King Kong (2005)

king_kongrating-2.0Perhaps I'm not the best person for the average Joe to accept an opinion on Peter Jackson from... I'd say I'm one of the best people to accept it from, as I'm rational and non-emotionally-involved in my decisions about his filmmaking, unlike hordes of nerds. That being said, I think Peter Jackson is a suck-ass hack director who has, as of yet, gotten famous and cruised by on making dork-centric movies with more effects than talent involved. King Kong does nothing to change that opinion and I'd be hard-pressed to imagine Jackson fans enjoying this big mass of over-long shit.

Whatever your opinions on the Lord Of The Rings movies, they definitely covered a large amount of source material in a relatively tight time frame (though there was definitely room for streamlining). It always seemed like things were moving so quickly that it felt hollow and unexciting. King Kong is the exact opposite of this phenomenon.

King Kong is not strong source material to begin with and I have trouble believing that anyone could make anything compelling from the "giant monkey visits the city" concept. Basing your entire movie, almost note for note, on the original film doesn't do anything to make it a more progressive or interesting film.

I will sum this much up quickly for you: the movie is too fucking long. Far too long for the amount of things that actually happen. Now, I will proceed to vent and bitch rather openly...

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The Deer Hunter

deer_hunterrating-2.5I'm glad that critics have begun to come out, revising their opinions of The Deer Hunter, because it seems to me a vastly overrated film.

Perhaps it was the era in which it was released and the power of someone actually voicing the blank horror of Vietnam in the public eye, for which is was lauded instead of scorned. The acting is excellent and deserving of the merits it received, but, overall, the movie is something of a scattered mess.

It can't be ignored that the movie opens with an excruciatingly long sequence involving the shotgun wedding of John Savage's character to his pregnant bride in Average Blue Collar Factory Town, Pennsylvania, before he and his two friends, Walken and De Niro, go off to Vietnam. This setup would be intriguing were it not so hurtfully long, chasing the wedding with a hunting trip that does very little to set up the weak gruel of character and pseudo-spiritual atmosphere before suddenly cutting directly to Vietnam, where the characters are... well, in the midst of war. And you have virtually no idea what's happened when it switches again and the three men are captured, held by Vietcong soldiers that force the men to play Russian roulette against each other.

After an escape, the three are picked up by a helicopter, which drops Savage and De Niro into a river, breaking Savage's legs, leaving De Niro to drag him back to civilization through the jungle. By this point, I was having plenty of trouble even paying attention to the choppy bullshit going on, as much as I was interested in following the story.

Soon enough, Walken is in a hospital, barely functioning, De Niro is back in town, and Savage has disappeared. When it reached the point (of course jumping and skipping details again) that Walken hooks up with an odd Frenchman that is involved in some sort of underground Russian roulette competition, I was about ready to quit watching.

De Niro is suddenly home, though we still don't know what the fuck is supposed to be going on, and he's responding badly to his return. After much hanging out and hunting with all the yokel friends that bored me to tears in the first act, instead of using that time to make a fully-formed and coherent story in Vietnam, De Niro tracks down Savage, who's had his legs amputated and is holing up in some hospital.

Somewhere in here I was supposed to follow some detail about Walken, but I was having an unbearable time even bothering to pay attention to the dreary, dull mess. Apparently, Walken's character was still back in Vietnam, jacked up on heroin, and grand champion of the Russian roulette ring. I guess this was revealed before a jump-cut to Vietnam, which I assumed, until the end of the movie, was all just a flashback, especially when it's back to the Frenchman... And they never showed in any intelligible way what happened to Walken, so when it gets to the climactic Russian roulette scene, which I'd of course heard about, I was thoroughly confused.

I'll agree that the movie's end is flat and that the film takes no firm stance on anything. Critical complaint that its stand on anything was unclear is not incorrect. I will assume that, in its most violent sequences, it does imply that Vietnam was a horror to those in it. Other than that, whether it was mocking or showing the quiet dignity of the stuffy, semi-retarded Pennsylvania factory town and its jingoistic, Pollyanna-ish inhabitants remains to be seen. The same goes double for the bland and bizarre ending on the cast's flat rendition of "God Bless America". If it was making a point about the blind complicity in Vietnam, the naivete of America, or if it was just showing a broken but undaunted American pride is all up to interpretation, but, from its presentation, it might as well have represented the lack of barbershop quartets in the Billboard Top 200. I wouldn't know the difference.

Now, given the fact that, despite everything you've probably ever heard, the cobbling together of the story is one of the worst injustices ever set to film, the acting is still excellent. John Savage has an amazing range of emotion and Walken, of course, plays creepy and nuts to the bone. De Niro is as flat and untalented as De Niro ever is, but this is still one of his better performances, despite his seemingly deliberate refusal to ever show a single emotion or act at all. At least there's Ronin, I guess.

If you have three hours to kill, you should probably catch the one hour and forty-five minutes of good movie hidden somewhere in the midst of it, if not just to get all the references made elsewhere.

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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

kiss_kissrating-4.5There are so few good comedic action films left in the world. These days, that's left up to the British, who do a caper like no one else. But what of the buddy cop movie? America used to have the goods on action. Now we've got very little to do with the genre, as the Asians and even the French show us up.

Shane Black is a man best known for the way in which he helped pioneer the buddy cop concept. He is the man and the mind behind the Lethal Weapon series, Last Action Hero, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. In the many years since those films and his heyday of being the highest-paid writer in showbusiness, he's been in hiding, seemingly waiting to come back. This movie is that comeback and it puts the amusing but hollowly macho stylings of those early movies into harsh contrast.

This movie resets the comedic crime movie with a new blend of witty dialogue, twists and turns of plot, and excellent characters pulled off by excellent actors.

Robert Downey, Jr. is Harry, a down-on-his-luck criminal who accidentally wanders into a New York casting session, landing the role of a private eye. Shipped out to Hollywood and out of his element, he is handed over to Val Kilmer, as Gay Perry, a cynical (and homosexual) private detective who is to give Harry some idea as to the inner-working of the profession he'll portray.

In the midst of the story, there are dead bodies, dastardly schemes, lost fingers, hired killers, beautiful women, near-deaths, fully-realized-deaths, and a neverending torrent of self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking comedy.

In the throes of the caper, Downey and Kilmer deliver two of their best performances, Black shows off how great his writing really is while adding a director's title to his resume, and the audience gets to see a crime comedy that puts America back on the map and makes us think "Guy who?"

Fuck the nay-sayers. This is one of the movies of the year, the delights of my collection, and a joy to witness again and again.

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The Descent

descentrating-4.5The Descent does make good on following up Dog Soldiers nicely. Neil Marshall is obviously a very smart, talented writer and director, though I think I may have been slightly underwhelmed after hearing so much about how The Descent was the best horror movie of the year.

For my particular taste, it's still not in that realm. Call me a traditional sadist, but I'm more prone to the clean, mean-spirited Hostel or Saw III. Though, still, The Descent is obviously an excellent, well-made film and is deserving of accolades.

The movie is fairly grueling, as a damaged woman and her pack of five friends descend into the caves beneath what is said to be the Appalachians, though, hailing from that region, I know it's fucking Scotland. (Hello, where are my deciduous forests at?) Also, as they're trapped in the cave system, the woman descends into madness. So, double-meaning there.

It's fairly gruesome and you watch the women dangle in the jaws of doom for most of the movie and it provides a nice visceral chunk of gore to keep you entertained in the midst, preying on our darkest fears of being stuck in a hole we can't escape from, dying slowly... Or our bodies being ripped apart and devoured. Whichever seems the more unnerving.

I'd have to say I prefer the full-on international ending, though it was interesting to hear Marshall's discussion on the fact in the DVD extras. The movie is an intriguing character study and has quite a nice bit of psychology mixed up in it, though I did find the "Juno's accident" subplot (if you get my meaning in trying not to give anything away) to be somewhat annoying, possibly because the actress portraying her, Natalie Mendoza, was so strong in the role and I liked her so much, especially in the way it played out. But the film was supposed to be bleak, display one woman's descent into madness, and I think it did that well. The violence and the women's reaction to it (and subsequent growing out of it) was excellent and showed real skill on the part of Marshall and his actors.

It wasn't exactly perfect, but it was an intriguing movie and I look forward to dissecting it fully. And it's yet another high note in modern horror movies.

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Date Movie

date_movierating-1.5To make a long story short: there is about five to ten minutes of actual comedy in this movie, surrounded by an hour and twenty minutes of something pretending to be comedy, though it's actually just weak parody pieces that are obviously wedged in as an afterthought.

Poor Alyson Hannigan. So beautiful, so bright. And yet she's in this waste of time from some of the weaker writers of Scary Movie, which wasn't funny. then followed up by a barely funny sequel (and an actually funny sequel that only managed to be amusing after it was taken over by a Zucker instead of a Wayans). Surely there has to be something she can do that won't be a fucking shitty American Pie movie or something like this. Sure, it's adorable to watch her krump or dance around. She's a very cute, sweet girl. But she's so much better than this, "Buffy" aside.

I'm just amazed that this got made... Well, no. That doesn't surprise me. They managed to pin the Scary Movie name onto it and that was it. I'm surprised they got to go on and make Epic Movie, which I imagine is also as recklessly stupid and pointless.

The parodies are unfunny. The pop culture jokes are more suited to a movie ten years ago. You know, I thought audiences and writers got smarter over those years. Guess not. But what do you expect from the assholes whose only other credits are Scary Movie and Spy Hard, Leslie Neilsen's lowest point and least funny parody comedy?

At least the cast, which was decent and did a fine job really delivering strong comedic performances, got checks out of it. That's a small consolation.

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