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Creatures Great and Small 

Kedi and Kong: Skull Island

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Kong: Skull Island


KEDI. As I age, I see the argument of "cat people" versus "dog people" as an ever more specious one. People will continue to use it to lever their own personal prejudices, of course; such is humanity. But the underlying notion of the innate superiority of one species of furry four-legged thing over another is silly, subjective and basically baseless — like most of the personal opinions people prize as factual. A cat-lover could say that dogs are base, servile and vicious, seeking either dominance or submission within their social order. A dog-enthusiast could counter that cats are aloof, calculating and disinterested — ungrateful and unreceptive to the affection lavished on them. Both camps are every bit as right as they are wrong, of course, and nobody's budging. Really, the hard and fast line between the two is immaterial: Its imaginary boundary speaks more to the willful limits of human consciousness than it does to anything about any other species. Toeing that line can set a precedent for all kinds of willful ignorance: cultural, racial, political, religious, etc.

Our relationship to animals, particularly domesticated ones, is really about our ability to allow kindness and caring to displace some of the other, coarser components of our character, at least for a little while. It can serve as an analog for the way we approach each other and the wider world. The capacity for empathy and sympathy of anyone willing to write-off entire species appears immediately limited. (As an aside, I recently discovered a few issues of a safari hunting enthusiast magazine at a vacation rental we were sharing with friends. I found its very existence kind of shocking and fascinating. I was asked to stop reading aloud from it, as I was ruining everybody's weekend.)

So I see Ceyda Torun's compelling, kind documentary Kedi (or Nine Lives: Cats in Istanbul) as a work of hope and open-heartedness for deeply troubled times. In Istanbul, a vast and ancient city, a crossroads of East and West, land and sea, new and old, residents share space with approximately 100,000 free-roaming cats. They've been part of the cityscape for thousands of years, some probably tracing their lineage back to ancient Egypt, some that jumped ship on their Scandinavian masters when they hit the sun-drenched Ottoman shoreline. They roam the streets freely, reliant on the kindness of humans for subsistence, and humans provide. (I'm sure Istanbul has its share of cat-detractors and it may be a shortcoming of Torun's movie that none of them make an appearance. I like to think this is an intentional omission in service of a greater theme.) Kedi follows a handful of the city's feline denizens with a brisk, natural, "day in the life" style and then pulls in close to focus on their relationships with the people who love and care for them. The character and disposition (to say personality seems like unfair anthropomorphizing) of each become clear, and clearly different from one another, over the course of the movie. One earns his keep establishing a rodent-free perimeter around a restaurant; one prowls the neighborhood like psycho; one dominates her mate and won't let any other females near him. They are as varied and individual as the tiny universe of humans who care for and, in some ways, are cared for by them. They create a system of mutual support that, to me, is really at the heart of movie.

In a beautiful city within a fascinating, varied, brightly colored country currently in the grip of totalitarianism, cats and humans make room for each other with mutual respect, kindness and continuing attempts at understanding. It's hopeful and heartening and worth considering: Maybe there is more to be gained from inclusion than its opposite. NR. 80m. MINIPLEX.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND. As a youngster, I was obsessed with a series of hardbound books based on the Universal monster movies that I found in the elementary school library. I had to put in a special request for The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It took the better part of a school year to arrive. Worth it. Still and all, few contemporary monster movies manage to recapture the deliciousness of those books. The movies are generally overlong, over-serious and over-burdened by digital effects. While director Jordan Vogt-Roberts' take on Kong is guilty of each of these crimes to some extent, the exuberance and style of Skull Island go a long way toward ameliorating that guilt.

Just as Nixon decides he doesn't want to play anymore in Vietnam, a maybe-crackpot scientist named Bill Randa (John Goodman) petitions a politician for access to a heretofore-unknown island in the South Pacific. Under the guise of geological testing, he wants to bring in a team, under military escort, to explore the island's interior. After some fast talking by Randa's young colleague Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), access is granted. Lt. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a hard-bitten war-dog who can't believe he's leaving Vietnam without a win, will lead the Army air cavalry escort. Along for the ride are an anti-war photographer (Brie Larson) and a former SAS tracker (Tom Hiddleston). No fair guessing who they find when they get to the island. Vogt-Roberts previously directed The Kings of Summer (2013), which I love very much. He brings a similar sense of fun and adventure to this obviously much larger undertaking, and that spirit helps hold the movie together when its focus starts to drift. The stellar cast, effects by Industrial Light and Magic and the lush, lurid jungle aesthetic don't hurt either. Stay until the end of the credits. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

— John J. Bennett

For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.


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THE WIND RISES (2013). Writer and director Hayao Miyazaki's animated biopic about a Japanese fighter plane designer. PG13. 126m. MINOR.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974). Starring Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Peter Boyle. And it's "Fronkensteen." PG. 106m. BROADWAY.


GET OUT. Daniel Kaluuya stars as a young African American man visiting his white girlfriend's (Allison Williams) family in this atmospheric and original horror movie that is as artistically accomplished as it is dire in its allegory of American racism. R. 103m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO. Filmmaker Raoul Peck uses historical footage, interviews and author James Baldwin's unfinished book about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. to tell the story of the Civil Rights movement. PG13. 99m. MINIPLEX.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2. Picking up a week after the events of John Wick, the sequel raises the bar for action and inventive ways for Wick (Keanu Reeves) to be the baddest. R. 122m. BROADWAY.

LA LA LAND. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make movie magic in this lush and sublimely giddy musical about an aspiring actress and jazz-loving pianist in Los Angeles. Be warned: Some showings are sing-alongs. PG13. 128m. MILL CREEK.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE. The plastic Dark Knight (voiced by a gravelly Will Arnett) takes on a partner in this brick-filled animated feature. With Micheal Cera. PG. 104m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

LOGAN. Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold give Wolverine a send-off with exciting, visceral action and emotional depth. With Patrick Stewart as the ailing Professor X and a revelatory performance by Dafne Keen as a sharp-clawed little girl on the run. R. 135m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

MOONLIGHT. Attention to the little things and small, powerful moments make for a much wider and more hopeful picture of the world in this three-part coming-of-age-and-beyond story. Starring Mahershala Ali. PG13. 111m. BROADWAY.

THE SHACK. A grieving father (Sam Worthington) receives a mysterious invitation and goes on a magical sojourn. With Octavia Spencer. PG13. 132m. BROADWAY.

TABLE 19. Anna Kendrick plays an ex-girlfriend/ex-maid of honor stuck at the wedding's oddball table. The tablemates bond and band together, but it's never quite as funny or charming as one might hope. With Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson. PG13. 87m. BROADWAY.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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