There’s no doubt after the first three minutes of Kong: Skull Island that we are in for a wild ride. After umpteen versions of the film since the 1933 classic transformed special effects forever, this one is surprisingly effective…and affective. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts knows how to tickle our senses, as he dazzles us with animals we’re used to seeing under lock and key turned into monstrous and perfectly-executed powerhouses—frightening and exhilarating at the same time! Our ‘main stars’ are British tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Oscar-winner Brie Larson), who is correctly convinced that Randa's pretext of a "mapping exercise" is really just a smokescreen and wants to get down to the nitty gritty. They matter not. When they chopper into Skull Island’s vicinity, we see who the real star of this film is: a CGI gorilla relic that is certainly being brought back for sequels to come.
When they escape the carnage and make their way into the thicket of the island, they make contact with a stranded WWII pilot (James C. Reilly), who has adapted to the surroundings, respects the ways of the locals and eventually helps lead the stars to the end of the film. But this is where something falls a tad short. Where is the soul of the film? You will de dazzled by the creature feature thrill of it all, but with this type of star and acting wattage, something feels forced and…um…reductive. Fun though, for the eyes especially. ###-1/2
The tenth (Jesus!) film in the X-Men franchise and third of the Wolverine series starring Hugh Jackman is a nice way to (PLEASE) end the series. Logan starts in utter darkness, only to pan out on our star passed out in the limo he drives by day in an attempt to buy a boat and get the hell out of the southwest, where he’s a runner of pharmaceuticals and whatnot over the border. The year is 2029, and the Mutant programme is all a thing of the past. Yet we find Wolverine, uh…I mean Logan, still caring for the X-Men headmaster Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is now suffering from a neurological disorder. It would seem that the military has joined forces with the Big Pharma industries to do Nazi-like experiments on Mexican women, while kids who escape the labs have to flee to Canada. Talk about divination on what could be.
It all turns a little Stranger Things combined with Mad Max after this when they aid a mysterious, mute gal named Laura (Dafne Keen), who could be semi-mutant. The film then starts to feel like a long and action-riddled chase movie filled with gore. Jackman in this role has never been so engaging, which sounds weird to read as I write it, but it’s true. He's simply a hard-headed arse in this role, and nothing seems likely to stop that.
Director James Mangold has taken up his role in fighting the future by weaving in race relations and the pharmaceutical industry mixed with tyranny and agriculture awareness (you read that right, folks!). And I think it’s rather fitting that a film of this calibre should be released at such a time as this. The making of super soldiers and mutant killers also factors in, and it made me feel like I used to when I watched great X-Files conspiracy episodes: How much of this is based on fact? In that TV show, a lot, but with this film, who knows? One thing is for certain…the country in which Logan is set leaves very little hope to be found. ####
Those damn golden arches. Billions served. That scary Ronald McDonald clown. The name McDonald’s has become synonymous with corporate, big-business hell, but The Founder attempts to explain just how the success of that San Bernardino, CA company came about.
Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a salesman down on his luck, selling cheap milkshake blenders from town to town. When he drives thousands of miles to meet the Mickey D brothers, it’s clear that McDonald’s has the potential to go national…and oh boy does it. It’s almost impossible to think of a time when McDonald’s wasn’t a staple of Americana, but it really wasn’t until the Sixties and Seventies. Of course back then, all burgers were 100% beef. That was before the chain started super-sizing us and pink slime.
It’s that greedy energy that really marks the excellence in Keaton’s portrayal of Kroc, especially when he realises that he is still just a salesman, only now he peddles cheap milkshake powder over actual creamy ice cream. John Lee Hancock has sharply directed a biopic that is riveting in its own way. While I do wish Laura Dern had had a stronger role in the film, there is no denying that money makes people different. It’s nice to know that at least Kroc’s second wife gave a junk load of the Kroc fortune to NPR when she passed. But let us not forget that this company also went on to promote the augmentation of levels of obesity in US kids, as well as changing the mindset of food education throughout the entire country and indeed the world. ###-1/2
After a myriad of award wins for his performance in The Dallas Buyers Club a couple of years ago, Matthew McConaughey has been on a role with poignant films that continue to show his acting chops, from Mud to Free State of Jones. Gold, however, is not a gilded goodie as the name might suggest. And while not everything is lacklustre in the film, it certainly left me wanting a bit more—especially in light of it being more-than-loosely based on the Canadian Bre-X gold-mining scandal that happened just as I was starting university in the late Nineties.
The portrayal of the myth of the self-made American millionaire and his/her downturn has been rather prevalent in recent years…think Wolf of Wall Street or late 2015’s The Big Short. Following the basic premise of the Bre-X debacle, Gold tells the tale of a broke mineral prospector named Kenny Wells who is now living with his girlfriend, played to understated perfection by Bryce Dallas Howard. A genius idea leads to a pawn shop and then Indonesia, where a host of dramas await our intrepid, balding lead character. When he makes contact with highly-touted geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) things seem to take off. But, in my opinion, dealing with a story that is all about taking big business gambles, why doesn’t this movie do the same? It’s odd to see the two main actors play off each other so well since there is so much fluff in this film, and not enough substance of value…such as gold… ###