Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Blue Velvet
Productgroup: DVD
Blue Velvet - movie DVD cover picture
In Dreams, I Walk With You...

What can words say about this movie? It's already been said...this is my favorite Lynch flick, running head to head with 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me'What I can say about this brilliant DVD version, is that the colors are vibrant, gorgeous and vivid...I've seen this on the big screen, and many times on the small...but I never saw it in such vivid color....the Lynchian themes of light, and shadow, never looked so good...I've read that David originally wrote the Frank Booth scenes with Frank sniffing helium gas...and to anyone who's seen Dennis Hopper's scenes, can you just imagine those, with a Helium voice...? How scary, and more darkly comic, would that be?! The 'extra' interviews, with Isabella and Kyle, are wonderful..get this one, at all costs, if you are a Lynch won't be disappointed...

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: David Lynch
Isabella Rossellini
Kyle MacLachlan
Dennis Hopper

DVD title: Le Mans
Productgroup: DVD
Le Mans - movie DVD cover picture
The best racing movie to date

The number of films about racing makes a very short list. This emphasizes the cars and not the dialog - an the incredible Porsche 917s at Le Mans. When this came out, it bumped Grand Prix as the best of the type. Also noteworthy is Winning and A Man and a Woman. The recent Driven is just drivel.

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Lee H. Katzin
Steve McQueen
Siegfried Rauch
Elga Andersen

DVD title: The Girl Next Door (Unrated Version)
Productgroup: DVD
The Girl Next Door (Unrated Version) - movie DVD cover picture
Great Movie

This is a really funny movie. I wasn't sure what to expect but I really enjoyed it. Its different than the American Pie movies, but still good in a different way.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Director: Luke Greenfield
Emile Hirsch
Elisha Cuthbert

DVD title: Riding Giants (Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Riding Giants (Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture

Riding Giants is a brilliant documentary that dives deep into the world of one of the most underappreciated sports and brings to the surface a very human and raw emotion that only director Stacy Peralta could capture. Everything from the structure, to the players, to the amazing stock footage, to even the style in which this was filmed only reinforced the beauty and power behind the sport of surfing. Of all the surfing films that I have seen (Endless Summer, Billabong Odyssey, and Step Into Liquid) this was the most consistent and relevant. Beginning with the early ages of surfing (a brief history lesson) lasting all the way till Laird's infamous ride, Riding Giants goes further into the mind, heart, and soul of the sport than any of these other documentaries. How does it do this? By giving us the whole story, from start to finish, without fictionalizing or jig jagging from wave to wave.

To begin this film was structurally sound. In the other films that I have seen about surfing, you sometimes find yourself jumping from new person to new person, wave to wave, event to event, without any knowledge of why or who? In Riding Giants, we have a very small cast of veterans and newbies. This allows you to really go deeper into the mind of each one. Also, instead of just riding waves, we are handed more history and more personal insight to the world than before. This is what really attracted me to this film. I was impressed that instead of showing all these big waves (because it is a big wave movie), we listen to stories and see first hand what these surfers had to overcome to get to those waves. I loved the information about the "beach bums" or father's of surfing. I am still floored by the amazing tales of Greg Noll and his early adventures into the harsh deep blue. Then, to see him in person, talking about what was going on in his mind, only added more fuel to the fire. The straightforward structure that Peralta followed allowed me to follow and walk away with more knowledge of the sport than with any of the earlier films. Peralta shows so much emotion and passion that you cannot help but be amazed by what these brave people have done, and where the sport is going.

Add to a immaculate structure some intense and creative cinematography, and you have darn near perfect film. Using techniques that I last saw in The Kid Stays in the Picture, Riding Giants creates some scenes that almost feel as if they are jumping out of the screen. While it isn't 3D, it is that flat dimensional feeling that you get when you put two pictures on top of each other. In this film, it worked. It created more depth to the scenes, and really added to not just the shock value (man these waves were huge), but also the danger that these guys constantly faced. If it broke differently or they maneuvered wrong, these waves would kill them. Some did die, but it didn't stop the sport. It only created more excitement and more passion to do better. It is this love of the ocean and sport that leads me to my final point.

The human element. So many of my earlier adventures in the world of surfing documentaries left me with beautiful waves, but very little about the people. The films knew that people were watching for the waves, so it would basically go from wave to wave to wave and the maybe a short second about the person. This film was the direct opposite. Peralta created this masterpiece by still giving us the waves, but devoting so much more attention onto the surfers and the immortal question of why they do this everyday. What rushes through their minds, what pushes them to go further, and the bonds that are formed while out there on the wild blue yonder. I felt like after watching this film that I not only knew more about big wave surfing, but also about the emotional side to the sport. This was an element not as developed in the other films and pushed Riding Giants to a whole new personal level.

Overall, this film was brilliant. Never have I witnessed so much passion, devotion, and love wrapped in a structurally sound film. From beginning to end, I was impressed. I would be very happy if this film won the Oscar this year for Best Documentary, and to see a new rebirth in the surfing world and open more doors for films of this nature.

Grade: ***** out of *****

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Stacy Peralta
Dave Kalama
Laird John Hamilton
Darrick Doerner

DVD title: The Thirteenth Floor
Productgroup: DVD
The Thirteenth Floor - movie DVD cover picture
A Twist on the Genre

A wonderful movie. Like the other reviewers, I was led to believe it was a concept without execution. As I was watching it, I thought it was a film noir homage. Fair enough. It was, but it played off of this homage very nicely and created a complex, well-executed concept movie. Do yourself a favor: Watch it, wait a day, then watch it again. You'll see two different movies!

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Josef Rusnak
Craig Bierko
Armin Mueller-Stahl
Gretchen Mol

DVD title: The Nutty Professor
Productgroup: DVD
The Nutty Professor - movie DVD cover picture
Way better than the Jerry Lewis one!

The Jerry Lewis one was just plain dumb! But this is a masterpiece! This one strayed away from the stupid geeky college professor and turned him into a fat college professor who just wants to be thin. When my mom saw this with me, she coulden't stop laughing, and I'm sure that anyone who sees this movie won't stop either!

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Tom Shadyac
Eddie Murphy

DVD title: WWE WrestleMania X-Seven
Productgroup: DVD
WWE WrestleMania X-Seven - movie DVD cover picture
Best WrestleMania to Date

The time before WrestleMania X-Seven was a very prosperous time for WWF/E. Their three main superstars: Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, and The Rock and even Kurt Angle were in their prime, physically and in popularity. WWF/E dominated the wrestling business, as it did the past few years since the era of "Attitude" was ushered in. But the company's domination of the American wrestling industry was cemented as ECW had folded in January of that year and WCW, WWF's greatest competitor had been bought out by McMahon. WrestleMania X-Seven was a triumphant culmination of its splendor and the card reflected that, as this was the most balanced card ever for WrestleMania, or for that matter, a WWF/E pay-per-view. Top to bottom, this was the finest hour or four hours, to be correct, McMahon and company had. A rundown of the matches:
1. WWF Intercontinental Championship: Chris Jericho (Champion) vs. William Regal. A solid opener with fairly good ring psychology but with a fairly cold crowd, as well. (3/5)
2. Right To Censor vs. APA & Tazz. Effective warm-up match with a reasonable duration of 5 minutes of a match of this calibre. (3/5)
3. WWF Hardcore Championship: Raven (Champion) vs. Big Show vs. Kane. Nicely paced match with your typical WWF-hardcore spots. (3/5)
4. WWF European Championship: Test (Champion) vs. Eddie Guerrero. One of the lowest points of the card. Eddie Guerrero is one of the best lucha technicians in the industry today, but Test, who is more of a Kevin Nash clone hasn't lived up to his potential because he basically doesn't have much potential. Not exactly a terrible bout, but it wasn't exactly a really good one either. (2.5/5)
5. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit. Greco-Roman style mat wrestling to start the match off, with entertaining exchanges between the two. The fight picks the pace up without losing its technical precision. (5/5)
6. WWF Women's Championship: Ivory (Champion) vs. Chyna. Basically a yawner, but like most women's matches, it's just a span of a few minutes. (2/5)
7. Father/Son Street Fight: Vince McMahon vs. Shane McMahon. Good buildup leading up to this match. For the most part, it's a match to satisfy storyline marks, especially after Shane's top-rope flying elbow drop through the Spanish announcing table bump. Shane O'Mac rips off Rob Van Dam, even before he arrived in the WWF, by nailing The Whole F'n Show's patented Van Terminator to finish off Vince. (4/5)
8. Tables, Ladders, Chairs II for the WWF Tag Team Championship: Dudley Boyz (Champions) vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian. A repeat of their Summerslam 2000 match with a few good twists, involving Spike Dudley, Lita, and Rhyno gaining some run-ins. Much like its precursor, lots of hardcore spots, with Edge's spear off a 20 foot ladder to a dangling Jeff Hardy onto the canvas, as the highlight bump of this match, in my book. Personally, I would've wanted to see either the Dudleyz or Hardyz win instead of Edge & Christian, but E & C's victory just cements their place as one of the best tag teams the company had, reminiscent of The Rockers (Shawn Michaels/Marty Janetty). (5/5)
9. Gimmick Battle Royal. Amusing and nostalgic match which added a humorous, charming touch to this edition of WrestleMania. There's a lot more pageantry in the entrances, which lasted for a little over ten minutes, compared to the match itself which clocked in about well, by my count, less than two minutes. Short and sweet, especially if you are a long-time wrestling fan. (4/5)
10. Triple H vs. Undertaker. Although the storyline hype wasn't as astronomical as the main event, this match was very well promoted. Taker is looking to be undefeated in WrestleManias while seeking revenge against the greatest heel of all time, Triple H, in his hometown of Houston, in the biggest spectacle in all of sports entertainment. Yadda yadda yadda... This was Taker's most inspired outing of 2001, with The Game's prime wrestling psychology carrying it. It had a certain street fight element which was beneficial for Taker's performance. It hasn't been said a lot but Trips was classy for jobbing to Taker. (5/5)
11. WWF Championship: The Rock (Champion) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Hands down, the most anticipated championship rematch in the WWF's history. JR & The King did excellent work behind the mic to make this championship match that much more dramatic. The match itself wasn't of course, a technical mark's dream match, but nonetheless it was an exciting bloodbath with many near-falls. Much like the previous year, X7 breaks tradition by having a heel, or in this case a face turned heel, win the championship. (5/5)
In short, WrestleMania X7 arguably goes down as the greatest WrestleMania or to push the ante, the greatest pay-per-view in the company's history. But on the downside, WWF/E had declined into rougher times after so much articulation and effort into this pay-per-view. In retrospect, this edition of WrestleMania was wrestling at its peak, with a rather bittersweet feel to it.

Studio: Sony Wonder
Steve Austin
Triple H
The Rock

DVD title: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Productgroup: DVD
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - movie DVD cover picture
the most sincere pumpkin patch

This is such a treasure! A true family classic. Of course kids today have the benefit of a tape or DVD. Remember the old days when, if you hapened to miss the special, you were out of luck for a whole year?! Well, that also added to the precious nature of this special. Now it can be yours forever! I pull this one out every Halloween and it always makes me feel like a kid again.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Bill Melendez

DVD title: Blue Hawaii
Productgroup: DVD
Blue Hawaii - movie DVD cover picture

Paramount had done a terrific job on the Elvis "Blue Hawaii" DVD. At last we get get to see the beautiful letterbox image in all of it's Panavision glory. The color is dark and rich. And they have done wonders with the sound by turning a mono movie into a partially stereo movie. The music tracks have been redone to make it almost sound like true stereo. The Hawaii location photography has never looked better and this movie also serves as a great commerical for the Hawaii Department of Tourism.
This movie is the prototype of most of the Elvis movies that were to follow. Some Elvis fans do not like these formula type of Elvis movies, preferring the earlier ones where he was more rock 'n' roll and raw. But Blue Hawaii is very entertaining and it features probably the best bunch of Elvis songs in any of his movies. A great supporting cast helps a lot especially Angela Lansbury as Elvis' wacky mother. (Trivia fans take note: When this movie was filmed, Elvis was 26 years old and Lansbury was 36 years old.)
I strongly recommend this DVD to all Elvis fans. And if you are not an Elvis fan, buy this DVD and you might become one quickly.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Norman Taurog
Elvis Presley
Joan Blackman
Angela Lansbury

DVD title: Pi
Productgroup: DVD
Pi - movie DVD cover picture
A different twist on a search for a grand unifying theory

Pi is unquestionably one of the most audacious feature-length films in recent memory, largely because the questions that it raises are not only theoretical but also, in the truest sense, larger than life. Director Darren Aronofsky's debut is a wild ride to both the frontier of intellectual inquiry as well as the physical consequences such inquiries can have on those who ask the "big questions", namely in this case Max Cohen, the brilliant mathematician played to perfection by Sean Gullette. This is a film that would appeal to every Einstein and Stephen Hawking in the world as well as those who have a layman's interest in theoretical mathematics. It has long been suspected that there is a direct relationship between the number pi (3.1415...) and the striking similarities we humans see in both the organic and inorganic in nature, in this case, the tormented Cohen sees a relationship between the golden spiral (based on studies by the ancient Greeks) and pi. However, the real question is: is his intense personality governed by the fact that such a relationship exists and his anxiousnees to prove it to the world or is he simply hellbent to find such a relationship, and in essence becoming the most brilliant mathematician of his time (maybe of all time)? Because the "mystery" of pi is not uncovered, the film leaves far more questions unanswered than answered, thus lending the film its profoundly stark, disturbing atmosphere of both intrique as well as terror.
At first, Max is only interested in finding a relationship between pi and the inner mechanics of the stock market, NOT in an effort to beat it to become fabulously wealthy but to further prove that the pattern(s) dictated by pi not only exist in nature, but that they also have a hand in everyday human activities. True, it may be a bit too much to swallow, but Aronofsky's script, direction and Gullette's lucid performance makes these ideas ever more tantalizing, even if they are "far out" (or are they?).
Though largely reclusive, Max does have one close friend: a mentor/former professor Sol (Mark Margolis) who he visits regularly to play the Japanesse board game "Go" (if the spelling is wrong, I stand corrected) which incidentally serves as Sol's basis for the idea that the universe is largely chaotic, rather than ordered and patterned, countering Max's efforts to connect pi with a dominating pattern (the golden spiral) that exists throughout the cosmos. Sol bases this on his own research into pi, which he says spans four decades and ended in no significant discoveries to back up Max's ideas. Sol seems to come from the side of Shakespeare's "Macbeth": that the search for patterns in pi is essentially "a 'tale' told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Though this film doesn't refer to anything else in Western literature other than the writings of Archimedes and da Vinci, there are clearly parallels between what Max's search entails and other literary works which concentrate on the many complexities of the human condition.
While on his "crusade", Max encounters a Jewish mystic (Lenny) in the coffee shop he frequents who also has a deep-seated interest in number theory. Rather than finding a relationship between patterns and the stock market like Max, Lenny is interested in finding a similar pattern in the Torah which would reveal "the true name of God". Along with this, Max is pursued by Wall Street tycoons interested in his research, one of which claims to have studied his papers on the subject (Marcy Dawson). Along with the pressures that Max places on himself to find a unifying theory for both the stock market as well as the universe at large, he is pressured to a greater extent by these two different forces with equally different objectives. This drives Max "over the edge", as Sol warned him, a breakdown so severe that he personally injures himself to the extent that it eliminates any and all possibility of future research on the one love of his life.
Coupled with an appropiately dark, atmospheric IDM soundtrack with contributions by Autechre, Orbital, Spacetime Continuum and the brilliant theme by Clint Mansell, Pi does fall rather nicely into the category of science-fiction/fantasy, but it is also a tragedy as well, showing the limits of human ambition, in this case on the part of Max. I felt it was one of the best films of the late 1990s, and one which should be required viewing for anyone even remotely interested in how number theory can (and may not) tie in with human concerns of everyday life, the universe, and in the minds of religious mystics, the great beyond.

Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Sean Gullette
Mark Margolis

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