Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Gate of Flesh - Criterion Collection
Productgroup: DVD
Gate of Flesh - Criterion Collection - movie DVD cover picture
Pleasures of the flesh

This 1964 film reminds me of the great work that the American movie industry turned out (sometimes in spite of itself) during the 1930's and 40's. Like many films under the "Hollywood System", Gate of Flesh is a product of artists under contract, who were simply given a project, a small budget, and a brief shooting schedule. All the studio that released Gate of Flesh really wanted was a quickie - a soft-porn moneymaker. What they got from director, Seijun Suzuki, was a masterpiece.

Briefly told, the film tells the story of a group of prostitutes making their Darwinian way in the charred rubble of postwar Japan. The girls have one, simple code: If you make love, you make money. To make love without charging is a disgrace, resulting in a naked beating and banishment from the group's mutual protection. The women strut the streets in a crowded, nightmare world of thugs and thieves, where love is rejected for the more primal needs of survival. A "returnee" from the war enters the prostitute's strangely insulated world and things become - unbalanced.

Seijun Suzuki's direction is astounding in this film. Working with the brilliant set designs of Takeo Kimura, Suzuki creates a world that is surreal yet somehow satisfies the eye's need for reality all at once - a kind of "symbolization" of reality. As with a lot of Suzuki's work, he displays a painter's sense of color, and the film is beautiful to look at. Despite the fact that the film was shot entirely on the back lot of Nikkatsu Studios, Suzuki is able to portray the feel of a large burned out city through pure, brilliant shot choice and placement of action.

It was impossible, of course, for Suzuki to simply deliver the skin flick the studio expected. Instead, he created a brilliant film in which women are hung naked and whipped for daring to make love for free -- a complex film that is a study of the effects that defeat, humiliation and ruin visit on the soul, and the soul's indestructible quest for safety and love.

There are many strong performances here. Joe Shishido is superb as Ibuki, the swaggering, nihilistic ex-soldier, slowly but painfully submitting to his intrinsic sense of honor. Also great was Satoko Kasai as Sen, the leader of the whores. Dressed in red, she is a tall flame always at the center of the group, laying down the law and administering the beatings. Actress Kasai, who grins throughout only to display sharp teeth, offers one genuine smile in the film, and it is a moment of transcendent hope and heartbreak.

The Criterion Collection edition of this film is a nice package. I owned the film in VHS, and it is simply a different experience watching this digitally re-mastered edition. It is truly stunning. The special features are a bit slim, but they do offer one whopper: an interview with both Seijun Suzuki and Takeo Kimura, who was the production designer. Listening to these men speak was certainly fascinating from a "film-school" kind of perspective, but they also offered a different cultural perspective as well. Hearing Takeo Kimua say simply and calmly, "My own house was burned down because of the bombing, so having such memories probably helped me creating the sets," really slams that home in spades. -Mykal Banta

Studio: Criterion Collection
Director: Seijun Suzuki

DVD title: Knights of Ramune
Productgroup: DVD
Knights of Ramune - movie DVD cover picture
Here's my brief summery on whats "Knights of Ramune" is all about

Knights of Ramune is a very quizzical title. It's about two girls who set off to find the knight, Sir Ramune, and save the world, or something, I don't know, there wasn't really wasn't much to it. One of them is a trained space explorer/knight, the other is a "holy virgin", I didn't get that part either. The movie starts off with those two going into space, and getting ready to take the mission. Through their follies and mishaps, they somehow end up in the right direction to finding Sir Ramune. They meet up with some help, in form of a mecha which they steal, and later on with a little haired girl.

rated 16 older: violence, violence against women, profanity, sexual humor, extensive nudity,

Director: Yoshinori Sayanna

DVD title: Along Came Polly (Full Screen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Along Came Polly (Full Screen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Along Came Polly: Come Before Polly Gets Here

I am not a huge romantic comedy fan, but I saw this at a company movie day and have since purchased the DVD. It is an enjoyable, light-hearted movie with some great laughs. IN particular, Sandy Lyle's basketball scenes are classic, nearly worth the price alone.

The french scuba instructor, Alec Baldwin's character, and Sandy Lyle are all hilarious, and honestly, made the movie as good as it is. The storyline between Mr. Stiller and Ms. Aniston is okay, but you could have inserted nearly any Julia Roberts type into her role and it would have been fine. The movie also provides a few points where your blood will boil over the story between Stiller's character and his fiance, which also helps move the plot along.

The ending is predictable, which is the formulaic romantic comedy ending. Again, this is a good movie for some laughs and for when you want to unwind.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: John Hamburg
Ben Stiller
Jennifer Aniston
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Debra Messing
Alec Baldwin

DVD title: Alice in Wonderland (Disney Gold Classic Collection)
Productgroup: DVD
Alice in Wonderland (Disney Gold Classic Collection) - movie DVD cover picture
Disney's 13th Animated Feature.

Alice In Wonderland was first released in movie theaters in 1951, that's over 50 years ago and Kathyeren Beaumont was a great loving voice for her title character, Alice. Like Cinderella, she has golden hair and blue eyes...but best of all, Alice has a cat called Dinah.
I do love this movie on DVD, esspecially one of my favorite bonus features-Virtual Wonderland Tea Party.

Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Kathryn Beaumont
Ed Wynn

DVD title: The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
we need fordo&his fellowship in our live

The fellowship of the ring is a fantastic cinematic event that outdoes that other fantasy filled movie running alongside it by far. Jacksons direction is perfect, the make-up and CG effects are stunning and above all, fantastic characters are lifted by some fabulous performances. I think that mainly Elijah wood and Ian Mckellen stand out a lot, but the breakthrough role will undoubtedly be Orlando Bloom as the Elvin archer Legolas. I give this film a five because it is undoubtedly one of the most epic and sweeping movies ever made, matched only by Braveheart for stunning battle sequences and all that we have come to expect from these sorts of movies. Well done Peter Jackson, i can feel George Lucas trembling from here.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Peter Jackson
Ian McKellen

DVD title: Rage Against the Machine
Productgroup: DVD
Rage Against the Machine - movie DVD cover picture
The Next Best Thing

This Rage video is worth the price. It is the next best thing to an actual concert. I as a fan truly enjoyed watching this video. Also, there are many music videos on this video which I have never had the opportunity to see before. As an added incentive, there is a CD single The Ghost Of Tom Joad which is a cover of one of Bruce Sprinsteen's songs about the Grapes Of Wrath. The song is hard to find, and is a very good song.

Studio: Sony/Columbia
Rage Against the Machine

DVD title: Traffic
Productgroup: DVD
Traffic - movie DVD cover picture
A modern masterpiece

Traffic is one of those rare films that actually lives up to the hype. It's a serious message picture that isn't too preachy. Along with Michael Mann's The Insider, it is actually a throwback to the gritty, politically charged movies of the '70s (Soderbergh even acknowledges on the audio commentary that the font used in the opening credits is exactly the same as the one used in All the President's Men). This film works on every level: superb acting from an outstanding cast, stunning cinematography, and an intelligent screenplay.
When Traffic was first released on DVD, there were very few extras included. Fortunately, the folks at the Criterion Collection hooked up with Soderbergh and released the definitive version on a 2-DVD set.
First off, there are 3 audio commentaries that go with the movie. The best one is with Soderbergh and the film's screenwriter, Stephen Gaghan. They both have a dry wit which is highly entertaining and talk at great length about the filmmaking process and also the screenwriting process. It is equally informative and entertaining as are all of Soderbergh's commentaries. The second commentary is with the film's producers and with DEA experts and is worth a listen as they talk about how accurate the film is. The third one is with the film's composer, Cliff Martinez and includes music not in the film.
The second DVD is jam-packed with extras. There are a ton of deleted scenes (with optional audio commentary by Soderbergh and Gaghan) and some fascinating featurettes on the nuts and bolts of filmmaking -- ie. editing, sound effects, etc. Which actually isn't as dry as it sounds. One of the most fascinating extras shows how they achieved the highly stylized look of the Mexico scenes.
This is an excellent DVD set for a great film. Well worth purchasing!

Studio: Universal Studios Ho
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Benicio Del Toro
Michael Douglas

DVD title: Ong-Bak - The Thai Warrior
Productgroup: DVD
Ong-Bak - The Thai Warrior - movie DVD cover picture
Simply awesome!!!

This is the best martial arts film I have seen in 30 years. The body mechanics and footwork of Tony Jaa are extraordinary. Not since Bruce Lee in the Chinese Connection has an actor been this sensational on the screen.

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Tony Jaa
Petchtai Wongkamlao

DVD title: Antwone Fisher (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Antwone Fisher (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Excellent Movie

Antwone Fisher is the true story of a young man who survived. Directed wonderfully by Denzel Washington, we follow Antwone from his childhood until his career in the Navy. We first meet Antwone when he wakes from a dream, and proceeds to fight with another seaman. After this aggression, which is a recurring theme of his stint in the Navy, he is assigned to a therapist to learn to control his anger. From his session with Denzel Washington's character, the truth of the origin of his anger is revealed.
This story is moving. It will make you hurt for the little boy, and cry when he finds "peace." I highly recommend this movie for everyone to see.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Director: Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington
Derek Luke
Joy Bryant

DVD title: Spaced Invaders
Productgroup: DVD
Spaced Invaders - movie DVD cover picture
"We should --GO-- now !!"

I love this movie. The gags are predictable, but the celebrity voice impersonators do a wonderful job in delivering the dialog. The movie is good for all ages and does not contain any objectionable material. I give it two thumbs way up.

Studio: Buena Vista Home Vid
Director: Patrick Read Johnson
Douglas Barr (II)
Royal Dano

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