First Great Theatrical Experience of 2017 — KONG : SKULL ISLAND in 3D!

It takes a lot to get me out to the theater these days. 2016 was one of my most anemic theater going years. Having only seen a couple movies in the theater (among them the excellent CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR).

The slow movie going year could be linked to several reasons, some personal and singular, and some endemic of larger more encompassing perspectives.

The rise of Netflix and Streaming options has brought cinema quality programming to your living room or bedroom, around your schedule. So no trying to make your schedule fit around a movie showing, and all the baggage of parking, and seats, and annoying crowds, and of course the expense.

So for those reasons and others the theater wasn’t top on my list in 2016.

2017 and I’m incentivized to see quite a few movies in the theater. One reason is the reopening of one of my favorite regional movie theaters, as an upscale adults only dinner and a movie venue.

Perfect for couples or close friends, I decided to check out a matinee showing of KONG : SKULL ISLAND over other available options at this theater (such as LOGAN and JOHN WICK II and GET OUT, all of which I intend to see) for the main reason I wanted to test out the spectacle and 3D quality of this new theater, and what better way than a loud, explosive, monster movie.

So I reserved my seats, picking the perfect seats of course, and quite impressed with their meal and drink menu. Forget the overpriced artery clogging Popcorn and Hotdogs and Candy that comprises the fare of your typical theater, this theater offered a full and quite impressive meal and drink menu, brought to your spacious clean, well kept seats, no less. We had the crabcakes, bistro burger, korean wings, with a Berry Blast drink for me and a Mocha Latte for her. And did I mention the excellent attentive service.

So we are planted in front our huge curved screen, it’s a matinee showing so not only do we have our whole row free, we have our whole section free, with probably a total of less than 20 people in the large yet intimate theater. Meaning the theater and screen is large, but the number of seats are few.

So that’s the setup. What about the movie?

The best part of the Peter Jackson 2005 KING KONG movie, was the one hour period on the island (once we get past Peter Jackson’s annoying portrayal of Native Life as monstrous, evil and subhuman), that one hour was fantastic sequences of monster and Kong Mayhem, and should have been the whole movie.

Once that movie leaves the island it loses all interest and excitement, crawling toward a tepid ending.

KONG:SKULL ISLAND, 12 years after Peter Jackson’s mistake, learns admirably from the flaws of his film, crafting an entire movie on Kong’s home, the Island of Monsters, Skull Island, and it is absolutely kick-ass!

The idea to set it in 1973, at a pivotal time for America and the World, I thought was a stroke of genius and gives real motivation to Samuel L. Jackson’s Ahab inclined character, who see’s in the monster of Kong, this fight, a chance to win the war that he was denied, to change shame into glory. I like the opening, the setup to the actual Mayhem that is Kong, quite a bit, which says a lot about the quality of the filmmaker and the film.

Usually the least interesting part of any monster movie, is the prelude to the appearance of the Monster, when you have to endure boring cardboard characters killing time. That was the issue with the GODZILLA movie by the producers of this film, it was mostly setup and concentration on the human drama, but the humans and the human drama in that movie was as of much interest as watching paint dry.

Here, the setup and the characters feel fleshed out and earned, and part of that is grounding these soldiers in 1973. Survivors, but somehow not victors. Going from one barely war abroad, to a frightening barely understood war at home awaiting them, Skull Island, is very much a reprieve to Jackson’s Colonel. And the men under him, caught in the machinations of dreams of Glory, well they are understood to.

And all the characters are quickly enlisted for this obscure mission, all powerful, compelling actors, not a Jack Black insight. But actors all who can compel and own their time onscreen… their closeups. So I’m thoroughly entertained and into the movie, before Kong goes Ape, so to speak. And when he does go Ape… it is… EPIC!!!

This is why Theaters have value in an age of Netflix and Home Theaters, because a home theater is no match for a commercial theater when you have no annoying audience to deal with, this was the fury of Kong unleashed… this was spectacle, this was Blockbuster, and this was worth every penny paid!

Should you see it in 3D? I typically find 3D is a wasted expense in most situations. I think it is expertly done here, and is really the type of movie that cries out for really good 3D. KONG is really good use of 3D, and I think like AVATAR is a must see in 3D!

KONG is only the second feature film of Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, nothing in his filmography would indicate he could handle a big budget blockbuster of a monster movie, but much like the Russo Brothers of CAPTAIN AMERICA fame (who also came out of feature film obscurity) Roberts rises to the occasion, shattering expectations.

I loved this movie from beginning to end. It blows away recent failures such as GODZILLA and the aforementioned KING KONG, and bodes well for future films. Stay past the trailer for a nice Marvel style Easter Egg.

Grade: A solid and easy B+!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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UPCOMING FILMS (1st Thoughts) 2012: HOBBIT, REDTAILS, PROMETHEUS

“You’re so… My Girl.” FARSCAPE’s Crichton Scorpius

Well I told you what trailers and upcoming films I’m not interested in, usually the mainstream pa-lava, so what is rocking my boat?

Well, first the list of trailers I spent good time viewing, in order to determine the good from the bad:

IN HER SKIN- Interesting trailer, not something I would see in the theater, has a lifetime channel feel, but this thriller about a missing daughter looks intriguing

DARKEST HOUR- 20something yuppie-lites in peril. I could not care less.

PROJECT X- A suburban take on House Party? If I was 10 maybe. Not interested.

THE HOBBIT- I loved the first LORD OF THE RINGS movie, I thought it was brilliant, the two follow-up movies not so much. In fact I dislike both of them and only own the first movie. It is not the first failed trilogy (cough– MATRIX— cough), and probably won’t be the last. I do think the trilogy broke Peter Jackson a bit, as the movies since… not good.

Having seen the trailer for the HOBBIT, I don’t know if it will be a great film. It’s not going to be a trilogy… which is good, but it is a bit hard perhaps to invest in the prequel, when the follow-up films are so fresh in everyone’s head. The absence of surprises and jeopardy (I mean we know Bilbo makes it out okay) maybe making it a bit by the numbers. I’ll probably go see it, but in no way enthused, or excited by it. Time will tell if it proves me wrong.

PROMETHEUS- This is a summer film, but I have to mention the trailer… it looks GREAT! I mean we all know Ridley Scott does visuals exceptionally well, but with the exception of AMERICAN GANGSTER, I have not loved a film he’s done in the 21st century.

Not a fan of GLADIATOR, BLACK HAWK DOWN, BODY OF LIES, etc. It’s odd how he and his brother are on different and opposing trajectories for me.

Ridley Scott’s masterpieces were all at the beginning of his career, from ALIEN in 1979 to BLACK RAIN in 1989, every single one of the films he did in that decade are absolutely AMAZING, beautiful, and gorgeous and also just great, challenging, imaginative and fresh films, but his films since have, for me at least, tended toward the formulaic and uninteresting and a bit tired and propagandistic (think Bigelow). ROBIN HOOD isn’t bad, it just isn’t very good, or interesting, or re-watchable.

Whereas Tony Scott, is the exact opposite. His early films were good, if a bit formulaic and forgettable. But the films he’s done in the last decade or so… I adore. Films such as MAN ON FIRE, DEJA VU, UNSTOPPABLE, SPY GAMES. He is one of my favorite directors currently working, and I’m looking forward to his upcoming film EMMA’S WAR.

That said, AMERICAN GANGSTER has shown that Ridley Scott can still knock it out of the park when he needs to, and the trailer for PROMETHEUS looks… EPIC! It looks really, really great. So yeah that’s one of the few films I’m really excited about in 2012.

RED TAILS- I’m going to see this movie, because I like to support any non-comedy film with more than two characters of color, since there are just not enough of these films. Hollywood suits tending to enforce their quota of two or less people of color per mainstream film So I’m always enthused to support an OBSESSED or a TAKERS (both of which I loved), that flies in the face of this cinematic glass ceiling/tokenism.

So I’m going to give RED TAILS my money in the theaters. That said I’ve watched the 2nd trailer, and while the story looks good, the action scenes fun, my problem is, as I’ve said before, the leads. Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding. Particularly Terrence Howard seems horribly miscast. No offense but whatever it takes to get men to follow you into battle, Terrence Howard does not project it. I wouldn’t follow this dude across the street, much less into battle. 🙂 So in the trailer when he gives those rousing speeches… doesn’t really work. He doesn’t have the gravitas of an Elba or Washington or even Cheedle to sell those speeches and that authenticity. And if he can’t sell it in a two minute trailer, there’s no way he can carry a 2hour movie that requires those speeches.

So yeah I’ll see the film in theaters, but I’m afraid it’s going to underwhelm (hopefully not to the extent of Spike Lee’s MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, which is one of the worst, most disappointing films I’ve ever seen, on top of being a financial failure, grossing only 7 million dollars, on an investment of 56 million. 4 yrs later and Spike Lee’s career has still not recovered from it).

Here’s hoping I’m wrong.[I was completely wrong. Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr were great. See my full RED TAILS review!]

BENEATH THE DARKNESS- Nice title, and Dennis Quaid is typically good. But there’s more than a bit of been there, done that. 20 somethings in jeopardy by the crazy killer no-one suspects. Nothing at all interesting about the young actors, and they annoy me in a 2 minute trailer much less a 90 minute flick, so I can’t really give a good care about them or the story. This one is an avoid.

LONDON RIVER- A film that completed in 2009, but like too many intriguing films, beyond film festivals, has taken a long time to get any theatrical release/DVD release, however it seems to be making some headway in 2012. Still, it will probably not make it to a theater near you, but just as probably is better than most of the films that will. An intriguing drama about 2 parents, an act of terror, and two missing children. This is a definite one to try and track down at an Indie Theater or on DVD.

EXPENDABLES 2- Another one that doesn’t hit until late in the year, but man the trailer did the same thing as the first flick. It made me shout/cackle out loud! Just like the first EXPENDABLES it’s a dream come true to see all these names in one movie together. Applause to Stallone for putting this cast together and making this film happen while all the actors are still with us. I am a huge fan of the first Expendables and definitely looking forward to seeing this one. Another MUST SEE film!

DJANGO- And speaking of phenomenal casts. Just the cast list for this Tarantino film, reads like a who’s who of great actors. Whether this will be a great movie, or a Tarantino miss, I have no clue, but the cast alone makes it a theater watch.

SILENT HOUSE- I don’t like the idea of trying to sell a film by trading on someone’s ‘real’ horror. I don’t like the sleazy based on true events tag. I’m not objecting to it being ‘true’, but based on a 1940s anecdote in a different country, by the time the American filmmakers get their hands on it I’m not sure if there is anything reasonably close to ‘true’ left.

No, what I object to is what the trailer seems to be selling. It’s selling you, like a carnival barker, the chance over ‘real time’ to watch someone suffer, to watch someone’s world end. It is precariously close to the same allure one would no doubt use, to sell a snuff film.

I didn’t like it. The trailer.

I didn’t like it when I saw it in movies like THE STRANGERS (which I walked out of the theater on) and I don’t like it here. There is something of me, inherent in me, raised on older ideas of dragons slain, and maidens rescued… that objects.

That objects…. to evil… rampant.

I think as an audience, such films appeal to what is worst in us. They are not about journeying with the victim to get out of the situation or be rescued or the bad guy put down, they are about reveling with the predator or rapist in terrorizing, mutilating and then killing his victim. They are snuff films in spirit if not in fact, and I don’t like that. I don’t like it at all.

And I think the prevalence of such films hints at a widening hole in the fabric of the audience, a hole that just might be our decency and our humanity and, perhaps even, our collective soul… falling away.

That is if anyone in the world, besides madmen and writers, still believes in anything as naive and old fashioned and archaic… as a soul.

GONE- If SILENT HOUSE is what I don’t want to see in a thriller, GONE is what I do. It’s quite a refreshing take on the thriller genre, with the young female protagonist having to race against time to save her friend, and bring down the monster. I quite like the trailer.

If it has any fault, it’s that it probably gives away too much of the movie. But I think it almost had to play its hand to get the attention of people like myself who would have written it off as just another slasher flick if a more mysterious trailer was used. But yeah they have me intrigued enough to see this in the theater.

Wow. That was a lot more writing than I had intended when initially starting this post. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and if you have got a kick out of my rambling craziness, please support this blog by donating or shopping through the handy links located throughout the posts.

Thanks, and till next installment… be well.

DISTRICT 9 film, SHELL GAS, NEILL BLOMKAMP, PETER JACKSON and crimes made clean by cash

I found DISTRICT 9 a well structured film, in terms of pacing, and the germ of its story. I mean there is a lot to like about DISTRICT 9. Its fast frenetic pace, strong performances, a short snappy running time, and really amazing special effects and impressive action, all grafted on to what is essentially a chase pic.

So there was a lot to like about DISTRICT 9, unfortunately the few things… not to like, I found to be significant things, and really kinda central to the heart of the film. And the heart was… corrupt.

Where DISTRICT 9 immediately fails for me is in its fairly unsubtle tone and its use of Black faces to deliver and reinforce White messages. A well worn Hollywood trope going back to the BIRTH OF A NATION.

What do I mean? DISTRICT 9 is a thinly veiled allegory to Apartheid South Africa, replacing the Kafirs with Prawns. The fact that in reality it is the aliens, the Dutch who came in and relocated the rightful occcupants into slums is kind of lost in this translation however. Instead we get Black actors (faces, as I’m sure most of them were non-actors) to in essense regurgitate lines that not too long ago the Dutch would have said about them. It is an irony not lost on me, but is without a doubt lost on the Black faces, thrust into a movie that is all about delivering white messages.

The most aggregious of which? The Nigerians. In one stroke they called them smugglers, drug and weapon dealers, sexual deviants, and cannibals. Wow. Who paid for this movie, Shell Gas?

I know a bit about Nigeria and I found that portrayal racist and maligning and calculated to reinforce stereotypes, on an almost unbelievable level. (I mean you can do a pic with Triad gangs, or Yakuza because you typically have positive asian elements in the same film, as well as tons of positive Asian films. However when a people are as underrepresented on the world stage as the Nigerians, it’s important that their only images aren’t negative images. Otherwise it becomes the engine of Stereotype. So I’m not saying “Do not use Nigerians in film”, but let’s try painting them as hereoes as well as villians, or perhaps even just as people)

It’s well known to everyone except the terminally stupid, which includes unfortunately most of America, that for six decades the Dutch-British company that is SHELL gasoline, this survivor of the mad dreams of Reichdom, has made their fortune by stealing and raping the land and resources of the native Nigerian people… the Ogoni (If you saw AVATAR you have seen a fictionalization of that Ogoni saga played out. With the exception being no one has yet come to the Ogoni’s aid). And the Nigerian email scams, are not Nigerian inventions but British/Dutch inventions (Noise to cover the real signal/emails that activists were trying to get out about the attrocities being perpetrated in Nigeria, against the native Nigerians).

So unfortunuately all the masses, who get their news from obviously bigoted sources such as FOX NEWS, know of Nigeria is little to nothing. All the masses know is the noise.

The noise and now DISTRICT 9.

A movie like Neill Blomkamp’s DISTRICT 9, that makes you care for the fictional oppresed Alien race (and want to say “no this is wrong” to what is happening on screen), does so at the expense of real people, The Nigerians, who have been and continue to be victims of staggering colonialism and oppression.

This juxtapositon with the illusion of caring, with the reality of “this filmmaker eithers doesn’t care enough to offer a non-jingoistic view of Nigerians”, ultimately drowns, what otherwise is a tight, faced-paced, stylish thriller of a movie, that I wanted very much to like.

But I see clearly that the films message of misrepresentation will ultimately only serve… to continue the crimes of mass-theft and mass-murder that continue to occur in Nigeria.

DISTRICT 9, has become a very stylish Nigerian spam email, Noise to hide the faint signal… of people who need your help.

So I view the broad license this movie takes, to paint an already deeply attacked and violated people, with such a broad brush of villany, the only way I can… with utter disgust.

Neill Blomkamp with this film proves himself an effective filmmaker, and perhaps he actually had the best of intentions for his film. But honestly I have to doubt it, the commentary against Nigerians was too pointed, and the use of Blacks/South Africans to espouse Apartheid era lines as subtle as a brick to the face. It comes across as the movie of an apologist for Apartheid at best, and a racist at worst. There’s no other way to say it.

Or perhaps Neill Blomkamp, a very young man, is as much a victim of programming as those Black actors in his film, mouthing white messages that can ultimately only harm them and theirs. Perhaps both him and his actors, raised on this cinema and culture of lies, it has become their truth, and all they can do is regurgitate it. All we can be is our father’s failings.

I’d like to believe that’s not true. I’d like to believe that we can all escape slums, both physical and mental. I would like to believe we can all escape our District 9s. Time will tell.

Recommendation: As long as you could go in and not take this picture’s definition of Nigerians as an encompassing definition, take a look. Otherwise read a bit on Shell Gas, and how your car these days runs as much on blood as oil. (For the record I boycott Shell Gas and recommend that all people do the same).

Here endeth the lesson.

Till next time… be well.