Friday, March 09, 2007

This post brought to you by...

William Zabka.

He's in a movie I'm watching in the background right now called "Python", and he's playing the hell out of the character called Deputy Greg. This movie also stars Wil Wheaton. This movie's a b-actor dumping ground, thus must be seen to be believed.

"SWEEP THE LEG", Buddy! Cobra-Kan!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

King Kong (2005)

Someone I discussed this movie with replied, "Well, that's what happens when someone has too many 'Yes' Men around."

I wish I could remember who said that to give them credit here, because no movie I've seen recently demonstrates that concept better than this one. From concept all the way to release, too many people must have been telling Peter Jackson "yes", instead of "you're a moron."

Let's address the concept first: a remake of King Kong.... correction, a remake of a remake of King Kong. This movie has been made three times in Hollywood, and the story isn't even that great! For 7 decades, King Kong captured the imaginations of .... who exactly? It's a monkey movie. The plot of the movie is no more meaningful than Bedtime for Bonzo -- monkeys put in human situations; nature vs. nurture; cross-chromosomal love story. If you're a conspiracist, remaking King Kong again is all part of Hollywood's monkey conspiracy. And, at worst, remaking King Kong again puts a blind eye towards the cries that the story has always been racist.

I'm not going to debate whether King Kong is racist because that's not what this blog is about. I'll leave it to you to Google around for articles that expore the controversy of King Kong's racist themes. I prefer to focus my attention on the self-indulgence and delusions of grandeur of the filmmaker instead of the characters in the story, because I love to write about movies that suck.

Which brings us to point #2 of Jackson having too many Yes Men: Hey Pete, ever heard of a film editor? You know, they do that now, edit a film before releasing it. They even have computers called Avids that can do it easily, then a negative cutter will put that together at the end.

The film is over 3 hours long, which is just too long for any movie. Give me 1.5 hours of passably decent action like Wolfgang Petersen was able to do in Poseidon, not 3 hours of grueling, meaningless action just to fund your personal visual effects company. I can almost understand why LotR was too long, since there was a lot of material to cover. That's not the case for King Kong. This story is very, very simple. We don't need 15 minutes of CG Kong looking at Naomi Watts longingly on the top of the Empire State Building. OMGWTFBBQ, WE GET IT ALREADY. We've all gotten it since 1933. Thankfully for HBO HD and a Comcast DVR, I was able to fast forward through most of the film. I firmly believe that all movies are too long, so now you know why I don't watch them until they're on DVD or HBO. I reserve the right to skip a filmmaker's self-indulgent bullshit.

Finally, let's get to point #3: the visual effects. This movie proves that all movies will be remade for no other reason than to remake the effects. They can do that because effects have gotten too easy to do! You read that right: too easy! Armies of relatively cheap digital compositing, roto and paint artists have made these kinds of things so easy that filmmakers can become, again, self-indulgent. Based on the growth of the VFX industry since Jurassic Park, today Jackson can just fly artists down from the United States as temporary full time to get it done. Compare this to the vision and tenacity the original King Kong filmmakers must have had, to take on visual effects like that in 1933.

Before this movie premiered, some had the gall to predict this movie could be bigger than Titanic. Titanic had at least some decent story qualities (I'm not saying I liked it, just that many did like that story), whereas this movie, a remake of a remake of an originally lame story, has none. Don't waste your time on this movie in any way. Even the visuals aren't as cool as the 1933 version when you consider how difficult it was to pull those gags off 70 years ago compared to today.

Rating: Bad/Good movie (as it, it was supposed to be good, but it was terrible, kind of like Forrest Gump). In HD, it's a tremendous waste of space on your DVR. If you find it for $0.50 on Blu-Ray underneath a pair of used boxer shorts at a garage sale in 10 years, maybe worth picking up and watching then.

Poseidon (2006)

This movie's about as safe as you can get.  A very safe script, safe director choice, safe and inexpensive B-list cast, safe VFX company choice, etc..

The script here is so safe it's abysmally cliché.  Given the number of standby subplots thrown at us, I'm surprised they didn't have a murderous psycho roaming the ship.  There's the "I'm a loner but I suddenly start to care and save someone" guy.  We've got drunk annoying guy who you know will get killed soon.  We've got the people who stay put during the disaster and are fools of course, because they'll all get killed.   We've got the kid who wanders off and gets lost at exactly the wrong moment. Seriously, I know kids wander, but would kids wander off in disaster situations at exactly the wrong time like they always do in the movies?  Petersen actually gives these such minimal screen time,  he probably should garner a Best Director award for sparing the audience. 

Don't get me wrong, I actually like Petersen's body of work a lot, but he's definitely a safe choice for any big budget underwater film.  He's not going to screw it up, and he'll make it exciting no matter what crap script he has to work with.  He mercifully keeps this film to 90 minutes, and I mean exactly 90 minutes when the credits rolled (according to my Comcast DVR).  I'm sure he looked at this movie as a paycheck as much as everyone in the theater looked at it as just another $10 down the drain.

It should be no surprise that I prefer the original film, even with the effects that look like they were shot in your bathtub rather than with a $50m VFX budget.  It has been a long time since I've seen it, but who can forget that cast of the 1972 version.  I'm a huge Kurt Russell fan, and he was the only standout actor in the cast of the most recent film, but his character sucked here (see section on "abysmal script").   Irwin Allen produced two of the greatest disaster films of all time, both with spectacular casts:  The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno.  I was perusing the cast of the original Poseidon and just noticed that Red Buttons and Shelley Winters both died last year.   How sad.  By the way, don't forget that the original Poseidon Adventure was nominated for a bunch of awards -- even Shelly Winters for best supporting actress! 

The most recent Poseidon was nominated for best VFX, which, even given my lack of filmgoing in the last year, it should have been.  The opening shot was really, really nice and there were a bunch of other great shots.   But when a film is made the safe way -- the way that guarantees audiences will neither love it nor hate it, just spend $10 and forget it --  no amount of eye candy can keep it from being utterly forgettable.

Rating:  Bad/Bad... don't spend any money on it, just see it on HBO HD, like I did.