HOLLYWOOD GIANT: KING KONG
Tall, dark and handsome are preferred qualities in leading men. After 84 years, King Kong is still all three. Kong: Skull Island brings back the big guy for his eighth starring role, setting up a rematch with Godzilla slated for 2020. Here's the filmography of an 8,000 pound gorilla in any room he enters:
King Kong (1933)
This movie is the DNA in amber spawning Jurassic Park and every CGI creature-featuring blockbuster since. Willis O'Brien's stop-motion animation still astonishes; Skull Island's African stereotypes now insult. The iconic finale atop the Empire State Building enshrines the beauty of this beast.
Son of Kong (1933)
How much of a commotion did King Kong cause? Enough that a sequel hit theaters nine months later. Son of Kong set Hollywood's standard for lousy cash-ins. Kong's son is half dad's size and albino, so dinosaurs dish out whatever thrills are found. The movie turned a $133,000 profit, about one-fifth of King Kong's first release profit.
No wonder, then, that King Kong took a long hiatus from movies. His comeback trail began in Japan when Toho needed a worthy opponent for Godzilla. Additional scenes were shot with American actors for U.S. release.
King Kong Escapes (1967)
Say hello to Mechani-Kong, a robot version of our hero created by Who. What? No, his name is Who. I don't know. Anyway, Mechani-Kong and hairy Kong duke it out on the Tokyo Tower. Kong wins after swimming to Japan. That's some Chuck Norris stuff there.
King Kong (1976)
Fondly remembered for setting Jessica Lange on a path to two Academy Awards, but you wouldn't have guessed that then. She does the Fay Wray bit as Dwan, who suffered a celebrated nipple slip in the big guy's paw. Meryl Streep later said she was considered for the part. Dwan, not Kong.
King Kong Lives (1986)
Kong is a baby daddy again but Lady Kong is pregnant and locked up. The late, great Roger Ebert wrote it best: "The problem with everyone in King Kong Lives is that they're in a boring movie, and they know they're in a boring movie, and they just can't stir themselves to make an effort."
King Kong (2005)
Three Academy Awards went to Peter Jackson's remake, hewing closer to the original than the 1976 model. Andy Serkis' motion-capture portrayal of Kong conveys the character's emotional depth. At the time, King Kong's reported $207 million price tag was Hollywood most expensive ever.
Freshly Oscared as the year's best foreign language film, Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman (PG-13) opens Saturday at Tampa Theatre. Farhadi boycotted the ceremony to protest President Donald Trump's travel ban; his acceptance letter read on stage was a politically-charged moment.
The Salesman is more obliquely political, set in Iran where an actor couple named Emad and Rena (Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti) are staging a production of Death of a Salesman. They're forced to evacuate one apartment and rent another, unaware of the previous tenant's shady reputation. One of her clients shows up and The Salesman becomes a minimalist thriller.
As in his previous Oscar winner A Separation, Farhadi focuses upon the everyday details of Iranian life including its patriarchal nature. The Salesman is a quiet revenge tale, in which a husband must decide how to stick up for his wife, or if he should. Tension builds from this gender-unequal culture to a crushing finale. A-
THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT
Part love story, part revisionist history, The Ottoman Lieutenant (R) may be less than the sum of those parts. It's the story of an American nurse (Hera Hilmar) following a doctor (Josh Hartnett) to Europe on the brink of World War I. She falls in love with an Ottoman officer (Michiel Huisman) putting a romantic face on genocide. Variety film critic Dennis Harvey deemed The Ottoman Lieutenant a "handsome but creaky melodrama," guessing that "less discriminating viewers jonesing for some old-fashioned costume hokum will get just that."
Then there's Brimstone (R) starring Guy Pearce as the Reverend, a diabolical frontier preacher threatening to destroy Dakota Fanning. We thought that was sister Elle's job.
in theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1Logan: Requiem for a Marvel mutant (Hugh Jackman, right). Best comic book flick since The Dark Knight.
2 Get Out: Jordan Peele makes race relations scarier than ever with bold horror satire.
3 The Salesman: Asghar Farhadi's Oscar winner for best foreign language film.
4 The LEGO BatmanMovie: Taking apart the Caped Crusader's legacy, interlocking piece by piece.
5 Gasparilla International Film Festival: Today's closing night film is Unleashed at Tampa Theatre.
(Dates subject to change)
March 17: Beauty and the Beast, left
March 24: Power Rangers; King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
March 31: Ghost in the Shell; The Boss Baby; The Zookeeper's Wife