Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Funeral in Berlin
Productgroup: DVD
Funeral in Berlin - movie DVD cover picture
Harry Palmer: The Spy Who Went Into the Cold

Each of these films is a self-contained story but having seen the previous entries does give the central character more depth. "The Ipcress File" introduced Len Deighton's spy with no name as "Harry Palmer" -- a gritty, workaday operative for the British Secret Service -- the polar opposite from James Bond.

(This is even more interesting when you realize the producer of the two series is Harry Saltzman. And the director here is Guy Hamilton who helmed "Goldfinger".)

Michael Caine returns in this excellent second installment of the "Harry Palmer" series. The scene is Berlin in the early 1960s at the height of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall was a recent division. The tension between the US and the CCCP caused global anxiety. To see this film is to get something of a feel for the place and the time. The espionage here is thick and the tension is palpable. A series of double crosses lands Palmer in serious trouble. Whereas "Ipcress" had psychological underpinnings, "Funeral" is more personal and more down to earth. A story well told.

And yes, film makers once again take liberties with Deighton's fine books. The author's novel is richer in detail, movement across Europe and character development. Think of this as an abridgement -- a very good abridgement. Otherwise the film would be four hours long.

I wish the producers could have retained John Barry for the score but Konrad Elfers does a fine job and I'm happy to have a CD of his score. The visual framing favored by Sidney J. Furie for "Ipcress" was brilliant. Apparently the producer didn't care for it so Guy Hamilton's "Funeral" lacks those compositions but cinematographer Otto Heller, who worked on "Ipcress" as well, does a very good job here and manages to inject some visual flair now and then that ties the two films together.

The Paramount DVD is worlds better than the previously available VHS. Finally, the original widescreen aspect ratio -- 2:35:1 -- is retained and we no longer have to deal with truncated and/or pan & scan images that result in the dreaded "talking noses syndrome" or distracting cross cuts.

The original release was mono and that's what we have here. Although both "Ipcress" and "Funeral" would benefit from a 5.1 remix the mono sound here is quite good.

Extras? At the premium price Paramount set for this release you would have thought there would be extras. Sorry, no extras. Just be glad we have the film, which brings us to the next topic.

Paramount has let this one go out of print. It's no longer commercially available ... in the US. This ups the private seller price as fans get ripped off trying to find a copy. It's cheaper to buy a region-free player and order a copy from Amazon UK than it is to ferret out a used copy at that popular auction website.

"Funeral in Berlin" is a keeper. Or, for now, a good rental -- if you can find it. I'd like a copy myself.

Michael Caine as Harry Palmer returns in the next installment, Ken Russel's film: "The Billion Dollar Brain".

PS: If you want an even darker, noir like film set in the same time and place, Richard Burton as "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" is depressing and absolutely brilliant.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Guy Hamilton
Michael Caine
Oskar Homolka

DVD title: O-Town - Live from New York
Productgroup: DVD
O-Town - Live from New York - movie DVD cover picture

This DVD is soo faboulous! if you've been to their concert u know that they are soo much better live and its not very often u find a group/musician thats better live than on CD... all i gotta say is that i wish they had all for love, and their solos but other than that its the best! they even have the money,money,money song and trev and erik rap sooo greatly! I totally recommend this! i hope they do another DVD for their new album which is even better and i hope i get to see them in concert again! whooo! o-town rox!

Studio: Bmg/J Records
Dan Miller (VII)

DVD title: Hey Babu Riba
Productgroup: DVD
Hey Babu Riba - movie DVD cover picture

It is an really good film. Everything is happening in Belgrade, the most beutiful town I've ever seen. Acting and music, more than excellent.

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Jovan Acin
Gala Videnovic
Relja Basic

DVD title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Full Screen Edition) (Harry Potter 1)
Productgroup: DVD
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Full Screen Edition) (Harry Potter 1) - movie DVD cover picture
What a fun flick for the whole family!

My kids and I will pop this movie in, make some homemade pizza, and have a blast. I can whistle the theme song and they both drop everything and come running. The older one is only 2, so what does that tell you? It means that it's not too scary, not too complicated, and interesting enough for their rapidly changing attention spans to hang on to. It's a great match to the book because it capture the innocence and naivete of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and it does a great job of introducing the audience to the characters, the conflict, and the setting of the Harry Potter series. These young actors have done a great job of nailing down the characters, Alan Rickman was born to be Snape, and Dame Maggie Smith IS fabulous. This movie was viewed in VHS format so frequently it quit working right so we bought the DVD to replace it. That has been viewed so often that the box is an absolute wreck.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Chris Columbus
Daniel Radcliffe

DVD title: What's Up, Doc?
Productgroup: DVD
What's Up, Doc? - movie DVD cover picture

This movie just cracks you up. The twisted plot involving Howard's rocks and stolen files and ... could not be sillier, but that is the point. Throw in a couple of romances, a crazy and rich old lady with stolen jewelry, a bevy of lunatic rock collectors, and a matronly fiancee, and you have a delectable brew for Bogdanovich to whip with relish -- and he does. The performances are uniformly superb, but c'mon, Madeline Kahn blows everyone away with her Eunice Burns, which has made me laugh unfailingly since I was 11 years old. Ryan O'Neal has never been more appealing, and Barbra Streisand, in a non-singing role, displays her considerable comic gifts with ease. The slapstick-driven plot, with its sunny San Francisco locales, never lets up, and builds to a thoroughly satisfy movie-comedy ending. This movie has a sense of sophistication and yet remains innocent fun. I have never laughed this much -- and for this long -- at -- and with -- a movie before or since.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Barbra Streisand
Ryan O'Neal

DVD title: Fight Club (Single Disc Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Fight Club (Single Disc Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Great Movie Awesome DVD

This movie is fantastic. If you haven't seen it, let the other reviews convince you.
The DVD is spectacular. It's packed full of extras including extensive behind-the-scenes footage. The video transfer and the sound are impeccably done. And the packaging is great!

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
Director: David Fincher
Edward Norton
Brad Pitt

DVD title: The War of the Worlds
Productgroup: DVD
The War of the Worlds - movie DVD cover picture
A 1950's classic and still a great movie.

As a child around 1960, I saw a black and white version of this movie that took place in England. I've been looking for a copy of it ever since. It was truer to the book and made a greater impression on me. I'd be curious if anyone else saw that version.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Byron Haskin
George Pal
Gene Barry
Ann Robinson
Les Tremayne

DVD title: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Productgroup: DVD
Monty Python and the Holy Grail - movie DVD cover picture

This is, easily, one of the funniest movies ever made - if you have a taste for absurd humor, that is. There is a semi-coherent plot which manages to tie the movie together, only enhancing the hilarity of scenes such as The Witch Burning Scene, The Killer R-r-r-rabbit, and the Bridge of Death.

Moving on, the DVD set is fantastic. In addition to the movie, there are a ton of extras (including the "Knights of the Round Table" song as performed by Lego's, and subtitles taken from Shakespeare's Henry IV Part II). This really is a must-have for any Python fans.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Terry Gilliam
Terry Jones
Graham Chapman
John Cleese
Eric Idle
Michael Palin

DVD title: L.A. Story
Productgroup: DVD
L.A. Story - movie DVD cover picture
Amazingly Funny romantic comedy

If you love Roxanne you will love L.A. Story also. Steve Martin uses all his intellect and humor in the wonderful love story, and also skewers L.A. and everything that is trendy along the way. Top notch acting and a great cast!

Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Director: Mick Jackson
Steve Martin
Victoria Tennant
Richard E. Grant
Sarah Jessica Parker

DVD title: The Complete James Dean Collection (East of Eden / Giant / Rebel Without a Cause Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Complete James Dean Collection (East of Eden / Giant / Rebel Without a Cause Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
The Icon Who Never Gets Old

On Sept. 30, 2005, we mark the 50th anniversary of the death of James Dean. While baby-boomers may find that incredible, what's even more incredible is that throughout those 50 years, Dean's status as the icon of disaffected youth and rebellious adolescence has not only held up, but burnishes itself anew every time it is displayed before our eyes.
In a film career which spanned only 16 months and included only three films, James Dean defined the disorientation of disaffected youth, as one strives to carve out one's identity, separate from one's parents, and discover what values truly define and shape that identity and self. The remarkable thing about his movie roles is that they did this not only for his generation, but speak for each succeeding generation down to the present day. In no small part due to his tragic death at the age of 24, he never ages, and therefore remains the icon of all that is cool to all generations, whether you identify with Elvis, the Beatles, Sting or Kurt Cobain. Onscreen, James Dean remains the Real Thing in a way few other movie stars have ever been.
Bringing what Marlon Brando called "a subtle energy and a sense of intangible injury" to each of his roles, Dean created a cinematic presence which was so compelling, it had few, if any equals. He became at once the gravitational center and the propulsive force of every scene he was in. It did not matter if he was acting with Raymond Massey, Julie Harris, Natalie Wood, Rock Hudson or Elizabeth Taylor. For each and every moment he was onscreen, you could not take your eyes off him and what he was doing.
In the process, Dean managed to encapsulate and project all the conflicts and contradictions of youth in a manner and to a degree which remains unparalleled. Dean's characters were full of hurt and hubris, anger and uncertainty, confidence and vulnerability... all at once. Other young actors are merely young, and maybe heartfelt. Dean's characters are young with an experience which defies their years, thereby expressing an intensity of feeling and inner conflict that no one else could match.
This collection of all three of Dean's starring vehicles provides something of serious value to everyone who cares about movies and American culture. The DVD transfers are first rate, and it's hard to believe, for instance, that "East of Eden" has been unavailable to viewers in any format for the past 10 years. Take advantage, movie fans! Even 50 years later, James Dean remains as compelling, as fascinating and as powerful as he ever was, and... HE NEVER GETS OLD.

Studio: Warner Home Video
James Dean

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