HomeVideodrome: Give Unfairly Maligned 'Musketeers' a Second Look

HomeVideodrome: Give Unfairly Maligned 'Musketeers' a Second Look

On this week’s HomeVideodrome podcast, Jim talks about the upcoming headache that is SXSW, Hunter reviews “John Carter,” and we run through this week’s considerable line-up of releases.  Head over to The Film Thugs to listen!

“The Three Musketeers” is a book that has a rich history in movies, dating all the way to the dawn of cinema in France and at Edison Studios.

It’s been adapted into countless versions, starring the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Gene Kelly, John Wayne, Michael York, Charleton Heston and, um, Charlie Sheen (Richard Lester wanted to do his version of the movie starring The Beatles at one point).

Paul W.S. Anderson is the latest filmmaker to take a stab at it, and his effort is a wildly entertaining take on the material that was unfairly maligned upon its release last year. Of course, Anderson’s film deviates from the material, featuring fantastical elements such as airships reminiscent of the “Final Fantasy” games that are nowhere to be seen in Alexandre Dumas’s novel. Yet the film contains an elegant energy that is rare and welcome in today’s world of uber-serious, frantically shot action films. 

“The Three Musketeers” was marketed to recall the boring, bloated spectacle of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, yet the movie Anderson has put together puts Disney’s preening franchise to shame when it comes to swashbuckling entertainment.

Logan Lerman, perhaps the only actor age-appropriate to ever play the young D’Artagnan, is given a good company of actors with an element of gravitas-sauce to balance out his age, including Ray “The Punisher” Stevenson, Luke Evans and Matthew Macfadyen as Porthos, Aramis, and Athos, respectively.

Anderson’s wife and brilliant action starlet Milla Jovovich fills the role of the deceitful Milady de Winter, who of course has plenty of opportunities to kick ample amounts of ass in period-appropriate clothing. Being a huge fan of Mads Mikkelsen, seeing him once-again play a one-eyed badass in the form of Captain Rochefort is one of the film’s greatest pleasures.

Having shown his range in recent films like “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” and “Valhalla Rising,” it’s a testament to Hollywood’s idiocy that Mikkelsen hasn’t become leading man in the mainstream. And speaking of leading men, we are fortunate that the period where Orlando Bloom was mistaken for a Hollywood lead has finally ended. He still rocks a brilliant pompadour here as the turbo-douche Duke of Buckingham with the correct level of mustache-twirling.

Christoph Waltz’s Cardinal Richelieu isn’t as interesting as his other performances, but his presence is all that is required.

Anderson is a filmmaker who cops a lot of stick from the deranged fanboy community, yet his “Resident Evil” films keep getting better and better, delivering a sexy mix of sci-fi, action, and horror. His approach to action is often derivative, but never follows the worst trends in action movies that somehow earn praise from critics.

I couldn’t help but think of classic Shaw Brothers kung fu movies when watching this movie. They often cover classic works of literature, introduce the characters using text to let those familiar with the material know who’s who, and depict the over-the-top action in a manner that allows you to actually see what’s going on, a sadly novel concept in the post-Greengrass world of action.

I missed “The Three Musketeers” in theaters, despite the fact that I’ve always been a fan of what Anderson lays down since “Event Horizon.” Yet I’d say it’s well worth seeing for action fans, especially when friends and beer are involved. The marketing behind this movie was absolutely atrocious, but as bad as the “Pirates”-lite presentation was in theaters, the Blu-ray cover art is absolutely hideous, using the worst image of Lerman possible in a chrome environment that makes this gorgeously-produced movie look like a cheap Asylum product.

A movie as fun as this deserves better.

The highlight on the extras of the Blu-ray is the commentary with Anderson and his producers. Anderson’s commentaries in the past have felt a bit tinged with fatigue, as though he was recording them as soon as he finished the film, and was a bit too tuckered out to deliver any real insight. Here, he comes fully prepared, delivering his influences and inspirations for his approach to the film, which include the board game Risk, Iron Maiden album covers, and Lester’s take on Dumas.

He also points out how much of the effects were done in-camera, something any cinephile can appreciate, especially in a movie that looks as lovely as this one does. Well worth a listen for those who drop their dollars on this one. The ambivalent buzz around “The Three Musketeers” is undeserved, as it is one of the more satisfying action movies of last year.

Fanboys who decried Tarantino’s inclusion of it in his top ten of 2011 clearly didn’t see it, or are too busy buzzing off their latest superhero Big Mac to give it any real thought. It’s big, wacky, gorgeous entertainment that hits all the right notes. This will be my action comfort food for the foreseeable future. Available on 3D Blu-rayBlu-rayDVD, and Amazon Instant

Other Noteworthy Releases

“The Adventures of Tin Tin”: A good adventure romp from Steven Spielberg that helped get the taste of the Lucas-tainted “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” out of my mouth. But while the use of mo-cap beautifully preserves the look of Hergé’s comics, it also prevents the movie from being truly breathtaking in the manner that makes a great adventure film.

Even the most impressive sequence in a cartoon like this can’t match the thrill of seeing something incredible happen in-camera, like Indiana Jones run for his life in a temple filled with booby traps, or seeing James Bond leap from an airplane without a parachute. Mo-cap lowers the glass ceiling for what otherwise could have been an adventure classic, but it’s still a solid offering from Spielberg that has his masterful touch. Available on 3D Blu-rayBlu-rayDVD, and Amazon Instant.

“The Descendents”: Alexander Payne’s latest film features the obligatory overrated George Clooney performance of 2011, one wonders when critics will wake up and realize that Clooney isn’t a movie star, so much as he is a cartoon of one. I was hoping Payne would manage to break Clooney down and remove him from his persona the way he did with Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt,” but Clooney is still the same ol’ Clooney. A decent drama, but far from level Payne is capable of. Available on Blu-rayDVD, and Amazon Instant.

“My Week With Marilyn”: Who on Earth is capable of properly portraying a woman as iconic and charismatic as Marilyn Monroe? Certainly not Michelle Williams. I defer to Armond White: “A Giant Played by a Midget” Available on Blu-rayDVD, and Amazon Instant.

“Melancholia”: Lars Von Trier manages to bottle and sell depression, which is actually more interesting than it sounds. If you’re in the mood for some beard-stroking, see it on a double bill with “Tree of Life,” as they both capture opposing worldviews magnificently. My review shares more on the intriguing film. Available on Blu-rayDVD, and Amazon Instant.

“Young Adult”: Diablo Cody (typing that name hurts) is showing maturity as a writer in “Young Adult,” maintaining her voice without resorting to the preening dialogue that sunk her last two movies. This is interesting considering her protagonist is a woman who writes books aimed at the demographic in the film’s title, desperately trying to cling to a youth on the page and in real life, even though it puts her out of touch with those around her. It’s a self-critique, taking criticism of her past work to heart and thoughtfully examining it. Available on Blu-rayDVD, and Amazon Instant.

“Happy Feet Two“: I still have horrible nightmares about the trailer to this movie. The cultural fixation with penguins, especially ones that do terrifying renditions of pop songs, needs to end. Violently. Perhaps this movie’s failure at the box office means our national nightmare is over. Available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD.

“The Last Temptation of Christ”: Martin Scorsese’s controversial adaptation of the equally controversial novel by Nikos Kazantzakis explores the struggle between the divinity and the humanity of Jesus, a subject I find fascinating. The release of this Criterion Blu-ray gives me a reason to finally visit it. Available on Blu-ray.

“Triad Trilogy”: Johnnie To’s brand of Hong Kong gangster movies are something I highly recommend, and his Triad trilogy is a fascinating look into the inner-workings of Hong Kong’s criminal underworld.  Election and Triad Election are ones I highly recommend, Simon Yam’s performance in both is comparable to Pacino in The Godfather. Available on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Stephen King’s Bag of Bones”: Adaptations of Stephen King novels directed by Mick Garris are usually hit-or-miss, I adore his mini-series take on “The Stand” starring the great Gary Sinese, and “Riding the Bullet” is a gem. On the flip-side, his version of “The Shining” isn’t scary, so much as it is unintentionally hilarious (despite what the Kubrick-haters will tell you), and “Desperation” is everything that sucks about King blasted straight at your face. I’ve never read “Bag of Bones,” but I’ll give this a go, if only because there’s still enough goodwill leftover from “The Stand” to warrant a watch. Available on DVD.

“Five Element Ninja”: Also known as “Chinese Super Ninjas,” this Shaw Brothers film is a glorious gauntlet of violence, fake sideburns, and gaudy ninjas. Watch it with the dub, which is chock full of jaw-dropping bits of dialogue, such as “Hm! Ten rounds of combat, will easily decide, this matter between us!” Here’s a tasty morsel to whet your appetite. Available on Blu-ray.

This post originally appeared over at Parcbench