REVIEW: KONG: SKULL ISLAND

CAST

Tom Hiddleston (Thor)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan)
John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Brie Larson (21 Jump Street)
Jing Tian (The Great Wall)
Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four)
John Ortiz (Narc)
Corey Hawkins (24: Legacy)
Jason Mitchell (Contraband)
Shea Whigham (American Hustle)
Thomas Mann (Amityville: The Awakening)
John C. Reilly (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)

In 1944, in the midst of World War II, two fighter pilots – an American soldier named Hank Marlow and a Japanese soldier named Gunpei Ikari – parachute onto an island in the South Pacific after a dogfight. They both engage in close combat, with Ikari gaining the upper hand, but the fight is interrupted by a behemoth ape known as Kong.In 1973, U.S. government agent Bill Randa hires former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad, a skilled tracker, to guide an expedition to map out an island known as “Skull Island”. Their military escort is the Sky Devils, a Vietnam War helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard and his subordinates, Major Jack Chapman and Captain Earl Cole. The group is joined by pacifist and photojournalist Mason Weaver, who believes the expedition is a secret military operation. Upon arrival at Skull Island, Packard’s men begin dropping explosives developed by seismologist Houston Brooks to map out the island. However, the air unit is attacked by Kong, who destroys all the helicopters and kills a number of military personnel before scattering the survivors across the island.Packard regroups with some of the scattered survivors, including his door gunner Reles, pilot Glenn Mills, Cole, Landsat employee Steve Woodward, and Randa. After being confronted by Packard, Randa reveals his affiliation to the secret government organization Monarch, which was trying to prove the existence of monsters and determine their threat to humanity.The other survivors (Conrad, Weaver, Brooks, biologist San Lin, soldier Reg Slivko, and Landsat employee Victor Nieves) try to get to a rendezvous point to meet a resupply team arriving in three days’ time. They encounter the local Iwi natives and an older Marlow. He reveals that Kong is the island’s guardian, worshiped as a god by the natives for protecting the island’s inhabitants from many predators, including reptilian underground monsters dubbed “Skullcrawlers”. They have killed Kong’s ancestors, leaving him as the last of his kind. Ikari was killed by one of the Skullcrawlers.Packard’s group begins making their way to Chapman, whose helicopter crash-landed elsewhere. Along the way, they are attacked by a giant bamboo spider in the jungle before Packard kills it. Meanwhile, Chapman witnesses Kong wrestle and defeat a large squid, causing him to flee into the woods, where he encounters a giant stick insect. He is then ambushed and eaten by a Skullcrawler. Conrad’s group helps Marlow complete a boat built from parts scavenged from Marlow and Ikari’s downed planes. They ride the boat down the river, and manage to secure communication with Packard’s group, but the boat is attacked by pterosaur-like creatures which kill Nieves. They regroup with Packard, who insists on searching for Chapman, though his true objective is to find and kill Kong.Marlow leads the two groups to a mass grave littered with the bones of Kong’s kind. There, the same Skullcrawler that devoured Chapman attacks the group, killing Randa and many soldiers before dying in a flammable gas explosion triggered by Weaver. Learning about Chapman’s death, a vengeful Packard blames Kong for the deaths of his men and becomes determined to kill Kong. The two groups part ways, with Packard’s group laying a trap for Kong, while the non-military personnel head back to the boat. While scouting the path ahead, Conrad and Weaver encounter Kong up-close and resolve to save him.As Conrad and Weaver encounter Kong, Packard’s group triggers napalm explosions to lure him in. Kong charges to the lake, where they manage to incapacitate him with ignited gasoline, though Woodward is killed. Conrad’s group arrives and persuades the other soldiers to spare Kong, but Packard refuses to stand down. The alpha Skullcrawler, Ramarak, then emerges from the lake, and Packard is crushed to death by a recovering Kong. Ramarak overpowers Kong and chases the humans. Cole is killed in a failed suicide bomb attempt to kill it, but Kong returns to rescue the others and manages to kill Ramarak by ripping out its innards. He saves Weaver from drowning, as she had been knocked into the water during the fight, and allows the survivors to leave the island.During the credits, Marlow returns home, reunites with his wife, meets his son for the first time, and finally watches a Chicago Cubs game on television. In a post-credits scene, Conrad and Weaver are detained by Monarch and informed by Brooks and Lin that Kong is not the only monster to roam the world. As proof, they are shown archive footage of cave paintings depicting Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. The final cave painting shows Godzilla battling Ghidorah.brie_larson_kong_skull_island_4k-wideKong: Skull Island is the perfect monster movie. It’s an epic display of what a popcorn movie should be. Great visuals, soundtrack, and a pleasant plot that is not bogged down by the melodrama. It’s a giant monster movie.

 

Advertisements

REVIEW: MUPPETS MOST WANTED

CAST

Ricky Gervais (Ghost Town)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Steve Whitmore (The Dark Crystal)
Eric Jacobson (Sesame
Dave Goetz (Inside Out)
Bill Barretta (When Families Grieve)
Matt Vogel (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Tony Bennett Analyze This)
Hugh Bonneville (Paddington)
Jemaine Clement (Legion)
Sean Combs (Get Him To The Greek)
Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies)
Mackenzie Crook (One Chance)
Celine Dion (The Magic Sword)
Lady Gaga (Sin City 2)
Zach Gilifianakis (The Hangover)
Josh Grodin (The Hollars)
Salma Hayek (Dogma)
Tom Hiddleston (thor)
Tom Hollander (Mission Impossible 5)
Toby Jones (Atomic Blonde)
Frank Langella (Superman Returns)
Ray Liotta (Hannibal)
James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class)
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)
Usher Raymond (She’s All That)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Saoirse Ronan (The Lvoely Bones)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes)

Following the events of the previous film, The Muppets find themselves at a loss as to what to do until Dominic Badguy suggests the Muppets go on a European tour with him as their tour manager. As the Muppets begin their tour, a criminal mastermind named Constantine, a near-exact double for Kermit the Frog in appearance, escapes from a Siberian Gulag and joins his subordinate Dominic to begin a plot to steal the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.Once the Muppets arrive in Berlin, Germany, Dominic secures them a show at a prestigious venue. Frustrated with the group’s incessant requests and Miss Piggy’s insistence they marry, Kermit goes for a walk at Dominic’s suggestion. Constantine ambushes him and glues a fake mole onto his cheek then slips away. Mistaken for Constantine, Kermit is arrested and sent to the Gulag. Taking Kermit’s place, Constantine’s blunders in imitating him are covered by Dominic; however, Animal knows the truth. After the Berlin performance opens with Constantine freezing at the audience, Scooter has to introduce the show. Constantine and Dominic steal paintings from a museum while the Muppets perform. The next morning, Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon and CIA agent Sam the Eagle grudgingly team up to apprehend the culprit whom Napoleon believes to be his nemesis “The Lemur” – the number-two criminal in the world.Meanwhile, Kermit has attempted several times to escape the Gulag but is thwarted each time by prison guard Nadya, who is not only aware of his true identity but is as infatuated with him as Miss Piggy is. Nadya orders Kermit to help organize the prisoners’ annual talent show.Following hidden instructions on the stolen painting, Constantine and Dominic divert the tour to Madrid, Spain. Constantine allows the Muppets to perform whatever they wish, much to Walter’s confusion. During this show, Constantine and Dominic break into a museum and destroy a roomful of busts to find a key needed for their plan. Even though the performance is a disaster, the Muppets receive critical acclaim. Sam and Napoleon deduce that the connection between the crimes is the Muppet tour, and the pair interrogates the Muppets, only to find that they are too ill-equipped to be guilty. The instructions on the stolen key lead Constantine and Dominic to schedule the next show in Dublin, Ireland.In Dublin, Walter discovers that Dominic has been giving away show tickets and bribing critics to ensure a packed house and rave reviews, while Fozzie Bear notices Kermit’s resemblance to Constantine. They both realize that Constantine has taken Kermit’s place and brought in Dominic as his accomplice. Constantine attacks Walter and Fozzie, but Animal fends him off and the three escape from the train to rescue Kermit. During the Dublin performance, Dominic steals a locket from a museum and Constantine proposes to Miss Piggy onstage; Piggy accepts, and the pair plan a ceremony to be held at the Tower of London in London, England, where the Crown Jewels are kept.Fozzie, Walter, and Animal reach the Siberian Gulag on the night of the performance, and Kermit uses it as a front to allow them, himself, and all the prisoners to escape the Gulag. Kermit, Fozzie, Walter, and Animal infiltrate the Tower as the wedding begins, and Dominic (with the help of Bobby Benson’s Baby Band) manages to steal the jewels.Kermit interrupts the ceremony, revealing Constantine’s ruse, but the crook takes Piggy hostage and flees to a helicopter, where he is intercepted by Dominic, who is actually the Lemur and intends to double-cross him. Constantine ejects him from the helicopter and tries to take off with Piggy, but Kermit jumps aboard and the rest of the Muppets climb atop each other to stop the escape. Kermit and Piggy knockout Constantine and both criminals are arrested. Nadya arrives in London to arrest Kermit for escaping. The other Muppets tell her that if she arrests him, then she will have to take all of them as well; she relents, allowing Kermit to go free. The Muppets perform at the Gulag with Constantine and the prisoners participating, ending the film.The heart and soul of the film is about the way the characters manage to bring a sense of togetherness and unity to the Muppets and how this unity brings joy to all those around. Throughout the film, Kermit manages to be a core reminder as to why The Muppets are generously wonderful creations for the world: the optimism, the kindness, the laughter: everything combines to form a strong impression that both children and adults can feel completely enamoured by. This is a film that is full of magic and it sits alongside The Muppets magnificently and is not to be missed.

REVIEW: CRIMSON PEAK

CAST

Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland)
Tom Hiddleston (Thor)
Jessica Chastain (Interstellar)
Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim)
Jim Beaver (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Burn Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises)
Leslie Hope (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Jonathan Hyde (Jumanji)
Bruce Gray (Evan Almighty)
Emily Coutts (Barn Wedding)

In 1887, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), the young daughter of wealthy American businessman Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), is visited by her mother’s ghost who warns her, “beware of Crimson Peak.”
Fourteen years later, Edith is now a budding author who prefers penning ghost stories to writing the romance novels that her editor wants. She meets Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), an English baronet who has come to the United States seeking investors, including Edith’s father, for his clay-mining invention. Disdaining privileged aristocracy and unimpressed with Sharpe’s prototype and previous failures to raise capital, Cushing rejects Thomas’s proposal. Edith notices that Thomas and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), wear expensive but outdated and somewhat-frayed fashions. Shortly after, Edith once again is visited by her mother’s spirit bearing the same warning. Sir Thomas is determined to persuade Mr. Cushing to change his mind. However, when he and Edith become romantically attached, Cushing and Edith’s childhood friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), disapprove. Mr. Cushing hires a private detective who uncovers unsavory facts about the Sharpes. Mr. Cushing confronts the siblings and bribes them into returning to England. As Cushing insisted he do, Sir Thomas abruptly and cruelly ends his and Edith’s relationship, but the next morning, he sends her a note explaining his actions. Not long after, Mr. Cushing is brutally murdered, though his death is ruled accidental. Edith and Sir Thomas eventually marry and return to England. They arrive at Allerdale Hall, the Sharpes’ dilapidated mansion, which sits atop a red clay mine. As Edith settles in, she finds that Lucille acts somewhat cold toward her while Sir Thomas remains physically distant. Edith is left confused and uncertain by their behavior.
Gruesome ghosts begin appearing to Edith throughout the mansion. To help calm Edith, Sir Thomas takes her into town. After being snowed in for the night, they finally consummate their marriage. Lucille angrily lashes out when they return the next morning, frightening Edith. By the time Sir Thomas mentions that the estate is also referred to as “Crimson Peak,” due to the warm red clay seeping up through the snow, Edith is growing increasingly weaker and coughing up blood.
Edith explores the mansion and begins piecing clues together, discovering that Sir Thomas previously married three wealthy women who were fatally poisoned for their inheritances. She realizes she, too, is being poisoned. She also discovers the siblings have had a long-term incestuous relationship, resulting in a sickly infant that died. Lucille murdered their mother after she had discovered her children’s incest. Sir Thomas inherited the family manor that, like many aristocratic estates of the era, is no longer profitable; the Sharpes are virtually penniless. The brother and sister began the “marriage and murder” scheme to support themselves and to fund Thomas’s inventions.

Back in the United States, the detective that Mr. Cushing had hired tells Alan what he uncovered about the Sharpes, including Thomas’s multiple marriages and Lucille’s time in a mental institution. Realizing Edith is in danger, Alan arrives at Allerdale Hall to rescue her. Lucille stabs him in the left armpit, then demands that Sir Thomas finish him off. Sir Thomas, who has fallen in love with Edith and does not want her harmed, inflicts a second, non-fatal stab wound to Alan before hiding him in the cellar. Lucille forces Edith to sign a transfer deed granting the Sharpes ownership of the Cushing estate and also confesses to her that she was the one who murdered Edith’s father. After Edith signs the deed, she stabs Lucille in the chest with a pen and tries to flee. Sir Thomas burns the deed and promises to protect Edith so that she and Alan can escape. Lucille, jealous over Sir Thomas falling in love with Edith, murders him in a rage. She then pursues Edith. Aided by Sir Thomas’ ghost, Edith kills Lucille with a shovel. Sir Thomas bids Edith a silent farewell as his spirit departs. Edith and Alan are rescued, and Lucille’s ghost now haunts Allerdale. The end credits imply that Edith has written a novel titled Crimson Peak based on her experiences.This is an intensely visual film that held my attention for all two hours. The performances are very good, but the hero is the production design. ‘Crimson Peak’ is unashamedly set-driven and there are times when the actors start to disappear in amongst their vast surroundings. This is a terrific horror film that gets very close to sheer. It is also an intelligent film that is awash with symbols, metaphors and allegories.

REVIEW: THOR: THE DARK WORLD

CAST

Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of The Lambs)
Christopher Eccleston (G.I. Joe)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)
Zachary Levi (Chuck)
Ray Stevenson (Punisher: Warzone)
Tadanobu Asano (Mongul)
Idris Elba (Pacific Rim)
Rene Russo (Get Shorty)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Sucide Squad)
Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact)
Clive Russell (Sherlock Holmes)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Benicio Del Toro (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Chris Evans (Injustice)
Ophelia Lovibond (4.3.2.1)

After learning about a new powerful foe that even Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must embark on another dangerous mission. This time, the risk is much more personal than it ever has been for this powerful hero. With both Asgard and Earth facing the chance of destruction, he must sacrifice everything by reuniting with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in order to save us all. This forces Thor to request help from the most unlikely of characters. If they aren’t able to stop the ominous danger that approaches us, then this universe will belong to the darkness.

Picking up a couple years after the previous Thor motion picture, this sequel gets started rather quickly. A bulk of the plot is carried from the perspective of Jane Foster and her intern, Darcy (Kat Dennings). While there’s still a small amount of humor to be seen in the beginning from Asgard, the majority of it comes from the humans.

The casting is excellent. Chris Hemsworth returns in the role of Thor.  Natalie Portman is pretty solid, as she always is. While this isn’t the most memorable performance of her career, she’s convincing as Jane Foster. Anthony Hopkins is a satisfying Odin, as he was in the previous picture. However, the real star of Thor: The Dark World is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He’s clearly one of the most charming and entertaining actors to portray a role from the Marvel universe. While he always seems to receive good material, Hiddleston’s delivery is simply unparalleled.

When it comes to the visual department, always expect incredible effects. Thor: The Dark World looks fantastic from its opening scene until the quick scene after the credits. The make-up, costumes, and special effects blend together in an impeccable fashion. These elements aid audiences in becoming a part of this universe.

 

REVIEW: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Chris Evans (The Losers)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Clark Gregg (Agents of Shield)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Contagion)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Alexis Denisof (Angel)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Ashley Johnson (What Women Want)
Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter)
Stan Lee (Thor)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)

Avengers Assemble  brings together many of the heroes from the Marvel universe who have already been featured in their own various films. The pictures have been constructed in an engaging web that, in some ways, is tied together in “The Avengers”


The Avengers opens with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s adopted and power-mad brother, breaking into a secret lab and taking the tesseract, a glowing blue cube that has the power to open gateways to other universes. He brainwashes Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) so that he can have both a worker and a warrior, and goes about a plan that will open a doorway so that an alien army can begin to take over Earth.

So, Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls in all of the various heroes, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who – carefully – goes to pick up Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) Additionally, Thor (Chris Helmsworth) pops in when he hears that his brother is up to no good.

The film is enjoyable as a popcorn action flick, with solid performances and an impressively skilled level of organization of several main characters. However, the real surprise is the humor – while Downey, Jr’s character gets all the great one-liners, there are little moments that are some of the funniest of the year, including a nod to a particular early ’80’s video game (and what makes the humor of the film work are moments like this, which could have just been the reference, but go the full way and use the visual of the game as the punchline for the joke).

The performances are all excellent good, although particular note has to be paid to Mark Ruffalo as Banner/The Hulk. Now the third different actor (after Eric Bana and Ed Norton) to play the role in recent years, Ruffalo really – even with limited screen time – proves himself to finally be a great choice for the role, getting the character’s inner turmoil and sadness. Downey, Jr’s wisecracking Iron Man persona continues to entertain and supporting performances are fine, as well, including a very different performance from Cobie Smulders (Robin from “How I Met Your Mother”) as Agent Maria Hill.

 

REVIEW: THOR

CAST

Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of The Lambs)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak)
Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls)
Clark Gregg (Agents of Shield)
Colm Feore (Gotham)
Idris Elba (Pacific Rim)
Ray Stevenson (Punisher: Warzone)
Tadanobu Asano (Mongul)
Josh Dallas (Red Tails)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)
Rene Russo (Get Shorty)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes On A Plane)
Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy)

As the film opens, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is moments away from ascending to the throne of Asgard. The coronation is cut short by invading frost giants seeking to reclaim what was once the source of their power. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) — the omniscient ruler of the Norse gods as well as the father of Thor — had long ago taken precautions to stave off those sorts of threats, and the small invading force is almost immediately vanquished. Still, Thor is incensed: ancient enemies of the Asgardians having actually stepped foot inside the palace…the untold havoc they could have wrought. The only rational response, to his mind, is to wage war on the frost giants’ realm of Jotunheim — to exterminate those savage beasts once and for all. Thor mistakenly believes a swift, merciless retaliation would be following in his father’s footsteps. The difference is that Odin knows all too well the heavy price of war; Thor does not. Despite an express command from Odin, who yet still reigns as king, Thor enlists the help of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston),


Sif (Jaimie Alexander), and the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, and Josh Dallas) to strike back. With the unyielding might of Mjolnir at his side, Thor mercilessly slaughters dozens — perhaps hundreds — of the greatest warriors under the command of King Laufey (Colm Feore). Thor’s thirst for vengeance threatens to consume the entire frostbitten realm — not to mention the lives of his closest allies — but the battle is cut short. Odin storms in to restore the uneasy peace between Asgard and Jotunheim that, until now, had lasted for millenia. Just as Laufey had suffered heavy losses, so too must Odin. An enchantment is cast upon Mjolnir that only one who is worthy can lift it. Thor is stripped of his armor and his title. Then, Thor too is cast aside, forever exiled to the realm of Midgard…or, as the creatures inhabiting that oversized ball of mud call it, “Earth”.

Trapped in an unfamiliar world. Powerless. Alone. Well, “alone” doesn’t last all that long. The atmospheric effects of Bifrost — the opening of the rainbow bridge to Earth — had already attracted the attention of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who’s been doing some post-grad physics research in this sleepy, remote stretch of desert in New Mexico with colleague Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and snarky assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings). With the occasionally reluctant help of his newfound friends, Thor tries to adjust to what he’s certain will be a brief derailment on Midgard, and he does what he can to prepare for his return home. Still a seasoned warrior despite a lack of mystical armament, Thor even battles his way through a government stronghold in an attempt to reclaim Mjolnir. Triumph is snatched away from him when Thor discovers the hammer’s enchantment has deemed him unworthy, and his sorrow only grows upon receiving a message from his brother Loki…that the toll this ordeal has taken on their father was greater than even the mighty Allfather could bear…that Thor is doomed to live among the mortals forever. Being cutoff from his homeland means that Thor has no idea what sorts of machinations have wrapped their fingers around the throat of Asgard, and the havoc that results soon spills over onto Earth.
.

Kat Dennings shoulders a lot of the comic relief, and she manages to connect every single time she steps up to the plate. The fish-out-of-water humor — a god trapped in a backwater New Mexico town that seems content to live as if it’s still 1954 — is more inspired than usual. There’s even a running gag with Jane plowing into Thor with her SUV, and, yeah, the good-ol’-boys in town react to a magical hammer falling from the sky by throwing a big-ass barbecue. It’s fun but never dumb or overly cartoonish, and Branagh walks that delicate line flawlessly.Having an accomplished actor like Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair clearly brought out the best of all the actors.  Thor explores what heroism is in a way that resonates so much more truly and more deeply that most comic book adaptations. The film delivers the visual spectacle and awe-inspiring action you’d hope to see in a summer tentpole without losing sight of its smartly crafted screenplay or impressively rich characterization.