Saturday, May 24, 2008

I re-watched the first three Indiana Jones films. They're still great fun, and I find that my overall ratings of them haven't changed at all.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - 4.5 out of 5 stars
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - 4 out of 5 stars
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 3.5 out of 5 stars

That's right, I rate Temple of Doom higher than Last Crusade. Temple of Doom is the underrated film in the series. It's not quite as good as Raiders, but in many ways it's the truest to the spirit of the old movie serials that inspired the Indiana Jones series in the first place. Those serials were basically exploitation films, and Temple of Doom gets that in a big way.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The second film based on C.S. Lewis's series of novels isn't as smoothly realized as its predecessor, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it still offers a good amount of entertainment value.

The four English children (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) who became rulers of Narnia in the previous film are called back after 1,300 years have passed there to aid Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in overthrowing his evil uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), and restoring freedom to Narnia.

Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) once again proves capable of bringing the world of Narnia to life and his background in visual effects (he supervised the effects for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) still serves him well. However, his sense of pacing frequently deserts him this time around, delivering a film that wanders aimlessly at times and has abrupt scene transitions at others. Even though it's two hours and twenty minutes long, it feels like it was intended to be a much longer film but was reduced to a shorter running time. Editor Sim Evan-Jones (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) certainly deserves a share of the blame for the pacing problems.

Adamson and co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (both of whom worked on the previous film) make more changes to Lewis' novel than the last film did. The rivalry between Peter and Caspian, and the romance between Susan and Caspian, are unnecessary additions. The spectacle overtakes the story just a bit here in trying to make a bigger film. Still, it's a solid adaptation overall.

Cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub (Stargate, Independence Day), production designer Roger Ford (Babe, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), and costume designer Isis Mussenden (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) do a good job of building on the visual look of the previous film. It's still not quite up to the standards set by The Lord of the Rings, though. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) is suitable to the story. The visual effects are outstanding, and the CGI looks smoother and more realistic this time.

Henley, Keynes, Moseley, and Popplewell again bring the characters of the children to life quite convincingly. Barnes is slightly wooden as Caspian, but still adequate to the tasks at hand. Castellitto is convincing as the villain of the piece. I've always enjoyed the performances of actor Peter Dinklage (Threshold, Penelope), and it's no exception here where he plays Trumpkin the dwarf. Eddie Izzard is marvelous as the voice of Reepicheep the swashbuckling mouse. Liam Neeson's voice work as Aslan is again right on the money. Although not strictly faithful to the novel it's fun to see Tilda Swinton return as the White Witch for a cameo appearance.

The rest of the cast is solid across the board, including Pierfrancesco Favino as Miraz's military commander, Damián Alcázar as the scheming Lord Sopespian, Vincent Grass as Dr. Cornelius, Warwick Davis as Nikabrik the dwarf, and Ken Stott as the voice of Trufflehunter the badger.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has more flaws than its predecessor, but it's still an above average fantasy film that children and fans of the novel should enjoy. The third film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is in pre-production and may benefit from a different director in Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, The World Is Not Enough).

[3.5 out of 5 stars]

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The First Avenger: Captain America will be exactly what I hoped it would be: a period film set during World War II. Thank you, Marvel Studios! If you're going to tell the origin of Captain America, it has to be set in that time period.

Thor will be more of an epic fantasy film, set mostly in the realm of Asgard.

The Avengers now has a scheduled release date: July 1, 2011.

Marvel Studios is also developing a big screen adaptation of Runaways, with co-creator Brian K. Vaughan aboard as screenwriter. The only thing that could make it better is if they could get Joss Whedon aboard as director.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A new Highlander film is being developed. It won't be a sequel, though. It'll be a full reboot of the franchise. Considering how awful all the sequels were (proving that "there can only be one!" is true), a reboot isn't a bad idea. The film will be written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, most recently the co-writers of Iron Man.

Despite the recent Flash Gordon television series being a failure, producer Neal H. Moritz (Tru Calling, I Am Legend) and director Breck Eisner (Sahara) are developing a feature film based on Alex Raymond's creation (thankfully, it won't be based on the canceled television series). I say do it as a straight up retro space opera.

Is anyone else disappointed that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was renewed for a second season? I gave the show a second chance, but just couldn't get past how much it trashes the legacy of writer/director James Cameron and actress Linda Hamilton. Even the presence of Summer Glau wasn't enough to make it worthwhile for me.

In related news, Christian Bale was reportedly so pleased with the script for the currently in production Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins that he signed on to do two more films in the franchise. It's scheduled to be released on May 22, 2009. I'll see it just because Bale is playing John Connor, but the presence of McG (Charlie's Angels) as director has me concerned. McG is also an executive producer of television shows like Supernatural and Chuck, so sometimes he does know a good thing when he sees it. I'm just not sold on him as a director of good things (minus Chuck's pilot).

I finished re-watching Firefly last night. It's still brilliant and I still miss it. I'll watch Serenity tonight. Then my next project will be to re-watch the first three Indiana Jones films before I see the new one.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It was announced today that Russell T Davies is stepping down as Doctor Who showrunner in 2009. He'll be replaced by Steven Moffat, one of the best Who writers during Davies' tenure. I've enjoyed Davies' time as showrunner, so I'm pleased to hear that his successor is such a worthy one.

Moffat wrote "The Empty Child" (which introduced Captain Jack Harkness to the Whoniverse), "The Doctor Dances", "The Girl in the Fireplace", "Blink" (one of the best Who episodes ever), "Time Crash" (full of fanservice goodness), and the upcoming "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead". He's also writing the Tintin films that will be directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Suffice it to say, Moffat has great credentials.

Davies will stick around for the four specials next year (they're not doing a full season in 2009 to allow David Tennant time to star in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet), then Moffat will take over for the fifth season, set to air in 2010. It adds credence to rumors about how the current season will end to leave a clean slate for Moffat. Tennant is only confirmed to be in the four specials next year and nothing beyond that, so it's entirely possible that Davies' final special will end with a regeneration scene to really give Moffat a blank slate.

Davies will be forever remembered as the man who successfully revived Doctor Who after sixteen years off the air. He shepherded it through four seasons (2005-2008), four Christmas specials, two Children in Need mini-episodes, and the four specials airing in 2009. He also created successful spinoffs in Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. Although some fans love to complain about him, I think his tenure as showrunner ranks him among the best in Who history.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday. According to a Variety critic, "one of the most eagerly and long-awaited series follow-ups in screen history delivers the goods." Speaking after the premiere, executive producer/co-writer George Lucas said he has an idea for a fifth film with Shia LeBeouf's character in a more prominent role.

Lucas' next film is Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which will be released on August 15th and set up the Cartoon Network's series of the same name that will air later in the year. After the prequel trilogy, I don't know if I can stand to see Lucas do more Star Wars. The new Indy film is one thing because of the presence of Steven Spielberg, but Lucas on his own is another thing entirely.

Trufax: some people in fandom are completely insane when it comes to spoilers to the point where they freak out about things that aren't even actual spoilers.

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