DVD Review HTF REVIEW: KING KONG - Peter Jackson's Production Diaries (RECOMMENDED)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Steve Tannehill, Dec 10, 2005.

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  1. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries
    Studio: Universal Studios Home Video
    Year: 2005 (2005 Release)
    Rated: Not Rated
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78x1, enhanced for 16x9 displays
    Audio: English DD 2.0
    Captions/Subtitles: English SDH; French and Spanish Subtitles
    Time: Approx. 4 hours
    Disc Format: SS/SL (2 single-sided discs)
    Case Style: Yes!

    Dear Diary,

    What a time of year! Not only is the review
    stack overflowing with some of the best DVDs
    of the year, but one of my most anticipated
    theatrical features is about to open.

    Wednesday, as the sleet pelted my windows
    at home, the nice FedEx man dropped a rather
    large, padded envelope on my doorstep, and
    to my delight and surprise, it contained
    King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries.

    These videos were originally posted in QuickTime
    format at at KONG IS KING.net (where you can
    currently find and download post-production
    diaries.) I actually checked a few of them out
    back in the day, and was impressed how they went
    in-depth behind-the-scenes well over a year before
    the movie was to open--quite different than having
    to wait for a special edition movie DVD.

    Well, now you can get these videos in higher
    DVD quality in a 2-disc set that will be released
    next week, just prior to Kong's opening in
    theaters.

    I'm in the process of adopting a furry beast of my
    own, so I watched the discs while I kept one
    of my cats in isolation. It was a fun weekend...
    until the new cat got lost in my house somewhere.

    Meanwhile, here is the full review.

    - Steve



    The Packaging:

    The outer box is about 8.5" x 11". It has the look of a leather satchel with a lock, but it is merely glossy cardboard. Well done, though:




    The back of the box is covered by the spec sheet, but that can be removed easily to reveal the back side of the "leather" satchel:




    Opening the box reveals a plastic bag containing a numbered certificate of authenticity and four 8" x 10" production art prints:






    Inside the box is another box, made of heavy cardboard...




    ...and inside that is the DVD package itself:




    This DVD case is a fairly solid clipboard with two flaps:




    The top opens to reveal a 52-page booklet (that can easily be removed):






    The underside opens to reveal the discs themselves:




    There is a certain coolness to the packaging, but on more than one occasion, clumsy Steve dropped the DVD case and the booklet went flying. Then again, that could happen with any clipboard. The DVD's stayed locked firmly in place, however, for which I was grateful. Perhaps I should start a new review category of packaging robustness and throw DVD cases around like a big gorilla. (Remember those old Samsonite commercials? Maybe Kong has a future in commercial advertising!)

    The Packaging: 4 / 5



    The Feature:
    The King Kong production diaries had their start on the KONG IS KING.net web site. Armed with camcorders, the DVD crew roamed the sets, locations, production workshops and offices filming as much behind-the-scenes action as they could--they pretty much had full access, so they got a lot of footage. Over the course of the eight month production shoot, this footage was culled together into short episodes with an area of focus, and every 2-3 days, they would be posted online.

    Peter Jackson introduces the production diaries (5:34) and tells how the original intent was just to stay in touch with the online fan base during the making of the film. At first, as you can see from the initial episode, it was a rather passive examination of the first day of shooting with Jackson making a brief statement to the fans. But after he saw that segment, he was disappointed and thought that it would be cooler to get everyone more involved. So the project expanded to cover a lot more than originally intended, with the stars and crew becoming active participants.

    The DVD crew was also tasked to film unique content for an upcoming DVD release--these production diaries were shot in addition, and are often a little more loose (and silly) than would be expected for a full-length making-of documentary. Jackson wanted to focus on areas that might not otherwise be covered (like cameras and lenses; the making of poo), and questions from the fans were solicited and answered.

    Jackson considers this to be an experiment and not a calculated piece of publicity (and I think he is really sincere about this. Publicity is usually focused on the final product, not the interim stages. But the fact that these diaries kept the all-important online fan base interested is a bonus, to be sure.)

    While these initial production diaries are no longer available online, post-production diaries continue (in fact, I am waiting to see the latest installment). This DVD set offers a chance to gather the production diaries together in much higher quality than appeared on the web site. It is a night and day difference, especially if you plan to watch this on a regular television.

    The set consists of two, single sided, single-layered discs.

    Disc One (1:53:59) features thirty of these episodes, taking us from the first day of production shooting on the 6th of September 2004, to the Christmas and New Years break. It also includes a hidden featurette shot at the Wellington Zoo.

    Disc Two (2:03:59) features the remaining twenty three episodes covering production from the 24th of January 2005 to the 8th of April 2005, plus a New Years introduction from Peter Jackson. It also includes a 16:29 featurette on the making of a key shot from Skull Island.

    I am going to be intentionally vague as to the specific chapters on the disc, because that could contain spoiler information for those who wish to see the movie first. Normally, I would list everything out and give running times. I myself wanted to be surprised by at least some of the movie, so I watched the first disc and only select chapters from the second. But that sampling is more than enough to comment.

    The discs are set up to where you can view the segments by production day or by location. If you don't want to be a remote-control jockey, there is also a "play all" option. The menu design is elegant. When you highlight a specific episode, you see a picture relating to the topic and actually hear audio from that segment.

    The episodes range in content from production design, set construction, set dressing, previsualization, location shooting, extras, vintage vehicles, hair and makeup, sound recording, costume design, and more. You can see exactly how 1933 New York City is brought to life. You can even see Peter Jackson's vintage Kong collection.

    Some of the more amusing segments include Jack Black's efforts to correct the perception of his height. Black, Jackson, and the crew have fun when a spy named "Gandalf" posts some pictures online. When the grey wizard returns to the set, the resulting encounter is hilarious. We see an international press junket, as well as a global partner summit--where eighteen minutes of the movie were screened to exhibitors, distributors, toy manufacturers, and other people with a vested interest in the movie.

    One of the more fascinating segments is the journey of a roll of film, from the camera to the editing console. We see it developed and even processed on the Spirit Telecine. One of the more humorous segments occurs when an exhausted Jackson calls in for directorial reinforcements: Bryan Singer and Frank Darabont. There is even an April Fools episode.

    At four hours, and with the word that this was entirely separate from the future special edition DVD release (or, as I am sure we all suspect, releases), King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries provides a perfect follow-up to seeing the movie, and it whets the appetite for even more features in the future. I'll have to admit, though, the thought of viewing it all is daunting! At this rate, the ultimate final edition may have six discs!

    As shown in the above pictures, the box set includes a numbered certificate of authenticity, and four 8" x 10" glossy lithographs that are suitable for framing (which is actually my plan, once my Kong advance one-sheet arrives).

    The package also includes a 52-page full color booklet with numerous pictures, design sketches, and behind-the scenes photos. It also includes a summary of every diary episode.

    King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries is going to be a perfect follow-up to the movie-going experience, especially for fans who either have not seen the diaries, or for those who want to see how the movie was made. Based on the stunning clips I saw this weekend on Ebert and Roeper, King Kong is going to be an amazing achievement in visual effects. This set will start you down the path of understanding just how it was done.

    The Feature: 4.5 / 5



    Video:
    Considering the digital video source, and the online QuickTime alternative, the video quality on this DVD set is very good. The video is 1.78x1, 16x9 enhanced widescreen. It looks as realistic as camcorder footage can, with excellent colors and contrast. I noticed jagged edges a couple of times, but this was on a 65-inch TV.

    Video: 3.5 / 5



    Sound:
    Although in stereo, the sound was largely still attached to a camcorder. It usually sounded fine when people were talking, but occasionally sounded hollow. This should be no surprise--we are not talking about a 5.1 channel movie production, merely a Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation.

    In addition to English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, French and Spanish subtitles are included.

    Sound: 3 / 5



    In Conclusion:
    Pick up a copy of The Frighteners for your free King Kong movie ticket (not to mention a fantastic movie), and get King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries while those first-week sales are in effect to go behind the scenes and to decorate your walls. But do yourself a favor and hold off watching it until after you have seen the movie!

    Overall Rating: 4 / 5


    Recommended

    Release Date: December 13, 2005




    Display calibrated by Steve Martin at http://www.lionav.com/
     
  2. donnie_d

    donnie_d Stunt Coordinator

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    thanx for the pix man!
     
  3. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

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    Say what?! That's two separate discs! Not a DVD-18! Who are you and what have you done with the real Universal?!

    * Naomi Watts...hamana hamana hamana!
     
  4. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    Region 2 gets this in a normal sized DVD case. I hope they eventually make it in that smaller size for us too.
     
  5. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Region 1 does too... the clipboard containing the booklet and DVDs is the exact form factor of a 3-DVD thinpack set, like Leave it to Beaver.

    As for the outer box, it is sized to hold the 8x10 lithographs. And that box can go on a top shelf along with my Jurassic Park collector's set.

    Cheers,
    Steve
     
  6. Bleddyn Williams

    Bleddyn Williams Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for this Steve. I love looking at packaging pics and you have documented this set very nicely! I wonder how many folk on the fence will not be able to resist this set after seeing these shots! [​IMG]
     
  7. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    Looks pretty classy but the film hasn't even come out yet. You're really supposed to view supplemental stuff AFTER you've seen the film.
     
  8. Seymour Uranowitz

    Seymour Uranowitz Stunt Coordinator

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    This set is aimed at fans who are likely to see the film within days of its release. Since it's coming out only one day before the film does, it's very likely that most people actually will view it after they've seen the film.
     
  9. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    I'm really torn about picking this up, but your pics are pushing me towards it now. We don't get enough cool boxsets like this in R1! Just wish it was a little cheaper... Either way, thanks for the preview, Steve!
     
  10. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    $27.99 at Amazon with free shipping... heck, Santa Steve might even give a couple at that price.

    - Steve
     
  11. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    This set is already available. I saw it at my local retailer 2 weeks ago, 2 Fridays ago. It was just too expensive for 2 DVDs. I would have bought it if it hadn't all the extra stuff (non DVD stuff).
     
  12. Kain_C

    Kain_C Screenwriter

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    Like I mentioned before, this could really become the trend. Release special material BEFORE the film, charge an outrageous price for it (like this set), and then release a barebones DVD after the film. Twice the money for ONE film. They don't even include a ticket, which shows me they're trying to start this trend because they think it will sell well.

    With studios clamoring to make as much money off the DVD oil well as possible, this is a real possibility.

    This could be bad.
     
  13. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Sam, this set is available next week in the United States.

    IMO, the price is hardly outrageous for two discs, special packaging, and the lithographs, especially if you collect movies and movie memorabilia. Then again, I bought single DVD's when they cost $20 plus tax (gasp!) I still do. And I was a hardcore laserdisc collector who owned, among his discs, Criterion Laserdisc #2. (Can anyone recall that one? [​IMG] )

    - Steve
     
  14. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    Agreed re the price, it's good! IMO. Compared to what the 2-discers have been going for lately.

    Anybody who thinks this is expensive, have you seen the Cinderella Man CE packaging?, and what you get in the package (the content is good though, no issues with that).

    This has been out here since last Tuesday, ~US$27.

    I bet this content will appear one day in a KK SE package, probably on a DVD-18...

    Edit: for Canadians, I saw this at two WMs, it's a big box so hard to miss, doesn't fit in any normal shelf so it's kinda out in the open. Perhaps they confused this with the original KK tins, which local WMs also just got for the first time the same day... This'll be a first for WM around here if the release date wasn't changed.
     
  15. Sam Davatchi

    Sam Davatchi Producer

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    Yes, that's the release date but it's out. I saw it. It was this R1 set. I had it in my hands twice. Once 9 days ago and once yesterday. Just to make you people in US feel better, here it's around 48 euros! That should make more than 50$ I think.
     
  16. RickER

    RickER Producer

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    Criterion LD #2 would be King Kong 33. I own it, and will keep it for the commentary track alone. It was the first commentary track if i recall correctly. Like you say Steve, in the LD days you got used to $100 or so for a great box set. If you were lucky you got a great movie with a few extras for $50. We are so spoiled in some ways now.
     
  17. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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    Says who? You do realize that these production diaries were published online as the film was being made, right? These were designed to be watched before the film. I'm sure the tens of thousands of people (or more) who watched them when they were online didn't think they were doing someting "wrong."

    DJ
     
  18. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill Ambassador

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    Mark's point is well-taken if you want to enter a movie cold without the hint of spoilers. I'm usually that way. But I'm also fascinated by the nitty gritty of movie production.

    (Now, I have to debate just how much detail I include regarding what exactly is contained in these production diaries...without making it a spoiler review.)

    - Steve
     
  19. Seymour Uranowitz

    Seymour Uranowitz Stunt Coordinator

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    Oh, I think there are a few "hints" already out there. For instance, I heard thatAt the end, KK falls off the Empire State Building after being shot by biplanes.
    Don't tell anyone!! [​IMG]
     
  20. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

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    I love the nitty gritty stuff of production too. I just want to know the stuff after I've seen the film so I can appreciate it instead of thinking "yeah, I know what day they shot that".
     

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