Tag Archives: monster education

King Kong on Broadway

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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“Why, in a few months, it’ll be up in lights on Broadway: Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.”
– Carl Denham

Eighty-five years after Robert Armstrong uttered that line in the original King Kong, the king of Skull Island has made the leap off of screens and onto an actual Broadway stage, with the debut of a new musical now in previews at the Broadway Theatre. It’s not exactly fair to critique the production before their November 8th opening (and there are plenty of folks much better suited to give you a real theater review), but I’m more interested in talking about how the show stacks up as an entry into the Kong canon anyway.* Continue reading King Kong on Broadway

King Kong Week!

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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Hail the power of King Kong week on SportsAlcohol.com! If you’re looking for Kong coverage, we’ve got:

…a King Kong primer for the uninitiated.

…a list of all of Kong’s movie opponents.

…a look at Kong’s creator Merian C. Cooper and his connection with non-Kong protagonist Carl Denham.

…a rundown of the expanded Kong mythos in Joe DeVito’s Skull Island series.

…a tag-team review of Korean baseball-playing gorilla movie, Mr. Go.

…a tour of the many full-sized King Kongs throughout the years.

Kong: Pulp Fiction

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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Friends, we’ve talked about the sequels and knock-offs of King Kong. And you can probably guess how excited we are to see Kong: Skull Island when it opens this weekend. But I’m here today to talk about a world of new King Kong stories you can read right now! I’m talking about the work of Joe Devito, Brad Strickland, and Will Murray chronicling the authorized history of “King Kong of Skull Island.” Continue reading Kong: Pulp Fiction

Merian C. Cooper, King Kong, and the Carl Denham Connection

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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– Say, is this the moving picture ship?

– The pictures? Yeah. Are you going on this crazy voyage?

– What’s crazy about it?

                                   – I don’t know, but everybody around here is talking about that crazy fella that’s running it.

– Carl Denham?

                                         – Guess that’s the name. They say he ain’t scared of                                                  nothin’. If he wants a picture of a lion, he just goes up to him and tells him to look pleasant.

– He’s a tough egg all right.

For all the remakes, sequels, and knock-offs that followed in its wake, the original King Kong still stands apart as something special. Now sure, some of that is down to the tremendous craft involved in its creation. And some of it is down to its trailblazing place in cinema history. And some of it is down to just the dumb luck confluence of right-place-and-right-time grouping of people and resources that can be found behind the scenes of so many truly classic movies. But I think the real secret to King Kong is how personal it is. That’s right, the fantastical story of an ape-god lording over a mysterious lost world also happens to feature a fair amount of autobiography, a fact perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Carl Denham, the adventurer and filmmaker who is essentially responsible for all of the destructive events in the film, is also its hero. And that’s because Carl Denham is basically King Kong‘s director, Merian C. Cooper. Continue reading Merian C. Cooper, King Kong, and the Carl Denham Connection

King Kong Opponents

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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A few years ago when we were talking about Godzilla here at SportsAlcohol.com, in the run-up to Legendary’s 2014 film, we talked about which of Godzilla’s famous opponents we’d like to see in a future sequel. That approach doesn’t seem quite appropriate here, since King Kong doesn’t have quite as extensive or established a rogues gallery as Godzilla. Still, the trailers for Kong: Skull Island have certainly promised plenty of monster fights, so instead of suggestions for a sequel I thought we might just run down a complete list of the creatures Kong has already fought on film.*

King Kong Primer

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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Kong: Skull Island marks the return to theaters of one of the greatest American screen monsters, 84 years (and three days) after he changed movie history in the original King Kong. He’s never had a long-running series like the ones we’ve covered for Planet of the Apes or his chief rival to the monster monarchy, Godzilla. But he’s still appeared in a handful of movies, remakes, and sequels, and spawned cartoons, books, comics, ripoffs, and even a stage musical. So it’s still worthwhile to kick off our week of King Kongtent with an overview of the career of Skull Island’s most famous resident. Continue reading King Kong Primer

Shin Godzilla (2016)

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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First things first: Shin Godzilla is here! There’s a new Japanese Godzilla film currently playing theaters in the United States and it is pretty spectacular. With a franchise that has lasted over six decades and twenty nine films, audience members will obviously approach it with a wide variety of expectations, so it’s best to know going in that it is a film much more in the vein of the original Godzilla (or 1984’s The Return of Godzilla) than the sillier alien invasion epics that characterized the 60s & 70s. It’s a film with seriousness of purpose, with the most frightening depiction of the title monster in the entire franchise (with the possible exception of the original). But it’s also a deeply eccentric film, with a strain of satire running throughout, and extremely propulsive and idiosyncratic filmmaking choices that render a talky, procedural story breathlessly involving (it’s the Contagion or Apollo 13 of Godzilla movies, or The Martian if Matt Damon was roughly 35 stories high and oozing radioactivity). The story is certainly familiar to fans of the genre, but the presentation can be dizzyingly unfamiliar. Presented in this country with subtitles, it’s an incredibly dense film, with whip fast dialogue (sure to be too talky to some) sometimes fighting for room with other onscreen text (including a running gag where every character with a line is identified by name and title/rank/governmental position, including some characters who get multiple titles as their position changes during the story). It’s a very political film, with some material that will be easily grasped by western audiences and some material that will (and, no doubt in my case, did) fly over their heads. Oh, and the monster sequences are beautiful, thrilling, and full of images that left this Godzilla fan’s jaw on the floor. So, that’s the short of it. Go see the movie! But there’s a lot more to talk about. So, if you want to go deeper, let’s get to it.

(NOTE: I’m going to talk about the story of the film in some detail below. But I’m only going to put another big spoiler warning before I discuss some details about the film’s depiction of Godzilla himself because there was some stuff there that genuinely surprised me!) Continue reading Shin Godzilla (2016)

Godzilla: King of the Hollywood Trends

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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For one week, starting today, fans in America and Canada will be able to see Shin Godzilla, the first new Japanese Godzilla movie in twelve years. The film was a smash hit this summer in its native country, and is already proving controversial (mostly sight-unseen) with western fans for both its politics and its portrayal of the title monster. While controversy is certainly not new to the series, its existence surrounding the twenty-ninth(!) entry offers promise that there is still room to try something new as Godzilla enters his seventh decade on screen.

One area that Shin Godzilla seems to be striking new ground in the series is that it is apparently a completely fresh start, establishing its own continuity and not functioning as a sequel to any prior film. That’s right, Shin Godzilla is a reimagining/remake/hard reboot/what-have-you. It’s all the more surprising that his hasn’t happened before when you look and see that so many of the other storytelling trends that Hollywood studios have been chasing over the last fifteen years have been well covered in the Godzilla series. Godzilla wasn’t always there first, but he was usually there early, and I needn’t tell you how big those footprints are.
Continue reading Godzilla: King of the Hollywood Trends

HALFTIME REPORT: Attack the Block (2011)

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
Nathaniel

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With Halftime Report, your good friends at SportsAlcohol.com revisit some of their favorite films from the first half of this decade.

For monster fans, creature design in the 21st century has been something of a mixed bag. Digital animation has freed designers from the shackles of the human form, limitations in terms of textures and fur, and even the bounds of physics altogether. In order to provide a grounding in reality for all these pixels, designers and animators often talk about looking to real animals for physiognomic principles and behavior. Reality is the goal, and much effort is expended in simulating the way joints interact or how skin stretches across muscles. This is maybe best exemplified by Neville Page’s muscly multi-limbed creatures for movies like Cloverfield, Super 8, Avatar, and Star Trek. But these impressively realistic creatures often place an emphasis on the Real over the Iconic. It seems silly to use a word like mundane when discussing such weird and impressive creations, but these creatures (with the feelings of sameness they can sometimes inspire) can miss that special charge that a truly iconic monster design can carry. Obviously, creating an iconic monster is much easier said than done, but it’s still worth celebrating when somebody pulls it off. And the aliens in Attack the Block, with their uncanny movements and simple-but-clever silhouette-and-glowy-bits aesthetic, stand out as the best of the decade so far. Using an inspired blend of suit acting (with invaluable work by movement coach and performer Terry Notary) and animation (both to enhance the puppetry and to create the aliens’ inky black, almost two dimensional look), Attack the Block‘s monsters are still so great they’re nearly enough to make it one of the best films of the 2010s on their own.

But watching the film in 2015 America reveals greater relevance than even a few years ago. The film is set in south London and directly addresses the specific cultural ways that young, mostly black, kids who live in council estate tower blocks (Americans, think housing projects) are vilified, and the societal issues at play are startlingly universal. After the opening, a mugging that wouldn’t be out of place in any reactionary genre movie from decades past, with a gang of black kids menacing a pretty white woman, it’d be easy to imagine the version of the movie that kills off these thugs in a pre-title sequence to establish the threat. Instead, when Moses and his gang run into the building where they’ve cornered a mysterious creature, they aren’t just slaughtered off-screen but instead emerge victorious, establishing a very different dynamic for the rest of the film. Instead of just following the story of the gang’s victim, Jodie Whittaker’s Samantha (a nurse who lives in the same tower block as the kids), the kids emerge as the heroes of the film. Cornish and his actors do a wonderful job of humanizing these characters, making them funny and hugely lovable without ignoring or excusing their worst behavior. This simple extension of empathy and respect feels almost radical when viewed in an America where we’ve had a truly horrible number of opportunities to witness the awful spectacle of the American news media greeting each new police shooting of an unarmed black guy with attempts to determine just how much the deceased had it coming based on their thuggish appearance or potential criminal background. The understanding and mutual respect that develops between Samantha and Moses is even more moving in this context, as is the conversation the kids have speculating about the government having “bred those things to kill black boys.” It’s not the case, but getting to know these kids we can see why it would feel like a possibility to them.

While it feels a little frustrating watching Attack the Block now knowing that Joe Cornish hasn’t yet directed another feature, there’s some solace in seeing ads for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that feature John Boyega front and center. His performance as Moses, which has that movie star thing of combining real acting and seemingly effortless charisma even when he spends so much of the film not saying much, marked him as a young actor to watch for anybody who saw Attack the Block in 2011, so it’s gratifying to know that a much bigger audience is about to see what he’s got.

The Beast Will Out: The Wolfman (2010)

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

SportsAlcohol.com cofounder Nathaniel moved to Brooklyn, as you do. His hobbies include cutting up rhubarb and laying down. His favorite things are the band Moon Hooch and custard from Shake Shack. Old ladies love his hair.
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While the full tale of Dracula Untold‘s fortunes will continue to play out, the movie appears to have done well enough in this first weekend of release to remain a part of Universal’s plans for their famous monsters. With news of recent reshoots meant to keep Universal’s options open in terms of folding Dracula Untold into their proposed Universal Monsterverse (set to begin in earnest with 2016’s The Mummy), the film provides our first glimpse of just what they have in mind for these iconic characters. Continue reading The Beast Will Out: The Wolfman (2010)