Kong: Skull Island

Rated 4.0

In 1973, as the Vietnam War winds down, a party of soldiers and scientists goes off to explore an uncharted Pacific island—but the military leader (Samuel L. Jackson) doesn’t know that the civilian leader (John Goodman) is hunting for monsters, including the legendary ape Kong. Put King Kong out of your mind; this is neither sequel nor remake, but a whole new approach to the premise, with passing nods to Heart of Darkness, Jurassic Park, Moby Dick, and a host of other classic and pop culture touchstones. And somehow it all works; there’s the right blend of excitement and humor in the script (by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly and John Gatins) and Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ lickety-split direction keeps us on the edge of our seats. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson make appealing romantic leads. J.L.