Thursday, August 23, 2007

Whedon's "Serenity" gets royal treatment on DVD

I have to confess that I tried to watch Danny Boyle's "Sunshine" this past weekend and just didn't get it. I did stay through the whole movie, of course, but it just seemed to have little point or reason to exist at all (and I'm perfectly willing to concede that perhaps it all just went right over my head.)

It's the first Danny Boyle movie I've even mildly disliked, so I can definitely give him a pass and eagerly await his next move, especially when it's something as crazy as "Slumdog Millionaire," about an illiterate Hindi kid who conspires to get on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" to win the girl of his dreams. That should just be tons of fun.

But back to "Sunshine." I certainly think the big screen needs more intelligent science fiction, so I'm glad Boyle took a stab at it, but there have been much better examples of it in recent years. Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" was my second-favorite movie of 2006, behind only Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth." And before that, of course, there was Joss Whedon's "Serenity," which gets the grand treatment it deserves this week on DVD.

"Serenity," based on Whedon's one-season-only "Firefly" (honestly, you folks who run the Sci-Fi Channel, is there anything better you could do than throw the money at Whedon to revive this show on your network? Just do it already.) What this space Western had, along with the smarts, was a lot of laughs. Even if his character was directly cribbed from Han Solo, Nathan Fillion makes Capt. Mal Reynolds his own and leaves a lasting impression.

For anyone who hasn't seen this one yet (and if you haven't, really, for shame!), it picks up the "Firefly" story with River Tam (Summer Glau) as the focus. The collector's edition claims to include more than 30 minutes of bonus features, including extended scenes, "Take a Walk on Serenity" featurette, "A Filmmaker's Journey" featurette with Mr. Whedon, "The Green Clan" featurette with cinematographer Jack Green, "Sci-Fi Inside: Serenity," an "in-depth look at the film and TV show hosted by cast member Adam Baldwin, and a commentary with Whedon, Fillion, Baldwin, Glau and Ron Glass.

As far as intelligent sci-fi with heart goes, I really can't recommend anything higher than "Serenity."

Other picks this week:

The Lives of Others
It seems like I've been waiting years to see the movie that somehow managed to beat out "Pan's Labyrinth" for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, and now I'll finally get to. There's a listing on the IMDB for a "Lives of Others" coming in 2010, so I can only imagine there's some crap American remake coming soon, but do yourself a favor and watch this drama about the German Stasi police instead.

South Park: Season 10
I'll keep springing for "South Park" until it stops being bitingly funny, and that hasn't come to pass yet. Highlights of this tenth season include the two-part "Cartoon Wars," in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone declare war on Fox's "Family Guy" with help from Eric Cartman, and "TSST," in which a "dog whisperer" is brought in to try and curb Cartman's erratic behavior.

Pusan pays tribute to Yang

Edward Yang may not have made many movies in his short life (only eight, to be precise), but he did manage to craft easily one of my favorite in the sublime "Yi Yi."

And now he's getting an extremely fitting posthumous honor from the Pusan Film Festival, which will name him the Asian Filmmaker of the Year. Huzzah indeed!

Egoyan unleashes 'Adoration'

The world is certainly a better place with more Atom Egoyan in it, especially when he comes up with something as odd as this.

Egoyan has announced his next project will be called "Adoration." With filming beginning in Toronto in September, it will be about teems navigating "this brave new world and how people can invent themselves, or re-invent themselves, through technology." It will star Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, Devon Bostick and, of course, Egoyan's wife, Arsinee Khanjian. Definitely keep your eyes on this one.

Carla Gugino makes a Righteous Kill

With "The Spirit" and now this, Carla Gugino has been on a real roll lately, and I can't think of anyone more deserving.

Her latest coup is the leading female role in "Righteous Kill," the Jon Avnet crime drama that teams up Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as New York cops chasing a serial killer. Gugino will play a crime-scene investigator who starts knocking boots with De Niro's character, apparently.

Sounds like a pretty blase story with, frankly, two actors who have been coasting for years now, but just about anything can go down a lot sweeter with a little Carla Gugino mixed in. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to work. Peace out.


jeremy said...

Thanks for the heads up about the Egoyan film. He is easily one of my favorite directors--even misfires like Ararat are amazingly literate. People often find his films too cold, but the catharsis in Exotica has to be one the best in film history (and the lack of one in The Sweet Hereafter is jarringly appropriate).
Now I'm off to IMDB to see if he's teaming up w/ Mychael Danna again. . .

Reel Fanatic said...

He's easily among my favorites too, Jeremy .. If I had pick one of his movies I just can't live without, it would have to be The Sweet Hereafter, but he's made many great flicks

Bob said...

I am totally with you on "Sunshine." I love Danny Boyle too (I even kind of liked "The Beach" which no one else seemed to). "Sunshine" just seemed cobbled together from so many other sci-fi movies and shows (including one particular episode of "Firefly.")
And "Serenity" was in my top 5 films of 2005. What an incredible movie. The best "Star Wars" film since "Empire."
Haven't actually caught "The Lives of Others" yet. I'll give it a rent soon though. I really do want to see it.
Also, saw "Death at a Funeral" last night. It's a little slow going at first but once it picks up it gets really good. I think you would enjoy it. I'll do a full review soon.

Reel Fanatic said...

Death at a Funeral is definitely on my to-see list, Bob ... It seems like such a broad comedy that it should play just about anywhere, but it hasn't made it out into the hinterlands where I live yet

Marina said...

I can't wait to listen to the cast and director commentary!

Mercurie said...

My best friend believes that the Sci-Fi Channel should have revived Firefly instead of reimagining Battlestar Galactica. I can't say that I disagree with him! It was easily the best sci-fi show on a network in years. And Serenity was one of the best sci-fi movies.

Reel Fanatic said...

That would be a touch choice, Mercurie ... I've grown to love the new version of Battlestar .. In an ideal world we would have both that and Firefly alive and well now!

Ian said...

As my good friend Brian Sibley put it "Sunshine" is "Science Fiction by numbers, starting with 2001". Very disappointed with this and yes, I too enjoyed "The Beach" and all Boyle's previous work.

Reel Fanatic said...

That's a very good way to put it, Ian ... I sincerely wanted to like it, but it was just impossible to do

Divinity said...

I bought the new Serenity DVD as soon as I could get to a store and... the DVD of "Man About the House" was there, begging to be taken home as well. That's the original Brit series that "Three's Company" was based on! "Muppets:Season 2" might've hitched a ride home with me as well... for someone on picket duty, I'm not prioritizing my spending very well, am I? :P

Reel Fanatic said...

I was afraid that by "Man of the House" you meant that silly movie with Tommy Lee Jones guarding a bunch of sorority girls who witness a murder or somesuch nonsense .. but, knowing you have much better taste than that, I should have known better

Divinity said...

Ack! "Man ABOUT the House"! I did see that TLJ flick though and it was as terrible as it promised to be. I blame it on the poor selection of movies at the cineplex in Leeds at the time.

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