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.



Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Bernie”

The 2011 Richard Linklater comedic crime biopic Bernie is an unusual film in more ways than one. The film revolves around a true event that occurred in 1996 in the East Texas town of Carthage. The event in question is that of the murder of a wealthy 81-year-old widow, Marjorie “Marge” Nugent by her 38-year old companion Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede II. The subsequent trial and events afterwards are still to this day singled out as one of the most puzzling events in the American legal system’s history.

Bernie stars Jack Black as Bernie Tiede, Shirley MacClaine as Marjorie Nugent and Matthew McConaughey as Danny Buck Davidson, the local District Attorney of Carthage.  Black’s performance in this film has been praised by many critics as his best performance yet.

Bernie Tiede is portrayed as a beloved pillar of the community of Carthage.  Nearly every citizen in the town has nothing but good things to say about him and are shocked into disbelief that a seemingly pious and beloved man could commit such a crime. Contrast that with McClain’s portrayal of Mrs. Nugent as the town grouch, who was not merely disliked but often appeared to be hated in the town and even by members of her own family. The last main character in the film is that of Danny Buck. Matthew McConaughey plays him as a shrewd, wise-cracking, old-timey southern lawyer who’s convinced Bernie Tiede is some kind of diabolic killer.

What also sets this biopic film apart from others is the constant pause to interview and include the real-life citizens of Carthage into the film to give their take on the matter. Throughout the film, they continue to praise Bernie as a saint on earth and admonish Mrs. Nugent as if she had it coming. The film’s critical moment begins at the trial where the prosecution must motion for a change of venue. This is rarely done. It’s usually only done when the defendant is thought unable to receive a fair trial due to perceived juror bias and anger at the defendant; however, never has this been done because the accused was so well liked in the community that the state feared juror nullification and acquittal.

Lastly, what makes this film stand out was the fact that it was so well received and caused such a stir that the case was reopened. The actual Bernie Tiede was released from prison in 2014 under the condition that he remain under house arrest and live with the director Richard Linklater until a retrial could be held in 2016. Whether you think Bernie was guilty, innocent, or somewhere in-between, I think we can all agree that sometimes in this life “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”—Mark Twain

*This film is Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief strong language.*

*It’s available for check out at Union’s Library.*

*By Matthew Beyer.