Tag Archives: Peter Jackson

District 9 (2009, Neill Blomkamp)

I’ve never seen a movie before where the vanity producer (Peter Jackson) came before the studio who put up the money for said vanity producer.

Wait, this movie is supposed to be about apartheid? Director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp is from South Africa and adoring critics can’t stop making the comparison.

It starts in 1982. Mandela didn’t get out until 1990. Apartheid didn’t end until after he did. It’s a real lame simile, since it’s impossible to believe world events would have played out the same with the presence of extraterrestrials.

To be fair, I only saw a half hour of this crap before my wife let me stop it. When I told her it was two hours she she wanted to switch over to something more highbrow… you know, with fart jokes.

She did try to make some case for the film’s approach as a general statement about internment. It’s a dumb movie–no one learned to communicate with the alien language–and who really believes a Nazi-loving nation would really be trusted by world leaders to safeguard extraterrestrials. You can be all nice about it now with Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron and all, but remember, Lethal Weapon 2 attacked a sovereign nation, ridiculed it, to cheering audiences.

Audiences who have gotten stupider in the last twenty years–otherwise they would have hurled tomatoes at the screen, this derivative dreck’s idiotic narrative horrifying them.

District 9 is the stupidest theatrical release I’ve started watching in years.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Neill Blomkamp; written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell; director of photography, Trent Opaloch; edited by Julian Clarke; music by Clinton Shorter; production designer, Philip Ivey; produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Sharlto Copley (Wikus), David James (Koobus), Jason Cope (Christopher Johnson), Vanessa Haywood (Tania) and Louis Minnaar (Piet Smit).


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King Kong (2005, Peter Jackson)

I’ll be honest–I didn’t make it very far, considering its length, into King Kong. I sat through a lot. I sat through the opening Great Depression montage, which was shockingly bad. The people who assailed Michael Bay for his glitzy Pearl Harbor gave Jackson a free pass for Kong? It’s obscene. I sat through the terrible CG. “Grand Theft Auto IV” looks better. Jackson draws attention to Kong‘s unbelievable backdrops in a way I can’t believe any modern filmmaker would. CG isn’t a new tool anymore and Jackson’s bad, 1990s video game CG is terribly misused. It’s incompetent.

I sat though the film opening with Naomi Watts, who’s weak. The tone for the film during her scenes seems to have been lifted from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a goofy cartoon rendition of the 1930s. I sat through Jack Black. His first scene, combined with James Newton Howard’s pervasive, intrusive score and Jackson and company’s script, mocks the original film. It’s stunning how it degrades and dismisses the original–but it later gets much, much worse.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong is pure, big Hollywood camp. There’s nothing else to call it.

I also sat through some of the worst filmmaking I’ve ever seen in a film not ridiculed by critics and audiences alike. The scene where Watts walks up the plank… she hesitates–it’s such a big momentous, life-changing event (something the viewer might know from that lame original Jackson so enjoys mocking). Then it gets worse. Jackson goes to close-up on her feet making the step.

But that one isn’t even the worst I saw. The slow motion close-up of Adrien Brody typing out Skull Island–ominously, of course–with each key getting a zoom, is even worse. Jackson doesn’t have any respect for his own script, which is kind of interesting, I suppose, but not particularly.

Watts and Brody, from what I saw, have absolutely no chemistry together. The fault lies with both of them. She isn’t very good and he looks incredibly embarrassed.

Black’s worse than I thought he’d be. He mugs constantly.

Both Evan Parke and Thomas Kretschmann seem to be good. Maybe their performances crap out after I stopped watching.

Oh, I never did get around to why I stopped watching.

There’s some foreshadowing to the event–the ship, the Venture, is out of Surabaya. I’m nearly positive Surabaya is never mentioned in the 1933 original. The 1976 remake–ridiculed by critics as campy and disrespectful of the original–opens in Surabaya. Whatever, I figured it was a coincidence.

Until Jackson rips off a monologue from the 1976 version. I didn’t let it finish. I stopped the film.

King Kong isn’t just worse than I expected, it’s worse than I could have imagined. Why Jackson chose to remake a film he doesn’t–almost forty minutes in to his remake–appear to have any regard for (save the opening title design), is inexplicable.

His direction isn’t bad. There’s some enthusiasm (but not much) and I’m sure he thinks his CG looks good.

The writing is awful, unbearable as it turns out.

I really did expect to sit through this one when I started it (it’s so bad, I’ve forgotten the last film I turned off). Then, fifteen minutes into it, I thought I’d at least make it until the big CG ape showed up. But there’s no point. It’s complete crap and a spit in the eye of the original. Jackson doesn’t even have a narrative–much less an artistic approach–his Kong exists to laugh at the original.

I know Jackson wanted Fay Wray to deliver the “it was beauty killed the beast” line at the end (she passed away before filming started, I believe). Would she have done it after Jackson spent three hours sneering her version?

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Jackson; written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson, based on the story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace; director of photography, Andrew Lesnie; edited by Jamie Selkirk and Jabez Olssen; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, Grant Major; produced by Jan Blenkin, Carolynne Cunningham, Walsh and Jackson; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Naomi Watts (Ann Darrow), Jack Black (Carl Denham), Adrien Brody (Jack Driscoll), Thomas Kretschmann (Captain Englehorn), Colin Hanks (Preston), Jamie Bell (Jimmy), Evan Parke (Hayes), Kyle Chandler (Bruce Baxter) and Andy Serkis (Lumpy).


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The Frighteners (1996, Peter Jackson), the director’s cut

The Frighteners came right after (well, two years) Heavenly Creatures, so I assume–and sort of remember from 1996–it was supposed to be Jackson’s big break. Instead, it bombed. So, obviously, it’s his best work. The Frighteners is a Universal Pictures Michael J. Fox star vehicle (following Greedy and For Love or Money and The Hard Way) and it’s Fox at his best, when he finally shrugged off the trying-too-hard attitude that ruined his 1980s work. The film plays to Fox’s comedic, self-referencing traits, but without forcing references to earlier work. The scenes where he’s not being funny, fail. It’s not all Fox’s fault, the script fails there too. The Frighteners is best when it’s being silly. (However, as “Boston Legal” further confirms, Fox does well as a romantic leading man).

I wasn’t expecting much from The Frighteners. I haven’t seen it since the late 1990s, probably when the laserdisc came out. I missed the much-eBayed director’s cut laserdisc and waited to watch the film again until it became available in whatever format. I remember Jackson once referred to the version as “The Director’s Fun Cut,” as opposed to anything else, and it is quite a bit of fun. The Frighteners is so well-cast, has so many good jokes and performances (Dee Wallace-Stone is particularly good), it’s rather disappointing when it falls apart. The added footage does the film no harm, it just has a bad third act….

Throughout the entire film, Jeffrey Combs irritates as a wacko FBI agent, but he once disappears only to reappear, it becomes obvious how little he brought to the film. When he returns, the heart sinks and the eyes roll… He’s actually doing a Jim Carrey impression in the role, stealing mannerisms and expressions from Carrey’s early work–most visibly Ace Ventura and Dumb & Dumber. I kept wondering if they’d wanted Carrey (he and Combs share a resemblance), but couldn’t afford him or something. Even the initials are the same. It’s not just Combs who ruins the third act, it’s just heavy-handed and poorly written… but not so much it spoils the film.

Oh, lastly, the awful CG special effects. They don’t really affect the film’s quality, but many of these shots could have been achieved without CG, just with a minuscule amount of imagination and they would have actually looked good.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Jackson; written by Fran Walsh and Jackson; directors of photography, Alun Bollinger and John Blick; edited by Jamie Selkirk; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Grant Major; produced by Selkirk and Jackson; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Michael J. Fox (Frank Bannister), Trini Alvarado (Lucy Lynskey), Peter Dobson (Ray Lynskey), John Astin (the Judge), Jeffrey Combs (Milton Dammers), Dee Wallace-Stone (Patricia Ann Bradley), Jake Busey (Bartlett), Chi McBride (Cyrus), Jim Fyfe (Stuart), Troy Evans (Sheriff Perry), Julianna McCarthy (Old Lady Bradley) and R. Lee Ermey (Sgt. Hiles).