Kong: Skull Island (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 19-Jul-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Creating a King
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-On Location: Vietnam
Featurette-Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler
Featurette-Through the Lens: Brie Larson's Photography
Featurette-Monarch Files 2.0 (Companion Archive)
Audio Commentary-with director Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Deleted Scenes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 118:23
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Tom Hiddleston
Samuel L. Jackson
Brie Larson
John C. Reilly
John Goodman
Corey Hawkins
John Ortiz
Tian Jing
Toby Kebbell
Jason Mitchell
Shea Whigham
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Henry Jackman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Post-credits scene

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Plot Synopsis

††† A quasi-remake of King Kong, 2017ís Kong: Skull Island is a mightily entertaining B-movie in every sense of the word, and it represents the second instalment in Legendary Entertainmentís interconnected ďMonsterVerseĒ franchise, following 2014ís Godzilla. Whereas Peter Jacksonís 2005 reimagining of King Kong augmented its spectacle with emotion and themes, Skull Island is all about rampaging monsters, but itís nice to see a blockbuster of this ilk made by a team of filmmakers who care about their craft and know how to create thrilling action sequences. There are no pretensions here - this is just a fun, well-made monster yarn which miraculously doesnít require a lobotomy prior to viewing.

††† In the waning days of the Vietnam War, senior Monarch employee Bill Randa (John Goodman) convinces the United States government to sanction an expedition to an uncharted land mass in the South Pacific known as Skull Island. For the trip, Randa and his scientist partner (Corey Hawkins) recruit British Special Air Services Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to join the team, which is escorted and guarded by a military envoy out of Vietnam headed by Lt. Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Taking to the skies of Skull Island to bomb the landscape in order to draw out any wildlife, Packardís team unwittingly disturbs the natural order of things, which enrages monster ape Kong. Attacking the squad of choppers, Kong makes a mess out of the soldiers, separating the survivors into groups scattered all over the island, who have just two days to make their way to the rendezvous point. But the humans quickly find that the island is populated by other creatures even more menacing than Kong, especially the carnivorous ďSkullcrawlersĒ who consume everything in sight. Amid the chaos, they encounter Marlow (John C. Reilly), an American soldier stranded during WWII who hopes that he finally has a chance to get home.

††† With a script credited to three writers (from a story by John Gatins), Kong: Skull Island more or less plays out like the first two acts of any other King Kong movie, minus the capture of the titular ape and New York finale. Itís a welcomely refreshing way to reintroduce the gigantic simian yet again, finding director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) plotting out his own fresh vision which takes inspiration from Apocalypse Now and Jurassic Park, with a fun reference to Cannibal Holocaust to boot. Set-up and exposition is efficient, doing just enough to explain the mission and introduce the characters before reaching the island and giving over to a fast-paced succession of action set-pieces. Subplots do appear, but Packardís yearning for revenge against Kong is perhaps the most prominent - he takes Kongís initial attack personally, becoming very reminiscent of Captain Ahab. As previously stated, there isnít much in the way of emotion throughout Kong: Skull Island - it doesnít even try to dabble in the science-gone-wrong themes of Jurassic Park - but it all comes together well enough nonetheless. The script even serves up a smattering of gallows humour to add some levity to the sometimes unnerving violence.

††† It would appear that Legendary learned from 2014ís Godzilla, which was criticised by fans due to its lack of action and shortage of Godzilla screen-time. Hence, Vogt-Roberts doesnít waste much time introducing the great ape - Kong is briefly glimpsed in an effective prologue establishing Marlowís residency on the island, but he really joins the fray at the half-hour mark as he viciously takes down Packardís choppers, killing dozens of soldiers. From there, monster throwdowns are prolonged and frequent, spotlighting the titular beast as he battles the islandís perilous wildlife of all shapes and sizes. Whereas Michael Bay repeatedly ruins each Transformers movie with a routine of rapid-fire cutting and shaky-cam, Vogt-Roberts and cinematographer Larry Fong ensure that the carnage is always fun to watch and easy to comprehend, relying on smooth wide shots. Vogt-Roberts endows the combat with fun little quirks, too, adding personality to what could have been just another drab, generic blockbuster in less skilful hands. However, the movie does go a bit too far with a 300-inspired slow motion shot of Conrad slicing prehistoric birds in mid-air which just comes off as hoary, unnecessary and self-indulgent.

††† Skull Islandís unique version of Kong stands approximately 100ft tall and is more human in his movements, never hunching over on all fours like a primate. As to be expected from a generously-budgeted studio blockbuster, the digital effects consistently impress in their fluidity and detail, and Kong is insanely expressive and nuanced thanks to always-improving motion capture techniques. However, the CGI is knowingly artificial as well, which is more noticeable because the movie was shot digitally, taking away any sense of tangibility. It has to be said that there was a bit more charm to similar monster movies of yesteryear, which were shot on good old-fashioned celluloid and used men in dumpy rubber suits to play monsters on miniature sets. Still, Kong: Skull Island gets more right than wrong, and Fong makes fantastic use of the truly breathtaking locations in Vietnam, Hawaii and Australia. For a monster movie, thereís genuine cinematic artistry throughout, and itís brilliantly accompanied by a soundtrack of classic rock tunes from the Vietnam era - the playlist includes tunes from Creedence Clearwater Revival, David Bowie and Jefferson Airplane (just to name a few), adding further flavour to the material.

††† As perhaps to be expected, the acting is effective but unremarkable for the most part, though at least nobody disgraces themselves. Hiddleston is a very good actor and he acquits himself well enough, but heís certainly not believable as a badass special forces type. Jackson, however, can do this type of hard-nosed military leader routine in his sleep, and heís a real asset, while Larson is simply lovely as the token female character who seems to intrigue Kong. But itís Reilly who really steals the show; he actually has a proper character to play, and itís easier to instantly latch onto him compared to the rest of the ensemble. Reilly is his usual goofy self, but thereís a hint of poignancy here too, giving the movie its only real traces of humanity. The rest of the actors do what they can with their underwritten roles, particularly Shea Wingam who makes a good impression as a seasoned soldier, but the movie basically belongs to Kong and John C. Reilly.

††† Kong: Skull Island is a bit silly and it likely wonít resonate with many viewers on a profound level, but itís slickly-made and it doesnít outright insult anybodyís intelligence, nor does it feel overlong, which confidently places it above other contemporary blockbusters. Quite simply, it delivers the goods, and itís a total blast if youíre in the mood for some well-paced big-screen escapism. Also, be sure to stay tuned for a touching additional sequence during the credits and a Marvel-style post-credits scene which sets up further connections to Godzilla and teases whatís to come in the future of the MonsterVerse.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Kong: Skull Island is a visually sumptuous blockbuster, one of the studio's big tentpole movies of the year, and Roadshow debuts this insanely fun monster yarn on standard Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (DVD too of course, but we're beyond that). Encoded in MPEG-4 AVC and framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the movie scrubs up very well on Blu-ray, especially when upscaled through my LG UP970 4K player and displayed on my 4K OLED screen. I saw Kong at the cinema during its theatrical run, and this is a faithful rendering of the cinematic experience - not perfect by any means, but a predictably strong 1080p presentation from the folks at Warner Bros/Roadshow.

††† This is a sharp-looking transfer. In every scene, no matter the lighting conditions, the movie is sharp and the presentation reveals plenty of detail and textures. Close-ups fare best, of course - look at the extreme close-up of Samuel L. Jackson's face at 44:20, which reaveals every pore. Luckily, the transfer never looks too muddy or smeary in longer shots, remaining stable from start to finish. However, as per usual with a Warner Bros/Roadshow title, the bitrate is disappointingly low, averaging at around the 25Mbps mark, failing to make full use of the space on the disc. As a result, while the transfer is certainly impressive, there is room for improvement - it tends to look on the soft side, and occasionally looks smooth, lacking in precision. Thankfully, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release is an improvement in terms of detail and textures. Contrast is a bit on the weak side throughout this 1080p presentation, too, and therefore the image lacks some depth and richness.

††† As to be expected from a digital production shot with Arri Alexa camera rigs, there is a fine layer of source noise which is predominently visible throughout indoor and lower-light scenes. The noise is never distracting, though, and enhances the visuals since this is a period piece. The opening title sequence deliberately carries the appearance of old reels of film, and therefore looks grainy, artefact-ridden, and unrefined by design. In outdoor scenes, the image is consistently clear, revealing all the intricacies of the set design and the jungle environments. In addition, the Blu-ray retains the colour palette seen in the cinema, looking more earthly with realistic skin tones. Kong: Skull Island does fall short of demo material, but it's a fine effort that looks very good and will definitely please casual film-watchers.

††† A number of subtitle options are available.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† Kong roars to life on Blu-ray with a full, rich Dolby Atmos track. From the very beginning, the dynamic range of the track is on full display - as the Warner Bros. logo appears, the sounds of a dogfight can be heard off-screen; the surround channels are put to good use as gunfire fills the speakers, and panning makes you feel as if planes are flying overhead. When Kong's hands first appear, you can feel the full impact thanks to booming sound effects and subwoofer use. And that's just the beginning. Helicopter rotors are so immediate and impactful that you'll think they're in the room. When Chapman looks up to see Kong approaching at the river, all sounds of Kong's approach come from the rear channels. When a Skullcrawler appears in the graveyard sequence, panning makes you believe it's moving off-camera.

††† Scenes on the island are bolstered by location-specific ambience. Especially in the jungle, sounds of bugs and other animals can be heard from all sides, putting you in the thick of Skull Island. Music comes through with precision as well, including the era-specific songs. And in amid the frantic soundscape of gunshots and monster roars, dialogue remains consistently well-prioritised and is never challenging to comprehend.

††† I found no flaws with this track to speak of. It's crisp, clean, and abolutely devoid of any encoding errors. Do be warned, however, that the disc defaults to a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track which is also certainly no slouch but is definitely not as dynamic as the Atmos track. For those interested, the track also contains English Descriptive Audio and an Italian mix, both encoded in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† Roadshow/Warner Bros. have assembled a decent selection of special features. It's nothing too substantial, but what is here is appreciated.

Creating a King (HD)

††† A two-part featurette. These segments can only be played individually, with no Play All function.

On Location: Vietnam (HD; 5:38)

††† Director Vogt-Roberts explains that they made the decision to conduct a sizeable chunk of principal photography in Vietnam, bringing along all the main cast to make it all feel as authentic as possible. This featurette provides footage of the travelling, a press conference, and plenty of behind-the-scenes action. It's refreshing to see actual locations being used, rather than outright green screen and CGI.

Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler (HD; 6:53)

††† As the title implies, this segment traces Hiddleston across the three primary shooting locations: Hawaii, Australia and Vietnam. All the behind-the-scenes footage is cool, and it's fun to watch the actors goof around between takes, but it's also edifying to see precisely which scenes were shot in which country. Worth watching.

Through the Lens: Brie Larson's Photography (HD; 2:19)

††† This short segment is all about Brie Larson, logically enough. Director Vogt-Roberts explains that it was important to train Larson to use the camera so she looked authentic in her movements on-screen, and he insisted on having film in the camera at all times so the actress could find moments and constantly take photos on-set. A short slideshow of images from Larson's camera accompanies Vogt-Roberts's explanation.

Monarch Files 2.0 (Companion Archive) (HD; 7:56)

††† A fun little novelty, this segment plays out as an educational film for the fictional organisation Monarch, outlining the specifics of the Skull Island expedition depicted in the movie. The film is broken down into a number of bite-sized segments, but it plays as one chunk, with no individual scene selection. Presumably, the "2.0" addendum is due to the fact that the 2014 Godzilla Blu-ray contained similar Monarch material.

Commentary

††† Director Vogt-Roberts comes in strong from the very beginning, introducing himself as he begins a chatty, informative scene-specific audio commentary track. It's clear that the filmmaker is proud of his movie and was thrilled to have the opportunity to direct it, waxing lyrical about the actors, things that were cut or changed, and general production tidbits. Other topics include homages (Apocalypse Now of course, and he mentions The Big Lebowski) influences, and even the choice not to include any actual dinosaurs because it has been done before and Jurassic World had just debuted. But my favourite anecdote is Vogt-Roberts pointing out that one dogtag says "Harambe." He's very talkative, even saying he doesn't have enough time to talk about everything as shots go by so quickly. Despite a few quiet patches, this is one of the better commentaries that I've heard of late, and if anything it enhanced my liking of the movie.

Deleted Scenes (HD; 3:45)

††† Four little excised beats are included here, which play in one chunk without any individual scene selection. Some of these have some worth as they enhance certain characters, particularly Jackson's Col. Packard (Marc Evan Jackson also gets a bit of a moment), but they were visibly trimmed for snappier pacing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † All editions worldwide appear to be identical in terms of supplements, only differing in terms of audio and subtitle options. It's a draw. Buy local with confidence.

Summary

††† Kong: Skull Island may prove polarizing to an extent, depending on your expectations. It's more entertaining and competent than 2014's Godzilla, but it lacks any sort of emotion. It's a big, fun monster movie, playing out with an infectious B-grade spirit. I had a great time with it.

††† Roadshow's Blu-ray features a pretty-good video presentation and excellent Dolby Atmos audio, accompanied by a rather scant but nevertheless informative selection of special features. All things considered, this set comes recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSamsung UBD-K8500 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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