'Spiderwick Chronicles' weaves a web of wonder
By G. Michael Dobbs
Hey, three neat DVDs no stinkers! are in this week's column.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
My wife and I took two young friends then ages 15 and 8 to this film when it in theaters and amazingly, it pleased not only them but us as well.
Based on the popular children's books by Tony DiTeruzzi and Holly Black, "The Spiderwick Chronicles" has the same kind of engaging charm as the "Harry Potter" series. The difference is the Potter series is an epic creating a whole new world, while "The Spiderwick Chronicles" keeps one foot in the fantastic and the other firmly planted in the real world.
After a bitter divorce, the three Grace children move into their mom's family estate, Spiderwick. There, one of the twin brothers, Jared, finds not only the journal of Arthur Spiderwick, but also an invisible world populated by brownies, sprites, hobgoblins and demons. His discovery of the book sets into motion an adventure that not only brings some balance to the unseen world but to his fractured family as well.
This is a very accomplished film with Freddie Highmore giving a great performance as twin brothers as well as Sarah Bolger as their first unbelieving sister.
The two-disc DVD set is loaded with extras on the making of the film that bring insight into the challenge of reacting to cast members who are in a computer rather than on the set.
A superior fantasy film for the entire family, make sure you see "The Spiderwick Chronicles."
The Magic of Melies
The cinema's first international hero was also among its first casualties. Georges Melies came from the world of theatrical magic and was drawn to the novelty of the early cinema literally at the turn of the 20th century. Although his subjects were at first similar to other films of the era short snippets of either street life or music hall gags Melies soon discovered that if he stopped the camera, he could make things appear and disappear.
With his natural attraction to magic, Melies began using the camera to create fantastic illusions depictions of other worlds, recreations and embellishments of magic acts and the earliest science fiction on films.
Melies' career was undone by changes in the film industry and he was forced into bankruptcy. He and his films were rediscovered in the early 1930s.
This disc has beautiful prints of 15 Melies shorts plus a 1978 documentary on his life and career. Anyone who is seriously interested in the origins of cinema should see this collection from Kino on Video.
Journey to 10, 000 B.C.
My buddy Mark Masztal and I had a ball when we saw the fantasy film "10,000 B.C." now out on DVD because it was an old-fashioned-doesn't-have-to-make-any-sense-Ray Harryhausen-style adventure. I mean, how you could not love a movie with cavemen, sympathetic saber-toothed tigers, terror birds and super creepy alien-like Egyptians?
Well, this new documentary from the folks at the History Channel doesn't have any cavemen being forced to build pyramids, but it does try to recreate the world of 10,000 B.C. here in North America.
Although the computer animation of mammoths and other long-dead beasts isn't as accomplished as in the fantasy of almost the same name, the film's facts make awfully compelling viewing. How did the first Americans come to this continent? Why does the geologic record show a time in which humans seemed to be almost wiped out? Why were there such drastic climate changes?
So see the fantasy first, but then make sure you watch this informative documentary.