I give you KONG!

King Kong (2005)


Year: 2005

Writer: Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens

Director: Peter Jackson

Length: 183

Category: Action

Media: Film


  • Carl Denham: Jack Black
  • Ann Darrow: Naomi Watts
  • Jack Driscoll: Adrien Brody
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

    This is neither the first, nor the best review of Kong. Check out Michael’s take on it for a good read. These are just my thoughts on the movie… I wanted to love this movie. I really wanted to love it. I’d heard from friends that Jack Black was corny in the role of Carl Denham. I’d heard the effects were amazing. I’d heard it was the spectacle movie event of the year. Basically, I’d heard stuff from all points of the spectrum. And I chose to suspend disbelief long enough to give the movie a decent chance. So, I schlepped off to the theatre today, grabbed my 15L tub of Coke™, and my 2kg bag of popcorn. Foreshadowing: don’t get the large Coke™ when heading into a three hour movie. I sit down, best seat in the house – geometric centre of the theatre – and sit through the pre-movie ads and teasers. Then, the lights dim, and – hey! more ads! Great! I spend $10.95 for an afternoon matinee ticket, another $10.25 for a Coke™ and popcorn, and the theatre needs to show 15 minutes of freaking ads before a three hour movie – because, I guess, we didn’t pay enough to get in, and the movie wasn’t quite long enough without assistance. Grr… A mom sits a few rows behind me, with her 2 kids. Who are so small that they both need booster seats to see over the seat in front. I’m wondering (almost out lout) about what kinds of nightmares these kids should be having, because this is going to be some seriously messed up stuff, and I hope it would be too much for a 5 or 6 year old. If it’s not too much for a kid that age, I’m really worried about what those kids are exposed to… Movie starts, and I’m getting into it. Jack Black is actually pretty good as the slimy sleazeball producer. “You can trust me. I’m a movie producer.” Sure, Jack. I keep wondering just how much of Carl Denham is Peter Jackson… As the action builds, and they make their way to Skull Island (“it’s not an adventure story, is it?”), I keep thinking that Weta might be recycling models from The Lord of The Rings, because a lot of Skull Island would look entirely at home in Mordor. Giant wall with gaping maw of a gate? And the texture/colour/shading of the rocks is extremely reminiscent of LoTR. Fine. Let it go. It’s still pretty freaking impressive. The detail is absolutely stunning. Really impressed with the “natives” of Skull Island. Scary as hell, with an air of mysticism – voodoo priestess with eyes rolled back in trance waiting for Kong to arrive, etc… Very cool stuff. The machine that delivers Fae RayAnn Darrow to Kong was pretty slick, too. Hmm… Who built this stuff? Not the natives… Not Kong… Maybe it was Dharma. Keep on the lookout for numeric strings etched into the walls… 4 8 15 16 23 42 OK. So Kong gets a boner for small blonde chicks. WTF? Sure, she’s hot and all, but dude, she’s 1% your size. It just won’t work. There’s physics involved. Oh, right, she makes you laugh. Clever, Peter. Clever. Ooh. Dinosaurs. Of course! Cool. They’re pretty well done, too. Apparently the dinosaurs of Skull Island aren’t very physically able, as the panicked band of humans is able to outpace them with relative ease. I mean, these giants should be able to blast past the tiny hu-mans with ease. But they can’t seem to get past them no matter how hard they try. Some impressive scenes with the thunder lizards, though. Wonder if there’s going to be a PETA or SPCA approval notice at the end of the movie… I’m not going to spoil any plot (ahem) elements or anything, but anyone who’s seen the trailers will be aware that there is a battle scene between Kong and a bunch of scary dinosaurs (T.Rex?). It was a really great fight sequence, masterfully choreographed. But, I kept having flashbacks to Paul Hogan. “That’s not a knife. That’s a knife!” Just as the fight started, out of nowhere a new dinosaur would stumble across it and join the fray. Sure, having a mouthful of a tonne of reptile meat is nice, but any intelligent T.Rex would gladly throw that away for a chance to have a part of Ann Darrow. There was a completely comic escalation of the fight sequence, from what could have been plausible (you know, in a world where giant apes and giant non-extinct dinosaurs live on the same island, and have insane lust for hot blondes) to a completely over-the-top (but still amazing) fight spectacular. I kept picturing Peter Jackson in the storyboard meetings for this fight, saying stuff like “yeah, that’s great. But what it needs is ANOTHER T. Rex, who is BIGGER than the other ones. That’ll be even cooler! OH! And they should all fall down a cliff! OH! And they should swing around and – YEAH! AND KEEP FIGHTING! YEAH! That’ll be SOO COOL! OH! OH! And Kong should pith a T.Rex WITH ITS OWN JAW! YEAH! THAT’S AWESOME!” (several minutes of intense battle sequences – with me almost shouting out “Oh, come ON!”, trapping, and magic teleportation back to New York) Kong gives up. Chained and dressed up on stage. He’s cool with that. Until they bring out the blonde hottie. Is it Ann? BOING! Nope. Just some bimbo. Must. Kill. Bimbo. Must. Kill. All. Bimbos. After the initial rampage, I think the composite IQ of New York City may have actually risen as a result of the Blonde Bimbo Cull of ’32. Then, Kong finds Ann. This is going to be… doh… 12L of Coke™ make it impossible to find out. I leave the theatre early, missing what I can only assume was a COOL! AMAZING! WAIT – HOW ABOUT IF HE JUMPS OFF OF THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING AND SMACKS A BIPLANE! THAT’D BE SOOOO COOL! Surprisingly, I didn’t feel like I’d missed anything. I’d seen the effects – and they were absolutely incredible. I forgot that Kong was computer generated (or even occasionally that he was an ape at all). The story was not bad. The fight sequences were waaaay over the top. Update: Almost forgot. One of the highlights of the movie was a trailer preview for Michael Mann’s Miami Vice movie, with Jamie Foxx as Tubbs and Colin Farrell as Crocket. I’m a bit disappointed that the IMDB entry for the movie doesn’t mention cameos by Don Johnson, Phillip Michael Thomas, or Edward James Olmos…

    Tags: movie review kong

    Albert Ip on Learning Objects

    Albert totally nails it in his post on the Learning Objects “debate”. Basically – get over it. Move along. Do (and use) whatever is appropriate to what you’re trying to do. One size does not fit all. Caveat emptor, etc…

    I especially like his tips for subscribers to “information transfer” vs. “social constructivitistic” paradigms of learning objects (and, I would suggest, of learning in general).

    But wait! There’s more! Albert offers a website/wiki on “virtual apparatus“, which appears to be a set of guidelines for creating content in a consistent manner (did I interpret that right?).

    We’ve been talking about “learning objects” a lot around the software side of the Learning Commons over the last few weeks. We’ve been sort of stuck in discussion, tripping over the concept of “reusability” – there’s the technical reusability (interoperability, via things like IEEE LOM, SCORM etc…) – and then there’s pedagogical reusability (dealing with the content itself, and not the transport/interchange format used to squirt it over the ‘net).

    In our discussions, we’re trying to plan out what we want to accomplish over the next year or so – what software needs to be built to achieve the goals we set (once we set the goals, of course). It’s been interesting, if frustrating, but I think we’re making progress as we start to realize we’re all talking about essentially the same thing – just coming at it from different angles (pedagogical vs. technical reusability).

    So, there’s a pretty solid example that the definition of “learning objects” – and the implications that come with it – can be confusing or misleading even within a small team. No wonder there hasn’t been any real consensus in the education community as a whole…

    Fun with Rails – Bookmark Manager

    I made some time to sit down and play with Rails this evening, and thought I’d work on a simple Bookmark Manager (ala del.icio.us) – a piece of software that I am sorta familiar with, since I use del.icio.us a fair bit, and have some ideas that I think would improve the service. So, I’ll try mocking them up in Rails to give me something to chew on while I learn…

    So, about half an hour into it, and I have a barebones app that lets me add new bookmarks (complete with title, description, rating, date added, url, etc…), and list existing bookmarks.

    Next, to try to work in the concept of Users, and tie bookmarks to specific users. Then, to try to do something interesting with the connections that can happen when multiple users bookmark the same resource, or similar resources, or tag them differently, or give them different ratings, etc…

    I’m really liking the concept of Scaffolding in Rails. It feels very similar to starting a WebObjects application via DirectToWeb, and slowly overriding the default functionality as you need to. I also really like the strong MVC separation. Controller files (.rb – analogous to the WebObjects .java files) contain the business logic, while View files (.rhtml – analogous to the WebObjects .html and .wod files merged?) contain HTML with bindings to the methods and variables in the controller.

    Almost forgot – I only “wrote” about 3 lines of code. Still, there were several files automagically generated by Rails, and a couple of the .rhtml files with html and bindings, but still – very little actual code to write/manage.

    I think I’m really going to like Ruby, as well. It’s easily readable without being annoyingly verbose. It’s nicely object oriented, without being too abstract. It’s interpreted, so it’s easy to see code “live” as you tweak it.

    I’ll play with this app over the next few days/weeks to see what I can come up with. If it gets stable enough, I might deploy it on my desktop box back in the office…

    Here’s the basic database schema I’m working toward. I still have to think out the bookmark –> tag relationship. I want Tags to be primitive “nouns” – not belonging to any user, and being linked to from Bookmarks through a join table. Adding tags is just a matter of ensure the “noun” exists, and creating (or removing) a join to it.

    Rails Bookmark Manager Schema

    Update: Thanks to a tip from Hunter, I checked out the acts_as_taggable plugin/extension/whatever for Rails (description here). Basically, you just drop this bad boy into place, and declare in your controller that the class acts_as_taggable – then, the plugin takes care of managing a many-to-many relationship between that class and the tags.

    Sample code from the description page for acts_as_taggable:

    class Photo < ActiveRecord::Base
    elephant = Photo.find(4437)
    elephant.tag 'zoo animals nature'
    elephant.tagged_with?('urban') # => false
    elephant.tags.size # => 3
    elephant.tag_names # => [ 'zoo', 'animals', 'nature' ]

    Can it get any easier than that? It’s doing exactly what I was describing as wanting, but For Free. Sweet.

    Update 2: Yes, it can get easier. And more powerful. The developer of acts_as_taggable reworked the mixin/plugin after some thought, and came up with something even cooler (documentation here).

    In poking around some of the Rails sites, I keep thinking that although it’s still a bit immature (it just hit 1.0 a month ago), it “feels” like WebObjects, but based on Open Source from soup to nuts, and with an apparently vibrant and cool developer community. WebObjects is waaaaay more mature, but isn’t Open Source (hence the licensing fiasco this summer), and it feels like the developer community may be atrophying a bit (although I could be wrong on that – I hope I am).

    Update 3: About an hour into noodling with the acts_as_taggable mixin, and I have a fully folksonomic bookmark manager. I’ve got a simple form that lets me add bookmarks, complete with a freeform text field for entering tags, which get bursted into individual Tag rows with the appropriate join table invisibly managed.

    I’ve got some more work to do to clean it up, and then I want to add in the concept of users – which apparently is absolutely trivial in Rails. Then, add in some OPML and RSS exports, and support for bookmarklets, and perhaps implementing part of the del.icio.us API on the back end to allow other things to talk to it, and I’ve got a decent bookmark manager, with only a handful of code written. Sweet.

    What happened to The Year of HD?

    Steve proclaimed 2005 would be known as “The Year of HD” at MacWorld SF 2005. We haven’t seen a lot of consumer-level HD stuff this year – there’s the iMovie HD edition, but that’s about it. The video on the iTMS isn’t exactly HD (320×240 MPEG4 video files). The only real application of HD is on the Apple Trailers and QuickTime HD Gallery. They’re great and all, but don’t exactly make this The Year of HD.

    So, what if Steve was only off by a week or two? MacWorld SF 2006 is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I’m guessing we’re going to see a LOT of HD loving there. Perhaps the next rev of the Mac Mini, complete with the Frontrow “media centre edition”? Perhaps some form of set-top box? Pippin HD?

    The rumour mill is all over the Intel-powered Mac Mini speculation. If that turns out to be true, it’s going to get a LOT of press, and the HD stuff will just piggyback on that.

    So, 2005 is The Year Before HD. 2006 will be The Real Year of HD (And a Bunch of Other Stuff).

    K2 Theme updated for WP 2.0

    Michael just updated K2 to be WordPress 2.0-compliant. Looks like quite a few tweaks to the theme as well.

    There were two gotchas that I found.

    1. theloop.php has a stray character at the beginning of line 10. Just delete that character and all is well. (was solved in the comments on Michael’s announcement post)
    2. Be sure to remove the old k2-options.php file so there isn’t method collision as the php files are dynamically loaded.

    Looks like the banner image area has been resized a bit, so my banner images no longer fit perfectly. I’ll wait for the next rev. to make sure the new size is stable, then whip up new versions of the 36 banner images to better fit the new area.

    Cocoalicious – del.icio.us client app

    Cocoalicious is a kick-ass client application for MacOSX that connects to your del.icio.us account, making it easy/fast to search, list, add, index, etc. bookmarks in del.icio.us.

    It provides some cool features, like adding star ratings to bookmarks, and has a built-in webkit page displayer. Very handy. It’s using the back-end API for del.icio.us, and feels much snappier than the bookmarklet version (or even the Firefox extension).

    And it has the ability to make fulltext indexes (indices?) of all of the bookmarked pages, to make searching even more powerful. I’ve set it to go through and index each of my 800+ bookmarks, and it’s been chewing on that for a few minutes now. I’ll try some searches based on that index when it’s done.

    The bookmark editor pane has tag autocompletion, so you don’t have to think too much about what tags you’ve used previously. It will provide you with a list of tags that match whatever letters you’ve started typing.

    Cocoalicious Posting Interface Pane Cocoalicious Screenshot

    The only thing I can think of that would make Cocoalicious even better would be the addition of a “Tag” button to Safari’s address bar, so I don’t have to Command+Tab over to Cocoalicious, and hit Command+Shift+N to create a new bookmark of whatever is frontmost in Safari.

    DashLicious dashboard widgetUpdate:

    I just found a handy dashboard widget called DashLicious that does much of what Cocoalicious does – autocompletion of tags, pulling the URL of the frontmost Safari (or NetNewsWire) page.

    It’s a one-way trip, so it doesn’t provide a way to list your bookmarks. But, it does offer a very quick way of posting new bookmarks – never more than an F12 keystroke away…

    DashLicious isn’t new – it was posted to the Apple Dashboard Widgets site in June 2005 – I just haven’t been giving much love to Dashboard lately because it’s another things that seems to suck up resources just for something to do…

    Update 2: The changelog on the Cocoalicious project page includes a reference to a bookmarklet that will send the current page to Cocoalicious for tagging into del.icio.us. Works like a charm! Maybe there doesn’t need to be a Safari button added after all… What’s even cooler, all I have to do is hit Command+6 to trigger the sixth non-folder item in my Safari bookmarks bar, which corresponds to the Cocoalicious bookmarklet. So a quick key sequence sends the page to Cocoalicious for tagging. Very slick.

    Update 3: I just realized that Cocoalicious is missing something that I really find useful in the del.icio.us web interface – the website displays how many other people are sharing a bookmark, with a link to view all of those people. Great for finding similar links, and sorting bookmarks by “importance”. I have no idea if the del.icio.us API supports that kind of information, but it would sure be cool if it did…

    Thoughts after trying Firefox again

    When I upgraded my blog to WordPress 2.0 RC3 last week, there was a bug or issue that corrupted a cookie used by the fancy schmancy new authoring screens. Safari barfed all over that corrupt cookie, meaning I couldn’t use it to manage my blog. Firefox just ignored it (and the functionality that required that cookie apparently degraded transparently – the widgets were no longer collapsable or movable).

    So, I thought it would be a good chance to switch to Firefox 1.5 for a while and kick the tires a bit as my primary (only) browser.

    Things I like about Firefox:

    • Fancy schmancy wysiwyg and “ajax” crap all just works.
    • Websites don’t try to protect me from myself by warning me that I’m using Safari
    • The del.icio.us extension makes creating bookmarks better (but not hugely better than the bookmarklet)
    • The great “Web Developer” sidebar, with the cool stuff like cookie inspectors. Many of these tools are reproducable via bookmarklets, but it’s nice to have a unified place to get them all.

    Things I don’t like so much:

    • NO. SPEL. CHEKER. I tried installing the recommended extension, but it never worked. And wouldn’t have been integrated with the OS-level dictionary I use in every other app on my Powerbook. It’s really uncomfortable typing away, and not being able to know at a glance, or via peripheral vision, if I’d made a typo or a stupid spelling attempt (I rarely get words with more than 3 letters right on the first shot…)
    • No Cocoa UI widgets – they’re available in Camino, and are apparently planned for Firefox 3.0 (official plan), but the XUL widgets suck badly, compared to the great ones that are provided by Cocoa. Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way.
    • Feels like it is quite a bit slower than Safari. Speed is good.
    • Text rendering sucks badly as well. Compare pages to what they look like in Safari. Just simply not as good. And Firefox doesn’t support the CSS dropshadow – meaning my blog’s banner text looks worse in Firefox ;-)
    • Page load progress indicator – the simple spinning “working…” indicator just ain’t enough. There’s an extension to get more info, including a progress thermometer, but nothing comes close to Safari’s elegant thermometer-beneath-the-location-field implementation.