Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Gladiator
Productgroup: DVD
Gladiator - movie DVD cover picture
Riveting! A movie you think about for days after you see it

GLADIATOR is absolutely riveting, capturing your attention immediately! This DVD has earned a spot on my shelf to stay.
First off, the recreation of battles, Roman army camps, and ancient Rome are abolutely amazing! Stunning! Extremely well directed too.
Secondly, if you are squeemish, the bloody battle scenes will bother you -- but the story is good enough that you still may want to see it anyway, even if you have to cover your eyes at times! The violence is not gratuituous in nature -- it illustrates the barbaric nature of things back in that century and is actually an important part of the story as a whole.
Maximus, the main character, is a person with high moral standards who ends up being kidnapped and sold as a slave ... eventually he ends up a gladiator. I don't want to give away any more of the story, there are surprising details. Let's just say that you root for Maximus through the film. I'll also say one thing, I watched parts of it with tears streaming down my face. This film will touch you to the core and you will think about it for days!

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Ridley Scott
Russell Crowe
Joaquin Phoenix
Connie Nielsen

DVD title: Gattaca
Productgroup: DVD
Gattaca - movie DVD cover picture
One of the best and most UNDERRATED movies ever

during a free preview of HBO, I popped in a blank tape and recorded 3 random movies.--Gattaca being one of them. Ever since that tape, I have never viewed a film the same again. I have seen this moive at least 8 times, and honest to god, everytime I see it, new things come out to me. Do NOT see this as a sci film film. It is classified as that, but it is much more art work than anything else. There is beautiful lush imagery and symbolism througout the movie. The music by Nyman gorgeouly blends in with the themeatics and such. Simply put, this movie is incredibly deep and poignant, and will leave you shaken in drama. I would give this 10 stars if I could--it is honestly that good.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Andrew Niccol
Ethan Hawke
Uma Thurman
Jude Law

DVD title: C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete Fourth Season
Productgroup: DVD
C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete Fourth Season - movie DVD cover picture
Who thinks this stuff up?

I didn't believe the first few seasons could be improved upon but the fourth is equally good, with even more wild and interesting plot twists. The creative juices that flow from the writers is something I'd like to see bottled. How do they manage, week after week, to present fine acting, fine plots, fine characters and fine editing and sound? And Petersen and Co. are not exactly hard to look at, either. It's a joy to sit down to watch these episodes.

However, I suggest resisting the temptation to watch several at once for fear of running out and getting withdrawal symptoms. We are down to our last few episodes and will mourn the day we watch the last one -- at least until the 5th season comes out on DVD.

Studio: Paramount Home Video
William Petersen

DVD title: MacArthur Park
Productgroup: DVD
MacArthur Park - movie DVD cover picture
MACARTHUR PARK: The Best Film of 2001 noone saw!

I saw this at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival for my birthday. It was there along with Grand Prize winner "The Believer" (the first film I saw), "Scotland, PA" and "Julie Johnson" (a still to be released small masterpiece with Lili Taylor and Courtney Love - yes, that courtney love - in a tale of self-discovery, redirection and newly born lesbianism).
But Billy Wirth's "MacArthur Park" has an amazing ensemble led by underrated and underused Thomas Jefferson Byrd (good cineasts will recognize him from several Spike Lee joints, such as "Clockers", "Get on the Bus", "He Got Game" and his best role yet, prior to this film, in the overlooked and oft-misunderstood "Bamboozled").
It also has ex SNL alum Ellen Cleghorn (of WB sitcom fame), Lori Petty, Balthazar Getty (from Lynch's "Lost Highway"), and others.
The story is a disturbing but documentary like account of 48 hours in the life of homeless drug addicts and dealers and the people who float in and out of their orbit in LA's MacArthur Park.
It's an exhilirating, powerful and astonishing directorial debut that began as a documentary and took on actors to dramatize director-writer-actor Wirth's notes, fleshing out reality into a more palatable format (if you like your harsh truths and gritty reality in glossy, well-made fiction form).
Either way you take it, "MacArthur Park" is a diamond in the rough, an overlooked gem which is NOT TO BE MISSED!!!

Studio: Sundance Channel Home Entertainment
Director: Billy Wirth

DVD title: Swing Kids
Productgroup: DVD
Swing Kids - movie DVD cover picture

I teach 11th grade and when we reach WWII I have been looking for a movie which is good enough for the kids to see that doesn't just show blood and guts. Many of the kids can't fathom why an entire nation would just follow a man bent on the destruction of another race. This movie gives them a new viewpoint, a kid's viewpoint, that they can relate to. They can understand that not everyone wanted to go along, not everyone agreed but few were capable of standing up and sticking to their beliefs. The brainwashing techniques, the pressure from peers, family and fear made it easier for Hitler to gain and maintain control of Germany. I begin WWII with a brief explanation of the conditions existing in Europe when Hitler rose to power and then show this movie. My students always enjoy the movie and come away from viewing it with a better understanding of how Hitler got into power. I highly recommend this film for teaching and/or just enjoying.

Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Director: Thomas Carter (II)
Robert Sean Leonard
Christian Bale

DVD title: Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer
Productgroup: DVD
Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer - movie DVD cover picture

I love this movie! It is for anybody and all age's. I am 25 and grew up on rainbow brite,strawberry shortcake and the other 80's I have now just found this wounderful movie at and ordered it right away for my kids and they love it even my son buy your's today you will be a fool not to! It is very hard to find!!!! Plus if your looking for 80's video's has alot or offer people that do on there z shops. What would we do without !!!! THANK YOU !!!! you've made alot of people happy!!!!

Studio: Warner Home Video

DVD title: Halloween - Resurrection
Productgroup: DVD
Halloween - Resurrection - movie DVD cover picture
Soooo much better than I expected!

I was bored one night so me and my friend saw this. I thought it would blow, considering the flop of Jason X, and its like the millionth episode. But it kept you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Some gorry deaths, a necessary sex scene, and lots of suspense. It didn't eplain enough how Jaimie Lee killed the wrong person, but it was cool. Everyone in the theatre was either screaming(girls) or cheering(guys), especially when that blonde chick was smoking a bong, lol. The only thing that bugged me is that she died in the first twenty minutes. but considering Michael has survived a bunch of deaths, she can too. But if they make another one and Jaime isn't in it, then I won't waste my money cuz it will definitley suck.

Studio: Buena Vista Home Vid
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Jamie Lee Curtis
Busta Rhymes

DVD title: X-Men
Productgroup: DVD
X-Men - movie DVD cover picture
X Marks The Spot!

This is by far the best comic - movie adaptation I have ever seen. The direction was excellent. The introduction of the characters is well set up. Wolverine is the main character and he and Rogue are our entry vehicles into this story. The principles and rules of this world set up by almost 40 years of comics are well abided by. The little triangle between Wolverine, Jean Grey and Cyclops is integrated into the story. Complete with the tension between Logan and Scott Summers. Hugh Jackman even threw in Wolverines trademark Bub, and his sarcastic commenting. The only thing that bothered me was Mystique being able to hold her own against Wolverine, he would pummel her. The only person who could seriously challenge Wolverine is Sabretooth. If you are unfamiliar with the comic universe, do not be dissuaded. This film is for everyone. From comic fans to those who have never heard of an X - Man, there is something in this for you. This film had great sound and effects. The cast was perfect. One of the most important parts of a movie, the story, is excellent also. This is worth seeing more than once on the big screen and is also one to preorder as soon as it is available.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Director: Bryan Singer
Hugh Jackman
Patrick Stewart
Ian McKellen

DVD title: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Productgroup: DVD
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - movie DVD cover picture
Galvanizing adaptation of the semenal Gonzo classic

That "Fear & Loathing..." the film is more frequently panned than praised says more for it's galvanizing attitudes than for the quality of the work. A collection of two articles written about the death of the American Dream (NOT the assignments he was given, natch), the book "Fear and Loathing..." imploded the myth of middle class grandeur while, on the surface, offering no alternative other than constant drug addled frenzy; it was and still is easy for the puritanical mindset to see this more as a rationalizing of the drug culture than a dissection of American bourgeois mentality. But that's their loss really... What Hunter S Thompson is really trying to say goes beyond even the oft-repeated mantra that taking drugs is a REACTION to the BS state of 60s politics and society rather than an end in and of itself; he treats the omnivorous consumption of narcotics as a perfectly valid base on which to found his mordant observations on the American Way, unapologetically choosing to toke first and ask questions later. And based on the scathing accuracy of his observations, who's to say he was wrong?

"Fear and Loathing..." wasn't the first of Thompson's works to treat the underpinnings of middle-class schizophrenia as the psychic equivalent to a bad acid trip, but it was certainly his most lucid, the cornerstone of his ethos even if he would write more insightfully and coherently both before and afterwards. Yet it's that point of view which either draws you in or revolts you immediately depending on one's temperament, a truly galvanizing role reversal whose essence dictates that, in order to really understand the American mindset, one must either be OF the conformists - in which case one would be blind to his own hypocrisies - or AGAINST the conformists, by which the only real understanding of the conformist's world could be ascertained by looking at his own non-conformist world through the prism of a fun house mirror. That analogy may be somewhat obtuse if you approach Thompson's work without a large dollop of surrealist thinking, but Hunter was never one for layman's terminology, and neither was Terry Gilliam one to oversimplify his source material.

There are those who are great fans of the novel who nonetheless look harshly on this film adaptation. In my opinion this is unfortunate, but I believe I can see why these fans may feel the way they do. In many ways, Gilliam's theatrical version usurps even the outlandishness of the book itself in it's carnivalesque portrait, there rarely being a calm moment to get one's bearings. My contention is not that Gilliam failed in his adaptation, but quite the opposite: I believe it's the literary nature of the book itself that makes it easier to absorb, in it's case the kaleidoscopic imagery being left more to the reader's imagination, which makes for the capability of either enhancing or "normalizing" the scenery of the text at the reader's whim. With the film, no such luxuries are afforded; the utmost imaginative capabilities are presumed as a pre-requisite, and Gilliam proves capable of keeping up with even the most abstract fantasist in this regard.

Taken in this context there is nothing to be held against the film at all. The performances are all flawless. The cinematography is appropriately earthy and washed out, nearly all the indoor scenes exhibiting the type of dim lighting favored by drunks and acid casualties, and even the outdoor shots appearing as if filmed behind the filter of tinted sunglasses. There are only a few scenes included in the book which are not adapted into the movie, and three of those are included as deleted scenes on both the Criterion edition and the Universal disc, the former being far preferred over the latter for it's encyclopedic wealth of bonus materials.

The Criterion release adds to the Universal debut with three commentary tracks, including a snarling, incoherent one with Hunter himself, his assistant along for the ride mainly to keep him on the subject, although - true to his character - he spares no expense taking potshots at the end results of the film, although one eventually gets the impression that nothing would have left him satisfied short of a production he himself shot, edited, and starred in (despite his friendship with Johnny Depp he can't help but take a few exceptions to Depp's portrayal of himself, particularly his cruelty toward the dwarf during the early Flamingo Hotel sequence).

Disc two houses most of the extras, the best of which is the 1978 documentary "Hunter Goes to Hollywood". This lengthy doc can be slow going at times but hits it's peak when Hunter actually gets to meet and talk with one of the Watergate conspirators (I won't ruin the surprise by disclosing which one but suffice to say it's not Nixon -- that would've warranted it's own full blown docu in and of itself). There is also a movingly pithy elegy to the vanished (presumed deceased) Oscar Zeta Acosta, that "high powered mutant" who was "God's own prototype" and Hunter's erstwhile companion for years before his disappearance. Speaking of Acosta, there is a lengthy reading by Oscar himself from his own "Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo" which is interesting but can get cloying after while; Acosta, for whatever his other merits, is not much of an engaging reader.

Finally, but not conclusively, there is an interesting excerpt from the audio CD version of the book featuring Harry Dean Stanton (who played the judge in the film). This is a scene at a taco stand in Vegas with Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo inquiring on the whereabouts of the American Dream, which the teenage taco vendor takes to be the name of a defunct dance club. It's an interesting thematic riff which never really takes off, and it was almost certainly an easy cut for the screen adaptation. There are wealth of other extras, divided up into matters relating to the book itself and those of the screen adaptation, and the packaging is some of the best you'll ever find on a DVD, so the extra cash for this Criterion release over the bare bones Universal one is a no-brainer. Even if you've never seen the film and aren't sure you'll like it, you'll be more likely to appreciate what all parties were trying to do here with the benefit of the supplemental material.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Terry Gilliam
Johnny Depp
Benicio Del Toro

DVD title: Better Than Chocolate
Productgroup: DVD
Better Than Chocolate - movie DVD cover picture
Better Than Chocolate

This movie is not the typical chic flick with dyke surprise or the usual girl go. There are multiple meanings on multiple levels. From coming out to meeting her family to the rainbow community of unending hope, first ammendment rights, human rights, and the violence we have to deal with every day. I was impressed most by its candid story line at all levels and would recommend this film for anyone straight, gay, lesbian or otherwise. And of course, its soundtrack, with Ani di Franco on the frontlines made the journey into the lives of each character that much more strong.

Studio: Vidmark/Trimark
Director: Anne Wheeler

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