One of the many great things that started to happen with the success of DVDs in the aughts was the proliferation of extended cuts of movies. I always enjoy checking out an extended cut of a film. I always find it to be an interesting exploration of an alternate version of a film. Sometimes, an extended version results in a hugely different film. Sometimes the changes are significant, and sometimes they are very insignificant. Sometimes a good film can be made great, or a great film can be made even better. And sometimes the extended version is dramatically inferior to the original version. I recently wrote about the extended version of Batman v. Superman, which made a watchable movie (albeit still not a great one) out of the disastrous theatrical version. I also recently wrote about the extended edition of Ridley Scott’s The Martian. I adored the theatrical version, and I didn’t think that the minor additions inserted into the slightly-longer extended version made much difference to the film.
I was intrigued to learn that an extended edition of Paul Feig’s recent reboot of Ghostbusters was being released to DVD & blu-ray. I enjoyed Mr. Feig’s Ghostbusters, though in my review I commented that often the editing of the film seemed choppy, as if the film had been pared down from a much-longer version. Would the extended edition address those concerns? Would it improve the film? Or would the result be an overly-long, bogged-down version?
Well, somewhere in between. Ultimately I feel about this extended version of Ghostbusters pretty much the same way I did about the extended version of The Martian. The additions are good but not essential. The longer cut is not significantly better than the theatrical cut, but it works and certainly doesn’t do any harm to the film.
There’s no question that the best thing about this new extended edition is that the editing feels smoother and less choppy than the theatrical cut. There’s a more natural cutting back-and-forth between the characters and story-lines in this longer version. We get to see more of Rowan, in his human form, before he comes face-to-face with the Ghostbusters, which helps establish his character as the villain. One of my complaints about the film, originally, is that because the villain exists in three different forms — as the nebbishy Rowan, as the mind-controlled Kevin, and finally as the giant Ghostbusters logo come-to-life — and because none of these forms are on-screen for all that long, the villain didn’t make much of an impact for me. These additional scenes of Rowan (played by Neil Casey) helped that for me.
I was surprised that Charles Dance’s character, … [continued]
The Night Manager is a six-episode mini-series based on the novel by John le Carré. The adaptation was directed by Susanne Bier (who just won an emmy for her work directing this mini-series) and written by David Farr (a writer who also worked on the British TV show Spooks, called MI:5 here in the U.S.).
Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is a former soldier who now works as the night manager at a fancy hotel in Cairo. One night, the beautiful mistress of a powerful Egyptian man gives Jonathan evidence that her husband is involved in arms sales to terrorists. Jonathan manages to pass this info on to an old friend in the British military, but this action winds up getting the woman, with whom Jonathan has fallen in love, killed. Jonathan flees Cairo, adopts a new name, and tries to forget everything that happened and begin a new live in isolation in Switzerland. But a chance encounter brings Jonathan face to face with the man he believes responsible for his lover’s death: the wealthy British CEO Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). Believing that this man who purports to be a social justice warrior is actually someone who profits off of death and destruction across the globe, Jonathan agrees to work with an outsider British intelligence officer in an attempt to infiltrate Richard Roper’s organization and bring him down.
As can be expected from a story based on the work of John le Carré, The Night Manager is a wonderfully tense, twisty spy caper. It takes a little while for the story to get moving, but once Jonathan has come face to face with Roper and begun to earn his trust and get inside his operation, the show really comes to life. The charisma and chemistry between Mr. Hiddleston and Mr. Laurie is tremendous, and it’s great fun watching these two intelligent men cagily circle one another. This sort of story only works if you believe that a) the mole is smart enough and clever enough to have a chance to actually succeed in infiltrating the bad guy’s operation without getting immediately found out, and b) that the bad guy is smart enough and clever enough to be fully capable of discovering what the hero is really up to, thus giving the story exciting dramatic tension. The Night Manager succeeds on both counts wonderfully.
The story is leisurely paced but that works well in allowing us to gradually discover these characters and the world they live in. Once Jonathan is in and the screws start to tighten, I was thoroughly hooked. Six episodes feels like the perfect length for this story. It’s long enough to allow for greater complexity, and a more … [continued]
So, I assume by now you’ve all seen this:
Who knows whether the final film will be good, but that trailer is spectacular. There is some truly gorgeous imagery (like everyone else, I went crazy for that overhead shot of the enormous toppled statue of a Jedi Knight), which “feels” like Star Wars while also being new and different than what has come before. That is the balance this film needs to strike. As with The Force Awakens, this film’s whole conception is steeped in nostalgia (it’s a prequel, thus allowing us to get more of what we all loved from the original Star Wars: Darth Vader, the Death Star, classic Storm troopers, Tie Fighters and X-Wings, etc.), but for the movie to work it can’t just feel like a retread of movies we’ve already seen and loved (this was the major weakness of the third act of The Force Awakens) but like a new story worth telling. This trailer certainly strikes that balance, hopefully the actual film will as well.
By the way, this trailer’s suggestion that Mads Mikkelson’s character helps create the Death Star in order to protect his daughter (who will grown up to be the film’s main character, played by Felicity Jones), it got me thinking: was the fatal flaw of the original Death Star — that exhaust port that allowed the rebels to blow the whole thing up with just two proton torpedoes — not an accident? Could that weakness have been built into the Death Star on purpose?? I wonder if that is going to be what Rogue One winds up suggesting! That would be a wild recontextualization of the original Star Wars…!!
I’m enjoying Netflix’s latest Marvel show Luke Cage (full review coming soon… I still have five more episodes to go…) and while I wish Netflix would hurry up and get Jessica Jones season two in production (click here for my review of the terrific first season), I’m decently excited for their next Marvel show, Iron Fist. Here is the latest teaser, which is the most substantial look we’ve yet gotten at this show which is coming in March:
We’re only a few days away from Netflix’s resurrection of Black Mirror (click here for my review of the first two short but mind-blowing British seasons), and this trailer suggests that the new episodes will be just as amazing and nightmare-inducing as I had hoped. I cannot frigging wait for this:
Oh! And! Looks like there will also be a FOURTH season of Black Mirror from Netflix! Praise Jebus!
Here is a very, very brief tease for the next Planet of the Apes film:
I absolutely loved … [continued]
The 2013 five-novel “The Fall” reshaped the status quo in Pocket Books’ wonderful expanding series of Star Trek novels, which together have continued the stories of the 24th-century Trek adventures following the end of the official on-screen canonical adventures (in the Next Gen movie Nemesis and the series-finales of Deep Space Nine and Voyager). Dayton Ward’s novel Armageddon’s Arrow updated us on Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E as they left known Federation space to begin a new mission of exploration, while Jeffrey Lang’s Force and Motion checked in on some of the DS9 crew, specifically Chief O’Brien and Nog. James Swallow’s new novel, Sight Unseen, circles back to the newly-promoted Admiral William Riker and the crew of the Titan.
Whereas Picard and the Enterprise have been given a new mission of discovery, the Titan has lost theirs, with Fleet Admiral Akaar preferring to keep the newly-minted Admiral Riker and his former ship closer to home to help deal with the upheaval following the events of “The Fall.” When a Starfleet ship that was helping an alien race called the Dinac, just taking their first steps into interstellar travel, goes missing, Riker and the Titan are called to investigate. What they discover is terrifying evidence that seems to point to a new invasion of Federation space by the aliens from the season six Next Gen episode “Schisms.”
“Schisms” is not a particularly classic episode, but nevertheless its open-ended ending is one that feels ripe for follow-up. I’ve been enjoying how so many of the recent Trek novels have been picking up dangling story-threads from various Next Gen episodes. (Absent Enemies is a sort-of sequel to “The Next Phase,” while Force and Motion picks up the story of Captain Benjamin Maxwell from “The Wounded.”) I really enjoyed the way Sight Unseen fleshes out those unnamed aliens from “Schisms.” Mr. Swallow’s book does some enjoyable world-building, expanding upon the glimpses of those aliens that we got in “Schisms” to tell us more about their society, their methods and their goals.
It’s great having Mr. Swallow back writing another Titan novel. I enjoyed his first Titan novel, Synthesis, and I loved his Titan-focused entry in “The Fall” series, The Poisoned Chalice. Sight Unseen is another very strong installment of the continuing Titan series. I love that, over the past decade, these Titan novels (exploring Will Riker’s first command after finally accepting the Captain’s chair of a Starfleet vessel following the events of Star Trek: Nemesis) have been such a consistent part of Pocket Books’ continuing series of interconnected Trek novels. Following Riker’s promotion to Admiral in “The Fall,” I wasn’t sure if that meant an end … [continued]
My journey through all the films of Brian De Palma continues! (Scroll down to the bottom to see links to all of my previous reviews.) Following 1998′s Snake Eyes, a film with a poor critical reputation that I don’t think is at all deserved, we come to Mission to Mars, a film that also has a poor critical reputation. But whereas I unabashedly love Snake Eyes, I can’t quite say the same for Mission to Mars. It’s nowhere near as terrible as many people like to say it is, but nonetheless it doesn’t quite work.
Gary Sinese (re-teaming with Brian De Palma following his role in Snake Eyes) plays Jim McConnell, an astronaut whose wife has recently been killed. His friends head off on the first manned mission to Mars, but when tragedy strikes a rescue/recovery mission is organized with Jim’s involvement, along with his friend Commander Woody Blake (Tim Robins), Blake’s wife Terri Fisher (Connie Nielson), and Phil Ohlmeyer (Jerry O’Connell).
It’s interesting to see Mr. De Palma’s style applied to a sci-fi film. Mr. De Palma’s eye and style give Mission to Mars a different feel than your average big-budget sci-fi flick. There’s a lot to enjoy about the film. While the story isn’t that sophisticated, the mystery of what happened to the original crew on Mars is enough to hold my interest throughout the film. Similarly, none of the characters are that interesting or complex, but there’s enough movie-star charisma on display — between the afore-mentioned Gary Sinese, Tom Robbins, Connie Nielson, and Jerry O’Connell, plus also Don Cheadle, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and others — to keep the audience hooked in. However, I dearly miss the sharp work that David Koepp did on the screenplays of Mr. De Palma’s last three films (Carlito’s Way, Mission: Impossible, and Snake Eyes). (I groaned when, during the hull breach situation, Tim Robbins’ character says: “Come on, people, let’s work the problem,” a direct and obvious rip-off from Apollo 13. Not the script’s finest moment.)
Both The Bonfire of the Vanities and Snake Eyes opened with a lengthy single-take tracking shot designed to introduce the characters and setting, and so too does this film, as we meet all of the main characters at a BBQ party before the original mission to Mars’ launch. This device feels a little cliche for Brian De Palma at this point, so not nearly as effective as before (nor does it have the jaw-dropping audaciousness of Snake Eyes’ opening shot that somehow involved thousands of extras in the boxing arena), but it’s still fun to see and a neat method of introducing us to all the main characters.
In terms of signature … [continued]
I remember reading about The Foot Fist Way, the 2006 low-budget film directed by Jody Hill and starring Danny McBride. It got a lot of positive press and so I tracked it down and saw it during the film’s limited run in theatres. It was very funny and very uncomfortable. This seems to be the combination of feelings that Mr. Hill and Mr. McBride have continued to pursue over the course of all of their fruitful collaborations. Honest admission: I totally missed Eastbound and Down (their previous television collaboration) — the first season has been sitting on my DVD shelf for years but for some reason (not lack of interest) I’ve never gotten to it. Someday. But ever since The Foot Fist Way I have been paying attention to the work of these two. Jody Hill directed Observe and Report, a deeply weird and deeply unsettling comedy starring Seth Rogen, and of course Danny McBride has been killing it in a variety of comedic roles in films over the past decade, including Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, Your Highness, 30 Minutes or Less, This is the End, and many more. The two reunited for the two-season HBO show, Vice Principals.
In Vice Principals, Danny McBride plays Neal Gamby, while Walton Goggins plays Lee Russell. Both men are Vice Principals at North Jackson High School, and they each believe that they should be promoted to principal when the school’s long-standing leader, Principal Welles (played by Bill Murray in a note-perfect cameo in the first episode) retires. However, the school board decides to bring in someone else entirely to be the new principal: college professor Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory). Shocked by this turn of events, Vice Principal Gamby and Vice Principal Russell agree to team up to take down Dr. Brown.
This nine-episode first season (the show is reportedly structured to run for only two nine-episode seasons, with the second season coming some time next year) is, exactly as I had expected, powerfully funny and also profoundly uncomfortable. This is a raunchy, pull-no-punches show, and this tone is certainly not for everyone. But I loved it. I had a great time watching these first nine episodes and I can’t wait to see what sort of craziness the back half brings.
Danny McBride has made a career out of playing this type of character: a profane, low-watt-bulb man-child who comes off as loud and blustery but is sweet and insecure on the inside. Neal Gamby feels like the apotheosis of these character traits; this is the most Danny McBride character Danny McBride has ever played. It’s great fun — and often stomach-churningly painful — to watch. Watching … [continued]
My epic project to re-read Mike Mignola’s complete Hellboy saga from the very beginning is in its home stretch!
Click here for part one, in which I discussed the very first Hellboy tale: the four-part mini-series Seed of Destruction. Click here for part two, in which I discussed The Wolves of Saint August, The Corpse and the Iron Shoes, and Wake the Devil. Click here for part three, in which I discussed a variety of Hellboy short stories including The Right Hand of Doom and Box Full of Evil. Click here for part four, in which I discussed Hellboy’s last mission for the B.P.R.D.: Conquerer Worm. Click here for part five, in which I discussed the beginning of a series of B.P.R.D. spin-offs and a whole new expansion of the Hellboy universe: Plague of Frogs. Click here for part six, in which I discussed the major shift in the Hellboy story that took-place in The Third Wish and The Island. Click here for part seven, in which I discussed the incredible B.P.R.D. mini-series that became the new central focus of the continuing Hellboy saga. Click here for part eight, in which Hellboy finally returns to the spotlight with Darkness Calls. Click here for part nine, in which the Hellboy universe expands with spin-off series focusing on Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, and the founding of the B.P.R.D. And click here for part ten, in which I discussed the “Scorched Earth” trilogy of B.P.R.D. mini-series that wrapped up the series to that point and began the “Hell on Earth” story-line. Click here for part eleven, in which I discussed the death of Hellboy in The Storm and The Fury. Click here for part twelve, in which I discuss the new B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” story-line. Click here for part thirteen, in which I discuss the game-changing B.P.R.D. mini-series The Return of the Master along with the beginning of Hellboy in Hell. Click here for part fourteen, in which I discuss the beginning of the Abe Sapien ongoing series, as well as the great B.P.R.D. story The Lake of Fire. Click here for part fifteen, in which I discuss new adventures of Sledgehammer 44, Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson, and Abe Sapien, as well as the epic B.P.R.D. story-line The Reign of the Black Flame. Click here for part sixteen, in which I discuss Abe Sapien: Sacred Places and A Darkness So Great, B.P.R.D. Flesh and Stone, and the first Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. mini-series.
With this post, I’ve finally almost caught up with the Hellboy saga! Onward…
Frankenstein Underground (2015) – This fantastic mini-series, gorgeously illustrated by Ben … [continued]
Almost twenty years after the events of the fourth-season Next Gen episode “The Wounded,” (one of my very favorite episodes of Trek), Jeffrey Lang’s terrific novel Force and Motion catches up with the disgraced Benjamin Maxwell, former Starfleet Captain now working as little more than a janitor on an old, falling-apart space station in the middle of nowhere. Captain Maxwell’s old comrade Chief Miles O’Brien decides to pay his former captain a visit, with Engineer Nog tagging along. Of course, since perilous adventures seem to happen whenever the Chief leaves DS9, as soon as he and Nog set foot on board the station where Maxwell lives and works, many bad things start occurring in short succession.
Force and Motion is a terrific novel. It’s a wonderful idea to follow up on Captain Maxwell. I’m actually somewhat surprised that it’s taken this long for a Trek writer to do so! ”The Wounded” was such a terrific episode, one of the first to really spotlight Miles O’Brien. With the episode’s spotlight on O’Brien and the Cardassians (“The Wounded” was actually the Trek episode that introduced the Cardassians!), and also with it’s dark, ambiguous ending, “The Wounded” feels in many ways like a classic Deep Space Nine episode, and that’s a compliment. Bub Gunton was incredibly memorable as Captain Maxwell, O’Brien’s former C.O., and so I was thrilled that this novel finally brought the character back and shed light on what happened to him after being removed from his command at the end of that Next Gen episode.
I also loved that Force and Motion brought Chief O’Brien back to the center stage. Chief O’Brien has been mostly overlooked by the past decade of DS9 novels. You’d really have to look back to the 2004 “Worlds of Deep Space Nine” novella The Lotus Flower, by Una McCormack, for the last time that O’Brien got a spotlight. The post-finale DS9 books at first respected the plot point from the DS9 finale, “What You Leave Behind,” in which O’Brien revealed that he’d decided to leave the station, with his family, to return to Earth. But after the destruction of DS9 in David R. George III’s fabulous DS9 duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, Mr. George brought O’Brien back into the fold as the Chief returned to oversee the construction of the new station. Still, for the past few years worth of new Trek novels, O’Brien hasn’t been given much to do. (We never even really got to see how he reacted to his friend Julian Bashir’s decision to abandon Starfleet in David Mack’s novel A Ceremony of Losses.)
I also enjoyed that this novel gave some attention to Nog, as well. … [continued]