Thursday, April 19, 2012

"King Kong" The original masterpiece

TITLE: "King Kong"
DIRECTOR: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
STARS: Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot
EDITOR: Ted Cheesman
AWARDS: National Film Registry
BOX OFFICE: $1,700,000 (USA)
RUN TIME: 100 min.
VIEWING FORMAT: 35mm Film Print

When Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) decides to finish his new jungle picture on Skull Island, he casts Ann Darrow (Wray). The unsuspecting crew finds adventure, and terrible consequences on the island, and is endangered by the giant beasts that live there.

"King Kong" is a classic. It is recognized around the world, and has been for decades. It has been officially remade twice (see this writer's review of the 2005 film here, though countless derivative titles have tried to cash in on the success of this film.

The film really shines with its effects. The story is simple, but character driven, with the young movie starlet being captured by a monstrous ape, that somehow cares for her, driving the action. The interspersed footage of both Kong and his island adversaries, all of which were stop-motion animated by Willis O'Brien, still keeps audiences entranced and excited. Besides just cutting in random animation, the filmmakers found ways to physically incorporate, through cutaways and alternate angles, the animated creatures with their human counterparts.

Here is a film that holds up. It is still exciting. It still keeps the viewer glued to their seat. It may be slightly outdated in its treatment of woman and minority characters, but hopefully that doesn't get in the way of great filmmaking. The heart of the movie is a crazy love story known the world over.

Wray is endearing, and the effects, while dated, are still astounding and in depth. The artistry and work that went into this piece cannot be ignored. This is a fun ride of a film, and is worth watching over and over again.
MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"King Kong" a remake worth remembering

TITLE: "King Kong"
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
STARS: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody
EDITOR: Jamie Selkirk
AWARDS: Best  Achievement in Sound Editing (Oscar), Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Oscar), Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Oscar)
BOX OFFICE: $550.5 Million (Worldwide)
RUN TIME: 187 min.

When Carl Denham (Black) decides to finish his new jungle picture on Skull Island, he casts Ann Darrow (Watts). Little does the crew know what awaits them at their location, ancient tribesmen, giant insects, treacherous terrain, dinosaurs, and a giant king of the jungle!

Merian C. Cooper's "King Kong" (1933) is one of the great classics of the golden era of hollywood. So why would someone remake it? More than once even? Peter Jackson, of "Lord of the RIngs" fame, is a longtime fan of the film, and wanted to be able to bring it to life for a new generation. He did just that.

Jackson's version features many references to the original piece: many lines, including much of Ann's dialogue, is taken directly from the original, the final shot of Kong falling off the building was a shot desired by the original filmmakers, but ultimately impossible to achieve in 1933, some original props were even placed throughout the film.

"King Kong" (2005) was said to be a disappointment at the box office. It went on to become the highest grossing picture in Universal history at that point though, and went on to sell over $100 million in DVD sales, along with over $20 million in television rights. The film ultimately became a large financial success.

This film is often criticized for a long run time. At just over three hours, it is a bit trying for most audiences. This writer loved every second though. The first hour focuses on developing the human characters; their emotional states, relationships, and motivations. This helps immensely, because the audience can only feel Kong's emotion vicariously through those people that are interacting with him.

By hour two, action rules the screen. The film really takes off once the audience sees Kong. There are some slow, beautiful moments with him, but most are filled with dinosaur battles, giant bugs, and rescue missions. It really is one heck of a ride.

The last act of the film is the famed New York City rampage by Kong. For being a visually strong and exciting segment of the film, it is also filmed with some absolutely beautiful emotionally resonant sequences. The ice rink section, along with Kong's final interactions with Ann at the top of the Empire State are heart wrenching, and add so much to the film.

This is not a perfect movie, but it is well worth a watch. It is one of the best remakes in history, and never forgets to have fun. It also never forgets to make the audience care. It is an epic in every sense, and it is fun!

MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10