Friday, March 10, 2017

Quickie review -- Wow and wow again! Jordan Vogt-Roberts' KONG: SKULL ISLAND amazes

Just in case you were debating with yourself about spending the time and/or money to see KONG: SKULL ISLAND in its theatrical release, do yourself a favor and go. This is a model monster movie: smart and relatively swift (even at a two-hour running time). Its near-documentary style put us at the forefront of what's going on and makes it all seem extraordinarily real.

Even in this day of ultra-special effects, the ones here have simply never been equalled  It's not just that the monsters, including Kong and a whole bunch more, have been created with great skill and cunning, what they do is even better: specific, unusual, and so eye-popping and attention-grabbing that you cannot look away. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (shown at right) gave us the charming Kings of Summer a few years back, and as much as I enjoyed that little movie, I'd never have pegged this guy to come thru with one of, maybe the best monster movie of modern times. Well, you never know. He's done it, in any case.

How? Well, he uses that documentary style, together with (seemingly) hand-held cameras about as well as I've ever seen. He's cast his film with A-list stars -- Tom Hiddleston (above, center), Oscar-winner Brie Larson (center, left) and Samuel L. Jackson (below, left) -- together with a bunch of great character actors and a handful of excellent small-but-fine actors in even the more minor supporting roles. All this lends a kind of credibility you don't often get in a monster movie.

If the script is best in the first 20-minutes-or-so set-up to the cast's arrival on Skull Island, afterward it remains at least good enough to get us where we're going, providing decent characterization, especially via John C.Reilly (above, center), who, once he comes into view, carries the movie through its amazing conclusion. There's only a single use of that stupid, old-chesnut command, "Hurry! Quick!" when characters are racing for their lives. Otherwise, if the script is not super-literate and witty, it's at least a journeyman effort. Dialog, after all, is not what audiences flock to monster movies to hear. They come to experience a great adventure. And that's exactly what they'll get here.

Death and destruction comes to many, many cast members, and you won't at all know which ones (or how this happens) much earlier than their demise occurs. Surprise is important in monster movies, and Vogt-Roberts understands this about as well as any current director. He also manages to avoid the necessity of night-time action used to mask so-so special effects in which many moviemakers indulge (Godzilla's Gareth Edwards, for example). The effects here are so spectacular, rich and real that they carry the movie.

So, yes, seeing Kong: Skull Island -- from Warner Brothers and running just under two full hours -- in a movie theater is a fine idea. Click here (then enter your zip code and click on either Fandango or MoviePhone) to find those nearest you. 

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