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This week:
King Kong

Filthy says:
"Too damn much information."

Movies aren't like alcohol where more is always better, until you get to a point where more is not only better but also necessary to keep from crying about that time when you were eight and Johnny Fischman wanted to see if you were skinny enough to fit into a storm drain. And you were. And there were rats in there. Movies have to be remarkable to transport you away from remembering past traumas.

In film, sometimes more is worse. Take Candy Bottom's ambitious porno version of Wagner's Ring Cycle which I thought was nine hours too long. Seven hours would have been just right, but then there are nine more hours of fucking, sucking and about the third time someone fucks a horse you have to wonder if it may be too much. The new version of King Kong is the same way. If it were two hours long I would be pretty fucking thrilled by it. It's three hours, though, and that's strains the attention span as much as the bladder.

King Kong sticks pretty damn close to the story of the 1933 original. A fast-talking moviemaker (Jack Black) wants to go to an uncharted island to make a B-movie and cons a starving ingenue blonde (Naomi Watts) into coming along to play the lead. A battered cargo ship hauls the ragtag cast and crew to mysterious Skull Island, believed to be uninhabited. But, when the crew lands, they discover wild savages who have built a massive rock wall to protect themselves from some unseen terror.

The savages kidnap Watts and offer her as a sacrifice to the beast who lives behind the wall. That, of course, is Kong, the 25-foot tall ape. He's probably taller, but his posture is for shit. Didn't the chiropractors have those bogus scoliosis checks on deserted islands? I thought those assholes pushed that bullshit wherever they could. The lovestruck screenwriter (Adrian Brody), Black and the rest of the crew must venture beyond the wall to find the girl. Once behind it, they encounter dinosaur stampedes, giant bugs, perilous falls into chasms, battles with Kong, and anything else Jackson could think up in his digital lab to kill off secondary characters.

Kong and Watts, meanwhile, are getting to know each other in the bliblical sense. Not the screwing biblical sense, but the sense like Noah knew the animals on his Ark or something like that. Her initial fear turns into sympathy for his loneliness. His desire to rip her limb from limb becomes a protective affection when he discovers she looks funny when she falls down. Soon he protects her from meat-eating dinosaurs and pursues her when she escapes with the help of Brody.

Black wants to use Brody and Watts as bait and plans to capture Kongg, bring him back to New York and make him the star of his own Broadway show. Well, why the fuck not? If they can make people pay to go see people prancing around like cats, why the hell wouldn't a giant ape sell tickets?

Once in New York, Kong goes bananas, rips free of his tethers, destroys cars and awnings like you wouldn't believe and finally meets his fate atop the Empire State Building while trying to protect Watts.

Director Peter Jackson and his co-writers do a pretty good job of retelling the original story, and trying to keep it entertaining. They elaborate, and puff up the meaning, but they don't fuck up by thinking they know how to improve on the premise of a big fat, lonely ape being exploited by a greedy bastard. Underneath all the overwhelming and tiring flash and dazzle is still a damn good monster movie. I'm not sure which of the five basic conflicts this is, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Self or Man vs. Drunken Self, but it's one of them, for sure.

The new version is better than the old ones in defining the relationship between ape and woman. The value of that, I don't really know. Of course, I've never been big on defining relationships and have still called girls my girlfriend months after they stopped returning my calls an d their new boyfriends kicked me in the nuts. Regardless, we understand here that Watts understands Kong is a beast, but a lonely one, and that Kong's interest in her is because she treats him nicely and makes him laugh. Once that is established, there's little else to say about why the two are bound to each other, and the movie reinforces this information a few too many times.

Jackson spends a ton of screen time expanding what is already in the story, mostly unnecessarily and usually because he could, not because the story needs it. By the end of three hours, I was just tired of the effects and repetition. In the original, Kong fights a T Rex. Now, he has to fight several T Rexes, at the same time, in a sprawling battle that is so clearly there simply because it could be that the tension leaks out of it after fifteen minutes. Half of the ship crew gets stuck in a pit with giant insects, and that scene too goes on past the point that it's exciting or interesting and on into the territory of "Okay, great. What's next?" The story's tacked-on subplots go nowhere or are uninteresting. The romantic relationship between Brody and Watts is as stillborn as the baby of a meth addict. Another subplot about an orphan boy who reads Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a pretentious attempt to plug in another layer of meaning about why man goes on adventures.

That's pretty damn lame. Jackson must think he not only has to show us the kid's reading the book, but also tell us its theme. I guess we're too fucking stupid to have read and understood the book ourselves. In that case, why put the book in there? What's the point of having a symbol if you have to explain it?

Jack Black continues to reassure us that our generation has its own Robin Williams. He's not a good actor, but god damn if he doesn't do ham better than Hormel. Two years and he'll be Patch Adams. Watts is better, but still hokey in her "Gee whiz, gosh darn" innocence. And Brody is just lousy as a screenwriter who appears to be deeply in love with himself.

The ending pissed me off. Jack Black repeats the "Twas Beauty Killed the Beast" line from the original, which was only marginally true in 1933. But Jackson's additions to the story, and how drawn out the planning and capture of Kong is make the line into nonsense. It wasn't beauty at all. It was a bunch of assholes with guns and greed, as jackson shows us over and over.

Three Fingers for King Kong a movie that could have been a hell of a lot better and an hour shorter. It's a lesson for moviemakers that more is not always more, and special effects ain't so fucking special when they get done to death.

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HPete Hammond of Crapazine Maxim

The Producers "Delivers huge belly laughs and lots of fun! Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick make one of the greatest comedy teams ever!"

Mrs. Henderson Presents:"You're gonna love it! One of the year's most entertaining films!"

In Casanova "Heath Ledger turns on the charm and burns of the screen with sheer romantic heat!"

King Kong "Rules over all the others! As big, breathtakingly exciting and relentlessly thrilling as any epic adventure the screen has seen in many years!"

Filthy's Reading
Graham Greene- Stamboul Train

Listening to
Supersuckers - Devil's Food


The Princess Bride