Thursday, February 11, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Feb. 5-11

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Extended Cut (2002) ****
Dir. Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Jonathan Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving

This is the first time I’ve revisited the “Lord of the Rings” series since the extended cuts were made available, and I’m just as impressed with this film as I was the first time. The extended cut is such an improvement upon the theatrical, which was all build up, but no substance. This cut of the film has all the series’ mysticism put out there, which is a rather daring thing to do in the first installment of a series. There are really only two traditional battle scenes, but the setting of Middle Earth is secured so strongly that it’s still possible to get lost in its world without battles to drag you there.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) **
Dir. William Shatner
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Lawrence Luckinbill, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei

This is generally considered the worst of the original crew films, and although I can’t get fully behind it, my affection for it grows each time I see it. Like every Trek it has lofty ideals and sets out to ask questions about sentient existence that are beyond most films. Unfortunately, the budget of the movie does not match its scope. The film’s failure is often blamed on Shatner’s inexperience behind the camera, and while a more experienced director could have made more with the film’s budget, it isn’t Shatner’s vision that is small, just his execution.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) ****
Dir. Nicholas Meyer
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Kim Catrall, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Christopher Plummer, Iman, David Warner

“The Undiscovered Country” is still my favorite of the “Star Trek” franchise. “The Wrath of Kahn” and certainly the new one are more popular, but this one does such a good job of telling a good mystery and incorporating a great deal of Star Trek mythology into what is also a critical and observant commentary on prejudice and tolerance in a society that sees itself as enlightened to such problems as racism. “People fear change” is a basic truth that we don’t like to face in ourselves, yet we all seem to suffer from it. While some suffer more than others, the various degrees of resistance to that which is different runs through all of us. This film understands that and incorporates it into a well-founded universe of characters and standards. It’s also laced with a rich abundance of classic literary references. Some may see the final moments as ‘hokey,’ but I forgive that, as it was the final voyage for the original Trek crew.

Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious (2007) ***½
Dir. Manny Rodriguez
Starring: Daniel Tosh

I’ve heard many of Tosh’s stand-up routines on XM comedy channels, and he is one seriously funny comedian. Often I find when I watch an entire concert worth of routine from these comedians that I hear three or four minute bits from on the radio, I come away disappointed. This is not the case with Tosh. He keeps up his unique brand of offensiveness for an hour with no let down. While the basic direction by Manny Rodriguez adds little to the experience, this is a good comedy concert.

Animated Shorts

French Roast (2009) ****
Dir. Fabrice Joubert

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (2009) ****
Dir. Nicky Phalen
Starring: Kathleen O’Rourke

The Lady and the Reaper (2009) ****
Dir. Javier Recio Garcia

Pigeon: Impossible (2009) ***½
Dir. Lucas Martel

The only time I ever get to see short subject animations are before I see a Pixar feature. Thanks to the Internet, more shorts are available for general public viewing today than have ever been before. Thanks to a convenient link, I was able to view three of the 2010 Academy Award nominated animated shorts (the other two, “Logorama” and “Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death”, were not available for free streaming). Then a friend sent me a link to the wonderful little short called “Pigeon: Impossible”.

There’s some thing about the animation short format that is cute and likable. Perhaps the lack of time commitment helps, but these shorts are always funny and clever. All three of the Academy Award nominated films were pleasant and made me laugh. Even the non-nominated “Pigeon” Impossible” was cute, however not as impressive as the other three. My only complaint would be that Pixar’s adorable “Partly Cloudy” was better than any of them, and therefore deserved a nomination.

Filth and Wisdom (2009) **
Dir. Madonna
Starring: Eugene Hutz, Holly Weston, Vicky McClure, Inder Manocha

I came into this film all ready to write something like, “Who thought it would be a good idea to allow Madonna her own film camera?” But after witnessing the pop icon’s directorial debut, I realize such sentiment would not be fair. She is an artist who has something to say, and with her debut film she shows signs that a movie by Madonna might be worth watching. This one isn’t it. She never really seems to connect her subjects with her audience until the very last few moments of the movie. As such, the film comes off a little dull and pointless, yet there is something there that tells me, given a little more practice as a cinematic storyteller, Madonna might come up with something worth watching.

No comments: