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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Peter Ford

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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Mad Max (1979)

Drives to the supermarket just got a whole lot more intense.

In a savage, post-apocalyptic land, Officer Max Rockatansky (Gibson) is the law and runs it his way; whether people like it or not, is strictly their problems. Things got real hot and heavy, however, when a group of nomadic bikers led by the deranged Toecutter (Keays-Byrne) murder his friend and attack his family, forcing Max to unleash revenge the only way he knows best.

You got to hand it to director George Miller because this guy took a budget of only $400,000, used that cash to bring out some sick-ass looking cars, fashion statements, and guns, only to end up grossing nearly over $100,000,000 worldwide and influencing every piece of pop-culture from Saw to Chris Jericho. Yeah, this guy’s got a lot on his plate in terms of love and respect and with good reason, because this film still hits as hard now as it did back in 1979.

What’s solid about Miller’s direction is what he does with these car/bike chases. Nowadays we see onslaughts of CGI and special effects tamper with the image of what an automobile accident should look like, so it’s pretty refreshing to see a guy use not one piece of that and get some of the craziest, most realistic-looking accidents ever filmed. There’s a type of kinetic style and energy that Miller brings to this material that makes all of the action scenes that much more amped-up and intense than they probably already are, and it makes the crashes look even better, especially when in the first ten minutes you see one blow up into little, tiny pieces.

Max isn't mad? He's happy and romantic?!? Ew!

Max isn’t mad? He’s happy and romantic?!? Ew!

And when you have a movie where hardly any character drives below 65 mph, then you definitely need to make sure things are moving no matter what.

The way Miller uses the dead center of the Australian desert works too, in that it makes it seem like this flick is taking place in a Western town, where everything just went to shit because of some terrible apocalyptic happening. There’s not a lot of effort and money put into the set designs, but when you have gangs that dress like Judas Priest, sexy-ass cars that you can literally hear and smell a mile away, and have dudes who don’t shave but always look bad-ass, you don’t need to because you’re already set in creating a pretty screwed up and weird place to begin with. Just goes to show you that what you can do with little or no money at all and still make it look like hell on Earth.

Well, hell on Earth with a lot of gasoline and leather.

But despite all of this slick and cool style that Miller gives off, his story seems to falter. There’s nothing really flashy with this story that hasn’t already been done before but what bothered me is where it ends up going. The first act and the last act are both filled with insane amounts of cool action that keeps the flick moving at a brisk, fun pace, but then there was this middle act that just seemed to meander along without anything happening. What’s even worse is we get one of those sappy, happy montages that almost changes the whole mood of the film completely. Maybe Miller wanted to save up on all of his action and violence for the end (you know, for money purposes), but he could have really given me something better in the meantime to hold one’s interest.

How I like to drive. Especially during rush hour.

How I like to drive. Especially during rush hour.

Let me also not forget to mention that since this is in fact, a straight-up B-movie, there are the usual tendencies that all B-movies seem to go through. Some moments here are so freakin’ campy that it almost feels like the film is doing a self-parody on itself. One sequence in particular was when Max stumbles upon his partner in a hospital bed, being burnt to a crisp. For some reason, Miller thought that this scene needed that extra “oomph” to really gain our attention, so he adds a terribly loud and dramatic score that seems like it came right out of a Hitchcock movie. That wouldn’t have seemed so bad had Miller gone for that type of movie, but for the most part, it doesn’t seem like he is, so of course, some of this plays off as a bit more ridiculous than it probably intended on being.

However, at the center of it all is Mel Gibson; somebody who, despite all of the controversy surrounding his name, is incredibly talented in proving himself to be a total and absolute bad-ass. This isn’t something people knew about him back in the day, but his big-screen debut in Mad Max changed that and it’s no surprise. Max, the character, goes through a whole range of emotions that change up throughout the whole flick and it’s Gibson’s charisma and energy that he puts into this role that really makes it stand out. Sometimes this character can go into the usual conventions, but Gibson just about rises above that and makes this character cool, violent, and also one scary person you do not want to piss off. Gibson’s career as of late seems to be going in and out, but regardless of what happens next for him, we’ll always have this gem of his to remind us of the young up-and-comer that he once was.

That is, before he started drinking and telling cops how he exactly felt about them.

Consensus: Certain cracks here and there in the narrative, but overall, Mad Max still works as a solid, low-budget, B-movie that also has the novelty of featuring a very young, but very compelling Mel Gibson in the titled-role.

8 / 10

Big yellow taxis ain't got nothin' on Max.

Big yellow taxis ain’t got nothin’ on Max.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins