‘Apocalypse Now’ gets the full treatment with ‘The Complete Dossier’ DVD

[rating=3]Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Jay ‘Chef’ Hicks, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Albert Hall, Harrison Ford, Dennis Hopper
Director(s): Francis Coppola
Writer(s): Screenplay by John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola; Narration by Michael Herr

Martin Sheen stars in 'Apocalypse Now'
Martin Sheen stars in ‘Apocalypse Now’

In the last fifteen years, I have made three or four different attempts to watch Apocalypse Now. In all those attempts, I was never able to get through the entire film. In each case I fell asleep at different points and never once saw the film all the way through.

Was this a commentary on the film? I wasn’t really certain, to be honest. Perhaps it was just the timing. Maybe I was particularly tired on those days. So, when the opportunity came for me to really watch the film, I took it. Last week I sat down and watchedApocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier, which was released this past Tuesday on DVD. This two-disc set includes the original theatrical cut of the film, as well as the extended Apocalypse Now: Redux which was released in 2001.

Read more‘Apocalypse Now’ gets the full treatment with ‘The Complete Dossier’ DVD

Richard Donner made 1976’s ‘The Omen’ brilliant

[rating=4]Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw
Director(s): Richard Donner
Writer(s): David Seltzer

Gregory Peck tries to kill the devil in 'The Omen'
Gregory Peck tries to kill the devil in ‘The Omen’

It had been years since I saw The Omen. I wasn’t quite sure how much of it I’d actually remember when I sat down to watch it the other night, but surprisingly enough I remembered virtually all of it.

What I didn’t remember, however, was how good a movie it was.

Richard Donner crafted a brilliantly intriguing religious thriller. It is wonderfully paced, with some terrific scenes and strong acting. The young boy, played perfectly by Harvey Stephens, is stunningly creepy. That last moment when he turns to the camera and smiles is chilling. I was honestly surprised by how much I liked this film. I’m not a fan of these kinds of movies. I thought The Exorcistwas rather boring. Religiously-themed fright flicks just don’t interest me. But what Donner had created here, with screenwriter David Seltzer, was just outstanding.

Read moreRichard Donner made 1976’s ‘The Omen’ brilliant

‘King Kong: Special Edition’ is brilliant yet extended version feels bloated

[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

The giant gorilla roars in 'King Kong'
The giant gorilla roars in ‘King Kong’

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.

Read more‘King Kong: Special Edition’ is brilliant yet extended version feels bloated

‘Brokeback Mountain’ is a lovely gay love story, and that’s not a bad thing

[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

Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams in 'Brokeback Mountain'
Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams in ‘Brokeback Mountain’

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.

Read more‘Brokeback Mountain’ is a lovely gay love story, and that’s not a bad thing

Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman make Jennifer Lopez shine in ‘An Unfinished Life’

[rating=4]Starring: Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, Morgan Freeman, Becca Gardner, Josh Lucas
Director(s): Lasse Hallstrom
Writer(s): Mark Spragg, Virginia Korus Spragg

Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman co-star in 'An Unfinished Life'
Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman co-star in ‘An Unfinished Life’

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.

Read moreRobert Redford and Morgan Freeman make Jennifer Lopez shine in ‘An Unfinished Life’

Top notch ‘Blue Thunder’ gets treated well in new DVD

[rating=3]Starring: Roy Scheider, Warren Oates, Candy Clark, Daniel Stern, Malcolm McDowell
Director(s): John Badham
Writer(s): Dan O’Bannon, Don Jakoby

'Blue Thunder' helicopter flies over Los Angeles
‘Blue Thunder’ helicopter flies over Los Angeles

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).

Read moreTop notch ‘Blue Thunder’ gets treated well in new DVD

‘Sliver’ may be sexier in unrated version, but isn’t much better

[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

Sharon Stone stars in 'Sliver'
Sharon Stone stars in ‘Sliver’

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?

Read more‘Sliver’ may be sexier in unrated version, but isn’t much better

‘Godzilla’ has flaws, but it’s NOT as bad as you may have been told

The giant lizard gets the CGI treatment in 1998's 'Godzilla'
The giant lizard gets the CGI treatment in 1998’s ‘Godzilla’

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.

Read more‘Godzilla’ has flaws, but it’s NOT as bad as you may have been told

‘Chicken Little’ is an underappreciated Disney delight

[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

Zach Braff provides his voice as the title character in 'Chicken Little'
Zach Braff provides his voice as the title character in ‘Chicken Little’

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.

Read more‘Chicken Little’ is an underappreciated Disney delight

‘Ten Commandments’ is still a wonderful classic 50 years later

[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

Charlton Heston is Moses in 'The Ten Commandments'
Charlton Heston is Moses in ‘The Ten Commandments’

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.

Read more‘Ten Commandments’ is still a wonderful classic 50 years later