The Host


The Host arrives in the U.S. on the kind of advance billing that greeted Asian genre features like the stripped-down horror movie Ringu, the ultraviolent reality-tv parody Battle Royale, and the intensely scripted double-crosses of Infernal Affairs. Those films maxed out geek buzz because they were sterling examples of something Hollywood rarely gets right — the raucous, galvanizing, and uncompromising genre movie. Where Hollywood genre pictures increasingly call attention to their own ridiculousness, somehow the best of their Asian counterparts have managed to keep an unrivalled air of seriousness about them, even when the concept is ridiculously outrĂ©: Fukasaku kept the schoolchildren’s deathmatch that was Battle Royale under control by shooting it just like a war movie, and by casting Takeshi Kitano, Japan’s ultimate black-comic performer, in an important supporting role. Scorsese updated Infernal Affairs to great effect partly by working with a William Monahan screenplay that smartly made the story even more hard-boiled, and the Hollywood fantasy film got a boost from the largely po-faced (and intermittently excellent) Lord of the Rings series. With King Kong, Peter Jackson even made a go at rescuing the Hollywood monster movie from the Godzilla slums. But his movie was bloated and overly cutesy and felt, ultimately, ponderous in a way you wouldn’t expect a giant-gorilla movie to be. (Perhaps all those Oscars put the wrong ideas in Jackson’s head.)

Continue reading

King Kong

1280_king-kong.jpgBack in 1994, James Berardinelli wrote a review arguing that CGI had relegated Willis O’Brien’s elaborate special-effects work in King Kong to the dustbin of history — that you couldn’t keep audiences on Skull Island once you had shown them Jurassic Park. He was so full of shit. (And seems to have come to his senses, judging from the substantially rewritten version now residing at his Web site.) Watching a TCM broadcast of King Kong tonight, I was struck by the visceral nature of the effects work. Does Kong look “realistic?” No. Neither, for all the careful artistry and craftsmanship that went into digitally painting the creases onto his green body, does Ang Lee’s ILM-conjured Hulk. But Kong exemplifies a sort of personal expressiveness and cinematic mysticism that’s all the more awesome for its apparent outmodedness.

Continue reading