Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Apocalypse Now
Productgroup: DVD
Apocalypse Now - movie DVD cover picture
as powerful as ever

This is one of the few films that I would classify as not just an amazing motion picture but great art as well.A film you don't watch but experience.

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Marlon Brando
Martin Sheen

DVD title: Farscape Season 1, Vol. 9 - Through the Looking Glass / A Bug's Life
Productgroup: DVD
Farscape Season 1, Vol. 9 - Through the Looking Glass / A Bug's Life - movie DVD cover picture
Farscape is wonderful

Farscape is a rarity in the Sci-Fi genre. It not only blends a rich tapestry of other worldly creatures and civilizations, but it also manages to tie the themes of this magnificent universe to our own existence here on the (relatively) "backwards" earth. Henson's creature shop works marvels with the aliens and cities and jungles of various worlds. Also because it shoots in Australia, the supporting cast and one shot charactors have great accents that add a rich feel to the dialouge. Truely a great Sci-Fi show.

Studio: A.D. Vision

DVD title: Fiend without a Face - Criterion Collection
Productgroup: DVD
Fiend without a Face - Criterion Collection - movie DVD cover picture
Fiendish 50's Fun !!

Here's a 50's creature feature that still packs an effective punch. It's one of my favorite creature features of the era and holds up surprisingly well. This independently produced British film , picked up by MGM in 1958, follows a now overly familiar formula but is more consistently paced than most films of its genre and era, and delivers a once extremely (and still pretty) gory ending-an ending which surely was part of the inspiration for scenes in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead a full decade later.
This was a film that gave me childhood nightmares after I first watched it one Saturday night on Chiller Theater in the early 60's. I didn't realize then, that this little low-budget film from the 50's was considered one of the best of the 50's british sci-fi's and compares to the best of the Quartermas films and easily out gores them. The Quartermas films (which were re-makes of the British t.v. series) starred Brian Donleavy and gave the fledgling Hammer Films its first taste of success. Hammer would later abandon science fiction for gothic horror and even greater success. Other independent British film-makers meanwhile were producing science fiction and horror films. Several were copy-cats of American films. The American, 'Beast from 20,000 Fathoms' was turned into the British film, 'The Giant Behemoth' a few years later. Giant Ants thrilled Americans in the classic THEM !, so why not use that idea in a low budget British film called 'The Cosmic Monsters' (with F. Troops Forest Tucker). Just as a flood of low budget horror films produced by AIP, Corman, Bert I Gordon (no relation) and others were being made, producer Richard Gordon was able to make a few films with Boris Karloff. First he made The Haunted Strangler and later he would make Corridors of Blood. He would then make a couple films with another American actor named Marshall Thompson. Thompson had appeared in several films including IT! The Terror from Beyond Space a low budget sci-fi creature feature which wound up being a major inspiration for Alien. Producer Gordon would make Fiend Without A Face and later First Man Into Space with Thompson.
The script for Fiend .... is by Herbert J. Leder and is based on Amelia Reynolds Long's story The Thought Monster, published in the famed pulp horror magazine WEIRD TALES way back in 1930.
Fiend Without A Face was produced by the British Richard Gordon, filmed mostly in England, set in Canada (close to the American Border), starred an American actor (Marshal Thompson), and wound up being distributed by MGM .
I won't spoil the film except to tell you the finale is a rather gory, gross-out which still packs a bit of a punch after all these years. The romantic aspects of the film are down-played and there is a wonderful subtext throughout the film for those who need a little more substance to savor.
There is a very familiar scene in the film where windows are boarded up against an onslaught of the crawling, leaping, flying creatures. You'll know exactly where George Romero got the idea for several of his most effective shots in Night of the Living Dead.
The finale' remains an impressive blend of effective camera work and revolting sound effects. Obviously the stop motion animation effects are quite primitive next to what is possible with CGI (Computers) today, but I still enjoy the other-worldly feel these type of Willis O'Brien/ Ray Harryhausen school of effects bring to the film. The special effects were the combined work of three people. Peter Neilson directed some second unit special effects set-ups in Canada , while Baron Von Nordhoff and K.L. Ruppell executed the stop motion animation work. For it's day it was state of the art and I'm sure grossed out the audiences of its day every bit as much (perhaps even more) then something like Hannibal grosses out audiences today. Critics in the late 50's in fact complained that the film was too gruesome and unpleasant!
The film is much better than your average 50's creature feature for several reasons. First, none of the acting is wooden or overly phony. Second, the brief romantic sub-plot does not side-track the film at all. It's handled in a far less corny and cliche'd manner than usual. The script is also better than you'd expect and has a minimum of corn-ball lines. Even the explanations of how these creatures came into existence is handled quite well. Oh there are dated elements to the film to be sure. The low budget of the film is also obvious in several ways. The military base security isn't very impressive for instance. The final solution is also amusingly naive but forgiveable when you take into the account the film was made in 1958-a time when the space age had barely begun and the real dangers of atomic radiation were still being discovered.
The film is a very economical 74 minutes long. It adheres to a well known formula but it remains a very effective film bereft of most of the flaws that plague low budget creature features of the 1950's. It's dated, but the script, acting, direction and effects are effective enough to entertain modern audiences. The director was Arthur Crabtree who began his career as a cinematographer and made films such as The Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944) and Horrors of the Black Museum (1959). Fiend with a Face isn't a film you watch and enjoy because of its high camp value but because it's still a suspenseful well done film.
It might seem rather remarkable that a low budget creature feature would get the full Criterion red carpet treatment--but it shouldn't. This is one of the finest examples of an effective and for its day quite controversial film that was imported from England. Suspend your disbelief, don't expect 1990's effects and have a wonderful time. You might even find the film is effective enough to give you a few chills. Really !!
Christopher Jarmick,is the author of The Glass Coccon with Serena F. Holder a critically acclaimed, steamy suspense thriller.

Studio: Criterion Collection
Director: Arthur Crabtree
Marshall Thompson
Terry Kilburn

DVD title: The Best Way to Walk
Productgroup: DVD
The Best Way to Walk - movie DVD cover picture
"The best way to walk is our way to walk."

The French film "The Best Way to Walk" is set in a summer camp for boys. Philippe (Patrick Bouchitey) is the gentle, subdued theatre counselor whose father runs the camp. Philippe doesn't really mingle well with the other male counselors, and he doesn't enjoy their macho male bonhomie. Clashes between Philippe and the other counselors are evident very quickly, and the aggressive PE instructor, Marc (Patrick Dewaere) acts as a ringleader encouraging the other counselors in coarse behaviour. One night, Marc barges into Philippe's room and discovers Philippe dressed as a woman. The relationship between Marc and Philippe takes an ugly turn. There's an implied threat and violence in Marc's interactions with Philippe. Philippe, at first, struggles to establish some sort of agreement of silence from Marc, but as Marc's taunts grow more obvious, Philippe tries to avoid any confrontations.

"The Best Way to Walk" is a subtle film with excellent performances from the cast. Marc and Philippe are perfect foils for one another. Marc is brash, and confident, and Philippe tries to gain confidence and respectability by producing his girlfriend, Chantal (Christine Pascal). Just as Philippe comforts a puny boy who is being picked on by another, more aggressive child, we can see that Philippe was also the sort of little boy who suffered bouts of bullying. And this bullying continues into the adult macho atmosphere of the social interactions that take place between the camp counselors. In the fishbowl of the summer camp, Marc harasses Philippe even using his students to dominate situations at several points, and the film concentrates on exactly how Marc reacts to Philippe's 'secret' more than anything else. Marc, Philippe, and Chantal all have problems with their sexuality--Marc is threatened and unsettled by Philippe, but Chantal and Marc are both obviously together because their relationship is unthreatening. When another counselor is pilloried for moral transgressions, the situation comes to a head. This excellent film deserves more recognition than it currently receives, and it remains remarkably undated--especially when one considers that the film was made in the mid-70s. Fans of French cinema will enjoy this film made a few years prior to Patrick Deweare's suicide in 1982. "The Best Way To Walk" is in French with English subtitles--displacedhuman

Studio: Wellspring Media, In
Director: Claude Miller

DVD title: Angel - Season Two
Productgroup: DVD
Angel - Season Two - movie DVD cover picture
Another Great Season for Everyone's Favorite Vampire!

The writing in these episodes is a fresh look at a cast of characters whose post-Buffy lives continue to spin inwards and outwards, simultaneously giving viewers inside knowledge into Angel's past and the personal lives and character motivations of this amazing supporting cast. The love triangles drawn here are well balanced and lead to funny antics as well as tender moments that are surprisingly believable. The worlds within, under and through - literally - Santa Monica, are woven together pretty tight on this show. A good purchase, this.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
David Boreanaz

DVD title: Pleasantville (New Line Platinum Series)
Productgroup: DVD
Pleasantville (New Line Platinum Series) - movie DVD cover picture
remote traveling teens

I think this is one of the best movies I've ever seen. A cute comedy. A brother and a sister fighting over a remote until it crashes into the wall and breaks. The repair man comes, gives them a new one and they get transported into the tv sitcom Pleasantiville. Bringing color to the world and disrupting it. I think this movie is super. I highly reccomend it.

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: Gary Ross
Tobey Maguire
Joan Allen
Jeff Daniels

DVD title: Clean and Sober
Productgroup: DVD
Clean and Sober - movie DVD cover picture
A Masterpiece

Micheal Keaton character in this film shows the truth when someone is in denial of their problems and are afraid to face the truth. The film does show how this country has to realize that our country has a serious problem with drugs and alcohol and we need more rehab places.

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: Glenn Gordon Caron
Michael Keaton
Kathy Baker

DVD title: The Final Countdown (Widescreen Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Final Countdown (Widescreen Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Excellent adventure movie

The story is great, and there is a little bit of suspense; the dogfight between the two Japanese zeroes vintage 1940 and the two modern F14 Tomcats is original and excellent. There is also a happy end for Lorraine.

Studio: Blue Underground
Director: Don Taylor
Kirk Douglas
Martin Sheen
Katharine Ross

DVD title: A Life Less Ordinary
Productgroup: DVD
A Life Less Ordinary - movie DVD cover picture
One of my favorite Ewan movies!

By far one of my favorite ewan flicks. It's something my friends and I always pull out at parties and quote amongst ourselves. Overall it's just an amazingly fun, cute, quirky movie and is definetely worth a few dozen watches!

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Director: Danny Boyle
Ewan McGregor
Cameron Diaz
Holly Hunter
Delroy Lindo

DVD title: The Return of the Living Dead
Productgroup: DVD
The Return of the Living Dead - movie DVD cover picture
Brains, Red Sauce, & Rock n' Roll Music

Flesh-rending, brain-eating, and punk rock. Horror? Maybe to you; to me it sounds like a great night out.

And make no mistake about it: brain-chomping has never been so cool since the glory days of "Return of the Living Dead", Dan O'Bannon's first foray into directing (he wrote the script for "Alien" and later helmed the underrated "The Resurrected") and an homage to Romero's classic zombie films that would come close---very close---to surpassing the works of the Master in their ghoulish, brain-chomping goodness.

Remember that movie they made, years ago, about the living dead wandering about rural Pennsylvania, hungry for human flesh? Well, turns out that's a true story---but according to medical device factory supervisor Frank (played by the immortal James Karen, who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for being in every cool film ever made), They (you know, the Army, the Pentagon, the CIA, the Scientists, the Guys in Charge) made the filmmakers change names and places around a little.

As it turns out, Frank confides in rookie co-worker Freddy (played to the hilt by then-newcomer Thom Mathews), the army transported some of the zombies to a little medical products plant in Louisville, Kentucky---why, the very medical products plant our two heroes are sitting in. The zombies, of course, are downstairs in special sealed containment barrels.

Could you resist? Frank and Freddy can't, and head downstairs for a little face time with the safely entombed zombie. Turns out those old Army Corps of Engineering barrels weren't nearly as fail-safe as Frank thought, and a nasty, greenish, zombifying gas pours out---and it has very specific, re-animating qualities. Seeing as the gas spreads quickly through a building stocked to the gills with cadavers and split-dogs (just see for yourself), this is a very bad thing.

Add to this Frank and Freddy's decision with the help of an eccentric mortician Ernie (was that a Horst Wessel tune playing on his headphones while he was embalming that corpse?) to burn the zombified evidence (smoke spreads the pollutants, the local cemetery), throw in a pack of punkers who decide to 'hang out' in the aforementioned cemetery, and you have the makings of what I consider to be one of the very best zombie movies *ever* made.

"Return of the Living Dead" is sick, funny, benefits from a great eighties punker score (including songs from The Cramps and SSQ), well-paced, beautifully shot and rippingly directed by O'Bannon: not content to rest on its hysterically funny laurels, the movie ups the ante by really try to scare the dog collar off you.

Yes, the "Wee Chapel of the Dawn" is a whimsical and truly funny touch, as is the eviscerated woman's corpse, strapped to a gurney in the mortuary, that howls "brains...brains...BRAINS"---but the gallows humor is tied to the horror, and "Return of the Living Dead", even all these years later, is a terrifying film. The dead here don't amble or lurch, they run---and they talk, yell, taunt and scream, as well ("I love you Tina...and that's why you need to let me EAT YOUR BRAINS").

The special edition DVD is sorely needed, and restores "Return" to all its brain chewing glory. The extras, including a wry and amusing commentary by O'Bannon and conceptual art of the undead, are worth the price of admission alone.

Make sure you've secured all the doors and windows, locked and loaded your streetsweeper, don that spiked dog-collar, put a cassette of The Cramps in the hopper, and keep just two things in mind:

1) Shoot those mangy zombies in the head; and
2) It's a lifestyle, baby!

Chow down!

Studio: MGM/UA Video
Director: Dan O'Bannon
Clu Gulager
James Karen

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