He…is…Beowulf! Robert Zemeckis’ latest CGI hero leads the charge among this week’s new releases – get those pause buttons ready for Angelina’s nude scene, fellas! – but we’ve also got the latest from Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited), a new adventure starring DC’s favorite superheroes (Justice League – The New Frontier), and vampires in the snow (30 Days of Night).
No other title new to DVD this week comes close to achieving Beowulf-scale buzz; the Robert Zemeckis CGI-fest, about the titular epic hero and his battle with a demon and her hideous offspring, is a home video enthusiast’s dream. Sweeping landscapes and surprisingly excellent camera work enhance the centerpiece of this techno-forward project: namely, its near-lifelike motion captured performances by the likes of Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, and, yes, a nude Angelina Jolie. Pick up the unrated director’s cut, and if you’re so equipped, watch it in HD-DVD.
Wes Anderson fans will feel instantly familiar with his latest film, about three estranged brothers (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody) on a soul-searching train trek across India; as with The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, and, let’s face it, each one of Anderson’s films, The Darjeeling Limited is imbued with a quirky sensibility, meticulous art design, a hipster-ready soundtrack, and a Wilson brother.
David Boreanaz as The Green Lantern? Neil Patrick Harris as The Flash? A bizarre, but star-studded voice cast brings to life everyone’s favorite DC superheroes in this new animated movie, based on the comics miniseries. Featuring Golden Age characters like Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless), Superman (Kyle MacLachlan), Batman (Jeremy Sisto), and Martian Manhunter (Miguel Ferrer), The New Frontier DVD boasts a bevy of special features, including a ten-minute preview of the next DC/Warner Bros. animated film, Batman: Gotham Knight.
Based on the popular graphic novel of the same name, 30 Days of Night has something for everyone: vampires, a clever set up, and Josh Hartnett! OK, maybe the gory thrills aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but critics say it’s a decent, if erratic, pic for fans of the bloodsucker genre. Region 2 buyers get a bonus graphic novel, but stateside fans will have to settle for eight featurettes and a commentary track.
Academy Award-winning director Milos Forman turns his attention to Spanish painter Francisco Goya (Stellan Skarsgard), who becomes witness to shifting politics and religion as his muse (Natalie Portman) is held prisoner by the Spanish Inquisition. Recent Oscar winner Javier Bardem rounds out the cast as Brother Lorenzo, a conflicted priest whose life is irrevocably intertwined with Goya’s, but even a handful of Oscar winners and real thespians couldn’t save this period pic from suffering the collective sigh of disappointment among critics.
Warner Bros.’ latest animated Justice League feature, Justice League: The New Frontier is reaching shelves in a matter of days, so what better time to catch up with the cast and get their thoughts on voicing DC’s costumed supergroup?
Winning the coveted role of Green Lantern’s voice was a thrill for David Boreanaz; the Bones star went so far as to wear a green t-shirt and green socks to his first day of work. Saying “I like to get into my characters — literally,” Boreanaz went on to discuss his affection for the ring-wielding Hal Jordan:
“Hal’s an interesting character — having been part of the Korean War, he’s kind of damaged goods, but yet he’s striving to get back to being himself. I think Hal’s sense of a duality is fascinating — his holding onto his past, overcoming it, and being heroic with it. It’s about coming to an understanding of where your strengths are and where your weaknesses may be — and as an actor, to go into his dark place and work from there. I found that very appealing. I think everybody, in a sense, can kind of lose themselves in this fantasy — I know I did. Where else can you partake in this level of adventure, in this amazing way of blowing things up in a fair and simple way without ever actually hurting anybody? It’s just so enjoyable.”
Taking the role of Jordan’s girlfriend, Carol Ferris — the woman who ultimately morphs into the supervillain known as Star Sapphire — is Brooke Shields, who describes her character as “hot,” saying she wishes she could cut her hair like Ferris (“and I love that pencil skirt she’s wearing, too”). Shields’ one major difficulty with Justice League: The New Frontier was recording dialogue for a character she didn’t get to see until her work was mostly done:
“I wish the animation process was done in reverse — it was such a different experience to record to picture versus just recording without the visual reference. I didn’t really know who she was as much without the picture. When we were initially recording it, before the animation, sometimes it felt flat. We worked on modulations, but I was not as clear on her character — I think I needed the picture in my head for it to take on a life of its own. When we recorded to the animation, that made it much clearer.”
Still, even without coming face-to-face, Shields found some common ground with Ferris:
“I think the thing that I responded to with Carol, as a character, is that, if you think about the 1950s, people were not sympathetic towards women in any position other than the very traditional homemaker — and here’s Carol, this revolutionary woman for that period of time. There’s a strength in Carol — she’s not willing to lose her sexuality by being in a man’s world, and she’s determined to be respected for having the same intelligence and ability to stay on course, and be par for the course, with the men that she’s surrounded by. I admire her character from that perspective for that period of time, and I would admire her in this day and age.”
Joining Boreanaz and Shields, in the role of Batman, was animation vet Jeremy Sisto. The Law & Order star, who had already done voicework for American Dad, Duckman, and The Wild Thornberrys, relished the opportunity to channel the Dark Knight’s strong, silent ways:
“I think Batman is a great character in that he has a lot of internalization, and his heroics come from a dark place. You can have fun with that side of him, sort of showing his dislike for people and yet, at the same time, he’s all about helping people and doing good for society. Batman is a bit of a loner. He’s very intuitive and, while the rest of the Justice League are using their super powers, he uses his detective skills to get to the heart of the matter and, in this case, help save the world. Throughout the course of the story, though, I think he learns that it’s not such a bad thing to have friends.
Making his animation debut with Justice League: The New Frontier is Kyle MacLachlan — and what a debut: the Twin Peaks and Desperate Housewives star got to provide the voice of Krypton’s blue-tighted favorite son, Superman. Taking the role wasn’t a hard decision:
“Superman stands for so many things that I believe in — strength, justice, fighting for what’s right. You just can’t turn down the opportunity to play a guy like Superman.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean the role was without its challenges:
“When I’m synching to myself in live action, which is what I usually do, my mouth moves the same way and I can see it visually and it somehow connects. This is a little more difficult because the animated mouth moves a little differently — the animation doesn’t quite have the same amount of detail that you would see in a real-life performance. Like the word ‘strategy’ — we were having trouble in the booth getting that one right because I couldn’t really see how it was formed in my animated mouth. But we made it all work. The physical performance is fun — you have to use your imagination a lot more. It’s a lot of grunts and oomphs and ughs, which you just can’t help but act out physically. I’m sure it looks funny from the other side of the glass. Like in one scene, it was about getting hit with a pterodactyl wing versus getting punched by a super villain. There’s apparently a difference in that sound. So you have to shade it a bit and use the imagination.”