Friday, March 10, 2017

Kong: Skull Island

By George M. Thomas

King Kong makes his return to the screen in Kong: Skull Island.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND is a B-movie that possesses an A-list type of pedigree.

From the title alone the expectation is that this would be one of those cheesy, retro flicks that used to appear on UHF television stations in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Locally, think Super Host or Ghoulardi.

But do not miss the opportunity to see a movie that’s incredibly well done, laced with humor and takes modern special effects and uses them to its full advantage.

This is the movie, which happens to be set in 1973, the most recent remake of GODZILLA should have been.  There’s no hiding the goods in this one.  Kong appears early and often and he’s a magnificent cinematic creation in a story that’s up to the task. Does it contain a great rumination on life?  Nope. But it sure as hell is fun and it features a cast that buys into that notion and goes along for the ride.

Put Tom Hiddleston of Loki fame, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson and John Goodman in a movie and good things should happen.

In this case Goodman portrays Bill Randa, a scientist and CEO who finds evidence of an uncharted island and talks a U.S. senator into helping him get funding to go there using the flimsy excuse that America doesn’t want Russia to beat them to it, right?

Of course not.  The senator gets them a military escort to the island let by Col. Preston Packard (Jackson), a man who cannot believe America just lost Vietnam.  He and his men do their duty, get Randa, tracker James (Hiddleston) and photographer Mason (Larson), get everyone to Randa's precious island.

All hell breaks loose and after the group of helicopters enter the island’s airspace and run into the  baddest dude on the island, the huge gorilla Kong.  Feeling threatened, Kong attacks, leaving a handful of survivors and a rather pissed off and obsessed Packard.

As James and Mason attempt to get to an extraction point so survivors can get home safely, Packard has other ideas and risks his life and the lives of his men to satisfy his rage.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts balances suspense, special effects, and cinematic history to give fans of movie monsters the film they deserve.  KONG is a tense exercise in escapism as Vogt-Roberts takes us through an island filled with wonder, danger, and monsters that do battle.

The cast collectively buys in to contribute to the fun, but take note:  a couple performances – that of Reilly, who’s been a castaway on the island for nearly three decades, and Jackson as a guy who gives Capt. Ahab from Moby Dick a run for his money, really stand out.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND revives the monster flick with humor, a decent story, and modern effects without sacrificing any fun.  And speaking of fun, do stay through the credits.

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson and John Goodman
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes
Rating:  PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language.

(3-of-4 stars)

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