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DVD Reviews for May 2001, Pt. 1 of 2

   
   
   

Bedazzled (2001)

Elliot is disliked by his co-workers, spends many an evening at home alone, and is what most people would call an annoying individual. When he happens upon his co-workers in a bar trying to ditch him for the evening, he thinks nothing of joining the group. They proposition him to approach a beautiful woman at the bar whom he claims to know, and he bungles it. In his heart he makes a wish, and poof, the Devil appears. She gives him the opportunity to make his life into anything he desires via seven wishes and the exchange of his soul. He questions her legitimacy, but eventually signs the contract. He thinks hard and wishes away.

Wish number one is the money, and for his secret love to be his wife. Things don't always work exactly as planned in fantasyland, so in case he needs to have a little communiqué with the devil he is given a small pager to make contact. Wish after wish come and go with some serious drawbacks, but our hero makes every effort to improve and refine with each wish. In the end, perhaps the best lesson learned is to appreciate the things we have in our lives.

Bedazzled is filled with many funny scenes, and Brendan Fraser plays the oaf and each character in the famous, rich, sensitive, intelligent wishes. Apparently this is the first NUON enhanced DVD movie release, and I was sent some paperwork describing some of the features, so I'll describe what's in the paperwork as I don't have one of the two available players that will give you access to these special features. To read more about NUON go to this site: http://www.nuon-labs.com/. There are four different categories of extra features [some text taken from promo material]:

Viddies- allows thematic video shorts or montages (i.e. character studies, special effects, comedic one-liners, or sports plays);
Gamma Zooms- allows zooming, panning in on certain scenes, and allows user gamma correction/ adjustment;
Hyper Slides- displays the still art gallery pictures alongside a small video window and allows contrast of original art and relevant footage;
Scene Selection- enables full motion scaled video with dynamic descriptive text along with brief chapter synopsis.

- Brian Bloom


Entrapment [Special Edition] (1999)

When an important work of art is skillfully stolen, an insurance investigator suspects a legendary thief (Mac) is behind the caper. She manages to convince her boss to let her go undercover and try to nab him during his next heist. He soon discovers who she is, and that's when she tells him of her plan to steal a tremendous amount of money during the few seconds before the Millennium. Trust is hard to come by, and he wants some proof of her loyalty. He decides to get a little "insurance" on her by taking some pictures, and planting some incriminating evidence. She has no choice, but still believes she has the upper hand as they go off to his secret residence and begin training for the big score. They both test each other's patience and as the story progresses it becomes harder and harder to discover who is on who's side. It seems she is in the business for herself and at the same time working with the insurance company, or is she working with "Mac?" The action gets more intense, and the final scene manages to give both character and viewer an expected surprise.

It seems that the age difference between leading man and leading woman is becoming more and more disparate. Perhaps this is what gave the movie the feeling that it was trying to appeal to two entirely different types of viewers. Unfortunately, I don't think it was quite as successful because of this. It was too hard to like both characters and really empathize with their various difficulties and setbacks throughout the film. The other problem with the film is the similarity of plot between this film and The Thomas Crown Affair. These movies weren't exactly the same, but it seems that films come out in pairs or triplets these days. One studio makes a film about a baseball player and before you know it another one appears. At least Entrapment wasn't a remake and the extra features on this disc are good. The picture quality in some scenes was amazing. There is some good action near the end, and I doubt you will get bored. Worth a view if you are in the mood for this type of film and can't get enough of Catherine Zeta Jones slithering around in a tight jumpsuit-don't say I didn't warn you.

- Brian Bloom

Se7en (1995)

Another day on the beat and another murder has been committed. Years and years of living in the city and dealing with crime, hate, and pain lead an aging detective to a point just before his retirement. A new member of the team has just arrived in from out of town with his lovely wife and two canines to replace him. A routine investigation leads them both to a very atypical murder. Anxious to get his feet wet and establish himself as someone who has been around the block, Detective Mills asks to be head on the case. Detective Somerset is more concerned about possibility that the murders will continue. When a seemingly related murder occurs a pattern arises: A violently symbolic creation of the Seven Deadly Sins by the person responsible. The amount of time and effort involved in the crime is just plain scary and the detectives seem to be helpless to stop them. As their investigations continue, they find they may have a chance at a lead. The pieces began to fall more closely in place and a chance meeting may become the necessary ticket to discovering the alias of the mysterious individual responsible for the heinous crimes.

Excellent filmmaking and good tension between the main characters make this film definitely worth checking out. The nature of the material is somewhat gruesome, so for the faint at heart be forewarned. The soundtrack gives the feeling of an independent film, but with stars that know what they are doing. Brad Pitt is his usual self, and Morgan Freeman can be a little stiff, however the drama and suspense pull you into strange world of a serial killer. With most movies about murderers, killers, and the like, the main focus is on the perpetrator himself, while with this film the crime and act is what is focal. This makes the difference between just watching and discovering the intent of a single character, and delving deeper into the psychology of man, and human nature. Recommended.

- Brian Bloom

 

The X-Files: Fight The Future (1998)

Fight The Future is the full-length film that follows the continuing story of FBI agents Mulder and Scully as they try to uncover an alien plot to take over the Earth. The story continues from the period of time that the television show left off, but the film is explanatory enough so that even people who haven't been close followers of the show, like myself, can figure out what is happening. Some kids riding around on their bicycles manage to discover an ancient cavern that holds a secret that man is not ready to handle. When one falls into the subterranean cavity, he may never get out once he discovers what lies inside. In a matter of minutes all heck breaks loose and strange men in suits are everywhere. Back in Dallas FBI agents are scouring a building looking for an explosive device. What looks like a typical bomb threat becomes a possible conspiracy to hide the bodies of a few dead firefighters.

It seems that the X-files (the study of alien influence and phenomena) are about to be closed and both Mulder and Scully may be reassigned. As Mulder goes to a bar to douse his feelings about the whole situation he meets up with a man in the alley who may have several answers he is looking for. This mystery man is in hiding and worried about his safety. On a tip from the man, Mulder goes off to investigate the real reasons for the bombing and to try and discover a link between his search for aliens and a conspiracy that may signal the ultimate destruction of all humanity. The answers he finds with the help of his partner may be much more than he bargained for.

To the few that I have spoken with who are avid X-Files fans, this movie was not as good as they would have wished. Some answers are given, and things are explained, but to them it is just a longer episode with higher production values. To someone like myself who does not actively watch the program, the movie was fun, action packed, and kept my interest all the way through. If you like good action/ sci-fi flicks then add this one to your list.

- Brian Bloom


Walk In The Clouds (1995)

When a young GI returns home from WWII, he discovers his wife is no longer the woman he thought she was. He knows he has to leave and try to get back into the chocolate sales business-his former occupation. So he goes off on a train and due to a small mishap runs into a young woman returning to the country from the city. They both think nothing of the meeting, but soon enough they are both walking down a dirt road on the way to her parent's vineyard. It appears that she has gotten herself into trouble with a man, but he has refused to honor her and marry her. They come up with a plan whereby he will pretend to be her husband and then leave her, thereby making her abandonment honorable, and acceptable to her father. Her father is one of the most important people in her life, and the last thing she wants to do is to upset him in any way.

Things don't go quite as planned and the young GI ends up staying another day, and another, and another. The family is quite colorful, but the father has a strong disliking for him. As he continues to keep up the charade their feelings for each other soon begin to change. He decides it is time to leave, but he can't seem to go. And at the same time she is troubled by the situation, and knows that she needs to tell the truth. The truth may hit hard, and may damage their relationship forever. After the good times, it is the last thing she wants to do, but there is no way out. What will happen next is up to the gods

This movie was much more enjoyable than I expected. It is full of lush sceneries, generally good acting (excepting Reeves), and the storyline gets you hoping for the best for our two star crossed lovers. This film is definitely a good date movie, and one worth checking out for anyone who likes romance movies and for sheer entertainment value.

- Brian Bloom


The Thin Red Line (1998)

Water, light, music, nature, people, and innocence is how this movie begins. We are on an island somewhere in the Pacific during WWII. There are a few military deserters hiding away with the natives. While this war goes on the inhabitants of this village seem oblivious. One of the men is a main character and much of the story will follow him along. At the break of certain points in the film another character's flashbacks are featured-time spent with his wife before he left to war. Scenes are of companionship, sharing, and love in a bedroom, on a beach, all reminding us of a once completely normal existence.

Orders have been given and it is the responsibility of a large company of men to take a key point, a hill on an island that is under enemy control. A large part of the film is spent with this goal in mind. The men are in conflict with not only the enemy but also each other. There is uncertainty, bravery, and an uncanny feeling that somewhere, sometime, this really happened. Occasionally we hear the thoughts of the soldiers and it helps to connect them to us-again to let us see them as strangers to their situation. Death is everywhere, but it is not just for the physically wounded that we mourn, but for those who will never be the same emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

The Thin Red Line may be a war movie, but it is a war movie with a little philosophy, a little beauty, and a lot of questions all mixed in. These days it seems typical to have a film that is not just about plot, characters, and setting, but also about the grand scheme, the meaning, the essence, and the things existing outside of one's self. This description may seem confusing, and if it is then you probably won't like this movie. Otherwise it can be recommended as not your average movie about blowing things up, unless the thing blowing up is an idea-perhaps an idea that does not sit well with us.

- Brian Bloom

Up At The Villa (2000)

It's 1938 and a young woman is vacationing in a lovely Villa in Italy. She has a suitor in a rich and soon to be powerful Englishman. He has gone away and she is alone to think upon his wedding proposal. In the meantime she will have temptations beyond her wildest dreams. A young married American shows an immediate interest, and enticed by a story told to her by a companion she takes a young immigrant into her bed. He instantly falls in love with her and when she scorns his love for her his passion cannot be quelled. He is insistent on making her pay for his pain and takes his life in her bedroom. She needs to hide the body otherwise she may be arrested and her wedding plans will be destroyed. Because he is an outsider, the American is really the only one she can trust and together they conspire to save her from any embarrassment and/ or discovery of the truth by the authorities and anyone else. Soon her suitor will be back and she has to come to terms with her feelings, and make the decision that will change her life forever.

Acting is touch and go in this film. Kirstin Scott Thomas and Anne Bancroft are a wonder to watch, but the rest of the film just isn't up to the same level. Perhaps a different mood during viewing would have meant a different outcome. Some of it seemed to get better and then Sean Penn appeared. He just didn't seem to fit in this film, and kept preventing it from achieving a better rating. It has some of the elements of a foreign picture that may appeal, but it has some of the failings of a not entirely well executed film too. Luckily the good outweighs the bad, so you can still put it on your list of films to watch.

- Brian Bloom

Autumn In New York (2000)

Will Keane is a Manhattan restaurateur, womanizer, and about to fall in love with a young woman. At 48 he is an experienced playboy, but he begins to realize that there may be something missing in his life. Brief contact with a daughter he has never seen and a desire to seduce an attractive young woman changes him forever. At first it is just play, another conquest, but soon his feelings grow deeper with the inspiration that she is able to provide. Tragically she has a limited time left to live and makes it clear to him that she will understand when he moves on to better pastures. Guilt? Divine providence? Or is it a new lease on life that makes him stay by her side. He is not ready to accept her fate even though she seems to be. Something inside him is unsure and we wonder if he is really worthy of her affection and respect. Only time will tell as their love is put to the test.

The scenery, sets, and camerawork on this film are very well done. Everything seems to flow well and look and sound great. Do Gere and Ryder make a realistic couple? I'd say no, but then again, if you look at some of the Hollywood couples these days, I'd have to change that to a yes. So maybe it is the acting that bothered me? Or was it the plot? Well, I guess I'd just have to say that this movie reminded way too much of Love Story. If I'd never seen that film then I would probably have thought this movie was a wonderfully fresh and delightful romantic tragedy. I surely don't shy away from a good sad film, but in this case I just found myself a little under whelmed-it seemed like it could have been so much better! Recommended for couples, or anyone who is in the mood for a sad romance movie.

- Brian Bloom

Tigerland (2001)

The year is 1971 and at Fort Polk, Louisiana we meet the newest recruits ready to take on the tough training ahead and become soldiers. Bozz is a genuine troublemaker. He goes AWOL constantly, disobeys orders, and creates havoc for his superior officers. As we meet a few of his fellow boot camp associates we are immediately thrown into the feeling that the soon-to-be warriors are just mixed up kids. Time and time again Bozz's superior officers try to figure out what to do with him, but the realization dictates the need for men on the front line, and that is where they want him. They will mold him and turn him into some sort of hero. To the men he is a mixed bag. As the movie progresses they grow to respect his presence and rely on his intelligence and perseverance that hopefully will save their lives. Tigerland is the last stop before the men ship out to Vietnam, and is a place where the men engage in various war games. Tensions run high, and the men are driven to extremes simulating the situation when they are in combat.

Tigerland is based on the experiences of the writer, Ross Klavan, who did advanced training at Tigerland. Many of the characters are based on real people, and the tone of the film is hard and bleak. The movie is about the people, the young men, who were thrust into a life that they had no love for or understanding of. The film itself has a rough look to it with lots of hand held camera and is shot in 16mm. The start of the film had me groaning, but the pace and interest level picked up within the first 15 minutes. The performance by newcomer Colin Farrell is quite impressive and without him it wouldn't be the same film. If you liked Full Metal Jacket and Saving Private Ryan then you will have an idea of some of the impact this film has. Tigerland feels much more like an independent film, and that works well given the film as a whole.

- Brian Bloom

Showbiz Ballyhoo (1982)

In the words of the narrator, "ballyhoo" in the early of days of movie studios can best be described as a time when the studios "sold the sizzle and not the steak." Basically the disc is divided into six different sections: Gods & Goddesses, Public Appearances, Movie Advertisement, Hollywood's War Efforts, Sounds of Hollywood, and Bloopers. The film starts with an early introduction to Hollywood, movie studios, and early film-both with and without sound. There is a brief discussion of historical beginnings of film sound and the movie industry. Much of the content has to do directly with movie stars and how the studios marketed them and the films in which they appeared. There is footage on many different off-screen activities of the many varying stars in the film.

There are a few different screen tests shown, news clips, staged presentations, and children stars with emphasis on Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple, and Judy Garland. There is a section about poking fun at the stars with cartoons and characterizations, as well as the silliness and hoopla of a typical movie premiere. We are introduced to Walt Disney and the impact he had on the movie industry. Other studio heads are mentioned in lesser detail. The war effort was a good way for stars to get on board and sell bonds or get behind the men and women involved in WWII. The section on the Sounds of Hollywood goes into the transition from silent film to sound, and then merges into a discussion of the beginning of the sex symbol. Also, we see some changes in the types of films being produced including a new type of film-the musical. And last we have a section on star bloopers.

Showbiz Ballyhoo has the feeling of a TV special that you'd see in the old days on a Saturday night or an early Sunday evening. It was all very interesting especially to someone who wasn't around 40-60 years ago when film was really coming into its own. When the narrator is actually shown he is obviously reading from cards and the presentation is terrible. Fortunately this only takes perhaps a few minutes of screen time. Otherwise, he is more than able to give effective audio commentary throughout. It was very entertaining and my only complaint is that it wasn't long enough, and I would have enjoyed seeing even more historical information on each section. A must see for anyone interested in film, film stars, or for background in the earlier eras of film.

- Brian Bloom     

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