King Kong (1933)

Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is a film director, planning to make a moving picture on Skull Island, a mysterious land in uncharted waters, to which Denham has obtained a map, but he is short one lead actress. Scouring New York he finds penniless Ann Darrow (Fay Wray), and convinces her to take part before whisking her away and setting sail along with first mate Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) and a large crew. On the way to the island, the crew become wary of the legend of the great Kong, a mythical beast who, upon arrival, turns out to be a giant gorilla worshipped and rightfully feared by the native tribesman on the island. When the natives kidnap Ann – blondes being something of a rarity to them – and offer her up to the beast, he takes her back to his lair, prompting Jack, Carl and the rest of the crew to attempt a rescue mission.
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My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 47

I listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot. I’d estimate I spend about 7 hour of each working day listening to them, with an additional hour or so in the morning and evening before work, walking the dog and such, so I get in a lot of listening. I’m subscribed to maybe 30 or 40 shows, most of which are film-related and most of which I try to listen to every episode of, postponing the occasional few until I’ve seen the specific films in question, but there was one show, one that’s not film-related, which I’d heard a great deal about last year but never got around to listening to until this past week, and that show is Serial.
serial
If you’re unfamiliar, the first season of Serial, released last year in 2014, was a twelve-part show documenting the re-investigation of a reporter, Sarah Koenig, looking into a murder trial from 1999 in Baltimore, Maryland. A man, Adnan Syed who in 1999 was _ years old, was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, but always denied the charge. Koenig was contacted by Syed’s family. who fifteen years later were still adamant of his innocence, and after a little digging Koenig found some interesting inconsistencies within the evidence of his case, prompting her to re-evaluate every morsel of information from the case. I downloaded the show when it gained popularity, but knew its serious content deserved my full attention. Last Friday I found myself at work trudging through a fairly monotonous task, so I decided now was finally Serial’s time. I marathoned six shows that day, and the latter six earlier today. Clearly, from the off I was hooked.

The case was fascinating, and it was truly interesting just listening to how the proceedings took place, how the evidence was gathered and the cases built. Too often I assume the depictions shown in films and TV are overly dramatised, and for the most part they are, but listening to this true life documentation I got a far greater insight into how these kinds of cases are really handled. I’d hoped for a more satisfying conclusion, but it was still a highly informative and gripping listen, and I’m very much looking forward to the next series, whenever that may come. Now, onto what I watched this week:
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My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 2

Like most of my fellow movie bloggers and podcasters, these past few weeks have been spent looking back at the past year and working out those films that I’ll hopefully still be remembering this time next year. Well, thankfully that time is now over, and we can get onto the future, or in my case even further into the past. Due to all the time spent looking back and writing my mammoth annual review of the year (links are below) as well as prepping for and editing the Lambcast’s flagship Best of the Year show, I’ve not actually written any reviews this week, but I have seen a few movies: Continue reading

Top 10 Movie Apes

Today is a momentous day, that shall be noted and celebrated in the history books for years to come. For today, you see, marks the return of my oh-so-popular Top 10 lists, which I intend to churn out on a weekly basis, and tie in to the most recent Lambcast’s topic, for as long as I am able to.

This week, to coincide with the podcast devoted to the original Planet of the Apes franchise (which can be listened to here), I’m counting down my Top 10 Movie Apes:

Honourable mention: Limbo, Planet of the Apes (2001)Chilled

Apes and monkeys are a familiar feature in movies. This is most likely due to their close resemblance in both size and appearance to humans – apparently we’re somewhat closely related – meaning that in the days before CGI they were relatively easy to depict, by simply sticking a guy in a gorilla costume. Also, real life ones are more really trained than most other animals so when a man-in-a-monkey-suit didn’t do it for you, in many instances a primate could be taught or trained to do the tasks available. For my honourable mention there are a lot of possibilities, from 28 Days Later‘s Rage-infected disease spreaders to the Jackie Chan voiced martial artist in Kung Fu Panda, but instead I’ve opted for Limbo, potentially the only good element of Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake.Limbo I re-watched the film for the podcast, which is something I never intend to do again, because frankly it’s not a very good film. The plot jumps around all over the place, interesting characters are sidelined or killed off, there’s a bizarre and frankly implausible love triangle and an ending that defies logic and reason, but two things it has going for it are tremendous prosthetics and phenomenal acting performances beneath them. In my memory, Tim Roth’s General Thade was the stand-out, but now my memory has been stirred I can see he over-acts every second he is on screen, permanently glowering and furious at everything, including one scene in which he’s supposed to be seductive! The always dependable Giamatti however offers some much needed comic relief as the cowardly orang-utan slave owner Limbo. Continue reading

Top 10… Remakes

More and more it seems there’s no original ideas in mainstream Hollywood, but it turns out that this has always been the case, and it just seems more prevalent now because there’s so many more films released each week, and less original stories to go around, so therefore there’s more rehashed versions of films gone by available to us on a weekly basis. 2012 saw three remakes in the Box Office Top 20 (The Amazing Spider-Man, Snow White and the Huntsman, Les Miserables), and this is far from new, hell, even The Wizard of Oz was a remake back in 1939 of three silent films that came before it (and a book, but everything’s a remake of a book these days). The thing is though… I don’t mind. I have no problem with modern film makers updating older films to introduce them to a wider audience – there have been several instances where a remake has inspired me to go back and see the original, and I’ve discovered a classic that I otherwise may have never found (Scarface springs to mind).

So what inspired this list? Well, The Film Vituperatum‘s movie of the week is The Adventures of Robin Hood, which whilst I haven’t seen it yet and therefore haven’t got around to reviewing, I am more than familiar with the story, mainly due to the various adaptations of it. If I had to guess, I’d say the story of Robin Hood is probably one of the top three most adapted tales in history, after A Christmas Carol and Alice in Wonderland, but my list of top 10 Robin Hood adaptations would see Kevin Costner taking third place behind John Cleese in Time Bandits and an animated fox, at which point the list would end because I haven’t seen any others, so instead I’m going to celebrate the greatest remakes that I’ve ever seen, regardless of whether I’ve watched the originals or not. Oh, and The Wizard of Oz didn’t make the list, because I’m fairly sure I’ve never seen it all the way through. The list also doesn’t include any English-language remakes of originally foreign works, because that would be another list entirely, and one I’ll save for another day – perhaps when Ringu is selected for movie of the week?

Top 5… Dinosaur Movies

Dinosaurs! It’s no surprise to anyone that I love me some prehistoric beasties. I can probably trace my love of dinosaurs back to the child I’ve never really stopped being, but there’s something about the fact that these giant, terrifying creatures once ruled the very land we walk upon that captures my imagination. Sadly, dinosaurs have become somewhat scarce out in the real world in recent millenia, so the best place to see them at their finest is in the movies. This list is probably one of my least surprising, especially the top 2, as they’re films I rarely go a day without mentioning, but the list was an inevitable one, and I was at a loss for what else to do this week, so here it is:
 
5. Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
I think the Ice Age movies have been cruelly ignored, deemed ‘lesser animation,’ and basically dismissed by many people who haven’t seen them. Whilst they’re certainly nowhere near as good as most of Pixar’s output (but then, what is?), the Ice Ages are actually worth your time. Part three, The Dawn of the Dinosaurs, though not technically historically accurate, is probably my favourite of the bunch (I’ve not seen part four, Continental Drift, yet), and whilst including dinosaurs probably didn’t hurt it’s cause, the main reason I like it most is Simon Pegg’s deranged one-eyed ferret Buck. I’d also like to use this opportunity to complain about Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. At one point, the herd (comprised of Ray Romano’s Manny the mammoth, John Leguizamo’s Sid the sloth, Denis Leary’s Diego the sabre-tooth tiger, Josh Peck and Seann William Scott’s possums Eddie and Crash and Queen Latifah’s Ellie the mammoth-who-thinks-she’s-a-possum) encounters an expanse littered with erupting geysers. Manny wants to cross, but Diego warns him that “It’s a minefield out there!” The one part of this film’s suspension of disbelief – of which quite a lot is required – that I just cannot overcome is how exactly does Diego know what a minefield is? Small gripe, I know, but it never stops annoying me whenever the film is on TV.
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King Kong (2005)

 A lot of people dislike Peter Jackson’s remake of 1933’s King Kong, made simply because the original is one of Jackson’s own favourite films, but once you get past the overlong New York-set character establishing and the woeful miscasting of Jack Black as movie producer Carl Denham, what’s left is an entertaining and well realised modern retelling of a well known story with a renowned ending known to all, whether they’ve seen the films or not. Aside from Black, it is this sense of inevitability that lets the film down. We all know going in that at some point a giant gorilla is going to capture, then fall for aspiring actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts, doing the best she can as essentially a scream on legs), before being captured himself, shipped to New York and thrown on stage as the latest attraction, ultimately forcing him to escape and take a fateful climb atop the Empire State Building, ultimately being killed not by machine gun-toting bi-planes, but by the bright, bloody blade of beauty. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the ending should have been changed, maybe with Kong swimming back to Skull Island with Ann perched on his head, or perhaps the NY locals gradually accepting Kong for who he is, eventually electing him mayor, paving the way for a comedy-heavy sequel, seeing Ann escorting Kong to various prestigious events, climaxing in an unveiling at the Smithsonian, where confronting a T-Rex skeleton brings back too many memories for the now refined ape, causing him to rip off his custom made tuxedo (with comically oversized and troublesome bowtie), break the skeletons jaw and finally settle down in an overgrown corner of Central Park, or in an enclosure at San Diego Zoo. No, the story was rightfully left intact, if a little extended in places, and mercifully the 1930s setting was also maintained, moving it all to the modern day could have ruined this movie.
As for Black, I’m not sure who could have replaced him as the egotistical, deceitful, driven moviemaker, but I think an older actor could have lent a little gravitas to the role, and since watching Midnight Run I’ve wanted to recast everyone with Charles Grodin, so I’m going to go with him.
The film doesn’t really get going until the approach to the island, with Jackson using some innovative effects and camerawork (the screaming rocks and the shot of Jamie Bell being flung around in the crow’s nest are particular highlights), but the best parts, in my opinion, involve the creatures of the island. Populated with dinosaurs, creepy-crawlies the size of caravans and creatures that are essentially giant penises with teeth and a penchant for human limbs, it’s not exactly an ideal holiday destination, but the respective battles and chases involving these beasties are the most entertaining and thrilling sequences in the film, the CGI is impeccable if a little soulless at times. Kong’s fight against three Tyrannosaurs over Ann is beautifully choreographed, and worth the three hour runtime alone.
There’s also some nice in-jokes (Denham can’t cast Fay Wray in his picture, as she’s shooting a rival film at RKO with Merian C. Cooper, that’ll be the original Kong then), and the interpretation of Kong is astounding, with Andy Serkis using his motion capture skills seen as Gollum to great effect, soon to be used again in Jackson and Spielberg’s Tintin, and the absurdly named Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Choose film 7/10