Concord Music Hall
Jeremy Wagner
Lovers Lane

DVD Zone: August 2009

| August 5, 2009 | 0 Comments

Reliving The Cold War
Watchmen
Warner Bros.

watchmen_dvd

After the glut of superhero movies over the past few years, you would think that the public would be starting to tire of the whole genre. Yet the success of Iron Man and The Dark Knight means it isn’t going away anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing, as long as the material continues to be of the same quality.

Still, a film such as Watchmen could have been a welcome tonic. Based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ groundbreaking graphic novel, the film explores what happens when people get fed-up with masked vigilantes.

Set in an alternate America where it’s 1985, Richard Nixon is serving his fifth term as president, and masked crime fighters have been outlawed, the film touches on all the comic-book archetypes.

There’s Nightowl, a hero who relies on his wealth and gadgets to get the job done; Rorschach, a misanthropic detective determined not only to find the criminals, but to punish with extreme prejudice; Silk Spectre II, trying to live up to the legacy of her mother, the original Silk Spectre of the “golden age”; Ozymandis, the smartest man in the world with an Alexander The Great complex; and Dr. Manhattan, the only member with actual super powers. In the time-honored tradition, a lab accident has given Dr. Manhattan powers over space and matter, traits the government now uses to keep the rest of the world in line.

As the film opens, the murder of another golden age hero, The Comedian, sets off an investigation by Rorschach into who might be killing them off. From there, the story starts to careen wildly. From the investigation, to Silk Spectre’s family drama, to possible nuclear confrontation with the Soviets, to the ultimate point of the film. By the time that arrives, you find yourself not really caring very much.

Watchmen ranks as a huge missed opportunity on so many levels. For starters, it’s too long and chatty for a film of this ilk, and with the DVD “Directors Cut” adding a whole 25 minutes to the proceedings, it’s almost interminable. Also, what made the graphic novel so special in the ’80s just doesn’t play as well today. The film’s cold war macguffin just doesn’t hold the drama that it once did, as the world has moved on to more pressing focuses of our dread, and as such, just feels dated. It’s no surprise that co-creator Moore had his name taken off the project.

It’s a shame, too, because there are actually reasons to like the film. The look is fantastic, with director Zack Snyder (300) faithfully recreating the book in almost every frame. Plus there’s Jackie Earle Haley (yes, the kid from The Bad News Bears) as Rorschach, playing him infinitely more psychotically than any of the criminals he’s hunting.

With Watchmen, an Oscar nomination for Winged Creatures, and taking over the Freddy Krueger role in the upcoming restart of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, Haley might be pulling off the biggest comeback since Travolta in the mid-’90s.

Watchmen‘s two-disc set comes with a digital version and small features on just about every aspect of filming.

Film: ** Features: ***

Rob Thomas: Live At Red Rocks
E1 Entertainment

From the looks of things, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, outside of Denver, appears to be about the coolest place to see a show in the States. Carved into a mountainside, the locale has been the setting for concert videos by Dave Matthews, Incubus, and the legendary 1983 set by U2. Now, Rob Thomas finds himself and his popular beat combo amidst the scenic vistas.

Running through the solo hits, as well as a sprinkling of songs from his Matchbox 20 days, Thomas gives a mix of uptempo shakers and mid-range MOR gloss. Unfortunately, the gloss outweighs the shakes. Still, it looks and sounds great, and the Thomas faithful will not be disapointed.

Film: *** Features: **

Also available . . . Instead of producing a full-blown third season of the knock-out Doctor Who spinoff, the BBC opts for the five-part miniseries Torchwood: Children Of Earth. Carrying on after the death of two of the team, the Torchwood members find themselves drawn into an alien invasion that uses the planet’s children as the harbinger of their arrival. It’s not just a crackling sci-fi yarn, but Children Of Earth goes deeper with its portrayal of government black-ops and secrecy. As usual, in terms of storytelling and production, Torchwood remains head-and-shoulders above 90 percent of what’s being produced on this side of the pond.

Timothy Hiatt

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Category: Columns, Monthly

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