Godzilla vs. Kong

Posted on March 29, 2021 at 11:35 am

B
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended, intense fantasy monster violence
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: March 31, 2021
Date Released to DVD: June 14, 2021
Copyright WB 2021

Ladies and gentlemen! In this corner, we have Godzilla, the atomic-era, skyscraper-sized reptile, destroyer of cities. And in the other corner, it’s King Kong, the skyscraper-sized mammoth gorilla. And no one needs to hear about anything else in this movie beyond the one question about Godzilla vs. Kong: Does King Kong throw a roundhouse punch that lands on Godzilla’s jaw like a guided missile? And the answer I am happy to say, is YES.

Also in the movie: a Titan gets sliced in two by a laser beam, another one rips a towering tree out of the ground and throws it like a javelin, a little girl communicates abstract concepts to a monster via telepathy and sign language, and some humans who say things like, “This is our only chance. We have to take it,” and “the gravitational inversion should be quite intense” and “That is the discovery of the millennium!”

As a refresher, “Titan” is the term for all of the gigantic monsters who have been living in massive underground locations that somehow have sunlight, air, and lots of lush vegetation and rivers. They have been “provoked” into coming into human world, as we’ve seen in the earlier Warner Brothers films, leading up to this Avengers/Justice League-style opportunity to see them all together.

In the earlier films, both Godzilla and Kong found humans who understood them. And they had “happy” endings, with Godzilla going back home after helping save the surface world for humans, and Kong at an isolated island-size sanctuary.

But happy endings don’t stay happy when there are audiences waiting for the next chapter. Godzilla returns and is not happy. Kong, it turns out, has been under observation in a “Truman Show”-style setting, except that unlike Truman he knew all about it, and has decided it’s time to do something different. He shatters the fake blue sky above the island. Scientist Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) is afraid to have him leave the island because the Titan world does not have room for two alphas; if he and Godzilla meet, there will be a battle, to which we say, duh, it’s the title of the movie and the reason we are sitting through the thin layer of exposition gives us a chance to catch our breath between special effects fights.

As happens more often than not, the real bad guy here is neither monster but the big, bad, corporation, headed by personification of greed and hubris Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir). What he cares about is power, in both senses of the word. AS has an idea he admits is crazy. “I love crazy ideas,” Simmons says. “They’ve made me rich.” AS says that if they can get Kong to lead them to the hollow tunnels where the Titans live, they can take him home and get access to the power source which I think will somehow restore the balance between humans and the Titans but to be honest, the details did not really matter to me or, I suspect to anyone else, including the people who wrote it.

Simmon’s daughter goes along to brag about the capacities of the flying machines her rich father paid for and to play the imperious spoiled girl/Veruca Salt role. You can all but hear her say, “I want it NOW!”

Meanwhile, Godzilla fan Millie Bobbie Brown and a friend join up with Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) a podcaster who is both paranoid and right in his suspicions about the Big Bad Corporation.

But, as I said, we’re here for the fight scenes, and there are some lulus, including a whole new monster I won’t spoil except to say it gives us the best of both worlds, “Captain America: Civil War” style, allowing for shifting loyalties and therefore different match-ups. Do we care that the “fringe physics” and veterinary science in the film are iffy at best? We do not. The only technology we care about is the CGI that makes that roundhouse punch land with a satisfying pow, and that is just right.

Parents should know that this film has extended fantasy/monster peril and violence with some gory and graphic images. Characters are injured and killed. There is brief strong language and a bathroom joke.

Family discussion: Why was it so difficult for the humans to agree on the best way to treat the Titans? Would you go along with Madison? Why did Simmons believe Lind? Why did Madison believe Bernie? What makes you decide to believe someone?

If you like this, try: “King Kong: Skull Island,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” and some of the more than two dozen earlier films, as well as the “Pacific Rim” films

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Action/Adventure DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- format Science-Fiction Series/Sequel

Hysterical on FX: Press Conference with Female Stand-Up Comics

Posted on March 29, 2021 at 7:00 am

Copyright 2021 FX

Hysterical” is a new documentary about female stand-up comics premiering April 2, 2021 on FX. Director Andrea Nevins (Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie), journeys backstage and on the road with veteran comedians, rising stars and novices to discover how an intrepid group of boundary-breaking females are changing the game and exploring what it takes to become the voices of their generation and their gender, featuring Kelly Bachman, Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Marina Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Judy Gold, Kathy Griffin, Jessica Kirson, Lisa Lampanelli, Wendy Liebman, Carmen Lynch, Bonnie McFarlane, Sherri Shepherd and Iliza Shlesinger.

I was lucky enough to attend a press conference with Nevins and some of the comics featured in the film, where new talked about “cancel culture,” hecklers, turning real life into comedy, and why no one should film their acts with their phones. Some highlights (lightly edited for clarity):

Adapting — or apologizing for past jokes that are now considered inappropriate:

Judy Gold

It was way different, and I think it’s because we thought differently then. So, things that were funny then, because of the way we’ve evolved, aren’t as funny now. If you take the way we think now and apply it to some comedy from 30 years ago, you’ll say, “Oh, that’s not funny. Why are they laughing?” It was a different world. I personally never really edited myself, but my rule is that you can talk about anything, any topic no matter how horrible as long as it’s funny. You have to craft a joke about it. You can’t just spew racial epithets or stereotypes. You need to use them wisely. And, also, if you are talking about something horrible that happened and you are crafting a joke about it, it doesn’t take away the sadness and the horror. It actually acknowledges that it happened, and you are sort of finding — a joke is a buildup of tension and then a release, and oftentimes people — you know, I think it’s going to happen with COVID — people are so tense, and they want a release. They want to laugh. They want to say, “Oh, I needed that.” It doesn’t make it — it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t cheapen whatever, you know, the topic is.

Copyright FX 2021

Bonnie McFarlane

I think everybody has jokes that you feel guilty about. I have a joke where I say “tranny,” and it still gets played on Sirius, and it makes me cringe so hard. But it wasn’t, like, negative in that way,
but it’s still using a word that I would never use now. So, we learn. We grow. You are making jokes about the times that you are living in, and that’s all you can do. You can’t see into the future about what’s, you know — maybe there will be a time where we are not allowed to make fun of dogs.

Sheri Shepherd

I mean, what I find is very hard is, in the past — you know, it’s always an evolution of being a stand-up comic, and in the past, you said what you said in the past because that’s where you were then. What I find very troubling now for comics is we are not allowed to say anything. You get on that stage, and that was the thing. With comics, we were the one that told the emperor that he was not wearing any clothes, and we were the ones that were allowed to get on stage and say something. Like Judy said, as long as it was funny, go ahead and put it out there. But now, as a comic, getting on stage, what I am tired of dealing with is “Oh my gosh. That was offensive to me.” “Oh my gosh. You said this.” Look, I’m a comic. The way we view the world is in a very skewed — through a very skewed filter. That’s what makes us get on this frickin’stage every night and say what we say. So that’s what I find
troubling for us in what we do today in this world, that if you say something, you’ve got to be scared that now you are not going to get booked or that TV show is going to come on, and you are going to go, “yeah, you know, you offended three people, and now they are writing letters.”

Jessica Kirson

I don’t feel guilty for material I’ve done in the past because I know it always has come from a loving place and because, at the time, I felt like it was okay. And there’s things I don’t do now or say now because I don’t feel it’s right and it feels wrong, and I don’t do it anymore. There’s times when I’ve said stuff to audience members where I felt guilty because I felt like I was too harsh or said things that I regret, but I’ve said things at the time that I felt were appropriate. And, again, there’s things I censor myself with now because, in my gut, it feels wrong to say them.

Bringing your painful experiences to the audience

Sherri Shepherd

When you are going through something painful or difficult and you bring it up on stage, there’s a chunk of the audience that can relate to it because they’ve gone through it. My husband cheated on me and the girl got pregnant. And I talk about standing over him, and I was ready to bash his head in with a lamp, but because I got it from Target, it wasn’t heavy enough to kill him. And that’s when I realized, that’s why white people buy antique lamps, because the base will actually crush a skull.

The sheer number of women that came up to me and went, “I hurt so bad from infidelity, and the fact that you were able to talk about it and make me laugh about wanting to kill my husband and what I’m going through,” I think it’s freeing for some people to be able to laugh at it. And the more authentic you are about your life, the less people can steal your stuff because it’s authentic to you.

Carmen Lynch

New York is great too because we are all in therapy. So, it’s a very therapy-centric place. So, we just take that stuff, and we throw it on stage. And it feels good, but it’s also original material, and people can relate.

Marina Franklin

It’s also very healing. It’s a healing journey. I mean, for me, that was the first time I ever had to talk about the fact that I could possibly die . But it was moments like that that you realize that you were always meant to be a comedian too because when you have real intense moments like that and you can make people laugh with it and it makes you feel good and it makes them feel good — because you constantly go through this stage of wondering if you are actually that comedian, and moments like that, it self-validates. I don’t know if that’s a word, but that’s what it felt like. And it was amazing to have a young woman approach me and say, “Thank you for doing this because people don’t know that people going through breast cancer and treatment, that they laugh and that we need laughter. And I brought my friend to your show just so she could see it.” And, so, it becomes this community that can laugh with you.

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Television

Interview: Michelle J. Li, Costume Designer for Shiva Baby

Posted on March 28, 2021 at 8:00 am

Copyright Neon Heart 2020
“Shiva Baby” mostly takes place at a reception following a Jewish funeral, which means costume designer Michelle J. Li had to find a way to make a lot of characters dressed in black look distinctive. An except from our interview for the Alliance of Women Film Journalists:

NM: It must be a challenge to do a movie where pretty much everybody is wearing black but you still have to make these characters distinctive and visually interesting.

MJL: Of course, at a shiva, the main color is going to be black. Emma and I spoke about it a lot. We as the consumer, think of black as one color. There are many, many different shades of black. There are warmer blacks, there are cooler blacks, and depending even upon the type of fabric, black absorbs light or reflects light.

When you put black in front of the lens, it becomes such a dark void, and you can lose a lot of definition from the silhouette of the character. I was really conscious about making sure that the texture and the pattern of whatever costume piece I was using really was the defining point that could help bring more interest into making it black, but interesting.

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Behind the Scenes Interview Jewish

Happy Passover 5781/2021!

Posted on March 27, 2021 at 1:33 pm

Have a blessed Passover!  Whether you’re on Zoom or socially distant in person, enjoy the holiday devoted to family, freedom, and courage. Dayanu!

The story of the exodus is for all ages.

For family viewing: try It’s Passover Grover!, The Prince of Egypt, Rugrats Passover,  and The Ten Commandments

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Holidays

Interviews: The Cast of A Week Away

Posted on March 27, 2021 at 7:09 am

Copyright Netflix 2021
I had so much fun talking to the four young stars of A Week Away for The Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Bailee Madison (who also co-produced, at only age 19!), Kevin Quinn, Kat Conner, and Jahbril Cook talked to me about their favorite camp activities, the advice they would give their characters, and what they hope people will take from the film. An excerpt:

Minow: The characters pack a lot of activities into a week! Which was your favorite?

Quinn: There was a day that we were filming a montage of sporting events around the camp. And we did everything from bag toss to pie-eating contest, to tug of war. And I think that was the most fun for me because I actually forgot that the cameras were rolling at one point, which is a good day in any actor’s career. We’re just having fun.

Madison: We were drained that day. I remember when we were finished filming, we were like, “I’m exhausted.” And then I went home and I was FaceTiming my mom and I said, “I’m so tired today. She asked, What did you do?” When I told her, I thought, This just sounds like a really fun day.” And it was. But yeah, we got really into it.

Conner: The scene was cut from the movie but we got to do a zip line, and that is one of my favorite things ever. But we only had one take. But if I could go back, I want to do it again.

Cook: Yeah, that was super fun. There were a lot of things that we didn’t get to do, that showed up in the movie but we didn’t get around to it. One of them in the dive sequence George gets launched off The Blob and I was looking forward to that the whole time. The Blob was just out there on the lake and we could see it every day. But then on the day, unfortunately, they hit me with the bad news. They said, “Doing your hair is too much of an ordeal so you can’t get it wet because we don’t have time to do it again.” And so, I climbed out onto The Blob, and I had to do this shimmy maneuver on the big wooden structure to get the shot and then I had to shimmy back off without getting wet.

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Actors Interview
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