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.

Eastern Promises – A Movie Review

I really enjoyed Viggo Mortensen in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, so when I heard they were teaming up again for Eastern Promises, I had very high expectations.

 

Eastern Promises offers a powerfully subdued yet intense performance by Viggo Mortensen as a Russian driver/enforcer working his way up London’s most notorious Russian crime family.  Mortensen has proven himself a chameleon with the roles he’s chosen of late, and I had no trouble accepting him as a merciless, cold, calculating—and oddly charming—criminal.

 

The premise of the story seems straightforward on the surface, but there are some complex developments that caught me unawares.  Essentially Naomi Watts, a hospital worker, is trying to track down relation for a baby recently born to a teenage Russian prostitute who died during labor.  All she has is a diary written in Russian, which, as fate would have it, leads her right to the door of the Russian mob and Viggo Mortensen.  Watts finds herself intertwined in an alien world, ultimately putting the baby in more danger than she ever could have realized.

 

Cronenberg delivers a compelling and utterly realistic film delving into a topic I found completely original.  I’ve never seen much involving the Russian mafia, especially one based in London, so there was nothing familiar to me about this movie.  I’m certain that’s one of the many reasons I enjoyed it so much.

 

There are moments of potent violence in Eastern Promises, but they are brief and not as frequent as you might expect.  The psychological tension is palpable in this film, and that’s what will have you on the edge of your seat more so than any bloodshed.

 

I would, however, be remiss to avoid discussing the infamous bathhouse knife fight.  Yes, Viggo Mortensen displays extreme devotion to his character by recording a scene totally nude as men attack him with knives in a bathhouse.  I suppose if you hit pause you could see everything you wanted to know about Mortensen, but it all happens so fast and the camera work is so sporadic that the viewer sees nothing more than glimpses and blurs.  I can’t imagine getting tossed around on tile floors like that without any sort of … well, you know.  Mortensen is definitely willing to take one for the team and suffer for his art.

 

Eastern Promises moved at an incredibly fast pace and the tense storyline and character-driven acting impressed me to no end.   I had high expectations for this film, and they were exceeded.