Tag Archives: Brie Larson

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

As my second most anticipated ape movie of 2017, Kong: Skull Island had some big expectations to fulfill. That said, the trailers did not fill me with hope—it looked like a lot of glorified CGI action mixed with a bunch of cheesy jokes, and despite occupying the same universe as the 2014 Gareth Edwards’ version of Godzilla (which I really liked), it seemed to have none of the atmosphere.

With that in mind, I have to say Kong: Skull Island was better than anticipated. In contrast to the grim, dramatic, character-based (and insanely overlong) 2005 version of King Kong directed by Peter Jackson, this one is pure popcorn fun, with plenty of action involving not just Kong but also a variety of giant monsters (as opposed to dinosaurs). If a super-sized Kong wreaking havoc is what you want to see, it’s likely you won’t be disappointed.

The first great decision the film made was to set it in the 1970s at the end of the Vietnam War. Bill Randa (John Goodman), a senior government official, conjures up a scheme to arrange an expedition to the mysterious Skull Island with the aid of a young geologist (Corey Hawkins, who looks and sounds very little like his characters from Straight Outta ComptonThe Walking Dead and 24: Legacy, a testament to his versatility). For some reason, they hire a skilled tracker, Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to assist them, together with US military forces headed by Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson). A photographer played by Brie Larson tags along for the ride.

And so begins their wild and perilous journey to Skull Island, where the monsters are big and abundant. King of the monsters is of course Kong, who acts as some sort of protector of the local natives who inhabit the island. This is a delicious premise on paper, with a whole bunch of characters with their own agendas and the biggest Kong we’ve ever seen (he dwarfs the 2005 version as he needs to be big enough to take on Godzilla next), all playing out with old school 70s rock music in the background and homages to classics such as Apocalypse Now.

The action is what the film thrives on, and thankfully, unlike the majority of monster flicks, you get to see Kong early and relatively often. Whether Kong is taking on humans or monsters, the action is spectacular, and the CGI is flawless enough that you can lose yourself in the fight scenes. I would still say the Kong vs T-rex x 3 in King Kong is the gold standard of Kong fight scenes in terms of creativity, epicness and length, though Kong: Skull Island gets pretty close with the sheer number of monster fights and the enlarged scale.

So in terms of what Kong: Skull Island needed to get right to be considered a good film, it does pretty well. However, in terms of the extra stuff that would have made it great, the film fares quite poorly. The first thing is that there are way too many characters for any of them to be developed properly. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are supposed to the glamorous human leads, but they are boring characters who really could have been cut out altogether. John Goodman, Corey Hawkins and Toby Kebbell are all underused, while the comedic relievers John C Reilly and Jason Mitchell (also from Straight Outta Compton) are poorly utilised, with the vast majority of their jokes falling embarrassing flat. Oh, and of course there’s also the arbitrary Chinese actress (Jing Tian) who is only there because the film was co-produced by China’s Tencent Pictures. The only human character who really has meat to his role is Samuel L Jackson, which surprised me as I thought he’d just do his usual schtick. In this case, it worked well for him.

In other words, the parts of Kong: Skull Island that don’t feature Kong are not very good, and there’s quite a bit of that given the film’s 118-minute running time. On the whole, I still enjoyed the movie because my expectations weren’t high and I just wanted to see the big fella smash stuff, which I got to do, though it’s a shame director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) couldn’t have delivered a more complete and memorable experience. Nonetheless, the post-credits scene still got me excited for upcoming showdown between Kong and Godzilla scheduled for May 29, 2020.

3.5 stars out of 5

2016 Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win & Who Should

oscars

I don’t have the time to do a detailed post for the Oscars this year, but it wouldn’t feel right without throwing some predictions out there. Here are my predictions (ie, guesses) on how I think each category will turn out, and which nominees I feel are most deserving.

Best Picture

Nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight

Will win: This is a really tough one to pick as it has been such a tight race. It will go down to The Revenant, Spotlight and The Big Short, and my guess is that Spotlight will edge out the others to take home the biggest prize.

Should win: If it were up to me I’d go with either The Revenant or Mad Max: Fury Road. In any case it’s been a terrific year for cinema and I think all of the Best Picture nominees — with the exception of Brooklyn — are all deserving.

Best Director

Nominees: Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Will win: Another tough one. Usually Best Director also gets Best Film, though it’s not as set in stone as it used to be. I initially went with McCarthy, but after some thought I’ve decided to pick Iñárritu.

Should win: Iñárritu or Miller are the most deserving in my opinion.

Best Actor

Nominees: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Will win: Leo. It’s his time.

Should win: There’s been some backlash against Leo lately but I still think he delivered an Oscar-worthy performance. The Academy has given away awards for far less relevant reasons, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t get it this time.

Best Actress

Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Will win: Brie Larson. She’s been the favourite for a while, though Charlotte Rampling is a dark horse.

Should win: Brie Larson or Charlotte Rampling. Both magnificent performances. I thought Larson’s was more emotionally affecting, though that’s partly due to the subject matter.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Will win: Sylvester Stallone. All the momentum is on his side, and if he misses out it will be a bit like when Michael Keaton missed out on Best Actor last year.

Should win: Mark Rylance. I’ve said it since I watched Bridge of Spies. He was absolutely brilliant in that film.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Will win: Alicia Vikander. The least suspenseful award. She appears to have it in the bag.

Should win: Vikander was great in The Danish Girl, but let’s face it, she was the lead actress, not a supporting actress. And I actually think she was better in Ex Machina. The deserving winner here is really Rooney Mara, though she should have been in the Best Actress category too.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton

Will win: Spotlight. Would be surprised if someone else won — though maybe the voters get swayed by all the OscarsSoWhite# backlash and end up voting for Compton.

Should win: Ex Machina. The most creative and intelligent script of the year,

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room

Will win: The Big Short.

Should win: Hard one to pick. I probably would go with The Martian.

Production Design

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I feel like this film will take out at least one of the technical awards.

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road or The Martian

Costume Design

Nominees: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant

Will win: Carol. Kind of like a consolation prize for missing out on being nominated for Best Picture.

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m not that into costumes from period pieces. At least I can remember the costumes in Fury Road.

Make-up & Hairstyling

Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, The Revenant

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Immortan Joe!

Cinematography

Nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario

Will win: The Revenant.

Should win: The Revenant or Sicario.

Film Editing

Nominees: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Spotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Revenant. Just because.

Should win: The Big Short. Loved the edits in this.

Sound Editing

Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Revenant.

Should win: Sicario.

Sound Mixing

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Martian. It has to win something.

Should win: I really don’t know what this award is all about, to be honest.

Visual Effects

Nominees: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I mean, it’s Star Wars.

Should win: The Revenant. Absolutely seamless stuff. Ex Machina is probably equally deserving considering the budget.

Animated Feature

Nominees: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There

Will win: Inside Out. This shouldn’t be controversial.

Should win: I haven’t seen Anomalisa (which is apparently really good), so on that basis I have to go with Inside Out.

Animated Short

Nominees: Bear Story, Prologue, Sanjay’s Super Team, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, World of Tomorrow

Will win: Sanjay’s Super Team. Pure speculation.

Should win: No idea.

Documentary Feature

Nominees: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Will win: Amy, though Cartel Land has a strong chance.

Should win: Amy. One of the best docos I’ve seen in years.

Documentary Short

Nominees: Body Team 12, Chau Beyond the Lines, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, The Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Last Day of Freedom

Will win: The Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. Another wild guess.

Should win: No idea whatsoever.

Live Action Short

Nominees: Ave Maria, Day One, Everything Will Be Okay, Shok, Stutterer

Will win: Day One.

Should win: No idea.

Best Foreign Film

Nominees: Embrace of the Serpent, Mustang, Son of Saul, Theeb, A War

Will win: Son of Saul, it’s the one everyone’s talking about.

Should win: No idea.

Original Score

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: Probably Star Wars.

Should win: Probably either Star Wars or Carol.

Original Song

Nominees: Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey), Manta Ray (Racing Extinction), Simple Song #3 (Youth), Writing’s on the Wall (Spectre), Til It Happens To You (Hunting Ground)

Will win: Til It Happens To You. Lady Gaga is performing this song immediately before this award is announced, and she’s being introduced by US Vice President Joe Biden. So it’s hard to imagine this song not winning.

Should win: No idea

Room (2015)

room

I ain’t gonna lie: Room wrecked me up inside. I watch so many movies that not many get to me, but of all the 2015 films I’ve seen thus far (and there aren’t many left to go), this one probably takes the cake. Maybe it caught me at the right mood or perhaps it’s the parent in me — either way, I found Room to be an emotional wrecking ball,  one that also offers moments of genuine suspense and heartwarming rewards.

I remember when I first saw the book of the same name upon which the film is based. It was 2011, and I was browsing around this endangered thing called a bookstore. The cover did not give away much except to say that it was about a five-year-old boy and his mother, and that the boy had never been outside the titular room. In the spirit of that cover, I won’t reveal any more about the plot, though it’s probably not hard to guess the premise. In any case, you find out very early in the film why they are in this predicament, and in all fairness, even knowing the answer to that in advance won’t really take much away from the overall experience.

I’m surprised but elated that Room is one of the eight Best Picture nominees at the 2016 Oscars. It’s a small-scale movie with some very difficult themes, several harrowing scenes, and a central premise that could come across as manipulative, particularly as the story is told through the eyes of the child. And yet it is so delicately written (the screenplay is also by Emma Donoghue, author of the novel), directed (by Lenny Abrahamson) and performed that all the emotions come across as terrifyingly and heartbreakingly real. As the father of two young boys myself, Room left a lump in my throat more than once.

There are so many things I appreciate about this film — the measured ways the characters are introduced and developed; how the revelations, big or small, have just the right amount of subtlety so that it’s neither spelled out nor overstated; the build-up of suspense and sense of urgency; the well-created feeling that you don’t quite know where the plot is heading; the way the dialogue can say a lot without much talking.

Above all else, Room is driven by the remarkable performances of the two leads — Brie Larson and Jason Tremblay. Larson has been a recognisable faces for some time now, but this will likely be the role that launches her to superstardom, especially if she gets the win on Feb. Her portrayal of the mother has won universal praise and deservedly so. She brings out all the vulnerability and strength of her character to perfection, and most of all she made me believe that she could be a real person. If there are any flaws in the character it’s more the fault of the script than her performance.

Young Tremblay, on the other hand, doesn’t put a step wrong despite playing a five-year-old child who has spent his entire life in a small room. I was initially convinced he’d get on my nerves or slip up somewhere sooner or later, but he manages to maintain that wide-eyed sense of wonderment, naïveté and innocence all the way through. At just 9 years old, this kid has a tremendous future ahead of him if he can stay grounded.

Room isn’t a perfect film — there are things I can nitpick about the premise and plot and some of the character interactions — though when it comes to pure emotional impact and heartfelt drama, it’s one of the best of the year. As tough as it was to watch at times, I wanted to keep watching this compelling story unfold. It’s a horrifying and inspiring experience about the best and worst about being human.

4.5 stars out of 5