Thursday, March 16, 2017

REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast

Before seeing this, my expectations were exceedingly high. If you remember from last year, I'm not exactly the fan of Disney's approach to their live action remakes right now. If the many they've released, The Jungle Book was to only one I seemed to really enjoy, mainly because it was the one movie that could have used a remake. If you want my reasonings there, read that review. But once I heard they were going to remake Beauty and the Beast, the 1991 animated masterpiece, the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture, into a live action movie? You can bet all sorts of red flags were going up in my head. Why? Why did this need to happen? Why remake something that DOESN'T NEED A REMAKE?

I actually wanted to write out a review for the animated movie beforehand, and I probably still will, just been somewhat busy lately. But long story short, I don't give that movie enough credit for what it was, what it did, and what it still is. The animation was incredible and even revolutionary. The music was timeless. The characters were some of the strongest of any Disney movie. It really is the Pinnacle of the Disney Renaissance. I may enjoy other films more, but it's rightly praised for a reason. And it has enough of an audience to the point where remaking it will likely turn up a small profit. Disney literally has nothing to lose by remaking this. It could bomb, and they would still be on top. So why not remake a Pinnacle masterpiece? They can do it! Unfortunately, to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm, I'm sure these studio heads were so focused on if they could do it that they forgot to ask themselves if they should do it.

Because there was no reason to. This film is completely unnecessary. There is no newer generation that's out of the loop, most people will still go to the original. The remake of Beauty and the Beast is disappointing, lacking, drug out at times, and just completely... I'm sure I've said this plenty of times already, but I'll hammer it home again. UNNECESSARY.

Strap yourselves in guys... This is a long one.

Right off the bat, the film starts almost completely the same as the original, though it gives us a more in depth look as to what exactly happened to the Prince as far as his transformation is concerned. It even explains why his castle is not known to the village, which is a small plot hole the original movie glossed over. Right off the bat, I didn't care for the costumes. I know it's time era appropriate and whatnot, but these costumes to me stand out as rather fake. They even keep the same color schemes and designs for Belle as she makes her first appearance. And it just stands out in the wrong ways to me. The setting of The entire movie can be incredibly hit or miss for me. Sometimes I feel that the scenery is chewing out all the actors onscreen almost. Quite the achievement. I also feel that there are times that they don't know what to do to make this remake stand out on its own. They do very little to make it seem as such. One of the reasons I love Jungle Book last year as much as I did was that it did more than simply remake is original animated source material. It improved and added onto it...A feat that's impossible to do with this film. Granted they do have a few additions that are kinda fun in the long run, but completely unnecessary. For example, Beast has this book that can magically transport him anywhere in the world. It's like the mirror he has, only apparently more literal? And they visit Paris, where Belle was apparently born. The she discovers what happens to her mother, which gives us more insight to Belle's character and what her past was like. This would be well and good, but the thing is, it really doesn't contribute a whole lot to the story in the long run. The can be said for a lot of things.

The cast of this movie does its job I guess. Emma Watson's autotuned singing is convincing enough, the voice of the beast I will say is absolutely wonderful (spot on casting there), Josh Gad has a lot of fun with Lefou, which I'll talk more about later, but as for the rest of the cast... I'm honestly not that impressed. Gaston feels very out of character for me. He's been watered down from the egocentric heartless fun villain that he was in the original. In fact, the first time he interacts with Belle, I thought Belle was crazy not to interact with him. All he did was give her flowers and invite her to dinner! Now you compare that to the original, where he takes her book, mocks her reading, and almost forcefully takes her to his tavern, and you tell me which is the better portrayal. And yes Gaston is no Romeo in this, and he does still have those rude moments, but then there are times that he just straight up becomes a cold blooded attempted murderer, and it makes no sense. Another thing to say is that in the original, he's the guy that people strive to be like. In this, the only one kissing his boots is Lefou. And that's probably more for other reasons than sheer admiration. During one of my favorite songs, focused on Gaston, the tavern doesn't seem that interested in Gaston, where in the original, they're drinking drink after drink in his name. This isn't the Gaston I know and love. Disney took one of my favorite villains they have and completely messed him up.

But that's not all. They also messed up the chemistry of characters like Coggsworth and Lumiere. I swear, Coggsworth barely says a word in this movie. Or his lines rarely go past five words. Most of the time he's just grunting or stuttering, where he's originally running around, trying to get people to straight up listen to him, and trying to get the last word in no matter what. Here, you'd have to pay me to believe that he's head of household. Lumiere isn't as bad, he's still the guy pushing for the spell to be broken and whatnot, and Ian McAllen doesn't do a bad job showing that. But he spends most of his time interacting with that feather duster than he does Coggsworth. Their friendship with each other is one of the most fun things of the animated classic! Why is it so noticably absent here?

I didn't like the choice for Mrs. Potts at all. One of the things I noticed in this remake is that a few characters have a lot of sass. And it feels oddly out of place.  During the musical number "Be Our Guest", I swear, there's one particular moment where Potts is flying through the air, and she does a kissy face to the camera....NO! Just... NO! Why was that needed? Someone please explain to me why they put that in.

And while I'm discussing characters, I guess I gotta acknowledge the elephant in the room. The controversial move to make Lefou a gay character. I didn't really have any problem with it since he's not the focus of the story, and it does make for some very silly awkward laughs. It's not in your face, it's rather subtle at times, and if not for a few obvious moments, I likely never would have noticed at all. But that almost makes me wonder if this is borderline tokening. Just a move from Disney to say "Hey we have a gay character now! That's relevant, right?" They have enough fun with his character in the film to the point where I don't mind too much, though I will say with as much crap Gaston puts him through, his added change of heart in the movie comes way too late. I half expected him to be the one to bust Belle and her father from the prison cart.

I'm gonna move on from the characters for a moment. Let's talk about the music. It's hit or miss. All the classics are here, and some are musical numbers I've never heard. I don't know if they're from the Broadway musical or whatnot, but these additional hits really don't do it for me. They're nowhere near as memorable as the original stuff. I guess they may have been written by original composer Alan Menken, but there's likely a reason they didn't make the movie. They're just not that good. Even the classic stuff can be hit or miss. On one hand, I loved the presentation of "Be Our Guest", but in another, the opening number was very dull. The village seems beyond dead. People just standing around, not moving, it's quite a bore to behold. "But Travis, that's the point! Belle is singing about how boring her life is there!" And even in the original the town at least seemed more lively. People were moving, conducting their everyday lives. Here there's a scene where literally the only two people moving are Belle and Gaston. Come on movie! Liven it up a bit!

I should also say that there are things in this movie that just don't fit, and are there mainly for what feel like "because movie" moments. Like in the opening act, Belle is teaching a little girl to read, and people mock her for it. They literally give this snobby "a girl, reading?! PREPOSTEROUS!" response. Then they go as far as to ruin her laundry. What the hell? These villagers are a bunch of jackasses! They also try to flesh out the backstory of the beast with this clichéd, he lost his mother, and his father was cruel trope, and that's why he's so selfish. I'm... So tired of these tropes. Sure the original movie doesn't give us the insight needed to understand why the prince is how he is, but it's almost stronger that way. I prefer seeing him just growing up to be a spoiled rotten little shit, because there ARE kids like that. The payoff of him learning to love again is that much greater! Here they constantly foreshadow that there's good in him and that he's not to blame for the way he is and it takes away so much...

I mean hell, in this movie, Belle KNOWS about the curse! She knows that they're under a spell that will become permanent if the enchanted Rose completely wilts, and yet when she's asked if there's a way to lift it, no one tells her. Would it not be so much easier to say, "Yeah there's a way. Beast's gotta learn to love, and she's gotta love him back." and potentially avoid future trouble? Or is there some small print in the curse that she can't know what's going on? Even the films climax is weak. In fact, it's drug out like nothing else. I hate to spoil things, but in this case... I'm not sure I'm giving away anything. The last petal falls from the enchanted Rose, and we get this long drawn out scene of all the minor characters losing their humanity and becoming more and more like objects, which is a fun concept, but one I didn't care for. I also gotta say that after that final petal fell, with the connection they built on it being connected with the castle decay... Shouldn't the castle have just collapsed? Oh well. Guess we need our happy ending. But it's a good minute or so before Belle confesses her love... AFTER THE PETAL FALLS. I hate to be that guy, but no. Happy ending chance is gone for me there. Instead, the Enchantress is there and I guess takes pity on the Beast because Belle is weeping over his dead body, which says she loves him in return. This ironically leads me to the most damning thing about this movie. The chemistry between our two leads.

The one thing you couldn't mess up in this movie is messed up. There is nothing present in this movie to make me thoroughly believe these two could fall in love. From the time Beast speaks with her in the prison tower as she's trying to free his dad, he doesn't say A WORD to her until he's pounding on her door, demanding she join him for dinner (one of my favorite scenes of the original movie which is a huge letdown here). He doesn't even speak to his servants about her. Here he's content to leaving her in the tower if not for the intervention of his servants, he doesn't care to feed her, he wants virtually nothing to do with her at all. While in the original, his servants are pushing for him to interact with her, and we learn more about his character and behavior. He's more demanding of her in that, which pushes her past her patience. His servants try to reform him in ways that strangely work. In the animated movie, after he's screaming at her to get out of the West Wing, there's a moment after she flees that he realizes his mistake. There's no such moment here. When Belle flees, there's no reason to believe that he would go after her, and no reason to believe that she would not just leave him to die. This would ironically work if they built off this hate relationship they have going on, but they don't. There's no interactions, there's no thoughts as to how to get things started, and the resulting relationship is beyond forced. They do that one scene where they bicker at each other as Belle tries to bandage the beast, and it felt more like a check mark on the movie more than anything. There was nothing convincing me.

Now granted, by the time the second half rolls on, things do get rolling. And there are some genuine moments between both Belle and the Beast. Belle's joy at seeing his massive library is actually really funny. And a few moments of them just reflecting on the land around then can be touching. But by the time the iconic ballroom scene passes, it falls down into this unbelievable relationship again. The scene after the ballroom dance of the original movie is also among my favorite scenes of that movie. When Belle realizes her father is in trouble there's one little moment where Beast looks at the enchanted Rose in despair. Because he knows that this is his one shot at breaking the curse. Yet he knows what he has to do in letting her go because of how much he cares for her. That moment is missing in this film. Instead he just let's her go. But it doesn't end there! The moment after this in the original movie, after Belle is released, Coggsworth comes in and begins to congratulate the Beast on the good night he has with Belle, before he realizes the Beast has released her. After he asks why, Beast replies "Because I love her." And the delivery, the emotion, the feeling of this one line alone is absolutely perfect. You are totally convinced that he genuinely cares for her. In this movie? After they question why he releases her...Mrs. Potts says that it's because he loves her...

NO. NO MOVIE! BAD!  You lost me! Anything you had going as far as chemistry is concerned is absolutely gone now! You gotta hear HIM say it! It's not the job of the servants to convince me the viewer, that Beast has changed. That's HIS job. HE has to break the curse. HE has to convince me he's learned to love. And NOT ONCE does he mutter the words "I love you". Not once. Even by the end when he's transformed, they feel more like a gimmick then an actual couple! There's nothing there. I'd like to see anyone even try and defend this aspect of the movie now.


I'm sorry, I'm sure most of you think I hate this movie right now. Truth is, I don't. Oh it's bad, and beyond disappointing, but it's hardly among the worst things I've ever seen. Some of the visuals in this movie are absolutely stellar, and some of the comedy is spot on. There's a scene where Belle throws a snowball at Beast much like the original, and the beast just throws this large ball of snow and BELTS her out cold in the face. And it's absolutely hilarious. But this movie is missing so much that made Beauty and the Beast so incredible to begin with. And when you mess up the one thing you need to nail in this movie of convincing us that these two do indeed love each other? You can tell I'll be hard on you. This movie has the look, even the sound of Beauty and the Beast. But all that spirit, all that emotion, all that essence that made it a Disney Legend? It's absent. The remake of Beauty and the Beast is a one and a half star rating out of four. And it barely earns that. It's not among my worst movies ever seen, but it's easily one of the biggest disappointments. I mean I knew it likely wouldn't hold up to the original... But to see it crash this hard blows my mind. It doesn't even hold a candlestick to the original film. And I'm sure some of you will disagree, like my sister who's a Beauty and the Beast fanatic. Some of you will find this enjoyable. But I'm willing to bet that if asked what they wanted to watch between this and the original animated masterpiece, nine out of ten people will point to the original.

Please feel free to request any movies you'd like to see me review in the near future. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the movie, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 1.5/4

Thursday, March 9, 2017

REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island

I've been watching Kong movies for ten straight weeks, all in preparation for this movie. I've seen very few results, seen a few posters, seen a few discussions about people's concerns over this film. It's the second official entry in the new Cinematic Monsterverse as they're calling it, and I just sat through it, ready to end it all. And the question on everyone's mind is, is the movie any good? Is it boring? And is it better than Godzilla 2014? The answer to those questions are in that order, YES, NO, AND HELL YEAH. Let's dive right into this because I'm sure I gotta convince at least a few of you.

Unlike Godzilla 2014, this film doesn't delay it's start. It thrusts us into the South Pacific in WWII, for a bit of an intro, before we get our opening credits, and let me tell you that small opening scene sets the mood for one wicked radical monster film, that doesn't waste time getting you to the action, doesn't waste time establishing it's characters, and doesn't waste time on plots you don't care about. People complained about Godzilla's lack of screentime in the 2014 film. Kong has plenty. People say the action isn't focused on enough in Godzilla. Oh my God is the action ever present here. People complained about the characters of Godzilla being bland and rather boring. The characters here are much better improved, with a likeable cast who's having a lot of fun, and you can tell it. And people complained about the story not involving Godzilla enough, instead revolving around family drama and whatnot. You won't have any reason to complain about ANY of that here. And if you even TRY to complain about any of it, I will sit your ass back in the theater and I will make you point it out to me if you have to.

Now let me take a few steps back, because are there some flaws? Absolutely. I expected as such. But strangely enough, none of the flaws I expected to come after watching trainers really came to mind. The things I have to say here are more like little nitpicks to things I still actually kinda like. One being how we get to our climax. Without spoiling too much, the military characters are a bit overly jarhead-y in this film if that makes sense. I'm unsure done if the character motivation here is completely justified, but when the climax actually happens, I just don't care. It's too fun, but more on that shortly. Another thing is that unlike Godzilla 2014, where I thought the CGI used to bring life to Godzilla was practically spot on, there are times I'm not as fully convinced here. Maybe mammals are just a bit harder to portray in that area.

Another thing I'll say is that while I'm thoroughly impressed with the portrayal of Skull Island, I still prefer Peter Jackson's portrayal. Now don't misunderstand me. This film does a wonderful job of showing off Skull Island. It's got a lot of really cool stuff to show off, plenty of new things, new surprises, new monsters, new creatures, but if you're going into the theater expecting dinosaurs, you're going to be disappointed. The creatures are very bizarre in a good way, at times even looking like they belong on another world, but this can also lead to a lot of Skull Island looking rather passive. I'm not spoiling anything here, but the first creaturr you see on this island are a bunch of deer..... See what I mean?

But that's behind me. Let's talk about the monsters. Specifically Kong, and the Skullcrawlers. I was skeptical to them both. I wasn't that impressed by the trailers. Well I love being convinced, because they're both wonderful to watch. Kong is intimidating. Kong is majestic. Kong even has some characteristics that define just what Kong is, like taking a small interest in a human female. It's all very convincing, even if it's not that well developed. The only thing I'd have wanted more of, was a roar to shake the theater. Godzilla wins there. The Skullcrawlers? They're terrifying. They're agile. And they'll make up for the disappointment some saw in the Mutos of Godzilla.

The action... Oh my God the action, my hands are trembling in excitement about how incredible the action is here. The film does NOT hold back. It's not a buildup like it is in Godzilla. It's not something that's constantly cut away from. When it happens, you see it happen, and you're in for the long ride, whether that's monster against monster brawling, or humans trying to survive the lush gorgeous jungles of Skull Island. Some of the sequences are over the top in all the right ways, and it's just one big treat to behold. It really did tickle my big monster fan inside me. Each fight is a treat to watch. They're brutal, they're massive. Even painful. You feel each hit. And this goes beyond monster brawls. There are times you WILL feel like you're watching a superhero movie! Action involving the humans can be a lot of fun. Each segment is done wonderfully to the point where I'm likely just repeating myself. I'm slobbering over how fun it is... This movie rocks! By the climax, you won't care how over the top it can get because of how much fun you'll have. That said, the find doesn't leave me on quite as big a high as Godzilla, but you know what? I don't care.

One thing however that surprised me was just how much I loved the characters of this movie. Those who know me know that I'm not one to praise the characters of most big monster films. They can be very clichéd, very weak, not exactly people I care much about. Here, I'm with them practically from the moment the film starts, whether they're just talking friendly with one another, jeering  another, expressing frustration, or even rocking out to this films absolutely wonderful repertoire of awesome classic rock (no joke, the music they okay in this is AWESOME, I love the 70's), I'm always following them, with interest. While the characters can have their cliché moments, I don't think there was one character I didn't care about. Your characters all have wonderful personalities, wonderful backstory, wonderful payoffs, these characters are some of the best in any monster movie you'll see. I'm hoping we'll see some of these guys return. I have to watch Godzilla again, but I think Adrian of this film first appeared in Godzilla. I'll have to look again. See? Already, the film is connecting the dots.

Oh and yes, the film does tire in nicely with Godzilla, and those who go, expecting to see something referencing the other famous monster King, will be thoroughly satisfied. In fact, by the end of the movie I was actually cheering. True story.

Truthfully, this is one massive step in the right direction for this new Cinematic universe. It is starting to subtly connect the dots with the other films while setting up future ones. I'm very excited right now for the future, and that's more than my big monster fan inside me talking. Other more serious critics may disagree with me, but if you ask me, they're the ones missing out. I'm giving Kong: Skull Island, a nice solid three and a half star rating out of four. And you guys have NO IDEA how close I got to rating it that full four. It BARELY misses it. It has so much going for it, and so little going against it that it's hard to not give it that four. But don't let a simple number make you believe I didn't enjoy myself. That's not the case. A few clichés, a few nitpicks, and a few other observations will not keep me from saying go see this. Because this film is a lot of fun. To have so much come from this film that honestly had a lot on its plate to do? You can bet I'm beyond impressed. And to finally have a King Kong film, that's actually really... REALLY good that isn't just another remake of the original? I'm happy it finally happened. What a film to end this marathon on.

Please feel free to request any films you'd like to see me tackle in the near future. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed my marathon of Kong these last few months. Now... I'm taking a well deserved monster movie break. Go watch this movie.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Going into Logan, I really wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't seen an X-Men movie since that attrocious Wolverine Origins story back in the day, and after watching that, I very much shut the door on X-Men. I was just done at that point. I haven't seen any of the newer X-Men films, and really didn't have much of a desire to. I'm not sure why I went and saw this one. Maybe it was because it was meant to be Jackman's one last big hurrah. Likely that of Stewart as well if what I'm hearing is correct. And watching Logan, I was scared I'd missed something because it took me a while to put certain pieces together. Maybe I should have watched at least the original trilogy before this. Because there were people I didn't know and plot I was having a hard time connecting the dots with. Like how did we get from there to here? But as far as I can tell, this is a standalone picture, so I think the film just kinda caught me off guard.

Watching this, I was quickly reminded that this film would be rated R. That's not really a bad thing persay, but I was reminded about how much praise Deadpool got last year, and how people were presiding that it was that film that made R rated superhero films possible, and how we should have more, and honestly... I don't think I'll back that statement. A rating to me is nothing but a letter or letters and a sequence of numbers. Just entertain me. (For the record, I've not seen Deadpool either. Just no interest to.) So did this movie entertain me? The answer is yes, yes it did. I'm glad I went and saw it.

Right off the bat, this film shows you what you're in for, and wastes no time showing you that this is no kid friendly superhero picture, as we see Wolverine in his later years just showing absolutely no remorse as he just slices and dices his way through some troublemakers like it's any other Monday. This really goes without saying, but this film doesn't hold back on its action. It's brutal. It's bloody. It's gory. At times it can be painful to watch it. It's a lot of fun. You haven't seen X-Men like this, where Wolverine is just putting his fist against someone's head, and his claws suddenly just extend through their head, or where his claws dismember people or straight up behead them. The film doesn't hold back. It doesn't hold back on its swearing either. I'll say it, Patrick Stewart doesn't sound the same dropping F-bombs. He's too classy in my book for that kind of thing.

It should also be said that the cast do their job wonderfully in portraying their characters. Everyone feels in character, even if Hugh Jackman feels a bit tired at this point. Without spoiling anything, it can be said that he is still very much in character and this performance is likely this way for a reason. But I couldn't help letting out a chuckle at a few scenes in which I just pictured him out of character, freaking out because he was so done with these films. In all seriousness, the cast really does seem this movie for me. I'm not kidding when I say they likely were the sole reason I went and saw this.

The story I feel is a bit convoluted, and confusing at times, especially if you're like me and just coming back into the franchise after about a decade or so. The story revolves around Wolverine needing to escort this young mutant girl up to North Dakota so that they can escape this dystopian United States, but Logan is having doubts about this girl and whatnot since mutants apparently are no longer born, and it becomes a bit of a bonding movie between him and this girl, while he also spends his time with likely the only friend he has left, in Charles Xavier.  It can be very emotional to see what these two have gone through over the years together, how they once had things going right, and how they've now been reduced to practically nothing. Unfortunately, this can lead to some pretty predictable elements in the story. But I won't spoil anything there.  All that needs to be said is that the story is still told well, and they by the end of the film, I'm sure the most devoted fans will be rubbing their eyes. Heck, there were a few times I actually felt a bit emotional.

Honestly, I think the only real flaw of this film in story is the lack of an interesting villain. We don't get a lot of development in our main baddies here. They're just kinda there for me. The main antagonist is this government guy, chasing these kids who were mutated and bred for war, yet... Strangely can't take care of themselves on the run... But I guess they had to shine the light on Wolverine for his final performance. I think the film kinda mocks how generic their villain is, because during the climax, he barely plays a part at all. The main showcase is really Wolverine fighting this clone of himself. I guess like the Avengers, Wolverine's greatest enemy is himself. Albeit more literally.

When all is said and done, I'm not lying when I said I'm happy to have seen this film. It's not at all a bad film. It actually makes up for the attrocious I saw a decade ago. But I won't call this the Dark Knight of X-Men films. That's a bit of an exaggeration for me. But it is a solid film for Jackman and Stewart to go out on, and they was all I could have asked for at this point. I'm giving Logan a solid three star rating out of four. The film has its flaws, but the payoff of this film, the no strings attached action, the incredible emotions portrayed are absolutely wonderful. It's a film to finally give Wolverine a little standalone magic he's needed since his first film, and it's a damn shame it's his last one. But maybe that's for the best. It's a solid finale for Jackman, and he would have it no other way.

Please feel free to request any film you'd like to see me tackle in the near future. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3/4

Monday, March 6, 2017

RE-REVIEW: King Kong (2005)

I once reviewed this film a couple years back now I believe it was, but in the spirit of the Kong-a-thon, I'm doing this review from scratch, just for you. It was roughly ten weeks ago that I called the original King Kong movie the greatest big monster of all time. It's had a rather weak franchise to date with a few hidden gems, but let's face it, when you take into account some of the many Kong related things I've watched over this marathon... On second thought let's not go there. It's bad enough without having to relive some of it. However, through it all, Kong survived, and in 2005, Peter Jackson came along and it was announced he'd be remaking it, and this was a film that was coming off the heels of arguably his greatest film work, the Lord If the Rings trilogy. This is a film that has faced it's fair amount of criticism and praise for various reasons. What do I think of it?

I call it honestly the last great film of Jackson, because let's face it. The guy has fallen from grace. But what a film to come from the guy. Despite a few nitpicks, this is a film I will continue to defend, because as far as a remake is concerned, this is about as good as one can get. Who would have thought a Kong film could be so wonderfully developed? For this to delve deeper into this story, and bring forth such a wonderful side to it, it really is impressive. It absolutely nails the story of Kong, and thensome even improves some of it. This is unheard of in a remake.

Right off the bat, you are transported to New York in the 1930's and despite the overly done CGI environment, it looks wonderful. Jackson did a very good job of bringing this time to life, from the early stages of the Great Depression, to the costumes, to countless other things. And right off the bat, we discover that the characters we're familiar with are going to be developed in ways the original didn't do. We see Ann Darrow as this starving actor, trying to make a dime and failing to keep herself fed. We see Carl Denham as a much crazier movie director than before, and though it can be argued that he's a little too crazy in this film, he's portrayed wonderfully by Jack Black, which is a pleasant surprise to me. In fact, it can be said that most characters in this movie are fleshed out wonderfully. Even the crew. The only complaint I have here is that once the Skull Island scenes are done, the crew are no longer really in the film. They kinda just drop off the face of the Earth. It only makes me wonder why they bothered fleshing them out as they did, from the ships cook, to the first mate, to this young kid. There's really not a whole lot of payoff for these characters. Another one I don't care for is Jack Driscoll who isn't the first mate here, more a playwright. That's fine, but he's not particularly interesting. While I got one kinda like the normal guy they were trying to portray him as, they couldnd have made him standout a bit more.

But let's move away from what the movie nails for a brief moment and talk about its problems, because as much as I love this movie, this film does have some flaws. Particularly its length. At well over three hours, it rivals the Lord of the Rings films with its runtime, and unlike those films, a lot of the movie seems kinda drug out. It takes a full hour to get to Skull Island in this film, and it can try your patience. There are countless sequences in which the editing feels incredibly choppy or weird. From unnecessary slow motion, to extended dramatic reveals, to sequences that are unnecessary and feel more like they're meant to pad the already long runtime. They just don't really fit this picture to me. Another thing I don't particularly care for are the natives in this picture. While there certainly intimidating, and different than what we've seen, they kinda add an element I'm not entirely onboard with. They come across as somewhat supernatural in a sense. Something I don't really care for. This supernatural side introduced more choppy editing and stillness that just make this film drag. That said, the natives of the movie are again, very intimidating and creepy as hell, even if at times it's early over the top unnecessary. My uncle has brought forth this argument that they're more politically correct in how they're portrayed compared to the other films, and truthfully... I'm just here for an adventure.

Another thing I don't always care for is the overuse of CGI. While Peter Jackson I've more shows off his visual talent with these backgrounds and action sequences he's gone overboard with since, there are some effects that really could have been polished much better. There are times the CGI is beyond noticable, and just kinda clutters the screen. During this dinosaur stampede, after all these Apatosaurus trip over one another, we see Denham and Driscoll so obviously against a green screen of dinosaurs that are piling on top of one another. And during this ice skating sequence with Kong and Ann, Kong falls into the snow, and the snow that sticks to him feels like it belongs in an old PS2 video game. When your CGI is reminding me of the quality of certain sequences of 1998's Godzilla, you can probably polish your film a bit more.

But that's literally all the qualm I have for this picture. Practically everything else in this film is wonderfully done. Skull Island. It is easily the best depiction of this island of any Kong film. They brought back the mystery and the land stuck in time elements of the original Kong film, and added to it wonderfully. Here, the surviving dinosaurs have evolved over the millions of years, here they keep that infamous lost scene of the spider pit in one of the craziest sequences of the film, here they only add to the intimidation factor and the mystery of this island, from the time they venture out beyond the wall. In the extended version, they immediately have to fight off this dinosaur in one of my favorite scenes of the entire movie. The dialogue is priceless as they examine the future of this triceratops-like dinosaur, and someone asks "Aren't these supposed to be extinct?" To which the cook lights up a smoke and says, "They are now." It's a wonderful portrayal of this film, that really does give off the impression that this is no man's land. An island where literally every living thing is out to eat you alive, from the biggest dinosaurs, to the smallest insects.

The action of this film is also wonderfully done, even if at times over the top. It's all wonderful to look at, from Kong's dinosaur battles, to the survival of Skull Island, to the rampage of New York. But one thing I also really like is how fleshed out the relationship between Ann and Kong is. The movie develops their relationship out in ways no other film does. And it succeeds with flying colors. From Ann impressing Kong with her former stage acts, to Kong showing frustration to her repeated attempts to escape, to Ann eventually realizing that Kong doesn't intend to harm her, and eventually accepts his protection and company... it's all wonderfully done. It's done so well that it makes that climax at the end all the more hard to watch when Kong takes his last stand atop the Empire State Building. My favorite moment of the entire film is Ann and Kong sitting up there watching the sunrise. Kong has this look of sorrow, to the point where Ann is literally all he has left. You can tell he knows that this won't end well for him and he's just cherishing that moment with Ann. And it's suddenly interrupted when you hear those plane engines and see them flying across the screen not too far from them. It's a shot that sends chills down my back each and every time.

But the thing that this film does the best is without a doubt, how it stays true to the original film. I think going in, Jackson knew that he was about to tackle one of the best films of Hollywood, and he knew that people were going to be paying attention. And he did his homework. He understood that he could go bold, but that he'd need to hold back at the appropriate times. It's a wonderful blend. There are lines of dialogue pulled straight from the original film, as well as sequences that mirror the original. For example, while Kong fights not one, not to, but three evolved Tyrannosaurus Rexes, he finishes off the final Rex in the same manner as he did the one in 1933. Breaking it's jaw, and skull area, before playing with the jaw and roaring in triumph. Even smaller things, like some of the costumes of the stage performance mirroring that of the natives of the original Kong, are just done so well in taste I feel. I can't help but feel how it also adds a little historical touch as that what how we saw the island natives back in the day. There's even a few things I picked up that I hadn't noticed before. In New York, when Kong is onstage, the orchestra actually plays pieces of music STRAIGHT from the original Max Steinberg score of the original movie! NOW THAT IS AWESOME! Combined with an already great musical score in the film, this just adds a cherry on top of an awesome sundae.

I could go on with how much I love this film. But I think it is clear. Yes the film has flaws, but when it has such a payoff in the way it does, the emotions, the bonds that the original film lacks, let me tell you that some things are definitely well worth waiting for. I'm not gonna call it better than the original, but I will say it can share a spiritual place up there with the original. Why? Because this is a remake that is almost perfect. It stays true to the spirit of the original, it holds back when it needs to, and goes all out when it's safe to. This is a remake of quality that I've not seen done before, and may not see again. And that's why, Peter Jackson's 2005 remake was, and still is, the fullest rating I can give, a full on four stars out of four. It's not perfect, but with all that it can give us, the nitpicks I've pointed out can easily be forgiven when you look at the bigger picture. It has a respect for the original you won't see in any other remake. It doesn't lean on nostalgia for you to like it, and frankly, it doesn't need to. It's the film that FINALLY restored the magic into this franchise for me, and with Kong returning to the big screen this Friday? I can tell you that no one is more excited for the big guy's future.

Please feel free to request any film you'd like to see me review in the possible future. Leave a comment down below of your own thoughts on this film, and as always, thanks for reading.

I hope you've enjoyed my journey through the King Kong franchise these last few weeks, but it's not done yet... There is one more film to tackle and I'm tackling it Thursday night. Join me then for my SPOILER FREE review of Kong: Skull Island.

Final Verdict: 4/4

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THROWBACK REVIEW: Kong: The Animated Series (2000-2001)

Hey kids, do you like Godzilla: The Animated Series? Ever wish to see it without the charm and likable characters? Was the decent action of Godzilla: The Animated Series too much for you, and do you wish it were toned down times ten? Do you like plot devices and technology that break every law of science I  the goddamn book? Then Kong: The Animated Series is just the show for you. What is it with all these atrocious King Kong cartoons? Can't one decent animator get Kong right? Is it asking that much to have a Kong cartoon that's slightly better than that animated musical?

If you can't already tell, I'm not at all a fan of this cartoon series I've just watched a good chunk of. Because it makes no sense. I like to think I follow Hodgson's Law pretty well. There are times I need to remind myself, that whatever I'm watching is just a show or movie, and I should really just relax. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't really affect my critical analysis so much, but when it comes to certain nitpicks and technical details that some people can raise hell over, I tend not to care. This is true in particular to the Star Trek fandom I'm a part of. But if there was ever one show, that made me want to throw Hodgson's Law right out the window... this is that show. Because I'm wondering if the writers themselves bothered to take a double take on their absolutely ridiculous concepts. There is very little holding this show up for me.

You can tell the show was trying to compete with Godzilla: The Animated Series. It focuses on this small group of humans who team up with King Kong's...clone....yes, clone... as they fight giant monsters, usually controlled by this really generic villain. But if that's not enough, the show felt the need to rip off God knows how many other shows. Like Dragonball Z apparently.  I've heard song comparing fusion dances or something to this show. I don't know, I could care less about Dragonball. What I do care about is how dumb the concept is. How do I explain it?  After Kong's demise in 1933 atop the Empire State Building, a young scientist managed to preserve Kong's DNA so that later on she could create a clone of him........ (annoyed grunt)

Let me run that by you again. A scientist... in 1933... preserves Kong for the sake of cloning. Was that even... possible back then? Was the technology of 1933, REALLY so far along that preserving DNA for future cloning was really that conceivable? How does she fund such a project? Why does she do this? Why is my brain already hurting from think about this? We have our generic villain of a professor, who's seeking these things called Primal Stones, as each possess incredible power and he of course wants it. So alongside ripping off Godzilla, and Dragonball... they apparently decided to throw in some Jackie Chan Adventures as well, because these Primal Stones just remind me of the Twelve Talismans of the Chinese Zodiac. And they're also connected with ANOTHER big bad villain I  this demon god character. Seriously, what is this? What. Is. This? This is one of the most convoluted shows I've ever seen. It's almost as if its trying too hard to be cool. It's not working. If you want a big bad demon character, fine. But is it necessary to introduce him so early on, especially if you already have a main baddie? Just do your ripoff talisman hunt plot, and begin your gargoyles ripoff story later. Don't do it all at once, it just convolutes your story! It's a giant mess!

If the ridiculous concept didn't make you change your channel, these characters most certainly do. These are some of the blandest characters I've ever seen. There's Jason. He's your hero character. That's all. There's his buddy Eric. He's a big doofus that likes pineapple pizza. That's all. There's Lua. She's a tough girl native shaman who's pretty much of with nature. And that is all. Do you see where I'm going? All of these characters are obvious cutouts. If you compare them to the characters of Godzilla: The Animated Series, you can immediately see a difference. I'm not gonna pretend that show is perfect, because it's not, but each character actually has a bit of development. And they have ways of standing out. Even the weaker characters of that show have more going for them than anyone here. Liking pineapple pizza is not something that makes your character unique. And then there's our generic bad guy. Who you can tell is bad from the first moment you see him. He is evil. He does things because he's evil. And that is... say it with me now...ALL! I'm not going to beat this dead horse any longer. You get the idea. These characters are atrocious.

And the action. Good God the action. Watch an episode of this show, then watch an episode of Godzilla, and tell me which is more satisfying. I'm not trying to make this review of big comparison to its Godzilla counterpart, but for as silly as that show can be, it actually has a lot of very fun action. The monster brawls are great. I love watching Godzilla (or Zilla Jr.  for all you purists out there) grab monsters by the head and drag them underwater. I love watching him analyze his foes and really look for a weakness. I loved how he'll often finish them off with an atomic fire breath to the head. It's a lot of fun! So... what does this show have? We'll make a quick comparison, the very first monster Kong faces is a T-Rex. Okay, good so far. The fight lasts a few seconds, and all Kong does is twist the neck a bit. (Facedesk) I wish I could say it gets better, but it really doesn't. It doesn't get worse, but each opponent Kong faces is so generic, so forgettable, so not very fun, that I never have much fun watching it. And the fighting is no better. 

Speaking of Kong, he looks hideous. I understand they had to keep him kid friendly and all, but he doesn't look so very good to me. And he sounds even worse. His grunts and roars will grow on you. Very fast. You can tell Scott McNeil is just literally saying "ROAR" in the microphone. And I've yet to tear apart the one thing I utterly hate this show over. The merger sequence. This is that Dragonball element I was mentioning earlier. Apparently, Jason's grandmother (the scientist who cloned Kong) invented this device in which one could merge themselves with an animal. Its really just a pitiful excuse to give Kong some power in the show when he's struggling, and an excuse to give him opponents from the professor. The thing is, this thing is never explained how it works. And it breaks way way WAY too many laws of science for me to buy it. For example, when Jason merges with Kong, Kong virtually remains the same height and appearance. But whenever the professor merges with any random animal like say a rat, the rat is suddenly as big as Kong with a monstrous appearance. How does it get that big? Why does it look as such? None of this is explained. And that's not the worst of it. Apparently, Jason can have Kong merge with him, making him easier to travel with. Like...Kong merges with Jason. Who remains the same height and appearance. That's right...Kong is now pocket sized. Breaking every law of mass in the book. With ZERO EXPLANATION.

I can't take it. I just can't take it. I've tried looking for something to enjoy. To thoroughly enjoy. I just can't seem to find it. Nothing makes any sense. What makes even less sense was how this show lasted longer than Godzilla did. I'm not good pretend that show was the best, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. This got two seasons... And TWO DVD feature films. How did this happen? How did it manage that? I spent roughly 8 hours of my life, watching this horrible show, and the only thing I found? It gives me an unintentional laugh now and then. There's your bright side. The one thing worth mentioning as good. Fuck this show.

Kong: The Animated Series is a half star rating out of four. It's beyond dull. The characters are bland. The action is bland. The animation is incredibly bland. Even the few concepts that I found kinda interesting failed to hold up any potential. How do you mess up this badly? I don't know what they needed to do to make this ridiculous show work to their advantage, but one thing's for certain, I'm never looking at it again. It's just not worth my time. Don't try and get me to watch the rest. My patience only goes so far.

Please feel free to request any films you'd like me to look into in the near future. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts about the show below, and as always, thanks for reading.

I'm almost done. Next week will be the final week of the Kong-a-thon.  Praise the Lord. I'm hoping to be reviewing, not one, but TWO movies next week. And we start it off with one of the absolute best remakes a film can hope to get. See you Monday when I review the 2005 Peter Jackson remake of King Kong.

Final Verdict: 0.5/4

Monday, February 20, 2017

THROWBACK REVIEW: The Mighty Kong (1998)

What on earth did I just watch? I'm not sure it was real, because prior to watching this, I made myself quite the cocktail, and I found myself laughing at this film more than I likely should have. Just listen to this concept and just see if it interests you in the slightest. King Kong, released as an animated musical, starring Jodi Benson, more commonly known as the voice of Ariel in Disney's "The Little Mermaid". I'll be completely honest, I once saw this as a kid, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't remember when that was, maybe it was 1998. I really don't know. All that you need to know, is that watching it roughly two decades later? How I ever found it entertaining, I'll never know. I think a lot of us think that at some point in our lives.

That's not to say Mighty Kong is terrible, but it's certainly not good. There are a few things I actually found I kinda liked, but yeah, on a whole, this one really isn't that great. At only 72 minutes in length, it compresses the story of Kong, and a lot of the exciting parts of that story are merely glanced over, while a bunch of pointless stuff is included. One thing that immediately comes to mind is the dinosaurs. They're barely shown in this. And the fights are not that impressive. I mean...that's practically a Kong staple for me. But on the note of Kong, I ironically found him to be surprisingly absent in this film. Even when he's on screen, he's just not that impressive. This could be the fact that by the time we see him, likely half of the movie is done, and whatnot, but when he's tromping around New York City, there's just not a lot of fun in it. He just kinda looks blank in the face. It sucks the energy right out of the story.

The characters don't exactly help out here. They're pretty terrible. The only two even memorable are Denham and Darrow, voiced by Dudley Moore and of course, Jodi Benson. Jack Driscoll is in the film, but he's not. If you thought there was no way the wooden acting and surprisingly sudden romance between him and Darrow couldn't be anymore wooden and sudden than the original, just wait until you see this. At least in the original, the two spent some time talking and bantering back and forth before they found out they loved each other. Here, Driscoll just kinda constantly insults her, to the point of her becoming infuriated with him, but one song later, they're in love. But they don't even really explore that too much. And honestly, the only reason I remember Denham in this movie is because of his strange accent. He almost talks straight up like William Shatner at times. That and he's almost always smiling in this movie. Oh and there's these two completely pointless characters in the movie in this cabin boy and his pet monkey who contribute nothing in this film at all. They're there to be a supposed comedy relief, but they're not funny, and they're not charming. They're entirely pointless.

I guess I can't talk about a musical without addressing the music, so how is it? Well like the movie, it's not terrible, but it's certainly not good. It's listenable. That's about it. Some of it really doesn't need to be there. Some of it is just forced. One song that I actually kinda dug was a song that didn't need to be there, but was kinda fun just for the sake of being fun. Denham is doing his test camera shots of Darrow, and he's explaining a scene in which she's this island princess. The song has nothing to do with the story, it's just a fun detour from the story. But one thing that caught my eye was the fact that during this little sequence, they show Darrow jumping from a cliff into the sea, and the animation becomes incredibly similar to that of Ariel from Little Mermaid. The way the hair forays in the water, the way she keeps singing in the water, even the facial expressions... all this for a character Jodi Benson voices. There's no way that can be a coincidence. Maybe it's the movies strange way of saying I could be watching Little Mermaid right now. Something I actually really like.

Honestly, again I know I'm being a bit critical here, especially of a kids movie only 72 minutes long, but the movie does have a few strengths. One of them being that it kinda takes notes from both the original, and the 1976 remake. It mainly bases its film off 1933, but it actually directly mirrors a scene from 1976 when Kong takes Darrow to a waterfall to wash her. Unfortunately, the bond between Darrow and Kong isn't really developed, and Darrow is paved more into the frightened damsel category, rather than the tamer of the beast. They also have some fun with the iconic climax, even if it's rather silly at times. Like they have some silly clichés involving Darrow hanging onto the Empire State Building for dear life before she's caught by Driscoll. Another thing I kinda like is that they play with the net idea from 1976 with these huge zeppelins, which make Kong lose balance and fall off the building...and true to the kid friendly status of the film, they have Kong survive his fall. And strangely enough...everyone is kinda cheering when they see he survives. It's very weird.

You know, I know this movie is really dumb and stupid. At times, pretty bad. The animation isn't spectacular, the characters are pretty bland, as is the music and action of the film, it falls in that forgettable territory alongside Son of Kong and King Kong Escapes for me. But at the same time, I can't help but laugh at some of the things they did with this film with how stupid it got. It's balancing perfectly on that so bad that it's good line. Such is something I found completely absent in say...King Kong Lives. So you know what? You're gonna get by a bit easy today movie. I'm feeling generous.

The Mighty Kong gets a one and a half star rating from me. Again, this is by no means good. But there are a lot of fun things about this little direct-to-video release that made me watching this all these years later kinda...relaxed towards I guess. I wasn't joking when I aid it couldn't get worse than King Kong Lives, which I still haven't really forgiven. The limited defense I've heard towards it isn't exactly something I'll debate too much. This film...which was shorter and on a limited budget, much lower than the $10 million budget King Kong Lives had gave me more to enjoy. So if you were morbidly curious, found this at your local goodwill or whatnot? might enjoy a single viewing. Make yourself a drink, and just sit back and enjoy how silly stupid this is. Because ironically enough...this may be the best animated portrayal of Kong you'll ever see.

Please feel free to request any film you'd like me to take a look at. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts and feelings about the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Join me next week when I tackle the first thirteen episodes of....Kong: The Animated Series.  The things I do...

Final Verdict: 1.5/4

Thursday, February 16, 2017

REVIEW: The Great Wall

The Great Wall is...silly dumb fun just as I predicted it would be, but I will say that it thankfully has a somewhat competent story, which is honestly more credit than I originally gave it credit for. Watching trailers for this, it really didn't do much to impress me. But hey, I enjoy being proven wrong sometimes. Don't get me wrong, the movie is still very dumb, but damn it if it's not a little fun in all its dumbness if that makes a hint of sense. 

The story is based on a couple mercenaries on search of legendary "black powder" which is said to be one of the most deadliest of weapons. A simple concept, but one I can get behind. The movie begins with these mercenaries being chased by...bandits I guess. We never really get an idea who was after them, but they literally get chased into the legendary Great Wall of China, in all its CGI and colorful army glory. And they find themselves in the middle of this conflict against this large reptilian army from...Heaven apparently? Honestly the reason behind this reptile army (that most definitely are NOT dragons) being in this movie and fighting the Chinese armies is rather shoe-horned in, and kinda gives off this lazy "greed is bad" message. Taken prisoners, they impress the Chinese with their fighting skills...their stupid dumb flawless fighting skills and Matt Damon decides to help fight against this large army, because apparently there's something worth fighting for here. 

I might as well come forward and say it, the movie's driving force is the action. And the action isn't even really all that good at times, more than it is just flashy, and over-the-top in laughable ways. The very first major battle we see on screen shows us how the army functions. By color code! If you're in black armor, you're a footsoldier, if you're in red, you're an archer, if you're in blue, you're this acrobatic female that literally bungee jumps from the wall with spears in your hand down toward the army below (that's not a joke either), and if you're in purple armor....the movie forgets all about you. The CGI is very much present here in this film. The effects are very flashy, and at times, they're likely just meant to make the 3D more impressive. But honestly, having just watched it in Imax, I'm not even sure if the 3D is that impressive. The effects zoom in on arrows shot from bows, acrobat females leaping from the wall, and Matt Damon throwing a shield around like he's Captain America. The movie isn't afraid to go all out in its action to the point where it would make the elves of the Lord of the Rings blush. 

The characters aren't terrible in this film, though they can be kinda cutouts. Matt Damon, who doesn't play a Chinese soldier, so there's no need for whitewashing criticism here, does a fine job portraying his character William, even if at times, his accent seems to disappear, and I will say that many of these Chinese actors, making their debut appearance in American theaters are actually a lot of fun to follow. The commander, Lin can be a lot of fun, but they're pretty much the only characters I cared about. They tried to get me to sympathize with this younger soldier boy who's often harassed by his superiors and whatnot, and looks up to Damon, but the two don't really bond in any way, shape, or form, and I don't think I'm spoiling anything here, but by the time he dies, I just kinda chuckled. Damon's friends in Ballard and Pero really also contribute very little to the story, which baffles me because at times, the movie focuses on them a lot. They have this generic escape plot that really goes nowhere. It contributes next to nothing in this film. 

However none of this explains why I went to see it in the first place. The creatures. I was eager to see the monsters portrayed in this film that the Great Wall was apparently trying to keep out...and they're honestly kinda disappointing. We're not given a lot of explanation into where they came from other than the gods sending them because of the greed of an emperor or something, and the behavior of the creatures just isn't really explained to the fullest detail. That and the designs themselves aren't that intimidating at times. They actually kinda remind me of D-War, and I'm sure some of you know how I feel about that movie... It's just your generic Zerg rush army, lead by a queen that's really nothing different from them, and that's it. There's no diversity so much, there's no flying creatures, no really large creatures, they don't have any fun with these creatures, which leaves me, a diehard creature feature lover, wanting a LOT more. Hell, these things don't even breathe fire. C'mooon...

Honestly, I know I'm being overly critical here, but I don't dislike the movie. I'm kinda "eh" towards it. It's got a lot of really fun stuff. I enjoyed the musical score, and despite it being dumb, I enjoyed the over-the-top no strings attached action, and like I said, the cast is very likable. But the overall story just isn't fleshed out enough, and there's just not enough meat on the bones of this movie to really say, yeah I'd watch it again. I had fun, but it didn't really leave me on a high, and once I was in my car, I has practically forgotten about it. 

The Great Wall is a two and a half star rating out of four for me. And that might even be a little generous. But I will say that if you're like me, a lover of creature features, you'll likely get a kick out of one viewing. The film has its saving graces. Maybe they're just more apparent to me after having recently sat through that King Kong Lives movie, but for what this dumb silly movie was, I enjoyed it. I doubt I'll watch it again, but I enjoyed it. 

Please feel free to request any film you'd like me to have a look at. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading. 

Final Verdict: 2.5/4