Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Complete Fifth Season
Productgroup: DVD
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Complete Fifth Season - movie DVD cover picture
Great Season, Best DVD release so far

Season Five was the most arc-heavy and structured season of Buffy. Having first hinted at Season Five's arc way back in Season Three, the excellent pacing was the polished example of a machine that, by this time, was well-oiled. The episodes fit so neatly together and created such a complete story that many regard this as the best season of the show. With this new balance came fewer great stand-alone episodes and more of an appreciation for the overall story. This wasn't necessarily because the "great" episodes were lacking but because the "weaker" episodes became stronger. Part of the reason many fans remember an episode like Superstar from Season Four so well, beside the fact that it was a great episode, was because of its peculiar placement as a stand-alone that didn't fit at the end of the season, where the arc should have been picking up speed instead of dropping off. Season Five doesn't have that unevenness. I find that I remember the least about this season's specific episodes and more about particular events within the episodes. I tend to remember Joyce dying more than remembering that Joyce died in Episode 16 which orginally aired yada yada yada. As always, the cast gives great performances all around. Sarah Michelle Gellar in particular, Season Five after all being the season where Buffy seeks to learn more about the Slayer's history, is absolutely spectacular. Gellar just completely embodies the role of Buffy, and her work in this season stands as one of the great TV performances. By this time, viewers are gleefully aware that an episode can be centered around any member of the cast, and that member will respond with skill and passion for the material. Alyson Hannigan is as utterly heartbreaking in "Tough Love" as Marc Blucas is desperate in "Into The Woods." And who doesn't remember Nicholas Brendon's work vividly in that same episode? Emma Caulfield is fantastic in "Triangle" and James Marsters electrifying in "Fool for Love." Michelle Tratchenberg makes Dawn as sweet, annoying, and confused as I imagine a 14 year old would be even if she wasn't actually a big green ball of energy. She does a great job holding her own. And Amber Benson is so fragile and beautiful as Tara, a character that, like the Scooby Gang was early on in the season, none of us really knew that much about. Anthony Stewart Head also gives a measured and nuanced performance throughout the season. It's something you might not notice right away, but the acting in his eyes alone makes this season worth watching. He is really not given much to work with, but makes us understand why no other actor could have brought so much depth and complexity to such a difficult and potentially shallow role. The DVD itself is the most well packaged and put together of any of the releases so far. Onto Season Six.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Sarah Michelle Gellar

DVD title: Election
Productgroup: DVD
Election - movie DVD cover picture
Excellent film not geared for the entire family

Election explores sensitive moral and ethical issues within the framework of a bawdy, dark comedic script. Early in the film, Matthew Broderick's character, teacher Jim McAllister, asks his class, "What's the difference between morals and ethics anyway?" Election presents wonderful examples that show the difference through real-life conflicts.
The primary conflict revolves around student Tracy Flick's campaign for Student Council President. Flick is the quintessential Type-A over-achiever who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Jim McAllister attempts to thwart her campaign through the careful selection of a running mate, school jock Paul Metzler. Tensions rise as the two students compete with McAllister quietly vying for Metzler's victorious win. When the election takes a surprising turn for the worse, McAllister takes matters into his own hands by manipulating the situation to construct his own vision of how the election should end. This re-emphasizes an early lesson McAllister taught his students involving morals.
The movie is rich with sub-plots that play on the morals vs. ethics theme. The storyline is layered with conflicts such as Paul Metzler's adopted sister, Tammy, who struggles with her own sexuality, academic problems, and family pressures. Jim McAllister suffers through serious fidelity problems in his marriage. Paul Metzler plays the victim between two conflicts involving his sister and the election as a whole. These situations are cast within a comedic structure that contain serious dramatic underpinnings.
While the movie portrays the lives of high school students, it is not a film for the whole family. The humor contains strong sexual content involving serious adult themes. For those expecting a fun movie for your children, this is not the film. For those looking for a "chick flick," the sexual references may be too intense. The humor is scoped towards the male mind and may leave female viewers offended or uncomfortable due to the graphic sexual innuendos.
Sexual references aside, Election is a classic movie acted by an interesting cast of seasoned professionals and newbie actors. The script is solid, funny, and the movie very well paced and directed. The characterization builds well due to the selection of talented actors, each who fit their role believably. Reese Witherspoon becomes Tracy Flick; Chris Klein becomes Paul Metzler. It's hard to imagine others who might play those roles better. Other characters are equally believable and Broderick's performance is superb.
During the making of the film, realism was foremost in the mind of director Alexander Payne. It was filmed on location in Payne's hometown, Omaha, Nebraska. The school footage was shot in Papillion-LaVista High School just outside of Omaha. Classroom scenes were filmed during school hours, which provided a natural, real-life backdrop. Adjacent rooms had actual classes taught during filming. Ambient noise during these scenes were not added, they are the sounds of a school in session. Extras were students who attend the high school.
The DVD contains some added features, the best of which is audio commentary by Alexander Payne. There are deleted scenes that exist but were regretfully not included on the DVD release.
Election holds-up well with continued viewings. For those who are not offended by its style of humor, this movie won't become a forgotten addition to the DVD collection. It's a bright movie worthy of repeat performances.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Alexander Payne
Matthew Broderick
Reese Witherspoon

DVD title: The Passion of the Christ (Full Screen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Passion of the Christ (Full Screen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture

very very touching movie.
i cried throughout the whole thing.
very true to the bible.
recommended to all.

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
Director: Mel Gibson
James Caviezel
Monica Bellucci

DVD title: Gimme Some Truth - The Making of John Lennon's "Imagine"
Productgroup: DVD
Gimme Some Truth - The Making of John Lennon's "Imagine" - movie DVD cover picture
Great and Excellent sounding DVD! A must have!

Don't be fooled by reviews that you have seen this stuff before. I have personally seen only about 5% of this footage before. A small amount of the footage has been seen on the 1988 theatrical release of IMAGINE, however, those parts are greatly expanded upon in this DVD. The sound is incredible to listen to in 5.1 surround sound especially with headphones on as I am listening to it now. It truly makes you feel as if you are hearing the CD for the first time and the video only makes you appreciate the songs even more. The only negative portion is when Lennon seems extremely impatient during the background vocals of OH YOKO. His temper is soaring and Phil Spector looks as if he would rather be somewhere else. However this is important to see because it shows that creating art is not an easy task and keeping your temper intact is a tough one to master even by this master. If you don't have this DVD you are missing an important link into knowing Lennon.

Studio: Emd/Capitol
John Lennon

DVD title: Samurai Jack - The Premiere Movie
Productgroup: DVD
Samurai Jack - The Premiere Movie - movie DVD cover picture
Samurai Jack rocks

It is the same thing as the first few episodes in the Season One DVD. But for anybody considering taking an interest in Samurai Jack- it rocks.

Studio: Hanna-Barbera
Phil LaMarr

DVD title: Rain Man
Productgroup: DVD
Rain Man - movie DVD cover picture
246 toothpicks, "counting cards" and lessons in love.

Have you ever had to communicate with someone on a different wavelength as you; for example because he speaks a foreign language and you don't have an interpreter, or because he is unable to communicate verbally at all, or maybe just because you keep misunderstanding each other? If so, you know what a frustrating experience it is to have virtually no control over the situation and over making sure that you're actually understood. And in precisely this situation finds himself Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), personification of the 1980s' yuppie, a used car dealer with major money problems whose only - tentative - personal attachment is to his current girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino). Because having learned that except for a few rosebushes and a vintage 1949 Buick Roadmaster his recently-deceased father has left virtually all of his considerable fortune to his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) - a brother he didn't even know he had - Charlie decides to kidnap Raymond from the Cincinnati facility where he lives, take him to California, and demand half the inheritance in exchange for his brother's return.
Now, Charlie isn't the greatest communicator himself; at least as far as listening goes; he is used to talking people down, and if that alone doesn't do the trick, he starts to yell. This, however, just doesn't work with Raymond, who lives in a world of his own and, unable to express emotion in any other way, falls into a nervous tic when feeling threatened. So for the first time in his life Charlie has to learn to accept another human being for what he is, and work *with* his bewildering methods of communication rather than against them. And subtly, very subtly, Charlie begins to change, until at last he no longer wants to relinquish custody of Raymond even after having been offered a substantial amount of money: because now money is no longer an issue at all; now it's all about genuine love for a newly-found brother and very special person.
"Rain Man" is ostensibly told from Charlie's perspective; through his, the "normal" guy's eyes we perceive Raymond's habits, tics and strange behavioral code. And even if Charlie is easy enough to snub for his superficiality and materialism, his frustration at his inability to communicate with his brother feels genuine and is something we can empathize with(albeit perhaps inadmittedly). Tom Cruise plays Charlie with a finely-tuned mix of audacity and reluctant emotion; turning a role that seems to start out as just another Cruise cliche into a character who hesitantly comes to realize his own complexities and shortcomings and learns to appreciate sensitivity, compassion and love - yet, without ever taking the role that treacherous step too far into sentimentality.
Still, important as Charlie's character is for this movie's narrative, this is from first to last Raymond's story; and by the same token Dustin Hoffman's, because the two individuals are in fact inseparable: As Hoffman once explained in an interview, he rejects the notion that acting is merely about playing a role, or that the term "my character" could ever appropriately describe his approach to a role; emphasizing that in every part he plays, he truly has to *become* the individual in question to fully be able to understand and portray him. As such, his achievement with Raymond Babbitt is breathtaking indeed; for in a role which not only imposes severe limitations on his ability to communicate traditionally but also gives him virtually no opportunity to express emotion, he conveys Raymond's frailties, unexpected strengths and, significantly, his profound humanity in a manner that lets you forget you're even looking at a piece of acting, thus accomplishing that rare feat only attained by the greatest of actors - and even among Dustin Hoffman's spectacular performances, this one stands out in particular. (He did, of course, win both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for this movie; but somehow even the industry's highest awards don't begin to express the significance of his achievement.)
Raymond Babbitt's character was based on several real-life autistic persons; and at a time when little was known about the condition even in the medical community, contributed substantially to a greater understanding of those afflicted with it. Not all autistic people are so-called "savants" like Raymond, i.e. possess genial mathematic or other abilities within the shell separating them from the outside world (and conversely, not with all of them that shell is as thick as in Raymond's case; although intricate routines do tend to play a rather important role) - so don't go rushing off with them to Vegas for an exercise in "counting cards," at least not before you've verified that they can memorize entire phone books (at least up to the letter "G"), count the toothpicks in a pile on the floor with one glimpse of an eye and determine the square root of a four- or five-digit number within a matter of seconds without so much as looking at an electronic calculator. Chances are you'd do them tremendous harm, not to mention make a complete fool of yourself.
Dustin Hoffman reportedly fought hard for this movie's production even after several directors (including, inter alia, Stephen Spielberg) had bowed out; and in one of those rare un-Hollywood-like moments even managed to maintain the movie's sense of authenticity up to the very end by prevailing on the writers to drop the projected ending, which would have had Raymond staying with Charlie. - In addition to Hoffman's awards, "Rain Man" received the coveted Oscars for Best Movie, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director (Barry Levinson, who also played the psychiatrist called upon to evaluate whether Raymond is fit to stay with Charlie), plus a number of other American and international awards. For once, the industry collectively got it right. But even if this movie hadn't received a single award, it would still remain one of recent film history's greatest and truly unforgettable moments - definitely, it would.

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: Barry Levinson
Dustin Hoffman
Tom Cruise

DVD title: Xena - The Series Finale (The Director's Cut)
Productgroup: DVD
Xena - The Series Finale (The Director's Cut) - movie DVD cover picture
Good Bye Xena Warrior Princess You Will Be Missed!

I got this version (I think). From other reviews I thought the director's cut- which I definitely got was supposed to end with Gaberielle alone, not with Xena's ghost on the boat with her. Either reviews are wrong and the director's cut does end this way or somehow the dvds labeled director's cut really aren't the director's cut- atleast not the original. COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME WHICH OF THESE IS RIGHT??
I never saw the finale on television, so I don't have anything to compare my to. If there are two versions of the finale, a dvd with both versions should really be released.
This episode was pretty good. I was expecting somewhat more from a finale, but it was no where near as bad as some say. Alot of this series was about redemption and forgiveness. The episode going back and forth from the present to flashbacks of something that happpened when Xena was evil was very interesting and a great idea for the finale- goes to show how far Xena has come.
Given the circumstances, Xena did the right thing in the end- for others AND for herself- she already had to live with doing so much evil in the past, then finding out that what she did resulted in so many deaths and that the she had to stay dead in order to save their souls, what choice did she really have? And Xena had to die way before Gaberielle considering that previous episode where they have to travel forward to another of their incarnations- the person Xena was was very old, and the person Gaberielle was was really young. So, obviously Xena had to die first in order to be reborn first.
I don't think that it was really necessary for Xena to be beheaded though, seeing her the way Gaberielle saw her after she was killed (those of you who have seen this will know what I am talking about) was really awful.

Studio: Usa
Renée O'Connor

DVD title: Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Fourth Season
Productgroup: DVD
Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Fourth Season - movie DVD cover picture
Politically Correct it Ain't! WAY TO GO LARRY D!!

The 'unique' comic genius of Larry, his writers, cast & crew continue to put me at risk of sudden death from 'lethal laughter', but what a great way to go! I don't know if the guys can ever surpass the last few minutes of last season's 'Grand Opening' episode, but hysterical scenes from such episodes as "The Survivor", "The Carpool Lane" (with THE quintesenntial L.A. hooker)come VERY close, as do the dilemmas Cheryl & the high-strung Suzy Greene face in the episode with the 'inverted condom', the 'wounded dog', and Wandering Bear's ability to magically ease the problems of all - with Larry in full retreat! I have all of the seasons DVD's & take them to family gatherings where there are no HBO viewers. It may take them a few minutes to catch on to the complexities which regularly confront our unfortunate friend, L.D., but like me, they are now hooked! I "may have erred" by adding a few minutes of some CLASSIC 'Curb' dialogue to my 'ring tones', but we only live once! Just imagine the stares I got while looking for a gift for my wife at "Victoria's Secret", of all places, when my phone 'rang' quite loudly & very clearly with the profane ranting of the 'Terret Syndrome chef', Larry, Jeff, Cheryl, Suzy, et al at Larry's new restaurant on opening night! I have to admit, for a few moments I felt like the REAL Larry David! I can't remember if I RAN from the shop or was being chased out, by I DO recall gasping for air, not a result of my fleet-foot departure from the hostile environment, but rather from trying to recover from fits of hysterical laughter! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK! EMMY voters: are you guys paying attention!! We got the message. You love The Sopranos, Arrested Development, and Desperate Housewives. Why not broaden your horizons!

Studio: Warner Home Video
Jeff Garlin
Larry David
Cheryl Hines

DVD title: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Productgroup: DVD
The Talented Mr. Ripley - movie DVD cover picture
No Spoilers in this Review

Psychological thriller has highly disturbing elements, even if the violence is usually off-screen. All performances are stunning, first-rate. Location (Italy and New York) used beautifully... viewer believes he/she is seeing 1959 with own eyes! The best thriller of last year.
Who will love this movie?
Hitchcock fans
Fashion watchers (great "Il Boom" atmosphere and full of late 50's sophisticated wear)
People intrigued with High Society
Also a "must" for anyone who loves Paltrow, Damon, Blanchett, Jude Law, or Philip Seymour Hoffman (one of the greatest character actors working today).
I never read the Highsmith novel, but people tell me it's been nicely adapted in this film.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Anthony Minghella
Matt Damon
Gwyneth Paltrow
Jude Law

DVD title: Forrest Gump
Productgroup: DVD
Forrest Gump - movie DVD cover picture
A very wonderful movie!

A not-so-smart man and his wonderful life is the story of this movie.
A wonderful story, and a great performance by Tom Hanks (I can see why he won the Oscar as Best Actor for the second time in a row for this movie), made this a very highly recommended movie!

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Tom Hanks
Robin Wright Penn
Gary Sinise
Sally Field

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