Acclaimed Tribeca Talks: Directors Series panels include one-on-one conversations with Christopher Nolan & Bennet Miller, George Lucas & Stephen Colbert, Cary Fukunaga & James Schamus, and Brad Bird & Janeane Garofalo; additional speakers include Harvey Weinstein, Gus Van Sant, Amy Schumer, Courtney Love, Catherine Martin, Christiane Amanpour, and more!
The world could have used a great CG reimagining of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. What a shame this isn’t it.
Still there are some good moments to be had from Strange Magic – Alan Cumming rocking out as the Bog King and Evan Rachel Ward flittering through several musical styles as Princess Marianne of the Fairy Kingdom come to mind.
Strange Magic, a musical fantasy filled with magic, elves, goblins and fairies – and based loosely on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will be in theaters on January 23rd.
Follow the jump to learn more about the creatures and cast of Strange Magic.
Lucasfilm Ltd.’s Strange Magic – a ‘madcap fairy tale musical inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ will be the company’s first theatrical release since the company was acquired by Disney.
Strange Magic stars an amazing voice cast – Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristen Chenowith, Maya Rudolph and Peter Stormare among them – and will be released through Touchstone Pictures on January 23, 2015. For details, follow the jump.
George Lucas leads into a 24-hour salute to fantasy films in the latest edition of TCM’s A Night at the Movies – TCM Presents A Night at the Movies: George Lucas & The World of Fantasy Cinema – on Tuesday, November 25th (8/7C). During the one-hour special, Lucas will take viewers on a tour of some of the movies that sparked his imagination and inspired his work.
Following the Lucas appearance on A Night at the Movies, TCM will roll out a lineup of classic genre fare that includes the original 1947 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Danny Kaye, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), The Thief of Baghdad (1940) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). For more, follow the jump.
The story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black fighter pilots – who fought bravely in WWII, is one that needs to be told and told often. Several years ago HBO did mini-series about these giants amongst men. While watching George Lucas’ passion project Red Tails, I could not help but feel like I’ve seen this movie before – only done better.
And when I say unleashed, I mean unleashed! The nine-disc blu-ray Star Wars release will include so many extras that it’s hard to know where to begin, but as a fan of the audio commentary, I say let’s start with two commentaries for each film – one by George Lucas and a handful of select cast and crew; the other put together from archival interviews with cast and crew.
Then, in addition to previously seen features, each trilogy gets a disc of never before seen deleted scenes, extended scenes and much, much more – and the final disc includes three brand new documentaries.
For complete details, check out the full press release following the jump.
When RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was released in 1981, it did the unthinkable – the movie superseded the previous works that creator-producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg had each done individually in genre filmmaking. And that said a lot, with Lucas on the heels of the first two STAR WARS films, and Spielberg just a few years away from JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Add Harrison (Han Solo) Ford to the mix, and you had a producer-director-star team that couldn’t miss.
Of course, the whole was greater than the sum of the parts, and RAIDERS was perhaps the finest work that any of the three men had delivered to date. Every shot in RAIDERS was a mini-masterpiece, every line memorably delivered, every image indelible. It would be impossible to surpass, and though Spielberg released the ultimate genre pic E.T. the next year and Lucas and Ford provided the third STAR WARS film the following year (failing to top the instant classics of STAR WARS and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK), the group re-teamed with INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM for a monster summer 1984 release.
DOOM had more thrills and chills than RAIDERS, and like EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, was a significantly darker film than the original which spawned it. Rumors of an X rating abounded, and critics lashed out at the violence, though most audiences ate up a return trip with the character and the frantic pace of the film’s second half. DOOM was not as good a film as RAIDERS, but as sequels go, it provided much of the content that audiences beckoned in a genre sequel.
Ok, I’ll admit I’ve always been pretty ambivalent towards the Indiana Jones trilogy. I liked Raiders well enough, but loathed Temple of Doom – it’s completely un-watchable, while Last Crusade was meh. So when they announced that they were finally going to do Indy 4 I could not have cared less. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull returns the series to it’s Raiders glory. This is the film that should have followed the Raiders, it’s pretty much a direct sequel with many nods to the first film and in the final moments brings everything full circle. When this film works, it works really well, but there’s still that strange sense of deja-vu. It feels like you are watching the original again, only 20 years later with slightly different characters and plot. Maybe it’s because I watched Raiders the night before the screening so it was still fresh in my mind. But everything felt familiar instead of Nazi’s you had Russians, instead of Belloq we had Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), instead of the Ark we had this goofy looking Crystal Skull which looked exactly like the head from one of the Alien films. I can see the crossover fan fiction already. This familiarity isn’t a bad thing – especially considering how completely out of sync Temple of Doom feels like when I watch it. It put a smile on my face the first time Indy (Harrison Ford) is re-introduced to the world in shadow with his hat and the first time you hear the classic John Williams theme again. It’s like I’m a kid again. I don’t care what anyone says John Williams is the greatest film composer of our times. You don’t have a soul if the Raiders theme doesn’t get your blood pumping. No many how many times it’s replayed it during the movie. The opening 30 minutes of Raiders is simply, brilliant is too strong a word, exhilarating is better. But then something happens that starts to derail things and it pains me to say it, because we love him here at EM and I’ve met him a couple of times, Shia LaBeouf brings everything to a screeching halt. Everything about his character is just horrible: from the stupid name – (Mutt Williams) to the greaser, bad boy attitude, to the playing with his pocket knife and his habit of combing his hair when he’s nervous. None of it works, it just doesn’t ring true. Shia isn’t the bad boy, James Dean type. He’s the normal kid who gets into trouble because he’s a smart ass.
Awhile ago, when I was yelling at people that Atonement wasn’t a “complex” plot (just stupid) and that there’s no such thing as “complex” plots just poorly scripted films, I may have to eat my words. I find myself on the fence as to whether this movie is overly complex or stupid. There’s a fine line between the two and I think David Koepp (screenplay), George Lucas (story) and Jeff Nathanson‘s script walks that fine line. This movie takes place right in the middle of the Cold War scare and in the opening there are several references to the witch hunt and how this isn’t “our America,” anymore. But then the next few scenes you have Russian agents speaking in heavy Russian accents in the middle of an Ice-Cream parlor and chasing Indy all over town. Not to mention they break into a top secret military base. The FBI would be completely incompetent if they didn’t investigate all the obvious Russian activity. The writers want to make a political statement, but this obviously isn’t the film for it. Even if it is set during that paranoid period in our history. They would have been better off just ignoring the subtext then trying to shoehorn one in. Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you. And politicians and government agencies are always out to capitalize on it, just look at our current situation.
All of the major action set pieces also feel like stuff that we’ve seen in the other three films only longer. There’s one chase sequence that’s fun for the first 5 minutes but 10 or 15 minutes in, I was like – I get the point, let’s move on already. This is a b to the w action film with little character development or progression. No one in this film has grown since Raiders. Which actually is a good thing, it’s what we’re comfortable with as an audience and really, why mess with a formula that works. But back to the plot, without giving anything away instead of chasing an ancient artifact, this time Indy gets caught up in a Russian Spy’s (Irina) quest for an object that promises untold knowledge and treasure. I won’t say more than that, but the film’s 3rd act feels like poorly constructed fan fiction. A great what if Indy discovered….It’s really nice special effects, but what happens in the end is almost exactly what happens at the end of Raiders. After the ride Steven Spielberg takes us on, I somehow expected something more, I don’t know, original. I can’t see Shia being able to carry an entire Indy film by himself, but it’s clear that’s where Spielberg and Lucas want to go. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t a perfect film, but it’s far more satisfying as a whole than the sum of it’s parts.
Final Grade B
EM Review by
Originally Posted 5.22.08
Indiana Jones is back – and it’s a Very Good Thing!
Indy has faced many obstacles in his life, but never before has he been considered a potential threat to national security! And let me tell you, it really bugs his @$$!
The problem arises because of a [former] friend who helps a covert Soviet team steal something highly magnetic from Area 51. The consequences of that incident even lead to Indy being put on “on indefinite leave of absence” from his teaching job – the timing of which is conveniently perfect for him to meet a Brando/Dean/Fonzie wannabe named Mutt Williams [Shia LeBeouf], who says his mother told him that Indy could help them. Indy is further persuaded by the KGB goons who try to grab him and Mutt [which leads to the revelation of one of the most poorly kept secrets in the history of cinema…].
It seems that an old colleague of Indy, “Ox” Oxley [John Hurt] may have found the location of the legendary lost city of gold – and the Commies want something that should also be there – something that ties in with the object they nabbed in the film’s opening. “Mother” turns out to the former Marion Ravenwood [Karen Allen] is as feisty as ever [if she could have duped her guards into a drinking contest, she might well have escaped].
Now we come to the key to the whole film – the Crystal Skull of Akator. Spalko believes it’s one of thirteen and when united with its fellows will give the Soviets the ultimate weapon. She’s sure of this, because it speaks to her. Apparently she’s a bit on psychic side…
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the kind of adventure that many of us would kill to have, if only they didn’t happen in some wonderful parallel universe that looks like our own but has as much magic as science. There are chases [and we never even think to question how there could be two parallel roads next to each other in the Mayan jungle]; sword fights on jeep hoods [see parallel roads], and strange and wondrous artifacts, like the exquisitely beautiful, if oddly shaped crystal skull. There’s even a lost city [and a pretty cool explanation for why our modern satellites have never encountered it].
Every Indy film is very much of the time in which it takes place: Raiders and Last Crusade, set in the forties, dealt with Nazis, as well as supernatural artifacts; Temple of Doom [set in the late thirties] was a pulpy adventure that revolved around a Kali death cult. So it’s no surprise that Crystal Skull uses the trappings of the cold war as the basis for its story [and riffs on the best known film cold war allegories for its trippy conclusion].
Even when it’s dealing with exposition [as in most of the middle act], Indy 4 entertains by making the “Basil Exposition” character [John Hurt’s Oxley] interesting – and tossing in some action or surprise every time things look to be slowing too much. Many of the best allusions to the previous films happen here – watch for a great gag with a snake, in particular.
Though there are some significant CG effects used in the film, a lot of the best stunts are practical, and Ford can be seen, clearly, doing more than enough of Indy’s stunts to make us believe it’s still him when a stuntman takes over. Even little things [like the over-the-top meaty sounds of the fist fights] perfectly recapture the feel of the previous films.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is much better than I was expecting [and I was expecting a lot!]. Steven Spielberg does what he does best – marrying action and adventure to interesting characters. He keeps the film moving and provides some wonderful sights along the way.
If you want to put it in terms of the entire series, Crystal Skull fits in, quality-wise, at about the same place as Last Crusade. The two films even deal with daddy issues, so that’s a pretty natural conclusion.
Final Grade: A-