‘Kong: Skull Island’ a Saturday matinee creature-feature

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Oscar season is over, so now it’s time for some good dumb fun. Bringing back King Kong is more fun than a barrel of, uh, you know. Since the original black and white classic (1933), Kong has captured the imagination of moviegoers and moviemakers alike. Audiences just can’t wait to the see the latest version of that beloved galoot.

Kong is a horror character that everyone can enjoy. What could be better than a terrifying monster with a heart? As gorillas share 98 percent similar DNA as humans (a little more with some), the big guy finds a way to reveal the very best and very worst in people. So, buckle up, hang on, and enjoy the ride, as the magnificent Kong returns.

Skull Island sounds like such a friendly place, but this uncharted Pacific isle is as dangerous as it is beautiful. Led by myth chaser, Bill Randa (John Goodman), a team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore the legendary mountain and jungles. Wilderness tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston, “Thor”) explains, “Let me list all the ways you’re gonna die: rain, heat, disease-carrying flies, and we haven’t started on the things that want to eat you alive.” What a party pooper!

Cut off from communications with the outside world, it doesn’t take long for the squad to discover a gorilla in their midst. Upon sighting, the army’s immediate response is to bring their copters to within arms reach and fire at will. Somehow, this spontaneous battle plan renders heavy losses. Maybe Darwin could better explain this as survival of the fittest.

What’s even worse, these lunkheads continue to make one bad choice after another. But, as any teenager could tell you, some of the most interesting stories are the result of bad decisions. There’s not many that can effectively carry the role of a brash “ready, fire, aim” military man than the marvelous Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard.

Packard is not one to monkey around. He just points his gun at Randa, “You are going to tell me everything that I should know… or I blow you away.” Randa responds, “This planet doesn’t belong to us. Ancient species owned this earth long before mankind. I spent 30 years trying to prove the truth: monsters exist.” Yikes!

In addition to the 100 foot tall Kong, this creature-feature introduces various enormous and angry carnivores. So, the team’s mission of discovery soon becomes one of survival. They now must fight to escape this hell on earth, where humanity does not belong. With so many monsters, just glad they didn’t face a serious “Sharknado,” whew!

Set in 1973, the crew stumbles onto WWII pilot Hank Marlow, (John C. Reilly as plucky comic relief), stranded here since 1944. Hank knows this island, including other native inhabitants. If you think the military would take Hank’s advice, think again. Packard is determined to be at the top of the food chain by being all over Kong like ugly on an ape.

Filmed mostly in Hawaii, near where Jurassic World was filmed, the exotic settings are gorgeous, characters are fascinating and the CGI monsters spectacularly lifelike. The ’70s soundtrack seems somehow uninspired, but it does work. The cast is rounded out with Academy winning actress Brie Walker, as this B-Movie’s designated Kong-girl.

“Kong: Skull Island” is two hours and rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and strong language. After half dozen Kong movies over the years, there’s reason for some well-deserved chest thumping for imaginative director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, his team of four writers and creature designer Carlos Huante.

The outfit worn by John Goodman is modeled after Carl Denham in the original King Kong (1933). Goodman’s character summarizes the situation, “Kong’s a pretty good king. Keeps to himself, mostly, but you don’t go into someone’s house and start dropping bombs unless you’re picking a fight.” Make no mistake, this Kong is so lifelike, when the camera zooms in on his face, you can almost smell horrendous banana breath.

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Ron & Leigh Martel