By Lynn Venhaus
These two hulking movie icons return for an epic showdown in “Godzilla vs. Kong” — only the second time the atomic sea monster has been pitted against the gigantic ape – and they do not disappoint.

When ginormous forces of natures, Godzilla and King Kong, collide again, they might just have to ultimately team up to save mankind. But before a climactic battle, there is a mission into Hollow Earth. We will find out more origin information on the Titans as the good guys fight evil corporate conspiracies.

While the size and scope of these cinematic legends has changed over the years, the basic tenets remain the same. While an incredible hulk, Kong really does have a heart, and the Toho Company’s most famous creation, Godzilla, serves as a cautionary tale about messing with Mother Nature.

This modern match-up is the fourth movie in Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse, which began with a remake, “Godzilla,” in 2014, then “Kong: Skull Island” in 2017 and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in 2019. But overall, there have been 36 Godzilla and 12 King Kong movies.

A nifty touch is a clever opening credits sequence that gives the backstory of the past films, so you are all caught up by the time we see Kong asleep in his Skull Island habitat.

Intended to be pure monster movie escapism, don’t expect answers to your questions that may arise as you watch a well-executed blockbuster deliver the promised clash of the titans.

Director Adam Wingard, entrusted with this long-running franchise after a career making cheesy horror films, sticks the landing by providing the chills and thrills one anticipates. He keeps the story on track and moving at a nice clip – all under two hours.

While the screenplay by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein is mainly a template of broad strokes, the stellar ensemble is convincing in their standard roles, with Rebecca Hall as the “Kong Whisperer” Dr. Ilene Andrews and Alexander Skarskard as the mission chief Dr. Nathan Lind leading the main plot.

Brian Tyree Henry, an Apex Cybernetics employee who records the Titan Truth podcasts, teams up with fan Millie Bobby Brown as Madison, daughter of Mark Russell of Monarch (and Kyle Chandler has maybe three scenes at most, compared to being a lead in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”) The inquisitive duo are too curious for their own good, winding up in Hong Kong, smack dab in a crisis of monster proportions.

The bad guys, are of course, with Apex – and that would be Demian Bichir as the head honcho and Iiza Gonzalez as his daughter.

Stealing the film is hearing-impaired Kaylee Hottle, who plays young orphan Jia, who forms a sweet bond with Kong and teaches him sign language. That emotional connection is one that boosts the likability of the film.

The attention to detail that production designer Thomas S. Hammock and his crew put into this film is impressive. Cinematographer Ben Seresin handles the faraway locations with flair, and the music score by Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) helps elevate the high concept.

This is the kind of movie that works best on the big screen, but in these pandemic times, HBO has provided a quality audio and visual experience.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” may not break new ground, but satisfyingly entertains its audience with a familiarity that’s expected and outstanding technical elements.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is a science-fiction action adventure film directed by Adam Wingard and starring Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Eiza Gonzalez, Demian Bichir and Kaylee Hottle. Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief language, it runs 1 hour, 53 minutes. It opened in theatres March 31 and is on HBOMax until April 30. Lynn’s Grade: B

By Lynn Venhaus
Self-quarantining is something we have had to adapt to these past 11 months, and have dealt with grief, collective or personal, as more than 450,000 lives have been lost in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic.  “Land” taps into those feelings through a personal journey of Edee Mathis, who has lost her husband and son (But not in COVID-19 times).

A grief-stricken woman (Robin Wright) chucks modern conveniences and city life for a primitive cabin, complete with outhouse, in Wyoming. Edee Mathis has decided to live in isolation, so she chucks her cell phone, has someone pick up her rental car and proceeds to carve an existence in the wilderness.

Wright, the fine actress whose breakout role was “The Princess Bride,” wrings out emotions as inconsolable Edee, who goes off the grid and deals with nature’s relentless cruelty while she copes with such a devastating blow. She faces a string of calamities, as she is unprepared and not yet adept yet at survival skills in harsh conditions. It is miserable.

She is in constant sorrow, and that is about all we know, for the character lacks context for most of the movie and then there are predictable developments. Many close-ups indicate her anguish.

One day, near death, she is randomly rescued by Miguel (Demian Bichir), on his way back from hunting, and he brought his Native American nurse friend Alawa (Sarah Dawn Pledge) with him. Edee slowly heals and develops a bond with Miguel, another lost soul, but she is very private and does not reveal too much about herself.

The film’s third act is contrived, and the emotional payoff feels as if we are cheated. After hitting the notes – connecting after shutting one’s self down, learning to live with unbearable pain and all the feelings brought on by reminiscence, “Land” lets us down.

The script by Jesse Chatham and Erin Dignam gets rather stale as it goes over well-worn cliches. Wright, who is such an intelligent, intuitive actress, deserved better material to work with, but as a director, she keeps the narrative moving. The film is a tidy 88 minutes, with little padding.

As seasons change, the majestic mountain view is a sight to behold. Of course, you would expect Big Sky Country to be awe-inspiring, with its proximity to three national parks, only the movie was shot in Alberta, Canada. However, cinematographer Bobby Bukowski takes advantage of the natural beauty and makes the vistas a stunning component.

A couple cover songs by British indie folk group, The Staves, are well-chosen to bracket the personal journey.

As she restores her well-being, Edee’s steps forward, each one seems hard fought. But “Land” has too little details to keep us thoroughly engrossed.

“Land” is a drama directed by Robin Wright, who also stars, with Demian Bichir and Kim Dickens. Rated PG-13 for thematic content, brief strong language, and partial nudity, the film runs 1 hour, 29 minutes. Lynn’s Grade: B-. In theatres Feb. 12.