Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Brideshead Revisited
Productgroup: DVD
Brideshead Revisited - movie DVD cover picture
Quite possibly the finest production in the history of TV

One could easily make a case for BRIDESHEAD REVISITED being the finest single production in the history of television. Few if any series can boast the quality of acting, the locations, the script, musical score, and overall production of this remarkable miniseries. Its great length provides an opportunity for an in-depth exploration of its source material, so much so that virtually no aspect of the Evelyn Waugh's novel is left untouched. The novel is Waugh's most heartfelt though least typical. A contemporary described Dostoevsky as the meanest Christian he had ever met, and one could equally state that Waugh was one of the meanest Catholics. He was a devout Catholic, but in a way that was somewhat self-absorbed and prickly. While his other novels are largely nonsectarian and darkly comic, this one-which exists in an earlier version and also in the completely reconceptualized version-is rooted in his own deepest beliefs. Much to its credit, the series does not mute in the least the Catholic themes of the novel.

The series features several superlative performances, three of which at the time seemed to be star-making roles. In 1981 Jeremy Irons instantly became one of the most respected and celebrated actors of his generation through his appearance in THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN and as the central character of Charles Ryder in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. Except for one episode that largely focuses in flashback on the history of Julia Flyte, the entire series features Charles Ryder in virtually every scene, and even in scenes where Charles does not appear, his narration structures the narrative, so that the production as a whole succeeds or fails to the degree that Jeremy Irons's succeeds or fails. Luckily, he is spectacular, and one could legitimately insist that this could be the finest single performance in the history of television. Anthony Andrews steals many scenes as the doomed Sebastian Flyte, and when this series first appeared his future seemed to be possible as bright as Irons's. Inexplicably, he was never able to find movie roles that would allow him to build upon his many successes in television (not just in this series, but in UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS and DANGER UXB). Similarly, Diana Quick, who stands out as Julia, despite a successful career on stage, has not had film or television success following this series. Regardless of their subsequent careers, they jointly manage to elevate this production to the level of high art. The series is driven not merely by the central performers, however, but by a host of spectacular supporting actors. Laurence Olivier's name is prominently listed among all the performers, but I actually find him to be one of the less impressive performers in the production. John Gielgud steals absolutely every second he is onscreen, as Charles's spectacularly cold and sardonic father. My only complaint with the series (except for the Waugh's ending, of which more below) is that there wasn't more John Gielgud, but since they stuck very closely to the novel, this wouldn't have been possible without adding scenes that didn't exist in the novel. Claire Bloom is superb as Julia and Sebastian's mother Lady Marchmain. Phoebe Nichols and Simon Jones are delightful as the other members of the family, though the former is not quite the plain looking woman the narrative suggests. Jones is exquisite of the almost otherworldly future head of the clan. But if there is a star performance among the supporters in addition to Gielgud's, it is the relatively unknown Nickolas Grace as Anthony Blanche, who is transparently based in Waugh's novel on twenties aesthete and later notorious Soviet spy and noted art historian Anthony Blunt. Everyone one of Grace's scenes are a delight, and one experiences a twinge of regret as they end.

What flaws exist in the series exist in the novel. John Mortimer, who adapted the novel for the series and who is perhaps best known otherwise for his Rumpole of the Bailey, stays absolutely true to the novel at every point. He becomes an almost transparent medium for the translation of the novel into visual form. My principle complaint with the film and with the novel is the strange theological sentiments driving the plot. Waugh's own religious beliefs are rooted in that odd English Roman Catholicism that seems to delight in being intellectually counterintuitive and self-mortifying. The climax of the novel and the series comes with the death of Lord Marchmain, born Anglican but a convert to Catholicism at the time of his marriage to his wife, defiantly lapsed during his later years, but taking willingly the sacrament at the moment of his death. Julia and Charles, who have been engaged in a passionate and enormously healthy relationship, despite both having been married to others see Marchmain's reconciliation with the Church as a sign that they must sever their relationship. Most viewers and readers-even most Catholic viewers and readers-find this central plot contrivance to be both morally offensive and theologically reprehensible. The charge seems to be that God delights in the wrecking of a caring, loving relationship over some theological technicalities. I personally felt offended by Waugh's superimposing on God as set of demands that stem on any intelligible plane from the Church and not from God. I'm as unmoved by Waugh's assertions about God's will as I am by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell's. Why blame God for a set of very bad decisions? Most viewers will feel that Charles and Julia do not end up together because of abject stupidity. The series ends up feeling like a tragedy with God as the perpetuator. My own view is that in a real world situation, God would want them together and happy, instead of apart and terribly unhappy. Still, there is no denying that this theological complexity gives both the novel and the series a unique seriousness. And even if one does not agree with the decision that Julia and Charles make, there is no denying the power at the end when Charles's unexpectedly kneels in the Brideshead Chapel and prays.

Everything touching this production is magnificent. The location settings around the globe, the sets, the remarkable use of Castle Howard employed for all the Brideshead shots, the costume and art directions, are all as superb as one could hope. And special mention must be made of the music, with apparently a hundred variations on the main theme according to the scene at hand. The only negative I would add about the DVDs is that they are rather devoid of special features. My hope is that at some point they re-release this extraordinary series in a new edition with greatly expanded special features. Even if they do not, this remains one of the truly essential works ever produced for television and preserved on DVD.

Studio: Acorn Media
Jeremy Irons

DVD title: American Fighter Pilot
Productgroup: DVD
American Fighter Pilot - movie DVD cover picture
AF pilot watches reality show on AF pilot school

I'm about to be commissioned in the USAF and enter into undergraduate pilot training. This was a great source of motivation, and a great learning tool for spouses (or soon-to-be). I always dreamed about flying eagles, and these tapes realistically show what it takes when you get that opportunity.

Studio: Hannover House
Tony Scott

DVD title: Signs (Vista Series)
Productgroup: DVD
Signs (Vista Series) - movie DVD cover picture
A Masterpiece Of America Movies

Simply one of the best films of all time. I DOn't strees this one Bit. The ACting, The Double Meaning, The Directing, The Sound Effects and music, The Script all deserve Acanamy Awards. If You Get this, you wont be dissapointed-Dont listne to other People. Get THis Now!!! 10/5

Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Mel Gibson
Joaquin Phoenix

DVD title: Notting Hill (Collector's Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Notting Hill (Collector's Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Loved it on the silver screen and loving it on DVD

This is the best romanic comedy in 1999, in my opinion. It's a story about an actress (Anna Scott played by Julia Roberts) at the height of her career finding the ordinary man (William Thacker played by Hugh Grant) in Notting Hill (an actual place in the UK) and falling in love with him. The unlikely story of travel bookstore owner getting involved with a mega-star actress is a fantasy but then it's a movie... and their story is fun to watch. Their quirky romance struggles a bit while they try to find a common ground for the couple from opposite ends of the spectrum- and the movie tries to convey that even famous actresses have normal needs, too. Like love and the need to belong in the world. The secondary characters like Spike, Will's flatmate, Will's friends and sister just about steal the scenes. This movie is sweet, fun, poignant and a great happy ending. In the press conference scene at the end, when William and Anna stare at each other across the room, you can feel the love and hapiness. And the bench scene in the park is just about the sweetest ending. I've seen this movie several times and will see it many times more. ( Hey, even my guy friends liked it. )

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Roger Michell
Julia Roberts
Hugh Grant

DVD title: Chicago (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Chicago (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture

I love this film; it is so high-energy. The dances (and creative input of them into the film) are unlike most musicals that I have ever seen. Jones and Latifa steal the show, but Gere and Zellweger seem a little out of place to me (nothing that hurts the punch of the movie). What really impressed me, however, was the singing. I was very surprised that all the songs were not only catchy, but also "ear easy."
The DVD itself is a **** star item. Great extras! Better film!

Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
Director: Rob Marshall
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Renée Zellweger

DVD title: Saving Private Ryan
Productgroup: DVD
Saving Private Ryan - movie DVD cover picture
A great film

There were some things that could have made this movie much like the real WW2. Like teenaged soldiers who are strugling to stay alive. Or the commanders who are sending soldiers out to die, while they are safely far away from enemy lines. Or German, French, and British civilians who are being murdered by random bombing raids. Or civilians and soldiers starving to death. Or pacifists who are getting arrested or even killed for their religious beliefs. Or Russian soldiers who are raping and murdering East European and German civilians. Oh, I forgot. If those things were added in the movie, then the movie wouldn't make as much money.

Studio: Dreamworks Skg
Director: Steven Spielberg
Tom Hanks
Matt Damon

DVD title: Mr. Deeds (Full Screen Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Mr. Deeds (Full Screen Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Funny & Easy to Watch

When the billionaire Preston Blake dies in a climbing accident his good hearted nephew, Longfellow Deeds (Adam Sandler), inherits an enormous wealth. Longfellow owns the local pizzeria in a small village and he dreams of publishing one of his poems in a Hallmark card. He is also a righteous individual who helps those in need. When Longfellow moves to the big city of New York, the press begins to dig into his background and the unscrupulous reporter Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder) does anything she can to get a story. Mr. Deeds has some good actors in its cast such as John Turturro, Winona Ryder, and Steve Buscemi, however, the film does not deliver a solid story. The film seems to consist of a large number of small skits that is glued together through Longfellow's adventure that appears to be rather incoherent as the story unfolds. This is why the film receives such a low grade, but as a comic adventure it will provide many hilarious moments and belly aching laughs.

Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Director: Steven Brill
Adam Sandler
Winona Ryder

DVD title: By the Sea
Productgroup: DVD
By the Sea - movie DVD cover picture
A lovely story

I was surprised, and so touched, by this movie. What a delightful find! A friend recommended it, and they weren't wrong at all. The story is lovely, with a lot of heart. The actress who plays Elena is beautiful. And the locations! Wow. I want to visit there, wherever this is. The story gave me hope, and inspiration, and a desire to have my own magic happen by the sea!! Really, a must watch, good to cuddle up with a loved one.

Studio: Ventura Distribution
Director: Dean Barnes

DVD title: John Waters Collection #3: Pink Flamingos/ Female Trouble
Productgroup: DVD
John Waters Collection #3: Pink Flamingos/ Female Trouble - movie DVD cover picture
Now for a review by someone who has actually SEEN the dvd...

Still shocking after all these years, these are Waters' two best films. If you're afraid you might not like them, don't bother, they were never meant for YOU.
Horrifyingly funny, deliciously deviant, appallingly brilliant. You gotta see them to believe them. Humor of the darkest shade.
Some of us have been waiting for YEARS to own them. Getting both in one package, especially with Waters' commentary, is just like Christmas with cha-cha heels!

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: John Waters
David Lochary
Mary Vivian Pearce

DVD title: The Monster
Productgroup: DVD
The Monster - movie DVD cover picture
I can't ever recall anything funnier than this; it's a riot!

Picture the funniest comedians you know, all in one package and you get the monstrously hilarious Roberto Begnini. It just doesn't get funnier than this. This 1996 foreign movie is actually titled Il Mostro with surprisingly refreshing and extremely hilarious scenes that run continuosly throughout the entire movie. There isn't a dull moment. The film with English subtitles is very easy to read, try it. The problem lies here; you may laugh so hard throughout the entire movie, you will miss a lot, therefore, you need to see it twice.
Catch the Monster in the Act. Also in the movie, a policewoman, Jessica (Nicoletta Braschi, Begnini's real-life wife and frequent co-star) is sent to "catch him in the act" of utterly reprehensible behavior. Loris, always a moocher and thief, is about to lose his apartment and lets her sublet with him. She makes a futile attempt at finding him to be the "perverted monster" that the police believe he is. She how she suggestively attempts to seduce him. To watch Begnini's bewildered face is hysterical as he embarrasingly and innocently tries to ignore the sexual displays. Cigarette in the Pants. Some creative, situations emerge when, under surveillance, Loris is distracted by the backside of a beautiful shapely woman who bends over to pick something up; he accidently loses his cigarette in his baggy pants. It burns him, in the front - right you know where! He shakes it, pummels it, thrashes and beats it to ease the burning pain. Finally, he pours water on it, and after a great sigh of relief, has to twist and wring the soaking wet spot, (the private area of his pants.) Imagine the videotape that the surveillance camera picks up in its attempt to identify him a pervert.
Try this movie, there are so many creatively humorous scenes, it just doesn't stop. Also, for a great laugh, see Benigni as "Johnny Stecchnio". Excellent good unique humor. ....MZRIZZ

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Roberto Benigni
Michel Blanc
Nicoletta Braschi

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