Archive for June, 2015

The Desolation of Smaug

What was that I was saying about An Unexpected Journey not feeling rushed? About the inclusion of songs, in all their silliness and pomposity? About belly laughs and witty homages? Naw. Peter Jackson opens The Desolation of Smaug with a flash-back sequence of Gandalf’s initial encounter with Thorin at the Prancing Pony in Bree. And as the scene opens, just as with the Bree scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson emerges from the darkness munching on an oversized carrot. That’s a fitting metaphor, methinks.


Inside Out
Pixar Plays With Our Emotions

Throughout the entire decade of the 2000s, animation powerhouse Pixar was the king of original cinematic experiences. 2001’s Monsters Inc. was followed by Finding Nemo which was followed by The Incredibles, et cetera, et cetera. All the way through the release of Up in 2009, Pixar was creating high-quality and original new movies seemingly every year. In the current decade, however, Pixar has fallen victim to sequelitis, with 2012’s Brave being their only non-sequel release in the past five years. That changes in 2015, however, as the studio that a desk lamp built plans to release not just one, but two original films. The first is this summer’s comedy Inside Out.


The Return of the King, Extended Edition

I have to assume that those who really want to know about the Extended Edition of The Return of the King are already fans of Peter Jackson’s adapted Lord of the Rings. After all, would anyone who dislikes Krispy Kremes be interested in merely a bigger Krispy Kreme? I doubt it. And what makes a Krispy Kreme special, so I have been told, is all in the eye of the consumer, as it were. But wait, you say. The Return of the King is no light-as-air confection. And of course I agree, though not everyone would. Further, I suggest that the Extended Edition is as much a different movie from the theatrical version as was the extended Fellowship—as different as a slice of New York cheesecake is from a Krispy Kreme.


Jurassic World
How to Train Your Raptor

The original Jurassic Park from 1993 is a legitimate classic, but its two sequels were underwhelming to say the least. They each had individual scenes that were exciting, but on a whole they came nowhere close to the awe-inspiring, majestic thrill ride that was the original. Enter Colin Trevorrow, a director whose only feature film to date, 2012’s Safety Not Guaranteed, as great as it was, doesn’t necessarily scream blockbuster potential. Whatever the producers saw in that movie, however, pays off big time as Jurassic World proves to be the Jurassic Park sequel that we always wanted.


The Two Towers, Extended Edition

While the extended Fellowship is an epic worthy of being called a classic—taking what was already a fine, effective film and improving it by tweaks and bounds—I did not see much hope for a similar treatment of Towers. While the theatrical Towers proved excellent grist for fanboys, I nonetheless found it tedious at times and oppressive as a whole. Without Jackson’s stunning realization of Gollum, the film would have seemed to me a nearly complete loss. Fortunately for the studio—and the audience—Peter Jackson and crew were at the helm of this effort and not me!


Entourage
Four Episodes for the Price of One

The Entourage television show had a good eight-year run on HBO from 2004 through 2011, and now, four years later, the series has been adapted into a movie. Well, not really adapted. It’s more like show creator Doug Ellin and company got together and created a four-episode story arc, recruited as many of their famous friends as possible for cameos, and released those four episodes as one feature-length package in theaters. The result is a movie that might not do much in the way of attracting new viewers, but should give its fans an enjoyable way to reconnect with the characters.


The Fellowship of the Ring, Extended Edition

In general, I am not a fan of “director’s cuts,” or extended versions of theatrical releases. With very few exceptions, such as Milos Forman’s Amadeus, the addition of “restored” footage makes little or no impact on the effectiveness of a movie. Peter Jackson’s extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring is one of these rare exceptions. In fact, the additions that Jackson has made—scattered widely across its three-plus hour running time—transform Fellowship from a very good movie into a truly great film.