Movie Review RoundUp – Kong, MacLaine, and WWII

This weekend witnessed three interesting films released to the masses.  These three films don't seem to have anything in common.  But after a weekend of thought I realized that Kong:Skull Island, The Last Word and Oscar nominated Land of Mine all share a unique element.  Click through for the reviews on these films as well as that unique trait seen in all three movies.

So I'll jump straight into my connecting point for these three very different films.  Each contains a lead character that starts off as a vile and hated figure, but through the course of the film is shown to be a real hero. 

Let's start with the powerful performance from iconic Shirley MacLaine in Bleecker Street's THE LAST WORD.  Director Mark Pellington's return to the big screen is a witty look at an angry aged icon reflecting on her life by testing a young woman's moxy.  Pellington is a director who's always seemed to tackle tough material even back to his Pearl Jam "Jeremy" days (fun story of those videos for all my fellow Ten Club Members).  But Pellington's latest allows MacLaine to take on the anger of HARRIET by allowing only one person into her world, Amanda Seyfried's aloof Anne.  The who gives a f attitude shown by Anne to the elder states lady may be the initial connection that sparks Harriet's unusual trust.  This friendship is based more on the elements not seen.  The film isn't a mind bender and is pretty obvious where it's going.  But to witness MacLaine tackle the mean old lady roll seems to much fun for her.  She relishes the chance to belittle and baffle all of those around her.   In particular, the dinner sequence with her grown daughter (Anne Heche) is one of the cruelest and yet funny moments in the entire film.  Overall though the movie revolves around Harriet's ability to not only learn her final lesson in life while passing along 1 major lesson to all those that hated her.  In the end, life is what you make it and who gets to say the last word does go a long way.  A film that may not be on your radar, but does have a wonderful message in a unique package.  Take the chance as this one most likely won't last in theaters to long. 

Kong:Skull Island is a on obvious blockbuster for early 2017.  Who didn't see that one coming?  Bravo to young director Jordan Vogt-Roberts for making a visually stunning adventure that is both scary and actually funny in an old school campy way.  The 1970's are on full alert as the soundtrack, the look and feel of Kong is straight out of that decade.  Ironically you can get a taste of Vogt-Roberts unique love of old school by checking out his own website (I'll let you Google that).  Overall Kong touches on Vogt-Roberts love of adventure.  His wonderful previous film Kings of Summer was a must see film a few years back and still resonates as a real break through.  This beast of a film is obviously a different scale and a much different money bracket.  So the level of fun he has is all in the added tech he got to play with.  Basically he got Warner Bros to allow him to re-invent Kong by making him a kick ass fighting gorilla that is the most massive incarnation of the mythic figure.  Oh and he got an ALL-STAR cast to come along for the ride.  John Goodman gets to play the slightly loony scientist, Sam Jackson gets to re-phrase his famous Jurassic Park lines for a new audience ("butts" in seats!), Oscar-winner Brie Larson gets to play the heroine, Tom Hiddleston gets to play a hero and not a villain (though he is so good when he does!) and a genius casting of John C. Reilly as our long lost WWII figure.  The film isn't necessarily the most intelligent blockbuster, but overall I did find myself enthralled for the entire 2 hours.  I mean the crazy science behind the film does seem a bit to ridiculous, but what film doesn't have that going for them.  The nice twist is just how much Kong is not a dumb giant animal, but actually a legit full fledged figure.  We learn his long tale and his heroic gestures only become connected after he utterly destroy's our characters.  Like MacLaine in The Last Word, Kong just needs a little time to turn into a more lovable fella.  He's downright scary in the beginning, but as you learn it makes total sense when you realize what he really has to fight.  Robert's foray into the big blockbuster is a massive success and something you need to see, but I do hope he dives back into reality soon.  Kings of Summer is still one of my favorite films of the last decade and something you need to see.  But in the mean time go pump your hard earned dollars into the WB bank as Kong: Skull Island is well worth your time.

How does an Oscar nominated Best Foreign Language film about German soldiers in Denmark post WWII have a connection to The Last Word and Kong: Skull Island.  Simple, the main figure in the film has a similar arc as a character as MacLaine and Kong.  Roland Moller's profound performance as Sgt. Carl Rasmussen is one of the best roles for 2016/17.   This staunch Danish Sgt. begins our film by driving past thousands of captured Germans before he randomly stop and beats one half to death.  This opening sequence could easily have taken us on a brutal take on the impact of war and result of post war reparation.  But Rasmussen's character is much deeper and his slow connecting to the 14 young German soldiers he in charge over becomes incredibly powerful.  Land of Mine is not an easy film to watch, but it is one you deserve to witness.  The reality behind the 1.5 million plus mines left on the Western beaches of Denmark by the Nazis only to be dug up by those same solders (well their younger captured brethren) is both horrific and honest.  Rasmussen's slow changing of his heart is as brutal and heartbreaking as witnessing these kids put to such a scary punishment.  A film that doesn't allow you to sympathize or reevaluate but instead opens your eyes to the reality and truth of war.  It destroys lives during it's tenure and long after it's impact.  Land of Mine stabs at the inner gut of your emotions and makes you witness what slow fear can do.   Extremely powerful and an obvious Best film of the year foreign or not.  I hope it's Oscar nomination allows it a lengthy stay in Theaters for us folks here in the states.  Don't miss out on this great film.  Sony Pictures Classics isn't afraid to dive into the tough material.  This film shares a lot of the slow build of Son of Saul even if it lacks the utter heartbreak of it's sad twist.  The power behind these two films makes them must see. 

Overall this weekend impressed in it's ability to show flawed figures that can change. 

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