This Week in Movies & TV, March 5, 2013: Fighters and Survivors
Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993) is the true story of Austrian industrialist Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), pragmatist, war profiteer, and opportunist, willing to join the Nazi party to get ahead and to exploit Jews by taking part in the appropriating of homes and factories, and to take advantage of the impossible position of Jewish investors, but who, in the midst of the Holocaust, harbored Polish Jews during WWII by the very act of using them as slave workers, thereby saving 1,100 of them from certain death even though it eventually risked his own life and cost him the fortune he'd made off them.
The film - whose cinematography was by Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, ) in the beginning of a long-time collaboration with Spielberg - has been given an extensive digital restoration from the original 35mm film negative, supervised by Spielberg and the picture looks exceedingly good. Contrast is excellent so that the long black jackets of Hassidic Jews, Schindler's silk suits and swastika pin, and the Gestapo's uniforms and the blood they spill are all an inky black with Schindler's starched shirts a bleached white like the snow on the roofs of prisoners' barracks, with a broad range of beautiful, glistening greys in-between. The colorized red coat one little girl wears is subdued, almost unnoticeable at first making it even more startling when it does register.
Images are detailed so that type on the lists of Jews is crisp and readable. Patterns in herringbone coats are well defined and there's texture and a range of tones to faces - though one or two close-up shots lose clarity to harsh lighting, softness, uneven tones, or occasional excessive grain (which otherwise adds a nice film-like quality). Long shots of crowds always look dazzling, though, with volume and depth to compositions.
Surrounds are employed in immersive atmospherics of crowded train stations, concentration-camp construction, and the clearing of the Warsaw Ghetto - as well as in the noisy ballrooms and nightclubs where Schindler conducts business negotiation - while John Williams' minimal music is placed in the front channels, dialogue in the center. All are clear, open, and full in the restored 5.1-channel soundtrack. Subtle atmospherics and accurate effects pans of trams, trucks, and bassy running jackboots help to convincingly create the period and situations adding to the chilling atmosphere.
Schindler's List won seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director and also won Best Picture Awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, the National Board of Review, the Producers Guild, the Los Angeles Film Critics, the Chicago, Boston, and Dallas Film Critics, and the Golden Globe Awards. In addition, Spielberg was honored with the Directors Guild of America Award. The film also won Academy Awards for Screenplay, Cinematography, Music, Editing, and Art Direction. Schindler's List co-stars Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Embeth Davidtz, and Jonathan Sagalle.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: Voices From the List standard-def 77-minute documentary with interviews of Holocaust survivors and their descendants with Spielberg playing host, "USC Shoah Foundation Story" and "About IWitness" featurettes; DVD, UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Universal.
Wreck-It Ralph 3D
On the eve of arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr.'s 30th anniversary, hard-working, blue-collar character Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) yearns for something more, for love, or at least to be as popular as the titular hero of the game, Fix-It Felix, Jr. (Jack McBrayer) - despite Ralph being the game's bad guy. For decades Ralph was happy to be the destructive villain but now he longs to prove that he, too, can be a hero with a heart of gold.
So, of course, he sneaks into a new, violent, first-person shooter game, Hero's Duty, featuring hard-nosed Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch). All he wants is to get the medal that'll finally prove he's a hero, but, true to his nature, he's soon wrecking everything again. And in the process he accidentally hatches a Cy-Bug, unleashing the deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade since Cy-Bugs are capable of taking over any game they enter.
Fix-It Felix, Jr. malfunctions and is soon to be turned off, leaving Felix, Ralph, and the other characters without a home. Ralph ends up in the colorful, saccharine-coated world of Sugar Rush, a kart-racing game where he teams up with bratty but feisty misfit glitch Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who's also being ostracized, but she's able to help him battle the Cy-Bugs and save the day - like a true hero.
In Walt Disney Animation Studios 52nd animated feature, director Rich Moore and screenwriters Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee have created a loving tribute to games old and new and the characters whose worlds they fill with their overblown personalities. Videogame references and sight gags abound, along with cameos by the characters Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog, Bowser from Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man, Blinky, Pinky, and Inky from Pac-Man, the two paddles and the ball from Pong, Q*bert, Coily, Ugg, Slick, and Sam, from Q*bert, Blanka from Street Fighter, Yuni from Dance Dance RevolutionX2, Neff from Altered Beast, The Qix from Qix, Frogger from Frogger, Peter Pepper from BurgerTime, Chun-Li, Cammy, Dig Dug, a Pooka, and a Fygar from Dig Dug, Kano from Mortal Kombat, and the Paperboy from Paperboy.
Wreck-It Ralph was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film and the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
Video: 2.40:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Extras: "Disney Intermission: The Gamer's Guide to Wreck-It Ralph" - 10 video segments that appear during pauses in playback in which host Chris Hardwick offers an inside look at the many video game references, Paperman animated short film, "Bit by Bit: Creating the Worlds of Wreck-It Ralph" featurettes, deleted and alternate scenes with an introduction and optional commentary from Moore, commercials for the video games featured in the film including Fix It Felix Jr., Sugar Rush, Hero's Duty and Fix It Felix Hammer; 2D Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy. Studio: Disney.
The Intouchables - which has overtaken Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie as the most viewed French-language film in history - is a funny, charming, heart-warming true story of two men, one an an older and very wealthy quadriplegic aristocrat and the other a young Senegal-Frenchman from the projects.
Philippe (François Cluzet), injured in a paragliding accident which left him with movement only from his neck up, lives with his daughter Elisa (Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi) in a luxurious Parisian mansion and is setting out to hire someone new.
With his assistant Magalie (Audrey Fleurot), he begins interviewing candidates to be his live-in caregiver. After meeting a few impressive and enthusiastic candidates, Philippe comes across a young fellow named Driss (Omar Sy) who he takes an instant liking to because he doesn't give the sad, pitying looks of the rest. But Driss isn't interested in being hired, just in flirting outrageously with Magalie and in getting a signature showing he was interviewed in order to receive his welfare benefits. He's told to come back the next morning to get his signed letter, but in the meantime Driss's aunt throws him out of his temporary housing - a tiny flat in a depressing Parisian suburb - so he decides to take the job.
Only then does he learn the extent of Philippe's disability and realizes that he'll have to accompany Philippe in every moment of his life. In the process of doing so, Driss discovers a completely different way of life. Although an alien to luxury, Driss' audacious charm, quick wit, and upbeat lavish confidence help him get by. Gradually the two men begin to affect each other in crazy and positively transformative ways, becoming friends as they teach each other their wildly different values and ways of seeing the world through the activities and mishaps they involve themselves in.
Highly praised performances by Cluzet and Sy and beautiful filmmaking by the directors, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, have made this inspiring story into a big hit in Europe. So much so that Harvey Weinstein snatched up the rights to remake it in English.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with English subtitles. Extras: 6 minutes of deleted scenes; UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Sony.
North Korea invades Spokane, Washington and we're not gonna take it! In this action-packed remake of the classic Reagan-era folly written and directed by liberal democrat John Millius, the Ruskies are now replaced by The Mouse That Roared-like hungry invaders (do they even have the fare?) provoking a group of teenagers to attempt to save their town for democratic America. ("I'm for total-honest democracy. I also believe the American system can work." - Woody Allen).
I mean, what would you do if you awoke one morning to see swarms of foreign paratroopers dropping from the sky in a surprise attack on your hometown? And then, quick as a fish, the entire region's under enemy control! Wouldn't you and a group of courageous teenagers decide to fight back, waging an all-out war against the invaders, to take back your town - and our freedom to watch films about North Korea invading Spokane?
US Marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) is home on leave and reunites with his father, Police Sergeant Tom (Brett Cullen), and brother, football player Matt (Josh Peck). On seeing the invaders, they flee to their cabin in the woods where they're later joined by Robert (Josh Hutcherson), Pete (Steve Lenz), and Daryl (Connor Cruise). Jed announces that he intends to fight and the others agree to join him, calling themselves the Wolverines after their school mascot. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Red Dawn is the directorial debut of stunt-coordinator Dan Bradley. While in post-production, the invading army was changed from the Chinese to the North Koreans to maintain access to China's lucrative box office. The Cubans weren't available.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: "Red Dawn Rising," "Building the Red Menace," "Training for WWIII," and "WWIII Comes to Town" featurettes; DVD, digital copy. Studio: MGM/20th Century Fox.
Murdoch Mysteries: Seasons 1–4 / Murdoch Mysteries: Season 5
Set in 1895 Toronto, Canada, Murdoch Mysteries, the acclaimed TV series based on the crime novel collection by Maureen Jennings, centers on William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a young, soft-spoken yet resolute police detective who investigates the city's most mysterious and macabre murder cases using radically new forensic techniques - like fingerprinting. This eccentric-outsider Sherlock Holmes-like character also invents and develops what will become modern forensic techniques and technologies in the course of a case, often initially gaining the mockery of his conservative fellow coppers and, more seriously, the skepticism of his dubious, down-to-earth-Yorkshireman, open-and-shut-case boss. Yet, eventually, the ultimately open-minded Inspector Thomas Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), when a case is closed, gives Murdoch the respect he's due.
Set at a time when Toronto was developing from a frontier town into an actual city many a famous figure appears to appear over the course of a case while historical events and issues also to manage to weave their way into the story. Arthur Conan Doyle, Nikola Tesla, Buffalo Bill Cody, the shift from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), illegal abortions, illegal homosexuality, the fight for an independent democratic republic of Ireland, Martians, Eugenics - all excite Murdoch's natural curiosity in exciting new figures and developments brings them all into his investigations adding color and nters on William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a young, soft-spoken yet resolute police detective who investigBrackenreid (Thomas Craig), when a case is closed, gives Murdoch the respect he's due.
Set at a time when Toronto was developing from a frontier town into an actual city, many a famous figure appears to appear over the course of a case while historical events and issues also to manage to weave their way into the story. Arthur Conan Doyle, Nikola Tesla, Buffalo Bill Cody, the shift from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), illegal abortions, illegal homosexuality, the fight for an independent democratic republic of Ireland, Martians, Eugenics - all excite Murdoch's natural curiosity in intriguing new figures and developments, adding color and authenticity to the stories.
Helping him is eager sidekick Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), a comic Dr. Watson type who, despite not always understanding Murdoch's methods, nonetheless, because of his admiration helps out by blindly following Murdoch's instructions. Murdoch also receives valuable assistance from beautiful, socially prominent, and highly independent pathologist Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy).
The Murdoch Mysteries first appeared as three TV movies based directly on Jennings' novels that aired between 2004–2005, leading to a weekly series with original stories and an entirely new cast. The first season of 13 episodes aired in 2008 with further seasons following annually. The 12-disc set of Seasons 1–4 from 2008–2011 includes all 2,250 minutes of the 52 episodes.
In the three-disc 13-episode Season 5 set, Murdoch, still reeling from personal and professional crisis, has taken to prospecting for gold but soon gets back to prospecting for the guilty in the murder detecting game, investigating and exploring time travel, an Egyptian curse, and, as usual, crossing paths with such eminent luminaries as Jack London, Henry Ford, and Alexander Graham Bell.
Video: 1.78:1. Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0. Seasons 1–4, Extras: pilot commentary by executive producer Cal Coons, actors Bisson and Harris, and production designer Sandra Kybartas, 18 minutes of interviews with the author and cast including Bisson, Joy, Craig, Harris, and Jennings, behind-the-scenes featurettes, Season 3 alternate ending, Season 4 alternate love letters, photo galleries, character biographies of the background of the four main characters, "About Murdoch Mysteries," "Make-Up," "Yannick Bisson Directs," "Prime Minister Visit," "The Making of Season 4," and "Costume Design" featurettes, "The Tesla Effect" alternate ending. Seasons 5, Extras: featurettes for episodes 1, 5, and 6, "Costume Design" and "Sound Bites" featurettes. Studio: Acorn.
In his debut film from1973, writer-director Michael Crichton, (who also wrote the screenplay for Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and Twister) tells of a remote island amusement park for adult vacationers (sound familiar?) where, if you're rich enough, you can live out your fantasies through the use of robots that provide anything you want - including the opportunity to murder or have sex with them. West World is the world that two vacationers - John Blane (James Brolin) and Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) - choose over lusty Roman World and chivalrous Medieval World. Only problem is that the failure rate for units in the field is growing exponentially - an android refuses a guest's sexual advances, the robotic Black Knight kills a guest in in Medieval World, and some 'bots are talkin' 'bout unionizing - and though the chief supervisor (Alan Oppenheimer) wants to shut down the park to run a full diagnostics test, the board of directors, who know nothing but look for profits, disagree. Naturally computers breakdown, robots run amok, and the businessmen must face a homicidal mechanical gunslinger in black (Yule Brynner, à la The Magnificent Seven).
Novelist Crichton first tried to write his fantasy of rebellious technology as a book but, realizing that the story would only work visually, he decided to take up directing (having first started screenwriting that year with Extreme Close-Up) and the result has become a sci-fi classic. Nonetheless, Westworld was the last movie MGM produced before dissolving its releasing company. It was also the first film to use digital technology to process imagery, pixelating shots to simulate a robot's viewpoint.
Video: 2.40:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: vintage featurettes featuring interviews with Crichton, Brynner, and Benjamin accompanied by production footage, "Beyond Westworld" 48-minute 1980 TV pilot with James Wainwright and Jim McMullan. Studio: Warner.