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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 McKenzie

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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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Alright, bring on the freaks!

Set in Middle Earth, the story tells of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking the One Ring. The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and eight companions who form “the Fellowship” begin their journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

Obviously with the fact that Peter Jackson is returning to Middle Earth soon with The Hobbit, I thought to myself, “It’s been awhile since I actually wasted my day and watched one of these movies. So, why not just go back to the whole trilogy and waste three days now? Woo-hoo!!” Trust me, people, it’s all for you out there so you better be freakin’ happy.

Anybody that ever talks about this movie, or the trilogy itself, always says the same thing, “You have to have read the books to fully understand.” Is that true? Well, yes, in a way, but that does not mean you can’t still appreciate it for what it truly is: a very, very well-made film. Jackson has never been a huge favorite of mine but I have to cut the guy some slack here because this direction is one of the more inspired-directions I’ve seen in a long, long time. Jackson obviously has a near and dear passion and love for the J.R.R. Tolkien novels, and that shows here with his set design and attention to detail.

Saying that everything in this movie is beautiful, is a downright understatement. Everything looks so perfect the way it is, that at times, believe it or not, I actually caught myself wondering just how they got it to look so real and put it out into a film without ever making it look cheesy one-bit. I will say that in the year 2012, the CGI and special-effects may not be as up-to-date as we all are used to nowadays, but just checking this film out from a viewer’s stand-point and realizing how much attention and detail was given to each scene really makes me want to get up, and give Jackson a big old hug. The guy really has a distinctive look with this film and made me feel even closer to Middle Earth, even though the shots were obviously from New Zealand. But you know what? Who the hell cares, because if Jackson can make it look like Middle Earth, then that’s good enough for me.

I feel like I should have been more open in this review by starting off and saying that I’m not a reader/nor have I ever read any of Tolkien’s novels and to be honest, I still think that the story made me enough sense for me to get the gist of it. In the beginning, Jackson spells-out everything pretty nice and clear for everyone to understand just what’s going on with a detailed and heavy prologue and definitely makes it clear right from the start, just what we’re in store for: hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, sorcery, action, violence, and plenty of other weird-looking creatures just hangin’ around. Jackson’s attention to detail in terms of setting and scenery, carries out very well into the characters and creatures that he creates but I feel like that’s a pretty obvious statement already. Let me just get it out of the way: Jackson’s direction is superb here and he pays attention to detail like no other. Also, it’s a very, very, very beautiful film! Okay, now that I got that thought out of my mind, I can move on now and just tell you that it’s a pretty fun movie once you get past all of the kookiness behind it.

You don’t generally have to be a fan of fantasy movies (like me), to enjoy the hell out of this movie, but it definitely does help. There’s so much exposition, secret powers coming out of nowhere, swords clashing, people yelling bold statements about courage, weird creatures, and more exposition. It’s exactly what you expect from a fantasy movie and I didn’t have much of a problem with that because the story kept me involved, and I found myself to have a lot of fun with it as well. The action doesn’t take over the whole  movie, but that was a-okay with me because I payed more attention to the adventure that all of these colorful characters were on, where it was going to take them, and the danger that lied ahead of them. There was definitely a great deal of suspense in the air because I never really knew when shit was just going to pop-off for these characters and their adventure, and quite frankly, I was a bit scared for them as well. It’s one of those movies where you feel as if you are on an adventure that may never end, but you sort of don’t want it to end because you feel as if you’re along for the ride, without having to worry about being killed or eaten alive by some weird-looking, monster/creature/thing.

Regardless of how fun and exciting this movie really was, it still does not make it “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”, a statement and accolade that has seemed to be given by anybody who has watched this movie. Is it a grand, sweeping epic that catches your attention right from the start and keeps you watching? Yes, but is it perfect? Awwww, hellll nooo! The reason why this movie is not perfect is because of how long it is. It comes close to clocking in at over 3 hours and even though I don’t mind that with most movies, just as long as they keep my attention, I minded that with this movie because of how many times it seemed to start-and-stop all over the place.

What I mean by this, is that every time the movie would fire-up with an ultra-epic action scene, it would just automatically slow-down, start having everybody talk in their exposition jibber-jabber, continue walking, focus on another character from another setting, have another ultra-epic action scene, and then go right back to the same pattern. At first, I didn’t really mind this because it was entertaining to see and I liked watching where Jackson went with this story, but after awhile it became a bit repetitive and I could almost tell where all of the action was going to go down and when. That’s not good for me, because I usually like my surprises, especially with my action-adventure movies and if Dan the Man’s not surprised, Dan the Man’s not happy! Waaah!

And to be honest, it was even worse when these people would go off on these rants and raves in this jibber-jabber, that really seemed to get in the way of any type of excitement or energy this movie had going for itself. When I thought the movie would continue to go at the pace it was going at, it just slows down, focuses on a character talking a whole bunch of nonsense that only people who sleep with the book would be able to comprehend, and loses that steam for the longest time, that is, until the next action scene files in and picks the movie right back-up from where it was left off in the first place. A couple of scenes where these characters had these “talks” really seemed to come out of nowhere, and maybe should have gotten a call from Jackson’s editor to cut that one the hell out. One scene in particular is where Cate Blanchett comes in out of nowhere and starts to go crazy about the ring, and even though it is visually-stunning, it’s still pretty obvious and serves no purpose to the story or the message other than, “everybody is obsessed with this ring and wants it like Grandma’s secret meat loaf recipe”. Yup, I think I got that idea right from the beginning of the story when I saw how bat-shit crazy this ring made everybody go so it didn’t necessarily do anything for me when all of these characters kept falling for the same bag of tricks over and over again.

But I can’t rag on this film anymore, really, because it still kept me entertained and kept me watching a great ensemble, do fantastic jobs in each of their own, respective roles. This whole cast is jam-packed to the core with familiar-faces and superstars of the silver-screen, but the one who really stood-out for me was Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen owns it as Gandalf because he gives this character a great deal of warmth and sympathy that it makes it real easy for us to believe why so many people feel comfortable around him, and why they don’t have to fear for their lives whenever he’s around. I also liked how McKellen didn’t really ham it up and kept everything very straight-forward with what he was going to do next, and why. I also can’t forget to mention Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. The guy just looks intimidating and definitely holds his own as the only guy who could be considered an “action hero” throughout the whole movie, but there’s going to be a lot more of him talked about in the future reviews of this trilogy so I won’t go and spoil it now. Just be ready, everybody, as I wastes my life away watching swords, sorcery, and stones.

Consensus: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring may be a tad overstuffed with scenes that feel unneeded, but it’s epic-nature still cannot be denied with it’s fine, fine, fine attention to detail from Peter Jackson, and engrossing story that makes you feel as if you are along for this ride in Middle Earth, where nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. Not really sure if that’s the right statement to use for this movie, but you get what I mean.

8.5/10=Matinee!!