Archive for the 'Home Video' Category

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Ugly? Not So Much. Nope.

Leone’s legacy is that of a ground-breakingly visionary genius… even though his oeuvre technically comprises only six theatrical releases, none of which were certifiable hits and one of which was a decided bust. That demonstrates the power of Leone’s films at his peak, however. Once Upon a Time in America, Once Upon a Time in the West, and GBU are all certifiable masterpieces (though not to everyone’s taste, as tends to be the nature of masterpieces) though the latter (and the first of those three to be released) is the most flawed. And yet, like certain gems, it is the flaws of GBU that lend it a certain brilliance.

Henry Poole Is Here Revisited
Wrap Your Mind Around This

What do you make about the very notion of “the appointed moment”? Isn’t that something relegated to fairy tales and wishful thinking? Isn’t the idea that everything–and I mean everything–happens for a reason one for which there is no rational defense? After all, if God meant for you to meet your future spouse at a particular place and time, then he must also have meant for that sheet of plywood to come flying out of that pickup truck bed and slash through your niece’s windshield, killing her instantly. Right? You can’t cherry-pick Providence.

What Do Coppola and Springsteen Have in Common?
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse and The Ties That Bind

In 1979, Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliant Apocalypse Now! debuted in theaters… and, inexplicably, failed to win a single Oscar. Often described as a war film, even a Viet Nam War film, it is instead an examination of single-minded obsession–what critics, academics, and fanboys refer to as a “meta” film: one which is, in almost all respects, self-referential, about the art of film itself.


Given the hundreds of films I’ve reviewed, I am absolutely flummoxed that I have never before covered 1998’s IMAX film Everest. To start with, I’m a mountaineering literature junkie. Further, the film stars Ed Viesturs, who is to mountaineering what Aaron Rodgers is to football. And to top it off, it’s pure documentary footage of the most absorbing high-altitude tragedy in the history of mountaineering. What couldn’t have been planned, and what no one expected, was that the IMAX team would be on the mountain during the catastrophic events that claimed the lives of eight climbers from three other expeditions on their summit day.

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.

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.

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!

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.

The Return of the King

Conventional wisdom dictates that movie scripts be designed and function in much the same way as a short story; another apt comparison would be the musical form of the overture.
And just as most stories are short in comparison to J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic, so are most movies mere overtures in comparison to Peter Jackson’s unprecedented cinematic achievement. A running time of three-plus hours certainly allows a design reminiscent of a symphony’s multiple, distinct movements—even, as in this case, the many “false” endings for which symphonies are often criticized.

The Two Towers

Jackson’s filmed version of The Two Towers is not the same story as Tolkien’s. The titular towers are not even the same as those emphasized by Tolkien: Orthanc and Barad-dûr have been substituted for Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith. The framework of Jackson’s story is provided by the Axis of Evil which hems in and ravages Rohan and Gondor; Tolkien’s framework places more emphasis on the battle for right, waged in the shadowlands which form between darkness and light. With a different framework come different details.

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