Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: The Adventures of Robin Hood (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Two-Disc Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Nobody Buckles the Swashes Like Errol

"You speak treason!""Fluently." - Maid Marion and Robin Hood, respectively
Still one of the best lines between love interests in cinema history. I've been watching this movie since I could talk. When the VCR would boot up, I'd put on my blanket/cape, leap on my plastic rocking horse, grab my cardboard sword, and act out the best Robin Hood movie ever made as it played out on the screen.
'Course, I don't do that any more (not sober anyway), but when I first saw the DVD edition of the Errol Flynn classic, it truly made me feel like a kid again. And that's something that I can say for a handful of other movies, if that many. Many have tried to recreate the magic of this movie over the past sixty years, but none has been able to come close to being as good.
Everyone knows the story of Robin Hood. But this 1938 film told the definitive story of the knight who turned rebel when the evil Prince John and his #1 lackey, Sir Guy of Gisborne (played to perfection by Basil Rathbone) cross the line in villianhood. It's not just Errol Flynn's irrepressable performance as the legendary outlaw that makes the film. Olivia Dehavalen (yes, I KNOW I spelled that wrong) played the slightly unorthadox, for the time, Maid Marion, and the rest of the cast, from Much the Miller to Little John to Friar Tuck were perfectly cast and marvelously performed. It wasn't just the wonderful duels or tense chase scenes, it was the people who populated this world that made you truly BELIEVE, despite the green tights, that this was the true vision of Robin Hood.
The DVD was worth the wait. The video looks better than it has. . . well, ever. There have been numerous restorations on this movie (it was made more than 60 years ago), but this is by far the best. The colors leap off of the screen, from the greens of the forest to the pearly white of Flynn's smile. It doesn't look like a contemporary film by any means, but honestly, it doesn't really need to. Like a good wine, this film silmply gets better with age.
The audio is equally impressive, from the redone score to the cleaned up audio track. Gone are the muffled and indistinct voices of a dated VHS. Every line comes out crips and clear thanks to the digital sound, and the music makes you want to join in the swashbuckling just for the fun of it.
This is a must-have for anyone who enjoys the Robin Hood legend, and especially for anyone who saw Prince of Thieves (ick), just to see what England's greatest archer was really like. They truly just don't make movies like this anymore.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Errol Flynn
Olivia de Havilland

DVD title: Meat Loaf - Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Productgroup: DVD
Meat Loaf - Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra - movie DVD cover picture
A performer like no other....

I think you either get Meat Loaf or you dont. But regardless of that i think every music fan should witness this DVD at least once in their lifetime -- ok, so im probably a little bias because i happen to get what it is that Meat Loaf is about and i shudder to imagine a world so dull without this great man and his songs. I've heard alot of his performances throughtout his phenomenal three-decade career -- but this one is without doubt his best.

The live versions on here of those timeless classics make the original studio recordings seem positively subdued. Meat's voice booming and soaring to newly found heights of power and emotion, with his trademark streaming notes almost tearing the arena from its foundation. Quite remarkable to consider that Meat underwent heart surgery only two months prior to this show -- and fought various boughts of illness throughout this gruelling fifteen month world tour, billed as the last. If this is the end of the road for Meat and his live shows he goes out on top.

Meat Loaf is in a league of his own -- over the top and somewhere on the other side -- theres no other performer out there to compare him with, and he makes other so-called performers today seem as exciting as a crash course on tapestry. And while other 'A-list' artist's seem to spend their careers snitching between the pages of celebrity magazines -- Meat Loaf has largely avoided the world of celebrity and just gone out there and done the job. A singer and a actor -- Meat is a true artist who seems able to work with any canvas. Dont get me wrong, im from the younger generation of music fans but i just know true showmanship and real kick-ass rock when i come across it.

The orchestra works magically -- infact, the songs sound like they were written with a grand orchestration in mind. The orchestra doesnt drown out Meat's band (a band that he so rightly declares as the greatest rock band in the world) and he aint wrong -- they are all performing legends in their own rights - even Kasim Sulon's in there. Patti Russo is as mind blowing as ever -- and why does she not have a recording deal?

The show doesnt rely on special effects -- Meat is his own special effects, although the lighting is awesome, the fire canons are really kewel and the choir boys are a fantastic addition. The sound is real good -- although more attention could have been paid to the mixing of the DVD as someone on occasion has forgot to level out the audience noise when they cut between songs and it sounds quite crude. Dont get too excited about the extra features -- i rate them two stars from five. The behind the scenes footage is acted out like a sketch that repeats for each band member, its entertaining enough i guess. The commentary track gives new insights into the songs, the Meat and the band -- but to be honest, i just wanted to hear Meat sing.

All in all, this is one of the best DVDs that you could own -- Meat works his ass off and earns the cover price you pay one hundred times over with a performance delivered like the lives of his children depended upon it. Yes, he is without doubt the king of rock. Big respect and much gratitude to Meat Loaf for this baby.

Studio: Bmg Distribution (VI
Meat Loaf

DVD title: Because of Winn-Dixie
Productgroup: DVD
Because of Winn-Dixie - movie DVD cover picture
harry is wrong and stupid!!!! this movie rocks!!!!!

When I saw the ads for this movie, I was hoping I would be able to avoid having to take my kids to see it. The studio marketed this film like it was another "Beethoven" film with the dog doing all kinds of wacky stuff that only the 10 and under crowd would enjoy, "Racing Stripes" anyone?? So when I got home last night and my wife had rented the dvd of "Winn Dixie" I was less than thrilled. We popped it in, and within 10 minutes I knew this was not a standard kiddie flick. Sure it's kid friendly, and the 10 and younger crowd will love the dog, and goofy deputy, but there is so much more to this film. To be honest the movie really isn't about the dog, it's more of a coming of age tale of the young girl. The characters all come to life and aren't just there for window dressing or to do reaction shots for the dog. The acting is great, the story is wonderful (don't be surprised to find yourself with a lump in your throat on a couple occasions). There is more "To Kill a Mockingbird" to "Winn Dixie" than there is "Beethoven". A really wonderful film.

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
Director: Wayne Wang
Annasophia Robb
Jeff Daniels
Cicely Tyson
Dave Matthews
Eva Marie Saint

DVD title: Lara Croft - Tomb Raider (Special Collector's Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Lara Croft - Tomb Raider (Special Collector's Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Very Thrilling, No sex

I knew that this would be a good movie, and I was right. If you have seen many reviews that say there was a 'hard to think' plot they are wrong. Here it is: First though I should explain some things first, Lara Croft is a relic hunter. An old group called the illuminati want to control time. The whole movie is about Lara, obeying her dead father's wishes has to find two parts of a triangle (it can control time), and then smash it to pieces so it cannot be put to evil use the an old cult the Illuminati. The two pieces of the triangle are at two different locations. A clock that she finds under the stairs of her house has a type of key inside it, in order to get access to any of the two halves of the triangle you need this key. One more catch, this all has to be done before the planets go out of alignment. That wasn't so confusing was it? This plot is sooo much easier to figure out than the Mummy Returns. To believe Roeper thought it was better. The only things that are even sexual about this movie is that at one time, this guy gets out of the shower and walks around naked (you don't see anything though, there is always something blocking the way), and when Lara Croft (a.j.) is in the shower. This is a must see, or must buy!

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Simon West
Angelina Jolie

DVD title: The Lion in Winter
Productgroup: DVD
The Lion in Winter - movie DVD cover picture
Talk About Your Disfunctional Families!

Mother is in prison, father is having an affair with a girl half his age and the three sons carry adolescent rebellion and sibling rivalry to heights seldom witnessed. Good thing this is the twelfth century otherwise the Plantagenets would be hip deep in social workers and therapists. Eleanor wants her freedom, Richard as king and reassurance that Henry still loves her in spite of everything that's come between them. Henry wants Alais, the pretty French princess betrothed to Richard, or does he want Eleanor back? Even he isn't sure. He doesn't trust his wife or his oldest son and spoils his youngest, John. Richard wants his rights as eldest but couldn't care less about his supposed fiancee. He resents his father but loves his mother even if he doesn't quite trust her. Disregarded middle son Geoffrey wants to know why neither parent has ever loved him. He asks his mother right out but she has no answer for him. John wants some respect from his elder siblings and clings to being Father's favorite. Alais hates Eleanor as her rival yet loves her as the only mother she's ever known, at one point breaking down and crying in her arms. Philip of France, Alais' brother, wants to see the Plantagenets cut down to size and to that end makes trouble any way he can. As you can see we're all in for a lovely holiday season. What I want to know is do they go through this every year? From a standpoint of strict historical accuracy the affair with Alais is based on contemporary gossip which quite possibly wasn't true. And Richard's homosexuality is a modern myth based on a misunderstanding of medieval customs. Sharing a bed, as Richard and Philip did, was a sign of friendship and favor in the Middle Ages with no... connotations at all. Edward IV, a raging heterosexual if ever there was one, shared his bed with the Duke of Somerset as part of his campaign to win that nobleman's support by favors and honors.

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

DVD title: Kate & Leopold
Productgroup: DVD
Kate & Leopold - movie DVD cover picture
Cute, Enjoyable and Fun!

This is not Meg Ryan's best film, but it is yet another highly enjoyable romantic comedy in the career of one of the most successful light comedy actresses of the past decade. But this could be a breakout film for Hugh Jackman, who is easily one of the most likable and charismatic new actors on the scene today. Easily the best thing about X-MEN was Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine. He has also appeared in SWORDFISH and SOMEONE LIKE YOU, but after seeing this film, he is clearly a very versatile and talented actor, who deserves a lot of chances in a lot of different kinds of films.
The film is enhanced by an excellent supporting cast. Both Liev Schreiber as Meg Ryan's ex-boyfriend and Breckin Meyer as her brother are extremely appealing. But the film either falls or stands on the performances of Ryan and Jackman. This is not, as I mentioned earlier, her best role, but even Meg Ryan at less than her very best is still quite good, and Hugh Jackman is enormously enjoyable. Natasha Lyonne, who I love a lot, was pretty much wasted in her role as Ryan's secretary.
The movie will invariably be compared to other time travel movies. It is a genre that has been more successful in the past than one might imagine, thanks to the BACK TO FUTURE series and the superb TIME AFTER TIME. There are a couple of gigantic holes in the plot (one involves when a particular photograph could have been taken), but overall the film isn't hard to take as sci-fi. I will say that the scenes set in 19th century New York are my favorite parts of the movie. The initial scene takes place at a ceremony in which Washington Roeblings, the engineer who built the Brooklyn Bridge and son of the man who designed it, is dedicating (I think) the completion of the second tower of the bridge. The look and feel is remarkable. Looking at the masts of the ships in the water, I kept thinking of Walt Whitman's poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," which ferry the bridge superseded. Most of the imagery was surely computer generated, but the whole scene was nevertheless remarkable to look at.
All in all, this movie was a lot of fun. It won't be the greatest movie you have ever seen, but it certainly won't be the worst, and I think the vast majority of viewers will be convinced that they will have had a lot of fun. And a message to Hollywood: get Hugh Jackman in more movies!

Studio: Miramax
Director: James Mangold
Meg Ryan
Hugh Jackman

DVD title: Notting Hill (Collector's Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Notting Hill (Collector's Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
A good romantic comedy.

I have seen a lot of romantic movies and had begun to get tired of them but this movie made me realize that the movies are getting better.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Roger Michell
Julia Roberts
Hugh Grant

DVD title: My Best Friend's Wedding
Productgroup: DVD
My Best Friend's Wedding - movie DVD cover picture
Like music? Look here...

In 2001 Moulin Rouge brought back the musical, and in 2002 Chicago capped that comeback by taking six Oscars, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. A musical? Best picture?

Before either of these phenomena came P. J. Hogan's My Best Friend's Wedding. While not classified as a traditional musical, it features enough musical numbers that Hogan admitted to being worried that studio executives would think he was making a musical when they saw the early footage. The truth is that My Best Friend's Wedding defies classification-in musical terms, anyway. It's use of music to set mood, develop characters and serve as the main metaphor in the story, as well as to provide the hinge pin for the redemption of the main character in the end, was, and still is, revolutionary.

First of all, the incidental music by James Newton Howard (who has done music for about a hundred films, from Pretty Woman to next year's Batman Begins) is absolutely complicit in the storytelling of the film. If you were teaching a course in writing music for the movies, you could not find a better text-book example than Howard's music in My Best Friend's Wedding. It provides a wonderful psychological underpinning to the twists and turns of the plot. It is mischievous, despairing, surprised, scheming, sweet and countless other turns of the emotional wheel throughout the course of the film. The one thing it never is, is intrusive. If you have already watched this film a number of times, watch it once simply for the enjoyment of Howard's score-and, as you're doing so, try to imagine any of those scenes without it.

Now for the "musical numbers."

To the guy who "...hated, hated, hated..." the opening credits number, all I can say is, you just didn't get the joke. There always seems to be someone in the room who doesn't get it. It is exactly three minutes of pinks, pastels, lace and virginal sweetness ending with the angelic bride looking to heaven, the beatific spotlight illuminating her face, the solo riff of soul ascending in the background-all is sweetness and light, heaven on earth. Fadeout. What is the next sound you hear-even before anything appears on the screen? I'll let you check it out yourself. I hate explaining jokes.

Music is a metaphor in this movie. Music is Love. Music is Love with a capital "L". In the epistemological world of the film, the people who have one have both. And the people who don't have one, can't have either. Witness the next musical number: the karaoke bar. Kimmy (Cameron Diaz) "...can't sing a note" and is obviously mortified to find herself in a karaoke establishment. But when the mic is handed to her, despite her fear and protestations, she sings. She gives it everything she has, which isn't much, and, by the time she reaches the bridge, she is into it. The message is, of course, that we may not all be nightingales, but if you have Love, you have music. The fact that Kimmy is singing to her Michael (Durmot Mulroney) is one thing, but almost beside the point in the grand plan of the film's world. Michael tells her, "That was terrible...terrible!" and then throws his arms around her and kisses her. Of even greater significance is the fact that, by the end of Kimmy's number, what had been a hostile crowd when she started, now cheers her as an equal. They recognize she has IT.

The Crab house number is the musical scene most people point out as a favorite for its unabashed joy and exhilaration. It is a musical number almost unique in film. It has the spiritual rapture of a Baptist revival meeting. Everyone in the room sings. Everyone? Actually, no. In the entire room, there are two people with conflicted emotions at the moment. And they cannot sing. It would not be allowed. I should note here that of all the main characters, the only one in the entire film who never sings, who is incapable in the world of the film is Julianne (Julia Roberts). She is the subverter, the mole. She is the only one without the requisite "capital L" in her heart. If this movie were of a different genre, say a thriller, we would be waiting for the scene in which her inability to sing gives her away. We know she had it at one time. She and Michael apparently had one "hot" weekend. And we know they really were in love. How do we know? They had a song.

The next is the most intimate musical number in the film: the boat scene on the Chicago river. Michael has felt the stab of jealousy, seeing Julianne with the man he thought was her fianc? and he is working out the consequent self-doubts about the marriage. He notes that they (he and Julianne) never said they loved each other, never actually spoke the words. And in one beautifully timed moment, as the boat passes under a bridge and the two of them are standing in darkness, a kind of suspended time where the sun (the time-keeper) is out of sight, Julianne is given her opportunity to confess her love, but says nothing. With simple elegance, James Newton Howard's music highlights the poignancy of the moment as the sun reappears. Michael resolves himself to his decision to marry Kimmy and, as he sings their old song, The Way You Look Tonight, he and Julianne dance one last time. Listen carefully to J.N. Howard's accompaniment to Michael's singing. Jerome Kern's song has never sounded more sad. It's almost a dirge. Once again, Julianne can't sing. All she can do is try to wipe the tears away.

By far, the most bizarre musical number occurs on a balloon-filled tennis court. At first, there is no music-there is a crisis. Michael has told Kimmy he is calling off the wedding and now he's agonizing over that decision. How can there be music? Then, under pointed questioning from Michael, Julianne admits, "Of course she loves you. She's crazy about you." He will marry Kimmy. And in one of the strangest moments in the film, three young boys who have been inhaling the helium meant for the balloons, break into one verse of John Denver's "Annie's Song." Simple, straightforward, weird. Another disguised musical number.

What can I say about the next musical number except that it is the most sublime of the film. There are a few directors who boldly bring great music into theaters with them but none I know surpasses the minute and thirty second wedding processional in this film. In a film where music functions as a metaphor for Love, what music do you choose for Love's most important ritual-Burt Bacharach? John Denver? Jerome Kern? The processional is choreographed to an entire movement of Serge Rachmaninoff's lengthy (an entire performance takes all evening) a capella choral work, Vespers. It is sung in the original Russian, and the scene opens, not on the church, not on Kimmy, not on Michael, not on Julianne, not on Bree Turner. The first thing you see is-the choir. But of course. The music is drop-dead gorgeous. That this music was chosen instead of, for example, the Mendelssohn or Wagner wedding marches or even the 15,738,522nd wedding performance this season of something like The Wind Under My Wings, is a tribute to the intelligence and clarity of vision of both P.J. Hogan and J.N. Howard.

Finally-what do you do with Julianne? She entered the film without Love of her own. She never was comfortable "...with the yucky love stuff." (The best she can come up with in reviewing what might be to someone else a sensually delicious gourmet entr?e is to write it up as "...inventive and confident...") Her avowed mission throughout the film has been the demonic destruction of the love of Michael and Kimmy. She is selfish and deceitful from the beginning. How do you convince an audience of her conversion in the world of the film? True, she has gone off and found Kimmy at White Sox Park, but that was something she had to do by way of making up to Michael for the crimes of the movie. On a deeper level-will she be saved? Julianne's redemption comes in the "toast" scene when she stands up, "confesses" her nightmare, and brings her offering to the married couple-a song. She has taken the first step, anyway.

In a world of disposable television shows, many of which are nothing but long advertisements for the CD's flashed on the screen even before the credits appear at the end, and movies whose soundtracks itemize rock groups rather than composers, it is a real treat to come across a film that treats its audience members as though they were adults.

From a musician's point of view, this film is a classic.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: P.J. Hogan
Julia Roberts
Dermot Mulroney
Cameron Diaz
Rupert Everett

DVD title: Rebel Without a Cause (Single Disc Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Rebel Without a Cause (Single Disc Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
James Dean forever

The unique charisma and talent of James Dean make Rebel Without A Cause an absolute must-see for all film buffs. Dean stars as Jim, a lonely and misunderstood teenager whose trouble-making has forced his family to move to a new neighborhood. On his first day, Jim alienates a gang of boys, gets a girlfriend (Natalie Wood), befriends a neurotic outcast (Sal Mineo), and takes part in a "chicky-run" over a cliff.

Every minute of this film has become beloved by its fans, thanks to Dean, who owned the screen in his famous white tee shirt, red jacket, and jeans. 50s teens thought Dean spoke for them and they idolized him. He still deserves his icon status, because of the unforgettable character he created. When he cried to his parents, "You're tearing me apart!" you believed it was real. He was the epitome of the cool rebel.

Almost fifty years later, the character created by James Dean still rings true. They say a thing of beauty is a joy forever. That applies both to James Dean and this movie. A must-see classic film.


Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Nicholas Ray
James Dean
Natalie Wood

DVD title: Ayn Rand - A Sense of Life
Productgroup: DVD
Ayn Rand - A Sense of Life - movie DVD cover picture
A "must see" for all Ayn Rand fans.

Ayn Rand: A Sense Of Life is an informative, 144 minute biographical documentary showcases the life and work of Ayn Rand, a controversial and influential Russian-born writer's life and work. Renowned for such novels as "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged", Rand became an icon of what was to become the Libertarian movement. Sharon Gless ably narrates the drama of Ayn Rand's life and fiction, from her early childhood and escape from Soviet Russia to her struggle and triumph as an American writer. Written, produced and directed by Michael Paxton, Ayn Rand: A Sense Of Life is further enhanced for the viewer with original music by Jeff Britting and a "must" for all Rand fans.

Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Michael Paxton
Sharon Gless

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