Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Film Review - The Lion King 3D (1994/2011)

A re release of the classic 1994 Disney film, the Lion King tells the tale of young Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick) who is the son of King Mufasa voiced by James Earl Jones and is also destined to become king, but his evil brother Scar voiced by Jeremy Irons wants to take the throne for himself.

The film has held up wonderfully well, seeing it back on the big screen with the dynamic sound was an absolute treat especially the films songs by Tim Rice and Elton John and the orchestral score by Hans Zimmer and the famous Stampede sequence also sounded terrific, needless to say I had a big smile on my face the entire time I was in the cinema.

However, I must talk about the 3D effect and I'll say that it's not terrible like the kind that happens with a lot of recent films like Captain America and Thor which did not benefit in any way at all from the 3D treatment but getting back to this film as I said it isn't terrible and there is a nice use of the effect in some scenes in regards to the depth of field and showcasing some of the background details but again I took the glasses off and noticed it was brighter and more colourful, which leads me to say that if you saw it on a nice 2D screen with a properly projected print, you'd have every inch the same experience.

All in all, if your thinking about going to see this re release, do it despite the 3D, it's wonderful to see it back on the big screen and it deserves to be seen with a sold out crowd, nothing else would do it justice and if you haven't shown your kids or nieces/nephews the film and want to do so, now is the time and chance to do it, 5 out of 5.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Film Review - Spaceballs (1987)

Spaceballs is from the comedy icon Mel Brooks and this time he turns his attention to the Star Wars Trilogy with the Planet Spaceball and its inhabitants wanting the fresh air of the nearby planet Druidia, to do this they send their most fearsome agent Dark Helmet played by Rick Moranis, meanwhile on Druidia King Roland played by Dick van Patten wants to marry off his daughter Princess Vespa played by Daphne Zuniga. but she runs away and flees the planet, which gives Helmet an idea to kidnap her to get the air from her planet, but to succeed he'll have to deal with Lone Star played by Bill Pullman and his companion Barf played by John Candy.

Now, I remember first seeing this movie a few years back and loving it to death, the parody of Star Wars to me felt spot on and I laughed my head off for the most part, but recently I felt compelled to revisit it after having not seen it since then, has it held up?

Sadly no, mainly for two reasons, the first being that I just didn't laugh all that much, don't get me wrong I smiled and chuckled a little bit at some of the gags and riffs on characters from the Star Wars movies but the first time I really laughed was at the 40 minute mark which can be death in a comedy and even then there were only a few laughs after that.

Which leads me onto my next reason: It's Boring, yes folks I was bored throughout large chunks of this film and as if that wasn't enough, it's a slow comedy, why wasn't was some zing added to this movie, a sense of pace and movement, I mean a year after this movie came out the Naked Gun hit cinemas and that is an example of a great comedy that moves along, piles jokes onto each other and does its riffs very well, this in comparison just plods along to its tedious end.

But I do have to sound out the main positive and that is some of the cast, Moranis, Pullman and Zuniga give it their all and try to do their best but in the end like many actors before and since they just become lost in the material which doesn't do them justice and in the case of Moranis well quite frankly he is wasted in this film and that is a real shame as he is a talented actor.

So in closing, the Force just isn't with this comedy and yet Brooks would later make Robin Hood: Men in Tights which was funny, but as I said this isn't and its tedious and slow, I can't recommend this film, 1.5 out of 5.

Film Review - Colours (1988)

Colours is a crime drama directed by Dennis Hopper and stars Robert Duvall and Sean Penn as two cops assigned to a special branch of the LAPD that deals with the gang violence in the area, and they're going to need all the help they can get.

Colours starts off strong and assigns its two leads straight away and both Penn and Duvall play off each other very well and Hopper at least tries to take the time and develop both the gang culture and the chief characters from that part of the film and the two leads so that when the action comes, we get a sense that these are actual characters fighting it out rather than props for those scenes.

I also liked the cinematography at times showing a down and dirty LA compared to what we usually see but even as I talk about the film and all it accomplishes and it does get a lot right, a lot of it also feels familiar in terms of the buddy relationship between the cops, the gang dynamic and the obligatory love interest played here by Maria Conchita Alonso and it feels totally unnecessary but tradition in regards to these kinds of movies demand this sort of subplot and its a shame as the film tried to take this genre somewhat seriously though happily its only a brief subplot.

In closing, I thought the film was okay, it's clear Hopper and Co tried to do something different but tradition got in the way and what we end up with is a bit of a mishmash unsure of what direction it wants to go in, 1.5 out of 5.

Blu-Ray Review - The Star Wars Trilogy (1977/1980/1983)

May 25th 1977,

The world has been a strange place with much upheaval in the world in regards to the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal in America and the tumultuous prime minister ship of Gough Whitlam in Australia, all of this has helped to create a feeling of darkness and despair in the world and there are no modern heroes of that time to aspire to and believe that somewhere out there, there will be someone that will help to light their darkest hour.

But on a scant 32 cinema screens in America, a small film called Star Wars opens to very little fanfare, not much in the way of preview showings and no advanced word, the film starts small and grows to become the biggest hit of all time until Steven Spielberg's ET took the spot a few years later.

You know, it's hard to talk about these three movies objectively for me as pretty much everyone that knows me knows that I love these movies above all others, even the first two Mad Max movies which are the only ones I've seen that have come anywhere near as close to topping these three films as my all time favorites but for me they are an example of movie making at the top of its form with its pure imagination, a fearsome villain in the shape of Lord Darth Vader and the mighty Galactic Empire, a valiant band of heroes plus some of the greatest special effects, music and dialogue ever put on a cinema screen.

But alas, I cannot talk about this release and not talk about the tinkering that Lucas has done to these movies, for the most part they don't work and at times pull you out of the viewing experience due to it looking different than the original production footage but for the most part I didn't find them to be too intrusive but I do wish there wouldn't be anymore as its starting to get more and more pointless which each round of changes, I mean sure the changes made in 1997 for the 20th Anniversary were done for some sort of reason but the others since have not, having that feel of uselessness to them as they interfered with the actual story of the films themselves but alas as I said I didn't find them too intrusive but again, they are starting to wear rather thin.

The Video:

The Video quality for the most part is actually rather good, it is said that when the 2004 restoration work was being done, Lucasfilm also created HD masters for the three films, if they did than these clearly served as the basis for these new 1080p transfers.

The movies have had several clean up efforts throughout the years starting in the early 90's where the negative had faded very badly and needed immediate cleanup work in order to be salvaged for future generations, which is also part of the inspiration for the 1997 re release in the cinemas which at times resulted in a blue tint that ran through all three films and in 2004 when Lowry Digital, a restoration house that was hired by Lucasfilm to do their own restoration work, more problems surfaced in dimmed lightsabers, a general dimness throughout the movies and oversaturated colors.

As to whether these have been fixed, I'm happy to report that for the most part a lot of these problems have indeed been corrected for this release, to my eyes this is probably the best the films will ever look in regards of it looking like a real film rather than a HDTV print with a lot of the details scrubbed out in the process and boy are the details in these transfers superb, really goes to show how these older movies can really look in HD and also how they have a much more human touch than the more cartoonish CG effects we see today.

The Audio:

As with the video transfer, the audio for the Star Wars trilogy has never been the same way twice either, starting with three separate mixes that were created just for the original 1977 release to cover the mono, stereo and 70mm screenings for the film, then in 1985 Ben Burtt went back and created a brand new mix combining elements from those three mixes and then in 1997 a new 5.1 mix was created for the Special Edition releases as Digital Sound was now the norm in cinemas.

But it doesn't end there, in 2004 for the DVD release the first Star Wars film received another new mix which sad to say was not the best, it was clear that the ravages of time had played their part and some scenes sounded uneven in terms of balance between sound, dialogue and music while Empire and Jedi clearly sounded like the 97 mix and as a result sounded terrific.

But that was then, this is now and new sound designer Matthew Wood has been keen to restore the balance and give fans a mix that will please them in terms of having a similar sound to how they sounded when originally released and take advantage of the new lossless HD sound.

In this case, DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 sound and pleasing to say he does a good job, particularly on the first Star Wars film which again had to be done from the ground up, a lot of the problems from that mix are now gone but as with the video transfer this is likely to be the best we will get in terms of balancing faithfulness to the original style and going balls and all for a more modern style sound mix.

The Extras:

There are multiple releases for these movies on Blu-Ray, the 2 trilogies on their own and the 9 disc Complete Saga which combines the 6 movie discs and 3 exclusive discs with extras, as I only bought the Original Trilogy 3 pack I will cover those discs.

2004 Audio Commentary with George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren and Carrie Fisher: These commentaries appeared on the 2004 DVD release of the trilogy and the only difference is the addition of Kershner on Empire who sadly passed away last year, these commentaries are okay but at times are a bit dry and all participants are recorded separately so there's no real interaction between the various participants but still, it will kill a couple of hours when listened to.

Audio Commentary with Archival Interviews from Cast and Crew Members: New to this Blu-Ray release is a second commentary track compiled of archival interviews from many cast and crew members ranging from Lucas himself to people like John Williams, Richard Edlund, Ken Ralston, Alec Guinness, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels and many more but sadly one noticeable absentee is Richard Marquand who directed Return of the Jedi and sadly passed away in 1987 to a heart attack and I was really hoping that there might have been some interviews with him on this track but alas there is not.

But still, these new tracks are well worth your time and in a very nice touch, both commentaries have their own subtitle tracks so you can watch the film and read the commentaries as you watch, something that should be compulsory when you have audio commentaries on disc releases and also, when you take the disc out for the first time, an option appears to allow you to resume where you left off, another nice touch.

In terms of the other Original Trilogy extras created for this Blu-Ray release, the long awaited deleted scenes, the conceptual art galleries, the archive collection and the new and vintage interviews you'll have to pick the Complete Saga set and to be honest I can't say that I recommend you do mainly because of the prequel films not being all that good as the story in those films was already familiar to us and as a result it created no real surprise as to how those newer films would play out in the end.

But I also thought about this as I was mulling over the extras released for this set and the DVD set back in 2004 and that is apart from a few vintage documentaries, some of which also appear on the Complete Saga set and that was that there really isn't that much more left to release when it comes to bonus materials for these movies, most of the major stuff is now out on release in terms of commentaries, documentaries, deleted scenes, a look into the archives, trailers, TV spots and still galleries though if all of that from both major disc releases were combined you'd have a pretty definitive set apart from HD transfers of the original versions and we all know there's no way on Earth that will happen for a long time, a long time.

The Verdict:

In the end, most Star Wars fans are going to buy these movies on Blu-Ray if they haven't already, in terms of my own opinion as to how you should purchase these well the original movies 3 pack should be more than satisfactory as it contains great Audio/Visual quality as well as a new and interesting Archival commentary track on each film though I do wish the OT archive disc from the complete saga set was in this set so fans that don't want to shell out for the full set can get the original movies and its full complement of extras but alas that in the end is up to you fair readers but for most fans I would grab just the original movies pack, that should be more than enough.