Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Law & Order - The First Year
Productgroup: DVD
Law & Order - The First Year - movie DVD cover picture
Probably my favorite show.

I don't watch much TV at all anymore, but I'm a bit of a sucker for this show. I'd sacrifice nearly anything to see the new episodes as they air. I remember the holiday marathons A&E would run of syndicated Law & Order episodes and watching eight shows straight. Even after seeing most episodes multiple times, I tuned into the reruns whenever possible (which were once shown daily on A&E).
So, I'm obviously ecstatic that Law & Order has finally begun to make its move to DVD. While the first few episodes can be a bit dry and the production values are low, it remains praiseworthy for its realism, unique storytelling, amazing writing, intense performance, and fair exploration of moral conflicts. The stories are typically influenced by real-life headlines, and maybe you'll recognize some. Contrary to the typical drama, the personal lives of the characters are peripheral rather than primary. The personal side of the characters does manifest, of course, but the scripts do not directly pursue this. They appear adjunctively to the stories, and once one grows to understand the dynamic personalities, the show attains deeper impact. It's also a bit weird to watch these episodes with all the changes in the series (now in season 13, no one remains from the original cast).
The show accomplishes much with its formula. To quote the voice intro for every episode: "In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime, and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories." That's exactly what it is. The first half of the show sets the exposition of the crime and follows Sgt. Greevey and Detective Logan (George Dzundza and Chris Noth, respectively) and as they hunt down the criminal with the guidance of Captain Cragen (Dann Florek).
Once the suspect is apprehended, the show follows the prosecution of the alleged criminal at the hands of ADAs Ben Stone (Michael Moriarty) and Paul Robinette (Richard Brooks). The pragmatic and politically minded DA Adam Schiff (Steven Hill) offers dry wit and candid advice. Personally, I'm a little more drawn to the prosecution side of things because it tends to be the most climactic. Here, the ADAs must administer plea bargains, prepare their cases, and of course face-off with the defendants at trial.
Cases are rarely straightforward - suspicions switch around, new evidence appears, and so on. The show also evenhandedly looks at different moral and social issues, but perhaps more so in later seasons. Some issues dealt with in the first season are abortion, assisted suicide for the terminally ill, racial equality, and others. Later seasons would explore technicalities of the New York legal system in greater detail, and diversify the legal matters explored.
Here are some cheap, quick episode descriptions - spoiler free and superficially uninteresting:
"Prescription for Death" - A young girl dies during a chaotic night in a hospital, despite the lack of a serious ailment.
"Subterranean Homeboy Blues" - The shooting of two black teenagers in a subway car leads to serious racial tensions.
"The Reaper's Helper" - It would appear that a serial killer is targeting gay men, but...
"Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die" - A young woman is found badly beaten in her bed. The prosecutors may need questionable tactics to convict their man.
"Happily Ever After" - A wealthy couple is shot in their parking garage.
"Everybody's Favorite Bagman" - A councilman is mugged, a simple crime which leads the district attorney's office to something big.
"By Hooker, By Crook" - A wealthy man is found unconscious in a park after a night with a prostitute.
"Poison Ivy" - Greevey and Logan investigate the shooting of an apparent drug dealer by a fellow police officer.
"Indifference" - A very disturbing episode where detectives look for the culprit responsible for bludgeoning an abused little girl on the skull.
"Prisoner of Love" - A sadomasochist is found murdered, and his killers are discovered to have a peculiar relationship.
"Out of the Half-Light" - A black congressman uses the alleged rape of a young girl to further his political career.
"Life Choice" - The police investigate the bombing of an abortion clinic.
"A Death in the Family" - The detectives aggressively hunt the man suspected of killing a cop.
"The Violence of Summer" - A backward episode that puts the legal stuff first and the cop stuff second. Stone and Robinette struggle to rebuild a fractured case against three boys accused of raping a reporter.
"The Torrents of Greed" - This is a two-parter, and it follows ADA Stone's obsessive drive to nail a mob boss.
"Mushrooms" - Two children are shot in their own home, and the killer is not what anyone expects.
"The Secret Sharers" - The murder of a drug dealer winds up pitting Stone against a hotshot Texas lawyer who defends the suspect pro bono.
"The Serpent's Tooth" - This one has echoes of the Menendez brothers as two boys are suspected of killing their parents.
"The Troubles" - Who killed the Lebanese weapon smuggler - a Cuban drug dealer or an accused Irish terrorist?
"Sonata for a Solo Organ" - A man is found in Central Park missing one of his kidneys.
"The Blue Wall" - Captain Cragen is under suspicion for tampering with evidence.
Anyway...assuming you're still reading along this far, now is a good time to jump into the series. Law & Order is an epochal television series that deserves all its acclaim.

Studio: Universal Studios

DVD title: Memento (Limited Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Memento (Limited Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
I have this Condition...So I've told you about it?

I love the Movie and Do watch it about every three months. I like the fact that you can watch it in chronological order if you figure out the menus. If you can't find a DVD easter egg site and WRITE THAT DOWN. I do like the movie and have told several people about it, but they

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Christopher Nolan
Guy Pearce
Carrie-Anne Moss
Joe Pantoliano

DVD title: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
I think he's finally got it!

A lot of us, those who are considered 'die-hard' fans, have watched Jim soar, stumble, bore us, and cause our stomachs to hurt from laughing. It is sometimes hard to know what his next project will turn out to be. I have followed Jim since his early days. I own an original copy of Rubberface (on VHS). A movie he was part of for Canadian television long before we knew him in the states. I even remember his failed sitcom, "The Duck Factory." I was one of those who watched him stumble with "The Cable Guy" , bore us with " The Majestic" and make me fall down laughing with " Liar Liar". In this particular flick, he SOARS. I finally got the chance to see this. It wasn't anywhere near me when it was in the theaters. I had to rent it. And, i think our old friend Jim has learned a lot. Mainly how to portray dramatic acting in a very powerful way. The movie itsself is a celebration of individuality, regrets , hopes , dreams , and love. Sometimes it strays away from those basic concepts to show us a living, breathing ,artistic way to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. His love is stolen away fom him. Or, rather, her mind is stolen away from him. And, in his pain, he decides his own mind needs to go too. Only, while he is allowing this act of very well portrayed science fiction to be done to him, he begins to regret the decision. As this regret surfaces in his mind, he becomes active in his thoughts. Much like he himself is in control of his dream. He becomes aware of what is happenning. He tries to stop it. He lives his most wonderful memories all over again. He also visits the dark sides of his mind. One where he is coaxed, by a gang of bullies, to finish off a half-dead bird with a hammer. What a painful moment. There is even a dose of the comical side of Jim. Though, it is a very sedate version of his comical side. Robin Williams had his turn in an Indie movie, " One Hour Photo" that was terrific. Bill Murray had "Lost in Translation" , Adam Sandler had " Punch Drunk Love", and there are so many more. All of these movies have one concept in common. They were complex movies approached in a very simple way. Those movies, like this one, all allowed the talent of the star to rise above everything else. And, all of these stars are great talents. This movie, along with The Truman Show, will be the defining moment(s) in Jim Carrey's career. If you are able to watch a movie, and split the artistic vision away from the surface ,and see the acting in the movie as a seperate entity, then you will enjoy this movie. Just don't try to decipher it as you go. It probably won't work. The director is trying to take you on a trip armed only with the information that Jim himself has. And, that ain't much. But as the story unfolds, it becomes a truly endearing romantic story. While that may sound sappy to some, it is really not. It really delivers a unique perspective on just about everything. This is the right direction for Jim. Buddy, stay the course.

Studio: Universal Studios Ho
Director: Michel Gondry
Jim Carrey
Kate Winslet
Tom Wilkinson

DVD title: Blue Streak
Productgroup: DVD
Blue Streak - movie DVD cover picture
Great Movie!

Martin Lawrence at his best!If you love his other movie's like Bad Boys,Life,and Nothing to Lose,then you'll love this one.The plot is well thought out and the movie is not too hard to follow.I enjoyed this movie and so will you!

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Les Mayfield
Martin Lawrence

DVD title: Nang Nak
Productgroup: DVD
Nang Nak - movie DVD cover picture
A ghostly love tainted by fate.

"Nang Nak" (or "Ghost Wife") is set in the late 1860s and is based on a Thai legend of the supernatural. When war comes to Thailand, a young husband, Mak, leaves his newly pregnant wife and goes off to fulfill his duty as a soldier. A serious wound leaves Mak convalescing in Bangkok for many months, but eventually he becomes strong enough to return home. There he reunites with his devoted wife, Nak, and finally sees their infant son. However, it soon becomes evident that Nak's labor pains caused a singular transformation in her. The other villagers have come to fear Nak--and for good reason.
"Nang Nak" set box office records in Thailand when it was released in 1999. It even managed to outsell James Cameron's "Titanic" in that country, and it is easy to see why. Filmed among menacing rivers and lush jungles, "Nang Nak" is a visually stunning film grounded in a solid story line. From the beautiful shots of Thailand's flora and fauna to the chilling supernatural scenes (which occasionally have the slightest--and rather surprising--hint of Sam Raimi's distinctive cinematic style), director Nonzee Nimibutr immerses his audience in an enchanted world. If the film can be criticized for one thing, however, it may be said that the devotion paid to Image is too zealous. The actors chosen for the two lead roles sport close-trimmed modern hairstyles and ideal physiques, and this works against their credibility as village peasants. Also, some of the most evocative nature sequences in the film are edited too aggressively; hence these images are denied some of the power they might have achieved in the hands of, say, Werner Herzog or Terrence Malick. Even so, "Nang Nak" has plenty of power and poetry to spare.
(A cultural/historical note: The unusual and rather startling blackened teeth of the villagers in the film are due to the practice of chewing beechnuts. Notice that at a certain point in the film one of these nuts is placed in a corpse's mouth as it is prepared for burial.)

Studio: Kino International
Director: Nonzee Nimibutr
Intira Jaroenpura
Winai Kraibutr

DVD title: Show Boat
Productgroup: DVD
Show Boat - movie DVD cover picture

Don't let the SHOW BOAT leave without you! Come aboard for romance, comedy, heartbreak and tragedy.
Starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ava Gardner, SHOW BOAT comes alive with music, color and heart.
For lovely Magnolia Hawks (Kathryn Grayson) the Cotton Blossom is home, until dashing gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel) steals her heart. They leave for a whirlwind honeymoon, until many years later they re-discover the simple joys of life aboard the Cotton Blossom.
Julie Laverne (Ava Gardner), the half-caste singing darling of the Cotton Blossom, is driven to destruction while trying to pass herself off as a white citizen.
With Marge and Gower Champion, Agnes Moorehead, Joe E. Brown, Robert Sterling, William Warfield, and Lief Erikson.
Dazzling, heartfelt and very romantic.

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: George Sidney (II)
Kathryn Grayson
Ava Gardner

DVD title: Carl Davis - A Simple Man / Northern Ballet Theatre
Productgroup: DVD
Carl Davis - A Simple Man / Northern Ballet Theatre - movie DVD cover picture
A Charming and Moving Ballet

It is with great embarrassment that I admit I'd never heard of the subject of this narrative ballet, 'A Simple Man': the English painter L. S. Lowry. Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976) is claimed by some to be the best-known English painter of the 20th century. In his paintings he depicted the industrial landscapes of the Midlands, with backgrounds of chimneys and industrial buildings before which crowds of drably dressed figures move in a state of isolation. Color is subdued and the naive elements lead one to believe that Lowry was himself naive, but closer inspection shows the masterful composition and tonal combinations he used. He was a native of Salford, a suburb of Manchester, and this ballet was commissioned in 1987 by that city to commemorate the centenary of his birth. This DVD is of that 1987 performance. It brought together the talents of choreographer Gillian Lynne, who choreographed 'Cats' and 'Phantom of the Opera,' and composer Carl Davis, a New Yorker long resident in England, who is best known for his work in TV and films and as the co-composer of Paul McCartney's 'Requiem.'

Best of all this performance by the Northern Ballet Theatre brings back two long-retired stars of the Royal Ballet as the main soloists: Moira Shearer, best known for her luminous performance in the movie 'The Red Shoes,' and Christopher Gable, possibly the best-known male dancer at the Royal Ballet until his retirement. He was 47 when this ballet was filmed and he has since died of cancer. The music is performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under the composer.

The ballet is introduced by Albert Finney, himself a native of Salford. He gives us the basic facts of Lowry's life -- his devotion to his mother, with whom he lived until her death when he was 51, and his living alone, grief-stricken, for the rest of his life, working his day job as a rent-collector and painting at night in a small room in his home. The ballet relives this story against a background similar to Lowry's paintings. The corps de ballet are clothed as the people in his paintings.

This all sounds very grim, but indeed Lynne's choreography is quirky, angular and often comic. Shearer and Gable are simply stupendous in their roles. Shearer, still slim and with that crown of glorious red hair, acts and dances the Mother's fragility and imposing will with artistry. Gable is enormously effective in his role as Lowry; he is a consummate actor. Lynne's choreography and Gable's dancing of Lowry's grief are stunningly done. Davis's music, unfailing tonal and tuneful, is suitably lyrical, tender, dramatic or comic as the story dictates. Videography is crisp and unobtrusive.

I will admit that I'm not an aficionado of dance, and certainly not qualified as a dance critic, but I did love this ballet and its presentation. The opportunity to see Moira Shearer dance again -- she had retired from dancing to become an actress at age 27 -- was a delight.

Scott Morrison

Studio: BBC / Opus Arte
Moira Shearer
Christopher Gable
Gillian Lynne
Albert Finney
Northern Ballet Theatre
Carl Davis

DVD title: Circle of Friends
Productgroup: DVD
Circle of Friends - movie DVD cover picture
Absolutely enchanting

A film about friendship, first love, innocence and values. I absolutely love it. My favourite movie for years!

Studio: Hbo Studios
Director: Pat O'Connor
Chris O'Donnell
Minnie Driver

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

Know this going in: 'Ronin' enjoys the cliches of the genre. It revels in overturned fruit carts and unlikely plot devices. The cast is strong, with DeNiro and Reno filling out their roles perfectly. Frankenheimer directs the movie with skill, managing to make the action scenes both gritty and polished. But how is the DVD itself?
The image is crisp and clear; not quite the best I've seen, but certainly nothing to complain about.
The sound is truly standout, panning smoothly around the viewer. Gunfire is sharp, engines purr smoothly, and the dialogue is never drowned out.
Supplements include a director's commentary and an alternate ending. There are also some clips on the DVD that will be used for an online event on March 14, 1999. (You need Windows 95 or 98 for this) One strange omission: No trailer -- these are almost standard now and is a surprising gap in an otherwise excellent DVD.
All in all, a good addition to any action-fan's DVD collection and a mighty fine demo disc to boot.

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: John Frankenheimer
Robert De Niro
Jean Reno
Natascha McElhone

DVD title: Full Metal Jacket
Productgroup: DVD
Full Metal Jacket - movie DVD cover picture
Widescreen?? Are you crazy??

I would expect more from the official "Stanley Kubrick Collection" but since he's one of the most overated directors of all time I really shouldn't be disappointed.
No widescreen...shame shame. I suppose I should be grateful for the 5.1 audio, which is quite good actually, but have to deduct more points for NO extras whatsoever. Well, unless you call a trailer an extra then there is "one" extra.
BTW, there is [are] claims Kubrick "shot" this film in 4:3. [They] must have been from the same planet Stanley was from cause the theatrical release was in 1:85. DUH!

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Matthew Modine
Vincent D'Onofrio
R. Lee Ermey

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