Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the great ape flick “Kong: Skull Island,” the Shirley MacLaine dramedy “The Last Word” and the animated “Window Horses.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Morning Show with host Bill Carroll to talk about the weekend’s big releases, the great ape flick “Kong: Skull Island,” the Shirley MacLaine dramedy “The Last Word” and the animated “Window Horses.”
Only two things are sure about Skull Island. First, it is home to Megaprimatus kong a.k.a. King Kong and a menagerie of prehistoric creatures. Second, as Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) says in this weekend’s Kong: Skull Island, “We don’t belong here.”
The latest adventures of King Kong take place almost entirely on the island but what, exactly, do we know about the place?
Not much, because Skull Island is uncharted and changes from film to film.
In the new movie, a digital map image suggests the island derived its intimidating name from its gorilla skull profile shape but originally the isle wasn’t called Skull Island. The best-known versions of the Kong story, the original 1933 Merian C. Cooper film and the 1976 Dino De Laurentiis production, never mention Skull Island.
The first movie and its subsequent novelisation describe a “high wooded island with a skull-like knob” called Skull Mountain while the ‘76 film refers to Beach of the Skull. It wasn’t until 2004’s Kong: King of Skull Island illustrated novel that the name was first used. Since then the moniker has stuck.
The same can’t be said for its location.
Over the years it’s been pegged everywhere from the coast of Indonesia and southwest of Central America to the Bermuda Triangle and the Coral Sea off the east coast of Australia.
In reality many places have subbed in for the island. In 1933 several locations were pieced together to create Kong’s home.
Outdoor scenes were shot at Long Beach, California and the caves at Bronson Canyon near Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Everything else was filmed on a soundstage in Culver City using odds and ends from other sets. The giant Skull Mountain gate was later reused in Gone with the Wind’s burning of Atlanta sequence.
De Laurentiis spared no expense bringing the island to life in 1976, moving the entire crew to the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
The shoot began at the remote Honopu Beach, a place the crew were told was deserted. Arriving in four helicopters laden with equipment they were greeted by a honeymooning couple who, thinking they had the place to themselves, had slept nude on the beach.
The impressive stone arch seen in the film — “Beyond the arch, there is danger, there is Kong!” — was natural and so huge years later when an episode of Acapulco Heat was filmed there a helicopter flew underneath it.
Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong reboot used a combination of New Zealand’s picturesque Shelly Bay and Lyall Bay as Skull Island’s “jungle from hell.” In the film’s closing credits the director paid tongue-in-cheek tribute to all the stars of the 1933 movie, calling them, “The original explorers of Skull Island.”
This weekend’s installment was shot in Vietnam, Queensland, Australia and Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii, where giant sets were built near where Jurassic World was filmed.
The scenery, as John Goodman’s character says, is “magnificent,” but there was also a practical reason to shoot in these exotic locations. The Hollywood Reporter stated the production shot in Australia to take advantage of a whopping 16.5% location offset incentive — i.e. tax break — offered by the Australian government.
Kong: Skull Island describes the isle as “a place where myth and science meet.”
On film though, it’s a spot where the imaginations of Kong fans run wild.
Set in 1973, the “Kong: Skull Island” is unrelated to the Kongs that came before. There’s no Empire State Building, no Jessica Lange, no romance between damsel and beast.
John Goodman is Bermuda Triangle conspiracy theorist William Randa, a man with some wild ideas about an uncharted island in the South Pacific. “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.” With government funding supplied by a senator (Richard Jenkins) Randa leads an expedition to prove his ideas about certain life forms on the planet. Along for the ride are a military helicopter squadron, a handful of scientists, U.S. military commander Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), former British soldier turned mercenary James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and antiwar photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson).
Arriving at the island they are greeted by the tallest King Kong ever. “Is that a monkey?” gasps Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbell). Some monkey. At over 100 feet he dwarfs his cinematic brothers—1933’s Kong was 24 feet, the 1976 version was 55 feet while Peter Jackson knocked him back to 25 feet for his 2005 adaptation—and easily knocks many of Randa’s helicopters from the air.
The survivors hit the ground running, only to meet up with Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a World War II fighter pilot stranded on the island for decades. “You’ve probably noticed a lot of weird things on this island,” he says in the understatement of the century. As they try and brave the treacherous landscape to meet a refuelling team at the north end of the island the motley crew soon realizes Kong isn’t their only or even biggest problem.
At its furry heart “Kong: Skull Island” feels like an anti-war movie. At least half of it does. The opening section, roughly half the movie, suggests the unintentional and deadly consequences that come from dropping bombs were you shouldn’t. “You didn’t go to someone’s house and start dropping bombs and less you’re looking for a fight.” It’s a timely message about unleashing powers we don’t understand in the name of war wrapped in a Vietnam allegory. “Sometimes the enemy doesn’t exist until you show up at his doorstep,” says Cole (Shea Whigham).
Then Reilly enters and with him comes a new shift. What was once a message movie is now a story of survival and giant beasts. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts pivots at this point, staging a series of action scenes with cool creatures, and it works as pure creature feature entertainment. It’s cool to see Kong tossing military helicopters around as though they were Tonka Toys and another scene will make you think twice about sitting on an old hollowed out log. Fans of bigly beast action will be more than satisfied with the final battle between Kong and a massive subterranean people eater.
“Kong: Skull Island’s” social commentary doesn’t fade away completely but Kong’s mighty roar does drown most of it out. Just below the roar, almost out of earshot, is the idea that displays of force aren’t always the way to deal with conflict, a rare sentiment for an action movie laden with WMDs. Mostly the flick provides a fun romp with some big budget beasts and (secondarily) an Oscar winner or two.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with Andrew Carter to discuss the weekend’s big releases, the towering “Kong: Skull Island,” the Shirley MacLaine dramedy “The Last Word” and a look back at “Logan.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Get Out,” the most original horror film to come down the road in some time, the melodramatic romance “A United Kingdom,” the zombie flick “The Girl with All the Gifts,” and the documentaries “I Am Not Your Negro” and “Dying Laughing. They also do some Oscar predictions!
Nominated this year for an Oscar as Best Documentary Feature, Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” draws from an unfinished book by novelist, essayist, playwright, and poet James Baldwin. Deeply personal, “Remember This House” was meant to be a remembrance of his friends and civil-rights titans Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, using Baldwin’s own words and a smattering of archival footage, the film isn’t a biography of the man but a biography of a lifetime of experiences, experiences that reverberate today.
As timely in 2017 as when the words were written in 1979, it’s a portrait of race relations in America, a place Baldwin calls, “a complex country that insists on being very narrow-minded.” To hammer home this point Peck uses archival footage from Baldwin’s lifetime as well as ripped-from-the-headlines images of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Black Lives Matter and Michael Brown.
With no talking heads Peck relies on news footage, movie clips and archival talk show tape, intercutting them with the fluidity of jazz. Posters and graphics punctuate the narration, subliminally driving home Baldwin’s points. More striking than the visuals is the arresting eloquence of Baldwin’s words. When he makes—and Jackson verbalizes—statements like, “To look around America today is to make prophets and angels weep,” it is impossible to not to be moved by both the beauty of the language and the underlying message.
Baldwin lived at a tumultuous time but as his words remind us, “History is not the past it is the present. We are our history.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the true-to-life thrills of “Deepwater Horizon,” Tim Burton’s X-Men-esque “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” the thriller “Imperium” and the ripped-from-the-headlines documentary “The Lovers and the Despot.”
From director Tim Burton comes “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” another story of outsiders trying to find place in the world where they belong. Or in this case a place in time.
Teen years are for making friends and having fun but for Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) they are a hardship. He’s the weird kid in class, friendless except for his grandfather Abraham (Terence Stamp) who keeps the boy entertained with wild stories about a life spent travelling the world and the Home for Peculiar Children where he was raised. He grew up side-by-side with a boy made of bees, a teacher who could turn into a bird, and a balloon girl, lighter than air who had to wear lead shoes so as not to float away.
When his Abe is attacked Jake arrives in time to catch his last, strange words. “I know you think I’m crazy but the bird will explain everything,” he says before urging the youngster to venture off to find out who, what, he really is. “I should have told you years ago. I thought I could protect you.”
Thus begins Jake’s adventure, a journey that leads him to a small island where Miss Alma LeFay Perigrine (Eva Green) a.k.a. The Bird Lady, attends to her brood of peculiar child. She has created a time loop, reset every day, to keep her peculiar safe and protect them from growing old. Every day is September 3, 1943 all day. An attack by Hollows (Samuel L. Jackson and others), evil creatures who steal the eyeballs of peculiar children, upsets Perigrine’s orderly time loop and gives Jake a chance to learn why he was sent to the island.
The first hour of “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is pure Tim Burton. He creates a fanciful world—imagine quirkier “X-Men”—with all his trademarks—mid-century kitsch, topiary sculptures, weird creatures and characters straight out of the outer regions of the imagination—and a mythology all its own. World building is a fantasy director’s strongest asset, and Burton paints a pretty picture, it’s just too bad he gets bogged down in the story in the second half.
The mushy second half erases the charm of the first sixty minutes as fanciful dreaminess and unique stop motion effects give way to CGI overload. The film’s long climax seems to go on forever—as though the audience is in one of Miss. Perigrine’s endless time loops—in an orgy of digital trickery that betrays the feel of the piece. An army of skeletons is a cool homage to Ray Harryhausen and setting its macabre sequence to weird amusement park dance music is a nice Burton touch, but it pales by comparison to the smaller, more intimate touches that give the movie much of its personality.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” has some beautiful images—like Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), tethered to Jake like a balloon as he walks and she floats through an amusement park—but like many of Burton’s recent films the story feels like an afterthought.