KONG: SKULL ISLAND** Why? Why? Why? Oh Why?


THE CGI IS great. Or perhaps I should say, at least the CGI, led by veteran SFX veteran, Chris Brenczewski, is great. And a buff Tom Hiddleston tries hard (unconvincingly) to beef up his Bond credentials in this unnecessary, forgettable, often risible monster movie.

The fundamental problem with “Kong: Skull Island” is that though the director (Jordan Vogt-Roberts) assaults us with mega monsters, an ape the size of a ten story building, thunderous explosions and helicopters piloted by silly pilots who fly into certain death, he makes no attempt to build suspense, create interesting characters or even terrify us out of our wits. Perhaps, I am therefore concluded to suggest, all directors, or the producers who green-light monster productions like this, should be made to sit a written exam after studying the genius of Spielberg’s original “Jurassic Park.”

Now here’s a movie that fully shows up the awfulness of “Kong: Skull Island” when you remember all the magnificent touches it had that “Kong: Skull Island” is too lazy and too cynical to bother with. Remember the hold-your-breath tension when the two kids are in the kitchen hiding out from those toe-tapping velociraptors? No such tension here. Remember the multiple and very human relationships between the flawed adults and the kids…the greed (and wonderful cummupance) of the would-be thief? No such human-kind lives on this movie planet. Kong’s people are mainly gorilla food or very fast runners (with tight shirts), with a stock in trade bad guy (Samuel L. Jackson in full-bore cartoon role) and a pretty girl in a very tight top (Brie Larson really slumming it after “Room”). Remember Spielberg’s effort to lull our disbelief in the actual do-ability of recreating dinosaur DNA and the thoughtful sub-plot about not messing with nature? No such effort here. It’s a big ape living among big fantasy monsters. Take it or leave it.

So…it lacks tension, lacks scream out loud moments, lacks likable or evenly hisssssably nasty people and offers instead a storyline that shreds any semblance of logic…It lacks the pretence of making any sense. It seems that it’s also lacking a good return on the $325m it took to get it to our screens.

And all of that could have been avoided had director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (no past movies of any repute to mention) writers Dan Gillroy (“The Bourne Legacy”), Max Borenstein (“Godzilla”!), Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World”) and John Gattins (“Flight”) and the ten producers, taken the simple “Follow these Jurassic Park Rules” exam before cameras rolled and Tom was made to make such a fool of himself in public

 

KONG:SKULL ISLAND. Dir: Jordan Vogt-Roberts. With: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman. Cinematogapher: Larry Fong (“Batman v Superman”). Production Designer: Stefan Dechant (his first movie as head of production design). Special Effects set coordinator: Chris Brenczewski (“Jurassaic World” “Avengers Assemble”)

 

ROOM***Dull


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THE STORY OF Room, the excellent novel turned into a bland movie, is gripping enough: a woman is kidnapped, raped (repeatedly), impregnated and imprisoned in a shed with the son she gives birth to…for over five years. To the son, the room is his entire universe. And then one day, rolled in a carpet like Cleopatra, he’s smuggled out… reborn as it were to a new world, a new reality. The whole thing is told through his uncomprehending eyes.

But the movie, despite the brilliance of its two principal actors (Brie Larson from Trainwreck and the nine year old Jacob Tremblay), was written by the book’s author (Emma Donoghue), who also wrote the screenplay for…why, nothing else. This is always a risky proposition. And in this case, Room the moving novel absolutely fails to make the transition from book to film.

Because the movie (true to the book) is also told from the kid’s perspective and (probably also) in an attempt not to sensationalize the story, the film pulls back on ever giving us a clue to Ma (the mother’s) dread, her sense of desolation and loss, what must have been her loathing…horror of the nightly rapes. Even the drama and tension of the escape and the kid’s near recapture is a listless, unexciting affair. Jack (the kid’s) reality was that all was fine. So we the audience are left with having to work very hard to feel otherwise.

Director Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) places the emotional emphasis instead on the bond between mother and child. For five years, locked in a small room, Ma manages to make Jack’s life happy and fulfilling. There’s a real chemistry between the two actors and the love they show is touchingly real.

But what we gain with the emphasis on the mother/child relationship (symbolically the room is still her womb) we lose with the drama.

The movie feels flat, as if drained of tension and energy.

Certainly Abrahamson works hard to retain the integrity of the central idea driving the tale: reality is a very personal, esoteric conceit (that’s why “all’s well” in the room); and one that’s almost impossible to redefine and reimagine.

Jack (Tremblay) has only ever known the room. He’s proud of his ability to distinguish the difference between what’s real (his bed, his cupboard, his mother…) and what’s unreal (the worlds he experiences on TV). The problem comes when there’s the need to replace one reality (the room) with another (the world ‘out there’). A naturally happy, chatty boy, he clams up and whispers only to his mother (Larson) – the only remaining vestige of the reality he’s known. Indeed, when we see him in his new environment (the capacious home of his grandmother – the always compelling Joan Allen – and her partner, Sean Bridges from Trumbo), we see him through the bars and grills of the stairs, doorways etc, as if he’s in a prison.

but he’s young…and as one character notes, “plastic”. If the room has been his only experience, his sense of reality is not so set that it can’t be amended. Not so much his mother. No longer in control of the situation (despite being a kidnap victim and sex slave) and newly terrified by “the world”, she simply loses it. Even as the son breaks away from the barriers of his mind, she becomes ever trapped…unable to adjust to the new reality she faces. And his grandfather (William H Macy) just can’t handle the fact that his daughter had been raped and his grandson, who he can’t look in the eye, is the result of the union. Indeed (it is implied) it was the attempt to get to grips with a missing daughter, dread reality that that is, that caused the breakdown of his marriage.

It’s a solid, intelligent movie. It’s just, well…dull.

ROOM. Dir:Lenny Abrahamson. WITH: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridges, Hoan Allen, William H Macy. SCREENPLAY: Emma Donoghue. CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Cohen. PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ethan Tobman