Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Paranoia Agent - Enter Lil Slugger (Vol. 1) + Series Box
Productgroup: DVD
Paranoia Agent  - Enter Lil Slugger (Vol. 1) + Series Box - movie DVD cover picture
Utterly strange and absolutely brilliant

By any standards, this is one of the most remarkable animated shows that has ever been produced. PARANOIA AGENT deals with a number of characters who are linked both in an odd chain of acquaintances and by being the victims of an attack by a juvenile on roller blades who unexpectedly strikes people with a bent metal baseball bat, called by the press Shouen Bat. The first disc introduces the viewer to five victims of Shouen Bat in four episodes entitled "Enter Li'l' Slugger," "The Golden Shoes," "Double Lips" and "A Man's Path." The opening credits of each episode, with an especially frenetic theme song (with the usual odd lyrics typical of anime) and dynamic animation, announces what a unique show this is.

The first episode deals with the first victim of Shouen Bat, a famous designer who has designed a pink dog that has brought her great fame and success. The trouble is that she is at a loss to repeat her success, and her boss is putting pressure on her to come up with a design that will be equally successful. Her story of a boy on roller blades who attacked her is greeted with some skepticism, until a seedy journalist who is harassing her for an interview is also attacked.

The second episode deals with a young boy who is an acquaintance with the designer. He fancies himself the coolest kid in school and the most popular, but one day he discovers that his popularity has plummeted because his roller blades and his skill in baseball have made many imagine that he is Shouen Bat. To make things worse, the overweight, brainy transfer student who is running against him for president of the student council (and who he imagines is behind the rumors) looks like he might win the election. Everyone except the young woman who works at the university and who serves as his tutor suspects him of being Shouen Bat. That is, they do until first his school nemesis and then he himself are both attacked.

The third episode is the best of the first four, an absolutely brilliant episode whose story would be worthy of Philip K. Dick. The tutor of the boy who is the fourth victim works during the day at the university, where a researcher has asked her to marry him, an offer she accepts. But at night her alter ego, Maria, emerges, and plies her trade as a prostitute. In Philip K. Dick's A SCANNER DARKLY, a police officer investigates a drug dealer who distributes an extraordinarily powerful drug whose primary side effect is to induce a profoundly split personality. Only gradually do we learn that the detective and the drug dealer are the same person. (A SCANNER DARKLY is currently being made into an animated film by Richard Linklater, who previously made the fascinating animated film WAKING LIFE, along with many live action films.) In the same way, the tutor and Maria are utterly disconnected from one another, though each is aware of the other's existence. In a succession of fascinating moments, the two leave messages for each other, throw away each other's clothes, and manage to undermine the other in various ways. She becomes the fifth victim of Shouen Bat.

The fourth episode follows the life of one of Maria's regular tricks, a crooked cop with a penchant for prostitutes, gambling, and drinking. A gangster in turns begins shaking him down, demanding more and more exorbitant amounts of cash from him, until the evening when he is attacked by Shouen Bat, but nonetheless manages to subdue and arrest him.

The creative force behind the show is Satoshi Kon, who was previously best known for PERFECT BLUE and MILLENIUM PRINCESS, but who in the future will probably be better known for PARANOIA AGENT. Those previous films were rightly considered significant innovations in anime, though I felt that both had some difficulties with narrative. The story here is much tighter and more coherently told than in either of those films, and represents a significant maturation of Kon as an artist. It is almost impossible to over praise the animation in this film. His characters possess little of the woodenness and derivativeness that afflicts so many anime characters, and he pays attention to foregrounds and backgrounds to an extreme fashion. For instance, you might have a shot over a cop's shoulder of a bar top, with an ashtray that is a perfect representation of just about any ashtray every seen. What is amazing, however, is that Kon does not allow the camera to linger over it. It is a perfect detail, marvelously drawn, but it exists to give the imagery depth. There are a host of marvelous touches in nearly every scene, many of them of shade and lighting, but many consisting merely in marvelously drawn images. He also achieves some superb framing of his shots. The tutor, for instance, might react with horror to see that the alter ego she has suppressed has reemerged. As she recoiled, the camera will jump from one angle to one shot from inside a recess looking out at her, with various make up and grooming items forming the foreground. In one superb shot, the crooked cop stands outside his station house, the camera moving at a turtle's pace behind his right shoulder. All in all, this is some of the best animation that one is ever likely to see.

Studio: Geneon Entertainment

DVD title: Moonlighting - Seasons 1 & 2
Productgroup: DVD
Moonlighting - Seasons 1 & 2 - movie DVD cover picture
What Remington Steele could've been...

I remember being so miffed when "Moonlighting" came out because it kind of spelled the beginning of the end for "Remington Steele." I read Pierce Brosnan once said that this show was what "Remington" was supposed to be, probably because Glenn Gordon Caron, who also created the short-lived "Now and Again,"
was a writer-producer on "Remington" the first season.

But as I watched this show, which I wanted to hate, I really loved it. David and Maddie Hayes had great chemistry, the writing was great (introducing the snappy, fast-paced dialogue that a show like "Gilmore Girls" has on it), etc. I could go on and on, but the main thing for me about the show was that it was - FUN!! In fact, probably the last really well-done, not-taking-things seriously detective show on TV. I haven't seen anything since, and in fact, would love to see a show more like it and "Remington" on TV.

Alas, much like "Remington," this show fell into the trap of what happens once the two leads consummate their sexual lust and get together - your show goes in the dumper. That, along with Caron's writing style of delivering script pages at the last minute, cast bickering, etc. ended what was a really fun and funny show. I will be adding it to my collection, and you should, too, just as a reminder of what escapist TV can be all about. We're so caught up in making things realistic on shows now that producers have forgotten that people deal with reality in their everyday lives. Like so many viewers, I wanna watch a show because the characters are likeable, worth watching, and the plots don't take themselves so seriously. Maybe we'll get back to that someday, but, alas, not today.

Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Cybill Shepherd

DVD title: Hard Boiled - Criterion Collection
Productgroup: DVD
Hard Boiled - Criterion Collection - movie DVD cover picture

Ill Keep this simple, Ive seen this movie endless times and recommened it to loads of friends who all love it. Those who believe that Hollywood makes the best action movies should watch this and then maybe they will relise there is a world out there that makes equally good if not better movies than what Hollywood throws out.

So do yourself a favour if you like Die Hard then imagine the same movie with more action, guns, bloodshed,explosions and total mayhem then you have Hard Boiled. So get the popcorn out crank up the surround system and prepare to get blown away

Studio: Home Vision Entertainment
Director: John Woo
Yun-Fat Chow
Tony Leung Chiu Wai

DVD title: The Thin Man (Snap Case)
Productgroup: DVD
The Thin Man (Snap Case) - movie DVD cover picture

A great movie with a great DVD presentation, BUT it's only the first of the series. WE NEED THEM ALL.

Let's all lobby Warners for a complete DVD Boxed Set, with great extras. Did all of you THIN MAN fans out there know, for instance, that there is a terrific behind-the-scenes short subject (produced at the time of the original films, and now shown from time to time on Turner Classic Movies) that profiles the canine actor who so endearingly played Nick and Nora's talented terrier Asta?! (This canine actor also starred opposite Cary Grant in both THE AWFUL TRUTH and BRINGING UP BABY.)

So bring on the Boxed Set with Nick, Nora and Asta, and all the extra treats we can find on these great films.

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
William Powell
Myrna Loy

DVD title: The Message
Productgroup: DVD
The Message - movie DVD cover picture
Moving film

Years ago after my first visit to Egypt, the University of Minnesota sponsored a film festival of Egyptian made films and this was one among them. Although it features film stars with whom many of us will already be familiar, Irene Pappas, Anthony Quinn and Michael Ansara, it was directed by a Moslem director, Moustapha Akkad, and has the stamp of approval of the Al Azhar Mosque and University (the oldest University in the world and an institution much respected in the Islamic world for its Koran scholarship).
While it carries a religious message for Islamic people--in fact I saw parts of it again on Saudi TV as part of the Ramadan season's celebration while I was working in Tabouk--it also explains in a sympathetic way for Western viewers many of the basic tenets of Islam. It is as moving a story in its own way as the stories of the New Testament are for Christians, and it portrays the essence of what Moslems believe about Mohamed and their faith. The simplicity and straight forwardness of the tale as it portrays the sacrifices of plain people for their convictions and the ultimate triumph of good over evil will appeal to anyone with a sense of fair mindedness regardless of ones religious convictions. The light in which it places Christians cannot fail to impress. Mohamed's more vulnerable followers are told to seek asylum with the King of Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia), because as a Christian king he was their "brother" and bound by the "book" to protect them from their oppressors, which indeed he does! Nor are the Jews spoken ill of in the tale.
The actual cinematography is a little dated, and the story can be a little postured, but no more than any other film of the 1960-1970s. How many can sit through a John Wayne western without a little smile, whether of nostalgia or of amusement, and yet the color, pageantry and triumph of the good guys in the face of blatant evil is still a treat. The film is a beautiful work, and the story is moving, informative and well worth viewing. Glad I finally found it on DVD.

Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Director: Moustapha Akkad
Anthony Quinn
Irene Papas

DVD title: Election
Productgroup: DVD
Election - movie DVD cover picture
So sharp you might cut yourself.

This is not your typical teen movie, friends -- it has teeth. This movie rides the bleeding edge of satire, attacking the inherent seedy nature of high school politics and drawing interesting parallels to the world outside.
All of the feature players bring their best to a darkly funny script. Reese Witherspoon is great as a cheerleader-type obsessed with student government. In the face of adversity, her bright and chipper facade gets BRIGHTER and MORE CHIPPER until it becomes obvious she's very, very dangerously deranged. Matthew Broderick atones for his Godzilla sins with his hapless teacher, his attention to Reese torn between lust and loathing.
Can't recommend this flick highly enough. Belly laughs and chuckles throughout, some smart social commentary, and the most oddly satisfying ending I've come across in a long time.

Studio: Paramount Studio
Director: Alexander Payne
Matthew Broderick
Reese Witherspoon

DVD title: Batman Returns
Productgroup: DVD
Batman Returns - movie DVD cover picture
Great movie!!!

This movie is some kind of ride. Tim Burton brilliantly directs this movie. Keaton is the best Batman. Brilliant performances by Danny De Vito, Michelle Pfeifer, and Christopher Walken. This movie is just good as the original and in some ways better. Mesmerizing production design, much better than on the Schumacher films. Danny Elfman's greatest score. Critics have complained that "Batman Returns" has no real plot, and I agree. But who cares?! This is a great movie. One of the best ever made. EVER!!! I love the scenes between Keaton and Pfeifer, especially the one where they're dancing, and the Penguin crashes the party. Oh, and by the way... whoever said that this was the worst Batman film and that "Batman Forever" is better because it captures the spirit of adventure of the cartoon is dead wrong. Sorry kid, but the REAL Batman is the dark, brooding version of the comics. Here, Burton comes SO much closer to this than Joel Schumacher could.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Tim Burton
Michael Keaton
Danny DeVito
Michelle Pfeiffer

DVD title: Batman
Productgroup: DVD
Batman - movie DVD cover picture
Burton directs this perfectly

Too many people have forgotten about the Batman movie franchise because of what Joel Shumacher did to the last two movies by making light and fluffy flicks with a cavalcade of cheesy villains. But the original "Batman", directed by the brilliant Tim Burton, is by far the best comic book movie ever made. It is dark, the way it should be (note to Shumacher and anyone else who makes a Batman movie), and the plot is limited to one villain in the Joker. Jack Nicholson plays the Joker, in what I believe is the best performance in his career. Michael Keaton also shows he is the best Batman of them all, his calm and broodingness appropriate for the Dark Knight.
Burton directs this movie perfectly, bringing in his patented cartoonish look, making Gotham the perfect combination of 'toon and nightmare. His wild imagination could not be better on this movie, as he must have had thousands of ideas to bring the classic comic to life.
There is not much more to say about "Batman", as the movie speaks for itself. It was a monster hit in 1989, and has entered the annals of being a classic since. I hope that WB puts out an anniversary edition this year, since it has been 15 years since its release. For those who like the idea of a comic book going to film, this is the movie to watch. Aside from that, it is a great dark story about vengeance and classic good versus evil. An excellent movie all around.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Tim Burton
Michael Keaton
Jack Nicholson

DVD title: Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (2 Pack)
Productgroup: DVD
Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (2 Pack) - movie DVD cover picture
Great for Kids (Good Job by: Pixar/Disney)

I watched both movies with my son and he loves it. He is 4 years old then when he first saw Toy Story 1, now that he is turning 6 he still remembers it. He also love the characters and could relate to them. These movies are made to be watched over and over again, without (parents/kids) getting tired of it. It's a true collectors item.

Studio: Disney/Pixar
Director: John Lasseter
Tom Hanks
Tim Allen

DVD title: Annabelle's Wish
Productgroup: DVD
Annabelle's Wish - movie DVD cover picture
This one should be in everyones Christmas Collection!

This is such a touching story. Anyone of any age will enjoy this story from start to finish. Annabelle, Billy, Grampa and Emily are wonderful characters that teach what friendship and giving are all about. We're buying this for several people on our shopping list this year!

Studio: Sony Wonder
Director: Roy Wilson (III)

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