Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Movie Review: King Kong

I've read a number of reviews of Peter Jackson's King Kong over the last week or so and they have all been overwhelmingly positive. The only negative comment any of them have really made is that it might be a little too long. I'm afraid this is a gross understatement.

Both my wife and I are HUGE fans of Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy and devoured the extended editions on DVD with all their many extras. Jackson maanged to craft a series of films that lasts for well over twelve hours and still leaves you wanting more, so when I first heard that his take on the Giant Ape clocked in at just over three hours long I wasn't too worried. Even the extended versions of the three LOTR films never really drag and you certainly never feel that any scene is uneccessary so I felt confident that every minute of King Kong would be thoroughly entertaining.

However, this is not the case, and it shouldn't really have come as any surprise, considering the source material. With LOTR Jackson was drawing on a vast amount of source material. Tolkein's masterpiece is both rich and vivid with an enormous amount of back (and side) story to draw from. Tolkein crafted the entire history of Middle Earth from its creation (in The Silmarillion) and the many appendices included in the three volumes further flesh out the world and the character's back story (indeed, many people objected to jackson's insertion of the Aragorn/Arwen romance...but it's all there in the appendices!). Despite stretching past the twelve hour mark, Jackson's dilemma with LOTR was always what to leave out, and he did, indeed, leave out a lot of good stuff. With King Kong, however, Jackson's source material is a film half the length of his own, and so he has added much, and this is where the movie really fails.

But wait, before get too deeply into the movies failings, let's talk about where it succeeds. Jackson initially starts padding at the start of the film, and it's a full hour before Kong even appears. However, this is really not a bad thing at all. He does an admirable job of introducing all the characters and provides a plausible and compelling justification for their trip to Skull Island. Jack Black particularly stands out here as movie producer/director Carl Denham. Here he proves that there's much more to him than being a funny fat man and I hope he continues to get more serious roles. Jackson spends the first hour slowly building the tension and so you never really lose interest or start to get bored. You feel that you're constantly building to something and as the ship gets closer and closer to Skull Island your anticipation continues to increase.

When we reach the island Jackson gets out his full box of tricks and does what he does best - shows us something we've never really seen before. The island looks stunning, both terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

There are problems here however, it does look good but every now and again the visuals fall below the very high level they've set themselves. The brontosauras chase, particularly, has some really awful green screen moments. Indeed, some are so bad that you wonder if they're not some kind of weird Jackson homage to old school effects.

It's also while we're on the island that you receive a rather worrying revelation...you don't actually care about what happens to any of these people. That's not entirely true, you do actually care about Jack Black's character, but he's supposed to be the villain of the piece! None of our heroes are particularly engaging and that's a real problem in a film like this. The whole point of this movie is that they are constantly in peril and we are supposed to be on the edge of our seats worrying about what will happen to them.

Worst of all, we don't really connect with Kong. One reveiwer I read praised Jackson for presenting Kong as an animal and not a monster. To me, however, that's his biggest mistake. Kong is never anything more than an animal in this film, and so we never really engage with him as a character. He needs to have a real personality, a real character but instead he's just a beast, acting on instinct.

This really becomes a problem as we move into the movies climax, which is also where the pacing of the film really falls apart. We know what's coming, everyone knows what happens to Kong in the end, so surely we should get there in a timely and action packed manner? After all, there can be no suspense, we know what's coming, right? Well, not in peter Jackson's eyes. The finale is so long and drawn out that I...I fell asleep. I never fall asleep at the cinema! Not even in the worst films! As Kong began his ascent of the Empire State Building I started blowing Zs at the ceiling. A timely nudge from my wife ensured that I didn't miss too much of the movie...I'm not sure if it wouldn't have been better if she'd left me to sleep. Kong can't speak. He's an ape. So Kong and Ann stare at each other, in a deep and meaningful way. Except, as I said, Kong is never anything more than an animal in this film, so, really, they just stare at each other a lot. While planes fly round them, occaisionally shotting at Kong. He's big, so it takes a lot of bullets to bring him down. Lots and lots and lots and lots and....zzzz....sorry, drifted off again.

The biggest problem is that, rather than thinking the people are being terribly mean by hounding Kong to his destruction, you're really left thinking that,a ctually, it's probably quite a good idea. Jackson has Kong wantonly and violently killing people throughout the movie. At one point Kong bites off someones head and then throws the body away, and at the theatre at the end he picks up Ann's stand in and, seeing that it's not her, just throws her away. Beauty has not tamed the savage beast, Kong is not clamed by his love for Ann, if anything it drives him to even more violent and bestial acts. You can't even argue that he would have been ok if Denham had left him on Skull Island. The people of Skull Island lived in fear of Kong and were obviously making regular human sacrifices to him. Kong is a monster and, ironically, if Jackson had just given into that, rather then trying to show him as a simple animal, we might have felt more for him at his death.

This review is threatening to become as long as the movie so I'll start to wrap it up now. Ultimately, this is not a bad movie, there's an awful lot to enjoy here. There's a good one and a half to two hours of great entertainment here, more than enough for a thrilling blockbuster movie. I feel the true problem is that after the vast success of LOTR, no one at the studio was prepared to sit Jackson down and say "This film is too long, you need to make some cuts." Jackson proved with LOTR that you can make a movie that lasts three or eevn four hours without boring people, but he's also proved with King Kong that not every movie needs to be that long.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Movie Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe



I guess I should write more of a review than that. Hmmm...

In my opinion, there are three authors who have so convincingly and completely managed to create the world in which their characters live that you accept that they have no choice in what they write because that is simply what happens. These three authors are JRR Tolkein, JK Rowling and CS Lewis.

If you want to send me hate mail because I've included JK Rowling in that list then kindly direct it to goawayyoufool@aol.com.

It's clear from this that to become a literary genius you must only be known by your initials and your surname. But that's really besides the point.

Some may criticise this film for being slow in places... my point is simply that it is not slow... this is how these events happened. (Yes... I know it's not real... [ok, it is real, but the film isn't...]).

You can tell by this poorly structured review that I'm never likely to be considered a literary genius. Mind you, if both Charles Dickens and Emily Bronte can be considered literary genius's (geni?) then it's quite possible that anyone could.

I grew up with the Chronicles of Narnia. By that I don't simply mean that I read them as a child and I enjoyed them. I grew up with them, they were an integral part of my upbringing. My parents both loved the books and my dad read them all to me at bed time for what seemed like my entire childhood. He also played me the radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, but Lewis always had more of an appeal than Tolkein. Despite my short stature and hairy feet I have never particularly identified myself with Frodo, the Pevensie children, however, are a completely different matter. My oldest sister was most responsible, however, for ensuring that the Chronicles of Narnia were more than just books for me. She painstakingly traced the maps from the books and combined them together into a complete map of Narnia. These days a fantasy novel isn't complete without a map in the front, but when I was a child these maps were really something special. They helped bring the books to life because close study showed that the world of Narnia really did extend beyond the bounds of the books. It felt like a real, living, breathing world.

This isn't, of course, the first screen adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. When I was a little buy, we had to make do with what was, really, a quite awful cartoon, where the Pevensie children all wore flares and Lucy was blonde. Still, although generally rubbish, it was better than nothing. It was magical because it was Narnia. Then there was the BBC adaptation. Hmmm. Some people really loved this, but, personally, I feel that casting a fat, ugly kid as Lucy was a fairly unforgivable mistake. Also, the animatronic Aslan was just....well...an animatronic Lion. No matter how well done it is it's never going to be Aslan.

So, we come to this latest effort. Oh boy. It's so good it hurts. Let's deal with one important issue first - why make The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe first? For some people this is a moot point, they made it first because it's the first book. By this they mean that it wa sthe first book set in Narnia to be published. However, Lewis himself admitted that he's not entirely sure what order he wrote them in, and that the order in which they happen is probably the best order to read them. there is no wrong or right order though, and the film makers seem to have chosen the order of publication. This probably makes commercial sense because The Lion, The Wicth and The Wardrobe is by far the best known of all seven books. That said, I really, really, really want to see an adaptation of The Magician's Nephew, in order of Narnian history is should come first, but in order of publication it's book 6, which means I could have a looooong wait ahead of me.

Back to the film. The cast are fantastic. The kids...wow... William Moseley is just incredible as Peter. His portrayal of the growth in his character from boy to High King is just superb. But the kids playing Edmund, Susan and Lucy are equally as good. Edmund is especially hard to get right because you have to hate him at the start but deeply care for him by the end. Young Skander Keynes doesn't let us down. Anna Popplewell is totally believable as the sceptic, Susan, and has that "English Rose" kind of innocent beauty. Little Georgie Henley steals the show, of course, as Lucy. It's quite possible that she's actually cuter than a button.

The voice acting si also superb, with Ray Winstone, Dawn French and Rupert Everett standing out, but never over-playing their parts. The real casting genius though is a part which they really struggled with - Aslan.

Liam Neeson really couldn't be any more perfect for this role. His voice is at once soft and gentle but tinged with a hint of hidden danger, he conveys an authority that doesn't come from physical strength but from something deeper...from within.

The effects are fantastic too. Provided by WETA, the people who gave us the stunning visuals in Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy, they're not quite up to that standard throughout. The key digital characters, however, Aslan, the Beavers, are pretty much perfect and at times you just find yourself completely suspending your disbelief.

So...ahem...I liked it.

Mr Tumnus is great too. Actually, it would be quicker to list what was rubbish.



Wow. That was a long list. What is rubbish, actually, is that I now have to wait for the next film, and I don't know if they're actually going to make all seven (let's face it, a film of The Horse and His Boy isn't going to be an easy sell). One assumes that Prince Caspian will be next up.

To close, this is a very special film. I'm left wondering if, actually, I haven't had a personal relationship with Jesus all these years...but with Aslan.

[Yes...I know they're the same...shut up...]

Rating: 100/10 (Not a typo).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hello Spain!

Yes... another post... so sue me....

Just wanted to say "Hello" to the mystery Spanish person who's been visiting the CHC! My webstats for this site aren't hugely detailed, but someone from Spain has checked out the site a couple of times in the last few days.

It's just good to know that I'm not just talking to myself (or just my sister).

So...hello mystery Spanish person!

Kitty Kitty Kitty!!!!!!

Two updates in quick succession...I know...I know...

Anyway, just wanted to post a couple of pics of Ellen Page who will be playing my favourite X-Man (techinically X-Woman....but, hey...)...and, actually, my favourite comic book character of all time...Kitty Pryde!

As you can see Miss Page is pretty cute, but click here and then click on the photo gallery, scroll down and you'll see the first promo pic' Fox have released of her as Kitty Pryde! Yowza! She looks great! I can't post the pic' here 'cos it's a Flash site, so you can't save the pics to your hard drive. As soon as the pic' becomes available I'll post it here though.

I can't wait for X3 now!

X-Men 3 in motion.....

And now you can see for yourself what the new characters in X-Men 3 look like in motion by downloading the trailer here. Looks pretty good to me, but I had to watch it with the sound off...

Oh, you'll need Quicktime 7 to view it too, but there's a link to download it on the site.

Friday, December 09, 2005

First look at X-Men 3!

You can catch a first glimpse of some of the new characters featured in X-Men 3 by clicking here.

Personally I think Kelsey Grammer is looking pretty good as Beast, but it's hard to tell from this shot. That said, all of the costumes in the previous films looked better on screen than in their pre-release publicity shots.

I'm a little less sure of the look for Angel...those wings just don't look very real to me.

Anyway, click the link and see what you think!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

DVD Review: The Fantastic Four

You'd be forgiven for thinking that all I ever do is watch movies and work on my comic but you would be, in the whole, correct. I do find time to watch a lot of TV too though, and one of my favourite things to do is to combine watching movies and watching TV by...watching movies on TV. Most people seem to think that my DVD collection is rather large, but, personally, I'm always amazed at just how many films I don't have on DVD. I'm actually also amazed by the films that I do have too...for example, of all three Terminator films, the only one I actually own on DVD is Terminator 3. Some would see this as a travesty and I would tend to agree, but the problem is that a large proportion of the DVDs I own have actually been bought for me, or have been bought by my wife.

Anyway, enough of that, let's get on with the review. Actually, no, before that, as this is my first DVD review for this blog a quick note. I'll be breaking down DVD reviews into two sections - The Movie and Extras. Predictable but I thought I'd point it out. Oh, and I'll be limiting the reviews to movies seen at the cinema and new DVD purchases, because to extend it to movies seen on TV would just get rediculous (and besides, I just can't bring myself to write reviews for The Passion of the Christ and Mission Without Permission today [although I bet those two movies have never been mentioned in the same sentence before]).

The Movie

I'm sure that any readers of this blog out there (Hi Jeannine!) will be fairly familiar with the fact that I like comics, and it's pretty much impossible to like comics without at the very least being familiar with the basic premise of the Fantastic Four. Some years ago some lovely person (possibly the aforementioned Jeannine) bought me the first volume of the Marvel Masterworks series, which reprinted, recoloured and in hardback, the first issues of the Fantastic Four. It's classic Stan and Jack at their best but my comic book collecting focused on Iron Man and then the X-Men, so I haven't read a vast amount of Fantastic Four. The basic premise is, of course, that Reed Richards, his friend Ben Grimm, plus his girlfriend Sue Storm and her brother Johnny go into space where they are bombarded by cosmic rays which bestow upon them superhuman powers. Reed finds that his body can stretch like elastic, Sue can turn invisible and Johnny can burst into flame. All of these powers can be turned on and off at will. The real tragedy is that Ben is turned into a rocky monster....permanently. This is clear early evidence of the genius of Stan Lee, and what was to set Marvel Comics apart from their Distinguished Competition. Most super heroes up to that point had become heroes by choice, or at the very least were happy about the consequences of the freak accident that had left them super powered. Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, was not. The accident effectively ruins his life and he truly hates what he has become. It is only the strength of his friendship with his teammates which really keeps Ben going.

So, the comic book was genius, but is the film any good? Well, actually, yes. Widely criticised for not being as grim and gritty as other recent superhero movies (Daredevil, X-Men, Batman Begins), Fantastic Four is a lot more light hearted and just plain fun. However, this is exactly right for Marvel's first family. The tone of the Fantastic Four has always been a lot lighter than many of Marvel's other books, and a grimmer, grittier feel wouldn't have suited them at all. The performances are generally excellent, Jessica Alba is drop dead gorgeous as Sue Storm, the action is exciting and the effects are stunning. This movie is, above all, fun.

Perfect? No. Not by a long chalk. The Fantastic Four commits one of the worst comic book movie sins there is - tying the origins of the heroes and villains together for no good reason. In the comic book Victor Von Doom is not caught up in the same accident as the four heroes. Yes, he was at college with Reed, but his face was disfigured while he was dabbling in the occult (I seem to recall he was trying to contact his mother) and he creates a suit of armour to hide his hideous face. His powers are a combination of technological (his suit) and mystical (his occult powers). I gues this was deemed all too complicated for the American movie going public, and, besides, you can't have someone dabbling in the occult in a kids film, can you? So, while our four heroes are fairly spot on, we are left with a Doom who is not really Doom. One of Marvel's most iconic villains is reduced to a greedy, power-mad business man/scientist. This is not Doom (it's more like Norman Osbourne). This is a shame, because Doom should be a lot more scary than this. Of course, some might argue that George Lucas already did a much better screen version of Doctor Doom back in 1977.

There are a few other problems too, and I'm going to highlight two of them here. The first is Ben Grimm's fiance. Most reviewers seem to have referred to her as his wife but I noticed last night that it's an engagement ring she returns to him, not a wedding ring. Firstly, I'm not convinced she's necessary at all. I think we're all capable of understanding how hard it's going to be for Ben to fit in after his change without having to see him rejected by this woman. Besides, I don't buy that he would be with someone so shallow in the first place. Secondly, the way she just appears at the end of the action sequence on the bridge and throws the ring at him is just...odd. It doesn't work, it doesn't make ANY sense.

The other prolem is...in an attempt to reverse the process that gave them powers Reed recreates the cosmic storm in his lab. If he's capable of this...why did they have to go into space in the first place? Now, that's a plot hole big enough to drive a truck through.

Despite some major flaws, it's still a good movie and is definitely worth watching.


As I said earlier, a lot of the DVDs I own are bought for me, and this is no exception. Therefore this is the one disc edition and not the two disc edition, so the extras are a bit sparse. I haven't listened to the commentary yet but I've read that it's very good. The only real other extra here is Jessica Alba's video diary of the FF press tour. Yes, that's right, the press tour. If it wasn't for the fact that she's so damn gorgeous this would be a perfect cure for insomnia. There is absolutely nothing of interest here...at all. Lastly, there's the crushingly disappointing preview of X-Men 3 which doesn't include a single shot of the movie and really is of no interest to anyone other than, maybe, Avi Arad's close friends and family.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, December 02, 2005

Grab a Bargain!


Fellow fans of Gillingham FC might want to check this out for a chance to grab a real bargain.

Well, it would be funny if it weren't so depressing.