Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Pocahontas (Disney Gold Classic Collection)
Productgroup: DVD
Pocahontas (Disney Gold Classic Collection) - movie DVD cover picture
What a world of difference! Excellent! Disney finally gets it right!!

I just got this 10th anniversary edition today and I LOVE it! The additional scene with the beautiful love song "If I Never Knew You" brings the movie all together and it makes much more sense with the scene. For years I had heard that there was a 'missing scene' in this movie, and I remember thinking how the original scene in the teepee between Pocahantas and John Smith seemed so abruptly cut short and terribly truncated. About 5 years ago on ABC, The Wonderful World of Disney showed Pocahantas with this 'deleted scene', but it was not complete. At the time it featured 'live' animation of the view of the hole through the top of the teepee, and stills with voice-overs from Mel Gibson and Irene Bedard. The big deal at the time was that it featured Mel Gibson singing, and I remember seeing an interview with Mel at the time saying (sic) "I got to sing a love song but they cut the scene!" But the funny thing is that I could swear that I read that this scene was complete at the time the original was released, but cut just before the release. (Anyone know about this?) I guess it doesn't matter now because the Disney Co. finally restored this very touching and beautiful song to this anniversary version, and it makes the story so much more real and compelling. There is also a reprise of the couple singing the song just before the end and it is the icing on the cake. I'm not always pleased with Disney DVD releases, but this one they got right! Also, they had the sense to release it in the widescreen ratio so you get to see the whole, beautiful product in all of its glory! (They should do this with all their releases!--How about a widescreen special edition of MoonSpinners? Hint-Hint!)
Also, you can watch the original theatrical release on this DVD, but I don't know why you'd want to!
P.S. Mel sings beautifully!

Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Mel Gibson
Christian Bale
Linda Hunt

DVD title: The Lost Weekend
Productgroup: DVD
The Lost Weekend - movie DVD cover picture
Still effective after all these years.

Superb mellow drama about a drunk, Don Birman, played by Ray Milland, & his battle with the bottle over one week-end in New York City. Nobody is a drunk anymore. They are said to have a "substance abuse " problem. There is little stigma attached to the problem today as compared to the self-loathing Milland felt & the repugnance the neighborhood & even his favorite bartender felt towards him. In fact, the long, fairly one-sided conversations with Nat the bartender, played by Howard de Silva, are some of the best scenes in the movie. Brakett & Wilder took some chances in this ground-breaking movie. They fought the Hollywood studios who probably wanted it watered down & rendered more palatable. They didn't give in &, as a result, this was the best movie of the the year 1945. It was well deserved. Ray Milland also got an Oscar & he was never better. Jane Wyman does a fine job as his long suffering girl friend, Helen. It is unbelievable that that kind of woman, a real lady, would put up with a loser like that for so long. But after all, this is a movie. A pat ending that doesn't matter at all. The combination of gritty, street level scenes of New York City, the noir atmosphere & black & white filming all combine to make this one of the best aging movies, still relavent, I've seen in a long time.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Billy Wilder
Ray Milland
Jane Wyman

DVD title: Resident Evil (Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Resident Evil (Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
A tough heroine in a miniskirt and go-go boots fights zombies.....

As a big fan of the game series, I was really impressed with the film. Yeah, there could have been more zombie action, but the film did it's duty, IMO...

Highly recommended...(and yes, I enjoyed the sequel: Resident Evil-Apocalypse)...

The DVD has a funny commentary with Milla Jovovich, Paul Anderson, Michelle Rodriguez, and the producer Jeremy Bolt. (There is more poking fun at the picture by Rodriguez and Jovovich, though Anderson gives a couple ideas of how the film was made)...

There are trailers for Resident Evil, and sequel Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and Hellboy.

Thankfully, the horrible video by Slipknot (a group I've never heard of) was removed for an interesting clip of an unused ending for Resident Evil...that would have been a bit more action oriented than the sequel/suspensful ending we were left with...(I prefer the original ending)...

Also, there is a Fangoria clip of Resident Evil: Apocalypse on the disk too...

Other stuff:
*Marilyn Manson and Marco Beltrami speak about scoring the movie.
*There is a visual effects commentary by Richard Yuricich and Paul Anderson...
*A "making of" featurette of the film...
*Minor featurettes of the zombies, train, costumes, etc...

I think this is one of Paul Anderson's best films. He doens't tend to have strong characterization (i.e. Alien Vs. Predator) but his films were fun....(although, he did greatly disappoint me greatly with AVP)...

However, I think the RE films may be his niche; unfortunately, I think if he were to continue making films, he should find someone to assist him in writing and putting together stories....(or a good producer to keep reigns on him, like Gary Kurtz did with George Lucas)...

Still, his female characters are tough...and they look good being tough...(i.e. Milla in a red skirt and go-go boots, Sienna Guillory in RE:Apocalypse, in a miniskirt and go-go boots, and Sanaa Lathan(not in a skirt and go-go boots, but definitely attractive--even though we didn't get her full potential with what she was given)...

Paul Anderson is supposed to be working on RE:Afterlife, the third part of his film RE franchise. No doubt it'll be good visually, but he could do so much more if he learned to give the audience characters and stories with depth....

Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Milla Jovovich
Michelle Rodriguez

DVD title: Groundhog Day
Productgroup: DVD
Groundhog Day - movie DVD cover picture
Like the movie you can watch this time and time again!

Groundhog Day is one of those movies that I just don't get tired of watching. Despite how good movies like Casablanca or Godfather or 2001 are, you can only watch those at certain times and only so often. However, with Groundhog Day I could watch it practically every day and not get tired. This is amazing since a lot of the movie is repeated as a result of the plot line. It is interesting to see how Bill Murray gets in control of his life and destiny by living the same day over and over again. If I was stuck in the same day over and over again, I would want to have this movie to watch!

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Harold Ramis
Bill Murray
Andie MacDowell

DVD title: The Visitors
Productgroup: DVD
The Visitors - movie DVD cover picture
Les Visiteurs

"Les Visiteurs" (1993).
I saw this film in letterbox format on Showtime Cable in June 1999. (The title sequences on the NTSC/VHS version are letterbox, but the bulk of the film is panned and scanned.) I must have tuned in 10 or 15 minutes after the opening. It is the funniest film I have ever seen. I had to consider whether this could actually be true, because I laughed so hard that I could not always read the subtitles due to my tears!
What I like about this film is its playful absurdity. (I never liked the "screwball comedy" genre until this film.) The writers and actors seem to have an excellent sense of history, modern as well as medieval and of human nature. The premise is unbelievable, but is presented early in the film. The humanity, in particular the willingness of the characters to learn, to try new things and new language, is very naturally presented. This is what makes the film work. I am reminded of Peter Sellers in his 1979 film "Being There". An unbelievable premise made believable and entertaining by the naturalness of the characters in an unnatural context.
This film has profanity and violence which may be inappropriate for younger audiences. It contains medieval French which may produce interesting side effects for students of French who use this film as a motivational study aid!
I understand that a French language only version is available for U.S. (NTSC) players and that the 1996 sequel "Les Visiteurs 2" is also available, without subtitles.
I also understand that the original cast will remake the film in 2000 entirely in English. Somehow, despite my absent French, I cannot imagine how this film could be improved upon. We will see.

Studio: Miramax
Director: Jean-Marie Poiré
Christian Clavier
Jean Reno
Valérie Lemercier

DVD title: Happy Gilmore
Productgroup: DVD
Happy Gilmore - movie DVD cover picture
sweet movie!!

this movie is the bomb!!! if you haven't seen this movie, you have to rent it !!!! it is sweet!!! it is also so hilarious!! of course, you know Adam Sandler is the funniest actor that there is. ( Well, aside of Chris Farley ) buy this movie right now!!! MICHELE M.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Dennis Dugan
Adam Sandler

DVD title: Black Orpheus - Criterion Collection
Productgroup: DVD
Black Orpheus - Criterion Collection - movie DVD cover picture
Beautiful, Vibrant, and Ultimately Gut-Wrenching

Marcel Camus gives the ancient Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice an ingenious and decidedly modern twist in Rio de Janeiro during carnival time. Marpessa Dawn is a beautiful but scared country lass who goes to stay with her cousin at this time, trying to avoid Death, who is stalking her. In the meantime, Breno Mello's Orpheus is a streetcar conductor by day and playboy by night who becomes engaged to Lourdes de Oliveira's beautiful but wild and mercurial Mira, and the two look foreward to a life together until fate intervenes and Orpheus and Eurydice meet. The scenes of Sugar Loaf Mountain are vibrant and sharp. I was always impressed by the dignity and beauty of the young ladies in Seraphina's neighborhood, who despite their poverty still look their best in classic dresses. Lea Garcia's Seraphina provides us with comic relief reminiscent of the Nurse and Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet", another tale about ill-fated lovers. The profound sadness of the end of this picture is relieved, at least slightly, by the singing and dancing of the three beautiful children, who seemed destined to form an unhappy love triangle of their own. Ultimately, the playing of the life-affirming samba at the end provides an interesting contrast to the intimate and devastating look we have just had into the lives of ordinary people. Like the children, it reminds us that life has to go on.

Studio: Criterion Collection
Director: Marcel Camus
Breno Mello
Marpessa Dawn
Lourdes de Oliveira
Léa Garcia

DVD title: E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (Widescreen Collector's Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
A turning point in Spielberg's work

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was intended by its creators primarily as a kids film and the enormous popularity with all audiences was somewhat of an unexpected surprise. The first sign of the immense popularity to come was when it was premiered out of competition at the Cannes film festival. Apparantly the audience of jaded adult Cannes filmgoers were cheering, clapping and stomping their feet 15 minutes before the film was even over and then proceeded to give Spielberg and his collaborators a 15 minute (or so) standing ovation.
E.T. remains perhaps the most important film in Spielberg's career in the sense that it marked a clear contrast between his work before and after it, paving the way for films like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. His previous work including Jaws, The Sugarland Express, Close Encounters of The Third Kind, 1941 and Raiders of The Lost Ark were all large, action-packed comic-book entertainments somewhat reliant upon the constant threat of real of perceived violence and shy of broaching any deeper emotions.
E.T. was the first film of his not to be storyboarded, which results in a looser, less structured, more "life-like" narrative structure that works to the films favor. Spielberg also trusted his young actors enough to allow them to improvise and deviate from the original script. Certain scenes such as when Elliot is explaining earth objects to E.T. were (I believe) ad-libbed in character by Henry Thomas. The bombast and thrusting narratives of the previous films is replaced here by a light, easy-going touch exemplified by John Williams lush and evocative score. At times the story seems rather unmotivated and some of the special effects (as they look now on video) are not perfect in the way that the effects in something like 2001 A Space Odyssey are perfect but in the things that really count, dramatic effectiveness and emotional resonance the film is a success.
When E.T. finally arrives on DVD (one suspects after the planned 2002 theatrical re-release) it should contain all of the supplementary material present on the laserdisc edition. This includes hundreds of drawings, still photos, a making of documentary and extensive interview footage with Spielberg, writer Kathleen Kennedy, composer John Williams and assorted others. One of the highlights of the supplementary material is the videotaped screen test of Henry Thomas, at the end of which Spielberg can be heard saying "OK kid you've got the job." It's easy to see why he was hired on the spot after seeing the amazing concentration and intensity of Thomas in the test which had everyone in the audition room in tears. Thomas undoubtedly gives one of the best child performances ever in the film (essentially playing Spielberg's childhood alter ego), and is quite possibly the single most important element to the films success.
Spielberg has said that the two films he would most like to be remembered for are E.T. and Schindler's List. In a number of ways I would argue that E.T. remains the most affecting two hours of film he has ever done. It crystalizes certain themes that recur in his other work in their most potent form and underneath the "kids film" moniker deals with themes of death, friendship and love which after all, are not limited to the world of children.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Steven Spielberg
Henry Thomas
Drew Barrymore
Peter Coyote

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

The Movie "Chicago" was very much better than the stage play. This was because the movies can produce such marvelous special effects. Catherine Zeta Jones, Renee Zetweiler, and Richard Geer did their own dancing and singing. They are beautiful, talented actors and held me spellbound throught the film. The music was also wonderful. The three people I went to see it with were equally impressed. It was a sellout audience. Maybe this movie will encourage Hollywood to produce more musical, feel-good movies. I certainly hope so.

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

DVD title: Pi
Productgroup: DVD
Pi - movie DVD cover picture
What existed pre-Big Bang

This is a question serious philosophers snort at when they hear. Any of the most profound questions we come up with as kids are ignored by the know-it-alls who know nothing. Such is a question asked in Pi, a film that works on many levels among them: avant garde filmmaking, asking if there is an intelligence behind all that exists, and finding the pattern of that intelligence, implementation of electronic music effectively, theoretical physics, and chaos theory. Max Cohen finds the secret to the whole universe; both an Einstein and Christ of his generation who can't handle this ultimate knowledge. This film enters a realm we will spend the whole next millenium trying to understand.

Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Sean Gullette
Mark Margolis

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