The thrilling ocean battle between Godzilla and Kong.
The thrilling ocean battle between Godzilla and Kong.

Godzilla vs. Kong (Warner Bros., 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray or Blu-ray + DVD, PG-13, 113 min.). This is not the first time that Godzilla and Kong have faced off – that happened in a 1963 Toho production – but the three battles here are done with much more power and energy, especially the innovative one at sea. As usual with these films in Warner Bros. Monsterverse, the human characters barely register and some of the plot points do not really add up, but the battle sequences are very good and it always is fun, unfortunately, to see a city destroyed. This time, Hong Kong takes that honor, in a homage to the original Toho Godzilla films.

This is the third Godzilla film of the current series and the third Kong film as well. With both Titans having their supporters, and two franchises to keep afloat, it is inevitable that both would survive this film, even as they battle a third, manmade destructive creature, but the film does offer a clear winner in the face-to-face showdowns. The film was directed by Adam Wingard (“The Guest,” “You’re Next”), who provides an audio commentary, from a screenplay by Eric Pearson (“Thor: Ragnarök”) and Max Borenstein (“Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the previous film).

The film opens on Skull Island, where Kong is now being protected by humans, including Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall of “Christine”) under a huge dome. The idea is to keep Kong from Godzilla’s notice, as there cannot be too apex predators at the same time. However, Kong’s frustration with being cooped in has led to weaknesses in the dome, as Kong likes to chuck tree branches at the dome. Meanwhile, Godzilla, after being quiet for three years, suddenly attacks the headquarters of Apex in Pensacola, Florida. While most of the adults cannot understand it, teenager Madison Russell (a returning Millie Bobbie Brown) is quick to figure out that something at Apex has triggered Godzilla’s ire. Also back is Kyle Chandler as Madison’s father, Mark, a Monarch employee, but he is pretty useless here.

Apex is led by Walter Simmons (Demian Bichir of “The Hateful Eight,” “The Nun”), whose evil plan involves stealing the source of the Titans’ power for a weapon he is creating. An employee of Apex, Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry of “Widows,” “If Beale Street Could Talk”) of the engineering department, who also runs a conspiracy podcast that Madison listens to, breaks into a secret part of the Apex facility, along with Madison and her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison of “Deadpool 2”), who have tracked Bernie down. The film actually could have done without the trio’s journey quite easily.

A more interesting human is the orphan child Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who is hearing impaired and being raised now by Ilene. Unbeknownst to Ilene, Jia has taught Kong some sign language, making the big fellow an even more sympathetic character as he can now indicate some of his feelings.

The main humans, other than an Apex henchman and henchwoman, are completed by Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard of “The Legend of Tarzan,” TV’s “True Blood”), a former employee of Monarch, the group Mark and Ilene work for, and an author specializing in the theory of a hollow earth. It is decided by Monarch that Kong may be safe in hollow earth, and possibly have family there, while Apex provides the three vehicles needed to withstand the gravitational inversion to reach hollow earth, the entry to which is at the Antarctica base that was destroyed in the previous film.

In addition to the Godzilla and Kong fight sequences, and the one in which Kong hopes from ship to ship is amazing, the film’s best moments are in portraying the hollow earth, which is depicted as a cross between Edgar Rice Burroughs and J.R.R. Tolkien. The trip also sets up the possibility of what could occur in the next Kong film.

The film has eight minutes of credits, much of it for the digital effects. The hollow earth vehicles look too much like animation when they fly, as does the neon outlined Hong Kong buildings, some of which were made taller than in reality, so Kong could swing on them as if they were trees. This is one of the cool things learned in the 10 short featurettes, the best of which look at the two Titans’ film legacy – 9:42 for Godzilla or Gojira and 8:15 for Kong – although they really could have gone into more depth. The other featurettes look at Godzilla’s attacks and how his ocean approaches were patterned after “Jaws” (6:15); Kong’s story being picked up 30 years later, with director Wingard comparing him to Clint Eastwood in “The Unforgiven” (7:45); the creation and design of hollow earth (7:45); a closer view of Kong’s temple set (5:40); the creation of the mechanical monster (6:55); the battles at sea (4:50) and in Hong Kong (5:50); and the Titan tag team fight (7:51). Grade: film and extras 3 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Voyagers (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 108 min.). This film is what happens when one sets “Lord of the Flies” on a spaceship – a lot of predictability and a lot of running down seemingly endless corridors. The set design – mostly white except for the control room and dark behind-the-scenes work areas – is actually very good and the acting is competent, given the script they had to work with, and contains some good work by Tye Sheridan and Fionn Whitehead, as the leaders of the good and bad factions respectively.

The mission is an 85-year space crossing to a hopefully inhabitable planet as Earth is just about worn out. So that the crew, whose grandchildren would actually be the ones to land on the planet, would not pine after Earth and its society, the 30 crew members were spawned in a laboratory and raised in isolation, with Richard (Colin Farrell of “The Lobster,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) as their teacher. When it is time for the mission launch, Richard elects to go with them.

The film, written and directed by Neil Burger (“Divergent”), then jumps forward 10 years, with the children now teenagers. Doing a routine test of water, Christopher (Sheridan) detects a toxin in it. Doing more research, he discovers the toxin actually is a drug placed in “The Blue” drink they take each day, a drug designed to suppress their pleasure responses, that is sexual urges, so that the ship does not suffer from over-population, which it could not sustain. Soon Christopher and Zac (Whitehead of “Dunkirk”) have stopped drinking the blue. The results are oh so predictable.

Strange noises, which Richard says is just stresses in the hull, are perceived to be an alien creature by some of the children. When Richard dies, the “alien” is blamed, and the film really drops into “Lord of the Flies” territory.

Also in the cast are Lily-Rose Depp (“The King,” “The Dancer,” yes, she is Johnny Depp’s daughter) as Sela, the one wanted by both Christopher and Zac, and Archie Madekwe (“Midsommar”) as Kai.

One of the nice parts of the film is hints of the future at the end. Extras include a look at the cast and the question of why be good (11:10); going against type by unlearning human nature (7:21); physicality and the alien force (4:30); the film’s visual style (7:42); and a tour of the spaceship with Ken Houlton, who says the length of the hallways was the equivalent of two football fields (7:18). Filming was done on soundstages in Romania. Grade: film 2 stars; extras 2.25 stars

Flashback (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 98 min.). Something is going on in Fred Fitzell’s mind. Pretty it is not; very confusing it is, as it seems the past merges with the present and with alternate what could have beens or may happens. All of it seems to be triggered by a drug, Mercury, which Freddie first encountered his senior year of high school – the last time anyone can recall seeing fellow student Cindy, until Freddie sees Cindy reaching out to him when he blacks out (maybe?) after driving the wrong way down a one-way alley.

Fred is played by Dylan O’Brien (the “Maze Runner” trilogy, “Love and Monsters,” TV’s “Teen Wolf”) in a role unlike what we have seen before. His character is way too glum, and thus not very interesting. Cindy is played by Maika Monroe (“The Guest,” “The 5th Wave”). As Fred struggles to find out what happened to Cindy, and why he has started to see her, he looks up former high school drug-dealer Sebastian (Emory Cohen of “Brooklyn”). The writer-director is Christopher MacBride (“The Conspiracy”).

Early on, we learn that Fred’s mother, whose memory has been going, has only days to live. Fred is married to Karen (Hannah Gross with very little to do), but the rest of his life is glum, including a new job where he draws during his boss’ meeting instead of preparing for his major presentation. After the alley trip, the film flashes back to his high school senior year, when he is fearing he will screw up a major final exam and first encounters Mercury and Cindy. His images/memories also contain scary people and a young kid, who speak words at him.

After a short while, all the confusing mix of past, present and what may be happening on an alternate timeline or two gets to be too much. MacBride seems to want to take his audience on a Mercury trip. There are definite nods to “Donnie Darko” here, but less effective. The only extras are an audio commentary by MacBride, two deleted scenes and one alternate scene. Grade: film 2 stars; extras 1.5 stars

The Salisbury Poisonings (UK, AMC Studios/RLJE, DVD, NR, 205 min.). This miniseries tells the true story of Russia poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were both found collapsed on a park bench in the Maltings city center of Salisbury, England on March 4, 2018. It was determined that Novichok, a deadly human-engineered, military nerve agent was used. Many people know those basics from TV news reports at the time, but the miniseries goes into the fears in the community as efforts were made to find other contaminated sites and the possible infected people. In fact, the miniseries centers on first police responder Nick Bailey and a struggling mother who is combating her addictions while trying to gain back custody of her young daughter.

In many ways, the investigation – especially its learning as you go along aspect – recalls the initial weeks of dealing with Covid-19. Even parts of the city had to be cordoned off. There also is the battle to ease up safety restrictions as quickly as possible to get back to normal life.

Bailey, who does become infected, is played by Rafe Spall (“Hot Fuzz”), while Dawn is played by MyAnna Buring (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”). Dawn does not become infected until she moves to another city, nine miles away, adding more urgency to the search for the nerve agent source, which remains lethal for 50 years and which a spoonful of could kill thousands with the correct delivery mechanism. Brought in to help lead the investigation is Director of Public Health Tracy Daszkiewicz (Ann-Marie Duff of “From Darkness”). Mark Addy (“The Full Monty,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), the only familiar face to me, plays the Skripals’ friend, Ross Cassidy. There are no extras. Grade: 3.25 stars

Athena (1954, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 96 min.). This is one of two early Debbie Reynolds films making their Blu-ray debut. Here, she is Minerva, one of seven granddaughters of fitness and health food guru Grandpa Ulysses Mulvain (Louis Calhern of “High Society,” “Julius Caesar,” “Annie Get Your Gun”). Initially, the musical comedy is more about her older sister Athena (Jane Powell of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” that same year), a numerologist with knowledge of mulching and gardening.

Adam Calhorn Shaw (Edmund Purdom of “The Egyptian,” “Herod the Great”) plays a stuffy, but kind-hearted lawyer who is running for Congress and has a fiancé in Beth (Linda Christian), who is a bit overpowering. He encounters Athena, when he goes to complain the peach trees he bought are dying. Soon thereafter, Athena shows up at his house, mulching his peach trees and gives him a kiss before leaving.

Meanwhile, Adam has a new client in former Army buddy Johnny Nyle (singer Vic Damone in his second film; he would make “Hit the Deck” and “Kismet” during the next two years), whose former agent has put him $30,000 in debt and the court says he cannot perform or record until the debt is settled. With a new TV show looming, Johnny goes to Adam for help. One thing leads to another and Johnny meets Minerva and they fall in love.

In addition to eating healthy nut and vegetable style, the film dabbles into bodybuilding, with Mr. Universe Steve Reeves (“Hercules” films) playing Ed Perkins, who enters the Mr. Universe contest. There are 13 muscle men in all.

The 10 songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane are not that memorable; the choreography by Robert Planck is cleverer and entertaining. The film has some similarities with director Richard Thorpe’s previous “Double Wedding” (1937). Extras include three musical outtakes: a competition dance; four attempts/different camera angles at “Imagine” with Damone and Reynolds; and two tries of Powell and Purdom reprising “Love Can Change the Stars.” Grade: film 3 stars; extras 1 star

The Tender Trap (1955, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 111 min.). Having won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “From Here to Eternity” two years previously, Frank Sinatra was busy making films for release in 1955. In addition to this film adaptation of a stage play – which does have a stage play feel with so few sets – Sinatra’s 1955 releases incuded the musical “Guys and Dolls” and the heavy drama “The Man with the Golden Arm.” Here he plays theatrical agent Charlie Y. Reader, 35, while Debbie Reynolds plays new singing signee Julie Gillis, 21.

Charlie is a man of the world, single and enjoying life in New York City, where he has a stable of girls who, individually, bring him cheese, walk his dog, bring him fresh fish or cuddle on the couch. One regular is a violinist with the NBC Orchestra. She is Sylvia Crewes (Celeste Holm of “All About Eve” and “High Society,” also with Sinatra), who wants to get married but has despaired because she is no longer young. Early in the film, Charlie’s childhood friend Joe McCall (David Wayne of “Adam’s Rib,” “How to Marry a Millionaire”) suddenly shows up, as he is taking a break from his wife Ethel and their 11-year marriage. When Charlie gets too involved with Julie, Joe steps in and starts dating Sylvia.

Julie is the exact opposite of Charlie. She has her whole life planned out, down to the day she will marry, the three children they will have and the high school and colleges the kids will go to. She does not even want to sign a term-of-the-show contract when she nabs the lead in the musical that features the film’s title tune because she expects to be married midway thrown the run, even though she has not met her future husband yet. By the way, about that wonderful Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen song, the film opens with Sinatra singing it as he crosses a field from a distance towards the camera, and later there is a wonderful scene of Sinatra playing the piano and demonstrating to Reynolds how the song should be sung with emotion.

The bonus features include a look at Sinatra in the 1950s, including comments by a then-older Reynolds (15:50); and two excerpts from The MGM Parade (1955) about the film, with the first including a Reynolds interview (3:45) and the second the Sinatra at piano scene (3 min.). Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.5 stars

Resurrection (Warner Bros., Blu-ray, PG-13, 96 min.). This is a very nuts-and-bolt telling of the crucifixion of Jesus (Juan Pablo Di Pace of TV’s “Fuller House”) and his few appearances after his resurrection on the third day, told from the viewpoint of his disciples (soon to be apostles). Also very much present are his Mother Mary (Greta Scacchi of TV’s “The Terror,” “Versailles”) and Mary Magdalene (Chipo Chung of TV’s “Into the Badlands”). Directed by Ciaran Donnelly (TV’s “The Tudors”), the film is from the same team behind the Emmy-nominated miniseries “The Bible.” The writer is Simon Block (TV’s “A.D. The Bible Continues”) and the music is by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe. Scacchi also appeared in “A.D. The Bible Continues,” as did Joanne Whalley, who plays Claudia, and Vincent Regan, who plays Pilate. The highlight of the film is when the archangel comes down from heaven and moves the large stone slab that is blocking Jesus’ tomb. There are no bonus features. Grade: film 3 stars

Rock Dog 2: Rock Around the Park (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or DVD, NR, 90 min.). The gang is back from the 2016 film, but I doubt many will care. Those who liked the first film would have outgrown this one, which is aimed at very young children. I found some elements of it annoying, especially the constant working in of song titles or lyrics into casual conversation, and the five songs by Matthew Gerrard do not particularly stand out, except for the auto-tune-drenched “Celebrity,” which isn’t even sung by the main character.

The plot has stardom-yearning Bodi lured from Snow Mountain to the big city for his band True Blue to become the opener for mega-star Lil’ Foxy. “Celebrity” is her current hit. Doing the luring is music producer Lang, who literally is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and mask. Lang’s convoluted plan is to threaten to destroy Rock ‘n’ Roll Park, so he can then stage a save-the-park concert. He further has had developed a “crossroads” recording booth – yes just like selling one’s soul to the devil at the crossroads -- which he will use to capture Bodi’s musical blue energy (which I really do not get what it is supposed to be, although it constantly washes over Bodi’s crowds; maybe some kind of energy drug, which should not be in a kid’s movie).

There is the usual message of being true to oneself, as at one point, Bodi is turned into an Elvis clone and breaks up with his band, which also causes Nature to launch an avalanche that buries the village of Snow Mountain. There is a lengthy, pointless segment with Bodi trying to exercise alongside Lil’ Foxy.

Somewhat hilariously, there is a female character named Frances, who is constantly misspelled as the male version “Francis” in the subtitles. Frances plays in True Blue along with Germur. Apparently, they are now filming “Rock Dog 3: Battle the Beat.” There are no bonus features. Grade: film 2 stars

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete (1987, 2004-2009, Sony, 4k Ultra HD + Blu-ray, NR, 126 min.). The adventure is newly remastered in 4K and has all-new Dolby Atmos audio in both English and Japanese. The time is two years after peace has been won and the ruins of Midgar stand as testament to the sacrifices made to win the battle. Now, a mysterious illness is linked to an insidious plot to resurrect an old enemy. Cloud must choose between the life of solitude he committed to or to taking up the sword once more to save the planet he loves. Included is an extended director’s cut with 28 minutes of additional footage and more than 1,000 revised scenes. There also are story digests of the original story and the compilation, and a featurette on the legacy of “Final Fantasy VII.” Grade: film 3.25 stars

Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection (1981, 1984, 1989, 2008, Paramount, 4 4K Ultra HD discs + 1 Blu-ray, PG + PG-13.). Harrison Ford has had the luck of being into two of the biggest adventure franchises of all-time: “Star Wars” and these Indiana Jones films, in which he plays the title character, a most excellent explorer. The films are “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which pitted him against Nazis; “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” where the foe is a secret cult in India that deals in slaves and human sacrifice; “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” with more Nazis and a missing father (Sean Connery); and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” where the foes are the Soviets.” In addition to the four highly entertaining, iconic films, there is a Blu-ray disc with seven hours of archival bonus material on the stunts and special effects that helped deliver the thrills.

All four films have been remastered from 4K scans of the original negatives, with extensive visual effects work done to ensure the most pristine and highest quality image, with all that work approved by director Steven Spielberg. All four films also were remixed at Skywalker Sound under the supervision of sound designer Ben Burtt to create the Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Grade: set 4.5 stars