Saturday, April 17, 2021

Godzilla vs Kong (2021) - Recap and Review

godzilla vs kong mechagodzilla image wallpaper screensaver poster picture

There will be spoilers in the review and readers who are yet to watch the movie are recommended to skip the review.

This is the fourth movie in Legendary's MonsterVerse. Godzilla (2014) was good but was shot almost exclusively in dark and featured too little of the titular monster. Kong: Skull Island (2017) featured a lot of King Kong and was lit well, but I did not like the overall tone of the movie. Next came Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), my favorite movie in this franchise.
This movie has impressive action sequences but suffers from the same issue as most big monster movies: insufferable human characters and a lot of boring scenes that do not feature the monsters. 
Before delving deep into this discussion, let us get the plot out of the way first. In the preceding movie, Godzilla was able to defeat King Ghidorah (with help from Mothra). In a credits scene, one of the three heads of Monster Zero was purchased by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance).
As this movie begins, we see Chimp Kong (this King Kong looks equal parts Chimpanzee and Gorilla) is living under Monarch observation in Skull Island. He has bonded with Jia (Kaylee Hottle), mute adopted daughter of Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Ilene is the requisite Kong expert and Rebecca is the token British actress hired to bring gravitas to the role (and the movie).
In the Godzilla camp, we have Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) and conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry). The bad guys are led by Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir), the head of Apex Cybernetics and he is supported by his daughter Maia Simmons (Eiza González) and Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri), the son of the late Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe).

Rounding up the cast is Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard), an ex Monarch employee and Hollow Earth theorist. He is hired by Walter to lead the search for a power source.
godzilla atomic breath poster wallpaper screensaver image
Godzilla attacks the Apex headquarters in Pensacola, Florida and his next target is Kong himself. Since Hollow Earth is home to Titans, Kong's help is needed. As he is being transported on a massive ship, Godzilla comes calling and we see the first encounter that has been heavily marketed in the trailers. The big lizard bests the giant ape and would have finished him too, if not for the intervention by the pesky humans. Incidentally, there was a similar scene in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, where he bites off one of Ghidorah's heads and would have finished him off. Then too, the humans dropped the Oxygen Destroyer and stopped Godzilla dead in his tracks. Almost literally.

Back to the movie under review. Chimp Kong is airlifted to the entrance to Hollow Earth. As Kong leads the team through Hollow Earth, we get to see some of the most ridiculous scenes in the MonsterVerse so far. Chimp Kong has a throne room (!), a battle ax that his kind have been using in a long running war with Godzilla's clan.

To cut the story short, all roads lead to Hong Kong. Madison and her buddies arrive at Apex Headquarters, where they discover the aforementioned skull of King Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla. Mecha gets to make a grand entrance by almost effortlessly getting rid of a Skullcrawler. Readers might remember the latter from Kong: Skull Island. Godzilla too arrives and calls out Chimp Kong by using his atomic breath to make a pathway to the throne room. (Better not to think too much about the logistics involved here).

We get our second and decisive mano-a-mano between Kong and Godzilla. In true Batman style, Kong uses the battle ax and uses his agility to defeat his physically far superior opponent, who also possesses atomic breath and a tough hide to boot. Thankfully, the director and the script writers do not favor Batman/Chimp Kong and (correctly) let Superman/Godzilla win the fight after letting Chimp Kong have some initial strikes. Godzilla goes into beast mode and Kong is left severely injured and near death.
godzilla vs kong mechagodzilla fight scene

Godzilla next faces Mechagodzilla, who has now been taken over by King Ghidorah. Ghidorah is rage personified in his new form and takes advantage of all the weapons in Mecha's arsenal to give a brutal beatdown to his ancient rival. Not mincing words here, but there is no other way to describe the vicious and savage pounding that Godzilla receives from Mechagodzilla/King Ghidorah 2.0

Heavily outgunned and outmatched, Godzilla is almost killed when the revived Chimp Kong comes to the rescue. Still Ghidorah 2.0 would have come out the victor, but for the meddling humans again. Momentarily distracted, Ghidorah 2.0 loses his focus and Godzilla powers up the battle ax with his atomic breath. Kong proceeds to chop up the common enemy to pieces and save the day.

As the movie ends, Godzilla and Kong decide to go about minding their own business (until the inevitable sequel comes along). Chimp Kong is crowned as the ruler of Hollow Earth, that also houses the latest Monarch observation center.
Movies with vs in the title typically tend not to be good or be average at best. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice falls in the former category while Freddy vs. Jason falls in the latter. BvS failed majorly in one aspect: the fight scenes. Both the Batman vs Superman action piece and climactic sequence featuring DC's Trinity vs Doomsday were shot poorly from both lighting and choreography perspective. The special effects were sub par and it was obvious that we were watching computer generated entities take on each other.
kong hollow earth fight scene poster wallpaper screensaver image

Here is where G vs K knocks it out of the park. The action sequences in the fourth installment are arguably among the best in the series. They are brightly lit and well choreographed. There are four action set pieces in the movie and only one of them does not involve Godzilla. It is set in Hollow Earth and features Chimp Kong taking on Warbats (reptilian looking Titans).

My favorite is the climactic one. It is the best shot, choreographed and the most intense. But the impact is reduced because Junkie XL/Tom Holkenborg uses a minor variation on the Flight theme (from Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Man of Steel). This took me out of the movie watching experience a bit. Perhaps he was working to a tough deadline. Either way, the soundtrack comes off as uninspired and does not do justice to the top notch work put in by other crew members (special effects, action chereography, direction etc.) Wish Bear McCreary had continued his superlative work from the previous movie. His themes for each of the Titans gave them an unique personality and that is missed here.

The other influence I could notice was Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro. Nathan losing his brother in an expedition and still being haunted by it, the way Hong Kong is lit during the second Godzilla vs Kong battle, the helicopters whirring around in the fight scenes, and most significantly Ren using “Drifting like technique to use King Ghidorah to control the Mecha. Not surprising, since Legendary and Warner Bros. produced the del Toro movie too.

Kong has a lot more screen time than Godzilla, who appears only to fight other Titans. Still, credit is due to Adam Wingrad and his crew for ensuring that all Titans get their own moments under the sun. 
king ghidorah monster zero godzilla wallpaper screensaver poster image

King Ghidorah remains the ultimate Godzilla baddie and his presence can be present in the action finale. Like the previous movie, it still takes two Titans to bring him down and while Mechagodzilla may well be the physically strongest, he is just a robot and does not have the sheer force of personality and charisma of King Ghidorah. In the last movie, Ghidorah took Godzilla for a ride to the sky and dropped him to earth. This time, he tops it by smashing his rival through three buildings in a row and throws the behemoth around like a rag doll. Ghidorah lives up to his name and remains the King of Godzilla's rogues' gallery.
The movie does lag when the Titans are absent. This is especially true of the scenes featuring Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison and Brian Tyree HenryRebecca Hall looks bored (as expected) and Alexander Skarsgard is well Alexander Skarsgard in his full wooden glory.
Demian Bichir understands his role and has fun with it. Kaylee Hottle does very well as Jia and her relationship with Kong is the heart of the movie. Eiza González and Shun Oguri have minor supporting roles and do not leave a lasting impression.

Fun Trivia: Kyle Chandler has appeared in two different King Kong adaptations: The 2005 movie directed by Peter Jackson and this one.
But none of that matters. People watch these movies for the monster-on-monster action and that is where this movie scores big time. The special effects look spectacular and all three Titans look and feel real. And judging from audience response all over the world, the series will continue further as is evident from the world building that has been done in this movie with respect to Hollow Earth.

I enjoyed Adam Wingrad's small budget horror pic: You're Next. He has taken his career to the next level with this movie and has already signed up for his next project: a live adaptation of ThunderCats.
Highly recommended for fans of Kaiju/Big Monster movies, and Kong/Godzilla.

Image Sources: Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros.

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

BBC Sherlock Canon References - "The Reichenbach Fall" Season 2 Episode 3

bbc sherlock deerstalker moriarty cap image poster wallpaper screensaver

The final episode of Season 2 is inspired by the original story: The Final Problem.  Here are the references to Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories:
1. Lestrade thanks Holmes for capturing Peter Ricoleti, # 1 in Interpol's Most Wanted List - Holmes mentions about his earlier cases in The Musgrave Ritual: Here’s the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife.

2.  Holmes is reluctant to wear the Deerstalker. This is a running gag in the second season - This is reference to the fact that Arthur Conan Doyle had not envisioned or written about Holmes wearing the Deerstalker. It was Sidney Paget, the illustrator who create the image of Holmes wearing that particular cap.

3. John asks Sherlock: Pressing case, is it?”. Sherlock's reply: They're all pressing 'til they're solved.” – From The Hound of the Baskervilles: “I had waited patiently for the opportunity for I was aware that he would never permit cases to overlap, and that his clear and logical mind would not be drawn from its present work to dwell upon memories of the past.” And Perhaps you would kindly give me a sketch of the course of events from memory. Certainly, though I cannot guarantee that I carry all the facts in my mind. Intense mental concentration has a curious way of blotting out what has passed. The barrister who has his case at his fingers' ends and is able to argue with an expert upon his own subject finds that a week or two of the courts will drive it all out of his head once more. So each of my cases displaces the last, and Mlle. Carere has blurred my recollection of Baskerville Hall. To-morrow some other little problem may be submitted to my notice which will in turn dispossess the fair French lady and the infamous Upwood.
4. Watson referring to Moriarty: “He is back” – Holmes states about Professor Moriarty in The Valley of Fear: “No less! When any of that party talk about
He you know whom they mean. There is one predominant He for all of them.”

5. Sherlock's deduction at Moriarty's crime scene: “not tougher than crystallised carbon. He used a diamond” – Dr Watson mentions that Holmes is a “first-class chemist” in A Study in Scarlet.

6. Press headline referring to Sherlock as “Amateur detective” – In A Study in Scarlet, Holmes is similarly referred to in press coverage of the case: “The man was apprehended, it appears, in the rooms of a certain Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who has himself, as an amateur, shown some talent in the detective line and who, with such instructors, may hope in time to attain to some degree of their skill.”
bbc sherlock canon references kitty riley reichenbach fall

7. Sherlock deducing that Kelly is typing – Reference to a similar deduction about Miss Sutherland from A Case of Identity: “The double line a little above the wrist, where the typewritist presses against the table, was beautifully defined.”

8. Sherlock deducing oil from the printing press from its scent and later smells linseed oil - Holmes has always had a sharp sense of smell. He mentions in The Hound of the Baskervilles: “There are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very necessary that a criminal expert should be able to distinguish from each other, and cases have more than once within my own experience depended upon their prompt recognition.”
9. Sherlock deducing based on Kelly’s fingernails - In A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes states: “By a man's finger nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his trouser knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt cuffs - by each of these things a man's calling is plainly revealed.”
10. Kitty's offer of help to Sherlock: There’s all sorts of gossip in the press about you. Sooner or later you’re gonna need someone on your side.. someone to set the record straight. - Holmes tells Watson in The Adventure of the Six Napoleons: The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution if you only know how to use it.
11. Sherlock coaching the attorney about how to question him & mimicking the judge word for word - Dr Watson mentions about Holmes in A Study in Scarlet: “Has a good practical knowledge of British law.”
jim moriarty drinking tea 221b baker street bbc sherlock

12. Jim Moriarty's line: “Every fairy tale needs a good old-fashioned villain” - Holmes expresses his skepticism about the case in The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire: “But what do we know about vampires? Does it come within our purview either? Anything is better than stagnation, but really we seem to have been switched on to a Grimms’ fairy tale.”

13. Jim's boast: “I could blow up NATO in alphabetical order” – Holmes states about Professor Moriarty in The Valley of Fear: “The greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every deviltry, the controlling brain of the underworld, a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations—that's the man!”

14. Jim's statements: “The man with the key is King” and “Honey, you should see me in a crown” - Holmes describes Professor Moriarty in The Final Problem: “He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson.
iou apple jim moriarty bbc sherlock

15.  Jim's promise to Sherlock: I owe you a fall, Sherlock - Reference to Professor Moriarty's warning to Holmes in The Final Problem: “You hope to beat me. I tell you that you will never beat me. If you are clever enough to bring destruction upon me, rest assured that I shall do as much to you

16. When discussing about his new neighbors, John speculates that he might be Sherlock's friend. Mycroft laughs and replies: “Of Sherlock’s?” – 
  • Dr Watson mentions about Holmes in The Valley of Fear: “Holmes was not prone to friendship….”
  • Holmes tells Watson about his network of friends in The Five Orange Pips: “Except you, I have none”
  • In The Adventure of the Gloria Scott, Holmes talks about his college days: “I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond of moping in my rooms and working out my own little methods of thought, so that I never mixed much with the men of my year.”
17. Ludmila Dyachenko, the new neighbor who is also an assassin – Reference to the rumor that Ludmilla Hubel, the alleged lover of Archduke John Salvator of Austria was the inspiration for ACD to create the character of Irene Adler
18. Sherlock's comment on Anderson's deductions: “Brilliant impression of an idiot” - Dr Watson writes about Holmes in
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans: “It was one of my friend's most obvious weaknesses that he was impatient with less alert intelligences than his own.”
20. Sherlock deducing that the kidnapped boy was anxious because he was walking on his tiptoe - In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes deduces that Sir Charles Baskerville was running for his life based on the fact that his footprints indicated that he was walking on tiptoe down the alley.
bbc sherlock canon references reichenbach fall

21. Sherlock's statement: “All the chemical traces on his shoe have been preserved. The sole of the shoe is like a passport. If we’re lucky we can see everything that he’s been up to.” -  Dr Watson writes about Holmes' expertise in A Study in Scarlet: Geology - Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other.  After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their color and consistence in what part of London he had received them.

22. Sherlock's comments about the homeless network: “Faster than the police” - In A Study in Scarlet, Holmes speaks highly of the Baker Street Irregulars: “There’s more work to be got out of one of those little beggars than out of a dozen of the force.
23. Sherlock further comments that the homeless network is far more relaxed about taking bribes - In The Sign of the Four, Holmes paid an advance of one shilling to each of his Irregulars with the promise of one guinea to the one who finds Mordecai Smith’s boat.
In addition, Holmes has also bribed a number of other characters, including the constable John Rance in A Study in Scarlet, Mrs Mordecai Smith in The Sign of the Four, the cabbie John Clayton in The Hound of the Baskerville.
23. Sherlock correctly deducing about mercury poisoning - In A Study in Scarlet, Dr Watson writes that Holmes is well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally

24. John asks Sherlock twice not to show too much happiness around the crime scene, since children have been kidnapped - Dr Watson writes about Holmes' reaction to John Hector McFarlane's predicament in
The Adventure of the Norwood Builder: “My companion's expressive face showed a sympathy which was not, I am afraid, entirely unmixed with satisfaction.”

I will be listing the remaining references in another post.

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

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Image Sources: BBC Wales, Hartswood Films, Masterpiece Theatre

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