Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Verdi - La Traviata / Levine, Stratas, Domingo
Productgroup: DVD
Verdi - La Traviata / Levine, Stratas, Domingo - movie DVD cover picture
Zeffirelli brings his magic touch to Verdi's tragic opera

Franco Zeffirelli has repeatedly proved his affinity for opera on the stage of the Metropolitan. The tableau at the end of the opening scene of "Tosca" and the split level second act of "La Boheme" with the street scene above and the restaurant below come to mind. In this 1982 film he takes Verdi's tragic opera and trims it down to a brisk 105 minutes that retains all of the emotional highlights. Zeffirelli proves his mastery before the first note of music is even played. The overture to Verdi's opera is quite atypical. At the time operas began with a loud rush of music, but in "La Traviata" Verdi saves that for the first act. Verdi's overture begins with the strings playing as softly as possible, seducing the restless audience into quiet and communicating quite clearly that what they are about to see is a tragedy. The first part of the overture is Violetta's death motif, which reappears again before the final scene. The second half repeats a theme several times with the hope that the audience will remember it when it shows up as one of the shortest arias in opera when Violetta leaves Alfredo. Zeffirelli does two things to enhance this overture. First, he does all of the opening credits, done over shots of the Paris locale, before the music starts. Second, Zeffirelli sets the scene of the overture right BEFORE the final scene. Violetta's apartment is dark and shadowy figures move about, removing items. A young man is removing a lamp and just as the second part of the overture begins he looks up--and there is a portrait of Violetta. Entranced by her beauty he sees the doctor leaving and heads down the hallway and tentatively opens the door to Violetta bedroom. But what he sees is a woman dying from consumption. The director continues this conceit, having Violetta startled by the rushing music of the first Act and suddenly seeing light and party guests down the hall.
On stage the appearance of the characters in an opera is of minimal importance. If Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti are pretending to be youngsters in love we go along with the game because of the pure joy of listening to their voices. Certainly Zeffirelli pays some attention to how his singers look in this film. Teresa Stratas is a relatively delicate soprano, whose physical frailty is well exploited in the final scenes. Placido Domingo is a robust Alfredo and while the pair are obviously older than their characters, we could not seriously expect Zeffirelli to do what he did in his classic "Romeo & Juliet" and find young singers to carry the film. Cornell MacNeil is also in fine voice as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo's father who successfully beseeches Violetta to give my Alfredo so as not to ruin the marital prospects of his daughter. The cinematography is consistent with the director's best films and my only real complaint is that the subtitles do not cover all of the male chorus' big number about the matador, which offers a rather ironic counterpart to what is about to happen at that point in the story. For years I have been showing this film to students who had never seen an opera and their almost universal opinion is that it was actually more enjoyable than they expected. Imagine your response if you are actually incline to like opera.

Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Teresa Stratas
Plácido Domingo

DVD title: Step Into Liquid
Productgroup: DVD
Step Into Liquid - movie DVD cover picture
I am glad I saw it!

For me, a non-surfer, this was a movie that gives an idea for what the spirit of surfing is. There were some beautiful shots of the waves and the ending has some unbelievable waves! I felt that the sport side and the fun side of surfing were presented well. What is for me after this movie? Try surfing myself, of course.

Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Director: Dana Brown (II)
Laird John Hamilton
Layne Beachley
Dan Malloy (II)

DVD title: David Bowie - A Reality Tour
Productgroup: DVD
David Bowie - A Reality Tour - movie DVD cover picture

Wow, double wow and triple wow. Having been a fan of this man since first seeing him at the Boston Music Hall in 1972 when he only filled half the seats, I'm totally BLOWN AWAY by this DVD and couldn't offer a negative word about it. The only way it could be improved would be if it was in 3D and Julie Christie was sitting on my lap. My most intense rock rush of all time was seeing Bowie at Radio City Music Hall in 73, as Aladdin Sane. When he and the Spiders opened with a ferocious, high flying "Hang On To Yourself" it just took the top of my head off. Well, this show, live, hit that peak about ten times in the course of the evening. This DVD transmits the excitement of a live show like very few are able to do. Beyond Bowie himself, his incredible, incredible band is something to behold, the best he's ever had. The material is exceptional, a beautfully balanced song list, great audio, great camerawork, great editing, and a wild audience that's totally plugged in. You either get Bowie or you don't. This audience gets it, and fuels him. What's particularly satisfying is that the performance gives blood and beauty to some of Bowie's recent songs which may have been less that satisfying on CD. All in all, you've got to bow down to the magnitude of this guy's artistic accomplishment and credibility. Rock for smart people, rock as art. A two hour shot of adrenaline, a STUNNING video experience.

Studio: Sony Music Entertain
David Bowie

DVD title: Ever After - A Cinderella Story
Productgroup: DVD
Ever After - A Cinderella Story - movie DVD cover picture
A Must See

I truly loved this movie. So much so, that I saw it twice in the Theater. I can't remember the last time I did that. I can't wait to get a copy of the video in my hands. Drew was charming and strong. I really enjoy her acting abilities and her ability to charm you with her expressions and her coy ways. Angelica was THE PERFECT wicked step mother. No one could do such a meany so well.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Director: Andy Tennant
Drew Barrymore
Anjelica Huston
Dougray Scott

DVD title: American Psycho (Unrated Version)
Productgroup: DVD
American Psycho (Unrated Version) - movie DVD cover picture


Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Mary Harron
Christian Bale

DVD title: Victor/Victoria
Productgroup: DVD
Victor/Victoria - movie DVD cover picture

I've been waiting for this movie to come out on DVD. It finally arrived. This is the last great hollywood musical with class and charm. I have to have it in my DVD collection!

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Blake Edwards
Julie Andrews
James Garner

DVD title: Danger: Diabolik
Productgroup: DVD
Danger: Diabolik - movie DVD cover picture
What a blast! (Deep, deep, dooooooooowwwwwwwnnn...)

I was introduced to this lovely little slice of sin when it aired as the final triumphant episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Unlike their usual verbal slamming of previous movies on the program, Mike Nelson and the gang seemed to approach this film with more of an affectionate teasing. Watching the stylish bank note lovemaking scene in Diabolik's swank underground hideout, I turned to my wife and said, "This isn't like the other Mistie spoofs. I would actually like to a version of this WITHOUT Mike Nelson poking fun at it!"

So for my birthday just a few days ago, my wife surprised me with a copy of "Danger: Diabolik!" on DVD. We were amazed at how many stunning scenes were excised from the MST3K version: Valmont gunning the snitch doctor for example, and most especially Diabolik and Eva detonating all those tax and debtor's buildings! That scene presaged the finale of "Fight Club" by thirty-two years! WOW! Tyler Durden IS Diabolik!

Let us not forget the peek-a-boo His and Hers shower scenes! This coy presentation of lethal sexuality puts that horrific Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie vehicle "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" to shame!

Savory DVD bonuses include: The Beastie Boys' video "Body Movin'" - inspired visually by "Diabolik!" There is also a featurette tracking the development of "Diabolik!" from comic book to feature film. It features interviews with comic book illustrator Steve Bisette, Beastie Boy Adam "Ad-Rock" Yauch, and "Diabolik!" star John Phillip Law.

Many people in the U.S. are put off by Diabolik's amorality. This from the country that produces everything from the bone-headed Rambo and the monstrous Terminator to that repulsive vigilante "hero," the Punisher. The latter are presented as righteous figures, wheras director Mario Bava makes no bones as to what Diabolik is, a vain big-time thief and terrorist. His actions are not meant to be emulated, merely to be enjoyed as eye-candy.

As a sidetrack on morality. I find it repulisve that Arnold Schwarzenegger used his Terminator persona as a standard for his supporters to rally around, as though that killing machine was meant to be perceived as a hero! Has anyone heard tell of John Phillip Law using Diabolik in the same manner? Well? I'm waiting...

Marisa Mell is tasty as Eva, and the actors who play Jenko(?), Valmont, and the Minister of Finance deserve a belated round of applause. They all made the shady "Diabolik" a joyful, fantastic romp.

Like a pop-culture version of "Richard III," "Danger: Diabolik!" is the proverbial guilty pleasure. It invites you to revel in vices of theft, wealth, and stylized sex. You KNOW it's not right of course, but you ENJOY it anyway... MWAH-HAH-HAAAAAA!!!

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Mario Bava

DVD title: NFL Films Super Bowl Collection - Super Bowls XI-XX
Productgroup: DVD
NFL Films Super Bowl Collection - Super Bowls XI-XX - movie DVD cover picture
Excellent Package

Some people have criticised this title for not containing the entire games. What they fail to understand is that NFL Films does not own the footage from the TV broadcasts and therefore cannot publish such material.
The actual documentaries are of an excellent quality, both in cinematography and in narrative. Of course, with narration from the likes of John Facenda and Harry Kalas, the overall effect is multiplied.
These documentary films really capture the spirit of the big games, and to have ten of them on five discs, and the season review films, plus extras, represents excellent value for money. I very much recommend this, and other titles in the "Super Bowl Collection" series.

Studio: Warner Home Video

DVD title: Sailor Moon Super S - The Movie
Productgroup: DVD
Sailor Moon Super S - The Movie - movie DVD cover picture

I can't say I wasn't disappointed, but I was a bit less disappointed than I was with the S translation. My beefs- -THE MUSIC! Again, many of the musical pieces were replaced with ones that didn't seem like they fit the scene. The music is a third of the movie! On the plus side, they kept some of the ending music so it did give some sense of closure to the movie. They also kept that cute little "3 o'clock fairy" song ^_^ -Which brings me to another point. Why didn't they tell the story of the three o'clock fairy? It took a lot of the things away that could have been explained without me having to tell my cousins half of what they didn't translate. They didn't know the significance of the birds that came from the flutes, or the story behind the three guys that stayed with Badiyanu. Also, they left out the part that made more sense than what they were saying before. As Sailor Moon put it well in the S movie, "Without the bad times, we wouldn't appreciate the good times!" They replaced that with a cookie story? -Since I'm not too familiar with the other voice translations (particularly the Outer Scouts) I'm not going to say much about them. But Peruru's voice was a bit too high for his character. Peruru does protect the innocence in children and just as well has a bit of that in himself, but he also seems to have a sense of maturity and wisdom about things that is reflected in his original voice. The original also makes him seem more mysterious. On the plus side-they didn't strain the voices quite as much. Yay! The other good stuff- They did something in this movie and the last movie I didn't notice before. They enhanced the color and animation lines so the pictures look clearer, which is always good ^_^ In closing, the dialogue makes a little more sense in English to English speakers, but altogether the subtitle was better, unless you can't read. The kids would enjoy this more than the older Sailor Moon fans (and I think the parents would appreciate the editing) but those with more knowledge and don't mind what was edited out should get the subtitled version. (The parts edited out was a short scene where Serena spanked Rini to wake her up, a piece at the end where the Scouts started to lose their transformation and the suits, and some mild language.)

Studio: Pioneer Video

DVD title: Fight Club (Single Disc Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Fight Club (Single Disc Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Beyond outstanding

Fight Club is the kind of film that you will watch and then see it again... and again. It has so many hidden layers of social criticism that I was just impressed and fascinated with what the director intended to convey in this (beautifully shot) work of art. The direction is perfect, the acting is flawless (even Meat Loaf and Jared Leto put on some wonderful performances), the storyline is twisted, intelligent, and carried out at the right pace.
What makes Fight Club the great movie that all reviews below tout it to be? Its radical criticism of modern consumerism is just one of many reasons. Another one is its call for intelligent anarchy, one which seeks to awaken the modern man from the robotic position that social norms have designed and assigened to him. One more reason would be the fact that it deals with one of humanity's primal insticts: violence. Its depiction of violence as an art and a release from modern stagnation makes this movie, without a doubt, one of the best flicks of the past decade (and, certainly, of all time).
As far as this DVD goes, it is worth every penny that we pay for it. The original and artsy packaging is just one reason. The extras and quality of the DVD itself is the other. It is definitely worth buying. Just renting wouldn' allow the viewer for further exploration of this brilliant film.

Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
Director: David Fincher
Edward Norton
Brad Pitt

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