Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: What to Do in Case of Fire
Productgroup: DVD
What to Do in Case of Fire - movie DVD cover picture
Brennen lassen!

This film is brilliant. One doesn't have to be a Berliner who lived in the Kreuzberg neighborhood during the eighties to appreciate the social commentary involved. Everyone of radical persuasion has battled with notions of selling out, growing up, or moving on; this film just helps make light of the process.
The characters in this film are archetypes of the neighborhood it is set in. Kreuzberg is a Berlin neighborhood still known as the radicals' borough today. Although geographically east, it was a western peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Berlin Wall. During Reagan's visit to Berlin in the eighties, Kreuzberg was practically under martial law.
Interestingly enough, the building used in the filming of this movie is not at all in Kreuzberg, but rather in Friedrichshain, an east Berlin neighborhood! Movie fans can see it today on the Sonntag Strasse, near U-Bahn station Ostkreuz. The police headquarters in the film can be seen in the Pankow neighborhood just north of Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin.
Other great films about the world's most fascinating city are: Goodbye, Lenin; Sonnenallee; Berlin is in Germany; and we've all seen Run Lola Run, haven't we?

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Gregor Schnitzler
Til Schweiger
Martin Feifel
Sebastian Blomberg
Nadja Uhl
Matthias Matschke
Doris Schretzmayer
Klaus Löwitsch

DVD title: Will & Grace - Season Two
Productgroup: DVD
Will & Grace - Season Two - movie DVD cover picture
If you love Will & Grace you will love this series dvd

I would find it hard to believe that whoever was primarily responsible for assembling the package design for this DVD set still has his or her job. Sloppy. Just sloppy.
The disc contents info listings are inaccurate, some of the shows are out of order (the 2-part finale leads off disc 4 instead of concluding it), an episode listed for one disc actually appears on another, etc.
I thought we were supposed to be dealing with reasonably intelligent professional folks at these studios! I'm sure many of them are doing their jobs well and accurately, but when goofs like this make it to the product when it hits the street it just makes everyone involved look incompetent. Perhaps some of these mindless offenders are in a union and have protected jobs. No motivation for excellence. Perhaps. Oh well. End of rant.
And now, the content itself:
Season 2 is arguably funnier than season 1. That is a tribute to the writers and the producers -- they found ways to keep the show fresh when the show could have so easily been stuck in a repetitive rut, repeating the same gay jokes over and over and over.
The "themed featurettes" are once again disappointing. All they are are 3-minute collections of show clips and punchlines. Not exactly value-added material, y'know.
Suggestion for Season 3's box set: find someone with half a brain to personally see the development and production process through from start to finish. Establish some direct accountability in the hopes of preventing the stupid, preventable design and chronology errors that made the Season 2 set look so unimpressive. Heck, if they will pay me enough I will come do it myself. Start to finish - initial concept to street release. How much are the current folks getting paid for this, anyway? Too much, apparently.
Advance warning to the production company and studio: Many of us will be deliberately searching for similar goofs when Season 3 comes out later. Save yourselves some embarrassment and do your jobs right. The top man or woman on the totem pole is just as responsible as the line employees at every step along the process. Sloppy output and inefficiency = lack of respect for the consumer.
Surely it should bother the DVD production staff that the lasting impression the consumers have of the Season 2 set is "Great show, but the production staff is borderline incompetent". Try shaking off that image, guys and gals.
It's just more proof that "the world is run by C students". (-Anonymous)

Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Debra Messing

DVD title: Fiddler on the Roof
Productgroup: DVD
Fiddler on the Roof - movie DVD cover picture
From a master film maker

Like a great conductor conveys the essence of a composers emotions through interpretation and conducting, this film was created, much like a symphony coming to life, in the hands of a master film maker.
Tevye the milkman has three daughters who, one-by-one find the man of their dreams. The story is about Tevye's inner turmoil as he prepares himself to let each daughter go off into the world of marriage. Faith and tradition are everything in Tevye's life and thinking, and they surface in little chats he has with his God. His God is the sounding board for his thinking but his tradition offsets everything else. It is about the tradition of the Jewish culture and how everything must have a law and a faith to keep them together.
Norman Jewison has made some great films over his career, but for me, Fiddler is the pinnacle of his artistic achievement in musicals. It is stylishly with the flair of an artist who knows.
Music is so much of the story and Jewison has edited to the music. Unlike many previous musicals (i.e. Rogers & Hammerstein or most filmed Operas) which hold a shot for the singers and actors to move about the frame, Jewison has cut and intercut the film on the meaning of the story and the beat of the music so that the performers and the music bring the audience intimately into the lives of the characters. Fiddler shows how a creative director can construct a film to be a spectacle of congeniality of all the elements, because he knows how to tell a story visually.
This is a great film from a master filmmaker with a twinkle in his eye.

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: Norman Jewison
Norma Crane

DVD title: The Prince and the Pauper
Productgroup: DVD
The Prince and the Pauper - movie DVD cover picture
Good production

We ordered this production of The Prince and the Pauper because we had seen it before, and do like it very much. We especially like the actors and the way they handled their roles. Very colorfully done.

Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Director: Richard Fleischer

DVD title: Manslaughter / The Cheat
Productgroup: DVD
Manslaughter / The Cheat - movie DVD cover picture
Simply Brilliant!

I was very impressed and completely enthralled by both features on this DVD and highly recommend it for anyone who values a quality silent drama. Both films are powerful dramas with outstanding acting, great suspense and in "Manslaughter" some deep and meaningful messages. Not everyone might get the same out of this movie, by the sounds of it, but I for one found it exceptionally good. You can take three sides: for spoilt brat Lydia, her desperate maid with a sick boy, or O'Bannon the District Attorney who is torn between love for justice and love for Lydia. There is a theme of soul-searching and finding yourself, getting your priorities right, and the uselessness of a debauched life of parties and booze. There are various things to take away from this great movie, so take your pick!For me, the musical score by the Alloy Orchestra was superb and perfectly suited, esp. the fast, lively Jazz for the party scenes and fast cars. I also found it a very interesting and nice change from the usual standard piano or organ score that faithfully plods along to most silent films, so it might not sound like 'an orchestra falling down the stairs' to everyone! The Cheat is a shorter and even more suspenseful film in some ways, and its picture quality is better than Manslaughter, but I feel they complement each other well on this DVD. Both of them highlight women living a dangerous lifestyle on the edge and its consequences - no different back then than today, no doubt, but despite the age of these movies, still as stark and powerful as if they were new. Definitely rivetting viewing!

Studio: Kino International
Director: Cecil B. DeMille

DVD title: In Good Company (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
In Good Company (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture

If you've seen the preview you already know this movie is about Dennis Quaid's company being taken over by a larger corporation. Quaid's ad division is then assigned Topher Grace as the new boss and Quaid is demoted. The characters are thoroughly explored and milked for plenty of laughs. This is a smart comedy that does not rely on bathroom humor to pull it's weight. There is nothing offensive here. You could take your grandmother and not blush one time.

The interaction between Quaid and Grace is wonderful. Grace almost immediately begins to admire his older underling, Quaid, and look to him as the father he never had and always wanted. During the interoffice scenes, Grace becomes enamored with Quaid's daughter, Scarlet Johansen. She too is wonderful in this role.

The only them not explored is the trust issue between father and daughter. They make much of it on the surface, but never once do Scarlet and Grace discuss keeping their relationship a secret from Quaid. Which of course is a major turning point in the film.

You really can't beat this movie for intelligent comedy.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Paul Weitz
Dennis Quaid
Topher Grace
Scarlett Johansson

DVD title: Red Cherry
Productgroup: DVD
Red Cherry - movie DVD cover picture
Have your kids watch this movie

I had my own two daughters (ages 12 and 14) watch this movie. When I say to my girls now "You're so lucky to be born and raised in the United States in this day and age," my girls really understand what I mean.
I have lived and worked in the former Soviet Union, so I'm no fan of communism. But I met many wonderful people there, many of whom suffered horribly during the war at the hands of the Germans as well as at the hands of their own communist zealots. "Red Cherry" may be somewhat one-dimensional as far as not portraying the negatives of communism--but for many Russians and Chinese, the positives of communism were truly felt to outweigh the negatives. The movie was about the Nazis and what they did to ordinary people's lives--it was no more meant to be an even-handed examination of the pros and cons of communism than "Saving Private Ryan" was supposed to be an even-handed examination of capitalism.
Are parts of this movie shocking for children? Yes--seeing a young girl urinate in fear after witnessing her teacher be shot point blank is a shocking scene for young people. But do I want my children growing up like some spoiled American kids thinking that life is always essentially good, and that every person is capable of being reasoned with? That the worst thing that can happen to them is that you won't take them to the store that day to buy, buy, buy? No way! If you watch this movie with your kids, you will have some long, interesting, and worthwhile conversations. I have never written a recommendation for a movie before, but I felt I had to write one after seeing the sneering 1-star reviews by people who display little understanding of life beyond what they've read about in books.

Studio: Fox Lorber
Director: Daying Ye

DVD title: N Sync - Live at Madison Square Garden
Productgroup: DVD
N Sync - Live at Madison Square Garden - movie DVD cover picture
GET This


Studio: Bmg/Jive/Silvertone
N Sync

DVD title: Smashing Pumpkins - Greatest Hits Video Collection
Productgroup: DVD
Smashing Pumpkins - Greatest Hits Video Collection - movie DVD cover picture
Smashing Pumpkins ~DVD

I'll be the first to admit that when I first heard the Pumpkins I was not amused at all. Do you remember MTV's "120 Minutes" with Kevin Seal? They used to play "Siva", which was OK, but not up to the amazing music sounds that were coming down at the time.
Later, with the release of "Siamese Dreams" the Pumpkins worked their way into my collection, and before long the whole pile of B sides and releases infiltrated *heavy rotation*.
This memory was all too familiar when I picked up the Greatest Hits DVD yesterday...
YOU HAVE TO GET THIS DISK. The greatness of the Pumpkins became evident later, but the whole blurry perspective is painfully obvious from this DVD. There's not a lemon here, with amazing performances in regular MTV videos and live footage from the good old Cabaret Metro in Chicago and a fascinating short film revolving around "Try".
Billy may be a bit pompous, but the music doesn't lie. Today is the greatest day of my life....

Studio: Emd/Virgin

DVD title: Keith Jarrett Trio - Live at Open Theater East
Productgroup: DVD
Keith Jarrett Trio - Live at Open Theater East - movie DVD cover picture
Best Jazz DVD I Own

I really wish all jazz DVDs were like this. No gimmicks, no useless documentary, just amazing jazz from possibly the most acclaimed trio still playing today. The sound quality is impeccable, allowing you to really appreciate Jarrett's poignant lyricism. Out of all the live jazz I've seen, only Jarrett has moved me to tears with the pure beauty of his playing. This DVD is a great capture of a great live performance.
Jarrett and his Trio are acclaimed for bringing standards back to the modern jazz limelight. The decades-old chemistry between Jarrett, Peacock, and DeJohnette is obvious from their remarkable interaction in this concert.
Although I've never heard Jarrett play a bad set, this one exceeds my expectations. I've always been partial to the trio's "Bye Bye Blackbird", but other tracks like "Oleo" and "Solar" are among the true gems on this DVD.
The performance is wonderfully warm and live, with shots lingering just long enough to let you take it all in without engaging in the hyperactive camera work plaguing some music DVDs today. It's entertaining to see Jarrett lose his time in the first solo chorus of "Oleo", as former Miles-sideman DeJohnette throws him off with all sorts of off-beat explorations. Many complain about Jarrett's signature groans and horribly out-of-tune whining, but any Jarrett fan quickly learns to naturally filter them out. If you really have a problem with that sort of thing, don't buy this DVD or you will be distracted and more than a little disgruntled. On the other hand, if you can bear it this DVD is one of the best jazz DVDs out there.

Studio: Image Entertainment

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