Kong: Skull Island

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Kong: Skull Island

Runtime 118 minutes
OK for children

Highlighted by terrific photography and award-quality special effects, this is another iteration in the Kong genre. This time a group of soldiers and scientists explore a hitherto unknown island filled with prehistoric creatures that has been hidden from discovery by storms that constantly hide it.

An all-star cast including Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly fly through the storms and land on the island. There they meet an assortment of prehistoric creatures, only one of whom is Kong, an enormous ape who, predictably, eventually falls for the beautiful Ms. Larson.

In between is a typical story of the gang trying to survive on the island for three days and get across it to the agreed rendezvous. They have to traverse a jungle full of danger, and deal with disagreements among themselves, mainly an unreasonable military officer Preston Packard (Jackson).

Hiddleston is rapidly becoming one of my more favored actors. After what I considered a subpar performance as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light (2015), he has been exceptional in everything else in which I’ve seen him, especially TV’s The Night Manager (2016). He also played F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s hit, Midnight in Paris (2011).

Well-directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (only his second film), the special effects (Tom Peitzman), production design (Stefan Dechant) and cinematography (Larry Fong) alone are worth the price of admission, buttressed by the symphonic score (Henry Jackman) that greatly enhances the action. And they should be since the estimated cost of production is around $185 million. Final kudos should go to the editor. I’m constantly carping about films needing good editing. This one’s got it, thanks to Richard Pearson.

Table 19

Runtime 89 minutes
Not for children

Anna Kendrick leads a group of wedding guest misfits at “Table 19” directed by Jeffrey Blitz.

There is a line in the middle of the movie, spoken by an elderly lifelong Nanny, “The only girl’s name I can think of right now is Nicky.” And that’s the problem with this movie. There are too many lines and situations that are just not plausible, even though they may be humorous. Are we to believe that this woman can’t think of “Mary” or “Judy” or “Karen” or, well, you get the idea. It’s a straight line put in so that Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick) can have a rejoinder, but the original line just is too absurd to care what Eloise replies.

There are some good performances, by Kendrick and her erstwhile boyfriend, Teddy (Wyatt Russell, who actually gives the best performance in the movie), and the others who occupy Table 19.

Table 19 is the worst table at the wedding of Anna’s best friend, who is Teddy’s sister, and it contains a bunch of people with problems: Walter (Stephen Merchant), Bina Kepp (Lisa Kudrow) and her black husband Jerry (Craig Robinson), Renzo Eckberg (Tony Revolori) whose mother realizes that he has problems meeting girls so forces him to attend the wedding, and the aforementioned Nanny, Jo Flanagan (June Squibb). They all give good performances, given what they are required to say and do.

What fell down for me was the script (Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass), as epitomized by the line above. The situations are too silly and trite to be involving. On the plus side, it was less than 90 minutes long.

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