Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Monster
Productgroup: DVD
Monster - movie DVD cover picture
Best movie of 2003, hands down.

Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003)
Forget the rest of the Oscar race for Best Actress. Charlize Theron has won the trophy hands-down with her portrayal of Florida's iron lady, serial killer Aileen Wuornos, in Patty Jenkins' amazing debut film Monster.
Monster is a biopic about the last months of Wuornos' freedom, from the time of her meeting with "Selby Wall" (Christina Ricci; her real-life counterpart had a different name) until the time of her arrest and trial, during which Wuornos, a highway prostitute, killed seven johns. And that, in a nutshell, is the plot. As far as biopics go, really, there's not much here you haven't seen before plotwise.
But the reason to see it, and I tell you you must see it now, is the ugly, painful depths of emotion to be found throughout the film. Theron's performance has already received lavish praise, all of it deserved. Less noted, but perhaps even finer, is the performance of Christina Ricci, whose character transforms from straight-up God-fearing closeted lesbian into a sneering carbon copy of Wuornos in subtle ways throughout the film, making the irony of the film's ending twist just a little further into the gut. Great supporting roles are also turned in by Bruce Dern and a number of cameos.
Despite the questions raised by the film, another thing that makes it brilliant is its refusal to pander to any particular group, something which it could very easily have done on many levels. There's no gay-acceptance subtext. There's no anti-death-penalty subtext. There's the allegation, which I have never seen before in any media treatment of Wuornos, that the seven murders were not all in self defense. (About time, too.) There's brilliant and beautiful irony laced throughout the film, and all of it played perfectly. The film walks on the edges of a whole lot of knives, and the balancing act it performs is masterful.
Roger Ebert called Monster the best film of 2003. I haven't seen quite as many movies as he has (oh, to have such a job), but of the lot that I've come across, I am more than happy to agree. Monster is a brilliant film, it is an important film, and it is a film you cannot see fast enough. Turn off the computer, get in your car, and go to the theater. Now. **** ?

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Patty Jenkins
Charlize Theron
Christina Ricci
Bruce Dern

DVD title: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Productgroup: DVD
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? - movie DVD cover picture

This movie is a classic. I've loved it ever since I was a child, I'm 21 now and still love this masterpiece. If you have never seen this buy it. There are some really cool catch lines in the dialog, the acting is superb, and I believe is truely the best thing Bette Davis ever did.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Robert Aldrich
Bette Davis
Joan Crawford

DVD title: Danger Man - The Complete First Season
Productgroup: DVD
Danger Man - The Complete First Season - movie DVD cover picture
The Prisoner is incomplete without this

If you're a Prisoner fan, there's nothing quite like popping this set in for the first time and watching John Drake wander about Portmeirion in the first episode. That's all you need to know. If you've already seen it on 4th generation videotape from the early 80's, you will be blown away by how crisp and clear it is. I watched the new Babylon 5 set right after one of these Danger Man episodes and I couldn't believe all the snow on the newer show.
For those of you unfamiliar with The Prisoner, I have to ask you to please ignore the way in which A&E are marketing this series. It's ludicrous. They seem to think putting "the spy who rarely carries a gun and isn't swayed by loose women" on the box is going to sell it. (Insert snore here....) Also, if you're looking at the package thinking "No sex, no guns... it must be good for the kids" you have to remember that everybody smoked and drank on these shows, and Drake is no exception. If that doesn't bother you, then it will be okay for the kids. The formula established here which combines the spy who relies heavily on acting skill with a series of exotic locations is still being used on Alias. Also, being filmed in black and white actually makes it feel less dated than shows like the Saint and the Avengers which overdid the color and "mod" style.
Drake specializes in infiltrating bad guy inner circles and rescuing other spies, not gathering information or stealing blueprints, so you get a mix of gritty spy work with a mystery or P.I. flair. He often ignores the plans of his superiors and redesigns his missions. He also makes fun of unneccessary procedures thought up by other departments. (My coworkers are now using the Drakeism "Coffee and eggs for two." to describe procedures like this.)
Ladies: the star of the show is Patrick McGoohan, 6 foot 2, athletic, a good flirt and even in greyscale he has the bluest eyes you've ever seen. He only gets more attractive when you get to know his character, Drake. John Drake is an opinionated but dedicated secret agent, a genuine good guy who regrets the bad things he sometimes has to do in his line of work.
Gents (and ladies who like fights): McGoohan's sport in school was boxing, so he insisted on doing his own stunts and fights, raising the bar for later action stars. His longtime friend and stunt coordinator Frank Maher even said McGoohan could have been a stunt man. Every fight scene is different and there are quite a few stunts which aren't allowed anymore because of higher safety standards today. They are a treat to watch!
Everybody: It's true Drake doesn't sleep with a new bird every episode, it doesn't mean there's no sexual tension. Women are constantly throwing themselves at him (And why not? Just look at him!), so his personal rule of avoiding romantic entanglements while working becomes a running joke.
If you watch this set in conjunction with Secret Agent (seasons 2-4 are the continuation of this set) and the Prisoner, you can have a lot of fun watching the ideological Drake who skips four years of vacations evolve into the rebellious Drake who wonders what he's missing by not being married and finally (maybe?) the nameless Number 6 who is imprisoned in the Village after unexpectedly resigning from a top-secret position.

Studio: A & E Home Video
Patrick Mcgoohan

DVD title: Law & Order Criminal Intent - The First Year
Productgroup: DVD
Law & Order Criminal Intent - The First Year - movie DVD cover picture
Great Show, Great DVD Set

My husband bought this for me as a birthday present and I honestly can't think of one I've enjoyed more. I have watched and rewatched each of the episodes on the six disc set. Each time, I see something new that I may have missed. Vincent D'Onofrio was an inspired choice as Det. Robert Goren. I am mesmerized by his actions, even his speech patterns. He is believable as the genius detective. As Det. Alex Eames, Kathryn Erbe holds her own against D'Onofrio's strong screen presence. She reminds me of a personal friend of ours who is a police captain. Courtney B. Vance and Jamey Sheridan bring class and calm to the screen. They are incredibly underrated, as is the entire cast. I did wish there were more extras in the dvd set. I wanted to know more behind the scenes details. But, from the beginning of the episode "One" through the extras at the end of disc six, I was pleased. I wish they would hurry up and release Season 2. I know my husband wishes it as well! He'd like to hear some new dialogue!This time put in more extras.

Studio: Universal Studios Ho
Vincent D'Onofrio

DVD title: Shaolin Soccer [IMPORT]
Productgroup: DVD
Shaolin Soccer [IMPORT] - movie DVD cover picture
Great "Martial Arts" Fun

For those who may be familiar with Steven Chow, the fun of watching this movie will be no surprise. For those less familiar with the Chinese superstar's films, he has been described as the heir apparent to Jackie Chan in terms of slapstickish martial arts comedy. Admittedly, for those who are looking for the sort of stunts that Chan has become famous for they might be somewhat disappointed. CGI is very apparent throughout the movie, although not overwhelmingly so. Chow's skewering of pop culture in his quest to find a way to make money out of being a Shaolin Monk in the modern world, however, by far overshadows the special effects and places this comedy firmly in a catagory of its own. And for those who can overlook the fact that CGI is used for some of the stunts and enjoy the impossible feats of Chow and his "brothers" (such as the Matrix-esque human-pinball fight scene behind the brick wall and the climactic final match), an enjoyable evening of laughs should ensue. Being an import, though, some of the translations seen in the subtitles can be, shall we say, creative. Also, don't miss the deleted scenes, particularly the huge dance number in the streets of China.

Director: Stephen Chow
Stephen Chow
Vicki Zhao

DVD title: Dream Theater - Live at Budokan
Productgroup: DVD
Dream Theater - Live at Budokan - movie DVD cover picture
Their Best Live Performance Yet

It is amazing to see Dream Theater live for the first time. What's awesome about this DVD is that the camera focuses in on Petrucci during his solos so the viewer can see just how incredible his solos are, and also how he can make them look so easy. One thing about this performance that is both good and bad is that the songs aren't that much different than the studio version. This is bad because what seperates live albums from studio albums is the energetic performance and the extended solos from the musicians, but with DT you get that all in a studio album. This is also good, depending how you look at it, because it attests to how talented each of the members are. For example, the harmonized guitar parts are still done live, which I have never seen before. Every other guitarist that I have seen just plays one of the guitar parts, but Petrucci plays both parts to create the same harmony heard in the studio version. The biggest problem with this album is the track selection. It was a smart idea to only include their newer songs since the older ones can be found on one of their other live DVD's. I just think that their new albums could have been represented better. They should have included "Fatal Tragedy" and "Blind Faith." It also would have been incredible to see "The Glass Prison" live, I am furious that they did not include that. But that is just a small complaint because the majority of the songs are good, especially "Instrumedley" which combines all of their instrumentals along with two from their Liquid Tension Experiment albums. Also, musicians will love the extras where Petrucci and Rudesss show off all of their gear. A must have for any DT fan or musician, (I'm not a musician and I loved this) especially since it is such a low price.

Studio: Wea Corp

DVD title: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Productgroup: DVD
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - movie DVD cover picture
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

I saw this at Cinerama in Hollywood when it came out. I was twelve and it was funny then and it is funny now. I always thought it helped to recognize all of the famous comics-including Buster Keaton- in their cameo roles, but I was surprised to learn even non English speakers find it hilarious. I showed the tape to some visitors from Asia and some from Europe who had very limited English skills. What I got was 2 1/2 hours of hysteria. What a surprise! I wish they would release it again in Cinerama!

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Stanley Kramer
Spencer Tracy
Milton Berle
Sid Caesar
Ethel Merman
Mickey Rooney

DVD title: Daryl Hall and John Oates: Live in Concert
Productgroup: DVD
Daryl Hall and John Oates: Live in Concert - movie DVD cover picture
Great Buy! Two Discs: An Audio CD and a DVD

First of all, this DVD was aired live in March of 2003. If you've seen Hall & Oates live in concert or just seen a live video of them, you will totally appreciate this spontaneous concert. Hall & Oates blend music brilliance with comedy and audience interaction. Yes, they play smaller venues now, but the show has gotten better and the songs have evolved throughout the years. They did new songs with many re-worked classics, some even in acoustic form, which entertained the NY crowd and America "live" for 90 minutes, providing great Rock 'N Soul music. Daryl Hall proves to be one of the best vocalists of the 70s through the present, especially with his rendition of the "caught-off-guard" phone request, Me & Mrs. Jones.
What a difference in sound quality as compared to the original A&E Live By Request aired program. The producers of this DVD removed all the phone calls and allowed the final song (No Can Do) to play until it was completed. So, it was like the phone calls never existed. The broadcast had a lot of replaying song parts for commercial breaks. These are no longer present. The DVD also includes an exclusive interview and 5 bonus songs after the show went "off the air." They included most of the phone calls in a separate section of the DVD. The only song that was not included was "Method of Modern Love," which was only played for a few seconds in between commercials.
I recommend this DVD as, hopefully, one of many to come in the future by the most successful Philly-influenced Pop/Rock duo of all times!

Studio: Red Distribution, In

DVD title: Tai Chi for Beginners
Productgroup: DVD
Tai Chi for Beginners - movie DVD cover picture
Over and Over

I have had T'ai Chi for Beginners for about a week. Yes, it is repetitious. And, I am playing it over an over again. I am working on my coordination to go with the movements and still I am not completely satisfied with my performance. There is diaglog but it has only reinforced my trying to learn. The demonstrations are detailed - the reason for the dialog. Repetitions allow practice along with the DVD. The angles and repetitions help to study the movements. As I feel satisfied with my movements I learn another. I look forward to doing the T'ai Chi exercises and am enjoying learning the position. All and all it is very enjoyable and I am looking forward to gaining the confidence to move on into the 24 Forms. I am a senior citizen but I feel mastering the coordination necessary would be good and challanging for any age.

Studio: Wellspring Media, In
Paul Lam

DVD title: Clerks - The Animated Series Uncensored
Productgroup: DVD
Clerks - The Animated Series Uncensored - movie DVD cover picture
very good

Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier brings Jayson Mewes, Jeff Anderson, and Brian O'Halloran back to life as Jay, Randall and Dante in a cartoon. It is extreamly funny, if you already are a fan of Kevin Smith's work: Clerks, Mallrats, Charsing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Slient Bob Strike Back, some of them already considered classics (Clerks and Chasing Amy)... and some of them considered collosal bombs (Mallrats).
If you don't already know Smith's other work you may just consider it all some kind of weird Simpsons rip-off. It is that, of course, but it is also a lot more than that. A better comparison might be to the campy Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV Show... Sometimes it looks stupid, but then, that is the point to a large extent. If you get and like Buffy, then you will probably like and get Clerks the Cartoon, as well as the rest of Smiths work.

Studio: Miramax
Brian O'Halloran
Jeff Anderson

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