Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Escanaba in da Moonlight
Productgroup: DVD
Escanaba in da Moonlight - movie DVD cover picture
Heaven is North of Da Bridge

When things start going strange in the UP, they go seriously strange.
This is your typical boy-bags-buck story- only the boy is in his mid-40's and is known around town (Escanaba) as the "Buckless-Yuper." In fact, if he doesn't bag a buck this season he will go down in Soady family history as the oldest family member never to bag a buck. In fact his uncle (the family idiot) even bagged a buck by shooting through the outhouse wall. So, he shows up at the family deer camp for the 30th season in a row. But no one wants to hunt with him because they are convinced that he is cursed. It doesn't help that strange things start happening- from the whiskey going bad and the numbers on the playing cards changing, to UFO's and marauding bear spirits. My personal favorite scene is the family's decision to sacrifice a DNR ranger to appease the evil spirits.
It's a hoot, but then I used to live in the deep woods in the western UP- just north of the Mystery Lights (so nothing surprises me anymore.) Those folks from big cities like Escanaba always were a might high-strung.
Who ever thought of using Jeff Daniels from "Dumb and Dumber" deserves an award for good casting. Wait a minute- Daniels WROTE it- that explains things.

Studio: Monarch Home Video
Director: Jeff Daniels
Jeff Daniels
Harve Presnell

DVD title: The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete First Season
Productgroup: DVD
The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete First Season - movie DVD cover picture
Aunt Bee Couldn't Have Polished Up These Shows Any Better!

Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, Thelma Lou, Otis, Floyd, and the rest of the Mayberry gang have arrived on DVD in style, and with very vivid picture quality, in this first-season boxed set. The 4-Disc set contains all 32 episodes of the rookie season of one of the most beloved programs in television history: "The Andy Griffith Show".

Beginning with the pilot episode, "The New Housekeeper" (which originally aired on CBS-TV on Monday night, October 3, 1960), "The Andy Griffith Show" settled into a comfortable eight-year run, encompassing a total of 249 episodes.

I can just about guarantee this -- The debut season of "Andy" has never, EVER looked better than on the video we find encoded on these 4 DVDs! Some episodes do have quite a bit of grain "noise" dancing around the screen, but overall these black-and-white shows look very sharp and clear. In fact, even during the "grainier" programs, the underlying filmed image still looks sharp and undistorted (to my eyes at any rate). My hat is off to whoever was responsible for cleaning up these shows for this DVD release.

An example of the outstanding video quality that I found here --- In several close-up scenes, you can literally read the tiny print on Andy Taylor's sheriff's badge! "Sheriff -- Mayberry" can be seen right on his badge in many shots; and the little "star" in the middle of the badge is clearly discernible as well. Plus, each individual CRACK in the Mayberry sidewalks can be seen with ease! Remarkable quality! Just stunning, especially for a show of this age! The audio sounds excellent as well, via the 2-channel Dolby Mono tracks. And the audio is elevated to a good (decent) level, too. It's not too "low". Very nice.

The initial season of this sitcom has always been one of my favorite years during the show's 1960-1968 lifespan. We're introduced to the Taylors in the very funny debut episode, which features an incredibly-cute, 6-year-old Ronny Howard (as Opie Taylor) stealing every scene he's in. Ronny's tearful appeal to his father at the end of the show is hilarious .... "But, pa, if she [Aunt Bee] leaves, what'll happen to her? She doesn't know how to do anything -- play ball, catch fish, or hunt frogs! She'll be helpless!!" :)

Following the pilot episode, many more merry Mayberry escapades from the first season await us. Such as some of my personal faves: "A Feud Is A Feud", "Stranger In Town", "Andy And Opie, Housekeepers", "Quiet Sam", "The New Doctor", "The Manhunt", "Opie's Charity", "The Inspector", "Barney Gets His Man", "Bringing Up Opie", and perhaps the single best (and most touching) Christmas episode ever made for any TV show before or since, entitled simply "Christmas Story" -- in which crusty old town curmudgeon Ben Weaver (ideally played by 66-year-old veteran character actor Will Wright) surprises everyone by desperately wanting to be included in the gang's Christmas party at the Courthouse. That episode demands to be viewed each and every December.

There are no chopped-up, edited episodes here. These programs have been fully restored to their original length, approximately 25-and-a-half minutes each (with some eps. running closer to a full 26 minutes!), including the complete "epilogue" scenes at the end of each show. These epilogues are rarely included on syndicated prints shown on commercial television.

The original "whistling" theme music is also included here during the opening credits. (However, it does sound to me as if the closing credits have been "dubbed" (for some reason), using a slightly-different-sounding variation of the theme music; but it's mighty close to the original though.)

The voice-overs at the beginning of the shows are also intact here. Even the original CBS-TV "opening and closing eye" logo is included at the end of each of these episodes!

These 32 episodes are arranged on the DVDs in "Air Date" order. There are exactly eight episodes on each of the discs.

There are no bonus features included in this set, which is a bit disappointing, but not overly so. Just getting all the full-length episodes from Season One in this kind of jaw-dropping superb quality is the most important thing here, to be sure.

This DVD set has no player-created "Subtitles"; but the discs are supposed to contain "Closed Captions". However, they won't function on my TV. Perhaps it's just my television; I don't know. But the supposedly-included English Captions aren't working for me.

The Packaging ..... This four-disc compilation from Paramount Studios features very nice packaging, including individual ThinPak plastic cases for each of the set's 4 discs. A relatively-strong and substantial outer slipcase box houses the four separate plastic slim cases (which are just half the thickness of a normal keepcase). I very much like this kind of packaging for TV-on-DVD products, where each disc is packed in its own slim plastic case, versus the fold-out "Digipak" type of cases. Some of the "Digipak" cases practically require a table a mile wide to fully extend the various DVD panels. (LOL! Just a wee joke there -- "Digis" are OK; but this type of individual-case packaging is much preferred by this writer.) :-)

Each of the slimline cases sports different "T.A.G.S." cover art, along with essential episode information located on the inside of the clear, see-through cases (including episode titles, program descriptions, and original air dates). The disc art is equally impressive. When any disc is removed from its tray, a "Mayberry Fun Fact" is revealed (printed on the case insert underneath each disc).

There are no separate paper enclosures or inserts. But no such added items are really needed here, since all of the info about the shows is available to view right on the clear cases themselves.

The back side of each of the 4 individual cases displays (in a rather clever fashion) the episode titles of the 8 programs that are included on that disc. These titles are listed on what is meant to represent "Official Mayberry Courthouse" stationery -- complete with simulated handwritten memos to Andy and Barney, coffee stains, and dried-on "drink rings". A unique "down home" kind of a touch here, I think.

I really like this good-looking packaging very much. The color photo used for the front of the outer slipcase, depicting Andy and Opie fishing, captures the homespun feeling and spirit of "The Andy Griffith Show" just perfectly.

More Info About This DVD Compilation ........................................ .........................
<br />
VIDEO -- Full-Frame (1.33:1 aspect ratio).

AUDIO -- Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English only).


CHAPTER STOPS? -- Yes. There are 5 chapter/(scene) stops for each episode, including a much-appreciated "break" immediately after the conclusion of the opening credits.

MENUS -- Simple and static. No music. No long transitions. Beautiful! The Main Menu doubles as an "Episode Selection Menu" as well. No Episode Sub-Menus are included. Appropriately, a "Sheriff's Badge" serves as the Menu indicator/(pointer).

-------------------------------------- -----
<br />
"The Andy Griffith Show" has been loved by millions of people for many decades since it first entered American living rooms in the Fall of 1960. Between its first-run airings and being shown in syndication, it's been said that the show has never been off the air since its inception. And now, thanks to Paramount's deluxe set of the show's complete first season, it's bound to find even more new fans and gain still more "air time", via the DVD format.

Any long-time fan of "The Andy Griffith Show" will want a copy of this sparkling DVD set. You'll then be able to see Barney's debut-episode "jaywalking" tirade as many times as you please, in full Digital splendor, and in pristine clarity. ...............

"Now why did ya do that, Andy?! You know she was guilty. I seen her do it! Now she's gonna go and tell all her friends how she got away with it, and the next thing you know people are gonna be jaywalking all over the place and disregarding 'keep-off-the-grass' signs and everything!! Mayberry's gonna turn into a regular SIN TOWN!!" --- Bernard Fife; "The Andy Griffith Show"; Episode #1; LOL! :-)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Andy Griffith

DVD title: The Addams Family
Productgroup: DVD
The Addams Family - movie DVD cover picture

This is an absolutely brilliant camp classic. The characters are charming and memorable, especially the understated Morticia, the swashbuckling Gomez, the stone-faced Wednesday and the villain, Dr Greta Penterschloss. The double entendres and ironic lines have since become part of the vocab of lovers of the Addams Family movies. Other interesting characters include the helpful "Thing," the weird butler and Fester, of course, while at the family ball Cousin It and the twins Flora and Fauna really impressed. The funniest scenes include the school play, the s?ance, the first visit of Fester to the vaults (where they watch an old home movie) and the psychotherapy session: "love, hate, hate, love - ze thoughts they bubble und collide." I have made a habit of watching this one at least once a year. It's a timeless classic, with great gags, excellent acting and a culture of its own. No wonder it has become a cult classic.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Anjelica Huston
Raul Julia
Christopher Lloyd

DVD title: The Great Escape
Productgroup: DVD
The Great Escape - movie DVD cover picture
My all time favourite

The Great Escape is a long movie, almost three hours. It concerns a planned escape of 250 men from a German POW camp. The movie does sit a little on the campy side, and doesn't show the horrors of war or the pow camp, but it is entertaining to watch. This isn't anyone's strongest movie. James Coburn's part is weak. McQueen's acting borders comic at time. But it is a decent movie to watch. The dvd contains a 24 minute behind the scenes featurette. It's a good featurette. Instead of recapping the movie, like so many others have done, it does go into the making of, and is really well done.

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: John Sturges
Steve McQueen
James Garner
Richard Attenborough
Charles Bronson
Donald Pleasence
James Coburn

DVD title: The Usual Suspects
Productgroup: DVD
The Usual Suspects - movie DVD cover picture
Best movie

I can't put a review of this movie into words. Simply stunning and brilliant. The acting is wonderful. I can honestly say that Kevin Spacey is the most talented actor in Hollywood today. Anyone who has not seen this movie has to see it, at least once.

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: Bryan Singer
Gabriel Byrne
Kevin Spacey
Chazz Palminteri

DVD title: Day for Night
Productgroup: DVD
Day for Night - movie DVD cover picture
In defense of this film

I can understand some film lovers may not like dubbed films. That is understandable, but this is a well done dubbed film compared to others. In fact it may enhance this film because the dialogue would be harder to follow if it was subtitled. It is not fair to be giving this film one star ratings because you don't like dubbed films. This is a wonderful film and you should be grateful it is still available at all to the American public in any form.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Fran├žois Truffaut
François Truffaut
Jacqueline Bisset
Jean-Pierre Léaud

DVD title: Rio Grande
Productgroup: DVD
Rio Grande - movie DVD cover picture
Now this is a MOVIE

This film classic is all that and more. It looks like an advertisement for "excellent entertainment from the past". The scenery is fabulously filmed in chiaroscuro black and white, the story is compelling, and John Wayne is at the height of his masculine grace. I especially love the Claude Jarman role, the sensitive teenager who seeks his fathers' approval. Recommended viewing.

Studio: Republic Studios
Director: John Ford
John Wayne
Maureen O'Hara

DVD title: The Children's Hour
Productgroup: DVD
The Children's Hour - movie DVD cover picture
More here than you know...

This film relies largely on the believability of the kid-actors, and it works quite well. Veronica Cartwright has successfully gone from kid to adult roles. But whatever happened to Karen Balkin, the center of this film. She's magnificent as the spoiled rotten little brat...and Ive never heard of her since. I saw this film in its initial release when I was 14. I had read the play and thought it'd be interesting to see how the Lesbianism issue was dealt with. Well, I learned a lot from this film, which is most definitely NOT about Lesbians, but is about intolerance, unconscionable spite and its consequences. This play was first filmed in 1936 as "These Three", also directed by William Wyler. The plot was entirely turned around with no suggestion of Lesbians. If you saw the film "Julia" (with Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellmann) it is regarded as Hellmann's most difficult as to resolution. Miriam Hopkins played Martha in the '36 film and returns here to play the goofy Aunt Lilly. Fay Bainter was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, coming out of retirement to (brilliantly) play the old matriarch grandmother of rotten little Karen Balkin. (Note: in the '36 version little Bonita Granville played the role and was nominated). Again, this film is not about any particular kind of sexuality, rather the devastation of spiteful lies. Hepburn & Maclaine are excellent and I disagree that Maclaine overdid the ending. Wyler was never known as an "intuitive" director; rather, relying on the intelligence of good actors & writers. The slow strides of gay-themed films is an interesting subject, the taboo first tackled by Vincente Minnelli in "Tea & Sympathy" in 1956 (and severely white-washed); "The Children's Hour" attempted the same and, though Production codes were more relaxed in '61, Hellmann's profound ending was also somewhat subdued. Ugliness of character has always been a favorite subject of playwrights and filmmakers; the rotten little kid routine has been overused by Hollywood. If so many films are being remade these days, mostly crappy films to begin with, and with the new regime of interesting directors out there looking for material, why not re-do this as Hellmann intended? Evil children are a staple of Hollywood. Bonita Granville was, indeed, excellent in the first film version. But Karen Balkin's interpretation reminds me a lot of Patty McCormack in "The Bad Seed" (not a bad model). If there's a lesson to be learned, it's that once the damage is done, it's hard to recover. I also understand that there was a courtroom scene which was cut from the film. If this footage exists, I would love to see it in a DVD version. I'd like to know what happened to Karen Balkin. She was in the 60's what Jodie Foster was in the 70's (Taxi Driver), daring, intuitive and centered. I HATE bad kid-actors; good ones are priceless.

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: William Wyler
Audrey Hepburn
Shirley MacLaine

DVD title: The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection)
Productgroup: DVD
The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection) - movie DVD cover picture
Engrossing characters drive story

From the very first shot of The Royal Tennenbaums, I was engaged. I am not a typical movie-goer. I tend to see movies long after they have been released, I see movies that seem interesting or that I hear a buzz about. And I see the same movies over and over. I have a short attention span, and low tolerance for unimaginative movies. The actors featured in the picture caught my interest, and I bought the DVD without having seen the rental first. I was completely engrossed in this movie, something that has not happened since Private Ryan (but for a different reason). You can read the plot summary from other places, I'll tell why I thought so highly of it. First when I go away from a movie and I actually have a conscious thought, question, or observation about it more than 10 minutes after it's over, that means it's affected it me. It signals to me that there was something important there. I was completely fascinated by the characters, their stories, their lives and the way they were portrayed by some of the best actors in the world. The best stories for me in movies and in literature, are character driven. Yes, I enjoy action movies, and plots and all that (loved Gladiator), but it's the characters that really engage me. TRT has crisp, well-drawn, familiar, but not stereotypical characters. Yes, you say that's fine but what's it about? It's about a bunch of different things. The plot and the actions are developed out of characters which some might call archetypal.
The dialogue which some might call "sparse" is masterful. It has so many layers of meaning in single sentences. If you pay attention, you can learn even more about the characters from what they say, how they say it. At some point, I think almost every person in the film says, "what do you mean?" or "it doesn't matter." And there are subtley funny parts also, but probably not in the overt way most blockbusters are famous for today (I mean I love Austin Powers, but let's face it, we are hit over the head with the jokes). TRT is not funny in the haha-pratfall-bathroom-obvious-belittlin g way we are used to on sit coms, but funny in the hmm-clever-witty-thoughtful-self-effacin g-true-to-character way. There are a ton of nuggets in the film too that are worth discussing, too, like how the players wear basically the same thing, same style throughout the movie. What is the reason for that? I'm sure there are many. Also, every shot, angle, scene is precisely laid out and there is no extra or unintentional/extraneous activity going on. The effect is to produce a tightly constructed film (I hate that word in reference to movies) that leaves you with powerful and memorable images to devour and perseverate on long after it is over. I did not know a lot of the songs on the soundtrack but I'm certain they were deliberate and this adds another layer of meaning and complexity to a beautiful heartbreaking, lovely, hysterical, immensely entertaining picture.

Studio: Buena Vista Home Vid
Director: Wes Anderson
Gene Hackman
Gwyneth Paltrow

DVD title: Leslie Sansone - Walk Away the Pounds - Super Fat Burning - 3 Miles
Productgroup: DVD
Leslie Sansone - Walk Away the Pounds - Super Fat Burning - 3 Miles - movie DVD cover picture
Good Workout!!

I love this workout, it's a challange, it's about 49 mins. long and you have the option of having weights involved, I use 3 lbs weights. It made me sweat and I could feel the burn in my arms and thighs, if you like Leslie's workouts you'll like this one. I workout 5-6 times a week and I can sweat good with this one, it's simple to do, VERY easy to follow and no complicated footwork. She's a very "happy" Person in all her videos, but I'd rather listen to her any day over Richard simmons (gross)! Anyway this is a good buy for those Cardio days. My hairdresser used this workout for 3 months and lost 15 lbs without following a strict diet so this is why I tried it. I know I'll lose weight with this workout it's awesome. Try it!!

Studio: Good Times Home Vide
Leslie Sansone

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