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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Movie Review- Kong: Skull Island

Green smoke will not be enough against this hundred foot tall monstrosity

"We don't belong here."

You know what's cool about having a thirteen inch, black & white television set in your room as a little kid back in the 1980's? Being able to watch late night showings of the original King Kong (1933), and not wondering where the color was. Also, I could make whatever stuffed monkey I had at the time, play as the titular creature who kidnaps my Princess Leia or Baroness action figures, and carry them to the top of my bedpost. Then I'd have Starscream swoop in and take out that damn dirty ape! Aside from the 1933 classic, I hadn't seen any other version of Kong that was memorable until 1986. That's when I turned down getting a ticket with my cousin for the much better, "The Golden Child", and instead opted for, King Kong Lives (or "The Big Guy Needs a Heart Transplant and Only a Female of Proportionate Size can Mend it"). It was the "straight-to-video" quality sequel to the unnecessary 1976 remake, that only a blissfully ignorant nine-year old like myself could enjoy; That is of course until I saw the end-all be-all definitive vision of Peter Jackson's (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) bloated homage/remake in 2005. It tried to be way larger than it could sustain, but yet I find myself glued to the telly every time that it's on. In fact, if that had been the last of cinematic Kong (only U.S. versions referred to here), I'd have probably been okay with that.

Kong: Skull Island

But nooooooooo! There's still money to be made on the monkey, and Hollywood's gonna milk it some more. Remember when Jackson's three-plus hour version took roughly an hour to get to the island because Adrian Brody's (The Pianist) Toucan Sam (Fruit Loops) nose kept hogging up half of the screen while he was falling for Naomi Watts (The Ring)? And do you also remember the ninety-minutes or so where they were all running for their lives the entire time (between Watts' and Kong's dance numbers), before ending up back in New York City for more drama and a little ice skating? Well have no fear; The guys at Legendary and Warner Brothers Pictures are gonna take out all of that sentimental drama crap, make the title sound more mouth-breather friendly (original title was just,"Skull Island"), and only give you the brainless action of a Summer blockbuster that's called,"Kong: Skull Island"! Exaggerated trash talking aside, this movie is what pure fun monster movies are all about. Firstly, this movie could just have easily been called, "Peter Jackson's King Kong: Extreme Action Edition!", because the action sequences between these two films are very similar. Also, this film focuses on about ninety percent action and only ten percent drama. To anybody with even a smidgen of movie knowledge (and by what every critic is saying), this is obviously an homage to Apocalypse Now (1979) and how it captured the 1970's Vietnam War vibe. This movie wastes no time with any unnecessary backstory, it just kicks into high gear and hardly ever lets up. No Kong/Pretty Blonde Girl love story here, only two hours of massive visuals and brutal beat downs. Sound good?

There is an ever present sense of humor for most of Skull Island that edges close to comedy, but never teeters into the realm of parody. Besides the everyday conversations between Shea Whigham (Agent Carter) and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), the film's humor is personified in John C. Reilly's (Guardians of the Galaxy) stranded goofball. He's like the balance that completes the film's tone of comedy and seriousness. Without Reilly, Samuel L. Jackson's (Marvel's The Avengers) hardass soldier would've seemed way less enjoyable in contrast to him. Tom Hiddleston (Thor) as a tracker with a unique set of skills, kicks ass but he looks, sounds, and feels like he's out of place. Like as if he was removed from another film and was digitally placed here. Brie Larson (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) takes the phrase "damsel in distress", and turns it into tough photographer chick that can hang just as well as the boys can. John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane) does his standard acting veteran shtick, and as always makes you want more. There are a few others that get some screen time and lines in here as well, but most of them either end up as monster food, or don't have that much to say. Oh yeah, the guy who played Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton (Corey Hawkins), plays a nerdy scientist. Though I do think it's a cool way to go against the grain by Skull Island not having to kill off nearly every single character and leaving two survivors who conveniently are into each other. That was the one thing that wasn't totally predictable about the story (thanks again, trailers).

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Kong: Skull Island

The Good- Bombing the island, "Is that bamboo or giant spider legs?", that squid shouldn't have interrupted Kong's bath time, Hiddleston's green smoke ninja slash, sometimes a sacrifice just doesn't work right, and there's nothing like a beer and a hot dog after a twenty-eight year nightmare.

The Bad- The whole Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) subplot was practically pointless, and Kong's final boss match is only a bigger version of the Godzilla M.U.T.O./Cloverfield Monster things that he fought earlier in the movie.

The Ugly- Everybody left the theater before the end credits were over, and missed the awesome "Monsterverse" scene. Has Marvel not taught these fools anything about big budget action movie end credits?

Final Thoughts

Kong: Skull Island may not be original in any regard, yet its juggling of familiar material and amping it up to the energy level of a Macho Man Slim Jim commercial, is what most Summer blockbusters only wish they could do these days. This is a fun movie that keeps pounding away at your senses. Look up all of its many inspirations and go see this one now. And once again, stay after the damn end credits. That 1986 version can only dream of being this cool.
Rating- 7 out of 10

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

PG-13 | 1h 58min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 10 March 2017 (USA)

A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writers: Dan Gilroy (screenplay), Max Borenstein (screenplay) 
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson 

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