KONG: SKULL ISLAND
It is 1973 and a group of explorers and scientists are escorted by the military to a remote Pacific Island that has acquired a reputation as a place where strange things happen. In charge of the expedition is Bill Randa (John Goodman), who is accompanied by a diverse group including James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a disillusioned former British Special Air Service Captain and war photo journalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) is in charge of the helicopter squadron that takes the group to Skull Island. There, they discover they have entered a domain of monsters, including the mythic Kong.
Review by Louise Keller:
Action and spectacular effects punctuate this rollercoaster of a feature creature, in which lush tropical locations; an appealing cast and humungous predators are the main ingredients. In a reboot of the King Kong franchise, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts injects just the right tone - the perfect combo of humour, action and character, although it is no surprise that the ape at the film's centre is the ultimate scene-stealer. The premise may not be new, but the film feels fresh and visually soars as the exposition follows the twists and turns of this boy's own adventure. Buoyed by Henry Jackman's resounding score, the film is filled with thrills, laughs and eye-popping visual effects as the magic of Kong and the fantastical beasts that vie for supremacy are brought to life.
After a brief prologue and preamble, the story begins in earnest when the military escorts a group of scientists led by John Goodman's Bill Randa to an unchartered island in the Pacific for mysterious and varied reasons. It is a place where myth and science meets and everyone has his own agenda including Tom Hiddleston's former soldier with special skill set ('the most dangerous place is the most beautiful'), Brie Larson's anti-war photographer ('a camera is way more important than a gun') and Samuel L. Jackson's chopper squadron leader, commissioned to fly the disparate group to the remote island.
We don't have to wait too long for Kong's massive roar and impressive grand entrance, when palm trees are upended, bodies fly every which way and the ocean becomes an out of control Jacuzzi of cyclonic proportions. An 'unconventional encounter' is how our first glimpse of Kong is described, but that is just the beginning as it becomes clear that the ape is not the only giant predator on the island. The group quickly learns to beware where to sit, walk and bathe as massive insects with legs like bamboo trees, gigantic ants, oversized feral birds and nasty critters called 'big lizard things' all show their lethal sides.
Hiddlestone has the physique, charisma and blue eyes; Larson the curves and heart; Jackson the grit and John C. Reilly is suitably droll as a WWII Lieutenant stranded on Skull Island for 28 years, leaving behind a wife and a baby son he has never met.
Highlights include the bonding between Larson and Kong (Beauty and the Beast); the scale is wonderfully described when the ape rescues the damsel in distress and places her on his massive palm. There were loud chuckles in the juxtaposition of scenes when Kong makes a meal out of one unfortunate person, followed by a close up of another character enthusiastically munching a sandwich. Watch for the duel between Kong and a mammoth octopus (you may not want to eat octopus for a while) and Kong's final climactic show down with the humongous forked-tongue lizard is explosive and exciting.
Shot in gorgeous locations in Queensland and Hawaii, this is a far better film than its 2014 prequel, Godzilla. Buckle up; it's time to take flight to Kong: Skull Island. It's a perfect B-movie.
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KONG: SKULL ISLAND (M)
(US, Vietnam, 2017)
CAST: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz
PRODUCER: Alex Garcia, Jon Jashni, Thomas Tull
DIRECTOR: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
SCRIPT: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Fong
EDITOR: Richard Pearson
MUSIC: Henry Jackman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stefan Dechant
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 9, 2017