Kong: Skull Island (C). If my records are correct, this is the 1,600th movie I have ever seen, so I wanted to celebrate the milestone with something big. This incarnation of Kong is plenty big, but overall the movie was disappointing. The year is 1973, and an eccentric guy (John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane) somehow persuades a senator (Richard Jenkins, The Cabin in the Woods) to authorize military assistance for an expedition to an uncharted South Pacific island that looks kind of like a skull. Goodman borrows a tough-as-nails colonel (Samuel L. Jackson, Unbreakable, at his Samuel L. Jacksonest) and a few more good men from the winding-down Vietnam War. There are several other members in the expedition, but only Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and cute Brie Larson (Short Term 12) make any impression, as a British ex-special-ops guy and an anti-war photographer respectively. The assembly of the team and the initial foray into the island are the best parts of the movie; once the monsters started to show up, I lost interest in a hurry. It’s a long two hours. Stay through the interminable end credits for a bonus scene.
The Movie Snob goes to the movies. And regrets it.
The Legend of Tarzan (F). If you see only one critically panned action movie starring Margot Robbie this summer . . . see Suicide Squad. I haven’t seen it myself, but it has to be better than this stinkbomb.
As our story begins, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård, Zoolander) has long been civilized into Lord Greystoke and lives in some Downton Abbey looking manor with his wife Jane (Robbie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot). He is persuaded to return to his old ‘hood in the Congo by an American fellow (Samuel L. Jackson, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) who thinks that the colonizing Belgians might be enslaving the locals. But the American is unwittingly part of a trap being set by Belgian King Leopold’s nefarious agent Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, Spectre), who needs to lure Tarzan to the jungle for reasons of his own. So most of the movie consists of Tarzan’s attempts to rescue the hapless Jane (who spends most of the movie in Rom’s clutches, chained to the rail of a Congolese steamboat), some okay flashbacks to Tarzan’s humble origins as an adopted gorilla, and some ridiculous action sequences. I probably would have given this charmless film a D if the director (David Yates, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I) hadn’t thrown in a couple of anti-Catholic bits. The villainous Rom uses a rosary as a murder weapon, and Robbie’s character insinuates that he was abused as a child by a Catholic priest. Wholly unnecessary, and offensive enough to drag this otherwise lame movie completely off the rails into the abyss.
Avengers: Age of Ultron. (B+). This film is a fun, entertaining Summer action blockbuster film. It’s got all the usual characters—Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downy Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). And of course, there’s even some screentime for Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson). With all the characters, you almost wonder how writer Joss Whedon has time to develop the characters and the story. But Whedon is no newcomer to this. There’s time to develop a little backstory—particularly for Hawkeye and even time enough for a little budding romance. And there’s time to develop an action packed story arch with the unintended creation of Ultron—a super android (James Spader). By the end of the film we are introduced to a new superhero—Vision (Paul Bettany), who teams up with the good guys to help defeat Ultron and his army of super-being androids. There’s plenty of action in this film but I have to say that after a while some of the fight scenes in this film began to seem a little too similar to the fight scenes in the last Avengers film. I just hope that’s not a sign that the franchise is wearing thin. Certainly, there will be more to come. And you will want to stay for the credits so that you’ll get a glimpse of the next villain to do battle with the Avengers.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (C). I enjoyed the first Captain America story, but this one was just sort of meh. Dislocated in time, square-jawed Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is not sure he’s really fitting into the shadowy ranks of the intelligence organization known as SHIELD. For one, he doesn’t trust Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Deep Blue Sea), probably because he wears a sinister eye-patch. For another, a bunch of SHIELD guys seem to want to kill him for some reason. On top of all that, there’s this hot girl he maybe sort of likes, but she’s always trying to get him to ask other girls out–plus she’s a former KGB agent nicknamed the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, The Other Boleyn Girl). But enough kidding around. This movie is 2 hours and 15 minutes of earnest and dull. There are lots of fights and explosions, of course, but nothing ever really seems to happen. Robert Redford (Indecent Proposal) seems to have a good time slumming as a top SHIELD guy, and Cobie Smulders (The Avengers) effectively pulls off her tiny recurring role as Agent Intense Brunette Sidekick Of Nick Fury. A few TV actors unexpectedly pop up in small parts, which was kind of fun. But on the whole, the movie left me unfulfilled.
Iron Man 2 (B+). The general rule for sequels is that the second movie is not as good as the first. Not so with Iron Man 2. The sequel is at least as good as the first and probably better. Where the first movie was focused upon introducing the character and the concept, the second movie is able to develop the character further and bring some new challenges to Iron Man. This is a great Summer film because it’s full of high-stakes action scenes. The conflict in this movie comes from the fact that the military sees the Iron Man technology as a potential threat and it wants the technology for its own purposes. Iron Man, played by Robert Downey, Jr., assures the military that the technology is safe in his hands. Little does he know, a Russian villain named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has the technology, and he develops his own super-suit. Add to the mix Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who’s an arms dealer desperate to get the U.S. Government’s business, and you have a recipe for a potential catastrophe. The cast has a lot of surprising big names (also Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson), all of whom play their parts well and add flavor to the mix. If you don’t see this at the theaters, you should at least rent it. And if you haven’t seen the first one, check it out too (although it’s not a prerequisite to understanding and following the second film).