Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (dir by Adam Wingard)


From the minute Godzilla vs. Kong was announced, I’ve been rooting for Godzilla.

I’m probably not alone in this. I mean, let’s just be honest. King Kong seems like he means well and certainly, he’s had to deal with enough dumbass humans that it’s impossible not to feel some sympathy for him. But, in the end, King Kong is just a big monkey whereas Godzilla is an atomic, fire-breathing lizard who only protects Earth because he can’t stand the thought of anyone else destroying it before he gets the chance. King Kong is cool but Godzilla is a freaking badass. (It’s not a coincidence that literally everyone hates the fact that the original, Japanese-produced King Kong vs. Godzilla ended with King Kong winning.) One of my main hopes when it came to Godzilla vs Kong was that Godzilla would be declared the rightful winner of this battle of the Titans.

Obviously, I can’t tell you whether or not my hope came true, not without spoiling the film. (That said, it’s probably debatable just how much you can really spoil a film like Godzilla vs. Kong.) I can tell you that the title of the film is accurate. Kong and Godzilla meet and they fight, a total of three times. Buildings are climbed and destroyed. Radioactive fire is spewed across the Earth. The monkey and the lizard do not team up to conquer climate change. The climatic battle takes place in a city and many people are undoubtedly killed as a result but no one ever mentions anything about any of them so you’re free not to worry about them. Though the film doesn’t quite have the same charm as the sight of two men in rubber monster suits tossing miniature trees at each other, the CGI and the fight scenes are all undeniably well-done. As far as the film’s actual story goes, it’s all pretty dumb and it has none of the subversive bite of director Adam Wingard’s pervious films but Godzilla vs Kong is still undeniably entertaining. Those who have commented that there’s not much subtext to Godzilla vs Kong have a point but that’s actually a huge part of the film’s appeal. After a year of pop culture that was marinated in doom and gloom, there’s something undeniably appealing about a film that says, “Sit back, enjoy, and don’t worry about a thing.”

(I saw one negative review of Godzilla vs Kong that complained that the film didn’t have a strong environmental message, as if the filmmakers should have stopped the action so that Greta Thunberg could show up and shout “How dare you!?” at the two monsters.)

Of the two stars, Kong gets the most screentime, despite the fact that Godzilla is the more interesting of the two monsters. There are also humans in the film, played by recognizable performers like Alexandar Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Demian Bichir, Julian Dennison, and Brian Tyree Henry. All of the humans have their own reasons for being concerned about Kong’s fight with Godzilla but, to be honest, you really won’t care. Regardless of the talent of the individuals playing them, the human characters really aren’t important and the film is at its weakest when it tries to convince us that they are. This is a film you watch because of the monsters and it works best when it focuses on them.

As I sit here writing this, Godzilla vs Kong is on the verge of leaving HBOMax. However, it’s still playing in theaters, which is the idea way to watch an effects-driven film like this one. It’s the first true blockbuster of the post-pandemic era. Hopefully, it’ll be the first of many.

A rivalry begins in the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer


Back in 1986, Optimus Prime muttered 6 six words to Megatron that would sear itself into the minds of kids for a generation.

“One shall stand, One shall fall.”

And here we are, 30 years later, still using that phrase, or something like it. as Godzilla vs. Kong  offers the tagline “One Will Fall”.

After 3 mega movies (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island & Godzilla: King of the Monsters), we’re finally ready for a kaiju matchup of truly epic proportions. Godzilla vs Kong pairs the two legendary monsters against each other, though for what reasons, we’re not entirely sure. Neither side wishes to concede, and the battle looks like it’s going to be both in the water and on land. From the newly released trailer, it looks like Kong’s the current hero. The returning characters of Mark and Madison Russell (Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown) from Godzilla: King of the Monsters seem to feel that something’s wrong with our atomic breath spewing hero. Dr. Chen (Zhang Ziyi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is also on hand to help. After saving the world twice, why would he suddenly turn on mankind? I’m not sure I like the idea of Godzilla being a villain in all this, but they have to have a reason to fight, I suppose.

While it doesn’t look like anyone returns from Kong: Skull Island, we still have Kong and some supporting characters in Alexander Skarsgard (The Legend of Tarzan), Julian Dennison (Deadpool 2), Jessica Henwick (Underwater), Eiza Gonzalez (Bloodshot), Danai Gurira (Black Panther), and Lance Reddick (John Wick 3 – Parabellum).

Godzilla vs. Kong is due in IMAX and on HBO Max on March 26th, 2021.

Holiday Film Review: The Christmas Chronicles 2 (dir by Chris Columbus)


If I ever actually meet Santa Claus, I’ll be really disappointed if he doesn’t look like a bearded Kurt Russell.

Russell plays the role of St. Nicholas in The Christmas Chronicles 2 and he’s absolutely perfect in the role.  It’s not just that Russell is an intensely likable actor, though that’s certainly some of it.  Santa, after all, should be a likable character and it’s pretty much impossible not to like Kurt Russell.  Even when he was killing people in Death Proof, he was still the most likable serial killer that you could ever hope to meet.  Beyond just being likable, though, Russell brings a lot of joi de vivre to the role of Santa.  As played by Russell, Santa loves what he does.  Spreading Christmas cheer and keeping the holiday spirit alive is what he lives for.  Over the years, movies have given us stern Santas and humorous Santas and occasionally even incompetent Santas.  Kurt Russell is the fun Santa.

In The Christmas Chronicles 2, Russell is joined by his real-life partner, Goldie Hawn.  Goldie plays Mrs. Claus, who turns out to be a witch but a good one.  She’s the type of witch who makes gingerbread cookies the explode, which is certainly the best type of witch to be.  As I watched Goldie Hawn in this film, it occurred to me that if Hollywood is ever foolish enough to try to remake The Wizard of Oz, Goldie would be the perfect choice for Glinda.  Not surprisingly, Hawn and Russell have a lot of chemistry in The Christmas Chronicles 2.  They’re the perfect couple.  They’re exactly who you would hope Santa and Mrs. Claus would turn out to be.

(I have to say that, of all the Hollywood couples out there, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are the couple that I would want to actually live next door to.  Kurt seems like he would be good about repairing stuff around the neighborhood while Goldie seems like she would be the type to keep an eye on my Amazon deliveries until I got home from work or wherever.  I’d much rather live next to them than George and Amal Clooney, if just because the Clooneys seem like they would be the type to complain because you accidentally clipped their yard with a lawn mower or something.)

The Christmas Chronicles 2 actually does have a plot and it tells a pretty sweet little story.  A bitter elf named Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) is trying to ruin Christmas and it’s all up to Katie (Darby Camp) and Jack (Jahzir Bruno) to help Santa and Mrs. Claus save the world’s Christmas spirit.  Along the way, Katie gets to travel through time and meet her father and both Katie and Jack learn about the importance of family.  It’s all very sincere and very sweet and if it doesn’t bring at least one tear to your eyes this holiday season, you’re hopeless.  That said, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is ultimately all about star power and charisma.  The film works because Russell and Hawn are a total joy to watch.  Consider this: it’s a 114-minute film but the main story is resolved in 90 minutes.  The remaining 24 minutes are spent watching Russell and Hawn light a Christmas tree and hang out with Santa’s elves and it’s absolutely delightful to watch!  By the end of the film, you basically just want to move to the North Pole and live with the Clauses.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is currently on Netlfix and it’s a fun little holiday romp.  It’s perfect for kids and the adults who sometimes have to watch movies with them.  There’s a great musical number and a few surprisingly clever jokes.  (I loved that when Santa and Mrs. Claus watched It’s A Wonderful Life, it was a version that had been dubbed into the Elvish language.)  Check it out.  It’ll lift your holiday spirits.

 

Film Review: Deadpool 2 (dir by David Leitch)


“From the studio that killed Wolverine!” the poster proclaims.

“Directed by the man who killed John Wick’s dog” the opening credits announce.

Deadpool 2 is so meta that it even opens with a close-up of a figurine of Hugh Jackman impaled on a rock or a branch or whatever it was that finally killed him at the end of Logan.  Deadpool, the irrepressible and nearly indestructible mercenary played by Ryan Reynolds, announces that he’s willing to accept the challenge posed by Logan‘s tragic ending.  Deadpool promises us that, in the movie we’re about to watch, he’ll die as well.  Deadpool then proceeds to blow himself up.

Of course, those of us who have seen first Deadpool film know better than to panic when Deadpool’s severed head flies at the camera.  Deadpool heals so quickly that, as long as his powers are working, he can’t be killed.  If he gets shot or stabbed, the wound heals almost immediately.  Broken bones mend themselves in record time.  When Deadpool literally gets ripped in half, he promptly starts to grow new legs.  Without his powers, of course, Deadpool would have died a long time ago.  He has cancer, a fact that the film doesn’t dwell upon but which still adds a bit of unexpected depth to the character and his trademark dark humor.

Of course, Deadpool is not just unique because his near-immortality.  Deadpool is also unique in that he, and he alone, understands that he’s a character in a movie.  Even more importantly, he understands that he’s a character who is being played by an actor named Ryan Reynolds.  (Some of Deadpool 2‘s best jokes — which I won’t spoil here — are at the expense of some of Reynolds’s earlier career choices.)  While everyone else in the film is taking things very seriously, as characters in comic book films tend to do, Deadpool is pointing out all of the clichés and even the occasional plot hole.  When Cable (Josh Brolin), a cyborg warrior from the future, offers up a hasty explanation for why he can’t just use time travel to solve all of his problems, Deadpool dismisses it as “lazy writing.”

With the monster success of Wonder Woman, Infinity War, and Black Panther, Deadpool is the hero that we now need.  I mean, let’s be honest.  Comic books movies can be a lot of fun and, right now, we’re living in the golden age of super hero cinema.  At the same time, these films can occasionally get a little bit pompous.  Think about the unrelenting grimness of the DC films.  Think about all the sturm und drang that made up the undeniably effectively ending of Infinity War.  It in no way detracts from those films to say that Deadpool’s refusal to take either himself or the movie too seriously often feels like a breath of fresh air.  Deadpool is the one hero who is willing to say to the audience, “Yes, it’s all ludicrous and silly and occasionally a little bit lazy.  Isn’t it great?”

And yet, even with all that in mind, Deadpool 2 has a surprisingly big heart.  Even while it encourages us to laugh as its excesses, the sequel makes clear that it has a bit more on its mind than the first film.  Deadpool 2‘s plot deals with the efforts of both Deadpool and Cable to track down an angry mutant who goes by the somewhat regrettable name of Firefist (Julian Dennison).  Cable has come from the future to kill Firefist and prevent him from eventually destroying the world with his anger.  As for Deadpool, he feels that the spirit of someone he loved wants him to save Firefist.  As for Firefist himself, he’s an escapee from the Essex Home For Mutant Rehabilitation, a Hellish orphanage where the hypocritical headmaster and his perverted staff attempt to torture young mutants into being normal human beings.  The parallel to conversion therapy is an obvious one and there’s always just enough outrage underneath the film’s humor.

Deadpool 2 is a fast-moving and quick-witted sequel and Ryan Reynolds is, once again, perfect in the role of the demented lead character.  The jokes are nonstop and fortunately, so is the action.  There’s a lengthy fight between Cable and Deadpool that’s destined to go down as a classic.  Another exciting scene opens with parachutes and ends with … well, I can’t tell you.  I won’t spoil it, beyond to say that sometimes, being a hero is all about good luck.  Deadpool 2 is an ultra-violent, ultra-profane action-comedy with a heart of iron pyrite.  It’s not a film to take the kids too.  Deadpool himself points that out.  (He also points out that the babysitter is probably stoned by now.)  However, Deadpool also says that this sequel is a film about family and, amazingly enough, it turns out that he’s not lying.

So far, 2018 has been the year of the comic book movie and Deadpool 2 is a welcome addition.