Thursday, July 17, 2014

G-FEST XXI Raids Again: Prologue

Our annual trip to Chicago was a complete success this year. The weather was great, roads were unobstructed, no health issues; all was well. We were able to enjoy our run-up to G-FEST in typical style, visiting attractions in the Schaumburg area, such as this Whole Foods being attacked by Andyzilla.

Entering Park Ridge is always enjoyable, especially when one glimpses the Pickwick Theater's distinctive shape. Once again, "Taste of Park Ridge" was revving up, complete with sidewalk sales. Andy was happy to pick up "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" movie posters from the Pickwick's table. It has become somewhat of a tradition to kill some time in the Park Ridge Public Library, a fabulous facility with an immense collection (which includes Bill Warren's incredible "Keep Watching the Skies").

After meeting up with my parents for lunch, it was time to take in the first two movies of the day, "King Kong" and "King Kong Lives." The first was the 1976 edition starring Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange and Charles Grodin. This was a movie I chickened out of seeing as a little kid, and in retrospect, I'm kind of glad I did. It is a pretty pessimistic film; reflective, I suppose, of the mid-to-late seventies in its attitude and cultural references. The saving grace is Kong, of course, and that's not saying a whole lot, although the monster's face is quite emotive. My son was really struck by how bipedal Kong was in this movie, and after he mentioned it, I was too.(Peter Jackson's Kong was so naturalistic that I think we've become used to his vision of a giant gorilla.) All in all, to my perception, this seems like a very cynical version of the Kong story, and whether or not it means to make a 'statement' is open to debate.

Next up was "King Kong Lives," a B-movie pseudo-spin-off of the '76 story starring a young-ish Linda Hamilton. Many people would dismiss "KKL" as terrible, and, make no mistake, it is not the height of cinema, but there is a certain oozy, cheesy 80's quality to it that makes it prime for riffing in the grand MST3K tradition. In many ways it epitomizes bad 80's action flicks; gratuitous profanity, the obligatory suggestive scene between leads, more blood than you might imagine, and a curious amount of sentimentality are all features of "KKL." I have to give the writers credit for the audacity to give King Kong a Jarvic-style artificial heart in the opening act (along with the operation itself); it lends the proceedings a certain Bert I. Gordon-esque quality that I found amusing, and from my vantage point, the movie is a kind of homage to those 50's films, run through a coarser 80's sensibility. Would I recommend that you see it? Not really, unless you and your buddies are looking for something to riff. Then, all of a sudden, "King Kong Lives" takes on a new shine.

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