Tag Archives: Tom Hiddleston

“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.

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“High-Rise”

LOUISA: 2 STARSMATT: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Mix together equal parts of the films “Snowpiercer,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Only God Forgives,” and “Lord of the Flies” with a dash of “The Lobster” and “A Clockwork Orange” and you’ve got the perfect recipe for “High-Rise,” the latest movie from director Ben Wheatley. This quasi-experimental and just plain weird art house film probably has a lot of poignant things to say about society’s current socioeconomic system and humanity’s rebirth but is too bogged down in flashy visuals, disturbing violence, over the top sexual content and savage brutality. The movie is not much more than a chaotic rambling of confusing images, and it is very, very tedious to sit through.

The story is at least complex and interesting, loaded with lots of science fiction elements. It’s based on the 1975 novel of the same name by British writer J.G. Ballard. The plot focuses on the residents of a high rise skyscraper and their building-imposed class system that’s orchestrated by the architect (Jeremy Irons) who lives in the Penthouse. When the building begins to crumble, the lower class residents on the lower floors begin to rise up — and all hell breaks loose. Tom Hiddleston is fantastic as always as new resident Dr. Laing, and the movie is boosted by strong performances from Sienna Miller as his randy bohemian neighbor, Elisabeth Moss as a friendly pregnant resident, and Luke Evans as an abusive husband and filmmaker.

This movie isn’t for the squeamish. It’s over-the-top brutal and bloody and violent and more than a little disturbing (extra strong warning for all animal lovers). I wanted to like it but the surrealism was a little too heavy handed to work and it feels like nothing more than a self indulgent mess. Too bad it was just plain boring.

MATT SAYS:

In “High-Rise,” Tom Hiddleston is Laing, a doctor who has recently moved into the titular high-rise building in an unnamed urban center in England. The building is a microcosm of society where the floor on which you live indicates your social rank: the aristocracy led by the architect Royal (Jeremy Irons) live on the penthouse and highest floors; the working professionals are on the floors underneath them; and the working-class families and disenfranchised live on the lowest floors. When power failures begin to plague the building, the aristocracy diverts the majority of the electricity to its uses and floors while depriving the lower classes of the energy they need. This control of resources by the rich ultimately results in revolution and upheaval within the building.

The film feels like a mash-up of “Snowpiercer,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” and “The Towering Inferno,” but is not on the level of any of those movies. I’m sure there is some biting satire and deep social commentary somewhere hidden in this latest work from director Ben Wheatley (“Sightseers,” “Kill List“), but I felt like I just missed most of it. While class divisions are certainly not unique to England — nor are tensions between the haves and have-nots — but much of this movie felt like it was talking to an audience that does not include me. Perhaps it resonates more deeply for the English. Or, perhaps, the filmmakers just aren’t very good at satire.

That said, there are some interesting ideas and visuals at work here. Hiddleston adds another solid performance to a resume that is growing more and more impressive. As the working-class Wilder, Luke Evans is a charismatic and monstrous rabble-rouser that commands the attention of the aristocracy and is instrumental in the building’s revolution. And, even if it didn’t succeed, at least the film aimed high in its attempt to say something about the state of class warfare in an interesting way.

“I Saw the Light”

LOUISA:    3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

All musical biopics are roughly the same: they attempt to paint a portrait of a tortured genius who either has problems with past demons, alcohol, drugs, women, violence (or a deadly combination of all of the above), which leads to a tragic, untimely demise. Even those unfamiliar with musician Hank Williams will probably know what to expect in “I Saw the Light,” a very simplistic and sparse retelling of the life of the country crooner. The main problem with the film is that main subject’s life was, well, pretty boring.

Unexpectedly strong performances from the stellar cast (including Tom Hiddleston as Williams, Elizabeth Olsen as his first wife Audrey, Bradley Whitford as the legendary Fred Rose, Cherry Jones as his protective yet overbearing mother Lillie, and an all too short cameo from David Krumholtz as a newspaper reporter), keep the film afloat. Who knew Hiddleston could sing and play guitar? He more than simply pulls it off here: he is completely believable in all respects, right down to the cowboy strut and the flawless Southern accent (he even pronounces ‘pecan’ in the correct way)!

Not only is this film well acted, I thought it was incredibly well directed by Marc Abraham. The film looks and feels gorgeous, full of creative shots and staging. Abraham successfully constructs a style that never becomes tiresome or stale (how many other biopics can you say that about)? The scenes are creatively staged in a way to make the audience feel like they are right there in the heart of the action, watching music history being made. It’s one of the best directed biopics I’ve ever seen, which makes it even more of a shame that no big awards are likely in this film’s future.

As someone who loves all genres of music (yes, even classic country), I was hoping for more from this film. It’s good but it could’ve been so much better. Instead of briefly presenting numerous snapshot moments in Hank’s life, I would’ve rather seen a more focused storyline. This overly long movie meanders all over the place, with scene after scene of hard drinkin’, heartache cryin’, hollerin’ and fightin’, and let’s not forget the holy grail in the life of a country music icon: lots and lots of cheatin’.

Thankfully there are musical interludes thrown in for good measure (once Williams gets to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, the movie picks up steam — only to quickly lose all the momentum it gained). The final moments of Williams’ life are beautifully handled, as is the reaction to his tragic death at the age of 29.

The film gets you into the heart of the characters, but the characters are just too dull to make any lasting impact.


Matt was unavailable for review.