Godzilla vs Kong (12a)
Verdict: Needs a big screen
The idea of an irresistible force confronting an unshakable object has thrilled storytellers for centuries, and now we have to thank Warner Brothers for shortening it to Godzilla vs Kong. We can no doubt expect this movie title to emerge in the next few years in the context of sports, politics, business and heaven knows what else.
In reality, it’s not the first cinematic showdown between the Hairy One and the Scaly One. They first came squared in the 1962 Japanese film King Kong vs Godzilla.
This latest blockbuster should also have been far behind us, but even Godzilla and Kong together were no match for the Covid-19 pandemic.
The idea of an irresistible force confronting a real estate has thrilled storytellers for centuries, and now we owe Warner Brothers for shortening it to Godzilla vs Kong
The original November 2020 release has been delayed; Shortly after, Warners became the first Hollywood studio to openly snarl at the movie industry, stating that all of their 2021 movies would be available to stream at home on the day of release.
With Godzilla vs Kong, that policy can still bite them where it hurts. On the other hand, the till so far, where cash registers are open, look healthy. Obviously, this is a movie that should be seen on the largest screen possible, so unless you have one covering the living room wall, I would recommend sticking until the cinemas open again.
Story wise, it’s the usual formula-like nonsense, figuring out a way for Kong to get out of his rainforest-covered Pacific island, and Godzilla from the depths of the ocean, mostly so they can both flatten skyscrapers. But for once America’s major cities are spared. This time it’s a Hong Kong ding-dong, as if that retarded former colony didn’t have enough on its plate.
Rebecca Hall plays Ilene Andrews, an American scientist whose adorable, deaf, adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle) has a unique bond with Kong. Jia is the spiritual successor to Fay Wray in the 1933 classic King Kong: the pretty woman who shows that a big, soft heart beats beneath that gruff exterior, even when Kong becomes, well, ape.
Godzilla’s basic decency is less easy to spot, especially when he is provoked into an orgy of destruction by a devilish corporate conspiracy behind which lurks a powerful American cybernetics company called Apex.
At the suggestion of another scientist, played by Alexander Skarsgard, Kong is duly removed from Skull Island to help defeat the Titanic Lizard on behalf of all humanity.
He is sedated and transported on a suitably huge ship, taking care not to venture into the known territorial waters of Godzilla. Nor, presumably, through the Suez Canal. That’s not a ship anyone would want to run aground.
For reasons that are both too complicated and stupid to enter here, there is also a plan to reintroduce Kong to his ancestral home in the core of the planet, the entrance of which is in Antarctica. I expect director Adam Wingard and his writers would have loved to call this place Middle-Earth. Now that they’re taken, they’ve settled for Hollow Earth, which happens to be something of a subterranean Jurassic Park.
In fact, turning down ideas from other blockbuster franchises doesn’t stop there. Before long, there are also Star Wars-style high-jinks as futuristic planes fly around in a flurry of special effects that, like everything else in this movie, are diminished by the small screen.
Meanwhile, in a parallel story, a feisty teenager (Millie Bobby Brown) and her hapless boyfriend (Julian Dennison) team up with a prowling conspiracy theorist (Brian Tyree Henry).
Plot-wise, the trio’s goal is to expose the dark goings-on at Apex.
But for the public, more importantly, their adventures are purely to provide a kind of comic relief. In this goal, they are only intermittently successful, much like Godzilla vs Kong as a whole (and this should be reassessed when it hits the big screen) roars loudly but missing teeth.
- Godzilla vs Kong is now available on premium video-on-demand platforms.
This gritty Guantanamo drama earned an Oscars nod
Verdict: imperfect but powerful
Verdict: sweet, but overhyped
Kevin Macdonald, the Scottish director of The Mauritanian, may well and truly disapprove of himself and his film in the recent Academy Award nominations.
It’s a surprise, because not only does his photo have impeccable references in the liberal breast cancer department, but Academy favorites Benedict Cumberbatch and Jodie Foster. In fact, 30 years after The Silence Of The Lambs, Jodie Foster returns to a maximum-security prison to interview an inmate. It really should be a nailed Oscar contender.
Still, Macdonald, whose impressively eclectic credits include the brilliant 2003 documentary Touching The Void and 2006 award-winning drama The Last King Of Scotland, and who is himself a descendant of royalty (his maternal grandfather was the great Hungarian-born filmmaker Emeric Pressburger), has the consolation of a string of Bafta nominations, as well as a Golden Globe for Foster.
In fact, he made an undoubtedly powerful (but not perfect) movie.
Jodie Foster and Tahar Rahim star in a film about a man named Mohamedou Ould Slahi who is being held in Guantanamo Bay
It is based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s 2015 memoir Guantanamo Diary, played compellingly by French actor Tahar Rahim (pictured). Slahi was a 30-year-old electrical engineer who was transported from his native Mauritania to the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, known in military circles as ‘Gitmo’ in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
Slahi was suspected of having been Al Qaida’s chief recruiting officer. Unhelpful to him, his cousin was Osama bin Laden’s spiritual advisor.
While his CIA kidnappers try to confess him, the film describes Slahi’s ongoing torment, which includes some truly bizarre torture. Along with more conventional barbaric tactics, he is sexually assaulted by a female soldier wearing a nightmarish cat mask. He also suffers from “ removal of bodily function privileges, ” one of those bizarrely reticent American euphemisms that hit the absurdity in another “ proceeding ” from Gitmo’s 2019 film, The Report, in which a prisoner was forced ‘to the bathroom on himself to go’ . But let alone linguistic qualities. Subject to these indignities and much more, Slahi confesses.
But where Foster is, there is hope. With a scary hair dryer and an even scarier scarlet lipstick, she plays his lawyer, Nancy Hollander, with Shailene Woodley as her junior. Their opponent is the military prosecutor Stuart Couch, played by Cumberbatch with the good old southern vowels.
In his briefing, Couch is told that ‘this man is the Al Qaeda Forrest Gump. Everywhere you look, he is there ‘. That’s all he needs to know. In addition, he was friends with one of the pilots killed on 9/11.
He is determined to enforce the death penalty, which he has no problem reconciling with his strong Christian faith, until he starts finding evidence that Slahi may have sinned much more than a sinner. In fact, he may never have sinned at all.
Using flashbacks, Macdonald keeps all this rattling with pace and gusto, but as a story it needs more nuance, making it more of a thriller and less of a moral statement. Nevertheless, the acting is excellent and I still think Rahim and Foster should play in the Oscars.
n MINARI is the absolute opposite, for more baubles than it really justifies. It arrives on streaming platforms preceded by a mighty reputation – no fewer than six Academy Award nominations and lots of extravagant praise – but in my opinion, it doesn’t deserve the momentum it continues to generate.
It is a slow-moving, beautifully observed, largely autobiographical film by writer-director Lee Isaac Chung, about a South Korean immigrant family who settled insecurely in rural Arkansas in the 1980s.
There is tenderness, poignancy and somewhat forced comedy in the story of Jacob Yi (a beautiful performance by Steven Yeun), an endearing father family who work hard to set up a small farm while working with his wife in a chicken factory. . Monica, and tried to keep her, their two children, and newly arrived mother-in-law all happy in difficult circumstances.
To fully believe in the story, as many have clearly done, you have to find Monica sympathetic rather than exhaustingly miserable (not me), and the granny more whimsically hilarious than persistently irritating (not me).
That said, the lovely cinematography makes the most of the wide-open landscapes, and it’s a relief to see the locals in general being welcoming, not overwhelmingly hostile. A movie that is pleasant enough, but by no means great.
- The Mauritanian is now available on Amazon Prime Video. Minari is on digital platforms starting today and in cinemas starting May 17.