What will end up on the ballot come Oscar time?
Here's what's in the Blu-ray debut, what's not, and what's the big deal
So in "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" (Fox), I can confirm that Greedo doesn't noticeably shoot first (it's pretty much simultaneous by now) and Muppet Yoda has NOT been replaced by a CGI version, that all those distracting CGI embellishments to the original "Star Wars" (aka "A New Hope") are still there and still distracting, that Vader doesn't scream "Noooooooooooooooo!" so much as growl "Nooo!" at the end of "Return of the Jedi," and that I still don't care about Episodes I-III.
With that out of the way, we get to the question that the collectors have: is it worth the upgrade? And the answer is pretty simple: if you want the highest quality of presentation for a high-definition system, then yeah, this is a definite step up in video clarity and audio muscle. It's possible that it could be better, as Lucas is using digital source material created for its DVD debut, but it looks good to me.
If you are more concerned with the integrity of the original films, however, you might as well hang on to those unrestored editions on DVD. Those are hardly state of the art (Lucas made sure of that back in 2006 by presenting them in non-anamorphic editions -- an unnecessary slight to his loyal fan base) but they are the original theatrical versions, which Lucas is apparently uninterested in making available on Blu-ray.
The 3D release of “The Lion King” edges out “Contagion” for the #1 spot
In an expected but still amazing development, Friday’s first box office tallies show that the 3D release of Disney’s 17-year-old film, “The Lion King,” has roared into the #1 position ($8.82 M), almost double the box office take of Warner Bros.’ “Contagion” ($4.63 M) which moves to #2, followed by FilmDistrict’s “Drive” at #3 ($4.02M). The Sony/Screen Gems remake of “Straw Dogs” opened at #4 ($1.98 M) followed closely by the blockbuster “The Help” ($1.93 M). The Weinstein Company’s new release, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” only made it to #6 on its opening day with a lackluster $1.55 M in ticket sales. These rankings are expected to hold through the weekend, with some sites predicting that the Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle will inch its way into the #5 position. I guess they're anticipating a busy Saturday date night of guys getting forcibly dragged to “I Don’t Know How She Does It” by their wives and girlfriends. Okay, okay, I apologize for the sexist (but true?) comment. These early numbers can sometimes be misleading. My favorite tweet of the weekend comes from our own William Goss: “’The Lion King’ is estimated to be #1 this weekend. Wow. That’s a lot of kids sneaking into ‘Drive.’”
You can check out Box Office Mojo for updated figures and the rest of the weekend’s Top Ten (“Warrior,” “The Debt,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and “Columbiana”). One shocking statistic is the continued tanking of Sony/Columbia’s “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” which took in a paltry $130,000 in its second week. Hell, that's less than the Diet Coke and Raisinets sales at “The Lion King.”
A new vision reclaims a classic from the dusty antique shelf
As many books as have been burnt by fascists and fearmongers, it's safe to suggest an equal number have been ruined not by hatred but, rather, by admiration -- placed on a high shelf where they can't be touched or broken or sullied or, eventually, seen, and so we pass them by with a vague notion of what they're about each time we breeze by them. Much like this year's earlier adaptation of "Jane Eyre" from Cary Fukanaga, Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights" takes Emily Bronte's sole 1847 novel and reclaims it from that sealed vault of veneration, the airless, sealed space where so much of the canon is placed so the books might be unharmed but instead merely ensures that the books are unread and unappreciated.
After "Red Road" and "Fish Tank," Arnold's low-fi, high-intensity superb urban dramas, one could be excused for thinking that "Wuthering Heights"' doomed 19th Century love on the moors between the moody brooding Heathcliffe and the gentle, graceful Cathy wouldn't be a fit -- and yet Arnold makes it a fit. Previous film versions of the story gave us the starched collars and yearning in Bronte's novel, but Arnold finds the bone and the blood beneath those things, a world of rain and mud and wind and darkness.
And thus continues the circle of life
Um…no, even though it’s one of the bloodiest films of the year
I have to be honest, I am not a fan of violent films. Call me a wuss, I just don’t have the stomach for it. I’m not interested in sitting through films that cause me to turn my head away in horror or disgust for half the movie. I know millions love this type of experience, whether it is a horror, slasher, or war film, or simply a drama whose plot revolves around extreme violence. Me? I don’t get the attraction. But here’s what I discovered after watching Nicolas Winding Refn’s extraordinary new film, “Drive,” starring Ryan Gosling. It ain’t the genre, it’s the execution. You’d be hard-pressed to think of a more relentlessly violent film in recent years…and I loved every second of it.
What is it about this film that makes people like me who despise movie violence eat it up with a spoon? Is it the Danish director’s deft, stylish touch (Refn won the Best Director Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival)? The film’s knockout acting ensemble that includes Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and Oscar Isaac? The sparse but crackling screenplay by Hossein Amini based on James Sallis’s 2005 novel? I’m not sure, all I know is that I was immediately drawn into this story of a nameless man (Gosling) who drives stunt cars in movies by day and acts as the wheelman for armed heists by night. Things go terribly wrong pretty early on, leading to an endless barrage of hard-core violence and retribution. While the action is depicted in quite a terrifyingly realistic way, the film starts to take on the air of a fable, with Gosling’s character never even bothering to clean off the successive rounds of blood that he gets splattered with in the various episodes. Gosling is a revelation, his understated performance acting almost like a Rorschach test for filmgoers as we try to piece together what makes this guy tick. Albert Brooks, playing an against-type mobster, adds to the depth of the film, as does the sizzling chemistry between Gosling and Mulligan.
There are a few other ultra-violent films that won me over because of their brilliant execution: the first two “Godfather” films, “Taxi Driver,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “A Clockwork Orange.” “Natural Born Killers,” “The Wild Bunch.” I wonder about my fellow wusses who normally avoid such movies like the plague. Will you give “Drive” a shot at winning you over? You should.
Absolutely, but more for the strengths of the original film than the new technology
Starting today, and for two weeks only, Disney is releasing a newly mastered 3D version of its animated classic, “The Lion King.” I’m not sure how I feel about this new trend of converting older films into 3D. A bunch of such films are headed to theaters near you in the coming months and years, from “Top Gun” to “Titanic” to the complete “Star Wars” saga.
For me, this questionable practice evokes the dreaded “colorization” debacle of the 1980s. During that mercifully brief fad, distributors tried to squeeze new life out of classic black-and-white films by digitally converting them into color, despite the vehement objections of the people who made the films. Critics of the process rightfully complained that their beloved films were being “vandalized” and that the murky added-on colors severely damaged the vision and creativity of the original filmmakers.
It’s a little different with 3D. First of all, digital technology is light years ahead of where it was during the colorization period, and I have to say that this new version of “The Lion King” looks fantastic. It’s a treat to see it on a big screen again and to be reminded why it remains the highest-grossing hand-drawn animated film of all time. The story is great, the songs iconic, the animation exquisite. And the voice talent? Unparalleled. James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Robert Guillaume, Matthew Broderick, Whoopi Goldberg, and so many others.
You can be the proud owner of said photo - for just a million dollars!
The price for that little photo? A cool million dollars.
The photo is said to be from the 1870’s, featuring a man that looks like Cage, but whom seller jack_mord believes is Cage and “that he is some sort of walking undead / vampire, et cetera, who quickens / reinvents himself once every 75 years or so. 150 years from now, he might be a politician, the leader of a cult, or a talk show host.” If I was going to go through all that trouble, I think I’d aim a tad bit higher than “talk show host,” but who am I to presume that I understand vampire Cage’s endgame career choices? The photo is billed as documenting a Civil War-era man who lived in Bristol, Tennessee. Found in album that contained “an unusual number of Civil War era death portraits,” the man in the picture was the only one not identified by name. Conspiracy!
And while the photo alone is worthy some serious scrutinizing and a few laughs, the Q&A section on the photo’s auction page is truly priceless. In it, jack_mord answers various questions like “If Nicolas Cage dies, thereby being proven to not be a vampire, do I get a refund?” and “will you hand-deliver anywhere in the universe?” and the comment-as-question “Nick Cage has aged terribly in the past 10 years, he's obviously not been drinking his daily amount of blood to stay young” that results in an answer that expounds upon the Cage-as-vampire theory.
Of course, there's one small hitch when it comes to this clever little slice of movie memorabilia and conspiracy theory - vampires don't get captured in photographs. Duh.
Sadly, as of now, the photo has been pulled from auction. Now that's a conspiracy. [THR]