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Grudge Match Review: “Scrooged” vs. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” vs. “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” – Rounds 6 – 10

December 29, 2011 5 comments

<< Part I
Round 6: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Robert Hammond (uncredited), Robert Tygner (performer), and, yes, Jim Carrey as The Ghost of Christmas Future

Easily the ghost most people remember, and also the one where almost nobody seems to deviate from the tradition — not even Scrooged. The cloaked figure known as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (alternately, of Christmas Future) is often seen as the most dramatic of the spirits, revealing to Scrooge how the future could turn out if he doesn’t change his ways. There are differences in how each movie portrays the spirit, of course, but ultimately, the horrific aspect is the same, and it’s only a matter of how horrific and in what way.

Scrooged, for instance, keeps with the thematics, with the ghost having a heavy, ghoulish cloak with blue streaks and a TV screen for a face that flashes static and images from Frank’s life. Inside his cloak are hellish ghouls, moaning in agony. The visions of the future he shows Frank are abstract and look completely unlike anything else in the film, showing a bleak and sterile future, free from passion and compassion.

The Muppets keep it grim and faithful, but they are sure to make sure that families who show this to their children will not have tears by the end of the film. And, ultimately, that’s okay. It doesn’t break out into song, it doesn’t speak, and it certainly isn’t the most joyful spirit in the world, but we do need a Christmas Carol adaptation that is faithful without being both syrupy sweet and cheaply made. This spirit didn’t make that much of an impact on me as a viewer, but I get that I’m not necessarily the intended audience here.

Of course, it’s remarkably clear that Disney and Zemeckis were aiming for a much older audience with their collaboration on A Christmas Carol, as the ghost maintains his scary nature, multiplied by ten, with only Jim Carrey’s performance to keep things a bit lighter. Not nearly concerned with being grim and more concentrated with being terrifying, this ghost is seemingly the byproduct of merging the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Headless Horseman, with a hint of shrink ray. It seems as though the filmmakers were concerned that they didn’t have a big finale for the talky climax, and so the final spirit, who first appears as a living shadow, gains a red-eyed horse and a chariot of nightmares, shrinking Scrooge and chasing him the horrors of Christmas Yet to Come — and also the horrors of sewers and being the size of a rat. I guess that’s symbolism? Read more…

Review: “Joyeux Noël”

December 21, 2011 2 comments
Directed by: Christian Carion
Produced by: Christophe Rossignon, Benjamin Herrmann
Written by: Christian Carion
Starring: Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Daniel Brühl, Diane Kruger, Gary Lewis, Alex Ferns
Music by: Philippe Rombi
Year: 2005

I now have another film to add to my list of films that have made me cry

World War II may get the most media adaptations, with many people seemingly to forgetting that World War I actually happened, perhaps because so few of its survivors were actually still alive within the past two decades.

It was a horrific war that ran from the summer of 1914 all the way to the near end of 1918, and, over that three and a half year time span, over 9 million soldiers lost their lives in combat. A combination of new and old, both technologically and strategically, World War I was at the beginning of warfare being redefined for the 20th century and the innovations in warfare it would bring. Poison gas. Flamethrowers. Trenches. Tanks. Machine guns. Airstrikes – how quickly the airplane was made combat-ready!

As one of the first truly global military conflicts in history, it’s a shame, then, that, for some reason or another, the many stories that have yet to be adapted for the screen have still yet gone untold. Read more…

Trailer: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

December 20, 2011 1 comment

Unexpected indeed! Santa apparently forgot one gift after he delivered The Dark Knight Rises trailer. Back down the chimney he came to deliver one final (?) gift!

As soon as that music played, I got shivers down my spine. I’m not nearly as much a Lord of the Rings fanatic as my friends are — I’ve barely gotten into the first book and find it hard to get through Tolkien’s wordy, heavy prose, which is why I’m so thankful for Peter Jackson’s film series, which are masterpieces in their own right. I imagine those fans of the books and their related stories are kind of like when I scoff at people who think a great song is by a newer artist who covered it (or, sadly, just sampled the older, better song in one sad case involving Kid Rock and “Sweet Home Alabama”…), but I just can’t get into the books (or most books in general) as I can film. I’m a very visually-oriented person in many ways, and thanks to Jackson, I am able to at least partake in some form of Rings fandom, even though I at least am aware that it is a much different experience. Hey, you don’t necessarily expect everyone to read every book of every film adaptation, do you?

 

Anyway, my seemingly anti-intellectual habits aside, I’m so glad that Peter Jackson has been able to revisit the world of Middle Earth. Sam Raimi may have done well, and it’s still a tragedy that Guillermo del Toro wasn’t able to put his own touch on Jackson’s take on the world, but if it couldn’t be him, it might as well be the original, right? Of course, The Hobbit is decidedly lighter in tone compared to the heavy warfare of The Lord of the Rings, but it looks like Jackson has been able to put just the right touches on this adaptation — touches that I hope hold over into the second film in this revisit, which will be an almost entirely new story that bridges The Hobbit to the epic trilogy.

Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen don’t look to have aged a day since Return of the King, which is good since they’re technically supposed to be younger here, and it looks as though we’ll be in for a treat with fun looking new characters in the film, new takes on familiar characters (with The Office‘s Martin Freeman taking over as the younger Bilbo Baggins), and, of course Gollum along for what looks to be a gentler, more light-hearted adventure. Also cast in the film series are the returning Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Elijah Wood and Ian Holm as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins (apparently these films are flashbacks), and Christopher Lee as Saruman, with new cast members consisting of Stephen Fry, Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, and several others I admittedly don’t recognize but will likely in the future.

Of course, the question remains: are we going to see an extended, 4 hour version of each of these films, as well? I don’t think marathoners can take it…

Trailer & Speculation: “The Dark Knight Rises”

December 19, 2011 7 comments


Merry Christmas, everyone! Santa’s come early, and he’s brought a pretty exciting gift: the first theatrical trailer for The Dark Knight Rises!

You may have already seen the teaser trailer: , but this new trailer, somehow bleaker than all the previous films’ trailers, gives us an actual glimpse at all the new characters and actors (Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for instance) who have joined the third and, yes, final entry in the Christopher Nolan Batman film series! The most prominent, of course, are Anne Hathaway and a masked Tom Hardy.  Read more…

Grudge Match Review: “Scrooged” vs. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” vs. “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” – Rounds 1 – 5

December 18, 2011 8 comments

There are so many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, it would be impossible for me to review them all, not to mention the fact that I’m sure many of you who read this would be bored by the endless barrage of adaptations of the same tale. As luck would have it, though, I’ve already watched three drastically different adaptations of the story this month, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, and each very unique. Rather than split these up into three separate reviews, however, I decided to do something different for this review: a grudge match! After all, what is the Christmas season without a little conflict, right?

The three adaptations for this review are, as I said, drastically different in tone, style, medium, and even decade.

Scrooged is the least literal of the translations and also the earliest film in this grudge match. Starring Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Alfre Woodard, and several other big actors and celebrities from the 80s, it is also the most “adult” of the three adaptations.

Next is The Muppet Christmas Carol, which, as you may have guessed, is a Muppetized adaptation. What is surprising about this adaptation, the first Disney-produced Muppet production and the first film released son after Jim Henson’s death, is that it doesn’t strictly star any of the recently revived puppets in the lead role. Rather, Ebenezer Scrooge is instead portrayed by a rather famous human actor, Michael Caine, with the Muppets instead taking on roles as the supporting cast.

Finally, we have what is currently the most recent theatrical release version of the film and the only one to bear the original Dickens name, A Christmas Carol, another Disney production and their first to star Jim Carrey. Director Robert Zemeckis used the same motion capture techniques he used in his first Christmas adaptation/motion capture production, The Polar Express. The film also features the captured performances of Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, and Robin Wright Penn. Coincidentally, despite its high tech trappings, big Hollywood names, and Disney’s involvement, this is also the most serious and literal adaptation of the three films.

What I want to do here, though, is to breakdown the various aspects of the basic Christmas Carol story, from the roles and the actors, the presentation of the ghosts, the artistic styling, the music, the overall effect of each of the films’ presentation of the Christmas Carol message, that all time classic one about charity and compassion for others, and, of course, the overall quality of each film as a whole. Instead of addressing each film on its own, I will pit each of these films against each other in the various categories, and each category will have a definite winner. The final reviews, however, do not necessarily reflect an average of each category’s results, and are to be considered my final score for each film overall — effectively determining the winner, you might say!

I must add this disclaimer: I’ve committed the sacrilege of having never read the original story, so I apologize for my ignorance on this likely crucial bit of research on my part. Hehe… *ahem* Read more…

Review: “Die Hard”, and a 51st post “Thank you!”

December 14, 2011 15 comments
Directed by: John McTiernan
Produced by: Lawrence Gordon, Joel Silver, Beau Marks (associate) Charles Gordon (executive)
Written by: Steven E. de Souza & Jeb Stuart (screenplay)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Alexander Godunov
Music by: Michael Kamen
Based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp
Year: 1988

You wouldn’t know it today, but Bruce Willis wasn’t known for action roles back in 1988. Having spent most of his career up to that point being known for the dramedy detective series Moonlighting, where he played a wisecracking detective opposite Cybill Shepherd, Willis wasn’t necessarily the most obvious choice for the role of John McClane, despite the character sounding fairly similar as a wisecracking police officer from New York. It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to modern viewers unfamiliar with the era, but when you consider the fact that the show featured a largely romantic story between two co-workers, putting the actor into a film like Die Hard, which, by the way, released only a year after his starring role debut in the romantic comedy Blind Date, maybe it makes more sense why people may have been a bit more skeptical. Read more…

Trailer: “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

December 13, 2011 2 comments

I don’t know how I feel about this. The first movie looked fun and ended up being a boring, loud mess, and while this one looks a little better, I’m a bit wary if director John Chu, whose last directing credit was the Justin Bieber bio pic, Never Say Never. Before that? The two Step Up sequels, which let’s face it, are just as much about spectacle as you’d expect from a movie based on a line of action figures. Plus, this one has friggin’ Bruce Willis, one of the biggest action stars in film history. That’s gotta count for something right?

Trading in "Yipee ki-yay" for "Yo Joe!"

Who knows? Maybe this’ll be completely awesome! Definitely looks more polished than its Stephen Sommers-directed predecessor. Maybe dance movies are the new music video, and their directors are likewise due to rise up with the likes of music video directors who have been recognized for their filmmaking talents like Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and even David Fincher? … Or maybe he’ll be another Michael Bay or McG… And how long until the Transformers crossover?

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