Tropic Thunder – A Movie Review

There’s no doubt in my mind that Tom Cruise made this movie.  I’m no Cruise apologist, but he was absolutely hilarious and nearly unrecognizable as a fat, balding, foul-mouthed movie executive.

With that being said, Tropic Thunder was really very funny.  I’m not sure it’s as good as many make it out to be, but its star-power alone (most of whom brazenly goof on themselves) guarantees entertainment. 

If you’re not familiar with the plot, Ben Stiller plays a Tom Cruise-ish action star hoping to revive his career in a movie based upon a book called Tropic Thunder, written by Nick Nolte’s character, a solider who supposedly helped rescue his POW friends.  Robert Downey, Jr., plays an Oscar-winning Australian who undergoes surgery in order to play a black solider.  Jack Black plays a Chris Farley (or Jack Black) style of actor who’s made his living on fart jokes.  Matthew McConaughey plays Stiller’s agent, and he, like Cruise, gives an unusual and therefore appreciated performance.  Finally, Steve Coogan plays the director of this movie-within-a-movie.

With all the self-obsessed actors <ahem!> acting up, Nolte’s character suggests Coogan drops them into the jungle for real in order to get honest emotions.  Before long, things go awry and Stiller’s character is taken prisoner by a drug cartel.  The other actors now must decide if they head for home or launch a daring rescue operation, just like the movie they were previously making.

While I love Ben Stiller, every character he plays is essentially the same.  Jack Black, too, suffers largely from this dilemma.  Downey, Jr., as a black man got old after a while, but I believe this was actually done on purpose focusing upon method actors’ inability to reclaim their own persona.  Nick Nolte was funny, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t on purpose.  I was glad to see McConaughey playing a role that didn’t involve a romantic comedy, and Steve Coogan’s performance, while short, was typically wonderful.  As I said, though, the surprising scene-stealer was far and way Tom Cruise.

Tropic Thunder was funny, entertaining, and fast-paced, but it wasn’t horribly original and the acting, other than Cruise and Downey, Jr., wasn’t anything you haven’t seen before from the movie’s stars.

King Kong – A Movie Review

It is no secret that I have been looking very forward to this film.  I am one of those people that do not subscribe to the notion that we’ve already had two King Kong films, what’s the point of a third?  Here’s my argument to that: How many of us have seen either of the two previous films in their entirety?  Answer: Not many.  I think King Kong is one of the few films that probably should be re-made every twenty or thirty years for a whole new audience.  I mean, I’ve seen the late seventies King Kong and thought it was pretty cool, but that was at least fifteen to twenty years ago.  As for the original King Kong, I’ve only seen clips.  Point being, I applaud Peter Jackson for making a modern day King Kong with modern day sensibility.

That being said, as you may have guessed, I highly recommend this film.  The effects were very, very good, but not always seamless.  The acting was also surprisingly good.  Jack Black did a superb job of creating a character you both loved and hated, and I dare anyone not to fall in figurative love with Naomi Watts.  Brody did a fine job as well, as did the captain and main members of the ship’s crew. 

No surprises in the storyline, as this was a re-make in the strictest of terms.  But, everything was better.  The natives were more frightening, the giant animal fight scenes were more ferocious, the insects were downright creepy, and Kong really felt like a real ape that just happened to be quite oversized.

The CG effects made Kong a hyper-realistic creation, one that conveyed thousands of emotions through his eyes and facial expressions.  I really think the emotional reverberation of this film has caught everyone off guard.  I dare you not to root for Kong even as he destroys human lives.  (Now, whether those lives are innocent is a matter of philosophical debate, one that I will not address.)

Now, I will admit, this film had a rather high cheese content.  I mean, the amount of near misses Naomi Watts suffered at the hands of giant creatures other than Kong bordered upon the absurd, as did some of the endless fight scenes between Kong and (insert creature here).  At times it was too much, even for a movie about a giant monkey.

However, that being said, I still say this movie is well worth the price of admission.