- HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
- I mentioned this film in passing a few months ago, focusing how effective the use of 3-D was. This does the film a disservice, especailly as I have found out that it holds up quite well in a two dimensional high definition presentation. I can't deny that the 3-D element was used so well that the film does lose something without it, but like Up, it tells a good story without relying on the 3-D effect as a gimmick.
How To Train Your Dragon manages to be more than just another "boy and his pet" story by creating a fun cast of characters, a colorful setting and interesting social complications for the hero. There is also the novelty of the dragons themselves, which along with the breezy pace of the film allows its first two acts to effortlessly invest the audience in preparation for its extremely intense final act. Indeed, the climax of the film has certain consequences which are quite suprising in this genre. John Powell's score has quickly become a fan favorite and it is easy to hear why: it is a chock full of delicious themes and motives for Vikings, dragons, Valkyrie maidens and epic conflicts and bristling with invested emotion. Powell's name is quickly becoming a reason to look forward to an upcoing project.
This is one of the few films I would say probably would justify viewing on a 3-D monitor, but on the whole I don't find the format to justify the cost or inconvienience at present.
- I'd not seen the original version of Revolution, and this film's reputation made it pretty low on my list of priorities for most of my life. I did, however, reprioritize the film once I heard John Corigliano's music score, which had a profound effect on me. This album represented everything I like about music in general and film music in particular, the drama, the intellect, the emotion.
The film itself had undergone some revision since its original theatrical release, the most significant of which is the addition of a narration newly-recorded by Al Pacino. Watching the film, I often began to wonder how I would possibly have been able to follow the film without it, and I can understand its failure in its original form. Tom (Pacino) is by design not a very verbose character, and I can see how the original version of the film would have been very distancing. The narration turns the film into an constant internal monologue, with Tom often reflecting on his own difficulties expressing himself. Most importantly, it fills in important backstory to allow us to understand who this person is and what the full impact of all of this is upon him. As with Apocalypse Now, this internal monologue goes a long way to bringing the grand scale of the events on display down to human proportions.
Even more interesting is that Hugh Hudson's documentary-style approach to the battle scenes were very much ahead of their time. Bernard Lutic's otherwise rather stately cinematography was shot in Super 35 and makes the best use of the inherent grain and color desaturation that process entailed (especially at the time) and the resulting footage is almost stylistically indistinguishable from a modern battle scene. Furthermore, the use of Corigliano's music is excellent (even if it is a bit low in the sound mix), often offering a brilliant psychological counterpoint to the on-screen action.
I don't think this is a masterpiece, but it is definitely an interesting film, an interesting historical perspective and a fine performance from Pacino.
- In general, I tend to find religious stories something of a drag, but I've always found this film to be an interesting "what if" that is still quite shocking today, although for different reasons than when it was released. One of the strengths of William Friedkin's approach is how relatively grounded it is; the central characters are all established very solidly as people who live in the real world (save, perhaps, Regan herself [Linda Blair], whose portrayal previous to her possession is rather idealized), and so their supernatural ordeal is that much more vivid when it arrives.
Of the two cuts of this film, my preference is for the original 1973 assembly. While I do like some of the additions that Friedkin added to the film to made it conform better to writer William Peter Blatty's original vision, I found his subliminal inserts, jerk-cutting and omnipresent digital Pazuzus to be a cheap attempt to "spruce it up" and unworthy of the maturity of the film's tone.
Thankfully, both the "Extended Director's Cut" (which would actually be more accurately called "The Writer's Cut," more so than its 2000 title "The Version You've Never Seen," which would only apply until you've seen the new version) and the original theatrical version are available on separate platters with an identical picture transfer but different soundtracks. The original cut has the basic 5.1 remix that was on the original DVD release (which is perfectly servicable and benefits significantly from the lossless presentation) while the 2000 cut has a much more powerful 6.1 mix which is well worth checking out. Friedkin's wacky requests to remove all color saturation on The French Connection thankfully haven't been replicated here; the movie has a strong color palette but hasn't been overly-scrubbed either; there is a certain amount of endemic grain throughout the film. It looks very much like the print I saw in 2000.