Kong is back, and the beast has never been this vicious. Since the 1933 classic, King Kong, the cinematic variations on the creature have been as varied as they are impressively crafted by the film world's latest technology. The stories surrounding humans trekking to his home, Skull Island, have twirled about similar predicaments, though: they venture to the island, encounter the impressive Kong, kidnap him for display in the world of man. The giant ape deserves a shot of adrenaline, and it's director Jordan Vogt-Roberts who has come in to deliver that shot. Kong: Skull Island is a thrilling entry into the storied franchise and not only in expected ways. With energetic pacing and breathtaking visuals the film satisfies on the typical levels, but Skull Island also drops in a bit of weirdness that easily sets it apart from modern monster movies.
In the entire history of cinema, only a few select films are so influential, so ingrained in our popular culture, that they become a modern myth. 1933's King Kong, directed by Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack, is one of those films. As the original effects-driven blockbuster and monster movie milestone, Kong has been re-imagined, parodied, and referenced countless times since first being unleashed more than eight decades ago. Each one of us has, at some point in our lives, encountered The Eighth Wonder of the World. Whether it's a remake, like John Guillermin's 1976 film, or Peter Jackson's in 2005, or a reference made in The Simpsons, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Jurassic Park, the legend of the colossal ape endures.
Australian actor Hugh Jackman looks tired playing Wolverine. Granted, anyone would give off the same level of weariness if they played the same role in nine films across 17 years, so there's very little blame to be laid at the actor's feet here. It isn't a tiredness in having to play Wolverine so often, though, that makes the fatigue so palpable in the movie Logan, the actor's latest and presumably final appearance as the most famous member of the X-Men squad. That's simply his emotional mindset being conveyed in this latest entry into the X-Men franchise, the culmination of an exhausting life for the self-healing mutant. Packing as much emotional punch as it does sci-fi, blockbuster thrills, Logan ends up being a near-perfect sendoff for the character and exactly what any fan of this series would want in a finale for the beloved character.
Australian actor Hugh Jackman first played the character of Wolverine back in 2000 in the film that launched the modern day, comic book blockbuster - Bryan Singer's X-Men. Now 17 years later, the Academy Award-nominated actor has inhabited the character an unprecedented nine times on the big screen — that's more times than Roger Moore suited up as James Bond or Robert Englund terrorized Elm Street as Freddy Krueger. With Logan, out in theaters everywhere on March 3rd, Jackman and director James Mangold (of Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, and The Wolverine) craft something special as a means of laying to rest Jackman's iconic role: an intimate, character-driven film that is brutal, beautiful, and deeply affecting.
There's nothing like watching someone breakdown completely. Wilde Maus, which translates simply to Wild Mouse, is a dark comedy film from Austria which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Austrian actor Josef Hader makes his feature directorial debut with the film, also writing the screenplay and starring as the lead character, a music critic from Vienna who loses his job after 20 years. The film follows Hader as Georg, who goes bonkers and starts wandering around Vienna trying to make sense of his life after losing the job that kept him focused for so long. He ends up creating some unnecessary problems with his wife, and randomly partners with a guy who wants to run a little rollercoaster at Vienna's Prater amusement park.
Let's make this clear right at the start - this is not another Marvel Studios movie. Logan is a stand-alone, outstanding, one-of-a-kind X-Men movie made for adults. It's violent as all hell, emotional and captivating, gritty and grounded, and exciting to experience. Director James Mangold really hit a home run with this one, bucking the trend and going with his gut to deliver a superb "Wolverine Western". I had to see Logan twice at the Berlin Film Festival before writing this review, to confirm how awesome it is. I haven't enjoyed watching an X-Men movie this much in such a long time, and I'd say this is easily one of the best X-Men movies. It's not really an X-Men movie, but it actually is - there's so much mutant mythology hidden within.
Nothing like watching artists work. Final Portrait is a film directed by Stanley Tucci (of Blind Date, The Impostors, Big Night previously) starring actor Geoffrey Rush playing the famed Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. If you don't know who Giacometti is, it's better to get acquainted with him and his incredible sculpture work before getting into this film. Final Portrait tells the story of, literally, his final portrait as an artist - a painting he did of an American novelist who was visiting Paris, where his studio was, in the 1960s. The film has a small, intimate feel to it exploring the pained life and quirky antics of a great artist, which is becoming increasingly common these days (e.g. Inside Llewyn Davis, Maudie, Mr. Turner, Love & Mercy).
Imagine if Quentin Tarantino was Chinese and made an animated crime drama. That's kind of what Have a Nice Day feels like, in a way. Have a Nice Day (originally titled Hao ji le in Chinese) is a film from director Jian Liu that just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in the main competition line-up. The animation style is closer to "Archer" or A Scanner Darkly, and the film is sort of a Coen Brothers-esque story about a bunch of people in a small Chinese town who get mixed up chasing a bag of money. There are a few minor political themes, but it's fairly light entertainment, with some fun moments and colorful characters. Oddly enough, this film is better than half of what I saw in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, even if isn't that smart.
"We cross and re-cross our old paths like figure-skaters." That's a line from Cloud Atlas, but I kept thinking back to that film (and that storyline in it) while watching this one. Return to Montauk is the latest drama from German director Volker Schlöndorff, set primarily in New York following a few German characters around the city. It's a very tender, heartfelt film about the great regrets and lost loves in our lives, and how we attempt to get over what happened in the past (or, perhaps, not get over our past regrets). Maybe it's because I connected to it in a very personal way, but Return to Montauk kept me captivated and awake and intrigued from start to finish. Even if I didn't feel emotionally drained by the end I was certainly enthralled.
Vegetarian vengeance! I don't even know how to begin to describe how much I loved this film. Spoor, also known as Pokot originally, is a film from Poland about an elderly former teacher who lives in a small town. She loves her two adorable dogs, but one day they go missing, and thus begins this thrilling story of animal lover vengeance. The cinematography in this film is STUNNING, some of the best since The Revenant, and I really mean that. Along with an incredibly unique score from Antoni Lazarkiewicz, and exceptional lead performance by Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, this won't be a film you forget. And that isn't even the half of it - there's so much I loved, and even if I can't describe it all perfectly, I hope my enthusiasm is apparent.
This is the first great discovery of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival - it's an excellent film that deserves to break out. Tiger Girl is a low key indie comedy, directed by Jakob Lass, about two women who becomes friends and start taking out the patriarchal trash. It's essentially a "girls fight back" movie and it's so badass and so much fun. Ella Rumpf plays the woman known as "Tiger", a drifter who doesn't take crap from anyone, especially guys; and Maria-Victoria Dragus plays her friend she nicknames "Vanilla", a young woman who fails her entrance exam to the police academy. She's not tough enough, but through this friendship she learns how to kick ass and fight back. It close to being a dark comedy, but either way it's worth seeking out.
The boys are back in town. After 20 years, writer/director Danny Boyle has reunited the four crazy kids from Trainspotting for the sequel - titled T2: Trainspotting. This film isn't so much of a reboot or remake or another wild story of drug trips, as it is a much more somber, sober follow-up looking at how much life has changed since they were young and full of life and didn't give a shit about anything. This film plays heavily on nostalgia, which makes sense considering the first film is so iconic, and yet still has so much to say about life and where it takes us and the dreams we stop chasing. It's a somewhat sad look at how much real life sucks and getting old sucks and things just aren't the same anymore. Where are drugs when we need them?