Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Portrait of Jennie
Productgroup: DVD
Portrait of Jennie - movie DVD cover picture
On the short list of Hollywood's great ghost stories

This delightfully unique movie would have been very, very easy to have marred. Fortunately, director William Dieterle maintained a light touch throughout, managing just the right mood for each segment of the film. What could have easily have been hokey instead is eerie and delightful.
PORTRAIT OF JENNIE is unique not just for its subject matter, but for being one of the very, very few films of the Hollywood studio era to have been filmed on location in New York. Almost always in the 1930s and 1940s, a film that was supposedly set in New York or Chicago would in fact be filmed on a Hollywood back lot. In this case, that would have been a serious blow to the atmosphere of the film, since the numerous scenes shot in Central Park, with the unique skyline framing the park, creates imagery unlike any other film of the time.
The cast overall is quite excellent. Jennifer Jones is not completely believable in her role, but, then, I am not sure many actresses could have been. She is asked to age too much during the course of the film, and no adult actress is going to be completely believable as small girl and as an adult. I always love seeing Joseph Cotton in anything, and this was one of his finest romantic roles. The cast is filled out with a bevy of notable character actresses and actors, such as David Wayne, Lillian Gish, Ethel Barrymore, Florence Bates, Cecil Kellaway, and Henry Hull.
The ending is a bit anticlimactic. The heart of the story is Eben Adams's (Joseph Cotton) meeting Jennie, and the way she changes at each meeting, until he is able to solve her mystery. The ending was much ballyhooed by Selznick, with the striking tinted waves, but ironically it pales next to the much quieter, but far more emotionally involving, story of a man and a woman.

Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Director: William Dieterle
Jennifer Jones
Joseph Cotten

DVD title: The Watermelon Woman
Productgroup: DVD
The Watermelon Woman - movie DVD cover picture
Widening the Spectrum: Multiple Issues, Multiple Minorities

As a lesbian film student of color, I find inspiration in Cheryl Dunye's vision. "The Watermelon Woman" seamlessly weaves together the issues of race relations, ethnic and lesbian identity construction, and prevailing oppression in all its subtleties. Setting up the film as a pseudo-documentary of an aspiring filmmaker's research on a Black lesbian actor from the thirties counterpoints a historical context of these issues, with its modern manifestations. An excellent film from a multiple-minority perspective. The acting may call for more training, but the successful execution of the issues excuses the sometimes contrived reading of lines. The portrayal of Guin Turner's naively ignorant character (a white woman who prefers men and women of African-descent) was well written and played. The film illustrated race relations on many sides of the issue -- the relations between people of the same race and cross-racial relations. Funny, as well as socially valuable, "The Watermelon Woman" is one of those rare films that reaffirm my expectations for film: not just as a form of entertainment or art, but as a tool for social commentary.

Studio: First Run Features
Director: Cheryl Dunye

DVD title: Kaiju Big Battel: Terebi Sento
Productgroup: DVD
Kaiju Big Battel: Terebi Sento - movie DVD cover picture
luv it , luv it, luv it.

Sure it looks majorly cheesy but it is the funniest DVD I have bought all year. If you enjoy wrestling and all the fakeness that entails, then you will love Kaiju Big Battel. Just watch out for Doctor Cube

Studio: Ventura Distribution

DVD title: Himalaya
Productgroup: DVD
Himalaya - movie DVD cover picture
Himalaya - Cinematic documentary

I rented and immediately purchased the DVD. It is a movie, but it pays very close attention to the life of the Dolpo-pa, and as such, it not only presents a story, but captures a "culture in time" that few of us will ever experience. We may walk through these people's villages, or hire them to carry our gear, but we never can participate in their personal lives. Eric Valli, whatever his ulterior motives in creating this film (if any), had to have been driven by a love of the people and mountains to put this together. In an era of globalization and the loss of cultures and languages every year, films of this kind have great anthropological and human geographical value. It's too bad that more Eric Valli's don't exist to preserve our vanishing human heritage. When presented as a story, it can reach a much wider audience than a standard documentary; the story pulls the viewer into the lifestyle.
In addition to the movie, I found Debra Kellner's "The Making of Himalaya" to be equally as interesting. It presents another side of these people as real people interacting with a director and film crew. There is also an "Electronic Press Kit" which contains interesting footage such as showing cameras strapped on yaks' backs, and the pushing the fiberglass yak down the cliff into the lake.
The DVD appears to be a good transfer on my PC and DVD player and has a bonus soundtrack of commentary by Eric Valli and Debra Kellner.
Excellent little film.

Studio: Kino International
Director: Eric Valli
Thilen Lhondup
Gurgon Kyap

DVD title: Ice Age (2-Disc Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Ice Age (2-Disc Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Cracks you up... like a nut!

First few minutes I was under the impression that we were in front of a Fox-made prehistoric version of Shrek, but shortly into the movie, we laughed as hard as we have in a long time in the theater, in particular with the squirrel-with-the-nut character... It's so much like us: going nuts after a tiny bit of life, trying to uncover something or save something for later. But the movie is not just about laughs: it has a message, and one of hope and understanding that you'd hope today's world processed a little better.
In terms of animation, I didn't find it too innovative, compared to the productions that have come out in the past year and a half (Dinosaurs, Shrek, Monsters, Inc.) Overall it's worth taking the kids, but also checking it out yourself! Who knows? You might find out that you sleep like a sloth... or like a mammoth! ;)

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
John Leguizamo
Denis Leary

DVD title: The Passion of the Christ (Full Screen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Passion of the Christ (Full Screen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Beautiful, violent, powerful, dramatic and uplifting...

Passion(n.)- A suffering or agony, as of a martyr.
I am a Christian, and I am not ashamed to admit it. I had the opportunity to view THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST in theater with my pastor, and throughout the whole film I was on the edge of my seat, filled with emotion. I knew the story of Jesus' capture, beatings and crucifixion but I had never seen it this way before. The film tastefully began with no previews, advertisements or company logos in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray with His disciples before his capture. Satan, appearing as an androgynous angel, attempts to tempt Jesus into refusing the burden of the cross to pursue a human lifestlye, but Jesus rejects his proposal in silence. Jesus is captured in the garden by Roman guards, for He was betrayed by one of his one disciples, Judas, with a kiss. Judas is overcome with guilt and haunted by personal demons (shown literally in the film with an ever-present Satan amidst them) and he hangs himself. After He is captured and accused of blasphemy against the high priests and King Caesar, Jesus is severely beaten by Roman guards and eventually crucified for His "crimes". During Jesus' suffering, Satan is seen weaving through the crowd, observing His fate. Throughout the beatings and crucifixion, little flashbacks are given to show the past histories of Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and Jesus' past as a lowly carpenter and as a prophet who gave sermons and prayers and taught lessons of goodness to all who were willing to listen. The story should be familiar to all Christians, but it has never been shown like this before. This must be the most realistic depiction of the suffering of Jesus ever created. While the film is very violent and difficult to watch at times, none of the details are exaggerated and the violence is all perfectly utilized to help us understand the suffering He went through. The images of violence are meant to be imprinted in your mind, never to be forgotten. I was digging my fingers into the seat at every hit that Jesus took, almost as if I was feeling the pain myself. The fact that a film can illicit such emotion out of a person is just stunning. While some claim that the film is anti-Semitic or overly violent and depressing, I could not find these claims to be true. While there are cruel and sadistic Jewish people in the film who want to crucify Jesus, there are also plenty of Jewish people that support and help Jesus throughout the film. Jesus himself was a Jewish man. I found the picture to be very uplifting as opposed to depressing, for a glimpse of the resuurection of Jesus is given at the end, showing that his love prevailed and that man would be forgiven of their sins. It is not overly violent, for as stated before, all of these things REALLY DID HAPPEN to Jesus. The violence was not exaggerated, but it was shown how it truly would be in a crucifixion. Crucifixion was designed by the Romans to be the most painful, drawn-out death possible, only given to people who had commited the most heinous of crimes. I found the film to be absolutely amazing, and I reccomend it to everyone, Christian or not. I believe that even a non-Christian could feel something during this film.
I must commend all of the actors, producers, and director for pulling it off. Most religious films are inaccurate, offensive or just badly made. But THE PASSION succeeds in it's purpose and is destined to become a classic after all the foolish controversy dies away. While Mel Gibson is a devout Catholic and I am a Lutheran, I still think that his depiction of Jesus Christ and his final days is accurate, beautiful and just plain stunning. I've always admired Gibson as an actor, but after this and BRAVEHEART I think that he is a wonderful director as well. It's touching to see a celebrity that is willing to let people know about his personal faith and convictions, as seen in this film and SIGNS, amongst others. James Caviezel does a commendable job of portraying Jesus, and actresses that played Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene were great as well, not to mention the disciples and Simon, who helped Jesus carry the cross when He could hardly move. The special effects, though minimal, were quite good as well. You can tell the crew and cast put their hearts and souls into this film to make it the best it could be, and they did a job well done.
See the film and witness the powerful masterpiece that is THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. I can't say enough about how much this film affected me and wanted me to become the best person I can be. The film is a great reminder of the sacrifices Jesus made for us, and I hope that other people who saw the film were affected the same way.

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
Director: Mel Gibson
James Caviezel
Monica Bellucci

DVD title: Revolutionary Girl Utena - The Black Rose Blooms (Vol. 3)
Productgroup: DVD
Revolutionary Girl Utena - The Black Rose Blooms (Vol. 3) - movie DVD cover picture
A great prequel to season 3

This DVD picks up speed on the Utena storyline and gives a better insight into the other characters besides Utena and Anthy. It also gets you ready for the Akio "explosion" you will expirience on the Akio Arc. This contains the 1st 4 episodes of the Black Rose Arc.
*episode 14- Utena battles Anthy's sister-in-law to be in oreder to stop from killing the rose bride. I give it 5 stars.
*15- Utena battles Miki's twin sister to protect the rose bride from her sword. His sister wants to kill the object of his affections.
*16- Complete filler and boredom. Nanami turns into a cow. I've gotten to where I skip this episode.
*17- Great epsisode. It introduces us to the Juri and Shiori love story. Shiori battles Utena because she now knows she is the object of Juri's affections. I give this 5 stars.
On a side note, the reviewer obviosly dosen't pay attention to the story line. Utena is not a trans, she says herself she's straight and her outfit looks girly anyway.

Studio: Wea Corp
Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara

DVD title: Farscape Season 1, Vol. 8 - Durka Returns/A Human Reaction
Productgroup: DVD
Farscape Season 1, Vol. 8 - Durka Returns/A Human Reaction - movie DVD cover picture
Chiana arrives on Moya and Crichton returns to Earth

The standard first season episode of "Farscape" involved human John Crichton (Ben Browder) saving his alien crewmates aboard Moya from whatever peril of the week afflicts them in a particular episode. That makes the two episodes collected in Volume 8 of Season 1 of "Farscape" stand out all the more, because which the earth man remains the focal character, we are not dealing with the same old stories this time around:
"Durka Returns" but the Peacekeeper responsible for Rygel's torture is not the only visitor who arrives aboard Moya. Chiana (Gigi Edgley), a Nebari prisoner, introduces an element of discord back aboard Moya, more so than Crichton did in the beginning. But the main plot line has to do with Rygel's attempt to get revenge on Durka; of course, Rygel's efforts propel things from bad to worse. This is not a perfect episode, mainly because Rygel does not take a prominent role is dispatching Durka; actually, the fact that after facing his inner demon, personified by Durka in a previous episode, Rygel finds himself back to square one is a bit of a let down since it renders the previous episode rather moot. However, in the end the point is not that Durka returns, but rather than Chiana arrives (to be continued...).
"A Human Reaction" is one of the most intriguing episodes from the first season even though this is a standard Science Fiction plot line. Moya finds a wormhole that appears to have Earth at the other end (Crichton's crewmates have fun dissing his home planet). Crichton takes the risk and uses the wormhole to return back to Earth (Australia to be specific). There he is held captive by those he used to work with; apparently after he left the wormhole never shut down, everybody on Earth has freaked, his ship has been upgraded with unknown alien technology, and there are concerns about those funny little microbes that help Crichton understand every language on the planet. The only person who believes his story is his father (Kent McCord), but that might not be enough. Then Aeryn (Claudia Black), D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) and Rygel follow Crichton to Earth and the suspicion escalates. Obviously there has to be a catch with this episode since "Farscape"cannot continue with Crichton back on Earth. There are some nice moments between Crichton and D'Argo early on in the episode when the Earthling takes his leave of his shipmates, and a real sense that the crew has bonded.
This is one of the better sets of episodes available from Season 1 of "Farscape." If they indicate the importance of character over plot, then it simply confirms what has been established by every other successful Space Opera television series since the original "Star Trek." Meanwhile, Moya's pregnancy is progressing slowly but surely.

Studio: A.D. Vision

DVD title: Mighty Gorga / One Million AC/DC
Productgroup: DVD
Mighty Gorga / One Million AC/DC - movie DVD cover picture
One Million AC/DC: Not Up To Ed Wood's Usual Quality

Often overlooked on this DVD is a little piece of R-rated tripe called 'One Million AC/DC,' a very bad and un-erotic sex comedy written by no other than Ed Wood. I actually don't really like this genre too much, and wish Something Weird had put something else on the disc. I do like Ed Wood though, so I watched it. Those were 65 painful minutes. The set of the cave looks like the jungle room and Graceland, as it features green shag carpet extensively. There is no plot to speak of, there's a virgin sacrifice (not what you think), guys fighting with rocks and clubs, a peeping tom, and gratuitous hippie references. There is also a romantically involved ape in a very bad monkey suit that makes a sound like a dog using a buzz saw. There is a lot of black and white (tinted sepia, so we wouldn't notice...right) stock footage (that any B-movie connoisseur will recognize) of iguanas and gila monsters fighting. There is, unfortunately, also a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which, if you can believe this is even lamer than in 'Gorga.' I won't even speculate on what brand of child's toy it is. I especially love the scene when the toy eats a girl. Yum!
The film continues the theme on this DVD of annoying background music. Here it is composed for the unlikely quintet of harmonium, zither, bongos, doorbell, and spoons. (I wish it was as soothing as John Cage, but it is not.) There are typical caveman scenes: people lounging and eating grapes and BBQ ribs, cat fights, the old rubber lizard in a loincloth gag, and a chase scene that kind of looks like what would happen if Doris Wishman directed '10.' There are a couple of puns that will make you blanche, for instance: "I'm off to see the lizard" (everyone knows that cavemen speak perfect English, occasionally with an Italian accent.) At the end the ape and his girlfriend are welcomed to the community of hominids with warm handshakes all around.
This is really below Ed Wood's normal level of quality and craftsmanship.
There are a lot of extras on the DVD as well, including some great trailers. Trailers of note include 'La Islas De Los Dinosauros" and the abysmal "Sound of Horror", a movie I saw on VHS and still ranks as the most pathetic dinosaur movie ever made.
Also featured is an amateur short so bad that I can't even bring myself to discuss it. It is called 'Nightmare', and I will say only that it gives claymation a bad name, and features the lamest prop newspaper ever seen.
There is also a short called 'Prehistoric Daze' featuring comedian Hank Henry (who?) in a hilarious henpecked stone-age romp. It is very embarrassing to everyone involved.
Finally, there is the single stupidest excuse for a short that I have ever seen, 'Diane the Jungle Girl and Jungle Girl and Her Gorilla of Love'. I won't even speculate on why anyone thought this was a good idea to spend money on.
Thanks, Something Weird! Another splendid job bringing us only the finest entertainment!

Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Ed De Priest

DVD title: The Princess Bride
Productgroup: DVD
The Princess Bride - movie DVD cover picture
The classics of all classics!!!

This movie is a classic - all kids should be brought up on this film when growing up - a movie truley for all ages!
Anybody want a peanut!

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: Rob Reiner
Cary Elwes
Mandy Patinkin
Robin Wright Penn

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