Reviews: Pan's Labyrinth, Dreamgirls, Children of Men (All Snubbed!)

I've been meaning to write about a few films that I feel got a big fat snub at last year's Oscars, even though they were each wonderfully made. All of these films are out on DVD now, I highly recommend each one.

Pan's Labyrinth

I just got this on DVD, I absolutely loved it when I saw it at theater. I kept thinking about it and telling people about it days after I saw it. It's magical, scary, beautiful and brutal all at once. Watching it again I couldn't help but think about "Labyrinth", the Jim Henson production from the 80's. I loved those kind of movies and to me Pan's felt like a grown up version of those Henson fantasy stories. And I'm serious, this one is not for the kiddies. Pan's Labyrinth is for the adults who are still kids at heart.


My wife had wanted to see this when it came out, but I wasn't crazy about going; traditionally I don't enjoy musicals, at all. But she had made me watch Chicago which turned out to be pretty good so I trusted her on this one, besides the early buzz on Dreamgirls was very good. It was surprisingly good; I even believed, for 2 hours, that Beyonce Knowles could act. I fear it might not be as impressive on the small screen but it is a great film regardless. Maybe I'll cave in to my wife's wishes after all and watch Moulin Rouge! with her next.

Children of Men

I just got this one on DVD also. If you are a film geek, you have to see this one simply for the cinematography. My jaw was on the floor during every single action sequence. Read this if you want to know more about how the film crew created some of the most breathtaking chase and combat scenes I've ever seen on film. And on top of the longs takes and flawlessly blended effects, you have a great plot and strong characters inhabiting a frighteningly realistic setting. One of my favorite releases of last year, go rent it now.


Are you there George? It's me, Vader

Dear Mr. Lucas,
I recently read a post on Fan Pop concerning the proper order in which one should view all of the Star Wars films. The traditional argument is usually between two different approaches: The viewer watches episodes I-VI in numerical order as you claim you originally conceived and intended. Or the films can be viewed in the chronology of IV, V & VI followed by I, II & III, the same order the stories were so dramatically rescued from your brilliantly cluttered brain to the open arms of the public. Some purists would argue that only episodes IV, V & VI are worth watching. At the same time other purists would claim that not only should the newer films be included but also the Clone Wars animated series... and the Ewok movies... and the Star Wars Holiday Special. Today, let's simply deal with how the six feature length episodes should be viewed.
To begin, whether or a potential viewer has ever seen a Star Wars film drastically affects what order the films should be viewed. Some would say that one who has never seen Star Wars is a perfect candidate to start with Episode I and watch it the way you intended. I would say rubbish, and remind that idiot of all of the great surprises and twists from the original trilogy that would be ruined by watching the prequels first (You're just wrong George!). However if one watches the original trilogy first, then the prequel trilogy the viewer is faced with ending their experience with lower quality films, boring side narratives, and one huge downer of an ending. Can this conundrum ever be solved?
Personally my favorite was the suggestion of watching Episode IV & V, then shift gears and watch I, II & III as simply a really long flashback, THEN watch VI to tie it all together. I Think this format works best both for fans and for those new to the saga, but that's just my opinion. They're your movies George, you can tell people how to watch them all you want, they just don't have to listen.


P.S. In honor of all of the hoopla on the web in regards to the 30th anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars, here's something I found to be entertaining; a look at Anakin/Darth Vader's psyche from a medical perspective.


Spidey = emo kid?

"Spider-Man 3" came out last Friday, and I had a feeling it was going to be record-breaking even at that point, before the box office figures came in Monday morning. We were there for the 9:30 show, and we were actually being seated by ushers, asking how many people we had in our group (we had six). We ended up sitting in the fourth row, a little too close for comfort.

I think it was pretty good. A little silly at some points, but that's okay for a comic-based film. Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker showed a new side-- wild and fun-loving at first, but breeding into something a little more sinister, eventually. I loved how Peter Parker's "dark side" looked suspiciously like the lead singers of many of today's whiny punk bands. Black eyeliner and all.

The biggest complaints I am hearing are about the villains; too many, and Venom was butchered. I think it can be agreed James Franco's character was a must, to wrap up that ongoing story. So, Sandman or Venom? I think Sandman was better created, but the filmmakers knew fans wanted to see Venom come into the films. Maybe it would have been best to wait.

Topher Grace plays a great smarmy Eddie Brock, rival photographer to Peter Parker (and determined to "catch Spider-Man with his hand in the cookie jar"), but he can't pull off how menacing Venom is meant to be. He's not big enough, and I can't picture VENOM still having the voice of Grace. Shouldn't he sound as demonic as he looks?

Mary Jane is given a lot of exposure in this film, showing a couple more facets to her character. She too has her own life, and doesn't ENTIRELY exist to be rescued again and again by Spider-Man. I know a lot of people don't think Dunst was the best choice for the role, but I think she does well, especially in this third installment.

The film's theme of facing your own dark side is conhesive with previous films' idea of "with great power comes great responsibilty." I appreciated the duality of the red and black suits, and thought Maguire did well pulling off both personalities.

The movie runs 2:20, probably due to cramming so much in, so go see it earlier than I did.