Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: The Cell (New Line Platinum Series)
Productgroup: DVD
The Cell (New Line Platinum Series) - movie DVD cover picture
Disturbing film, outstanding DVD

"You can't go too far," director Tarsem Singh urged his production and effects crews in visualizing the inner workings of the mind of a psychotic serial killer. Singh and crew hit their goal of pushing the envelope to new highs, or lows, depending on your perspective. They've created a visually stunning film that deserves multiple awards for cinematography, special effects, sets, and costumes in its depiction of surreal and deeply disturbed worlds. I don't agree with critics who lambaste "The Cell" for poor acting and a thin plot. Jennifer Lopez as angelic social worker and mental sojourner Catherine Deane and Vince Vaughn as heroic FBI agent Peter Novak are both low-key but quite effective at meshing with Singh's vision. Vincent D'Onofrio as homicidal nutcase Carl Stanger delivers as strong a performance as in his similar roles in "Men In Black" and "Full Metal Jacket". The planned ending was revised, we're told in the DVD, to give the audience an upbeat sendoff. Hmm, maybe, but the cynic in me saw the not-quite-final-resolution ending of "The Cell" as a manipulative setup for a "surprise" sequel featuring the return of the three principals with the Edward character. Did I *like* the film? No. It's meant to be disturbing, and succeeds, but is too grotesque and over-the-top outrageous for me. Do I recognize the achievement here? Yes. Singh has a unique vision and realizes it quite effectively. Do I recommend it? To adults with a strong stomach who are curious for a look at state-of-the-art cinema, yes.
This DVD is a terrific value for fans of the film. If only they were all this good at this price! The DVD only displays in 2.35 anamorphic widescreen format, perhaps a bit too wide and short a perspective for some tastes in 27" and under TV monitors. But the DVD includes multiple soundtrack versions, including 5.1 Dolby Digital (no DTS), Dolby Surround 2.0, Howard Shore's music soundtrack with no other sounds over the film, a director's commentary over the film, and a production crew commentary over the film. There are also English subtitles, but no foreign language tracks or subtitles. The colors are vivid and the contrast strong. The surround effects in 5.1 are surprisingly subtle. I wasn't sure my rear speakers were on until I checked. The sound field blends very believably and advances the story. The soundtrack also has a wide dynamic range to punch the big moments when the volume is set so the quietest dialogue is audible. There are some other very well done special features on this DVD. Highlights include close looks at six visual effects sequences (though the commentary here is quite "jargony", more easily understood by people with some prior knowledge of special effects) and eight deleted (actually, generally truncated) scenes, each with director commentary that can be turned on or off. It's clear that this first-time director, working with someone else's big bankroll, understandably did not have complete creative control of the final cut of "The Cell". One scene that Singh did not want cut but reluctantly edited (for the U.S. release) when the studio threatened to totally delete it was the necrophilia scene. You can see it both ways on the DVD, but I think we got the point in the edited version. The edits shown help pace the film briskly, after a slow and deliberately vague initial five to ten minutes. All the commentary tracks are great fun for viewers interested in learning more about this film. There is also a fine "making of" featurette. The DVD also includes trailers and some text screen filmographies and basic but interesting brain science facts. The navigation menus are unusually well designed. Four stars for the film, five for the DVD.

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: Tarsem Singh
Jennifer Lopez
Vince Vaughn
Vincent D'Onofrio

DVD title: She's All That
Productgroup: DVD
She's All That - movie DVD cover picture

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Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
Director: Robert Iscove
Freddie Prinze Jr.
Rachael Leigh Cook

DVD title: SLC Punk
Productgroup: DVD
SLC Punk - movie DVD cover picture
Whatever you're expecting, forget it

**This film was absolutely not what I expected. I was prepared for a simple movie littered with side-splitting laughs. Which is what SLC Punks! started out to be. Quirky, intriguing characters. Funny incidents. But then it spins off into a deep, emotional drama. This completely floored me, and I loved SLC Punks! even more because it. **I can't say this movie told much of a story, and I don't think it was meant to. This movie focuses on character rather than plot, which is beautifully illustrated by the non-linear sequence of events. Stevo and Bob are introduced as 1985 SLC punks, but slowly become two people searching for themselves as the film progresses. **The acting here is absolutely fabulous. Matthew Lillard(Scream) gives us a spectacular performance, complete with much facial expression. The most powerful scene in the film is undoubtedly when Stevo finds Bob the morning after Brandy's party. He's lost and tortured, and those tears and facial torments are so real it's shocking. He's lost not only his best friend, but his inspiration, I think. After all, wasn't Bob the truest punk of them all? Michael A. Goorjian(Hard Rain) gives a fabulous performance as well, for an example watch the scene when he is confronted with the needle at the doctor's. He played the part of the neurotic, paranoia-stricken, hardcore punk true to the last thread. I personally thought Trish, as well, was very well played by Annabeth Gish(The X-Files). **Whether or not this film's focus is poseurs and punk depends how you look at it. Although they are undeniably important elements in the film, I drew very significant meaning from the characters themselves, not their lifestyle. Stevo's journey through various stages in his life had a huge impact on me as a person. But I suppose "poseur" is an integral part as well. Stevo and Bob spend their whole punk life trying to be as hardcore as possible, and being called a poseur is a horribly degrading insult. This had an impact on me as well, because in trying to be so "hardcore," maybe Stevo began to lose touch with his true character. And I think that is the beauty of him. **Watch this film. Have no expectations, draw no pretenses. Don't worry about whether or not the film itself is "poseur." Just let it take you where it wants to, and see if it has an impact on you. I'll bet it will.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: James Merendino
Matthew Lillard
Michael A. Goorjian

DVD title: Shallow Hal
Productgroup: DVD
Shallow Hal - movie DVD cover picture
Crossing the boundaries of romantic comedy.

I read the review of the guy that claims Shallow Hal has a 'dumb storyline' Its people like him that fall for the corny Meg Ryanny romantic comedies and fail to appreciate a good addition to the line. I consider Shallow to be an original masterpiece by those Farrelly Brothers. How many other films do you know to have used such a contraversial topic and incoperate it so sensitively into a genuinely funny, romantic movie?
Break the norm. Shallow Hal is brilliant! I haved watched it 5 times and counting. Shallow Hal is a great movie, with a good message. Beauty is only skin deep. Jack Black shines, showing that he can play more than the fat, drinking, [failures] that he's been playing off late. And need I mention Jason Alexander is in this movie? He delivers some hilarious fat jokes that will have you rolling and laughing your head off!One of my fave movies.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Gwyneth Paltrow
Jack Black

DVD title: The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
The Best Movie In The Whole Wide World!

Though he was robbed of an Oscar and the movie was robbed for Best Picture (who couldn't see that train wreck coming?) Peter Jackson has done J.R.R. Tolkien, his fans, and Ralph Bakshi a service in creating this film. Though far from accurate this adaption is good enough to earn the praise of those who have never read the book to those like myself who have read it numerous times and keep two versions for when one gets worn out. Though it clocks in at over three hours, and some people I have gone to see it with complain that they thought it dragged at times, everyone agreed walking out of the theatre that it was engaging and grabbed thier attention whenever they started to wander. Those who are unfamiliar with the story will be slightly disappointed at the cliffhanger ending and the Obi-Wan like reappearance of one of the characters, it is a trilogy, be patient.
I won't rehash the story or even summarize aside to say that it is good against evil with insurmountable odds to overcome. There are a few flaws, no Tom Bombadil which of course means no barrows. I also wasn't a big fan of Arwen saving Frodo or Elrond despising humans, his brother after all was human and a distant ancestor of Aragorn. The changing of Frodo's disappearance and the omission of the seventeen years difference between the two Baggins' departures was minor and not too troublesome. Any other changes are not worth mentioning.
The movie is visually stunning and the opening sequence should have earned Jackson the Oscar just in itself. As for the acting, on a whole it is above average. However, Viggo Mortensen did a fantastic job and Ian McKellan was superb in what certainly was the best performance I have seen in some time probably since Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. Hanks also inexplicably lost out in the Oscar race. I can't wait for the next installment and see if it can be as good as the first. As The Two Towers was my favorite of the books it should be a real treat.
The special features on the DVD look interesting, I caught the Sci-Fi documentary and I can say it was rather entertaining. As for the rest of it I guess it's wait and see.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Peter Jackson
Ian McKellen

DVD title: Molokai: The Story of Father Damien
Productgroup: DVD
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien - movie DVD cover picture
A sleeper that will remain in my top 10

When I ordered this DVD I knew a bit about the life of Fr. Damien but nothing about the film. I expected it to be "pleasant fare" but not much better. What a surprise! Molokai is as near to being a perfect film as could ever be made. It is an interesting and inspiring story that is told without any of the over-sentimentality one might expect from a "religious" film. The screenplay is wonderful - absolutely believable and natural dialoge delivered flawlessly. The cinematography is breathtaking and the soundtrack is, well, I'm going to track it down to buy it - a first for me. So much for the technical stuff. Fr. Damien was an extraordinary individual and an ideal priest. The film portrays this with great respect as it does with the Catholic Church in general - another rarity these days! There are at least a dozen scenes that stand out as illustrations of true virtue in practice and from which we can draw inspiration to improve our own characters. This is a beautiful film in every sense and will remain in my top 10 list of all time great movies.

Studio: A-Pix Entertainment
Director: Paul Cox

DVD title: Legally Blonde
Productgroup: DVD
Legally Blonde - movie DVD cover picture
Girl Power

This movie is often dismissed by people as a "good" movie because of the subject matter of a blonde chick going to Harvard to pursue her boyfriend. Yeah the premise is kind of demeaning. BUT, in the long run Elle delivers a stellar performance of a woman going after her dreams against the odds of people not believing in her.
Bruiser, the dog, adds an extra dose of sugar to this film, as does the obscene amounts of pink. Reese Witherspoon is a great actress who can pull off the "determined girl" character really well (see "Election"). This is a very light-hearted movie, reminscent of "Clueless" in its talk and clothing. Girls will definately love it. The writing is laugh-out-loud funny as are every single one of the characters.
The DVD features are excellent such as some documentaries on the movie that are informative as well as cute, plus you'll see some deleted scenes.
So in the words of Elle, "Don't be skeered," check this flick out!

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: Robert Luketic
Reese Witherspoon
Luke Wilson

DVD title: The Matrix Reloaded (Full Screen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Matrix Reloaded (Full Screen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
deeper than the first

I'll admit nothing beats the feeling of watching the Matrix for the first time, and Reloaded doesn't compare with that feeling, however Matrix Reloaded warrants a repeat viewing and more viewings after that because the subtext of the film is nothing short of amazing. It's deep folks. And the anti-climax is in my opinion almost as shocking as the twenty minute mark into the first. Read into it, and you won't be disapointed. I can't wait until Revolutions.

Studio: Warner Home Video

DVD title: The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
FOTR- A Success or a Failure?

For those of us who read the books and loved them, there will be a few dissapointments. Arwen Evenstar really should not have had such a big part; and some find it a great offense that she took Glorifindels place when rescuing Frodo! Others feel that the movie is quite incomplete without the whole Old Forest/Tom Bombadil/Barrow Downs ordeal. And, the whole account at the beginning of the movie regarding the history of the ring is not quite accurate when compared to the book. However, we must remember that trying to capture the true essence of J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, is virtually impossible. If you wish to experience the enchantment the books offer, and the magical spell that the books cast, I would suggest reading the books themselves! It is crazy to expect one who does not know the mind of Tolkien to portray his thoughts quite accurately. I really do feel that an excellent job was done in capturing the characters looks and personalities! Also, the scenes were quite amazing! If you are concerned with the movie sticking to every detail in the books, you will not like the movie! However, if you wish to experience just a taste of Tolkien's world come alive, then this is the movie for you!

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Peter Jackson
Ian McKellen

DVD title: The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Great Fantasy

It is not easy to take fantasy from the printed page and portray it in a serious manner on the silverscreen. This movie accomplished that, though. Characters with depth, excellent scenery and a storyline that moves makes this a great film.

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: Peter Jackson
Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Viggo Mortensen

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