Movie reviews:  'Kong: Skull Island,' 'The Ottoman Lieutenant' and 'My Life as a Zucchini' opening March 10
Warner Bros. Pictures, 2017.

Sure, there may be other movies opening this weekend, but let's not monkey around:  There is only one King of the Box Office this week.

Here are reviews of all of the films opening in theaters on Friday, March 10, 2017:




“Kong: Skull Island”

The King of the box office this week will no doubt be Kong: Skull Island," the latest take on everybody's favorite giant primate (sorry "Grape Ape"). It's directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who showed confidence and style directing the 2013 gem, "The Kings of Summer." You wouldn't think that film and a King Kong film would share much in common, but they actually do: Both are infused with an air of childlike wonder, fun and excitement (Vogt-Roberts is a very "in-demand" director, who is also attached to direct the "Metal Gear Solid" film). In Kong, he nimbly assembles a patchwork group of adventurers from all different walks of life, who travel to the mysterious, unchartered shores of Skull Island on what is supposed to be a somewhat routine survey mission on the tail-end of the Vietnam War (the film has a very 70s feel, helped out by the normal soundtrack one would find in such a film...or in other words, yes, "Bad Moon Rising" is played at some point). There is the expert tracker (Tom Hiddleston), the anti-war photographer (Brie Larson), the cooky scientists (John Goodman, Corey Hawkins and Jon Ortiz) and the disgruntled military general (Samuel L. Jackson) rounded out with a bevy of different soldiers we get to know (of them, Shea Whigham shines). Of course, this is all a giant (no pun intended) set-up to give us different options of prey for Kong to feast on. The film is comedic, helped out greatly by the presence of John C. Reilly, who plays a WWII pilot who was shot down and now lives on the island with a tribe of locals, who worship Kong as a God. Once we're given the cast of characters, we are quickly introduced to Kong in a pretty awesome helicopter attack sequence. Of course, Kong isn't the only bad-ass creature that inhabits Skull Island, and the film becomes a Predator-like escape/hunt film...yes, some intend to get off the island with proof that monsters do indeed exist, while others look to exact revenge on the beast that is wreaking such havoc. The film does a great job of creating a light but energetic vibe, and the battle sequences are just epic in both size and stature. This film also acts to set-up future monster movie show-downs, so be sure to stick around through the end credits. I could quibble over certain plot points, or some devices that become repetitive, but "Kong: Skull Island" was an enjoyable romp, one that audiences I'm sure will find enjoyable, for what it's worth. Grade: B.

Genre:  Action, Adventure, Fantasy.  Run Time:  2 hours, Rated PG-13.  Starring:  Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Jon Ortiz, Toby Kebbell, Shea Whigham.  Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.

“The Ottoman Lieutenant”

"The Ottoman Lieutenant" stars Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar, Michiel Huisman, Josh Hartnett and Ben Kingsley, in a sweeping romance set against the Armenian Genocide of World War I. Hilmar plays Lillie, an ambitious nurse who falls in love with a Lieutenant (Huisman) of the Ottoman army. The love-triangle is completed by Jude (Hartnett), a righteous doctor, who looks to protect her from the chaos around her. The film actually looks beautiful, and feels exotic...we don't see too many Hollywood films set in this part of the world. But this is mostly a paint-by-numbers romance that wants to be an epic, sweeping love story, while also carrying with it a powerful message of religious tolerance. It does none of that effectively, despite Ben Kingsley's attempt to breathe energy into the otherwise boring proceedings. The script may be the real problem here, not the performances or the cinematography, but the cliched and manipulative score - not to mention preachy voice-over - doesn't do the film any justice. If you like trashy romance novels, with love-lorn men and women risking their lives on the brink of war, then "The Ottoman Lieutenant" may be up your alley. But it's just mediocre. Grade: C.

Genre: Romance, Historical, Drama, War. Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes. Rated R. Starring: Hera Hilmar, Michiel Huisman, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley. Directed by Joseph Ruben (“The Forgotten,” "The Good Son," "Sleeping with the Enemy," "Gorp.").

“My Life as a Zucchini”

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film "My Life as a Zucchini," is deserving of all the praise it has gotten. It's a touching, surprisingly adult stop-motion film about a boy who is brought to an orphanage, having been raised by a single parent who was abusive and an alcoholic...yes, not your typical animated fare. At just over 1-hour, it barely qualifies as a "feature film" and could have taken home a Short Film prize, but at any length, you will be extremely happy to spend time in Zucchini's world. The film touches on themes of acceptance, family and friendship, and the movie is absolutely beautiful to look at. Highly recommended. Grade: A.

Genre: Animation. Run Time: 1 hours 7 minutes. Rated PG-13. Starring (voices of): Nick Offerman, Amy Sedaris, Will Forte. Directed by Claude Barras (feature-film debut).

All of these movies open locally on Friday, March 10, 2017 (check for showtimes).

Next week reviews include: "Beauty and the Beast."