Archive for John Goodman

Review: Kong: Skull Island

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

This is now the umpteenth version of the King Kong story, coming some seven years after the horribly boring Peter Jackson version. None of the previous films have managed to hold a candle to the brilliance of the original 1933 version, so how do you go about retelling this tired old story yet again? Set it during the Vietnam War and throw A-list film stars in it of course!

Kong Skull Island isn’t really retelling the tried and tested version of the King Kong mythology, it’s actually trying to do something a little different. Plus, it’s already a part of the upcoming monster-movie mashup series that includes 2014’s Godzilla reboot.

For starters, the 1970s makes sense as the most recent decade for the discovering the giant ape. It’s mentioned in the dialogue that there is a mythical island in the Pacific that is difficult to access due to unique weather systems that surround it, meaning the only way to really tell if it’s there is from satellite surveillance, something the US has and the Russians are developing, so it’s another race in the Cold War, akin to the arms race, the space race and the race to get the first man on the Moon.

Also, different from previous versions, this is the biggest and scariest Kong so far and apparently he’s still growing! It turns out that Kong is all that stands between us and a load of reptilian monster that want to wipe out humankind. (See how they might pit Kong against Godzilla in a future film?!) So, rather than dinosaur this time round there are a plethora of mega-fauna roaming ‘Skull Island’ that have had managed to grow so large thanks to the island’s ecosystem and their low levels of exposure to humans, presumably.

There’s the standard rag-tag band of adventurers, scientists and soldiers who all have their own agendas. The latter group has been plucked straight from the end of the Vietnam War under the command of Samuel L. Jackson’s character who basically doesn’t want the war to stop. The scientists are led by John Goodman’s character who managed to sneak in this last expedition under the guise of finding fuel but who seems to know a bit more about the islands inhabitants than he’s letting on, Brie Larson’s character is a photographer along for the thrill of shooting never-before-seen landscapes after being disillusioned with the way the War had unfolded. And Tom Hiddleston is there as a former SAS tracker. Cue lots of paranoia and scheming.

 Essentially, Sam Jackson plays a typical Sam Jackson character (even down to the point that he repeats a line word for word that he said in Jurassic Park), Tom Hiddleston plays a typical Tom Hiddleston character suave and threatening, in a slightly unbelievable way), Kong is Kong (can’t help but save the girl)and John C. Reilly plays everything for laughs as usual.

The elements of Kong: Skull Island that are really cool and different are the creature designs, how cine-literate it is (with references to films from The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now to Cannibal Holocaust – really!) and the fact that during one fight scene Kong is given a weapon to use! He was also never caught and showcased in New York.

Above all else it was a whole load of fun, I can’t wait to see Kong go toe to toe with Godzilla and a host of other Kaiju in future films! One of the rumours going round is that the relationship between the Japanese and American characters from the very beginning of he movie will mirror the way these two titans will get along in the next film. I for one can’t wait to see that match-up and what villainous Kaiju will force them into an alliance.

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Review: The Artist

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Right at the end of the year we finally get treated to the anti-3D film. You can’t get much less modern than this film, being that it’s a silent black and white film, shot and presented in the virtually redundant 1.33:1 format, that celebrates and pays homage to the golden era of Hollywood, when all you needed to do to get into the business was stumble into a famous film star and flutter your lashes.

The film follows silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) starting from his lofty position as king of silent cinema and how he copes with the encroaching threat of ‘talkies’. On the way he meets Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), the femme fatale who comes to personify the destruction of his career.

But, before the sad times there is great hilarity to be had, largely from the interplay between Valentin and his dog Jack. Together they play up for their adoring audience on and off-screen. It is clear that he loves and is loved by his fans in an equally great measure, which makes the chance meeting with Miller all the more bittersweet.

There is a great spark between them that they only just manage to control, but it becomes very clear that she is destined for a different kind of fame than Valentin is comfortable with, for reasons that become clear by the end of the film. She embraces the new craze for ‘talkies’ where  he has only known the art of silent film making and shuns the new technology, and the favour of the studio, to fight against the current. This sets his and Miller’s paths on opposing tangents where she is shot into the stratosphere and becomes the toast of Hollywoodland and Valentin fades into obscurity after self-funding a silent movie which flops. All this is show visually by a brilliant shot which is also a great metaphor:  On the way out of the studio they cross paths on a staircase and exchange pleasantries. This scene is both beautifully shot and heart-breaking.

Another scene which stood out for me was the nightmare scene where Valentin is trapped in a world in which everything makes a sound but him. The claustrophobic atmosphere invoked by the sound effects is easy to sympathise with as, until this point, all the audience has heard has been the musical accompaniment.

As well as brilliant turns by both Dujardin and Bejo the supporting cast is brilliant, all displaying the necessary over-acting associated with silent film without looking like they were hamming it up. The obvious actors to point out are John Goodman as the studio executive and director and James Cromwell who plays Valentin’s butler, Clifton. Cromwell, in particular, plays his part triumphantly providing both comedy and tragedy in equal measure.

As with most silent films the narrative becomes quite dark involving the selling off of all worldly possessions followed by a suicide attempt before this proud, sometimes cold, man comes to grip that he does need to move with the times whereupon he enters into dancing films and the reason for his reluctance becomes apparent.

The amount of attention ‘The Artist’ is getting is understandable as it is a solidly made, well acted film. It is refreshing in a year which brought us the horribleness that were ‘Your Highness’ and ‘Transformers 3‘ that there is an audience for something so hugely different and that it is being widely received by audiences. I truly hope that copycat filmmakers don’t try to cash in on this popularity by making a slew of silent films that don’t match up to ‘The Artist’, though I would hope that audiences would not be taken in by such films. Either way, this is a very strong contender for film of 2011.