Special Edition # 45 marks my return after a hiatus due to things that I can’t tell you about. Well, I could tell but then I’d have to kill you.Which would be a bit unfair given that there are lots of lovely DVDs due out very soon. So, rather than dwell on an emotional reunion, let’s just get straight on with it shall we?
A Facebook movie? Whatever next? A musical about My Space? An opera about Google? Not to worry. In The Social Network (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) David Fincher has confounded the critics and created a compelling drama. Mark Zuckerberg is a precocious Harvard student who, with the help of his friend Eduardo Saverin, creates ‘thefacebook.com’. As the site explodes in popularity, Zuckerberg and his colleagues begin to taste the life of celebrities with all the money and fame that it brings. But popularity breeds jealousy and Zuckerberg finds himself in the middle of numerous lawsuits. But has he brought the problems on himself? Aaron Sorkin manages to keep the technogeek banter to a minimum and tell a tale of how pride always comes before a fall. Fincher’s direction is compelling utilising a complex structure whilst Jesse Eisenberg is excellent in the lead role alongside the likes of Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. Like all good filmmaking, this takes inspiration from the unlikeliest of places and shows that whilst technology moves on, the human capacity for hubris remains the same. This is a two edition with commentaries and featurettes.
We’ve just passed Halloween which means that it’s horror movie a-go-go as we have more remakes of classic scary movies (which, alongside the fact that Scream 4 has been announced, seems to indicate that the horror genre has run out of ideas entirely) and one film that is so disgusting that I think that I may not be able to eat for quite a while. Still, nothing’s as scary as George Osbourne. Special Edition # 44 has survived a cut in funding and I’m here to give a rundown of what to buy over the coming month. That’s assuming that you’ve got any money left.
Jackie Earle Haley gets pizza smeared all over his face (OK, I am sure that the make-up job is a bit more elaborate than that) as he takes on the iconic role of Freddy Kreuger in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (Warner Brothers Home Entertainment). For those of you not familiar with Wes Craven’s 80s terrorfest, the film follows Krueger, a child molester turned evil demon, who is capable of killing people in their dreams. A group of teenagers must fight him whilst resisting the urge to succumb to sleep and enter the world in which Freddy has control. Whilst the film takes the character of Freddy back to his darker roots (losing the one-liners and bringing his background as a paedophile more to the fore) it all feels rather by the numbers and seems constrained by the history of the franchise even though it’s ostensibly a reboot. Hayley seems almost pantomime as Krueger whilst the young cast of victims do nothing to distinguish themselves from the usual cast of cannon fodder that horror films love to line up. Ultimately it’s another limp attempt at starting all over again. Why can’t people do something original...
It’s heartening to know that there is still life in the British film industry yet as Special Edition # 43 opens with an exciting example of some of the talent that this country has to offer. With the imminent closure of the UK Film Council and worries about arts cuts it’s films such as Skeletons that sure us that UK talent need to be nurtured and supported. And, as always, Laurence Boyce also wades through numerous other DVDs for your viewing edification.
Winner of the Best British Film at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, Skeletons (Soda Pictures) is a truly unique and genre-bending slice of cinema. Davis and Bennett are a pair of psychic detectives who travel to numerous houses around Middle England and help purge them of supernatural influence utilising mysterious methods. But one job, to help a housewife whose husband disappeared a few years previously, proves resistant to their methods things take a turn for the (even more) weird. It’s one of those films where talking about it slightly ruins it as it’s constantly surprising and obtuse. Director Nick Whitfield conjures up a wonderfully strange atmosphere and has made a film that recalls the likes of Terry Gilliam and Michel Gondry in its assured creation of a world and assorted strange characters. It’s also great that Whitfield has created something that is recognisably British yet at odds with the vein of social realism that typifies the majority of UK cinema nowadays. Just go watch it and enjoy being wrong-footed, creeped out and thoroughly entertained at the same time.
As always, the summer becomes a time when the focus is on the spectacle of cinema-going with movies such as Inception and Toy Story 3 packing them in. So, Special Edition # 41 will show you that it’s excellent time to chill out and enjoy some low key delights as they hit the shelves. Laurence Boyce finds some excellent films that have proved wildly popular on the festival circuit and a choice selection of re-releases.
It always seems that cinematographers never get the wider respect they deserve. Whilst your average person may be able to reel off the names of numerous actors and directors, the humble cinematographer is often forgotten about by the general cinema going public. Thankfully Cameraman – The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (Optimum Releasing) redresses the balance with its thoughtful and illuminating examination of one of the best cinematographers in movie history. Jack Cardiff has worked with everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to Laurence Olivier and the film about his life and career has him reminisce about the greats that he’s worked with throughout his career. Director Craig McCall eschews a more formal approach to Cardiff’s career allowing Cardiff – and numerous colleagues including Martin Scorsese, Lauren Bacall and Kirk Douglas – to tell some fascinating and often humorous anecdotes of a career that begin as a child actor in 1918. Cardiff is obviously loved by his peers, not only for his winning personality, but for his artistry and talent and what results is a gentle yet endlessly rewarding portrait of a cinematic great and a paean to the skill of cinematographers from across the world. Jack Cardiff sadly passed away in April 2009, and this film is a joyous testament to his legacy.
Who would believe it but its mid-life crisis time as its Special Edition #40. But, before it grows its hair long, buys a motorcycle and searches for a girlfriend of an inappropriate age, it will find enough time to go through some of the latest and most exciting DVDs available. Laurence Boyce picks some new releases (including a ton of brand new animation), TV shows and classic film that will hopefully hold your attention. Hey, both ‘Lost’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’ have finished. What else are you going to do?
As adaptations go it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for Astroboy (E1 Entertainment) to make it to the big screen. Seen as one of the greatest works of Manga in the history of the genre (it was originally published in 1952) it’s had TV adaptations in its native Japan and the US but – aside from a compilation made of some episodes from the 60s Japanese live action TV show – it’s never been given the cinema treatment. Given that Hollywood is now looking at adapting, well, everything (coming soon: Michael Bay’s Laundry List IN 3D!) it’s been given the computer animation treatment. The film follows the origins of the titular character who is born in the futuristic Metro City after Dr Tenma (Nicolas Cage, who seems to be have embracing his inner geek as of late with this and Kick Ass) builds a robot boy to replace his lost son. But when the mechanical boy can’t live up to the expectations of his father, he runs away and finds himself finding that the future world is not as equal as it should be. And soon a threat to the world sees Astro Boy stand up for him and his friends. This is basically ‘Pinocchio’ with robots and guns and it certainly tries to have an emotional heart that seems at odds with the colourful and shiny animation. It’s often a little too uneven and sometimes feels forced and contrived (well, as contrived as any films about a robot boy in the future can be) but there’s a strong voice cast (Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland and the aforementioned Cage) and should prove most entertaining for Manga fans and older kids. Also includes two new animated sequences and a look into the making of the film.
After a few columns in which Hollywood has been heavily featured, Special Edition # 39 focuses upon some great cinema from across the world (though with one or two releases from the US studios). Laurence Boyce will check out new releases and classics from Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Russia and Sweden whilst also dwelling upon remakes of classic TV shows and the usual mention of Doctor Who.
For those who grew up with Maurice Sendak’s classic book for children, the thought of the film version of Where The Wild Things Are (Warner Home Video) filled many with trepidation. Just how could you transfer the simple tale it to the big screen and do it justice - even when directed by someone as talented as Spike Jonze? The answer is with some great CGI, a respectful but not slavish adherence to the source material, an assured central performance from youngster Max Records and a fine soundtrack from Karen O. Young Max lives the life of a typical 9-year-old, with an older sister who seems more interested in boys and a mother who just doesn’t understand the importance of letting him play. After a fraught night in which he argues with his mother, Max runs away to find a mysterious island full of monsters who let him be their king. But is a life free of responsibility really what Max wants? This is an emotionally resonant film that is unafraid to be talky and literate. Jonze really captures the spirit of Sendak’s book with both a sense of anarchy and a melancholic edge that laments the end of childhood. Records is excellent in the lead role whilst the likes of James Gandolfini and Forest Whitaker provide fine voice support as the titular wild things (who are brilliantly realised thanks to the CGI). A clever and intelligent film for all ages.
Come on the long days! Laurence Boyce has been stuck in front of a computer for the past few weeks, watching many, many films and currently needs a tanning machine to ensure his skin resembles the colour of porridge. Thankfully, the stuff that he’s been watching for Special Edition # 38 means that Laurence Boyce has at least got to enjoy some really good films and TV shows. But, for the love of humanity, get the man some Vitamin E as soon as possible...
Otherwise I very well may be mistaken for one of the protagonists of Zombieland (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) in which Woody Harrelson teams up with Jesse Eisenberg to blast the undead and ensure the ‘un’ prefix of their description no longer applies. On first look there’s not much here apart from gory set pieces and witty one-liners; not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, as the film does it with such gleeful abandon that it’s pretty difficult not to have enormous fun with it all. But if you look under the rotting skin and you’ll find some quite funny mickey takes of Hollywood (especially thanks to a cameo from a pretty major US actor) and there’s an intelligence here that’s refreshing (watch it Michael Bay and you’ll learn thing or two – nope, I still haven’t forgotten Transformers 2). Most likely it’ll become a franchise where all the freshness is beaten out of it and it becomes a shambling corpse, but this is enjoyable (and refreshingly gory) mainstream fare.
Is the end of February already. It only feels like five minutes ago when the tinsel was all around and the Xmas decorations were up. Actually, it was, but that’s because Laurence Boyce has been dead busy watching a new batch of DVDs for you to all enjoy. Let Special Edition # 37 take you on its usual journey through some of the best shiny discs for you to enjoy from brand new feature films to the latest collections of classic TV series.
OK, I will have to say that I am not exactly what you would call the target audience for The Time Traveller’s Wife (Entertainment in Video) a fantasy drama based on the chick-lit novel from Audrey Niffenegger. I didn’t melt and/or weep at the predicament of Eric Bana who, thanks to a rare genetic disorder, finds himself time travelling throughout his own lifetime (I’m sorry, but I must have missed that as being something to watch out for and the doctor’s must have been great at his birth: “Fingers and toes, normal. Breathing, fine. Ability to live linearly in the time and space continuum. Bugger.”). And I was slightly cynical when he attempts to build a normal life with the love of his life despite continually vanishing into a different time zone (wouldn’t his beloved be the slightest bit suspicious? “Um, yes darling. You know when I disappear for ages. I’m time-travelling. Honestly.”) I didn’t cry buckets as love tried to conquer all across the dimensional divide. But I am cynical bloke. Despite the fact that I am seemingly cold and emotionless, this is all very well done with Bana being both charming and angst-ridden whilst the love of his life is ably played by Rachel McAdams, and it’s a glossy slice of genre and romantic cinema if you’re into that sort of thing.