On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 15, 2021


While appreciating Gareth Edwards' aspirations with 2014’s Godzilla and becoming perplexed by how Michael Dougherty’s 2019 sequel could be so little fun despite its reactionary take to criticisms leveled against the first film, it seems the only movie in Warner Brother’s new monster-verse that knew exactly what it was and what it needed to be was Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong flick. This may then explain why in Adam Wingard’s (You're Next, The Guest) clash of the titans that Kong is made to be the center of attention; the lynch pin on which every cockamamie human character's quest hinges. That isn't to say the king of the monsters doesn't factor into the match of the century in any meaningful capacity, but more that Wingard takes up Vogt-Roberts' mentality of embracing the absurdity in this universe and then lets his imagination run wild more so than he does try to either ground this in any kind of reality as Edwards did or let it be brought down by the human characters as Dougherty did. There is little to no regard for logic and no one - especially screenwriters Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein - seems to have been bothered with the semantics of how a "sci-fi quack trading in fringe physics" is able to convince Rebecca Hall's Dr. Andrews AKA "The Kong Whisperer" to have military assets escort Kong from his home on Skull Island to Antarctica in order to enter a portal to Hollow Earth on the whim of a tech billionaire (Demi├ín Bichir) who is looking to harness the energy of this "ecosystem as vast as any ocean" so that he may power a weapon that can compete with Godzilla who recently became a threat again after a seemingly unprovoked attack. The best part of it all though, is that none of this matters, not really, and only exists to prop up reasoning for how the two titular titans come face to face with one another. Whereas Edwards elicited Dante's Inferno in the Halo jump sequence in his Godzilla film, Wingard elicits a Saturday morning toy commercial in Godzilla vs. Kong and naturally - it's more fun than anything this monster-verse has produced thus far. One could complain the creative team behind the film doesn't take great pains to make any of this thought provoking in terms of Godzilla beginning as an allegory for nuclear war or discussing Kong's origins in analyzing colonialism and man's need for dominance over others, but this isn't about those things or even those characters individually. This is a movie about a giant gorilla and a giant lizard coming to blows with one another and it's just as stupid, ridiculous, and thoroughly entertaining as something with that simple premise should be. B

A quick ten minutes into the latest from writer/director Neil Burger and we're hit with the question of how fair or unfair is it that people don't get to choose the environment or the situation they're born into. It's unfair, of course, that some are born into wealth and privilege while racism, misogyny, poverty, and countless other disadvantages are intrinsic to the existence of others from the day they're ushered into this world. This is a typical conclusion when assessing systems and how each individual entering that system, by choice or not, has a different starting line. These cut and dry conclusions, as unfair as they may be, are still very much a fascinating topic though, especially when considered in the context of children being created in a lab and curated from the time of their birth for a single purpose, a purpose they solely exist to serve, and a purpose they have absolutely no say in. That they were born from donors and not loving parents willing to take on the responsibility of their nurturing is the first disadvantage they face, but that they are then expected to simply conform to the needs of the previous generation and sacrifice their own sense of purpose for the mistakes of those elders is the next daunting reality they have to accept. Thus is the premise of Burger's Voyagers, a science fiction action/drama that like any good piece of science fiction works best when it's exploring its main idea or concept and the questions that spurn from as much rather than trying to answer them. That said, what Burger is attempting to cover here is engaging ground nonetheless as he dives into the deep, dark void of space in order to isolate ideas around nature versus nurture and if the wiring and influence of these subjects' genetic inheritance is enough to guarantee they not only have the intelligence and ingenuity to complete their mission, but the willpower to avoid the predictable foibles of human nature. What these children are born into, what they are tasked with, and what is expected of them is not fair and one would be hard-pressed to find anyone that didn't agree with that assessment, but the fact remains no one is granted the opportunity to choose what they're born into though there is still the choice of what type of person they want to become no matter the circumstances. Voyagers seeks to examine the necessary balance of innocence and experience required to fully grasp the possibilities of this line of thought via the guise of a genre film that sports sleek sets and pretty people that thankfully succumbs more often than not to the whims of its notions than to the trappings of its brand. Full review here. C+

Knowing nothing of the Patrick DeWitt novel on which this film is based, there was a certain expectation for French Exit based solely on its qualifiers of being distributed by Sony Classics, the fact it starred Michelle Pfieffer and featured Lucas Hedges in a supporting role, as well as being released just in time for awards consideration. With a title like French Exit I expected this to be something of a peculiar little domestic drama with a European edge to it. An art film of the upmost degree and maybe, potentially even a little irritating due to its stuffy nature. And the film does begin as much given Pfieffer is playing this aging Manhattan socialite who we see early in the film rip her son, Malcolm (Hedges), out of boarding school and who continues to live on what's left of her inheritance from her dead husband until she can't anymore at which point she and Malcolm move to a small apartment in Paris that belongs to her sister, Joan (Susan Coyne). The film is slightly odd in the semantics it goes through in getting Pfeiffer's Frances along with Malcolm and their cat (don't forget the cat!) to Paris, but it's initially taken as little more than the obligatory quirkiness a production of this nature must adhere to. It is when the mother and son duo finally arrive in The City of Lights that things actually begin to truly become...what was that word again...peculiar. Beginning with Malcolm abruptly breaking off a seemingly serious relationship with girlfriend Susan (Imogen Poots) as soon as his mother tells him they're leaving New York and the country altogether to the trip across the Atlantic where they encounter Madeleine the Medium (Danielle MacDonald) who both becomes a more critical character in the lives of our protagonists than expected and immediately understands something the audience hasn't yet become privy to, there is a change of tone and a turning of curiosity. 

The heart of the film is the relationship between Frances and Malcolm and how it mines this world of appearance over substance for exactly that; examining if what can be found between this mother and son is actually a connection with meaning or simply the only other outlet Frances could turn to in order to exonerate her societal critiques after the death of her husband. DeWitt, who adapted his own work for the screen, has a certain flair for the absurdity and given absurdities aren't difficult to come by when satirizing the upper class much of this feels like low-hanging fruit, but what separates French Exit from its ilk is the surrealism it embraces in its latter half. The forthright nature of the dialogue, the pure insanity of certain plot points, and director Azazel Jacobs' ability to somehow wrangle all these tones through this pedigreed lens that has no issue winking at the camera without literally winking somehow makes it work. The film itself a contrivance of that which it seeks to expose. Insane yet endearing, this dark comedy that initially appears somewhat airless and old-fashioned builds to a biting, hyper-aware experience that Pfieffer absolutely crushes in regard to target and tone. Valerie Mahaffey as the aloof Madame Reynard is the true diamond here though, as her character is one who simplifies all the film is trying to convey: an individual so accustomed to privilege there is no need for deception and is therefore always her most authentic. B-

Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, and Sam Heughan of Outlander star in this action/thriller about a special forces operator who is taking his girlfriend from London to Paris to propose. When their train is deep inside the Channel Tunnel, a team of heavily armed war criminals seize the train and hold hundreds of passengers hostage. Rose's Grace threatens to expose the British governments darkest secrets and blow up the Channel Tunnel if her ransom demands are not met. Unarmed and cut off from his counter terror team, Heughan's Tom is the only hope that Dr. Sophie Hart (Hannah John-Kamen) and the other passengers have to make it out alive. Based on the best-selling novel by former SAS operator Andy McNab, SAS: RED NOTICE is a provocative and authentic portrayal of an emergency response operation and the singular mindset Tom needs to survive. 

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