Now showing: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’
 Titanic kaijus duke it out on the deck of an aircraft carrier in this still from ‘Godzilla vs. Kong.’ Warner Bros.
 
Tempo grade: B+. 
 
The “king” has been removed from Kong, but the new film in which the world’s largest ape is pitted against the nuclear fire-breathing Godzilla (Gojira) finally illustrates why. I won’t say how or why here, but we learn there is much more to the history between these mega titans than we may have imagined.
 
In 1962, when these battling kaijus (Japanese for giant monster) were first pit against one another as guys in ill-fitting rubber suits amid Japanese cities and landscapes more suited to a model train set, the kids who were its main audience ate up the big screen throwdown, despite having to sit through the boring American-inserted scenes. Wide-eyed and barely able to contain themselves, this demographic eagerly awaited the first real cinematic monster series designed just for them. I know. I was there and was just as excited to see what was going to happen.
 
Director Adam Wingard’s film, the fourth installment in the MonsterVerse series which began with “Godzilla” in 2014, has upped the ante considerably by treating these creatures as if they were real, ancient godlike figures awakened to defend or destroy the earth. They are the first to actually pour millions into making them look genuinely huge. The little toy tanks and ships and balsa wood buildings have been replaced by the real thing or at least by highly convincing computer generated animation.
 
One of the more interesting things about the reinvention of the Toho Studios legends has been to develop the idea of a “Hollow Earth Theory,” that somewhere deep beneath our feet is a gigantic open space that has withstood the test of time. Through the greedy actions of modern day industrialists, channels to this area have been opened, which have unleashed the likes of Godzilla and Kong. This theory has been the focus of study by the Monarch Group, which first showed up in the 2014 “Godzilla” film and was part of the plots in each of the subsequent movies in the series. It was Monarch that dubbed these creatures, Titans.
 
Like any big “Thrilla in Manila” style brawl, each contender has his own team in his corner. For Godzilla, it’s Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), daughter of deceased scientist Emma Russell who was recruited by Monarch and helped bring down the three-headed titan known as Ghidorah in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019). She is joined by her school friend Josh (Julian Dennison) and a conspiracy theory podcaster named Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry). 
 
In Kong’s corner, it’s Monarch researcher Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), who has been in charge of a giant containment facility that replicates Kong’s Skull Island for the past 10 years. Here, Kong has become bonded with Ilene’s sweet little girl, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who is deaf. When geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) approaches Ilene with a plan to use Kong to find a path down to the Hollow Earth, she is reluctant at first, but relents, thus setting into motion an amazing and breathtaking adventure. The visuals are one thing, but the soundtrack is a work of art unto itself.
 
For the villain of the piece, there is the high tech industrialist Walter Simmons (Demian Bechir), who is bent on finding and using the enormous power source he believes is at the center of Hollow Earth. 
 
But, was “Godzilla vs. Kong" good? For those who like this sort of thing and aren’t terribly bummed about seeing massive cities realistically destroyed by battling beasts along with subsequent carnage, it hit the mark. The production values, as mentioned above, are first rate, and if you see this in a movie theater with a great sound system it’s positively earth-shaking. Personally, I enjoyed the epic quality of the story, which is not easy to pull off. 
 
If you are really committed to learning about the MonsterVerse canon, you might want to visit collider.com/how-to-watch-godzilla-movies-in-order.
 
“Godzilla Vs. Kong” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language. 
 
This film is now showing at the Storyteller Cinema 7, 110 Old Talpa Cañon Road in Taos. For showtimes, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com. This film is also streaming through major online venues.
 
Also showing at the Storyteller Cinema 7
 
  • The Unholy
Directed by Evan Spiliotopolis, this film starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Cricket Brown and William Sadler focuses on a hearing-impaired girl who is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak and heal the sick. As people flock to witness her miracles, terrifying events unfold prompting the question: Are they the work of the Virgin Mary or something evil? Rated PG-13 for violent content, terror and some strong language.
 
  • The Marksman
Directed by Robert Lorenz, this film stars Katheryn Winnick and Liam Neeson in a drama about a rancher on the Arizona border who becomes the unlikely defender of a young Mexican boy fleeing cartel assassins who have chased him into the United States. Rated R for strong violence and bloody images, language throughout and brief drug use.
 
  • Nobody
This film, directed by Ilya Naishuller and starring Bob Odenkirk and Connie Nielsen in an action thriller with comedic overtones. Rated PG-13 for violence, some bloody images and brieg strong language.
 
  • Raya and the Last Dragon
Directed by Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada and two co-directors, this Disney animated film, featuring the voice talents of Kelly Marie Tra, Awkwafina, and Gemma Chan, is set in the re-imagined Earth world known as Kumandra where a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon. Rated PG for some violence, action and thematic elements.
 
  • Tom and Jerry
This animated film directed by Tim Story and featuring the voice talents of Chlöe Grace Moretz, Michael Peña and Colin Jost, is based upon the classic Hanna-Barbera kids cartoon but this time with some modern elements. Rated PG for cartoon violence, rude humor and brief language.
 
• The Croods: A New Age
This animated kids film directed by Joel Crawford, featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds, follows a family of prehistoric humans as they stumble into the great unknown. Rated PG for peril, action and rude humor.
 
Now streaming at the TCA’s Big Screen @ Home film series
 
Oscar Nominated Shorts
Not rated
Ticket $12, three separate programs available now through April 24.
TCA Big Screen @ Home series
 
These are short films nominated for the 2021 Academy Awards. 
 
The first program is titled Live Action Shorts is rated R.
 
The films include: “The Present” by Farah Nabulsi (Palestine, 25 min.), “Feeling Through” by Doug Roland and Susan Ruzenski (USA, 19 min.), “Two Distant Strangers” by Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe (USA, 25 min.), and “White Eye” by Tomer Shushan and Shira Hochman (Israel, 21 min.).
 
The second program is titled Documentary Shorts and is rated R.
 
The films include: “A Love Song for Latasha” by Sophia Nahli Allison and Janice Duncan (USA, 18 min.), “Do Not Split” by Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook (USA/Norway, 36 min.),
“Hunger Ward” by Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Scheuerman (USA, 40 min., “Colette” by Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard (France/Germany/USA, 24 min.), and “A Concerto Is a Conversation” by Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers (USA, 13 min.).
 
The third program is titled Animated Shorts and is rated PG-13.
 
The films include: “Burrow” by Madeline Sharafian and Michael Capbarat (USA, 6 min.), “Genius Loci” by Adrien Mérigeau and Amaury Ovise (France, 16 min.), “Opera” by Erick Oh (USA, 9 min.), “If Anything Happens I Love You” by Will McCormack and Michael Govier (USA, 12 min.), and “Yes-People” by Gísli Darri Halldórsson and Arnar Gunnarsson (Iceland, 8 min.).
Plus a selection of additional animated shorts. “Kapaemahu” (USA, 8 min.) and “The Snail and the Whale” (UK/Germany, 26 min.).
 
Rose Plays Julie
Not rated
Drama
Ticket $6.99, available now through April 30.
TCA Big Screen @ Home series
 
Rose, an only child, has enjoyed a loving relationship with her adoptive parents. However, for as long as Rose can remember she has wanted to know who her biological parents are and the facts of her true identity. After years trying to trace her birth mother, Rose now has a name and a number.

 Her birth mother, Ellen (Orla Brady) is deeply disturbed when Rose turns up unannounced. The very existence of this young woman threatens the stability of the new life Ellen has painstakingly put together. But Rose proves very tenacious and Ellen is forced to reveal a secret she has kept hidden for over 20 years. 
Rose believes she has little to lose but much to gain when she sets out to confront her biological father, Peter (Game of Throne's Aidan Gillen). What Rose cannot possibly foresee is that she is on a collision course that will prove both violent and unsettling – dark forces gather and threaten to destroy her already fragile sense of her own identity. This film was directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy.
 
War Horse: National Theatre Live
Not rated
Drama
Ticket $15, available now through April 6.
TCA Big Screen @ Home series
 
This is a livestream show with multiple start times. Just like a live show, you can only watch it on the date and time it takes place. 
Now seen by more than 8 million people around the world, “War Horse” is a powerfully moving and imaginative stage drama, a show of phenomenal inventiveness, filled with stirring music and songs. At its heart are astonishing life-size puppets by South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company, who bring breathing, galloping, charging horses thrillingly to life on stage.  Based on the beloved novel by Michael Morpurgo, adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford. 
 
How to watch TCA Big Screen @ Home films
 
Visit tcataos.org/film/ to find selections available. Click on the movie link and follow instructions for ticket payment and other features such as filmmaker interviews and free online discussions presented by the TCA Film Fans. Watch on your computer or other media device. The Taos Center for the Arts retains 50 percent of the ticket price.
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Taos Community Auditorium is closed for the time being in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Until it reopens we will focus on movies through the TCA’s Big Screen @ Home series. The Storyteller Cinema 7 has reopened and is now showing a full schedule of films 7 days a week. Limit is 25 percent of capacity for each theater and masks will be required when not eating or drinking.

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