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The Kong Show: KONG SKULL ISLAND, Hiddleston, Larson, Jackson Deliver “Bigly”

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When the original KING KONG was released by RKO in March of 1933, some of the trade ads included a tie-in between Kong’s big bang box office receipts and the failed banks of the Great Depression roaring back to profitability. Kong33pstcrd17It was a nostalgia sell, a heart-tug for a pre-code Hollywood monster romp, the likes and scale of which had never been seen on the silver screen.

In a quick recap, Merian C. Cooper was turned down at Paramount, then skipped over to RKO. David O. Selznick bit, but bailed out during production. Titled “The Beast,” “Eighth Wonder of the World,” “Ape King,” and “Kong,” Selznick insisted the title be changed to KING KONG. The wow-title was a huge pivot for a scream queen screenplay written by Edgar Wallace. KongTradeBankAd17

Much like the old KONG, the new KONG: SKULL ISLAND also released in March 84 years later, by Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures, just shot past all expectations for the weekend opener, to the tune of $61 M USD. (*Now just shy of $150 M USD worldwide.)

And this is up against the formidable Hugh Jackman franchise starrer LOGAN.

Why is KONG SKULL ISLAND doing so well?

Nostalgia, folks, Viet Nam war era discontent, and throw-back technology right down to the brick-like cell phones and dot matrix, white and light lime green striped perforated IBM computer paper from the 70’s of this KONG. HidLarsKSI17Call it a Guardians of The Galaxy overhaul of the gorilla classic, KONG even features a key plot point role by GOTG’s John C. Reilly.

The film script has so many great touches, for example Brie Larson’s photojournalist character says she was “an anti-war photographer” embedded in Vietnamese conflict.  Shea Whigham plays a hardened Viet Nam veteran who says “we didn’t lose the war… we abandoned it.” All creative plot embellishments work here.

Plus, Bradley Cooper’s brother from Silver Linings Playbook, that same actor Shea Whigham, has some other soulful moments in this, also his Playbook alum John Ortiz makes an impact. All the supporting characters are extremely well-thought out.

Including some kid who looks like he actually is in Apocalypse Now-then, even though this is KONG 2017, ironically shot in Vietnam, here. His name is Thomas Mann, from Portland, Oregon, a kid we will see much more of based on his palpable brand of youthful sincerity in this picture.

Richard Jenkins, the one and only, shows up as a US Senator, another nice touch. The guy who should have passed on the remake of BEN HUR, Toby Kebbell, shows us why this British-born actor is still very gifted as Chapman, whose letter-writing home to “Dear Billy” is a leit-motif and masterstroke of the emotionally rich storytelling throughout this movie.

Anyway, KONG SKULL ISLAND is making money because it’s worth the money. Main stars Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World”), Oscar-nominee Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), John Goodman (“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Argo”), Oscar-winner Brie Larson (“Room,” “Trainwreck”), Jing Tian (“Police Story: Lockdown”), Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), John Ortiz (“Steve Jobs”), Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton”), Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”), Shea Whigham (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Thomas Mann (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), with Terry Notary (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and all rock the blockbuster with Oscar-nominee John C. Reilly (“Chicago,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”), knock it out of the park.
In sum, everybody delivers “bigly” as the word goes these days. It’s the perfect storm of escapism for a time that parallels the economic uncertainty of the early 30’s. Our KONG, the 2017 inhabitant of this silver screen Skull Island, has his own agenda, and is rebranded as a 2.0 of monster movie heroes.

Not to give too much away, you won’t guess the plot twists, and may be slightly disappointed by a thin and pale John Goodman whose real purpose here seems to be to show the perils of weigh loss on humor quotient. That said, Goodman also pulls his weight in a line-up of truly excellent performances for the genre, and even for any genre.

Watch Tom Hiddleston and others in this official featurette on KONG SKULL ISLAND…

Here’s What Warner Bros Has to Say About Their Gorilla-Not-To-Be-Missed

Official Statement: The producers of Godzilla reimagine the origins of one the most powerful monster myths of all in “Kong: Skull Island,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures and Tencent Pictures.  This compelling, original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful.  Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature.  As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.
Vogt-Roberts directed the film from a screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, story by John Gatins. Kong: Skull Island is produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni and Alex Garcia, with Eric McLeod and Edward Cheng serving as executive producers.
The creative behind-the-scenes team included director of photography Larry Fong (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), production designer Stefan Dechant (supervising art director True Grit, Avatar), Oscar-nominated editor Richard Pearson (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy) costume designer Mary Vogt (the Men in Black films) and composer Henry Jackman (Captain America: Civil War). The team also included Oscar-winning makeup supervisor Bill Corso (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and supervising stunt coordinator George Cottle (Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises). The legendary Kong was brought to life at a whole new scale by Industrial Light & Magic, with two-time Oscar winner Stephen Rosenbaum (Avatar, Forrest Gump) serving as visual effects supervisor.
To fully immerse audiences in the mysterious Skull Island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his cast and filmmaking team filmed across three continents over six months, capturing its primordial landscapes on Oahu, Hawaii—where filming commenced—on Australia’s Gold Coast, and finally in Vietnam, where filming took place across multiple locations, some of which have never before been seen on film.
Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures and Tencent Pictures present a Legendary Pictures Production, a Jordan Vogt-Roberts Film,Kong: Skull Island. The film will be released worldwide in 2D, 3D in select theatres, and IMAX beginning March 10. Kong1sht17CAST: Kong: Skull Island” stars Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World”), Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), John Goodman (“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Argo”), Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room,” “Trainwreck”), Jing Tian (“Police Story: Lockdown”), Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), John Ortiz (“Steve Jobs”), Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton”), Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”), Shea Whigham (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Thomas Mann (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), with Terry Notary (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and Oscar nominee John C. Reilly (“Chicago,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”).

See their website for official images and screening details.

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WARCRAFT Invades ArcLight Hollywood: A Towering Orgrim Character Installation Now Thru June 16

ArcLight Cinemas brings the highly-anticipated WARCRAFT film to life in an epic touring in-theater experience

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SCREENMANCER EPIC ALERT, Los Angeles, CA: The battle begins as ArcLight CinemasLegendary, and Universal Pictures announce the launch of a traveling in-theater installation featuring a larger-than-life statue of Horde warrior Orgrim, one of the stars of this summer’s epic cinematic adventure WARCRAFT. Starting today, moviegoers throughout Southern California will have an opportunity to come face-to-face with the incredibly lifelike orc and his iconic weapon the Doomhammer, both crafted by WETA Workshop, known for their groundbreaking work on iconic films like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, as well as Mad Max: Fury Road.

The mighty Orgrim statue is over 10 feet tall and weighs in at 550 lbs. The character comes to our world from this summer’s highly anticipated movie based on one of the biggest fantasy franchises in entertainment history: Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft game series. Visitors to participating ArcLight Cinemas are sure to be captivated by the grand scale and intricate detail of this mythic WARCRAFT character.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring a character that lives in the imaginations of so many to physical life,” said Emily CastelLegendary CMO. “I cannot wait to see people’s reactions as they encounter this imposing character in their local theaters and become immersed in the magical world of the film.”

“Having a life-size Orgrim exhibit for our guests is an exciting part of the full ArcLight experience that we are proud to provide to our fellow movie-lovers,” said Gretchen McCourt, Executive Vice President, Cinema Programming, ArcLight Cinemas.

WARCRAFT will be released in 3D by Universal Pictures on Friday, June 10, 2016. Tickets and more information can be found at www.arclightcinemas.com.

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Backgrounder on the Film

From Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures comes WARCRAFT, an epic adventure of world-colliding conflict based on Blizzard Entertainment’s global phenomenon. 

The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: Orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.  

So begins a spectacular saga of power and sacrifice in which war has many faces, and everyone fights for something.

Directed by Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) and written by Charles Leavitt and Jones, the film starring Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky and Daniel Wu is a Legendary Pictures, Blizzard Entertainment, and Atlas Entertainment production. 

The producers are Charles Roven, Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Alex Gartner and Stuart Fenegan. Jillian Share, Brent O’Connor, Michael Morhaime and Paul Sams serve as executive producers. Rob Pardo, Chris Metzen, Nick Carpenter and Rebecca Steel Roven co-produce. WARCRAFT will be released by Universal Pictures.  www.warcraftmovie.com

Who Is Legendary?

Legendary is a leading media company with film (Legendary Pictures), television and digital (Legendary Television and Digital Media) and comics (Legendary Comics) divisions dedicated to owning, producing and delivering content to mainstream audiences with a targeted focus on the powerful fandom demographic. Through complete or joint ownership, Legendary has built a library of marquee media properties and has established itself as a trusted brand which consistently delivers high-quality, commercial entertainment including some of the world’s most popular intellectual property. In aggregate, Legendary Pictures-associated productions have realized grosses of more than $12 billion worldwide at the box office. To learn more visit: www.legendary.com.

All Things ArcLight Cinemas…

ArcLight Cinemas, created by Pacific Theatres, a privately owned, Los Angeles-based company with 60 years of theatrical exhibition history throughout California, Hawaii and Washington is a premiere moviegoing experience with an unparalleled commitment to bringing a variety of rich cinematic content to moviegoers in all markets. ArcLight Cinemas operates eight theaters in California including Hollywood, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, El Segundo, Santa Monica, Culver City and La Jolla, as well as one theater in Bethesda, Md, Chicago and Glenview, Ill.  ArcLight also owns and operates the historic Cinerama Dome and programs the TCL Chinese Theatre and IMAX in Hollywood. Pacific Theatres currently operates theaters in Los Angeles that include The Grove and The Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif. Additional information about ArcLight Cinemas is available at www.arclightcinemas.com/  

Follow ArcLight Cinemas:

www.facebook.com/arclightcinemas

www.twitter.com/arclightcinemas

www.youtube.com/arclightcinema

www.instagram.com/arclightcinemas

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