Godzilla vs. Kong

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/15/21;
Warner;

Sci-Fi;
Box Office $100.1 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language.
Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza Gonzalez, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir.

The title fight between two monster-movie heavyweights delivers pretty much what one might expect from such a premise: a lot of spectacle, flashy visual effects, rampaging destruction on a massive scale, and a completely disposable story to provide the flimsiest of excuses to set it all up.

The clash between Godzilla and King Kong is a rematch of sorts, the pair having faced off in 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, a Japanese production from the “Godzilla” creative team (and the third “Godzilla” movie to that point). But this is their first encounter in the new “Monsterverse” franchise that began with 2014’s Godzilla remake, which got a sequel in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters featuring Godzilla battling several of his traditional enemies. This Kong was introduced in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, a 1970s-set adventure film in which humanity discovered the giant ape and all the strange creatures of his mysterious homeland.

Godzilla vs. Kong is under no illusions that it exists for any reason other than to put the two titans together. It even structures the opening credits as a tournament bracket showing which creatures each defeated in the previous movies.

The story, such as it is, involves Godzilla attacking research facilities of a company called Apex and putting the local population in danger. Apex wants to access the power source of the mythical “Hollow Earth” (a hidden underground world) to power a defense against Godzilla, and recruits a scientist named Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to lead the expedition. To access Hollow Earth, they need two things: special vehicles that can withstand the gravitational fluxes of the subterranean barrier, and a Titan to locate an entrance. Lind knows a scientist (Rebecca Hall) who runs a facility on Skull Island where in the past 40 years they’ve managed to entrap Kong and keep him contained in a giant dome.

Anyway, the plan is to take Kong to Antarctica to locate a portal. But since Godzilla can sense the presence of other Titans, he can track Kong once the ape leaves the dome. So Godzilla attacks the fleet transporting Kong, and the Titans have their first throwdown on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and it’s pretty awesome.

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Meanwhile, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) from King of the Monsters joins up with a conspiracy podcaster to investigate why Godzilla would be attacking cities again, since she believes Godzilla is meant to protect the world. So they look into Apex and discover the company is building Mechagodzilla, the famed giant robot version of Godzilla, which the original Godzilla doesn’t like.

Through some more plot mechanics, Kong ends up in Hollow Earth and finds his ancestral homeland and an ancient axe his ancestors once used to fight Godzilla’s ancestors in some ancient war between the Titans. The axe allows Kong to harness the same radiation Godzilla uses, which evens the playing field a bit since Godzilla is a lizard that can fire nuclear blasts from his mouth, while Kong isn’t much more than a big monkey.

But Kong turns out to be pretty smart, and to speed things along the movie treats Kong as another protagonist, communicating with a little deaf girl from his island in order to join forces with the humans against Godzilla.

So, Godzilla attacks the Apex facility that is building Mechagodzilla, and Kong returns to the surface to fight him again, and glorious destruction of many neon buildings ensues. It’s quite a sight to behold. And the facility is in Hong Kong, because of course King Kong has to end up in Hong Kong or else what is even the point of it all?

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The Blu-ray of the film is loaded with more than an hour of featurettes exploring the history of Godzilla and Kong and the making of their epic clash. Many of the featurettes are also available with copies from select digital retailers.

The extras are broken down by character, so there are two focused on Godzilla, four focused on Kong, and one on Mechagodzilla. There are also three featurettes covering the major fight scenes, one for each.

For the Godzilla featurettes, “Godzilla Attacks” is a six-and-a-half-minute look at the character’s use in this particular story, while the 10-minute “The Penomenon of Gojira, King of the Monsters” is a look at the history of the creature in film, featuring interviews from cast members and filmmakers from all the Monsterverse movies.

The Kong featurettes mostly deal with visual effects and production design, with one, the eight-and-a-half-minute “The Evolution of Kong, Eighth Wonder of the World,” is a history of King Kong as told through interviews with Monsterverse filmmakers. In a not altogether unexpected move, only clips from Warner-owned Kong movies are shown; the 1976 (Paramount( and 2005 (Universal) remakes are mentioned briefly without any clips from them being played.

The regular Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions include an exclusive commentary track by director Adam Wingard. Much of his discussion centers on technical details, but Wingard is also a fan of the characters and admits that part of his motivation for making the movie was to follow up on debates he had in second grade about who would win in a fight by making sure the character he had always picked would end up winning.

Originally published as a streaming review April 19, 2021.

Long Shot

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/30/19;
Lionsgate;
Comedy;
Box Office $30.32 million;
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content, language throughout and some drug use.
Stars Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Lisa Kudrow, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård.

The often crude but usually charming Long Shot reframes the tropes of the romantic comedy by setting them against the backdrop of the arena of American politics, blended with a touch of stoner humor for good measure.

It’s The American President by way of Pineapple Express, as secretary of state and presidential candidate Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) has a chance encounter with Fred, an opinionated writer (Seth Rogen) she used to babysit, and asks him to join her campaign as a speechwriter. As they grow closer, some of her refinement starts to rub off on him while he helps her loosen up a bit, both in the pharmacological and carnal sense. This leaves the rest of her staff to wonder what the potential relationship could mean for the campaign.

Though set in the political world, the love story doesn’t get bogged down with too many political specifics, which is probably for the best as the political landscape presented in the film doesn’t bear much scrutiny. Then again, the film isn’t aiming for Sorkin levels of verisimilitude here.

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Charlotte is basing her presidential campaign on a major environmental initiative, which Fred likes, but works for an administration that Fred ultimately opposes, with a president (Bob Odenkirk) who used to play a president on a TV show and decides to forgo a second term to cash in his popularity to pursue a film career.

The president will endorse Charlotte to replace him if she doesn’t make too many waves, but his media tycoon buddy (Andy Serkis, unrecognizable in heavy prosthetic makeup) wants to chip away at the effectiveness of her activism. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s chief of staff (June Diane Raphael) wants to set her up with the equally available, but socially awkward, prime minister of Canada (Alexander Skarsgård). The more willing Charlotte is to compromise herself for political expediency, the more Fred is left to wonder where the candidate ends and the woman he may be falling in love with begins.

The satirical look at the broader strokes of the American political system are cute, but let’s face it, the odds of the nation’s chief diplomat getting away with negotiating a hostage crisis while high on Molly are slim to none. So, the only way the movie works is if the audience buys the relationship between Charlotte and Fred, and luckily Rogen and Theron work well together, finding an easygoing chemistry that helps us enjoy their adventures for what they are.

The Blu-ray includes about 100 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes that cover everything from the writing to the casting to the wardrobe. The most interesting is an interview with comic book artist Todd McFarlane, who contributes a key piece of art to one of the funniest gags in the film.

Long Shot

Drama ‘The Aftermath’ Coming to Digital June 11, Disc June 25 From Fox

The drama The Aftermath will come out on digital June 11 and on DVD and Blu-ray Disc June 25 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Set in 1946, the film follows Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley), a British woman whose colonel husband (Jason Clarke) is charged with rebuilding war-ravaged Hamburg. When she joins him there during the bitter winter months, she learns they will be sharing their home with a German widower (Alexander Skarsgard) and his troubled daughter. Enmity and grief give way to unexpected passion and betrayal.

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Special features include deleted scenes with optional commentary by director James Kent; VFX progressions with optional commentary by Kent; feature audio commentary by Kent; and a photo gallery.