Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Battlestar Galactica
Productgroup: DVD
Battlestar Galactica - movie DVD cover picture
2nd only to the original Star Trek

Of course Star Trek could not take advantage of special effects technology, so it had to rely much more on storytelling ability, which Galactica often lacked, as far as the series goes. This movie, however, was probably the second best episode produced in Galactica's brief one-year run, and I recommend it to anyone who is a sf fan.

Studio: Universal Studios
Richard Hatch
Dirk Benedict

DVD title: Heat
Productgroup: DVD
Heat - movie DVD cover picture
The Best Non-Mob Crime Flick of the 1990s

Near-perfect, some reviewers have claimed that "Heat" is overlong, and over-violent. Actually, most of the problems with this film, if any, derive from the fact that the film is not long enough. Of course, you can't have a 5-hour film these days, but if there were to be one, "Heat" would be it. This film's only disappointment is Michael Mann's unfortunate inability to more fully develop the multitude of intriguing characters created in this crime-drama masterstroke.
The story is old, but boldly new at the same time. Crooks stealing things, and things going wrong in the process. And the "Heat" which ensues. Mann's story here is really cool, and original in its adaptation from a previous effort. Practice apparently makes perfect.
What truly makes this film are the characters which Mann has created. Both realistic, and necessarily stereotypical for a Hollywood film, Mann finds an excellent balance between the needs of the screenwriter, and the needs of the audience. Because of the large panoply of characters, all of which are essential to the picture, this film retains immense depth even after multiple viewings. As a production side-note, "Heat" is the stylistic mass-market high watermark of the 90's, but the effort does not rest on those laurels alone.
DeNiro, as usual, is both perfectly cast and fully engaging, and his performance as a professional criminal, while standing on its own, mainly lends credibility to the other performances: as such, DeNiro supports as much as he leads, which is no small feat. The neat thing here is that, because of the film's length, the audience actually gets some breathing room and quality time with the Master, in a spectrum of encounters with the various characters throughout the story. In "Heat", DeNiro is a man with a mission, and it's truly gripping to watch the picture progress as DeNiro's character tries to hold everything together within a vortex which spins just at the fringe of his control
An awesome, all-star supporting cast, including a somewhat-bizarre, but excellent Val Kilmer as DeNiro's prot?g?, and the gorgeous (and totally believable) Ashley Judd as Kilmer's wife, make massive contributions. Hank Azaria, as Judd's side-interest, is well-cast and loathsome. Tom Sizemore as the tough, but intelligent ex-con Cheritto lends bulk and backbone to DeNiro's heist crew. Danny Trejo as the loyal, ultimately-star-crossed Trejo, meets the mark in a heart-wrenching exit.
Jon Voight, brilliantly made-up as Nate, DeNiro's go-man, also stands out in an understated portrayal. The multi-talented Tom Noonan as the handicapped hacker Kelso, fills out the outstanding cast of arch criminals on the crime end of this story.
But there are two sides to this 3+ hour coin. The crooks are met by the heat, namely Al Pacino as a disaffected, but dedicated, detective, on the 'downside of his third marriage' to the compelling and hot Diane Venora as Justine, who asks for nothing but connection with Pacino's character Vincent. Pacino, the hopeless cop, is unable to give, yet redeems himself later in an unique vignette of realistically-depicted teen trauma. With the Pacino character, Mann creates a sort of benevolent reflection of DeNiro's villainous image, and, therein, the basis for the powerful dramatic tension that makes this film a true classic.
Needless to say, Pacino utterly nails it. No surprise.
The scenes with Pacino and Tone Loc and Ricky Harris have been called over-the-top. Wrong! This is Pacino at his best.
But Pacino and DeNiro, while co-stars, co-leads, and synergistic prime-movers within the larger story, are again in many ways secondary to an even deeper supporting cast that also includes William Fichtner in a pivotal role as Van Zant, as well as the well-directed Henry Rollins as Van Zants' henchman.
As the story develops the audience is brought to the depths of even deeper hatred, in the form of Kevin Gage's fine performance as the scum-bag stand-in Waingro. Amy Brenneman, as DeNiro's new gal, adds an important twist in a great outing.
The only negatives are a patch containing very sour guitar notes in an otherwise-serviceable soundtrack, and a slightly over-made-up Pacino in what is to this date an unique scene featuring Pacino and DeNiro squaring off. Minor drawbacks in a major-league success.
Own this movie! It's as good as it gets within the genre, and it will be until Mann remakes it, yet again, for the new century.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Michael Mann
Al Pacino
Robert De Niro
Val Kilmer
Jon Voight

DVD title: The Conversation
Productgroup: DVD
The Conversation - movie DVD cover picture
Eerie and Very Unsettling

There is something about Hackman, slouched in his rumpled clear plastic raincoat; something in the sense of isolation, of despair and hopelessness so deep that he has ceased noticing. He's like a homeless man - the kind you pretend not to notice when you walk past. That he happens to have a place to live and plenty of money is beside the point. Hackman's character is broken, lonely, used up, empty. He so desperately needs validation...and he will never get it.
Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation is not so much a thriller as a deconstruction of the thriller genre. As embodied by Gene Hackman, surveillance expert Harry Caul is an archetype: he is Late 20th-Century American Man. He is the result of the dislocation between the decent impulses of a traditional upbringing and the demands of the cold, bloodless technological age in which he must operate.
Harry is hired by "the director" (Robert Duvall), a man who sits at the top of a large, faceless corporation (we don't know what they do, but it's irrelevant, anyway). His job is to record a seemingly innocuous conversation between a man and woman as they walk through Union Square in San Francisco. Against his better judgment, Harry becomes personally interested in the contents of the conversation. He becomes convinced that the recording, if he turns it in and collects his hefty fee, will lead to murder. What should he do?
The plot sets up a dilemma that could describe quite a bit of American history for the past 40 years - Harry can prosper through the questionable use of technology (and quite possibly at the expense of some lives), or he can Do The Right Thing at potentially great expense to himself.
As a Roman Catholic, he needs to rid himself of guilt and seek redemption. But as an ordinary man, shell-shocked by accelerating technological and moral change, he possesses an equally strong desire to withdraw.
The irony only comes clear in the celebrated twist ending, which exists not simply to provide a clever plot device, but to underline a powerful moral argument. It would be easy to say that argument is about privacy, or technology, or the abuse of power. Easy but only partly true.
What The Conversation really argues is the folly of trying to intervene in a situation one does not fully comprehend. In this respect, it echoes America's involvement in Vietnam.
In the years since, much of America has become even more detached, cynical, and withdrawn; more Harry Caul-like than ever. The moral dilemmas we face now are even more daunting (what to do about teen violence, for example). And the stakes of intervening without fully understanding are even greater.
In this way, The Conversation is even more relevant now than when it was released.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Gene Hackman
John Cazale

DVD title: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Productgroup: DVD
Monty Python and the Holy Grail - movie DVD cover picture
The Best Movie funded by Led Zeppelin (and others)

As the details of this edition are given above and in other reviews, I'll be brief.
This edition is the equivalent of a "Criterion" collection release. If you prefered the Criterion "Life of Brian" or "Time Bandits" over the standard studio releases, then you're interested in more than just the film itself, and you definitely would appreciate all the extras that this release gives.
My favorite "extra" is the documentary of Terry Jones and Michael Palin, revisiting all the sites where the movie was filmed (just 1 castle for many; an old copper mine; the Castle Aaarrrgg which they never got to enter during the shooting).
As for technical difficulties, I occasionally had problems with the "white rabbit" locking the playback, but that was all. Everything else worked as advertised.
This is the definitive edition for this movie. Don't bother with the other.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Terry Gilliam
Terry Jones
Graham Chapman
John Cleese
Eric Idle
Michael Palin

DVD title: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Productgroup: DVD
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - movie DVD cover picture
The Best Comedy Of All Time!

What a great comedy! A friend recommended this movie to me, and I found myself laughing the whole way through! The back and forth bickering between the married couples is hilarious - and the scene in the diner is an absolute classic. The gags just keep coming one after another. Mel Brooks couldn't have done it any better. Although it drags in spots, I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone looking for a comedy with a lot of laughs. It's right up there with "There's Something About Mary" and "American Pie". You'll love it!

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Mike Nichols
Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton

DVD title: Jerry Maguire
Productgroup: DVD
Jerry Maguire - movie DVD cover picture
More than words....

Cameron Crowe is simply one of the greatest filmmakers ever and the great thing is that he isn't done doing it and I'm so honored to be around during his reign. Jerry Maguire touched me from the first time I watched this remarkable story. I even recently came across an old diary/letter I had written to myself. It refers to how I felt at a point in my life like the character Jerry Maguire when he is singing Free Fallin'. I quote myself saying "I was singing out Free Fallin' I felt like Jerry Maguire." I was 16 then, I am a 21 year old aspiring filmmaker now and still watch Jerry Maguire and understand this character. All of these characters I learned to understand. The great thing about Cameron Crowe is that when he writes, he writes from his heart. Not to make money. He explains in the first Almost Famous DVD that he loves to write about the little things that are huge things in a normal persons life. When Ray hugs and kisses Jerry for the first time and how Dorothy is so overwhelmed and touched. Crowe tells that at that point he felt like a real Director. If you haven't read the Jerry Maguire book either buy it or go to the library or book store and read the intro by Cameron. You learn so much more behind this film and you appreciate it so much more. If you love Crowes taste of music in his films I highly recommend that you find on the internet these songs from Jerry Maguire that are not on the soundtrack: Sitting Still Moving Still Staring Outlooking by His Name Is Alive, Requiem Again by Durutti Column and Through The Hill by Andy Partridge and Harold Budd. If you feel as passionate about filmmaking as I do and love Cameron Crowe these songs will ignite that excitement and amazing feeling you get from watching a film that truly touches you. I don't want to get into a lot of detail as far as the story of the film because everybody likes something different but I do recommend you give this film a chance if you haven't seen it already. I also hope that it touches you like it has me.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Cameron Crowe
Tom Cruise
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Renée Zellweger

DVD title: Cirque du Soleil - Quidam
Productgroup: DVD
Cirque du Soleil - Quidam - movie DVD cover picture

I have been studying the Cirque Du Soleil productions for the past few months. Each time I watch this DVD, I see something new. The music, the athleticism, the choreography, and the lighting are astounding. Attention to detail is an understatement. Everything is so well timed and executed. You won't be disappointed. Buy it and enjoy.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: David Mallet

DVD title: Hotel Rwanda
Productgroup: DVD
Hotel Rwanda - movie DVD cover picture
Powerful Movie, Understated Performances

This was a terrific movie, if hard to watch at many moments, about the horrific slaughter in Rwanda that the West turned a blind eye to. Don Cheadle inhabits the lead role with quiet dignity and absolutely no scenery-chewing, which I find quite remarkable, given the intensity of the story. Like another reviewer, I thought the movie actually let the Belgians et al off quite lightly however the sense that we in the West should be ashamed of how we ignored the genocide permeates the entire movie. Watch this movie and think about how we have the responsibility to hold our leaders accountable when they walk away from violence, unrest and chaos that they create in another country thousands of miles away.

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Terry George
Don Cheadle
Sophie Okonedo

DVD title: Party Monster
Productgroup: DVD
Party Monster - movie DVD cover picture
Explosion of color and sound

This movie is colorful in every way. The cinematography is lusious, the costumes are extravagant, the music is what color would sound like (the soundtrack is a great buy, i've burned it for all my friends, and haven't had anything but praises). Maculay, Seth, Marilyn, and Chloe make this movie something like a moment of experience in the club scene a la NY 1980s. I had a lot of fun with the DVD because there is an interview with the real Michael Alig, and he's just so much fun. It is a great piece.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Seth Green
Macaulay Culkin
Wilson Cruz

DVD title: Bob Dylan - MTV Unplugged
Productgroup: DVD
Bob Dylan - MTV Unplugged - movie DVD cover picture

The opener, a reworked version of Tombstone Blues, is an absolute scream -- there is no need to watch the rest of the video. However, for those too floored to hit the Stop button, the rest of the show sustains.

Studio: Sony Music Entertain

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Photo Release -- Servinova, a Cisco Systems Registered Partner Company Has Started Network Testing on CISCO Aironet (PrimeZone via Yahoo! Finance)
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Photo Release -- Servinova, a Cisco Systems Registered Partner Company Has Started Network Testing on CISCO Aironet (RedNova)
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