El-Cheapo Video Finds: Beowulf on Blu-Ray

Beowulf (Blu-ray)Beowulf is the first heroic tale ever written in the English Language, written over 1500 years ago in Old English, which by now is a nearly unrecognizable language.

There have been many versions of Beowulf published in books, audiobooks, DVD, and now Blu-Ray — this one, found in a delete bin at a video store. The version I saw was completely done in computer animation. This allowed for Grendel to be a terrible deamon as in the book, but there were times, you would think that much of Grendel’s appearance was stolen from Gollum, from Lord of the Rings.

If you want to be blown away by animation and sound effects, and if you don’t mind that many liberties were taken with the original plot and character development, then you probably won’t mind this movie. Attempts to infuse vulnerability into Beowulf’s (or Grendel’s) character appeared to be done at the last minue without much sensitivity to the story, and thus came off appearing cheesy and cliche.

Optional video goodies are few, but one option lets you see how they did the CGI for every part of the film, as a picture-in-picture while the movie is playing. But there were passages in the movie that were spoken in Old English which never had a Modern English translation in the closed-captioning. That seems like a careless omission, and any fans of Beowulf would probably have appreciated that being put into the captioning.

El-Cheapo video finds: A Blu-ray of 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (Blu-ray)
The Blu-Ray box for Kubrick’s film.

Back in 2007, we witnessed the release of the Blu-Ray version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a classic movie produced by Stanley Kubrick, and written by Arthur C. Clarke. I actually hadn’t seen the movie since the 1970s, and had to see it again. It does not seem terribly out of date, 46 years since its release in 1968. I found this recently near a Best Buy delete bin going for cheap. Cheap enough to make me yearn for nostalgia.

The film demands of the viewer a great deal of patience and an ability to deal with ambiguity. For example, the beginning of the movie had little in common with the rest of the movie, but all those primates running around and warring with each other for the same filthy water hole had me at least a little intrigued. One ape discovers that using a bone as a tool can make a deadly weapon, and it can help in one’s conquest of lots of water holes. So would begin, I suppose a “stick and bones” arms race among the primates, where one tribe of apes tries to technologically outdo that other tribe of apes on the far side of the water hole.

Am I digressing? I’m not sure, since the actors on the blu-ray voiceover track didn’t seem sure either. If I remember they were the lead actors Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, obviously 46 years older.

The disconnectedness of the beginning is a well-known problem. Then there’s that monolith. These monoliths have a habit of half-burying themselves in the ground when no one is looking. At the end of the movie it is standing on the floor of a house lit from the floor. No one really knows what the monolith is about either, but it is supposed to give us an impression of an alien presence in a way that does not show us any aliens.

The end of the movie, like the last 20 minutes is pure excess. We are not sure what the light show is about, but it may not have as much deep meaning after you’ve stopped tripping on LSD. This is the sixties. Excess was in. Rock bands doing a 20-minute jamming session on vinyl was fairly common. This was kind of like that, except that this was visual, and they had these choruses of voices, which was slightly grating. It obfuscated and thus weakened the entire film.

The film was about what happened in the 2nd hour or so. It was a cautionary tale about being too trusting of technology, a message that never goes out of date. All future advances in technology will never make that reality go away.