Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Tough Guys Don't Dance
Productgroup: DVD
Tough Guys Don't Dance - movie DVD cover picture
Nobody Will Read This But I'm Writing This Anyhow

The mere fact that MGM deemed this film worthy of a DVD release has to be a cosmic joke. I remember seeing this film on it's initial run back in 1987 in it's opening(and closing) week and there were, including myself, three people in the audience. I loved every minute of it. This film has it all. Ham-handed direction by writer Norman Mailer, convoluted plotting, overwought writing. In other words, brilliant. Mailer is ably assisted by a game cast that includes Ryan O'Neal(Mr. Box-office Poison), Isabella Rossellini(fresh from "Blue Velvet"), Wings Hauser(brilliant in the film,"Vice Squad"), Lawrence Tierney(Joe Cabot from "Reservoir Dogs"), and Penn Jillette(Penn and Teller). In a perfect world the catch phrase "Deep-six the heads" should have entered into the common vernacular. Anyone who fancies themselves a film buff should see this film once. Just to believe it.

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Norman Mailer
Ryan O'Neal
Isabella Rossellini

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

This movie should have won and Oscar. I was sobbing at the end, but in a good way. I love it!!

Studio: Buena Vista
Director: Jon Turteltaub
John Travolta
Kyra Sedgwick

DVD title: The Preacher's Wife
Productgroup: DVD
The Preacher's Wife - movie DVD cover picture
great christmas movie!

I was surprised, this was strange for me.. I normally like the classic verision of a movie so much better then the newer verision but with this movie (altho I do recommend to everyone to see The Bishops Wife) I liked the Preachers Wife better.I think this is an adorable, classic movie, that can help get anyone in the Christmas spirit, I would recommend watching it with someone you love!

Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Director: Penny Marshall
Denzel Washington
Whitney Houston

DVD title: The Beatles Anthology
Productgroup: DVD
The Beatles Anthology - movie DVD cover picture
DVD Anthology

A ten hour documentary? Produced by the band's own company? How can that be good?
Well, it is. One could reasonably expect that certain sordid details would be glossed over, but for the most part, they are here, along with incredible footage, new interviews, classic performances, home movies, and incredible 5.1 surround sound remixes of the songs in the soundtrack. Hearing "Something" or "A Day in the Life" in surround sound is a remarkable experience.
So, let's talk quality and bonus features.
The video quality is superb, and shows no issues of PAL to NTSC conversion, a remarkable feat considering how many dvds seem to mess this up lately. The picture is very sharp, and the encode seems to have been done at a very high rate, so there is simply no apparent artifacting.
The sound is perfect. I can't imagine how many hours of effort must have gone into remixing everything for this presentation, but it must have been an effort.
The bonus features are okay. We get to see the whole Threetle's jam session, with George getting impatient with the whole project. The two bonus videos are nice to have, it's especially nice to finally have the Real Love video. There are also some interviews in the studio that are a bit illuminating.
The set is absolutely worth your time, even if you already have the VHS or Laserdisc versions.

Studio: EMI Music Distribution (Pre-Release)
John Lennon

DVD title: Moulin Rouge (Single Disc Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Moulin Rouge (Single Disc Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
A few of my thoughts on Moulin Rouge

I could go on and on about Moulin Rouge, as it is one of my all time favs, but don't have the space to do so here. The following is thus some exerts from a paper I wrote on Moulin Rouge shortly after its release. The paper attempts to uncover and discuss what I feel Moulin Rouge is truly about.
Moulin Rouge is an exquisite example of a film that deals with a number of concepts that are highly important within the postmodern world. Quite simply, one of the key components of Moulin Rouge, and possibly the main theme of the film, is its questioning and reaffirming of the value of art within a postmodern culture. According to Jean Baudrillard in his essay "After the Orgy":
"When everything is political, nothing is political any more, the word itself is meaningless. When everything is sexual, nothing is sexual any more, and sex loses its determinants. When everything is aesthetic, nothing is beautiful or ugly any more, and art itself disappears."
Within the postmodern realm described by Baudrillard, art no longer has the value it once did, and whether or not it even has any value at all is a valid question. Moulin Rouge plays on this key notion of postmodern thought throughout the film, as it constantly questions this viewpoint. In order to do so, a number of classic pop-songs are recycled within the construction of the film. The songs (two important examples being "Your Song" by Elton John and "Silly Love Songs" by Wings) are present not only for nostalgic and emotional purposes, but for master-narrative purposes as well, as it is through the use of such songs that the film does its questioning of the post-modern. The songs (which are almost all directly connected to love) are obviously portrayed as still being important based on the lyrics that have been chosen. The most prolific example of this occurs in the medley sequence of the film in which Christian and Satine sing the following songs from "Silly Love Songs":
"You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love longs. But I look around me and I see it isn't so. Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs. And what's wrong with that? I'd like to know."
Because they play such an important role in the film, the referenced songs, must be seen as advocating that love songs (and on a greater level, the notion of art itself) still have value today within the post-modern realm. Moulin Rouge can thus be seen as attempting to discredit the post-modern ideal at hand.
Yet, at the same time in reconstructing pieces of old songs for a new purpose, the film also employs one of the key aspects of postmodernism. Because Moulin Rouge references and recycles so many ideas, it is in its construction a very post-modern film. Moulin Rouge is thus a postmodern film (in theme and in construction) that in some ways discredits one of the key driving notions behind postmodern thought (that art is dead) at the same time through its narrative choices.
****, (10/10)

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Nicole Kidman
Ewan McGregor

DVD title: Pleasantville (New Line Platinum Series)
Productgroup: DVD
Pleasantville (New Line Platinum Series) - movie DVD cover picture
Life is better in "Pleasantville"

From Writer/Director Gary Ross(Big, Dave) comes the original and breathtaking film "Pleasantville". The film opens in the America of today, where we are taught that the world is in a down spiral and will only continue to get worse. A teenager named David(Tobey Maguire) is a fanatic of the 50's television show "Pleasantville" and knows everything about it. Meanwhile his twin sister Jennifer(Reese Witherspoon) is a satire of teenage life in herself with her getting ready for her date. They both fight over the television remote and when it breaks, a television repaire man knocks on the door, offering a remote "with more oomph" in it. When they click it, they are magically transported into the world of "Pleasantville".
"Pleasantville" seems to combine the worlds of many 50's television shows, from the twin beds to the lover's lane where nothing goes on besides holding hands. David and Jennifer become Bud and Mary Sue, the children of George and Betty(William H. Macy, Joen Allen). The townspeople have no idea of an outside world. When Jennifer asks what is outside of mainstreet, the teacher answers, "The end of mainstreet is just the beginning again." Life is absolutely perfect, with the basketball team incapable of missing a shot. When one player Skip discusses his first sexual experience with the team, everyone misses the basket.
David can adapt to this world easily because of his "Pleasantville" knowledge, but Jennifer tries to change everything, and make it her definition of normal. From this black and white world, vibrant colors emerge and changes begin to appear. Rock and roll blares from the jukebox, and the teenagers no longer just hold hands at lover's lane. The kids at school become interested in books, and the library becomes one of the popular hangouts. Bud's employer Mr. Johnson(Jeff Daniels), a soda jerk, becomes involved in art when Bud hands him a book filled with reproduced works of art. He then goes on to paint his own works of art on the outside of his diner.
As the people change from black and white to color, there are still many people left unchanged. This splits the town in the ways that America was divided during the era. The chairman of the chamber of congress (J.T. Walsh) wants to keep things pleasant, so he wants to take out the things that are unpleasant. Violence breaks out, and the people do not realize that they would be in color as well if they expressed their inner feelings. Mary sue questions why she isn't in color and Bud answers: "Maybe it's not just the sex, it's the change".
"Pleasantville" shows how different life was in the 50's, but it is not really as different as you might think. Some of the townspeople accept their new change with happiness while others fear it. They are pleasant but they are not really happy. They are merely settled into there lives with an everyday redundancy. "Pleasantville" is a cinematic masterpiece with incredible acting and a remarkable kindness to it. The film is a suprising joy.

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: Gary Ross
Tobey Maguire
Joan Allen
Jeff Daniels

DVD title: Touch of Evil (Restored to Orson Welles' Vision)
Productgroup: DVD
Touch of Evil (Restored to Orson Welles' Vision) - movie DVD cover picture
Suave & the tormenter

Every generation has its special people--its geniuses. The 20th century was fortunate enough to have had the genius of Orson Wells. Actor, writer, director, producer, and artist--there was nothing creative he couldn't do and do it to near perfection! Touch of Evil is a wonderful film noir. It was Orson Welles' fifth Hollywood film--and his last American film. The script, completely re-written by Welles in about two weeks, was loosely based upon the 1956 Whit Masterson pulp novel, Badge of Evil. Bizarre and outrageously exaggerated, the film includes controversial themes such as racism, betrayal of friends, sexual ambiguity, frame-ups, drugs, and police corruption of power. Its central character is an obsessed, driven, and bloated police captain--a tragic figure who has a "touch of evil" in his enforcement of the law. Innovative in its approach, this film has obviously been an inspiration for many modern film noirs that followed. As the film opens, we are led into an investigation surrounding the death of local big shot, Rudy Linnekar, killed by a bomb planted in the trunk of his car, in the seedy American town on the Mexican border. A Mexican narcotics investigator, Miguel "Mike" Vargas (Charlton Heston), and his wife Susan (Janet Leigh), become involved after witnessing the explosion. Meanwhile, the couple faces threats and violence because Vargas is in the midst of prosecuting a drug case against a crime family, the Grandis, that operate on both sides of the border. Vargas, an honest man, goes against the efforts of a policeman on the American side, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) to bully the Mexican son-in-law of the murdered man. Infuriated and threatened by Vargas, Quinlan joins forces with "Uncle Joe" Grandi (Akim Tamiroff) to discredit the Mexican official by framing his wife on drug charges and accusing them both of being drug addicts. We hear Quinlan before we actually get a chance to see him. He is legendary in the town--"our local police celebrity," as they like to call him. His car tears up to the scene of the crime. We first view him from below as he struggles to pull himself out of the backseat. He immediately exhibits his intuitive genius. More than that, he dominates every scene. And yet, Quinlan is filthy, a monster and a murderer. Welles has made himself ugly, bloated, and malevolent. He plays a scum if there ever was one, much like the character he portrayed in another film a few years earlier.
The film benefits from its deliciously striking and gorgeous black and white photography and brilliant cinematography, not to mention the bravura performance of Orson Welles as Hank Quinlan. This is the definititive classic film noirs and an obvious inspiration to many other films which followed. A genius at his best!

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Orson Welles
Orson Welles
Charlton Heston
Janet Leigh

DVD title: The Searchers
Productgroup: DVD
The Searchers - movie DVD cover picture
A great western! John Wayne's finest

How could I even begin reviewing this film when so much has been said already. The most I can do is either agree or disagree with what has been said, and I definately agree with the popular vote - this is a suberb film. John Wayne goes out looking for his niece, stolen by comanches after her family is butchered, and doesn't quit till the job is done. A great quest movie with beautiful scenery mostly taking place in Monument Valley, a site this film definately promoted.
If you can, purchase the new version released with trailer and a 30 min documentary, hosted by Wayne's son Patrick. It shouldn't be missed, and greatly increases the enjoyment of the picture. A real treat!

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: John Ford
John Wayne
Jeffrey Hunter

DVD title: Jaws 2
Productgroup: DVD
Jaws 2 - movie DVD cover picture
Jaws Sequel

When Jaws was released in 1975, it became an instant box office hit and grew into a cultural phenomenon. It was only a matter of time before the Universal released a sequel. Jaws 2 was released in 1978 and while it predictably did not live up to the original in terms of quality and box office success, taken on its own, it is a great film. Roy Scheider gives a stellar performance as Chief Martin Brody. Still disturbed by the events from the first movie, Chief Brody slowly unravels as the signs of another shark invading Amity start showing up. Again, the powers that be in Amity refuse to believe that they have a shark problem on their hands. Brody reaches a breaking point when he snaps on a crowded beach and starts shooting up the water when he thinks he sees a shark and is fired as a result of the incident. Mr. Scheider perfectly conveys the sense of a man who has finally been beaten by the system. Meanwhile, his two sons, Mike & Sean and a bunch of their friends are out day sailing when the shark hunts them down and starts attacking. There is a good deal of suspense in these scenes leading up to the climatic showdown between Brody and the shark. The sequel is definitely more violent and bloodier than the first one. Jaws 2 is not in the class of Jaws, which is one of the best movies ever made, but it is still a highly entertaining movie.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Roy Scheider
Lorraine Gary
Murray Hamilton

DVD title: Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team
Productgroup: DVD
Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team - movie DVD cover picture
An Amazing Story

This story brought back a lot of memories. As a lifelong hockey player and fan, I remember watching the game when it was first televised. I was only 9 years old at the time, but remember the event as if it happened yesterday.
"Do You Believe in Miracles?" does an excellent job of telling us why the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team's win was not only remarkable, but also why it was so important to our country. You will want to watch it again and again. Just be sure to keep a box of Kleenex handy.

Studio: Hbo Studios

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