Movie Review #8254 KONG SKULL ISLAND
Everyone's favourite movie monkey is back in a new time zone with a new set of adventurers on his tail and a new beauty to tame the beast, well sorta.
This time the early 70s Vietnam era is the setting for a very slimmed down John Goodman to raise a pack of military and civilians to head to the proverbial uncharted island in the South Pacific to seek out and destroy whatever took out his ship at the end of WWII.
Enter Kong as prime suspect fairly early in the piece along with the usual bevy of prehistoric wacky monsters and horrid greeblies turning out to hold us in awe and make our stomachs churn with their yuckiness. Tom Hiddleston takes the role of hero using the proceedings to show off his t-shirt clad muscles to make female moviegoers swoon and the men go, “what a guy!”
Seems we can't get enough of giant monsters beating the sh*t out of each other and there's the customary gore abounding as every evil colossus around proceeds to eat the cast. There's also mildly funnyman John C Reilly turning up as a Ben Gunn-ish marooned American pilot who knows all about the island and its inhabitants and he reckons Kong is the good guy!
Slightly better than I expected but still a rehash of the tried and true monster formula with very little originality or fresh wow factor. Adequate performances from the leads including good ole Sammy L Jacko in his oft-played tough guy but ever-so-slightly-bad-dude role. CGI spectacular as always, script bland and cinematography hmmm, some interesting angles at least. Worse ways to spend a rainy Auckland Sunday afternoon I guess, and if you're gonna go see it, make sure you do in 3D. 7/10.
Movie Review #1965 LION
Compelling tale based on truth of a small Indian boy, Saroo, who after insisting he be taken along by his elder brother, finds himself lost in the hellhole that is Calcutta.
Having been to the aforementioned hellhole I can attest to the unlikeliness of a small kid staying alive on its streets but this he does. Encountering child welfare, child traffickers and other unscrupulous characters, he ends up in an orphanage where he is adopted by an Australian couple, played by Kiwi David Wenham and Aussie darling Nicole Kidman.
Growing up “Strine” along with a troubled younger adopted brother, Saroo ties his kangaroo down sport and grows into a fine young man who soon hankers to find his roots and family back in mother India. Rooney Mara plays Saroo's love interest Lucy and while rocky, their relationship does help give him the strength he needs to embark upon his voyage of discovery.
Fine performances all round especially Ms Kidman although a pity her role is supporting only. Screenplay flicks nicely between the streets of Calcutta to Aussie suburbia and back again without skipping a beat and the script allows a simple transition without changing tone as is all too easy in this type of movie. Overall an 8.5/10 and well worth a look.
Movie Review #5097 HIDDEN FIGURES
Excellent essay on American racial separatism in the early 60s using the Mercury space programme as a backdrop.
Three brilliant African-American women are recruited as human 'computers' to calculate launch trajectories of the Mercury spacecraft and the returning flight paths upon re-entry. Trouble is the space programme employs only whites for key positions and resistance to their presence is quite profound, especially when one of them tries to locate the coloured Ladies room in the building.
Kevin Costner leads the righteous charge, transforming from a 'that's the way it is' perspective to a more humanistic position, once he realises that these women are in fact more than capable, more so than any white male on his team - including a pompous Jim Parsons who carries his Sheldonesque demeanour over from Big Bang Theory.
Octavia Spencer (soon to be seen in the upcoming The Shack), Taraji Henson and Janelle Monae are the three female leads who perfectly weave their way through the quagmire of passive racial tension which seems to surface when any of the ladies appears to pop her head up above her station.
Has to be an Oscar contender with Henson, Spencer and Mr Kevin the standouts along with Kirsten Dunst who excels in her supporting role. A little long perhaps, but the portrayal of American separatism is brilliant, showing it as a subtle groundswell across American culture rather than the obvious hatred bigotry of other movies of the same genre. 9/10.
Movie Review #387 THE GREAT WALL
If you're expecting a historical epic around said Chinese edifice, you'll be sadly disappointed. This boy’s own yarn has Matt Damon and Banderas-lookalike Pedro Pascal as a couple of European soldier-of-fortune scallywags William and Tovar, straying far off the beaten track and finally bumping into the wall of the title.
There they meet an imperial Chinese army at its wit’s end defending their kingdom against a bunch of jolly green giants they call Tao Tei. After winning over their hosts’ hearts and minds with displays of daring and skill, the chaps find themselves on the front line when these nasties attack and seemingly have the measure of their sad human opponents.
However using the influence of a general and his pretty female offsider, Sir Matt inspires all with his bravado and cunning and finally finds a way to defeat the bad monsters. Meanwhile his sidekick plots to nick all the gunpowder and skive off with new found friend, Ballard (a much under-utilised Willem Dafoe) to flog it for much riches. Of course that doesn't go to plan and MD saves not only the kingdom but also his mate's honour, bringing him back onto the straight and narrow.
Nothing really to write home about here, routine stuff with the usual CGI monsters and action galore. No subtle twists or cunning plans means it all becomes a bit tedious and I found myself watch-gazing from about halfway through. Overall I struggle to give it any more than a 6.5/10.
A remake of the iconic NZ flick from 1980, Goodbye Pork Pie, this follows the same format albeit with reversed characters and new names in the Kelly Johnson/Tony Barry roles as the tearaway Blondini Gang. Updated Mini, this time nicked and going all the way to Invercargill where loser Jon hopes to make up with the girl he jilted at the altar. Driver Luke takes the straight man duties and plays a reasonable foil to the idiotic Jon, with love interest Keira picked up via a fast food joint window shortly after the chase begins, and like the original, is ditched before it ends.
Likewise Luke himself exits the sojourn prematurely leaving Jon, the lone Blondini, to finally hit Invercargill. Unlike the original, this one doesn't really engage until two-thirds of the way through once the Blondini Gang has captured the imagination of the NZ public and things start to heat up.
Adequate performances from the leads although Dean O'Gorman's Jon I would swear is really Rhys Darby. And a nice cameo from Tim Shadbolt raised a reasonable laugh towards the end, as does the rather sinister nutter Bongo. I'd also love to know who played guitar on the soundtrack, it's awesome (if anyone can tell me I'd be grateful).
It's always difficult to review a remake especially one so steeped in NZ movie history but like most, I have to say I much prefer the original and wonder really why bother with an update. All that notwithstanding, it's a 7/10.
I'm a movie nut from way back with my first ever being The Hallelujah Trail from 1964. Ever since, I've been mesmerized by the giant screen, and the darkness that went on forever. Despite the infernally uncomfortable seats, (plus having to stand for God Save the Queen), I've been enticed ever since to duck into a theatre whenever I can for a few hours of escapism.