Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Poirot Set 9
Productgroup: DVD
Poirot Set 9 - movie DVD cover picture
3 strong entries in the almost complete POIROT series

Having sung the praises of Sets 1-8 of the Acorn Media releases of <Poirot>, I can find little to add about the general excellence of this series, which offers up the shorter episodes on VHS and the longer ones on VHS and DVD formats. With 3 of the projected 12 sets to go for the shorter entries, Set 9 offers up a trio of fairly strong tales.
"Dead Man's Mirror" concerns a ruthless millionaire who outbids Poirot on a mirror at an auction and then dangles the item as bait for the detective to investigate a case of fraud. There is much ado about inheritances, a second (unsigned) will, possible murderers, dinner gongs, and shots behind locked doors. And if the ending is far fetched, who cares? This one needs total concentration.
"Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan" is lighthearted and contains a wonderful spoof on the mystery plays popular in Christie's own time. You will enjoy not only the usual good characterizations by the supporting cast but also the very imaginative camera shots inside a chest of drawers.
"The Case of the Clapham Cook" hangs on a hoax that is a bit overly complicated, since the perpetrator could have accomplished his aims in a far less roundabout way; but then there would have been no plot. The use of disguises, fine in the original stories, often does not work on video, because it is too easy to spot the face behind the beard.
All in all, superior viewing for an evening.

Studio: Acorn Media Publishi

DVD title: Stargate SG-1 Season 1 Boxed Set
Productgroup: DVD
Stargate SG-1 Season 1 Boxed Set - movie DVD cover picture
Concerned parents

The nudity is so brief as to be insignificant. You should worry more about the violence your children see and not the perfectly natural nude human body, perfected after millions of years of evolution. In any event, great show -- can't wait for the other discs. Like Star Trek before it, this show deals with significant cultural topics, such as prejudice, racism, sexism and tolerance for others -- for these reasons some on the right will not enjoy it, but for everyone else, enjoy!

Studio: MGM/UA Video
Stargate Sg-1
Richard Anderson

DVD title: Saving Face
Productgroup: DVD
Saving Face - movie DVD cover picture
cute and poignant

This is a great film that you need to see, if you live in the selected cities where it is currently playing. Wil (Michelle Krusiek) is a dilligent surgeon, of Chinese ancestry, living in Queens, NY, with strong ties to her roots, via her mother and the Chinese association they belong to. Though, her sexual orientation as a young lesbian, is kept thinly veiled from her mother, it still is a prevalent part of her identity that she struggles with. When her 48 year old mother (Joan Chen) literally shows up on her doorstep, pregnant and kicked out of the family home of her grandparents, it more than puts a little cramp in her style. Wil is also persuing a new romance with the beautiful Vivian, an aspiring prima ballerina, whose father happens to be Wil's superior at the hospital.

This film is warm, funny and accessible to many different audiences, which makes it so charming and human. You don't have to be lesbian or speak Mandarin to enjoy the wit and the intelligence of this story. First time filmmaker (and screenwriter) Alice Wu really convey poetry through the cinematography and relationships of the characters. We see a young woman bound by familial duty, and also torn from the conventions and expectations of her ethnic heritage by her sexual orientation. She is likeable and also heartbreaking in her struggle with coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian, a woman, a daughter and just a part of the scope of things in the universe.
Check it out.

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Alice Wu
Michelle Krusiec
Joan Chen

DVD title: Fancy Pants
Productgroup: DVD
Fancy Pants - movie DVD cover picture
Watch out world Here she comes!

This was a very funny and pleasant movie! Watch closely and you will see the emergence of Lucy Ricardo ..not a surprise as this was the last movie our beloved Lucy made before hitting the television airways as the beloved Mrs Ricardo..with her good pal and co star Mr Bob Hope this movie is a winner all the way around...Comic genius from two of the businesses best entertainers/comedians..Thoroughly enjoyable entertainment for the whole family!

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: George Marshall
Bob Hope
Lucille Ball

DVD title: Left Behind - The Movie
Productgroup: DVD
Left Behind - The Movie - movie DVD cover picture
An Excellent Supplement to the Book

This movie follows the book precisely and is as well made as any movie I've ever seen. The characters fit the images I had in mind when I read the book and served only to enhance the understanding I had gained of the book of Revelations when I read the book. I thought the book was a "must read" book. Now, I have to admit the movie falls into that same category. It is certainly a "must see" movie.

Studio: Cloud Ten Pictures
Director: Vic Sarin
Kirk Cameron
Brad Johnson (II)

DVD title: The Damned
Productgroup: DVD
The Damned - movie DVD cover picture
A Classic Movie

This astonishing if ultimately frustrating production fuses two motifs familiar from earlier Visconti works: the historical spectacular (Senso, The Leopard) and the family saga (La Terra trema, Rocco and His Brothers). But there almost any similarity with the director's early films ceases altogether. The Damned is history as Walpurgisnacht, focusing upon the peripeties of a German family of industrialists-evidently modeled upon the Krupps--whose secret repository of vices gives new meaning to the stock phrase "skeleton in the closet". On the eve of the Reichstag fire, the Von Essenbecks, owners of an important steel factory with close traditional ties to the military, gather to celebrate the birthday of the family patriarch, Joachim (Albrecht Schoenhals). The heir to the dynasty is the elegant, amoral Martin (Helmut Berger), the only child of Joachim's son who has died in World War I and the beautiful, unscrupulous Baroness Sophie Von Essenbeck (Ingrid Thulin). Sophie is enamored of the ambitious Friedrich Bruckmann (Dirk Bogarde), and plans to use her son as a pawn to promote Friedrich's rise to power as head of the family business. Yet Sophie, in spite of her passionate love for Friedrich, is pathologically attached to Martin, who in turn has a psychopathic attraction to little girls. To guarantee the Nazis' control of the steel works, Friedrich conspires with the diabolical SS officer Aschenbach (Helmut Griem) in the killing of old Joachim, and later in the assassination of Martin's uncle Konstantin (Rene Koldehoff) during a homosexual orgy of SA followers on the Night of the Long Knives. But Friedrich's petty Machiavellian schemes to advance his own personal fortunes are readily outmatched by the superior cunning and ruthlessness of the Mephistophelean Nazis with whom he has sealed his Faustian pact.It would be an understatement to characterize The Damned as oppressive. One of the standard conventions of older Italian films about fascism had been to pit bestial Nazis against numerically inferior but morally superior adversaries-the prototype is Roberto Rossellini's Open City. However, in this movie the forces of evil seem invincible. The film concludes-after Friedrich and Sophie have been forced to commit suicide following their nuptials-with images of a blast furnace: history being transformed into an inferno by the power of the total state. Visconti further reinforces the pervasive mood of suffocation, an asphyxia nearly as much physical as moral and political, with a dazzling use of color mise en sc?ne, emphasizing brown, black, and red shades, brilliantly realized by his directors of photography, Pasqualino De Santis and Armando Nannuzzi. Ever since shooting Senso, the director had shown a sensitivity to the expressive possibilities of color, but here he really outdid himself, without ever falling into the pictorialism that mars The Leopard as well as Death in Venice, and even more Ludwig. (Anyone who writes a book on the history of color cinematography one day will have to devote an entire chapter to Visconti.)In his early films, Visconti seemed as much rooted in the 19th century as D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, or John Ford, a committed leftist who nevertheless owed as much to the humanistic realism of Alessandro Manzoni as to the economic and political doctrines of Karl Marx. But his career underwent a mutation in the1960s, signs of which are more evident in the febrile Sandra (1965), with its incestuous brother-sister relationship, than in the pallid, pious adaptation of Albert Camus' The Stranger (1967). The original, apocalyptically charged title of The Damned is La Caduti degli dei or The Fall of the Gods, an allusion to the final opera in The Ring of the Nibelung, bringing in both Richard Wagner-one of the spiritual godfathers of Nazism-as well as Wagner's vision of a fiery consummation of human history in the conflagration of Valhalla. Yet Visconti's world ends in The Damned neither with a bang nor a whimper, but a fascist travesty of the heritage of European civilization, from art of ancient times down to the German cinema of the 1920s and 1930s. In this regard, the movie adopts the overtly deconstructive stance of postmodernism towards the past by showing how once viable cultural traditions can be corrupted and thus irretrievably lost. More of an allegory out of Sigmund Freud or Wilhelm Reich than a historical picture, The Damned does not at all pick up where The Leopard stopped, but anticipates in both dramatic strategy and style Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, which in a memorable sequence juxtaposes the choral finale of Beethoven's 9th Symphony-already made grotesque by being performed on a synthesizer-with images of Adolf Hitler strutting before his rapt admirers extracted from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. In my own opinion, Visconti was one of the great directors in the history of the cinema, but The Damned is an agonistic work rather than an accomplished one, the record of an artist's struggle with his own personal demons. Still, The Damned is far more impressive than any of Bernardo Bertolucci's psychosexual exercises in interpreting history-not to mention a rebuke to such Fellini psychedelic schlock as Julietta of the Spirits or Satyricon--and Visconti got invaluable support from his cast, especially Ingrid Thulin and Dirk Bogarde, although some viewers may have a problem with Helmut Berger as the epicene Martin. Warner Home Video asks quite a stiff price for this tape, which does not seem to me wholly justified. The picture quality is adequate in copies I have seen, but this version is the R rated one, missing some footage deleted to change the original X-the IMDb gives the Italian running time as 155 minutes-- and the aspect ratio is not 1.85 letterbox as it should be, but full screen television.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Luchino Visconti
Dirk Bogarde
Ingrid Thulin
Helmut Griem
Helmut Berger

DVD title: Terry Pratchett's Discworld - Wyrd Sisters
Productgroup: DVD
Terry Pratchett's Discworld - Wyrd Sisters - movie DVD cover picture
Granny Weatherwax would approve

...and she doesn't approve of much.

I love Pratchett's books and think he's one of the wisest people living right now, and I generally do not like book-to-film adaptations, much less book-to-animation.

I didn't love this adaptation right off the bat. I speak Midwestern American English and my ears took awhile getting used to the "Ramtop" accents - the same as watching Shakespeare performed by British actors using appropriate accents. Granny, Nanny, and Magrat don't sound like Elves from Lord of the Rings, but they DO sound like English country women.

It takes a bit of getting used to, but the adaptation is brilliant, from the intro shot of Great A'Tuin to the feral woodland creatures at the end.

It may not be quite what you expect - but if you check your assumptions at the door you will probably enjoy this adaptation of Pratchett's genius.

Studio: Acorn Media
Director: Jean Flynn (II)

DVD title: Wit
Productgroup: DVD
Wit - movie DVD cover picture
Women and dying

John Donne's poem, "No Man is an Island" ends with the words, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." The words seemed romantic when I was a teenager. After all, Hemingway derived the title of one of his books about WWI from them and Hollywood made a glam film about his book.
These days I am approaching the twilight years at breakneck speed and death doesn't seem romantic. So why on earth would I want to be reminded of my own mortality or the mortality of those I love by a film about a woman dying of cancer? The answers for me are these: 1) Emma Thompson. I've seen every film she's made, even the mediocre ones, and I refuse to miss a single one of her films (CARRINGTON sure wasn't very cheerful); 2) Thompson plays a professor of English who's specialty is the metaphysical poetry of John Donne. I had to see how one could develop a film about this topic; 3) I wanted to see the film version of WIT because I could not get to New York City to see Judith Light play Vivian Bearing in the Pulitzer prize winning play; 4) The stellar supporting cast assembled for the film including the fabulous Eileen Atkins and Audra McDonald; 5) Ms. Thompson's co-writing the screen play (she won the Oscar for her screen play of the book "Sense and Sensibility").
WIT is a profound film. I am still trying to make all the connections, however, the overwhelming sadness of Donne's poem strikes home -- "Ask not for whom the bell tolls..."

Studio: Hbo Studios
Director: Mike Nichols
Emma Thompson

DVD title: The Matrix
Productgroup: DVD
The Matrix - movie DVD cover picture

Just about the greatest movie ever!

Studio: Warner Studios
Keanu Reeves
Laurence Fishburne
Carrie-Anne Moss

DVD title: Never Been Kissed
Productgroup: DVD
Never Been Kissed - movie DVD cover picture
One of My Favs

I haven't seen this movie in awhile, but it still lingers on my mind. Most people can identify with the storyline. Very good movie.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Director: Raja Gosnell
Drew Barrymore

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