Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Cowboy Bebop - The Movie
Productgroup: DVD
Cowboy Bebop - The Movie - movie DVD cover picture
Yoko Kanno's music is intact.

Normally, I wouldn't waste anybody's time by adding yet another "Cowboy Bebop rocks" review. But someone has falsely posted that the American version of the movie has some "terrible rock" instead of Yoko KANNO's excellent music.
Let me set the record straight here: the English dub of the movie keeps Yoko KANNO's original music COMPLETELY INTACT. I have also watched the movie in both its forms, the original Japanese version (downloaded) and the American version (in theatres).
The thing is, there have been rumors floating around the web for well over a year that Columbia-TriStar was replacing Yoko KANNO's music with some American rock. Many doubted the validity of the rumor, but the rumor persisted. And obviously, the rumor has been completely discredited now, after the movie's American theatrical release. If you heard any rumors about the music being replaced, then you can safely disregard them as false rumors.
As for the movie itself, the English dub is excellent (and I generally dislike dubs), and, as if anybody needed to tell you, Cowboy Bebop rocks, and the movie rocks. The only negative thing I can say about the movie is that it is a tad long, weakening the momentum and the pacing of the film. Still, that doesn't keep me from wholeheartedly recommending the movie.
Just don't listen to anybody who says that the "American version ruined the music." It is simply not true.

Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Beau Billingslea
Melissa Charles

DVD title: Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War
Productgroup: DVD
Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War - movie DVD cover picture
Historic film about an era long past, yet still living

War is hell, and civil war forces horrific tensions between blood relations, ideology, and sacrifice. This is a violent, emotional, yet realistic and important portrayal of the Korean War, seen from a ground-level point of view. Yes there were patriots, anti-communists, and valiant warriors, but mostly there were brothers, children, parents...and they fought or hid to survive.

I spent seven years in Korea during the transition from military leaders to democratically elected civilian rule. Taeguki struck me as a well-done historic film, done as well as Hollywood might have.

Comparisons have been made with Saving Private Ryan, so I'll join and say that Taeguki had more grit, faster pacing, deeper emotional draw, and just seemed more real. SPR had the money to make more graphic and realistic battle scenes, but Taeguki's war scenes were powerful enough that my wife had to tell me at one point, "'s not you that's fighting!"

Bottom-line: Excellent movie, well worth seeing--especially those with an interest in Korea. I watched the Korean-language version, with English subtitles and found it easy to follow. The English dubbed edition seemed to be well-done (I watched about 10 minutes of it), but there is always something lost when movies are dubbed.

Studio: Columbia Tristar Hom
Director: Je-gyu Kang

DVD title: 50 Movie Horror Classics
Productgroup: DVD
50 Movie Horror Classics - movie DVD cover picture
Great set.. awesome movies.. but cheaper elsewhere.

Usually genre-generic boxed sets like these include 98% completely off-the-wall movies that people have never heard of nor seen. This set, however, includes numerous movies that are VERY well known (and loved) in cult classic pop culture. People who aren't even "horror buffs" will instantly recognize probably 20% of the movies just by hearing the name. :)

Be careful where you purchase this though - I've recently seen this box set (and other genre sets such as western, classic, etc) at many places ranging from the 34$ price on up to 49.99! I purchased this horror set at the closeout retail outlet "Big Lots" for only $14.99. Its the exact same set.. never before opened.. perfect condition. I was completely thrilled to have found it there since Im love horror flicks, and then I started seeing it elsewhere for more than double the price I had paid. So.. just to let you know.. before you buy.. check your local area to see if you have a Big Lots anywhere around.

Studio: Digital 1 Stop

DVD title: Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack (Three Smart Girls / Something In the Wind / First Love / It Started with Eve / Can't Help Singing / Lady on a Train)
Productgroup: DVD
Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack (Three Smart Girls / Something In the Wind / First Love / It Started with Eve / Can't Help Singing / Lady on a Train) - movie DVD cover picture
A Wonderful Collection of Films

The Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack is an excellent DVD collection.

Sadly, Deanna's films are not all that popular today, even though she was one of the biggest stars of the 30's / early 40's. Since she retired in the late 40's and has rarely granted interviews since then, her film legacy is rather forgotten by many of today's filmgoers. Even TCM and other cable channels rarely show her films.

But, this DVD collection is a great beginning.

The films here are all quite entertaining. THREE SMART GIRLS, being her first, is a great place to begin. FIRST LOVE is another fun one, and it co-stars a young Robert Stack. SOMETHING IN THE WIND features a wonderful Donald O'Conner musical number, similar to the "Make em Laugh" number in SINGING IN THE RAIN. IT STARTED WITH EVE is very entertaining and LADY ON A TRAIN is worth buying the entire set for if only to hear her rendition of "Silent Night".

The weakest film in the collection is arguably the Western CAN'T HELP SINGING, but it is also the only color film that Deanna made so it is of interst in that regard.

Hopefully, Universal will release more of her films on DVD as all of them are out of print on VHS. All but 2 or her 21 films are available on DVD in the UK.

Studio: Universal Studios Ho
Director: Henry Koster
Deanna Durbin

DVD title: Sin City (UMD Mini For PSP)
Productgroup: DVD
Sin City (UMD Mini For PSP) - movie DVD cover picture
Noir reinvented

If there's anything you knew in advance about "Sin City" (aside from who gets naked -- show a little class dammit) it's that director Robert Rodriquez went as far out of his way as humanly possible to make this film adhere as closely as possible to the visual feel of the comic book source material. Well, I haven't read any of Frank Miller's legendary "Sin City" comics, but having seen the movie, I can't imagine it existing without them.Many people will see similarities between "Sin City" and the work of Quentin Tarantino, both because Robert Rodriquez will probably never break free from this stigma no matter how many kiddie flicks he makes, and more importantly -- gulp -- he actually inviteds QT on board to direct one of the segments, this after he'd torn up his DGA membership card in disgust after they wouldn't allow him to list Frank Miller as a co-director, so as far as integrity goes it's hard to one-up Sir Robert here. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to which segment QT was supposed to be directing ahead of viewing this flick, and it's to the film's credit that it all seems of a piece no matter how the chores were divvied up.

Now, there are a couple of things that are immediately going to weed out a certain part of the older audience (hello Ma!), this being the "artsy" use of black-and-white splashed here and there with purposeful primary colors, and also the integrity of the action sequences. I shouldn't diss the so-called "older" audience, being in my third decade of existence myself, but my parents and everyone else their age have certain prejudices toward a particular kind of modern film, this being the type that has "far fetched" action sequences. Yes, in "Sin City" the characters are able to take a ridiculous amount of bullets and keep on ticking as well as jumping out of windows several stories to the ground without any apparent injuries, but to that I say that there is a reason this kind of thing works in a film like "Sin City" whereas it can easily wear thin in a movie like, say, "The Matrix". Sin City is portrayed as a hopelessly fatalistic backdrop against which the best the characters can hope for is to die with a little bit of dignity. It doesn't really matter that Marv doesn't croak after taking a bullet to the head because you know the dice are gonna roll cold for him sooner or later.Another comparison people may make to Tarantino is to point out that "Sin City" is also an anthology film. I could mention the fact that this is based on three graphic novels featuring different protagonists and leave it at that, but -- at the risk of unduly diminishing the genius of Quentin Tarantino, whose "Pulp Fiction" is undeniably the most influential film of the 90s and a work of art in it's own right -- it should be noted that QT did not, in fact, actually INVENT the anthology film. No, that would be George Romero and Stephen King with "Creepshow" (I'm kidding, of course, but you get my point...).

Aside from the anthology aspect, there is one thing that actually does somewhat resemble "Pulp Fiction": Bruce Willis' character makes an early exit only to return later in the film. It's not the same chronological gimmick that QT utilized but I've said enough as it is.The one aspect that got so much press in the film's pre-release was the unprecedented decision to film the entire movie in front of a green screen. This move not only doesn't come off as a gimmick but you'll find yourself forgetting that "Sin City" isn't absolutely real about five minutes into the movie. Sure, there are numerous improbabilities, as detailed above, but it's the MOVEMENT of the characters, vehicles, weapons, etc. that seem a bit cartoonish; nothing about the actual scenery really does. In essence, "Sin City" sticks to the elements that continue to make noir so compelling: great camerawork, gritty characterizations, and the theme of a hardened soul holding out some kind of remote hope for redemption. Bruce Willis was an absolute no-brainer for this flick: he's spent the last decade perfecting this world-weary gutter saint character, and "Sin City" is arguably his best portrait of this tortured soul archetype yet. Willis, Clive Owen and Mickey Rourke are the three main protagonists, and you'll find yourself rooting for them not through point-of-view bias alone, but because each of these guys completely earns the right to be called a bad ass. In a way I'm glad they saved the fate of Willis' character for last as the whole movie seems to be building to such tragedy.

So, yes, it's unfortunate that so many people will rent this movie sheerly on the recommendation of Mr. Skin, but hopefully "Sin City" will turn more than a few heads on to a new, hightened quality of experimental film-making in the same way that the aforementioned "Pulp Fiction" did a decade ago. Word is that Rodriquez is planning two back-to-back sequels as we speak.

DVD title: The Return
Productgroup: DVD
The Return - movie DVD cover picture
Brilliantly Speculative Cinema of Father's Return...

Communication brings people closer, as shared information removes obstacles such as guessing and assumptions. For example, if a person says, "I am scared." People know that the person is scared and it offers an opportunity for people to help the person overcome the fear in one way or another. Thus, communication also becomes the foundation upon, which education and enlightenment rest. If communication perished, enlightenment and knowledge would see their final days because the next generation would never receive the information from previous generations. This displays why communication and why language is so essential for human existence. The Return illustrates a returning father and his inability to communicate, which will leave the audience in a cerebral no man's land guessing and concocting their own assumptions.

The director Andrei Zvyagintsev opens the film by a pier where a large diving tower is located. Some young teenagers are jumping from the tower while Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov), one of the younger kids, does not jump as her fears height. His friends and his older brother Andrey (Vladimir Garin) leave him on top of the diving tower whimpering in fear while the cold sea breeze brushes his body. This leads to a situation where some of Ivan's friends call him a coward, which he denies. Ivan ends up in fight with his brother, and he runs home to tell his mother while she simply states, "Don't wake your father."

Flabbergasted the two boys look at their mother, when she says that their father (Konstantin Lavronenko) is at home. These two boys have not seen their father for over a decade, and now he has returned for whatever reason. The first thing the father has decided to do is to take the two boys on a fishing trip; however, the trip turns out to be something completely different than what the kids had in mind.

Throughout the trip, the father is abusive and rough with Ivan and Andrey. However, besides this the audience has to follow a trail of suggestive ideas, which leaves the viewer with mere assumptions. Several reviews have pinpointed this speculative atmosphere in the film that the father in the film generates through his persona, as he never provides a motive to his actions. Some reviews have suggested that he is a crook out to recover some old loot while others have proposed that the father tries to teach his two sons to become men, as their upbringing has lacked a male role model. It does not really matter what the audience thinks, as all ideas can be true. What seems to matter is the father's inability to communicate with his two sons, as he often leaves them confused, hurt, and withdrawn.

Cleverly, Zvyagintsev uses the mise-en-scene in the film, which helps create the tentative milieu. The many majestic shots expand the viewer's mind in several directions, as they provide the audience an opportunity to ponder the insignificance of the character's identity. This enhances the ominous tension shaped between the children and the father, which might lead the audience's mind in a negative and darker direction of the father's intentions. The camera filter also plays an important role in producing a negative atmosphere, as it boosts the emotional distance between the father and the boys.

The highly speculative atmosphere that Andrei Zvyagintsev generates through his film suggests the notion of poor communication and highlights the importance of good communication. Communication is also an essential part of cinema, as cinema is visual storytelling that can use dialogue and other auditory signals to promote a story. Regardless of the story's outcome, the audience learns a threefold lesson through the film about the importance of language and communication. The most obvious lesson is in regards to the boys' confusion and pain in the story due to the father's poor communication. The second lesson that Zvyagintsev teaches the audience is through the viewer's own assumptions and guesses based on the lack of information. The final lesson of communication that the film provides is in regards to our short existence on earth, which suggests that one should seize the day when the chance presents itself. Ultimately, the audience can reflect over the pictures at the end in the film, as these images provide several different ideas. This is the beauty of art, as it leaves the audience with their own interpretations and thoughts, which maybe could lead to a revelation of some sort helping people with proper communication.

Studio: Kino International
Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev

DVD title: Scrooge
Productgroup: DVD
Scrooge - movie DVD cover picture
A Family Favorite

This movie has been a holiday tradition at our house for years. It combines talented acting and a wonderful score, with the result being an uplifting experience that always puts us in the Christmas spirit. Albert Finney gives a performance as Scrooge that rivals Alistar Cooke and George C. Scott.

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Ronald Neame
Albert Finney
Alec Guinness

DVD title: In the Mouth of Madness
Productgroup: DVD
In the Mouth of Madness - movie DVD cover picture
Carpenter's most entertaining film to date.

Sam Neill is John Trent, an insurance investigator sent to search for a missing horror author. He eventually discovers that the writer's latest piece of fiction may actually be coming to life. Mind-bending horror/thriller in the style of H.P. Lovecraft is one of John Carpenter's best films to date. It's scary, intelligent, and quite a bit of fun. The special effects are great and the creepy score from Carpenter is one of the few of his that doesn't simply repeat itself to death. Loses some momentum in the last ten minutes, but goes out with a real bang. Sam Neill is terrific, as usual.**** 1/2 out of *****

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: John Carpenter
Sam Neill
Jürgen Prochnow

DVD title: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Gets you choked up

My eyes welled up so many times during this movie! Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet really had us believing in their love... truly you remember that one love you never got over and it haunts you long after you leave the theater. What person has not had their heart broken and wished so hard that they could forget it ever existed? And in the same way, after we have thought that, haven't we remembered the tried & true: "it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all?" Watch this movie... if you have ever loved so hard and never loved that same way again... it hits your heart and stays stuck in your gut.

Studio: Universal Studios Ho
Director: Michel Gondry
Jim Carrey
Kate Winslet
Tom Wilkinson

DVD title: The Ballet Workout
Productgroup: DVD
The Ballet Workout - movie DVD cover picture
The Best Ballet Practice Video

This tape isn't just "ballet insprired," it's the real thing! Ms. Lowe leads you through all the classic barre exercises while accompanied by a live pianist. And the fact that she does it from a rehearsal studio (rather than a set or a gym) enhances the feeling of being in class. Although both workouts are well under 45 minutes, the lower body gets some INTENSE conditioning. (The first time I did the beginner's section I could barely walk up the stairs the next day!) Yes, some of the warmup stretches are a bit advanced, but you can easily adjust them to your own level. Still, I would recommend taking at least a few live classes before attempting this video. Getting feedback from a trained professional is essential in order to avoid injury.

Studio: Kultur
Melissa Lowe

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