*NEW* KONG: SKULL ISLAND REVIEW *NEW*

One beast of a blockbuster!

A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

From the people who gave you Godzilla . . . Greaaattt.

After watching that shambolic dino turd, I feared the worst for the reboot of yet another iconic movie monster.

BUT thankfully, my poison pen didn’t have too much to write about this time.

The mad opening sequence didn’t give me a chance to get comfortable. It felt like a different movie with two Japanese and American WW2 pilots crash landing on Skull Island and having a fight to the death. Mental.

It wasn’t even two minutes before a gigantic paw from a damn dirty ape came hurtling towards the screen.

I was expecting another drawn out blockbuster with the main attraction teased through out. Oh no! This got down to business.

The pace didn’t mess around. It flicked back and forth. Set up the premise. Introduced the characters and within 30 minutes, they were on the mysterious island being welcomed by a napalm parade and an angry inhabitant.

The soundtrack was on point. The track choices! The Stooges, Black Sabbath, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the list goes on!

The only problem was that the characters were a little wafer thin for my liking. The only memorable performance for me was Samuel L Jackson as the grizzly and disillusioned war vet.

Disappointed at the defeat of the Vietnam War and furious with a new foe disposing of his men.

That square-off with Kong. Brilliant. A blaze of fire separating the two as they stared each other out. Tense.

Tom Hiddleston (Thor) did just enough BUT he was a little too clean cut to play a seasoned mercenary for me. I think somebody like Gerard Butler would have suited the role better.

Brie Larson (Room) did her best with the role of the feisty photographer Mason Weaver. She had good chemistry with Loki but the suggested romance subplot felt forced and hammy.

John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane) and Corey Hawkins (24: Legacy) didn’t do too bad as the scientist duo. It was just a shame that they got pushed into the background as the movie progressed.

I don’t know what Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) has done BUT he never gets a break in these big movies. His role was dreadfully dull. And his muddled accent certainly didn’t help.

“That was an unconventional encounter”.

What worked for Kong: Skull Island was that it didn’t take itself too seriously. Godzilla was far too gloomy and dark for its own good.

Plus the bloody thing was only in the movie for 15 minutes! 15 minutes in a two hour movie? Come on!

And how could I say Samuel L was the only memorable character?

John C. Reilly was on scene stealing form as Hank Marlow. The WW2 castaway who spent 30 years on the island.

Now imagine Dale from Step Brothers as a crackpot recluse and you would be bang on the buck. He delivered a much needed comic relief.

The special effects were fantastic. The detail involved with Kong’s movements and expressions were brilliant. Let alone the numerous monster punch ups!

I loved Kong’s introduction. The Apocalypse Now sunset. The giant shadow with the helicopters basking in the dusk. Great shot!

The action was brutal, violent and intense. They really tested that 12A rating. The gore was crazy. Especially when a scientist was picked up by a flock of carnivorous birds. Yikes.

BUT every time I felt my interest wading, there was a bigger and nastier creature ready to attack. Spiders with camouflaged bamboo legs. Giant bloodthirsty dino lizards. Nice.

If this wasn’t a reboot, Skull Island could easily have followed on from Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Well, if they hadn’t killed him.

I went in (yet again) expecting nothing and was rewarded with something so much better . . . Or watchable anyway.

An entertaining creature feature that restored my faith in the monster reboots.

BUT if the writers could flesh out the human element a little more, that would be appreciated.

BUT then again, who are these movies supposed to be about?

3.5/5

*CREDIT WATCH*

For the junkies that love to sit through the credits hoping for tidbits . . . there’s a little cryptic teaser at the end. I thought it was a bit nothingy for the wait BUT I’ll let you be the judges! I don’t think Godzilla fans will be disappointed.

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*NEW* LIFE REVIEW *NEW*

Despite the shoddy pace and wafer thin characters, there was still life in this tense little sci-fi horror.

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

I didn’t expect much from this. The trailers bored me and the extended looks did nothing to win me over. BUT I was a fan of the line up. So was it shame on me?

Jon Ekstrand’s ominous score certainly grabbed my attention. The brooding atmosphere, the simmering tension, the nothingness of space. Seamus McGarvey’s glossy cinematography. Perfect.

It was just a shame that momentum couldn’t stick. The slow burning opening act soon put me into a mini-coma.

The disorienting claustrophobic camera work may have simulated the feeling of floating around in a space station BUT it irritated me. The POV angle of Ryan Reynolds’ Rory intercepting the damaged satellite was a nice touch.

BUT it didn’t help that the characters weren’t that interesting.

Rebecca Ferguson’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) uptight doc and Jake Gyllenhaal’s (Nocturnal Animals) depressed David were dreadfully dull.

I always felt Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai) was an underrated supporting actor BUT his character was dire. A perfect opportunity to shine squandered.

And Ryan Reynolds just played the same old spiel again. Adapting the role of the cocky fast talking joker. Boring.

There wasn’t any depth and the bland exchanges between the crew just killed the tension. Especially as they left messages for their loved ones and gave cringe inducing virtual tours of the ship to the “world”. Yuck.

Thankfully by the 25-30 min marker, the film finally hit its stride as the crew discovered life and the answers to the universe in the form of a squid-like jellyfish named “Calvin”.

Ariyon Bakare (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) made a memorable impression as Hugh. The delighted doc whose fascination with Earth’s new mascot bordered on obsession.

BUT I could still feel myself getting impatient as the crew carried out tests. However, one botched lab experiment later . . .

All that curiousity and wonder swiftly turned into sheer fear and panic as the crew’s new play thing decides to make a break for it. A bloody trail left in his wake.

The middle act delivered with an unnerving and nail biting thriller as Calvin continued to grow in size and intelligence. A game of cat and mouse set in motion.

“Calvin doesn’t hate us. He has to kill us in order to survive”.

The Alien meets Gravity vibe worked as the killer creature craftily picked the crew off one by one.

The special effects were brilliant. Calvin’s transformation creeped the hell out of me. His squid-like tentacles scuttling around the labyrinthine hallways. A spider toying with his prey. Shudder.

I was worried that the wafer thin character development would make me less interested in the crew’s survival BUT Gyllenhaal and Ferguson’s characters were thankfully fleshed out a little better as the danger ensued (Hell, I even warmed up to Reynolds).

There were genuine moments of suspense and I couldn’t see how it was going to end which made for a tense and thrilling finale.

And by the closing credits, I left the cinema pleasantly surprised.

Just persevere with the pace and you have a solid effort that does just enough to hold its own.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 REVIEW *NEW*

He’s back! But bigger and better?

After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

They certainly cranked the gun-fu up to 11 BUT “The Raid 2 of action movies”. I don’t think so.

The opening threw us right into the mix following straight on from the first film with our main man chasing after a motorcyclist to retrieve some medallion or something.

It didn’t really matter what he chasing after because it was all for a car. Remember the car? He didn’t actually get it back.

Does Peter Stormare (Prison Break) even realise he’s becoming a cliche of his own cliched character? Another hilarious generic Eastern European mob boss.

His comical rendition of his last encounter with the Matrix machismo was too much; “He killed a guy with a pencil. A f*cking pencil!”

The scrap yard sequence was ridiculous, OTT but it set up one thing. Old Keanu can still kick ass. It was like something out of a video game. Entrapped in a mosh pit of taxi cabs, waiting for a bigger and nastier villain to deliver the next punch.

The action set pieces were intense enough. BUT the only problem was that the first John Wick came out of the blue and revamped some of the old action cliches and made it into something different.

With the expectations a little higher, Chapter 2 didn’t quite meet up to them this time around. Don’t get me wrong, it still did the job and it is what it is.

A high octane punch em shoot em up but it still toyed aspects of Wick’s past that I wanted exploring. What was this impossible task?! Who decided these rules on territories and why isn’t Ian McShane (Deadwood) in this more?

Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt) played the smug Santino well. Another unwanted blast from the past. Calling on an old debt to demand one last job from the Boogeyman.

Unfortunately, this was where the pace lagged for me. We had to watch Wick’s inevitable refusal and the predictable outcome that followed. Before reluctantly accepting the task at hand.

The Rome reconnaissance was watchable enough BUT the director stretched out the build up to the point that I was screaming for a shootout.

Less of the flat cryptic dialogue, more of the bang for your buck please!

For the animal lovers, the Boogeyman has a new companion in a loveable blue staffie. Does he suffer the same fate as his furry predecessor?

Well, there’s only one way to find out BUT I’m not saying.

The gun kung fu or gung-fu was brilliantly choreographed. Just when I thought certain scenes were getting a little repetitive, there would suddenly be a new creative and ultra-violent kill that had me wincing.

Stormare wasn’t kidding about that pencil!

Common (Smokin’ Aces) played a worthy adversary. I loved the camaraderie between him and Wick; “Consider this a professional courtesy”.

However, their initial (and incredibly brutal) fist fights soon went on too long and felt more like something out of the Peter Griffin vs Giant Chicken saga. Especially when they were rolling down the stairs. My God!

Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black) had potential as a mute assassin BUT never really got going. Shame.

Laurence Fishburne was not in this enough. He stole the show in his minute cameo. I was disappointed that we couldn’t get one little Matrix quote from ol’ Morpheus.

A shady friend in Wick’s desperate time of need with an alarmingly impressive army of militant homeless men.

The fiery and frenetic closing act certainly made up for the lumbering middle act. It was everything I hoped from the get go.

Relentless, violent and bloody fun. Especially when the bounty was put on Wick’s head. Everybody in New York given the green light to take out Neo.

Mental. I don’t think it would be a spoiler to say that things have been left open for another.

And despite my grumbles, I will be looking forward to the next installment.

BUT is pace and a little more exploration into Wick’s past too much to ask? Don’t make just another generic shooter.

3/5