March 13th, 2017

KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) *** ½

Kong: Skull Island is the best Vietnam Allegory by way of a Giant Monster Movie I’ve ever seen. At first, the idea of putting King Kong into what essentially is a war movie seems a bit odd. However, it makes perfect sense if you think about it. Instead of fighting the Cong, our soldiers are fighting KONG!

That’s right folks, we’re talking Full Monkey Jacket here. Bananaburger Hill. Apepocalypse Now.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts wears his inspiration on his sleeve, just like Gareth Edwards did when he made the new Godzilla movie. Whereas Edwards was making a Godzilla flick as an homage to Spielberg, Vogt-Roberts is doing a clear riff on Francis Ford Coppola. That isn’t to say the film is completely devoid of Spielberg-isms. I dare you not to smile when Samuel L. Jackson does his little callback to Jurassic Park.

Speaking of Jackson and homages, I also like how his character was influenced by some of the great movie characters of all time. You can definitely see a little bit of Gregory Peck’s Captain Ahab as he single-mindedly tries to take down a giant animal. The character he’s most like though is Sarge, the character played by The Rock in Doom as he goes from being a badass to bad guy.

Unlike Edwards’ Godzilla, there is no teasing of the monster’s appearance. Once the team of soldiers arrives on the island, Kong makes short work of their helicopters. The way he swats them from out of the sky is glorious. It’s some of the finest monster mashing mayhem of the 21st century.

From then on, the movie becomes a tale of survival. The soldiers have to regroup and trek from Point A to Point B through a dangerous landscape, all the while avoiding being eaten, stepped on, or squashed by giant monsters. The monsters are pretty cool too. I liked the giant spider scene a lot. The “skull crawlers” that are Kong’s main competition are a little weak, but as with the MUTOs from Godzilla, they’re pretty much there as a punching bag for our star monster. No matter, because the scene in which Kong does battle with a giant squid is worth the price of admission. I don’t know if the scene where he eats the squid raw was a nod to Oldboy or not. I’d like to think so.

The whole “Beauty and the Beast” stuff is kept to a minimum. That’s mostly because Brie Larson isn’t your typical damsel in distress. She’s a combat photographer. Her interaction with Kong is limited, but their big scene together is rather special. It’s more like the dinosaur meeting scenes in Jurassic Park where you can have a quiet moment to ponder the wonder of a giant monster that doesn’t want to eat you.

Unfortunately, they never really find much for Tom Hiddleston to do. He gets a great introduction scene where he lists the various ways people can die on an uncharted island and we hear a lot about his legendary combat skills. Then, once they’re on the island, he basically just acts as tour guide.

The film itself is patchy in places. It’s a given that the human scenes aren’t going to be as good as the stuff with the monsters. There are also more scenes of people walking from place to place than in any given Lord of the Rings movie. The good news is that when the monsters are mashing, it’s damn good times and that’s the only thing that matters.

Let’s go back to the Vietnam allegory for a second. I was only half-joking about how silly the idea of making a monster movie as metaphor for Vietnam is. It actually sort of works though. I mean, we take it for granted that the original Godzilla is a metaphor for the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan. Godzilla’s rampage is meant as a symbol for the destruction of Japan. Here, American troops are stuck in a jungle fighting a war they can’t win. The only difference is that they can clearly see their enemy because he’s a hundred feet tall.

I don’t think this is quite as good as Edwards’ Godzilla movie. It is the best King Kong flick since King Kong vs. Godzilla, so that alone is cause for celebration. I’d recommend seeing it on the biggest screen possible that had the loudest sound system to get the full effect. I’d also say to check out the 3-D version because there are tons of stuff that come out at the screen, including:

• 3-D Gun (multiple)

• 3-D Brie Larson

• 3-D Bomb (multiple)

• 3-D Shrapnel

• 3-D Helicopter

• 3-D Antenna

• 3-D Hand

• 3-D Hat

• 3-D Spears (multiple)

• 3-D Sword

• 3-D Skull Crawler

• 3-D Lighter

AKA: King Kong: Giant from Skull Island.

BLAIR WITCH (2016) ½ *

You all are complaining you lost an hour because of the time change. Amateurs. I watched Blair Witch and lost ninety minutes.

I guess you all remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones”. Well, we learned in the first Blair Witch that they can also bore you. At least in that movie the budget was so low that that’s all they could afford to show you. In this soft reboot/sequel, they actually show the Blair Witch. Would it surprise you that she looks like a half-assed CGI monster from the Syfy Channel? Probably not.

Look. Found Footage movies are not my bag. Still, I sat through this one because it was directed by Adam Wingard, who made You’re Next and The Guest. I thought if anyone could breathe a little life into the tired franchise, it was him. To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi: “I was wrong”.

Some more dummies go into the woods with cameras looking for the Blair Witch. After a half an hour of checking the camera equipment, putting up tents, and walking around the woods endlessly, we finally get to the meat of the movie. That is to say another half an hour of people looking for other people.

The thing that makes this entry different? This time out, there are a couple of local stoners that join the camera crew who act as tour guides. That is to say there’s even more people to annoy the shit out of you while they’re wandering through the woods.

I don’t know why Wingard would want to make this shit. This sort of thing is clearly beneath him. He proved with You’re Next and The Guest he can hold the camera still with the best of them. Sadly, Blair Witch features brand new ways to irritate the piss out of you in terms of shaky-cam nonsense.

You see, this is the 21st century, so now people can wear cameras on their heads to capture their footage. That means that instead of holding a camera in their hand and shaking it up and down when they run, they have a camera on their head that shakes side to side when they run. Progress.

Hundreds of imitators have come and gone since the first Blair Witch. You shouldn’t do another one unless you’ve got an interesting angle. The only potentially intriguing idea they can come up with is the camera crew’s use of drones to give them aerial footage of the woods. This admittedly decent idea is almost immediately squandered when the damn thing gets stuck in a tree. When a chick climbs up to get the thing, she dies from… wait for it… falling out of the tree. Weak.

The kills are downright stupid, other than the part where a girl is folded in half. The sole “good” part is when a girl picks at her pussy leg. As in her leg is filled with pus. Not as in her pussy is filled with leg.

The extended finale in the Blair Witch Asbestos House of Death goes on forever. It looks like the first person camerawork from Doom, except minus the guns. Or the point. (This is the second review in a row I’ve mentioned Doom. Maybe it’s time to give that flick a reevaluation.)

At least in the original once they got to the house you knew it was over. Here, it continues on and on with the heroine having to partake in a prolonged crawl through a tunnel of shit. I couldn't think of a better metaphor for this movie if I tried.