Posts Tagged ‘dvd

13
Jul
09

Movies on DVD Review: The Dead Girl

dead_girl

 

Five powerful vignettes.

Starring Toni Collette, Piper Laurie, Giovanni Ribisi, Rose Byrne, James Franco, Mary Steenburgen, Bruce Davison, Marcia Gay Harden, Kerry Washington, Brittany Murphy, and Josh Brolin. Directed by Karen Moncrieff

For those of you looking for a straight-forward movie, this probably isn’t for you. Instead writer/director Karen Moncrieff presents six 15-minute films that comprise the whole.

“The Mother” – Arden (Collette) is a meek, sullen woman constantly harassed and harangued by her domineering mother (Laurie). When Arden finds the body of a dead girl on the outskirts of her property, she incurs questioning by the police and the wrath of her mom. She meets a grocery store clerk (Ribisi) and runs off with him.

“The Sister” – Leah (Byrne) is a forensics student who prepares the body of the dead girl for autopsy. She’s on antidepressants and takes counseling for the fact that her parents (Steenburgen and Davison) will not stop looking for her younger sister, who has been missing for years. She finds solace in fellow student Derek (James Franco).

“The Wife” – Mary Beth Hurt plays a woman who helps run her husband’s storage unit facility. When he goes absent and she’s forced to do his job she discovers a storage unit that has a dresser filled with bloody clothes. He returns and she tries to question him about it, as well as if she should go to the police or not.

“The Mother” – Melora (Harden) is the mother of the dead girl, Krista (Murphy). She finds her daughter’s last place of residence and meets Rosetta (Washington), her daughter’s roommate and lover. Rosetta tells her about Krista, why Krista ran away, and that Krista has a baby girl named Ashley. Melora goes to pick up Ashley from her Hispanic caregiver and tries bonding with Rosetta.

“The Dead Girl” – Krista (Murphy) is a prostitute, drug addict, and mother. She ran away from her home in Washington and lives in SoCal. After a fight with her boyfriend (Brolin) to get a ride to Norwalk to drop off a plush bunny for her kid, she makes it back to her place and finds that Rosetta has been hit by her boyfriend. She takes a motorcycle, exacts revenge, and then winds up without gas on the highway. She’s picked up by Carl (Nick Searcy), the husband from “The Wife” segment.

Overall, I liked it. As I’ve said before it’s not a film whole, but the pars themselves are worth it.

My grade: B

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07
May
09

Movies on DVD: Appaloosa

appaloosa

Not the Western I was hoping for.

 

Stars Ed Harris, Viggo Mortenson, Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons, and Lance Henriksen. Directed by Ed Harris

 

When Marshall Jack Bell (Robert Jauregui) is killed by outlaw Randall Bragg (Irons), the three people who run the town of Appaloosa call in gun-for-hire Virgil Cole (Harris) and his hetero-lifemate Everett Hitch (Mortenson) to stop the outlaw from destroying it. Virgil and Everett are immediately deputized and go to work. Allison French, a new woman in town, complicates matters by falling for any guy within three feet of her, especially Virgil. Virgil makes it his mission to put Bragg away or see him hanging, while Everett tries to help Virgil keep his cool as well as watching out for him in regards to new love Allison.

 

I haven’t watched a Western this boring since “Open Range.” At least it had a shootout.

 

That’s not to say that the movie is bad; it’s just that it’s far from great and damn close to being forgotten. I’ll give Ed Harris his ability to act and pairing with Mortenson works well. The real problem here is the story (which Harris co-wrote) and direction (as noted above, he directed it too). Maybe Harris was aiming for some lamentation of the West as he would imagine it. The problem as much as he would like to be he’s not Clint Eastwood.

 

In all honesty it’s not easy to go from acting to directing. Several have tried with mixed results. Robert DeNiro did “The Good Shepherd,” which could have been better. Kevin Costner did “Dances With Wolves,” which was good but was followed with “Waterworld,” “The Postman,” and “Open Range,” which are mediocre at best. Kevin Spacey directed “Beyond the Sea” which I enjoyed. Anthony Hopkins did “Slipstream” which I haven’t seen nor heard anyone talk about.

 

And therein lies the question: who is the movie being made for? In this case I believe that Harris wanted to make a Western (as so many actors do) and got the funding and found that other actors (Mortenson, Zellweger, Irons) wanted to do one as well. While it may sound fun as a pet project and may have looked good on paper, the final product was less than desired. The sets looked okay and there were some story elements there but the rest seemed stale. I was literally waiting for the ghost of John Wayne to appear onscreen at any moment and start slapping the shit out of everyone.

 

Long, tedious, stale, and boring,

 

My grade: C

13
Apr
09

Movies on DVD Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

slaughterhouse_five

 

I have become unstuck in movie reviewing…

 

Stars Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, Eugene Roche, and Valerie Perrine. Directed by George Roy Hill. Based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

 

Billy Pilgrim (Sacks) is sitting, typing out a letter to the editor telling him stating that he has become “unstuck in time.” From that moment he time-trips to the future and his life on Tralfamadore, then back to himself as a young chaplain caught by the Germans and sent to Dresden. We see further glimpses into his life as he survives a plane crash, becomes an optometrist, survives the bombing of Dresden, gets married, has kids, and winds up as part of a human zoo on planet Tralfamadore.

 

The most effective parts of the movie are the one based in Dresden. Dresden was a civilian city not thought to be a military target. Vonnegut based this on his experiences in Dresden which include surviving the bombing. We are also shown that when the Nazis say you will be shot for taking any merchandise, they keep to their word.

 

I enjoyed the movie. It’s dark, funny, tragic, interesting, intriguing, weird, and poignant. Hill (I am told) stayed loyal to the novel. I apologize upfront; I have not read the novel (sorry to disappoint). If that’s true, this is one fantastical stream of consciousness. Kudos to Vonnegut for the story.

 

Why should you watch it? If you’re a film geek this fits two categories: cult movie and non-linear editing. On the “cult” side, this movie was not critically acclaimed nor a big box office draw however, it’s weird enough and has a following. As for non-linear editing, think of this movie as an inspiration for films like “Memento” and “Pulp Fiction.” If you are a bookworm, this is one of the most loyally adapted book-to-films.

 

On a trivia note, George Roy Hill also directed “The Sting,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Slap Shot,” “The World According to Garp,” and “Funny Farm.” Valerie Perrine is still acting. And Michael Sacks, who beat out Dirk Benedict for the role of Billy Pilgrim, retired from acting in 1984 and is now Head of Global Applications Development at MarketAxess.

 

My grade: B

 

07
Apr
09

Movies on DVD Review: Man on Wire

man_on_wire

 

A wirewalking documentary.

 

Stars Philippe Petit. Directed by James Marsh.

 

“Man on Wire” is a look back at Philippe Petit and his accomplishment: wirewalking between New York’s (then) newly created Twin Towers on August 7, 1974. With the help of friends and contacts, he and his team pulled off what some have called “the greatest artistic crime of the century.”

 

Petit is a Frenchman who grew up to be a street juggler and wirewalker. One day while sitting in the dentist’s office he sees a picture of the proposed Towers and has a vision, a manifest destiny if you will, of walking between them (nevermind the fact that it hasn’t been built yet). From that point on his wirewalking career is taking steps toward achieving that goal. From wirewalking between the towers of Notre Dame to Australia’s Sydney Harbour Bridge, Petit daredevils and crosses the law as he builds up to his goal.

 

The movie flashes backwards and forwards, showing events in Petit’s life that influenced why he did what he did as well as portraying the wirewalk feat itself like a heist movie. From making scale models of the building tops to flying back and forth to the U.S. from France, to making fake IDs to get into the Towers, to evading guards and finally stringing the cable in the early hours of the morning amidst thick fog, this achievement was cut-out for him. Current day interviews are inter-cut with re-enactments of scenes, as well as original footage taken at the time.

 

So, how is the film? I thought it was alright. The back-and-forth-and-back editing got to me a little; sometimes telling the story forward is a better idea. The achievement was great, no doubt about that, but I wish the film would make it feel greater. It’s a worthy documentary, but winning an Academy Award may have been a bit much.

 

My grade: B-

 

 

24
Mar
09

The WB Goes ‘On Demand’

wb

 

 

As you browse through the DVD/Blu-ray aisle at the Best Buy, or Target, or wherever you buy movies, you may find yourself asking, “Where are all the catalog movies? The older Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Eva Marie Saint, or Lana Turner movies?” (It’s a hypothetical). Fear not, because the Warners have an answer!

 

The WB has begun to open their vaults to offer movies not previously released on DVD. For $20 a piece you can purchase online them online. Each DVD comes in a slipcase and every DVD will feature the trailer for said movie. For those not interested in a physical copy of a film, you can download the digital version for $15.

 

For more information, check out the site at: www.warnerarchive.com

 

Source: “Warner Bros. launches ‘on demand’ DVD sales’ by Thomas K. Arnold

http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/dvd/2009-03-22-classic-films-on-demand_N.htm

03
Mar
09

Movies on DVD Review: Vantage Point

A review of the film, “Vantage Point.”

See more at:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1527758/movies_on_dvd_review_vantage_point.html

vantage_point

26
Feb
09

Movies on DVD Review: First Snow

first_snow

A taut little thriller.

Starring Guy Pearce, J.K. Simmons, Piper Perabo, and William Fichtner. Directed by Mark Fergus.

When New Mexican salesman Jimmy Starks (Pearce) breaks down in the middle of nowhere -and I can’t emphasize ‘nowhere’ enough- he dawdles around a quaint pit stop while his car is being repaired. After a beer and an attempt to sell a bartender on buying a Wurlitzer, he pokes around and finds Vacaro (Simmons), a man who makes his money telling fortunes. Giving him 15 bucks, Vacaro has a reading that scares himself. Starks is given his money back and sent on his way.

The small seed of Vacaro having a “seizure” while holding his hands is planted in Starks’ head, but he continues dismissing it. It’s all just salesmanship, right? Starks returns to his life with girlfriend Deidre (Perabo) and fellow salesman Ed Jacomoi. When a losing team wins a basketball game and a “predicted” windfall of money really is coming from Dallas, Starks begins to have second thoughts. What was it that Vacaro wasn’t telling him?

Piece by piece Starks begins to unravel. He receives phone calls with no one answering on the other end. An envelope comes in the mail and contains a target that has a few bullet holes in it. Digging through the skeletons in his closet he decides to check up on his old best friend Vincent McClure (Shea Whigham). Vincent was Jimmy’s former partner in a business that was raided by the Feds. Jimmy got free while Vincent went in for three years. Could it be Vincent calling, wanting revenge? Or was it Andy Lopez (Rick Gonzalez), a fellow salesman Jimmy had to fire?

Tension builds as Jimmy makes excuses for work, spying on Vincent and confronting Andy. He makes a special trip out to see Vacaro who tells him that everything will be okay until the ‘first snow.’ Not satisfied with the answer Starks leaves, but continues down his road of madness.

Overall, a good movie. Fergus makes the atmosphere of the film dark, brooding, and tense, and it works. This is a film more about the journey than the actual destination. Is Vacaro right? Or can Starks change the future? I’ll let you find out. While it is true that this does not really add anything to the thriller genre, it’s a worthwhile escape that may make you ask yourself the question, “What would you do if you found out your tomorrows were up?” Fergus may not be Brad Anderson, but at least he’s in good company.

I suggest this one for those interested in mystery/suspense, and for those who like Guy Peacre.

My grade: B