Little, Big

Around 7:30 last night, I clicked around the channel guide and noticed that King Kong was going to be on HD at 8pm. I wasn’t much interested in it as a movie, but figured it’d have some neat visuals. I hit the rest of the movie channels in the guide, and saw that The Station Agent was about to begin.

And, yes, I chose the dwarf over the giant ape. I really enjoyed the movie, and thought all three leads were a blast (especially Bobby Cannavale, who steals every scene he’s in).

Of course, since King Kong is about 8 hours long, I was able to click back to it afterward. I was amazed at how silly the special effects looked: 40-ton brachiosaurs stampeded over a frightened boat crew with all the ‘realism’ of one of those Universal theme-park rides; Naomi Watts gets whiplashed in every direction by The Big Ape while he’s saving her from a T-Rex attack, but suffers nary a scratch; that CGI version of Jack Black showed none of the spark of the real thing, delivering lines lifelessly. I’m sure they did a great job of motion capture to get this simulacrum to look like Jack Black, but I have to chalk it up to a failed experiment in letting the special effects tell the story for you.

(Wait? That actually was Jack Black?)

I actually stuck through to see the climax of the flick (while folding laundry and doing other stuff for a good stretch of it), and that’s what struck me as the big failure with this movie. See, everyone knows how it’s going to end: Kong climbs up the Empire State Building, planes shoot at him, and he falls off and dies. It’s tough to generate dramatic tension when the ending is predetermined (I hear some religions have a problem with this, too).

What you end up with is that aforementioned theme-park ride. Which is cool, if that’s what you’re planning to make, but I’ll bet those Pirates of the Caribbean flicks — actually based on a theme-park ride — are more entertaining than this. It’s not to say the movie wasn’t good to look at — I was interested in seeing Jackson’s version of 1930s Times Square, after all — but I never felt much sense of drama, just thrills.

Give me a pissed-off dwarf any day of the week.

6 Replies to “Little, Big”

  1. Warning: Nerd Alert…..

    I loved the Station Agent too….But I have to admit I enjoyed the great Peter Jackson Geek Moment in King Kong more.
    Not too far into the film there’s a scene in the cargo hold where you can see a crate marked ‘Sumatran Rat Monkey’, which is a nod to the best zombie film ever – Brain Dead (maybe in the US it was packaged as Dead Alive?)
    If you haven’t seen it and you’re a fan of the genre, try to get your hands on it. Where else can you find an ass-kicking priest, zombie sex and a lawnmower massacre?

  2. you said watts suffers nary a scratch. not only are there scratches all over watts in the film–from head to toe, but in reality she had cuts & bruises from shooting. the machine even dropped her into a hole & they thought it might have killed or paralyzed her.

    because of the damage to her & because of her age (38), she has pledged to do no more action films or ones in which she is put into such danger w/cuts/bruises. she not only turned down the bond film, but daisy scarlett (the female james bond).

    unlike you, i found the acting of watts & cgi-serkis so compelling that i don’t think i will need to watch another blockbuster. (london critics gave her best actress of 2006.) on the other hand, all 3 ring films bored me so much i have never been able to finish them.

  3. Every other S. Clay Wilson painting?*

    Bobby Cannavale was monstrously good in Station Agent; that part was incredibly underwritten.

    The only good scene in King Kong is that brief moment where the islander is pole vaulting rock to rock. Everything else sucked.

    *I like Dead Alive, too. The best quote about Dead Alive was Eli Roth’s; he said basically when you’re a hormonal kid and you get into horror films there’s never enough gore to satisfy you. Until you watch Dead Alive and then you’re like, “Man. That was totally enough gore.”

    I also like Meet The Feebles because the first 30 seconds you’re laughing, the next ten minutes you’re silent and horrified, and then after that you either start laughing again or you pop the DVD out and smash it with a hammer.

  4. Have you seen the other Peter Jackson classic, Bad Taste? I was impressed by a review for it I saw when I was 12 and really wanted to see it. Mind you, the review was in “Hot Metal” magazine (I bought it for the Skid Row poster, of course). 20 years later I finally managed to pick up a copy for $10. Was it worth the wait? Well, it’s nowhere near as good as Brain Dead, but it has its moments. There’s a vomit-drinking scene that made my retch, and a great running gag that involves a guy stuffing his brain back into his head and holding his skull in place with a belt. And when the aliens morph into their true form while wearing human clothing (which results in their asses busting through their jeans) I nearly laughed mine off.

    What’s with renaming films for different English-speaking markets anyway? I think pretty much everywhere except Australia Airplane was called Airplane…but here they called it Flying High. Maybe they thought that we, unlike the English, wouldn’t understand a variation of aeroplane?

  5. I think we might have met previously…..Something about Tom being willing to drink his own urine in exchange for getting his telephone working.

    Update on the Australian drought situation: The phones are still working fine, but it looks like drinking recycled effluent is now unavoidable. Our state government has bypassed having a referendum and is just going to do it.

    Come on rain! Don’t make me drink poo and pee water!
    (Seriously though, apparently it’ll be filtered much better than what we’re drinking at the moment, and will ultimately be more pure. It’s just the psychological issues we need to get past).

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