16 December 2005

A Big Giant Ape and Wrestling Calamari

So. Rie, the Gecko and I went to see King Kong today. Enjoyed it immensely. My overall impression is that it's not quite up to the level of the Lord of the Ring movies. But that's not to say that it's not an awesome, amazing movie. My gripes are mainly with the middle part of the movie. There's a whole lot of middle, and Jackson really probably could've trimmed about half an hour of it and 1)had the same, or better, emotional effect; and 2)made the end sequence in New York seem a little less rushed. And there are definitely points in all the dinosaur chase scenes that the special effects envelope is pushed to the point that there's visual breakdowns that mar the otherwise stupendously real look of the movie.

On the look end, though. Wow. That obsessive attention to detail that Jackson and his crew have, that knowledge of how the history of places layer them, leads to a Skull Island that is creepy and beautiful and ancient, and a New York that looks more like the real thing. New York may be what is most impressive, in fact. If I hadn't known that it was entirely sets and models and computer rendering, I wouldn't have guessed, most likely.

Throughout, the acting is superb. My biggest nod goes to Jack Black, who easily turns in the performance of his career. I knew how good he actually was in this role when I found myself wanting to scream at him in the final scene: "It's all your fault! You killed him, you bastard, you did!" I hope I don't met Jack Black soon. I might punch him, momentarily reacting to him as Denham, and not as himself.

And Jackson gets credit for playing this whole thing straight. No attempt to make what is essentially a ridiculous premise "logical." He plays the magic of it. And the end result is fun, and even has some important things to say. And got me thinking about how the Kong myth (as embodied in the King Kong films, and others of its ilk, like Mighty Joe Young) really play on our fear of ourselves, of the innate cruelty that runs in our species, and particularly how that cruelty plays out in civilization.

And tonight saw me finishing up watching Brother Orchid (1940). a light but fun flick with Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart -- this was the role that got Bogart The Maltese Falcon. It's cute. Your imdb fun fact is that this is the only one of the five movies that Robinson and Bogart did together in which neither dies. Definitely a movie worth watching the next time you're in the mood for something light and frothy. And you have to see it just to see Edward G. Robinson dressed up as a monk.

But then -- The Calamari Wrestler (2004, Japan). Utterly bizarre. A professional wrestler comes back as a squid, and eventually we have the squid wrestle an octopus, and then a crustecean comes, and it's all so wonderfully surreal that you never even really blink an eye at the guy with the beer can stuck to his forehead. And the weirdest thing is that, while not exactly being Art, or anything that is going to Change Your Life And Make You Love Your Fellow Man, it is a fun, decent movie.

My favorite bit is that, after the squid and octopus fight, the wrestling federation cashes in on the popularity with all sorts of tie-in products, including an instant noodle lunch with squid ink and octupus meat.

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