Screening Room: ‘Kong: Skull Island’


It’s been a few years since King Kong was smashing up the planet. Fortunately, the makers of Kong: Skull Island have remedied this problem with a half-gonzo reworking of the old giant apt smash-’em-up material set in the waning days of the Vietnam War.

Kong: Skull Island is opening wide this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

This is a movie so eager to show off its skyscraper-sized primate that it trots him out before we’ve even gotten to the credit sequence. In this iteration’s 1944-set opener, two downed fighter pilots (American and Japanese) parachute onto a tropical island beach and set about trying to kill each other before being interrupted by Kong’s glowering eyes…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’


In the 1970s, James Baldwin started working on a book about his three friends who had been martyred for the civil rights cause: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The book was never finished. The spectacular and burningly relevant new documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, threads the pieces of that elegy through a skein of dramatic footage.

I Am Not Your Negro is opening this weekin limited release, followed by a full roll-out in February. My review is at PopMatters:

An elliptical film, I Am Not Your Negro is partially a history of the Civil Rights struggle from 1955 to 1968, framed by these three men. It’s also an unpacking of Baldwin’s take on white America’s inability to come to terms with race and racism, with which it remains obsessed but also, of which it remains ignorant. There is anger aplenty in the film, but Baldwin’s observations indicate the confusion that might be inevitable in trying to understand the “vast, unthinking cruel white majority”…

The trailer is here.

Screening Room: ‘The Hateful Eight’

hateful8posterIt’s the holiday season, which must mean one thing: Time for another Quentin Tarantino throwback genre bloodbath. This year, it’s a snowy Western—one that Tarantino almost decided not to make after the script got leaked.

The Hateful Eight opens on Christmas Day. Some theaters are showing it in glorious 70mm UltraPanavision. My review is at PopMatters:

A locked-room mystery masquerading as a Western, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight at first looks a lot like his precious Christmas release, 2012’s Django Unchained. Fans of that exploitation abattoir might be forgiven for wondering, as they hit the intermission in the close to three-hour new movie, just when the fireworks are going to start…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Django Unchained’


Opening Christmas Day (because, well, why not?) is the newest tongue-in-cheek Tarantino genre-stew:

With his bloodily entertaining but tonally sloppy Django Unchained, the always fastidious Quentin Tarantino may finally be loosening up. This development could help broaden his appeal in the short run, his newest film being the kind of straightforward blend of humor and self-aware ultra-violence that plays pretty well to many different audiences these days. (In other words, expect few of the tricky narrative gambits that have defined his work in the past; this one’s more about doing maximum damage with six-shooters.) Unfortunately, a less formally inhibited Tarantino may turn out to be a less entertaining filmmaker…

My full review is at Film Journal International.

You can see the trailer here:


Bonus holiday fun—check out the trailer for the 1966 original Django, which Tarantino lifted the theme music from (but, sadly, not the Gatling gun in the coffin):