Buyers Beware: The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition issues

If you’re thinking of purchasing Disney’s latest Diamond Edition of The Little Mermaid, you may wish to check out this video first. While the boosted contrast is arguably a visual improvement over its predecessor, the denouement of Ariel’s “Part of Your World” song has been unmistakably butchered by some sloppy editing. Head on over to the 3:02 mark on the video and notice that the clip of Ariel is flipped with Flounder’s reaction shot. Multiple sources have confirmed this is actually on the disc, it’s not an issue with this youtube video. An issue this heinous Disney will no doubt be issuing a recall, but you may wish to save the time and frustration of purchasing the disc just to go through the rigmarole of an exchange. There’s also a strange error at 3:38 with what looks like a screen tear in the top right of the screen, but that’s less significant (though no less serious) an issue.

UPDATE:

If the information on TheDisneyBlog.com is to be believed, Disney does not consider the egregious errors as a problem. From what I can determine, they will not be issuing a recall, however you can request for a corrected disc.

Per the blog:

“To get your replacement discs, contact Disney via phone or web: 800-723-4763 (U.S.), 888-877-2843 (Canada), http://www.disneystudioshelp.com/ContactUs

Disney will require you to provide your contact information for shipping purposes (name, address, ect) and then ask you a few questions such as where did you purchase the Blu-Ray set?, What is the UPC?, etc. If everything is in order, Disney will send a pre-paid envelope. All you need is to put the discs (2D Blu-Ray and the DVD) inside and mail it back. The replacement program is free. If you’ve downloaded a digital version, you may need to download a new version of that as well.”

So they have the fixed discs, just not the inclination to redistribute them. Just imagine the new generation of kids who will grow up always wondering why there’s a complete lack of synchronization on Ariel’s most emotionally intense moment in the film. What a hideous blemish on an otherwise stellar release of the film that marked the renaissance of Disney animation.

Of cabbages and twinkies: Listing listlessly through the IMDB list

Silence of the clams

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

–Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”

Today’s rant is not about a movie, but about a movie list.

I took an online quiz today. There was no wrong answer, only one question: “how many of the Top 250 movies on IMDB have you seen?”

After learning my score (212), I may have been tempted to say “I’ve got some watching to do”, but then, upon reflecting on some of the films included past the 100-film mark, I started doubting the reliability of IMDB users.

That the films are voted on by a community of users is important, and I’m not arguing otherwise. There is a value in the democratic election of films deemed worthy of watching. The problem is that we cannot ascertain what this list purports. Top 250 films ever made? Top 250 films to watch? Top 250 films most liked by a collection of anonymous users? In order to understand the ramifications of this list we must understand the purpose of this list. What are viewers really voting on when they make their ranking? The answer requires a small bit of unpacking,  Continue reading

Willy Wonka 40th Anniversary Gift Set on sale at Amazon (ended)

Hey kids, do you love candy? Yes? Well look kids, here’s FAKE CANDY!

Roald Dahl may have famously hated the film, and it may have died a quick death at the box office when it was first released in 1971, but thanks in no small part to frequent TV airings throughout the 80s and 90s many have grown to savour and admire the unique and often surreal charms of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

As a personal anecdote, I recall seeing the film on cable when I was 8, wondering why four grown-ups were all sleeping in the same bed and craving chocolate all the while.

This week Amazon has the 40th Anniversary edition of the film on sale at $24.99 (the lowest this box set has ever gone). Aside from scented pencils (“what will they think up next?”), the set includes, more interestingly, a 144 page film book apparently written by the director himself and 14 pages of production correspondence (it’s always fascinating to read studio executives drop in words like gobstopper and slughorn without a whiff of diffidence).

Check the set out on Amazon:

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

You can read an interesting overview of Dahl’s frustrations with this movie over at BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4660873.stm

Determining the Terminator Part 2: The Unity of Action

Alas, poor Yorick!

In my previous piece on Cameron I briefly analyzed his lapidary style, and his economy of cinematic language vis-à-vis The Terminator. In this next piece I will argue that Cameron’s innate skill as a storyteller extends beyond this solid grasp of plot and structure. Not only are the events in his films arranged in a sequence which amplifies and heightens dramatic tension and structural unity, but the events possess elements which necessitate their inclusion in the plot and which furthermore suggest no possible refinement to their structure. Cameron’s films ‘flow’, as it were, precisely because the content of each scene dictates the overall structure of the scenes. In other words, events unfold precisely as they do, for were it any other order the elaborate unity of his plots would be undone. Like the grand maestros Beethoven and Mozart long before, nary is a note out of place in Cameron’s pictures, but rather all flow melodically in their structural perfection. It’s a subtle and potent blend of content and structure–the one reinforcing and dictating the other and vice versa. Unlike, say, the inchoate musings of Terrence Malick, for which the director spends months arranging into a sufficient narrative structure, the scenes in Cameron’s films occur precisely in the order which the content dictates. There’s no shuffling allowed. Continue reading

Oliver Stone teases new “Alexander: The Ultimate Cut” due sometime in 2014

The Theatrical Cut of Alexander was tantalising; the Extended, sublime. To what heights will the Ultimate Cut ascend?

Note: In an interview with Variety this past June, Stone stated he’d cut 20 minutes from Alexander: Revisited (see the link below for more details), though was mum on the specifics. The San Sebastian Film Festival, however, lists the runtime of this new cut at 206, just 8 minutes shorter than the Extended Cut (AKA Alexander: Revisited). Stone has yet to specify whether he’s simply removed material or if he has shuffled things around by expanding some sections and reducing others.

https://twitter.com/TheOliverStone/status/380347645379637248

http://variety.com/2013/film/international/oliver-stone-insists-latest-cut-of-alexander-is-the-ultimate-version-1200502896/

Determining The Terminator: James Cameron’s Masterpiece Revisited

[Insert lame pun in faux Austrian accent here]

It’s nearly 30 years since Cameron shocked and thrilled the world with his harrowing tale of a time-travelling cyborg trying to erase humanity’s future, and while no one disputes the success or quality of Cameron’s film, few critics have attempted to discuss it with any sort of view towards arguing what makes it so successful (and I’m not just talking about the hundreds of millions it has raked in over the years).

Movie scholarship, likewise, seems almost embarrassed by The Terminator, if only because theoretical apparatus seem at a loss to explain its virtues. The film is undoubtedly a kinetic thrill ride than anything else. Scholars acknowledge, if only in passing, that the film is a hallmark of the science-fiction genre, but always with that unavoidable tinge of placation, as if they are required to state this axiom forced upon them from the realm of popular discourse. They acknowledge it precisely so that they don’t have to talk about it with any real sincerity. If scholars do, the discussion struggles for any substantial purchase on the film and invariably refers to its budget as if that were some secret to its success in popular culture—The Little Science-Fiction Film That Could.

Part of this impulse may be that academia has since the 20th century expressed a systemic reservation for engaging with work on an aesthetic level of any sort, or if it does, only by dressing up the statements with some contemptuous deferrals to popular culture. Films critics, meanwhile, have little, if anything substantial to add to the film’s perceived quality other than to affirm it does, in fact, unarguably and ipso facto possess quality. That academia struggles to approach the film with anything other than what can be described as a patronising tone while film critics seem content merely to celebrate what they describe as a compelling and engaging film strikes me as inhospitable to Cameron’s supreme accomplishment with this film. And the film critics, meanwhile, are quite happy to have an anti-theoretical film to champion. So scholarship on The Terminator remains in this double bind: critics and scholars can agree that the film is a masterpiece, but they’re all quite at a loss to explain why. So after thirty years we know what this film is, but not so much how or why it so successfully achieves this stature. My approach then is to consider what value we might gain by detailing the narrative machinery operating this film. Continue reading

The dog that won’t go down: Riddick film review

Spoiler-free!

Now is the summer of our discontent, made glorious slog by this son of Furya

“I don’t know how many times I’ve been crossed off the list and left for dead, so this ain’t nothing new,” Vin Diesel intones in his trademarked gravelly gravitas in what can only be the most succinct prolepsis of a character and a franchise ever provided. Odd that writer-director David Twohy would wish to announce his adherence to convention so forcefully and so quickly (these are the first lines of the film). Indeed, though Riddick quickly escapes his rocky tomb the film struggles to break new ground. Despite critical declarations, however, Riddick is not just a vapid retread of the original. If it only managed that I would have been quite content to write it off, but Twohy teases us with the prospects of a grander and more worthwhile film with his sublime opening act. Continue reading

Harry Potter Collection on sale (ended)

For that one person who hasn’t already purchased every single Harry Potter title at least twice, this deal might be for you:

The Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection is on sale for $155 today as part of Amazon’s Gold Box sale (Canadian residents take note of the dollar exchange…). Because I do enjoy a good savings, I hasten to remind readers the rather dispensable detail that today’s deal trims 70% off the regular price (consider it inordinate overselling of a gratuitous price). The box itself is a marvel, crafted I suspect by a prop master from the films, and is crammed full of goodies, like a cloth bound map of Hogwarts and a 48-page catalogue of the film props. At that price, I could imagine people purchasing it for the included Horcrux locket alone.  As for the films, they’re all there, even the 3D copies of the last two films (book 7). and the set contains every bonus feature yet produced for the Harry Potter universe and then some (though one heartily suspects Warner Brothers to keep trotting out Harry as its Trojan pony boy for some time).

Still not swayed? Might I add the dreary prospect of a certain festive holiday looming on the horizon?

Snippet film review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Despite being shoe-horned into the script, Benedict Cumberbatch‘s rendition of Khan is a performance to savour in Star Trek Into Darkness

I feature the image above because it typifies what J.J. Abrams captures best in his newest trek: impeccable lighting, chic cinematography, sleek mise-en-scene that condenses fifty years of futurist imagery into a single set, and heavy overtones of Kubrick’s seminal science-fiction film rounding out the design. And Cumberbatch stands alone. Giving his all to a thankless and underwritten role, Cumberbatch triumphs as the villain–despite the character being woefully underutilized in a cumbersome and bastardized blow-by-blow of Star Trek II.  It’s a pity then, with nearly half a decade at his disposal, Abrams couldn’t do more with this opportunity than to make a competent action film.

As a standalone action film Star Trek Into Darkness is thrilling, engaging, competently photographed and manufactured to move at a clip pace (if remaining uncomfortably derivative of its 2009 predecessor all the while). As anything other than a guilty pleasure though it’s problematic. Abrams guts the heart and mind out of the Enterprise and her crew to make room for warp chases, laser beams and fisticuffs. Characters and starships alike communicate only in truculent bursts; no small wonder then that the film struggles to amount to anything with all the destruction on screen. Though Abrams has made it quite clear he’s not interested in the ennobling philosophy underpinning Roddenberry‘s vision, by the time he crams in a presumably unintended homage to the climax of Speed one has to wonder where Abrams is boldly trying to go instead. Paramount’s release is notoriously dodgy to boot, with special features spread thin as multiple retailer exclusives.

Read more of my thoughts on this film, especially on the role of Khan in the script, over at my one-shot rant on the film:

And learn more about the situation with Paramount’s Blu-ray release: