*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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DRACULA UNTOLD REVIEW

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Dracula Now Told! And it’s still the same old predictable guff. Ah ah ah . . . I’ll get my coat. But one thing is established. Luke Evans is ready to take on the big dogs.

Yet another Dracula reboot descends upon the silver screen. Why, oh, why? Have Hollywood ran out of ideas that they must revisit and rehash (emphasis on hash) old classics.

NOW credit where’s it due. Director Gary Shore certainly makes an ambitious debut and despite its endless flaws, I did find it highly watchable and not the worst way to kill 90 minutes. Dracula Untold was also the perfect platform for two up and coming stars.

We’ve seen Dracula as a baddie. Now we have the revisionist phase in which ol’ Drac is now the good guy. Wait? What? It kinda worked with Maleficent. Why not? Did Shore not watch the short-lived TV series with Jonathan Rhys Meyers? (A shame because JRM was actually pretty good).

So what’s it all about? As his kingdom is being threatened by the Turks, young prince Vlad Tepes (Evans) must become a monster feared by his own kingdom in order to obtain the power needed to protect his own family, and the families of his kingdom.

Luke Evans has been making waves for some time and has proven that he can make incredibly tame and flat characters quite memorable. His turns in Fast and Furious 6 and the Hobbit trilogy proved that. Now he has a bigger platform and a role to sink his teeth into (What? I couldn’t resist).

His charisma and conviction certainly made the predictably bland Drac stand out. He most definitely carried the film. Something you want from a leading actor.

Evans always had a tough act to follow with Christopher Lee and Bella Lugosi taking on the historic role before him (Gary Oldman didn’t do too bad a job of it). BUT he certainly held his own.

Charles Dance brought his creepy demeanor to the fold and made a memorable impression. “Let the games begin”. A cheeky Game of Thrones nod that soon overstayed its welcome. His make up was brilliant. I only recognized him by his voice.

The special effects were very good but the overuse of CGI made it all a little too cartoony after some cracking visual battle sequences. I think they missed a treat by not shooting this in 3D. I know 3D hasn’t really hit it off (Well, did it ever?) BUT is this one film that could have nailed it. When Evans first evaporated in a dark cloud of bats, it was pretty damn cool.

But after that, it got old really quickly. Once he’s dispatched an army here. And an army there. Exploded into bats and strutted like a bad ass. There wasn’t much else. The story line was ridiculously predictable and so flat. There were no twists or turns and the concluding moments were rushed into a frenetic finale that was so abrupt and open that it left me feeling a little miffed. Putting it mildly.

It didn’t help that, despite having a talented supporting cast, the characters were highly unmemorable and undeveloped. Dominic Cooper was wasted as the maniacal Memed. Left to merely pout and frown and get a two minute scrap. A real shame.

I couldn’t take Paul Kaye seriously as Brother Lucian. I couldn’t tell if he was meant to be that laughable or was just written that way. I guess it didn’t help seeing him in Spaced and Blackball. I couldn’t take him seriously in Game of Thrones either, to be honest.

The alluring Sarah Gadon had already stolen my heart after her appearance in Belle. She had good chemistry with Evans and for a brief moment, I actually cared what happened to the pair. I expect to see more of her. No, not in that way. Come on.

The two leads will come out of this relatively unscathed and Shore will also be one to watch. Once someone gives him a fresh, original idea. But his reworking of a constantly revisited icon wasn’t the worst one I’ve seen (Dracula 2000, anyone? Sorry Gerard Butler).

If you are a fan of Dracula, then invest. If you like your action fast and constant, then again invest. But if you were expecting something a little different, then you may feel a little drained (I know not my best).

A lot more watchable than I anticipated.

2.5/5 for me.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 REVIEW

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DRAGONS! Hiccup and Toothless are back after the DreamWorks animated blockbuster hit the big screens! Bigger? Absolutely. Better? Visually it’s a feast for the eyes. While not surpassing the original, it certainly matches it for story, drama and entertainment. Get the little ‘uns or the big kids (like myself) over to the pics and invest!

So what’s it all about? It’s been five years since Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favourite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the centre of a battle to protect the peace.

Firstly, 3D not a massive investment to be honest. So save your pennies, parents. The animation is incredible alone. The 3D makes it more prominent but not a must. The detail is stunning. Every little thing, the expressions, the waves as Hiccup and Toothless soar across the seas, brilliant. Anyway, we reunite with the dynamic duo and it is great that the characters have actually aged in the five years. Hiccup does look very different, and weirdly a little like Andy from Toy Story.

The gang are all back, along with the original and very talented voicing cast consisting of Jonah Hill, America Ferrera, Kristen Wiig, Craig Ferguson, Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse and T. J. Miller. Although, they don’t seem to be in this film as much. They still make a mark and bring the laughs but until the second half really. They seemed to be cast aside and understandably so as the story primarily revolves around Hiccup yet again. Torn between being a dragon rider and taking over the reins of being chief by his pushy but legendary father, Stoick (THIS IS . . . Gerard Butler), Hiccup must make a choice.

The spoiler-ific trailers reveal the identity of the mysterious Dragon Rider which was hardly a surprise twist. But for those who were lucky enough not to see that trailer then don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond/Gladiator) brings his gravelly gravitas to the sinister Drago with aplomb. It was irritating me who was voicing Eret, the henchman. Firstly because I recognised the voice and secondly because his voice didn’t seem strong enough and didn’t match the character. And low and behold, I know nothing as it was Kit “Jon Snow” Harington (Game of Thrones – obviously). Shame. His conviction didn’t pull it off for me.

However, these are only minor quibbles as there are laughs to be had. Moments that surprise and pluck at the heart strings. It’s riveting, a feast for the eyes with an enthralling visual masterpiece of a finale with Toothless taking on his biggest foe to date. It may not surpass the original as the story may not necessarily break new ground but it is most certainly on par and if rumours are hinting at another, then another I want. I won’t divulge too much as this is one I would recommend that you see. There’s a little something for every one plus DRAGONS, hellooo.

In the words of GB, THIS IS . . . Not a bad sequel. 4 out of 5! Better. See I do like some films, you know!

300: Rise of an Empire Review

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THIS IS . . . surprisingly watchable and not bad. We seek that day where sequels can surpass their masters. There have been legends. But alas, today is not that day. But don’t worry, it still bears the bare boned brutality, visual brilliance and enough gore and testosterone to cure your blood lust and fill up a swimming pool, well in this case, an ocean, a bloody ocean. I mean look at the picture. Anyway . . .

So what is this legend about, brother? Well, based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of its predecessor, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh oceanic battlefield as Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war against the invading Persian forces led by the God king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and vengeful naval commander, Artemesia (Eva Green).

Cue a watchable bloody battle of a movie in the best sense. The opening 20 minutes flicks back and forth and adds some depth and background to the blinged up, chained, tighty whitey wearing baldy badass that is Xerxes. It’s tough to call this a sequel as such. Rise of an Empire flicks before the infamous 300 battle, plays alongside the infamous battle time frame and then after. A bit like what Saw 4 tried to do. It works well and makes for a change. It zips along, delving into the Millerised Greek mythology chronicling the origins of Xerces and how he transformed from the weedy model looking Santoro to the testosterone pumped, voice changing reincarnation of Yul Bryner. It makes for good viewing and introduces Themistokles quite nicely, with Lena Headey’s somber narration guiding us along.

It does fill in a few gaps that the first left. Well little qualms. This is most notable when Themistokles rushes to Sparta to warn them of Xerves, just after Leonidas gave his response to the messenger. Unfortunately Leonidas is always somewhere else. I was hoping for one Butler cameo. It also worked as a great excuse to throw in some old faces from the original; Lena Headey, David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) and Peter Mensah (TV’s Spartacus). Stapleton makes for a likeable Themistokles and drops his so-so American accent. For those who might have clocked him, yes, he is the American in Strike Back. It’s tough boots for him to fill. Where he looks in the booming conviction (no one can top the sheer volume of Gerard Butler . . . well, Brian Blessed), he carries enough bravado to pull it off. It helps that Themistokles is an interesting character and a clever tactician. It made a change for the action to be taken out to sea and not repeat the 300 ground warfare, which makes for an entertaining battlefield.

However, all the build up and background is soon cast aside for the carnage. The visual effects are brilliant with the typical slow mo shots coming into effect. The blood spatter spraying across the screen does get annoying as it happens for almost every kill and gets a little cartoony. However, some of the kills are creative but it does seem to slow mo stab every soldier and animal. However, that is soon made up with crazy swordplay. The tactical battle sequences make for great viewing. The animation gets a little bit more messy as the film reaches its climax. The real scene stealer of the film is Eva Green, devilishly delightful, demure and demented. Crazy with a blade and a stunner to boot. There’s good chemistry between Green and Stapleton which inevitably leads to a fiery encounter on the battlefield . . . and in the bedroom. Seriously the sex scene. What was going on with that? Raunchy and rough soon climaxes (steady now) into an unintentionally hilarious punch up fist fight of a shag, I say. The cliched camaraderie between Testicles, I mean, Themistokles and his men is predictable and just doesn’t get away with it like the original. Surprise to see Jack O’Connell. He’s starting to show up in every thing, with his prison movie, Starred Up soon to hit the big screen. Shame, his character was a bit naff.

It might lack the cutting edge and tenacity of the original but is still watchable, gory and entertaining enough to kill 90 minutes. Hardly a war classic but not a complete ship wreck. 3 (just) out of 5!

Currently ranks #62 out of 154!