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Posts Tagged ‘King Kong’

Last night I visited the cinema to watch two perfect movies; Nerve and The Shallows.  When I say perfect, you may think they were instant classic movies that will contend all the awards and will rank amongst the greatest ever made.  Sadly this is not true, they are flawed movies that are average at best.  However, they are exactly what they are supposed to be,  they are disposable fun B movies.Nerve and The Shallows

The B movie started life in the early days of cinema using sets and stages from major pictures to make cheep films in an effort to maximise studios return on investment.  They were also a useful way of breaking new contract players into movie making.  The major studios were full of potential leading men and ladies, ingénue’s straight of the bus, a small number of whom would become stars.

Many of the B pictures became series, or followed a formula that would make you think they were a series.  Away from the eight major studios, the so called Poverty Row studios made nothing but B movies.  In the last days of the silent era and the early days of the talkies into the Golden Age of Hollywood, the B movie evolved into second features.  Throughout the 30’s and 40’s B movies were often genre pictures and usually clocked in at between 60 and 70 minutes for the poverty row studios and up to 90 minutes for the majors. As antitrust rules killed off second features, B movies evolved.  They continued to focus of genres; monsters, gangsters and cowboys were joined by the post war explosion in Sci-Fi.  The 60’s saw the birth of Exploitation movies.  Many of the directors credited as visionaries of American New Wave got their break in 60’s exploitation and B movies.

So back to last night’s double feature: Nerve is a teen (although most actors haven’t been teens this decade) satire on social media dressed up as an adventure thriller.  The plot isn’t as good as the concept and loses its way as it develops but is helped by engaging performances from Emma Roberts and Dave Franco.Nerve

The Shallows is an effective horror thriller about a young surfer who is stranded on rocks 200 yards from shore by a killer shark.  The surf scenes are well shot and Blake Lively manages to hold the viewers interest in a largely solo performance.  The plot is full of clichés and goofs but does feature a main character who doesn’t make the stupid decisions you usually associate with the genre.the shallows

So what is so good about the movies? They are 106 and 96 minutes long respectively.  If Scorsese or Nolan want to make a three hour masterpiece, great, they have proved they can do it, but do popcorn B pictures need to be two plus hours long? Simply NO!  Many two hour movies could be dramatically improved by being trimmed down to sub 100 minutes.  A perfect example of this:King Kong

If you watch the original, and still the best version of King Kong (1933) staring Fay Wray and directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both uncredited) and run it alongside Peter Jackson’s 2005 version, you may be surprised at what happens.  The older film runs for around 96 minutes, and is ending at about the same time as Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody arrive at Skull Island.  In fact, you could watch the old film twice in the time it takes to watch the new one once.  Did beauty kill the beast, or was it boredom?

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Mixtape Movies Image 2Inspired by the idea of cover songs, I have gone a little from my own brief of movies that fit together concentrating more on memorable remakes, but like a true mixtape they still sort of fit. I have excluded films where I haven’t seen both versions so Tony Scott Man On Fire (2004) misses out as I haven’t seen Elie Chouraqui’s 1987 Original, the same goes for The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) as I haven’t seen Roy Del Ruth’s 1931Original. I also excluded directors remaking their own movies so no Heat (Michael Mann, 1995), The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956) or The Ten Commandments(Cecil B. DeMille 1923) all miss out. What we get is six very different movies across at least five genres:Mixtape Movies - Cover Songs

Airplane! (Jim Abrams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker, 1980) an interesting inclusion on the mixtape; the original Zero Hour (Hall Bartlett, 1957) has basically the same plot (and even some of the same dialogue) but is a straight disaster movie, the remake is comedy classic thanks to perfect deadpan delivery and some great sight-gags.

A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964) the original samurai movie Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961) is a true classic, not only is it A Fistful of Dollars its equal, but it also turned Clint Eastwood from a TV actor into a moviestar. Despite settling a plagiarism suit with Akira Kurosawa, MGM/United Artists have never actually acknowledged that Dollars is a remake of Yojimbo.

Twelve Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995): Strickly speaking Terry Gilliam’s Sci-Fi classic is inspired by rather than a remake of La Jetée (La Jet?e, Chris Baker, 1962) but I will take any excuse to recommend both movies. For those who don’t know, La Jetée is made up of a series of stills accompanied by a haunting voiceover.

Ocean’s Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001): Ocean’s Eleven (Lewis Milestone, 1960) is a classic 60’s Rat Pack caper movie, except there is a problem, it isn’t very good. Not only is Soderbergh’s remake a lot funnier and a lot more fun than the original but it has a cast including: George Clooney. Brad Pitt. Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Andy Garcia and Elliott Gould.

The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982): Question: Was the 2011 movie The Thing a remake or a sequel, Answer, who cares it was rubbish! The original, The Thing From Another World (Christian Nyby, 1951) is well worth a look if you havent seen it, but the 1982 John Carpenter version is a classic.

Wild Card, the wild card is King Kong (Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933). Forget the numerous sequels and the 1976 and 2005 remakes (directed by John Guillermin and Peter Jackson respectively) and go for the classic stop motion original starring Fay Wray.

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I have long held a theory about scary movies; although it has always been there in the back of my mind, I hadn’t thought about for a long time or discussed for even longer. They, it all came flooding back to me recently whilst watching the culture show on BBC2. During an interview about her new movie, The Awakening Mark Kermode asked Rebecca Hall “What’s the scariest movie you ever saw?” Her response, Don’t Look Now (1973), she went on to explain why. She had seen it alone, when she was around twelve or thirteen years old. This really struck a chord with me as if asked I would say the same movie and for the same reason. I also watched the movie at around that age, probably too young! I was really disturbed by it and couldn’t get it out of my head and still to this day think of the movie whenever I see a read coat. Directed by Nicolas Roeg’s and based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier the movie is still creepy and disturbing, it will stay with you for days after you watch it (or is that just me?) but it isn’t actually scary.

This is in stark contrast to my experience of The Exorcist (1973). For those who don’t know The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin with a screenplay by William Peter Blatty based on his own novel is regarded as one of the scariest movies ever made. A huge hit at the box-office, adjusted for inflation it took more money than Avatar but this was all before I was born. In my formative years, the 1980’s it had fallen foul of Video Recordings Act 1984 and was considered a “video nasty”. The studio didn’t submit it to the BBFC for classification (it was never actually banned). The long and short of it, the movie was available not available on video after 1984 and I didn’t get to see it. That was until 1994. I was 18 years old and in my first couple of weeks at university. The movie was screened to a packed house in a small independent cinema. Was it the anticipation and reputation, or the packed auditorium that influenced my opinion? I’m not sure but one thing I can say, I enjoyed the movie finding it interesting, entertaining and thought provoking as well as been well made and well acted, but I didn’t find it frightening the way I found Don’t Look Now five years before.

As a child, I remember being scared of King Kong (1933) and later Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) in a way that no modern horror has affected me. I’m yet to have the same experience again, there have been other movies that have been creepy or a bit disturbing like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007) but not like the other movies I have mentioned. Have I been desensitised scary movies by early exposure or is Don’t Look Now just the most frightening movie ever made? Possibly a combination of the two, whatever the reason my early experiences have cemented my love for “genre movies” as they are sometimes (unkindly) referred. By the way if you haven’t already check out The Awakening starring the brilliant Rebecca Hall.

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