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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Industry > Promotion > Publicity > Legal > SIlent Films > Jodorowsky's Dune (2014/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)/$ellebrity (2012/Cinedigm DVD)/We're In The Movies: Palace Of Silents & Itinerant Filmmaking (1914 - 2010/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)

Jodorowsky's Dune (2014/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)/$ellebrity (2012/Cinedigm DVD)/We're In The Movies: Palace Of Silents & Itinerant Filmmaking (1914 - 2010/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: B- & C+/C/B- & C+ Sound: B- (DVDs: C+) Extras: B-/C-/C+ Films: B/B-/B

We happened to receive three really good documentaries on film and entertainment at the same time, so we decided to present them together.

There are many films that sound like they would be great, even obvious box office hits and/or something fans would really like. Ridley Scott almost made I Am Legend with Arnold Schwarzenegger before the actor's private scandals, Kubrick was going to make an epic Napoleon film and Francis Coppola's Megaopolis were all big projects that never happened. Jodorowsky's Dune (2014) is Frank Pavich's new documentary about how the director of El Topo and The Holy Mountain came so close to adapting the Frank Herbert novel classic on an epic scale. Alejandro Jodorowsky loved the idea, tackled the book and came up with great people during an amazing pre-production period only to see the film collapse. Why?

Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, David Carradine, Mick Jagger (as actor), Pink Floyd (one of the bands asked to do music for the film), Dan O'Bannon, Jean Moebius Giraud, H.R. Giger and even Jodorowsky's son were being brought in, but Alejandro wanted $15 Million at the time (that's over $64 Million as we post this review, but movie production costs have skyrocketed higher than cash, so think $100 - 150 Million at least by now) and his then-reputation for being wild and eccentric, plus no promise of a final running time or a script that was not standard. Every studio looked at it, even then mini-major Disney, even armed with a thick, illustrated hardcover with art, sketches and other designs (a long-term mistake?) to explicitly show what they were going to do.

So the project collapsed and eventually, Dino DeLaurentiis picked it up to co-produce with his daughter and then big studio partner Universal (they did Flash Gordon (1980) together), hired up and coming David Lynch and in 1984, produced a financial bomb with very mixed reviews. The film is addressed, but the later TV mini-series is oddly never addressed. Either way, this is a solid look at a great project (though not bigger and better than Kubrick's 2001, as one suggested) that would have at least been a live-action Heavy Metal: The Movie a few years before the animated film actually materialized. The film would have likely materialized by 1977, which presents the question, could it have been a hit against Star Wars or could have only made its money if it opened before it as King Kong and Logan's Run (both 1976, all reviewed elsewhere on this site) did? We'll never know and this version may never get filmed, but it makes for a fine story about creativity, commerce and how Hollywood was then and now. After all, those same studios also turned down Star Wars before Alan Ladd, Jr. was smart enough to greenlight it for Fox.

The only extra is 46 minutes of Deleted Scenes, interview footage with Jordorowsky and Producer Seydoux that is worth your time, even if it could nor fit into the final cut of the documentary. However, a few parts should have remained.

If movie production has become worse, too soulless, formulaic and boring, promotion and publicity has become even uglier as Kevin Mazur's $ellebrity (2012) shows us. This very well made look at the rise of the Stalkarazzi, desperate photographers who will do ANYTHING to get a photo that makes them money, no matter what laws they break or what lives they would put in jeopardy. We see the rise of publicity in Hollywood and how the studio system was able to control publicity in the analog era before the rise of the Internet and hundreds of TV channels. The studios did not even have to worry about TV until after WWII, as the main media was AM radio. But as the lines between real life and hard news started to blur with entertainment and distraction, prices for pictures started to skyrocket, especially unflattering ones, so you have vicious, desperate cameramen who are not real journalists quickly learning how to use now-digital cameras (they are usually talentless hacks, of course) landing ugly shots that can get them six-figured for a single photo.

Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek, Sheryl Crow, Rosanna Arquette, Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kid Rock, Marc Antony & (when they were still together) Jennifer Lopez give some of their most candid and heart-felt interviews (I can tell they are not being fake, with Aniston and Parker coming across particularly well) about the abuse of these strangers climbing over their fences, getting them into auto accidents that could get them killed (Princess Diana comes up, though the British Secret Service does not) and even assaults on their children raise some very important questions about safety and ethics. I did not know at first if this would be sensationalized and silly, but it turns out to be very smart, informative and at 90 minutes, it needed a little more time to go even further. Otherwise, it is another must-see for serious film and entertainment fans.

Extras include a trailer and brief-but-clever clip about the rise of the camera.

We're In The Movies: Palace Of Silents & Itinerant Filmmaking collects two documentaries on silent filmmaking and includes some great silent shorts in another great release from Flicker Alley, one of the most pro-cinema Blu-ray and DVD labels around. Everything they issue is special and of a must-see nature, as you will see once again as follows...

Stephen Schaller's When You Wore A Tulip & I Wore A Rose (1983) is a solid documentary I remember seeing years ago about a short film made in the town of Wausau, Wisconsin called The Lumberjack (1914, included in this set) which involved many people in the small town sowing up in a made-up tale that somehow survived despite being an orphan film and turned out to be a priceless record of the town, film history and Americana. Schaller interviews everyone he can about how the film was made, the twists an d turns that happened during its production and the aftermath for everyone involved, including the town itself. This even includes a link to the famous Wausau Insurance Company, later bought in 1999 by Liberty Mutual, only to have the name retired in 2009. Totally shot on 16mm film, the print looks good and the editing holds up as well.

Iain Kennedy's Palace Of Silents: The Silent Movie Theater In Los Angeles (2010) tells us about a movie theater that has somehow survived many changes via a series of good owners, some sad moments and is one of the last of its kind in the whole world. With only 150 seats, the staple on Fairfax Avenue was showing and caring about these films when it was unpopular, unhip and too few realized how badly they were disappearing (not just orphan films, but ones owned by the major studios!) as silent film was so disrespected and thought to be somehow disposable. Actually built in 1942, 15 years after talkies arrived, the very thing that proves it was built for a love of pure cinema. It is a great story of how film lovers and fans came together to keep both a theater and an artform alive with some nice moments more than worth your time.

These two films make an excellent, logical pairing and make total sense to have on the same disc. Serious film fans should get this set immediately!

Extras include an illustrated booklet on silent films, including the ones dealt with here that has tech information and a few essays, while both formats add six (mostly in HD) short films: The Lumberjack (1914, as noted above), Our Southern Mountaineers (1918), In The Moonshine Country (1918), Mountain Life (1918), Huntingdon's Heroes (1934) and The Kidnappers Foil (1937).

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Dune has some good shots, vintage film footage and a few flawed shots, but looks fine most of the time as most of the footage is new HD interview footage and new animation. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image DVD is softer, but not too bad. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on $ellebrity is a bit softer than I would have liked throughout, but is just watchable enough to bare with.

The 1080p digital High Definition image transfers on the main Blu-ray programs on Movies also have some softness, but it is minor, from the age on the 16mm on some shots in Rose (1.33 in a 1.78 X 1 frame) to motion blur and other softness (plus old archive footage) in Palace (1.78 X 1 with occasional 1.33 X 1 clips). The shorts also look decent with Lumberjack having real dye-transfer monochrome dyes of various colors that look exceptionally good. The DVD version holds its own, but cannot pull off the best shots in the various programs.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Dune Blu-ray is the best presentation sonically here with occasional surrounds and music, but nothing shockingly spectacular. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is weaker, but OK for what it is. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on $ellebrity matches it despite some mixing that is a bit awkward at times, while all presentations on the Movies Blu-ray and DVD are in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 that is usually simple stereo, save the Rose documentary and sound shorts, which are all monophonic.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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