DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD Reviews, Part 3 of 3


Published on September 1, 2004

Pt. 3 of 3 – September 2004   [Part 1]  [Part 2]

Blazing Saddles OUTFOXED THE PARTY'S OVER REPUBLIC OF LOVE
SAFE CONDUCT JAPANESE STORY THE TIN DRUM SUNSET BLVD.
ALIEN HUNTER 50 FIRST DATES

Blazing Saddles - Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles (1974), 30th Anniversary Special Edition

Directed by Mel Brooks
Starring: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video: Letterboxed widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of the original
Audio: Soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, English or Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Extras: Scene-specific commentary by Mel Brooks, Back in the Saddle documentary, Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn (excerpt), Pilot for proposed TV series spinoff – Black Bart (1975), Additional scenes, Orig. theatrical trailer
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: *****

Along with Young Frankenstein Blazing Saddles is probably the funniest film work to come from the irrepressible Mel Brooks. The AFI made Blazing Saddles No. 6 in a list of the Top 100 Comedies of all time. He pulled out all the stops, stepping on several sacred cows in the process, in this Western parody to end all Western parodies. (What a nice antidote it made for me after The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.)

Little plays the black sheriff selected sort of accidentally who partners with sidekick Wilder to help save a little town thru which evil schemer Korman wants to destroy to build a railroad. Pickens leads the gang of baddies to do the deed, and the wonderful Madeline Kahn plays a Germanic chanteusie pressured by Korman to seduce Little and slow down his do-gooding. Race prejudice is thoroughly tarred and feathered by Brooks, just as he did with Nazism later in The Producers. In fact some Nazis inexplicably appear among the baddies conscripted in this 1874-era Western. My favorite scene is when the new black sheriff makes his grand entrance into the town on a white horse. You hear a Count Basie tune as he rides proudly across the desert and you think, “OK, that’s appropriate.” But then he rides by the entire actual Count Basie band sitting there in the desert playing the music and Basie waves to him!

The transfer is perfect, with good resolution and color, and the remastering of the soundtrack for 5.1 surround is quite successful. The two documentaries are great fun, but viewing the half-hour pilot for the proposed TV series based on the feature one easily understands why it didn’t fly. For one thing, it didn’t have either Cleavon Little or Madeline Kahn.

- John Sunier

Outfoxed Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004)

Documentary by Robert Greewald
Studio: The Disinformation Company
Video: 4:3
Audio: PCM mono
Extras: Documentary on the making of the documentary
Rating: ****

In the explosion of feature documentaries that has been happening since Spellbound and Winged Migration last year, Outfoxed can claim a first. It is the first time a documentary was first issued on DVD and raised such a public awareness that it is now opening in the theaters. Grassroots-level house parties around the country showed the DVD and got the ball rolling, and now it is rolling into theaters across the country on the welcome mat laid out by Michael Moore’s preceding success.

The general target of this film is the danger of ever-growing corporate conglomerates taking control of the public’s right to know. The FCC’s rolling back its regulatory powers is part of this state of affairs, and it is ironic that the film points out the FCC aided Rupert Murdoch in establishing a fourth broadcast network in the U.S. The huge expanse of Murdoch’s media empire is detailed; his various outlets reach something like three-quarters of the earth’s population! This one person controls a broad segment of the media – TV, cable, radio, magazines. But the specific target here is his Fox News, whose straight-faced and constantly repeated slogan is “Fair and Balanced.”

Former Fox reporters, writers, producers and bookers explain what it’s like to work at Fox News, where daily directives are handed down about what subject will be featured and exactly what spin to put on it. The film edits together clips from various Fox News shows in which the talking heads all use the terminology of the day repeatedly. One example was the phrase “Some people say…” which was a wedge to insert the official Fox slant on the particular subject. The makers of this film got together a team of dedicated volunteers around the country. Each one watched a specific Fox program every day and alerted the head office on extreme biases in the news coverage. Meanwhile engineers at the head office were burning DVD-Rs of the Fox News channel around the clock so that they could go to any day and time and pick out the section referred to by the volunteers.

I had thought the home showings of the DVD were required because the filmmakers could not get the proper rights from Fox to show the film theatrically. This was evidently solved – perhaps thru the involvement of the law firm listed on the jacket, as well as The Stanford University Center for Internet and Society. TV news has never had the depth and completeness of radio or newspapers, but in the last decade it has gone down the toilet. Fox has pioneered techniques that have taken it even further down the pipes. Whatever your political orientation, if you believe in an informed and educated citizenry you owe it to yourself to see this film. It’s not as slick or entertaining as some of the other documentaries out there now but definitely worth viewing.

- John Sunier

The Party's Over The Party’s Over (2003)
An Uncensored Journey Into Democracy in America

Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman
Studio: Film Movement
Video: 4:3
Audio: Dolby Digital stereo
Extras: Commentary track by Hoffman & filmmaker Rebecca Chaiklin; Bios of Directors & host; Bonus videos with Bill Baldwin, Eddie Vedder & Michael Moore; Theatrical trailer; Preview of “Ginger and Cinnamon;” This month’s short film: Eau, by Dominique Standaert
Length: 1 hour 22 minutes
Rating: ***1/2

This documentary, co-directed by singer Donovan’s son, examines how the American political process either addresses or fails to address the country’s most pressing problems. Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman plays himself as a concerned citizen who starts out with not a lot of political savvy but who gets savvyed in a hurry. The film is a sort of followup to the Last Party documentary of 1993 in which Robert Downey Jr. visited the conventions and various politicians, activists and celebrities, and also moved from politically apathetic to an astute observer of the scene. This time it’s the 2000 convention fever. Hoffman either meets face to face with or we see footage of such figures as Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Michael Moore, Charlton Heston, Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson, Rudy Giuliani and Willie Nelson. Hoffman seems to adopt the unkempt and everyman approach of Michael Moore; he even dresses like his obvious hero, baseball cap and all. While the film doesn’t equal the impact of Fahrenheit 911 the viewer will come away with a more educated view of politics in general in America today, though it may be the depressing view that there isn’t that much difference between the two parties after all.

This film is the first offering from Film Movement, a new subscription service which provides greater access to award-winning films for film fans – especially those in outlying areas – who are tired of the same old Hollywood menu. It is the first company to distribute independent films nationally in theaters and on DVD simultaneously. Some of the sources are Cannes, Sundance, South By Southwest Film Festival, NY African Film Festival and the American Film Institute. Members who subscribe at the monthly rate of $19.95 also receive free admission to the films that are released theatrically. Members receive background material on each film, directors’ commentary and a bonus short film (just like theaters offered once upon a time). Republic of Love – also reviewed this issue – was the second month’s Film Movement offering. For more information visit www.filmmovement.com

- John Sunier

Republic of Love The Republic of Love (2004)

Directed by Deepa Mehta
Starring: Bruce Greenwood, Emilia Fox
Studio: Film Movement
Video: Enhanced for widescreen TV (16X9)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital stereo
Extras: Biographies, This Month’s Short Film: James Cullinane’s Persistence, Recent Title Reviews, Closed Captioning
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: ****

The Republic of Love is based on a novel by Carol Shields, a highly acclaimed and much beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning Canadian writer, who died in 2003. The story is one of the most intelligent tales of love I have ever seen on film. Adapted for the screen by the director Deepa Mehta, the dialogue is beautifully spare and created an interest in me to read the book to learn more about the original plot and characters.

Tom and Fay are presented as two people, both somewhat unlucky in love, who are very different in background and temperament. Tom is quick to commit. Fay is overly cautious. This accounts for Tom’s having been married and divorced three times and Fay’s having never been married. Much is made of this. The movie covers how they find each other, how things develop between them and what happens after that. It’s also about how families of origin, and to a lesser degree friends, have a significant effect on our choices and behaviors as we search for love. Tom was separated from from his biological mother for the first months of his life, attended to by 27 “mothers” in a homemaking class. The first meeting of Tom and the class makes for a very amusing opening scene. Fay, a museum researcher, has been deeply effected by the belief that her parents have had a perfect 40 year marriage. Occasional glimpses of her father’s pet duck were engaging.

There are numerous beautifully constructed moments and scenes which are a testament to the excellent direction and editing. This is a heartwarming and poignant film rich with clever and insightful glimpses into the foibles and wisdom of romantic conduct at various ages. At times the story is a bit zany and offbeat, part of its charm. The plot is unpredictable and also believable. All of the actors in the Republic of Love feel very real, making us care about them and their fate.

The Indian music often on the soundtrack seems inappropriate at first, more suited to a different kind of film, but it carries a lot of emotional power. The director has used color in the images to convey emotional states, so sometimes the color saturation drops out for that reason. The transfer proves a bit grainy but not annoyingly so – at least not on a 53-inch screen.

Some information about Film Movement: The distributor, Film Movement (filmmovement.com), has built a burgeoning subscriber base that is becoming one of the country’s most active film communities. Film Movement’s ability to combine the prestige and awareness of a theatrical release with the accessibility of a subscription DVD service to provide a national audience with a first-run experience no matter where they live has connected with under-served film lovers.

Each month subscribers receive an award-winning feature film to own on DVD at the same time the film opens in theaters. Members also receive free admission to films that open theatrically. Film Movement films are selected by a panel of curators from the world’s top film festivals. To become a member, visit www.filmmovement.com

- Donna Dorsett

Safe Conduct Safe Conduct (2002)

Directed by Bertrand Tavernier
Studio: Empire Pictures/Koch Lorber
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen
Subtitles: English, French
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Extras: Theatrical trailer, Production notes, Photo gallery
Length: 163 minutes
Rating: ****

The latest from director Tavernier (Coup de torchon, ‘Round Midnight) is a magnificent fact-based story taking place during that period which has fascinated other French directors – German-occupied France during WWII. It has won awards at both the Berlin and Ft. Lauderdale film festivals. It has an almost Robert Altmanesque variety of different characters, but there is little difficulty in keeping them straight. At the center of the drama-filled story are two struggling filmmakers who in order to survive under the terrible conditions of the occupation are forced to go to work for the Nazi-run Paris movie studio, Continental. At the same time they have friends in the Resistance and become themselves involved almost unwittingly. So they end up not making a choice at all but doing both simultaneously at great peril to themselves.

The first man – a screenplay writer – reminded me a bit of Roman Polanski. He has women all over Paris, which sometimes comes in handy in his undercover work. The second man – a director – was a competition bicycle racer, which comes in handy when he has to bypass German roadblocks to get 240 miles outside of Paris to visit his wife who has been sent to safety in the countryside. In one amazing scene he on the spur of a moment goes into his Nazi boss’ office while the official is out and takes some papers which look important. They are in German which he can’t read so he doesn’t know for sure. Friends in the underground drive him to a country clearing where an RAF biplane suddenly lands and takes him to England, where he is interrogated by intelligence people – one of whom refuses to believe his story. Hours later he is parachuted back to the same area, gets his bike, and on Monday morning he is back at work at Continental like nothing happened. (His Resistance contact tells him later the papers were exceedingly valuable.)

The difficulties of moviemaking under wartime conditions are a strong focus of the film. Some of the incidents are both humorous and affecting, such as trying to film a scene on a restaurant set where the little food on some of the plates keeps disappearing before the scene is filmed because cast members are eating it. Or the set construction crew being way behind schedule for a film because the Nazis have commanded them to use the wood to build coffins for German soldiers. All the acting roles are superbly handled. The film is long but I would think any viewer would be enthralled and hardly notice the time spent. The widescreen image transfer and surround sound are top flight. It’s good to see that all the French didn’t just sit back and accept the German occupation.

- John Sunier

Japanese Story Japanese Story (2003)

Starring Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima
Studio: Gecko Films/Columbia TriStar
Video: 2.35:1, enhanced for widescreen
Subtitles: English
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Extras: Commentary by director and writer, Deleted scenes, Talent files, Photo gallery, Previews
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: ****

This recent Aussie film won eight awards from the Australian Film Institute. This could be seen as a sort of road movie, with the spare and immense vistas of Australia’s outback as the background. A hardworking young female geologist is enlisted by her boss to escort a young and silent married Japanese businessman on an extended field trip around a remote desert area. The geology company is hoping for a lucrative business deal with the Japanese company. The two people seem at first to be diametrically opposed strangers who just cannot communicate. The businessman talks on his cell phone in Japanese to someone at his head office about the Australian bitch and the geologist fumes and eventually rants at the man for some dumb things he does. Because of his insistence in going further into the desert they get stuck and soon face a life-and-death predicament. He gets them out of it and on their way and their relationship improves as they travel further into the desert. To the extent of their taking a motel room together and having sex. The budding love story ends shockingly, which will not be revealed until you see it. Well worth watching. Excellent high quality DVD transfer and realistic audio.

- John Sunier

The Tin Drum The Tin Drum (1979)

Directed by: Volker Schlondorff
Starring: David Bennett, Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler
Studio: Argos Films/The Criterion Collection
Video: 1.78:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English
Extras: Rare deleted scenes, Schlondorff’s Thoughts and Recollections about the film, Collection of Video Interviews, “The Platform,” a Rare Recording of Gunter Grass reading an excerpt from the novel, Banned in Oklahoma – a documentary following the child pornography lawsuit, and much more
Length: 142 minutes
Rating: ****

The classic 1979 German film, The Tin Drum, was adapted for the screen from the Gunter Grass novel, which was a huge success in Germany. The DVD, a two disc set, is loaded with intensely interesting extras about the making, history and consequences of the film.

Central to the making of the film was the choice of young David Bennett for the role of Oskar. In one of the extras, “Volker Schlondorff Remembers The Tin Drum”, the director, who both co-wrote and directed, discusses how he found David and the reason for his choice. The Tin Drum is about a boy who decides at age three not to grow up physically due to his disdain for adults and for Nazism and the war that is about to unfold around him during the 30s and 40s. His rebellion frequently takes the form of banging on his drum and shattering glass with his piercing screams when anyone tries to take the drum from him.

At age 11, David Bennett was suffering from a growth disorder and was the size of a six year old. (Eventually he did grow to a normal size.) His small size wasn’t the only reason he was perfect for the central role. After spending the day with Schlondorff, David went home to his parents, also actors, and said “I’ve got a part as you’ve never had and will never get.” Schlondorff wanted the boy to feel powerful and to enjoy the long weeks of filmmaking so he says that he directed David by “spoiling him.” It clearly paid off.

Oskar is a wonderful little anarchist. My favorite scene is when Oskar goes to purposefully disrupt a Nazi rally. As the band plays marching music, he sits with his drum under a bleacher near the band, subtly but persistently influencing them to change the time to waltz time. Soon we hear a waltz instead of a march and the field is transformed into a field of people dancing with their partners to a waltz.

The Tin Drum has a strong fantasy aspect. As an early example, Oskar is seen as an unborn baby in the womb where his intellect is already highly developed. The story is not only about Oskar’s bizarre personal journey. It is also about the war viewed by a child, often surrealistically. Oskar has two fathers essentially in what is a kind of Jules and Jim story. His mother, Agnes, does not know which is the father and this creates drama as the film progresses. One is a Pole, the other a German and the three need each other, but ultimately politics destroys them.

Despite his small size, Oskar has a couple of passionate involvements that do not conclude happily. One is with his future step mother who is a teenager. Another is with a beautiful midget he meets when he is traveling for a time during the war with some circus midgets to entertain the German troops. As a result of one scene in the film, there was a child pornography lawsuit which lasted five years. It is detailed in “Banned in Oklahoma,” a documentary which is included in the extras.

Although I’m no bluenose and the nude scene was explained in the documentary as containing no actual sexual activity, it still bothered me that this was an 11 year old child in a nude scene and what the two were doing certainly appeared to be “activity.” After policemen illegally seized rental logs from Blockbuster stores and seized copies of the film from homes without warrants, The Tin Drum became a best seller in Oklahoma.

The Tin Drum Is a masterpiece in every respect–acting, cinematography, direction, dialogue, etc.–a shattering and beautiful film. The surround sound mix created from the original mono film track is quite convincing and enveloping. Outdoor ambiences are quite natural. The transfer is excellent with no noticeable artifacts. And the many extras add a great deal to the experience on DVD.

After winning at Cannes in 1979, Schlondorff stated this was a “European declaration of independence toward the world powers in cinema.” The box includes an insert which mentions that Schlondorff’s casting brought together a stunning ensemble of players from West Germany, Poland, and France. The scriptwriter had worked with Bunuel, his editor with Jacques Tati, his composer Maurice Jarre with David Lean; and even the makeup artist had worked with Federico Fellini. Upon receiving the Oscar for The Tin Drum, Schlondorff spoke as a German proud of his achievement and yet critical of his own country and displeased with its history, as a filmmaker mindful of many Germans and Jews who had found themselves mistreated and dispossessed by this nation. Speaking to the Hollywood audience, he accepted the award in the name of German emigrants and exiles “whose tradition we want to pick up: Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Pabst, Murnau, Lubitsch.”

– Donna Dorsett

Sunset Blvd. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Directed by Billy Wilder
Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich Von Stroheim
Studio: Paramount
Video: 4:3 B&W
Subtitles: English
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono – English, French
Extras: Commentary by Ed Sirov, author of “On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder, The Making of Sunset Boulevard, Theatrical trailer, Hollywood location map, Photo galleries, Morgue prologue, Edith Head – The Paramount Years featurette, The Music of Sunset Boulevard featurette
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: ****

Sunset Boulevard, which was nominated for five Oscars, lost out for the best picture Oscar most likely because it is a very cynical story about opportunism and exploitation in Hollywood. Billy Wilder, who co-wrote and directed the film, was fearful his film would be regarded as a betrayal. Sunset Boulevard is considered the most bitter movie ever made about Hollywood. Franz Waxman wrote an old-style Hollywood orchestral score for the film.

There is both sardonic humor and deep sadness in this film-noirish tale about former silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) who obsessively makes impossible plans for a comeback. Norma also becomes obsessed with the struggling, handsome screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) whom she hires to improve the dreadful script she has developed to attempt her big return to the screen. Before he knows it, she has moved him into her mansion. Joe tries to manipulate Norma, but her control of Joe is much more successful than his attempts to maintain the relationship at a level best suited for his temporary needs. She is demented but thoroughly in charge. Rather than return as a failure to the Midwest, he gives in to being a kept man, with the result of a total loss of self respect. We keep rooting for him to get out of this pathetic situation before it is too late.

Erich Von Stroheim plays the part of Norma Desmond’s devoted butler, Max, whose story is much more complex than it appears to be initially. Since the box notes give this away, I will mention that eventually Max is revealed to be Norma’s discoverer and first husband. Another key part is that of Betty Schaeffer (Nancy Olsen), a 22 year old reader working for Paramount who wants to write screenplays. When Joe can extricate himself from Norma, he and innocent, idealistic Betty begin to team up late at night as writing partners on a script for which they have high hopes.

Olsen is excellent in this supporting role. Cecil B. Demille plays himself when Norma visits her former director at Paramount. Buster Keaton, H. B. Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson make cameo appearances in a couple of card game scenes with Swanson as the former silent film stars they actually were.

This DVD is enhanced by the offering of some great extras. After viewing the film, be sure to watch “The Making of Sunset Boulevard” as well as the scene specific audio commentary by Ed Sikov, who wrote a biography of Billy Wilder. We learn much of interest, such as how Gloria Swanson was chosen for the role of Norma Desmond. Especially entertaining is the story of how the opening scene had to be redone, as initially it elicited hysterical laughter from the test audience – much to Wilder’s dismay.

Gloria Swanson really was a has-been making a come-back, although she, unlike Norma Desmond, had been living a successful, productive life since leaving her movie career. William Holden was a kind of has-been himself when he made Sunset Boulevard which is considered his greatest role. And Erich Von Stroheim was actually a great director in the 20′s and 30′s who was partly responsible for ruining Gloria Swanson’s career as well as his own. Fortunately they had patched things up by the time they worked together on Sunset Boulevard.

We learn much about Billy Wilder who was a screenwriter in Germany in the 20′s and 30′s. He arrived in the this country speaking next to no English but became one of the hottest directors in Hollywood. Wilder was the only director whose parents were lost in the Holocaust. That may account for a dark element in even his comedies. In the 20′s when he was out of work in Berlin for a time, he was a dancing gigolo, waltzing with ladies for pay in a hotel. He hated it. A frequent theme in his films is self contempt.

This morbid tale is superbly entertaining and engrossing. The stylish black and white photography is artistically lit, detailed and well transferred. As seen in the recent “American Beauty” with Kevin Spacey, the technique of having a character we know ultimately dies narrate the story is effective here. Although Norma Desmond is narcissistic and Joe Gillis a cynical opportunist, the characters may be in black and white but are not black and white. We care about them and their fate. I cannot imagine anyone who loves the movies not loving this classic film. Some consider Sunset Boulevard to be Billy Wilder’s greatest achievement.

– Donna Dorsett

Alien Hunter Alien Hunter (2003)

Starring James Spader, John Lynch
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Video: 1.85:1 enhanced for widescreen
Subtitles: English, French
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Dolby Digital stereo (French)
Extras: Commentary by director Ron Krauss, Deleted scenes with optional director’s commentary, Making-Of featurette, Director’s location scout footage, Storyboard comparisons, Photo gallery, Bonus trailers
Length: 92 minutes
Rating: ****

Don’t know how I missed this one in the theaters since I see all sci-fi – good or bad. I watched the extras first and learned that most of the film was shot in Bulgaria in various abandoned hangers, dams and other buildings that stood in for the underground base at the South Pole where most of the film’s action takes place. Jullian Rome (Spader) – the alien hunter of the title – was involved in the SETI program and is called to the Pole to investigate a strange object found embedded deep in the ice cap, which a friend in the scientific community thinks might be of alien origin. By the time he arrives the object has been transferred to the base and the ice around it is melting. The base is also carrying on experiments with raising plants hydroponically underground (which gives an excuse for shots of the female staff tending to the artifically-sunlit plants in skimpy outfits). The object is emitting a strange data signal, which Rome succeeds in finally decoding just as someone at the base finally breaks into it. The message is “Do Not Open.”

Naturally, all hell breaks loose. There is a strange viral infection that immediately does in some of the crew but not others, and could spread to the entire world’s population. There is of course an alien, which provides an excuse for “Alien”-like creeping around dark corridors searching for the creature everyone is hoping not to suddenly find. The meeting of the alien and Rome is very touching – that is before the alien is killed by a trigger-happy crew member. The survivors have a mutiny on their hands, there’s chases thru the cornfields of the hydroponic gardens, and a concluding scene which may remind some of E.T. and Encounters of the Third Kind. Jolly good SF, say I. The package says Mastered in High Definition – well, perhaps the original wasn’t that hi-def to begin with but it’s at least watchable. Pro Logic II involves one in the various underground environments a bit in spite of the only-stereo track, and that has some sonic/dramatic value.

- John Sunier

50 1st Dates 50 First Dates (Widescreen Special Edition) (2004)

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin, Dan Ackroyd
Directed by: Peter Segal

Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Video: 2.40:1 Enhanced for widescreen
Audio: English and French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, plus English Closed Captions
Extras: Audio commentary by director Peter Segal and actor Drew Barrymore; “The Dating Scene: The Making of 50 First Dates” featurette; “Comedy Central Reel Comedy Special” featurette; “Talkin’ Pidgin” featurette; gag reel; filmographies; previews; three music videos; five deleted scenes
Length: 99 minutes
Rating: ***1/2

Henry Roth is a marine biologist who lives in Hawaii. His social life is spent with a different beautiful tourist each week. Not looking for a committed relationship, Henry’s life is forever changed when he meets a fellow Hawaiian named Lucy. The two spend a wonderful day together but when Henry goes to meet Lucy the following day, she does not remember Henry at all. Unfortunately, Lucy suffers from short-term memory loss brought on by an auto accident and is unable to retain any new memories for more than a day. Undaunted, Henry tries to find a way for them to have a lasting relationship. On the whole, I liked 50 First Dates. While some of the humor is of the sophomoric variety, the movie’s cute plot, engaging music, and credible comedic acting by the cast more than make up for it. In terms of Sandler films, I would place this one somewhere in the middle of the pack, not quite as good as The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore or Anger Management, but a little better than Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds or Big Daddy. Recommended as a good date film.

The video quality of this DVD is excellent. Images are unblemished with razor sharp detail. Blacks are consistently deep throughout. Colors are vivid and bright with fully saturated hues. Picture defect mastering is perfect with no major flaws or digital compression artifacts. The overall audio quality is very good with the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The soundtrack makes good use of all of the discrete channels. Dialogue is crisp and natural sounding. The surround channels are fairly active and are utilized for both ambient sounds and the music soundtrack. Low frequency bass is tight and adds considerable depth to the reggae-inspired music. Tactile sound effects are present in about one third of the DVD’s chapters and appear as subtle to heavy impacts predominantly from the music soundtrack.

Reference equipment used for this review: [Video projector- Studio Experience Cinema 17SF; Projection screen- Vutec 103” HDTV SilverStar; DVD player- V, Inc. Bravo D1; A/V Receiver- Sherwood Newcastle R-963T; Speakers- BIC Venturi 6.1 channel system; Tactile Transducers- Clark Synthesis Gold; Video Switcher- Key Digital SW4x1; Cables and Wires- www.bettercables.com ]

- Calvin Harding Jr.




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