Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Full Metal Jacket
Productgroup: DVD
Full Metal Jacket - movie DVD cover picture
So Good It Is Frightening

It is increasingly difficult for younger people to understand the 60s and what happened in America. The catalyst for change was the Viet Nam War. On the one hand, we had a society that was chafing under the paradigms of the 1950s, and the residual effects of the black and white world which we tried to create in the aftermath of World War II and the ascendancy of communism. On the other hand, we had a generation looking to change the way we perceive the world, including how we look at enemies, and whether some people were really our enemies. In some ways the Viet Nam War became a surreal alternate reality where our soldiers received a huge cultural shock leaving the relatively cloistered Disneyland of America. The difficulty becomes capturing not the reality of Viet Nam, but the feeling of Viet Nam. Stanley Kubrick did exactly that with "Full Metal Jacket."

There are two portions to this movie, with the second part of the movie having sub-parts. In the first portion of the movie we meet the principal character we will follow into Viet Nam, Private J.T. "Joker" Davis. Joker is the observer of the indoctrination of new Marine recruits, where pampered civilian sons are turned into fighting men. R. Lee Ermey established a milestone in military character portrayals by his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. He is mean and tough, but he is that way because he knows that the reality of war requires mean and tough men. Unfortunately, Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence (chillingly played by Vincent D'Onofrio) is unable to tolerate the stress of indoctrination, and snaps in a very violent, shocking, way. Thus ends basic training and Private Joker's transition to Viet Nam.

The transition from basic training to Viet Nam is instantaneous, with no discussion of the aftermath of Private Gomer Pyle's actions. However, as I pointed out earlier, consider the shock that these young men faced as they went from the black and white, sheltered life of a citizen of the United States to a corrupt country where death was around every corner. The culture shock is difficult to convey, and yet the disorientation in the transition from the first part of the movie to the second part makes a good attempt at having the audience experience the feeling, even if it is in a relatively benign way.

The second part of the movie explores what happens when people who have been exposed only to American culture are faced with the reality of combat. Private Joker must confront combat and the result of combat head on while being a pacifist at his core. However, even his peaceful nature can not stand by while a vengeful and ferocious enemy is killing his comrades. Private Joker is faced with mass graves and the reality of a war of attrition and the senseless violence of some Americans, though the enemy was just as ruthless when the opportunity arose.

The movie uses the 1968 Tet Offensive as a backdrop for a series of intense combat scenes leading up to a confrontation between Private Joker's squad and an unseen enemy. The violence in this series of scenes is graphic and simultaneously poignant. Death in combat is never pretty, and Stanley Kubrick did his best to depict combat death in all its horrific detail. If anyone is tempted to glorify combat this movie should be mandatory watching.

The final scene in this movie is a confrontation between Private Joker and an enemy sniper. The confrontation is incredible because of the complexity of the numerous feelings. There is fear. There is the sudden realization that the enemy is only a little different from us; young and frightened. There is the desire to not have to kill the enemy, to wish that circumstances could be otherwise. There are more feelings, many more, for an empathetic viewer.

Knowledgeable viewers will not mistake "Full Metal Jacket" for a documentary, or even being more than passingly factual. What this movie does do is give viewers the feeling of the era, the feeling of being a soldier in a war that many, and perhaps ultimately most, in America did not want to fight. This war helped America realize that World War II was not happening again, that black and white was gray, and that we too were different, though we were realizing it all too slowly. Of all the Viet Nam War related movies that I have watched, and I have seen all but one of significance, this movie seems to me to best portray how we felt as the 60s came to an end, whether we like to remember that feeling or not.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Matthew Modine
Vincent D'Onofrio
R. Lee Ermey

DVD title: Black Christmas
Productgroup: DVD
Black Christmas - movie DVD cover picture

BLACK CHRISTMAS is a chilling thriller that never lets up on suspense. It's pulse pounding music add an atmosphere that's missing is most movies og the era. This ranks #2 on my top horror movie list. My Top 5:
1.) Rosemary's Baby 2.) Black Christmas 3.) Suspiria 4.) Phenomena 5.) Psycho
Forget HALLOWEEN, this is the movie to see if you want to scare the living daylights out of your friends. BLACK CHRISTMAS rocks!

Studio: Music Video Distribu
Director: Bob Clark (III)
Olivia Hussey
Keir Dullea

DVD title: Bob the Builder - Can We Fix It?
Productgroup: DVD
Bob the Builder - Can We Fix It? - movie DVD cover picture

My son who is 2 1/2 also loves it. He watches it over and over. It has replaced his Barney and Sesame Street which I'm glad. :)

Studio: Lyrick Studios

DVD title: Moulin Rouge (Single Disc Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Moulin Rouge (Single Disc Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Immerse Yourself in Emotion....Spectacular film, great DVD

"This story is about love...the woman I loved is.....dead." That's the first line of this film, and sets the tone. But first let me tell you about the DVD.
Great DVD! LOTS of features. There are 2 CDs and the second one is purely bonus features. I haven't been through all of them yet. One of my faves is the ongoing commentary from either the production designer, director, writer, or cinematographer, you can turn on while watching the film; and the multicamera angle and uncut dance sequences. This is a milestone in DVD making. It's loaded.
As for the film, this is a better movie than I imagined. It sells itself as a colorful drama, but it's a musical through and through. It's officially a TragiComiDramaMusical, or that's what the critics call it, but it gets to your heartstrings and senses and kicks them.
Baz Luhrmann had a theory for this film, that music and razzle dazzle and color will create a heightened experience, and it worked. People may pay more attention to it for it's astounding technical abilities, but I was mainly captivated by it's music, acting, and it's storyline. Not to say I didn't like the color and razor sharp editing, quite the contrary. I was purely amazed at what they achieved. But that they could go over that and send a clear cut and emotional story with superb acting, is something you rarely see in any "super charged" films.
The story is loosely based on the Greek Tragedy about Orhpeus. It revolves around the young Christian (Ewan McGregor) who enters the world of the Moulin Rouge and Montmarte to become a great writer. He befriends some strange Bohemians and is assigned to write a show for the MR called "Spectacular! Spectacular!". He has to recruit the courtesan Satine, but falls in love with her. Eventually they both become enmeshed in their love for each other, the dirty and treacherous goings on of the MR, and the making of the show. After betrayal and intrigue, the film ends with a tragic ending you knew was coming from Christian's first line: "This story is about love...the woman I loved is.....dead."
The acting is much better than I expected. People had been talking about how Kidman could get a Oscar nomination for her performance in this, but I had thought "Why? It's a musical. There's no such thing as good acting in musicals." Nicole shines. She goes through several stages in the film and is always believable at the level she chooses. Especially in her TB scenes, where she plays sick, she does a very unglamorous and ugly portrayal of the disease. She does comedy and seduction and heroism in one role, and it's not at all cliche. McGregor particularly surprised me. I had known he was a good actor, but not as good as he is in this film. He also goes through stages, and pulls it off with his ability to act completly natural. He's by far one of the best natural actors I've ever seen, and some of his body language and facial gestures do the role a great deal of good. It's hard to act "innocent" without getting terribly annoying, and he's never annoying, but maybe because he's more of a decent and kind character than the stereotypical "innocent". Supporting characters shine, and John Leguizamo deserves a thumbs up for a particularly painful but strong performance (if you hear how they shortened him). Jim Broadbent, who plays the enabling and sweet pimp Zidler (it's tough to call him that, but that's what he is), is fantastic, and Richard Roxborough who plays the Duke, is notorious and does a wonderful job at being completely and one hundred percent devious.
This movie shines, and it addicts you. Many people have said you either love it or hate it, and I'd say it's true. It will either overwhelm you, or you'll like it for all it is. It's supposed to be overboard. It's supposed to have that "If it exists we'll use it just because." That's the whole point. It's a beautiful film, and it's very true, it follows how life works. There are people who'll be bad to you, and people who will love you, and not everything works as you want it. It's supposed to be an experience, not just a date at the movies.

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Nicole Kidman
Ewan McGregor

DVD title: Chris Rock - Bigger and Blacker
Productgroup: DVD
Chris Rock - Bigger and Blacker - movie DVD cover picture
Funniest Comedian of this Time

I checked this video out when I first got into stand up,and it is still my favorite.I can't count how many times I've watched this it is so good.Chris Rock is not only the funniest comedian ever,he is also the smartest.His routines include A LOT of social commentary.Most of the stuff he says is true.The beginning of this video is racist and boring,but it picks up and becomes the funniest stand up routine ever.I have to warn you,this video contains ALOT of swearing.Almost every other word is a swear word.Towards the end,it gets VERY [physical] and crude.So if you have young children,DO NOT let them come CLOSE to this video.Otherwise,sit back and enjoy the best stand-up routine ever recorded.

Studio: Hbo Studios
Chris Rock

DVD title: Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Productgroup: DVD
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life - movie DVD cover picture
Not perfect, but a tasty shriek from the modern wilderness.

Some people don't get Monty Python. They immediately focus on the flaws. Sure, some of the sketches go on a bit too long. Okay, way too long. Some of the humor is grotesque, offensive, and, in this outing, downright disturbing. Even I struggle a bit with the humor in a skit about a in-home service that specializes in having dim witted guys remove organs from people who are still alive--and without the benefit of anaesthetics, pain killers, or personal hygeine. Of course, it all comes together in a Vegas-style rendition of a song which puts our minor, unlikely, and bizarre existences into perspective as a middle-aged housewife takes a tour of the universe with a singer who is a cross between Wayne Newton and Billy Idol.
The Pythons speak to all of us who have this lingering, nagging feeling that the universe, and society in particular, is one big, strange joke. It is a wake-up call to those who think for a moment that they actually mean something. Ha ha. Joke's on you!

Studio: Image Entertainment
Terry Jones
Terry Gilliam
Graham Chapman
John Cleese
Eric Idle
Michael Palin

DVD title: Falling Down
Productgroup: DVD
Falling Down - movie DVD cover picture

This story about a man's life spiraling out of control has inspired a lot of superficial reactions. But there's a much deeper subtext. Michael Douglas's D-FENS and Robert Duvall's Prendergast are sympathetic characters at the outset. Both are "victims" of very typical, and serious, personal problems in the US - being made useless at work, losing a child, and a general loss of joy and hope. The two characters are extreme contrasts of each other: D-FENS angrily reacts to his frustrations, while Prendergast sadly resigns himself to his own.
By the end, both D-FENS and Prendergast see the fallacy in the way they have lived their lives. Sadly, for D-FENS, it is too late. Prendergast takes the opportunity to move in a new direction.
D-FENS and Prendergast may as well be two halves of the same personality. They represent a struggle within all of us when we're faced with serious, and sometimes unsolvable, problems and terrible occurrences in life. Do we angrily lash out? Do we sadly accept? Or is it possible to move on and rebuild our lives? The movie is groundbreaking in the way it presents these concerns.
"Falling Down" is controversial because D-FENS is a very sympathetic figure who reacts in a violent and somewhat racist way to the frustrations around him. Some feel that the movie tries to justify D-FENS's behavior - I think they couldn't be any more wrong or superficial. The film makes it obvious that Douglas's character, through his over-the-top anger, becomes somewhat like the extremist he despises, the owner of the Army-Navy store, and sadly turns himself into the true "bad guy".

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Joel Schumacher
Michael Douglas
Robert Duvall
Barbara Hershey

DVD title: Me and Will
Productgroup: DVD
Me and Will - movie DVD cover picture
Me and Will

I noticed that the site for selling this video has left my name out as a co-star. Please ad my Name starring Sherrie Rose and Melissa Behr! Thank you very much. This is a story of two women, we worked three hard years, a complete labor of love. I hope everyone enjoys it.

Studio: Mti Home Video

DVD title: The Pianist (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Pianist (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Polanski is back in rare and brilliant form...

Masterpiece tells of Warsaw Jewish pianist who must hide from the Nazis during the invasion of Poland. Incredible writing, first-rate acting, and utterly compelling direction breathe life into this moving, intensely personal, exciting, and important film. Beginning filmmakers should study this film long and hard to see how to create artful storytelling and overall subtlety. Brody is superb, but the entire production is magical. Ironically, I first watched this after I finished Mel Brooks' THE PRODUCERS. Rated R for wartime violence (but it is remarkably restrained).

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Roman Polanski
Adrien Brody
Thomas Kretschmann
Frank Finlay

DVD title: House of Flying Daggers
Productgroup: DVD
House of Flying Daggers - movie DVD cover picture
Yimou Zhang makes a film even more beautiful than "Hero"

I think Yimou Zhang has made the two most visually beautiful films I have seen in the past year, with "Ying xiong" ("Hero") and "Shi mian mai fu" ("House of Flying Daggers" but literally translated as "Ambush From Ten Sides"). The common denominator is not the martial arts action couple with the Hong Kong wire work but Zhang's use of rich colors. I know that Akira Kurosawa pained a field of grass gold for a scene that ended up being deleted in "Ran," and for all I know Zhang painted all those bamboo trees green in this 2004 film. But Zhang has been paying attention to color for as long as I have been watching his films, which goes all the way back to 1991's "Da hong deng long gao gao gua" ("Raise the Red Lantern"). The man is an expert at creating scenes of spectacular visual beauty on a motion picture screen and this time he is really into blue and green big time.

This is a movie where you do not really care about the plot beyond its ability to move us from one beautiful set piece to the next. Mei (Zhang Ziyi) is the blind daughter of the former leader of the Flying Daggers, a secret group that is combating the corrupt Tang Dynasty of the 9th century in China. The name comes from the fact that they throw daggers, and there are some daggers that are followed by the camera in this film the same way George Lucas followed the X-fighters in the trench during the attack on the Death Star. Mei is a dancer at the Peony Palace, and Captain Leo (Andy Lau), a local cop, sends his young colleague Captain Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to investigate the mysterious blind dancer who is suspected of having ties to the Flying Daggers. While you know this is the beginning of a romance, because who could not fall in love with the beautiful and talented Mei, what matters is that we are up to the first spectacular set pieces, the Echo Game, played between Leo and Mei where the blind dancer shows she definitely knows how to play the game (and strike a pose).

The battle in the bamboo forest is the most impressive of these sequences, but I liked the choreographed battle in the field of grass with the two lovers encircled by swordsmen and the part in the final fight where it starts to snow. I understand there are homages in this film, but while I get the link to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" going back to the bamboo forest scene from "A Touch of Zen" is beyond me because I do not watch too many of these films. But, wow, the ones I have seen make me wonder why I am not watching at least one in a week and the answer is I know in my heart they cannot all be as beautiful as this one. What will Zhang come up with next? We cannot but wait to find out (he is currently filming "Qian li zou dan ji," which literally translates as "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" and is apparently about a Japanese father her take his ailing son to China's Yunnan province to learn opera).

Granted, "Shi mian mai fu" has flaws despite its great beauty. The political backdrop of the film seems to matter at the start, what with the emperor being weak and the officials being corrupt and all, but all that really matters is that Mei starts off on the opposite side of Leo and Jin, who best laid plans are going to go astray in ways too tragic for them to forsee. That is because the story is an excuse to get us from one spectacular set piece to the next and the sides exist simply for one lover to cross over to the other. The swordplay is more stylized than I have seen in other films of this genre and seems to involve less wire work as well, which is fine with me, because I would rather see it used selectively as it is here. There is also a song that Mei sings early on where you need to pay attention because it will come back more poignantly later on. The film has an English audio track, but you are obviously advised to go for the sub-titled original audio track because dubbed always sounds dubbed and that means tacky. Gorgeous films do not deserve tacky audio tracks.

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Yimou Zhang
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Andy Lau
Ziyi Zhang

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