Having had to go into the office on Saturday, I was more interested in watching a few films than writing about them today, so the various review blogs are all looking a bit sparse this weekend. Things will probably stay that way for a week or two as I try and juggle a major project deliverable at work with trying to get the shinydiscs.com web site prepped ready to launch at the end of May.
Fortunately, I don't feel too bad about the absence of new shiny disc material because it gives me the chance to point you to a rather excellent piece I read today about the great 'double-dip' rip-off the companies seem to be getting more and more into. Check out this excellent entry over on the Blowing my thoughtwad blog, which talks, far more eloquently than I could, about the whole situation, and has been inspired by the great Sony rip-off that is the Spider-Man 2.1DVD, which is being released in stores tomorrow.
However, I don't feel totally let off the hook by pointing you to a good blog entry, so here are a few quick thoughts on the three films I ended up seeing today....
Thanks to Brian Sibley the day started off with a free preview screening of The Bridge to Terabithia. Not a film I'd normally have gone to see, this is being marketed as a kid's fantasy epic along the lines of the Narnia movie. Understandably, some of those who took very young children along to see it over in the States (and there were a LOT of very young kids at the preview screening this morning), have got rather angry about the real nature of the film over on imdb. The main cause of ire is the fact that the trailer is apparently misleading and the Disney involvement has mislead parents who haven't done their research as to the exact nature of the film. It's hard to see how the film COULD be marketed without giving the game away (which would somewhat ruin the rather powerful impact) or dramatically reducing the box office. Suffice to say, it is far more adult-oriented fare than the posters might lead you to believe, although I should also add that all the kids at this mornings preview remained seated and quiet throughout, so kids can get something from the movie too. The FX and fantasy elements are actually a very small part of the film, and it's all the stronger for being more reality-based and far more subtle than the usual family-oriented fare that tends to be advertised in the same sort of way. A couple of reviews on imdb have called the film 'Pan's Labyrinth for younger viewers' which is probably the best description you can give it without giving the game away. About three quarters of the way into the film, what has been a generally 'run of the mill' family film suddenly throws an unexpected sharp left turn that turns it into something very unexpected. It's a brave film, that doesn't take the easy route out and assumes intelligence on the part of its audience, delivering an emotional and uncompromising ending that won't be to all tastes. There were some fundamental flaws in terms of the ages of the main child characters and what appeared to be re-shoots with key cast members missing, but overall I thought it was an excellent film! I hope reviewers don't spoil the film for would-be viewers who don't already know the story from the book, because it's rare you get as dramatic a surprise and punch to the gut in family-oriented fare as you do three quarters through this one. Powerful stuff that will get weakened if mean critics give the details away.
After brunch in the sun with Brian and David I returned home to watch the old 1960 classic The Apartment, which I've never seen before but which rightly won several academy awards. The print appears to be in pretty good shape, but the transfer has a LOT of artefacts all over it (every single horizontal line shimmers and shakes in a distracting fashion throughout the whole thing). But at a price of under £7 for the DVD (no extra's!) I can't really complain. Jack Lemmon was absolutely superb in it, and the dialogue was crisp and intelligent, as one has come to expect from anything with Billy Wilder's name on it. Definitely worth the two hour viewing!
I followed the black and white DVD of The Apartment with the HD-DVD of The Architect, a 'made for TV' movie starring Anthony LaPaglia based on a Scottish play written by David Grieg. The Architect is interesting because it has been largely rewritten for the American marketplace, relocating the Glasgow sink estate at its core to Chicago. The film was simultaneously released in theatres and on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disc at the end of last year. Shot in 20 days on high-definition camera's, with a budget of under $1 million, the reviewer over at the normally reliable highdefdigest.com (an excellent review site) slated the film itself, whilst praising the picture quality, and so this has sat near the bottom of the 'to be watched' pile for several weeks. My bad, because I really enjoyed it. The HighDefDidgest review (which you can read here) is actually accurate in many ways, but I disagree with the overall rating the reviewer's given the film and his argument that the situation between various members of the main dysfunctional family are never resolved. It's certainly worth a look if you like art house 'character' pieces with a strong social subtext.