Oz Fans Will Welcome New Documentary

Courtesy:  Passport Video

Courtesy: Passport Video

Nearly seventy-five years have passed since author L. Frank Baum’s beloved fantasy tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was adapted to the big screen in the equally fan favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz.  That’s nearly three quarters of a century.  In the time since The Wizard of Oz originally debuted, a number of other adaptations of Baum’s books in the Oz series have been sent to the silver screen.  The most recent of those adaptations is Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful.  The movie was released on DVD and Blu-ray in early 2013 after a short stint in theaters.  It was hardly the greatest adaptation of any of the Oz books.  But it was enjoyable in its own right.  That aside, neither it nor any other adaptation has managed to surpass the 1939 hit feature.  And now thanks to Passport Video, audiences of all ages get a glimpse into Baum’s mind and how both the movie and book on which it was based came about in the new release, The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond.

The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond is a relatively short feature.  It runs just over a total of forty minutes.  This is not counting the feature’s end credits.  In that time though, it presents a history that likely many viewers never knew about.  One of the most intriguing facts revealed in the documentary’s short time is that the idea for the Scarecrow actually was the product of an evil scarecrow in Baum’s own nightmares.  One can’t help but laugh a bit in learning this.  While his fear may have been of a scarecrow, it conjures thoughts of the negative images young children have of clowns.  The similarities are there.  It makes this fact that much funnier and interesting to learn.  Speaking of the scarecrow, viewers will be just as interested to learn that before The Wizard of Oz dazzled audiences across the country, a silent film centered on the scarecrow would be the movie that would be closest to the prior film, despite the pair’s differences.  Footage from that film is presented as part of the story here.  It’s not the family friendly story that The Wizard of Oz is.  At one point, apparently, the Tin Man cuts off the evil witch’s head.  There’s no blood of course.  And the movie magic of the time was pretty smart, as audiences will see in watching the feature.  But it still might not be something some parents would want their kids to see even today regardless.

The history behind the roots of The Wizard of Oz makes this documentary a nice companion piece to the bonus included in the movie’s 70th anniversary re-issue, and the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary on the movie.  It doesn’t go into as much depth as the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary.  But it still offers its own interesting insight behind the scenes of the movie.  The insight on the movie’s casting would be a perfect fit with the bonus features included in the upcoming seventy-fifth anniversary release this Summer.  It’s interesting to learn here that the role of the wizard was originally meant for comedian W.C. Fields but was replaced because of his own personal beliefs about the role not being big enough and him not being offered enough money for the role, either.  This is something that isn’t included in the behind the scenes bonuses in the movie’s 70th anniversary edition.  Though, it in itself offers quite a bit of insight. 

The extra insight on The Wizard of Oz offered in The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond makes this an enjoyable addition to the home library of any fan of the Oz franchise.  As interesting as this DVD is thanks to all of its background information, there is one more factor that puts it over the top.  That factor is the inclusion of the black and white silent 1925 film by the same name.  It was included as it originally ran.  There are those that might condemn this.  But it is nice to see the movie—which runs roughly an hour and a half–in its original form complete with original score orchestrated by Louis La Rondelle and conducted by Harry F. Silverman.  Audiences should note that this is not the Wizard of Oz as presented in 1939.  This is one of the earliest versions discussed through the documentary.  It makes for more appreciation of what movie makers in that era had to work with versus the available technology of today’s studios.  It’s one more bonus that any purist movie lover will appreciate and enjoy time and again after picking up this DVD.  It is available now in stores and online.

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Tom And Jerry Kids Show Season One Another Blast From The Past From Warner Home Video

Courtesy:  Warner Home Vide/Hanna-Barbera

Courtesy: Warner Home Vide/Hanna-Barbera

The 1990s was one of the greatest decades in the history of television broadcasting.  NCB and ABC were at the top of their game with their “Must See Thursday” and “TGIF” programming blocks.  And CBS and Fox each had afternoon cartoons for kids to watch after a long day at school.  Sadly, those days are gone.  Thankfully though, Warner Home Video has given audiences that grew up in those days of quality programming yet another piece of their childhood with the release of Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season One.  This two disc set is one more part of what has been a small wave of welcome releases from WHV this year that includes:  Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3, Animaniacs Vol. 4, the brand new release of Taz-Mania: Season 1 Vol. 1, and the upcoming releases of Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 4, and Taz-Mania: Season 1 Vol. 2 just to name a handful of releases.

Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season One includes the first thirteen episodes from this show that some considered part of the “kiddie-fication” of cartoons.  The term in general was in reference to certain cartoons being reduced in quality in order to make them more kid friendly.  The cartoons in question included: Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, and Scooby Doo Where Are You?  The term “kiddie-fication” was generally used in a negative connotation in regards to their kid friendly spinoffs.  Those that used that term couldn’t have been more wrong in using such a label especially in the case of Tom and Jerry Kids Show.  That’s because a show such as Tom and Jerry Kids Show was (like Tiny Toon Adventures) less a “kiddie-fication” of its more adult base show than a way to indoctrinate young viewers into the world of said show slowly.  And there is nothing at all wrong with doing this.  If anything, it helps to keep alive the legacy of Hanna-Barbera’s classic cartoons. 

The transfers from the original tapes look outstanding.  The quality of the footage could not have been better.  Little to nothing was lost in the transfer from the original tapes to DVD.  Even when viewed on an HDTV, it still looks quite impressive.  That’s a testament to the work done by the show’s artistic staff.  Even when viewed via a computer’s DVD drive or on a home DVD player, the video quality still shows that it has stood the test of time.  The same can be said of the show’s audio side.  Fans of HB’s classic cartoons will recognize the company’s recycling of its music.  Much of the music used in this more modern take on Tom and Jerry was also used in The Jetsons and to a lesser extent, more modern Flintstones direct-to-DVD features and certain episodes of A Pup Named Scooby Doo.  This trademark of Hanna-Barbera’s cartoons is another welcome addition to Tom and Jerry Kids Show.  Having that familiar older music back once again makes older audiences’ sense of nostalgia even stronger in watching this modern classic.

The high quality of the show’s transfers alone makes Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season One worth the money for fans that grew up with this cartoon.  The double-disc set’s packaging is another positive to the overall presentation.  As with multi-disc sets from other companies, this set follows what is quickly becoming the standard by placing one disc on its own place on a plastic insert inside the case.  The second disc is placed comfortably on the back portion of the box also in its own spot.  This manner of packaging is both smart in terms of protecting the set’s discs and in terms of ergonomics.  It keeps the case for the DVD’s the same size as that of a regular single-disc DVD package.  So it saves space on audiences’ DVD/Blu-ray racks, and protects the product inside.

As one should be able to tell by now, Tom and Jerry Kids Show: The Complete Season One is an enjoyable nostalgic trip down memory lane for long-time fans of the Tom and Jerry franchise.  It’s just as much a welcome introduction to this generation’s younger viewers.  For all the positives to this set, it isn’t without one minor flaw.  That flaw is not in the art, the transfers, or even the packaging.  The flaw in question comes from the discs themselves.  Rather than actually coloring in the designs on the discs, they were painted over with a single, flat color, leaving just enough open space to make a wild guess as to the design on each disc.  Consumers would have to put each disc up to the light and tilted each one in order to get an idea of the designs.  The same thing was done with Animaniacs: Volume Four and with Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 3.  It’s a minor flaw with this set (and the other sets mentioned).  So luckily, it doesn’t take away too much from the overall presentation, even though it would have been nice for WHV’s people to have taken care of this aspect.  Had that been done, this might have found itself at the top of this critic’s list of the year’s best new children’s DVD and Blu-ray releases.  Regardless, it still has found a place on the list in question.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the WB Shop at http://www.wbshop.com/product/tom+and+jerry+kids+show+the+complete+first+season+1000348871.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search.  Fans of all things WB can keep up with all the latest WB home releases on the WB Shop website at http://www.wbshop.com/home.do

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame Is One Of Disney’s Modern Classics

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Walt Disney Studios has largely made its fame on taking classic literary stories and adapting them for the big screen.  For the most part, doing so has led to great success for Disney.  So it goes without saying that when Disney’s heads decided to bring Victor Hugo’s literary classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame to audiences in animated form doing so was a pretty big risk.  That is because this is hardly the happiest of stories.  Somehow though, Disney managed to pull off the job and craft what should be considered to be one of the company’s modern classics.  Whereas its renditions of The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Cinderella and others are considered the company’s original classics, its take on Hugo’s literary masterpiece fits nicely into the category of modern classics.  This is the case for a variety of reasons. In watching this rendition, one can’t help but be taken back to Disney’s golden era.  From the subtlety of the mix of hand drawn and digital animation, to the big song cues to the animation, one actually feels as if one is actually watching a stage presentation made into an animated film.  And while it may be a little bit scary for younger audiences with its darker elements, it still stands as one of the better works in Disney’s modern era.

Viewers that closely watch the newly re-issued Hunchback of Notre Dame I/II combo pack will catch a subtlety that others might not that harkens back to Disney’s golden era.  That subtlety is a mix of animation styles.  There are a handful of scenes throughout this movie that show on one side, the rougher, less “streamlined” animation style sitting side by side.  This is explained briefly in the original “Making of featurette” that was included in the movie’s previous release.  Actor Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) explains the reality behind the misconception that all animation done for Disney movies—at the time—was done by computer.  The difference between the hand drawn animation and digital animation is pretty clear.  And the very fact that animators tried to duplicate the animation of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” even in the slightest in this feature makes it worthy of at least a little bit of respect.

If the attempt by animators to replicate the animation of Disney’s most famed animators isn’t enough for viewers, then perhaps the story’s musical numbers will help win over audiences.  Composer Alan Menken returned for this movie after having massive success nearly a decade prior on another of Disney’s biggest modern classics in The Little Mermaid.  The animation works in tandem with the big musical numbers to really leave viewers feeling like they are watching a stage presentation in animated form.  That’s even more the case now that the movie has been re-issued on Blu-ray.  There is just a certain quality on which one can’t put one’s finger that pulls audiences in and makes the story believable.  That’s the sign of a quality work.

If the song cues and the animation aren’t enough, then the movie’s more comical moments will entertain audiences.  Even in some of the movie’s darker moments, the story’s writers come up with some pretty funny moments to help lighten the mood.  A prime example of this comes late in the movie, in the final showdown sequence.  As Quasimodo and Frollo face off in the cathedral’s tower, soldiers are below, trying to break in.  Laverne (voiced by the late Mary Wickers) helps in the fight by calling on a large group of birds.  This moment is a tribute not just to the classic Warner Brothers movie, The Wizard of Oz, but also to Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic, The Birds.  While the latter tribute may have been unintentional, it is there.  It’s just one of so many moments that will have viewers laughing.  Add in Jason Alexander’s comedic timing and viewers get more than enough laughs to offset the movie’s darker moments.  Those darker moments being offset and the movie’s enjoyable musical numbers and hybrid animation together make The Hunchback of Notre Dame one of the better movies from Disney’s modern era.  One might even go so far as to call it one of Disney’s modern classics.  It is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331583/1000316/ and at the Disney DVD store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-two-movie-collection.html

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Eastern NC The CW Holding Special Advance Movie Screening

Courtesy:  Eastern NC The CW

Courtesy: Eastern NC The CW

One of the biggest films of 2013 is set to hit theaters next Friday, January 11th.  And it boasts some of the biggest names in the business today.  Gangster Squad, presented by Warner Brothers Pictures and Village Roadshow stars a who’s who of Hollywood’s past and present in: Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Mickey Cohen.  Now audiences in Eastern North Carolina will get to see the movie before it premieres.  And it’s all thanks to Eastern North Carolina The CW.

Audiences will get to see a special screening of Gangster Squad Tuesday, January 8th at the Carmike 12 on Firetower Road in Greenville.    All viewers have to do to get passes is go online to http://www.gofobo.com/rsvp and enter the code, CWGRNCHVJR.  Audiences need only register on gofobo in order to use the code and retrieve their passes.  Simply follow the instructions to get up to two passes for the screening.  Passes are in limited quantity.  So they are first come first serve.

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Top 10 Major Motion Pictures Of 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2012

 

Courtesy:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

1.  The Artist:  While it originally made its debut overseas in 2011, it wasn’t until January 20th of this year that The Artist actually made its nationwide debut in theaters across the U.S.  Before then, only the lucky few at the big festivals got to see it.  That being the case, it should be considered a 2012 release.  So what makes it 2012’s best?  So much could be said.  At a time when so much of what Hollywood churns out is prequels, sequels, and remakes, this story—distributed by Sony Pictures—went the total opposite.  How simple and ingenious is it to make a silent film in a movie of major flash-bang-boom films?  Because the movie’s only sound is its music, viewers are forced to watch.  And the cast was force to really put on its best possible performance, rather than rely on everything else that most movies use to distract audiences from poor performances.  The music is quite enjoyable, too.  And of course, the general cinematography is just as impressive.  It all combines to make for a movie that any movie lover should see at least once.

Mirror Mirror BD2.  Mirror, Mirror:  Some of you might shake your heads at this pick.  But the reality is that this is really a fun and family friendly movie.  Both boys and girls will enjoy it as will parents.  While young Lily Collins (the daughter of superstar Phil Collins) is billed as the lead star here, it’s the dwarves who are really the story’s stars.  Their antics make for more than their share of laughs.  Though watching Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer—The Lone Ranger) put under the evil queen’s puppy love spell is pretty funny, too.  It’s obvious that this spoof of the classic fairy tale was aimed both at boys and girls.  With its mix of wit and charm, it will always be one of the best takes on the old Snow White story.

Courtesy:  Disney Studios

Courtesy: Disney Studios

3.  The Odd Life of Timothy Green:  This is another truly enjoyable family movie.  The general story is one to which any parent can relate and will enjoy because of that.  Though the concept of what happens with Timothy might be a little bit tough to discuss with younger viewers.  The beautiful backdrop adds even more warmth to the story.  And the cast’s acting makes suspension of disbelief so easy.  Sure it’s sappy, emotional, and all that jazz.  But that can be forgiven as it’s such an original and heartwarming story.       

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

4.  Skyfall:  This is where things begin to get a little bit touchy.  Skyfall is by far the best Bond flick to come along in a very long time.  That’s not to say that the previous two were bad.  But this one brought back memories of the old school James Bond that everybody knows.  It’s got the gadgets and the humor and none of the melodrama that weighed down the previous two Bond flicks.  The only downside to the movie is that it tends to drag in the final act.  Other than that, it is a nice return to form for the Bond franchise and gives hope for any future Bond films….that is at least if Christopher Nolan doesn’t get his hands on the franchise.

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Video

5.  The Avengers:  The Avengers was a very nice way to cap off the build-up created by Marvel Studios with the recent bevy of comic book based movies.  It had great special effects.  Its story was simple and solid.  And the shooting was equally impressive.  Considering all the action going on, audiences weren’t left feeling dizzy to the point of wanting to walk out (or in the case of home release, just turn it off).  But like so many ensemble cast movies, it suffered from a common problem.  That problem was the movie’s run time.  Most of the characters in The Avengers had already been introduced through their own separate movies.  So there was no reason to re-introduce them all over again this time.  A lot of that extra time could have been spared.  Hopefully those involved have learned from that and will present viewers with a shorter movie in the second of the Avengers movies.

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

6.  The Dark Knight Rises:  I am just as much a comic book fan as anyone else out there.  So it goes without saying that I was excited to see this movie.  It did a good job of wrapping up the trilogy.  The problem is that it did too much of a good job, as David Goyer and the Nolans tried too hard to cram everything into one movie.  Word is that this latest installment of the Batman franchise left many people checking their watches when it was in theaters.  It might have been better served to have been split up into at least one more movie because of everything added into the mix.  And having what seems to be a lack of commentary on the new home release, fans can only guess what the logic was in cramming so much into one story.  Much like The Avengers, the shooting and the special effects were great.  So it has that going for it.  But the writing was the story’s big problem.  Here’s to hoping that whoever takes over the Batman franchise next (whenever it’s re-launched) won’t make the same mistake as Christopher Nolan and company.

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

7.  Prometheus:  This semi-prequel to Ridley Scott’s hit Alien franchise was met with mixed reviews.  There seemed to be no gray area here.  Audiences either loved it or hated it.  Truth be told, it worked quite well as both a prequel and as its very own stand-alone movie.  Sure the special effects are different from those used in the original movies.  But times are different.  So viewers should take that into account.  And the shooting was just as impressive.  While it may not be as memorable as Scott’s previous works, at least audiences can agree that it’s better than the movies in the AvP franchise.

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

8.  Les Miserables:  This latest reboot of Victor Hugo’s classic story of love and redemption in one of history’s darkest eras is not bad.  But it’s not great, either.  Audiences who know the stage play will thrill at how director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and his staff of writers paid tribute to the stage play both in its writing and its shooting.  At the same time, Hooper tried so hard to pay tribute with his shooting style and the transitions that the whole movie felt dizzying to say the least.  The shooting and transitions felt like nothing more than a bunch of cuts from one shot to the next.  There was never a total sense of fluidity anywhere in the story.  It was almost as if despite staying true to the stage play, the script for this latest big screen adaptation was written by someone with ADHD.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway did a superior job with their performances.  But despite that, odds are that the movie will sadly be remembered more for its flawed shooting and transitions than for its award-worthy performances.  Nonetheless, it’s still a good movie for any fan of Les Miserables or for fans of musicals in general to see at least once.

Courtesy:  CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Films/CBS Home Entertainment/UK Film Council/BBC Films/Lionsgate/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

9.  Salmon Fishing in the YemenSalmon Fishing in the Yemen is without a doubt an original story.  It’s next to impossible to find anything like it out there or present.  But it suffers greatly from an identity crisis.  It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a drama, a romance, or a little bit of both.  It’s nice to see the simple message of something as simple as fishing being able to bring the world’s people together peacefully.  But it really seemed to let the romance factor get too much involved.  As a result, it got bogged down in itself.  Had it not had the romance subplot, it might have been better.

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

10. Arbitrage:  It was once noted that three factors more than any other are the causes of crime.  Those factors are:  money, power, and sex.  Arbitrage has all three of these.  It’s an interesting movie.  And it definitely wastes no time noting the latter of the trio of factors, as it lets audiences know that Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is having an affair with another woman.  And also, Miller’s boss has a very firm talk with him early on letting him know that he knows about the financial inaccuracies that he’s causing.  It doesn’t take long to know where this story goes.  It’s something of a tried and true story.  Add in this critic’s pet peeve of movies, the “whisper scenes” and it makes for a movie that as good as it is it could have been better.  For those wondering, the “whisper scene” is exactly as it sounds (bad pun there).  The “whisper scene” is one in which actors essentially whisper throughout the scene against overpowering music to make the scene more emotional and powerful.  But put against the sudden transition to normal volume scenes (and above normal volume scenes), it becomes rather annoying as one has to constantly change the volume on one’s TV as a result of that.  It’ll be interesting to see if it gets the Golden Globe for which it was nominated.

There you have it folks.  That is my personalist of the year’s ten best major motion pictures.  You are more than welcome to share whether you agree or disagree and what your top 10 list would look like.  2013′s already shaping up to be an interesting year.  As the movies start to come out, I’ll have reviews of them, too.  To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Batman Finale One Of 2012′s Best Movies, Home Releases

 

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Thank you David S. Goyer.  Thank you Christopher Nolan.  And thank you Jonathan Nolan.  Thanks to this trio, action film fans have gotten what is one of not only the best actions films of 2012, but one of the best films of 2012, hands down.  And while it is an impressive movie, one can’t help but wonder if perhaps it would have been better served to have been split at least into one final movie instead of trying to cram the entire thing into a near three hour time span.  That, perhaps, is the only true fault of this franchise closer……or is it the closer.  For those who have yet to see The Dark Knight Rises, Goyer and the Nolanâ(TM)s leave the door somewhat ajar for the possibility of another movie, even if it isn’t helmed by either of the Nolans.  What that means will not be given away, for the sake of those who have yet to experience this thrill ride of a story.

The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting title for this third and final(?) movie in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise.  What audiences see in this installment is Bruce wayne having had everything taken away.  He even loses his fortune through a series of twists and turns written into the primary plot.  That is one of the problems with the story’s writing.  How he loses his money exactly won’t be given away, either, here.  But the manner in which it is tied into the larger storyline is somewhat roundabout.  But being that said instance happens, combined with another downfall of sorts (there’s a little hint there), it makes the movie’s title that much more of a fit.  Audiences see Bruce Wayne AND Batman rise.  There’s even homage to the comic storyline in which Bane broke Batman’s back.  Of course, in that storyline, another character named Azrael had to take on the Batman mantle.  That doesn’t happen here.

As subtle as it was there was another factor that made The Dark Knight Rises an interesting movie.  In the first fight scene between Batman and Bane, there is no music to heighten the mood of the moment.  Typically, with any action movie, said music would be standard.  But in this case, that fight scene in question as just as powerful without the music.  That’s because audiences see just how tough Bane is.  There’s no need for music to emphasize that he was one tough villain.  The music is actually discussed in the bonus features in the new home release of The Dark Knight Rises.  It’s just one of many bonus features that make the movie even better now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray.  Whether one is a trained movie production professional or simply has an appreciation for the work that goes into bringing such an epic movie to life, the extensive bonus features included in this release make for much more appreciation for the dedication to the Batman franchise.  The only irony of the new home release of The Dark Knight Rises is the lack of commentary on the main disc with the movie.  That isn’t entirely a loss though.  Considering the extensive bonus features included in the set, the lack of commentary is a minor issue.  Add in impressive quality footage in the Blu-ray presentation and audiences get a work that is not just one of the best movies of 2012 but also one of the best home releases of 2012.

As previously noted, The Dark Knight Rises clocks in at nearly three hours in length.  Goyer and the Nolans should be commended for making such an effort to bring everything from the first two movies and bring the whole franchise full circle.  Even Dr. Crane (A.K.A. The Scarecrow) is back again.  But because the trio made such an effort, it felt like too much was crammed into too little space.  While most critics might have panned the men for doing it, since the Harry Potter franchise did the same thing,The Dark Knight Rises might have been even more of a joy had it been spread out into another movie.  It would have left both the most seasoned Batman fans and the more casual ones feeling fulfilled while still wanting more.  Instead, it obviously left some audiences feeling winded after such a wild ride.  Regardless, what David S. Goyer and the Nolans have done for audiences with not just given this generation its definitive Batman, but it has clearly left the door open for Nolan or anyone else to continue the franchise in his or her own vision.  Should that happen, here is to the hopes that whoever should take the reins next will bring audiences a Batman franchise as impressive as Nolan’s, AND Burton’s.

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Downey, Law Prove Sometimes A Sequel IS Better Than The Original

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Ah, sequels.  One of Hollywood’s mainstays in today’s movie industry.  This latest sequel is exactly what audiences should and have come to expect of a big time blockbuster.  It’s a surprise it was released to theaters in December rather than the Summer movie season, as it has all the requisite flashes, bangs and booms throughout, with a touch of raunchiness thrown in for good measure.  The irony is that as much as individuals may want to bash the movie–as it deserves–it’s a guilty pleasure.  If not for the action, the globe hopping from the streets of London to Paris to the snowy maountaintops of another country would be enough to leave most viewers’ heads spinning. Luckily all those special effects are there, distracting viewers.

If the fast paced almost Dan Brown-esque storytelling and special effects aren’t enough trouble, there is no denying the close similarities to The League of (not so) Extraordinary Men in terms of the settings and special effects, and even the story itself.  It’s almost like this story was lifted from the prior movie and altered for this sequel.  Thankfully, the special features included in the DVD and blu-ray do make up for all of that.

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

The bonus features included on the dvd and blu-ray show a cast who didn’t merely show up and recite their lines.  Rather, they seemed to be good friends who were coming together to actually make a movie.  Perhaps that friendship actually helped to make the acting believeable.  This adds some level of enjoyment back to the movie.  It isn’t all, either.  In the defense of this movie, there is also a discussion on the slow motion fight scenes included in the bonus features.  It’s interesting to note that the actors actually did peform the fight scenes themselves in slow motion.  The special effects were only added after the fact to enhance the scenes.  And director Guy Ritchie was interviewed concerning the selection of Jared Harris for the role of Dr. Moriarty.  It was nice to see that he paid attention to detail, rather than simply going for the style of Moriarty that has been used so many times before.  He did make the attempt to stay true to the original villain.  So kudos to him for that. 

Speaking of the not so good Doctor, the bonus features even include a feature on the the showdowns between Holmes and Moriarty, including the chess scene near the movie’s end.  It was interesting to learn that people would actually act as Holmes and Moriarty did in this scene.  For that matter, that they would bring in a professional chess player to teach Downey and Harris about the game actually adds some credibility to the movie.

Courtesy: Warner Home Video

Overall, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is hardly the most memorable of major blockbusters.  The reality is that while it is a guilty pleasure, it’s still enough to make audiences hopeful that Hollywood’s elite brass will one day soon finally start to take chances on real movies again, rather than rely on forgettable pieces like this.

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