Random Film of the Week: Once Upon A Time In America

Once Upon A Time In America MPThe first time I saw Once Upon A Time In America, I hated it. Not because it was a “bad” film at all, mind you. Hell, I was a mere 20 years old and not much of the older, wiser appreciator of film I’ve become (along with possibly being a little bit of a pompous ass about it), so going in at that age and “getting” all that director Sergio Leone intended was going to be way above my head. Actually, I’d read that the film was very heavily edited by the studio and that made me dislike what I saw more than any issues I had with Leone’s craft. Which was none, by the way.

That initial 139-minute release was so butchered as to render whole scenes meaningless or confusing upon my initial viewing, but there was no denying the compelling performances from the entire cast, Tonino Delli Colli’s absolutely gorgeous cinematography, Ennio Morricone’s epic, near-operatic score and Leone’s assured yet polarizing directorial choices that confused some in the theater I saw the film with who were expecting the third coming of The Godfather (a film Leone was picked to direct at one point). Yes, I “hated” the film, but I knew I had to see it again because there was enough there… no, more than enough that made it a truly great film that was chopped up and placed in what the studio felt was a proper order. I’d gather the powers that be assumed audiences weren’t patient enough to get into a film that was intentionally going to flip the crime genre on its head by being more than just a crime drama.

Flash forward thirty years and all the pieces (well, most of them) are in place, the film is back in my life (and more widely available thanks to a recent Blu-Ray version) in nearly its full glory and celebrated as a masterpiece. And yet, it’s still a properly vexing viewing experience if you go into it expecting what it’s not… Continue reading

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SDCC 2014: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Teaser Makes Me Feel A Bit Green…

The third part of Peter Jackson’s busy amusement park version of Middle-earth is on the way to theaters in December and as you can see from this teaser trailer, you’ll be getting pretty much what you expected if you liked the other two parts of this two part film expanded into three. I’m actually a film behind in this saga (I need to see The Desolation of Smaug at some point), so I’m not in a tearing hurry to rush out to a theater 11+ miles away and see this one. Heck, given the extended, special, collectors and other edition home video versions that are BOUND to surface in 2015 and onward, I may as well wait until the DEFINITIVE version of this trilogy rolls out just so I can see every bit of film as it was intended to be seen (er, as far as home versions go). I should probably just follow a friend’s advice and get a nice HD projector to make that one big white wall in the living room a mini movie palace, but we’ll see what happens financially over the next few months or so.

Oh, and you can actually WIN a nice trip to New Zealand to poke around some of the actual locations from the film (minus the green screen effects, of course). That video above will clue you into how to enter and such. Good Luck!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Sneek Peek: Second Verse, Not Quite Same As The First…

So, now that this two-parter is a three-parter, I have to ask if it still draw in the millions of fans the original The Lord of the Rings trilogy did. Granted, a third part means MORE of the book on board and hopefully an even closer to Tolkien film. On the other hand, I know the book loyalists have been shaking their fists at the screen or in Peter Jackson’s general direction since the first Rings film hit theaters and I don’t think they plan to stop any time soon. Granted, these films do a bit of public service by giving the truly lazy a chance to see what they won’t read (and thus fail any real life book reports they need to write in the future – lesson NEVER write a book report from any movie – your teachers who’ve read those books WILL know). But then again, if you’re THAT shiftless, you’ll probably be snoozing in your seat before the first half hour is over and done.

Hey, I’ve been in theaters many times over the years and have sat close to young people who thought they could actually get away with that trickery and I’ve always laughed a bit at what I know the results will be. Hell, chances are that teacher is in a different theater (or worse, the same one) taking mental notes on exactly what to look out for in those shorthanded reports. So yeah, kids… READ MORE BOOKS! There’s nothing wrong with a grand epic at all mind you… unless you’re planning to play it off as actual studying and not supplemental material once you’ve done the work. That’s your life lesson for the day…

Hercules: The Legend Begins Trailer: From Spartan Beginnings…

So, Renny Harlin is finally back in the director’s seat on a big-budget film… but doing what looks like a mash-up of 300 and every other film or TV show that was “influenced” by Zack Snyder’s comic-book inspired mini-epic. *Sigh.* Sure, it’s a hell of a lot better than seeing Lou Ferrigno punch a bear into space (and turn it into Ursa Major!) or listening to some of that wretched dialog from those old 60’s Hercules flicks (To wit: “She’s in MY house now, Hercules, and I’m going to celebrate… by GOING THERE!”). On the other hand, if this film is as by the numbers as it looks, I’ll settle for a complete series DVD of that ancient The Mighty Hercules cartoon from the 60’s. Hey, a little Johnny Nash goes a loooooong way. Probably way past Ursa Major at least…

The Hobbit: The Desplation of Smaug TV Spot 3: This One Better Not Be Draggin’…

Okay, so I finally caught The Hobbit on HBO when it premiered on Saturday and yes, I fell asleep about 25 minutes in. That was bad, however I did wake up about 25 or so minutes later and sat through the rest of the film, save for a quick break to boil some water for tea. Granted, I was a bit sick and a little bit tired from the cold that was knocking me around, but still… the film did drag-on a bit (yeah, that’s supposed to be a pun). I liked it overall, but after that blazing opening sequence it took a while to get going again then between jokes it’s pretty much a non-interactive CG movie that winds its way up, down and all around to that ending where you just so happen to look at your watch and realize as Smaug’s eye opens and the credits roll that you’ll need to come back to that theater to see what happens thanks to that big dragon not quite revealing himself. I’m gathering this sequel will have TOO much of Smaug for some tastes… but in my opinion there’s no such thing as too much of any dragon (unless it’s that damn purple dinosaur Barney trying to pretend he’s one)…

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug TV Spots 1 & 2: Only A Year (Or Less) ‘Til Cable!

OK, don’t shoot me, movie people. I’ve decided to wait until this one pops up on cable TV, as the first film is (not so surprisingly) premiering later this month (on HBO, I think). So much for the normal waiting time that used to be at least a year or so after a major film hit theaters. At this point, it’ll seem to some as if the only reason to go to the movies is just to get out of the house and see a flick on something larger than that already too large HDTV you may own (or the big wall you project movies on). OK, widescreen is also a good reason, but most new films are ending up premiering in that theatrical format to the point that I get annoyed when I see a recent or older film that SHOULD be in that aspect ratio run as a crappy pan & scan version. B to the O to the O, cable and movie people who still do that crap. Even an old analog set can play a widescreen movie in letterbox format, so enough with the old versions already, I say. The ONLY films that need to fill up my screen like that are the classics TCM shows that weren’t originally shot that way. OK, old cartoons and classic TV get a pass as well.

Of course, if you’re impatient or just love seeing films on a big screen with hordes of smelly humans around you, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in theaters on December 13, 2013. Everyone else, set your clocks…

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Main Trailer: The Little People, Back At Work Again…

Er, NO… that’s not what the idiots who look down on us from D.C. will be thinking once they come to some of their senses and stop scaring the hell out of half the country with their needless grade school tantrum antics. It’s the official trailer to the second part of Peter Jackson’s latest Middle-Earth saga. I still need to see the first one (and thankfully, cable will be taking care of that soon enough), and I don’t plan to pay to see this one in a theater at all, but I’ll shoot over to a screening if I can get a pass. Speaking of getting a pass, I’m kind of burned out on these literary epics anyway, but I’d LOVE it if someone were to challenge making a great film our of something like Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, Stanislaw Lem’s Eden, something from an Asimov or Bradbury WITHOUT messing it up with stupid action scenes and terrifically inappropriate casting decisions. Hell, make a serious animated flick for the cost of some overpaid superstar and I’m a happy camper.

Granted, SELLING that sort of creative film project to an challenged audience who wants to see those star faces and CG explosions is the real rub to deal with…