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Kong: Skull Island (2017)
The "Monsterverse" is Here and the "King" Holds Court
Fans and Devotees of the Original "King Kong" (1933), and there are Legions, will have to Swallow Their Pride and Accept that was then and this is Now. And Now it Certainly is.
Now is the Time for Multiverses, Sequels, Prequels, Tie-Ins, and other Box-Office Fodder for the New Millennium. The Success of this Formatting is so Dollar Friendly that there is Money to be made, Oodles and Oodles of Money.
Divorced from the "Girl in the Hairy Paw" Centralization of the "Kong" Story, this "Kong" is no doubt "King" on His Skull Island, Protecting the Natives from Monsters from the "Hollow Earth" and generally Holding Court to Anyone and Everyone who Invades the Island, including a Fleet of Helicopters dropping Bombs on His Home Turf.
The Movie is Exciting, Gruesome, Horrific, and Pulse Pounding. The Enormous Number of CGI Artist and Their Crew of Fellow Tweakers have Embellished the Modernization Motif of Monsters and Mayhem and Deliver an Entertaining, Big, Dumb, Numbing Number of Battles and Behemoths that Strive for the Breathtaking that has become Routine of Late and is getting Harder and Harder to Top.
But Try They do and with some Gusto. Clichés Abound during the Running Time with another "Top of the Pops" Soundtrack that Punctuate Scene after Scene. The Characters are mostly Disposable and Disposed They are with Regularity.
Only One Character is Memorable and that is John C. Reilly's Show Stealer. Sam Jackson is Central as a Vietnam Colonel that has Snapped with the Disappointment of Withdrawal and has Lost His Mind. A Fitting Metaphor for the Veterans but is so Heavy Handed it Loses some of its Impact and Relevance.
Overall, it's a "No Brainer" and can be Enjoyed as it Stands. But Stand Alone it does not. There is this Thing called the "Monsterverse" and this is one of the Movies that will Perpetuate the Pictures that are Coming to a Multiplex Near You. Join the Club or Not. Your Participation is Objective and Optional.
Initially Dismissed Ang Lee's "Hulk" Deserves Another Appraisal
Smashing His Way into the First Wave of Marvel Movie Superheroes, (The Incredible) Hulk, an at First Failed Title that only went 6 Issues in the Early Sixties, did Recover and has had a Long and Intricate Career (Grey/Green). The 1970's TV Show with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno is Remembered Fondly.
Director Ang Lee Decided to give the Tragic and Unfortunate Scientist Bruce Banner and His Gamma Ray Created "Monster" a more than Serious, Psychological, Philosophical Bent that Audiences found Boring, Slow, and Pounded on this Film with some Brutal Bashing and the Sequel was Scrapped.
Critics, for the most part, Like the Movie Much More than Mainstream Viewers. They were Kind to the Depth of Characters and Rich Story. The Movie's Supreme and Interesting Template also got Noticed.
Back to the Haters. Folks Complained about the Length (2hr 20min), Nick Nolte's Bombastic, Shouting Performance, and Not Enough "Hulk". The Big Green Guy doesn't Show Up much in the First Hour.
Danny Elfman's Score is as Usual, Good but Derivative and Repetitive. The Characters like Betty (Jennifer Connelly), General Ross (Sam Elliott), and Talbot (Josh Lucas) are 100% Dead Serious and Chew the Melodramatics Ad Nauseum.
Overall, Director Ang Lee Accomplished His Vision, but in the Early Days of the Mega-Blockbuster Summer Superhero Movie, it wasn't Welcomed and was Dismissed as a Major Misfire. Viewed Today it Holds Up quite well and Deserves a "New" Look and Appraisal.
Huge Disappointment from John Woo...Fluff and Stuff for the Multiplexes
A John Woo Movie Rated PG-13 is like a Disney Movie Rated NC-17.
This Piece of Fluff has a Good Cast, the Story is from the Now Hot Property and Prestigious Philip K. Dick, No Budget Restraints and so, What went Wrong?
There are so many Bullets Flying and Missing their Mark followed by a Slow-Motion Poof of Debris that after about the first 50 times this happens Audiences and Woo Fans throughout the Land are Nodding Off.
The Memory-Loss Story is Handled OK, but it is certainly Nothing New and is somewhat Engaging. But the whole Film has a Wispy Wondering Tone where nothing seems at all Threatening or Suspenseful.
It's just Scenes Tacked Together to make a Whole and it's almost like a Walk in the Park or an Amusement Ride for our two Protagonists (Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman). Paul Giamatti as a Friend in Need Barely Registers.
In Fact the Film Barely Registers on Any Level other than the most Mainstream, Multiplexed Mediocrity. It's a Misfire, a Missed Opportunity, a Manufactured Movie that Takes No Chances, No Style, and No Winner by Woo Standards and Disappoints to the Extreme.
Overall, Recommended for those that like Their Action Films with a Tongue In Cheek Tone, No Danger, and is Nothing More than Pretty People Collecting a Paycheck (this includes the entire production) with as Little Effort or Artistic Input as Possible.
This is Product Pure and Simple and Nothing More than a Fast Food Fast Buck for Everyone.
Personal Shopper (2016)
Uneasy & Unique...Haunting & Original...Kristin Stewart Captivates
Defying all Preconceived Ideas of Genre, Categorization, Expectations, and Notions of any kind, this Art-House Movie is an Unsettling Treat for those that Seek Real Mystery in the Paranormal and Depth in Character of those that are Immersed in its Grip.
Kristen Stewart Dominates this Powerful Picture of a Grieving Twin Sister that recently Lost Her Brother to Heart Disease. Both Twins, it seems, considered Themselves Conduits to the "Other Side" and Promised Contact if one of Them Passed.
This is a Strange, Totally Unique Film that Haunts as it Follows this Troubled Woman on Her Quest to Find a Path to Another Dimension. If Kristen Stewart isn't in Every Scene, it sure Feels Like She is. It's Not an Easy Role and She Rides this Scary and at times Terrifying Tale of a Down to Earth Woman that is Reaching for Other Worlds.
Infantile Viewers who must be Spoon Fed Puzzle Pieces of Meaning are Not going to Enjoy this Genre Bending and Baffling Display that has European Cinema Sensibilities.
Others who Look for something Apart from the Usual and Far from the Mainstream will Find this a Rewarding Experience.
Overall, Not for Everyone and must be Viewed with No Expectations or Preconceptions. It must be Approached with an Open Mind...just Like the Paranormal.
The Lost City of Z (2016)
Expansive Entertainment with a Throw-Back Style...Beautiful but Bewildering
Sprawling, Episodic, and Beautiful to Look at, but this Ambitious Effort to Tell the Tale of Real-Life Explorer and Adventurer Percy Fawcett may be a Let Down for Modern Film-Goers as it chooses to more or less Document with Little or No Embellishment. In the Entertainment World that is as Daring as its Human Subject.
The Movie is an Expensive, Laborious Shoot that some may say has No Money Shot. The 2 1/2 Hour Film takes its time with the Foreplay setting up Real Conflicts, Politics, and Family Drama.
This is Interspersed with Percy's Trips to Amazonia, all 3, and in each case the End barely Justifies the Means. His Persistent Passion is Evident as He not only Confronts the Unexplored Jungle but Societal Roadblocks and Class Snobbery. The Movie even takes Time with Nods to Feminine Warriors and the War to End All Wars.
The Movie is a Real-Life Mystery in the End and Percy's Reach Never Grasped the Glory of Discovery. It's a Glorious Story, well Worth Telling and is Presented here with some Gusto and it is Fine Film-Making with Artistry Apparent in Every Scene.
Worth a Watch for Lovers of Old-School Adventure, a Throwback Cinematic Style, and Stories Summoned from a Pre-Modern Era Filled with Lost Worlds and an Earth Worlds Removed from Satellite Data Available to Anyone at Anytime with a Click.
Rear Window (1954)
Watching the Watchers, One of Hitchcock's Hightest Rated, Stiff but Suspenseful
Highly Ranked Hitchcock Film in the Director's Filmography and Highly Ranked in most Surveys, Lists, and Complilations in Competition with All Films.
There are many Reasons why it should Not. It's Stiff, Confined to One Location, the Protagonist (Jimmy Stewart) is Wheelchair Bound, No one Outside Stewart's Apartment is Shown in Close-Up (till the final scene), there is No Musical Score (all the music heard comes from pianos, instruments, radios, and phonographs on set).
It is a Claustrophobic, Hot (it's summer and the temp reads 85-95 degrees) Cityscape and the Atmosphere is Ripe for Murder. Sure enough, while Spying on His Neighbors Stewart Thinks He has Uncovered a Murder in Progress.
He tries to Convince His Nurse (Thelma Todd), Girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and a Detective Friend (Wendell Corey) that a Burly, Suspiciously Behaving Man across the courtyard (Raymond Burr) has Killed His Invalid Wife and Butchered Her in the Bathtub. Then Proceeds to Dispose of the Body in Suitcases.
Hitchcock, well Known for His Voyeuristic Tendencies, leaves No Doubt that this is an Exercise in Peeping on People (at the time the United States Govt under J. Edgar Hoover was doing so big time) and this Movie was made during the McCarthy Era. Paranoia about one's Neighbors being Communists was a Societal Angst at the Time.
Overall, the Movie does take some Adjustment when Viewed Decades Removed from its Era. Probably more so than most. But Hitch Hooks Movie Fans by Appealing to Their most Basic Instinct...Watching and Peeping in on Folks who Don't Know You are Watching. The Movie Mystique.
The Crow (1994)
One of the First Hard-"R" Comic Book Movies and a Winner All Around
Director Alex Proyas Delivers a Gloomy, Street World Filled with Unfortunates, Low-Lifes, Murders, Rapists, Anarchists, and some Assorted Good Folks Trapped in a Hell's Kitchen during "Hell Night".
Its Bleak and done at Break-Neck Speed. It's Brutal, Bloody, and Depressing. It's Perpetually Night in a Perpetual Rain ("It can't rain all the time.").
The Aforementioned Quote is from Eric Draven's Rock Album and is used to Connect an Adolescent Girl (Rochelle Davis) and the Reincarnated Draven who has Returned from the Grave to Avenge the Rape and Murder of His New Bride Shelly (Sofia Shinas). Eric and Shelly had Befriended the Street Urchin Sarah.
The Movie Creates a Cinematic World of its Own, Cribbed from the Comic-Book by James O'Barr. The Crow Comics were an Underground Hit. Independently Produced and Apart from Mainstream Superhero Stuff.
The Movie is Ultra-Stylish, Ultra-Violent, but does Attain and Maintain a Heart and a Soul. It is Touching at times when it Needs. Just Enough to keep the Film from Drowning in the Blood and Rain and Sinking to the Pits of Hell.
Quite an Accomplishment from all involved. It's Well Acted All Around and the Script is Sharp, Never Pretentious, and to the Point. The Surreal Imagery Dominates alongside the Thuggery.
The Ghouls are out In Force on Hell's Night and to Venture onto the Mean Streets of this Dystopia is Not for the Faint of Heart.
Note...Brandon Lee Stars as "The Crow" and suffered a fatal gunshot wound during filming.
Billy Wilder...Wrong Place Wrong Time...But Still...Elegant & Entertaining
There were Forces Afoot that Writer/Director Billy Wilder could Not Control.
The Super-Flops of Extravagant, Big Budget Behemoths (the counterculture was taking over the box office) and Wilder became a Victim of Circumstance and His Own Aging Style that Served Him Well over the Years, but was now something of an Anachronism.
That's Not to Say that the Movie was Dated upon its Initial Release, because it was not and still Holds Up Today. The Humor, the Experimental Exploration of Holmes "Private" Life, and the overall Theme of the Enterprise is Charming, Witty, and Entertaining.
The Films most Annoying, Over the Top, Fingers on the Blackboard Scenes are with Watson (Colin Blakely) Screeching at Holmes (Robert Stephens) and Running Amok at the Hint of a Homosexual Scandal and a Stiff Wooden Loch Ness Monster that a Child could Render a Fake (shades of Nigel Bruce).
Wilder called this His most "elegant production" and it is Sumptuous. It Radiates a Fascination with Period Detail and the Extravagance is Pleasurably Documented On Screen.
Overall, a Fine Film with a Number of Things to Recommend to Sherlock Holmes Aficionados and Casual Moviegoers.
But it Suffered Somewhat by being made at the Center of a Cultural Storm that Resulted in the Death of the Studio System and was Reeking Havoc on Hollywood Movies and the Panic was Profound.
The Institute (2017)
Muddy Looking Movie About Upper Class Decadence & Sexual Criminal Deviants
Gloomy Cinematography done by Soft Filters and Sepia Tone Separation from the Natural to give it a 19th Century Feel and t's all done to No Avail because this Story about a Real-Life "Retreat/Convalescent" Institute is Low on Budget and Facts.
Not a Complete Failure, but the Muddle is Not Only in the Look but with the Intrigue so Shallow as to be Non Existent. There is quite a Lot of Gore and some Torture both Mental and Physical.
The Side Story of the Brother's Investigation is Unfortunately Underused and aside from the Opening Credit Sequence is the Best Part of this Dismal Melodrama.
Individual Scenes Stand Out among the Complete Film but there is No There here and it is Surprisingly Flat for such a Horrific Situation. The Movie seems Half-Hearted and Exploitative and in the End is a Wasted Effort if there was any Effort at all from the Producers.
Note...James Franco...Can you say over exposure? Apparently not.
Stuck in the Sand With Cornball Writing & Over the Top Sentimentality
Intensely Irritating. When the Tension in a Nail-Biting Thriller becomes Intolerably Corny, the Intention is Lost and the Frustrating Factor Fills in.
The Side Character of Tommy (Tom Cullen) begins the Annoying Dialog and Behavior even before the Movie has a Chance to Gain some Interest and Momentum. It won't be the Last Thing that gets on the Nerves (and not in a good way).
Everything Starts to become Bothersome. The Aloof, Inattentive Voice on the Radio from Headquarters, the Indigenous Goof that Starts the "Theme" or "Message" of the Movie. You've Gotta "Move On".
Most Annoying of All is the Dripping with Clichés Flashbacks, Especially the Father, but also the Wife. The Third Act is Full of Itself and it just goes On and On to the Breaking Point of Audience Acceptance.
Overall, the Film is too Heavy Handed, Corny, and Unending. It also is Bound to the Greatest of Movie Missteps. A Movie Must Move. This one is so Weighted with its own Heaviness that it Ain't Going Anywhere. Be Prepared to be Stuck in the Sand with Bad Writing and Over the Top Sentimentality.
Note...For what it's worth, the Movie Stars Armie Hammer.