Monday, December 19, 2005



“When the big monkey die, everybody cry” - Dino De Laurentiis
I was hugely anticipating Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake, however I came away from the multiplex trailing popcorn and not only feeling disappointed but actually even a bit depressed from the experience. While there are some incredible scenes and strong performances, and yes indeed some very cleverly incorporated references & homages to the original, but my take on King Kong is that it’s an ambitious, impressive, yet ultimately overdone and self-indulgent piece of filmmaking.
Peter Jackson is undeniably a gifted filmmaker with tremendous vision and phenomenal abilities. Unfortunately for us, the audience, crisp editing isn’t one of them – the movie is so much longer than it needs to be.
Interesting Kong factoid: The amount of weight that Peter Jackson lost during the making of King Kong (70 lbs.) is exactly the number of minutes he should have trimmed from this movie to make it really great!
The movie introduces far too many tertiary characters, (many of whom suffer unnecessarily gruesome demises) all of whom merely distract from and dilute the impact of the central relationships of Kong and Ann and Jack and Carl. There are repetitive themes and lines of dialog related to some of the third-level characters that serve no purpose other than to reinforce other character traits and plot points that have already been well established. (Denham is a thoughtless, self-aggrandizing chumbucket – okay, we got that . . .) There are even a few scenes where you can tell that Peter Jackson was so enamored of the success of the shot’s construction he just couldn’t help himself from showing it to us twice or even three times. The chases and fight scenes start out thrilling and harrowing but just slog ON and ON to where they attain a level of unbelievable absurdity. I kept expecting Naomi Watts to roll her eyes and mutter, “Oh fer Christ’s sake!” as her plight escalated.
Speaking of Naomi Watts, I’ll give her credit for creating a strong and appealing Ann Darrow, using her streetwise toughness and stage-honed cleverness to get herself out of more than a couple of nasty situations. (but this is SO not an Oscar caliber performance – come on people, step away form the crack pipe, take a deep breath and get some perspective here) Most of her scenes with Kong are really quite moving and emotional, once you suspend disbelief at the admittedly odd premise of the beauty taming, or seducing, or at the very least severely flummoxing the beast. But ultimately it’s a good performance in service of a not so good movie.
Adrian Brody does a fine job as Jack Driscoll, though he does actually become kind of a fifth wheel in the Ann and Kong emotional action. “Hmmm, there’s the woman I love sleeping peacefully and contentedly in the gigantic paw of a big sweaty prehistoric mutant ape. What to do? What to do?”
Jack Black on the other hand is miscast as Carl Denham. He has the right look and physical presence, (his high -waist pants add a nice historically accurate touch to his character) but he’s just not a strong enough actor to effectively, believably convey all the inner machinations of Denham. I felt especially let down by his delivery of a few of the biggest most crucial lines, (“I give you Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!” for example) his inflection literally deflated the impact for me.
Kong himself is a wonder of animation and motion capture acting. Nice job again by Andy Serkis, although him receiving the credit “And Andy Serkis as KONG” seemed a bit of a disservice to the animators. Kong’s scowl and jagged underbite show an amazing and subtle range of rage, melancholy and perplexity. His bulk and physicality have a real solidity to it, and he moves about his world with a believable ease and litheness, even for such a big guy. Kong is the character who leaves the biggest impression upon you – he’s the one you’ll be thinking of as you leave the theater.
You might also be thinking Peter Jackson needs someone in his close & trusted inner circle to tell him honestly “No Petah, turn off the camera. You don’t need that character. You’ve already got that shot. That’s enough now – 3 hours is too much.” And next film, Peter Jackson needs to listen to them or he’s in danger of pulling a George Lucas on us all.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Packing Heat

"Does he just do robots?" you ask? Well, no, of course not - like for instance here's another sketchbook image brought into Photoshop. I was messing around with some "noir" ideas and this guy emerged, reaching for his gat. I was shooting for a limited palette, atmospheric scene. The theme being one of imminent betrayal . . . you can bet there's a dame involved . . .

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hyena sketches

Here are the sketches that made up the poster. I just couldn't resist using the little guy with the "ha ha ha" tape dispensing ass, so I shrunk him and made the big guy hold him in the palm of his hand. I also wanted the giant robot to be laughing so I installed a Times Square-style news "zipper" in his mouth. I liked the idea that you can see him laugh, but you wouldn't be able to hear it - that seemed kind of creepily soulless, yet still funny.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I didn't like the head, but I liked the way the body looked, thinner than the boxier guys I had done previously. So I found another head sketch that I liked and did some transplanting in Photoshop. I also made the hand a cleaner "thumbs up" design. I seem to be in a rut with the dial on the chest thing...

This optimistic, gung-ho machine man started as an Illustrator file, then brought into Photoshop for a quick background treatment. His head was initially a different design, as you'll see in the sketch.

Friday, December 09, 2005

And here's the sketch for the guy below. I flipped him and made him let go of his balloon (oh and he was reluctant to do so, believe you me) and changed a few of his details and embellishments. The startled looking guy on the left is in line for the same treatment soon.

Here's another robot from the "Sketchbook Direct to Illustrator" series. As you'll see in the sketch I decided to made some alterations/revisions to him after I got into Illustrator. He was done with a birthday greeting in mind, by the way.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Here's the sketch from whence the guy below came. Just a pretty quick pen drawing, scanned and placed in Illustrator. The dial on his chest will probably move towards "full" as he continues to gulp from that oil can.

Join my metal pal here and raise a celebratory beverage to mark the beginning of this blog endeavor! This guy was done in Illustrator from a sketch in my sketchbook. The sketch follows shortly.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Keep a wary eye on this site, cuz I think I can guarantee that the quality of the content will careen wildly between self-impressed brilliance and flatlining amateurism. Wait, those sound really similar . . . Haven't you got anything better to do with your time?

Haven't I?

Well, no, actually.