Movie review: “Kong: Skull Island” (2017)


“You heard of the U.S.S. Lautmann? Neither did the public. Out of a thousand young men on that ship, I was the only survivor. They told my family she was sunk in battle, but I know what I saw. It had no conscience. No reasoning. It just…destroyed. I’ve spent the last thirty years trying to prove the truth of what I learned that day. This planet doesn’t belong to us.”

King Kong’s rugged origins as oversized simian emperor of the lush, forbidding, prehistoric death trap Skull Island constitute an archetypal adventure story that has rarely ever shared the screen to the degree it deserved, despite being a prominent aspect of almost all the big ape’s previous cinematic incarnations. It’s a straightforward though hydra-headed equation that can set forth with confidence in most any direction a fairly competent, fairly ambitious director might choose: Man against monster; monster against monster; man against the unknown; monster against monsters (squee!); man against the elements; man against nature (however unfairly extra-natural the island’s odds often seem); even man against man, assuming it doesn’t slow things up too much. Continue reading “Movie review: “Kong: Skull Island” (2017)”

Movie review: “Crimson Peak” (2015)


“You would know. Our little Jane Austen…she died a spinster, didn’t she?”

“I’d prefer to be Mary Shelley, actually. She died a widow.”

Somebody up there likes Guillermo del Toro, and, really, what’s there not to like? The genial Mexican writer-director, to whose name the appellation “visionary” has been a fixture of press releases for the last decade*, is a furious developer of fantastic (both in subject matter and in practice) ideas, a walking film encyclopedia whose eyes light up when he talks about movies – his or anyone else’s – and what feels like one of the few remaining true auteurs in Hollywood, or at the very least the only one working on quite so grand a scale. If he has never achieved commercial success commensurate with his level of artistry, A) that would be asking a lot, and B) he has nevertheless been afforded generally free reign to bring his daydreams and dark fantasies to life, which, in today’s Hollywood, is already something of a miracle. Continue reading “Movie review: “Crimson Peak” (2015)”