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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Oliver Twist



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#1 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 25 2006 - 06:41 PM

Posted Image
Oliver TwistPosted Image

US Theatrical Release: September 23, 2005 (Sony Pictures/ TriStar)
US DVD Release: January 24, 2006
Running Time: 2:10:15 (28 chapter stops)
Rating: PG-13 (For Disturbing Images)
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
Audio: English DD5.1, French DD5.1 (Extra Features: English DD2.0)
Subtitles: English, French (Extra Features: None)
TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None)
Menus: Some intro and background animation.
Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert has cover art for other literary-minded Sony Pictures titles on the both sides.
MSRP: $28.95

THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3.5/5

After decades of directing intense and thrilling films, Roman Polanski found himself wanting to head in a different direction. He realized that there was nothing in his large body of work that could be enjoyed by his young children, and wanted to make a film for them. Working with writer Ronald Harwood, he decided to make his own version of the classic tale of Oliver Twist.

Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) is a young boy who has graduated from a parish farm for orphans to a children's work house, where he is to learn a trade. Once there, however, he gets himself into trouble (immortalized in the simple request "please, sir; I want some more"), and is sent to apprentice for a coffin maker (Michael Heath). Life with the coffin maker, his monstrous wife, and his cruel servants proves to be intolerable, and Oliver eventually runs away, heading to London to seek his fortune.

After 70 miles on foot, Oliver finds himself alone and penniless on the street, his shoes worn completely away. He doesn't have anyone to turn to. Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), he is befriended by an older boy, known as the Artful Dodger (Harry Eden). The Dodger belongs to a gang of street urchins who specialize in pickpocketing, and he takes Oliver home to join the crew.

The gang is run by a thoroughly creepy old troll named Fagin (Ben Kingsley). Although he is a rotten criminal who uses children for nefarious activities, he is practically the first adult to ever show kindness to Oliver. He becomes something of a father figure to him, as he is for all of the orphans in his care. Soon, Oliver learns the tricks of the trade and hits the street with two other boys to ply his new trade.

At the last moment, Oliver loses his nerve and is captured by the police, while the others escape with a man's handkerchief. However, in a stroke of luck, the man turns out to be kindly (and rich) old Mr. Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke), who takes pity on the poor boy and brings him home. Brownlow decides to dress Oliver up in fancy clothes and teach him to read and write like a little gentleman.

Here luck strikes again, but of the unfortunate sort, as the gang, at times under the bullying domination of the brutal Bill Sykes (Jamie Foreman), discovers Oliver's whereabouts and schemes to get him back. This leads to a series of adventures, as Oliver is caught up in the schemes of the adults around him. It's all he can do to simply survive.

And this is the weak point of the story. Perhaps it works better as a novel, but Oliver Twist violates one of the main rules of cinematic storytelling -- the protagonist is extremely passive. He has no power to control events, and spends most of his time being told what to do and where to go -- he has very little to do or say of his own accord. He does not drive the plot, but is driven by it. At the end of the film, we don't really feel as though we've gotten to know him.

Despite the inherent flaws in the story, Oliver Twist is very nicely put together. The sets and costumes show spectacular attention to detail, transporting the viewer to mid-19th-Century England. The colorful characterizations, especially Kingsley's Fagin, give the film the feel of a gritty fable. The child actors, nearly all unknowns (at least for now), hold their own with the top-notch adult cast. Rachel Portman's wonderful, whimsical score keeps a handle on the mood, keeping things relatively light-hearted at times when they might have gotten overly grim.

While the film does have its intense moments, its PG-13 rating is a bit of a stretch. Ironic, as well, since the film was specifically made for Polanski's children, who are quite young themselves. There is some violence, including scenes of cruelty to animals, but none of it is graphic. Of course, there is no sexual content, and the language is quite mild. Literate children under the age of 13 should have no problem with this film, although some scenes may bother the very young, for whom the film is probably a bit too long anyway.


THE WAY I SEE IT: 3.5/5

The image is generally good and film-like, but has its issues. It is just a little bit soft, with varying levels of detail from scene to scene. Close inspection reveals some digital artifacting, and there is occasional edge enhancement and fringing. There's not a great deal of EE, though. The browns and greys convey the 19th-Century underclass setting very well, with solid blacks and flesh tones that match the varying color palettes of different scenes.


THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4/5

The soundtrack is great, with a nice mix of dialogue, effects and music. The surround channels are present but not overdone, used mainly for the music mix. There isn't much LFE, but it's there when it needs to be.


THE SWAG: 2/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)

Twist By Polanski (28:35)

A solid making-of that includes plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interesting comments from the cast and crew. It's heavy on production footage and light on film clips. There's some good material about how Polanski came to make this film and what he brought to the table from his own personal experiences.

The Best Of Twist (17:47)

More behind-the-scenes material, focusing mainly on the technical aspects of the production -- the production design, cinematography, editing, music, etc. There's a lot of really neat footage of the sets, including design drawings and models.

Kidding With Oliver Twist (5:41)

This featurette combines behind-the-scenes footage with young star Barney Clark reading selected entries from the journal he kept during the production.

Trailers

Five trailers are included. The trailers for Fun With Dick And Jane and The Pink Panther play automatically when the disc is inserted. They may be skipped.
  • Fun With Dick And Jane (2005) (1:23) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
  • The Pink Panther (2006) (1:38) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
  • The DaVinci Code (2:06) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
  • Open Season (1:33) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
  • The Baxter (2:28) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 non-anamorphic)
SUMMING IT ALL UP

The Way I Feel About It: 3.5/5
The Way I See It: 3.5/5
The Way I Hear It: 4/5
The Swag: 2/5


Roman Polanski's take on Oliver Twist is a very well done version of a classic story that isn't necessarily the best source material for a film. Still, it makes for a solid family entertainment and a decent way to introduce kids to a piece of classic literature. The picture and sound are quite nice, and the extra features, which run just under an hour, are very interesting. All in all, this release is worth a look.
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#2 of 18 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted January 26 2006 - 01:50 AM

I never saw this one but had mild interest in it. Is it a musical like the older version?
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#3 of 18 OFFLINE   MartEvans

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Posted January 26 2006 - 02:45 AM

Nope, it's a straight adaptation of the novel. I bought it blind and will be watching it tonight.
 

 


#4 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted January 26 2006 - 04:06 AM

It's more an update of David Lean's 1948 "Oliver Twist" (with Alec Guiness in the role of Fagin), Though Carol Reed's 1968 musical "Oliver!" is nearly as true to the source. I haven't seen the new Polanski film, but Roger Ebert notes some interesting parallels between Polanski and Dickens. His review is worth a read. -Scott

#5 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 26 2006 - 04:23 AM

There are interesting parallels both between Polanski and Dickens and between Polanski and Oliver Twist! I'll check out Ebert's review. I read somewhere that even though this new version cuts out several subplots, it is actually the most faithful to the novel of all the different films.
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#6 of 18 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted January 26 2006 - 03:44 PM

Aaron: Thanks for the review! This is one the wife and I both want to see. So off I go to pick one up! I thought the trailer made it look terrific...but we just never got to the theater to see it. It had a fairly limited run in my area.

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#7 of 18 OFFLINE   dave bula

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Posted January 26 2006 - 07:25 PM

Not the best source of material for a film? Are you kidding? Do you know how many times has this story been filmed? There are more than 25 different films listed in IMDb just under the title of Oliver Twist alone. That doesn't even include the 1968 musical simply called Oliver or the Disney film called Oliver & Company. Does this sound like a story that isn't well suited for filming? Seems to me it must be a story that is very well suited for filming indeed. The test of time certainly proves it. Mr. Silverman, perhaps you don't care for the story to begin with. That is your right, and that is simply a reflection of personal taste. I have no problem with that. It seems to me, however, that a professional film reviewer should at least acknowledge that opinion up front. I have no doubts that the story of Oliver Twist will continue to be read - and dramatized - again and again, long after all of us are gone. A film reviewer has a responsibility to point out flaws in execution for any individual filmed interpretation that comes along. But a reviewer who finds fault with the original story, especially while reviewing a film that is considered comparatively true to its source, loses considerable credibility - at least in my mind.

#8 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 27 2006 - 04:04 AM


I didn't say it was "seriously" flawed; I said that it had issues as a film source. Again, I was not making a statement about the quality of Oliver Twist as a novel. I apologize if this was not clear.

Feel free to disagree with any of my comments -- I enjoy spirited debate. But please don't tell me that I don't have a right to express my opinion, especially when I explained the reasoning behind it.
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#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted January 27 2006 - 05:12 AM

One could argue that, given that the character of Oliver Twist is, to a degree, autobiographical, that the passive protagonist may be somewhat appropriate. It also isn't uncommon with stories having a child as the protagonist that they might be of a passive nature. In Oliver Twist, we observe a plot that is more episodic than climactic in nature (certainly, the standoff with Bill Sykes is a climactic element, but it is not the centerpiece of the story). The story is about humanity vs. social status: the contrasts of high society and the slums, and the fairy tale of going from rags to riches, with Oliver as a vehicle to observe the connections. Oliver Twist is a classic story, but the lack of character growth of the protagonist is a valid criticism. Oliver's situation may change, but the character never changes or learns anything... he's a failure as a thief and he grows little as a person through his experience under Fagin's tutelage, or his acceptance by Mr. Brownlow and the knowledge he gains of his mother. Instead, the character development happens to everyone except Oliver. All of the poor people and all of the bad people either are imprisoned or die, and all of the good people and rich people live happily ever after. Oliver never takes deliberate action to cause anything to happen, and is used as a pawn throughout. The novel is classic Man Vs. Society, which Dicken's did so well. All of his novels are attacks on society's values and institutions. He firmly believed that virtue was more important that social status. The character of Oliver is merely the lens that Dickens used to posit his theory. -Scott

#10 of 18 OFFLINE   dave bula

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Posted January 27 2006 - 09:04 AM

I stand by every word of my original post (#7). I see no need to reiterate any of the points I made there now. Sadly, however, Mr. Silverman has made a few comments in his response that I must address.


[quote]Dave, I appreciate your comments (although I really don't appreciate you questioning my credibility) QUOTE]



Questioning your credibility? No, that's not quite accurate. I merely stated that some of your comments caused a credibility loss **in my mind** (as I clearly stated). Big difference. This is only my perception of your comments. No one else's. Every single person that reads any review, subconsciously at least, assigns some degree of credibility (or reliability, if you would prefer that term) to what they are reading. This has to do with how much trust the reader places in the reviewer, and how much confidence they will have in the personal usefulness of his or her future reviews that the reader may subsequently encounter.





That is an unfair accusation. Nowhere in my post did I even begin to suggest that you "don't have a right to express" your opinion. I would never make such a foolish statement. Where in the world did you ever come up with such a notion? As far as I'm concerned, you have every right, and in this case, even the **responsibility** of your position as reviewer, to state your opinion. That's just how it should be.

#11 of 18 OFFLINE   Zack Gibbs

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Posted January 27 2006 - 09:36 AM

Great review, I honestly had to go and look up who Ben Kingsly played in the film after seeing it, I couldn't spot him (great performance). I agree about Oliver not being well developed, It was actually surprising to me as I had heard good things about the film, and just didn't expect that. But I agree it doesn't make the film bad, it was still a good adaption. Dave, for an outside view, I definitely read a sense of unjustified personal attack in both your posts. Aaron wrote a review that stated his opinion, which is all that is required. While you're more than welcome to share your own opinion your post seems more intent on telling Aaron that his is wrong. I don't want you to feel ganged up on, perhaps you could take a breather and just read things through again.
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#12 of 18 OFFLINE   Steve Tannehill

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Posted January 27 2006 - 10:52 AM

I think I'm going to pull out my copy of "A Sale of Two Ti**ies" by Darles Chickens, the famous Dutch author. - Steve

#13 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 27 2006 - 10:54 AM

Dave, I've gone back and deleted the comment that you found insulting. Sorry about that -- humor doesn't always travel well online. Posted Image I want to make very clear that nothing I write here is intended to be a personal attack in any way. They're just movies -- it ain't worth it.

Anyway. . .

Every post made here by you, me, and everyone else represents that person's opinion. I really don't see the need to qualify things by defining a difference between questioning someone's credibility "in your mind" and otherwise. It's splitting hairs unnecessarily.


The tone of your original post was "how dare you imply that Oliver Twist is flawed." (Specifically, take a look at the last sentence of it, where you state that it's inappropriate for a reviewer to find fault with an adapted story.) If that wasn't your intent, then that's OK, but that's how it came across and that's what I was responding to.

I don't at all mind discussing why you think I was mistaken in my assessment of the story's flaws, but I would prefer more detailed commentary than "Are you kidding? Do you know how many times has this story been filmed?"
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#14 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 27 2006 - 10:56 AM

Thanks, Zach! To tell the truth, when Fagin made his appearance, my first thought was that it was Geoffrey Rush! Fabulous performance.
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#15 of 18 OFFLINE   dave bula

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Posted January 27 2006 - 10:56 AM

Zack, why would I do that? I don't even know him. I thought that I had made some valid points in my first post that were worthy of discussion. Naturally, anyone has the right to disagree with them, and to express such disagreements. If anyone thought that I was making a personal attack in #7, I apologize for that. That was not my intention. I'm actually a little disappointed in myself for apparently having given that impression to some, since I thought I was a better writer than that. Having said the above, however, please consider the following. The only reason that I even wrote that second post (#10) was because I felt that a number of the comments Aaron had made (to me personally, by the way) in his reply (#8) were either condescending, unfair, inaccurate, or insulting. Those were the only comments I quoted or commented on. Perhaps you'd better read #10 again a little more carefully, Zack. I was only responding to comments that were directed at me. Not opinions about Oliver Twist - we'd both already covered that. If anyone here was making a personal attack, it certainly wasn't me. And no, I'm not related to Charles Dickens.

#16 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 27 2006 - 10:57 AM

Oy vey!!!
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#17 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted January 27 2006 - 10:59 AM



Thanks, Dave. Appreciated!

Now, I think we can all move on. This isn't about Dave, and it isn't about me -- it's about that undeveloped, passive little boy and his good-but-flawed movie! Posted Image
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#18 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted April 03 2006 - 06:34 AM

Just want to note for anyone interested in this title that Best Buy is advertising it for $7.49 this week (4/2-4/8)!
"How wonderful it will be to have a leader unburdened by the twin horrors of knowledge and experience." -- Mr. Wick





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