"Of course, we all remember Jim Henson for bringing us those fuzzy, adorable animal puppets and their variety show.
But Henson also produced some very memorable, intriguing fantasy films, and after his death his production company has continued that tradition. "The Jim Henson Family Film Collection" brings together three classic films from Henson and his company, as well as an accompanying book of unknown content.
"Labyrinth" becomes a problem for teenage Sarah, who is stuck babysitting her crying baby stepbrother. But when she idly wished that the goblins would steal him, she never expected it to happen -- or that the Goblin King Jareth (David Bowie) would challenge her if she tries to get her brother back.
Now Sarah has only thirteen hours to navigate a changing, hazardous maze, with Jareth's castle at the center of it. To find her way, she will have to befriend strange creatures and avoid lethal bogs, nasty fairies, head-jugglers, and finally Jareth himself -- or her brother will be turned into a goblin himself.
"The Dark Crystal" is the heart of this movie, where on another world, there are two strange races -- the enormous, gentle, peaceful Mystics, and the nasty, vulture-like, vicious Skekses. They are somehow connected to a massive crystal that was broken long ago, and now a shard is missing from it. What's more, three suns are about to come into conjunction, and the shard has to be back in place.
The Mystics have cared for one of the last Gelflings, an orphan named Jen. As the conjunction approaches, they send him out to find the lost shard. Along the way, Jen finds new friends who assist him in his quest, including another Gelfling. But can they avoid the Skekses? And what will happen when the suns line up, and the crystal is completed?
These movies were created in whole by Jim Henson, and even in the darker moments, they have his unmistakeable stamp. More recent -- and quite different in tone -- is "Mirrormask," which instead has the stamp of writer Neil Gaiman, and seems like a warped "Alice in Wonderland." But Henson's production company does a great job with all the weird special effects.
In "Mirrormask," we're introduced to Helena (Stephanie Leonidas), a young circus girl who longs for a "normal" life, and makes elaborate, otherworldly drawings. But one night her mother collapses, and needs life-saving surgery. The guilt-ridden Helena is suddenly whisked into a world that looks very like her drawings, where everyone has a mask -- and the beautiful queen of light (who looks a lot like Helena's mom) is in a coma.
Helena is determined to wake the queen, and gets juggler Valentine (Jason Barry) to accompany her on her quest for the mysterious Mirrormask. But the stakes become higher when the forces of darkness -- and their eerie queen -- target Helena, and she finds that a dark duplicate of herself has taken over her life. Now Helena must somehow defeat the dark forces, with her mother's life -- and her own -- hanging in the balance.
All three of these movies are classics of one type or another, and each embraces a different kind of fantasy. One is about wanting to be swept into an idyllic fantasy life. One is entirely of another world. And one is about the dangers of the other world.
To top it off, three are coming-of-age stories, whether for a teenage girl or a Muppet Gelfling -- they all focus on someone pursuing something that can save what is important to them, and growing as a person along the way. The scripting tends to be tight and a little wry. Sometimes it gets goofy, but well-acted (and in Bowie's case, well-sung).
What's more, the styles of each movie change: "Dark Crystal" is very fantastical and serious, even with some gross, dark parts, while "Labyrinth" is more kiddy-friendly and Muppety, with the little chivalrous fox (though Bowie's tight pants are a BIG distraction). And "Mirrormask" has a different style altogether, with lots of shadowy buildings, eerie lighting, fleshy masks, wide bodies and tentacle-like limbs.
The "Jim Henson Fantasy Films" are a good collection of films, showing off Henson's more fantastical side. Definitely worth seeing."
Nice upgrade at a nice price.
SRFireside | Houston, TX United States | 08/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Jim Henson company is following the same format they had done with The Storyteller Collection and are putting their three fantasy movies onto a single three disk collection. The movies are The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and MirrorMask. Two of these movies (Dark Crystal and Labyrinth) came from Jim Henson himself while MirrorMask is actually from Neil Gaiman, but produced by the Jim Henson company.
The movies themselves are great. The Dark Crystal takes you into a whole different world in a way that no other film has even come close to accomplishing. Labyrinth takes what Dark Crystal did a step further and makes a storybook fantasy come to life in an incredible way. MirrorMask is just as beautiful as the previous movies, but with more computer generated images than live action animatronics and sets.
What you are getting is essentially the previous releases of these movies collected into this one volume, including all of the awesome bonus features. They say this collection has been mastered in high definition, but I don't know if that means a significant improvement in video quality from the original release or not. There are no additional features or commentaries on these disks from what you had before. Luckily the original releases came with some very nice documentaries and those are included here. This DVD set also comes with a booklet that is essentially a teaser for the upcoming Dark Crystal manga comic.
I am a little hard pressed to recommend this collection to anybody who already has the movies. It doesn't offer an additional features that you can't already get on the separate DVD's, the whole "remastered" element is debatable, and the one and only thing that would have made this a decent buy (an informative insert booklet) turns out to be just advertising for future merchandise. Personally if you really want a high definition transfer wait until these movies are released on HD-DVD or Blu-Ray (or whatever 1080p format that comes up). Now that the 25th Anniversary Editions of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth are out I really see no reason to get this collection, and considering you can get all three DVD's separately (with the same features, mind you) at a lower cost the choice is obvious."
Marc Fuchs | 09/27/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Unless I'm crazy (distinct possibility) this costs more than buying all three blu-rays separately. So unless clicking your mouse about 6 times isnt worth about $25 to you, this is a poor purchase."
A Masterpiece Collection
Underground Reborn | ny | 09/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Everyone of us has a favorite muppet, that is how well Jim Henson stood out as one of the most creative minds for family programing and now his legacy is remembered in a box set of the three non muppet films. These movies are nothing but pure grandure of fantasy used to stimulate the mind and senses. The stories are origional family friendly and a pleasure to watch over and over again. Jim Henson worked with other creative minds of the time such as Rick Callum, Frank Oz and of course one of Jim Hensons' equils George Lucas. No wonder these movies are so good.
The Dark Crystal, the first of these films is Lord Of The Rings with muppets. Its the story of a dying world and two races of creatures created by the breaking of the keeper of the world, the Dark Crystal. Now it is up to Jen, the last of his race to unite the crystal before the three suns of the planet align. Dark Crystal is an eye popping marvel. It doesn't move too quickly but that is how Jim Hensons' work is most of the time. But just watching the fact that there is not a single human in this movie and that its all done through the magic of puppetry and voice acting keeps you in your seat itching to see what happens next.
Labyrinth, probably the fan favorite of the three is the most entertaining in my eyes. Picture a twisted Wizard of Oz, with goblins. It's the story of a young, but still hot Jennifer Connely as she wishes her baby brother is taken away by the infamous Gobin King (That is David Bowie and yes he is singing!)Now she muse get to the caslte through a puzzeling maze filled with creatures you have never seen anywhere else before her brother becomes a goblin. This movie is great its a must see.
The last one was made long after Jim Henson left us, but the story of Mirrormask stays true to the legacy of Jim Henson storytelling. Filled with stimulating images, crazy creatures and a important moral to lesson to learn.
This collection goes right up there with the great movie trilogies of the past 35 years. It is worth every penny and there is no doubt in my mind you will want to watch them as much as you can."
A Great Conjunction
Count Orlok '22 | The land of the denigrated reviewers | 10/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the 1980s people were sick of political and social unrest, so naturally they escaped into the zeitgeist of popular culture, which resulted in terrifically shallow yet entertaining films. Two genres in particular were given the spotlight: fantasy and science fiction. There were even some films, which transcended the stereotypes of the two genres. There were certain writers, directors, and producers who excelled in delivering films that were both technically and artistically exhilarating. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Jim Henson were among the forerunners of these talented filmmakers. In Jim Henson's classic 1982 film, The Dark Crystal, he told a complex story that simultaneously followed in the footsteps of other fantasy stories, while seeking out a level of philosophical sophistication that was absent in fantasy films of the past. If that weren't enough, he essentially told the entire story utilizing highly advanced puppets to play as the characters. That's right, not a single human being, with the exception of those dressed as creatures, will be seen on the screen. That in itself makes the film daringly original.
The Dark Crystal - 1982 Jen, a young Gelfling on the planet Thra, is chosen to restore balance to his world before the Great Conjunction, when the three suns meet in the heavens. To do this he must reunite a crystal shard with the Dark Crystal, which was splintered thousands of years before resulting in the creation of two new races: the gentle Mystics (or urRu) and the cruel Skeksis. During his quest Jen encounters all sorts of strange creatures and characters including the prophet Aughra, Kira, the only other surviving Gelfling, Fizzgig her spastic pet, Garthim, which are fearsome crustacean-like creatures, and the ethereal Landstriders. Can Jen save his world or will Thra plunge into chaos?
After making The Dark Crystal, Jim Henson decided that he wanted to make another fantasy film, though this time around it would need to be lighter and more accessible to typical moviegoers. Hiring Monty Python writer/star Terry Jones to pen the screenplay, and reuniting with visionary conceptual designer Brian Froud, Henson created a film that was more commercially successful and possessed a broader audience appeal. Part of this appeal was due to the zany characters that were created for the film, but the main reason for Labyrinth's success was the fact that it featured pop-star David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King. Unlike The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth also featured clever pop songs that furthered the plot.
Labyrinth - 1986 When withdrawn and imaginative teenager Sarah, is left to baby-sit her infant brother, Toby, she halfheartedly asks the goblins of her favorite story to kidnap him. But when they turn out to be real, and they do take him to their master the Goblin-King, Jareth, Sarah must navigate her way through a challenging labyrinth in order to get him back. Along the way she befriends a cranky yet lovable dwarf named Hoggle, a furry behemoth named Ludo, and a talking dog, Sir Didymus, who has delusions of being a valiant knight. But even with such friends as these can she rescue Toby before it's too late?
After his tragic death in 1990, Jim Henson's company was passed onto his children Lisa and Brian. Acknowledging the success of their father's ventures into the realm of fantasy films, they decided to create a film that would capitalize on his previous successes, as well as boost their reputation in the film industry. The Jim Henson Company's greatest success had always been with puppets, but since CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) revolutionized filmmaking in the early `90s, the company had been slowly losing momentum. However they had faith that with the right story and the right director, they might have a hit. After hearing of a project that acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman, and artist/writer/director Dave McKean were trying to get a film made, they quickly backed them financially. Unlike Henson's own films, MirrorMask didn't use much in the way of puppets. Instead they focused on computer effects, which resulted in a visually stunning but emotionally inert film.
MirrorMask - 2005 Disenchanted teenager, Helena grew up in a traveling circus with her mother and father. But she develops a dislike for performing and one night she has an intense argument with her mother. During the show that night, her mother collapses and is sent to the hospital. Her mother has cancer and Helena is filled with guilt and regret. She dreams herself into a surreal world where she is mistaken for the daughter the Dark Queen, whose own daughter has assumed Helena's identity in her own world. In order to save the dream world and return to her own, Helena must find the powerful MirrorMask. Joining her on her quest is the roguish jester, valentine.
Of these films, I am of the opinion that The Dark Crystal is the best for its originality of vision and complex yet understated philosophical subtext. Labyrinth is also a classic and features Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly in the role of Sarah. While MirrorMask is visually powerful, the story feels underdeveloped, which makes it the weakest of these three films.
Also recommended: Sesame Street: Old School, Vol. 1 (1969-1974) The Muppet Show: Season One The Dark Crystal: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack The World of the Dark Crystal by Brian Froud Labyrinth: From the Original Soundtrack of the Jim Henson Film The Goblins of Labyrinth by Terry Jones and illustrated by Brian Froud MirrorMask: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack MirrorMask: The Illustrated Film Script of the Motion Picture by Neil Gaiman and David McKean Jim Henson's the Storyteller: The Definitive Collection The Witches"