Archive for the 'Recent Home Video' Category
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.
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 World of Yesterday’s Future
In 2003, Disney struck it big when they turned one of their amusement park attractions, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, into a multi-million dollar movie franchise. If a movie based on a single attraction could be so successful, imagine what a movie based on an entire section of Disneyland might do! That might not have exactly been the thinking that led to the new movie Tomorrowland, but the movie is nevertheless the Disney Company’s newest attempt to turn part of their theme park into a movie franchise. The hope, of course, is that the movie turns out to be more Pirates of the Caribbean and less Haunted Mansion.
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.
Though it’s clear that this is a darker—and scarier—vision of Middle-earth than comes across on the printed page, obviously, the film succeeds as terrific entertainment for adolescents and adults, and will no doubt sate the appetite of Tolkien addicts at least for a few months. Box-office records will fall, and fall mightily. But what about the entire series? Will it become flabby and perfunctory, like the Star Wars series? Or will it actually build momentum, and end with as satisfying a conclusion as the novels?
An Action Extravaganza
Prior to the release of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in 2012, there was some skepticism as to whether a comic book adventure featuring a team up of so many different superheroes could actually work. No one had ever really attempted such a project before and some of the biggest complaints about previous superhero films that failed were that they tried too hard to shoehorn multiple characters into one movie. Just think about Spider-Man 3. Whedon pulled it off, though, and The Avengers became a Hulk-sized smash. As a result, its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, hasn’t faced much skepticism, but it has been challenged with some ridiculously high expectations.
The thing about a fantasy is that it is by definition unreal and fantastic; it doesn’t need to be grounded in reality. The Age of Adaline is a romantic fantasy about a woman who does not age, and the potential is there for it to be a classic movie fantasy—the kind of movie that allows the audience to escape from the restrictions of reality and just get swept away in the story and its characters. Unfortunately, even while providing us with some magical visuals, the creators of the movie keep trying to ground their movie in reality, making it difficult for the audience to willing suspend their disbelief.
A Fistful of Old Testament Justice
Make no mistake: there are no Christ figures in Leone’s Westerns. Mercy is as out of place in his landscape as Leone’s dusters. So this truth you will not find in Leone’s vision: God is found not merely in the satisfaction of retribution via human agents; he is also there in the desert, between oases, calling us to sit and dwell in the silence and wait not for an explosion but a still, small voice. As humans, we want justice, and we want it now, served our way. Leone’s films are visions for December 8 or September 12.
In 1971, folk singer Steve Tilston gave an interview in which he discussed his fears that wealth and fame might negatively affect his songwriting. The article was read by none other than John Lennon, who was inspired to write a letter to the then 21-year-old singer offering words of advice. In 2010, Tilston finally received the letter. That true story served as the inspiration for the new movie Danny Collins, the directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Fogelman.
Grown-Up Kids with Life-Sized Hot Wheels
The Fast and the Furious franchise has been around since 2001, but it really came into its own with the fourth installment in 2009. For that movie, the filmmakers threw out any attempts to keep the movies grounded in reality and just went for it with ridiculous stunts that defied all physics. The action scenes are so extreme they feel like they were written in the minds of young kids while racing their hot wheels around the house. Each of the two movies released since then have gone out of their way to try and outdo their predecessors and the latest installment, Furious 7, tries to do the same… and in many ways it succeeds.
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