Monkey Business

twelveTwelve Monkeys, 1995, 129 mins, 4K UHD

Arrow seems to have run afoul of a faulty master provided by Universal for its new 4K UHD edition of Terry Gilliam’s wonderful, bizarre and disturbing Twelve Monkeys. It actually features on their Blu-ray edition from a few years back, which I didn’t buy because I was hoping to see a 4K edition sometime down the line (pity I didn’t adopt same practice with their Robocop release, but hey-ho). Its a glitch in the edit, somehow, in which about 15 seconds of video is repeated, while the audio track continues correctly. The weird thing is, very few seem to have noticed it on that Blu-ray; it occurs at a fortuitous ((if that’s the right word) moment during some disorientating camera moves and tight edits and can easily pass people by; I’m sure most viewers never twigged it- I’m not even sure I would have noticed it had I not been warned/enlightened.

Didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the film at all, and its rather curious noting on forums that many are refusing to unwrap their copies and are returning them or getting increasingly irate over a replacement disc. Essentially those people are right, there is something wrong with the release and purchasers have every right to expect a ‘proper’ copy without any faults or glitches at all. My old VHS copy got it right, after all, so shouldn’t a brand-spanking new top of the line 4K UHD disc be the same? Of course it should. But this film isn’t broken, and unless you’re really looking for it, it doesn’t pull anyone out of the movie. Indeed in an odd way, it seems rather fitting for a Gilliam film, a sort of meta-reference to the nightmarishly inept bureaucracy of Gilliam’s earlier masterpiece Brazil (now THERE’s a film I want to see on a 4K UHD SE release). Maybe Gilliam himself would appreciate the humour in it. The important thing is that the film looks gorgeous in 4K, its really quite lovely and of course the film is only more effective/more harrowing than ever in our post-Covid world.

But it set me thinking about the theatrical cut of Blade Runner in 1982, complete with dialogue continuity errors, visible continuity errors, scenes played with the wrong dialogue take so that lips weren’t moving when we ‘heard’ someone talking, sequences with cables clearly hauling up spinner vehicles into the air or sitting off-corner where we’re not supposed to see it yet. The film wasn’t accidentally mastered and released like that, it was literally made and finished like that. Now that’s a broken movie- even though I loved it all the same.

Bring Him Home: The Martian (extended cut)

marty2017.75: The Martian Extended Cut (2015)

While it’s debatable just how much ten minutes of footage can impact or benefit a film (I suppose fans of the cocoon sequence in the first Alien might have an interesting opinion), I must say I certainly enjoyed this repeat viewing of The Martian, and perhaps this was aided by that ten minutes of extra footage. Mostly tweaks/extended scenes, nonetheless I think that while it may not have improved the film greatly, I did appreciate the additional shots of Mark Watney’s emaciated figure towards the end, clearly establishing the physical ordeal and impact of his lengthy stay on the red planet, and some of the other character beats littered through the movie.

Indeed, I think the extended cut (note it isn’t called a ‘Directors Cut’, I wonder what is the distinction?) does improve the film, and the fact it’s only ten minutes extra footage means the film doesn’t slip into the longer attention-span/pacing issues pantheon of extended cuts that, say, leave me still preferring the theatrical cut of Dances of Wolves or Apocalypse Now.

One of the biggest impressions from rewatching this film is just the observation of how good a Ridley Scott film it is, just how good he is given a decent script. Tellingly, the film is not one he himself developed; instead its one he was hired -onto during development and it clearly benefits from his keen eye and visual techniques whilst not being harmed by some of his aesthetic choices idea-wise that probably harmed Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. It makes me think about the case of Terry Gilliam and The Fisher King (but also the case that a John Carpenter movie was never a ‘real’ John Carpenter movie when he was simply hired-in to direct some studio project) . The distinction is sometimes lost these days between a film-director as a film-maker and perhaps as an auteur/director whose sole ‘vision’  or voice dominates a film for good or ill. Film-making is a collaborative enterprise and I think some directors would be advised to be more directors than producers, and perhaps leave professional writers etc to do their jobs. But what do I know? I’ve yet to see if Luc Besson dominating the Valerian movie resulted in a great or flawed movie, but yeah, it just makes me wonder.

It still feels wrong feeling thankful that Ridley Scott didn’t make BR2049, but as that film clearly had a great script etc maybe it would indeed have turned out okay directed by Ridley- but would Ridley have been unable to resist insisting Deckard be revealed as a Replicant, forcing that personal view onto the other film-makers less inclined to agree with him (or an actor for that matter)? Ridley still has great films in him in the right circumstances, as evidenced by the successes of The Martian.  It’s quite possible some viewers/critics are of the opinion that it is in fact his best movie, period.

While I’m unable to watch the 4K disc in this package (a regular refrain going forward into 2018, I’m sure) I will say this release/double-dip does benefit from a solid bunch of extras, including a commentary and a fine series of docs produced by Charles de Lauzirika whose name on a doc always means quality (and to whom I will always be indebted to for the stupendous Blade Runner Final Cut release several years ago). The visual-effects breakdowns alone are enough to make me reassess the achievements of this film and the ‘genius’ of Ridley and his team- so much taken for granted is the result of huge amounts of trickery (they even CGI’d his beard in on some shots, it’s bizarre, where were the make-up crew?). Some interesting Q&A discussions involving NASA staff regards the real exploration of Mars round out a great all-round package.

So if nothing else, my estimation of The Martian, towards which I was always a little reserved, has improved no end. It’s a great film with a hell of a lot going for it, and whilst the extended cut’s differences/additions are perhaps not substantial enough to be an essential purchase for those happy enough with the film in its original form, I do think its an improved movie and the extras package finally gives the film the treatment it deserves. And who knows, maybe the film really sings in 4K with HDR etc.- for me that will be a pleasant discovery for some other time down the road.

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

jup1I rather liked it.

I liked Jupiter Ascending.

There you go, I’ve said it; I did. I liked it. Imagine the 1980 Flash Gordon mixed with Dune and The Fifth Element and you pretty much get Jupiter Ascending. If that combo of movie influences intrigues you, you may very well find that you enjoy Jupiter Ascending too. Its Gordon’s rich, brash comic-strip colours, its Dune’s mind-boggling huge scope and far-future space opera and its Element’s cheeky European tongue-in-cheek humour. Put it all in blender. Throw in the crazy attempt to squeeze a Star Wars trilogy into one two-hour movie (as mad and headache-inducing as that sounds) and you get Jupiter Ascending. Its mad. It doesn’t work, and yet it does. Its daft. Its fun. Its preposterous. Its bloody stupid. Its got an interesting subtext/social commentary about the rich feeding on the poor (in the case of Jupiter, literally feeding on the poor). It has a heroine who does very little, and even less that is actually heroic. It is, yes, stupid beyond belief (have I said that already?). Well, it is. I should hate this movie. But… but…

jup3But did I say its breathtakingly beautiful?

Well it is. It’s a space-opera fan’s wet dream. While no amount of eye-candy will ever substitute for plot or character or drama, there is something rather unrelentingly endearing about Jupiter Ascending. The Wachowskis and their team have created this huge epic movie with gigantic spaceships and bizarre aliens and gorgeous alien worlds and crazy costumes and… well, it has to be seen to be believed. Its as if all the pulp fantasies of Astounding and all those old sci-fi magazines burst into cinematic life. I know I should hate this movie, but its so crazy and daft and beautiful it melted this cynic’s heart, and I suspect it may be a guilty pleasure for many if they ever ignore the reviews and give it a chance, either at the cinema or on Blu-ray someday. I do not imagine it will win many over but… well, I’d much rather have this crazy joyous mess of a movie than Guardians of the Galaxy. 

jup2‘Art’ it isn’t. I’m not going to suggest that this is a cult film that will one day be reappraised as a classic. Its a film that features a character named Jupiter Jones as its heroine, and her love-interest is a hunky bloke gene-spliced with a wolf (she even says “I love dogs” to him during a romantic interlude). Its crazy, utterly bonkers. But that craziness is intriguing somehow. It even leaps off into Brazil territory;a wild frenetic trip into space-opera bureaucracy that actually features that films director in a cameo, yes, Terry Gilliam- yes, thats right, the ode to Brazil features Brazil’s director Terry Gilliam (I was loving the sequence and then saw Gilliam and thought, bloody hell, they’ve got Gilliam! The Wachowski’s ARE crazy!). Seriously, its just that kind of nuts.

No doubt this film is tanking miserably at the box-office, but it was always going to, wasn’t it? The writing was on the wall for this film when it was delayed from July last year until this month. Why anyone making this film actually thought it would find an audience and be a hit is beyond me. Its one of those films that you watch simply incredulous that it even got made. Not that I think it is terrible or any worse than many other so-called blockbusters. Other than Guardians, I’d certainly take this film over Transformers 4 or the last Hobbit film- the fact that those two films have each made over a billion dollars at the box office (well, I think the Hobbit film is a bit shy of the golden billion figure just yet) is certainly no judgement on the comparative artistic value of the films. Jupiter is fun. Jupiter is bonkers. Jupiter has to be seen to be believed.

jup4Can’t wait for the Blu-ray.

(Did I mention the dinosaurs? There’s these hulking walking talking biped dinosaurs…. they reminded me of the Kleggs from the Judge Dredd strip from 2000AD’s 1970s heyday.  Any film with badass talking Dinosaurs can’t be all bad in my book.)