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FILM REVIEW Kong: Skull Island
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2017-03-09

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Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman. Running Time: 118 min. Release Date: March 10

Originally, Kong: Skull Island was planned to be a King Kong crossover film with Godzilla. This was scrapped, but there are references to the secret government entity Monarch, which was in the last Godzilla film in 2014. Kong instead winds up fighting some lizard creatures called Skull Crawlers, awkward creatures without back legs that have a reptilian feel to them.

There are all kinds of funky species on the island that don't all make sense, but we get to watch Kong fight and devour a huge platter of calamari. Have some more popcorn!

The director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, was inspired by Pokemon and Spirited Away for the wild animals. However, he doesn't have an experienced background like Peter Jackson did when tackling a similar project.

Some of his ideas are a bit juvenile, like a reel-to-reel machine playing music on the back of a helicopter just to feature the '70s soundtrack and the cut to a sandwich as Kong takes a bite out of someone for a cheap laugh. The humor does work sometimes, although the campy dialogue battles with the Hollywood actors in places.

Best known for playing Marvel's Loki in The Avengers, Tom Hiddleston is basically a British Indiana Jones who brings experience to the group's adventure in the jungle.

Brie Larson lands a big-budget movie after her Oscar win last year ( for Room ), but seems to just fit in the palm of Kong's hand with nothing to do but photograph throughout the excursion. Skinny John Goodman is also wasted, while Samuel L. Jackson takes out his anger on the ape in an over-the-top way that slowly makes no sense.

It is John C. Reilly who steals the show from the big dogs. He plays Hank Marlow, a World War II lieutenant who has been stranded on the island and is living with some Iwi natives. All he wants to do is return to his beloved Chicago and eat junk food. Who can blame the guy?

There are a few hunky military men running around, but the real stars are the special effects and the creators. Terry Notary handles the motion-capture performance of the king and really brings the big guy to life. Also, the South Pacific landscape is breathtaking.

Summer movies are hitting the cineplexes early this year, with this one following the recent Logan. Are studios looking for just the right time to release a film to make it a blockbuster? In this case, the flick feels like it should be seen in an air-conditioned theater in July. This monkey business may hit audiences too early for them to really go bananas, but it is definitely worth the trip to visit Skull Island.

Be sure and stay until after the closing credits for a sneak peek at the sequel that is already planned for 2020.


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