Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Kill Bill, Volume 2
Productgroup: DVD
Kill Bill, Volume 2 - movie DVD cover picture
Mission Accomplished!!

I have moved from initially hating the very idea of the movie to loving the first one and now absolutely adoring this concluding film. This is one of the rare instances where the sequel topped its predecessor. We all know what happened in Volume I so are more prepared this time. Tarantino uses a past/future approach, providing the historical perspective mission in the first.

We return to the beginning when Uma is accepted into the corp of Bad Guys, her training with the Oriental master, her relationship with David Carradine (I use the person not the persona) and others. Switch to the present and she begins her revenge only to be caught and buried alive. This is only a brilliant segue into training from an Oriental master which comes to her aid.

The scene with housewife Vivica Fox scored on so many levels, not the least of which was black humor. But it is Darryl Hannah who nearly steals the show with an incredible performance as the amoral Elle. Her stumbling, earnest recitation of snake facts from scrawled notes as poor Michael Madsen dies of venom was the stuff of legends. And how better to follow it up than a fight with Uma in which Elle is left blind, her only companion the viper...absolutely skin-crawling.

But it is the interaction with Carradine (and the daughter) that is the icing on the cake, Carradine, by the way, seems almost made to order for the part of "Bill". Not seen in Part I, he is almost likeable in his matter-of-fact evil incorrigibility. The film comes full circle as she dispatches her arch enemy/lover using techniques taught by the Oriental master. Bravo!

Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Uma Thurman
David Carradine
Michael Madsen
Daryl Hannah

DVD title: Nosferatu, The Vampire
Productgroup: DVD
Nosferatu, The Vampire - movie DVD cover picture
Definitive Dracula flick

Other reviews will assure you of the wondrousness of this movie - only one caveat, which is, don't watch this before you watch Coppola's 'Dracula', as it might completely ruin what is actually not a bad movie.

I saw this at a film festival years ago, on a double bill with the Coppola version, and it really puts Coppola in the shade - as though you couldn't guess. Not quite like watching the Gus Van Sant version of Psycho, but not far off.

Hope this is helpful. Enjoy the movie - though try and watch it on the big screen if you can.

Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: F.W. Murnau
Max Schreck
Greta Schröder
Ruth Landshoff

DVD title: The Muppet Show - Season One (Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Muppet Show - Season One (Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
So glad it was finally released!

Loved this show when it first came out. Now my daughter is enjoying them as much as I did. Timeless entertainment.

Studio: Buena Vista Home Video

DVD title: Far From Heaven
Productgroup: DVD
Far From Heaven - movie DVD cover picture
A movie everyone should see

I just think this is a film that everyone should see. These kinds of social injustices during the 50's is finally being brought into the light. This film opens young people's eyes, like myself, to what social pressures that these people, who did nothing wrong, had to go through. A woman finds herself attracted to a good-looking man, whose skin happens to be a few shades darker; and a devoted husband who is only being true to himself, is rejected from society. Again, I think everyone should see this. We see how love between different types of people is not a choice and how important it is that everyone be accepting and open-minded of people who are different from ourselves. We can also see how boring the world would be if everyone looked the same, thought the same, dressed the same, etc. If that case, we might as well all be wearing uniforms.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Todd Haynes
Julianne Moore
Dennis Quaid
Dennis Haysbert

DVD title: Offenbach - La Belle Helene / Harnoncourt - Complete Opera
Productgroup: DVD
Offenbach - La Belle Helene / Harnoncourt - Complete Opera - movie DVD cover picture
Delicious Work Masterfully Performed

It is so rare to see an Offenbach operetta performed today that, if nothing else, this is worth the price for the sake of curiosity. It happens to be a delightful work (much of it used in Rosenthal's ballet arrangement "Gait? Parisienne"). The text is insouciant and witty, and the music sparkles. The beautiful Zurich Opera cast from strength: Vasselina Kassarova as H?l?ne is a delight. She also happens to be one of the pre-eminent artists of our time, a mezzo of radiant voice, temperament, splendid technique, with rare coloratura skills. Mr. van der Walt whose name looks Dutch sounds like a French tenor of old, a light but carrying sound, full of color, with heady top notes and truly elegant musical artistry. The supporting cast is all superb, with exact singing and plenty of joie. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, so long associated with Zurich in Monteverdi and Mozart does wonders for Offenbach. It is my understanding that 19th century instruments were used. The clarity, color, inflections he gets from his orchestra are astonishing. His inner drive, rubato, his sheer joy of music making comes through in every bar of the score. It is indeed a pleasure to see this conductor whom I first encountered in ascerbic albeit moving, austere performances of Bach Cantatas and Passions, making such successful excursions into the romantic theatre repertoire. I hope he has more up his sleeve. Get this DVD..... you'll go back to it. By the way, the production is nothing special but the acting is invariably good, with excellent rapport within the ensemble. It looks well directed.

Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Hartmut Schottler

DVD title: Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series
Productgroup: DVD
Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series - movie DVD cover picture
Have a Haverchuck Day!

As we inevitably get older, our adult responsibilities (jobs, bills, marrige, kids) become our main priorities in life. When this happens we seem to have a inner need to put on our nostalgic 'rose colored glasses' and say something like "these are the best years of your life" to the nearest teenager around. Most likely they are thinking "if that's true, then shoot me now"! The reason for this is that we seem to magically forget, that unless you were the Varsity football quaterback or the Head Cheerleader, being a teenager in high school pretty much su**ed! Thank goodness for the single 1999 season of a TV show called "Freaks and Geeks" (created by Paul Feig & Judd Apatrow) came out to hilariously remind us of the real truths of high school and to realistically protray the lives of teenagers. The series takes place in the early 1980s and revolves around the teenage lives of brother & sister, Sam and Lindsay Weir. Sam (John Francis) is just entering that black hole we now call high school. He's small and puny, loves "Star Wars", "Dugeons & Dragons", Steve Martin and hanging with his even 'geekier' friends Neal (Sam Levine) and Bill (Martin Starr). Just from that short description you know, that we are watching the hellish trials & tribulations of three guys, who are pretty much at the bottom of the high school 'food chain'. On the other side of the coin is Sam's older sister, Lindsay. Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) is super smart, a 'staight A' student (a former mathlete!!) and was an all around good kid, who stayed out of trouble. But with the recent death of her grandmother, she's now questioning and testing her life. That means wearing an oversized army jacket and hanging out with her new 'Freak' friends (we use to called them 'burnouts') that includes the misunderstood bad boy, Daniel (James Franco), funny man, Ken (Seth Rogan) Nick (Jason Segal), who lives to be the next drummer in the rock group 'Rush' and the original 'Mean Girl', Kim (Busy Phillips). You knew these guys in high school. They were the ones endlessly cutting class, blasting heavy metal in the parking lot and keeping the 'Boy's Bathroom' supplied with a huge concentration of cigerette smoke. We follow these two clicks of teenagers through the high school year as they (sometimes humorusly) confront the social stuff, that is so important in the lives of teenagers. I think the reason this show is so good is the pure excellence of the writing. This show honestly lays out the 'ins and outs' of high school life. It really shows the pecking order that exists. The dialogue is hilarious yet stays realistic. You can honestly believe its stuff, that would come out of the mouth of a teenager. This is not a rehashing of "Revenge of the Nerds". The characters remain real without being boring. The other reason this is such a great show is the all around excellence of the ensemble cast. They look and sound like real high school kids, not an over beautified cast of some prime time soap opera! This show was only (criminally) a single season with anemic ratings, but now is developing a cult-like following, that has made it more popular than when it was on the air (shades of 'Star Trek'!!). This has lead to the DVD box set release of "Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series". If ever there is an example of care being put into releasing a TV series to DVD, than this is it. Kudos go out to Executive Producers Paul Feig & Jud Apatow along with the company, 'Shout Factory' for doing such a great job! The picture and sound are wonderful! The original soundtrack featuring name groups (including bands such as Rush, Styx, Grateful Dead, The Who ETC.) remains intact without editing. This DVD set is also loaded with tons of extras. All twenty-nine episodes include commentary tracks from various writers, producers and members of the cast. Also, each episode includes rare deleted scenes and outtakes (which also include commentaries). This simply is "Freaks & Geeks" heaven! If you already are a fan of "Freaks & Geeks" or if you would like to give a chance to a fantastically, funny show that wasn't given a fair chance from the TV networks, than check out this DVD box! Highly recommended!

Studio: Sony Music (Video)

DVD title: The Lion in Winter
Productgroup: DVD
The Lion in Winter - movie DVD cover picture
"Off to Rome then?" "That's where they keep the Pope."

The best thing about British drama is it's so damn funny -- intentionally funny, too. There are so many one-liners, double entendres, and turns of the phrase in this gem that one might forget it's almost a tragedy.
King Henry (O'Toole) holds Christmas for Wife (Katherine Hepburn) and three sons. King of France stops by for lunch. Not everyone gets along.
O'Toole and Hepburn dazzle -- the chemistry between them is a palpable as that of Hepburn and Tracy, and only slightly different. Anthony Hopkins (still with his Welsh accent) and Timothy Dalton (when he was still a young man of promise) help out. There's a token (and rather inept) battle scene early on, but the real blood-letting takes place inside the walls of Henry's castle. And it's unforgettable.
There's not a lot of extra stuff on the DVD: a very sparce commentary by Anthony Harvey, and a chapter selection. A shame, since after viewing this masterpiece you really do hunger for more.

Studio: MGM/UA Video
Director: Anthony Harvey (II)
Peter O'Toole
Katharine Hepburn
Anthony Hopkins

DVD title: Reluctant Astronaut
Productgroup: DVD
Reluctant Astronaut - movie DVD cover picture
A Hilarious Cold-War Period Piece

I read Mr. Maltin's brief review and was astonished that somebody who is in the business of reviewing films could so easily write this movie off. This film is hilarious; it has an innocence that we don't see much anymore. Don Knotts was a comedic genius, I'd without hesitation put him on a par with Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Jim Carey. He plays the nerdly goofball brilliantly, and we can all see a bit of ourselves in his various awkward moments. This movie skillfully mocks the Cold War tension with it's parody of the Space Race, and there's even a little romance as Don lusts for a beauty who barely acknowledges his existence until she hears that he's going to be an astronaut. The soundtrack is great as well, very happy stuff and it reminds me of the old Sunday night Disney show's music.
My wife and I watched this on Septemeber 15, 2001, four days after September 11, 2001. It was exactly the ticket for helping us to forget for a moment the ugliness of the real world.
I've never been very impressed by Mr. Maltin. He gives terse conclusions which are unsubstantiated by specific references. I'm 41 years old and this movie entertained me like few others. Don Knotts is an undervalued classic; my bet is that after he passes away there will be a big revival for his work.

Studio: Umvd
Director: Edward Montagne

DVD title: House of Sand and Fog
Productgroup: DVD
House of Sand and Fog - movie DVD cover picture
One of the best of 2003.

HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, directed by first-time filmmaker Vadim Perelman from a screenplay he helped adapt from an Andre Dubus novel, is a story of people who are only at conflict because they see their troubles and desperation as tantamount over those who oppose them. The fight in the film concerns a seaside house and what it represents to those who claim ownership over it.
The movie establishes a conflict between its two main characters where neither side outweighs the other, and neither side is entirely wrong. Anti-American and racial sentiments fuel the conflict, and the film acknowledges that - but this isn't just a film about racism.
It's about characters whose very natures we come to understand. It, through its visuals and through the uniformly terrific ensemble of actors, also establishes a group of strong core characters, people that you empathize with so much that you cannot choose sides regarding the fight over the house.
But, because both sides are desperate and at an impasse, the entire film spirals, like a thriller, toward its tragic, nearly inevitable conclusion. (Certainly, in real life, things might not have turned out as bad as things did for these characters at the end, some might say. But the characters in HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG remain true to their natures, true to their flaws, so it ends the way that it does and feels right.)
Jennifer Connelly is terrific in this film. Ron Eldard, playing a character central to the dark turn the film takes, is impressive, making his character so despicable that you hate him, knowing the conclusions he'll jump to before he does. (The last film that generated this sort of response from me was A SIMPLE PLAN, where you could feel that the characters were going to screw up - yet you couldn't help but watch them do it.)
Ben Kingsley, who is British and yet is able to transform himself completely in every role, is absolutely amazing as Behrani. The layers of innate goodness, personal pride, potential for violence and paternal instinct necessary to make the character work are all on display here. Kingsley's work is always good, and HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG ranks among the best work he's ever done. The actors playing his wife and son in the film match Kingsley's brilliance in nearly every scene.
I'm amazed Vadim Perelman has never made a film before. This film is accomplished, sad and incredibly moving.

Studio: Umvd/Dreamworks
Director: Vadim Perelman
Jennifer Connelly
Ben Kingsley
Ron Eldard

DVD title: The Godfather
Productgroup: DVD
The Godfather - movie DVD cover picture
Flawless Filmmaking

I stumbled across this classic on cable TV a few evenings ago and that was it: I abandoned all other plans for the evening and watched the movie. Then I retrieved Mario Puzo's novel from my book collection and plowed through it, savoring and relishing this extraordinary piece of literature that had such an impact on our cultural landscape thirty-plus years ago.
Francis Ford Coppola's THE GODFATHER is a triumphant, magnificent screen portrayal of Puzo's epic book. The story of an Italian-American mob "family" entrenched in inherent and often desperate violence, Coppola weaves this film with compelling, moving, and haunting visuals that are as beautiful as they are disturbing. The scenes are at once simplistic and complex, yet such a dichotomy is not lost on the viewer, but embraced--appreciated for its overwhelming genius.
I've seen more than my fair share of Marlon Brando films, and in my opinion the character of Don Vito Corleone is this actor's signature role. Brando effectively portrays the Godfather's compassion, love and devotion to his family, and calm acumen to make "business" decisions that literally mean life or death to countless men. Don Vito is both a family man and a killer: two seemingly inconsistent characteristics that make Brando's portrayal even more remarkable. The rest of the cast, including James Caan and Robert Duvall, is exceptional, but it is Al Pacino as young Michael Corleone--Don Vito's "baby boy" who was not meant to enter the family business--who provides the most telling role in this film. Before our very eyes, we see Michael change from a man eager to remain at arms-length to the Corleone family ventures to a ruthless, cold-blooded Godfather himself--a transformation both astounding and eery.
THE GODFATHER is a feast of unforgettable cinematic moments: from an ambush at a toll booth to a bloody horse head wrapped in satin sheets. Puzo's story is told--told through filmmaking as good as it gets.--D. Mikels

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Marlon Brando
Al Pacino

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