King Kong

Skull Island King Kong

Given the kind of hindsight that comes with being forty-eight hours outside of something (you know, minimal, but still readily apparent), it seems safe to proclaim that Legendary Pictures won Comic-Con purely in terms of jaw-dropping announcements. This year’s San Diego Comic-Con was mostly free of big shockers (we’re looking at you, Marvel), but Legendary managed to sneak in a doozy while everyone else was busy processing their first (though still expected) announcement that they’re making Godzilla 2 and that they’re sticking with Gareth Edwards to do it. It’s called Skull Island, and it’s the King Kong origin story that maybe we all forgot we wanted until we realized that, no, no, in fact, we would like it, especially one coming from the studio and screenwriter behind Godzilla (scribe Max Borenstein will pen the new film). The recent news that Legendary has also targeted filmmaker Joe Cornish to direct the film (as reported by Deadline this week) only adds fuel to this big, furry fire. But before we journey to Skull Island, perhaps we should familiarize ourselves with our destination.

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Godzilla and King Kong

After Warner Bros. left the stage, having previewed their upcoming slate from Batman v Superman to the final Hobbit movie, their perennial partner in crime, Legendary Pictures took the stage at Comic-Con to show off what they’ve got planned over the next few years. Among their many previews were two big announcements that feature powerhouse monsters of cinema: King Kong and Godzilla. One is getting a sequel while the other is getting a prequel.

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Ciao-Maschio-2

Earlier this week, I wrote about one of the worst movies ever made, Congo. It’s actually just a single example of the many terrible movies involving apes and monkeys, which form a whole subcategory in the worst movies of all time canon. The group includes titles where actors wear gorilla suits as well as those where real chimps, orangutans or other primates are trained to play sports, drive cars, wear costumes of their own or provide comic relief in some other fashion. Thank goodness we have something like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and now its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, to make us forget about the crap that’s come before it. Yet there has also been a lot of great ape movies ahead of this rebooted Planet of the Apes series. Most of them are documentaries, but there are a number of fiction films and dramas based on true stories that ought to be recognized, to keep them in the spotlight while leaving stuff like Congo, Ed, Buddy, Link, Dunston Checks In and so many more in the shadows where they belong. Of course, as this week’s big movie is a sequel to a reboot, it’s recommended that you also look back at the originals. At least the first Planet of the Apes and second sequel Escape From the Planet of the Apes and definitely not Tim Burton’s 2001 remake. Also, obviously Rise (obviously, right, but I went to see Dawn with someone who didn’t even know […]

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King Kong

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a film that could only have been made in this moment. Think of it like Avatar or InAPPropriate Comedy; a film that owes its very existence to modern technology. You wouldn’t stage an all-out ape war without the assistance of lifelike computer apes any more than you’d try to film a Rob Schneider “comedy” about apps (is it really about apps? I’m not exactly sure) in a time before apps ever existed. Yes, the road to this weekend’s monkey mayhem is a long one. Because primates have been waging bloody vengeance on each other (and us, mostly) for more than a century, but only now is photorealistic chimp warfare a legitimate thing we can pay ten dollars to see. So let’s start back at the very beginning, and trace cinema’s primate special effects from their origins to the present day; from King Kong to King Kong to King Kong. Also a few other movies in between.

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singing ringing tree

After all the thrill and adventure of The Desolation of Smaug, you’re going to wish there was more to watch. Well, there is, only it’s not necessarily more of The Desolation of Smaug (not until the extended editions on video, anyway). Instead, it’s other movies that I’ve selected as necessary viewing for those who’ve seen the new Hobbit movie. It doesn’t matter if you liked Smaug or not, because many of these titles are preferred predecessors and alternatives, anyway. Others consist of early movies starring prominent members of the cast or just movies that I was personally reminded of and have now made the excuse to share. From the very well known to the very obscure, the long and the short, there’s bound to be at least one title here for you to enjoy in however much time you have leftover following another lengthy trip to Middle-earth with Peter Jackson. This weekend’s list includes 13 titles, one for each of the 13 dwarves in the movie — though not every selection is necessarily tied to a dwarf. That was just my idea of being clever, plus the fact that such a long movie with a lot going on naturally got me thinking of more movies than usual. Check out my recommendations below and share any others you believe are relevant to mention. There are plot SPOILERS for Smaug after the jump, of course, since many of these picks are relevant to various parts of the movie.

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IntroRedemption

Sometimes a person just doesn’t get along. In films, it can be the other characters that don’t mesh, or sometimes it’s the audience themselves who just can’t stand a single idiot character that won’t go away. I believe the term is “Jar-Jaring” or, if you’re referring to television, “pulling a Lori.” Last year I gave you a pretty okay list of characters that achieved excellent redemptions for their wrongdoings. Today I want to explore those who did not. These are the asshole characters that tried and failed, or simply didn’t try at all. Hey spoilers!

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IntroBehindScenes

It seems very rare that a behind-the-scenes documentary will earnestly try to show how the movie is made over trying to sensationalize the process. After all, who exactly is the demographic watching these things? Is it people who are genuinely interested in learning the techniques, or is it casual fans of a particular movie peeking behind the curtain? A good documentary caters to both – but above all should be honest in how the film was made. I’d like to explore some of the most earnest examples that I’ve come across. Either as stand alone films or DVD extras – these are documentaries that show, for better or for worse, the good and the bad aspects of the movie making process. This is stuff that no film goon should miss.

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Alex-03

“Movie House of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, guest submitter Ethan Schaeffer shares one of his favorite theaters. His comments are those quoted. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor. Name: Alex Theatre Location: 216 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA Opened: September 4, 1925, as a vaudeville and movie house called the Alexander. Reopened on December 31, 1993, as the Alex Theatre Performing Arts & Entertainment Center. No. of screens: 1 Current first-run titles: none

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Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings

We can all hoist accolades on the filmmakers found in this series, but there are few who are as transparent about their process and actively engaging when it comes to including fans on set (at least via video) than Peter Jackson. Not just a minimal-effort chore for marketing, Jackson seems to relish with childlike abandon in making the Making Of videos and taking audiences behind the scenes of movies while they’re being made. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising for a details-oriented storyteller who has built entire worlds for us to visually visit. But he wasn’t always sitting on top of Middle-Earth. Before The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, it was more likely you’d catch him with a lawnmower in hand and a bucket of fake blood close by. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from someone who fought in the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It happens nightly. It’s about movies. Sometimes television, too. It’s written by a guy who thinks he’s funny. He is often wrong. We begin this evening with a quick programming note. For the second time in the history of this column, we will be celebrating a week of guest entries. Once again, members of the FSR staff have come forward to pledge their swords to the battle for excellent nightly movie news link-dumps. I will be away doing my usual moving and shaking, while the likes of Nathan Adams, Kevin Carr, Luke Mullen, Kate Erbland and a doubtfully sober Robert Fure will be taking the reigns. I have faith that you will all survive their week of debauchery. I bid you to go with god. Above, Bane reacts to this news in a new image from The Dark Knight Rises.

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There’s totally nothing wrong with a bonding between man and beast, but it feels like such relationships are often trivialized thanks to how sensational we make them in films. Teaching your dog to sit and stay is cool, but in the movie world you’d need to at least teach him to solve crimes or play basketball to really turn heads. Anything less is just everyday stuff. It’s because movies tend to over-personify animals that we often forget just how extraordinarily talented they’re portrayed as, and how weird some of the relationships are. Here are some of the weirder ones…

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Boiling Point

John Carter lightly transported itself into theaters this past weekend, securing a relatively meager $30m opening domestically, though it managed to secure another $70m internationally. While I will eventually make a defense of the economics at play here, it is hard to argue that John Carter isn’t a domestic failure, considering it came in second to The Lorax, which debuted a full week earlier. On top of that, John Carter has a suspected $250m budget with marketing costs guestimated in the $100m range, for a total investment of around $350m. The critics have been somewhat kind to the civil war veteran’s debut – while the average review seems to be “it’s alright,” there have certainly been some hyperbolic highs and very few hyperbolic lows. Consensus is you’ll probably think the movie is okay, but you might want to wait for DVD. Scattered among those are bold claims that film will live on with your children as a classic, which are probably a bit off the reservation. There is little doubt that in at least several ways John Carter failed, ways that were easily avoidable and ways that make me fairly angry with the system.

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If I had to pick two things that I just can’t get enough of in films, it would have to be a good underdog story and gratuitous physical violence. It is only natural then that I would build a humble list of some of my favorite moments in cinema where the two are combined. When I think about what makes a fight particularly one-sided, it actually has less to do with the amount of people that the hero is up against and more about the hero’s strengths, or rather lack thereof. But then there’s always going to be an ‘awesome’ factor to think about, because when it is all said and done the hero usually triumphs against the odds – so the means in which they do such a thing is very important to me; being badass certainly has its merits, but in most cases, being creative is far more impressive.

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When Zoolander came out on September 28, 2001, the production had digitally removed The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers from the New York City skyline in an effort to avoid displaying a devastating image in the middle of a comedy about the world of fashion. If they’d have left it in, it wouldn’t have been the first time the buildings had been featured on film or television. Since they didn’t, it marks the first time the buildings were ever erased. With the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 coming this Sunday, it’s impossible not to be consumed a bit by the gravity of an action that killed so many and lowered a different world view onto all of us. Landon and I talked on Reject Radio regarding the effect that the day had on movies and movie-watchers, but that mostly dealt with the last decade – the world that came after that morning. As a counterpart, here’s a simply-edited montage of the past. Dan Meth has built a view to the movies where the Twin Towers either stood proudly in the background, made prominent appearances in the front of the action, or acted as the set. It’s stirring in its matter-of-factness, and it’s more than a little moving, but it’s ultimately a celebration of a symbol that no longer (physically) exists. Check it out for yourself:

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Let’s face it. If you need to threaten an enemy from a middle range distance, clear a ton of jungle in a hurry or carmelize the top of a crème brûlée, there’s nothing better for the job than a flamethrower. It’s a gun that throws fire. As your head wraps around that awesome concept (just as it does on a daily basis when you daydream about owning one), consider this beautiful instrument of destruction’s place in film. Sure, Bellflower comes out this week (and should energize you to convert daydreaming into action), but there’s a storied history here to uncover, and a future that’s assured to be bright enough to demand protective gear. Here are just a handful of movies that put the flamethrower on the burnt pedestal it deserves to sit upon.

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Why Watch? Because it’s the best Sweding job out there. Back when Be Kind Rewind came out, the cultural phenomenon of Sweded movies jumped out of the plot and into real life. Filmmakers of all stripes were recreating famous movies with household items and borrowed aesthetic. It was such a movement that a contest was hosted by Michel Gondry. The winner of that contest comes from a filmmaker we featured yesterday as well. Chloe Fleury certainly has a passion and knack for stop motion animation, and her recreation of King Kong is absolutely brilliant. There are a million great things about this short. What does it cost? Just 3 minutes of your time. Check out King Kong for yourself:

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What is Movie News After Dark? Whatever it was last night has been shed, and tonight it is back to its old self: a movie news round-up that appears nightly, pulls no punches and always delivers the goods. For those who were disappointed in last night’s non-entry — especially that guy who called me “LAZY” — please accept my apology in the form of tonight’s exquisite assortment of entertaining goodies. Tonight’s lead image comes from Pixar’s new short, Luna. It’s the coming-of-age story of a young boy who is taught the strange details of his family’s business. As with everything Pixar-related, it looks beautiful. And we can only imagine that it will have some sort of heart-warming human elements. Nothing plucks heart strings like a little lineage and a father with a massive mustache.

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For those of you new to the column, I am recalling pivotal events in my life that contributed to what I am today: A Special Make Up Effects Artist searching for relevance in the 21st Century. I had learned about liquid latex; I had my Super 8mm camera. Now, all I needed was the spark, the inspiration to push me. I am 15 years old… High School is a major adjustment for everyone, and I was no different. Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, Louisiana was not known for its liberal arts education. It didn’t have the reputation for being an Ivy League prep school. It was known for its football team. Consisting of an all-male student body you can imagine what life for a pudgy, sci-fi/horror loving, non-athlete was like. I was lucky, however, that when I entered the school as a freshman, my brother was already a senior. I had fallen in with a group of friends that carried over from grammar school that had similar interests, but for the most part, we knew we would have to keep a low profile in order to survive. That was Fall of 1976. America had enjoyed its big 200th birthday party that July and we movie lovers had a pretty good summer between King Kong, Logan’s Run, and The Omen. Hidden in my books were copies of “Starlog” and “Cinefantastique” magazines, and the margins of my notebooks were illuminated with sketches of creatures and space ships. We still had a […]

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Shannon Shea has done special effects work on over sixty films. From Evil Dead II to Predator. From Dances With Wolves to Jurassic Park. From In the Mouth of Madness to Sin City. Every week he delves into his personal and professional history to tell the story of how he became a monster that makes monsters. So there I was, in a small conference room in Woodland Hills, California on a warm February afternoon in 2009. I knew that the meeting would go long, and I would have to spend at least an hour driving home to Los Angeles. Sitting next to me was Mark Dippe, Industrial Light and Magic alumnus and director of the movie Spawn, and across from me sat Dean Cundey, the guy that not only shot all of John Carpenter’s early movies, but also shot Jurassic Park and Back to the Future just to name a few. At the end of the table was producer Tom Kiniston; I had worked with Tom on the Tremors TV series, and next to him was Brian Gilbert, formerly of Stan Winston Productions. The director was Brian Levant, whom I had never worked with personally. However I was familiar with him because I was representing KNB EFX Group, and KNB had made the Turbo-Man Suits for Jingle All The Way, a Mr. Levant effort. We, along with other department heads had gathered to discuss Scooby Doo and the Curse of the Lake Monster. As we began to go through the […]

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John Barry, the prolific and almost peerless film composer, has died of a heart attack. The beauty and complexity of his work cannot be overstated – a fact bolstered by his five Oscar wins (for Out of Africa, The Lion in Winter, Born Free (2 wins), and Dances With Wolves). Of course, Barry will be less known for the statues and more known for his decades of collaboration on the James Bond franchise. He worked on eleven of the first Bond movies starting with Dr. No and ending with The Living Daylights. Barry worked on or has had his music included in 143 films. It’s a massive achievement, and one that leaves the question of which score is the best open to a wild range of interpretation. Do you go with the brassy edge of the Bond music? The sheer hugeness and intensity of the Zulu score? The sophisticated jungle rhythms of the 1976 King Kong remake? The man left behind some impeccable work – film scores that should be studied and emulated for years to come. Not to mentioned enjoyed by movie fans of all stripes. He will absolutely be missed.

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