Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Videophiled: A longer ‘Hobbit’ and De Palma’s dispassionate ‘Passion’

HobbitExtThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Extended Edition (New Line, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD) follows the pattern that director Peter Jackson set on his The Lord of the Rings films. The theatrical cut came out earlier this year, and now the “Extended Edition” arrives. In the previous trilogy, those additions returned scenes from the book that had been edited out for narrative momentum, giving the film more heft as well as more intimacy. In the case of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, however, less than 15 minutes of footage is added to the film, and many (including myself) feel that it’s too long in the first place.

Tolkein wrote The Hobbit long before even contemplating his epic trilogy and the book is a modest, simple fantasy adventure compared to the sweep and scale of the subsequent books. Jackson approaches his adaptation, however, in light of the “events to come” and directs with the same gravity and sense of peril as we experienced in The Lord of the Rings, which seems like overkill to this smaller scale story. It’s impressively produced but overburdened with import and foreshadowing. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarfs don’t even get out of the hobbit hole for an hour and they can just see their destination on the horizon before the credits roll. While some fans may enjoy the added time in Middle Earth, it just slows their journey that much more.

More attractive than the added footage is the epic extras. The theatrical cut carried about two hours of behind-the-scene featurettes originally produced for the web. This edition offers commentary by Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens and two more chapters in the epic “Appendices” with more than nine hours of documentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, interviews, and other explorations of the book and the adaptation. This is what makes Jackson’s special editions more special than anybody else’s.

PassionThere isn’t a lot of passion in Brian De Palma’s Passion (eOne, Blu-ray, DVD) but there is a love of kinkiness, flirtation, sensation, and the thrill of playing big business games and an odd intimacy that we don’t always get in De Palma’s coolly observed, stylistically exacting cinema. The opening scene has an easy intimacy of colleagues (Rachel McAdams as boss Christine and Noomi Rapace as trusted assistant Isabelle) with their respective guards down, or so it seems. “There’s no backstabbing here, it’s just business,” claims Christine after taking credit for Isabelle’s idea, and her attitude suggests that she really believes it. Isabelle, however, takes it personally, something between a betrayal and a personal affront, and when she kisses Christine on the lips, it’s not a seduction or a forgiveness. She’s planting the kiss of death.

Continue reading at Cinephiled

Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews

‘Passion’: Rachel McAdams as the Boss From Hell

Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams

Along with its other shortcomings, Passion is woefully mistitled. This off-key exercise is drained of any authentic juice, belying its apparent place in the crime-of-passion film tradition. But then passion has never been the long suit of its director, Brian De Palma, whose strengths have been his fiendish cleverness and his often giddy intoxication with the movie-ness of cracked stories and characters. Those talents find their footing mainly in some humid dream sequences in the third act of Passion, where De Palma finally asserts himself. Until then, the film has been a bland remake of Alain Corneau’s quite dandy 2010 film Love Crime, a trim tale that mixed All About Eve with The Servant and threw a big, bloody murder into the mix.

In this telling, set in the offices of a marketing behemoth’s Berlin office, stiletto-shod executive Christine (Rachel McAdams) takes credit for the ideas of her chief assistant Isabelle (Noomi Rapace), soothing her underling’s hurt feelings with assurances of the importance of teamwork and the occasional kiss on the lips.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays

Power games: In movies like ‘Passion,’ business is a bloodsport

Some people would kill for a promotion.

In Brian De Palma’s Passion, ambitious corporate executive Rachel McAdams and workaholic assistant Noomi Rapace turn a close (almost intimate) working relationship into a vindictive battle after McAdams takes credit for her assistant’s idea to grab a promotion. Ostensibly a remake of Alain Corneau’s Love Crime, De Palma transforms the workplace warfare of the French original into a De Palma film of seduction, power, and violence as a cinematic ballet, escalating the psychological battle into something much deadlier.

The workplace can be a real battleground. Here are some films that take that the idea to heart, from the merely ambitious who use words and sex as weapons to the coldly ruthless who take a more direct approach, advancing their careers by eliminating the competition. If you think the rivalry at your workplace is murder, here are some professionals who won’t let anyone stand in their way of advancement.

Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon in ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’

Glengarry Glen Ross‘ (1992)

The stakes: The fabled Glengarry leads … and their manhood

Weapon of choice: David Mamet’s words, sharpened to a cutting edge

Though there is no literal body count, Glengarry Glen Ross is as lacerating a perspective on American business in the company of men as you’ll find. It’s all in David Mamet’s shark-like conversations, strangled exasperation and salesman jungle cries, bitten off and bashed around by some of the best actors to pitch out an obscenity like a love call. Al Pacino is the king of this pathetic jungle, a crummy office where worthless real estate is hawked to suckers over the phone, Jack Lemmon, the veteran salesman in a career-crippling slump, Alec Baldwin, the frosty company hatchet man, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey … This is a cast of killers, though their tactics stop short of physical injury, let alone murder. They’ll settle for smothering the soul of their competitors.

Continue reading at MSN Movies