Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Home Movies - Season One
Productgroup: DVD
Home Movies - Season One - movie DVD cover picture

Sure, you've got Family Guy, and who can really sneer at Homer. But ladies and gentleman you have not basked in the pleasant glow of understated humor and witty repartee until you have sat mesmerized by the miracle of electron beams bring this to your nearest phosphor coated screen. In other words this show freakin' rocks!

Studio: Shout! Factory

DVD title: The Caine Mutiny
Productgroup: DVD
The Caine Mutiny - movie DVD cover picture
Storm Warning

Near the top of the under-rated American movie actors list is Van Johnson, in my opinion, and this is his greatest performance. He is pretty near perfect as the conscientous naval officer trying to do what's right under nearly impossible circumstances during WW2, and he has plenty of competition from a great cast. Almost as good is Fred MacMurray in an equally difficult role as an officer who can't make the cut morally. This story of a warship whose commander, Humphrey Bogart, suffers a nervous breakdown while at sea does a great job of putting the dilema of the men on board in the viewer's lap and inviting you to speculate on what you would do in the same situation. There's a trite romantic subplot carried over from Herman Wouk's enormous novel that easily could have been edited out but other than that this great adventure doesn't miss a beat.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Humphrey Bogart
José Ferrer
Van Johnson
Fred MacMurray

DVD title: The Wiggles - Yummy Yummy
Productgroup: DVD
The Wiggles - Yummy Yummy - movie DVD cover picture
Yummy Rules

This video is a hit with kids from 15 months to 5 years old. We have an 18 month old who gets up and dances anytime the tape is on. Tbe video is part of our nighttime ritual, and is a savior on rainy or fussy days. I have yet to meet a child who doesn't enjoy the Wiggles.

Studio: Lyrick Studios

DVD title: The Masque of the Red Death / The Premature Burial
Productgroup: DVD
The Masque of the Red Death / The Premature Burial - movie DVD cover picture
Extraordinary issue but for The mask of ...!

The Mask of the red death may be the best achievement of Roger Corman in all his career. You feel a deep influence of Ingmar Bergman in this work . The gothic atmosphere and the Corman camera work are magnificent .
This film was a real inspiration motive for a cult movie filmed four years after in 1968 , The conqueror of Worms (widely recommendable).
A must in your personal collection.

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: Roger Corman
Vincent Price

DVD title: Vera Drake
Productgroup: DVD
Vera Drake - movie DVD cover picture
Excellent, but where are the....

EXTRAS ON THE DVD? Why no director commentary, interviews, nothing? This is a superbly acted and fascinating film, but that is it. One is left to wonder what went on behind the making of this film but we have a bare-bones DVD. Oh, well, they'll probably come out with another one in a year or so that we'll have to buy again for extras...........

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: Mike Leigh
Imelda Staunton
Heather Craney

DVD title: Welcome to the Dollhouse
Productgroup: DVD
Welcome to the Dollhouse - movie DVD cover picture
Simply Amazing

"Welcome to the Dollhouse" is basically a feature length episode of "Freaks and Geeks", with an amped-up rejection level and consequently an even more aliened main character (Dawn Wiener played by Heather Matarazzo). Then throw in a little of the "Jan Brady" middle child syndrome and give the thing a "Napoleon Dynamite" production design. What makes "Welcome to the Dollhouse" so extraordinary is that it is more about what is happening inside each viewer as they watch the film than about what is actually happening on the screen. Meaning that your reaction and the film's entertainment value will have a lot to do with your own experiences at that age or at least your sympathetic awareness of the difficulties that some of your classmates were experiencing. As someone has already said, if you aren't blown away by how realistic this is then you weren't unpopular enough.

While Dawn's 7th grade world and home life are surreal extremes which give the film a nice level of black comedy (the stuff written on her locker is hilarious), even the most extreme of these elements ring true. In part because Heather Matarazzo is so believable as Dawn and in part because our points of view at that age lacked real perspective. Meaning that we greatly magnify minor incidents of rejection and ridicule.

Children who first experience rejection in elementary school typically have a physical or basic hygiene issue. Dawn is not one of those children, she is just one of those who become targets for the first time in junior high school for more subtle differences. Since this is a new thing, she is as much mystified as hurt by this abuse. Not really understanding why it is happening to her, she blunders around in a quest to discover a logical reason for the rejection. At the same time she is dealing with all the physical changes happening to a seventh grade girl. But Dawn's rugged home life has made her self-sufficient and somewhat prepared her for the abuse she has to take in school.

Understandably Dawn responds with retaliation, a welcome change from the more typical portrayals of this type of character as a weak victim. Some of her responses are negative like smashing the tape of her parent's anniversary party, pushing away her only friend, and not relaying her mother's message to her little sister about a ride home. Others are positive, like stubbornly refusing to let the taunts from the crowd stop her from finishing her speech. Based on her refusal to apologize at the dinner table, Dawn would probably refuse to ingratiate herself with her classmates even if she knew how. Which puts most viewers even more solidly in her corner as we not only identify but begin to admire her.

All three of the Weiner children are excellent. Daria Kalinina does a great job as perfect little sister Missy and Director Todd Solondz uses her ballet talents to give sequences in the family home a great surreal quality. Josiah Trager gives older brother Mark a realistic portrayal. He is sympathetic to Dawn's daily situation, having gone through the same thing, but he seems to know that the best help he can give is to lead by example. His hardened survivor attitude and future thinking perspective is probably the best way for her to cope with the next five years.

Studio: Columbia/Tristar Studios
Director: Todd Solondz
Heather Matarazzo
Christina Brucato

DVD title: They Live
Productgroup: DVD
They Live - movie DVD cover picture
They Live, we cheer

After spending the last few months expanding my collection of John Carpenter DVDs to the best of my ability without plunging into bankruptcy, I've come to the inevitable conclusion that, despite his inactivity and supposed "downfall" over the last ten years, he is still one of our best (and unfortunately most underrated) directors. With a classic film like "Halloween" on his resume, it's easy to overlook the rest of his films like they could never possibly measure up. Truth be told, what could? "Halloween" was, is, and will forever be the alpha and omega of slasher film horror. That being said, "They Live" is probably one of the best corporate satires of the past twenty years. Made in the latter years of Reagan's eighties, John Carpenter's film, based off the short story titled "Eight in the Morning," is a fun action ride that moonlights as a biting satire of the stranglehold of greed in America.
Roddy Piper (how perfect is that?) stars as the man with no name (credited as "Nada" at the end), a drifter who finds work and friendship among a small habitat of homeless dwellers. He's also the man who eventually begins a quest for the truth behind a pair of special sunglasses that reveal the existence of alien lifeforms. Keith David plays the construction worker with a heart of gold who befriends Piper and they have some very interesting conversations.
"It's all a big game. The name of it is 'Getting Through Life.' Everybody's trying to finish first and do you in at the same time. They put you at the starting line and now, here we are: You do what you can, but remember, I wanna do my best, too... blow your a$$ away..."
Piper's laugh in response to David's diatribe about life in economic America might be simple in its form, but shattering in its true meaning. People do try and laugh it off when someone says something they may or may not agree with. Or suppose we just have a different point of view, we would rather laugh and pass it off as understanding than comment with our own opinion; just let the conversation end. Such is the attitude of people at the time. Heck, it still might be.
Half the power of "They Live" lies in its complete, focused attention on inattention. Or our inability to accept reasons for our plight that go outside our views. The fistfight between Piper and David around the one-hour mark in the film is one of the best in cinema (and it's real, I might add, minus the blows to the head). And while it is silly and over the top, there's an honest message in there about how we will fight to be blind to a painful truth. If ignorance is bliss, I will fight Roddy Piper to remain that way.
The aliens in "They Live" serve as a device for the satirical undertones to function. They are also responsible for triggering sequences of shocking intensity, such as when an entire Hooverville of peaceful people is bulldozed to the ground, its inhabitants beaten senseless. Nonetheless, they are the corporate leaders that we all feel like are aliens, peering out at us with their skeletal faces safely behind their podiums. Carpenter sees them as they are meant to be seen, and with some truly awesome matte-designs accompanied with black and white photography, shows us the true messages behind the endless bombardment of advertising we are subjected to each day.
Stay asleep, no independent thought, marry, reproduce, consume, and don't question authority. To quote another Carpenter film, "Welcome to the human race."

Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: John Carpenter
Roddy Piper
Keith David

DVD title: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Animated)
Productgroup: DVD
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Animated) - movie DVD cover picture
one of my all-time favorites

i have adored this movie since i was but a small fawn and i still rave about it to my friends. i know it all by heart and have a terrible habit of mouthing out the words along with the characters ;)
the animation is simple but it seems to fit perfectly... the dialogue and story speak for themselves. even if you're not a previous fan of the Narnia books... it really doesnt matter! i recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure :)

Studio: Alpha Omega Publicat
Director: Bill Melendez
Sesame Workshop

DVD title: Star Trek Voyager - The Complete Seasons 1-7
Productgroup: DVD
Star Trek Voyager - The Complete Seasons 1-7 - movie DVD cover picture
Very pleased

The best series to come from Star Trek yet. I saved alot of money with this deal. The package arrived within the time frame Amazon said it would and all disc are unscratched.

Studio: Paramount Home Video

DVD title: Secretary
Productgroup: DVD
Secretary - movie DVD cover picture
Surprise: "Secretary" is a heartbreakingly beautiful comedy

The poster art for "Secretary" promises an unsavory blend of titillation and cuteness (check out the soundtrack CD elsewhere on this site; the art is the same). The DVD's artwork makes the movie look even worse: another tiresome entry in the over-populated "Erotic Thriller" genre. Watch the movie itself, however, and discover a film that, for all its humor, for all its erotic hijinks, couldn't be more serious about its theme: We have a truer self within us that we may or may not have the courage to become. Sometimes intimidation comes from outside. Just as frequently, from within.

Both Lee, the title character, and Edward, her boss, come to realize that physical and psychological discipline, humiliation, and pain -for Lee, enduring it, for Edward, administering it - not only stirs them, but is the lynchpin of each one's personality. Neither can be complete until each embraces this truth. Edward initiates the couple's transformation by helping Lee channel the lonely self-aggression that has long made her cut and burn herself into a succession of arcane but steadily more overt B&D scenarios (Their first real "sex act" is Lee's volunteering to dumpster dive for some lost documents before Edward can order her to do so). Lee flourishes as never before, but Edward soon reverts to the shame we sense he has long struggled with. It's up to Lee, the supposedly "passive" half of the couple, to use her increasingly steely confidence in herself --the young woman knows what she wants, who she is, and who Edward is, too-- to complete the transformation. She leads Edward, once and for all, into self-actualization and true love. Thanks to Lee's devotion, Edward is free of self-disgust at last.

The opening scene of "Secretary" drops the viewer into the middle of this narrative. In a shot that will be repeated 55 minutes later, Lee carries out a variety of office duties with poise and efficiency --despite the fact that she is wearing a bizarre and uncomfortable-looking restraint that holds her arms straight out at the shoulders. The first time around the scene seems odd, almost repugnant; Lee lopes with unnerving calm to (longtime David Lynch collaborator) Angelo Badalamenti's creepy score around a unsettlingly baroque office. Then, abruptly, a title card: "six months earlier". The narrative proper begins.

At first, it's unclear what this circuitous opening adds to the story, apart from an element of suspense that might not be if the events unfolded in strict chronological order: the opening scene presents a big "What?"; we wait anxiously to learn the "Why". What other purpose this scene might serve becomes clear with its reprise. By then a subtle understanding of its context is possible. The remarkable Maggie Gyllenhaal imbues Lee with such supple humanity that the viewer has become more than sympathetic, and understands how much this long-suffering, unassumingly brave woman is enjoying herself, arm-restraints and all. The scene is no longer unsettling, but celebratory. The scene hasn't changed. Maybe we have. Director Steven Shainberg, on the DVD commentary track, says he hopes that his film will do for S&M what "My Beautiful Laundrette" did for homosexuality almost 20 years ago-- increase mainstream understanding. Perhaps it will.

On the same commentary track, the film's writer Erin Cressida Wilson says that the uncertain "Um....." Lee utters after Edward has administered the first blow in the justly famous spanking scene is Wilson's "Favorite line". She then chuckles, and modestly refrains from explaining what she means. Why it's good: Although this pivotal scene is fraught with emotion, Lee's tentative "Um....." is the only line of dialogue in it that acknowledges, even obliquely, what is taking place. Unlike the painfully verbose, excruciatingly clever screenwriters who currently plague independent film, Wilson realizes that what people say may be only tangentially related to what they mean, or are thinking, or what's happening, and that great feeling may lurk behind the most banal or fragmentary remark. "Secretary" is one of the strictest, fullest applications of this principle imaginable (Each page of the screenplay must contain one column each for speech and subtext). Never glib, never clever, just smart, "Secretary" is certainly a comedy of some sort, but it contains nothing that exactly qualifies as a joke. Its minimal dialogue leaves wide expanses in which the actors can and must communicate non-verbally. The leads are up to the task. Gyllenhaal ("JILL-in-hall") and the always watchable James Spader make adept use of the full actor's arsenal: facial expression, posture -watch Lee's gait change in the course of the film-, verbal pauses and inflection create a world of meaning beneath deceptively mundane, often monosyllabic, dialogue. Tune into these actors' peculiar wavelength and be spellbound.

Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Director: Steven Shainberg
James Spader
Maggie Gyllenhaal

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