Kong: Skull Island

The King is back! There has been several adaptations since the first introduction of the famed giant ape in 1933. Everyone has seen at one time or another the iconic top of the Empire State Building, swiping at airplanes while holding on to a blonde dame. 10 years ago, Peter Jackson brought Kong to the big screen. Sitting at over 3 hours long, Kong waited til the halfway point to be revealed. Critically King Kong was a mostly solid film, but the fans weren’t wholly impressed. As stated, it took forever to see Kong, the graphics like the stampede with the dinosaurs were kind of cheesy, and not everyone was too enthused with Naomi Watts charming the big ape with a little dance number. For me personally, I thought it was a decent film despite waiting forever to see Kong. I think I made my point.

Now in 2017, with a giant monster cinematic universe underway, Kong has returned to the big screen. Unlike Kong’s predecessors, this film is set in the 70s right after the Vietnam war has ended. A team of scientists with along with a military escort ventures into an unexplored island and encounters a lost world filled with giant monsters. Upon entering the island, the military begins dropping seismic charges to the ground for land surveying purposes, not knowing the explosions angers the island’s King. From the onslaught of Kong’s fury, the survivors must find a way out of the island encountering Kong and other otherworldly giant inhabitants.

Skull Island reminds us very quickly why Kong is king on the silver screen. He gets ample screen time. We see him briefly in the opening scene, and then we are quickly thrust into the island. Instantly, with a thrown palm tree that penetrates through a chopper like a spear, we encounter a very angry Kong. Every scene with Kong is thrilling.

It’s his human counterparts that don’t quite measure up. The filmmakers made it quite clear who the focus of the film is, as it should be unlike 2014’s Godzilla. Yes, I’m still bitter. Each of the human characters have little development. We are introduced to Tom Hiddleston as an excellent tracker and wilderness expert with a somewhat mysterious military background. We never see him do the things he’s famous for. Brie Larson is coming off a big win last year as best actress academy winner for Room. Here she mostly just carries a camera and gives facial expressions to the circumstances around her. Granted towards the end, we get a connection between her and Kong which slightly resembles Kong’s history with a damsel in distress. Honestly, it felt like she’s in the movie just for that moment to happen. Sam Jackson and John Goodman are a little deeper with their presence but stick with their normal slightly unhinged authority figure with an agenda that grinds against the protagonists ideals.

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There were quite a few moments where insane stuff would happen to the scientists and the soldiers and their reaction were a bit odd. For example; trekking along the river, a group of small flying pterodactyls assaults the group carrying off one of the men, in midair tears that man apart, and then flies off. The others stay on the boat, a little shaken, moves on. “There’s nothing we can do, we have to keep moving.” One of them says. One, you have never seen flying pterodactyls before. Two, these little monsters were assaulting your group. And Three, one of your members were taken away, ripped apart and eaten before your very eyes. I would think that there would be a little more reaction than, “well, let’s move on”. That’s one of a few small nuisances from an otherwise solid blockbuster.

What differs this Kong from all other Kong movies is that the heart of Kong’s story is a love story that ends with a tragedy. We know nothing of Kong’s history. We only know that he is stolen away from his home, falls in love with a woman and dies to protect her. Which is why the fall from the empire state building is the ultimate tragedy. Thats why sequels to Kong has never worked. Although its hinted, this Kong has no love story. We are given a backstory of his solitude and why he’s king/God of the island. However, if we are to see Kong vs Godzilla (title still pending), the tragic death of Kong cannot happen which why we have this version instead and it works.

Kong is a fun, fast paced, action-packed, first-rate monster movie. It’s man versus nature in its purest form. Fans of Kong and giant monster flicks should have a pretty good time. Just don’t go expecting deep thinking, emotionally charged, or something dialogue heavy. Oh, and stay through the credits.

Wrapping up 2016

It’s funny, I started writing this out talking about box office numbers, and how this has actually been a good year despite all the other crappy things that has happened. Then I went on making cases about how the box office numbers don’t really matter because a movie can have a horrible turnout and still be considered one of the all time greats, like Shawshank Redemption.

Really, it comes down to personal preference. And the last thing I want to be seen is narcissistic about movies. Just passionate. And the art of film, like any medium, is subjective.
This blog post is an end of the year review highlighting some of the best (at least from what I’ve seen) of the year of 2016 at the movies.

Rather than digging at what’s wrong with the movies and spending hours writing giving you guys more than you would probably care to read. I’ve broken down the films of the ones I quite enjoyed this year into lists under their respective genres. Along with my top picks with some favorites of my fellow friends and cinephiles. I did a survey on Facebook asking my fellow peers their favorite films of the year. So when you see an asterisk next to the title, that would be their recommendation. The more asterisks, the more people voted for it.

Action/Adventure/Blockbusters
– Captain America: Civil War **
– Star Wars: Rogue One
– Doctor Strange *( My wife’s favorite)
– Deadpool
– Magnificent Seven
– Star Trek Beyond
– Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them **
– Jungle Book*
– 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
– The Nice Guys
– Central Intelligence
– Passengers*
– Deepwater Horizon*

Horror/Thriller
– 10 Cloverfield Lane
– Don’t Breathe
– The Conjuring 2
– The Shallows

Oscar potentials
– Hell or High Water ***
– La La Land
– Manchester by the Sea
– Arrival *
– Captain Fantastic
– Sully
– Hacksaw Ridge *

Animation
– Kubo and the Two Strings
– Zootopia
– Finding Dory

Comedies (These are movies that literally had me laughing out loud.)
– Masterminds
– Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
– Keanu
– Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
– Swiss Army Man

Movies I need to see
– Silence
– Moana
– Fences
– Nocturnal Animals
– Moonlight
– A Monster Calls
– Allied *
– Midnight Special

My personal top five, and I spent quite a bit wrestling with this because I feel like I’m comparing apples and oranges. Also, it’s in no particular order.

– Hell or High Water
– Doctor Strange
– Manchester by the Sea
– Captain America: Civil War
– Hacksaw Ridge

Part of the movie magic is being swept up in a particular performance. And I mean like, oscar worthy performance. Just emotionally gripping that yanks at the heart-strings and makes you leave the theater somewhat changed. So here are some noteworthy performances from my fellow peers and myself

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water (really everyone in that movie)
Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge (and probably Silence)
Tom Hanks in Sully
Amy Adams in Arrival
Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land
Denzel Washington in Fences
Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad
Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool
Eddie Murphy in Mr. Church

I was going to put a poster of each movie or maybe a trailer. However, who wants to watch an hour worth of various trailers to movies you probably already seen? So here’s a supercut made by YouTube’s Screen Junkies

Have a happy New Year and keep an eye out for the next blog. I’ll be getting back into reviewing the films as I get a chance to see them. Also coming up Top Anticipated film of 2017 and a review of the Oscars nominees as they are announced in the coming weeks.