Every year there seems to be a big studio film that kicks off a "summer movie" feel. It used to be in May, but more and more March delivers a monster hit.
This year, it's definitely the fast and fun popcorn thrills of KONG: SKULL ISLAND kicking off the year's thrill rides.
From some of the team that brought us the smart and kick ass GODZILLA in 2014, Skull Island opens strong with a WW2 aerial dogfight in which both pilots are forced to eject, floating down to our island. A terrific hand-to-hand battle ensues, until they realize that there are MUCH bigger foes to face on this remote island.
Flash forward to the early 70's. With the Vietnam War wrapping up, Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his squad are ready to head home when they get one final assignment.
On the surface, its a simple recon mission to accompany a scientific group to the uncharted Skull Island.
Our science team is lead by Randa (John Goodman having a lot of fun) and Brooks (Corey Hawkins showing a LOT more personality than he does as the lead on 24:Legacy).
They hire an expert tracker named James Conrad to help the expedition and luckily for us he's played by Tom Hiddleston in full Indiana Jones/James Bond mode, showing flashes of just how good he might be in the OO7 role he's often been mentioned for when Daniel Craig wraps up.
Brie Larson rounds out the team as an adventurous photographer who's in for the ride of her life.
The seventies setting is terrific, the soundtrack of classic CCR, The Doors, The Hollies and Jefferson Airplane from the era echo throughout and the film becomes a mashup of a terrific war film and monster movie, like a jungle based "Aliens".
If Kong was the only huge creature on the island, that would be enough. He's fantastic. The special effects are so good that he leaves every previous Kong in the dust. He's HUGE.
The opening encounter with the helicopter squad dropping seismic bombs to map the island and our ape deciding he's had enough is spectacular.
Luckily for us action fans, Kong is just ONE of the gigantic spiders, lizards, birds and nasty creatures waiting for our expedition, providing plenty of fun scares and battles.
John C. Reilly brings barrels of laughter as a man whose been on the island for a very long time. His asides to the squad and our team are every bit as funny as the late Bill Paxton's comments as Corporal Hicks in "Aliens".
Like Gareth Edwards "Godzilla", Kong treats the classic movie monster with awe, respect and a huge budget, surrounding him with a great cast and a great story.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has never done anything I've seen or even heard of, but he's a great pick. The screenplay is tight by Dan Gilroy, who also wrote some terrific films I've enjoyed like "Nightcrawler" and "The Bourne Legacy".
I had a friend refer to this movie as a classic monster movie that we might have seen on a Saturday on "World Beyond" and he's spot on.
It's fast, funny, filled with fantastic special effects and pure summer popcorn entertainment.
Welcome back, KONG. You're still the king of the jungle and get a giant, hairy B.