Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: The Last Emperor - Director's Cut
Productgroup: DVD
The Last Emperor - Director's Cut - movie DVD cover picture

With 'The Last Emperor' Bernardo Bertolucci finally succeeded where he had failed with '1900'. In the previous film he tried too hard to document a period of Italian history through 2-dimensional characters placed in didactic situations. In this film he moved closer to the story of the central character and as a result we get a greater insight into the political upheavals of China at the time and how they effected those in power.
The story itself isn't entirely objective however as the Chinese government had final say over the script and made sure to correct any 'historical inaccuracies' they deemed damaging to China's image. Like most westerners I saw the individual fate of Pu Yi as essentially tragic, a once powerful if somewhat naive figure, brought to his knees by political machinations beyond his control. However, this is not how the story is seen in China or even by Bertolucci himself (who I believe is still a member of the Italian Communist Party). For them the emperor acts as a symbol of the collective and his re-education is seen as an act of redemption. The first step on his road to becoming a fully-fledged adult shorn of the childish priviliges and illusions he has lived with all his life. In one of the final scenes of the film, Pu Yi comes across his old prison governor being publicly humiliated by the youth of the Cultural Revolution. For the first time in his life he seems to empatise with the individual plight of a fellow human being and this spurs him to futile, yet ultimately redeeming action.

Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
John Lone
Joan Chen
Peter O'Toole

DVD title: Under Suspicion
Productgroup: DVD
Under Suspicion - movie DVD cover picture
Five Stars Are Not Enough

This is a superb thriller in every sense of the word. The suspense builds throughout and the ending is one of the best ever done. The story takes place in England in the 1950's-1960, when strict divorce laws required proof of adultery, which often was manufactured. Neeson is a cop who was forced out of the police department; we witness the reasdon why as the film begins. He establishes a new life as a seedy detective instrumental in photographing evidence for divorcing couples.

The acting is great, the plot terrific. Totally entertaining. Has the same sort of tension as "Body Heat" and until the end, one is never sure what really happened. Highly recommended.

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Simon Moore
Liam Neeson
Kenneth Cranham
Laura San Giacomo

DVD title: Once Upon a Time in the West
Productgroup: DVD
Once Upon a Time in the West - movie DVD cover picture
A Truly Great Film and Western

The opening ? hour title sequence is one of the best ever filmed. It sets the eerie mood for the entire film. The skill in which suspense is built using the the camera and ambient sound is astounding. It's almost too much at some points. The photography, including crane shots, combined with Ennio Morricone's excellent score also add greatly to this film, as with the earlier Clint Eastwood "Dollars" Trilogy. Leone's style just kept developing. There are significant differences between this film and the Dollars Trilogy. The Eastwood films are action based and have more humorous elements. Once Upon a Time In The West is deadly serious--there is no humor. But this film also has elements in common, such as the importance of the score and the way the story is conveyed with very little dialogue. The grand scope is reminiscent of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Much has been made of Eastwood being Leone's first choice for the Harmonica character. In retrospect, however, Bronson was the perfect choice. Its hard to imagine anybody playing this role better. For example, when he responds to being one horse short with "You brought two too many" he makes this character his own. Bronson's character is more brooding than Eastwood's more enigmatic character and has a deep grudge that motivates him throughout. This film needs a re-mastered DVD release.

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Sergio Leone
Henry Fonda
Charles Bronson

DVD title: Wolf's Rain - Leader of the Pack (Vol. 1)
Productgroup: DVD
Wolf's Rain - Leader of the Pack (Vol. 1) - movie DVD cover picture
There Is No Place Called Paradise

In a dark apocalyptic world where cities are domed or walled, the is little left except the struggle for existence. If this is difficult for humans, imagine how it would be for the wolves, their hunting grounds gone, they have come to the worn down cities where they have hidden for 200 years, masquerading as humans, shorn of much of their pride and strength. To one such place comes Kiba, driven on by his dream of Paradise, a place that only wolves can find, and only when the world begins to end.

His arrival seems to upset a delicate balance he scents the presence of Cheza, whom he calls a 'flower.' She has been unconscious for years, but Kiba, in his struggle with Tsume, the city's dominant wolf, somehow wakens her. She is whisked away by a noble, and in the ensuing uproar Kiba, Tsume, the selfish Hige, and young Toboe flee. The search for Paradise goes on, but the first stop is a city almost as dark as the one they fled. One where wolves pretend to be work dogs scrabbling for scraps of food.

On first sight this is a bishonen (pretty boy story) with Kiba and Tsume the classic antagonists. But as the other characters gather about them it becomes clear that, while having roots in this genre, the writers intended something more exceptional. The human forms, of course, are only illusions that cover their wolf bodies, several of the images are non-traditional, and the characteristic 'posing' is lacking from everyone except Tsume. This suits Tsume well, since he is the most concerned with his image, using it to mask his true nature.

To a degree the anime reminds me of Saiyuki, especially in its habit of genre busting. But Wolf's Rain has more continuity between its episodes. The characters are stronger, better developed, and the tone is much darker. The do share a level of artistic excellence which it hard to come by in anime, where writers often rely too much on stock situations, and artists pay less attention tp atmospheric effect than they should.

I was surprised how good this set of episodes was. Too often this series is billed as an ecological sermon and I dislike being preached at. But the disastrously ruined world is only part of the story, most of which manages to by an extremely believable story of the wolves and their legacy. Very much worth viewing.

Studio: Bandai Entertainment
Director: Tensai Okamura

DVD title: The Pledge
Productgroup: DVD
The Pledge - movie DVD cover picture
an unexpected pleasure ..

Aside from the beautiful cinematography, and thoughtful editing, and Nicholson's stunning acting .. most reviews here mention the way the story ends - with some reviewers expressing disappointment and dissatisfaction. I would have to disagree .. the ending is exactly what lifts this movie out of the *merely good* bracket, right into the *damn powerful* category.
I was expecting the formulaic denouement .. and half-resigned, I was waiting for the the usual Hollywood ending I could see approach a mile away already .. and then I was taken by surprise as the narrative made a really unexpected curve.
So I say hooray! for movies and story-telling that doesn't resort to formula, and that can still grip us right to the end and linger afterwards in our mind.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Sean Penn
Jack Nicholson
Benicio Del Toro

DVD title: Pale Rider
Productgroup: DVD
Pale Rider - movie DVD cover picture
"The Lord Certainly Does Works In Mysterious Ways"

A mysterious, unarmed stranger known only as "Preacher" (Clint Eastwood) rides into town on a pale horse and immediately rekindles the hopes and dreams of a group of poor, struggling panhandlers that have been fighting a losing battle against a wealthy strip mining family and their hired guns. While the odds suggest the stranger should give up and get out while he still can he decides otherwise. Once he removes his collar and straps on his sixshooter there's no turning back. A classic western, good guys versus bad guys all the way!

Let me begin by saying I'm not a Clint Eastwood fan. However with that said, I also have to say that this particular movie is the rare exception to the rule. Here Eastwood is at his best; tall, silent, deadly and remote. He plays the part of the anti-hero to perfection.

Also fine performances by Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress, Richard Dysart, Chris Penn and my personal favorite, the lovely Sydney Penny (Thorn Birds).

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
Michael Moriarty
Carrie Snodgress
Sydney Penny

DVD title: Memento (Limited Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Memento (Limited Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Best Movie Ever!

Memento is the best movie I have seen, with its incredible use of film to tell the story and a well written script to grab the viewer and hold them close. The Limited edition DVD has many incredible special features packed in, including a version of the movie that goes forwards. Just click on the clock, and answer "C" five times until you get ot the lady having to fix her tire. Arrange the sequence backwards, like Memento, and you've got it! Enjoy!

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

DVD title: It's a Wonderful Life
Productgroup: DVD
It's a Wonderful Life - movie DVD cover picture
Christmas the way it should be.

Decorate the tree, light a candle or three, sit down with the mulled wine and cuddle in with your better half for this one. How to realise that life is sometimes better than you realise.
James Stewart gives an unforgettable performance as the hometown boy who always planned, but never succeeded, to escape to Tahiti and the big world that was surely waiting for him. Instead he stayed in smallville, married his high school sweetheart, built up the family Savings and Loan, fought off the bully-boy tactics of the local mogul, and unknowingly secured himself a place in the hearts of most of his townfolk's hearts.
A warming, enchanting tale of how we sometimes lose track of how wonderful life can be, and often is.
Merry Christmas! And remember to ring a bell every so often - to give out those angels wings ....

Studio: Republic Studios
Director: Frank Capra
James Stewart
Donna Reed

DVD title: Time After Time
Productgroup: DVD
Time After Time - movie DVD cover picture
Nice story

It's my favorite movie about time. Beautifully done, and always interesting; you can never imagine what comes next. Most of all it's an old movie, which makes it good.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Malcolm McDowell
David Warner
Mary Steenburgen

DVD title: Body of Evidence
Productgroup: DVD
Body of Evidence - movie DVD cover picture
Quite sexy, suspensful, provocative!!!

I sincerely found this movie provocative, sexy, and quite entertaining. Madonna was more than acceptable and convincing in her role as a manipulating, calculating gold digging sultress. I find the problem so many have w/ her acting, is just her mere presence. Right from the first scene shes in, the director blatantly was trying not to show her face to keep the suspense cause you "knew" it was Madonna, but waits until a sudden close up of her face. Once you see its her, here mere presence seems to cause more of a distraction cause its "Madonna". Therefore, once she speaks her 1st line she probably loses credability from most viewers. But I thought the dialogue, plot, sex/ nude scenes were extremely hot, climatic and natural. Some say there was no chemistry between Madonna and Defoe, I totally disagree, they were blended VERY well together, and Madonna clearly "taught" him a thing or two ;). Madonnas high point in the movie was the court scene where she really display some amazing acting chops!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Uli Edel
Joe Mantegna
Anne Archer
Willem Dafoe

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