Editor’s Notes: Victoria, In the Heart of the Sea, & Justice League: Cosmic Clash will be released on their respective formats on March 8th.
Victoria (Adopt Films), directed by Sebastian Schipper, is notable for having been shot in one continuous take. Victoria (Laia Costa) is a young woman from Madrid who has left her routinized life in Spain and come to Germany to relax and party. Supporting herself with a low-responsibility job at a cafe, she seeks out late-night entertainment in all-night bars and underground clubs. At one such club, she meets Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his buddies. After drinking, dancing, and enjoying the music with them, Victoria discovers that they are bank robbers. Intrigued, she agrees to be their driver in a planned heist.
In real time, we see Victoria’s dark adventure unfold as the gang plans the robbery and puts the final plan into action. The tone of the movie changes from happy-go-lucky hedonistic abandon to pure film-noir. The stakes are upped and lives are on the line. Sonne and his crew are not professional thieves, nor do they purport to be. Though they believe they are going about the robbery intelligently with due planning, there is the constant feeling that things could go wrong at any turn.
Filming in one take has obvious logistical problems— varying camera movement to avoid static framing, having actors deliver their lines perfectly, blocking movement precisely, and overall meticulous coordination of cast and crew. And it can turn a movie into more a showcase for cinematography than a vehicle for a good story.
Other directors have experimented masterfully with lengthy takes. In Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese shot a scene where we follow a group entering a nightclub, walking through hallways and down stairways, and finally being seated at a front table near the stage. Alfred Hitchcock, as early as 1948, filmed Rope in a series of ten-minute takes.
Here, director Schipper succeeded, after a few failed attempts, in getting his entire two-hour story in a single take while calling minimal attention to the technique. We’re very conscious of the cinematography initially, but once Victoria makes the decision to engage in a criminal pursuit, we’re hooked with suspense heightening by the minute. Rather than a gimmicky effort, Victoria has a great payoff.
The film is in English and German, with English subtitles. There are no bonus features on the Blu-ray release.
In the Heart of the Sea
In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Home Video) is based on the real-life event that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. In the winter of 1820, the whaling ship Essex sets sail out of Nantucket and is attacked by an extraordinarily massive whale that exhibits a human-like sense of vengeance. We see not only what led up to the devastating attack, but its aftermath as well, as the ship’s desperate survivors try to stay alive through storms, starvation, panic, and utter despair.
Director Ron Howard frames the film with Melville (Ben Whishaw) visiting and interviewing an elderly Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) about the sinking of the Essex. It was officially blamed on having run aground, but Melville has heard rumors of a giant white whale, and Nickerson breaks three decades of silence to tell the true story.
Howard focuses on two total opposites among the crew — the inexperienced captain, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), and veteran whaleman Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth). Chase, the son of an off-island farmer, has been denied his appointment to captain so that the Nantucket-born Pollard can take command of the ship and claim his birthright. These characters are broadly drawn and come off more as representations of stubborn officiousness and festering frustration than as actual human beings. Howard may have tried to suggest a Captain Bligh/Fletcher Christian model, but the attempt is obvious and fails to provide a solid dramatic foundation.
The attack on the ship — the Big Scene — is the only sequence that comes to life. The rest of the film lumbers on for over two hours. I wondered why Howard didn’t do a remake of Moby Dick itself. The novel has more substance and stronger characters than the director offers in his film. The original 1956 picture had its casting problems (especially Gregory Peck as Ahab), so a remake would certainly be welcome.
Special features on the 3D Blu-ray/2D Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include “Ron Howard’s Captain’s Log;” production photos; a featurette on the rivalry between Chris Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker’s characters; background on the actual Essex and its relationship to Moby Dick; and deleted and extended scenes. To watch the 3D version, the following are needed: 3D HDTV, compatible 3D glasses, Blu-ray 3D player or Playstation 3 system, and high-speed HDMI cable. A standard Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack is also available.
Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Cosmic Clash
Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Cosmic Clash (Warner Home Video) is a new, animated feature in which the brilliant, obsessive-compulsive super-computer Brainiac is combing the universe for new additions to his collection of worlds when he stumbles upon a planet ripe for his taking — Earth. But Brainiac quickly discovers that Earth has a strong team of protectors — the Justice League. So he cleverly displaces several members of the Justice League to other time periods in Earth’s history. To retrieve their comrades while members of the Legion of Super Heroes attempt to hold off Brainiac’s assault, Batman, Flash, and Cyborg must build and use the Cosmic Treadmill to race across time.
Voice talent includes Troy Baker (Batman), Nolan North (Superman), Grey Griffin (Wonder Woman), Josh Keaton (Green Lantern), Chary Payton (Cyborg), and James Arnold Taylor (The Flash). Phil LaMarr provides the voice of Brainiac.
The Justice League, also known as the Justice League of America, reintroduced Golden Age superhero characters during the late 1950s. The original Justice League included Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman. Superman and Batman were seldom featured in the stories. Over the next few years, Green Arrow, The Atom, and Hawkman were added to the roster.
The sole special feature on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack is the featurette “The Justice League: Caught on Camera,” a gag reel of flubbed lines and missed cues. There is also a deluxe Blu-ray/DVD edition that comes with a Cosmic Boy mini-figure.