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By Vernor Rodgers
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"GODZILLA VS. KONG"

In a world devoid of COVID-19, "Godzilla vs. Kong," in theaters, more or less  for a month, would be hitting the hundreds of millions in box office bucks, perhaps a billion worldwide. But after four weeks it was just about at $87 million, hardly a summer blockbuster. So, bad timing on its release.

This movie is a lot of chaotic fun, once we finally get to the main event of these two superstar monsters, King Kong and Godzilla, kicking the crap out of each other and pretty much destroying Hong Kong in the process. But aside from a prelim bout on the ocean, the G vs. K brawl takes a while to finally unfold. Naturally, a story has to be set up to explain why Kong, who's been literally bottled up on Skull Island inside a sort of biodome, and Godzilla, in the depths of the ocean seemingly at peace with those pesky humans who shoot missiles at him, face off in a messy bout worthy of MMA specifications.

That of course means we must have some key humans around. So there is Alexander Skarsgard (brother of Pennywise himself, Bill) as Nathan Lind, one of those outlier scientists in the mold of Aaron Eckhart's Josh in "The Core," Dennis Quaid's Jack Hall in "The Day After Tomorrow" and Dr. Grant of Jurassic Park fame. He teams up with Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), the supposed expert on King Kong except she'd be lost without the assistance of Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a child and mute refugee who is the only person who can communicate with the massive simian and the only person big Kong trusts.

 Interestingly, the smartest people here include a conspiracy theory podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), who teams up with his No. 1 fan, brilliant teen Madison Russell ("Stranger Things" star Millie Bobby Brown). Hayes is a very low level employee of Apex Cybernetics, which feeds on his conspiracy obsession. Apex is owned by Walter Simmons (Damien Bichir), who postures as a man leading the ever accelerating progress of cyber technology for the good of the world but who is very focused on his power and lining his already bulging pocketbook.

Thus the audience fidgets while witnessing the shenanigans of these people, eager for the battle to start.

Once it does, it is sensational. You can marvel at the advancements of FX that has come a long way since the 1950s' Godzilla escapades of a man in a rubber lizard outfit stomping around a scale-model Tokyo, crumbling model buildings.

Then a third party enters the fray, an Apex creation that is sort of a Transformers version of Godzilla. This forces the two former foes to set aside their differences for a while as this mechanized terror throws another variable into the equation. Popcorn time.

"GODZILLA VS. KONG" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/odM92ap8_c0

"THE MORTUARY COLLECTION"

As for small-screen entertainment, this little gem was featured on Shudder and now is in DVD-Blu-ray release. Clancy Brown, who has a filmography list of 298 credits dating back to 1985, including "The Shawshank Redemption," "Starship Troopers" and a wonderful and sympathetic portrayal of the Frankenstein monster Viktor in "The Bride," is a co-producer of this movie and stars as Montgomery Dark, a creepy, enigmatic old mortician in the town of Raven's Head who delivers inappropriate remarks at funerals and only sees life's value as the stories it creates.

Written and directed by Ryan Spindell, "Mortuary" is set up as an anthology. One day, Dark's pretty much solitary and grim existence is disrupted by a visit from a teen girl, Sam (Caitlin Fisher) who claims to be interested in filling a job opening at the mortuary while also showing an interest in seeing the body of a young boy, Dark's latest "client" whose memorial service has just wrapped up.

As Dark gives Sam a tour of the place, his orientation is punctuated with three stories of how some local people died:

                -- A woman who pickpockets wallets at a party is overwhelmed by curiosity toward a locked medicine cabinet in a bathroom and learns the hard way that things are locked for a reason.

                -- A handsome college student, Jake (Jacob Elordi), goes around campus, claiming the patriarchy is dying and uses that as a means of distributing condoms to coeds as a symbol of sexual liberation and a prelude to inviting them to a fraternity party (read: potential sexcapades). Jake meets Sandra (Ema Horvath), an innocent looking young lady who turns out to be a willing partner, as long as protection is used. When Jake violates this, the tables turn on him in a most grueling and gruesome way.

                -- In a gory and sad story, Wendell (Barak Hardley) is a man probably in his late 20s or early 30s who has to care for his terminally ill wife Carol (Sarah Hay), a tragic situation that has him on the brink of financial and emotional ruin. A freak event that could liberate him from all this trauma instead has a devastating psychological effect on him.

Sam is only mildly impressed with these stories. By the time Dark has finished telling the stories the two people are in the crematorium, where the body of the little boy is about to be incinerated. It is here that Sam confesses she is not interested in a job, but just wants to see the boy one more time, claiming his death is her fault. Then she tells her own story, which leads to a couple of unexpected twists.

Like many horror movies, "The Mortuary Collection" does not wrap up in a brightly colored bow. That is why we horror fans love the genre.

"THE MORTUARY COLLECTION" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/iZHg9xcK83s

"HUNTED"

Another offering on Shudder, "Hunted" is appropriately titled and is simply the story of Eve (Lucie Debay), a woman in charge of a construction project and dealing with the stress of the job who decides to hit a bar to chill out. Naturally she is hit on by a pushy guy and subsequently rescued by another man who seems more gentlemanly. Eve and the guy (Arieh Worthalter) hit it off even though the man claims his brother, who also is the bar, is reeling from the death of his girlfriend.

The night seems to be going swimmingly until Eve gets in the car with the two men and learns they are not siblings and in fact have other plans, namely abducting Eve.

The guy, whose name is never revealed, and his accomplice -- also anonymous -- turn out to be something of a macabre and terrifying version of Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy.

The Guy is a particularly menacing person who can be a decent well-mannered person one minute and vicious and violent the next. He psychologically messes with his friend, known only as The Accomplice, is cruel to him, then gentle and something of a mentor.

Eve gets zapped unconscious and stuffed in the trunk of The Guy's car. But an accident on a remote road in the middle of a forest enables Eve to escape, albeit bound and gagged.

From this point it is a chase story wherein The Guy and The Accomplice find their advantage withering, thanks to bad luck and the elements. Meanwhile, Eve transforms from a helpless victim to the aggressor. By the end both Eve and The Guy are pretty beat up.

The story is supposed to be an updated version of Little Red Riding Hood, but in fact for all the symbolism it is simply a chase story and ultimately very predictable.  Director Vincent Parronnaud collaborated with three writers in putting this together. There might be some satisfaction at the end but the build-up is shaky and inconsistent at best.

"HUNTED" Official Trailer:  https://youtu.be/JjE3LNm48hE

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