Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Lolita
Productgroup: DVD
Lolita - movie DVD cover picture
Outdoes Kubrick

Beginning with one of the most famous opening lines in literary history ("Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta.") we are introduced once more to the inimitable Humbert Humbert and his elusive quest for the Holy Grail in the form of "nymphness" personified. And oh what a sordid sorry trek it is, taking him and his young orphaned charge to some of the seamier spots of a fifties era American landscape. To cheap hotel rooms in little podunk towns where he can for a few fleeting days share a bit of privacy with his nubile naiad. Then of course, we follow the happy pair to the final confrontaion with one Clare Quilty, the only character in cinema/literary history who could make a pedophile like Humbert Humbert look wholesome by comparison.
Remakes of movies always draw varying responses. Many critics and viewers were reluctant to favor this 1997 Adriane Lyne/Stephen Schiff/Jeremy Irons remake to the Kubrick/Nabokov/James Mason 1962 original. It's hard to argue when a novelist of the stature of Nabokov had such a direct hand in writing the screenplay (Kubrick was an uncredited co-author). Surely the work's creator would be better able to realize his vision cinematically? Yet, I believe the later film actually does a much better job in capturing the essence ot the novel.
It boils down to casting. Shelley Winters was probably more right for the role of Lolita's Mom, Charlotte Haze, than was Melanie Griffith (almost universally described as the weakest link in the remake). That role aside, however, I think that every casting choice in the '92 version was spot-on. Irons, though he doesn't conjure up the physical characteristics of the Humbert that comes across in the novel, nevertheless did a better job than Mason in conveying Humbert's rakish libertinism. I'm so glad Dustin Hoffman, originally considered for the role, didn't land the part. This is amongst Irons' strongest performances. Dominique Swain, chosen over thousands of hopefuls who tried out for the part of Lolita, is the embodiment of all things young and lovely. I thought she also did a much better job than Sue Lyons at capturing the childish petulence that underlies most of the 12-year-old Lol's actions and reactions. She's just more believable, thanks in large part to Lyne's expert direction. Frank Langella was also much more convincing as Clare Quilty, a truly despicable fictional character, if there ever was one. Peter Sellers, due to his indelible comedic cinema persona, just could not come across as all that menacing on screen. He did, in fact, play the character for laughs, so the final confrontation came off more as farce and lost its effect.
Finally, while Kubrick is one of the greatest directors in cinema history, he may have not been best suited for this particular novel. Plus, the era he was working in was much less conducive to a fully realized treatment of such touchy subject matter. He'd hit his comedic stride two years later, with Dr. Stragelove. Lyne had a bit more artistic leeway, although the history of the film's distribution was still rather bumpy, to say the least.
Lyne has now come up with two of my favorite relatively recent films, this and the 1990 Horror film, Jacob's Ladder. He's another in what's become a rather large batch of excellent contemporary British directors. Please give this, his masterpiece thus far, a try.

Studio: Vidmark/Trimark
Director: Adrian Lyne
Jeremy Irons
Melanie Griffith
Dominique Swain

DVD title: Angel - Season Four
Productgroup: DVD
Angel - Season Four - movie DVD cover picture
Dark Angel

I would like to preface this review by saying that the very first episode of Angel that I ever saw was Release, an episode from the middle of this season. When I saw it, I recognized that this was definitely an amazing show, for Release is one of my very favorite episodes, however I had almost no idea what was going on. I only knew four characters; Angel (David Boreanaz), or maybe I should say Angelus, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Densiof), Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpentar), who confused me by being evil, and Faith (Eliza Dushku), who confused me by being good. Also, I thought that this was the second part of a three part episode arc involving Angelus, Angel's evil alter-ego. Man, was I wrong. This season's overall arc rivals the arcs used on shows like 24 and Alias; in order to fully understand and appreciate this season, one has to see every episode as well as most of the episodes from previous seasons.
Anyway, the season picks up sort of where we left off last year; Angel is at the bottom of the Pacific, where he was left by his son Connor (Vincent Kartheiser) and vampire hunter Justine Cooper (Laurel Holloman). Cordelia is on the higher plane of existence, Wes has been exiled from the group and is in an unhealthy relationship with Wolfram and Hart lawyer Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanov), Lorne (Andy Hallet) is performing in Vegas, and for the three month interim, Gunn (J. August Richards) and Fred (Amy Acker) have been searching for their two missing friends while trying to run Angel Investigations with Connor. For the past few months, Wes has been holding Justine hostage and is using her to find Angel. After Wes rescues Angel, the vamp kicks Connor out of the hotel and begins a search for his lost love Cordelia. The trio of Angel, Gunn, and Fred also start asking Wes for help more and more often. Over the summer it seems that the nerdy ex-Watcher has turned into a suave, dark, 007ish vampire hunter. Then, after a trip to Vegas to clear their heads and help rescue Lorne, the group returns to the Hyperion Hotel to discover Cordelia, who has no memory of her life. Lorne "reads" her and is horrified to see unspeakable evil in her future. Once she gets her memory back, things begin to go to Hell in L.A. Plagues of rats and snakes start occurring all over the city, and then an enormous demon made of solid rock emerges from the Earth... in the exact spot where Darla (Julie Benz) staked herself in order to bring Connor into the world. The Beast (Vladimir Kulich), as the gang calls it, causes the sky to rain fire, the performs a ritual that blocks out the sun. Things get a lot worse when the Angel Team has Angel's soul extracted in order to get information from the evil Angelus, only to learn that the Beast is taking orders from something worse. Soon, Angel's soul is stolen and Angelus escapes and runs rampant through L.A. Finally, we meet the Beastmaster, Jasmine (Gina Torres who has previously worked with Joss Whedon on Firefly), a higher being whose evil master plan is... world peace?
This year, the Angel gang faced numerous changes; Wes is now a dark, tortured, fighter, Gunn and Fred's relationship is tested to the limits, Cordy may no longer be who she used to be, Faith is now a force for good, and the L.A. branch of Wolfram and Hart is completely obliterated! The group also faces two of the most morally ambiguous challenges ever: do human sacrifices and the loss of free will justify world peace, and the other one stems from one of the show's greatest twists to date.
As I said earlier, this season is the most arc-heavy of the entire series (although year 3 is pretty intense, and year 5's arc is ingeniously the lack of an arc, but I'll get into that in the Season 5 review), and for the most part, it worked really well. Things did kind of slow down during a few episodes (in my opinion at least) such as the first Angelus episode and the first couple Jasmine episodes. However these minor problems can easily be overlooked due to the amazing overall story and the amazing individual episodes.
The acting is as good as ever; in fact I think that these actors just keep getting better. I guess the only exception is Kartheiser. He is kind of uneven; he will do very well in one episode, and then in the next one, his performance will be a little dry. Speaking of Connor, while I never truly despised him the way many fans did this season, I will admit that his constant snarl and bad attitude did get a little tiresome. The regulars weren't the only good performers. The guest stars were superb in their various roles, from Dushku's Faith to Torres' Jasmine, and from Kulich's Beast to Alyson Hannigan's Willow, who made an appearance in the episode Orpheus. Speaking of Faith, I still can't believe that she turned down a Faith spin-off show to do Tru Calling. Okay, I enjoy that show, but I believe that a Faith-based show led by Joss would have been amazing. Finally, there was Alexa Davalos, who played Gwen Raiden, a theif with an, um, electric personality. I still can't believe that Davalos didn't get used more. She definitely would have been a welcome addition to the team for Season 5 (along with James Marsters' Spike of course). Oh, and speaking of regulars, Andy Hallet finally made the opening credits after 2 and a half seasons as a guest star! Personally, I think that Hallet has gotten the short end of the stick in a lot of instances, such as being left off the DVD covers, but oh well.
One of the best things about this season was that Buffy cross-overs were allowed to happen again, despite the fact that BtVS was on UPN while this was on The WB, and the writers really made the best possible use of them. We were treated to overlapping stories (Faith and Willow, Angel taking the amulet to Sunnydale) as well as some references (Wesley talking about how the Watcher's Council no longer exists). I guess that the networks realized that this year was the last season of Buffy, so they let them have a few final crossovers.
The special effects and make-up this year probably reached their peak greatness (the show's budget was cut after this year). The Beast, the demons, and the portals all looked great.
This is, in my opinion, the best season so far (my favorite is Season 5, though). This season had great stories, great character development, and of course, great fights. The first fight with the Beast, Angel, Gunn, Wes, and Lorne was spectacular. The duels between Faith, the Beast, and Angelus were not only epic, but they were also kind of funny. And this season had probably my favorite fight of the series: Angel vs. Angelus! I wish that it had been longer. I truly believe that the writers could devote an entire episode to a duel between the two.
Pretty much every episode was good this year, so here are the best of the best: Deep Down. Spin the Bottle (the show's second funniest episode). Apocolypse, Nowish. Long Day's Journey. Awakening. Calvary. Salvage. Release. Orpheus. Inside Out. Sacrifice. Peace Out. Home. Anyway, that's the Season 4 lowdown. One season to go. See you in year 5!

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
David Boreanaz

DVD title: Spider-Man (Full Screen Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Spider-Man (Full Screen Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
DVD at its best

If it wasn't for the extras on this DVD it would be only worth 4 stars. Spiderman is only a good movie but it is not good enough to get five stars. With the edition of the extras this movie becomes exciting. There are hours of extras and if your computer has a DVD rom drive than you will be able to play three levels from the Spiderman video game. This DVD is well worth 50 bucks making it a deal at about 25. If you don't already have the DVD or even have the VHS version, you must buy it or regret it.

Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Director: Sam Raimi
Tobey Maguire
Kirsten Dunst

DVD title: Follow That Dream
Productgroup: DVD
Follow That Dream - movie DVD cover picture
Excellent acting in a beautiful locale.

The movie was filmed in the Yankeetown area of western Florida. Tons of white sand were trucked in to create a lovely beach which remains mostly unchanged to this day. Interiors were filmed at Inverness Court House and Crystal River High School and Ocala. A very entertaining, funny film. Presleys acting may have been his best before the Girl epics began. The house the Kwimpers lived in was donated to the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch in Live Oak, Florida, which can be viewed to this day. .

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Gordon Douglas
Elvis Presley

DVD title: The Phantom of the Opera (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Phantom of the Opera (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
I'm Glad I Just Saw the "Phantom" Before It Leaves Theaters!

I have been putting this one off and I don't know why. I saw the Broadway production back in 2001 and I really enjoyed it. I guess due to the harsh critic reviews and the fact that I thought most actors couldn't sing these wonderful songs kept me away until today. Let me just say that the critics are way off and I would easily put this film in the top 5 best I have seen in 2004 & 2005. The first thing that stands out in this film besides the beauty of Emmy Rossum as Christine is the lavish production & set design. There is so much detail and color everywhere that you will have to watch this film again just to take it all in. The two leads are great in the acting and singing department, especially Emmy Rossum (an angel's voice to go with that beautiful face) who is the standout of the group. Gerard Butler really surprised me here and makes a very complex Phantom. And I must also mention Minnie Driver who was very funny as the whiny Carlotta, but was the only one of the cast who didn't use her real voice when she sang. Ignore the critics and look at the 4 and 1/2 star rating here from nearly 300 people like you and me. This is the best movie musical ever in my opinion and should be seen on the big screen for the sheer spectacle of it.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Joel Schumacher
Gerard Butler
Emmy Rossum
Patrick Wilson

DVD title: Hitman's Run
Productgroup: DVD
Hitman's Run - movie DVD cover picture

This is fantastic movie! I am a huge fan of the writer, Eric Barker, and Hitman's Run shows just how much potential he really has. I especially liked the car chases and ultra-realistic depiction of firearm use. I sure hope the studio has Eric Barker write the sequel! He was even able to compensate for the occasionally stiff performance of Mr. Roberts. I'm buying this DVD for my mom for Valentine's Day, because she's also a big fan of Eric Barker, the talented writer.

Studio: Avalanche Video
Director: Mark L. Lester

DVD title: The Howlin' Wolf Story - The Secret History of Rock & Roll
Productgroup: DVD
The Howlin' Wolf Story - The Secret History of Rock & Roll - movie DVD cover picture
the great howlin' wolf

i just got this dvd what a treat! it blew me away it is way better than i expected by far, i hope there is more footage out there of the wolf. this is a must have for any true lover of good old american roots music, you wont be sorry!living in utah the (closed society )i may be the only one here who knows who he is.what a shame!

Studio: Bmg Distribution (VI
Chester Burnett

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

This is a truly awesome movie. From the dynamic beginning the surprising ending, this is a terrific movie all the way through. The main character, Maximus, leads his troops into battle in fantasticly setup and executed fight scene like no other I have seen (not even Braveheart). After he is betrayed, he ends up a Gladiator fighting from arena to arena until he finally gets back to Rome. Once in Rome, well, you'll just have to watch for yourself. This is one of the best movies I have seen and definitley the best of 2000. Get this movie.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Ridley Scott
Russell Crowe
Joaquin Phoenix
Connie Nielsen

DVD title: Marvin's Room
Productgroup: DVD
Marvin's Room - movie DVD cover picture
An unforgettable movie

Most of the reviews of 'Marvin's Room' I've read online all mention Leonardo DiCaprio and how cute he is, how much he is loved, and how he acted wonderfully in the movie. I can't say I don't agree- he adds flavor to the movie and pulls off a very convincing act of a troubled boy. But the floor belong to Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. I can't think of better actresses for this movie than these two- they're beautiful together. The movie is handled in a dramatic light; from the beach scene to the darkened scene where Bessie tells the story of her dead boyfriend. I don't think there's a better movie of family dysfunction.Most movies on family dysfunction end badly and disappoint me greatly. But this movie is a positive one, and ends in one of the best scenes I've ever seen. Here you have two sisters who haven't seen each other in like twenty years, and suddenly they reunite because Bessie needs a bone marrow transplant; otherwise she'll die. From that, they embrace each other hesitantly but surely; they realize of their love for eachother. They all depend on each other and grow from each other. Lee is someone with lost hope; and Bessie is the one who restores it.You can almost see Bessie's rare spirit reaching out and touching everyone around her. My favorite scene is when Lee convinces Bessie to take off her wig so she can cut it. Of course, anyone's got to feel embarassed if their wigs have to come off in front of anyone; let alone someone you haven't seen for 20 years. But Bessie takes it off with courage and hope; you can totally see it. Keaton was completely magical in this one; she has rare talent. Bessie was the only one emitting hope and triumph in the face of death; and everyone around her began to feel it also. This person is someone I could never be. I admire this character. The final scene... whoo! The rays of light bouncing off the walls seem to be a representation of heaven and love. They all knew Bessie was going to die. This scene is handled with such finality. I would have much preferred the movie end this way than seeing Bessie die. This family is dysfunctional, but this family also experienced love and courage. To be completely honest, I was stunned into dead silence for the first ten minutes after the movie ended. Then I rewound the movie and started watching it again. I couldn't get enough of this exquisite movie. It's much more than a movie- it's pure reality and imagination combined. This movie is proof that people like Bessie exist. Keaton definitely deserves the Academy Award nomination. Hell, she should have won it! I love her. I love this movie! Go see it immediately!You won't regret it--trust me.

Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
Director: Jerry Zaks
Meryl Streep
Leonardo DiCaprio
Diane Keaton
Robert De Niro

DVD title: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Widescreen Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Widescreen Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Great Modern Fairytail Story

I can clearly see the point the writer and director were trying to get across to their viewers in this movie. This movie had a good theme about love and how humans view life, but that is the only reason it got two stars. A.I. was extremely boring and drawn out. I saw it in the theaters and almost fell asleep like ten times. Not to mention the ending was horrible, which made me having to sit in an uncomfortable seat for three hours not any better. I say don't waste your time on this one, rent it if you feel obligated.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Steven Spielberg
Haley Joel Osment
Jude Law

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