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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

King Kong... Yankee Doodle Kong

King Kong (2005): 8 out of 10: Peter Jackson's Kong is a long love letter to the original movie that surprisingly turns into that rarest of crowd pleasers. A movie that both men and their gals will like. Like Titanic, Kong has enough action to keep boys of all ages happy and a romance (complete with tragic ending) to get the ladies crying.

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And what a romance. Kong and Naomi Watts light up the screen with that most famous of dysfunctional cross species parings. And while you may be mumbling Stockholm Syndrome at the beginning (Not to mention whiplash, jeez Jackson turn down the rag doll physics on the Naomi Watts CGI effect. The way Kong flings her around she should end the film in a body cast) the romance seems to win even the cynics (yours truly) at the end.

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The rest of the cast is also top notch with Jack Black playing an Orson Wells style director so well it is almost freighting. Speaking of frightening many people wondered aloud how Jackson would handle the racist caricature (by today standards) of the island natives especially considering the whole disturbing white wizard versus the "dark forces" subtext of the LOTR films. Not to worry the embarrassing stereotypes of happy dancing black people are mocked in the Kong stage show putting that embarrassing Hollywood episode to rest.

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Instead the residents of Skull Island are some of the scariest people ever put on film. Pushing the PG-13 rating to the limit; they put the can back in cannibal. It’s nice to see natives bashing skulls, going into voodoo trances and kidnapping white woman they invoke the much happier stereotype of the true island savage. Hell they are scarier than the ape.

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Possible racial insensitivity aside Kong is far from perfect. While the special effects are overall top notch there are seams. For example when people run with the dinosaurs the limit of the green screen seems to show through (And could we get a moratorium on velociraptors in movies. They are really getting cliché and being a relatively new paleontological find really don't fit in a thirties era Kong movie. Yes I know that isn't logical but they kind of seem modern as if a character had a cell phone).

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The other real problem is length. This feels like the directors cut. With an easy 30 minutes of film that could (and probably should) end up on the cutting room floor. We spend so much time in various Kong free Broadway theaters one might mistake this for a Yankee Doodle Dandy remake. All that said great action scary islanders and tragic romance make King Kong a winner.

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King Arthur... How did you become king I didn't vote for you?

King Arthur: 6 out of 10: 2004's grimy and supposedly historical King Arthur benefits form two great assets; Kiera Knightly in a leather bikini... and some of the funniest scenes ever put on film.

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I pretty sure the former was intentional. I am positive the latter was not. One would be harder pressed to find a more ahistorical, awkward, forced and unintentionally funny historical romp anywhere. And the fact the film takes itself so seriously simply adds to the already bountiful mirth.

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As any kid who has answered a test question based on watching Mel Gibson’s The Patriot has certainly learned, movies and historical accuracy are not friends. Not friends at all. Yet King Arthur wears its “we are being historical here that is why everything is so muddy” heart on its sleeve.

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As if to multiply the historical missteps, the Arthurian legend is often awkwardly forced into the story line at strange places. As a result you have Osama bin Merlin head of what I'm guessing is the Picts. (They are called the Woats but of course there is no such thing. They do wear blue battle paint, which is historically accurate if you are doing a film about Scottish warriors. Scottish warriors attending a football match in the 1970's mind you.) Guinevere is now a leather bikini-wearing archer, and Arthur is a Roman commander fighting the Blue Meanies (after-mentioned Woats) of the north.

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The Saxons show up out of nowhere and try to kill everybody. So now in that timeworn movie cliché the two former enemies (Arthur of the Romans and Merlin of the Blue Meanies) have to combine forces to defeat the new evil Saxons.

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A lot of clichés are evident in King Arthur. The worst is the screeching about freedom in what seems to be every fourth sentence of the screenplay. It's irritatingly repetitive, ridiculous (Arthur doesn't become President Arthur after all or as Monty Python put it "How did you become king anyway I didn't vote for you") and it leads to one of the unintentionally funniest scenes ever in a major motion picture release. (As King Arthur gives an almost word for word homage to Mel Gibson's stirring Braveheart battle speech the camera pans back and instead of revealing an army of thousands it has five lone guys. They might as well have been holding coconuts.)

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Yet despite all this and an ending that reminds one of Kevin Costner's Robin Hood, I actually enjoyed myself. The battle scenes were pretty well done despite the PG-13, the acting is okay and Kiera Knightly did prance around in a leather bikini for most of the film.

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Like the movie Troy, the flaws of this film add a humorous dimension to the proceedings.
And don't forget we fight for FREEDOM from the unrepresentative Republic of which I am a commanding officer so we can create an absolute monarchy with a round table.

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I am telling you if this movie was called Bob the Roman guy it would have been a lot better.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Killer Flood: The Day the Dam Broke... A Killer Dam....In Vermont?

Killer Flood: The Day the Dam Broke: 1 out of 10: Finally a movie whose title is spoiler proof. Even by the low standards of disaster movies, excuse me for a moment allow me to correct myself, even by the low standards of made for TV disaster movies this is truly awful. Where do I begin?

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The dam modeler may have once seen a photo of a dam but I somewhat doubt it. Most dams, especially large ones that generate electricity, have... oh I don't know, a power plant nearby, maybe some sluice gates for water to run through, heck even a high tension electrical wire or two. This Dam would embarrass a Lego knockoff toy company.

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This disaster prone dam is also somewhat understaffed. Two, count them, two employees staff the entire dam. And the employees are apparently imported from a clichéd ridden World War Two film, as they heroically and rather needlessly have long eulogized death scenes complete with photos of grandchildren floating by. Heck one of them manages to get shot by the dam itself in a way that defies description.

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The special effects consist of flowing water superimposed on photo's of the town in a method that makes a sixties Godzilla film look like the Matrix. A three-year-old drawing with a blue crayon on the film stock would have yielded better results. Since the disaster money shots are worthless how is the rest of the film?

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Needless to say the script and acting follow the special effects lead. This is no diamond in the rough. This is the rough. So is it a guilty pleasure? Killer Flood is awful enough to generate some laughs and the film itself has that earnest incompetence that makes a good cult classic, but bad disaster films need to age like a fine wine. (Avalanche, The Swarm, An Inconvenient Truth )

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It is also doubtful that Michelle Green hiding from the flood in a dumpster with a golden retriever will ever match the great Henry Fonda being pelted by raisins that are supposed to be killer bees. Check back with me in 2024.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

KatieBird* Certifiable Crazy Person... Certifiably Crazy Director

KatieBird* Certifiable Crazy Person: 2 out of 10: On the surface Katiebird has a lot of redeeming qualities. The story, while not original, is somewhat fresh. (Female serial killer mixed with Frailty like family touch.) The acting is well above average for a low budget horror film. (Even a poor performance such as Todd Gordon's stiff psychiatrist is still better than most.) The make up effects and original musical score, again despite some small faults, are also well above average.

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So what went so horribly wrong?

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Well for starters the film is a talky affair with not nearly enough plot to fill the 100 minute running time. For a serial killer Katiebird seems to have fallen a couple of victims short. The main (only) victim's killing is graphic but goes on way to long and lacks any punch. These scenes almost resemble a tedious Japanese snuff film (Guinea Pig Devil's Experiment for example) rather than a proper movie.

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Oh and if the pictures are not enough of a clue the entire film is shot with split screen shifting windowpanes that take up maybe three quarters to as little as a third of your screen. Do not adjust your set. No really spend all the time you want fiddling with the aspect ratio on your remote it won't help. If you don't have a nice large screen plasma TV the film is simply unwatchable. If you do have a nice big screen the film is headache inducing. Even Woodstock didn't use this much split screen and Brian De Palma seems like a restrained TV sitcom director by comparison.

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This is a shame because what little we can discern of cinematographer Josh Fong's works seems top notch. But it is lost in this look three places at once stylistic nightmare. Really you would have to be nuts to purposely torture your audience like this. Writer/director/editor Justin Paul Ritter is plainly nuts. Come to think of it he is a certified crazy person.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

January Jones

January Jones is best known as Betty on Mad Men (Yet another series I have been meaning to see) and confusing old folks like myself who thinks she is some eighties gymnast vaguely remembered. (Somebody feel free to tell me whom I am thinking of.)

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January Jones Stanisław The 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada

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