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King Kong (***)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson from a story by Merian C. Cooper and Edger Wallace
Principal Cast
Naomi Watts -- Ann Darrow
Adrien Brody -- Jack Driscoll
Jack Black -- Carl Denham
Thomas Kretschmann -- Captain Englehorn
Colin Hanks -- Preston
Jamie Bell -- Jimmy
Evan Parke -- Hayes
Kyle Chandler -- Bruce Baxter
Andy Serkis -- Kong/Lumpy the Cook
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

King Kong When I first saw the original King Kong, I was just a kid. I remember being bored for the first twenty minutes or so, but once the ship reached Kong Island, I was thrilled. Every scene is indelibly etched on my memory, and I think that I myself could recreate every stop-motion lash of the Tyrannosaur's tail.

I watched the old King Kong again, on the excellent new DVD, before seeing the new film. I was more patient with the buildup, and less patient with Kong's fangs -- the face is the weakest part of the old Kong. And, for all the praise Fay Wray has gotten over the years, that lovely satin draped frail really doesn't do anything but scream. But it remains one of the greatest adventure movies of all time.

The new Ann Darrow shows a lot more spunk and the new Kong has a silver back and an expressive face. They bond. Kong holds Ann the way Koko holds her kitten and Ann falls for Kong the way Jane Goodall fell for her chimps. Jack Driscoll never does amount to much in either movie. In the new film, Jack Black is a great Carl Denham. The dinosaur scenes are spectacular. But I was never thrilled.

An hour is too long to wait before we get to the island. This is supposed to be an adventure story, not a character study. The characters are not deep enough for a character study, and they are too deep for an adventure yarn. I love the way the islanders use poles to get from rock to rock, and the islanders look like South Sea natives instead of like extras from East LA. But I'm never on the edge of my seat, because it is too obvious that who gets killed and who does not get killed is in the capable hands of the screenwriter -- and any black man in an adventure movie is a walking hors d'oeuvre. When the ship scrapes on the rocks, I'm not convinced. When all the main characters survive a brontosaurus stampede, I am very not convinced. When one of the characters shoots critters off the hero using a machine gun, I'm really extremely not convinced.

Of course you've already seen the new King Kong, and if you haven't you should, because it is entertaining. But old Kong was King!

Copyright © 2006 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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