Godzilla

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Kong: Skull Island Brings Monster Mayhem!

Published March 13, 2017 by rmpixie

Kong: Skull Island (2017, 1 hr., 58 mins)

If you know me, you know this pixie loves her monsters. Big, small, ugly, or cute, I need a weekly dose of monsters and creepy crawlies to keep me going. The promise of that plus the iconic King Kong being revived for 2017 in Kong: Skull Island made me perk up in the hopes of some great monster action, and I definitely got my fill.

Set in the same universe as the 2014 version of Godzilla, government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) and seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) go to Washington in 1973 to beg for funding and a military escort to a remote island. It’s their hope to be the first to discover a whole new eco-system. The Viet Nam War has also ended, and their military detail is led by Lieutenant Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who, after the war, feels a sense of loss and displacement after the sacrifices he made for his country. Randa adds the surly and ruggedly handsome ex-soldier and tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and the weathered but plucky photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to be a part of their quest. They must all overcome personal agendas and fight for their lives as the island holds way more than they bargained for.

Kong: Skull Island is more fun than a barrel of monkeys (sorry!) because we get one gigantic primate and his prehistoric friends (and foes). It’s a clever blend of traditional war movie, adventure and fantasy quest at its best with some not-so-subtle nods to Apocalypse Now, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (see various character names for proof), and even Platoon. These nods would normally distract me, but aside from some clichéd music choices, the writers somehow got the right balance without regurgitating the same old war stories. They also made the right choice with splitting up characters into teams with different agendas. It made for great adventure a la Jules Verne, and gave us a snapshot of who they were and what they wanted out of the expedition with the right amount of exposition; in fact, I thought the story and pacing made the almost 2-hour film seem a lot shorter.

Some interesting choices were made for the cast. Most of the supporting talent I could take or leave, but it was nice to see Corey Hawkins from Straight Outta Compton and The Walking Dead don his nerd hat, Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham as the all-or-nothing Captain Cole and a woman of colour with Tian Jing as the biologist San Lin (Hey Hollywood, we need more, please!). I was thrilled to see John C. Riley in the trailers (he, aside from the monsters, was a huge draw for me) and he didn’t disappoint as the hilariously loopy fighter pilot Lieutenant Marlow who had been stranded on Skull Island since World War II.  He was necessary for the plot, but at times I felt he was put into the story with a neon “comic relief” sign over his head. This is in part to the uneven treatment of tracker Conrad and photographer Weaver. They were so perfectly coiffed after each perilous moment, with glowing skin and shimmering lip gloss, that there wasn’t any room for their characters to be developed. The one actor that did surprise me was Jackson. In a rare moment he actually showed some range outside of his potty-mouthed villain shtick, showing us a conflicted, revenge obsessed man portrayed with a lot of passion.

And the monsters? Oh, the monsters!! Kong was a thing of beauty, with all the detail and emotion from a CGI character you could want. Terry Notary did the ape acting for Kong and is another simian movement expert alongside his colleague Andy Serkis. The horrifying “Skullcrawlers” made me jump for joy with their reptilian bodies and huge gaping mouths. Kong’s sensational fight scenes made me want to see more fantastic animals, but there was only so much time! Hats off to the long, long list of the incredible concept team and digital artists for a job well done. I also want to point out the “Iwi” people, the indigenous tribe of Skull Island that took Marlow in after he was stranded. The concept for them was really beautiful, although their silent society spoke volumes thematically. There are actually a lot of themes in this film, with Kong representing nature or the rage against war, and the indigenous people silenced against or perhaps because of the march of progress, but upon further reflection, this film just doesn’t have the legs for heady discussions.

Yes, I enjoyed Kong: Skull Island despite the handful of issues I had with it.  Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ first big budget movie offers an intro for the newly imagined Kong and his world, and I can only hope for meatier stories in the future. The film should definitely be seen on the biggest screen possible (I saw it in IMAX 3D thanks to the horror boyfriend), and stay for the end of credit scenes that made me squeal and clap. Godzilla and Kong met in 1962, and with this new “Monsterverse” where there’s a franchise afoot with all my favourite monsters, there’s a juicy re-match on its way!

Check out this cool website for Monarch, the research company in the Godzilla/Kong Monsterverse here.

 

Pixie’s Best of 2014 and 2015 Picks

Published December 30, 2014 by rmpixie
Theatre13

Theatre 13…where all horror films should be seen…Wooooo!!

 

2014 in review made me a little nervous to be honest.  I feel like I didn’t see nearly enough films, or maybe it was because I feel like I didn’t review a lot this year?  Who knows, but I did come up with a few.  A lot of them are indie films, and a lot I saw on the festival circuit.  Some have been released and some you may have to search for on demand, but I recommend seeing them!  Click on each film title for my reviews or links to trailers, and if you have any to add, please comment!  I’d love to know what your favourites were!

Godzilla:  I don’t like remakes, but I really enjoyed this one.  Big ol’ monsters smashing things made up for a so-so storyline, and it was a fun blockbuster event for me.

Maleficent:  Another blockbuster movie with one of the best makeup looks.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of Angelina Jolie’s beautifully altered face, and the effects were great.

Guardians of the Galaxy:  So much fun. Just so much fun.

Lyle:  This 65 minute film is pretty incredible.  Shown free of charge for a brief time to raise funds for his next project, writer and director Stewart Thorndike serves up a modern version of a Rosemary’s Baby-like suspense horror that is deeply moving.  A lesbian couple move into a brownstone with their baby Lyle, and mysterious neighbours coupled with a family tragedy gets the paranoia going full speed ahead.  Gaby Hoffmann, the current indie film darling of the moment, shows why she is in such demand.  Her portrayal of a mother on the brink is memorable, and I loved the haunting score.  You will have to follow the film’s Facebook page to find out when and where you can see it, as it is currently not available online.

Wyrmwood:  The zombie movie for action movie fans.  It is going to be released by IFC on February 13, 2015, so keep your eye out for it!

Predestination:  A wonderful spiralling tale of time travel and love.  This has a limited release date of January 9th, 2015.  Find it!

Housebound:  I’m not a comedy horror movie gal, but this one is superb!  Great pacing and a great cast.  Seems like it was released on DVD this past November, so again, find it!

Oculus:  a slow burner with a cool story, and one I will be adding to my collection.  Done by Mike Flanagan, the man behind Absentia, which I also loved for its unique story.

Two Canadian films I recently saw were Black Mountain Side and Berkshire County.  Both take on classic horror fare and make it their own.  Berkshire County seems to have an April 2015 limited release date, and Black Mountain Side will hopefully come out in 2015 as well.

Another Canadian gem was Hellmouth.  Starring Stephen McHattie, one of my favourite Canadian actors (whom I finally met this year! Yay!), this surreal quest for redemption will take you away with its visuals and retro feel.

The Babadook:  One of the most talked about films that actually lived up to the hype.  Tense, scary and dark, this is a must see for all horror fans out there.

Only Lovers Left Alive:  Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, this beautiful love story about lonely vampires will make you ponder your existence and purpose.

 

What will 2015 bring us?  Apparently a ton of sequels and remakes (big surprise!), but I’ve sifted through the fluff to find a few that seem to have a bite that is just as good as the bark!

First up is It Follows.  This film has made the festival rounds and is getting quite the buzz as being a refreshingly terrifying addition to the tormented teen horror roster.  After a steamy date, a girl is now being followed by a creepy unknown.  Love the Carpenter-esque score.  I will definitely see this one in March when it comes out in wide release!

Z for Zachariah has my interest because I still have my dog-eared copy of the book I loved as a teen.  Chiwetel Ejiofor stars and I hope they do the story of post-apocalyptic survival justice.

Chappie is about a robot with heart, intelligence and innocence.  Directed by District 9‘s Neill Blomkamp and starring Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, and Sharlto Copley, it is sure to be one of the bigger films with the great special effects that Blomkamp is known for.

Directed by Hostel and Hemlock Grove‘s Eli Roth, Knock Knock is a “horror/thriller” about a man terrorized by two gorgeous girls.  Not really sure about this one, but Keanu Reeves is in it.  All I can say is:  Don’t. Hurt. My. Man.

Insidious 3 and Sinister 2 are on their way.  I feel like I need to see them because I was there from the start.  Also from the producers of  the Insidious, Paranormal Activity and Sinister series comes another Amityville movie, which I also have to see because, again, I was there from the start.  In this case, Jennifer Jason Leigh stars in Amityville The Awakening, so there will be guaranteed intensity with her performance.

The aforementioned Mike Flanagan is coming out with a new one called Somnia, about a kid whose nightmares become real.  He is known for creepy atmosphere, so I expect something great.

I need to see Jupiter Ascending just for Channing Tatum in those ears, and Mad Max Fury Road because it looks like totally insane and brutal fun.

I would really, really love to see Pixie Dust realized in 2015!  Check out my interview with writer and director Damon Colquhoun and donate to get it made!

Lastly, Guillermo del Toro’s new gothic horror Crimson Peak about tragedy and a haunted house will probably be a good bet.  Also, Charlie Hunnam and Tom Hiddleston are in this.  Yup.  That will get my bum in a seat.

So there you have it.  A 2014 wrap-up and my 2015 picks all in one long-winded package!  Wishing you all a wonderful new year that brings us all good, great, no-FANTASTIC luck in life, love and health!

 

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Carolyn

 

 

 

Giant Lizard Love: Godzilla 2014

Published May 19, 2014 by rmpixie

godzilla

Godzilla (2014, 2 hrs  3 mins)

As a kid, I was a diehard fan of that giant, nubbly-hided, spiny lizard, the one with the pseudo-elephant roar, yes, Godzilla.  Saturdays were made better if I found a channel with a grainy old school Godzilla movie, forfeiting any outdoor adventures for an hour or two.  Because of the nostalgia and all the remake frenzy going on these days, I have become somewhat immovable in my stance of the loveable, kitschy icon with the bouncy stomping action.  Godzilla of the 50’s to the 80’s was all I knew and that was fine with me.  When the 1998 version came out, I didn’t bother seeing it since the reviews skewered it.  I happened to catch it on T.V. one day, and agreed.  It was not the best representation of Godzilla, and I smugly held my stance.

After seeing a trailer for the 2014 version a few months ago, I was dubious.  There seemed to be a touch of cheese to the melodrama unfolding, making both my sister and I giggle.  I wasn’t sure if I would see it because I thought they would screw it up again.  Well, I am happy to say that I was wrong.  Gareth Edwards, who directed the intriguing indie film Monsters, manages to encapsulate all the important elements of an old-fashioned Godzilla movie and make the story current, relevant and bloody entertaining!

In 1991, scientists at an enormous excavation find gigantic fossils and some weird activity.  Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is physicist working at a nuclear plant in a city just outside of Tokyo, Japan.  He finds some unusual seismic activity and insists that it is not an earthquake.  His wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche), works there as well, and perishes during a seismic event and subsequent nuclear disaster that leaves Joe to raise their son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) on his own.  Ford grows up to be a soldier and somewhat estranged from his father, who is bent on finding out the source of the disaster that ruined his family.  When Ford goes to Japan to bail his father out for trespassing in their quarantined hometown, Joe reveals to him that there is something going on, something that will put a lot of lives in danger.  Add some officials that aren’t telling the whole truth, some radioactive hungry monsters and epic disaster scenes, and you have yourself a sensational monster movie.

I loved this movie!  Edwards added the classic elements from all the Godzilla films such as the cute little Japanese boy with a baseball cap rescued from peril, a tsunami, countless destroyed buildings, and the feverish workings of scientists and the military, to continue the legend and mythology.  The story stayed true to the veiled environmental and political commentaries of past Godzilla movies, without any distracting subplots.  Some of the details were well thought out too, like the opening credits, which showed clever vintage footage of military nuclear “testing” and grainy, Loch Ness type reels, as well as the redacted credits themselves.  I admit, I wasn’t there for the acting, but Cranston was solid as the obsessed grieving father and husband, and Johnson was nice to look at.  I was there for the monsters, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The monster fights were spectacular, bringing this pixie more massive creatures than I could ever dream of.  The scoring was also key for me.  It was overwhelming, ominous and grandiose, giving you the gut wrenching feeling of being tiny and helpless, which is more than fitting for the subject matter.

And I must take a moment to comment on Godzilla and the beautiful creature design.  I read that Edwards wanted to pay homage and respect the “Gojira” designs from the past, and his design team did just that, gaining approval from the original Toho production company that was responsible for Godzilla’s movie fame.  The majestic 2014 Godzilla is awe-inspiring, terrifying and somehow elicits sympathy with its expressive face.  This incarnation is also the biggest in Godzilla’s history. From that fabulous roar to the blue fire spit balls, this lizard fits the bill of his past brethren. I found myself cheering for it in the theatre, even finding it kind of adorable at some points during the film.  I especially liked it when Godzilla stomped on things and we got a close up of the giant clawed foot.  I giggled as I remembered the old school, latex foot bouncing as it decimated miniature houses and cars.  I would also donate to Godzilla’s epic vet bills.  It would be worth it to me, just to see that gorgeous lizard face again.

My only critique, as a monster movie fiend, is that the M.U.T.O. monster villains looked a touch like the Cloverfield monster.  I wanted them to have a separate identity instead of an actual (probably not intended) reference.  Also, I saw the 3-D version which I normally wouldn’t do, but I wanted to go the V.I.P. theatre and that was the only option, so I have no idea if those effects were any good as I have an eye issue that prevents me from experiencing this particular effect.

There has been announcements that a Godzilla sequel is in the works, and I couldn’t be happier.  With Edwards at the helm, I have no doubt that he will respect the O.G. Godzilla legend, this “King of the Monsters”, and will hopefully bring on more daikaiju (I vouch for Gamera, Rodan or Mothra) and more epic battles.  Go see Godzilla if you want to see a legend respected and represented the way a remake should!

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