Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Shakira - MTV Unplugged
Productgroup: DVD
Shakira - MTV Unplugged - movie DVD cover picture

Being someone who can understand NOT A WORD of what Shaikra says -- I still LOVE this music!! It's a wonderful showcase of her talents -- and the close capitioning helps with the translations! Nice format on DVD -- perfect sound quality. Not a trendy purchase -- enjoy this performance for years to come!

Studio: Sony Music Entertain
Director: Milton Lage

DVD title: Director's Series, Vol. 3 - The Work of Director Michel Gondry
Productgroup: DVD
Director's Series, Vol. 3 - The Work of Director Michel Gondry - movie DVD cover picture

Gondry established himself as one of the most innovative directors out there, and he has the body of work to prove it. This DVD had so many goodies, from short art films to artist interviews that I was blown away. Aspiring directors will get a look into his process and fans will be rewarded with plenty of videos and a shot of his girlfriend streaking!

Studio: Universal Music & VI

DVD title: Army of Darkness
Productgroup: DVD
Army of Darkness - movie DVD cover picture

Army was terrific. Cant wait for Sam Raimis career to faulter so a fourth can be made.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Sam Raimi
Bruce Campbell

DVD title: Castle in the Sky
Productgroup: DVD
Castle in the Sky - movie DVD cover picture
Lives up to very high expectations

Film Rating: 4.5 starsVideo Transfer: 3 starsJapanese Presentation (audio transfer & literal subtitle): 3 starsEnglish Presentation (audio transfer & dubbing): 2 starsSupplementary Features: 3 stars
Castle in the Sky is one of Miyazaki's first feature films, following Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds and The Castle of Cagliostro. It is certainly his most ambitious film to date, and would remain so until Princess Mononoke released 11 years later. It clocks in at meaty 125 minutes running time, which should be considered an "epic" for animated features.
While the story is occasionally preachy and predictable, it has all the ingredients of a great epic film. Amazingly imaginative set design (very detailed and original cities and gizmos), sumptuous color and framing, beautiful and haunting music score (easily one of composer Jo Hisaishi's best efforts), great action and drama, and Miyazaki's signature well developed characters. If you like any Hiyazaki's films, you owe yourself to sit down and watch this film. Then again, all of Miyazaki films are a must see!
Disney has done a good job with this DVD, with superior video presentation than the Japanese DVD. The Japanese soundtrack (in Dolby Digital 2.0 Pro-Logic) is clean and free of distortions.
The English dubbed soundtrack, which triggers the English credit and title sequences via DVD's multi-angle feature, features newly re-scored soundtrack by Jo Hisaishi. It is remixed to 5.1-channel Dolby Digital, with good deal of bass and more aggressive use of surround channels. While it is useful for watching the film with younger audience, it is ultimately inferior to the Japanese presentation. For the most part, voice acting is pretty decent -- done by many famous actors instead of professional voice actors (e.g., Mark Hamill, Mandy Patinkin, Anna Paquin). But it is not faithful to the original script. If you are a fan, stick with the Japanese soundtrack.
Included supplements are Japanese trailer and teasers for the film, introduction by Toy Story director John Lasseter, dubbing session behind-the-scene featurette, and best of all, entire storyboard presented on the second DVD with soundtrack.

Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

DVD title: Merci Docteur Rey
Productgroup: DVD
Merci Docteur Rey - movie DVD cover picture
Merci Messieurs Merchant and Ivory...

I saw "Merci Docteur Rey" at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and it blew me away. My stomache ached from laughing so hard. If it's not a cult classic yet, I predict it will become one.

The movie follows Elizabeth Beaumont, an aging and overbearing American Opera diva who moves to Paris to reunite with her estranged son Thomas. Elizabeth has a flair for wearing garish caftans and floating around her house warbling out her sons name. Thomas is just coming to terms with his own burgeoning homosexuality, and develops a taste for personal ads and phone sex. In his efforts to see a psychiatrist (The Dr. Rey of the title), instead he meets the neurotic and definitely insane Penelope, who does the French language dubbing for Vanessa Redgrave films, and has now begun to think she IS Vanessa Redgrave. Of course, mistaken identities and plot twists ensue, and all of the crazy characters entangle and intertwine.

The two powerhouses of the film are Dianne Wiest and Jane Birkin, who each manage to steal the scene every time they walk on screen. When you see them both together towards the end of the film, it feels like your head might explode from too much funny. The role of attention-whoring older diva is certainly new to Dianne Wiest, who previously always seemed to play nice mom types, and she rises beautifully to the occasion. Jane Birkin is absolutely fabulous as Penelope, and her obsession with Vanessa Redgrave is such a brilliant metatheatrical gag (The beauty is that since this is a Merchant Ivory produced film, Vanessa Redgrave has a cameo that delivers the final punchline the audience craves).

If you are expecting typical Merchant ivory fare, this is pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum. But anyone who likes, well, laughing, happiness, or just general entertainment will not be disappointed. The humor is sort of in the vain of Absolutely Fabulous. Over-the-top women who create general mayhem around them, and even though they are completely reprehensible people, you can't help but love them. "Merci Docteur Rey" is definitely a go.

Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Andrew Litvack

DVD title: The Hours (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Hours (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Brilliant and timely

Rare is the film in which you've heard of almost everyone in it. Like Gosford Park --similarly robbed with a single Oscar in 2001's competition--this film assembles the talent needed to bring a difficult script to life.
Weaving three stories together is a deft feat, accomplished here by connecting the stories with the ties that bind them. These include the party each of the three main characters plans to host on the day in which the film takes place, the same-sex kiss each shares before the day is out, and Mrs. Dalloway , the Virginia Woolf novel that one character is writing, one is reading, and one is living. Also instrumental in keeping the flow of the movie going is a superb score by minimalist Philip Glass.
It's the acting that really shines, though. Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep earn our empathy in every scene, radiating their feelings above and beyond the carefully crafted script. Kidman's scowling Woolf, battling husband Stephen Dillane for the right to control her own troubled existence, is as believable a tortured genius as can be imagined, outshining even Russell Crowe's portrayal of John Nash. Moore's '50s housewife hides the pain of her discontent from her husband--an excellent John C. Reilly--but not from us. Streep's face telegraphs her joy at buying the flowers for her party and her guilty dismay when Ed Harris scolds her for living to throw it.
Still, why should you watch a movie about three women in the throes of crisis? Because the film conveys at least two messages of profound importance. The first is that happiness is not to be taken for granted. As Streep lies on her bed, talking to daughter Claire Danes, she recalls the day, long ago, when she awoke at dawn from a night spent with Harris, before both embarked on lives with same-sex partners. She felt such possibility, such joy--the beginning, she thought, of happiness. But that was happiness, she now knows. She should have known it then. She should have understood it sooner. She's been trapped in that moment ever since, looking down a road never taken, rueing the brambles that have long since overgrown it. She should have been living the life she's got.
The second message is that things are getting better. The three stories carry across four generations. In the first, Virginia Woolf kisses her sister in desperation at her situation. Miranda Richardson's reaction is a fit of hysterics, and she flees to London. In the second, Moore's housewife kisses neighbor Toni Collette to comfort her about an impending medical procedure that threatens her womanhood. Collette partakes, then pretends it didn't happen. In the third, Streep kisses lover-of-ten-years Allison Janney passionately, seeming to acknowledge in a moment Janney's years of living in the shadows of a memory and renewing a relationship that seemed troubled as the film opened. Danes gives a hug filled with forgiveness whose significance, in my opinion, outweighs all three kisses, showing that the next iteration of the story can contain not only a modicum of happiness but also forgiveness for those who suffered through the stories of the past and couldn't quite cope.
The Hours begins and ends with a suicide, with another in the middle for good measure. Yet it affirms the value of life, of moving on, of progress, of the notion that tomorrow will be better. It is a movie of depth and ideas. If you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out on one of the decade's most profound cinematic achievements.

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Stephen Daldry
Nicole Kidman
Julianne Moore
Meryl Streep

DVD title: Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th
Productgroup: DVD
Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th - movie DVD cover picture
Made before Scary Movie

This movie was made BEFORE Scary Movie, so everybody who claims it's just a rip-off of that doesn't know what they're talking about. Scary Movie just happened to get released first.

It's a great movie worth watching. There are heaps & heaps of jokes all the way through and it is quite original.

If you're a fan of parodies, then this is definately worth a go.


Studio: Vidmark/Trimark
Director: John Blanchard

DVD title: Bridget Jones's Diary
Productgroup: DVD
Bridget Jones's Diary - movie DVD cover picture
hilarious screen version of Fielding's book

BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY was one of the top-grossing films of 2001, thanks to a hilarious script by Helen Fielding, Richard Curtis and Andrew Davies, and a superb cast headed by Renee Zellweger.
Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) is your average 32-year-old single girl who smokes too much, drinks too much and can't seem to land Mr Right. An affair with her cocky, self-obsessed boss (Hugh Grant - NOTTING HILL) ends up in tears, while a childhood friend, Darcy (Colin Firth - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) just rubs Bridget up the wrong way.
When her parents (Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones) unexpectedly break up, Bridget is left questioning the longevity of relationships and commitment in the long run.
Everything - from ciggies to snogs - is recorded in her faithful diary, a record of her life and her dreams.
A fantastic, hilarious film that only improves on repeated viewings.
The DVD includes director's commentary by Sharon Maguire, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage/interviews, actual segments from Fielding's original 'diary' entries and music videos for "Killin' Kind" (Shelby Lynne) and "Out Of Reach" (Gabrielle).

Studio: Miramax
Director: Sharon Maguire
Renée Zellweger
Colin Firth

DVD title: TCM Archives - The Garbo Silents: The Temptress / Flesh and the Devil / The Mysterious Lady
Productgroup: DVD
TCM Archives - The Garbo Silents: The Temptress / Flesh and the Devil / The Mysterious Lady - movie DVD cover picture
Another excellent set from TCM Archives!

I had been waiting for some of the late silent era's best films to be released on DVD, in particular those with Greta Garbo, and while hoping that there would be more, I'm still very pleased with the 3 Garbo films in this set. The picture quality of "The Mysterious Lady" is not much better than my old VHS, but apart from this, I'm very pleased with the overall quality on these discs, particularly the wonderful musical scores for each one, some unusual and inventive photo montages and other special features. Anyone interested in music would probably also find the half-hour documentary "Settling the Score" an unexpected and rewarding highlight, as I did. It depicts the TCM Young Film Composers Competition, some work from each entrant and how the final score for "The Temptress" was done. It helped me get a lot more insight into this challenging and fascinating work, and it left me with a much deeper appreciation and respect for good silent film scores.

No doubt everyone has one or more Garbo favourites, and perhaps TCM had trouble deciding which ones to include in this set. For some powerful emotional drama, "Flesh and the Devil" is probably one of the best and a good choice, especially as it features the two biggest stars of the time who were drawing large audiences: Garbo and John Gilbert. For a love story with espionage and suspense, it doesn't get much better than "The Mysterious Lady", and finally, "The Temptress" shows an interesting angle on Garbo's character. Her sensuous and alluring beauty brings men's lives to ruin, but she is unaware of any wrong-doing on her own part; and in fact, when she does see what problems she has unintentionally caused, she ends up a pathetic alcoholic on the streets of Paris, making one last sacrifice out of love. This story intrigued me the most, in fact, as it has some depth and an angle that might not be so obvious at first. There is also an alternative happy ending which was shown to other audiences; also an interesting point to consider. Each film on these discs has an optional commentary by 3 different experts, covering all kinds of background information, some gossip and other insights to give a more in-depth and complete picture of Garbo and these three particular films. No doubt there's something for everyone here, both for silent and general film or Garbo fans alike.

Studio: Warner Home Video

DVD title: Gloria Estefan: Don't Stop!
Productgroup: DVD
Gloria Estefan: Don't Stop! - movie DVD cover picture
The best music DVD I own...but

The new material on this DVD is the highest quality music video I've seen. If you like club music (with a latin edge) you will love this DVD! Not a doubt. However, I own the Gloria Estefan Evolution Tour live in Miami, Diva's Live (where I only pay attention to Gloria and Mariah), and I have the Gloria! cd as well...The Don't Stop DVD contains materials from each of these previous DVDs, which is great if you don't own them, but disappointing if you do own them.

Studio: Sony/Columbia

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