Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: House of Flying Daggers
Productgroup: DVD
House of Flying Daggers - movie DVD cover picture
Beautifully acted, filmed martial arts epic

I must say I cringe at all the comments saying how the storyline wasn't "believable" and the characters weren't three dimensional. This is a martial arts epic, and for anyone who's seen enough of these films, the code of behavior is purely stylized, kind of like in a Western. It's not Method acting. These are characters within a certain genre, and they are expected to behave and speak in a certain way. (You cant very well have a Western hero who's a chatty metrosexual Cathy.)
Within the confines of the genre, I thought "House of Flying Daggers" was gorgeously filmed, and actually had much more depth and feeling than most of these films. Zhang Zimou is of course famous for his beautiful cinematography, and this is no exception. The film's very beginning, in which Mei dances with her silk sashes, is itself a visual feast.
The acting is also excellent. Zhang Ziyi is one of the most beautiful women onscreen today. Girlish yet stunningly sensual, the camera (and audience) fixates on the every curl of her beautiful mouth. I'd have to go back to Hitchcock to think of a screen goddess filmed as lovingly. As Mei the blind courtesan, she projects the right mix of unattainability and vulnerability. She also has terrific screen chemistry with Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro). The scene in which Jin cuts flowers for her in a field may be the most romantic thing I've seen onscreen in a long time, made even more so by the rigid chivalry that defines the characters.
The character of Leo (Andy Lau) is less well-defined and compelling, and Lau is so stolid that unfortunately the love triangle between Leo, Jin, and Mei fails to take off. After all, it is very clear where the "real love" is.
As for the storyline, it's a typical martial arts storyline, in which a beautiful woman is secretly a skilled fighter, and the men who love her must fight to the death. There's also the usual double-identities and double-crossing. The "third act" is perhaps too filled with twists and quick identity revelations. But mostly this is a movie of mood and visuals, and if you go into the movie thinking, "Oh that's not realistic!" you'll ruin the whole experience. Just sit back, and watch Jin leer at Mei bathing. You too will be overwhelmed by the beauty of it all.

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Yimou Zhang
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Andy Lau
Ziyi Zhang

DVD title: Chariots of Fire (Full Screen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Chariots of Fire (Full Screen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
My favorite movie of all time!

My favorite movie of all time!
Everyone was well chosen.
It is a perfect film.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Hugh Hudson
Ben Cross
Ian Charleson

DVD title: Cruel Intentions 2
Productgroup: DVD
Cruel Intentions 2 - movie DVD cover picture
all i can say is SARAH THOMPSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

this film is a wasteland, but if you look at is strictly for entertainment value, it kept me entertained. Too bad the plot had the twist that made no sense and ended the film 35 minutes too soon(I think they ran out of budget). Sarah Thompson is certianly prettier then Reese was in the original. Good entertianment, at least for men.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Roger Kumble

DVD title: Gilbert & Sullivan - The Mikado / Reed, Adams, Potter, Masterson, Godfrey, D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
Productgroup: DVD
Gilbert & Sullivan - The Mikado / Reed, Adams, Potter, Masterson, Godfrey, D'Oyly Carte Opera Company - movie DVD cover picture
So Good I Had To Review A Second Time

The release of the 1966 D'Oyly Carte Opera production of The Mikado on DVD in 2003-2004 was a capital idea. Gilbert and Sullivan fans have been waiting years for the classic film to appear on DVD. VAI (Video Artists International) offers many fine and rare operas on film. Gilbert and Sullivans' light operas were the signature of the D'Oyly Carte Opera and in the 60's this cast was the leading performers of the genre. Tenor Phillip Potter portrays Nanki Poo, the son of the Mikado disguised as a wondering minstrel. His performance is top-notch and Valerie Masterson, the soprano singing the part of Yum-Yum is his perfect counterpart. Together, they make beautiful music as in their duets. The comic actor John Reed sings Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner. A short, playful and silly man, he's far from the expected strong and fearsome image of a Lord High Executioner. Christene Palmer is Katisha. Her commanding presence, dramatic mezzzo soprano voice and imperious nature make her the perfect Katisha. She's got some powerful scenes, such as the Act I Finale in which she interrupts the Wedding of Yum Yum and Nanki Poo and threatens to reveal his true identity, operatically dramatic in her cries "My Wrongs With Vengeance Shall Be Crowned !". Donald Adams plays The Mikado Emperor. He's at his silliest in the aria "My Object All Sublime" in which he lets out a high pitched shriek as he describes his fascination for torture and execution. The authenticity of the mood and setting, a Japan of fable and art, is gloriously manifested in the scenery, which gives off a Japanese "Floating World" look and the props, bridges, lakes, tea houses, aesthetically classical in space and shape. And those costumes ! Exquisite and very Oriental with colorful patterns on the silk. And the use of fans was almost over-the-top, the characters closing and opening their fans in Japanese poses, but still it works effectively. All the great numbers that made this opera famous are here- "Three Little Maids from School" and Ko-Ko's List Song. Coincidentally, this was the same production that inspired the crazed Zodiac Serial Killer who was fond of twisting the Lord High Executioner's image. He even re-wrote the lyrics to Ko-Ko's List Song. This is the best version of The Mikado ever made. It's worth the price and has value because of its camp classic appeal.

Studio: Video Arts Int'l
John Reed
Valerie Masterson
Donald Adams
Phillip Potter

DVD title: MI-5, Volume 1
Productgroup: DVD
MI-5, Volume 1 - movie DVD cover picture
MI-5 Intelligent Screenplays & Guaranteed to Thrill

I like Kiefer Sutherland's 24, but MI-5 blows my mind. This is a must have dvd set. My only regret the upcoming release will only contain the 1st 6 episodes. Clever & intelligent screenplays unlike most American shows which are usually created for 6th grade level mentalities. Never know what's going to happen next on this show...the last aired episode was a shocker and can't wait until they finish filming the next new season and air it on BBC America!!!

Studio: BBC
Matthew MacFadyen

DVD title: The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection)
Productgroup: DVD
The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection) - movie DVD cover picture
All My Children

Dysfunctional family films should all have the kind of strong actors and funny scripts you see in The Royal Tennenbaums. Gene Hackman is superb as a seedy Royal Tenenbaum, the morally bankrupt head of the family he abandoned. He has the smile of a slickster and the clothes to match, hanging his hat in a luxury hotel until his money runs out, which is very early in the film. That's what motivates Royal to go back to his family. This is a family comedy, so it's no surprise that the charming idiot, Royal Tennenbaum, would be father to child prodigies who gain early and stunning success before terminal dysfunction sets in. Royal's son Richie becomes rich selling spotted rats which he has developed as a child genius. Richie is insecure and paranoid, has two boys, and they all wear red track uniforms throughout the film. That way they can more easily spot each other in crowds in the event some huge catastrophe befalls them. Richie's in this paranoid state not only because he was abandoned by his father, but also because his wife was killed in a plane crash. His goal in life is to keep his two children safe from the world's dangers. Richie does a lot of weird stuff in the movie, but trust me, he's paranoid. Another of Royal's sons becomes a wealthy superstar in the world of tennis, though he too succumbs to personal failure. That's what comes from falling in love with your sister, the third Tenenbaum prodigy, played by Gwynneth Paltrow. Paltrow's character was a successful playwright, now trapped in a loveless marriage to a creepy psychiatrist-neurophysiologist or whatever he is. What's got her depressed? Could it be she's in love with her brother the tennis star? The basic plot is that everybody is so depressed and screwed up and failed that they must return to the family home of Royal's wife, played by Angelica Huston, one of the few relatively normal people in the film. Danny Glover figures in there, too, as her former accountant now become her suitor. This complicated matters, but not so you'd notice, since everything in the Tennenbaum world is so fouled up anyway. Even the best friend of the three Tenenbaum prodigies is messed up, witnessed immediately in the way he dresses and talks. His style of dress actually looks like two styles of dress. He's a cowboy from the waist upward and a continental man from the waist down. An odd, smooth, handsome character who seems out of both context and time. He likes mescaline a whole lot. It's okay, though-- the guy's a western writer, a very successful one, too. You've probably already got the picture that the plot doesn't count for a great deal. It's the thousand odd little things about the Tennenbaums which make you laugh. They're very serious, always at the wrong time. They're never appropriate. They don't know when to laugh although they tend toward giddiness at funerals. Royal doesn't give a damn about anything but himself although he has his epiphanies very near the end of the movie and tries to be a 'real person'. The film is character-driven but it has endless sight jokes which challenge your brain to interpret and see. The dialogue is witty, sophisticated, and has precious moments. What's great about this film is it's nearly complete lack of piety, and its contradictory ability to generate, alter, twist and tangle human feelings. It does all this with a naturalness that borders on genius.

Studio: Buena Vista Home Vid
Director: Wes Anderson
Gene Hackman
Gwyneth Paltrow

DVD title: Xena Warrior Princess - Season Three
Productgroup: DVD
Xena Warrior Princess - Season Three - movie DVD cover picture
'Exclusive Content' Confusion

An update to my previous review posted on 8 Feb 2004. This is a separate post, since the word count is understandably limited to 1,000 words.
There may be some confusion as to what's contained in the supplements on Disc 8. Another review notes that they may not be the same if purchased from Best Buy. For what it's worth, I bought mine at Best Buy on 6 Feb 2004, four days prior to the official release date, it was there, couldn't believe it, so I bought it. I purchase a number of fine items on and will continue to do so, btw!
My Disc 8 says `Sacrifice II' (it's the episode), `Sacrifice I & II, A Retrospective' (a 30 minute featurette outlined below), `Sacrifice Part II (Alternate Cuts)' (the deleted and extended workprint scenes), `Bloopers' (the blooper reel) and 'Best Buy 30 Minute Featurette' (detailed below).
My previous review reflects the inclusion of the Best Buy featurette. Note, there is nothing else on the packaging that indicates anything unique to Best Buy, nor is the retailer credited in the supplements, nor is their logo anywhere to be seen. My slipcase does say `Exclusive Bonus Content: All New Interviews with Cast and Crew: Deluxe Collector's Edition'. My Season Two boxed set, also purchased at Best Buy for convenience and immediacy's sake, has that same `Exclusive Bonus Content' banner on the slipcase and an `Exclusive 30 Minute Interview with Lucy Lawless, Rene? O'Connor and Rob Tapert' on Disc 6.
I'll attempt to detail the contents of the main featurettes for the sake of information. I have not seen a Disc 8 from or another retailer to date for comparison.
`Sacrifice I & II, A Retrospective'. This is what it contains: A 30 minute set of interviews by Kym Jaborn `Producer/Interviewer' who we see in parts of the interview some reason. Her dental work leaves something to be desired, but she seems affable and to be a fan of the show. I assume her title refers to `DVD Producer' and not a producer of the show.
She interviews Steven Sears, Paul Robert Coyle `Writer', Rick Jacobson `Director' (looks like Craig Kilborn), Hudson Leick, Rob Field `Editor' and Jason Schmid `Sound Designer'. It includes discussions on the Sacrifice episodes, production & editing trivia and insight, the Callisto character, and a short tribute to Kevin `Ares' Smith.
The entitled 'Best Buy 30 Minute Featurette' contains the following, and why I made a comment in my initial review that some of the interview content seemed redundant. I think this featurette is more slickly produced, like the rest of the episode interviews on the other discs in this set, and feels more substantial than the `Sacrifice I & II, A Retrospective'. Although that one offers some fun insights, it's padded with clips, video intros and music moreso than this featurette seems to be, and the graphics and video montages are not as well-produced, was my impression.
So this one contains R.J. Stewart `Executive Co-producer', Liz Friedman `Producer', Eric Gruendemann `Producer', Robert Gillies `Production Designer', John Caill `Cinematographer', Robert Tapert `Executive Producer', Ted Raimi, Oley Sassone `Director', Hudson Leick, and briefly Lucy Lawless.
The graphic text over the video intro includes the words: `Lives, Murder, Betrayal'.
Topics discussed include the storytellers, writers and producers deciding to test Xena and Gabrielle's relationship by challenging their loyalties and trust. They note that great TV series put roadblocks up for the main characters. Lucy wasn't totally happy with her character being deceitful, but she says that with a laugh.
Xena's darker storylines compared to the Hercules series, and the effect it had on the production design and cinematography, is noted.
The writers and producers felt that Xena and Gabrielle, after the first two seasons were two of the strongest characters, male or female, in the history of TV, and that the time to test the established rock-solid relationship was at hand, lest the writers and audience get complacent.
Time is spent examining the Gabrielle character as she developed from a hero-worshipping inexperienced sidekick to an equal of Xena who could temper her destructive tendencies. They also note Gabrielle being the representative of the audience.
The well-known origins of the Xena character on the Hercules series are noted and explained. A bit odd that they appear here, but it's good to hear from the producers directly.
Another sequence examines `Comedy vs. Drama' as Rob Tapert explains that they wanted to do a Halloween episode in a comedic manner, and thought it might be fun to do Gabrielle with `Rosemary's Baby' (even though that film's not a comedy). This concept of a 'devil-child' turned dramatic in later season-defining episodes with Gabrielle's daughter Hope.
The comedy arc is examined via Joxer being smitten with Gabrielle, as well as Lucy, Renee and Ted's natural comedic talents. They mention how Joxer's character was not meant to be a threat to the strong female leads, and that's the main reason his character takes a comedic turn.
The featurette comes towards a close with a more substantial tribute to Kevin Smith than the other featurette it seems.
Finally there's a wrap-up of Xena and Gabrielle's relationship given dramatic weight overall in Season Three via the reality of real-life relationship pitfalls amidst the mythology & fantasy elements of the show. The bottom line for the producers and writers was if Xena and Gabrielle kept going forward as buddies, then it wouldn't have been as real nor as interesting as putting their relationship to the test.
So there you have the overview of what the so-called 'Best Buy 30 Minute Featurette' contains. I don't know if this `Exclusive Content' is a good or bad thing for consumers. I'm satisfied with the quality, content and participants of this particular featurette.

Studio: Anchor Bay Entertain
Lucy Lawless

DVD title: What Dreams May Come
Productgroup: DVD
What Dreams May Come - movie DVD cover picture
an interesting movie

I like the way Robin Williams' jaw moves from side to side when he gets emotional. I like the way Robin Williams' facial expressions show over-the-top feeling throughout.
In this movie, Robin Williams becomes a caricature of an over-emotional Robin Williams. The music is fitting too. When the orchestra climaxes as Robin Williams runs into the arms of his daughter in slow motion in Heaven, it makes the viewer stop and think, "I can't believe this over-the-top Hollywood fantasy-flick is making me feel so ... emotional!"
But I think this movie is more aligned with ultimate Truth than we might know. God bless Robin Williams and his over-the-top emotional jaw action.

Studio: Usa Films
Director: Vincent Ward
Robin Williams
Cuba Gooding Jr.

DVD title: Trigun Vol. 1 - The 60 Billion Dollar Man
Productgroup: DVD
Trigun Vol. 1 - The 60 Billion Dollar Man - movie DVD cover picture
Excellent Anime!

I bought this anime two weeks ago and already I am hooked. Fun characters, beautiful animation (done by the same people who did Escaflowne - another great anime), great storyline, lots of humor, plenty of action... This isn't just another silly anime or pure-action-oriented piece of fluff. There is real depth here and it's developing quite beautifully.
Who is Vash and where did he come from? How can a man who acts so stupid and goes out of his way NOT to hurt anyone have a 60 Billion double-dollar ransom on his head?
If you like your anime with some depth, character development and a good dose of fun then this is a title worth checking out.

Studio: Pioneer Video
Satoshi Nishimura

DVD title: The Usual Suspects
Productgroup: DVD
The Usual Suspects - movie DVD cover picture

THE USUAL SUSPECTS is a fascinating movie that will reward the careful viewer. The plot is dense, but intriguing. It keeps your eyes glued to the screen.

An excellent director, Bryan Singer, assembled a wonderful ensemble cast players. As the movie starts, Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak), Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), and Verbal Klint (Kevin Spacey) are five crooks that have been rounded up by U. S. Customs Special Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) for a lineup. The five think something is up because, with the exception of Verbal, they are all big time crooks whom the police would never put in the lineup together. Moreover, they do not think the cops believe they are responsible for the crime, so why are the cops doing it? This is one of the delicious enigmas of the story. Stay with it and pay attention for there are many more. The plot has a mass of twists.

The interaction of all the characters is both fascinating and unusual. A typical scene is the start of the interrogation of Verbal by Agent Kujan. The agent boasts, "Let me tell you something. I'm smarter than you are. I'm going to get it out of you whether you like it or not." To which, Verbal retorts, "I'm no rat" and promptly attempts, unsuccessfully, to shut up.

The plot other than its central theme revolves around a character known as Keyser Soze. This guy is likened to the devil in the movie. As the movie unfolds, it is not clear whether Keyser Soze exists or if he is just a legend. Moreover, for those who might be inclined to believe in him as Agent Kujan does sometimes, it is even less clear whom he might be. An enigma wrapped in an enigma as they say.

The ending makes the show. Near the end of The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey, in his Oscar-winning performance as crippled con man Roger "Verbal" Kint, says, "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." This may be the key line in this story; the farther along the movie goes, the more one realizes that not everything is quite what it seems, and what began as a conventional whodunit turns into something quite different.

Fast-paced, action-packed, filled with great dialogue, and with a script that will keep you guessing right up until the very end. It's a modern day classic, and a picture you should definitely catch. This is a highly recommended movie.

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: Bryan Singer
Gabriel Byrne
Kevin Spacey
Chazz Palminteri

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