Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Screenplay by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly

Story by John Gatins

Music by Henry Jackman

Cinematography by Larry Fong

Film Editing by Richard Pearson

Casting By Sarah Finn

Motion Capture actors Terry Notary (physical) and Toby Kebbell (facial)

Extra scene leading into closing credits. *Stinger* Bonus, teaser scene after closing credits. Stay in your seats; it’s worth it!

Before going to the first showings of Kong: Skull Island last night I made three simple predictions on Facebook, based on trailers on the predictability of movie plots. Now, I hang my head in shame; based on a fragment of a sentence of dialogue *sob* I misread a character and got one wrong. One the bright side, I nailed two out of three and repeat for the love of Deadpool, Please, no more Samuel L. Jackson! He’s just playing himself at this point, like– No. Not now. Later, but ENOUGH Samuel L. Jackson!

There is a stinger! A well-crafted scene after the closing credits. If you want to know what it is going to be about (and be the only smartie in the theatre, like me, who knew exactly what was coming…), play attention whenever John Goodman is speaking. It’s as simple as that. An unscientific poll of some diehard fanboys at the showing revealed it went right by all of them. They gave me some blah…blah…wrong answers, but you are better than that. Just. Listen.

It is impossible to discuss this film without hitting some of the most inescapable truths. Remember it is in 1973. Tom Hiddleston has never looked better. He shouldn’t have shaved off the beard, but he knows just how to stand with one foot on a rock to look rough, and, even in a jungle, he never sweats in that tee. Brie Larson can pull off an Oscar, a red carpet, a action picture, and never get an off-white tank dirty. Terry Notary killed it on motion capture, with facial expressions by Toby Kebbell. Now that I will have that sweet relief of Jackson not appearing in every feckin’ film, Thomas Mann can be in many more. And John C. Reilly ran off with another picture.

If you sign on for a film and you know John C. Reilly is going to be in it, it is your own fault if he steals every scene. Will Ferrell learned in Talladega Nights that no matter how funny he was, it was Reilly’s turn from best friend to wife- and life-stealer in one day with almost sociopathic innocence over Ferrell’s anger that had viewers almost wetting ’em. Walk Hard, Cedar Rapids, Step Brothers, not to mention being to the only decent thing in The Lobster *blech* — he’s the most adorable juggernaut in comedy. In Kong, he diverts attention from bomb blasts, Skull Crawlers, mosquitos the size of sparrows, and, well, Kong. Marlow is who you can’t wait to see when he’s off-screen.

He’s not the only thing that shines in this, the first genuinely good King Kong film to come out of the USA since the Fay Wray version. It may look cheesy and clichéd now, but clichés start from one original idea and those special effects were pretty incredible back then. Plus, the attempts since then (don’t remind Jessica Lange) have failed spectacularly. Kong took the deceptively simple leap of taking the king out of New York, out of cities altogether. Get rid of the sideshow (oooh! “Sideshow Kong”, Simpsons!) crap and all the kaiju tropes of stepping on buildings, overturning ships of panicked Japanese fisherman, and atomic tests. John Gatin and the screenwriters took this Kong to a wide-open landscape where he could actually rule, and he definitely does. Smart move.

As I said, some things were telegraphed far before the film even hits the theatres, but that’s because some things are apparently too attractive to leave out. Go back to Aliens to find one. Check out any Jurassic Park to find another. As for Samuel L. Jackson, Most of the movies in the last twenty years have him shoved in as the bad guy, most of the time with that atrocious lisp. Sam Jackson as Sam Jackson. I don’t think they give Academy Awards for that. Every time he shows up on screen I give an audible groan. Involuntary. People in war movies never heed the number one survivable tip: never talk about your plans for after the war; you might as well search out a Claymore.

This version has some twists on the old stories. Mason Weaver (Larson) is no fainting female; she’s a war correspondent, embedded with a military unit on the front line in the Vietnam War. James Conrad (Hiddleston) is an ex-Royal Marine spec ops tracker. U.S. military run by a psychopath. Conspiracy nuts led by Bill Randa (Goodman). And, of course, And, of course, there is Marlowe (John C. Reilly), as an entirely new character introduced to the franchise. Another very smart move. This is is smarter, sharper Kong than any before. This is a script and a team that was irresistible enough to attract major players in the industry that seemed an odd fit for a kaiju film. But, remember, this is unlike any Kong film before and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

One question: Why is Tian Jing not playing The Major?

*Now, here, my predictions from Thursday afternoon. Two right and one wrong, No clues as to which one I got wrong:

“Replacing blood with caffeine for 10:45 KONG: SKULL ISLAND! We already know from previews/predictability: Hiddleston and Larson’re hot, they start at odds, then fall in love; grenade dude’ll be lame/hostile, then die saving everyone; John C. Reilly’ll be WICKED; Goodman’s a bad guy, he dies with a scream; Jackson’s a bad guy, he gets eaten mid-boast. ENOUGH Samuel L. Jackson!”