REVIEW: “KONG: SKULL ISLAND” (2017) WARNER BROS.

Standard

**IMPORTANT NOTE: Stay for the credits — You won’t regret it!

Is it just me or does it just seem like writers might be a bit bored these past few years and are perhaps running out of ideas? Hasn’t this been done already and then done again? Or did the box office success of movies like Jurassic World inspire studios & producers to opt for remakes instead of the road not taken. Well I don’t have the answer to all those questions BUT…I didn’t hate this remake in all it’s CGI super-glory.

To be clear – Kong: Skull Island is not simply a remake of a film that has been re-made time and time again. It is kind of what you could refer to as an ‘re-imagination’ of the original. If you ever lost sleep at night wondering what it would have been like if King Kong was not sedated and taken to New York to be pointed and laughed at and swatted away little planes with a Faye Wray or Jessica Lange or hey..even Naomi Watts, in his possession. Well fret no more, as that is exactly what this film explores.

The premise here is it’s 1973 this time and a group of eager-beaver scientists discovers what they thought was an uninhabited island a LandSat (land mapping satellite) has taken pictures of. An elusive island called – you guessed it – Skull Island, that although rumoured to exist it’s never been proven to…until now. Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are eager to be the first to explore and geologically map the island, so they persuade the US government to back the expedition by supplying them with the support and expertise of some US Army soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his team, Chapman (Toby Kebbell), Mills (Jason Mitchell), Cole (Shea Whigham), Slivko (Thomas Mann), to name a few of the supporting crew, who are conveniently just leaving Vietnam and can stop on over. They also pick up a British ex-special forces “tracker” James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) a former British Special Air Service Captain and an “anti-war” photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson).

They start the mission by dropping bombs on the island to map the bedrock, ostensibly to look for mineral deposits. That’s when Kong shows up to smack the helicopters out of the air, and generally wreak mayhem on the team. The scattered survivors then have to survive on an island filled with oh-so-many-monsters and have to try get to the extraction zone. One group finds Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who brings a well-done dose of humour to the production and who has been stranded on the island for 29+ years with all the non-speaking island natives where KONG is ‘god’ and most definitely King of this island.

And that’s about all I’ll say about the story, so as to avoid serious spoilers. The story line is fairly conventional with very little arc to the characters except just as in the past, you ARE cheering once again for KONG. In many regards it actually sets up more like a horror movie than action/adventure movie. In fact, there are numerous jump-scares and other basic horror movie devices throughout the movie. Sorta of reminded me of the old school Godzilla vs. whomever monster films and while KONG might be the main guy, he is definitely not the only monster in town here.

In some ways, it felt like the movie couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be between a monster movie and a horror movie… Or was it an action movie with an anti-war theme? It’s a toss up. There are also numerous characters who seem like they were intended to play more significant roles but then don’t. For instance they bring along a biologist, San (Tian Jing), who does no absolutely no biology (or good acting) at all and seems to mainly appear to allow another character to give a statement of sorts. Similarly most of the LandSat team seem to be around for comic relief, even if it is just horror movie style comic relief. Even some of the major characters do little aside from provide a single plot piece and I’m sure you can already guess, no one is going to be winning any awards for acting from being in this pic.

As for KONG himself, I think they could have spent a bit more time developing him, partly as a character as again, his name is in the film’s title after all. The CGI was quite good not only for KONG himself, but his fellow monster buddies as well.

I think there might have had just too much going on, and not enough time for this movie to be really good. As it is, it’s an entertaining enough of a movie that is fun, if you go in with a somewhat low-bar intention, so I enjoyed it completely on that level alone.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, March 7, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
NATIONWIDE RELEASE: Friday, March 10, 2017

Advertisements

7 DAYS OF OSCARS: DAY 5 ~ “BEST ACTRESS”

Standard

We are on Day 5 of my “7 Days of Oscars” – and into the Best Actress category.

BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett, Carol
I mean it’s Cate. It’s rare that you will catch her in a bad performance. I liked her in ‘Truth’ earlier in the year, and while I didn’t love this film, she was as always, very good. Enough said.

Brie Larson, RoomWINNER
There isn’t really anything to add here from what I noted on my Golden Globes review. Nothing’s changed. I like Brie a lot, but I can’t truthfully think this is anywhere close to being a performance or film that should be here..but hey..again, my hopes are still up that maybe she will share the award with Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order:SVU if she wins.

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
No offense to Jennifer here, as I do like her a lot and I’m sure she has many more awards coming in her career. This isn’t going to be one of them, and truth be told, wasn’t really strong enough of a role to really be here.

Charlotte Rampling, 45 YearsMY PICK
While this wasn’t my favourite film of the year as it was rather slow-moving, Rampling’s performance was simply put, sublime. If there were true Oscar gods, she would win! 😀

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
While the story itself was rather sappy at points, Saoirse really was quite good here. It was what I would call a sweet-type performance and she would be my 2nd choice here.

Tomorrow, as we are coming close to the end of “7 Days of Oscar” and the Best Actor category.
Till then.. #Oscars2016 #peggyatthemovies

REVIEW: “ROOM” Q & A w/Author/Dir/Prod/Actor/Composer

Standard

room
At the start of Room we find “Ma” (Brie Larson) and her son “Jack” (Jacob Tremblay) living in a backyard shed they call “Room” and being held by their captor “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers). Since Jack has never known there to be an outside world, he has no idea that anything exists outside of Room.

From that moment on it’s a ripped-from-the-headlines Law & Order:SVU episode, which isn’t to say that’s bad as I watch the show faithfully. I’m truly not giving anything away to state the obvious that Ma and Jack escape Room, as the movie is more about the ability of each to cope with the outside world. For Jack, everything from that point on is a completely new experience. Ma, despite having lived for 17 years in the ‘real world’ before being kidnapped as a teen, being held captive and having a child, encounters different obstacles – as the world has moved on, and she also encounters doubts about her own ability to be a mother to Jack.

I’d been expecting a suspenseful drama-thriller about a daring escape, and what it would entail and the follow-up to this as the movie is based on a novel by Emma Donoghue. As the first half of the film concentrates on life inside Room for Ma and Jack as all she has told and convinced Jack for five years that all is well and that what they have is a normal life, that what they see on television is not real, but everything from the single bed to the lidless toilet tank is definitely their reality. She does sacrifice much as she tries to keep Jack happy and safe, even to the point of giving herself over to her captor on a regular basis in exchange for food and other items for Jack and herself.
room 1
To say that this first half moves slowly would be to understate things. We don’t just get a slice of the life that they lead in Room – we actually get the entire pie, and most of it just isn’t all that exciting or intriguing. We do get to see a little into the characters of the characters but in any event, it’s just way to much time spent watching their every move which gets a bit monotonous and leads to some impatience with where they are heading with the film.

As we finally build up to the escape you have the only brief moment of suspense of the entire film. Once they do escape the focus quickly shifts from a struggle for survival to a struggle to understand. Ma’s parents, “Nancy” (Joan Allen) blink-and-you- miss-him William H. Macy as her dad “Robert”, have different reactions to the return of their daughter and the arrival of their grandson whom they didn’t even know existed. In the years since her abduction, her parents have separated; her mom now lives with her boyfriend “Leo” (Tom McCamus). Add in to all this the slew of media hype, lawyers, and so much more adding in to the stress of adapting to all of it sorta gives the impression that escaping may have been the easy part.

The acting is good..not great, but Larson’s has a few moments though can also be awkwardly annoying at times and the same can be said for young Jacob Tremblay though he carries himself very well and holds his own here.

But truly nothing can overcome what’s basically a tedious script and film. The movie is mostly a series of plodding events and could honestly have been titled as such as packs no punch at its core. Usually when there is no action, you look for meaning, but when there is no meaning or action, you look for the exit. The film suffers from spending too much time contemplating things and not enough time doing them – or even at the least discussing them.

Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, October 12, 2015 – Courtesy of the A24 & PGA
In Theatres Nationwide

POST Q & A with Author/Screenwriter: Emma Donoghue, Director: Lenny Abrahamson, Actor: Jacob Tremblay, Composers & Producers

With a very full stage of everyone behind the movie including the young Jacob Tremblay who as an 8 year old..should have been in bed at 9:30pm on a weeknight..:D But they did go into some depth of how they made the film of getting Brie & Jacob to spend time together so as to get to know each other so as a child, Jacob would feel more comfortable. Directors & Producers talked about location shooting and the Composer on his musical choices for the film. Poor Jacob had the longest question I’ve ever heard asked to anyone at a Q & A, adult or child, to the point where the audience started to laugh..since not even I could keep up with the length of it, it was mostly about being a child actor and what he brought to the table..and I must say he answered as best he could. All in all, they did seem a great group to work with. Just wished I liked the film more.

REVIEW: “TRAINWRECK” (2015) Universal Pictures

Standard

trainwreck

And your comedy-date movie for the summer is…(drum roll please) “Trainwreck”!!

Written by and starring this year’s comedic ‘it-girl’ Amy Schumer as “Amy” it chronicles the misadventures of its leading character as she runs through boyfriends, numerous sexual encounters acting all the while as a chronically commitment-challenged career woman, is some serious comedic gold. When her boss “Dianna” (an unrecognizable and hilarious Tilda Swinton) assigns her a story to feature a young sports surgeon “Aaron” (Bill Hader) something happens to Amy she didn’t know was possible…she falls in love.
trainwreck 5
The film romantic-comedy side solely rests on the perfectly imperfect character of Amy who I think we can all relate to – as either being it at some point in our own lives or in someone we know. I mean let’s be truthful here … who of us ladies hasn’t walked into a room inappropriately dressed or sat at a baby shower giving a big eyeroll at the “my life is perfect” banalities and so wanting to shut it down. Amy is that girl, the friend we love to have around because she isn’t afraid to do or say what we wish we had the guts to do or say…though she pretty much goes overboard every time and that goes double here and yes, that’s why we love her.
trainwreck 3
Schumer is a force here, knocking every gag out of the park but also displaying some quite impressive dramatic skills that one doesn’t expect from a stand-up comedian. Bill Hader is finally given and masters the lead role he deserves perfectly. He is lovable, relatable in every way and is the perfect match for Amy on the big screen. Their chemistry here is undeniable.
trainwreck 6
The supporting cast of the film is absolutely solid. Brie Larson is wonderful as “Kim” – Amy’s sister, Colin Quinn is “Gordon” Amy & Kim’s dad, Mike Birbiglia is “Tom” Kim’s husband, and the little scene-stealer child Evan Brinkman as “Allister” rounds off the family. Vanessa Bayer’s “Nikki” is Amy’s co-worker and just as on SNL, she holds her own here.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is are the 2 big name athletes of the film in LeBron James trainwreck 2playing himself and John Cena as “Steven” one of Amy’s flings that you just can’t help but love while grabbing a scene your eyes won’t soon forget. And while I don’t know or follow basketball much (just like Amy in the film I might add) I do know who LeBron is and as it turns out the basketball superstar’s comedic timing is might just be as impressive as his game. The plethora of SNL cast, athlete and musician cameos were a welcome bonus to the movie. trainwreck 4

By now we know that with a Judd Apatow films you’ll get a nice blend of raunchy humor and heart. It is a tried and true formula – and it works again here but with something different and that’s Amy Schumer. Sure there might be a few uneven moments..but the duo here help create one of the funniest romantic comedies I have seen in a long time with one of the most fun finale scenes I’ve had the pleasure of seeing all year long. Most of all – I think we can all say a big HELLO to Amy Schumer – “Moviestar” when this hits theaters..
train wreck 1
This film is fantastically fun, full of laughs, new one-liners for you to memorize and a sweet story to prove that yes, my friends, there is someone for everyone in this world.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Screening at Arclight Hollywood – Thursday, July 9, 2015 courtesy of Universal Pictures
Nationwide release: Friday, July 17, 2015

REVIEW ~ “THE GAMBLER” (2014)

Standard

Note: This films release date is Dec. 19th, 2014; this review contains no spoilers

Matk Wahlberg as Jim Bennett

Matk Wahlberg as Jim Bennett

In case you didn’t garner this from the title of the film, “Jim Bennett” (Mark Wahlberg aka always Marky Mark to me) is a consummate, addicted high-stakes gambler..he is also a college literature professor with a tad bit of a problem. He has played a little too hard and fast with what I like to call OPM ~ Other People’s Money. Now he is in a pool of quicksand seemingly without a ladder. gambler 4

First there “Neville” (Michael Kenneth Williams) with whom Bennett borrows from using himself & his own life as collateral as he pits creditor against creditor a few times over. The operator of the gambling ring is “Mister Lee” (Alvin Ing), to whom Bennett’s money is supposed to go to first and gives him 7 days to pay back 260K debt he has incurred with loss after loss at the blackjack & roulette tables. gambler 3But as he layers his debts one on top of another, he starts to owe more than just one person who threatens to kill him if he doesn’t pay. He even borrows from his well-to-do mother, “Roberta” (Jessica Lange) though as he’s done this before more than once, it’s seemingly his last card to play until it’s not and despite all of this he just can’t stop. Even when his college-student girlfriend “Amy” (Brie Larson) walks out on him as he gambles his last chance away. gambler 2

His last shot at redemption is to finally get to the lowest point in his life, as all addicts must, but being that Bennett is actually smarter than most, he develops a plan to get himself out of all of it, but to succeed he must first hit up the last person on earth with whom he can actually borrow from, “Frank” (John Goodman). What happens with all his plays to get out of his mess of a life is the jist of this whole story and what I forsaw as a predictable ending.. or was it?? I will leave that up to you to see as it can go many different ways.

The acting here is done well enough, though no real standouts except maybe Goodman who always does quite wonderfully making things a bit darkly funny while keeping true to the ‘bad guy’ portrait and a quick bit from Richard Shiff as the “Jeweler” which is also a bit comedic. (The great George Kennedy does a quick cameo if you can spot it!) Wahlberg dropped 60lbs in just a few months for this role and it’s very apparent how quickly he did this as not only is he the thinnest I’ve ever seen him, but even his lips have a sickly blue-ish, white pallor to them. His hair however..is great! 🙂 Gambler 1

While this film isn’t great, it is entertaining enough. One of the things I simply loved about it is the filming of it in and all over Los Angeles..not just one simple area..but all over from K-town(Koreatown) to the beaches of the Palisades, USC to Casino Morongo and back on over to the legendary Playboy Mansion, which serves as home to Roberta. As I was honored to be sitting in a Q & A afterwards with the legendary producer, Irwin Winkler ~ think everything from’They Shoot Horses Don’t They’, to the ‘Rocky’ franchise (spoiler Mr. Winkler confirmed there will be a Rocky 6 upcoming), ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Raging Bull’, and the ‘The Mechanic’ to name just a few on his high-profile list of films, but who noted he has lived in Los Angeles for 50 years and there were neighborhoods he still hadn’t known about that they used. Mark Wahlberg insisted they keep the movie here though as Los Angeles really serves as it’s own character fabric of this film so much so. Also speaking was his son, David Winkler, no slouch in his credits either. I also didn’t know this is a remake of the 1974 version of the same name starring James Caan. The Winkler’s noted they had never liked the ending of that film and decided to remake it with a few changes to the storyline and ending.

So there you have it. It’s an entertaining enough of a watch but come contender time, I don’t see it being up there.

Grade: C

#peggyatthemovies

(See grading scale)