Archive for the 'Recent Home Video' Category
Can It Have Been Ten Years?
Firefly fans were pretty pleased with Serenity. Plenty of ordinary people were, too. Writer-director Joss Whedon directed this film adaptation of his own sci-fi TV series with confidence and style, giving audiences more to cheer about in space since long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. A really good thing even today, when “reboots” of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises leave folk like me crying, “No mas! No mas!”
Cynics, Stand Aside
This is a documentary about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Those documented in this film are truly living. They march to the proverbial different drummer. They are the thrill seekers that live among us, people who listen to a different economy and a different system of reward. The carrot on their stick is not a paycheck but the doing of their “thing” itself, from making ice cream, to stunt-flying airplanes, milking cows seven days a week (is it all workdays, or is it all weekends?), to metal sculpting, to [insert your own special ability or interest here].
When the restored “Director’s Cut” of Lawrence of Arabia played at Seattle’s legendary Cinerama theater in 1989, I was naturally at the first showing… even though it meant cutting work that afternoon. As the overture began playing to a fairly crowded house, the lights failed to come down… and the projectionist opened the curtain and unblocked the projection aperture. As the dumbfounded and confused audience looked on, timing marks on the 70mm print were projected onto the screen… and then the curtain closed. So much for the intended effect of the overture.
A Game of Inches? You Bet!
Coach Bill Courtney is a self-made man from the wrong side of the Deep-Southern tracks. He owns a specialty hardwoods factory, and knows what it means to suck it up when misfortune strikes and rise above it. But the coaching… well, he volunteers at Memphis’ Manassas High, and over the course of six years takes the Tigers from scoring maybe 36 points in an entire winless schedule to a shot at the division title, the playoffs… and maybe, even, an undefeated season.
As the action unfolds, you never get the sense that something absolutely ridiculous (Mission: Impossible), leaden (The Expendables), or overly-kinetic (Bourne or anything Statham) is going to happen. If bad guys are gonna get taken out, it’s going to happen quick, and the SEALs are going to move on, fast. If something blows up, it’s going to happen… once, and the SEALs are going to move on, fast. If something technologically sophisticated is required, we’re going to see bits of it—it won’t be belabored and shown off—and the SEALs are going to move right along, fast.
At the crux of the plot is the same dilemma as in Steven Spielberg’s heavy-handed and polemic Saving Private Ryan: Do you show mercy to your enemies? Little’s film doesn’t treat that question in a perfunctory manner, on either end of the spectrum… though, naturally, it just isn’t possible to read this as a “shoot the bastards” tract.
Morals Need Not Apply
Jake Gyllenhaal is quickly becoming one of our better actors. After bursting onto the scene in 2001’s indie cult hit Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal earned his first and (so far) only Oscar nomination for his performance opposite the late Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Since then, the actor has delivered many more quality performances in movies like Jarhead, Zodiac, and End of Watch. Sure, he has also had a few duds (Prince of Persia, anyone?), but for the most part the actor has shined. Nightcrawler is just the latest in a long line of good work… and it just might be in best.
Bill Murray for Sainthood
Bill Murray has been one of our most loved actors for over thirty years now. He’s starred in many a classic comedy and even earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Lately, his roles seem to fall into three distinct categories: Wes Anderson character parts, cameos (think Zombieland), and parts designed towards earning him an Oscar, like last year’s Hyde Park on the Hudson. His latest movie, St. Vincent, seems to fall in the latter category.
From Bestseller to Blockbuster?
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, Gone Girl is one of the most anticipated movies of 2014. After seeing it, I certainly anticipate that it will also become one of the most talked about movies of 2014. The material is a perfect fit for director David Fincher, even if the tone of the movie seems very familiar to that of his last novel adaptation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
What happens when a headstrong rumrunner crash-lands in the Arctic Barrens? In 2003’s The Snow Walker, this question has to be answered in the context of post-World War II technology, not with the luxury of GPS beacons and satellite phones. So when Charlie Halliday drops the last spare radio tube in his crashed single-prop, and it breaks, the answer is… a whole lot of survival training.
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