Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

DVD review: More is less for ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian’

December 4, 2008

Some of the greatest movies ever made ran two hours or less. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian runs 2 1/2 hours — and it’s not one of the greatest movies ever made.

In fact, that’s due in part to the fact that it runs so long. Read what you will into C.S. Lewis’ mythology and its religious undercurrents, but this film is basically a fantasy-adventure at heart, and it’s tough to maintain the kind of soaring spirits to which Prince Caspian aspires for 150 minutes.

Instead, we’re too often left with action for the sake of action, and dialogue by charm-challenged lead players who look like Hogwarts wannabes, including Anna Popplewell, who seems to have been hired more for her gratingly cliched bee-stung lips (well, if they’re good enough for Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, etc.) than her acting chops. If movies know how to do one thing, it’s to exact a tyrannical standard of alleged beauty — and beat it to death.

The CG effects are masterful, and the film has a decided polish and sheen, but otherwise it’s an epic only in terms of pretensions, budget — and length. Face it: The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter carved out and cornered this market in recent years, and no matter how hard their competitors try, they too often feel more recycled than inspired.

On the upside, Prince Caspian does offer some diverting extras on its second DVD disc, including an 11-minute on-set visit with good ol’ Warwick Davis and three minutes of amusing bloopers, one of which shows little Georgie Henley, in a Potter-echoing opening scene, telling her cohorts, “You’ve gotta come quick — ly!”

Bless her heart, she knew she’d blown the line by failing to supply the proper adverb in the script — not that many people use adverbs anymore. But on set that gets a laugh, as do many pranks and pratfalls. This long and lumbering movie may have lacked levity, but its shoot, clearly, did not.

‘Beowulf’ goes for gory gusto

March 3, 2008

While Beowulf earned $195 million worldwide in theaters, it cost $150 million to make, so DVD and other sales down the line will have to bail it out financially. (Keep in mind that studios don’t take 100 per cent of box office dollars.) Part of the trouble may have been an identity crisis. The film was rated PG-13, but it was marketed with a so-called “red-band” trailer meant only for “restricted” audiences. Now on DVD from Paramount, it’s available in its original form as well as in an “unrated director’s cut” whose “more intense footage” skips the R and NC-17 entirely.

So, just how gory is it? Quite a lot — but in this case, director Robert Zemeckis is forgiven. That’s because his Beowulf exists in an artful middle ground between live-action and CG animation, so the gory gusto is distanced. And it doesn’t hurt that Beowulf — the tale of a hero who slays monsters but is staggered by his own weaknesses of the flesh — is sheer fantasy and pretends to be nothing else. In fact, if you loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you’ll find comparable elements of dazzling wonder — and melancholic woe — in Beowulf.

That’s not to mention a superb cast of actors (Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Ray Winstone, Robin Wright Penn) who are heard in all their glory while seen in CG reimagining. Cool headbands, too.

Beowulf may be a classic ancient poem rebooted for today’s moviegoers, but it retains a haunting sense of epic grandeur amid some of the wildest, bloodiest action (at least, in its unrated form) that you’ll find anywhere. It’s audacious, kick-butt and cathartic, but that’s not all this tragic yet rousing tale is about. Check it out and see — and don’t worry: There’s more than gore in store.