Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition Series)
Productgroup: DVD
The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition Series) - movie DVD cover picture
Psychological Thriller

Each actor/actress in this film had a brilliant performance. The dialogue and flow of the movie made this suspenseful film an instant classic. This psychological thriller lives up to the hype it received and it does not disappoint.
Throughout the movie - you are a washed with clues as to the future happenings of the story. Many people don't pick up on the clues until the end of the movie. Even knowing that the clues are being shown to you - most people cannot figure out the ending. I've watched this film several times and each time, I see something new.
I recommend buying this film.

Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Bruce Willis
Haley Joel Osment

DVD title: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Productgroup: DVD
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome - movie DVD cover picture
We Don't Need Another Hero! Max'll Do Just Fine!

The exciting conclusion to the popular Mad Max Trilogy finds our hero still alone, still wandering, and losing his possessions to an airplane thief (played by Bruce Spence, who played the Gyro Captain in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, but these are two totally different characters). To find some justice, Max enters Bartertown, a growing civilization of wanderers and rogues and makes a deal with Aunty Entity, played beautifully by rock sensation, Tina Turner. She wants him to kill Blaster, who's part of the duo, Master Blaster. Master is a little person and the one with the brains. Blaster is the muscle to back him up. By having Blaster killed, Aunty will gain total control over Bartertown and Max is the key. The duel takes place in Thunderdome, a place where "two men enter, one man leaves" and is one of the most exciting scenes in the whole movie, with Max fighting Blaster in this oval shaped cage with weapons placed in various positions. Needless to say, Max doesn't make out the way he'd hoped and is subject to exile in the nearby desert where he is rescued by a tribe of children who think he's their long lost Captain Walker, back to take them all home. Soon he sets them straight, but a few resist and set out to find civilization, with Max forced to go after them. They end up back in Bartertown where they decide to free Master, who is now a slave to Aunty Entity, and break out on a train while being pursued in what is one wild climax to the story. People will note that the violence tends to get cartoony, whereas in Mad Max 2 it was straightforward violence. My thinking is that in part 2 there was little to no humanity left in society. In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, humanity has found its way back into peoples lives, including Max himself. He finds himself caring for these children who saved his life, something he hasen't been able to do since the death of his own little boy who was killed by a biker gang in the original Mad Max movie. This is the reason for the more cartoonish violence and why this film received a "PG-13" rating instead of an "R" rating like the first two films in the trilogy. Although clearly not for everyone, especially thoughs who wanted another Max film more like "The Road Warrior", Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is a strong ending to one of cinemas greatest heroes and trilogies. And Warner Brothers did a tremendous job remastering the sound and picture quality. Perhaps if a special editon DVD comes out they will include a commentary with the cast and crew and maybe also include the Music Video to "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" performed by Tina Turner. Who knows, maybe even a box set will be released of all three films together. Until then, We Don't Need Another Hero! Max'll Do Just Fine!

Studio: Warner Studios
Mel Gibson
Tina Turner

DVD title: Etta James and the Roots Band - Burning Down the House
Productgroup: DVD
Etta James and the Roots Band - Burning Down the House - movie DVD cover picture
This set is scorching all the way!

Etta James has expanded her boundaries during the last several years, incorporating more sophisticated and lavish productions, particularly with her jazz and gospel recordings. Despite the forays into other musical genres (where she is imminently competent)her rockin' blues songs on this live set are incredibly soulful and arguably represent the peak of her achievements since her Chess and Cadet days in the '60s. Do yourself a favor and get this set on dvd or cd, and also get her blistering set from 1963, "Etta James Rocks the House". Then you'll have 2 remarkable shows bookending 40 years of the ongoing career of the real Queen of Soul.

Studio: Red Distribution, In
Etta James

DVD title: Word Wars - Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Game Circuit
Productgroup: DVD
Word Wars - Tiles and Tribulations on the Scrabble Game Circuit - movie DVD cover picture
Move aside, Boggle-playing Chicken!

This documentary sheds light on four men who prepare to play in the National Scrabble Championship. Upon first impression, these guys may seem like nerds or idiots savants. One is employed; one is underemployed; and two have no jobs whatsoever. The work begs the question of how do they pay for food and shelter, Scrabble issues aside. One interviewee says participants have to pay for transportation and lodging to the Championship. Well, how were they able to do that? The first prize is $25,000. First off, that's less than the average American man earns in a year. Second, Uncle Sam is going to take a good chunk of that in taxes. So why be obsessed over something so trivial?

Original bad impressions aside, these men are mostly admirable and no different from many others. Like most males, they love competition, hanging with their boys, being obsessive over their leisure activities, and placing bets. These guys are no different from professional and student athletes who train 24-7 for very little compensation.

The most intriguing interviewee here is Marlon, the African-American gentleman. He looks like mumZ, the man who played Poet in the "Oz" series. But his actions reminded me of the Black character in "Chasing Amy." Marlon calls himself "a pre-Mecca Malcolm [X]." However, Malcolm at that time was a separatist; though Marlon speaks of Black empowerment and combating Eurocentricity, he hangs with all the white players here without any hesitations. Is he just all talk? Professional movie critics have registered their shock about his foul language and drugs-taking, but what stood out to me was his patronage of the "oldest profession." Like a positive brother, he coaches young, Black students in Scrabble. With his gift for words, I would love to have seen him get an early education degree and go teach at the type of school where he merely volunteers. I think I'm going to be digesting this Marlon guy, both simple and profound, for the next few weeks.

This documentary is a tribute to men who have a love of words. Both interviewees and the directors produce anagrams all over the place. I was proud to note that I knew the definitions or etymologies of approximately half of the words that the players spelled. To be honest, some of the spelled words were proper nouns and I thought those could not be used under official Scrabble rules. Still, I found it disturbing that players learned how to spell words but gave no thought, in fact avoided, learning their meanings.

Some critics have dismissed this documentary as "Spellbound for Grown Men." I enjoyed this documentary more than the former one. Whereas I felt pain for those child contestants, I was indifferent to these men because they have their full faculties and can make their own decisions. The winners and losers here will surprise you. I guess the meek will inherit the Earth.

I do recommend that every adult see this fine work.

Studio: Anchor Bay Entertain

DVD title: Blow (Infinifilm Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Blow (Infinifilm Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Blow Rocks

OK, so Blow doesn't support a huge all star cast, or an ambitious multi-angled plot, but to be quite frank, I thought most of Traffic was a load of pretentious, preachy Hollywood smarm. With the exception of Benicio Del Toro scenes (which were fantastic and well deserving of an Oscar), the movie had all the personality and believability of "As the World Turns."
Blow is much less ambitious in it's scope and cast, but what it lacks in sophistication, it more than makes up for in it's charm and honesty. That's not to say that facts weren't changed for whatever reason, but the protagonist isn't made out to be some herculean character. He's just a normal, likeable guy who made lots of tragic mistakes in life that lead to a path of self destruction. The movie doesn't preach or try to be all things to all people. It is what it is, and the people act like, well... people. What they do they do for their own reasons, not to further the plot. That's what makes the movie great, it's about people being people and all the stupid, unpredictable things they do.
Oh, it's also about drugs, how could we forget. But the whole drug aspect seems very secondary to the human aspect. There are no grandiose speeches abut the War of Drugs and how we should spend more money on treatment than prevention or anything even close to that, but it also doesn't portray drugs in a glamorous or friendly way. Drugs can never be human, and this movie portrays them as neither evil, misguided or liberating. They are what they are: just another inanimate substance with a disproportionate social significance.
Kudos as usual to Johnny Depp. After seeing the interviews with Jung in prison, it was almost creepy to see Depp mimic him. Depp does his best work when portraying real people like Hunter S. Thompson, Donnie Brasco, Ed Wood and the like. Depp goes so far as to adopt every subtle little nuance of a person making his performance completely believable. It was impossible for me not to sympathise with Jung, regardless of his selfish behavior. The DVD boasts some great special features that I have only begun to explore. Chief among these is the aforementioned prison interviews. There is also a host of deleted scenes and a commentary with both the director and Jung. Good Stuff.

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: Ted Demme
Johnny Depp
Penélope Cruz

DVD title: Ronin
Productgroup: DVD
Ronin - movie DVD cover picture
Classic film-making and Awesome Film

This movie brings back the old ways of making action films and I hope that more films are made this way now. There is no need for the Jerry Bruckhiemer still editing or blaring guitars in the score to make this movie exciting.
The director of this very good action film certainly did redeem himself after the disastrous ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU. There is a lot to this film that places it separate from other action movies. It doesn't place an emphasis on pointless plot details (like what is in the briefcase) because it doesn't have to. But every glance, every mannerism and movement of the characters is masterfully rehearsed that you don't even see the actors.
I've never seen a film that ever did that kind of thing before and it was quite refreshing. This is truly a traditional action film from the old school of movie making and a totally amazing one too.
The car chase thru Paris is pant-wettingly good. I'm telling you this thing is white-knuckle and breath-taking. If there was ever a movie that deserved best car chase ever then this is it. Gone In 60 Seconds is nothing compared to this.
Frankenheimer gives and insightful and informative commentary and it's one of the best I have heard. There is also an alternate ending that was cut for being too depressing. But no trailer, strangely.
This is a truly grand, masterful piece of film making and you MUST own it. No doubt. The DVD is in Dolby 5.1 and is anamorphically enhanced at 2.35:1.

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

DVD title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Complete Second Season
Productgroup: DVD
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Complete Second Season - movie DVD cover picture
Buffy is one of the best shows on TV!

I'm a late Buffy bloomer: I just started watching it last year. I read critics' praises of the show and about its cult following but at the time I thought, "Why are they ranting and raving about 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'?" When I finally watched it, I was quite impressed with how witty, sly and suspenseful it was all at the same time without contradicting itself. The characters are quite aware of the absurdity of some of the situations they get into and play it off with a somewhat campy nature. It is completely different than Buffy the movie and that movie is the furthest thing from your mind while viewing the show.
This dvd is perfect for the Buffy fan from the early days, late bloomers like myself as well as those skeptics who have yet to be converted -- and hooked!

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Joss Whedon
Seth Green
Charisma Carpenter
Sarah Michelle Gellar
David Boreanaz

DVD title: Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume One (1934 - 1941)
Productgroup: DVD
Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume One (1934 - 1941) - movie DVD cover picture
I love Donald.

Not too long ago one of my friends asked me "Why Donald?" He was referring to a period in the studio's history (never more prevalant than in the wartime films, available on another DVD) when Donald Duck was the big star. Why, asked my friend, was Donald Duck so wildly popular. More to the point, why did they decide that he would be the ideal star of morale-boosting, patriotism-inspiring war films? The answer is simple: Mickey Mouse is an idealist. He's how people SHOULD be. If the world were more like Mickey, it'd be a happier place. But, despite their overall "When You Wish Upon a Star" attitude (which seems to have died with Walt. Boo, Eisner!) the animators knew that things were not perfect and that the majority of Americans were like Donald Duck. You make fun of his temper-tantrums, but how many times in your life have you blown a fuse over something seemingly unimportant? We are all of us a little bit of Donald Duck...after all, who hasn't felt, at least once in their life, that no one understands us?
That's kind of a nice thought, isn't it?

Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Director: Jack King

DVD title: Midsomer Murders - Set 5
Productgroup: DVD
Midsomer Murders - Set 5 - movie DVD cover picture
This set is number one.....

As we watched the episodes in Set Five, I said to my husband, "Doesn't Barnaby look younger?" Sure enough this set of films was made arond 1996-7 and therefore predates some of the earlier sets released by Acorn Media. This is not a problem, but I am concious of Barnaby's entire family appearing much younger, and Sgt Troy so new to the force he is still pointing out the obvious to Barnaby, and failing to notice some things he should. Barnaby's daughter is back in school and trying to decide whether to change her school major to acting. (Often her acting provides a clue toward solving a murder.) Everyone has longer hair and is thinner.

The second episode (of five) is my favorite so far. (These episodes are so good I am not going to rush through them just so I can tell you about them.) At one point, Barnaby's daughter brings home a Russian kitty she has named 'Killmouski' who soon takes over Barnaby's bed, chair and everything else--if you live with a cat you can imagine the interaction.

The plots in these episodes are the best in the series and I have watched all the films in the other sets. These early stories seem more like the early Morse episodes in complexity, and like them must have been based on real books, not relatively underdeveloped screen plays. The characters are well developed. Each of the mysteries in the MidSomers series is set in a different mythical village in Southern England and constitute what Diana Rigg calls "cozy" mysteries that could be updates of the Marple novels (the plots are different).

Morse fans will recognize JoAnna David, as well as several other supporting actors, and 'Rebbecca' fans will recognize Anna Massey. Jonathan Firth (who has many facial tics similar to those of Colin Firth--are they related?) appears in an episode involving a shocking discovery by an older retired teacher (who ends up dead). One of the great delights of these stories is the acting which is always absolutely fabulous.

Studio: Acorn Media Publishi
John Nettles

DVD title: The Secret Garden
Productgroup: DVD
The Secret Garden - movie DVD cover picture
A Fantastic Film For ALL!

'The Secret Garden' is one of my favourite films ever. It is a superb film experiance for any person, and a superlative example of film production in every area. The adaptation, the script, the acting, the directing, the score, and the production are exemplary.
The DVD offers no extra features over the VHS version except the obvious technical quality, yet the standard of the film is such that it demands a copy in the DVD format, if only from a pride of ownership perspective. I already owned a copy on VHS when the DVD version was released, and didn't hesitate on buying it again on DVD for posterity.
Don't ever rent this film: BUY IT. It will become a joy to watch over and over again, each time bringing a new level of understanding, and returning ever more to the viewer.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Kate Maberly
Maggie Smith

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