Tag Archives: John Goodman

“Kong: Skull Island”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Even if you aren’t a fanboy of the monster movie genre, you’ll have a good time at “Kong: Skull Island,” an eye popping popcorn movie that offers up some good old fashioned cinematic escapism. The film has a serious-yet-satirical attitude that gives it an elevated B-movie vibe, and it’s a ton of fun.

Setting the film in the 1970s was a brilliant move and it serves the story well. Conspiracy theorist Bill (John Goodman) convinces the government to give him a military escort to chart a mysterious island. Accompanying him are tough and combative career military man Lt. Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his helicopter squadron, British tracker James (Tom Hiddleston), anti-war photojournalist Mason (Brie Larson) and several other random company suits and scientists. After arriving on the island the group encounters wildly strange hermit Hank (the scene stealing John C. Reilly), a presumed dead WWII military pilot who crash landed and has been stuck on the island since the 1940s. King Kong is a hero ape in this version, keeping the local tribespeople safe from the Skull Crawlers (which are admittedly lame and fake looking dino lizard things).

The plot is thin, the dialogue is at times clunky, and there’s little character development. But that’s not really why audiences flock to movies like this, is it? We’re here to see a giant monkey wreak havoc, and the film delivers. (In fact, Kong shows up within the film’s first few minutes, providing an instant satisfaction by giving us an early and grandiose glimpse of the beast).

This is one great looking movie that’s extraordinarily visually focused (if not so much story-wise). It’s an expensive spectacle with a huge budget (rumored to be in the $190 million range), and you sure as heck can see where the money was spent onscreen. It’s not in the talented, credible actors that helm the cast: it’s in the absolutely flawless — and I mean FLAWLESS — visual effects. The CGI eye candy is breathtaking and the classic movie monster is brought to life on an epic scale by the animation geniuses at Industrial Light & Magic (with visual effects supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum working at the top of his game here). Kong looks and feels like an actual ape and is given a real humanity through the topnotch animation.

Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who directed the intimate film “Kings of Summer” (which clocked in at #4 on my list of the Top 10 Best Movies of 2013), makes an enormous and impressive creative leap from spearheading a low budget indie to an extravagant blockbuster with enviable ease. Vogt-Roberts has a skilled, artistic eye for visual beauty and stages some epic set pieces here. You’ll get big monsters and even bigger explosions with a pulsating retro rock soundtrack throughout.

All of this dazzling spectacle serves as a flashy distraction from the thin story and flat acting, but this is a wildly entertaining movie that breathes life into the Kong franchise.

Save

“Ratchet & Clank”

LOUISA:  1.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Colorful, loud and boisterous with an uninteresting plot, “Ratchet and Clank” is not a good movie for adults or kids. This is exactly the kind of animated movie that gives all animated movies a bad name. That it actually got a wide theatrical release will go down as one of the greatest mysteries of the decade (it’s much better suited as a Nickelodeon cartoon television movie of the week for the kiddos).

The characters are cute and likeable, especially the big-eared, fox-like creature Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor) and defective war robot Clank (David Kaye). The friendly Clank is inexplicably cuddly (I never thought I’d feel all warm and snuggly about a robot) and you can’t help but root for the duo to save the galaxy. Most of the others are completely generic and forgettable. Captain Qwark (Jim Ward) is a Mr. Incredible looking vain buffoon and Elaris (Rosario Dawson) is a slightly nerdy femme sidekick.

The voice actors are more than capable and I have no complaints about any of their performances, but there are two well-respected actors who have no business lowering their standards to be in a movie like this: John Goodman (Grimroth) and Paul Giamatti (Chairman Drek). Goodman and Giamatti at least give it their all so you can’t fault them for that.

The story is generic too: our misfit heroes must work together with the Galactic Rangers to stop evil aliens from destroying every planet in the Solana galaxy. There’s a lot of double crossing and lasers and noise that blends into a cacophony of blah. The animation is good enough, but barely. It looks like a video game, but maybe that is the point.

Not everything here is awful, however. I found myself snickering at a lot of the smartass, sarcastic humor and way more than a handful of jokes are genuinely funny. The snappy buddy banter works well at first, but the overly long movie later nosedives into a boring mess of repetitive ruckus — and I still have a headache from the robots and laser guns hours after my screening. God help you if your kid demands to see it in 3D.

I knew nothing about this film before I watched it, but apparently it’s based on a very popular SONY video game. As such, the movie feels like a 90 minute commercial for PlayStation.

This might be something children would enjoy if they are familiar with the game, but I shared the sentiment of the little girl sitting in the row behind me. “Mommy,” she asked about 30 minutes into the movie, “when do we get to go home?


Matt was unavailable for review.

“10 Cloverfield Lane”

LOUISA:   3 STARS   MATT:   3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

First things first: I promise to avoid giving away key plot points and surprises, so continue reading with confidence as this is a guaranteed spoiler-free zone. It’s best to avoid most online message boards and reviews so folks won’t ruin the film for you because the element of surprise is nearly all that “10 Cloverfield Lane” has going for it.

This film suffers from a severe identity crisis. It’s two distinct movies in one, each with a sort of uncomplimentary storyline. The first narrative is really strong, engrossing and (for the most part) entertaining; the second narrative is so bad that it nearly ruined the entire movie. This movie was pretty great until the final 20 minutes. It’s a shame because the majority of the film was effectively menacing, but the over-the-top, ridiculous finale just didn’t work for me.

John Goodman hams it up as Howard, a big, booming, mentally unstable survivalist who both imprisons and saves wounded traveler Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, once again proving herself to be one of today’s most underrated actresses) and good ol’ boy next door Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) from the danger that’s “out there.” Howard never divulges too many details about the attack but he guesses aloud that it could be the work of the Russians — or aliens. Thankfully he has been prepping for this day for years and has outfitted a mighty fine underground doomsday fallout shelter.

The best parts of the film happen in the claustrophobic bunker and the uncertainty of what to believe is effective and engaging (is menacing Howard a hero or a psycho)? The characters begin piecing together unsettling clues and decide to take a chance above ground and begin to plot their escape. Eventually all of this just goes on for way too long and the movie becomes a bunch of boring filler. As Howard grew more and more irate and agitated, I began to have a lot of those “gee, what would I do in this situation” moments throughout. I enjoy when a movie makes me see myself in the same predicament as its characters and has me weighing their same options (and clues). Is it better to stay underground with a nut or is it better to try to escape outside to something that may be far worse?

The film starts out strong and will keep you guessing the motives of slightly deranged Howard, but it ultimately ends with a stupid, unsatisfying, shaky-cam conclusion. I can best describe it as a mash-up of “Misery” and “Signs.” The movie is not as unsettling nor tense as the trailer leads you to believe: I’ve seen much better, much more suspenseful movies than this. There are a few cheap jump scares but I was never on the edge of my seat. “10 Cloverfield Lane” is predominantly a cinematic stunt rather than a cohesive work of art.

MATT SAYS:

It’s really difficult to review this movie without giving anything away, but I’ll give it my best shot.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is a stylistic sequel to the 2008 movie “Cloverfield.” Which is to say, this movie tells a totally new story that has a similar feeling to the original, but it’s not at all a traditional sequel. It’s very effective at establishing an atmosphere of uncertainty. We are able to identify with the heroine, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but we aren’t sure about the other two main characters – we don’t know who they are (really), where they come from, or whether any of the things they say are true. It’s an interesting story and an even more interesting way to tell it.

I like movies like this one because it forces you to become an active viewer. Just like Michelle, we are constantly kept guessing. Howard (John Goodman) sounds genuine, but he also sounds more than a little crazy. But there are hints and clues that are just believable enough to make Howard’s incredible story credible, and just enough character traits that leave us uncertain about the sincerity of Howard’s actions. We learn more about Howard, and about the situation they find themselves in, at the same time Michelle does. When new information is revealed, we are forced to process it along with Michelle.

The downside of storytelling like this is that you need to have half a brain to understand what’s going on because this movie doesn’t tell you, it shows you. This can make for some confused audiences and, as a result, I predict mass transgressions against the first of the Moviegoer’s 10 Commandments in theaters this weekend.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” works because the protagonist is intelligent and believable. She thinks quickly and reacts to her circumstances realistically. She is inventive and pragmatic, and sees the world (and her counterparts) with experienced and wary eyes. You don’t get frustrated at Michelle making stupid choices, because she doesn’t. These are the reasons the movie works, and why it’s a little better than your run-of-the-mill genre picture.

It’s not a perfect movie; in particular, the big reveal is a little goofy and a bit of a letdown that detracts from what preceded it. But overall, it’s an enjoyable time at the movies.