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

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**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

“KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE” (2015) 20th CENTURY FOX

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Watch out James Bond ~ the “Kingsman:Secret Service” is in town!!!
Kingsman

Starting off my 2015 with a early preview screening of this oh!so!fun! fantastic joyride of a film is just what I needed. Simply put, I LOVED IT! and I’m thinking spy movies will NEVER be the same.. 😀 This film truly injects the fun & thrills back into the spy movie genre as it’s a ridiculously entertaining action comedy that will certainly be hard to top – not just by the other parodies but yes, by the actual spy movies themselves. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is enjoyable, well-made action film with a fair dose of humour, lots of slicked along style and panache’ ~ yes I said panache’ because that’s the only word that comes correctly to mind with it’s wonderful style & wardrobe fashion sense, but it’s definitely made by, for, and about people who’ve seen far too many Bond films…and yes, you can count me as one of the latter. 😀 kingsman colin in front of suit store

And while I won’t give away any spoilers….”Kingsman” is the story of a streetwise London youth named Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) who is rescued from his life of petty crime and run-ins with the law by a posh secret agent named “Harry Hart/Galahad” (Colin Firth) and trained to be a new generation of spy working for a top secret privatized spy operation aka “The Kingsman”. How fun is it to see Colin Firth so polar opposite type-cast as a bad-ass and a good one at that?? REALLY FUN ~ I mean who knew??!! Certainly not me as who could even come up with this idea and make it work so well. Matthew Vaughn is who. Truthfully, Vaughn has cast his film fairly perfectly. Firth is game and great in his yes albiet, computer-aided fight scenes with his delivery of the dialogue spot on and with Egerton a naturally charismatic presence with smarts behind his cutesy smile. The always wonderful Mark Strong plays gadgetmaster “Merlin”, while Michael Caine is brilliant, although brief, as “Arthur” head of Kingsman. kingsman colin  taron

Samuel Jackson goes for broke here and strikes it big-time in riches as a over-the-top billionaire Steve Jobs type in villain form, “Richmond Valentine”, and supported wonderfully by henchwoman “Gazelle” (Sofia Boutella), who sports a pair of sharpened-and-bladed prosthetic legs and slices & dices her way through the film with them as divinely mad as any deadly dentures Richard Kiel ever wore as ‘Jaws’ or Harold Sakota as ‘Oddjob’ with his deadly flying top hat in Goldfinger. kingsman blades

But the biggest surprised nestled within “Kingsman” (and trust me, there are a bunch) might be the fact that it isn’t just some knock off doodle of a film. This is a hugely entertaining, heartfelt out and about thrillride!! It’s that bold, unique and whipsmart about what it puts out. There’s a real emotional through-line and Eggsy is a terrific main character, one you want to root for far beyond the boundaries of this film. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a total blast. This is a movie, after all, where the villain sets his diabolical scheme in motion to the disco grooves of KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up.” I mean come on..what are you waiting for??? that alone should dictate that you see this movie at least twice! And though the action may be ludicrous at times, it’s also hugely engaging and delightful. Yes, the design is full of tributes and nods to other films and other bits of pop culture, but it also creates a logical world for itself. The tone of the film is spice but with a dose of sour but not in a bad taste way, it’s ‘knowing’ yet rarely cynical. And the British-isms of it aren’t lost or sanded down for an American audience. Firth is a killer, but never a brutish bad guy and Eggsy’s up-from-the-bottom determination to do good is clear in every scene, as Egerton pulls off loads of charm in his acting and skill in his action work. kingsman taron water

The whole plot is delivered with a dash of wink and pizzazz, with such bits of wittiness that even at one point Harry Hart/Galahad is conferring with Valentine and notes how much he misses “fun” spy movies. The genre, according to him, has become too stuck in “real world” politics all the while we note that this discussion takes place while the two characters are eating Big Macs of course, because hey, why not right? The movie is very much a throw-back fun return to the splashy, colorful films of the sixties that emphasized outlandish gadgets, deadly vixens and global plots where people push buttons and thousands could possibly die. kingsman big macs

With its fashion-forward flair — the film may borrow liberally from the Roger Moore 007 era, but there’s also a touch of Patrick Macnee’s gentleman spy character ‘Mr. Steed’ from “The Avengers” thrown in especially with Firth’s character. But all in all “Kingsman: The Secret Service” feels like a well-made gentleman’s suit, with superb cut, distinctive colour, and excellent flair. You get all the required gear of an action film, the gadgets, and delights ~ but you also get a good dose of sly winks at how ludicrous it all is yet also how parts are just out-and-out genius. It’s fakes a stiff upper lip but also constantly raises an eyebrow in amusement. It’s full of fun Bond-isms, little bits such as when Eggsy orders his martini with “gin as that’s the way it’s meant to be, shaken for 10 seconds while looking at a closed bottle of vermouth” I mean how can we not laugh out loud at this. (yes, Bond fans will know exactly what I am talking about here)

It’s like Kingsman is perfectly perched at just the right pop cultural moment as this is most likely the perfect moment to give the middle finger to the genre, and start a whole new, self-aware fun franchise in the process. The jokes are sharper, the plotting swifter, the violence more shocking. the sexual innuendos way more prominent as it deconstructs the old school spy genre while also celebrating it and it does so with wit and intelligence and style and yes again, panache.
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It’s clear that as a Director, Vaughn is able to handle world-class actors here getting them to loosen up and play, in ways that feel engaging and new. Sam Jackson’s lisping villain is a genocidal madman who gets weak-kneed at the sight of blood, all the while being able to turn new-comer Egerton, who is all rough-around-the edges charm and brittle good looks, into a movie star with charisma and magnetism. Most will talk about how great it is to see the star of “The King’s Speech” kick ass, but truly Egerton is the real revelation here as he is pure magic in this film.. Mark my words Taron Egerton ~ breakout star of 2015.
All in all, Kingsman:The Secret Service is a thoughtful, exciting, whip-smart spy adventure that doesn’t let its smart-ass post-moderism overwhelm its playfulness or its heart. And lest we forget..we are thoroughly reminded throughout the film of it’s own quote ~ “Remember the suit is a modern gentleman’s armor and we’re the new Knights.” Do I want a sequel? My only response is HELL to the YES!!

Grade: A-
@pegsatthemovies

(See grading scale – as yes, usually an A would be regarded as an Oscar-worthy pic for me, and while this isn’t that..the fun level is so high..I couldn’t go any lower!)

First Advanced Screening in Los Angeles at AMC Century 15 on Thursday, January 8th, 2015.