DVDs, Books, Games, and more

Friday, January 18, 2008

I Am Legend - Theater

AndyO review: * * *

I saw I Am Legend over the holidays, and really enjoyed it. A friend of mine, TinyDog, did not like it. Here is our debate in e-mail:


From: Tiny Dog
Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2007 10:54 PM
To: Andy O
Subject: Re: The next Tiny dog zombie movie? I Am Legend: TERRIBLE!

On 12/16/07 10:56 PM, "Andy O" wrote:

I saw it, too. But, as usual, I respectfully disagree. I actually thought it was pretty good.

From: TinyDog
Sent: Monday, December 17, 2007 8:00 AM
To: AndyO

Dude--the zombies were awful! Bad CGI, inexplicably acrobatic, totally not scary. The screenplay was based on a vampire book and they didn't even bother to change the details to make the plot logical. Why exactly would people with a virus crave blood? That makes NO sense. And the ending? That lady who shows up with the perfect outfit and hair? The conveniently located grenades and semiautomatics lying around in every drawer and umbrella stand? The cheesy Bob Marley and Shrek stuff??!!
The worst.

From: AndyO

I had a feeling the digi-zombies were at the heart of all this. I have to admit, they were pretty bad. And digi-dogs, too (what was with their chests?). The white Zombie guys screaming like lions was also kind of weird, as was the acrobatics.

But what I liked was the idea of this lone guy trying to survive in NY. All of that kept my interest. All of the conveniently located weapons were a reflection of Smith's character. He was a top-level Army guy, and I thought they showed how organized he was all the way through the movie. He was prepared for all contingencies. If they hadn't foreshadowed that earlier, I wouldn't have bought it--but I think they did.

I didn't mind the Bob Marley and Shrek stuff. IMHO: Bob Marley music was how he was keeping his sanity. The Shrek stuff was about how he had lived alone for so long he didn't know how to interact with people. I'll admit that they should have shown him sitting around mimicking the movie by himself before he did it in front of the kid.

I don't think the movie was perfect, but I'd give it three stars out of four. The missing one star is due to the stuff you mentioned (bad zombies, etc.). But did I care about this guy? Yes. Was it a movie that kept my interest and stirred up my imagination? Yes. Was it better than "Twelve Monkeys," a movie with a similar story? Yes.

But I can understand how those details you mentioned would have destroyed the movie for you. I guess it depends on how much you can suspend your disbelief, and I'm one of those people who can just go along with it. My friend Brian is more like you. He'll shred a movie for just copying a famous Hitchcock camera shot. But somehow I've always been able to just experience a movie without analyzing it too much. That happens later when I watch it on my super 40-inch Hi-Def TV. :-)



posted by AndyO @ 7:05 PM   0 comments

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Blade Runner - HD-DVD

AndyO review: * * * 1/2

I've had a long and strange relationship with Blade Runner that goes back to its beginning, 25 years ago. That was when my Dad brought me to see Blade Runner at the theater. My expectations were high. I thought I was seeing another Star Wars, but what I saw was nothing like my favorite film. I left the theater a little confused and let down.

A few years later on a family vacation, we rented a VHS player along with Blade Runner, which was the European version. This version didn't make the film any better for me, although it was more violent (which my brother and I thought was cool).

Fast forward to college. My roommate and friend, Brian, a filmmaker, would wax poetic about Blade Runner for hours. He'd show me the artistry in each frame, and, while I appreciated director Ridley Scott's work, the story was never quite exciting or satisfying enough for me.

Then, sometime in the mid-1990's, I heard about the "Director's Cut" of Blade Runner. I dragged my wife to the Cinerama theater in downtown Seattle, and we watched a version of the film that was closer to Ridley Scott's original vision. Without the voice overs from Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), the film took on a more existential, poetic quality. Just that one alteration changed the story from noirish gumshoe detective tale to a futuristic meditation on life and death.

A few months ago, Brian, the same roommate from college, sent me a link to Blade Runner - The Final Cut. I remember thinking, what else could they do to this film? What was the Director's Cut supposed to be? A few years back, Ridley Scott finally came out and said Deckard was a Replicant himself, sending a shockwave through the Sci-Fi community. Would the Final Cut include more about this?

A few days ago on New Years Eve, I watched the HD DVD Final Cut version of Blade Runner. On my Sony 40" Bravia LCD TV in high-definition, the film leaped off the screen. The soundtrack--effects and music--were flawless. I sat in awe of practically every frame, seeing it the way my friend Brian had probably always seen it.

Expecting to see all kinds of different scenes and changes, I was surprised to see that this version was actually pretty close to the Director's Cut. I would learn later that the reason Ridley Scott did this version of the film was that the Director's Cut was rushed, and he wasn't as involved (although he did approve it). This time, Ridley supervised the process of cleaning up the film, re-editing, adding scenes, etc. In the George Lucas universe of re-editing films, we've come to expect completely revised special effects and scenes. I actually had to go to this Wikipedia article to understand all the differences, and many of them are subtle.

What's great about this HD DVD package is that you get 5 versions of the film (there are actually 7 versions of this film), including:

  • The final cut
  • The director's cut
  • The international release
  • The original release
  • The workprint

There's also an in-depth, feature-length documentary about the making of Blade Runner called Dangerous Days (the original title of the film).

One might ask, is this really the final cut of Blade Runner? It's hard to tell in this world of recuts, mashups, alternate versions, and the like. But this definitive cut of Ridley Scott's groundbreaking film is the best I've seen yet. 


posted by AndyO @ 4:50 PM   0 comments