't brush his teeth very much, either. And I'm guessing he always a strong whiskey and cigar stench circling around him as well.
Beast Cuisine: I don't think they actually showed Logan eating anything in the movie, but if 80% of his diet doesn't consist of him eating room-temperature food directly out of tin cans with a spoon he keeps in his backpack that he's reused since 2004; I'd be really surprised.
Beast Grade: B
Overall Movie Grade: B+