Film DVD related reviews


DVD title: Happy Times
Productgroup: DVD
Happy Times - movie DVD cover picture
A Chinese Hepburn?


Audrey Hepburn has always been one of my heart throbs. Last year, the French actress Audrey Tatou, whom many compared to the winsom Hepburn, burst onto the American screens in the hit AMELIE. Now, in HAPPY TIMES, perhaps the same can be said about Dong Jie.
In this English subtitled film that takes place in an unidentified Chinese mainland city, an impoverished fifty-something Lothario named Zhao (Zhao Benshan) claims to have found true love with a divorc?e (Dong Lihua), and proposes marriage. Zhao's new fianc?e is delighted, but says the ceremony will cost him a lot of money. Not admitting his penury, Zhao and his best friend Li (Li Xuejian) refurbish an old, abandoned bus out in the woods into the Happy Times Hut, a cozy retreat complete with bed and covered windows where young couples can "relax" - for a modest fee paid to our two heroes. Thus, Zhao can brag to his fianc?e that he's a "hotel" manager, and business is booming.
Enter Dong Jie as Wu Ying, the teenage stepdaughter of Zhao's bride-to-be, abandoned into the latter's care by her former husband, Wu's father. Wu is totally blind, and is treated with petty cruelty by her stepmother and stepbrother. For example, the former forbids Wu to eat the treats (H?agen-Dazs ice cream) she brings into the house for her grossly overweight porker of a son (Ling Qibin), who, in turn, steals food from the sightless girl's bowl. Wu is affection starved, and dreams only of being reunited one day with her father, who will by then have earned enough money to have her sight restored. In the meantime, the stepmother nags Zhao into giving Wu a job at his "hotel". Zhao is understandably reluctant, but finally agrees. He figures he can convince the girl that the bus is one of the hotel's outlying cabins, and can employ her to tidy the place up after each set of "guests". However, his plan goes terribly awry when, as he and Wu arrive at the site, the bus is being hauled off by a crane in a public beautification effort. By this time feeling sorry for the girl, Zhao concocts an even more elaborate plan with several retired cronies to give Wu a "job" as a masseuse in a "massage room" created much like a movie set in an abandoned manufacturing plant. After all, the girl is blind and she won't know the difference, will she? And having a job apparently earning her own money makes her incredibly happy, especially as she's now living away from her cruel family in Zhao's own poor apartment, passed off by Zhao as his hotel employees' living quarters.
Director Zhang Yimou has crafted a simple yet lovely film around the lives of ordinary people. Dong Jie is delicate and winsome in the best Audrey Hepburn tradition. Her Wu Ying persona illustrates how little is required for happiness when one's life is basically miserable, and she demonstrates an inherent toughness of spirit that earned this viewer's profound admiration. Benshan works his way into the audience's heart as the man willing to become something of a father figure to the lonely girl. Lihua and Qibin are extremely effective as Wu's hateful tormentors. I suspect that if a film with an identical plot had been produced in America, those groups advocating the rights of the "visually challenged" would vociferously complain that the storyline was patronizing and initiate a lawsuit. Give thanks that HAPPY TIMES comes from a less politically correct environment, and see it.

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Yimou Zhang
Actors:
Benshan Zhao
Lifan Dong




DVD title: Charlton Heston Presents the Bible: Genesis
Productgroup: DVD
Charlton Heston Presents the Bible: Genesis - movie DVD cover picture
Only the BEST


Charlton Heston is to be commended for his fabulous job in "Jesus of Nazareth". He brings the story of Jesus' life on earth to life as he shows us the places where Jesus lived and taught, while interweaving the appropriate Biblical narratives. Charlton Heston's dramatic readings give this DVD a truly emotional impact. A+++

Studio: Goodtimes Home Video
Director: Tony Westman



DVD title: Stand by Me
Productgroup: DVD
Stand by Me - movie DVD cover picture
One of the best of all time


First off, if you don't buy this movie because some off his rocker reviewer called this the best "gay" movie ever, you are missing out. In actuality, this movie is devoid of sex/sexual interests, besides the occasion juvenile rantings of a typical boy coming into puberty. This movie is about friendship and has absolutely nothing to do with sexual preference.
That being said, the movie is one of those experiences that take you back to your own childhood. The innocence,loyalty, friendship, and adventure that you can really only have all at the same time at one part of your life. As someone else has already mentioned, you can watch this movie again, and again without getting bored with it. It reminds you of the deep lows and very high highs in that time where being accepted by your peers and belonging was the most important thing in life besides your family. If you are a guy over 25, you have to see this movie.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Rob Reiner
Actors:
Wil Wheaton
River Phoenix
Corey Feldman
Jerry O'Connell




DVD title: The Reckoning
Productgroup: DVD
The Reckoning - movie DVD cover picture
God does work in odd ways


I had just rented "The Reckoning" last night with no high expectations. To say the lease, I was blown away by a simple story with incredible and emotional undertones.

"The Reckoning" is a tale of unlucky heroes , justice, and redemption. However, I found the tale to be much, much more than that.

"The Reckoning" is more than just a murder mystrey and tale of redemption. It`s story of good verus evil as well. (See the ending to understand this point.)

Good verus evil? Yes, it`s undertone, but yes it`s there. I will admit sometimes I wonder what the good Lord(GOD) is up to? Anyone who has that question can relate to our anti-heroes as they investigate a murder of a boy, only to find a more sinster truth.


I am being incredibly vauge. I do apologise.
I hope that those looking for a good movie will give "The Reckoning" a chance.







Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Paul McGuigan
Actors:
Paul Bettany
Willem Dafoe




DVD title: Awakenings
Productgroup: DVD
Awakenings - movie DVD cover picture
Very Touchy


This movie deserves much more publicity than this. Both Robert De Niro and Robin Williams are great actors and they both did a great job... you feel their emotions are so close and real.
This type of movie lives with you for days after you watch it. And you just can't stop thinking of it. And what makes it more powerful is that it is a real story. This movie has no special effects at all except for its highly driven emotions.
I truly recommend watching this movie.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Penny Marshall
Actors:
Robert De Niro
Robin Williams




DVD title: The French Connection Collection Box Set (1 & 2)
Productgroup: DVD
The French Connection Collection Box Set (1 & 2) - movie DVD cover picture
Gene Hackmann the great actor


It has been a long time since I have watched this movie. But I could not forget it. I have never seen a more dramatic action movie in my life. Gene plays Popeye Doyle a very highly motivated & tough New York cop who tries to crack a foreign drug ring. Doyle's tough, rule breaking & take no prisoners policeman who blurs the line between cop and criminal. The fact that this mean, brutal cop is somehow sympathetic is a testament to Hackman's great skills as an actor.
One of my favorite scene is the film's famous car chase. As a drug smuggler races by above on an elevated train, Hackman speeds along in a car on the street below.
Director William Friedkin's "The French Connection" is an exciting, jam packed cop action fest. Friedkin won the best directing award. You have to have it in your collection.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Actors:
Gene Hackman
Roy Scheider
Gene Hackman




DVD title: Babylon 5 - The Complete Fourth Season
Productgroup: DVD
Babylon 5 - The Complete Fourth Season - movie DVD cover picture
2261 - My Favorite Year in the Future


Things are looking dark for our heroes. As this year opens, Garibaldi is missing and Sheridan is missing, presumed dead. Even though they are both alive (as we learn from the opening credits), things are dark. The Vorlons and the Shadows are no longer hiding behind allies and have launched a full scale war, using the younger races as the targets. Can Sheridan use what he's learned to bring a peaceful end to the fighting? Plus there's the situation on Earth with dictator President Clark. Throw in Garibaldi's weird behavior and you've got a full season that catches your interest and never lets go.
Since JMS didn't know for sure if he'd actually get season 5, he worked hard to bring major plot threads together in season 4. As a result, this year is packed with action and story, but there are some wonderful character arcs as well. I've always found Garibaldi's to be the most interesting of the season, but Vir gets some great moments early on as well. Londo and G'Kar's relationship also takes some unexpected turns that are wonderful. I love watching that duo at work.
Frankly, this season will always hold a special place in my heart because it's when I started watching. Hard for me to believe now, but my first episode was "Into the Fire." If it weren't for some very patient friends, I would have been lost, but I managed to stick in there, getting so hooked on the Earth plot that I couldn't stop watching. Later, when I'd seen the rest of the show, I realized exactly what I had missed in way of back story. Naturally, I don't recommend starting here. The way JMS is able to bring plot threads together is truly amazing this season and worth every hour spent watching the first three seasons for the payoff (not that that's a chore by any stretch of the imagination.) Still, I'll always have fond memories of waiting impatiently each week to see what happens next and the long wait over the summer to see how they'd resolve the mid season cliffhanger.
This DVD set is in perfect keeping with the others that have come out. Picture quality is mostly good with the occasional grain or spot. A tad distracting, but overall sharper then my video tapes. Sound is wonderful in full surround. Again we get three commentaries. The cast commentary, featuring Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Peter Jurasik, and Patricia Tallman is entertaining if not very informative. (I'll never look at Jerry's head the same way again, however.) JMS does his usual two commentaries. He's joined by director Michael Vejar on "Face of the Enemy" for a fascinating look at creating that pivotal episode. And he does his usual interesting look at "Deconstruction of Falling Stars," the unusual fourth season finale. The special features are rounded out by an introduction on disc 1, a new documentary on the music of the show, a new suite of music set against visuals from the season, the usual data and personnel files, and finally a gag reel. I will confess I almost missed this, but it was great. Makes me wish more then ever that we'd gotten to see the gag reels from the previous seasons.
If you're a fan of this show, you must get this set. It's worth every penny spent. And if you've never seen the show, DVD is a wonderful way to discover this wonderful show. I just suggest being smarter then I was and starting with season 1.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Actors:
Bruce Boxleitner



DVD title: Make Baby Laugh! Giggle Together!
Productgroup: DVD
Make Baby Laugh! Giggle Together! - movie DVD cover picture
Great fun for babies and their families


I am the father of a 3-yr old girl who has a great imagination, but doesn't laugh easily. She enjoys watching typical toddler fare, a lot of which is pretty funny (Nemo, Wallace & Gromit, Monsters Inc.), but she takes her viewing seriously, to the point that it's hard to tell if she's actually enjoying it. A lot of times, she wants to watch alone and asks/tells me to leave! It's different with this DVD. She likes seeing real people doing real--often goofy--things. She seems to respond to seeing other kids laughing and playing with their parents. She also talks more about what she's seeing on the screen and likes to watch it with others, maybe because she is able to relate more easily to what she sees (as opposed to some of her other shows). For adults, there are some good ideas about how to interact with your kids in a fun way and how to play with them at their level. There are a lot of different segments, so if you want you can pick and choose the ones that get the best response. The songs are really good, too. Overall, this video is a good option when you and/or your kids are in the mood for something fun, and you might pick up some good ideas on how to get your child to lighten up.

Studio: Consumer Vision, Inc



DVD title: L'Eclisse - Criterion Collection
Productgroup: DVD
L'Eclisse - Criterion Collection - movie DVD cover picture
Brillaint Antonioni. A must!!


Michelangelo directed a trilogy of sorts in the 1960s, beginning with his breakthrough film L'Avventura, continuing with La Notte, and ending with my personal favorite, L'Eclisse (The Eclipse). All were preoccupied with the theme of alienation, and all featured more or less neurotic and disaffected performances from the striking actress Monica Vitti (as a blond in L'Avventura and L'Eclisse, and as a brunette in La Notte). L'Eclisse begins with the Vitti character's romantic breakup, and continues with her affair with a young stockbroker. The affair is destined for failure, however, as she ultimately finds it impossible to experience meaningful contact with other people. There are several notable sequences in the film - the dull fatigue of the opening breakup scene, raucous and frenetic scenes in the stock market, even Vitti and her friends dressing up and dancing as African natives! The most striking for me, however, is the final several minutes, in which the lovers have agreed to meet but neither shows up, and we see a series of deserted spots (mostly locales from earlier scenes) in a mounting crescendo of emptiness and apathetic horror. The stark and impersonal "modern" sixties architecture, headlines about nuclear terror, and a quietly eerie and horrific musical score combines to make this one of the most powerful sequences ever filmed. It shocks me to learn that when originally released in America the sequence was cut as extraneous!
It's a shame that this masterpiece is currently out of print. There are copies floating around that are dubbed from British sources, and there are also some from an American release several years ago, which had generally very good picture and subtitle quality. I can only hope that someone, maybe Criterion, chooses to release L'Eclisse on DVD - I would give my right arm to get it!

Studio: Criterion Collection
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Actors:
Alain Delon
Monica Vitti




DVD title: Ghostbusters 2
Productgroup: DVD
Ghostbusters 2 - movie DVD cover picture
The Funniest Movie Ever!


Being such a huge fan of this film's predecessor, I was bound to be somewhat overtly critical of the sequel. Ghostbusters 2 is by far not a bad movie, but it could've been a lot better. On a creative level, the script/plot is basically the same as the first movie... It's kinda like watching the first one, just throw a baby into the mix. A rehash, you could say. Anyway, it isn't all that bad. The jokes are funny, performances are strong... More could've been done with the script and plot basically to make it more unique and original.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Ivan Reitman
Actors:
Bill Murray
Dan Aykroyd
Sigourney Weaver




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