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The Golden Compass (2007)
A tragic waste of imagination
I am a religious person, and when I first heard about the content of this movie, I had very mixed feelings about whether or not to watch it.
Well, I finally did. It was dull save for the storyline involving the armored bears. Good special effects, but they didn't jump out and give you a sense of awe like Transformers did that same year, or Pirates of the Caribbean and Spider-Man 3 for that matter.
Even though they removed the words that might refer to religion and God, it was painfully obvious in imagery what the bad guys are. You don't need to see the word bear on a picture of one to know it's a bear. So, all the people worrying about how anti-religious it was: you were right. It was there. In this movie, religious people are control freak Nazi's while immature people with big mouths like Lyra are good. Granted, not all religious people are nice people, but in this movie, they were ALL bad and Orwellian tyrants and servants of tyrants.
Lord of the Rings it was not, especially in a very flat final battle scene with no real sense of excitement like the Mines of Moria or the Battle of Pelennor from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
When I first saw David Lynch's Dune back in 1996, it wasn't the greatest of movies. But it had a good storyline, and it made me rush to read the book and it's sequels.
After watching this tragedy, I have no interest whatsoever in reading the books.
Oh, and any of you pro-Golden Compass fans that want to take me to task for loving the Lord of the Rings and sticking with my pro-religious anti-atheism stance and plan to email me your views: Shut Up. You aren't going to convert me.
Total fun from start to finish
This movie has been the most enjoyable movie of the year for me. I'm a fan of Transformers, but this movie is good for non-fans as well. It's not a Kurosawa or Scorsese movie, nor will it win best picture. But unlike a lot of movies, it's entertaining, surprisingly smart, and has memorable characters, and a better sense of comedy than most 'comedies'. As for the special effects, a lot has already been said about them, so I won't waste time praising them. What delighted me the most about this film was how the characters were treated as characters, not flashy effects, particularly Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Probably the only complaint I have is the lack of dialog from most of the Decepticons. But then again considering the fact that they are war machines and have a shoot first and ask questions later policy, that can be somewhat forgiven given how the story developed. Hugo Weaving made a really menacing Megatron for the film, Bumblebee made my Ford-devoted girlfriend grow a soft spot for Camaros. The real icing on the cake for the film however is Peter Cullen returning to voice Optimus Prime for the first time since the original series. You can tell by his vocal performance that he was happy to be voicing the character again, and not just doing it for the money. I've seen this film 3 times in the first 3 weeks of release, and cannot wait for it to come out on DVD later this year. Far and away better than Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, this film deserves to be the king of Summer 2007.
King Kong (1933)
One of the Crown Jewels of Adventure Movies
I don't know which is more surprising: that a story with such wild concept could be turned into a movie, or that the makers managed to make a true classic with such a story. What I think truly makes this adventure movie a true classic, is that it was made by real adventurers. The sheer daring of the special effects and the willingness to finance the score themselves shows how much belief they had in this project, and how far they were willing to go to make it something special. Rather than make a hack story, they set out to make the best movie they could, and make it one of the best looking movies they could. This movie is pure escapist entertainment of the highest order.
King Kong (2005)
Everything I hoped it would be
King Kong is a truly first rate remake. It has all the charm of the original plus characters you learn to know better than the original characters from the first. King Kong isn't a scene for scene remake of the original, so fans of the original will still be pleasantly surprised. One thing that surprised me very much about this movie is the references. This includes a comment about Fay Wray and Merian C. Cooper (Kong's original creator) and my personal favorite, a scene in which an orchestra plays some of the original music from the first movie. Being a fan of dinosaurs for as long as I can remember, I was really eager to see what they would look like in this movie. My girlfriend said that my mouth hung open when I first saw the dinosaurs in this movie. They are truly spectacular, the best effects since the Jurassic Park movies. But the best part is of course Kong himself. Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis went to great lengths to make Kong an animal, yet still give him a heart and personality. There is always danger in doing this. If you over personalize an animal for a movie, it starts to lose it's realism. But Kong was treated the way you should treat any animal: with respect. Some may complain about the slow start the movie has. People, too many movies have been released where characters are dropped into a dangerous situation without giving us any insight into them as human beings. You don't care for the characters in those movies. In this movie, you care about people. You love some of them. You're entertained by some of them. You loathe some of them. Peter Jackson did the right thing, letting us get to know the characters before we saw them get into a bad situation. Look at movies like Jaws or Alien or Silence of the Lambs. In those movies, you learned about the characters before the horror truly started charging ahead full force. In this one, you see these characters you like on an island no human being could survive for long on. And we as an audience are better off for it, seeing these wonderfully developed characters in dangerous situations.
In summary this movie is a truly remarkable adventure. Sure there are some scenes that can be a little corny, some scenes that could have been a little shorter. But the strengths of this movie far outweigh any of the little weaknesses it has. Once the action starts, it NEVER lets up. And this movie has what very few action adventure movies have nowadays: a heart.