Thursday, December 29, 2005

THE GAY CHRISTIAN APE COMPROMISE: With a single night available for moviegoing during the holiday season, Mr. Cosmopolitan and I sat down with the movie listings to figure out what we should see.

Me: I want to see Brokeback Mountain.
Mr. Cosmo: I'm going to see one movie all winter and it's gonna be gay cowboys?
Me: Yes.
Mr. Cosmo: I want to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Me: I'm going to see one movie all winter and it's gonna be Christian lions?
Mr. Cosmo: Yes. And it's not about Christian lions. Read the damn book.
Mr. Cosmo: So. I guess it's King Kong?
Me: Yup. Let's go.

As conscientious readers may recall, the preview for King Kong had moved me from a meh to a yeah. And seeing the three-hour version -- a rather monumental expansion of the three-minute trailer -- did not disappoint.

Neither Mr. Cosmo nor I had ever seen a prior King Kong iteration. For those of you similarly inexperienced with the genre, the three hours can be divided into three chapters: (1) Depression-era Manhattan, in which filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) finds out-of-work vaudevillean actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and convinces her to join the cast of his new film, which is setting sail that very day for Singapore for filming. But oops, little does anyone involved with the film know, but they are actually filming on ominous secret (2) Skull Island, on which bad things happen to many people, Jackson's brontosauruses kick the snot out of Spielberg's, and King Kong (Andy Serkis, in a role so close but yet so far from Gollum) and Ann meet. Kong is captured as he attempts to keep Ann with him on the island, and he is forcibly removed to (3) Depression-era Manhattan, where Kong proves to be stronger than anyone gave him credit for, and there's a little scene involving Kong, Ann, and the Empire State Building.
  • Fastest three hours in a movie theatre ever. It didn't even bother me that it takes 90 minutes to catch a glimpse of an ape. The only area where I might have considered asking for a little extra slicing and dicing was toward the back end of the Skull Island sequence, where an awfully long time was spent lovingly filming all sorts of ooky monstrosities and big bugs and the like munching on various sailors.
  • CGI has really become astonishing. The only point at which you notice the artificiality of the process is during the brontosaurus stampede, and even then it's not because the dinosaurs look fake, but because the actors didn't quite nail the running-for-their-lives-while-looking-over-their-shoulders-to-avoid-being-trampled reactions.
  • Naomi Watts: Wow. Lovely and heartbreaking and impressively interactive with the giant green or blue or whatever-color-they-use-these-days screen that was her constant and sole companion throughout much of the movie.
  • This was my first Adrien Brody experience. He's much more appealing than I previously gave him credit for being. Jack Black was enjoyable too. And Colin Hanks has gotten older since Orange County.
  • I hope Peter Jackson is getting a serious kickback from the New Zealand government for the boost he has provided NZ tourism. Gorgeous, gorgeous cinematography. And watching the credits, I found myself wondering what percentage of the NZ population worked on this film. It can't be a small one.

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