Minority Report


Viewed – 16 May 2010  Blu-ray

Steven Spielberg’s return to futuristic sci-fi after the luke warm A.I. Artificial Intelligence is probably one of his more underrated movies.  Whatever your opinion of Tom Cruise post scientology madness, he remains one of the most bankable Hollywood stars and teaming for the first time with the most celebrated director of all time will certainly grab an audiences attention.  Cruise plays a Police Officer in the experimental Pre-Crime division where technology and the unique skills of three psychics allow the prediction of violent crimes before they happen, enabling the perpetrator to be arrested before he or she can act.  Naturally this form of law enforcement has its army of ethical doubters, with Cruise’s character also at times troubled by its supposedly perfect system but propelled to believe in it following his own son’s kidnapping.  Yet whatever doubts he may have are soon answered when he becomes a target, and soon he is on the run and must somehow prove his own innocence.

Spielberg’s movie, based like Blade Runner, Total Recall and many other movies on a story by renowned science fiction author Philip K Dick, is an intelligence anti-blockbuster, that although filled with a stunningly imaginative vision of the future and bursts of breath-taking action, spends much of its time in a complex plot, with a bevy of wierd and unusual characters held together by Spielberg’s expert direction and some stand out performances.  Cruise is seriously on form along with a scene stealing Samantha Morton as one of the three psychics at the heart of Pre-crime.  Max Von Sydow also lends commendable presence to proceedings as Cruise’s ageing Boss, and along with stunning cinematography and an exaggerated soft-focus style with overblown whites and a muted colour palette this is as unique to look at as Philip K Dick’s story is to take in and absorb. 

Watching it eight years after initial release, Minority Report remains a rewarding  experience, even if some of the action feels a little stilted and awkward (especially the alleyway fight with the flying cops) and its overwhelming world is a little hard to get into for the first hour, until the plot reveals itself.  Yet these are small gripes to what is otherwise a thought-provoking and well made piece of science fiction.  One I recommend you check out.

The Blu-ray can’t really be faulted, although as mentioned above its use of subdued colours, overblown contrast and soft focus may mean it doesn’t jump out and shout high-def like say, Avatar does but the brilliant cinematography and fine detail still makes it a showcase title in my opinion.  In DTS HD Master Audio this is brash & loud when it matters and full of little details to completely absorb the viewer.  Extras-wise we have a wealth of extras, including concept art, interviews and behind the scenes all thrown together in ‘The Future According To Spielberg’ bonus-view section that brilliantly copies the movie’s style to present its content.  A must-own Blu-ray.

Verdict:  4 /5

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


Viewed – 11 June 2008  Cinema

How long has this taken to arrive?  I was just a young teenager when the supposedly ‘Last Crusade’ reached the cinema.  Perhaps it was with the success of the recent Star Wars prequels that made George Lucas & Steven Spielberg choose to resurrect a franchise that for some, seemed dead in the water.  I must say though first off – how pleased I am that they did!

Of course I had my doubts – Harrison Ford is no longer the Hollywood heart throb he once was (kind of), and he’s no spring chicken either, but even though at first I though Indi looked in need of a zimmer-frame, I should not have worried as swept up I was in the quest to return a sacred crystal skull back to its rightful place and keep it out of the hands of ruthless KGB agents (headed by a very camp Cate Blanchett).  Along for the ride is the wise choice of latest hot-property Shia LaBeouf, who impressed me both in the Transformers movie and Disturbia – and thankfully is not playing the same nerdy idiot he was almost becoming typecast as, but has a quality of James Dean here, even if his own comedy talent overshadows such possibilities.

Action-wise we are treated to bike chases, explosions, shoot outs and even a nuclear bomb in one of the films best gags.  Yet for me the overly comical script seemed layed on a little too thick, causing the film to fall into the territory of farce, and whether or not it was intentional, some scenes look set on a made up stage than say the big budget locations of past films (even the opening and closing credits look like they’re off a cheap Saturday afternoon adventure flick).  But saying all that, there is enough excitement, great lines and likable characters to keep things running along, and yes – it at times gets very silly indeed…but hey, what were you expecting?  Doing a new Indiana Jones was always a dodgy idea – so perhaps the comic-book approach Lucas & Spielberg have taken has proved to be the best thing in the end.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Kubrick Project: Part One


Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be exploring the movies of highly acclaimed cinematic visionary, Stanley Kubrick, following the recent release of his box-set and special editions of 5 of his most talked about movies. 

This will include details (and opinions) on the extra features and screen captures of each film. 

2001: A Space Odyssey  (1968)

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I had never seen this film until recently, and had heard much about it, how it had influenced countless films such as Star Wars, and was ground breaking in its visual effects.  Having now sat though this gently paced ‘space opera’ I can see where many fans and critics were coming from – this is still one of the most eye-catching and visually hypnotic films I have ever seen.  How some of the sequences were pulled off, when at the time computer-generated effects were in their infancy, boggles the mind – but even by todays standards, this still amazes.

What story there is (and believe me, the story is only a small part of the appeal here) revolves around a foreboding, black seemingly-alien obelisk first revealed millions of years in the past at the dawn of man, which somehow influences the next part of evolution among a group of apes.  Cut to the future and outer space where we join a space expedition to Jupiter.  This moment also treats the viewer to one of the most mesmeric sequences in cinematic history as space ships, astronauts and classical music are woven together in the most beautiful and enchanting way I could have ever imagined.  Now so not to spoil things I wont go into too much detail, but I’ll just say that much of the plot revolves around a ship’s computer named Hal that begins to malfunction, threatening the crew on board.  Now since this film was released, such an idea has been done countless times – but probably not as well as here, as 2001’s slow burning, perhaps dragging pace certainly creates a feeling of unease and dread, that adds endlessly to the rather simple story.  I hate to think how it might have been if the pace was moved up a few notches.

Now to give an opinion on 2001, as with much of Stanley Kubrick’s work is really hard as it doesn’t play like any other movie, and much mystery, with subtle hints to its meaning with no real answers, and the ending, although uplifting and rather brilliant, is also strange and creepy.  Still, this is still a bench mark in motion picture history, and in that respect alone, despite it not being to a modern-movie fans usual taste – truly deserves the legacy its achieved.  I enjoyed it more than expected.  Thats not to say everyone would.

 

The two DVD set just released (3 March 2008 in UK) also available as part of a new box set, is jam-packed with documentaries, interviews with cast and other film makers (most notably George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron), as well as a commentary by actors Keir Dullea & Gary Lockwood.    This all shapes up to be a worthy salute to an admired classic of cinema, and proves very informative and fascinating throughout – with some appreciated archive footage. 

The film itself is presented digitally-remastered in anamorphic widescreen with 2.20:1 ratio and the picture is sharp, despite showing some grain in places – still, it comes over as a treat for the eyes regardless of age.  Sound wise its in 5.1 and is another treat for the ears, especially during the classical music sequences.

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