Matthew’s Monday Movie: “King Kong” (2005)

In 2005, director Peter Jackson was riding high off of the success of The Lord of the Rings franchise. But he had always dreamed of remaking the classic 1933 film King Kong. Jackson was a young boy when he first saw the film and instantly fell in love with its timeless story. In fact, King Kong impressed him so much that it would eventually lead him to becoming a filmmaker himself. Jackson’s own King Kong is a re-imagining of the great classic that uses state-of-the-art visual effects that help bring the giant ape to life (as well as realistic motion capture) and show off impeccable set design, stunning visual sequences, and awe-inspiring sound.

The film’s plot revolves around an ambitious filmmaker out to make a name for himself who manages to con some down-on-their-luck actors, a captain, and his crew into venturing to the uncharted and mythical Skull Island. They hope to shoot the first on site film and use the mysterious island as its backdrop; however, the island turns out to be populated by hostile natives and, worse still, all manner of giant monstrous creatures.  The fiercest of these creatures are what the natives have dubbed “Kong,” a giant gorilla that they worship as a god. The leading actress is captured by Kong, and the cast and crew must attempt to rescue her. They then decide to capture and bring Kong back alive and to show off the beast to stunned New York crowds. This inevitably leads to disaster as Kong escapes and terrorizes the city.

This film’s cast includes Naomi Watts as the aspiring lead actress Ann Darrow. Although Ann is captured by Kong, she soon realizes he is not a mindless brute but can be quite tender and protective. Adrian Brody stars as Jack Driscoll, a pragmatic screenwriter who attempts to rescue Ann and ultimately falls in love with her. Lastly, Jack Black stars as Carl Denham, the man who is desperate to achieve greatness and is willing to risk everyone’s lives to do it.

King Kong did extremely well with critics, who praised its visual effects and imaginative retelling of the classic 30’s film. The film pulled a whopping 550 million in box office revenue. It still holds an 84% fresh rating among audiences and users on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes.  King Kong went on to win Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

King Kong is a fantastic retelling of a classic piece of early cinema that modern audience will appreciate and enjoy.  It is available at the Union University Library and is rated PG-13 for some mild violence and language.

 

 

Book Review: “Atonement” by Ian McEwan

atonement

 

*This post contains mild spoilers for Atonement

First things first: Atonement is a controversial book, but there can be no doubt that it is well-written. Ian McEwan gets inside the minds of his characters with a precision that is almost uncanny- how can an adult man so accurately capture the motivations of a dreamy (and judgemental) thirteen-year-old girl? Yet the story unravels in flowing prose that compels you to read more, and you believe the characters, as dysfunctional as they are.

To summarize without spoiling, Atonement is mostly about the connection between a  young man and woman and how it is dangerously misunderstood by a thirteen-year-old girl. This leads to a great injustice, tearing apart the family at the story’s center. McEwan also throws in a lot about WWII in the second half of the story and how simply trying to survive can alter one’s reality.

What Atonement gets right: the writing. To me, Ian McEwan’s style is like a mixture of F. Scott Fitzgerald (modern) and Jane Austen (Regency era). That’s hard to pull off, but Ian McEwan succeeds. His story is all about the characters and their inner workings, so the plot revolves around their reactions and decisions. Thus, the different events in Atonement make sense to the reader because we know what’s really going on with the characters (even if they don’t), giving us the satisfaction of being “in on it.”

What Atonement gets wrong: In the #MeToo era, it’s hard to read about a rape that essentially goes unpunished. The main witness to the crime (who is not credible at all) takes control of the situation, which leads to the actual victim essentially not even having to give a testimony. This is an obstruction of justice, and McEwan’s attitude toward the young girls involved is detached at best and coldhearted at worst. In fact, most of the adults in the book are extremely neglectful of the children they are supposed to be taking care of, and McEwan writes as if this is normal and expected (instead of, you know, wrong).

Who should read Atonement: I’d recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys books about fictional crime, in-depth character analyses, WWII, nursing, literature in general, and very complicated romances.

Who shouldn’t read Atonement: People who like books where they can escape and be happy in that escape. This book isn’t light or positive.

 

Ian McEwan’s new science fiction book, Machines Like Me, is due out this year. You can find two of McEwan’s books, including Atonement, here at the library. 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Book of Eli”

It seems that if you had to sum up what this current decade’s #1 movie trend has been, it would have to be the setting of POST-APOCALYPTIC.  For one reason or another we are drawn to fantasies of the end of the world, from zombies, robots, climate change, alien invasion or good old fashioned nuclear war. Actually people seem obsessed with not exactly the world ending but how they are going to survive once it has ended. Human beings are definitely optimistic about our abilities and chances to not only survive but thrive in the event of the Apocalypse.

The Book of Eli is not your standard post-apocalyptic film in the genre. While it does offer amazing visuals and brutal action, it also tells a story of hope and destiny that we will never be truly alone and that Someone is watching out for us- we just might need a little faith.

The story revolves around a lone wanderer, Eli, played by Denzel Washington. Eli is a survivor of a cataclysmic war that has transformed the earth into a barre, scorched landscape where you are either predator or prey to a host of cutthroats and raiders. Eli boasst a stoic and non-confrontational attitude but, when threatened, he has amazing fighting skills and seems to effortlessly cut a path through highwaymen and bandits until he reaches a populated desert settlement. The local strong man is that of the character aptly named Carnegie played by Gary Oldman. Carnegie is a ruthless ruler who leads a large gang of henchmen and dreams of conquering other towns to grow his power. He frequently sends his men out on raids for supplies and to search for something special that will aid him in taking over other towns.

The next character to appear is that of Solara played by Mila Kunis. She works in the local inn as a house keeper and bartender; she is protected from Carnegie’s minions because her blind mother, Claudia, played by Jennifer Beals, is Carnegie’s personal courtesan. Things soon come to a head as it is discovered that Eli possess the very thing Carnegie has been after. This leads to a confrontation of biblical proportions. Soon Eli and Solara find themselves on the run from Carnegie and his minions, hoping to find sanctuary further west.

The Book of Eli turns an often over-saturated genre into something with a more meaningful message that Hollywood often avoids all together. Denzel is as charismatic as ever, and Oldman, always known for his ability to play great believable villains, doesn’t let us down. This film came out at the same time as James Cameron’s Avatarso it was somewhat over shadowed by the other film. It was not until many years later that I came across it. I think it’s a great film and if you haven’t yet seen it, you should give it a watch.

*Be mindful: this movie does contain some intense scenes of action and violence and some language.

**written by Matthew Beyer.

***You can check out The Book of Eli from the library.