Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

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Kong is still king in the latest entry in the MonsterVerse. (Source: IMDb)

It’s been over eighty years since “The Eighth Wonder of the World” made his first appearance. In 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, no one had ever seen a movie as ambitious as King Kong. Created through stop-motion effects (by special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien) and giant models, this giant ape became one of the first memorable movie monsters. The classic is still loved by generations of film buffs and filmmakers.

Kong travelled to Japan to fight monsters including Godzilla until settling in America to prove he’s the king. This aspired two remakes featuring Kong. The silly yet decent 1976 Dino De Laurentiis production saw him fall for our female protagonist on the island, but the big difference is he fights on top of the World Trade Center rather than the Empire State Building in both the original and the 2005 remake. The overlong yet marvelous 2005 version, directed by Peter Jackson, became a dream come true for the filmmaker. The 1933 original is what inspired him to make movies in the first place. If the world didn’t have Peter Jackson, we wouldn’t have another movie featuring King Kong.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts marks the return for the monster in Kong: Skull Island. This reboots screams the 1970s. The Vietnam War. The Nixon administration. The Peace Corps. Creedence Clearwater Revival. And, most importantly, it pays tribute to Apocalypse Now.

The year is 1973. Bill Randa (John Goodman) hires a diverse team of experts including British Special Forces Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to map out Skull Island. Once they arrive, they encounter various creatures as well as Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been stranded on the island since the end of World War II. He is the perfect guy to ask about the island as a whole. As the team help each other off the island, they encounter the king himself.

As someone who enjoys monster movies, I couldn’t imagine if there would ever be a franchise featuring two of the most memorable monsters in cinema: King Kong and Godzilla. After seeing the 2014 version of Godzilla, I got the feeling of anxiety about the fact of another movie universe. With the MonsterVerse being a thing, it’s an awesome feeling to see a wonderful monster grace the silver screen once again in this day and age. The creatures in Kong: Skull Island easily overshadow the human characters. It’s not to say they are all forgettable.

The movie proves Hiddleston needs to be the next James Bond; he’s got the charisma and the badass fight choreography to pull it all off. Fresh from winning an Oscar for her performance in Room, Brie Larson is becoming one of the best actresses of this generation. She provides the bravery in her role as the photojournalist pushing the gender boundaries of the time. John C. Reilly steals every scene he’s in providing just enough laughs to even out the visually stunning and heart-pumping action.

The 2014 version of Godzilla and the 2005 version of King Kong both follow the roots of Jaws, where it takes an awfully long time to know the main characters before seeing the monster that the audience has been anticipating to see. With Kong: Skull Island, it doesn’t take long at all. The audience is introduced to the team and they are put on a wild ride. Once Kong makes him introduction, he is the biggest ape of them all—ranging about 100 feet tall. He’s aggressive yet defensive about his territory.

While the first act can be a bit rushed and some of the dialogue can be cheesy, there is enough visual beauty to feast the eyes. I can’t wait for Kong and Godzilla go at it in 2020.

3/4

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Movie Review: Patriots Day

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Sgt. Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), FBI Agent DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) and Com. Ben Davis (John Goodman) trying to find the Tsarnaevs in Patriots Day, Peter Berg’s account on the Boston Marathon bombings. (Source: IMDb)

I remember April 15, 2013, like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful day in Boston. The annual Boston Marathon and the Red Sox home-opener were about to take place. With kids having an entire week off from school, everybody had no idea what would happen until the afternoon. Two brothers—Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—planted two bombs near the finish line. At nearly 3:00 p.m., the bombs went off leaving three dead and hundreds of other people injured.

Three years later, Marky Mark and Peter Berg reunite after Deepwater Horizon to make another flawed yet exceptional tribute to those who had to make the ultimate sacrifice with Patriots Day.

Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) is a police officer living in Boston with his beautiful wife Carol (Michelle Monaghan). He is offered to work as a crossing guard at the finish line of the Marathon, despite dealing with a knee injury. After the bombs detonate, he—along with FBI agent Rick DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) and Police Commissioner Ben Davis (John Goodman)—begins to investigate who is responsible for the bombing. And later, finding out about Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff, the brother of Nat).

Seeing the bombings on the big screen is like seeing the actual event up close and personal. Resembling the likes of Paul Greengrass, director Peter Berg provides handheld camerawork (which might be overused as of late) to give Patriots Day enough realism. In one particular sequence, the Tsarnaevs carjack Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang) and make plans to go to New York City. Then, they encounter Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) in a tense stand-off on the dark streets of Watertown (outside of Boston).

Mark Wahlberg, who represents the wonderful city, leads a wonderful cast to give another exceptional performance as the Everyman. Even though it takes a while for the movie to pick up its pace and some of the dialogue may seem a little forced, Patriots Day makes up for it as a hard-hitting and emotionally powerful homage to the heroes and victims of that tragic day and the city that coined the term “Boston Strong”.

3/4