2021, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 53 mins
Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, TrueHD 7.1, 2.39:1 Aspect Ratio
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall
Directed by: Adam WingardRating
Godzilla returns to his ways of destruction and only Kong can stop him from total domination.
Godzilla suddenly returns from the sea to destroy an Apex facility in Florida. Kong is released from his habitat on Skull Island to deal with the threat. But there is far more at stake than meets the eye. Apex is secretly trying to harness a mysterious power source in Hollow Earth. With the help of brave scientists and a group of conspiracy theorists, Kong and Godzilla meet in a battle to the death.
Being a classic monster movie, Godzilla vs Kong has little to offer by way of a plot. We have the usual suspects: well-meaning scientists who no one listens to, conspiracy theorists, and evil corporate barons who seek world domination under the guise of benefits to all. If you sit down to watch this film, enjoy it for its stunning special effects and occasional clever one-liners from the A-list cast. But I must give kudos to the real show-stealer, Kaylee Hottle. She manages to carry the best parts of the movie without uttering a single word. Her relationship with Kong creates a palpable on-screen chemistry.
Seeing Godzilla vs Kong for what it is, a thrill ride at a theme park, it certainly entertains. If you like to watch big battles, mayhem, and destruction, it will not disappoint.
The image, presented in Dolby Vision, is stunning in every way. CGI just seems to get better and better with each new blockbuster release. Watching the disc on an LG OLED TV brought out every detail, texture, and hue. The color palette is decidedly warm except for a few nighttime city scenes that are appropriately blue in tone. Flesh tones are natural and textural. Contrast is broad with deep blacks and highlights that jump off the screen.
The Dolby Atmos encode is equally stunning with punch, slam, and depth that continues throughout. This film begs for a big sub (I happily obliged) and it is used not only for the big effects but also to anchor ambient sounds and dialog. Voices are clear and easy to understand.
My package included the film on both Ultra HD and standard Blu-ray. The special features are all presented in HD and total about one hour. There are 11 short subjects talking about character creation, scene production, and franchise history. You also get an audio commentary from director Adam Wingard.
Movie serials started in the silent era and continued into the 1950s. They really took off when sound was added to the mixture.
One of the best was the Flash Gordon serials, based on the comic book character. In 1936, the first of the Flash Gordon serials were released, starring Larry “Buster” Crabbe who was an Olympic swimming champion.
Co-starring were Jean Rogers as Dale Arden, Frank Shannon as Dr. Zarkov, and Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless.
The plot is that Earth is being threatened by a planet called Mongo hurtling towards it which will obviously result in the destruction of our planet. Flash and Dale accompany Dr. Zarkov to Mongo in order to somehow stop the disaster from occurring.
They encounter Ming who governs planet Mongo and who intends to conquer Earth and its inhabitants. Flash starts out wearing a suit, but soon, somehow not explained where he got it, he ends up wearing an outer space outfit. He is the foremost actor in the shot below.
Occasionally, Flash is shown without a shirt, as seen below. This is because he had a great physique due to his Olympic champion efforts, and the studio wanted to show it off. A Mongo character is to the left, unlikely to be seen without a shirt.
Dale Arden is shown below. She (Jean Rogers) was a platinum blonde in this serial but was a brunette in the second Flash Gordon serial.
Dr. Zarkov is seen below.
And, here is Ming.
The funny thing is that Buster Crabbe performed the best acting of everyone, even though he came from a sports background rather than being primarily an actor. He went on to star in all three of the Flash Gordon serials and a bunch of westerns as Billy the Kid in several of them. You can view all three Flash Gordon serials on YouTube. This 1936 serial is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTrSncxwGBE. Note that many serials were really awful due to their very limited budget. Flash Gordon was produced by Universal Studios with a hefty budget. Nevertheless, it does have its silly moments.
Cecil B. DeMille was a very fine director of the silent era and into the 1950s. He made 70 films between 1914 and 1958. One of my favorites, along with The Ten Commandments (1956), is Unconquered (1947).
It stars Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard and is about settlers moving west of the Allegheny mountains in the 1700s. Gary is Captain Chris Holden who goes to Fort Pitt to find out why there is so much trouble with the Indians. Howard Da Silva is Martin Garth, an American who sells muskets and steel tomahawks to the Indians so they can keep settlers from moving Westward. He wants to control the new country for himself. Boris Karloff is cast as Guyasuta – Chief of the Senecas. Strange casting, but Karloff was very popular at the time, not so much as Cooper, but not far behind. Goddard plays Abby, an indentured servant whom Holden frees but Garth steals, keeping her indentured. She and Holden form the romantic relationship in the film, and Holden getting Abbv back from Garth is a major part of the plot.
It’s a wonderful movie, and you can view it on YouTube, but I assume it is available on the streaming networks too. The Technicolor is spectacular.
At last, all four films in 4K, Dolby Atmos, and Dolby Vision HDR! From Steven Spielberg and George Lucas comes one of the best action movie series of all time. Included is a bonus disc (BD) with over seven hours that covers stunts, groundbreaking effects, and special features. Also included is a foldout map with illustrations from the films and their locations throughout the world.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark has Harrison Ford as Dr. Jones, fighting the Nazi task force that is sent to the lost Egyptian city of Tannis, where the Ark of the Covenant is supposedly buried. Along the way, he meets old friends and a love interest from the past. The pacing is brisk and never lags. The actors are all superb and the set pieces are fantastic. Picture quality is sharp and clean yet retains the film grain that makes it look like a film should. The soundtrack is stunning with a very spacious surround sound that makes your room sound like a movie hall…yet manages to keep the voices distinct and clear. The colors are pitch-perfect, without the slightly cool blue overtones of the BD version from a few years back. Yes, this is everything I could have hoped for.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the slightly disappointing follow-up to the first film with Jones going to India to look for three Sankara stones that have religious significance for a local village. Along the way, he thwarts a Thuggee High Priest named Mola Ram and frees hundred of slave children working in a mine with little regard for safety. Full of gunfights and fisticuffs, he saves the day and the local village. The mood of this installment was a bit dark and grim compared to the more tongue-in-cheek first film, but it is still highly entertaining and worth seeing again.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade almost tops out this set. With the addition of Sean Connery as Indy’s father, the two join forces to keep those nasty Nazis from getting ahold of the chalice that Christ drank from at the Last Supper. It can offer immortality to the one who drinks from it. Jones even has a brief encounter with The Fuhrer in this one which was quite comical. In the end, Indy must choose between what he desires and what he truly loves. Don’t worry…he chose wisely!
Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull was embarrassingly bad. By now, almost 25 years have passed since Ford donned the Fedora and he looks old, uninterested, and tired. The opening montage with the atomic blast and the refrigerator was hilarious…and not in a good way. Later, we have monkeys driving a truck. Enough said. What I found strange though was that the plot did not follow the ideas of the first three films. Indy was looking for religious artifacts. This film took a hard left turn and introduced a sci-fi element with space aliens which clashed with the first 3 films. Was this just a cash grab? It certainly doesn’t get me excited about the upcoming No. 5 film (which supposedly contains more Nazis). Let’s face it. Harrison Ford is 79 years old. It’s time to put the whip down.
Anyway, to sum it all up, these are the film collector sets you want. The picture quality is great, and the sound is even more spectacular. They have aged well and are still exciting to watch, even with the kids.
The First Authorized All-Access Documentary of the Life and Times of Frank Zappa, DVD, Magnolia Pictures, Director: Alex Winter
In the 1980s, when I was a teenager, with friends who were pretty-damn-good on guitar and bass, and all of us were up to our armpits in music, we had a way of evaluating the best bands that seems to have gone by the wayside: Which was the best at playing their instruments. For bands that stayed with the same personnel, Rush was the most consistent winner. For bands with a rotating cast, Steely Dan had to be considered but it was clearly Frank Zappa and his various crews. Zappa was it. Anybody that ever played with Zappa was it. No comparison. And it came from the man himself. The folklore was that he terrorized his musicians in the fashion seen in the movie Whiplash. This was in spite of the fact that he himself was self-taught.
The sophistication of his compositions also helped him lap the field in our ongoing battle of the bands. I really can’t do justice to that so I’ll refer you to this write-up of the composition that ends the movie. And I’d urge you to listen all the way through the credits.
There is a lot to learn from this doc. Us old folks will remember that it was Frank Zappa who stood up to the Parental Music Resource Council (ie, Tipper Gore and some friends) who were pushing to have explicit-lyrics warning labels applied to rock records so that parents could shield their kids from stuff that was admittedly, too adult for the youngest ones. Zappa actually agreed with that notion and in the film we see him offer his own solution that seemed to have traction but was not adopted. Rather we got the warning labels that eventually disappeared without fanfare. Frank fought against these warning labels on principle. These principles are sound because having such a label means that there is someone, somewhere, who can be corrupted, or petty, or stupid, or all of the above, who might use their (censorship) powers to silence someone. Indeed, as seen in the film, Frank Zappa was silenced, not for his lyrics, but for speaking out on this issue, about a principle that we’re all alleged to agree with. He was silenced by someone in power who was petty and stupid and literally, the history of the world might have been different had that not happened. I’m not exaggerating.
Frank Zappa carried a level-headed, middle America, do it yourself, teach yourself with books from the library ethos that was in the air when I was a teenager. This movie makes me miss that dearly. It’s still around, it’s just not what we see in the overly polished music and TV industry. The kids are all right. Better if you show them this doc.
The smallest of all possible warning labels for the kiddos though: Frank was a product of his times, wives (especially) and children in the family were not always treated as we would have liked to see. The film doesn’t dwell on this and it’s not graphic or anything like that. Pamela Des Barres is interviewed extensively for the film and her’s is just one of the many level-headed adult voices that just leave you longing for that long-ago time. As for Frank’s children, it wasn’t that they were shut out while the mad genius locked himself away, but the door was sometimes closed and so they might have to slip something under it to get his attention. As is seen in the film, it was one such appeal from Moon Zappa that lead to Frank Zappa’s biggest hit ever, Valley Girl. Director Alex Winter expertly portrays this bit of Zappa’s life, weaving in the vastly different radio air-play ecosystem that allowed it to become a hit and then showing us what Frank wants to do with this new musical momentum, get some attention for his classical compositions.
As I was watching the movie, pretty much everything Frank Zappa said seemed quote-worthy. To me, this sums up what he was about and what his life was like:
FZ: I still write orchestra music but you know, no one will ever hear it.
Interviewer: You sure?
FZ: Well, I don’t want to say “never” but the chances of the music being played are not very good because every time we start negotiating with someone about having a performance of it all these problems arise and it always comes down to how much money are they willing to spend to do it? Because, we’ve had some offers from orchestras who say yeah we’d love to play it but we’ll give you two rehearsals and it’s impossible to play it in two rehearsals, you just can’t do it. And I’d rather not have it played than have someone play it wrong.
I watched the DVD version of the film. There are deleted scenes in the Extras, I haven’t gotten to those yet.