Kong: Skull Island
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Kong: Skull Island

Arguably one of the most famous movie monsters is King Kong, the very epitome of the star I a creature feature. He has been remade, ripped off and parodied for many decades, and any aficionado of cinema owes an incredible debt to this creature. The latest incarnation of the world’s most famous ape, ‘Kong: Skull Island.' As expected in this age of high-tech effects this movie utilizes a considerable of amount of the latest advances in that reply growing field. The use of techniques including composite imagery and performance capture technology to their best advantage. Whenever you watch King Kong swatting plane, or in this case, helicopters out of the sky keep in mind that the found father of special effects, Ray Harryhausen, and his mentor who first brought the character to life in 1933 Willis H. O'Brien started with this franchise. This movie fell short of attaining its full potential it does work as an updated variation of the monster movies that for many of us played a major part in establishing our life long infatuation with movies. At its core, this is an action-packed excursion through a dense jungle on an island that has never been explored. The story is heavily influenced by several of the established components of horror. To some degree, the attempt to blend several genres had the overall effect of weakening the general intensity of the film. I can understand why the director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts and the screenwriters, Dan Gilroy undoubtedly, they had the best of intentions but successfully juxtaposing even highly compatible genres such as horror and adventure requires substantial experience. Mr. Vogt-Roberts came from a background dominated by television comedy. This is his first feature film. The writers possessed resumes that were more one point. Mr. Gilroy provided the scripts for films including ‘Nightcrawler,' ‘The Bourne Legacy’ and ‘Two for the Money,' while his partner is new writing for the one season TV science fiction, ‘Minority Report.' Undertaking a big budget movie, estimated $185 million, win inadequate preparation the results were certain to experience difficulties.

A popular opening gambit for horror movies is to start the story with a flashback that might not be fully integrated into the plot until much later. In the sky two planes, one American, the other Japanese. The combat ended not so much in a draw but mutual loss. The fighter planes are mutually shot to pieces, plummeting to the ground. Both pilots managed to parachute to relative safety, or so they think. They charged each other, determined to finish the job. Just as the American is about to be stabbed something begins to rise from beyond the cliff, it is the head of an unbelievably huge ape. Over the years Kong has made many cinematic entrances, but this ranks as one of the best. The story may be little more than a scaffold to hang the special effects driven action. This can frequently be a portent of doom for a blockbuster flick unless s certain condition is met, the action is worthwhile. As the mortal enemies’ fight, the dome appears followed by the brow ridge and finally a pair of intense eyes. By the point the teeth are visible, you are in share the vantage points of the combatant in appreciating the sheer magnitude of the creature. This portion of the scene spans less than a minute, but It instantaneously pulls you into the film. The condition of worthwhile imagery expertly met. The move comes close to the ‘sizzle not steak’ criteria, but at lease, the sizzle was from a whole lot of bacon.

The story moves forward to 1975 during the end of the Vietnam war and the rapid exodus from Saigon. For Baby Boomers, not only will the presentation of the movie be reminiscent of the monster movies we grew up watching but it provided a natural reason to include many of our favorite songs from that era. Listening to songs such as ‘White Rabbit,' ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Run Through the Jungle’ brought me back to listening to WNEW in New York City, it also decidedly infused the movie with a seventies war movie. There is a shot of the sun setting, red, swollen and angry that was lifted directly from the poster for ‘Apocalypse Now.' Bill Randa (John Goodman) is the senior manager for a Government program, Monarch. Their mandate is to search for and unusual document animal, a xenobiological version of SETI. With the Government shifting, fiscal appropriations Bill is afraid his program will face cancellation. He obtains satellite photos of an uncharted island known as Skull Island. For centuries, every expedition sent met with disaster. He finagles permission to take an exploratory contingent. The next portion of the movie is in keeping with every safari story, gathering the team.

Bill needs a military escort, so the Sky Devils helicopter squadron, commanded by Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) gives the mission. They were ready to leave Saigon to return home when the orders are received. These are extreme fighters, unified, loyal and deadly. Lieutenant Colonel Packard is a man that cannot deal with peacetime. He lives for the adrenaline of combat and is like a kid on Christmas morning when told there is another assignment in a potentially dangerous island. The next to be recruited is Captain James Conrad formerly of the British Special Air Service. Again, his introduction is overly familiar. He gets into a bar fight, outnumbered and with lightning fast reflexes he quickly dispatches them all. Last, there is the photojournalist, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), an attractive young woman practically fearless when it comes to getting a photo. Filling out the roster are the rest of the squadron, most serving as the requisite red shirts, and a couple of scientist from Monarch. The island, surrounded by a perpetual turbulent storm that prevents access. Naturally, the Sky Devils push on through to the other side. It is a rather sizable group but before that is addressed in short order.

To determine the composition of the island, they drop explosive charges to be analyzed by Sonar. The fire and explosion attract Kong who charges the strange flying objects. Ripping them from the sky and swatting them as if they were insects he comes close to destroying the entire expedition. This is what you paid for, and it is visually intense. The movie is not non-stop action, that would turn off the most avid fan of the genre. Unfortunately, the filmmakers backed themselves into a corner with the decision to attempt to blend so many categories. It feels that the film cannot commit to a unifying central theme. It tries to be a jungle safari movie, then a Vietnam war film followed by a monster movie and the ever-popular lost tribe thread. It the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be it becomes the audience can’t be expected to discern anything resembling a story. If it weren't for the quality of the visual effects, it would be a washout.

The cast is professional, committing to delivering the best performance possible considering the shortcomings of the material. There is one cast member that stands out as a treat to watch, John C. Reilly. He portrays Hank Marlow, the American pilot who crashed on the island in WWII. Mr. Reilly has been a sought-after character actor for almost thirty years. This journeyman performer has mastered the ability to interpret the quirks and nuances of his character bringing humanity to his presentation. In this role, he is many that survived 28 years in the worse possible place. Accepted by an indigenous tribe, silent but organized. His infatuation with all things Chicago. He faithfully carries a picture of his wife, his one touchstone to the real world. It turned out that the Japanese pilot became his best friend. He died several years before leaving Hank his Katana. He is part comic relieve, but his most important function was to infuse the story with a touch of heart. The 3D effects are among the best in recent years and are greatly enhanced by a robust audio mix that zooms around the room pulling you into the middle of the action. This is a rare instance of the audio becoming an integral part of the experience.

Posted 6/25/2017

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