Saturday, May 26, 2012

Winter Wrap-up Part Two

Yet again here are three very different movies that I all saw months ago. My classes end in a few weeks so I hope on getting caught up soon.

King Kong
I watched King Kong for the first time on March 2nd, the 79th anniversary of this film's release!
For an almost 80 year old movie I was impressed by the great special effects. I didn't know they had anything close to animatronics back then!
King Kong is a precursor to modern adventure movies. While the film starts out a bit slow it turns into non-stop action once we get to Skull Island. This is another aspect of the King Kong that was ahead of its time.
Movie director Carl Denham (played by Robert Armstrong) is forced by the studio to include a love interest in his films. Denham ends up casting Ann Darrow (played by Fay Wray) as the iconic beautiful blonde. However I found it was interesting how King Kong is about making movies in this respect.
King Kong is sort of a cross between The Lost World and The Phantom of the Opera. The Lost World similarities are that dinosaurs still survive in a forgotten land as well as King Kong being unleashed on the modern world in a battle of man vs. nature. Kong is sort of the like the phantom as we have a beauty and the beast relationship between Ann Darrow and Kong. Kong seems to truly care for Ann despite causing destruction and mayhem. Kong as a tragic anti-hero and it is easy to root for the "monster" in this movie.
Kong is one of the earliest non-human film characters that audiences actually cared about. Unlike Rin Tin Tin, the famous canine actor of the 1920s, Kong is not even alive! While models, animatronics, and CGI of the last 50 years have now achieved this, King Kong was head of the curve here as we don't even have a person in a suit. Sure Kong isn't the first non-human movie monster, but he's probably the first we truly sympathize with.
I haven't seen the 2005 Peter Jackson version of King Kong but will probably watch it someday.

The Secret of My Succe$s (1987)
There are some actors I like so much that I will seek out their movies only because they are in them. Michael J. Fox is one of those actors. The basic plot of the movie is that a young man who lives with his family on a farm in the mid-west (played by Michael J. Fox) moves by himself to New York City in order to make it in the real world of business.
Fox was great in this role and the movie would not have been as entertaining without him. The Secret of My Succe$s was made after the original Back to the Future movie but before the sequels and while Fox's TV show Family Ties was airing.
Michael J. Fox is pretty short but usually this is hidden by having his romantic interest be his height or shorter. However, in this movie his love interest (played by Helen Slater) is taller than him and there is no attempt made to hide it.
The "music conductor" scene is absolutely hilarious and a good example of a really funny scene in an otherwise pretty average comedy. The character Vera Prescott (played by Margaret Whitton, probably best known as the owner of the Cleveland Indians in Major League) who is the cheating wife of Fox's boss/distant relative was also funny and led to some amusing moments. Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster of The Munsters), Richard Jordan, and John Pankow also have supporting roles.
Although The Secret of My Succe$s is not that well known today, it was quite popular in its time. It was the 7th top grossing movie in the U.S. in 1987, ahead of movies such as Lethal Weapon, Predator, Robocop, Full Metal Jacket, and The Princess Bride
Night Ranger performed the title theme, one of their last hits before they faded out in the late 80s. The song "Oh Yeah" by Yello is also in the movie which was kinda distracting since I, and most people for that matter, will always associate it with Ferris Bueller's Day Off which came out a year earlier.

True Lies
True Lies is first of so far only two non-science fiction movies directed by James Cameron. The other is of course Titanic which is probably the reason this movie gets lost in the shuffle of his catalog.
While watching this movie I felt like it was James Cameron meets Alfred Hitchcock. We have the classic Cameron touches but with the paranoia and suspense of a Hitchcock film. Even the basic plot is essentially an inverse of North by Northwest as instead of a ordinary guy being confused for a spy we have a spy trying to hide as a normal family man.
There are some great action sequences such as Arnold Schwarzenegger riding a horse through a building (and even taking it on an elevator!) and the final scenes with helicopters and airplanes.
With a 141 minute running time I felt that True Lies bit too long. While I did enjoy the sub-plot in which a used car salesman (played by Bill Pullman) pretends to be a spy to try to sleep with Schwarzenegger's wife (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) it did drag down the film's pace.
The terrorist angle was interesting and a bit ahead of its time though I doubt it would've been handled that way in a post 9-11 movie.
Tom Arnold, Tia Carrere, and Charlton Heston (who basically plays Nick Fury!) are all a lot of fun in supporting roles. True Lies also features Eliza Dushku (as the daughter of Schwarzenegger and Curtis' characters) early in her career.
I later found out that True Lies is actually an American remake of the 1991 French film La Totale! but I couldn't find much information about that original movie. I was surprised to find out this was a remake so I'd like to the original someday as I'm curious as to how similar or different they are.
The only James Cameron movie I have left to see now is The Abyss. Unless you count Piranha Part II: The Spawning of course... but if you go by movies he has writing credit but did not direct I also have yet to see Rambo II and Strange Days.


  1. Great reviews! I am a massive fan of KING KONG. Forget Godzilla! King Kong is the true King of Monsters!

  2. Thanks again for watching King Kong with me Nate! I still need to see the original Godzilla sometime though!

  3. True Lies was pretty great movie. Cameron is one of the few directors Schwarzennegger's worked with who knew exactly what his strengths and weaknesses were.

    I too would love to watch the original La Totale to see what they kept but I don't think it's ever been subbed/dubbed and my French is too rusty. There is a trailer on youtube though and I can spot some similarities. It seems to focus a bit more on the wife's infidelity with the Paxton character.

  4. Yeah it was interesting to see Schwarzenegger work with Cameron in a non-Terminator movie. Arnie was supposed to play Doctor Octopus when James Cameron was attached to direct Spider-Man before it fell through.

    It's too bad that La Totale is unavailable in English (subbed or dubbed) because I am curious to see it. I've seen the trailer on YouTube and it seems similar but a different take on the material.