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Sunday, January 28, 2018
Bad Beatles musical looks and sounds great in 4K while Geostorm blows
Ken Russell looks down (or is it up?) and smiles.
because director Julie Taymor's "Across the Universe" is arguably as
much a tribute to the late Mr. Russell's visually excessive style of filmmaking
than it is a tribute to the Beatles. To me, the film felt like they took Ken
Russell's interpretation of The Who's Tommy and put it into a blender with
Milos Forman's Hair, but the result - other than looking and sounding fantastic
in its 4K incarnation - was less satisfying to me than either of those other
disclosure: I'm a long time, diehard Who fan and was also a fan of Hair when it
first came out (before I grew up and put childish things - well, some of them - away), so I have a soft
spot for both of those older movies, even though both were wildly different from
their source materials - the original 1969 Tommy album and the late 60's
Broadway rock/counterculture musical.
Universe also reminds me of "Mama Mia!" - in that they use Beatles
songs (instead of ABBA's) to turn an otherwise ordinary storyline into a
musical, complete with a bit of dancing, except that the folks singing the
songs here should have just shut up and let the original songs play instead.
loose story is a kind of mishmash of 1960's history, viewed through the usual
left wing lens, in kind of a paean to aging hippies' memories, and it follows
some rather loosely developed characters as they "live out" life as
if it were set to Beatles music.
As with the
Hair movie, we have a protagonist who ends up going to Vietnam, a Liverpudlian
who leaves home to find his father in the United States and thereby gets sucked
into 1960's counterculture, and girl whose love transfers seamlessly from her
intended (a U.S. military man who dies in action before he can come home to
her) to the Brit named, coincidentally I'm sure, Jude.
there is takes a back seat to the songs, and the dances, and the overall style
of the film (the Ken Russell stuff), which would be fine if they'd done
something with it. And while I can understand why the filmmakers would want to
have their own characters singing the songs, they should have cast people who
could sing, and I wish they'd have stuck closer to the original arrangements.
one of my favourite Beatles songs is "If I Fell," from "A Hard
Day's Night," because I fell in love with the beautiful harmonies. So
here, of course, it's done as a solo. A shame. I mean, if you're going to use a
musical source, make it as good or better (if such is possible) than the
The cast does
what it can with the material, and it was interesting to see folks like Joe
Cocker, Bono, Salma Hayek and Eddie Izzard along for the ride in minor parts, but
Across the Universe is such that I very nearly turned it off before it reached
its inevitable conclusion - but I stuck it out was because I had to review it.
But I won't make the mistake of watching it again.
2007 film looks gorgeous in 4K and it sounds excellent as well. I just wish
there were more meat on these bones.
The 4K HDR
picture is really something to behold, though, especially in the
"psychedelic" scenes where the filmmaker throws colours and textures
at you - the kind of stuff for which 4K is the best. Blacks are deep and detail
is as fine as you could want it. It features a bright and broad colour palette
that leaps off the screen and nearly into your lap.
The audio is Dolby
Atmos, which is backward compatible to work on "lesser" home theatre
audio systems, and it sounds very good. The music is the main focus (as it
should, especially considering the screenplay…) Most of the music is
front-centred, which is fine, but all the home theatre's speakers are made good
use of throughout the film, including the scenes of riots and conflict. It's a
very dynamic soundtrack.
include an audio commentary with director Taymor and composer Elliot Goldenthal
(I guess Lennon and McCartney weren't available - well, Lennon anyway). It's
interesting to hear them talk about the original songs, and how they were
"reimagined" for the film, even though I wish they hadn't.
also some decent documentaries, including "Creating the Universe," "Stars
of Tomorrow" (the cast, obviously), "All About the Music,"
(guess what it's about!), and more. There's also a deleted scene. The
supplements are probably better than the film warrants (though, as always, your
mileage may vary).
Devlin's Geostorm makes Across the Universe look like a masterpiece. It's your
typical modern disaster flick, and one that adds nothing new to the panoply of disaster
flicks that have come before it.
It's also a
liberal fantasy that starts with catastrophic climate change threatening to lay
waste to the entire world until countries of the world come together in a big
kumbaya moment to design and build "the Dutch Boy" program, a system
of satellites and stuff orbiting the Earth that can bomb the fury out of Mother
Nature, which sounds awfully judgemental.
Dutch Boy has
been working flawlessly for a couple of years, so much so that the United
States, who spearheaded the project, is getting ready to hand over control to
the international community. But then things start going awry, leading to some
interesting special effects scenes and pulling star Gerard Butler (whose career
must be in trouble now, if not before Geostorm) out of retirement and sending
him into orbit to troubleshoot the Dutch Boy, named after the tale of the young
Nederlander who stuck his finger into a dyke to stop a flood.
the problems can be attributed to human interference (and not from them spewing
too much carbon into the air!) and the mission becomes a race against time to
find and fix the problems before a horrible "geostorm" wipes out
whatever it's going to wipe out which, apparently, is everything.
Along the way
we get to see how corruption has reached the very top of the Democratic party
(and no, Geostorm isn't meant as a documentary), which is probably not what the
filmmakers had intended. That would be far too subtle for this mess.
nothing here that you haven't seen many times before, including the effects
sequences that were really the only reason I was interested in seeing Geostorm.
Nothing is new here, the characters are cardboard cut outs, and I even had
issues believing Butler's American accent.
Brothers sent me two Blu-rays, the regular one and a 3D version and the audio
and video quality of both is first rate. The 3D makes the movie much more
interesting, though obviously it had no effect on whatever screenplay showed
up. Unfortunately, I have trouble seeing 3D properly and so am not the best one
to comment on that aspect of it. But the colours are rich and deep, the black
levels are very good and the overall picture is very satisfying. I imagine it would
look even better in 4K because once I'd seen the movie in its native resolution
I watched some of it againup converted to
4K via Oppo
Digital's great UDP-205 universal player (thereby taking a bullet for you,
track is in DTS-HD Master Audio and it's appropriately dynamic and enveloping. There
are plenty of opportunities here for great use of surround and the low
frequency effects channel and the filmmakers have made good use of this.
include "Search for Answers," in which director Dean Devlin (who used
to partner with Roland Emmerich on various other disasters such as Independence
Day and Godzilla) talks about the genesis of Geostorm. There's also "An
International Event" and "Wreaking Havoc." I didn't notice any
featurette on the dearth of creativity in Hollowood.
I'm torn over
deciding which of these movies I liked the least but I guess it would have to
be Geostorm, which could have at least been fun instead of tedious and preachy
and predictable. At least Across the Universe has Beatles songs, even if
they've been emasculated.
Or you could
just watch Hair and Tommy - and The Towering Inferno - and be done with it.