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Kong: Skull Island (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital) (4K Ultra HD)
When a scientific expedition to an uncharted island awakens titanic forces of nature, a mission of discovery becomes an explosive war between monster and man. Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly star in a thrilling and original new adventure that reveals the untold story of how Kong became King.]]>
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A monster movie and proud of it, "Kong: Skull Island" really lives up to its name, as we follow a group of likable - if not slightly underdeveloped - characters to an uncharted island, where they are quickly introduced to the BIGGEST Kong ever put to film, along with a harrowing variety of other giant monsters. Split up and with a few days to go before planned rescue arrives, our tiny human visitors find themselves on the menu for just about everything in sight, and their only hope to survive may rest with the very beast that stranded them. With Samuel L. Jackson as a war colonel with a thirst for revenge, John Goodman as a ridiculed lone survivor, Brie Larson as an adventurous photographer, and John C. Reilly as a WW2 veteran, the star-studded cast makes for a fun ensemble, and though the storytelling and characters may only ever feel secondary . . . . well, that's because they ARE secondary. This is Kong's movie, and in case you're not convinced of just how badass he is, believe me, he makes DAMN sure you're convinced by the end.
Brimming with spectacle and amazing special effects, this new entry in Legendary's planned "Monsterverse" wisely avoids making itself an obvious setup piece, instead taking its chance to deliver nothing less than what you want from a Kong film . . . . . mega-sized monster action. There are some truly imaginative creature designs here, none of which you'd be too keen on encountering, and although the film at times seemed a bit brisk and casual with its presentation, there are some big payoffs after the first act - the biggest being the film's triumphantly thrilling climax, which is just about one of the most brutal fight club monster match-ups you will ever see, and by itself makes this movie an absolute must-see.
If you're expecting an Oscar-winning story with groundbreaking performances, you're looking in the wrong genre . . . . if you're expecting to see an ape the size of a building brawl with monsters the size of a ship, then you will be left VERY satisfied.
Then I saw the original 1930s version with Fay Wray. I was a kid, so I laughed at the stop-motion photography that made Kong move all jerky, and I laughed at the actors as they pretended to walk in front of a rear projection screen and shoot their rifles at previously shot montages of prehistorical animals. But then I grew up and I was amazed and learned to appreciate what the filmmakers had accomplished using such rudimentary tools and techniques. Using only the limited methods they had at their disposal, they used brilliant ingenuity to tell a fascinating story. I'm sure the filmmakers were thinking at the time they were making the movie that they either had a huge hit on their hands or an enormous bomb -- a laughable stinker that could end their careers. But some brave soul at RKO said it was worth the risk and gave the go ahead. And despite the glaring lack of sophisticated effects we see when holding them up to today's standards, audiences in the '30s understood, inherently, the limitations in film making. The novelty, the magic, the unimaginable lit up the screen and audiences were astounded. And because the story of Ann Darrow was always central to the film (and the effects were relegated to the back seat), audiences were spellbound. And just beneath the narrative, there was a subtle lesson to be learned; a moral lesson or, as I see it, an indictment against a certain faction of society and its culture. I see the film serving as a metaphor for the cruelty and greed that had already infested the motion-picture industry by the early 1930s. Similarly, the 1976 version was a not-so-subtle indictment against the oil industry's cruel posture of putting corporate profits over nature and the sanctity of life.
Director Peter Jackson's version with Jack Black, I felt, was a remake of the Fay Wray version. It screamed "Made in Hollywood" in every frame. Some of the fun of seeing Kong slipped away knowing that the creature was merely an image created on a computer, as opposed to a stop-motion animated puppet or a man in an ape suit, where hundreds of people had to use their creative imaginations in order to fool audiences into embracing the illusion that "Kong" was huge and real. I called using C.G.I. a form of cheating. Although it's in rough shape, the 15" poseable puppet and its steel frame used in the original "King Kong" still exists. It's a real and tangible object. Rick Baker still has at least one copy of the ape suit he created and performed in for the '76 version. He created at least five hydraulically maneuvered over-the-head masks (each with a different expression). Surely, he still has those -- even if the original rubber has rotted away and only the steel skull, plastic hoses, cords and air bladders still exist. At least the parts are real and not part of an algorithm typed into a computer animation program, where the computer does most of the math to bring an animation to life. You can't hold an algorithm in your hand or place it in a museum for posterity.
But even I got over my resentment of C.G.I. It's a different kind of art, but at least now I see the artistry in it. And given my fondness of Kong, that is the reason I decided to give "Kong: Skull Island" a shot.
As a straight-up action-adventure film, it's a cool roller-coaster ride with lots of thrills and frights. Just about everything, except the actors, is done with C.G.I., but the images are so realistic, you wouldn't know nothing on the screen actually exists. The acting is top-notch. The creatures are genuinely creepy, and there are a lot of them -- all huge and deadly. There's a military aspect to the film, so there are lots of bombs and helicopters. Kong is twice as tall in this film than his predecessors and he's all animal imbued with the intellect of a primitive beast motivated solely by instinct. But among the crew of military and scientific men who stumble upon Kong on Skull Island, there is a photographer and she's a girl -- a woman, actually -- and a lovely one at that. You know how Kong loves the ladies. Traditionally, Kong always lets his guard down because he can't help himself when he sees a beautiful girl. He shows his soft side and that's always when the men swoop in and kill him. Well, traditions are made to be broken. This Kong is too much of an animal to give a muddy girl a bath. His instincts won't allow him to let his guard down. After all, he has himself and a whole island to protect. Protect the island from what, you say? Well, the answer to that question is the very reason a creature like Kong exists. You need to see the movie to find out why Kong needs to watch over the island and why he gets so mad at the new militaristic interlopers with their bombs and flying machines.
The fact that this movie was released in 3-D shouldn't concern viewers who are able to identify a 3-D movie without actually seeing it in 3-D. I watched the film in 2-D first and didn't notice anything that made me say, "Obviously, this is meant to be watched in 3-D." However, when I finally did watch it in 3-D, it was a really cool viewing experience.
Universal Movie Studios created a subsidiary of itself called Universal Dark. "Kong: Skull Island" was set to launch the new studio's lineup of most, if not all, of the Classic Universal Monster Movies from yesteryear. Monsters and horror villains from other studios are on Universal Dark's slate as well. At the end of "Kong: Skull Island," there's a brief reference made to a couple of gentlemen whose names happen to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Presumably, that old classic will be "re-imagined" and released next.