Friday, April 2, 2021

Effects rule silly 'Godzilla vs. Kong'; 'Exit' and 'Cowboy' limp along slowly

Godzilla and Kong easily dwarf a battleship.
The battle of the so-called "titans" in "Godzilla vs. Kong" is a long way from old-days cinema of lizards being magnified into giant monsters and even a leap from the stop-motion wizardry of visual superstar Ray Harryhausen. 

The incredibly impressive new technology gives this latest entry into the WB MonsterVerse another step up in terms of FX work, but the story? Please! It's simply dirt dumb -- from having some of its all-star cast board a supersonic, subterranean monorail in Pensacola, Fla. -- of all places -- and zooming it non-stop to Hong Kong, then defying the laws of gravity by taking some others to a land called "Hollow Earth," apparently because both "Middle Earth" and the "center of the Earth" already were taken.

In between a few impressively huge confrontations featuring the title luminaries, Bryan Tyree Henry earns the chance to deliver the most telling line of the entire movie, probably because his conspiracy theorist gets to inject some curiosity and humor into the otherwise oh-so-serious proceedings. Anyway, while entering a sizable warehouse facility, Henry's nice-guy "Bernie" looks around, laughs, and actually declares: "It's just so massive -- and so stupid." Tell me about it! 

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and language; 1:53; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Mom, son Pfeiffer and Hedges.
A similarly regrettable and persuasive line comes late in a farce called "French Exit," when a minor player (portrayed by Daniel di Tomasso) suddenly stands up in a Paris flat and shouts: "I don't like these people! These are not normal people!"

I understood the young man's pain, because I didn't like anyone much, either, even if Michelle Pfeiffer chews up major scenery as a rich widow running away from the embarrassment of going broke in New York. Her kooky supporting "friend," played by a nicely frazzled Valerie Mahaffey, shines as well among an ensemble that becomes more unwieldy as it goes and grows.

By the way, the latter group includes usually reliable Lucas Hedges, as Pfeiffer's meek son, in a role quite similar to the one he must have enjoyed just a few months ago opposite Meryl Streep in "Let Them All Talk." He was Streep's nephew in that one, accompanying his aunt on a big boat to London. Here, it's a ship to France, and Lucas still gets a chance to chase the ladies, including a few oddballs.

As luck would have it (or something like that), a black cat, eventually given the voice of Tracy Letts, gets in the way, too. Meow!

Rated "R" by MPAA: language and sexual references; 1:52; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Elba and McLaughlin ride.
Finally, the apparently famous Fletcher Street stables on the tough streets of Philadelphia offer the week's most unique new-movie setting in "Concrete Cowboy," streaming now on Netflix.

Despite a few real scene-stealing black cowboys working their steeds in this urban frontier, the main plot turns into nothing more than a cliche-ridden coming of age story. In fact, everyone in this tight-knit community seems hell-bent on cutting a troubled youth from Detroit down to size. That means the teen, given an emotional turn by Caleb McLaughlin (from the streaming service's popular "Strange Things"), does a lot of dirty work while trying to choose between going straight or staying tight with a childhood chum (Jharrel Jerome) flashing rolls of enticing drug money. 

Attempting to ride to the rescue of it all is Idris Elba, playing the kid's long-estranged dad and a stable mainstay. Elba's dramatic heft and legitimate star power certainly do have their moments, especially during some potent father-son exchanges.

Rated "R" by MPAA: language throughout, drug use and some violence; 1:41; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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