Saturday, March 31, 2012


Apparently it's been out for awhile and I just hadn't paid attention, but the "Director's Cut" of Kate & Leopold is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

You response to this news is likely, "Wait.  What?  Huh?"  It's an understandable response, since you likely don't remember this Meg Ryan/Hugh Jackman time-travelling romcom in the first place, and even if you do, you would find it hard to believe that the world needed an alternate version.  It was directed by unambitious studio-approved auteur wannabe James Mangold, whose movies can invariably be described as adequate.

But apparently he has enough pull to issue his own version of...a Meg Ryan romcom.  I mean, look, I'm sorry, as these things go, Kate & Leopold is on the high end of the scale--based on the five minutes of it I saw on cable once--but let's not get carried away.  This isn't Diego Rivera vs. Rockefeller.  This isn't a masterpiece destroyed by philistines.  This is a piece of studio product that its director inexplicably confused with art.  We didn't need Mangold's, um, vision brought to us in full strength.

As compromised as they may be, I generally believe the released version of a movie should be the definitive version.  Yeah, Walter Murch thought he was doing the world a favor by recutting Touch Of Evil to a version closer to Orson Welles' wishes...but however heavy-handed some of the studio-imposed aspects may be, it was that original version that critics have known and loved for years.  And Francis Coppola can claim all he wants that the Apocalypse Now Redux cut is what he originally intended--though I'm pretty sure he's lying through his teeth--but it's not the movie he originally released, not the movie I saw and loved back in '79. 

Sometimes a recut version isn't a bad idea--the studio really did butcher David Lean's original cut of Lawrence Of Arabia after the film had gone into release, so his altered version of it thirty years after the fact was an attempt to put back what was originally there--but generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of changing film history after the fact.  Maybe the version we have isn't all that it could have been.  But it's what we've got.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Finally got around to seeingJohn Carter, and hey, it's really terrific.  In particular, the visuals are way more ambitious and unusual than anything that had been shown in the previews, which gave absolutely no sense of its epic scale or its sly wit.

Recent stories in both The New York Times and New York magazine have the Disney marketeers blaming director Andrew Stanton himself for the lackluster ad campaign, but that feels like finger pointing from studio lackeys who failed to do their job.  How hard could it have been to sell an adventure picture based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel?  American International Pictures knew how to do that sort of thing back in the seventies.  True, John Carter doesn't actually feature an exploding lizard--and is poorer for it, I must admit--but it should have been easy to put together a trailer featuring some exciting highlights.  Because, let's face it, this makes At The Earth's Core look like a ton of fun.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


The weekend isn't even over, but people who do such things for a living are already proclaiming the massively expensive new science fiction epic John Carter a flop.  This failure has nothing to do with the quality of the movie itself and almost everything to do with its incredibly incompetent marketing campaign.

Really, though, when was the last time the trailer for a movie made you want to see it?  If you're predisposed to see, I dunno, a Sandra Bullock romcom or a hyperactive action movie starring a bunch of real-life Navy Seals, well, the ad campaigns for such movies pretty much let you know they exist.  But they won't make you feel like you must see it, like this movie might be the most important thing in the whole world.

People don't go to the movies as often as they once did. The batch of Oscar nominees this year were all box office underperformers.  Not surprising, since even the good ones were sold in a safe, respectable manner.  Maybe if the ads for War Horse had managed to work in the phrase "A Rebellion of HUMAN GARBAGE" more people would've shown up in theaters.