Willow [Blu-Ray] Ron Howard

Willow [Blu-Ray] Ron Howard
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For its 25th anniversary, Ron Howard and George Lucas's classic swords and sorcery adventure finally gets the Blu-Ray treatment. Any film fan born in the late '70s or early '80s is more than likely to have at least a passing infatuation, if not outright love, for this charming tale of a brave little man with a big heart. Being a George Lucas mind-zygote (the story was fleshed out by SCTV vet Bob Doleman), Willow is a simple hero's journey. The crowd-pleasing twist on formula comes from casting a person of diminutive stature as the unlikely protagonist. Willow (a young family man and aspiring magician) is thrust into an epic quest to save the realm from the clutches of an evil sorceress by delivering a prophetic child from harm. His warm, paternal affection plays in contrast to the callous mothering of the evil Queen Bavmorda (a cackling Jean Marsh), but it's hard to tell if there was really much intent in the way of subtext beyond the usual "believe in yourself," standing order, life lesson of most fantasy films. Despite the obvious datedness of its special effects, which were cutting edge at the time, Willow still brims with indefinable magic — the sheer effort and goodwill of everyone involved pulses on the screen with an infectious glow of innocence. Ron Howard's first turn helming a major tent pole extravaganza was a high water mark of that golden age of family fantasy cinema, where it was okay for a film to be a little dark, scary and icky — the scene of a troll ripping its skin off while transforming into a giant, two-headed dinosaur chicken monster still looks pretty grotesque. Fondly looking back, the director, head special effects wizard and star, Warwick Davis, all contribute to an excellent batch of updated bonus features. In the deleted scenes, Howard guides us through the process of shooting and, ultimately, chopping a few sequences that bogged down the film's straightforward narrative trajectory. Using a combination of behind-the-scenes footage and the mostly finished scenes, he relates how each decision affected his growth as a filmmaker and finally reveals just what happened to that third, unaccounted for, magical acorn. "The Making of an Adventure" is an old mini-documentary on the film's production with an introduction by present-day Ron. Following in that vein, "From Morf to Morphing with Dennis Muren" sees a modern Muren (Star Wars) setting up a feature from 2001 that details the ground-breaking special effects technology developed for the scene where Willow struggles to transform grand wizard Fin Raziel into her human form. Most interesting is the "Personal Video Diary of Warwick Davis," in which present-day Davis reminisces over footage he shot on set using a camera he bought with some of the money he made playing Wicket in Return of the Jedi. A demonstration of matte painting integration finishes off a wonderful collection of extras worthy of this delightful relic from another time. (Fox)