December 2005

Apple’s trailer site now has the full length spot for the upcoming Ron Howard film “The Da Vinci Code”, available in both regular and high definition Quicktime.  Based off Dan Brown’s runaway best seller, the film tackles the motherlode of conspiracy theories: the bloodline of Jesus.  Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno, and Audrey Tautou (the best reason to love the French) star along side a host of other recognizable faces.

The Vatican has already publicly derided the film, but hey..they don’t like anything so that’s no good indication.  I thought the book was a standard issue pot-boiler for all it’s attempts at stirring up controversy.  It’s an interesting subject (and one of much debate), but I can’t imagine Ron Howard will be firing a shot across the bow of Christianity in this climate.  Guess we’ll just have to wait until May to find out, huh?

The Da Vinci Code
N/A

Jackson Goes Bananas!

by Aaron on December 14, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Peter Jackson’s life long dream of making the definitive King Kong seems like a good idea on the surface, but the resulting 187 minutes of senses shattering spectacle might leave you longing for the comparative action of oh, say My Dinner With Andre.  After a full 80 minutes of character development and ‘plot’ laying, one might be expected to beg for action, but Jackson has decided that there’s no setpiece that can’t be extended a good 10 minutes past any reasonable stopping point.  Oh, and all that plot and character development?  Flush it from your minds, because Jackson certainly flushes it from the film once the action kicks in.  A vertiable text-book example of ‘over the top’, Kong may be to the tastes of some, but sensible movie-goers will find themselves desperately longing for that big gorilla to go ahead and fall from the lovingly rendered Empire State Building.

King Kong
2 & 1/2 Stars

Few people realize that Nick Nolte
was the physical basis for Kong

With the unparalleled success of The Lord of the Rings under his belt, Peter Jackson was effectively given the freedom to turn his lifelong dream of remaking King Kong into a box-office-busting reality. $207 million dollars later (which one must assume doesn’t include the reported $200 million Jackson was paid to direct), that most famous of gorillas is set to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting holiday audience. Expectations have been high, the publicity has been through the roof, and it’s been one of the most highly anticipated films of the year, but is the world really ready for a 187 minute long love-letter to a 25 foot silverback gorilla and the woman who defines jungle fever? More importantly, should the world care? After all, the last time audiences were treated to a ‘life long dream’ project the result was Luc Besson’s stupefying Fifth Element.

Set in 1933 (the year the original film was released), Jackson’s epic starts us off smack dab in the middle of Depression Era New York, where vaudeville actress Ann Darrow (the ridiculously beautiful Naomi Watts) has just been left jobless and near destitute with the closing of a theater. Luckily for her (or not, depending on your point of view) she soon comes to the attention of the near maniacal film maker Carl Denham (Jack Black, playing it as sedate as he knows how), who wants Darrow to star in his latest picture. With false promises and no small amount of deception, Denham has arranged for a ship to take his cast and crew in search of the mysterious Skull Island, where he hopes to capture the world’s last mysteries on film. Along for the ride is shanghai’d playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody), who finds inspiration in beautiful Ann (who just so happens to idolize him and his work), and rounding out the crew is an assortment of colorful characters (played by the likes of Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis, Thomas Kretchum, Jamie Bell, Evan Park, and a whole slew of other actors who will eventually serve as cannon fodder for the ensuing mayhem), on whom the first full hour is devoted to portraying their shenanigans and interplay (along with the rather paper-thin romance of Darrrow and Driscoll). Get to the smashy-smashy already, right?

Jack Black and a bunch of characters
you don’t need to care about.

Eventually, the movie remembers the point of all this and lands us at the foreboding (and forbidden) Skull Island, where Denham and his crew set out to film the rest of their movie against the supposedly abandoned ruins. One bloody (and slow motion filled) encounter with angry natives and a harrowing escape later, Driscoll discovers that Ann has been taken from the ship and convinces the crew to go on a rescue mission. Ann of course has been slated for a blind date with Kong, who absconds with the beauty into the primordial jungle, with the rest of the cast in full pursuit. 45 minutes later (we’ll get to that, I promise) a captured Kong (now given the first name of King) breaks free of the Broadway chains of Denham and tears up New York looking for his Ann. Unless you’ve just woken from a 74 year coma, you know the rest.

There are a lot of bright spots in Kong, but it’s difficult to pinpoint them after sitting through the myriad audio/visual assaults. There’s some real humor and drama at points, and had this film not been about the exploits of a 25 foot gorilla the character development of the first half of the film would be a real treat. However, once the action kicks in all that plot and character work is soon forgotten once Kong makes his entrance (in a rather anti-climatic sort of way, ironically enough). Jack Black, Adrian Brody, and Naomi Watts really shine at points in the first half of Kong; enough so that this reviewer actually missed their interaction once the real point of the film got moving.

Naomi Watts eerily mimics the
audience’s slack jawed stare

The care and attention Jackson paid to this spectacle is evident in nearly every frame of the film, from the wispy arm-hairs of Kong to the in-joke filled sets. It’s obvious that this is a much-beloved project for the former Hobbit chronicler. What’s also obvious is that Jackson has aped (get it?) another famous Jackson, in that he’s gotten to the point where he’s got no one to tell him ‘No’. If Peter was Michael, Kong might be considered his ‘Bad’, the first album the King of Pop made sans Quincy Jones. ‘Hey, ‘Bad’ had some hits on it’, you might say, but I’ll counter with ‘Sure, but the rest of it was crappy filler’. In Peter’s case, the filler isn’t so much crappy as it is mind-numbing action scenes that drag on so long as to become actually boring. That sounds almost impossible doesn’t it? Let’s take a gander at some of the sequences in question.

First off, we have Kong plowing through the jungle with his captive Ann. It’s an interestingly rendered sequence, with the point of view wildly swinging back in forth like the terrified Ann in Kong’s fist, but it seems to go on forever before culminating in Kong’s show of ownership. That’s achieved by swinging Ann around some more with possessive grunting and chest beating. Okay, so that’s not so bad. But wait! There’s the rescue team’s encounter with stampeding Brontosauruses (Brontosauri?), in which our would-be rescuers run underneath the panicked behemoths only to find themselves in danger of death by Velociraptor as well as Bronto foot. It’s a senses pounding sequence that literally entangles itself by the end. What should have been a breath taking run-for-your-life bit piles right over the edge into ridiculous territory, a fact that’s not helped by the somewhat spotty CGI work (a fault that is repeated throughout the film.)

Guess who just realized it’ll be an hour
before they can hit the bathroom?

Jackson knows that one death-defying escape isn’t enough, so next up we’re treated to Ann’s encounters with the other inhabitants of Skull Island. After escaping from a distracted Kong, she’s attacked by giant Gila-like lizards, crawled on by gargantuan centipedes, and soon face to face with not one but three Tyrannosaurus Rexes, which then erupts into a 15 minute (I think..felt like longer) fight sequence that pits Kong against all three T. Rex’s all the while tossing and catching Ann like the world’s screamiest cat toy. Just when you think the danger is over, Jackson pushes the ‘extreme’ button to extend the fight into a pit of vines with all participants swinging to and fro before finally ending in some serious bloodletting from Kong. While it may have read as exhilarating on the page, in practice the sequence is just filled with so many ‘Oh, c’mon!’ moments that boredom finally sets in. After all, you know neither Kong nor Ann is going to die or be hideously mutilated, so what’s the point in dragging it out?

Of course, there’s still the Spider Pit sequence, in which our would-be rescuers get beset upon by all manner of creepy crawlies, dispatching even more of the padded out cast. This scene was cut from the original King Kong, and strangely it’s the one point of the film where Jackson’s history as a film maker really pays off. It’s a truly disturbing sequence, but after everything you’ve seen already it becomes just another action piece that Jackson seems hell-bent to make you forget as he’s got so much more to show you. And of course there’s the capture of Kong, but that sequence, which is supposed to get us on Kong’s side, merely makes us no longer care about what might happen to the now brutally callous Denham.

Think this plucky youth will save the day at one point?

While this part of the film is supposed to be the big thrill ride part of the movie, it’s also the most disposable. It’s on Skull Island where we’re supposed to understand why Ann feels such a kinship with Kong, but outside of a short comedic bit we’re not given much opportunity to understand her affection. After all, she does spend most of her time with Kong trying to escape him. This film asks audiences to make quite a number of mental leaps, but this is the one that stands out the most. Without that relationship established the rest of the film becomes an exercise in how much spectacle an audience can take without mass head explosions. The cast and crew we’ve been asked to care so much about is just thrown away with such little fanfare that it seems like most of their deaths were just excusesfor the CGI crew to come up with clever demises. The surviving members don’t act like the characters we were first introduced to, leaving us to wonder what will happen to them once they return to New York.

The answer to that question is ‘not much’. Once in New York we’re left with only Driscoll (who has apparently managed to alienate Ann on the boat ride back), Darrow (who has settled for chorus girl status), Denham (who is now living it up as the toast of New York), and Colin Hank’s character (whose only remaining job is to look judgmental). Kong escapes, smashes up Manhattan a bit, finds Ann, and then roams about unmolested for some 8 hours until the final confrontation with humanity atop the Empire State Building. This is where the film is really supposed to engage us emotionally, but I was so numb from the previous two and a half hours that it was simply impossible to care about the fates of Ann and Kong. The final sequence seems to drag itself out forever (I’m beginning to think this is a trend with Jackson), and what should be a powerful and tragic end is only capable of mustering up a sigh of relief.

So long that even the monkey passes out!

I’m disappointed that a film with such aspirations could so easily diminish it’s high points through sheer excess of spectacle, and I’m all the more disappointed that Jackson spent more time playing in the hyper action world of Lucas rather than the more personal and engaging world of Spielberg. Even had Jackson shaved off a good 80 minutes from the running time, King Kong would still only rank as a slightly better than average big budget action film. It’s simply too much, too often, and too frenzied.  And folks, I didn’t even get into Kong’s unmentioned ability to change size at will, the Olympic class athletics of the freakish natives (who are scarier than nearly anything else on the island), the apparent discovery that broody Jewish New York playwrights are the world’s greatest trackers, the vampire bats, the bad design of the dinosaurs, the nigh-insatiable desire for the death of Jamie Bell’s character, or the fact that Sauron designed Kong’s front Gate. 

Okay, okay so I get it:  This film is supposed to be culmination of Peter Jackson’s lifelong dream, so it’s only fair that he be allowed to indulge himself, right?  Wrong.  Folks, everyone masturbates, but we kindly refrain from throwing 207 million dollars at it, rendering it in CGI, and projecting it 30 feet across in mind-shattering Dolby Digital.  I truly wanted to dig this film, but Peter Jackson just refused to let me.  The bright spots are so far and few between that you’ll soon forget them, unlike the nigh-endless chase/fight/action sequences that drag on so long that you’ll be left numb to the entire strata of human experience by their oft-delayed end.  Let’s not forget the 187 minute running time (3 hours and 11 minutes for you time-challenged out there), which in a kinder world would require some kind of federally mandated intermission. 

As much as I was hoping we’d be seeing the work of the new wunderkind of big budget spectacle ala Steven Spielberg in the late 70’s, I’m afraid King Kong feels more like the work of a coked-out, sensation craving Michael Bay with an unlimited budget.

King Long

by Tim Dodd on December 14, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

por-nog-ra-phy: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction; obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit.

That’s right, kiddies, porno isn’t just videotape of people with enhanced body parts going at it like epileptic jackrabbits in a skeezy motel room with synthesized elevator music playing in the background. Pornography is the 187 minutes of masturbatory CGI shenanigans I just had to endure, courtesy of one of my used-to-be favorite film-makers, Peter “I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Editor” Jackson. The movie is way too long, the plot is wafer thin, and there was so much action constantly raping my eyes that now I have to hit myself in the face with a hammer just to know that I’m still alive. A little extreme? Well, that’s what this movie is. Extreme to the max!

King Long
1 Star

por-nog-ra-phy: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction; obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit.

That’s right, kiddies, porno isn’t just videotape of people with enhanced body parts going at it like epileptic jackrabbits in a skeezy motel room with synthesized elevator music playing in the background. Pornography is the 187 minutes of masturbatory CGI shenanigans I just had to endure, courtesy of one of my used-to-be favorite film-makers, Mr. Peter Jackson. Making The Lord of the Rings has gone to his head, and this over-board, over-done, over-the-top monstrosity of a “vanity project” has shown us yet another example of what happens to movies when too much money and power are thrown at a filmmaker.

After the critical and popular success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s easy to anticipate a critical backlash for the works of Jackson. But really, I’m not backlashing; I like the man’s movies and I personally think that the Rings films were, although a bit too long, a great achievement in cinema.

King Kong, however, is just a big three hour wank.

It’s way too long and over-indulgent and doesn’t contain anything of value to make those things even tolerable. The script is cliche-ridden. The characters are not well developed. The plot is thinly stretched over its three hour running time and padded with needless effects, most of which aren’t even executed very well. There is simply no need for the movie to be so long.

The worst thing about Kong is that there’s so much action going on that it actually becomes boring. It really numbed the hell out of me with countless scenes of people running, fighting creepy-crawlies, dinosaurs and Kong tearing shit up and throwing people around, and more running and fighting. Hell, by the time Kong gets to New York and starts smashing up buildings and cars, I was too numb to care. By that point I felt like I had spent the last nine years tied up in the galley of their boat being raped by pirates. See? Peter Jackson’s over-indulgence is rubbing off on me!

Jackson has said that King Kong is a movie that he has wanted to remake forever, so this is really a vanity project for him. Well, it seems like if any truly good filmmaker made a movie mainly for himself it would be better than this. King Kong contains so many pandering, obviously crowd-pleasing moments that making some dough had to have been on his mind. Or maybe Peter Jackson really isn’t that good of a film-maker after all. Maybe this piece of shit is very close to his heart… a heart hardened by money and fame!!!

There were some moments that were charming and entertaining, but those were engulfed by the sheer enormity of the action. On the plus side, Naomi Watts is really pretty good, and it’s nice to see Kyle Chandler in a high-profile flick. Jack Black actually pulls off not being a total buffoon in the movie, even though his character turns into a real unsympathetic schmuck by the middle. But why oh why do we have to have another one of those annoying young man characters who’s always trying to prove himself to the adults? Didn’t we get enough of that in the last Matrix movie? I guess not since I didn’t see any other moviegoers in the audience puking anytime Jimmy (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot fame) appeared on the screen.

King Kong will probably have hordes of audiences happily laying down their cash at the box office and telling their friends and neighbors that it’s the best damn thing since the invention of the cell phone. So I guess it’s up to us here at Razorfine to crap all over it for all you sickies that read our reviews and really should know better than to support such misguided and pornographic movie-making anyway. If you want porno go rent Butt Sluts 17 and wank yourself off. You don’t need Peter Jackson doing that for you.

Guess What? Kong’s Not Real

by December Lambeth on December 14, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Just to ruffle a few feathers with my fellow Razorfine critics (and give you a different perspective), I’m going to try to take the high ground and be positive. Which wont be easy given the film is way too long, and there are massive issues with construction, characters, plot, story, and well….hell just about everything. But let’s not forget that this film is make believe, and was created to entertain the masses.  And folks, critics are not the masses. We have become overbearing and extremely judgmental in our movie going experiences, and see things for what they really are instead of the fantasy world this type of entertainment is made for. 

People will hate the fact that it takes roughly an hour to see Kong, and they have to spend so much time getting to know characters that they don’t give a shit about (nor will they).  They want Kong.  Jackson, what is wrong with you?  People want 10 maybe 20 minutes of character building and then you need to give them the juice. Audiences are going to drool, squirm, eek, scream and jump at every monster that pops out and either crushes, devoirs or decapitates the ship’s crew. The audience won’t notice Kong comes in various sizes, or that his face never quite matches up. They won’t catch on to a New York playwright becoming a master of the jungle and conquers all odds to save the girl only to get back to the ship in 10 minutes. And really, who is going to see the vast difference in the CGI quality Jurassic Park has over Kong in the dinosaur scenes?

King Kong
2 Stars

It’s sad to think that this was Jackson’s dream, and that even after 3 hours and 11 minutes he still came up short, but don’t be shocked if it gets considered for some form of Hollywood glamour award; it’s big, it’s long, it’s Kong.

King Kong gives an award winning performance (accompanied by some great facial expressions), and Naomi Watts, as the beautiful Ann Darrow, pulls off fairly impressive moves against a blue screen (not to mention a make believe leading man). As for the rest of the film’s talent, who cares? Jack Black plays the self-indulgent film producer, Carl Denham, who looses his touch on reality halfway through.  There’s also Adrian Brody as master of the jungle and stud playwright Jack Driscoll, and Thomas Kretschmann as the ever hero Captain Englehorn; they were in The Pianist, what else do you need to know? Everyone else gets crushed, except Colin Hanks who plays Carl’s assistant and Jamie Bell as the little boy with a big heart; consensus says he should have died.

Most of the CGI stuff works, but when it doesn’t work it really doesn’t work.  Pole-vaulting(!) natives, a multitude of dinosaurs and a few aspects of Kong’s physical build and face to name a few of the other computer generated moments that go awry. However, costuming and the set design for New York during The Great Depression is quite impressive.

To sum King Kong up in 3 sections would be quite easy. Section1 is long and boring: meet the characters, check the plot and wait for Kong. Section 2 is the Skull Island adventure:, natives more scary than a massive attack of creepy crawlers, freakish vampire bats, and more action than you can shake a tree full of shipmates at. Section 3 back to the city: Kong is lovelorn and Ann, in an effort to save the poor beast, climbs the Empire State Building in heels and screams at planes. The End.

 

King Kong is what it is: 3 hours of fantasy entertainment that could have easily been cut down to 2. Rest assure with that running time you’re at least getting your money’s worth.

King Klong & The Island of Monsters

by Alan Rapp on December 14, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: King Kong
  • IMDb: link

See what happens when you reward a director for 4 hour CGI heavy movie! King Kong is a maddening film. Peter Jackson has been dreaming of making Kong for years now.  Who would have thought his dream would become our nightmare?  There are some good moments and acting but it’s all been hidden beneath so much CGI that you can hardly see it.  I preferred the remake of Mighty Joe Young with Charlize Theron or the 1976 King Kong with Jeff Bridges to this monstrosity.

The story in a nutshell is this…  Filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) along with his writer (Adrien Brody), stars Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler) and his crew travel to the mysterious Skull Island to film a movie.  After about a third of the film’s running time they arrive on the island and Miss Darrow is taken captive by a aborigine tribe of pole jumpers (who mysteriously appear and disappear completely in the film) who plan to sacrifice her to Kong (voice by Andy Serkis).  While trying to save Ann the group encounters every kind of CGI monster you can imagine including numerous bugs, velociraptors, T-Rexes, oh who gives a crap, there’s a bunch of monsters okay?  After saving Ann, Carl decides to capture Kong and take him to Broadway to make his fortune.

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