Spend the Afternoon with ‘Wilson’ Screenwriter Daniel Clowes

(PCM) When Daniel Clowes was sitting at his father’s bedside as he was losing his battle with cancer, the graphic novelist and screenwriter he started drawing comic strips about the hospital.

The film, from Fox Searchlight Pictures, opened on Friday, March 24, to the delight of movie goers who were looking for something with more meat on its bones. This story, about a cantankerous middle-age eccentric man, with few filters, was directed by Craig Johnson, best known for his indie film, “The Skeleton Twins.”

“Wilson,” as a result of stellar performances, is endearing, often charming, and offers a few life lessons along the way, such as: don’t wait until your life amounts to nothing but a storage locker filled with old junk to take stock of your situation. In other words, if Wilson, the misfit, can persevere, there is a great deal of hope for the rest of us.

Clowes, a Chicago native, lives in Oakland with his wife, Erika, son, Charles, and beagle, Ella. He published the first issue of his seminal comic-book, “Eightball.”

His graphic novels include: “Ghost World,” “David Boring,” “Caricature,” “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron,” “ Ice Haven,” “The Death-Ray,” “Mr. Wonderful,” and “Wilson.” His screenplay for the film adaptation of “Ghost World,” starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson, was nominated for an Oscar. His most recent graphic novel is the highly-acclaimed “Patience,” which he is working to adapt for next film.

PCM: I heard that you had been thinking about this when your own father had gotten ill. Had you actually met Wilson or seen composites?

Daniel Clowes: Wilson was deep in here. Yeah, when my dad was in the hospital on his last legs, just sort of like in the movie where I was hoping for that kind of final reckoning where he’s going to look at me and you know, here’s the advice I’ve always wanted to give you, and I realized sitting there that that was not going to happen.

PCM: Yet, something positive came out of that experience for you?

DC: Yes. At the very same time, I had just finished reading a biography of Peanuts author Charles Schulz, and he said in there, ‘I believe that every cartoonist worth his salt can come up with a serviceable comic strip in five minutes that would be good enough for the newspaper’

PCM: Please tell me more.

DC: So I thought, ‘wow, maybe I’m not as good as I thought,’ and so I sat there next to my dad with a notebook that I bought at the gift shop and just tried to, without any thought at all, draw four-panel cartoons, and that character just was there. It was like my filtered angry version of being in the hospital at first. Then it was about the airport shuttle getting there. Then I kept expanding what I was writing about. That was in 2008, and by the time I left, went back home, I had this whole notebook full of these comics that I felt…they felt more real than anything else I was doing at the time, so I got rid of everything else I was doing and tried to make that work.
PCM: Is there anything, putting yourself in your dad’s place, that you would say to somebody to give them closure?

DC: No. I certainly have no advice to impart to anybody. But, actually my goal would be to talk to my son enough throughout his life that he wouldn’t be waiting for that moment, because that was my dad’s problem. He was so closed off, and Midwestern, and this World War II guy who didn’t share his emotions. So, if we had a normal relationship, I wouldn’t have needed that last-minute Hail Mary.

PCM: I know that people record their loved ones voices, make a video or do other things to capture the memories before a parent dies, but it can be a little creepy if the person is sick.
DC: No, I couldn’t do it. Yeah, my dad would’ve been just like, ‘I don’t want it.’ But the thing about when people die is if you know them well, you hear them. You hear their voice, and I can talk to my dad today just as easily as if he were alive, because he said the same 10 things pretty much all the time, and told the same jokes, and so it’s very much like writing a character like Wilson; they become alive, and you hear their voice, and they talk to you in a very similar way.

PCM: I think Woody Harrelson, and the rest of the cast, are perfect for their roles. Why did you want Woody, and how did that happen?

DC: I turned in my script, and it was all, the director’s ideas. I can’t take any credit for it. Craig called me one day, and he goes, ‘what do you think of Woody Harrelson?’ And it had never occurred to me. It had just never even popped into my head, and I really didn’t have a good idea for the actor. It was driving me crazy, and then, all of a sudden, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, why didn’t I think of that?’ I guess I felt like Woody had moved to this phase in his career where he wasn’t doing comedy as much. I was of him on “True Detective,” and he was being more like a serious guy.

PCM: What else was involved?

DC: Well, I was only thinking of comedians, but then I remembered that Woody was like the funniest guy in “Kingpin,” and I thought of all these movies, and I remember early on somebody said, who do you want to be in the movie? And I said, you know, I just want somebody who’s exactly my age, because you know how you have the same connections with people who are born in the same year as you because you watch the same TV and all that? And so I said, I want him to be born in 1961, and I look up Woody on IMDB that day, and he was born in 1961.

PCM: So it felt like kismet?

DC: Yeah, I have to say that except he’s in a lot better shape than I am in.

PCM: Now, you handed in a script. You knew there was going to be a movie, or you hoped there would be a movie. How does that compare with the finished product?

DC: Oh, it’s completely different than the way I imagined it, but also like in the realm of possibility of the way I thought it could turn out.

PCM: Please explain this to me.

DC: When you’re writing it, especially somebody like me, who’s used to writing things and then drawing their own comics, I have a really clear vision of how it would look, and since I drew this as a comic, I had a clear vision, and the movie is an interpretation. It’s somebody else’s vision of my thing, but it felt comfortable with it. This feels like it gets across what I was going for. It wasn’t far out from that vision. It’s another way of seeing it, but you realize, you give the material to 500 directors, and you’d have 500 totally different films; and this is true even if they couldn’t change a word of dialogue.

PCM: Were you on the set of Wilson?

DC: Yes. My wife and I came to the set. I wanted that experience of like, turning in a script and buying a ticket to the film like everybody else in it and having that, because with the other films I worked on, I was so involved. I still can’t watch them to this day without being taken out of it, and so we just went to the set for two days and got to see maybe two minutes of film being shot and meet everybody and everything. It was a great time.

PCM: Do you know what you’re doing next?

DC: I’m working on a new graphic novel and writing a screenplay for a book I did last year called “Patience.” It’s a science fiction movie.

PCM: Excellent. Do you know when that’ll come to be?

DC: Well, I have to finish it first.

PCM: You do seem extremely busy. Back to the movie, “Wilson,” would you say that there are there life lessons here? I saw quite a few of them in the film, such as seizing the day, and not looking back on your life and having regrets.

DC: I try not to think in terms of life lessons. I don’t have any lessons to impart, other than what emerges from trying to be truthful with the characters. I feel like there are things that, when I look at my stuff after I’m done, I get stuff out of it, but not necessarily anything…I’m not trying to propagandize anything.

PCM: Yeah, I didn’t mean it in that way. I just meant sometimes you see sometimes like this either a tearjerker, or a comedy, or a quirky type movie, and it says, you know what, I don’t want to be that person sitting in front of that storage unit going, this is all I have to show for my life.

DC: Yeah, I have a storage unit, too, that always depresses me.

PCM: Yeah. Well, because they hope you’re just going to forget about it.

DC: I know that one day I’ll just be like, I’m tired of paying for it, and just all the money will be out the window, and it is just all my parents’ stuff. You know, just it’s very depressing. It’s like putting part of your memories off to the side and repressing them somehow.

PCM: Tell me about the amusement park scene where Woody and Laura’s character take the teen daughter she gave up for adoption as a baby to create the family fun day they never had when the girl was a child.

DC: I have a 12-year-old son. So I’ve been to those kinds of places with kids, little kids, big kids, and first of all, the whole book is set in Oakland, where I live, and we have this wonderful amusement park called Children’s Fairyland that’s for little kids and their families. I think you can’t go if you’re older than eight. It’s for really little kids, and it’s very crude, and weird, and old fashioned, and the parents are all just looking around kind of in awe at how sort of low key it is, and the little kids just love it, so it’s this great old-world thing, and originally, we were going to shoot the movie in Oakland, but it was too expensive. So they basically made that amusement park…I mean, they found an old amusement park, and they set-dressed it to make it look kind of like the one in Oakland. So it has a real poignancy to it.

PCM: What kinds of movies or experiences do you like to share with your 12-year-old son?

DC: He’s just getting to the age where I could take him to see, like, a real movie, not just a Pixar, or a Star Wars, or that kind of thing. We’re having a screening of “Wilson,” and he’s going to see Wilson, which we’re a little nervous about. He’s going to learn a few things, learn a few things about daddy’s comics. He’s never read any of my comics, so it’ll be interesting to have him there.

The post Spend the Afternoon with ‘Wilson’ Screenwriter Daniel Clowes first appeared on Movie News & Reviews.

‘Legion’ is Hypnotically Intense

 
Have you ever had that feeling that you’re experiencing a dream? Only to realize you were actually just watching FX newest hit show ‘Legion’? Maybe not? Well that has been my experience for the first six weeks of its premiere season, and it is now safe to say my mind grapes have been stretched and twisted in ways I never thought could be so engaging. Each new chapter in the show feels as if I’m given a cosmically charged LSD trip littered with foreshadowing of oncoming information revelations, reminders of past events that tie into current events, and easter eggs for future plot twists. It is bold in its very nature, a show about a mutant who has potentially hundreds of personalities existing within him, and each personality comes equipped with its own characteristics and more interestingly their very own super powers. It is also bold in its storytelling and production. Scenes seemingly end and begin traveling between planes of reality and time periods. The creators expect you to be sharp enough to keep up, forcing you to earn the right to understand David Haller’s gift. You can never truly be sure what you are seeing exists. Is it reality? Or is part of David’s mind? These sorts of questions are answered while at the same time compounded upon in a way that is both satisfying and challenging. Without hesitation I can say this show is very heavy and needs to be given your maximum focus and attention while viewing. This may be a drawback for people looking for a casual experience, but I can attest to the fun and excitement of trying to play detective, picking apart every detail to form your own interpretation of what’s to come. Noah Hawley (Fargo) beautifully demonstrates that he is not scared of testing your understanding of reality within the “Legion” universe. Drawing heavy on flashbacks, dream sequences, astral planes as well as times in which characters have changed bodies or are figments of the imagination, you may easily begin to think you have lost your own mind trying to keep pace with the storytelling. Eventually the scale tips the other way, providing important information revealing momentary clarity while simultaneously creating new questions. Patience will pay off in a well crafted and well designed story such as this. Those who need instant gratification may be frustrated by the lack of answers initially given. Same for those who expect non-stop action, just because it’s a Marvel title. But who needs those people anyway, I mean I’m sure there is a new Transformers movie right around the corner for them to stare blankly at. A unique quality about “Legion” is its overall ambiguous tone (which seems to be purposefully done to mirror David’s character). This show feels like a drama with some action but has a tendency to dance with elements of psychological horror. As we explore some memories of David’s they glow with an aura of creepiness through the tone and set pieces. The character design in the baddies are simple yet effectively terrifying, striking a nerve we all have within us that reaches to the roots of our childhood. Its setting and timeline seem to draw heavy influence from late 60’s to mid 70’s culture and is executed it in a way that feels real but also dreamlike. The sound design is supremely handled. I can recall many moments where the music was effectively altered in a way that communicated the tone change of the scene and heightened the tension. This show successfully aims to draw on your senses as it guides you through the characters psyches in a hypnotic fashion. Among the multitude of recurring themes within “Legion” I have noticed a large one revolves around control, more specifically having none of it. David struggles to grip his own thoughts and actions at times constantly at war within himself. Spotlight characters have had traumatic pasts and dwell over having no way of changing it, becoming victim to its outcome. This motif of no control is masterfully reflected in the environments they find themselves in. Whether confined to a psych ward or trapped within a memory their restrictions become haunting. It is layered to the point where the characters feel completely helpless adding depth to the unsettling tone set all throughout. Even between romantic partners we see the ongoing clash of control. Resisting urges, regret over past choices, not knowing the truth about intentions… The theme of control creeps through the narrative like a parasite feeding on the conscious of the characters. Legion” is not afraid to spread its wings narratively and challenge its audience to unfold the wrinkles of their own brains along the way. It has quickly became one of my staple shows and I look forward to continuing my journey through David’s mindscape. The fact that it has already been renewed for a second season proves that i’m not the only one invested in this journey. The post ‘Legion’ is Hypnotically Intense appeared first on Age of The Nerd. Save

Fede Alvarez Directing ‘The Girl in The Spider’s Web’

Lisbeth Salander, the cult figure and title character of the acclaimed Millennium book series created by Stieg Larsson, will return to the screen in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a first-time adaptation of the recent global bestseller written by David Lagercrantz. Fede Alvarez, the director of 2016’s breakout thriller Don’t Breathe, will helm the project from a screenplay by Steven Knight and Fede Alvarez & Jay Basu. Scott Rudin, Søren Stærmose, Ole Søndberg, Amy Pascal, Elizabeth Cantillon, Eli Bush, and Berna Levin will produce; the executive producers are Anni Faurbye Fernandez, Line Winther Skyum Funch, Johannes Jensen, and David Fincher.

The new film will feature an entirely new cast, and the announcement marks the kickoff of a global search for an actress to portray in the iconic role of Lisbeth Salander. The production will begin principal photography in September of this year with a release date scheduled for October 5, 2018.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web will be the first in the best-selling series to be produced into an English-language film in its initial adaptation. The previous books in the series have been adapted into Swedish-language films, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a remake of the Swedish film. It became a global hit for Columbia Pictures, taking in over $230 million worldwide.

The announcement was made today at the London Book Fair during a celebration for the fifth Millennium book launch, also by Lagercrantz. Sony’s Columbia Pictures retains the rights to all future Millennium Series books.

Sanford Panitch, president of Columbia Pictures, said, “In all of contemporary literature, Lisbeth Salander is completely sui generis – probably one of the greatest female literary characters of all time in my view. Modern punk defiance personified, she is unforgettable in every incarnation, truly one of the most compelling characters we’ve seen in recent years. David Lagercrantz’s brilliant work in continuing this remarkable series honors Stieg Larsson’s masterpiece. We at Sony are so honored to be part of this series with Yellowbird, and we’re so excited to be making an original film of The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Fede Alvarez is the perfect choice to direct. Fede is an amazing director with a unique vision of the world. In particular, his talent and skill in creating psychological intensity will bring Lisbeth Salander back into popular movie culture with a roar.”

Alvarez added, “I’m hugely excited and grateful for this opportunity. Sony has become family to me and I can’t think of a more thrilling project to celebrate our relationship. Lisbeth Salander is the kind of character any director dreams of bringing to life. We’ve got a great script and now comes the most fun part – finding our Lisbeth.”

As disappointed as I am with David Fincher not returning to the project, I can say I am excited to see the franchise land in the hands of a fresh and talented director such as Alvarez.

The post Fede Alvarez Directing ‘The Girl in The Spider’s Web’ appeared first on Age of The Nerd.

‘Bates Motel’: The Final Season So Far

(AOTN) Psycho and Bates Motel have finally collided in what is the final season of A&E’s Bates Motel, starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore as the mentally troubled young motel manager whose evil alter ego could endanger everybody that dares invade the life of “mother” and son.

After the events of the season 4 finale, Norman Bates is back at home after receiving psychiatric treatment, except this time he has the frozen corpse of his mom, Norma Bates to keep him company after he attempted to kill himself and her. Former Sheriff, Alex Romero was locked up on perjury charges, eventually escaping prison to go after Norman after he killed the one woman that could have potentially see his life result in some kind of salvation. After being beaten in prison and shot while on the run, will Romero make it to the Bates Motel to finish what he started?

Dylan and Emma have settled into a quiet life in Seattle. His father, Caleb came knocking and needed a place to stay for a while but Emma had to build up the courage to ask him to leave. After all that has happened in the past three seasons, Dylan felt that the only way forward was to maintain distance. Caleb obliged and made his way to Norman’s home, startled at seeing the place deserted at first despite Norma’s car parked up outside the house.

After receiving the news that his sister was killed and rival Chick Hogan confirming so, Caleb worked out that Norman must have surely been the one responsible. Breaking in and shouting for Norman later the same evening, he was knocked unconscious while standing in the basement and staring in terror at his sister’s dead body laid in her rocking chair. Unfortunately for Norma/Norman, Chick stumbled upon the scene but the two quickly came to an agreement that allowed the former crook to stay at the motel with “Norma’s” consent.

Caleb met a sudden end when he was put to death by the sight of Chick’s oncoming car when Norman sent him scurrying after he tired him up in the basement. This show never promised any happy endings for anybody.

A case of infidelity unwittingly involved Norman when a married guy turned up requesting a room for himself and a secret mistress. As it turned out he happened to be the husband of the girl, Madeleine, that Norman met in a paint shop early in the season. Eventually he confessed to be none other than Sam Loomis! He was the character made famous in the original movie that ultimately helped reveal Norman’s terrible secret.

Madeleine and Norman hit it off almost immediately despite delaying their lust for one another. The two eventually got close enough and they eventually fell into a passionate embrace, but as always “mother” arrived on the scene to disturb the proceedings, sending Norman dashing out of fear that “Miss Bates” would cause harm to his new love interest!

Adding to Norman’s problems, Sheriff Greene made inquiries concerning the disappearance of a certain Joe Blackwell, the guy that was sent on a mission by Romero to shoot and kill off Norman in events that occurred between the season 4 finale and the final season’s first episode. Norman as “mother” ended his life and hid his car in some bushes but it probably will not be long before Greene turns up the heat a notch or two.

Fans waiting for the arrival of famous shower movie victim Marion Crane will have to anticipate her entrance for a little while longer as events unfold. We were given a glimpse of what many viewers think was her in the season’s first episode but things will surely ramp up within the next couple of weeks! Whether we will get to see the show’s own version of the shower murder sequence is not known at this point and nothing has been hinted at by producers.

Nods and references to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic have made themselves known, some of which have been imitated for this version of the narrative. What is surprising is the shockingly low amount of outcries by Psycho worshippers that this final series of episodes are, when looking at the bigger picture, a reboot of the movie! Character names and events are vastly different, as are the alterations to the story, but this is still essentially a television redo. The interrogation sequence between Norman and Greene in Monday’s episode is one jot of proof. Perhaps the dreadful 1998 remake starring Vince Vaughn has made fans simply not give a stuff.

Still, Bates Motel has become a riveting piece of television during the last couple of years after making a strong entrance back in 2013. Seasons 2 and 3 may have contained little inspiration to maintain viewership but at least the series is being allowed to finish the story it wants to tell, unlike NBC’s superior Hannibal series which was cancelled after it’s third run.

If you have been watching since the very beginning then there is no doubt that you will probably be interested enough in continuing watching the show to it’s very end. But may this article be so bold enough to suggest that if you skipped out during the show’s second and third seasons that you check back in and get yourself comfortable.

Afterall, the timing could never be better!

The post ‘Bates Motel’: The Final Season So Far appeared first on Age of The Nerd.

‘Kong: Skull Island’ Review

(AOTN) The main problem with all of these mega-blockbuster films, going back to the original King Kong has always been incorporating the human elements with these massive monsters, whomever they may be.  It’s one thing to make the monsters in these flicks look visually compelling enough to keep the audiences fleeting interest at bay, let alone tell a compelling story.  For example, the thing that the 1993 original Jurassic Park or 1995’s Independence Day had were compelling HUMAN characters.  Sure these movies used the newest and baddest special effects of the time, the thing that separated these from the rest of the Blockbusters are the human characters audiences can get behind.  Independence Day doesn’t work without Will Smith or Jeff Goldblum.  Jurassic Park isn’t the same film without Sam Neil or Jeff Goldblum (this is not to say Goldblum is the glue of forming a Blockbuster, I completely forgot he was in both until I wrote this but he IS fantastic).  Having digressed big time, it is to say Kong: Skull Island while not on a level of timeless, has proven itself a step ahead of the rest, and an exciting and valiant attempt to bring back the giant monster flicks of yesterdays past.

The original Inkg Kong trailer:

Jumping back years chronologically in Legendary’s Godzilla/King Kong Universe, the GKK as I will refer to it, Kong: Skull Island begins circa 1944.  Two fighters from World War 2 (WW2) land  onto an island in the South Pacific, one American and one Japanese.  After engaging in some hand-on-hand combat, we are quickly introduced to the star of the show, Mr. Kong, the king of kings.  Fast forward the timeline to 1973 and we are introduced to our new set of protagonists.  Led by William “Bill” Randa (John Goodman) and fellow scientist, is geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) who set their sight on the unexplored “Skull Island”.  With a great leading cast including but not limited to James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), Preston Packard (Sam Jackson), Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), San Lin (Jing Tian), and Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbell), the crew set out to explore the formally unexplored Skull Island.

First things first.  Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts did an amazing job of paying homage, yet it makes something completely unique.  It’s hard to stray far from the original without people crying foul.  Kong incorporates enough yet says, “hey, I’ve got something to say”!  Luckily for fans, Kong doesn’t have a weird interspecies relationship with a woman, but has a satisfyingly intimate relationship with humans.  Kong is the main “bad guy” but isn’t necessarily the “bad guy”.  Like 2014’s Godzilla, Kong ills many a people, but isn’t maliciously killing them.  Kong like Godzilla has clearly defined motives that make the audience root for that character.  Humans, you me him and her, are impeding on their turf.  Much like the less-than-subtle Vietnam comparisons, these creatures want to be left alone.  The country of Vietnam didn’t want Western influence inflicting the destruction of their country, yet it happened.  As a member of the West, shit, I’m sorry.  The take-over of things that aren’t ours is in the blood and tradition of our country, and is exemplified in our arts.  Enter Kong: Skull Island, a love-letter to the Vietnam era directly influencing both the aesthetics and message of the new King Kong.

Moving past my rants-and-raves and weird political metaphors, Kong: Skull Island is simply a fun action monster movie.  Unlike 2014’s Godzilla, Kong doesn’t hide its titular character.  Within the first 8 minutes of the film, audiences are introduced to the scale of the title character.  He’s huge.  People small.  Kong king.  People… not king Kong.  This is exactly what you want out of this type of movie, it’s just done more style and care than one may expect.  Going back to my initial rants, this Blockbuster seems to have been made with more care and craft than audiences expect.  It’s a $200 million movie which one can walk away from and realize it was done with ONE specific vision.  Now there may have very well been a too many cooks-in-the-kitchen, but it feels like one filmmakers vision of what a monster movie could be.  Skull Island is done in an stylish manor that respects filmmaking in both past and present yet has a fresh feeling to it…sort of.  It’s not perfect, but it will excite both nerds and average movie-goers universally.  The saving grace of the film is its insane cast.

Leading the charge and keeping the audience fully locked in was the character Hank Marlow portrayed by John C. Reilly.  We first met this character in the opening scenes of the film, as the American solder who fell to the island with the rival Japanese soldier.  We pick this story up 29 years later, as the rest of the cast lands on the island looking for their buried treasure.  The heart and soul of these movies must be the glue, and while these characters minus Reilly’s don’t quite hold up to the necessary standards, there is enough to keep audiences engaged.  My real qualm with the film is the lack of character development, but thats a hard task to ask.  It’s like an episode of 24.  But, you have less than two-hours to complete and you have to tell both a visually strong yet cohesive story to satisfy both Democrats and Republicans.  Kidding, but its hard to make everyone happy.  Kong: Skull Island is a fantasic attempt at this, and is so far superior to movies like Jurassic World, it’s laughable.  It’s a silly monster movie that knows exactly what it is, but strives for more.

Kong:Skull Island
is now playing in theaters nationwide.

The post ‘Kong: Skull Island’ Review appeared first on Age of The Nerd.

‘Kong: Skull Island’ Review

(AOTN) The main problem with all of these mega-blockbuster films, going back to the original King Kong has always been incorporating the human elements with these massive monsters, whomever they may be.  It’s one thing to make the monsters in these flicks look visually compelling enough to keep the audiences fleeting interest at bay, let alone tell a compelling story.  For example, the thing that the 1993 original Jurassic Park or 1995’s Independence Day had were compelling HUMAN characters.  Sure these movies used the newest and baddest special effects of the time, the thing that separated these from the rest of the Blockbusters are the human characters audiences can get behind.  Independence Day doesn’t work without Will Smith or Jeff Goldblum.  Jurassic Park isn’t the same film without Sam Neil or Jeff Goldblum (this is not to say Goldblum is the glue of forming a Blockbuster, I completely forgot he was in both until I wrote this but he IS fantastic).  Having digressed big time, it is to say Kong: Skull Island while not on a level of timeless, has proven itself a step ahead of the rest, and an exciting and valiant attempt to bring back the giant monster flicks of yesterdays past.

The original Inkg Kong trailer:

Jumping back years chronologically in Legendary’s Godzilla/King Kong Universe, the GKK as I will refer to it, Kong: Skull Island begins circa 1944.  Two fighters from World War 2 (WW2) land  onto an island in the South Pacific, one American and one Japanese.  After engaging in some hand-on-hand combat, we are quickly introduced to the star of the show, Mr. Kong, the king of kings.  Fast forward the timeline to 1973 and we are introduced to our new set of protagonists.  Led by William “Bill” Randa (John Goodman) and fellow scientist, is geologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) who set their sight on the unexplored “Skull Island”.  With a great leading cast including but not limited to James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), Preston Packard (Sam Jackson), Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), San Lin (Jing Tian), and Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbell), the crew set out to explore the formally unexplored Skull Island.

First things first.  Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts did an amazing job of paying homage, yet it makes something completely unique.  It’s hard to stray far from the original without people crying foul.  Kong incorporates enough yet says, “hey, I’ve got something to say”!  Luckily for fans, Kong doesn’t have a weird interspecies relationship with a woman, but has a satisfyingly intimate relationship with humans.  Kong is the main “bad guy” but isn’t necessarily the “bad guy”.  Like 2014’s Godzilla, Kong ills many a people, but isn’t maliciously killing them.  Kong like Godzilla has clearly defined motives that make the audience root for that character.  Humans, you me him and her, are impeding on their turf.  Much like the less-than-subtle Vietnam comparisons, these creatures want to be left alone.  The country of Vietnam didn’t want Western influence inflicting the destruction of their country, yet it happened.  As a member of the West, shit, I’m sorry.  The take-over of things that aren’t ours is in the blood and tradition of our country, and is exemplified in our arts.  Enter Kong: Skull Island, a love-letter to the Vietnam era directly influencing both the aesthetics and message of the new King Kong.

Moving past my rants-and-raves and weird political metaphors, Kong: Skull Island is simply a fun action monster movie.  Unlike 2014’s Godzilla, Kong doesn’t hide its titular character.  Within the first 8 minutes of the film, audiences are introduced to the scale of the title character.  He’s huge.  People small.  Kong king.  People… not king Kong.  This is exactly what you want out of this type of movie, it’s just done more style and care than one may expect.  Going back to my initial rants, this Blockbuster seems to have been made with more care and craft than audiences expect.  It’s a $200 million movie which one can walk away from and realize it was done with ONE specific vision.  Now there may have very well been a too many cooks-in-the-kitchen, but it feels like one filmmakers vision of what a monster movie could be.  Skull Island is done in an stylish manor that respects filmmaking in both past and present yet has a fresh feeling to it…sort of.  It’s not perfect, but it will excite both nerds and average movie-goers universally.  The saving grace of the film is its insane cast.

Leading the charge and keeping the audience fully locked in was the character Hank Marlow portrayed by John C. Reilly.  We first met this character in the opening scenes of the film, as the American solder who fell to the island with the rival Japanese soldier.  We pick this story up 29 years later, as the rest of the cast lands on the island looking for their buried treasure.  The heart and soul of these movies must be the glue, and while these characters minus Reilly’s don’t quite hold up to the necessary standards, there is enough to keep audiences engaged.  My real qualm with the film is the lack of character development, but thats a hard task to ask.  It’s like an episode of 24.  But, you have less than two-hours to complete and you have to tell both a visually strong yet cohesive story to satisfy both Democrats and Republicans.  Kidding, but its hard to make everyone happy.  Kong: Skull Island is a fantasic attempt at this, and is so far superior to movies like Jurassic World, it’s laughable.  It’s a silly monster movie that knows exactly what it is, but strives for more.

Kong:Skull Island
is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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