Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Movies Recently

King Kong
Worth seeing? Yes. Great movie? No. Too long? Way. Great special effects? Yes. Best character? Kong, definitely. No actor in the movie is as convincing as the cg ape, least of all Jack Black.

The first hour starts out impressively. 1930s NYC looks amazing. Then, it quickly degenerates. I don't know if it's the editor or the director you blame when what ought to take 15 minutes takes 60, but someone needed to recognize that fat needed to be cut.

The Skull Island middle third or so of the movie also runs too long. It's not that it drags -- it's almost nonstop mayhem once Kong appears but maybe Kong could fight two T. Rexes instead of three (too much of a good thing here), maybe the giant insect part was unnecessary -- and for Pete's sake, can we cut the number of shakey zoom-to-skull shots and ease up on the jarringly faux dramatic slo-mo shots?

After returning to NYC, the movie ends well: Kong's escape, the ice pond interlude, and the Empire State Building sequence are awesome.

Syriana
This should have been a great movie, a compelling examination of how business and government work for and against each other, of how macro and micro forces conspire to twist the work of the best intentioned so they serve the will of the greediest and most corrupt, or something like that; the elements are there, but they don't quite add up. Siddig El Fadil, George Clooney, Chris Cooper, and even Matt Damon turn in intriguing performances ... and yet taken all together, the film is less than the sum of its parts. I found myself wishing the focus had been different; I would've rather seen the Prince Nasir character as the central focus - he's the only character aside from Damon's Wall Street analyst with whom we can sympathize. I'm not familiar with the source material, so I may be imagining a movie that couldn't have been made from the book it was based on. I wanted to like Syriana, but can't recommend it.

I've just started reading Lucius Shepard's Weapons of Mass Seduction and can, however, wholeheartedly recommend it. Now them's some movie reviews. Lucius has a keen eye for what makes a movie suck and an entertaining penchant for imagining how appropriate karmic retribution would play out for the likes of a Steven Spielberg, for example. He also bravely practices Bonedaddy's art of reviewing a movie he hasn't seen yet, boldly predicting why and how it will suck. Not that he hates everything, he actually is kinder to Vanilla Sky I would have suspected, though I still don't think I'll be able to bring myself to watch it.

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