King Kong (1976)

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Director: John Guillermin

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange, John Randolph

Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr.

134 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound

 

Some people say nothing is off limits for a remake if you do it right. That’s true, but it doesn’t do anything to save me the pain from the remakes that are less-than-right. 1976’s King Kong is a remake that did some great things, but it also did some bad things. Today, we will dissect King Kong in all its cheese.

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King Kong follows a similar plot to its predecessor. A ship and its crew, on the search for petrol, comes across an uncharted island and a great ape who presides over it. Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin, Beethoven, The Ex) sees opportunity for capital gain, while stowaway hippie-man Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski, Seventh Son) wishes to protect the island and its inhabitants from the dangerous hands of man, while the beast known as Kong has his eyes set on the beautiful and exotic actress named Dwan (Jessica Lange, TV’s American Horror Story, Big Fish).

I find that the root of all the problems with the film stem from a flimsy and cheese-induced screenplay from Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Papillon, Flash Gordon), who has a shaky reputation for greatness. His screenplay has a lot of set-ups that flop and very few payoffs earned. For starters, the character Dwan, played by Lange, is awful. She is written to be annoying and unlikable, with no help from first-time actress Lange. It would seem that Kong’s entire infatuation with her is similar to the audiences: not a bad gal to gawk at. That’s about it.

I enjoyed Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin, who seem to understand the camp of the film they are a part of, though I still don’t think the tone of the film works at all. And then there is Bridges’ mane of hair, which comes off looking like 70s Teen Wolf mixed with The Lion King’s Simba. Seriously, did no one see him and giggle a bit, perhaps enough to realize that his look just was not working?

Now, as far as the ape goes, I like it. It mostly works well. I like the animatronics utilized here. I think the realism of the beast works enough, but the special effects of placing him in scenes get the size all over the place. Some shots he looks practically normal-sized while other sequences completely overload his presence. I still don’t really know the size that they wanted.

King Kong is probably the third best King Kong movie. That being said, it helped further the world of animatronics and for that it should be thanked. Just not very loudly.

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PS: If anyone out there uses editing software, can you create a video of Jeff Bridges as Jack Prescott performing The Lion King soundtrack. Just a thought.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Furious 7 (2015)

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Director: James Wan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

137 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.

 

And here we are, after six films, we arrive here at Furious 7, the latest installment in the high-octane series of car action films started with The Fast and the Furious some many years back.

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In the newest adventure, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Saving Private Ryan, Guardians of the Galaxy) and his family have returned to the United States after gaining amnesty for their previous offences. As new parent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) adjusts to the simple life with wife Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Home Sweet Hell), he and Dom discover that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, The Transporter, Spy) is seeking vengeance on them for his comatose brother. When Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, WrestleMania) is dispatched, the group realize that they need help. In comes a mysterious government agent (played by Kurt Russell, The Thing, Poseidon) who need them to find a piece of high-tech gadgetry that has been stolen by the villainous Jakande (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator, Seventh Son). The deal is simple: retrieve the tech in exchange for cart blanche to defeat Shaw.

I really enjoyed Furious 7. Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious: Chapter 2), known for his abilities as a horror director, supplies the film with much-needed cheese with an incredibly exhilarating experience. The returning cast has grown so close that the chemistry here is great. Diesel’s journey of reintroduction with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar, Machete Kills) is one of the better stories to come out of this series, and it ties into the franchise well. I had a lot of fun watching the banter between Roman (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers, Black Nativity) and Tej (Chris Bridges, New Year’s Eve, No Strings Attached). Newcomers Kurt Russell and Jason Statham provide a lot of fun to the equation. Russell’s Mr. Nobody is an interesting new character I’m excited to see further fleshed out. Statham’s Shaw comes off a bit on the cheesy side, especially with his introduction, but overall it works.

Now onto what most people are interested in hearing about: dealing with the death of Paul Walker. Did it work? Suprisingly well, actually. I expected Walker’s role to be relegated to a glorified cameo, but I was wrong. With brothers Cody and Caleb, alongside some terrific digital effects, helped to provide some resolution to Brian’s story in an appealing way. The finale of the film definitely pays tribute well with a closing musical number with a montage of Walker’s role in the franchise served to button up his story and send him off to the next place without coming off as a wasted opportunity. Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” works well here, too.

I like that Furious 7 helps tie the franchise back together with references to Toretto’s relationship with Letty before her “death” and the rarely-seen Race Wars from the original film. The best thing about this franchise is that the crew learns from previous mistakes to make the best film possible.

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Furious 7 isn’t the greatest film in the series (that honor lies with Fast Five), but it definitely takes a step in the right direction after a few missteps with Fast & Furious 6. It serves to provide closure to Paul Walker’s character and career well without sacrificing plot and sets the series up for further adventures which will continue with the upcoming Furious 8 (yeah, it’s happening).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

 

You can follow Kyle A. Goethe on Twitter @AlmightyGoatman

[#2015oscardeathrace] How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

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Director: Dean DeBlois

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

Screenplay: Dean DeBlois

102 mins. Rated PG for adventure action and mild rude humor.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

How to Train Your Dragon was a film that needed to have a sequel. Two, in fact. The first film had a very SAGA-like feeling to it. It had some more story that needed to be told. And it was, in last year’s How to Train Your Dragon 2.

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Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, TV’s Man Seeking Woman, Million Dollar Baby) and his dragon Toothless have come a long way in their relationship, and their home Berk has changed along with them. Hiccup’s father, Stoick (Gerard Butler, 300, Olympus Has Fallen), has learned to respect him as a son and a man. Hiccup’s girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera, TV’s Ugly Betty, Cesar Chavez) has furthered her affection for him. Everything is going just great for Hiccup, until he discovers a dragon army led by the terrifying Drago (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator, Seventh Son) and comes face-to-face with Valka (Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Knight of Cups), his missing mother in this sequel from director Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch).

How to Train Your Dragon 2 excells in almost every way further than its predecessor. Visually, it is stunning. Emotionally, it resonates. The above developed relationships are tested further and further as the film progresses. Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou, and Kit Harington (TV’s Game of Thrones, Pompeii) are great additions to the voice cast.

DeBlois’ sequel is a tightly-knit thrill-ride, with beautiful music, and gorgeous set-pieces. It also has the distinction of being the first animated film to contain an openly homosexual character (I won’t say who, but it shouldn’t really matter). For that alone, the film deserved praise.

The flaw, and there is a big one, comes at the end, when the film takes a fairly mediocre and cliché turn developing in an underwhelming finale. Hiccup and Toothless have a respect that is stretched to its lengths, yet the plotholes near the end make one question what it was all for.

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The ending aside, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is still a massively successful sequel and well worth the viewing. I only hope the open threads are continued throughout the future installments.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’ How to Train Your Dragon, click here.

[Oscar Madness] Iron Man (2008)

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Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Gwyneth Paltrow

Screenplay: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holiday

126 mins. Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and adventure, and brief suggestive content.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

So, let’s talk Iron Man, Marvel Studios’ first, and arguably biggest, gamble.

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Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes, The Judge) is a billionaire genius, a more asshole-ish version of Bruce Wayne. He is the ultimate playboy, in charge of his father’s company, Stark Industries, maker of weapons of all sorts. But when a routine weapon demonstration in Afghanistan leads to Tony’s being taken captive, Tony must use all his cunning and a little bit of luck to escape. He builds a suit of metal to make this escape, and in the process, Tony Stark becomes Iron Man.

Was there ever a doubt in my mind that Robert Downey Jr was the right man to play Tony Stark. He is the perfect embodiment of this character and just understands it to the extreme. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en,  Mortdecai) is one of general endearment, complete sweetness. Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, Seventh Son) gives a slightly over-the-top yet wholly understandable performance as Obadiah Stane, mentor and friend to Tony, a man who is out to protect Stark Industries from all threats.

Then there’s Terrence Howard (TV’s Empire, Prisoners). I don’t think Terrence Howard understands this movie, or in fact, this role. I just don’t think he gets that this is a good time at the movies. He’s far too serious at all the wrong time.

Jon Favreau (Chef, Cowboys & Aliens) directs this film with some perfect flair. Were I the heads at Marvel Studious (I’m looking at you Kevin Feige), I wouldn’t have trusted someone like Favreau to make or break my company with this picture, but that’s why I’m not making the big bucks. Jon Favreau gives this film a big style, everything here is crazily over-the-top, and the funny thing is how much it works.

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Now, the film does run on a bit, and Tony Stark is rather annoying for a bulk of the film, but this is still one of the funnest (that’s right, I said it) times at the movies. It isn’t my favorite of the Iron Man films, but the first in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is a great place to start.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Louis Letterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

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