Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Xanadu
Productgroup: DVD
Xanadu - movie DVD cover picture
Xanadu - The Movie Musical of the 80's - A Pop Culture Must

I have seen Xanadu well over 100 times. To say I am very familiar with the film is an understatement. This film is unfortunately very under-rated and has been the victim of numerous scathing reviews throughout the years since its release in 1980. I hope to put a stop to that with this review.

One of the main reasons that Xanadu suffered/continues to suffer such an unfortunate fate with regards to movie-goers in my opinion is mostly to blame on the extremely bad timing of its initial release. The movie was released right as Disco and Roller-Disco's were going out of favor. This had a very negative effect on the movie, since the major plot line involves two men, both of which realize that they share a dream to open a "modern-day" disco/roller rink who have the help of a muse from Ancient Greece to fulfill their dream.

The funny part about it all is that the music for the film is not what most people would classify as "Disco." This too also had it's negative implications on the movie as the "Disco Sucks" movement was in full-force when the movie was released. To the contrary, the soundtrack for the film performed extremely well and spawned 3 top-ten hits.

If one can overlook the bad timing of the film's initial release and that the music is not what many would call Disco, one can see that Xanadu was an extremely balsy movie to make in 1980. Movie-musicals had fallen out of favor decades before the film was released. Xanadu, with the star power of Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly and a great soundtrack, could very well be viewed as one of the reasons film-makers even conisidered bringing the movie-musical genre back into vogue with films like Evita, Chicago and most recently, Phantom of the Opera.

Perhaps one of Xanadu's greatest assets as a film is that it is simply fun to watch. The creative special effects and muscial sequences are the reasonto watch the film. Yes, the script does not really embody the standards for most good films, but is the script really why someone would go to see Xanadu? As a 7 year-old, seeing Xanadu for me had nothing to do with the script or the plot. All I wanted to see was Olivia Newton John sing on the screen and really didn't care how they got her into the songs. When you think about it from this perspective, Xanadu delivers exactly what the majority of the target audience going to see the film were expecting and wanting to see, which was Olivia, post-Grease, continuing to look gorgeous and sing.

With that said, Xanadu is a well-made movie contrary to the "B-movie" status others may label it as having. Yes it has sappy parts and over-the-top parts, but who cares? Take this movie as what it was meant to be, a fun movie that gets you tapping your foot during the musical numbers and makes you want to go out and buy the soundtrack afterwards. I am still in love with it after 24 years and can honestly say that it's one of the few movies thatI can watch again and again and not grow tired of.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Robert Greenwald
Olivia Newton-John

DVD title: Kino's Journey - Emerging Lanes (Vol. 2)
Productgroup: DVD
Kino's Journey - Emerging Lanes (Vol. 2) - movie DVD cover picture
Philosophy and the Art of Motorrad Maintenance

The second disc of Kino's Journey continues much in the same way as the 1st disc, save a small twist. In many ways, you know what to expect: Kino and Hermes travel to different countries and spend three days there. This time, Kino comes across three workers on a railroad, each with a task they have spent their lives involved with. Next, Kino is tricked into a duel where people are forced to fight to the death to gain citizenship to a country. Both stories (the latter spread over 2 episodes) deal with the kind of morality plays that the first disc had, but with a little dealings with Kino's character and abilities as a marksman. This is a quiet, thought-provoking show. There is a subtle tone to the series, one that boarders on disturbing at times. Hermes, the talking "motorrad" (motorcycle), provides a bit of comic relief, but in general there is a quiet feel that may require some thought afterwards. At times it comes off as a little self-indulgant (Kino seems a little too calm, collected and mature for the supposed age we are to assume Kino is)
Those who are fans of calm series like Haibane Renmei, or mental exercises like Boogiepop Phantom or Lain may really find something to enjoy here. Personally, I see this as a combination of the slow going Yokohama Shopping Log, and the surreal Serial Experiments Lain.

Studio: A.D. Vision

DVD title: Signs (Vista Series)
Productgroup: DVD
Signs (Vista Series) - movie DVD cover picture
Signs What more is there to say?

This movie sacared me but thats what i asked for! i recomond this to any person who wan't to be scared!!cuz i certinaly was!!

Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Mel Gibson
Joaquin Phoenix

DVD title: Last Exile:Vol 1-7 Complete Box Set
Productgroup: DVD
Last Exile:Vol 1-7 Complete Box Set - movie DVD cover picture

This series is among one of the better anime out there because of its excellence in almost all the essential criteria for properly assessing this genre, such as a good story, strong character development, beautiful animation and music, and an ending which feels finished enough to satisfy its viewers. I watched this entire series without complaining about any of the things I usually do about other anime. It is definitely worth watching; all of my friends liked it as well, and critics likewise agree with me.

However, I do have ONE problem with this product: it is too costly. I suggest buying one of the used editions.

Studio: Geneon Entertainment

DVD title: Contact
Productgroup: DVD
Contact - movie DVD cover picture
"Wanna take a ride?"

In 1985, Pulitzer-prize winning author and astronomer Carl Sagan (1934-1996) wrote a brilliant "what-if" scenario in his novel entitled "Contact". In the novel, Carl Sagan created a scenario in which his protagonist, a radio astronomer named Dr. Eleanor Ann 'Ellie' Arroway, discovers an extraterrestrial radio transmission that is clearly from an intelligent alien source. The discovery causes intense debate between the proponents of science, religion and government that eventually leads to some very compelling questions on the nature of faith itself. In 1997, the novel was transformed into a film of the same name under the direction of the well-known director Robert Zemeckis, who had previously directed "Forrest Gump" (1994, for which Zemeckis won the Oscar for Best Director), "Death Becomes Her" (1992), "Back to the Future" (1985) and "Romancing the Stone" (1984).
Carl Sagan, with assistance from writers Ann Druyan, James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, slightly modified the original story by giving Dr. Arroway (played by Jodie Foster) a more personal adversary in another astronomer, Dr. David Drumlin (played by Tom Skerritt). At the beginning of the film, a brief exploration of Dr. Arroway's childhood (played by Jena Malone) is provided that helps to establish her purely scientific perception of reality that resulted in part from the passing away of her father, Ted Arroway (David Morse), who had also encouraged her love of science, astronomy and radio communications. As an astronomer, Dr. Arroway dedicated her work to the SETI project (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), which Dr. Drumlin considers frivolous and potentially damaging to Dr. Arroway's credibility. With her governmental funding cut, Dr. Arroway eventually gets private funding after she approaches one of the world's richest and most influential men, S. R. Hadden (John Hurt). With funding secured, Dr. Arroway's search continues at the Very Large Array (VLA) near Socorro, New Mexico. With her unorthodox method of personally listening to outer space static, Dr. Arroway suddenly and unexpectedly hears a bizarre set of sounds. She immediately gets her team, which includes Kent Clark (William Fichtner), busy working on analyzing the signal, which likely comes from an extraterrestrial source. Once verified, she announces her discovery to the world via the news media, to the disdain of governmental officials including Dr. Drumlin, National Security Advisor Michael Kitz (James Woods) and then President Bill Clinton (himself via archive footage). It also gains explosive response from very religious individuals who don't necessarily share Dr. Arroway's enthusiasm, except for Father Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey), whom Dr. Arroway met in Puerto Rico in a more than casual sense. The content of the message itself raises some very large questions.
What really brought Carl Sagan's vision to life in "Contact" was placing it within a contemporary timeframe. This included the use of many real events, people and places that included CNN, the VLA, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and many cameos from current politicians the television personalities (Jay Leno, Larry King, Geraldine A. Ferraro, Geraldo Rivera to name only a few). Also, Robert Zemeckis placed actors within archival footage in much the same way as he did with the film "Forrest Gump" in 1994. All of this, as well as superb acting from the principal actors (Jodie Foster, Tom Skerrit, Matthew McConaughey, John Hurt, William Fichtner and James Woods), great cinematography, wonderful sets and great special effects make this a brilliant film. Other memorable characters include Rachel Constantine (Angela Bassett), Richard Rank (Rob Lowe), the NASA Mission Director (Tucker Smallwood) and Joseph (Jake Busey). Some of the most memorable scenes in the film include Dr. Arroway hearing the message at the VLA, the public response, the political discussions, Dr. Arroway meeting S.R. Hadden, the machine, Dr. Arroway's relationship with Palmer, the pinnacle event and its aftermath.
Overall, I rate "Contact" with a resounding 5 out of 5 stars. In my opinion, it portrays many very probable debates and reactions if astronomers ever actually do discover intelligent extraterrestrial communication signals. I applaud Carl Sagan for his vision, as well as Robert Zemeckis and the many actors and other people involved with the making of this very engaging and compelling film.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Jodie Foster
Matthew McConaughey

DVD title: Verdi - Requiem / Henri-Georges Clouzot · Herbert von Karajan - L. Price · Cossotto · Pavarotti
Productgroup: DVD
Verdi - Requiem / Henri-Georges Clouzot · Herbert von Karajan - L. Price · Cossotto · Pavarotti - movie DVD cover picture
Buy it immediatelly

This show can be described as one of the most important moments in history of music. Maestro Verdi would REALLY be very proud.I must confess that i bought this REquiem because i'm a huge pavarotti fan. But, what a great surprise!!! We all know the great singers that Ghiaurov, Cossoto and Price are, but they are even better than one could expect. They sing near perfection! Pavarotti is just a detail if you compare to the other solists. Ghiaurov is really a GOD! Cossoto is MUCH, MUCH better than i though she would be singing the Requiem. I'm not saying that i thought she would be inaddequate singing the Requiem, my point is that she is outstanding! Any compliment i use would not be enough to express her majesty! And Price, oh my god...! Price is unbelievebly great!!! The concert was recorded in 1967, and it's astonishing how the quality is so good! The whole DVD is really amazing. I couldn't be more satisfied. karajan did a terrific job too ! The orchestra and chorus are fantastic! It's really hard to imagine a better recording of the great Verdi Requiem.BUY IT IMMEDIATELLY!!!!

Studio: Uni/Deutsche Grammophon
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

DVD title: Random Harvest
Productgroup: DVD
Random Harvest - movie DVD cover picture
Classic Old Hollywood

"Random Harvest" is NOT a "tearjerker", as some amazon friends have suggested. In fact, it may be the definitive feel good movie, if the open -minded viewer gives the chance. The two leads, Ronald Colman and Greer Garson carry the story. The fine supporting cast is virtually anonymous, more to their credit. He is a WWI vet, suffering from amnesia. She is the nice girl who nurses him back to health. The plot thickens when Colman is hit by a car- regains his original (!) memory- and forgets about the beautiful, caring Garson. What happens? This reviewer won't give away the rest of the wonderful story. Folks will just have to see this classic and find out but there IS a surprise "reappearance" involved-similar to that by Gene Tierney in "Laura". Watch that office door! (According to Tom O' Neil's "Movie Awards", RH was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay. The fact that it won NONE of the foregoing is meaningless. It was competing for Oscars with "Mrs. Miniver", which gave Miss Garson an Academy Award for Best Actress and the chance to set the dubious distinction of making the longest acceptance speech in Oscar history). The final RH scenes are golden as Colman retraces his past to the friendly pub where he first met Garson, the old tobacco shop and that little cottage. Maybe it is a bit of a tearjerker- a heartening one. Does anyone seriously believe Hollywood could remake this one? Who would play the Colman role? Tom Cruise? Please! Let's all be grateful to the persons who preserve the old classics like "Random Harvest".

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Ronald Colman
Greer Garson

DVD title: Dazed and Confused
Productgroup: DVD
Dazed and Confused - movie DVD cover picture
No plot but so what

Someone gave this 1 star because it had no plot. I think I agree. It was a movie that follows the high school group around. But through this process you are transported to this place and time. I missed the 70s culture (too young) but this movie explains it to me. There's no great message here but how many movies can recreate a time and place for you. Make you feel like you were there. Help you understand how you would have behaved then. I have little interest in the 70s but what a fun trip it is while watching this movie.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Richard Linklater
Jason London
Rory Cochrane
Wiley Wiggins
Matthew McConaughey

DVD title: Yellow Submarine
Productgroup: DVD
Yellow Submarine - movie DVD cover picture
I love this movie!

Simply put, this is a timeless celebration of all that the Beatles, joy, wit, brilliance, innocence, confusion, meaning, peace and immortality. Just one more way for them to shine on - beautifully.

Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Director: George Dunning (II)
John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr

DVD title: Spider-Man 2 (Widescreen Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Spider-Man 2 (Widescreen Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Go buy this Tiger

Taking issue #50 of "Spider-Man" as its starting point, Peter Parker decides he needs to get a life outside of Spider-Man. Parker discovers that crime never pays for the hero (or at least his overdue rent). Since he doesn't have time to do his college homework, is failing classes and no has relationship with MJ because of his alter-ego, Parker decides to give up the Spidey suit. When his powers begin failing him because of his indecision, it's the final web for Parker. Parker has lousy timing, though, as just as all this is occurring as Doctor Octavius (Alfred Molina in a marevlously nuanced performance)one of Peter's idols goes mad and becomes a supervillain causing havoc. J. K. Simmons is hillarious as J. Jonah Jameson capturing just the right element of tabloid journalism (and the scenes at The Daily Bugle plays like a miniature screwball comedy that could well have been made in the 40's)that drives Jameson to make Spidey a villain. The rest of the cast from Maguire, Dunst, Franco all the way down to Rosemary Harris as Aunt May capture elements of what made the comic characters so compelling.

With a witty script written by Alvin Sargent ("What About Bob?", "Julia", "Straight Time" and "Unfaithful" among many other scripts)and with contributions by other notable writers (Michael Chabon Pultizer Prize author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), "Spider-Man" soars precisely because of the issues that Parker faces. Sam Raimi's sure handed direction and visual effects that rank among the best (although sometimes the CGI Spider-Man looks exactly like, well, a CGI representation of Spider-Man)keeps "Spidey-2" from being earthbound. "Spider-Man 2" visits familiar territory for super hero films (already visited by "Superman 2")but has enough originality to stamp the story with its own stamp. Is it better than the original? You'll have to decide for yourself as the first film was exceptional but "Spider-Man 2" at least measures up precisely because it's more character driven.

Comparing the different versions of "Spider-Man 2" is a challenge (there's three out there in the US). The best looking of the bunch is the Superbit edition in which all the extras are shaved off with all the extra disc space devoted strictly to the high definition transfer of picture and sound. Not surprisingly, this edition looks and sounds the best with a crisper picture, sharper images and top notch sound that sounds only slighly better than the 2 disc convention set. The catch is that the Superbit Edition has no extras and is a single disc. You'd also have to have a top-of-the-line system to really, really appreciate the differences (although on a big screen TV you'll see some of them readily apparent). If the person you're buying this for is into the best looking and sounding digital audio and video, this is probably the edition to get.

The 2 disc set looks pretty darn good with a high definition transfer that looks and sounds almost as good as the Superbit Edition. We also get "Spider-Facts" which is, essentially, a text only commentary track. While it occasionally has some interesting tidits about the film (and many outside of the film such as tidbits about New York City), it's dispensable. There's also a blooper reel which is amusing included on the first disc as well as previews/trailers for various films.

The second disc (which could easily have been included in a deluxe 3 disc Superbit Edition set for videophiles)includes a stunning 12 part documentary that discusses the production of the movie from pre-production to the premiere. It's exhaustive and fascinating to watch all on its own as a documentary. "Ock-Umentary: Eight Arms to Hold You" (a rather witty reference to The Beatles' film "Help!") is also a very good documentary on the history of Doc Ock from his first appearence in Spider-Man # 3 to the 60's cartoons to how they adapted the character for the film.There's also a number of very good featurettes including a discussion of the women in Spidey's life (which is only appropriate as two women dominate his life and influence most of his personal decisions),"Enter the Web" uses multi-angle technology to give a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the shooting of the climax of the movie. There's also an art gallery of Alex Ross' paintings from the title sequence (which is used as a brilliant device to sum up the first film for viewers who missed it and reminding everyone of what happened). We don't get any worthwhile games (that's a definite negative for gamers who want to try "Spider-Man 2: The Game") but get a featurette on the making of the game. There's also the usual weblinks. Oh and if you click on one of Doc Ock's tentacles you'll find an Easter Egg showing a very funny practical joke director Sam Raimi played on actor Alfred Molina.

The commentary tracks feature director Raimi, Maguire and the producers and there's also a separate Technical Commentary featuring effects supervisor John Dykstra and others discussing how they achieved the look of the film. For those folks who purchased this at Best-Buy early enough got an extra disc that had the VH-1 Special on the production of the movie. It's OK and more promo piece fluff than behind-the-scenes documentary.

The boxed comes with the conventional two disc set (without the Best Buy disc which is a bit curious as it would have been a nice addition) plus a comic collector's dream team of 25 artists with paintings inspired by the film. There's a portfolio that allows you to view various scenes from conception to final product (which would have been put to better use on a multi-angle DVD for videophiles). Taking an idea from the re-release of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" (a Raimi favorite), there's five postcard sized reproductions of the artwork used to publicize the film including the trio of promo posters that were plastered all over cities. Finally, there's a reproduction (reduced to fit in the set)of The Amazing Spider-Man # 50 issue that inspired much of the story. They probably also should have included The Amazing Spider-Man #3 where Doc Ock first appeared as well, but that's a pretty minor point.

All in all,the last set makes the better Christmas or birthday gift for fans. Regardless, the film is the same just differing in presentation. "Spider-Man 2" has a number of detractors that don't care for it. They probably shouldn't buy the film or rent it. For the rest of us who liked it, this is an intelligent, fun film thats only major flaws is that it runs about 15 minutes too long.

Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Director: Sam Raimi
Tobey Maguire
Kirsten Dunst
Alfred Molina

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