Thursday, February 02, 2006

Two Films

King Kong is awful. Somewhere in this three hour exercise in cinematic masturbation is a lean, scary, touching ninety-minute crowd-pleaser. After Oscar rewarded him for the tedium of The Return of the King (which went for what, five hours?), Peter Jackson seems to be stuck in epic mode. But unlike LOTR there is not enough in the King Kong story to justify such an extended running time, with the result that the film is mostly padding. The hour-long chase sequence on Skull Island is just idiotic. Apart from Kong's fight with the three T-Rexes, it's just one unconvincing and often confusing scene after another. And what's with the shitty bluescreen effects?

It doesn't help that we know exactly what is going to happen at the climax. But again it drags on, like we need twenty minutes of Kong atop the Empire State Building to realise how clever Jackson is. The tragic ending, although expected, is at least something different to your typical blockbuster, but frankly by that point I wouldn't have cared if the good people of New York had proceded to have themselves a monkey barbecue in Times Square.

Walk the Line follows a familiar biopic story arc (struggle, success, struggle-with-success, redemption), and is another case where the direction doesn't really do justice to the subject, or, in this case, the performances and the music. Joaquin Phoenix is perfect as Johnny Cash, and having Phoenix and the rest of the cast perform their own vocals was an inspired move. I loved the way he developed Cash's voice over the course of the film, from hesitant drawl to the rich, deep vocal we all know from Cash's recordings. Also, for the first time since, well, ever I realised that Reese Witherspoon can actually act. Best of all, you are only ever one scene away from some great music (assuming, that is, you enjoy early rock 'n' roll), but again director James Mangold often seems to be working against his own film. The film's best moment comes when Cash takes the stage at Folsom Prison, there to cut his immortal live album. It perfectly captures Cash's toughness and his kindness, his bravado and his self-doubt, yet Mangold cuts it short, eager to get back to explaining Cash through formulaic drama. Still, although it errs on the side of convention, and its reading of Cash's psychology is at best superficial, Walk the Line is a lot of fun.

1 comment:

Guy said...

Well reviewed. Haven't seen either yet but that certainly clarifies my indecision as to whether or not to see either.