Friday, June 30, 2006

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) Review

If you've read the book, you'll be disappointed in this. It's faithful to the plot, with one important exception: what happened to the sexual heat between Easy and Daphne that was so important to the book's story? Without it, you wonder why Easy would bother chasing down this woman once he doesn't have to.

The general atmosphere is somewhat lacking. We know Easy has a hard time finding decent work due to racism, but we never get a sense of how desperate he is for money (and thus not lose his house) as we do in the book. Also, the screenwriter seems content to merely recycle typical (i.e. cliched) private eye/hard boiled/noir dialogue in place of using language as fresh as that found in the novel. Plus the first half of this film seriously drags.

Why, then, do I give it three stars and insist that it's worth watching? Simply put, Denzel Washington is terrific. He really brings Easy to life. Don Cheadle is also excellent as his psycho buddy Mouse. Most of the supporting cast do superb jobs as well. Though Jennifer Beals isn't gonna win any Academy Awards with this kind of performance, she does fine.

Worth renting and watching once. Not necessarily worth owning unless you're a big Denzel Washington fan.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) Review

Boy this was hard, ranking my Favorite James Garner movies. It came down to the two Support your... movies. I had to go with the one that had the sidewinder, Susan Plesette and the X-Rifleman and Cub second baseman Swifty Morgan.

SYLSheriff came in second because he was just passin thru on his way to australia anyway.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cats - The Musical (Ultimate Edition) (1998) Review

This is more or less a pure entertainment musical; minimal storyline tying together mostly good musical and dance numbers. I wouldn't really try to read anything more into it than that.

I had earlier gotten the 2 video version and was somewhat disappointed by the sound; you can barely hear the cast during 'The Naming of Cats' and in several spots the music overpowers the voices. Turning up the volume on your TV gives you quite a bit of static and popping instead of clarity.

This seems to be from either a bad master VHS or simply how they did this version; they recorded a 90 piece orchestra (as Webber mentions most theatres use about 16 pieces), then the singers, then shot the choreography but didn't use that vocal recording. So really you're hearing 2 recordings dubbed onto the dancing and in spots it really shows.

On the DVD however the sound is much better. Most of the songs are very clear ('Naming of Cats' is still very low)and only in a few spots do you notice sound effects that got forgotten from video to DVD. The picture is slightly better as well but the improved sound is the real reason to get DVD over VHS.

The major addition to the bonus features is about 7 ten minute or so interveiws with the original production staff; it makes a nice contrast to how the show is now and what it went through to even be shown as a musical.

My only major complaint about the DVD is the very flimsy case; basically it is a tri-folded plastic sheet with 2 thin DVD/CD rounds and a small booklet.

As a final thought all you married men out there probably shouldn't pay too close attention to the dancing during the 'Macavity' number.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Victory (1981) Review

At first glance, you may be tempted to skip over this title; it looks like one of those studio films which tries to throw together a "hot" American actor (Stallone was probably at the peak of his popularity at the time) with an English counterpart (Michael Caine). And you're right, that's what this film is doing. Most of the time these projects don't work. Surprisingly, though, this one is pretty good.
The acting can be a bit clunky, Stallone is not absolutely convincing in his portrayal of a Yank in a dominantly English POW camp & his attempt at a French accent is horrifying. All that aside,though, it is a riveting movie experience. Believe me, this is not a "train wreck" that you can't stop watching- there are genuinely good performances in this film. Caine is right on-the-mark as the coach (I ask you, when is he not great?), Stallone has a couple of scenes where his passion shows (especially in the tunnel under the stadium) & the pro soccer players as a whole turn in good, solid performances. Typically when you have pro athletes in a film, they're usually parodying themselves or a reasonable facsimile. These guys have to play POWs who happen to be soccer players & they're surprisingly good. The actual soccer scenes are terrific. Watching the game, you may appreciate more the skills of first-rate soccer players.
One aspect of this film which is hardly recognized is the musical score. I liked it & found it to be a rousing partner to those moments of triumph.
Granted, this movie isn't perfect (by no stretch of the imagination) but I believe it's worth a try. This may turn out to be one of "your" guilty pleasures.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Math Video Tutor - 10 Hour Course - Fractions Thru Algebra! Review

I have several Algebra videos that I have bought over the years, most of them are of the Standard Deviants Series. This DVD is by far the *BEST* one of them all! First, it is much, much longer in duration than any other video in this price range - 10 HOURS LONG! That is 6 times longer than most of the Standard Deviant DVDs that I own. Second, and most importantly, is the fact that the whole thing is FULL OF EXAMPLE PROBLEMS. The other DVDs that I own lecture you until you are blue in the face but then you are left wondering how to actually solve anything. This DVD is exactly the opposite! If you have a homework problem that you do not understand how to do, chances are that a similar problem is completely worked out on this DVD. I can't overstate how much my understanding of Algebra has improved with this product. Highly recommended to all!

Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume One (1934 - 1941) (1941) Review

Love the Packaging, and the full versions of the Cartoons.

Why no Numbering of the tins? Because each one has a numbered certificate!!

Absolutely great to see the full versions of the Cartoons I had only seen in TV edits before. Loads of fun for Duck fans.

About all I need now is the full collection of DUCK TALES, even though I was pretty mad that Donald was not in Duck Tales as much as he should have been.

Now all I have to do is get the FRONT LINES collection because that has some great Donald Duck material.

Bless you Disney !!! You are even putting out Widescreen editions of classic films as well .... Hopefully a WideScreen FOX AND HOUND version is out !!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Wire - The Complete First Season Review

Finally! We are getting the DVDs.

I can't say much more than anyone else already has about how truly remarkable "The Wire" is. It is, hands down, the best show on television. Ever. Thoughtful, intelligent, gripping storylines; imperfect, at times villainous, yet utterly compelling characters; and a critical, unflinching, yet oddly empathetic view of the city, its inhabitants, and the flawed bureaucracies that keep the wheels turning. The highest compliment I can pay "The Wire" is that it is the only show I have ever seen that actually respects the intelligence of its viewers. No, it does not make things easy for us. There are no standard TV devices such as flashbacks, awkward expository dialogue, or stock characters mouthing predictable, socially relevant drivel that "educate" us as to the creators' intentions - instead, we get pure, unadulterated story that dares us to make sense of everything ourselves and forces us to form our own opinions and conclusions instead of having them spoon-fed to us. It is a brilliant, brilliant effort, and although it is - typically - underpromoted and underappreciated by HBO, I'm kind of glad about that. I'd hate to see what would happen if stupid people got ahold of it and forced the writers to dumb things down to accommodate them. I'd prefer to keep this show a little secret among smart viewers rather than have it get ruined by too much attention.

So, if you're a dumb person please ignore this review and go watch Law & Order. But if you're intelligent, inquisitive, and a good judge of quality TV - what the hell are you waiting for?? WATCH THIS SHOW.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Millennium Actress (2001) Review

If Perfect Blue had better animaton, it would look like this. Millennium Actress is a beautifully crafted film. Told in a very original perspective, in the eyes of a former actress but followed by two film makers.

My only beef with this DVD is, well the DVD. The features listed on the back of the cover mention a commentary by director/writer Satoshi Kon. There is no commentary on this disc like there was on the Region 2 release. There is however a nice documentary on the film in the extras along with the U.S. trailer. The main problem with the disc comes in on the language set up. Picking either a subtitle or a audio takes you right back to the top menu which is a pain because you have to go back again if you want something else. It's just not a good menu.

But anyway, if you are prejudice against Japanese Animation, slap yourself and see this film. Anyone who has the least bit of interest in film will love this.

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