Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Posted on March 28, 2024 at 12:46 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for creature violence and action
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended monster-style peril and violence, some disturbing and graphic images
Diversity Issues: Some insensitive stereotyping

Remember, they’re not monsters; they’re titans. Earth has become accustomed to living with gigantic beasts, and even allows Godzilla to sleep in Rome’s Coliseum, curled up like a puppy on a dog bed, after a hard day’s work protecting the Eternal City from bad titans. Godzilla’s nemesis from the last movie, King Kong, is safely unreachable in Hollow Earth, a pristine world of exotic creatures, with a few human scientists to study and monitor, led by double PhD Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). The human encampment is so large and complex there is even a school for the children of the people working there. Andrews has adopted the mute girl with the telepathic connection to the giant ape, Jia (Kaylee Hottle).

Something is wrong. Jia is having disturbing visions, creating drawings that track the anomalies showing up in the scientists’ instruments. Andrews asks conspiracy podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) to come to Hollow Earth to help. Trapper (Dan Stevens), Andrews’ classmate and former love interest, now a freewheeling veterinarian dentist to the Titans, arrives in Hollow Earth to replace Kong’s infected tooth. We know Trapper is a free spirit because (1) his name is Trapper, (2) he replaces the tooth while hanging from a helicopter AND ENJOYING IT (one of the highlights of the film), and (3) he wears a Hawaiian shirt over a hipster t-shirt and leather cord necklaces.

That is about all you need to know about the humans in the story, except that Jia has one other connection with Kong. They are both believed to be the last of their kind. That will turn out not to be the case.

There are a lot of titans in “Godzilla x Kong.” It’s like the “Avengers: Endgame” of gigantic beasts and I admit I got lost in trying to remember who was on which side. I suspect the titans did, too. And there are so many of them and they all have different powers, you need a spreadsheet. It’s getting to be kind of like Pokemon, if Pickachu was the size of a skyscraper and could breath atomic radiation.

Let’s face it. The humans are here for (1) scale, so that when Kong holds out his hand to Jia, her hand goes only partway around his fingertip, (2) exposition, to say things like, “Something down there is calling for help,” and “You’re going to think I’m completely insane,” and use words like “anomaly” and “intensity increased,” (3) looking worried or afraid (poor Jia is stuck with one anxious eyebrow expression through the whole movie, and (4) running from various dangers. Or, not be able to escape. Just like you never want to be the character in a horror movie saying, “I’ll be right back,” you do not want to be the one in the monster movie saying, “I’m the one in charge, so everyone has to do what I say.” Oh, another purpose for the humans — (5) being the chosen one from the ancient prophesy.

The monsters/titans are here to fight, and let’s face it, we’re here to see them fight. Creature designer Jared Krichevsky and the talented crew of designers and CGI experts have created titans that are true to the spirit of the classics but take advantage of the capabilities of current technology. I’m a fan of Kong’s roundhouse punches, especially with his augmented mechanical arm. And there is a titan that breathes ice, a sea serpent, and one I won’t spoil except to say it’s in the classic Kaija top ten. I admit I got a bit confused by the overwhelming number of creatures in the various locations (Rio seems to be there just for reason (6): to wear bikinis), and did not always remember who was on who’s side, but the fight scenes are as much fun as the fans could hope for.

Parents should know that this film includes extensive and sometimes graphic creature violence, injuries and deaths of a human and many monster characters, and brief strong language. Audience members may be concerned over racial stereotypes, with the one Black main character relegated to comic relief for being terrified and the stereotypical portrayal of the indigenous people.

Family discussion: Why does Dr. Andrews trust Bernie Hayes? What does Jia learn from meeting other members of her culture? Why are there apparently no female giant apes?

If you like this, try: “Godzilla Minus One,” the original 1954 “Godzilla,” and the 2005 “King Kong”

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Action/Adventure Fantasy movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Series/Sequel Thriller

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

Trailer: Professor Marson & the Wonder Women!

Posted on July 21, 2017 at 8:00 am

Luke Evans (recently Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast”) plays the remarkable William Marston, psychiatrist, lawyer, inventor of the lie detector, and creator of Wonder Woman.

For more background, read my interview with Noah Berlatsky and Jill Lepore’s terrific book about Marston.

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Based on a true story Biography Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Transcendence

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Transcendence2014PosterThink of it as “Her 2: The Revenge of Him.” Or Samantha infected by Heartbleed.

Just as in last holiday season’s Her, “Transcendence” is the story of an artificial intelligence contained in a computer program that becomes or is seen as human consciousness.  Instead of the warm, affectionate voice and bubbly laughter of Scarlett Johansson, we get the portentous monotone of Johnny Depp, as a scientist murdered by anti-technology activists, whose mind and memories and personality are uploaded to a mainframe before he dies.  Apparently he has time to read the Oxford English Dictionary aloud, too, so his voice can be preserved.

Cinematographer Willy Pfister, best known for working with Christopher Nolan, turns to directing for a story set in the world of the highest of high tech but grounded in hubristic themes that go back to Icarus and up through “Frankenstein,” and “The Unknown Known.”  Even with Nolan as producer, however, he is weak on narrative, pacing, tone, and working with his talented cast.  Morgan Freeman, Clifton Collins, Jr., Kate Mara, Paul Bettany, and Rebecca Hall have never appeared so toned-down and disconnected, just plain under-used.   Depp appears mechanical even when he is still human.  And the film has the unmistakable flavor of a recut following disappointing early audience responses.

A promising premise gets bogged down right from the beginning when Max Waters (Bettany) introduces us to a post-apocalyptic world where traffic lights no longer work and discarded keyboards are used to prop open the doors of bodegas that are out of more items than they have to sell.  The grid is down. It has been down for a long time.  And no one knows when it will be back.

We go back five years earlier to meet the brainy, gorgeous, and so-in-love couple Will and Evelyn Caster (Depp and Hall).  Here’s how adorbs they are; in her beloved garden (hmmm, Evelyn — is she Eve?) he is installing a copper canopy, to cut them off from cell phone signals and other technological intrusions).  They are on their way to present their work to donors, where he explains that she is the one who wants to change the world.  He just likes to work on cool stuff.

When he is fatally injured in an anti-technology attack led by Bree (Kate Mara) — we know she is up to no good because of the heavy eye liner — Evelyn decides she can keep him alive in some sense by uploading his consciousness to the mainframe.  Max helps her, but when it works, he immediately sees that it is a problem, and Evelyn, furious, tells him to leave.  Evelyn is so happy to have Will back in any form that she is happy to follow his directions.  Soon, his intellectual capacity is increasing exponentially and she is following his directions to take over a remote, all-but-deserted town, install a football field-sized solar panel energy generator and a five-stories-below-ground lair a Bond villain would envy.  She walks through endless corridors like Beauty in the castle of the Beast.

“It’s like my mind has been set free,” the computer-Will tells Evelyn.  The combination of the human urge for learning and growth and the unlimited capacity of the computers leads to problems that are only evident when Will is too big to stop.  Somehow, even his infinitely magnified intelligence and endless capacity to snoop do not make him capable of understanding women.  “Your oxytocin and serotonin levels are off,” he tells her tenderly, if a bit robotically), “I’m trying to empathize.”  This becomes extra-creepy (as in “Her”) when he tries to come up with a way for them to be together physically,

Will figures out a sort of 3D printer of any kind of cell, including human tissue.  He is able to cure any illness, heal any wound.  Without asking or even telling the patients, he tweaks them all as well, inserting himself into their brains.  Those anti-technology activist/terrorists are looking pretty smart now, but perhaps not as smart as the government, who allies with them only so they will have someone to blame.

We know where this is going because we saw the beginning of the movie, just two hours earlier.  Just to remind us, we get to see the exact same images all over again, but instead it reminds us we have not seen very much in between.

Parents should know that this film includes bloody violence with guns and heavy artillery and some disturbing and graphic images, some strong language, and some sexual material.

Family discussion: Was the computer consciousness Will? Did it stop being Will? What is the significance of Will’s name?

If you like this, try: “Her” and “12 Monkeys” (rated R)

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