Tag Archives: dinosaurs

84 Years Later, Kong is Still King

Kong Skull Island 1

In 1933, Merian C. Cooper astounded the world by bringing a fantastic version of Beauty and the Beast to the silver screen. It was the story of a giant ape revered as a God on a remote island where evolution paused millions of years ago and dinosaurs still roamed. It was hailed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, and was brought to life by master technician Willis O’Brien, with help from Marcel Delgado and a young Ray Harryhausen, that last being uncredited, but he used the experience in 1948 to create Mighty Joe Young. But enough history, let’s dissect this story.

William Randa (John Goodman) and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) wrangle a senator to fund a mission for his Monarch Corporation, a nebulous entity shrouded in secrecy which is hunting for “large, living monsters”. The mission gets piggybacked with a geologic trip to the area, but not before Randa secures a military escort in the person of Samuel L. Jackson as Lt. Col. Preston Packard and his Sky Devils helicopter assault team.

Kong Skull Island 2

It should be noted that this story unfolds shortly after the end of the Vietnam War, and Packard and most of his men are eager for “one more tour of duty” in this adventure, which is laced with 1970s classic rock tunes the audience of a certain age will fondly remember. The target, “Skull Island” is continuously surrounded by violent storms that have kept it hidden for a long time, and has just recently been identified by satellite imagery.

As the helicopters break through the clouds, they disperse and release “helicopter bombs” to assess the geological makeup of the island. This act brings out a titanic gorilla which attacks the helicopters and knocks them all out of the sky. Among the ragtag crew is James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), an aspiring photojournalist and peace activist looking for that one picture that will make her famous. The soldiers and civilians get separated and try to get back together again. As they roam around they encounter a huge mutant water buffalo. Conrad is a former member of the British Special Forces in Vietnam and a jungle expert, so he’s a natural leader for his group, which winds up at some ancient ruins where they encounter fierce-appearing natives and Lieutenant Hank Marlow (John C. Riley), who has been living on the island since crashing there during World War II. Marlow gives them the lowdown on the native life forms on the island, which include giant spiders and ants (although we never see the ants) and a large snakelike animal with front arms and a bony head which he refers to as “skull crawlers”, a word he just made up because it “sounds scary”.

Kong Skull Island 3

Also present is a species of large cephalopod, which makes a brief appearance as a giant, active sushi bar for Kong. The skull crawlers are definitely the main threat as they are fast and ferocious, and manage to decimate the troops a bit as they amble around. Just as nasty are “ugly birds” of some mutant variety which are actually some sort of pterosaur that account for a few more deaths. Preston wants Kong dead, but Marlow is against the idea because he points out that Kong is basically the only means of protection against the skull crawlers, especially one “big one”. One of the scientists adds to the argument by pointing out that in nature, when one species is wiped out, another steps up to fill in the void.

Kong_Skull_Island_poster  This is NOT your grandfather’s Kong, and parents should be made aware that the scenes of gore and monster violence are very intense, so you may want to consider leaving the kiddies home for this one. The ending of this film is slightly upbeat, but I must confess I didn’t stick around for all the end credits to see how they were going to tie this one up with the Godzilla legend in 2020, so I may have missed a big point. The lush jungle scenery of Hawaii, Vietnam, and Australia give this film a “travelogue” look—at least until the monsters show up.








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Jurassic World Is A Thrill-A-Minute Ride

Jurassic World 2 Jurassic World 3 Jurassic World 4 A lot’s happened since the original Jurassic Park movie in 1993, and this movie tries to tie all the loose ends in a fashion that makes it believable and easy to follow. Here’s the gist of things: the original architect of all this, Hammond, is dead, but InGen Corporation has secretly taken over everything and keeps the original scientist on the payroll. That would be Dr. Henry Wu (B. D. Wong), the only one back from the original film, and as the movie goes on, he begins to have doubts about the writers of his paycheck.

Jurassic World is now a fully-functional park, with over 20,000 visitors a day. It’s been open for quite a while, and as its director Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) discusses with investors, people are getting bored with dinosaurs, so they need to inject some “wow” factor—and that’s where the Indominus Rex comes in. The first genetically engineered dino, of which movie director Colin Tremorrow (who also co-wrote the screenplay) gives us faint glimpses in roundabout ways until Owen (Chris Pratt) is brought in to evaluate the creature’s containment facilities. Owen has a way with velociraptors, being able to approach them and make them listen to him–a “mutual understanding based on respect”.

There are underlying subplots, however. Park security chief Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) is looking to prove to his InGen backers that the Velociraptors can be used for warfare, and he sees the Indominus escaping as the chance to set his idea in motion. When he tells Owen he’ll do it with or without his help, Owen agrees because he wants to save the raptors, and the real reason for this movie to exist gets launched. Adding to the chaos are Claire’s two nephews, Zach and Gray, who are visiting the park and wander off on their own after ditching their chaperone, and wind up interacting with the Indominus.. The park’s owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Kahn), is a dreamer similar to Hammond who believes in the park’s ability to educate mankind while worrying about his guests’ safety and security. He doesn’t make it to the end.

Some distracting eye candy keeps showing up (if you’re into dinosaurs). We see stegosaurs, triceratops, ankylosaurs., and even a  mosasaur, which winds up having one of the best sequences—first when it snacks on a great white shark, and near the end when—I won’t ruin that for you. Also on hand is a technician wearing an original Jurassic Park shirt which he says he bought on EBay.

The ending was a bit confusing and leaves you wondering what happened to a few dinosaurs, thereby setting up sequels for this movie, which brings back the T-Rex we first saw in the original in a major role near the end. Tension mounts when the raptors change their mind about the hunt after “communicating” with the Indominus, who is part raptor herself.

Jurassic World is a two hour and four minute wild ride that will leave you breathless, in spite of the bad press the other critics gave it. Sure, there are some liberties taken with the science aspect of it, but I went to be entertained, not watch a dino documentary.

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