Film

Movie review: 'Kong: Skull Island'

New film pits Vietnam era soldiers against legendary monster

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When Peter Jackson did “King Kong” back in 2005, it was a lovingly made homage to the original 1933 Merian C. Cooper-Ernest B. Schoedsack black-and-white classic, which had a clear beginning, middle and rather conclusive end.

Of course, the big ape had a whole other history within the Japanese kaiju tradition dating back to the 1960s, which, tangentially, has been given new life in Hollywood with Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” in 2014. That movie is regarded as a lead-in for a new mega-budget franchise that will eventually feature giant monsters causing mayhem all over the planet for the next decade or so.

Until that happens, we have this wild fun house ride of a movie directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John C. Reilly. As such, you pretty much know what you’re getting when you pass that “you must be this tall to ride” sign. It’s violent, yet fun and hits all the right buttons while paving the way for bigger thrills to come. Call its style a little bit of “Apocalypse Now” peppered with a pinch of “Princess Mononoke.”

Set in 1973, just as the Vietnam War was ending, we’re introduced to Bill Randa (John Goodman), a researcher who is desperate to convince governmental powers that be to let him take a group of battle-hardened soldiers into the jungle of an uncharted island in the South Pacific. Bill is part of a top-secret group known as Monarch (which is referenced in “Godzilla,” and Ken Watanabe’s character in that film is a member of it). His pitch to go to Skull Island is to map it, saying satellite images show something valuable might be there.

So, enlisting the aid of a soldier of fortune named James Conrad (Hiddleston) to lead the way, he talks the military into sending in the “Sky Devils” helicopter squadron, led by the ultra gung-ho Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Jackson), to fly over the island while dropping “seismic charges,” which scientists on the team can record and interpret. Insinuating herself aboard the mission is a slightly leftist photojournalist named Mason Weaver (Larson), who is convinced something secret and shady is going on.

Of course, Bill’s real motive is different.

Once the choppers begin their bombing run, guess who shows up to rain on their parade.

Now, it’s a race for survival, helped in no small measure by a World War II pilot named Hank Marlow (Reilly), who has been living on the island after being shot down during the war. He survived by teaming up with a fellow pilot, a Japanese flyer, and by making friends with the indigenous population that has found ways to live with Kong and the other horrifying monsters who periodically rise out of underground passages.

Stick around after the end credits for a brief extra that hints of bigger fish to fry in what is now acknowledged as the beginning of a new franchise.

“Kong: Skull Island” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and for brief strong language.

This film is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4145 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

The following was edited from press materials.

Toni Erdmann

MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief drug use

Movies at the TCA

Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) doesn’t see much of his working daughter, Ines (Sandra Hüller). The suddenly student-less music teacher decides to surprise her with a visit after the death of his old dog.

It’s an awkward move because serious career woman Ines is working on an important project as a corporate strategist in Bucharest. The geographical change doesn’t help the two to see more eye to eye.

Practical joker Winfried loves to annoy his daughter with corny pranks. What’s worse are his little jabs at her routine lifestyle of long meetings, hotel bars and performance reports. Father and daughter reach an impasse, and Winfried agrees to return home to Germany.

Enter flashy “Toni Erdmann,” Winfried’s smooth-talking alter ego. Disguised in a tacky suit, weird wig and even weirder fake teeth, Toni barges into Ines’ professional life, claiming to be her CEO’s life coach. As Toni, Winfried is bolder and doesn’t hold back, but Ines meets the challenge. The harder they push, the closer they become. In all the madness, Ines begins to understand that her eccentric father might deserve some place in her life after all.

The character “Winfried Conradi” is loosely based on writer-director Maren Ade’s father, who actually likes to put in fake teeth to joke with people. Also, according to the director, one inspiration for Winfried’s special brand of irritating humor was late comedian Andy Kaufman, according to imdb.com.

Additionally, imdb.com’s “Trivia” category notes, “Toni Erdmann (2016) was one of the the best-reviewed and most popular films at the 69th Cannes International Film Festival, but it didn’t receive any awards by the ‘Official Competition’ jury. Major critics like Justin Chang, Manohla Dargis, Kenneth Turan, Peter Bradshaw and Guy Lodge wrote that the decisions of the jury were ‘baffling.’ There was nearly a consensus, that ‘Toni Erdmann’ would have been a deserving Palme d’Or winner and that a rare opportunity to give the top award to a female filmmaker was missed at Cannes.”

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (March 19) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (March 20-22).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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