Although the concept is really old hat now on television, an elaborate mythology for a series was new back in the early days of The X-Files. Frank Spotnitz, long-time writer and producer of that series, helped develop much of what became a complex storyline of aliens, monsters and religion. He later went on to executive produce its short-lived spin-off, The Long Gunman, as well as Millennium and Harsh Realm, and recently worked on Michael Mann’s Robbery Homicide Division. This past season he helmed his own series, Night Stalker, starring Stuart Townsend.
[rating=3]Starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler, Lobo Chan, Thomas Kretschmann, Evan Parke, Colin Hanks, John Sumner
Director(s): Peter Jackson
Writer(s): Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson; Based upon the story by Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
I don’t often like to write reviews for films twice, but for King Kong I was will to make an exception. You see, I actually missed the first five minutes of the film when I saw it in the theater. It wasn’t my fault, but the theater — for some bizarre reason — decided to start the film about twenty minutes early. I, along with dozens of others, were calmly waiting on line for popcorn. Someone came out and said it was starting, but no one believed him. When we all finally learned that it really was starting, none of us were happy.
Regardless, the DVD gave me the opportunity to see the film from start to finish. And generally, when I see a film a second time, it moves faster. I even tend to enjoy it a little more, or things that may have bothered me the first time don’t so much the second. Of course, there are also occasions where the weaknesses seem worse, and I notice more problems along the way.
[rating=3]Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Linda Cardellini, Anna Faris, Anne Hathaway
Director(s): Ang Lee
Writer(s): Written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana; Based upon the short story by Annie Proulx
Before I even got an opportunity to see Brokeback Mountain I’d heard all the jokes. All the gay cracks, all the “Poke-in-the-Back Mountain” puns. Every snide comments and ridiculous homophobic rant.
Yet most of the people I knew who had actually seen the film thought it was terrific. A beautiful story told well. So, putting those jokes aside, when I finally sat down to watch Brokeback on DVD, I didn’t quite know what I was going to think. Would I get turned away by the homosexual storyline, or would I be able to enjoy it for what it was — a tragic love story.
[rating=4]Starring: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Becca Gardner, Josh Lucas
Director(s): Lasse Hallstrom
Writer(s): Mark Spragg, Virginia Korus Spragg
It takes a lot for Jennifer Lopez to be tolerable these days. To be quite honest, I can’t even look at the woman anymore. As a result, I was a little hesitant to watch An Unfinished Life. Ultimately I did, because Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman are just too good to not surrender an hour and forty-eight minutes of my time.
In a purely supportive role that is easily buried beneath Redford and Freeman, Lopez was actually good. I was reminded of the Lopez I remembered from Out of Sight, the film that made her a star, not the ridiculous J.Lo that was created by her stardom. And she stood well against the other actors. An Unfinished Life is filled with strong performances, which shouldn’t be surprising, since the cast consists of some of the most talented people around.
[rating=3]Starring: Roy Scheider, Warren Oates, Candy Clark, Daniel Stern, Malcolm McDowell
Director(s): John Badham
Writer(s): Dan O’Bannon, Don Jakoby
There something fun about going back to movies that you remember from your childhood and revisiting them as an adult. I’ve been fascinated by some 80s action flicks in the last few months, I suppose mostly through nostalgia more than anything else. It’s funny how over the top so many of them are, and whileBlue Thunder is better than most, its ending is a little much.
The story has Roy Scheider at the peak of his fame, this time playing a burned out helicopter pilot with the Los Angeles Police Department’s air unit. This is a familiar site to most people who either live in or have seen moves featuring the west coast city, but at the time it was relatively new. The helicopters assist police officers on the ground to track down criminals and monitor the city. Scheider’s Officer Frank Murphy is one of the best, but suffers from post-traumatic stress from Vietnam (this movie was made in 1983).
[rating=2]Starring: Sharon Stone, William Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Martin Landau
Director(s): Phillip Noyce
Writer(s): Screenplay by Joe Eszterhas; based upon the novel by Ira Levin
I suppose it’s related to the impending release of Sharon Stone’s return to the character that made her famous, Basic Instinct 2, that prompted the release of this DVD, but I can say right now they should have just left well enough alone. Watching Sliver was a reminder of the excess that Hollywood had gone to with its brief fascination with erotic thrillers — a fascination led largely by screenwriter Joe Eszterhas.
Although I’d only seen bits and pieces of Sliver in the past, I was curious enough to take a look at this unrated version of the film. The rise and fall of Eszterhas is a classic true Hollywood story, so I figured I’d sacrifice an hour and a half of my life to see one of his films. It’s not considered his best, but how exactly do you top such works of art like Basic Instinct and Showgirls?
I am most likely one of a handful of people who actually enjoyed Godzilla, the Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin creation from 1998. Yes, I enjoyed it. It’s fun, with some good action sequences. It entertained me. I’m not sure what more I was supposed to get from a movie about a giant lizard.
Like most kids of my generation, I grew up watching Godzilla movies on Sunday afternoons. I loved them. At the same time, we’re talking about a series of movies featuring a guy in a rubber suit. You can’t take these movies too seriously. The same has to be said about Godzilla. It’s a popcorn movie whose single purpose is to entertain. It’s not deep, it’s not meaningful, it simply tries to give you a good time.
The story basically works as follows: Mutated by the nuclear tests performed by the French, a giant lizard that becomes known as Godzilla comes to New York City and wreaks havoc. The military struggles to stop him with the help of biologist Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), while French secret service agent Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno) looks to contain his country’s involvement in the creature’s unintentional creation.
[rating=3]Starring: The Voices of Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, Amy Sedaris, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack
Director(s): Mark Dindal
Writer(s): Steve Bencich and Ron Friedman
One of the best tests I can devise for animated films now is whether or not my son is willing to sit through it. It’s not scientific, but it’s the best kind of gauge I have at my disposal — besides my own perspectives.
When I popped the DVD in, as usual, my son was resistant. He is always a little wary of trying new movies. Not really sure why, exactly, but I suppose that’s par for the course with children. They’re always hesitant when it comes to something new. They like the familiar. Either way, Chicken Little was only on for a few minutes and he was hooked. So hooked, in fact, that he was dancing to the music at the very end.
He loved it, and I did, too.
[rating=4]Starring: 1956 – Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Nina Foch, Vincent Price; 1923 – Theodore Roberts, Charles de Rochefort, Richard Dix, Rod La Rocque, Leatrice Joy
Director(s): 1956 & 1923 – Cecille B. DeMille
Writer(s): 1956 – Screenplay by Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse J. Lasky, Jr., Jack Gariss, Fredric M. Frank; Based upon the Holy Scriptures and other ancient and modern writings; 1923 – Story by Jeanie MacPherson
I’m not a religious person, but there is something grand about so many of the sweeping religious epics from the 1950s. The Ten Commandments is a film I’ve probably seen dozens of times, often during the holidays, yet I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it all the way through in one sitting. That made it all the more epic to watch it unfold in this new, 50th Anniversary edition DVD.
Although he’s been somewhat dismissed in the last few years, Charlton Heston was a powerful actor who so often played larger-than-life characters. And he seemed to love it. He was practically born to play Moses, a role he devoured, even beneath the overdone beard and wig. Modern audiences may have difficulty relating to the style of the film, with its bombastic acting and casual pace, yet it’s a perfect example of the grand filmmaking style of its time.
[rating=4]Starring: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger
Director(s): Billy Wilder
Writer(s): Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Edwin Blum; Based upon the play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski
I grew up on reruns of Hogan’s Heroes. It wasn’t a series that I was all that crazy about, but it was on regularly in syndication. My brother was more of a fan that me. But it wasn’t until years later that I learned it was based on a stage play that was turned into a movie of the same name. It was called Stalag 17. I would easily count it as one of my favorite films, and it made me a fan of William Holden.
This new special edition DVD of Stalag is quite good. The picture and audio are terrific, and the extras are simple yet just perfect. You get information about the making of the film, but you’re also offered some insight into the true story behind the infamous prisoner of war camp.