At long last we have arrived to perhaps the most anticipated week of new films for me for the year - on Easter weekend nonetheless. This long weekend for movies we got just one new major release and two smaller ones, but its arguably our first truly major popcorn event film of the year - Godzilla VS Kong. As a massive fan of the Godzilla franchise and a big defender of the Monsterverse, I have awaited this moment for a long time now. That said we also get arguably the first major horror release of the year in The Unholy, and from Netflix a smaller film festival type movie in Concrete Cowboy.
But first, a reminder of what my grading system for movies works like
- S Grade; 5.0 Stars: The Best Film I’ve Ever Seen, Everyone Has An S Graded Film
- A+/A- Grade; 4.0/4.5 Stars: One Of The Best Films Of The Year, If Not All-Time
- B+/B- Grade; 3.0/3.5 Stars: Worth A Trip To The Theatre For First Viewing
- C+/C- Grade; 2.0/2.5 Stars: Watch From Home For First Viewing
- D+/D- Grade; 1.0/1.5 Stars: Don’t Bother Watching This At All If You Can Help It
- F Grade; 0.5 Star: One Of The Worst Films Of All-Time
- Reminder: Reviews For These Films Can Change Over Time And Will Be Reflected Over At Our Letterboxd
With all that out of the way, lets get to the review already...
- The Plot: In a time when monsters walk the Earth, humanity’s fight for its future sets Godzilla and Kong on a collision course that will see the two most powerful forces of nature on the planet collide in a spectacular battle for the ages.
- The Review: I’ve been very frank and aggressive on social media that the Monsterverse franchise has been the most disrespected, most underrated, and most underappreciated cinematic universe going in cinema today. The way western critics treat these kaiju films is almost bordeline xenophobic in my mind with how hostile they are towards these movies and the way they discredit them as “dumb fun”. I recently saw a Rotten Tomatoes podcast where one critic admitted she “was in a bad mood” and admitted that may have lead to her rough review of the previous film - something that should cause her to lose her credentials in my opinion quite frankly.
I should calm down, because this isn’t the place for those arguments from me and maybe one day I’ll write or produce a film essay on this issue; but this franchise hit home runs with the 2014 GODZILLA film, with KONG: SKULL ISLAND, and yes even with the ludicrously disrespected, ganged on, and underrated GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. All Those films would make Best of the year lists for me when they came out and gotten As from me as well. And this movie is no different because the Monsterververse has done it once again for a fourth straight time delivering an epic and fun spectacle that delivers a blast for general audience type theatre goers who have been generally more favorable to these movies than some critics have - just look at the audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and Cinemascore versus the critical reviews and Letterboxd profiles (I love Letterboxd but lets be honest it hasn’t attracted general audiences as much as bigger sites have to come and have a say).
My rantings aside, this film was an absolute blast from start to finish giving us amazing CGI, those beautiful and incredible Monsterverse shots were used to, great monster action that focuses more on the monsters than intercuts with the humans, and guess what we do get a definitive winner! Not to mention there is (Not much of a spoiler as much as it is common sense) a bigger threat and that threat is treated and hyped up well concluding in a crowd pleasing climax that delivers what just might be the best fights in the series so far.
I disagree strongly with those who whine about the human characters in this franchise so I know I MIGHT be in the minority on this once again, but I liked them just fine here save for one side character who I think isn’t used effectively if at all. I chuckled at the comedic relief characters and was endeared to and rooting for the more serious characters. Each side gets to globe trot almost like this were 2016’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and that worked to help the pacing of the film for me.
My minor gripes would be it does feel like the movie was cut down to be tighter and perhaps it was a tad overdone as there are a time or two where it feels like we need some more depth to a situation than we get. I think an extra ten or so minutes would have helped. Also while the score is great by itself, its not the epic masterpiece we got from the last film but then again that was always going to be tough to surpass.
But overall if 2014’s GODZILLA was a good ominous nuclear threat film, if KONG: SKULL ISLAND was a fun adventure flick, if GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS was an all out disaster spectacle popcorn film you could have a blast with, then this is an old school Showa era versus film with minor elements of the MCU Civil War plotline in there. I had a ton of fun with this and the Monsterverse has once again shown why their films have been my favorite popcorn flicks of the last decade. If this is how this series ends, then at least it ends on a banger that didn’t have to resort to greatest hits flashbacks for three hours like another certain CGI fest finale film resorted to. A- for GODZILLA VS KONG. The pro snobs will miss out while those of us who know what we got will appreciate and enjoy every second of this series. You did it again Legendary, and I thank you for it. This movie DEMANDS to be seen on the big screen.
- The Plot: Alice, a young hearing-impaired girl who, after a supposed visitation from the Virgin Mary, is inexplicably able to hear, speak and heal the sick. As word spreads and people from near and far flock to witness her miracles, a disgraced journalist hoping to revive his career visits the small New England town to investigate. When terrifying events begin to happen all around, he starts to question if these phenomena are the works of the Virgin Mary or something much more sinister.
- The Review: I came into this fully thinking this would be another one of those D grade sort of horror flicks that come around in January during a normal movie year that would be nothing but jump scares, bad dialogue, and a lazy plot. I can report back that this had two of the three - so in other words it wasn’t particularly good but it was better than I expected.
The directing is okay enough, there’s definitely quality to the production here, and to their credit the actors are triying to do their best in elevating a pretty standard and safe Rated PG-13 horror flick that was obviously put out this weekend as a small niche alternative to the big blockbuster film that is GODZILLA VS KONG. But the movie does rely on the lazy jump scares and it does have some mediocre dialogue. The story plays it safe as well, being pretty predictable quite frankly. But to its credit the plot itself isn’t bad either, I actually found the story concept to be quite intriguing and there are times where it elevates the film to be just a little bit better than some of the typical counterparts of horror films that this can be put alongside in a watchlist with. I think they used the religiosity part of the story to great effect and the ending was one I was fine enough with.
That said this isn’t anything special, its a standard horror film that just happened to be better than what I thought I was getting but its still one I’d say save your money at the theatres this weekend for GODZILLA VS KONG and wait to check this out come Halloween season when its available for a cheap movie night rental. C+ for THE UNHOLY. It’s not as bad as I feared, but don’t expect this to go down as a horror classic either.
- The Plot: Sent to live with his estranged father for the summer, a rebellious teen finds kinship in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys.
- The Review: I’ve been hearing about this film going all the way back to a little over a year ago when it showed up at some film festivals before getting bought by Netflix. I’ve been eagerly anticipating it and came in with hopes it would at worst be decent. Instead this ended up the reverse of THE UNHOLY; whereas that was an okay to mediocre film that wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be this was an okay to mediocre film that was a little worse than what I was prepared for it to be.
And quite frankly its a damn shame because the directing and the story concept here are just fine enough. And the acting is superb when you account for the fact that this pulls off a NOMADLAND and has actual city Horse riders in the film and like NOMADLAND’s Nomads they act well enough you might not realize they’re for real and not playing a role. And the movie ends on a beautiful note allowing these riders to tell their stories as the credits play.
But unfortunately the movie plays to tropes too many times from the troubled teen who suddenly changes after moving to a new place, to the badly behaved horse that suddenly warms up to the new guy. On top of that there’s a character who’s fate is so predictable, dialogue that can feel forced, and there’s a character moment in the final act of the movie involving a police officer doing something that is so unrealistic it left me rolling my eyes. It just overall felt like a good concept with a potentially beautiful story to tell that played it so safe that the whole thing felt more flat than it ever should have. It was like if NOMADLAND tried to get too cutesy on their end.
Its frustrating to know that these riders who did a great job here and have a story to tell, coupeled with the regular acting cast members who did show up to this and deliver commendable performances with what they were given, will have some trouble getting their story out there as well as say the Nomads did with their movie. This was disappointing and while I would have considered a worthy cheap movie night rental, its good that it is where it is on Netflix. C+ for CONCRETE COWBOY. Real wasted opportunity here by whoever wrote this script.