Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: The Pink Panther Film Collection (The Pink Panther / A Shot in the Dark / Strikes Again / Revenge of / Trail)
Productgroup: DVD
The Pink Panther Film Collection (The Pink Panther / A Shot in the Dark / Strikes Again / Revenge of / Trail) - movie DVD cover picture
5 stars for the movies, 3 for the set....

Any fan of comedy, classic or otherwise, owes it to himself to check out this celebration of the unique collaboration between Blake Edwards & Peter Sellers. You can't go wrong with any of these five terrific and still side-splittingly funny films, all set to Henry Mancini's jazzy scoring. But what's up, MGM Home Entertainment? The Region 2 British edition of this box set features a great deal more bonus material: the sublime UNKNOWN PETER SELLERS documentary; commercials filmed by Sellers near the end of his illustrious career and a featurette about them; a vintage network special THAT'S PANTHERTAINMENT!; and an 8-page booklet. The US edition carries none of these, only the solid if short PINK PANTHER STORY documentary; and the Cartoon Library featuring a BEHIND THE FELINE featurette (very informative) with six cartoons (one of which, ridiculously, involves neither the Panther nor the Inspector). The cartoon selection is different and all Pink-related on the British release, which does include the 'toon featurette and full docu. The latter does feature great interviews with Blake Edwards, but glosses over the 1970s films and leaves out all mention of Pink's "comeback", RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER, to which MGM does not own the rights. Where's Herbert Lom? Burt Kwouk? How wonderful it would have been to see them share their memories of Sellers. But what *IS* here looks and sounds beautiful, and the packaging is top-notch. Now if only MGM would release CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER, the direct sequel to TRAIL, so the viewers of this set aren't left with TRAIL's cliffhanger; and SON OF THE PINK PANTHER, notable only for Roberto Benigni's valiant efforts (however in vain) to fill Sellers' shoes. Are you listening, MGM? Happy 40th, Pink Panther!

Studio: MGM/UA Video
Peter Sellers

DVD title: Gaudi Afternoon
Productgroup: DVD
Gaudi Afternoon - movie DVD cover picture
Gender Bending fun

Gaudi Afternoom is what you could call an alternative piece of comedy . Set and filmed entirely in Spain , the movie is sharp , witty and full of dark humour . More of a film-noir if you'd like to categorize it , it's been carried by a group of talented , underrated female actors . Davis is excellent in the lead role and so is Marcia Gay Harden ( in her most unusual part yet ) who is been provided with more than a couple of poisonous lines to work on by the script . The female versus..."female" scenes are all great yet the best one of all is when Harden and Taylor try to convince a little girl that they can compromise with each other and get over their differences , all in return for her precious love . Certaintly not your ordinary hollywood comedy flick , this spicy film waits for you to discover .

Studio: First Look Pictures
Director: Susan Seidelman
Judy Davis
Marcia Gay Harden

DVD title: Lost In Translation (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Lost In Translation (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Bill Murray's best film & a triumph for Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola wrote the "Lost in Translation" script with Bill Murray in mind. Then, she peppered him for almost a year to get him to commit to the film. She went through trusted intermediaries, wooed him with gifts, letters, the works.
Thank goodness the private Bill Murray (a shy, reclusive individual 180 degress different than his usual on-screen persona) finally relented to Ms. Coppola's very subtle charisma and wiles. Turns out she did know best: Murray's take as fading Hollywood star Bob Harris is the role of a lifetime. If Murray doesn't at least get an Oscar nomination for 'Lost' (after getting jobbed for 'Rushmore'), it will be nothing short of criminal.
In stories that appeared in the New York Times and elsewhere around the time of the national release of this film, there was talk of Ms. Coppola's original treatment of this film, and how - as a 10-page draft - it seemed too slight to transform into an art-house film.
But, in simplicity, there is brilliance. The powerhouse scene of the movie is Murray's combined commercial/photo shoot in Tokyo. The New York Times reports that the scene came about as follows:
- Ms. Coppola - who possesses a deep knowledge of all things Japan thanks to other business interests there - enivisioned the scene between the Japanese director and Murray.
- She scripted *in English* the "coaching" that the Japanese director gives to Murray prior to the first take. It's filled with purposely ridiculous emotional outpourings of the deep sentiments that Suntory Whiskey will arouse in you.
- She asked a friend to translate the monologue into Japanese.
- She never revealed to Murray the monologue's content and instructed the translator to be oblique and perfunctory (boy, is she ever) when providing him with the on-screen translation.
The rest is just great ad-lib acting by Murray. His confusion is genuine. The improvisational stuff he comes up with in the subsequent photo shoot is pure magic. Only Bill Murray could pull it off with such perfect aplomb.
Let's hope the academy recognizes this brilliance and rewards it next Spring.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Sofia Coppola
Scarlett Johansson
Bill Murray
Giovanni Ribisi

DVD title: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Productgroup: DVD
O Brother, Where Art Thou? - movie DVD cover picture
O Brother, It's Good

Joel and Ethan Coen seem incapable of making a film that isn't at least interesting, and often their movies are absolutely delightful. I think everyone has their favorites (mine are "Fargo" and "Raising Arizona"), but this film touched a few cultural nerves that are infrequently accessed.
For one thing, the soundtrack features a brilliant collection of grass-roots and Americana music - acoustic blues and jazz and bluegrass. Alison Krauss, already a novelty around Nashville as a platinum-selling bluegrass artist, received a thunderbolt of a boost to her career by supplying several tunes and vocal parts to the soundtrack (for example singing the Heavenly "Down to the River to Pray" during the baptism scene and the seductive voice of one of the sirens later on). Dan Tyminski, one of the musicians from Alison's band, Union Station, supplies the singing voice of George Clooney and Dan Tyminski's "Man of Constant Sorrow" became even MORE of a novelty around Nashville as it won one Country Music Award after another without the benefit of any significant radio play.
The script is VERY loosely based on Homer's Odyssey and knowing that allows the moderately educated a few hearty chuckles recognizing, for example, that John Goodman's Eye-Patched Bible Salesman represents the Cyclops.
George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson deliver the Coen's rib-tickling dialogue with gusto. I don't know why it's so entertaining to watch characters who are clueless, or at least more clueless than they think they are, but to see three bravura performances as chain-gang refugee dunces is a treat here.
In a typical early sequence our trio has just made their break from the chain-gang and Clooney's Everett begins taking charge. Turturro's Pete questions him:
"Wait a minute. Who elected you leader of this outfit?"
Everette responds "Well, Pete, I figured it should be the one with the capacity for abstract thought. But if that ain't the consensus, then hell, let's put it to a vote."
"Suits me", says Pete. "I'm voting for yours truly."
"Well, I'm voting for yours truly too" replies Everett, not backing down.
Pete and Everett turn to their slightly denser partner Delmar to break the deadlocked vote.
He ponders it thoughtfully."Okay.... I'm with you fellers".
Classic Coen Brothers.----------------------------One tidbit provided on the "Alison Krauss and Union Station LIVE DVD": Dan Tyminski, upon learning that he was going to be providing the singing voice for George Clooney, called his wife to give her the exciting news.
"Honey! They're making a movie and I'm doing a voiceover for George Clooney!"
"Oh, that's good, Dan. What's a voiceover?"
"Well, when people go to see the movie and look up on the screen, they'll see George Clooney, but when he sings it'll be my voice coming out of his mouth!"
"Oh Dan", Mrs. Tyminski replied. "That's my fantasy!"

Studio: Touchstone Video
George Clooney
John Turturro
Tim Blake Nelson

DVD title: Trick
Productgroup: DVD
Trick - movie DVD cover picture

I found this DVD hidden in the shelves of a video store at the mall, and I couldn't decide whether to buy it because I didn't know whether it would be worth the price, but I stopped being frugal for a second and purchased the DVD, and I was pleasantly surprised. The movie started out well, I wasn't entirely convinced that I would enjoy a movie about a one-night stand, but after the film was finished, I found it to be sweet, funny, and really very good. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is up for a unique romantic comedy with an edge.

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: Jim Fall
Christian Campbell
John Paul Pitoc

DVD title: Notting Hill (Collector's Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Notting Hill (Collector's Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
The Right Combinations-Characters, Setting and Music

A beautiful movie that is confirmed by my wife who would much rather classify it as the stereotypical "Woman's Romance." However, I beg to differ with her, this is one to be shared between both. The chemistry between Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant is much more than magical and even while Scott's character is weaker than Julia Roberts' previous roles, she easily manages to pull out a superb performance. The supporting cast equally deserves mention for providing support to what is truly a "surreal" romantic comedy. Bonuses: Don't miss the collector's edition's deleted scenes (including an alternative final ending) and the music highlights.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Roger Michell
Julia Roberts
Hugh Grant

DVD title: The Day After
Productgroup: DVD
The Day After - movie DVD cover picture
About as good as TV movies get

It's hard to find too much to complain about with this jem. As scores of others have written, this was, and probably still is the most controversial made for TV movie of all-time. Right up there with "The Burning Bed" for those of you who remember that.
Seeing this as a teenager I was definitely creeped-out. The attention to detail and authenticity make this film a stand-out. The acting ranges from acceptable to extraordinary and the special effects-though not exactly cutting-edge, more than get the point across.
There is no point in going over the storyline itself. This film could have contained any one of a hundred pentagon war scenarios and been essentially the same. This film is more about people than politics. A short nuclear exchange reduces Kansas City (and the nation) to ashes. The stories of a good 1/2 dozen characters are set up and followed through this harrowing experience. We see this through the eyes of a then-unknown Steve Guttenberg along with John Lithgow, and Jason Robards. I thought Guttenberg did a good job-usually I can't stand him.
This film is like a 'slice-of-life' which none of us wants to experience. The atmosphere is depressing and hopeless for the most part. Perhaps the most frightening thing is the realization that it could happen so easily.

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Nicholas Meyer

DVD title: Scarface
Productgroup: DVD
Scarface - movie DVD cover picture
The Face, the Voice, the Strut of Al Pacino

Tony Montana will get under your skin, will get into your head, and before you know it you'll be talking like him, quoting lines from the movie, and watching it over and over. As gangster movies go, it's probably number three behind The Godfather, and Godfather II. And it's no coincidence that Al Pacino is in all three. Al Pacino does so many things to bring Tony Montana to life; but his most jarring piece of acting comes during the famous chainsaw scene, in his wordless closeup. His facial expression speaks volumes as Tony is stripped of his strut to reveal naked emotion. Of course, Al Pacino isn't the only great contributor. Brian DePalma is a terrific director, Oliver Stone is a great screenwriter (and director, but not here); Steven Bauer, F. Murray Abraham, Robert Loggia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michelle Pfeiffer are no slouches as performers. In retrospect, it seems that it would take an awful lot to make this movie go wrong; but because everyone was at the top of their game, Scarface has become a masterpiece.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Brian De Palma
Al Pacino
Michelle Pfeiffer

DVD title: My Darling Clementine
Productgroup: DVD
My Darling Clementine - movie DVD cover picture
Almost Poetically Flawless

25 years ago, when the VHS was a hot new item, my neighborhood had one video store. The guy who owned it had very strong opinions about movies, and he used to insist that "My Darling Clementine" was the best Western ever made. I remembered that,and a few years later I saw it. I'm not sure I could say that one movie is the greatest ever made in any genre, but I do believe there is such a thing as a "most influential" movie. I would put John Ford's "The Searchers" in that category. Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have all cited its influence. I've seen it many times, and probably will see it many more, but I can't say it's my favorite western. I would have to call a tie between two Ford movies: "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "My Darling Clementine." I've heard the the latter movie described as "flawless," "almost lyrical," as "poetry on film." I think these are all pretty accurate descriptions of a movie that I can only describe as lovely. Strange to think of a western that way, isn't it? But watch this movie and look at certain scenes: the opening campfire scene with the brothers; Wyatt visiting his brother's grave; the goodbye scene between Alan Mowbray and Francis Ford; the dance scene between Wyatt and Clementine; the scene where Wyatt captures Old Man Clanton, whose sons have all been killed at the OK Corral, and says "I'm not gonna kill you. In fact, I hope you live a hundred years so you know what my father's gonna feel." And best of all... the goodbye scene. Ford says more with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek than a hundred romantic movie kisses can do. And that last line: "Ma'am, I sure like that name, Clementine!" as he rides off into the sunset with the music gently playing. Beautiful!

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Director: John Ford
Henry Fonda
Linda Darnell

DVD title: Osama
Productgroup: DVD
Osama - movie DVD cover picture
"Osama" wins the Golden Globe!

"To save her family, a girl must become a boy. Her story is true. Her name is . . . Osama"
It was a triumph to see "Osama" winning the Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Film this year (2004).
In the past 100 years, Afghanistan has only produced 1 movie every 2.5 years.
Afghan Director/Writer Siddiq Barmak struggled for years, but kept the faith and followed his dream, among circumstances in which most would have given up long ago.
He was educated in Russia, but was forced into exile and moved to Pakistan, but later returned to Afghanistan to continue his film making career.
The influence for the film was a true story of an Afghan girl who dressed as a boy so that she could attend school, which was forbidden for girls during the Taliban rule. There are also similarities with the Majid Majidi film "Baran".
Afghanistan consists of four groups of people (Pashtuns, Hazara, Uzbeks, Tajiks). These people have seen around 24 years of continuous war in their country. They have suffered and died through famines, conflicts, invasions, landmines and destruction of their human rights.
In 2001, roughly 10% of the Afghan population was killed by the bombings. While an additonal 30% fleed to neighbouring Iran or Pakistan. The country and it's beautiful people were, yet again, destroyed.
With many men having died, women in Aghanistan, having no jobs and no education, have no one to support them and hence are left with an impossible and hopeless situation.
Siddiq Barmak has encompassed all these tragedies into his film "Osama".
In troubled times, the film "Osama" gives us great hope that America will accept, recognize and learn about the tragic lives of some poorest people on our planet.
Here in North America, people cheerfully line up to see assembly line garbage. It is my deepest wish that an intelligent thought provoking film such as "Osama" will prevail and overcome.

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Siddiq Barmak
Marina Golbahari
Zubaida Sahar
Mohamad Nader Khadjeh

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