Monster mayhem with Kong & Co, a funny new Kung Fu Panda adventure, and a punchy remake of a Patrick Swayze classic

Mar 29, 2024
Source: Po in Kung Fu Panda 4 (Universal); Kong in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Warners); Olivia Colman in Wicked Little Letters (Sony); Jake Gyllenhaal in Road House (Prime)

Buckle up, folks. Your local multiplex is set to be chockers over the Easter long weekend thanks to two huge releases.

First up, you won’t find a better family-friendly entertainment offering than the high-kicking shenanigans of Kung Fu Panda 4.

In this bright and breezy lark, Dragon Warrior Po (voiced by Jack Black) journeys into the misty mountains to square off with a shape-shifting villain called The Chameleon (Viola Davis). Along for the trek is Zhen (Awkwafina), a fast-talking, light-fingered fox who Po befriends and invests a little too much trust in.

Given how it’s been a long eight years since the previous film the makers have pulled out all stops to deliver an action-packed escapade, with particular attention on making it especially funny.

A big bonus is that kids who have grown up watching the films at home should get a special delight from watching their first KFP film at the cinema.

Another fun way to celebrate Easter is by checking out the latest King Kong/Godzilla extravaganza, imaginatively titled Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

In this entertaining, loud, extremely silly popcorn movie, the two former adversaries team up to engage in a prolonged wrestling match with another giant, bad-tempered ape who wants to unleash the power of a captured dragon on civilisation and wreck everything. (Where do they come up with these brilliant ideas?)

There are some humans involved, led by Kong expert Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), who venture to the subterranean world of Hollow Earth where Kong lives.

But they play second fiddle to the marvellous cast of monsters who smash and bash everything in sight, with Rio de Janeiro hosting the final showdown where no fewer than five giant beasts throw each other about, playing havoc with property values.

It’s a satisfying crowd-pleaser. Just remember when you turn off your phone before the film to turn off your brain as well. Thinking during a film such as this can be very detrimental to your enjoyment.

Over at the other end of the quality spectrum is Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, a dreadful dirge of a movie that clocks in as yet another Hollywood blockbuster bland out.

The family ghostbusting team from Ghostbusters: Afterlife relocates to the New York firehouse from the original 1984 film, with the surviving members (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson) on board in the battle against some giant demon. There are a few laughs early on but the film starts to degenerate once it begins taking itself oh-so- seriously. The story is an all-but-incomprehensible scramble, and the expensive visual effects consist of the all-too-familiar exchange of crackling energy bolts.

And it gets dull. Really dull. Avoid.

Those in the mood for a more discerning distraction designed for adults head over to the arthouse circuit and relish the fabulous comedy- drama Wicked Little Letters.

Based on a somewhat bizarre true story, the film recounts an episode in the 1920s when the pretty seaside town of Littlehampton was consumed by scandal when prim spinster Edith (Olivia Colman) starts receiving anonymous letters full of personal abuse and swear words.

Eager for an arrest, the police quickly close in on Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley), a poor Irish woman with a coarse tongue who is notorious for telling people exactly what she thinks.

The film unspools as a comedy with a dark lining, the compact story addressing issues of class bigotry, sexism and racial prejudice. Blessed with terrific lead performances from Oscar- winner Colman and Buckley, the film also addresses the topical subject of how easy it is to send an abusive missive to someone when you don’t have to put your name to it.

For something slightly less refined head over to Prime for Road House, a nifty remake of the 1989 Patrick Swayze action classic. Stepping into Swayze’s boots, a ripped Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dalton, a financially strapped bare- knuckle fighter who is offered a job away from the dangers of the underground scene to help out at The Road House, a struggling bar frequented by troublesome roughnecks.

His job is to take care of disruptive patrons, first by nicely asking them to leave then, if they refuse, by engaging with them outside. This typically ends with the troublemakers writhing around on the ground with broken bones, missing teeth and shattered egos.

One particularly violent encounter puts Dalton in the sights of a corrupt local businessman who is eager to destroy The Road House so he can develop the area into a resort haven.

Set in the attractive, sun-drenched environs of the Florida Keys the film is a light-headed action romp, proficiently directed by veteran Doug Liman, who made The Bourne Identity and the Tom Cruise film American Made.

Like a lot of film fodder made directly for the stream, Road House is, at two-hours, too long by at least 20 minutes. So, if you need to take a break, you probably won’t need to hit pause.

Just don’t do it during one of the film’s marvellously choreographed punch ons, which look like a form of ballet, odd as that sounds.

For more visit with updates on X at @jimschembri

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