(On Cable TV, January 2018) There may not be all that much more to Kong: Skull Island than another monster-on-an-island movie, but it’s a heck of a monster-on-an-island movie. Gorgeously presented, competently executed, it’s a maximalist take on a familiar kind of film. The seventies setting brings more to the film than expected (largely due to a good soundtrack), while the special-effect work is amazing in ways that today’s jaded audiences don’t get to experience all that often. I’m not particularly keen on discussing the film’s plot holes when the result is this good. Kong himself is properly presented as a sympathetic force of nature, dangerous but essential when properly motivated. The poor humans aren’t the stars of Kong: Skull Island, although Tom Hiddleston makes for a credible action lead, John C. Reilly, John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson all do well in their usual persona, and this is the first time I’ve really noticed Brie Larson as anything more special than a standard-model brunette heroine. The film moves well through its expected set pieces and thankfully eschews the archetypical Kong story in favour of something more interesting. While it doesn’t avoid a bit of excessive gore (that giant-spider scene … ick), this is a film directed with some refreshing cleverness by Jordan Vogt-Roberts all the way to one of the most enjoyable post-credit scenes in recent memory. That the film feels a lot like 2014’s Godzilla is really no accident, as they are both part of a buildup to a linked universe that (so far) looks far more successful and intriguing than the Universal Monsters continuity. All in all, Kong: Skull Island is a bit of a surprise—the premise looks dull and the idea of another monster movie is too familiar by now, but the results on-screen are undeniably enjoyable.