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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Frank Darabont

King Kong (2005)

He must protect his house.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) is a filmmaker living in the 1930’s, meaning, he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities. And the ones that he does have, don’t tickle his fancy as much as they used to. That’s why, when he catches wind of a mysterious, huge and odd island out in the middle of nowhere, Denham soon gets the ambition and inspiration all over again. So, he assembles a team full of actors, actresses, crew, and handy-men, who know a thing or two about an adventure and are capable of solving issues, should any of them arise. Aboard the ship is leading-lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who also is in desperate need of a hit and will do anything for the spotlight, just one more time. Screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) feels the same way, but also finds himself falling for Ann, leading him to make some pretty rash decisions along this adventure, all leading up to finally meeting, once and for all, King Kong – the giant gorilla who practically watches over Skull Island and kills any sort of threat that may come its way. In this case, it’s these humans and needless to say, not all of them are equipped to take him down.

Why would you want a human, when you could have a Kong?

After winning practically every Oscar that he could for Return of the King, it made sense that he would be allowed to make virtually any movie that he wanted. Cause it’s a known thing in Hollywood: Make a lot of money, win a lot of awards, earn respect, and guess what? You can make your dream projects a reality. And oddly enough, for Jackson, it was remaking the movie he grew up knowing and loving, King Kong. Oh, and by “remaking”, I mean making two hours longer and adding on more CGI, special-effects, and story than you could ever imagine.

But trust me, this isn’t a stab at Jackson.

If anything, King Kong is Jackson getting the opportunity to play in his sandbox, where the world is his oyster, sky is the limit, there are no rules, and even better, everyone’s watching. A lot of people may have complained about the fact that the movie is over three hours long, takes awhile to actually get to Skull Island, and yeah, features one too many monsters and creatures, aside from the titular Kong, but in a way, that sort of makes the movie more epic; it shows us that Jackson isn’t setting out to make a note-for-note remake, but bask in every single bit of this material and be as excessive as humanly possible.

Is it a little draining? Quite possibly, yes, but at the same time, watching Jackson having the time of his life is, in all honesty, a beauty to behold. There aren’t many directors out there in the world with the impressive and ambitious scope like Jackson’s, so when he’s given carte blanche to do all that he wants and not stop, it’s nothing if not entertaining. Also, when was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that goes by in a flash? King Kong should have been a slog, but it’s not and it’s a true testament to Jackson’s prowess that allows for him to make a three-hour movie about little humans and a big gorilla, feel a lot less than that.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Jackson directs the hell out of this thing and it makes sense why he wanted to bother with this story in the first place.

And even getting away from the technical side of the movie, and focusing more on the actual things that matter, like story, character development, etc., yeah, it still kind of works. The story isn’t all that different from before, but this time around, Jackson does up the emotion in a way that’s surprising, mostly because while we’re watching Kong up there on the screen, we’re watching something believable and impressively done – almost to the point where instead of being scared by him, we’re actually connected to him. The whole tale about this gorilla falling in love with a short little blonde thing is, of course, silly, but the movie doesn’t forget that sometimes, the seriousness of a tale like this can actually work, so long as you build enough tension and emotion behind it all.

That’s what Jackson does and it helps King Kong move along, even when it gets away from the gorilla beating the hell out of other monsters and dinosaurs. Cause even during those sequences, there’s a fun, crazy and almost hectic energy that’s a lot like the Lord of the Rings movies, but still its own kind of beast. Even when Jackson does dial it down for the characters, the movie’s still at least somewhat interesting, because we’ve spent so much time and energy with them, it’s hard not to understand them, at the very least.

Jack knows what I’m talking about.

Then again, the ensemble involved does help out with that as much as they can.

If there’s one thing that holds King Kong back from being a truly and absolutely great movie that it sometimes comes close to being, it’s that the performances can tend to be a bit bland, which may have more to do with the script and less to do with the actual actors themselves. Like, for instance, Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody are two perfectly good actors who can work well when given the material, but for some reason, they just feel underdeveloped; Watts gets some chances to be bright and shiny, whereas Brody is mostly just serious and not all that right for a movie that’s so concerned with everything else that’s going on around him. Others in the cast fare better, like Kyle Chandler, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, and Colin Hanks, mostly because their characters aren’t made out to be the leads and can benefit from some goofiness, but with Watts and Brody, who are supposed to be our emotional anchors throughout this whole thing, it doesn’t fully work.

That said, the movie does benefit from having a very good, very surprising, and very dark performance from Jack Black. Of course, a lot of people will consider Black’s performance to be channeling Orson Welles, but if so, it’s still a good performance, because we see him lay down all of the usual trademarks and conventions that we’re so used to seeing, and hating with the sorts of characters he plays. What we get here, is a person we grow to love to hate and because of Black’s performance gets better, taking on more meaning as the movie develops and we start to see more sides to this twisted, sometimes sad little man.

Which is to say that I’m still waiting for that battle between Black and Kong.

Black Kong. What a name.

Consensus: Ambitious in scope, epic in its look, feel, and overall mood, King Kong is the movie Peter Jackson deserved to make and absolutely revels in the opportunity to do so, for the benefit of us all.

8.5 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: Fernby Films

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Halloween Horror Movie Month: 1408 (2007)

When Samuel L. tells you not to go into the room, DO NOT go into that room!

After a string of best-sellers discrediting paranormal events in the most infamous haunted houses and graveyards around the world, he scoffs at the concept of an afterlife. Mike Enslin (John Cusack)’s phantom-free run of long and lonely nights is about to change forever when he checks into suite 1408 of the notorious Dolphin Hotel for his latest project. Defying the warnings of the hotel manager (Samuel L Jackson), the author is the first person in years to stay in the reputedly haunted room.

If there is ever a person who should be allowed to Stephen King adaptations, it’s Frank Darabont. Sadly, the guy was nowhere to be found with this one and because of that, look what we got! Damn you Darabont!

Before I get into the negatives of this film, let me just start off by saying that director Mikael Håfström does a lot here and I think he at least deserves some praise for taking what is essentially a story that could be told in 30 minutes, and stretching it way, way out to an hour and 30 minutes. There’s not a lot here that happens, other than Cusack facing off against this room and the evil spirits that lie within, but Håfström keeps it somewhat interesting by starting us off slowly with tiny amounts of tension, that only continues to build and build, until shit gets way too out-of-hand. Håfström seems like he wanted to make this material and have fun with it, which he is somewhat successful in doing, it’s just a shame that there wasn’t much else here to hold onto.

Let me start off by saying that this is a horror movie, without any type of horror whatsoever. Actually, that’s not right to say because there probably is some stuff here that would scare the bajeebers out of certain people, but for me, I didn’t once get frightened by anything I saw on-screen and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Håfström starts to get a bit too carried away with his budget. The film started off perfectly with little spooky things happening here and there, but then once things start to get crazier and crazier and actually pick up, then Håfström just lets all of this annoying and fake-looking CGI take over the film just to show how much havoc this room is causing. Not only doesn’t it look scary, but it’s also a bit goofy in a way that made me chuckle unintentionally and it kept on coming at me, too. After about the 4th wipe-out Cusack has with a random wave of water coming into the bathroom, I was starting to get annoyed, but oh wait, there’s drama that’s needed here as well! Great….

In case you couldn’t tell by that last sentence, there was barely any drama here whatsoever that glued me in once things started to get goofy. There was a very tragic death that has occurred in the lead character’s life that is very, very sad, I’ll give him that, but it’s pretty obvious where they were going to go with it and how they were going to incorporate it into the story, which seemed so damn cheap. And just about everything else that concerns anything dramatic with this dude’s life is what really took me out of the film because as much fun as this whole haunted-house aspect of the film seemed to be, it never really went anywhere with itself other than being just that, just like the dramatic aspect of this movie as well. Yeah, neither part of this movie barely went anywhere, that’s why you should always depend on the stars to give you their top-caliber performances and save the day.

Thank heavens that John Cusack was in this movie because the man freakin’ saved the day here with his performance as “the non-believer in ghosts” writer, Mike Enslin. Cusack is always an actor that turns out great work, year after year, and barely ever gets recognized for it and I think this is one of the rare films where we see him for all that he is when it comes to what kind of work he can pull off. Since this all takes place in the room (I think), it’s all John Cusack for the longest time and he’s left to basically one-man show this bitch up and does a great job by making it all seem believable, especially by the end when he starts to lose a little bit of his mind. Cusack definitely makes this film and the material he’s working with, a hell of a lot more watchable just because of his presence and it’s a great show-case of an actor that in my opinion, doesn’t get as many roles as I think he should.

Oh yeah, and let’s not forget to mention Samuel L. Jackson in his teensie-tiny, itty-bitty role as the hotel manager, Mr. Olin. As always, Samuel L. is great with this material and makes his bit-role almost as memorable as Cusack’s and both of them have a very nice scene where they both play off of each other very well and you see the real fun of this film actually come out. Sadly, it was somewhat short-lived once Cusack opened that room’s door. Why John!?!? Why?!??

Consensus: Cusack makes 1408 a hell of a lot better than it has any right to be, but it’s almost not enough due to barely any scares, too much lame CGI, lame drama, and an ever lamer ending that makes you wonder how many times these writers re-wrote this ending over-and-over again just to hit the right spot, but ended up doing the opposite.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

It doesn’t matter who you are, you love this damn film.

The film tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker who spends nearly two decades in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover despite his claims of innocence. During his time at the prison, he befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), and finds himself protected by the guards after the warden begins using him in his money laundering operation.

Let me just say this, if you have not seen this film, stop reading and get out there to your local video store/Redbox/Netflix account/illegal movie download website and check this ditty out. Honestly, everybody loves it. Of course when people say that about anything, it usually means that it’s just their opinions and that about 2 people they know agree with them so they feel like hot shit but that’s not the case here at all. You could ask anyone their thoughts on this and I’ll bet they’ll all tell you the same thing: perfection.

The craziest thing about this flick is how this was writer/director Frank Darabont‘s first movie he ever made. That’s right people…..FIRST MOVIE HE EVER MADE! Darabont really deserves all the credit for this story and for this flick because he found a way to match all of Stephen King’s writing in such a perfect way that it made every line of dialogue, feel like a piece of art itself. When the film wants to be funny, it’s funny; when the film wants to be emotional, it’s emotional without ever being hokey; and whenever the film wants to find its own little sly ways of getting us more and more involved with this story, it does and never stops the whole time. All of the dialogue, if placed in a lesser hand, could have been written off as corny but Darabont and King work wonders together, and it’s no surprise that Darabont went after another King adaptation about 5 years later with The Green Mile. Oh yeah, and he’s the guy who also adapted The Walking Dead so that definitely earns some brownie points in my book.

I think what really makes me truly love this film the way that I do is that I have seen it about 5 times and not once does it ever get old. That’s the true sign of a good movie. Since you know everything that goes down in the end, you get the chance to look at everything once again and see all of the little hints and clues that this film throws at you, without you ever really knowing in the first place. It’s really cool how Darabont was able to throw these little things in there to have it all make sense in the end but still allows you to get something new out of the movie each and every time you watch it. The film is all about the human spirit and how we can all be free no matter where it is that we are at in our lives. These prisoners feel trapped but it’s all about how they can all break free from these walls without ever having to take a step over them. It’s a message that we have all seen done and talked about before, but for some reason, this film does it the best and really makes you want to just get out there and live like a free person anywhere you go.

At the center of this whole film though is the performances of everybody involved, especially those ones of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. These guys were already big names before this film came out but I think it’s definitely the best performances of their careers by far, and if you have ever seen any of their other work you know that this is a very bold statement to make in the first place. Robbins is very mysterious and strange as Andy, but he’s also a very likable character that makes it easy to see why all of these guys take such a liking to him in the first place. We also see Andy as a free soul that wants to do anything in his power to do right for everyone around him and gets even better and better once you start to see just how smarter he is than he lets on. It’s such a shame that he didn’t get nominated for an Oscar here because he really brings a whole lot to Andy. Morgan Freeman is also the perfect choice as Red. Red is our narrator for the whole movie and shows us a look at everything that’s going on with Andy from the outside-in and it just works because you feel a huge deal of warmth and comfort from this character that it really shows as one of Freeman’s signatures when it comes to him playing in any role. I heard that Darabont chose Freeman over such legends like Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford, and to be honest, I couldn’t see any of them playing the part as perfectly as Freeman does here.

What made this film work the way it does on me is the friendship these two create together. Red sees something in Andy that he never expected in the first place and from then on, we see two people who are both struggling for freedom in a place where all hope is lost, gain some sort of hope together. What I’m describing right now may sound a bit too much like a mixture between Brokeback Mountain and Cool Hand Luke, but it’s honestly the best aspect of this whole movie because you see this friendship blossom over time and you see how they each look out for one another in every single situation they have. By the end, everything they have together starts to come in full circle and that’s where I actually started to tear up a bit because this is where the film’s message comes around and it’s also where you notice that these two guys were meant to best buds and live free after all.

Consensus: The Shawshank Redemption is just one of those perfect movies that seems to have it all: great writing, great direction, amazing performances, a message that is meant to inspire anybody who watches this, and so much more to it. Basically if you are reading the end of this review and have still not checked this one out, then get off your butts and do so. I promise you will not be let-down in the least bit.

10/10=Love and Cherish Forever!!

The Mist (2007)

I hope I’m stuck in a supermarket when a mysterious mist comes to me. I could have all the food I wanted.

After a brutal thunderstorm pounds a small town, the residents (Thomas Jane, Toby Jones, Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, and more) discover a malevolent mist hangs over their homes, killing anyone who remains outside. Now, trapped in a grocery store, a band of survivors must make a stand against the deadly fog.

Frank Darabont is known for directing Stephen King novel adaptations (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Majestic). All are good films, but are dramatic pieces, this is not so much like any of them, but in a surprisingly good way.

The Mist is one of those B-movie thrillers that is very campy, but used so well, to the point of where you almost forget what your watching. Darabont does a great job of using a tense atmosphere to convey enough emotions for when the real action comes, you are on the edge of your seat. There is barely any score music at all, and it works well, because this is just a prime example that silence sometimes can be the scariest thing of all. The film also never really jumps into the action, or “The Mist” right away, it just calmly goes step by step, and you still can feel the suspense of what’s going to happen.

Darabont’s script works very well cause it shows how real human beings, if put in a situation like this, would react or the choices they would make to come out alive. He does a lot of religious bashing with the majority of the people forming a band together, and answer God’s call.

I did have a problems with this film that actually got in the way more than I thought. This film is a B-movie in a way, and the special effects in this are really cheesy. When they first pop-out at you, I started to chuckle cause it reminded me that I was watching something from the Sci-Fi channel. The screenplay is good, but these people are just so stupid sometimes that I couldn’t just want some of them to die. There is one instance where they are trying to convince this one dude that there’s a monster outside, and they have tentacle from it, but he keeps on thinking it’s just a joke, and their trying to make him look stupid. I’m just sitting there thinking, too late my friend, you already do look stupid. There are plenty of other instances, but I can’t give them all away.

And shall we not forget that ending!!! Or should I say………THE ENDING!!!!!! Right before I watched this my friend Bill told me after I see the ending I will say, “what the fuck”, but he didn’t tell me in what kind of emotion. The ending is kind of a let-down, but its also pretty depressing, and since it’s different from the original source material, I didn’t quite know what the whole point of it was. For some, it will piss people off, or just be an OK ending. Me, I’m still trying to decide.

The cast is alright to say the least, and they do good jobs with their material. Thomas Jane, is good here as David Drayton, the one man that seems to have the brains, as well as the strength to do almost everything smart in this movie. Toby Jones is the man in this movie, he plays the geeky brave dude really well here, and he is instantly a likable character. Marcia Gay Harden does the best job, playing a character that is so unstable, crazy, and just so unlikable, that you really do just want her dead. She does a great job with ll of her speeches, about God, and religion, but she makes this totally unlikable character, that somehow you just want her to shut her face.

Consensus: The Mist is well-acted, tensely written and directed by Frank Darabont, but is a let-down with its ending, some plot holes in the script, and the unintentionally hilarious special effects.

7.5/10=Rental!!!

The Green Mile (1999)

I never thought Micheal Clarke Duncan could captivate me so much.

Adaptation of Stephen King’s supernatural tale is set on death row in a Southern prison, where gentle giant John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) possesses the mysterious power to heal people’s ailments. When the cell block’s head guard, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks), recognizes Coffey’s miraculous gift, he tries desperately to help stave off the condemned man’s execution.

This film is directed by Frank Darabont, the same person who did The Shawshank Redemption, and once again he’s back in prison. Though that film was about mostly the prisoners this one is more about the guards and how the prisoner influences their lives. This is more of a fable than it is a real novel.

For the biggest disclaimer of this movie is that it’s way too long. Personally I’m not bothered by how long films are as long as their at least interesting and holds my interest, this film doesn’t quite do that. The film felt a little dragged at points, and really I don’t think it felt over 3 hours to tell the story of a prisoner. This film is very interesting by the last 30 minutes but the others 2 hours are just long side notes.

I also felt that the film was trying hard to show us a message about either suicide or how wrong the death penalty is. I felt like both sides were argued pretty evenly, I felt like this movie’s theme caused much more combustion, than it needed. The pace also adds insult to injury with it’s very slow storytelling and many key moments that take long to deliver.

Other than the those problems, I felt like this was one of the most touching films I have ever seen. The great thing is how you see all of these people on The Green Mile. From the gaurds to the prisoners, and also to the houses they live in. You really do get a full idea of how these people act and live by this movie and it connects us to these characters even more.

The added supernatural moments add a lot of emotion to this film, as you sense that Clarke Duncan character is really a good person. I also enjoyed how the whole film wasn’t so centered on him but the other prisoners with him on The Green Mile.

The star-studded cast does the best job in this film and does save this film from some bad moments. Tom Hanks does a really strong job, and doesn’t play his usual energetic performers as he always seems relaxed throughout the film and adds a lot more of heart to the film. Micheal Clarke Duncan is really the main reason to see this film as he steals every scene he is involved in. Clarke Duncan combines the physical look of big, strong, and scary but puts it along with much sweetness in his character where you know this person is kind at heart and you connect to him even more than any other character in this film. Sam Rockwell and David Morse also show off a lot of talent in this film.

Consensus: Though jumbled with a slow pace and a very long time limit of over 3 hours, The Green Mile is a captivating story that has touching performances that add to this emotionally powerful experience.

7/10=Rentall!!