Tag Archives: Derek Connolly

Return of The King

Kong: Skull Island

by George Wolf

Time to grab the sunscreen and the softball glove…Kong: Skull Island will have you thinking it’s summer! The King’s latest return is fun and fast-paced eye cotton candy, a spectacle entirely satisfied with being less filling and more thrilling.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts serves up the big ape early and often, while smart and talented writers effectively blend homage, humor, metaphor and bombast without ever committing the film too much in one direction.

Writers Nick Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly have resumes that include Nightcrawler, Jurassic World and the 2014 Godzilla. They may have a “B” movie on steroids, but they all know how to sneak in a dose or two of social commentary. This is about man’s inhumanity to nature, about how enemies sometimes “don’t exist until you look for them,” and about an island full of huge freakin’ monsters!

It is 1973, at the close of the Vietnam War, and scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) feels it may be his last chance at getting government approval (and funds) to explore Skull Island, an uncharted mass in the South Pacific kept hidden by constant electrical storms and magnetic interference.  Of course, Randa has other motives for the mission that he’s not interested in sharing with Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), who’s leading the military escort to the island, grizzled mercenary tracker James Conrad (ungrizzled Tom Hiddleston, a bit miscast), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) or anyone else on the team.

First on the agenda is dropping explosives in hopes of mapping the island seismographically. Step two is throwing the rest of the agenda out the window and trying to stay alive because Kong don’t play that.

There are plenty other scary things on Skull Island, and even another pilot. Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) has been there since crash landing during WWII, and he’s armed with funny one liners and helpful survival tips for the tourists.

While Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) attacks the adventure with some familiar guns blazing, he peppers in enough small surprises to keep things interestingly off-kilter. It’s like he’s living a dream of combining Apocalypse Now with Godzilla, and he’s not leaving until he’s satisfied the scale is big enough.

It’s plenty big, and the CGI is often exhilarating, but smaller moments of nuance find a way in. The characters both embrace and deflect common stereotypes, so while Brie Larson does end up in a tight tank top, it’s Hiddleston that Vogt-Roberts’s camera is most interested in objectifying.

This is entertaining cheese that screams Memorial Day weekend, rising up before your St. Paddy’s bar crawl. The hangover will be minimal, and even the after-credits scene makes hanging around till closing time seem like a good idea.

Roar

Jurassic World

by Hope Madden

Three years ago, director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly teamed up to breathe new life into a tired SciFi concept with the almost miraculous bit of time travel fun, Safety Not Guaranteed. They re-team this year, with a host of other writers, to see what they can do with dinosaurs.

The often clever script for Jurassic World laments their position as the creators of the 4th installment of a franchise that jumped the temnodontosaurus back in ’97. The park – a successful, viable island resort some 22 years after the initial disaster – needs to constantly evolve to maintain public interest. Having learned nothing, they’re cooking up more dinosaur DNA stew and they’ve concocted something a little scary.

What follows is a mish mash of fine, viable genre tropes: militarization meets mad science and greed with lessons to be learned all around. What is at the heart of every creature feature worth its screen time? The arrogance of believing that we are in control.

Uptight control freak Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), whose nephews are unaccompanied in the park because she decided to work, needs to take charge when the new Frankensteinosaur breaks free and rampages the island.

She’ll need the help of beefcake Navy Seal/velociraptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to save her nephews, the park, and the world. He will first need to remove that stick from her ass.

Pratt’s easy going charm brings a little Indiana Jones swagger to the role, but the chemistry between him and Howard is nonexistent. Perhaps that’s because of their wildly stereotyped odd couple role – something so outdated by this point it is itself a dinosaur.

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson offer fine turns as the youngsters in peril while Jake Johnson delivers enjoyable meta-commentary as the requisite computer nerd back in the control room.

Like it’s the acting you’re looking for.

The dinosaurs still look very cool, and Trevorrow shows real skill in balancing concrete with computer generated effects. He wastes little time getting us into the action and ensuing carnage and finds fresh ways to embrace and ridicule theme parks, blockbuster franchises and creature features simultaneously.

For a filmmaker who made his name by utterly retooling genre tropes from the ground up, it’s interesting the way his next feature celebrates them. From the original Jurassic Park to Aliens to Godzilla and every major action/SciFi/creature feature in between, Jurassic World benefits. It doesn’t bring anything new, but sometimes summer calls for some mindless monster munching.

Verdict-3-0-Stars