Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: The Matrix
Productgroup: DVD
The Matrix - movie DVD cover picture
Keeping It Real.

After watching THE MATRIX recently in preparation for seeing the upcoming sequel, I was amazed once again. THE MATRIX is a hallmark film; like JAWS, STAR WARS, and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, it is a movie that has influenced almost every film made since its release and changed the way movies are made. The special effects are spectacular, the action intense, and the plot extremely well-written.
However, all that withstanding, what really makes THE MATRIX stand out from other sci-fi/action films is the philosophical and allegorical slant of the story. The film is immersed in the philosophy and religion of the West, embodying everything from Plato to the Bible. That fact makes this much more than a "dumb movie about cyberspace" or "another movie about machines". Instead, THE MATRIX is a thinking person's movie, a movie that is not only interesting to watch but that also raises questions and thoughts that a person thinks about long after the final credits have rolled across the screen.
Finally, THE MATRIX is the first film where Keneau Reeves acts. Until THE MATRIX, Reeves was such a poor actor that he could never quite leave behind his "Bill and Ted" persona (if you've ever seen MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, you'll know what I mean).

Studio: Warner Studios
Keanu Reeves
Laurence Fishburne
Carrie-Anne Moss

DVD title: The Iron Giant
Productgroup: DVD
The Iron Giant - movie DVD cover picture
An Animation Landmark

Virtually ignored in theaters, "The Iron Giant" (1999) received a larger and more appreciative audience on home video -- deservedly so. A refreshing and intelligent change-of-pace from the usual Disney fare, this provocative adaptation of Ted Hughes' work is a landmark in the history of animated features. In fact, "The Iron Giant" transcends the medium to make a timely pacifist statement. It should be seen by young and old alike.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Brad Bird
Harry Connick Jr.
Eli Marienthal

DVD title: Titanic
Productgroup: DVD
Titanic - movie DVD cover picture

Just wanted to comment on the POV point. I think there's a simple answer to this "flaw". Rose's narration is the jumping off point for the story to be told. Just because she is telling her story there is no need for the movie to be narrowed down to what she directly sees and experiences. She is saying, "Let me tell you what I went through" and then the movie opens up to explore the titanic. Whatever she chips in narration-wise is directly related to what she has seen. I fail to see any problem or contradiction. Great movie!

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: James Cameron
Leonardo DiCaprio
Kate Winslet

DVD title: Breakfast at Tiffany's
Productgroup: DVD
Breakfast at Tiffany's - movie DVD cover picture
Makes you look at romance movies differently

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's is considered by many to be one of the best films of its class. It is a timeless, romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly) and George Peppard (as Paul Varjak). The two meet at the beginning of the film and as the movie progresses, begin to understand and grow closer to each other. The love story theme of Breakfast at Tiffany's is one that is used in other movies of this nature. There are, however, a few unique traits that set this movie apart from others of its class; Breakfast at Tiffany's takes the standard love story seen in many of these types of films and elevates it to a higher level.
The movie begins in the early morning with Holly Golightly window shopping at Tiffany's Jewelry Store. Holly dreams of being able to afford jewelry from Tiffany's, but knows that she must marry someone wealthy in order to realize her dream. Holly explains later in the movie to her friend, Paul, that being at Tiffany's is calming to her. When she returns to her apartment, the audience is introduced to Holly's personality. In order to enter her apartment complex, Holly must wake up a tenant in the building. Holly has lost her key, and as the audience learns, this is not the first time and, she admits, that it will not be the last time. As the film progresses, there are more and more clues of Holly's forgetful and unorganized life style as well as her total disregard for anyone's feelings but her own.
When Paul and Holly meet for the first time, we are shown even more of Holly's different behavior. Paul, a new tenant in her building, asked if he could use her telephone. Upon entering her apartment, he noticed that it looked as if she had just moved in. She hadn't, she had been there for nearly a year. She wasn't exactly sure where her telephone was, and then she remembered that she put it in a suitcase. According to Holly, the suitcase kept the noise of the phone down. Along with the phone, there is a cat in Holly's apartment. She explains to Paul that the cat and she found each other. They do not belong to each other, and therefore, she did not name the cat. These incidents begin to introduce the audience to Holly's personality.
During this first conversation between Paul and Holly, Paul mentioned that it was Thursday morning. Holly was admittedly surprised, she told Paul that she must get ready for an appointment that she has every Thursday. She was in a frenzy, attempting to get ready in a short time in order to make her appointment. This is the one and only commitment that Holly actually regularly keeps. As she franticly tries to get ready, she asks Paul to find her shoes under the bed. He found one, she found the other in a basket along with other things in it.
Holly's appointment is a visit with a convicted drug smuggler in the Sing Sing prison. Later, it is revealed to the audience that during her visits at the prison, the inmate gives Holly a "weather report." She then gives this bit of information to the drug smuggler's "attorney" and is paid for the information from the "attorney." There are many clues that show that the information given to Holly is not a "weather report," although Holly's inability to recognize the obvious, further portrays her personality. Holly thinks that the drug smuggler and his attorney are two very nice men and she is performing a kind act by visiting the drug smuggler.
Holly's would like to meet and marry someone who has a lot of money. She has been trying to save money, but is unable to do this on her own. A positive attribute of Holly's is that she wants to support her younger brother who is currently in the army and will be out soon. She knows that, because he is slow, he will not be able to support himself. She realizes that she will not be able to become rich on her own and, in order to support her brother, along with her dream life style, needs to marry into money.
Paul, on the other hand, is portrayed as a very intelligent and logical thinker. His kind acts toward Holly show that he is truly interested in beginning a meaningful relationship with her. He is an aspiring writer and has published a book. Through the course of the movie, Paul is shown to better his life in many ways. He breaks free from his mistress who has been financially supporting him and finds a job as a writer. On many occasions, Paul, who from the beginning of the film has been falling in love with Holly, has ample opportunity to see Holly's true self. Many people attempted to point out to Paul that Holly can not, and never will be able to, have a normal relationship. Paul meets Holly's ex-husband who indirectly explains to Paul that Holly is not someone that he should get involved with. In addition to the warning from the ex-husband, a man named O. J. Berman tells Paul exactly that "Holly is a bad investment."
Avoiding the advice of these people, Paul continues to pursue Holly's affection. There is something about her that he finds irresistible. The film does not show exactly what it is, but it is apparent that there is some reason for Paul's persistence. The way Paul acts when he is with Holly makes it seem as though the two of them are meant to be together. And Paul will stop at nothing to make Holly realize this.
At the end of the movie, Holly announced to Paul that she was moving to Brazil to be with her wealthy boyfriend and eventually marry him. Paul was devastated, but still spent the evening with Holly because she wanted him to be with her. During the evening, Holly was arrested and spent time in jail due to her involvement with the drug dealer and his attorney. Paul did all that he could to get Holly out of jail. When she was freed on bond, Holly told him that she was flying to Brazil. Paul told her that she could not legally leave the country. She did not care, she was going. Paul was in the taxi with her, trying to convince her to stay in the country not only because of the upcoming trial, but due to the fact that she had received a telegram from her boyfriend that their relationship was over. Paul was also trying to convince Holly that they loved each other and that they should be together. It was not until Holly, in another of her appalling behavioral acts, kicked the cat out of the taxi, that Paul began thinking with his brain, not his heart. Paul yelled at Holly saying that she was doomed to be what she is, she will never be able to trust anyone and that her fantasies of Tiffany's and Brazil will not change any of it. Paul exited the cab and threw a ring that he had had engraved at Tiffany's for her. Holly realized that she had been deceiving herself regarding her feelings for Paul.
Even though Paul was not wealthy, she loved him and he loved her. He was the one for her, and up to this point, she thought that love had to have money attached to it. As we see by Holly leaving the cab to look for Paul and the cat that she had earlier said did not belong to her, her outlook on love has changed. So, the story line completely turns around. Not that any person paying the slightest attention to the film could not see it coming. But in the end, the love story came together showing that the apparent vibe people received from Holly had no effect on how Paul felt about her and they both realized that they were meant to be together. Having this sudden reverse of not only the female character, but also Paul giving up on Holly, makes Breakfast at Tiffany's a more notable movie.

paul s

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Blake Edwards
Audrey Hepburn
George Peppard

DVD title: The Worst Witch (The Movie)
Productgroup: DVD
The Worst Witch (The Movie) - movie DVD cover picture
The Best Halloween Movie Ever

I have watched this movie every year around Halloween. It has become a tradition among my closest friends. We maybe 20+ but the movie is still the greatest. Tim Curry gave his best performance ever.

Studio: Bfs Entertainment/Mu
Director: Robert Young (III)

DVD title: Alien Quadrilogy
Productgroup: DVD
Alien Quadrilogy - movie DVD cover picture
Great Alien Boxset! But Don't Get Rid Of Your First Edition!

The Alien series is without a doubt one of the best ever pieces of filmmaking created on film. Not only does it have an amazing storyline, a strong female lead, some of the scariest creatures ever created, as well as some great action sequences and chills to boot, but it also has real depth and a strong sense of perseverance. The first two films are still the true gems, with both Ridley Scott & James Cameron at the top of their game. And the Extended and/or Director's Cut versions only make the films even better. But Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection are still very good installments. Although most of us are still angry with the direction that Alien 3 took, more and more are admitting how strong a film it actually is today. And with the resurrection of Ripley in the fourth movie, who knows where the series will take us? Earth? The original home of the Aliens? Only time will tell.
I just finished looking at everything on the Alien Quadrilogy. Took a long time too. Lots of archival reading to get through. Very thorough. Enjoyed the special editions to Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection a lot, though I preferred the original opening to Alien Resurrection and the original ending to Alien 3 from the theatrical versions. The commentaries were pretty good. Too bad Sigourney Weaver only participates in the original Alien and none of the other films (and even then, she doesn't say all that much) She does discuss ideas for Alien 5 with Ridley Scott towards the end (maybe she wants him to direct part 5?????). My favorite had to be the "Aliens" commentary parts with Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henrickson, and Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez). Bill saying that he's not getting paid to record this commentary but is at least getting free beer and reuniting with his Alien costars, was a highlight. The commentaries for the theatrical versions are the same as the ones for the director's cut/special expanded editions, only some comments are omitted here and there, except in Alien 3 & Alien Resurrection. Some additional comments are made at the end of the theatrical cuts of Alien 3 and the opening of Alien Resurrection, since significant changes were made to the films. The segmented documentaries are also very detailed from the first film to the fourth. Lots of great information! The real empty feeling is the absence of David Fincher during the Alien 3 "making of" (except when you see him during the actual filming days) as well as from the commentary, since the director's from all the other installments participated. Some disappointments were that not all the extras from the original Alien DVD Boxset were included in this new one, such as Ridley Scott's own personal audio commentary by himself along with another separate additional bonus audio track of different music cues by Jerry Goldsmith and some other cool things to listen to while watching the film (like the original audio track during filming where you can actually hear Ridley giving Sigourney direction as she moves about the ship towards the end. The original featurettes from the first boxset are all missing too. Plus the bonus 5th DVD from the original boxset that you had to mail away for to get in the states isn't featured here either, which is a bit surprising. And for me, I was just surprised that the Aliens theatrical trailer was shown Pan & Scan, when a letterboxed version does exist (I have it on my Big Trouble In Little China 2 DVD Special Edition). I'm just glad I didn't sell the original boxset as I originaly intended. I like retaining all the extra material made available. Still a great 25th Anniversary Boxset Collection...

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Sigourney Weaver
Ridley Scott

DVD title: Rear Window (Collector's Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Rear Window (Collector's Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Hithcock's best film

Jimmy Stewart has never been better (with that whiney voice of his. Bleh!) and Hitchcock has done it once more. This movie is filmed entirely in a single room (except until--wait, I'm not supposed to tell you). Very suspensful and dramatic. A photographer with a broken leg who watches people across the street because he has nothing else to do thinks he's witnessed a murder. Brilliant!

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
James Stewart
Grace Kelly

DVD title: The Devil's Advocate
Productgroup: DVD
The Devil's Advocate - movie DVD cover picture
over the top

"Dude you're my dad, my boss, and satan! Dude!" Keanu never utters this line but it's written on his face during the last half-hour. This film is excellent over the top melodrama with Pacino enjoying himself so much he almost tap dances through the movie.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Taylor Hackford
Keanu Reeves
Al Pacino

DVD title: Jesus of Nazareth
Productgroup: DVD
Jesus of Nazareth - movie DVD cover picture
A brilliant depiction of the Gospels...

Since Thomas Edison's invention of the modern cinema, countless filmmakers have endeavored to produce a moving picture that accurately chronicles the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. Aside from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which chronicled only a part of the life and crucifixion of Jesus, Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth is the greatest of all. Originally aired as a television mini-series (it's over six hours in length), the film closely adheres to the word-for-word accounts found in the Gospels.

The story begins with Joseph (Yorgo Voyagis) and Mary's (Olivia Hussey) reception of God's angels. Each is told of the child that Mary will bear and what his name will be. The scene where Mary receives her message is an especially powerful piece of cinematic artistry with no dialogue - only a warm light surrounding Mary as she bows in prayer. The film holds true to every utterance in the Gospels, recounting the census, Herod's decree, and the travels of Joseph and Mary.

As Jesus (Robert Powell) develops into adulthood, we witness the beginning of his ministry. He calls on his disciples, teaches through use of parables, and displays many miracles. Zeffirelli makes powerful use of the camera by having his star, Powell, never be caught blinking in any scene. At first, it's barely noticeable, and it takes some time to figure out what is so different. But this absence of the uniformly common trait of blinking creates a divine aura around the character of Jesus. It draws in the audience by creating an emotional sense of peace that lends credibility to the onscreen portrayal of Jesus.

From beginning to end, Jesus of Nazareth offers a plethora of memorable scenes and exchanges which are more attributable to the Gospels and the actual life of Jesus rather than brilliant direction and acting ability. But the subject matter is aptly handled by a great production team and an endless array of first-rate actors and actresses, among them are - Mary Magdalene (Anne Bancroft), the Centurion (Ernest Borgnine), Simon Peter (James Farentino), Balthazar (James Earl Jones), Joseph of Arimathea (James Mason), Nicodemus (Laurence Olivier), Caiaphas (Anthony Quinn), and many others... Overall, the individual performances come together to form a rich tapestry of wisdom and intrigue that will leave its audience with much upon which to reflect and ponder. If you believe Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (which this author does), then Jesus of Nazareth serves as a form of meditation and renewal of one's spiritual connection to God. But if you don't view Jesus in this way, no other film will leave you in such awe of the profound influence promulgated by a humble, sandal-clan man from a province on the outskirts of mighty Rome - an influence that has completely dominated the world for almost two thousand years to the present day.

For spiritual, philosophical, and cinematic reasons, Jesus of Nazareth is a definite must-see film for the ages...

The DVD Report

Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Robert Powell
James Mason
Laurence Olivier

DVD title: Guns of the Magnificent Seven
Productgroup: DVD
Guns of the Magnificent Seven - movie DVD cover picture
The Cowards Die Many Deaths but the Brave Only One

GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN can be adequately described as the third entry out of a group of four films that may or may not be described as a "series" of westerns based on the concept of gallantry and redemption for the mythological and eternal "seven" gunmen. Its direct predecessor RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was certainly a true sequel to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. I found RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN to be a great supplement to the original. Dark and labyrinth-like it examined and analyzed the central character Chris, brilliantly portrayed by Yul Brynner, and his ability to ferret out the motivations of all the other important characters and bring each to terms with themselves.
In GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN we start over fresh with Chris now portrayed by George Kennedy. Physically and in a histrionic sense he bears little resemblance to the character of the first two films. As Yul Brynner commented on his character: there are only two things clean about him - his gun and his soul. And these are the two qualities that Kennedy brings to the role.
Thematically GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is much closer to the original. However, its plot manages to be innovative and it contains some refreshing dialogue. Not only does it take the notion of "seven" gunmen seeking redemption for past transgressions but it even touches on Sam Peckinpah's familiar theme of the demise of a noble way of life in the face of a modern world. Our seven heroes in this film are indeed noble. Instead of protecting Mexican farmers against hordes of marauding bandits, they are now recruited to free a revolutionary leader, Quintero (Fernando Rey) from the prison fortress "cave of the rats" commanded by the evil Colonel Diego (Michael Ansara). The oppressed Mexican people need their leader.
A real highlight of this film is the recruitment of the seven. After Max (Reni Santoni) witnesses Chris save Keno (Monte Markham) from the gallows in a very entertaining scene he requests his help. Chris agrees and Keno signs on first. Max also signs on "not for the money, but because seven is your lucky number" so he tells Chris. Next Chris recruits Cassie (Bernie Casey), the dynamite expert for "one hundred dollars and not many laughs." Chris and Keno next visit Levi Morgan (James Whitmore) who is now married and retired from the profession. Whitmore demonstrates just how fine an actor he is in this film playing his part with restrained wit and charm. He's brilliant. Onto a traveling sideshow Chris and Keno next meet Slater (Joe Don Baker) the one-armed gunman who wears a ragged Confederate tunic. "I can't whip a six year old girl in a fair fight but I can blow a man's eyeballs out at a 100 yards, in a sandstorm!" Chris finally signs on P.J. (Scott Thomas) apparently as a favor to the sick and coughing gunman who is also an expert with rope.
As all seven sit around a table playing cards Chris holds up the seven of spades and the scene cuts to the seven riding majestically across the landscape on their way to help the downtrodden to the familiar strains of Elmer Bernstein's theme. This one scene really defines what The Magnificent Seven are all about. Elmer Bernstein not only reworked quite a bit of his earlier music but he composed a good deal of original music for this film. However, `The Magnificent Seven' theme remains central to the film and goes through many brilliant interpretations. This was another highlight of this film. The producers spared no money when it came to the music and it makes a significant difference.
There is a great relationship in this film between the ex-slave (Casey) and the ex-Confederate (Joe Don Baker). They start out hating each other but in the end respect each other for what life has handed them. Another interesting character is the young boy Emiliano Zapata (Tony Davis) who is temporarily orphaned while his father is held prisoner in the "cave of the rats." In the mean time James Whitmore adopts him. The boy asks many simple yet philosophical questions on the meaning of life which gives the film real substance. Also there is the adversarial relationship between Chris and Colonel Diego which grows darker as the film progresses. This is good against evil and there are no pretensions here.
This film visually looks quite different from its two predecessors. Though filmed in Spain we never see any signs of the desert as we did in RETURN OF THE SEVEN. Instead it is mostly filmed against vibrant green hills and meadows, uprooted gray rock formations and blue skies with billowing white clouds by cinematographer Antonio Macasoli. Director Paul Wendkos wanted to show us that the era of the gunman was coming to an end. The horses, not the guns fit the landscape. The claustrophobic images of gunmen gambling and drinking in smoke filled saloons and lurking in dark streets are gone. As the seven come closer to their date with destiny the landscape mirrors their final resting-place in the great beyond.
I always liked this film. It has a certain "Saturday matinee" quality about it that makes it very entertaining and uplifting. However, that very quality has seemed to diminish its very importance to some. All I know is that when Max (Reni Santoni) delivers the final line of this film I got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. Like one of the Mexican farmers in the THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN told Steve McQueen, "That's a feeling worth dying for."

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Paul Wendkos

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