So, wow! After the recent Comic-Con the web has been flooded with all sorts of teases about upcoming movies, TV shows, and other geeky goodness. Here’s some of the best stuff that I’ve found:
After so many years of speculation and false starts, the sequel to Tron is finally, actually happening!! Check out the STUNNING trailer here. It’s going to be in IMAX 3-D?? I’m THERE.
I cannot believe they’re actually making a Jonah Hex movie. (And with Josh Brolin, no less!) Check out the poster.
The ending of Lost revealed? Um, not quite. Check out this video from the Lost panel! Quite a lot of additional footage from that panel can be found here. For some reason, Michael Emmerson’s fake audition for the role of Hurley isn’t included, but you can find that here. Funny stuff.
Here’s a pretty bad-ass trailer for Season 2 of The Clone Wars. I actually found the first season to be fairly watchable, and this glimpse at the next season looks pretty promising.
You know what it takes to sell real estate? The same thing it takes to re-make one of the most brilliant TV shows of all time. Well, AMC’s version of The Prisoner, starring Ian McKellan and Jim Caviezel, is nearly upon us. Check out this lengthy trailer. I must say, that looks pretty damn intriguing!
Amongst all of this glorious fun is the extraordinarily troubling continuing story about the newly-resurrected Futurama‘s uncertain future. This report from the Futurama panel at the con is grim indeed. Can’t everybody just make nice already?!!
That’s all for now — have a great weekend everybody!!… [continued]
On Monday I posted a link to a phenomenal article listing the 50 Greatest Movie Trailers of All Time.
It’s a fantastic list, but I think they missed a few:
Star Wars: Episode I Teaser Trailer
Every time I watch this spectacular trailer, I think to myself, “man, I REALLY want to see the amazing movie that this trailer promised!!” Set to John Williams’ iconic music, this parade of imagery and new and familiar characters was the first two minutes of new Star Wars footage released for nearly two decades, and I can still remember the incredible excitement it inspired. Who knew what disappointment lay ahead…
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Teaser Trailer
Perfectly narrated by Christopher Plummer (who starred as the villainous General Chang in the film), this reverent trailer set the tone perfectly for the final mission of the original crew of the Starship Enterprise. The array of imagery from the Original Series and the first 5 movies is clever, and tugs at the heart-strings.
Superman Returns Teaser Trailer
Say what you will about the finished film (I love it, though I know I’m in the minority), this trailer is magnificent. John Williams’ magnificent Superman themes and Marlon Brando’s narration are beautifully woven into a parade of spectacular imagery that drew connections to Richard Donner’s original Superman film, while also promising an exciting 21st century adventure.
Spider-Man First Theatrical Trailer
IFC listed the Spider-Man teaser trailer. Personally, I hated that trailer — I thought it looked cheap, and even more-so, that it was ridiculous. (The bad guys didn’t see that ENORMOUS web??) However, the first full theatrical trailer for the film really got my blood pumping by the way it perfectly captured the image of Spider-Man I’d always had in my mind from reading the comics. “Who am I? I’m Spider-Man.”
Total Recall Teaser Trailer
This is a pretty terrible trailer, actually — but I have such strong memories of seeing it as a kid, and being completely intrigued/freaked out. “How would you know… if someone stole your mind?” It’s funny the way the weirdest things stay with you.
What do you all think? What great movie trailers have I (and IFC) missed?… [continued]
Looking to waste a little time?
Take a look at this amazing article, listing the 50 Greatest Movie Trailers of All Time! Even better, it’s not just a list — they have embedded video of all 50 trailers listed.
It’s an interesting list. I was particularly glad to see that they included the very first early teaser for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I still remember the excitement of seeing that great slow pan of the entire Fellowship that closes the trailer, as the titles and release dates of all three films slowly appear on-screen. I was also pleased to see the great trailer for Goldeneye on their list. It’s a magnificent trailer that reintroduced the world to Bond. I actually have the spectacular music from that trailer on my ipod!
C’mon back here on Wednesday to discuss a few great trailers that I think they missed…… [continued]
When I purchased a Blu-Ray player last year, I promised myself that I wouldn’t go out and re-purchase all the great movies that I own on DVD when they’re released on Blu-Ray. This has been an easy promise to keep, mostly because DVDs played in my Blu-Ray player look FANTASTIC.
But when I read about the new restoration being done to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (one of my absolute favorite films — just take a look back at Wednesday’s post if you don’t believe me) for it’s release on Blu-Ray, I had to take the plunge.
I must admit, somewhat sheepishly, that this is actually the THIRD time I have bought a copy of Star Trek II. I held off on buying the original bare-bones DVD release from 2000, preferring instead to buy the two-disc “Special Collector’s Edition” when it was released in 2002. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed all the special features on that DVD, the version of the film included was a new Director’s Cut. It was neat to see some additional scenes (which I hadn’t seen for years and years, ever since catching an extended TV version of the film in a hotel room once as a kid), but many of the additions were clunky and disruptive to the pitch-perfect pace of the theatrical film. So of course I went out and picked up a copy of that first bare-bones DVD, so I could have the theatrical version to watch.
So what did I think of this new version? Was it worth paying to own The Wrath of Khan for a third time?
Absolutely. The movie looks FANTASTIC on Blu-Ray. The colors are bright and vibrant (check out the main viewscreen graphics during the opening Kobayashi Maru sequence, for example), and the dark backgrounds and shadows in many of the scenes (this is a DARK movie!) are deep and rich. The sound is terrific — the dialogue is all crystal-clear, and James Horner’s magnificent scores (one of the best movie scores EVER) is given a lot of weight and heft.
I am not an expert in things like film grain or other aspects of the restoration of old movies, but let me give you one example that, for me, highlights the excellent work done to clean up this film for its Blu-Ray release. In every home video release of Star Trek II that I have ever seen (including both DVDs that I own), there has always been some distracting dirt or grain or something over the scene of the Enterprise leaving drydock. There’s one shot in particular — a view of the Enterprise from behind, in which the Big E’s nacelle fills most of … [continued]
I’m a big Star Trek fan.
OK, that’s probably an enormous understatement.
There has been a LOT of Trek released over the years, and while there have been some missteps (I’m looking at you, Star Trek: Nemesis), there is so much of it that I love so dearly. The antics and new, big ideas of the original series. The space-opera writ large of the six original Trek movies. The serious and cerebral Star Trek: The Next Generation (which is the series I grew up on). The dense, dark, and sophisticated Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (especially seasons 4-7). I can even find some things to enjoy in Star Trek: Enterprise (particularly in the final two seasons).
But for me, when I think of Star Trek, I think of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is the pinnacle of what Star Trek can and should be. This is the masterpiece that I keep hoping will someday be re-captured by a new Trek adventure. (J.J. Abrams’ new film came the closest any new Trek has come in almost 20 years, but his film is still but a shadow of Khan.)
Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t know the plot? In the Original Series episode “Space Seed,” Captain James T. Kirk accidentally revived the charismatic megalomaniac, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), and 70 of his followers, all genetically enhanced supermen who had conquered a quarter of planet Earth centuries ago during the 1990s and then put themselves into cryogenic freeze when their empire fell. Khan tried to seize the Enterprise in an attempt to restore his empire, and when he failed, Kirk marooned him and his crew on the deserted planet Ceti Alpha VI. Now, 15 years later, Khan and what’s left of his people manage to capture another ship (the ill-fated U.S.S. Reliant) and attempt to take lethal revenge on the now Admiral Kirk.
Why it’s great: Allow me to quote liberally from the sadly-now-defunct web-site dvdjournal.com’s review of Star Trek II on DVD: “Thank the heavens for The Wrath of Khan, which saved Star Trek from itself. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was an artistic and dramatic failure. Nonetheless, the box office tallies were strong, so Paramount gambled on the notion that another film could amortize the first’s enormous cost overruns and prove that the studio really did have a cash cow on its hands. After all, in show business a movie doesn’t have to be good as long as it’s profitable. But lo and behold, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was good. Really, really good. Twenty years, seven movies, and four franchise TV series later, reasoned consensus still … [continued]
Let’s establish right from the get-go that I have not read any of the Harry Potter books.
Well, actually, that’s not quite true. The day before the first Harry Potter movie opened, the friends I was going to see the movie with found out that I hadn’t read the book, and insisted that I do so before seeing the movie. So I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in a few hours, the night before seeing the flick. To be honest, I didn’t much care for the book, nor did I much care from the movie.
Despite that less-than-auspicious beginning, I have seen all of the other Harry Potter films. I found the second film to be as uninspired as the first, and while I enjoyed Alfonso Cuaron’s direction of the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, that movie’s story remains my least favorite of the entire series, mostly due to all of the time-travel silliness. Things picked up with the fourth installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which I found to be much more complex and interesting than the first three tales (many of my friends say the same of the novel). But it was only with the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that I walked out of the movie theatre completely dazzled by what I had seen. I truly loved that film, finding it to be dramatic, emotional, and completely engaging from the first scene to the last. Having not read the rest of books, that movie left me quite desperate to see the sixth installment, so I could find out what happens next!
So, did Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince live up to my feelings about the Order of the Phoenix?
Well, not quite, but I did still find it to be a delightfully entertaining and compelling film, one that is very successful in its own right.
My greatest pleasure from watching the Half-Blood Prince (and, frankly, ALL of this series so far) has been seeing the terrific group of kids grow up from film to film. I’m thinking of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, of course, but also of all the other kids in supporting roles who we have come to know and love while watching them in six movies. The kids are all terrific, and the consistency of their presence (even those of them who only appear in small, background roles) really helps bring the story to life, and lends Hogwarts the feeling of a living, breathing community. It’s quite an astounding thing to sit back and contemplate that not a single actor has had to be re-cast … [continued]
Here’s a fascinating/hilarious article assessing the Ghostbusters‘ Risky Business Plan. Those of you in finance, take note! And, speaking of Ghostbusters, here’s a link to 50 Reasons Why Ghostbusters Just Might Be The Greatest Film of All Time.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles show-runner Josh Friedman has a lengthy, funny, and sort-of-sad assessment of the cancellation of his show that is worth checking out.
Here’s an interesting piece about the Seven Director’s Cuts That You Didn’t Realize That You Wanted. I DEFINITELY would love to see an alternate cut of The Fountain!
I loved this article about the 10 Most Polarizing Films of the Last Decade. I strongly disagree with some of his opinions (I really enjoyed both Watchmen and Fahrenheit 9/11, while I had absolutely no patience for Eyes Wide Shut), but I was THRILLED to find someone other than me who loves the criminally underrated Vanilla Sky!! Follow the link and join the debate.
Here’s another great list: The fine folks at DVDActive.com (one of my favorite DVD-related web-sites) have put together their list of the 10 Franchises That Deserve Better. It’s a great read, and I am in full agreement with most of their choices.
Did you happen to catch William Shatner’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien last month? Check out the clip on Trekmovie.com. It’s worth watching for the insanity of the last 30 seconds.
Have a great weekend, everyone! See you back here on Monday!… [continued]
I can’t believe I actually purchased a book with Star Trek: Voyager in the title! (For those of you just tuning in, despite my intense love for Star Trek, I have a rather large amount of disdain for Voyager, the most boring and uninspired of the Trek series.) And even more than that — I can’t believe I liked it!!
Pocket Books has published Star Trek: Voyager novels before (though not for several years). So what prompted me to pick this one up?
Following David Mack’s magnificent three-book Destiny series (which I reviewed here) that involved characters from all of the 24th century Trek TV shows (Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager) and wreaked an enormous amount of havoc within the established Trek universe, I have been chomping at the bit to see where the story goes from here. Keith R.A. DeCandidio’s excellent novel A Singular Destiny was the first follow-up (reviewed here), and two subsequent novels have been released over the past few months: Over a Torrent Sea, by Christopher L. Bennett (which explores the ramifications of the events of Destiny on Captain William Riker and his crew on the U.S.S. Titan, and which I’ll be reviewing here soon), and Kirsten Beyer’s Voyager novel, Full Circle, which bridges the gap between the series finale of Voyager (and the handful of Voyager novels that Pocket books released soon after) and the events of Destiny.
Full Circle is a lengthy book (clocking in at 561 pages) that really feels like two books combined into one. (That is not a complaint.) The bulk of the first half of the novel follows up on a storyline begun in the latter days of the Voyager series: the idea that a sect of Klingons has become convinced that Miral, the daughter of Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres, is the Kuvah’magh, the long-predicted Klingon savior. Upon Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant, B’Elanna takes sanctuary with Miral at the Klingon monastery on Boreth, where she seeks to discover the truth behind the prophecies of the Kuvah’magh. Of course, it isn’t long before Miral is kidnapped and Torres, and the rest of the crew of Voyager, find themselves swept up in a Klingon feud that is thousands of years old.
The second half of the novel jumps back in forth in time over the course of the next few years, catching the Voyager story-lines up with the events of the last few years worth of Trek novels that culminated in Destiny. Voyager is home, and back on active duty with Starfleet in the Alpha Quadrant. But none of the crew has had an easy time re-adjusting … [continued]
I love Harold Ramis. For his performance as Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters (and Ghostbusters 2) alone, the man deserves to be recognized as a comic genius. When you also consider his involvement in films such as Animal House, Caddyshack, Stripes, Groundhog Day, Anaylze This, and so many more, then you have to realize what an impact he has had on film comedies over the past 30 years.
And yet, it seems like Mr. Ramis has fallen out of the spotlight in the aughts. He’s had some great (albeit small) acting roles (in Orange County, Knocked Up, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), but none of the films he has directed recently have made much of an impact: Bedazzled (in 2000), Anaylze That (the misbegotten sequel to Analyze This from 2002), and The Ice Harvest (in 2005) all came and went without much fanfare.
So I was very excited when I read, last year, that Mr. Ramis was hooking up with Jack Black and quite a few members of the Judd Apatow comedy troupe (Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) as well as a number of other very funny people (Oliver Platt, David Cross, Hank Azaria) for the Biblical-comedy Year One.
For a movie crafted by so many talented folks, though, the result is surprisingly mediocre. Oh, it’s funny, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of big laughs. But there are also plenty of scenes that are very flat, with few if any laughs at all. And, even of the jokes that work, a lot of the humor of the film feels rather tame, rather familiar. Stacked up against the great comedies of the past few years (mostly from the Apatow brand) like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Knocked Up, etc. etc., — comedies that took your breath away they were so funny, and, even more than that, felt like original, unique works, very different from any movie comedies that you’d ever seen before — Year One pales in comparison.
My biggest joy in watching the film came from sitting back and watching the great cast at play. Oliver Platt, in particular, is just marvelously loony as Sodom’s High Priest. I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of screen-time that the great David Cross (who plays Cain) got. I didn’t expect him to reappear after the early scene with his brother Abel (Paul Rudd), so I was pleased by his large role in the second half of the film. I should also mention Xander Berkeley (George Mason from the early days of 24) who is just terrific as the King, and Vinnie Jones (a familiar face from Guy Ritchie’s films) as the menacing … [continued]
Yesterday I began reviewing a collection of short-stories entitled The Sky’s the Limit, which was part of Pocket Books’ 20th anniversary salute to Star Trek: The Next Generation. In my last post, I reviewed the stories set during the run of the Next Gen TV show. Today I’ll turn my attention to the stories set after “All Good Things,” Next Gen‘s series finale.
‘Twould Ring the Bells of Heaven, by Amy Sisson — Set soon after the events of “All Good Things,” this tale finds Deanna Troi leading an away team assigned to help a group of scientists studying the ring system of a planet nicknamed Heaven. There are some interesting scientific notions mixed into the story, which I enjoyed, and a nice sci-fi mystery. It was a good idea to focus on Counselor Troi at this point in Next Gen‘s history, as she began stepping into more of a leadership role among the Enterprise’s command structure.
Friends with the Sparrows, by Christopher L. Bennett — The classic Next Gen episode “Darmok” introduced us to the Children of Tama, a race of aliens who speak only in metaphor. With this story, Mr. Bennett really dives into many of the fascinating questions that a consideration of that episode would bring: How do the Tamarians teach their vocabulary to their children? How do they communicate technical information? How do they convey to one another the full stories behind their myths in the first place? It’s hard to avoid asking those questions after having watched “Darmok” a few times, and I was tickled by Mr. Bennett’s attempts to provide answers and flesh out Tamarian culture. This story also focuses on Data’s struggles with his emotion chip (from Star Trek: Generations). That aspect of the story is a quite a leap beyond what we saw of Data in that film, but nonetheless works when you consider how many more challenges Data must have had to struggle with (beyond what we saw in Generations) in terms of adjusting to his newfound emotions. (I should also mention that this story contains the best line in the entire collection: “Mirab-his-sails-unfurled factor what, sir?” Brilliant.)
Suicide Note, by Geoff Trowbridge — After the Federation’s alliance with the Romulan Empire (to fight against the Dominion, as depicted in the later seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Captain Picard is finally in a position to fulfill a promise made long before. In the excellent third-season episode “The Defector” (one of the first scripts by Ronald D. Moore), Romulan Admiral Jarok defects to the Federation in an effort to prevent the outbreak of war. When he discovers that he … [continued]
2007 was, believe it or not, the TWENTIETH anniversary of the launch of the very first Star Trek spin-off, Star Trek: The Next Generation. The pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” is terribly clunky when looked at today, but as a kid watching that very first episode I was blown away, and hooked for life.
During 2007, Pocket Books released a number of great novels celebrating Next Gen‘s 20th anniversary, but one that I missed was a short-story anthology called The Sky’s The Limit. I’m glad that I have remedied my oversight, because this collection is a delight. The fourteen stories are presented chronologically, spanning the years between a time immediately before “Encounter at Farpoint,” and the time immediately after the last Next Gen feature film, Star Trek: Nemesis.
Meet with Triumph and Disaster, by Michael Schuster & Steve Mollmann — As Starfleet prepares for the launch of the Enterprise-D, the man who supervised her construction, Captain Thomas Halloway, is faced with a momentous choice. One of the shortest stories in the collection, it’s a great introduction to the era of Next Gen, and a delightful fleshing out of a man only glimpsed very briefly in one episode.
Acts of Compassion, by Dayton ward & Kevin Dilmore — Beverly Crusher and Tasha Yar are tasked with seeing to the safe return of three Starfleet Officers who were captured in Cardassian territory. Needless to say, the mission hits a few bumps along the way. I was glad to see that Tasha was not ignored by the authors contributing to this anthology, and I really enjoyed this glimpse at the relationship between these two women. I can’t think of any first-season episodes that gave us much information about how Tasha and Beverly interacted, but Ward & Dilmore do a great job in conveying the very different ways that these two officers viewed the world.
Redshift, by Richard C. White — Set during Next Gen‘s second season, this story focuses on the early days aboard the Enterprise of new Chief Medical Officer Dr. Katherine Pulaski. Pulaski was an interesting character who, I feel, was done a disservice by the writers when she vanished off the show at the end of that season. It’s nice to see her character fleshed out here, and White creates a crackling adventure scenario that keeps the story moving.
Among the Clouds, by Scott Pearson –A mishap in the lower stratosphere of a Jovian planet sends Geordi LaForge plummeting down through the clouds of ammonia ice to his certain death. The story moves at a rapid pace, bouncing back and forth between the events that lead to Geordi’s situation and … [continued]
Earlier this year I wrote about The Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I. Michael Nichols was a fan of Star Wars who, like sane people world-wide, was tremendously disappointed with Episode I when it was released in 1999. While the rest of us just whined to our friends, Mr. Nichols set out to see if some thoughtful re-editing of the material could shape a more successful film out of Episode I’s lengthy, bloated run-time. As I discussed at length in my review, in my opinion Mr. Nichols succeeded wildly. On the one hand, the film is still Episode I, and there’s only so much one can do with that story that, really didn’t need to be told. On the other hand, by skillfully tightening up scenes, removing large swaths of dull and useless exposition, and cutting down much of the juvenile humor, Nichols was able to craft a much more dynamic narrative from the film.
When I read that he had also taken a pass at Episode II, I was ecstatic. I was able to get my hands on his fan-edit last month, and as with his Phantom Edit of Episode I, I enjoyed it thoroughly!
Once again, Mr. Nichols demonstrates how a small trim (by removing just one line of dialogue) can really change the feeling of a scene for the better. Let me give two examples. In the opening sequence, after Amidala lands her ship on Coruscant, her bodyguard Captain Typho jogs up to her and says “We made it. I guess I was wrong, there was no danger after all.” Then, of course, Amidala’s ship explodes. Typho’s dumb line takes all the air out of the scene — instead of it being a SHOCK when Amidala’s ship is destroyed, the audience is primed for something bad to happen by Typho’s ridiculous declaration. So Nichols just snips out Typho’s line. The queen lands her ship, steps onto the platform, and then BOOM. Much more exciting moment. Example number two takes place soon after, when Amidala enters Chancellor Palpatine’s office. Yoda gives her a creepy greeting: “Seeing you alive brings warm feelings to my heart.” OK, ew. That bizarre line slams that scene to a halt, in my mind, as the audience tries to not think about what else of Yoda’s is warmed by seeing Natalie Portman. So Nichols eliminates the line. Amidala enters, and gets right down to business. Much better.
As in his cut of Episode I, Nichols also removes most of the more juvenile and dumbed-down elements of the story. Do you remember, with pain, all of the ridiculousness of C-3PO getting his head placed on the body of … [continued]
Was I too gentle on the staggeringly mediocre Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in my review of the film on Friday?
After reading this extraordinary evisceration of the movie, every single point of which I agree with, I am beginning to think I was! If you’ve seen the movie, you MUST follow that link. It is hilarious.… [continued]
I was pretty forgiving when I saw Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie in theatres for the first time, two summers ago. Sure, it had its flaws, but nevertheless it was just an enormous amount of fun to see a live-action Transformers movie realized, complete with amazing over-the-top Michael Bay-style mayhem.
Even through my enjoyment, though, it was clear to me that this wouldn’t be a movie that would hold up well upon subsequent viewings. (And, indeed, when I watched Transformers on DVD last year I was much less captivated that I had been that first time seeing it on the big screen.) I immediately began to think of Michael Bay’s Transformers as a movie just like Independence Day — a sci-fi action spectacle that was a TON of fun to see in a packed theatre on an enormous screen, but one that would be hobbled, upon repeat viewings, by the simplicity (and often-times stupidity) of its script.
So what did I think of the recently-released sequel, Revenge of the Fallen? Well, to an astonishing degree, it has exactly the same strengths and weaknesses that the first film had.
As in the first film, Bay’s ability to stage enormously complex, epic action sequences filled with intense, visceral robot-on-robot combat is pretty jaw-dropping. These movies look EXPENSIVE. There’s no trickery used to hide a limited effects budget. No, what we get are wall-to-wall chases, explosions, exotic locales, and a staggering array of CGI characters (mostly beating the stuffing out of one another).
Also as in the first film, sadly, there is a lot of annoying, unfunny attempts at comedy that feels like time-wasting to me. And, as in the first film, I was constantly frustrated by the movie’s unwillingness to allow us to get to know any of the robot characters other than Prime and Bumblebee to any sort of degree. There are an ENORMOUS number of robots in these films — and it’s a strength of Bay’s that he is unafraid to think BIG — but it’s a terrible shame that I couldn’t tell most of them apart from one another, and even if I could, I didn’t get a chance to know or care about any of them one whit.
Let’s flesh out the above statements a little bit. (Some minor spoilers ahead.)
There were definitely a lot of things I liked about Revenge of the Fallen. There were so many robots of so many different shapes and sizes, that it was a lot of fun to keep seeing what new robot would be in the next scene. I particularly enjoyed getting to see Soundwave this time (who was utilized very well by the story, by the way — … [continued]
The Color Purple, released in 1985, finds director Steven Spielberg at an interesting point in his career. After having directed the first two Indiana Jones films as well at E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial in the early eighties, Spielberg apparently had a desire to move towards more weighty, dramatic material. But his “serious” films of the late eighties (The Color Purple, along with Empire of the Sun and Always) didn’t meet with an enormous amount of critical acclaim (compared to his successes in the nineties with films such as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan). But, in college, I decided I wanted to take a look at those “middle period” Spielberg films, and I was quite pleasantly surprised by their quality. It’s been a while since I’ve last seen those films, though, so when I spotted The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun in the discount DVD bin at my local Newbury Comics, I snatched them both up.
I haven’t had a chance to get to Empire of the Sun yet, but my wife and I watched The Color Purple last month. It wasn’t quite as good as I had remembered it, but I still think it’s a better film than people tend to think.
Adapted from the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple tells the life story of an African American woman, Celie. Growing up in turn-of-the-century Georgia, the poor girl struggles through hardship after hardship. She is raped by her father as a young girl, and gives birth to two children who he takes from her. She is married off to a cruel local farmer (Danny Glover), who beats her and forcibly separates her from her beloved sister, Nettie. Later in life she forms an unexpected friendship with her husband’s mistress, the vivacious singer Shug Avery (Margaret Avery), who sets Celie on a path towards finally coming out of her shell and finding some happiness for herself.
The Color Purple is notable for some terrific performances from some well-known actors who, looking back on the film now, are unbelievably young here. Whoopie Goldberg, in one of her very first screen appearances, plays Celie, and she is fantastic — soulful and full of life, even though she has very little dialogue in the film. Whoopie is a talented comedian, but I have found that I’ve always preferred her in straight dramatic roles, and this is no exception. Danny Glover doesn’t often play the “bad guy” in films, but he does a great job here as the monstrous Albert. He cuts quite a menacing figure. Oprah Winfrey appears, also in one of her first screen appearances, as the vivacious and strong-willed Sofia. Her performance is … [continued]