Film Review: The Meg (2018)

Also known as: Megalodón (several international markets)
Release Date: August 8th, 2018 (Philippines, Indonesia)
Directed by: John Turteltaub
Written by: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Based on: Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cast: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Jessica McNamee, Masi Oka

Gravity Pictures, Flagship Entertainment, Apelles Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Maeday Productions, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes

Review:

*I’ve been on a much needed hiatus but I did see The Meg and since it’s currently in theaters, I wanted to get my review out. I’ll be back to posting regularly next week, after Labor Day.

“Chew on this you ugly bastard.” – Jonas Taylor

I was late to the party but I finally got around to seeing The Meg. And too my delight, waiting meant that I was the only person in the theater… just how I firggin’ like it.

Anyway, The Meg is a stupid movie. The problem, is that it isn’t stupid enough. It doesn’t seem to understand that it is a dumb popcorn movie that would have been infinitely better if it didn’t try to take itself too seriously.

I mean, this is about a giant shark. It should be exactly what it was marketed as, Jaws on steroids. It didn’t need to be as insane and ridiculous as Sharknado but it needed to give us more shark and it needed to be more like a live action adaptation of Hungry Shark Evolution.

What I mean by that, is we should have got a megalodon swallowing boats whole, crashing the beach and eating 75 people just for sunbathing. This should have been a carnage shitshow. What we got was Statham being Statham and a bunch of other people needing Statham to pull them out of the water for being idiots.

In my head, in Statham voice, I kept hearing, “I save all the women and the stupid blokes who are basically women!’

Now, I was fine with the overabundance of CGI. I’ve accepted that we live in a CGI world when it comes to movies now. And to be honest, the special effects were really fucking good. Kudos for that, effects crew. But I feel like the film could have benefited more from some practical effects.

The first half of this film is slow and not exciting. The second half is like a different movie altogether. However, the first half needed to be fine tuned, whittled down and the whole film should have worked at around 90 minutes. All the bullshit science-y crap was so bad I was literally cringing in my chair but that also could have been the Tacopocalypse combo I had before the movie.

The big finale was cool for the most part but the carnage was minimal as fuck and the heroes got the shark away from the people too quick and easy. Then we got a sequence of Statham piloting a speedy submarine thing through caves and tunnels with the giant beast in pursuit. I swear to god, I thought I was watching the beginning of The Phantom Menace. If you’re going to ripoff a Star Wars movie, why that one?! Plus, they bested the big fish and then quickly came to discover that there was an ever bigger fish that, in that moment, ate the smaller big fish. Again, Phantom Menace, anyone? I was just waiting for Jar Jar voice to yell out, “Meessa told ya Mistuh Statham!!! Always a bigger fishaaa!!!”

At least this movie had a lot of cool people in it: Statham playing Statham, Dwight from The Office, Travis from Fear the Walking Dead, Longmire from Longmire and Ruby Rose, who apparently isn’t lesbian enough to play the lesbian Batwoman. Those aren’t my words, those are the words of angry Internet people.

Anyway, if you have to see this, do it on the big screen. If you don’t have to see it, don’t see it. It’s not a complete waste of time but it was a disappointment for someone who was just looking for some solid stupid fun.

I don’t know, go watch Piranha 3D instead.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Other recent shark and aquaphobia movies: The Shallows47 Meters Down, Piranha 3D and Piranha 3DD.

Film Review: Party Girl (1958)

Release Date: October 28th, 1958 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Nicholas Ray
Written by: George Wells, Leo Katcher
Music by: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse, Lee J. Cobb

Euterpe, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 99 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve been out with the mobs before. Most of the time all they want to do is wear their cash around. By the end of the evening they’re usually too drunk to for anything else.” – Vicki Gaye

A classic film-noir in color?! That’s crazy talk! But that’s what this film is. But it is also more than just standard noir and it came out at the very end of the style’s classic run throughout the ’40s and ’50s.

Party Girl is directed by Nicholas Ray, who also did the film-noir classics They Live by NightIn a Lonely PlaceThe Racket and On Dangerous Ground. He also directed Rebel Without a Cause.

We also get to see Robert Taylor and Lee J. Cobb come together in this picture, bringing it a supreme level of gravitas. Cobb plays a sadstic Chicago mobster during the height of the city’s organized crime. Taylor plays the nice guy lawyer that is the confidant to Cobb’s Rico Angelo thus making him the one man that knows all the man’s dark secrets.

Taylor gets in a little too deep, Cobb gets a little too paranoid and well, we get a classic noir tale of deception, betrayal, twist and turns. Plus there is a beauty thrown in and also a sneaky ex-wife that has some devious plans of her own.

I liked Party Girl but I wouldn’t call it a noir classic even though it came out in the classic era, has a good cast and is directed by a noir maestro. But it is certainly worth your time, considering that you are into these sort of films.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Nicholas Ray films I already mentioned: They Live by NightIn a Lonely PlaceThe RacketOn Dangerous Ground and Rebel Without a Cause.

TV Review: Longmire (2012-2017)

Original Run: June 3rd, 2012 – November 17th, 2017
Created by: John Coveny, Hunt Baldwin
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Walt Longmire Mysteries by Craig Johnson
Music by: David Shephard
Cast: Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, Cassidy Freeman, Adam Bartley, Louanne Stephens, Zahn McClarnon, A Martinez, Gerald McRaney, Peter Weller, Tom Wopat, Charles S. Dutton, Graham Greene

Warner Horizon Television, The Shephard/Robin Company, Two Boomerangs Productions, A&E, Netflix, 63 Episodes, 42-72 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

Longmire was a highly successful show. For some reason, A&E cancelled it after its third season. Netflix then picked it up and continued it with season four and the upcoming season five. And maybe there will be more after that. I hope so anyway.

The show is a modern western, which there can never be enough of, as far as I’m concerned. It follows Sheriff Walt Longmire, just after the death of his wife. It deals with his handling of the loss, balanced with his job of being the sheriff of a small town in Wyoming near the Montana border and a Cheyenne Indian reservation. It touches on the politics of tribal life, small town western American life and crime.

Robert Taylor plays Sheriff Longmire and it is the greatest role he has ever had. He is accented by Katee Sackhoff, Cassidy Freeman, Bailey Chase, Adam Bartley and Louanne Stephens. The actor who really nails it though is Lou Diamond Phillips as the Cheyenne best friend of Longmire. Phillips has never been better and he’s an actor I have always liked and hoped he would find his niche outside of poorly executed straight-to-video action films.

Longmire has an episodic format, which I am not a huge fan of in this day and age where we get season-long story arcs with most crime shows. However, as it progresses and you get to know the characters more, there are bigger plots that span over multiple episodes. For the most part, every episode’s crime is solved within the hour. It is the bigger backstory that is more compelling, however.

It is superbly acted, the writing is good and it has a badass vibe to it. Sheriff Longmire is the modern version of an old Louis L’Amour character brought to life. He’s a man’s man and made of steel. Sure, he has his faults and weaknesses but he handles his shit like a boss.

The cinematography is top notch and the geography of Longmire’s world is beautiful. It makes me want to move to Wyoming (although it’s filmed in New Mexico). Hell, I want to be a sheriff now.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Release Date: February 28th, 2017 (Odeon Leicester Square premiere)
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatnis
Based on: King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly, Robert Taylor

Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

I guess I will forever have a personal connection to this film, as the cigar box that Samuel L. Jackson’s Col. Packard keeps his medals in, is one that I designed in 2004. Strange that a product I had a hand in creating a decade ago ended up in a film that takes place just after the Vietnam War.

Personal connection aside, it should be no surprise to anyone who regularly reads Cinespiria, that I am a massive fan of kaiju movies. So anything with giant monsters is always a treat, especially when it comes with a cast of actors as strong as those in Kong: Skull Island.

While I liked Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla from 2014, it lacked a certain spirit that the giant scaly kaiju always seemed to have in his Japanese films. Kong: Skull Island is also missing that spirit. While it feels like there is some heart put into the film, it was sacrificed for action and the current trend of making films as big and as loud as possible. It is also a CGI fest that doesn’t always work, as it sometimes looks spectacular and other times looks shoddy.

Kong is still a great conflicted character that you feel for, and I guess, to me, that is always the most important part of any Kong story. In this film, you learn that his family was killed by the giant reptiles that live under the island. You even have a scene where our heroes come across a graveyard where the bones of Kong’s parents are on display. You certainly care for the big hulking CGI ape, which is good at building the foundation for what the studio plans to do after this film. Ultimately, we will get to a Godzilla and King Kong showdown after the next solo Godzilla movie.

I thought it was great that this film is just shy of two hours. The Peter Jackson King Kong from 2005 was a tremendous bore at well over three hours and Hollywood has had this trend of making big blockbusters a lot longer than they need to be.

In regards to the story, the setup and the purpose for going to the island is well orchestrated. Once we get to the island however, things move too fast and are very disjointed. I feel like the reveal of Kong came too early. Maybe Legendary Pictures were trying to makeup for the lack of Godzilla in Godzilla but it was too much, too soon in this picture. Seeing Kong destroy a fleet of helicopters minutes after they arrive was surprising. While this Kong doesn’t follow the traditional storylines of its predecessors, Kong typically doesn’t really arrive until the halfway point of his films. Even in the first Toho Kong film from Japan, it was a good third of the way through the movie before the giant ape showed up to crush a giant octopus.

The cast, as great as the ensemble is, wasn’t that exciting to watch. It almost feels like a Marvel movie though, as it features four actors from the Avengers film franchise: Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), John C. Reilly (a small part in Guardians of the Galaxy) and Brie Larson (who has been cast to play Captain Marvel). None of the characters were written that well and they all seemed a bit lifeless. It was cool seeing Hiddleston get to be a macho bad ass but there was no real depth to who he was.

Kong: Skull Island was a bit of a disappointment. The first trailer looked really good and I had hoped that Legendary would have corrected some of the mistakes they made with Godzilla. In attempting to do so, they may have gone too far in the other direction, they need to find the balance. Frankly, for movies about giant monsters fighting, neither are as exciting as they should be.