#009

Band of Brothers
HBO DVD box set

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A TV miniseries has one major advantage over a movie: length. It would have been a shame to see someone try to tell the story of Band of Brothers in just two or three hours; it would have been worse if it had been attempted with a smaller budget.

Band of Brothers, based on the real life story of a paratroop company from training till the end of WW2, is about as close to a perfect war movie as you could imagine, without actually locking an audience into a theatre for a year, while feeding them nothing but K-rations and taking random pot shots from the screen. A movie might have edited down most of the characters in the story to a handful of composites, and skipped over the “un-cinematic” details of a soldier’s life - the mix of boredom and fear that dominates the hours and days between battle.

Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, and cast with a crew of mostly unknown actors, the ten hours of Band of Brothers sticks closely to the story told in historian Steven Ambrose’s book about Easy Company. The dramatic peak comes with the Battle of the Bulge and its aftermath, over two episodes that concentrate on two characters: Donnie Wahlberg’s embattled sergeant and an exhausted company medic played by Shane Taylor.

An extra disc of documentary material - on the making of the series and the original members of Easy Company - might give some idea of the contrast between making a war movie and being in a war; more than most war films, Band of Brothers gives an audience a fleeting glimpse of the real thing.

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Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones
20th C. Fox DVD

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For Star Wars fans, the real attraction of this package are the documentaries on the second disc, which are concerned almost entirely with the very strange process of digital filmmaking of which George Lucas is the salient proponent. An hour-long feature, “From Puppets to Pixels”, takes you on an exhaustive step-by-step tour of the creation of the film’s digital cast, which outnumber real actors by a considerable magnitude.

At one point, Ewan McGregor, shown leaping in and out of a mock-up speeder in front of yet another expanse of blue-screen, admits that everything feels wrong about acting this way, but it always look right when Lucas and his crew are finished. There’s no denying the marvels that Lucas has created onscreen with each new Star Wars film. It would be nice, however, if he had a computer program that wrote dialogue less suitable to a Christmas pantomime play.

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Eight Legged Freaks
Warner Bros. DVD

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Eight Legged Freaks was conceived by its director, Ellory Elkayem, as a homage to the b-movie “creature features” of the 50s, where armies of mutant bugs threatened civilization. It’s a lighthearted salute, which should be watched in the same spirit, since the comedy is hardly sophisticated and the horror nods and winks at itself too often to be really scary. Includes Elkayem’s short film, “Larger Than Life”, which won him the director’s gig on Eight Legged Freaks, and which is genuinely more thrilling over fifteen minutes than the whole of his feature.

©2002 rick mcginnis all rights reserved.