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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long Live the King, December 20, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Peter Jackson's take on King Kong is the best moviegoing experience I've had this year. If you want to nitpick you can but the movie works too damn well. Here's a list of how Kong gives the most bang for your buck of any movie released in 2005.

1. Fully developed characters that give you a reason to keep that gluteus maximus planted in that theater seat for the 3 hour plus duration. Check. Jack Black's low key (but slightly frenetic) Carl Denham is believable and alternately despicable, and while I fully expected some type of Tenacious D freak out it never emerges (but you know it was there, in the back of his mind). Adrien Brody as playwright/screenwriter Jack Driscoll gives us the quintessential workingman prototype without falling into cliche, and his heroism emerges from the workingman ethic (which only adds to the credibility of the character). An unexpected Kyle Chandler (from the TV show Early Edition) plays the vain and shallow Bruce Baxter, the star of Denham's picture. Andy Serkis gets to truly show his mettle as the wise sea dog cook, Lumpy (oh yeah he also plays a gorilla). Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow gives the performance of her career. In the past I've been on the fence about her, not feeling she truly deserved her "star" status. I have since changed my mind. Not only is she down right gorgeous but she acts her heart out, presenting the greatest display of onscreen make believe I've ever witnessed. Remember, the big gorilla you see on the screen isn't actually there.

2. Eye-popping, mind-boggling special fx. Check. They may as well just give King Kong the Oscar for that category. While some of the green screen shots (especially during the stampede) can't quite convince the eyes, the amount of fx techno-dazzle is unprecedented. Filmdom, the ante has been upped. This is a creature fest of epic (and by epic I mean huge) proportions. Dinosaurs, insects, arachnids, and bats. The creepy crawlies abound. Here is the escapist buffet that Hollywood execs should be learning from. Make no mistake, King Kong is a film hybrid that rings of purity, an action yarn, a love story, an ode to the past, all wrapped in a horror movie shell. While you won't believe everything you see in King Kong (and you shouldn't) you will believe in a good 90 percent. 1930's New York is eerily realistic and Kong is just, well Kong is just real.

3. One big monkey that somehow manages to simultaneously awe, frighten, and convey intelligence and nobility. Check. I was part of the school that called for recognition for Andy Serkis as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That call must be raised again. I loved the original '33 Kong and hated the first remake with it's unacceptable monkey suit. This King Kong is the best of the bunch. Arguably there is a little disparity between budgets alloted for each film, but all the money in the world doesn't guarantee a good movie. The combination of motion capture with CGI is the best innovation to film in the past twenty years and Peter Jackson is it's reigning champion. His reliance on the intuition and observation skills of Serkis is amply and beautifully rewarded. Like Gollum, but in a grander sense, the fx used for Kong work because the audience is entrenched in empathetic emotional responses. When the king of Skull Island is enraged we're furious right along with him, when he's amused we're chuckling as well.

Much has been said and written about how the original King Kong inspired Peter Jackson to pursue film making as his career. What hasn't been postulated is how Jackson's version quite possibly could be that catalyst for some bright eyed, imaginative child blossoming into a wunderkind director of the future. I think Peter Jackson's King Kong has that potential to motivate beyond anything produced since the first Jurassic Park. Perhaps in this speculative future dictionaries will be graced with poster art from this film right next to one word: Spectacle.

If you want a startling reminder as to why we go to the movies buy a ticket to King Kong. Whatever the ticket price you will be exponentially rewarded in entertainment value.


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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Knight Takes Flight, June 20, 2005
Batman Begins is the first truly great, instant classic film of the summer. Forget the cartoony fiascos that were Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Christopher Nolan's sweeping tale of one man's quest to bring justice to a dying, corrupt city is deadlocked with Sin City as 2005's best movie. Odd how two motion pictures inspired by the work of Frank Miller are so far the most memorable and entertaining films to hit theaters this year.

It doesn't hurt that the main focus in Batman Begins isn't gaudy set design, extravagant costumes, or a deep rooted desire to imitate; the number one priority is story. Taking almost, if not all of, the humanizing elements of the Batman character and infusing it with an astounding balance of realism and comic book action, moviegoers the world over are in for something of a rarity, a superhero movie not dumbed down for the supposedly simple masses. That a big budget summer blockbuster not only delivers on the action front but comes equipped with such a well written script has to be something of a studio fluke. Hopefully a new trend in filmmaking has emerged, the smart action film.

Don't worry for all you folks just looking for slam-bang intensity, this Batman ain't no codpiece wearing wuss. From Bruce Wayne's martial arts training to the jaw dropping capabilities of the Batmobile, the onscreen fisticuffs and pyrotechincs are enough to necessitate a drool cup for any hardcore action junkie.

Batman Begins also delivers a sucker punch in the casting department. Christian Bale gives us the most believable and downright scary Batman to date. Michael Caine is eerily convincing as Alfred. Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow proves his mettle and gives rise to an overall feeling of unease regarding psychiatric professionals everywhere. Liam Neeson, although seemingly typecast in the mentor role of Henri Ducard, as always makes you believe he knows what he's talking about. Morgan Freeman, well, he could recite Suess and it would be awesome; his Lucius Fox is way more believable (and a hell of a lot less annoying) than James Bond's Q. Katie Holmes as determined young District Attorney Rachel Dawes puts an exponential Grand Canyon gap between her and the teenybopper Dawson's Creek role that made her famous. Tom Wilkinson as gangster Carmine Falcone proves once again that he's one of the best actors out there (don't believe me go rent In the Bedroom). Now everyone mentioned above gives at worst an admirable turn, and this ensemble cast is a director's fantasy come true. But there's one performance that's so surprisingly, unexpectedly good, I'd say it deserves the Best Supporting Actor Oscar right now.

Gary Oldman as the up and coming Gotham City police officer Jim Gordon gives the performance of his already stellar career. In a departure from his previous psychos and deviants Oldman plays his honest cop to unerring perfection. We feel his conflict and his discomfort as he continues on the straight and narrow in a city filled with venomous curves. He's Batman's number one fan and also his number one ally. Oldman plays the workingman hero, the average Joe, the family man who keeps his head down to keep his loved ones safe; he not only nails it he redefines the archetype.

Batman Begins is the must see movie of the summer. I'm hoping word of mouth on this cinematic masterpiece will bring it well deserved box office success. Extremely rich storytelling along with phenomenal character development should keep folks coming back. I'm doubtful there will be a better movie released this year, at least one involving superheroes.

Parents please take note, almost the entire film revolves around the concept of fear and accordingly there are some frightening elements and intense images. Batman Begins definitely earns its PG-13 rating, so if your little tykes have a nightmare tendency you might want to check this out first before you bring them along.


Once Upon a Time in the West (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
Once Upon a Time in the West (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Henry Fonda
Offered by NorCalBeliever
Price: $25.91
207 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something To Do With Death, June 14, 2005
Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the finest Westerns ever, and a must see if you wish to familiarize yourself with the genre.

Sergio Leone is most famous for his Man With No Name trilogy which brought Clint Eastwood to international fame. His epic view of the American West is probably only matched by that of John Ford, but his films have a very distinct, mythical quality to them. Probably because Sergio Leone was not an American but an Italian. It's more than a little odd that an Italian is responsible for some of the most indelible Western images of all time. Then again Italy is famous for its artists.

As with many Leone films the music score is done by none other than Ennio Morricone, and while the film would have been good without it, the music, as always, accentuates and compliments the film. With Morricone the music becomes an unseen character that skillfully shapes the action. Seek out all of his work, it's the product of genius.

Charles Bronson as the harmonica wielding gunslinger is second only to Eastwood in the bad ass department. But what makes this film so memorable is the villain played by Henry Fonda. An obvious departure from most of, if not all of his other performances. He's not just bad, he's evil, to the point where you boo and hiss (if only in your head) everytime he pops up on screen.

If there's something that personifies the West Leone threw it in this movie, be it trains, six guns, horses, you name it, you'll probably find it here.

The Western is an endangered genre that desperately needs help. Movies like this show us why the Western deserves a reprieve from its inevitable extinciton, so watch this and any other Western that you can find. Help the cause and tell a friend.

P.S. "People scare better when they're dying."


Taxi Driver (Collector's Edition)
Taxi Driver (Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Cybill Shepherd
Offered by Amazing Savings USA
Price: $28.58
122 used & new from $0.98

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speaks to Madmen, June 14, 2005
Taxi Driver is an absolute masterpiece, showcasing the grittiness of New York City and the necessity of looking at insanity in context. In Martin Scorsese's breakneck film American audiences are treated to a brutal scrutiny of their own existence, whether it be the absurdity of party politics or the ever present danger of city life autonomy.

The title character, one Travis Bickle, is played to disturbing perfection by Robert Deniro. His gradual descent into self absorbed delusion results in one of film's most fascinating (and down right creepy) characters. The conveyance of gentility coupled with madness has never been done better.

Jodie Foster, as the damsel prostitute, gives a performance that borders on the impossible. How an actress at that age could possibly play a hooker that convincingly either belies an eerily acute level of observation skills or a very poor upbringing. I'd say her two Academy Awards probably eliminate the latter option.

Taxi Driver has become an American fable, complete with heroes, villains, violence, and compassion. A solid, complex film that defined urban drama and raised the bar for stark realism in film. Besides, it inspired a presidential assassination attempt. Obviously the film speaks to madmen, but it also echoes in the minds of the supposedly sane.

One day Scorsese will be recognized with an Oscar, this film should have earned him that honor. Too bad Hollywood doesn't give hindsight awards.


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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom Barbed Wire, or Eat This Buzzsaw, June 10, 2005
European Horror movies have always been a little more vicious, and a little more surreal than their American counterparts. High Tension is a textbook example of this unerring phenomenon. This French film was released in, strange as it may seem, France back in 2003. That particular version of the film was slated for a not so box-office friendly NC-17 here in the states. "No way", said the money puppeteers, ahem, studio executives.

So how much did they cut from the film to get that oh so desirable R rating? Surely we're missing buckets of gore, oodles of flesh, mountains of viscera, well, you get where I'm going with this. But what's that? Surely it can't be. The amount of time cut from the original French version. It's shocking! It's colossal!

It's apparently just over one extra minute of onscreen gore. Over 60 seconds and under 120 seconds.

I'm sitting here, scratching my head in the land of the "Free". How is it that those of us in America lucky enough to make it to adulthood allow for censorship to take place? We can drink, smoke cigarettes, buy pornography, and load up on firearms, but for some unknown reason we have institutions like the MPAA coddling us, holding our hands, and covering our eyes from what, make believe gore and simulated violence?

Tell you what though, that minute plus of French carnage must have been extremely nasty to get excised from this film. Because what I saw today at my local megaplex/movie shrine was a gleefully sadistic, clever, and over the top splatter fest.

In other words, I liked it. Alot.

Sure it takes many elements from other slasher films, but when I left the theater I felt as if I'd seen something original and actually worthy of bearing the banner of Horror.

The dubbing was also a trip. Although for some reason some parts were dubbed and others weren't. Which actually added to the fun.

When I know that the dismemberment, cruelty, and bloodshed are done according to a script and that no one actually gets hurt I enjoy the terror and the dread, because I know it's not happening to me. It's make believe, pretend, not real. Hopefully some day we'll be able to say the same thing about censorship(or at least the MPAA) here in America.

So Europe, keep making movies like this. Eventually us Yanks will see them, even if we have to wait for the DVD release.

P.S. Did I mention that I despise the MPAA?


The Sweet Hereafter
The Sweet Hereafter
DVD ~ Ian Holm
38 used & new from $4.09

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wheels on the Bus, June 10, 2005
This review is from: The Sweet Hereafter (DVD)
If you have children, plan to have children, or know of any children living in your area seek this movie out. From it's haunting opening music, to its somber, yet life affirming tone, The Sweet Hereafter is one helluva soul jerkin' drama.

It gives you a gut punch/ sucker punch combo all the way through, a harrowing study of the reverberations and impact of an instant.

Sarah Polley is an otherworldly talent, portraying a child possessing creepy wisdom and the voice of a dew eyed angel.

People still talk about this film today, because it entrenches itself into the minds of viewers with a conscience. Quite possibly one of the saddest, smartest, and touching films I've ever seen.

The soundtrack is mesmerizing, you will feel compelled to purchase it.

P.S. If this movie doesn't get to you in some way your heart is but a cinder.


King Arthur - The Director's Cut (Widescreen Edition)
King Arthur - The Director's Cut (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Clive Owen
Price: $4.99
368 used & new from $0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Behold, Excalibur (also available in a kid friendly version), June 10, 2005
Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur is an excellent example of what epic filmmaking should be. The director is an underrated genius in his craft and I can't help but wonder if the troubles he faces from studios when it comes to presenting his vision stems not from actual feasability, but from the color of his skin.

That an African-American could present such a bold and exciting account of the Arthurian legend, side stepping the Hollywood perpetuation of impossible myth and instead seeking a more historically believable telling of the tale must have stuck in many a studio executive's craw.

The PG-13 theatrical release rating almost assuredly was an attempt to ruin Fuqua's box office credibility, when all it did was lend credence to the idea of disbanding the MPAA.

Now by no means is this a perfect film, and the overused(although resounding) motif of freedom gets redundant and eventually, annoying. However, much can be forgiven when each and every battle scene is more jaw dropping than the last. If you're a fan of film violence presented in a realistic fashion, that's all the more reason to see this version of the film.

This was one of the best films of 2004, too bad it never made it to theaters. Also check out Tears of the Sun, which is another overlooked Fuqua film.

P.S. Keira Knightly can be my Smurfette anytime.


Open Water (Widescreen Edition)
Open Water (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Blanchard Ryan
Price: $6.59
288 used & new from $0.01

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost at Sea, and then Eaten, June 10, 2005
At first I was really looking forward to seeing this movie, then critics started nibbling at it, spitting it back out, then nibbling some more. I waited for the DVD release. I rented it. I was disappointed.

There are some good parts to this movie.

A. It's one seriously messed up situation.

B. There's no happy ending.

There is no letter C.

When you get two annoying actors and put them in a life threatening situation your empathy, and subsequent interest dwindles like a dead harp seal's blood trail on a warm, Caribbean afternoon.

It's never good when you're watching a movie and you're supposed to be concerned about the characters well being and instead you're hoping they go down in a climactic fountain of teeth and gore.

Ultimately the movie ends, you feel cheated. You pine for an interesting shark movie. You know the one,what's it called? Mouth? Eat-Hole? Gateway to the Stomach?

Seriously, just buy a copy of Jaws and you're all set for your abject lesson in staying out of the water.

P.S. Sharks = Kill You, so stay away from sharks, monkeys!


The Last Horror Movie (Unrated Edition)
The Last Horror Movie (Unrated Edition)
DVD ~ Chris Adamson
Offered by Marions Music
Price: $9.50
24 used & new from $1.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lions & Wildebeast, June 10, 2005
This was a very good idea that became too derivative of similar films. Also, with the invention of the DVD this film's semi-cool twist has already been negated. Some of the writing is almost top notch, but not quite. The actor playing Max was certainly a good psycho, but Michael Rooker he ain't.

If you've got a hankering for murderous madmen I'd recommend checking out Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Man Bites Dog. Both are excellent films showcasing depraved anti-social human minds. Only after viewing those movies should you venture back to this one. That way you'll at least have a reference point for what the filmmakers were trying to pull off with The Last Horror Movie.

P.S. It really isn't the last Horror movie, they still make 'em; so keep watching, stinkers and all.


Lucky
Lucky
DVD ~ Michael Emanuel
12 used & new from $0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Pooper Scooper, or the dog is really quite dead, June 10, 2005
This review is from: Lucky (DVD)
I rented this because it was being touted as some direct to video masterpiece. While it was definitely a direct to video release there certainly wasn't anything masterful about it. We get a story of a loser screen writer doing the bidding of his dog, which involves bloodshed. On paper it sounds good. Execution wise, not so much.

If you're a fan of voice over in movies you should probably check this out, since the majority of the film contains it. Believe it or not crazy people talk to themselves, hell sane people talk to their dogs.

When it comes to cheap Horror movies I'm pretty much a dumb fish, chompin down on anything that moves. More often than not I don't like the taste. Sometimes I end up needing shots.

If you have poor short term memory check this movie out. Hopefully, for your sake, you'll forget all about it.


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