Recent Drama Posts

May 26, 2006

Movie Review: Silent Hill - Complete

Jordan and I have a revised and complete review of Silent Hill posted over at Blogcritics. Be sure and check it out.

May 20, 2006

Movie Review: The Da Vinci Code

Is Tom Hanks our lord and savior? I guess that is better than Tom Cruise.

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May 2, 2006

DVD Review: Jarhead

Jarhead is offensive. Within about 30 seconds of the actors popping on the screen, it has the R rating secured. Unlike so many other movies though, Jarhead has a purpose to its gratuitous sex and language. It's part of the harsh reality the soldiers are stuck inside, slowly taking a turn for the worse as the first Gulf War continues on without them.

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February 18, 2006

DVD Review: Emergency - Season 2

Setting up countless medical shows to follow, Emergency offers up a little of everything, and that's why it manages to hold up a few decades later. It's gripping, funny, and it always gives the viewer something new. It's a TV classic that doesn't get shown enough in syndication anymore, hence the necessity of TV DVD.

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January 12, 2006

DVD Review: Deep Impact

In 1997, two movie studios went head to head in the "volcano disaster" genre. Universal gave us Dante's Peak, and Fox delivered the appropriately titled Volcano. A year later, it happened again, this time with the "giant space rock" scenario: Touchstone came in with the brain-dead Armageddon and Paramount countered with Deep Impact. It's brilliant when compared to Armageddon, but on its own, it's still not particularly special.

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December 28, 2005

DVD Review: The Day After

Disturbing 100 million people during its first TV showing, The Day After is one of those movies you don't want to watch, yet can't look away. It's harsh, depressing, and sadly, most likely not realistic enough. This is a brutal depiction of nuclear war, its effects on a small town, and doesn't skip any detail.

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December 17, 2005

DVD Review: Cry_Wolf

Setting itself up with a plausible premise and then destroying it all with an implausible ending, Cry_Wolf digs itself deep without a way to fix everything. The slow beginning is for the better, with plenty of false starts that leave the viewer hanging. It has some great imagery too, but that's not enough to save this one from ending up entirely average.

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December 7, 2005

DVD Review: Cinderella Man

It's so hard to look at Cinderella Man and not make the comparison to Rocky. Actually, any boxing film is going to draw that comparison, along with Raging Bull. Cinderella Man stands out though since it's based on a true story to give it some weight.

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October 28, 2005

Titanic Special Collector's Edition DVD Review

Titanic is a frustrating film. Hauling in well over $1 billion worldwide (combined theatrical and video release), the movie is an obvious success. That doesn't mean it's clear from criticisms though, and there's plenty to go around.

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October 24, 2005

Brokedown Palace DVD Review

Sleeper: A great movie, lost in the crowd of hundreds and never receiving the credit it deserves. See also: Brokedown Palace, an outstanding courtroom/prison, drama/thriller (take your pick).

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October 12, 2005

Unleashed DVD Review

Advertised horribly, Unleashed is hardly the action film it was made out to be. It definitely has action (and superb sequences of it as well). This is a drama however, one that switches in tone twice before ending in a basic revenge tale.

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October 6, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven DVD Review

Kingdom of Heaven is a victim of its own doing. Its story begins rapidly, moving into the characters before you even realize critical information is being provided. Given how quickly it begins, it's the expectation that this will move just as briskly to the inevitable battle during the crusades. It doesn't.

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The Interpreter DVD Review

Becoming the first film to shoot inside the United Nations Headquarters, The Interpreter gains points for bringing a unique perspective to a typical thriller. It moves faster than the counter indicates, keeping up great pacing and Sydney Pollack keeps his main stars intertwined for incredibly tense sequences of dialogue. Unfortunately, it leads the viewer too much, becoming obvious and predictable early.

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September 22, 2005

A Few Good Men DVD Review

Though it presents itself like one, A Few Good Men is not a mystery. The answers are obvious from the start, and its predictability is the film's only real downfall. What's left, oddly enough, is tension. The military court case that makes the film is intense, and it's because of the performances by everyone involved.

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September 7, 2005

Crash DVD Review

If Crash affects you the way it's intended, you'll never want to see it again. That's the best possible compliment the movie could receive. It runs the gauntlet of emotion, from anger, sadness, frustration, to aggravation, fun, and melodrama. There's nothing missing, and it's a large enough emotional drain that you'll never try to sit through it twice.

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July 12, 2005

Million Dollar Baby DVD review

Million Dollar Baby is not a boxing film. Comparisons to Rocky or Raging Bull are pointless. This is more than that. It's deeper, more involved, and something else entirely.

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June 21, 2005

Coach Carter DVD Review

Back in 1986, Hoosiers became the sole basketball film that every fan needs to see at least once. Everything after it seems so unnecessary. That's also the case of Coach Carter. It's hard not to like it admittedly, it's just no different then the list of movies that Coach Carter lands on which try to feed off everything Hoosiers did right.

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March 17, 2005

Collateral DVD Review

It can be fun to see who might have been cast in a specific role. Instead of Tom Cruise for "Collateral," the producers looked at Adam Sandler (!), Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell, and Ed Norton. They ended up deciding it had to be someone older and went with Cruise, dying his hair a bright gray and pairing him with Jamie Foxx. The choices couldn't have been more perfect.

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Open Water DVD Review

It's not really proper to criticize a critic. Unfortunately, they really can supply false information, and in the case of "Open Water," one of them blew it badly. This is NOT the "Best shark movie since 'Jaws.'" That's the worst possible description. This isn't even a shark movie. What it is is a unique experiment, shot cheaply, and sent out for the public to consume. Everyone who has seen it should be thankful they did.

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March 11, 2005

Ladder 49 DVD Review

Why are there so few firefighting films? So many movies take the route of showing the police force in action with the firefighters in the background. It's not that the police are any less worthy, it just seems like people who run into burning buildings deserve a bit more credit then they get. "Ladder 49" is probably one of the most personal, heartfelt, and emotional films ever done on the subject, choosing to ignore the all out action of some its predecessors. The movie is better because of it.

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March 10, 2005

Hoosiers Collector's Edition DVD Review

You can count the number of memorable basketball movies on one hand. Thankfully, for every piece of dredge like "The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh," we get something like "Hoosiers." ESPN ranked it as the #1 sports film of all time, and it's tough to argue that call.

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March 8, 2005

Veronica Guerin DVD Review

Though he is heavily looked down upon for ruining the "Batman" franchise, Joel Schumacher has done some fine work lately. Two Colin Farrell vehicles, "Phone Booth" and "Tigerland," are just as under appreciated as the director. His skills are put to good use in the excellent "Veronica Guerin," a film that not only helps the aging directors career, but Cate Blanchetts as well.

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The Alamo DVD Review

If there's one thing you can always count on, it's a strong performance by Billy Bob Thorton. It never seems to matter what role he takes on, he owns each and every character he plays. Less than a year after playing a sex-a-holic Santa Claus in "Bad Santa," Thorton took it upon himself to portray an American icon. That's a role change if there ever was one. It's a real shame the movie isn't as good as his performance.

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February 25, 2005

Garden State DVD Review

"Garden State" is on the IMDB's top all time list at #186. Not that it means very much to most people, it's still pretty impressive for a small independent movie like this. It could actually be said that it deserves to be higher (much higher) as this is a fantastic film that just seems to cop out at the end.

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February 23, 2005

Saw DVD Review

There are plot holes in every movie. Something is usually lingering in the back of your mind when it's all over. The key for a movie is to draw the audience in early so they can be overlooked and forgotten by the time the credits roll. That's something "Saw" does extremely well. It doesn't excuse the gaping holes that should be obvious to anyone paying attention, but it's gripping enough to reel you in and not let go.

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February 22, 2005

The Thin Red Line DVD Review

There have been so many different takes on war films over the years, it's hard to believe there's a story left to tell. Filled with an impressive cast, "The Thin Red Line" takes a different approach, showcasing just what goes through a soldiers mind on a field of war. It tries to become too big of an epic and it shows, just don't let that stop you from appreciating what's here.

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February 12, 2005

Out of Time DVD Review

Sometimes you have to wonder if certain actors ever sleep. Denzel Washington is one of those, seemingly in a new movie every week. That's certainly not a bad thing as he's one of the best currently in the industry. You just have to wish the guy wouldn't get burned out before his career is over. After his award-winning performance in "Training Day," he took on another great thriller with "Out of Time."

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January 26, 2005

Friday Night Lights DVD Review

It's odd to think that football is a truly American sport. No other country has the passion or the love for this game that we do. Most don't even play it. "Friday Night Lights" is a chronicle of sorts of how far that passion can go and how scary it can become.

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January 10, 2005

Man on Fire DVD Review

Revenge is one of those movie vehicles that can take a movie down easy street with little provocation. Simply kill off someone's family member and everything is fair game. That's sort of "Man on Fire" in a nutshell, but don't write it off yet. You'll be missing out on two fantastic performances and some truly shocking violence.

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December 26, 2004

It's a Wonderful Life DVD Review

Each year, the holidays become more of a burden for everyone. Running around for gifts that are out of stock, making the trip(s) to see family, and watching the checkbook all add up to a time of the year that many people loathe. George Bailey has a more pressing set of holiday problems, one that may cause him to commit suicide, unless someone (or something) can stop him in "It's a Wonderful Life."

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October 10, 2004

Monster DVD Review

Can a single performance carry an entire film? Simply put, yes. "Monster" proves it. Charlize Theron unquestionably took home the best actress award for her performance as serial killer Aileen Wournos, but she's not the only strong performer here.

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September 2, 2004

The Passion of the Christ DVD Review

Why is it that two of the highest grossing films of all time are based on stories that everyone already knows? "Titanic" brought audiences in by the droves, yet no one could possibly go in thinking the boat would end up floating on the water. The same goes for Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." This is a brutal, unrelenting film and at times hard to watch, yet audiences embraced it, quickly sending it to the list of the highest grossing movies of all time. Every single moment is shown in full detail, whether it is the pieces of flesh being whipped from Jesus' body or the crown of thorns burrowing into his head. Blood flows in practically every scene once past the half hour mark and never lets up until the screen finally goes black. Whether or not showing this agonizing torture is more effective than letting the actor (James Caviezel, whom in this case is spectacular) bring it out through his performance is debatable, but you will not walk away from this film unaffected. Moments will remain in your mind forever and brining yourself to watch it again will not be easy. This films brutality will not be surpassed anytime soon. This is not a film to sit your family down with on Easter morning. Past the blood and gore, Mel Gibson does a fine job behind the camera, but this is far from a perfect film. The extreme overuse of slow motion is aggravating. Certain scenes do, of course, benefit from the technique, but when every scene uses it in some form, stretching the movies running time in the process, it's distracting. Certain sequences, especially the films forest locale in the opening, are obviously shot on a sound stage with fog machines being overworked. You also have to look at just how much punishment Jesus endures. By the time he is lifted on the cross, there is no white flesh left on his body. The makeup departments obviously had a field day with this one, but how much blood can be used and still make it seem realistic? The way his beatings are portrayed, he never would have lived past the whipping. Also, if by some chance you have never read the Bible and are not familiar with this sequence of events, you would likely be lost through most of the film. Regardless of a few lapses in logic, the exceptional performances and use of the proper languages adds an air of authenticity to the proceedings. American audiences generally shy away from subtitles, making this a brave move. The entire experience just 'feels' real. If you were brought up with this story, this is almost exactly how you it was told to you, just with a monumental amount of gore. This is an epic, yet slightly flawed film, which should be viewed by anyone with even the slightest interest. (**** out of *****) Available in both widescreen (2.40:1) and pan and scan formats, "The Passion" is uneven in the video department. Opening scenes are littered with a distracting amount of grain mostly due to the overuse of fog. Darker scenes lighted by fire also suffer from the same problem. A few brief sequences also have noticeable compression artifacts, but these will only be noticeable if you're looking for them. The films key moments, especially scenes of Jesus carrying the cross, are crystal clear, showcasing the fine detail lost in the early moments. The diluted color scheme used in the film is generally a DVD nightmare, but this transfer does a decent job of holding it together. (***) Thankfully, Fox has NOT including any English dubbing, something that would have diluted the film. Two sound formats, 5.1 and DTS, have been included. Both tracks are on equal ground for most of the film. This is a movie almost entirely dialogue driven for the entire running time. A few of the scenes involving large crowds use the rears, but not extensively. Brief moments also feature excellent directional sound from the front. The only moments where the DTS track proves its worth are the final scenes involving the temple destruction. Otherwise, you'll do just fine with the standard 5.1 track if DTS is not an option. (****) An obvious special edition of this film will be on the way, but no announcements have been made. Likewise, this disc is completely barren, failing to include the standard theatrical trailer. Inside the case, you'll find some shameless marketing for T-shirts, books, and soundtracks. (No stars) Making the decision to view this movie should be one made with proper knowledge. Be fully aware that this is a film that is unforgiving in showing one man being beaten, punched, kicked, and whipped for well over an hour. This is far from other films that show the same sequence of events, and no matter how uplifting some people may find the ending to be, you cannot leave this film anything but depressed.

June 30, 2004

Miracle DVD Review

Disney has really made a stand with their sports films. Remember the Titans was a huge hit for the studio, not to mention a great sports movie. Miracle continues the trend of superior sports films from the studio, packing in some amazing photography and a Kurt Russell performance that tops anything he's ever done before. Miracle recounts the classic story of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. Assembled from various colleges and minor league teams, Herb Brooks (Russell) molds the team to utter perfection, pushing them to their absolute limits. Up against them is a Soviet team considered to be unbeatable. The young United States team pulls everything together for one final deciding game against their rivals, which would take them to the gold medal game. It's incredible to think that none of the actual players in this movie are actors. All of them were tested as hockey players first and it absolutely shows during the action sequences. It doesn't even affect the story segments either. All of these unknowns do a simply amazing job even though the focus is on Russell, whom as I said before, is just perfect as Herb Brooks. Of course, this is far from a perfect movie. The sports clichÈ's are here in full force. Team dissension, training vignettes, the ignored sports wife, constant attention to the clock during games, and the coach who baffles others by his practice sessions. The other issue is the obvious outcome, which means no matter how great the tension or build up is, you know what's going to happen. However, this one is saved by the greatest sports movie photography ever, using angles that would be simply impossible just a few years ago. The documentary feel used throughout is a great touch as well. Also, all the clichÈ's used over the years in this genre probably come from this true story anyway. It's all forgivable and becomes a great experience that the entire family will enjoy. (**** out of *****) Miracle is available in separate 2.35:1 widescreen and full screen editions. Both discs contain the same features. Picture quality here is occasionally shaky, but the hockey sequences are some of the best looking moments on the format. Grain is an issue throughout, especially in darker scenes. There's a brief moment with Kurt Russell on a bus that is just ghastly. But, much like the movie, the actual hockey sequences save it. (****) Sound options include English and French 5.1 surround. This is a dry track for the most part, but (guess what?) is saved by the hockey scenes. Players skate from speaker to speaker, all through the sound field. The puck is passed about, always in the proper speaker. Oddly, the crowd is absent from the rears for the most part, a real missed opportunity. Also, no matter how hard someone gets hit; the bass is extremely limited, making this track severely disappointing. (***) This 2-disc set is pretty packed, though the "4 hours of special features" on the back of the case is a stretch. Disc one houses an audio commentary from director Gavin O'Connor, editor John Gilroy, and photography director Daniel Stoloff. Also on disc 1 is an 18 minute standard making of feature which aired on the Disney Channel. There is some footage from the actual game tossed in, but the rest is filled with the actors praising each other in the usual manner. Disc 2 starts with some great outtakes, running about 5 minutes. Oddly, there are some scenes here that are not actually in the film, but no other deleted scenes are present on the disc. Next up is "From Hockey to Hollywood," a nearly half hour look at how the players/actors were sorted through from the hundreds that tried out for the 20 separate roles on the team. There is an ESPN Roundtable segment that runs about 40 minutes. It features 3 of the real players from the team along with Kurt Russell discussing the movie and the events that inspired it. Coming in next is a 10-minute look at the sound. This one is actually quite interesting as no foley artists were used. Everything was recorded on the ice. Ironically and sadly, there is nothing here on the superb soundtrack. Finally there is a 21-minute segment introduced by the director which features the real Herb Brooks discussing his real life experience to the crew. Its video quality is abysmal, but the director gives an explanation. There is certainly some great stuff here, but the menus are really lacking. It's just one screen with generic text while a clip from the movie plays in the back. Definitely could use some improvement here. However, it's great to see some credit given to the actual people who inspired the story unlike some recent discs like Radio and League of Their Own that obviously didn't think it was necessary. (****) Miracle is a great sports movie and will undoubtedly go down as one of the best of all time. Rarely is so much effort put into filming the actual sports sequences and it all pays off here. Some of the generic clichÈ's will likely turn some people off, but there is still plenty of entertainment value here. If you're worried about the kids, don't worry. The PG rating is really a bit much. If your kid has ever seen a hockey game, you'll have nothing to worry about here. "Rough Sports Action" is hardly a reason for a PG rating. Note: There is an excellent disc that goes right along with this set from HBO entitled "Do You Believe in Miracles?" It's a 60-minute doc that gets the real players and coaches POV's. If you love the movie, you need this separate disc.

June 10, 2004

Mystic River DVD Review

Who would have thought that Dirty Harry himself would go on to direct one of best character-driven murder mysteries of all time? I don't think anyone could have believed, it even just five years ago. But, with some of the most talented actors and a superb script, Clint Eastwood put it all together for one of the years best. Three childhood friends, Sean (Kevin Bacon), Dave (Tim Robbins), and Jimmy (Sean Penn), are split apart when a man acting as a police officer kidnaps one of their own. Years later, each have taken their own path. But, when Jimmy's daughter is brutally murdered, the three friends are all brought back together, each playing some role in the mystery. This is one of the most well written movies I've ever seen. Every little piece of information necessary to the film is brought out in conversation. This is a movie you need to listen to carefully to really understand the characters and their actions. All of this is helped by the stunning and believable performances by the entire cast. The film would go on to win two Academy Awards, one for Sean Penn, the other for Tim Robbins. Needless to say, they deserved it. Sean Penn especially brings out pure emotion in a few scenes that help make the entire movie seem more believable. As if all of this wasn't enough, along comes an ending that will sweep in from out of nowhere and completely blind side you. There are minimal clues giving through the two-hour running time, but if your really paying attention, you have a small opportunity to figure it out. The only real problem with the movie is that once you know the outcome, there is little reason to come back. The performances are certainly worth reviewing again, but sticking through it multiple times may prove difficult. Still, if there was anything holding you back from picking this one up at the video store, now you have no excuse. (**** out of *****) Mystic River is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. A separate pan & scan version is available separately if for some reason your interested. The colors here are muted on purpose so nothing here will stun you. The contrast it set quite high and in a few sequences it's almost blinding. Still, compression problems and grain are minimal if not completely absent for the majority of the film. (****) As a strictly dialogue driven movie, you really can't expect this one to rock your home theater even though 5.1 Surround is the only option. The few scenes where the rear surrounds are called on use them to perfection. Some of the words can be hard to hear (if not impossible) when the characters are speaking softly which led me to turn on the subtitles a few times to make sure I caught everything. Otherwise, everything comes through clear without any distortion. (***) There are two separate versions of this film available. One is a single disc edition with absolutely no features and 3-disc set that includes the soundtrack. I had every intention of reviewing the 3-disc, but I was unable to find a copy. Here is a list of features from the 3-disc set, unfortunately, from Commentary by actors Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon "Beneath the Surface" - featurette with cast and crew interviews "From Page to Screen" - making of the film featurette Selections from "The Charlie Rose Show" - full-length interviews with Clint Eastwood, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon Two trailers Complete CD soundtrack Widescreen anamorphic format The single disc edition doesn't even feature a trailer so if you need to have something extra with your films, avoid this one completely and go right for the special edition. (no stars) If the almost constant critical praise was not enough to force you into watching this film, then there is really very little left to say that hasn't been said elsewhere. This is a must-see movie and one that deserved every award it was given. Every single actor gives everything they have and this makes for one of the most gripping thrillers in some time.

May 26, 2004

Saving Private Ryan D-Day Anniversary DVD Review

Saving Private Ryan is one of the few films you can watch multiple times, never losing the impact it had the first time around. Today marks the 60th anniversary of D-Day and to commemorate the occasion, we get a new release of the Spielberg classic. This new 2-disc set isn't the most spectacular DVD release of all time, but the audio and video presentation is some of the best on the market. This disc is also available in a box set featuring two other documentaries. Captain Tom Miller, played by Tom Hanks, leads his troop through the brutal D-Day invasion. As they make their way up the beach onto to calmer ground, Miller receives special orders to go into enemy territory to retrieve James Ryan (Matt Damon) who's three brothers have been killed in combat. Little do they know it's all for publicity. Not only must Miller keep up the spirits of his troops who are against the rescue mission, but fend off countless enemy bombardments on their way to try and get the Private back home. This is, almost without any doubt, the greatest war movie ever made. This is not an action film, but a drama with some of the most horrific battle sequences ever put on film. Within the first ten minutes you'll see a man drown, watch a soldier look for his arm that has been blown off, and blood filled water soak the beach. None of the violence is glorified as the stunning washed out color tones don't allow for it. Amazingly, the best sequence in the film is not an action scene, but a moment when Miller and Ryan sit down in a war torn town. Here, Damon shows why this is his best performance as he recollects an incident with his brothers. Though he laughs telling the story, it's actually quite heart wrenching as you know deep down he's not sure why he was the only one left. This is a film that has no dull moments, never seems to drag on, and ends up being one of the best movies of all time. (***** out of *****) Saving Private Ryan is presented in 1.85:1 widecreen. This is a bit sharper than the previous release and some of the unnecessary grain has been cleared up. Still, this is meant to look like old war footage (and make is seem like your right there on the beach with them) so it's not perfect, but it should never really look any better than this. Black levels are superb and the almost monotone color scale simply looks great in high definition. There are no noticeable compression problems or scratches on the print. This is the way the movie was meant to be seen. (*****) This disc is available in two different sound formats, a standard 5.1 release and the version reviewed here, the glorious DTS surround version which is available only in the 3-disc box set. This is a booming soundtrack, one that features surround speaker usage and bass unlike any other disc on the market. Compared to the first release, this disc features better separation in the front channels and easier to understand voices thanks to better overall clarity. Sound wise, this disc ranks right up there with "The Haunting" as a home theater fanatics dream disc. Also note there is a 2.0 surround track included as well, but it of course doesn't come anywhere near the explosive DTS track. (*****) Packaged as a 2-disc set (made to look like an ammo box), this set has a bevy of special features, though slightly limited. There is no commentary track and Spielberg is famous for saying he won't do them. Still, there is no reason why some of the actors could not have been brought together for a commentary. Every feature resides on disc two and is split into eight separate sections. This is basically one long documentary chronicling the making of the film and the history behind it simply split up to make it seem like a lot more. First up is a brief two and a half minute intro by Spielberg who talks about his own history of war films and his father's experiences in the war. Second is Looking into the Past which looks at the research the famed director did before shooting the film. Next up is Miller and His Platoon, roughly an eight minute look at the characters and the roles they play. Boot Camp looks at the training the actors went through to prepare for their roles and has Captain Dale Dye go over why this is so important. Next on the menu is a making of featurette that runs about 22 minutes. It covers most aspects of the production with some excellent behind the scenes footage. Going down one notch on the menu brings you to Recreating Omaha Beach, an 18 minute look at how the epic opening scene was created and also some interviews with veterans who took part in the event. One of the last features is Creating Music and Sound which not only interviews John Williams, but shows him behind the scenes conducting his orchestra. Also featured is Gary Rydstrom who was the sound editor who talks about what Spielberg wanted. Finally we come to Parting Thoughts, a brief four minute short that has Spielberg, Hanks, and some other cast members talking about the film. (****) If you have yet to add this film to your collection, this is the version that should be on your shelf. As mentioned before, you can also purchase this set in a box set that features two extra hour and a half documentaries on separately encased discs. One is entitled Price for Peace which covers the war from Pearl Harbor to the US occupation of Japan. It is presented in widescreen and features a surprising 5.1 surround track. Tom Hanks hosts the second documentary entitled Shooting War which looks at the photographers who captured the war on film. These two documentaries are also available separately. Crammed in between all of these discs is a booklet that has information about the film and the events that inspired it. This is the best way to own the movie, but if the extra discs don't excite you, the stand alone 2-disc set will serve its purpose just fine.

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May 17, 2004

Last Samurai DVD Review

The Last Samurai has been critized by some for its lack of historical accuracy. While I can certainly understand why this would be an issue for some people, it never really makes the claim at any point to be a true story. It's a movie BASED in history, plain and simple, and an incredible one at that. Tom Cruise plays a Civil War veteran named Nathan Algren. He is under severe stress, emotional problems, and has a tendancy to indulge in a bit too much alchohol. His problems stem from recurring images in his mind due a slaghter of American Indians he took part in. He is then invited to Japan to train their new modern army and also eliminate the samurai who are refusing to change with the times. Trapped and captured by the samurai during a battle, Algren slowly begins his tranformation into their lifestyle and agrees to help them defeat the new Japanese army, even if it means certain death.

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April 11, 2004

The Program DVD review

It's a shame, but The Program is more well known for the infamous "highway turkey" scene than anything else. This scene supposedly caused some idiot kids to repeat the stunt and get themselves killed in the process. Well, it has been excised from this version as well, but it never really did add anything to the film in the first place. This is still a solid, mildly amusing college football flick with and ending that makes little sense (so do they win the Bowl game or not?). There is some great character development and a few segments are laugh out loud funny, but it's still a shame the DVD format didn't invite the studio to ressurect the sequence. The video is presented is the orignal 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The print is very soft and filled with scratches and compression artifacts are annoying. Colors remain strong and the actual football sequences look great however. The sound is presented in a nice, immersive 5.1 mix. Though most of the movie is dialouge based and powered by the center channel, the football sequences are great. You'll feel every hit and the immersion of being in front of 50,000 people is here. As a bargain basement disc, you'll get what you pay for. Extras are completely absent. The theatrical trailer hasn't even been included. It has recently been packaged with Con Air, but it can still be found individually for about $6. There's always a chance we'll see an updated edition with a better print and maybe a few features, but for $6 you can't go wrong.

January 28, 2004

Radio DVD Review

I really wasn't expecting much from Radio. While I've enjoyed movies like "Remember the Titans" in the past, Radio seemed like another rehash, the typical Hollywood sports movie. It's not. In fact, it's one of the best movies released in the past year. The DVD is quite dissapointing, but the movie itself more than makes up for any issues with the disc. Based on a true story, Radio centers around the story of Robert Kennendy, known as "Radio" throughout the film. As the mentally challenged boy walks past a local high school football teams practice day after day pushing his shopping cart, a few of the players tie him up and toss him into a shed. Their coach, played by Ed Harris, infuriated by his players actions, takes the boy under his wing and the events that follow warranted a story by Sports Illustrated. Yes, it does have the usual array of up and downs, but the focus is always on Radio himself. There are very few characters in the story and their lives may be touched upon, but they never actually become a focus of the story. Sure there's alot of football in the movie, but even then Radio is the focus. Better yet, the team that Radio becomes a part of never actually wins anything like so many other cliche' sports films. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays the role of Radio believably, but you have to question his age. Getting close to 40 years old, it's hard to place him into the role of a teenager. Presented in it's original widescreen ratio, Radio won't win any awards for it's video quality. it's not a bad print by any means, but the majority of the scenes are hampered by heavy grain that gets seriously annoying, especially in a very serious sequence involving Ed Harris and his daughter late in the movie. The sound is also a bit of a downer, never really kicking in full force when it should. Granted, most of the movie is dialouge driven, but the football sequences are a major dissapointment. Special features are also unimpressive with NOTHING about the man the entire true story is based on. There's a nice little feature on the insnanity of the football sequences featured in the film, 6 deleted scenes (a few of the deletions are questionable), a 10 minute look at how the story was fleshed out for the screen, and the usual 21-minute "making of." The director also is featured on a commentary track, but how can so little credit be given to the man who inspired the film in the first place? The movie itself gives us a glimpse of the real Robert "Radio" Kennedy (still a member of the team after all these years) during it's credit sequence, so why not the disc? Excluding the weak array of features, Radio is one of those movies that's SO good, every conversation you start for the next month will have a mention of this movie in it. If the person your speaking to hasn't seen it, you'll tell them too. One can only hope for a nice special edition double-dip in the near future.

November 21, 2003

The Recruit DVD Review

Colin Farrell is quickly becoming a hot property. Ever since I picked up a used copy of "Tigerland" at a local store, I've been a fan. This kid can act, period. However, with a few more movies like "The Recruit" this could be a very short love affair. James Clayton (Farrell) is recruited by Walter Burke (played by Scarface favorite Al Pacino) to take a shot at becoming a member of the CIA. Once in, James falls for Layla (the super hot Bridget Moynahan) another recruit, but Burke knows something James doesn't. Everything Burke knows revolves around Layla. There's not a whole lot more that can be said without ruining this movie for someone who hasn't seen it. It takes a bunch of predicable twists, but the entire movie is simply too shallow to hold itself together in the end. This could've been a decent thriller. The entire first half of the movie revolves around the training of the recruits and is quite interesting (though somewhat far-fetched one would think). The second half turns into a muddled chase and the same line "nothing is as it seems" must be spoken 25 times. It's annoying, mostly predictable, filled with plot holes, and not entertaining in the least. Nothing is really accomplished until the final showdown between Pacino and Farrell making the rest of the movie seem completely worthless. The disc is presented in (and I quote) the directors original 1.77:1 aspect ratio which shows more of the film then was presented in theaters. Is it true? I have no idea. I don't see why the film wouldn't have been shown the same way in theaters. The video is flawless (carrying the THX-certified logo) with only minor spots of film grain. The sound is presented in standard 5.1 or the much deeper DTS 5.1 track. Until the final chapter and a brief car chase, there's not really alot here to show off the sound. If you have the option though, DTS is (as usual) the preferred way to go. Features are standard filler material. You'll get a commentary track from the director (Roger Donaldson) and Colin Farrell. I don't why Pacino isn't here since his character is possibly the most intriguing. A few deleted scenes have been included along with directors commentary (or without, your choice). Nothing here would've helped the story any or made it any easier to understand, they only would've made the film longer and harder to bear. The most interesting feature is an 11 minute behind the scenes look at the CIA training program with actual footage. It's a shame it isn't any longer as it had the potential to be better than the movie. There are plenty of other spy thrillers out there that do this genre justice. The Recruit is a boiled down attempt to try and capitalize on a fairly popular genre and sadly, it's a bad one. Had the DVD itself had some more redeeming features it could almost be recommended (if only for Moynahan), but the standard disc release is quickly becoming obsolete. Also note there's not even a liner card inside listing the chapters.

November 11, 2003

Tears of the Sun DVD Review

Trailers for a feature film are supposed to give potential viewers a general idea on what the movie will be about. In the case of "Tears of the Sun," it's full length trailer depicts non-stop violence much like the movie it is constantly compared to, "Black Hawk Down." Believe it when you are told that it is far from an all-out Bruce Willis action epic. This a slow paced, tension filled drama with a 20 minute battle tacked onto the closing moments. A team of Navy Seals (headed up by Bruce Willis) is sent into a war torn segment of Africa to retrieve a US doctor (Monica Bellucci) working at a missionary. An African militia is also making a bee-line to the area and the team must move quickly. When Dr. Hendricks refuses to leave those who are in her care, Lt. Waters (Willis) makes a conscious decision to turn back and try and get every able African out of the area. The film runs at just under 2 hours. During this time, viewers will be subjected to some brutal sequences depicting some savage murders unlike anything this reviewer has ever seen on film. Though not as gory as "Saving Private Ryan," watching 2 members of the militia douse a child in gasoline and then raise a lighter is gut wrenching. The film does more than enough to get it's point across, but it seems to drag on too long until the final spectacular showdown. Even then you'll find numerous military clichÈís that dumb down the entire movie. Each of the actors is more than adequate, but some of the writing is simply childish. This dual-layered DVD is presented in a brilliant widescreen presentation, marred only by a few tension filled nighttime sequences. Here, those hate-filled little compression squares rear their ugly head far more than is necessary. The daytime scenes are crisp and the colors, muted for effect, set the tone of the film from the start. Both 5.1 soundtracks (French and English) sound spectacular during the few fire-fights, but it's a shame there isn't more reliance on ambient effects. There are a few bird chirps strewn about, but it's hardly enough to immerse a viewer in the film. Feature wise, the disc performs admirably. There are 2 commentaries, one from the writer's view and one from the directors. There is also an "Africa Fact Track" that will give viewers info on the country during the film. 8 deleted scenes have been included and there's a short 15 minute documentary on the making of the film. The director, Antoine Fuqua, talks quite a bit on what he was trying to achieve with this film, but there's hardly enough time to present everything in 15 minutes. There are a bunch of trailers tacked on and the "Voices of Africa" features are interesting enough, letting African people who have lived through wartime speak about their experiences. There's enough on the disc to keep fans busy for a while, but the movie itself it a bit of a downer, especially after the action-packed trailer. If you go into this movie expecting a drama, you may find yourself hooked for the entire running time. Those of us who viewed the trailer and expected something else are bound to be disappointed.

November 10, 2003

Phone Booth DVD Review

To those who might be wondering: Yes, this is an 81 minute film about a man inside a Phone Booth. Surprisingly, this is an outstanding 81 minute film about a man inside a Phone Booth. Sadly, the DVD doesn't add very much, but the film itself is strong enough on it's own to warrant a purchase. Young actor Colin Farrell stars as Stu Shepard, a publicist inside the overly crowded New York City. He is the perfect example of a person your supposed to hate. He is constantly throwing empty promises out to magazines, ripping off a young kid looking to get a break into the business with Farrell, cheating on his wife, etc. Finally, everything catches up with him. As he steps into the phone booth he uses to call the other woman (Toledo native Katie Holmes) in his life every day, a sniper (Keifer Sutherland in one of the most unique movie roles of all time) pins him down. The tables take an even larger turn for the worse when the sniper picks off a civilian drawing the police (headed by Forest Whitaker) and SWAT team to the area. The pacing of this brief experiment in psychological terror is relentless. Colin's character is set up in a matter of minutes and from here on out it's him and the lonely confines of a phone booth with a man who continuously breaks him down. He toys with him, sends him warning shots, and literally causes him to break down on national TV. There are no major twists in the story and the ending is on the disappointing side, but the tension Joel Schumacher creates is breathtaking. At a brisk 81 minutes (including the credits), there's no time for boredom to set in and the unique camera shots always keep things interesting. People who go in expecting action will be highly disappointed, but even these people will be drawn into this gripping thriller. The DVD comes with both a widescreen and full-screen version (on opposite sides of the disc). The full screen version is hardly watch able, cutting off the picture-in-picture segments, one of the more unique aspects of the movie, directly in half. The picture, regardless of which format you choose however, is gorgeous. Most of the film retains a dark feel, from Colin's suit to the city towering above him. Colors are faded for effect and it all works thanks to the quality of the print. There are very few instances where the compression of the video becomes a problem and even these are negligible. Much like the video, the sound is equally impressive. Both the English and French tracks support 5.1. For a movie that takes place mostly inside a phone booth and hardly any soundtrack to speak of, it's something to listen to. The opening minutes of the film feature countless people talking on cell-phones and their conversations, inaudible as they are, surround the viewer. You'll hear ambient noises throughout if your paying attention, but this is a movie where most of the sound is dialog. Your subwoofer won't get a workout, but most of the positional audio, when used, is great. Sadly, the rest of the disc is mediocre. The only features include a commentary by Schumacher and the theatrical trailer. Schumacher talks quite a bit about the conditions during the shoot and stays active throughout, but it's no replacement for a detailed documentary DVD fans are used to. This is a DVD that needs to reissued in a nice 2-disc set. By the time your done with this movie, your sure to check this one out again regardless of it's glaring lack of features. Whether it be to introduce someone else to it or simply catch Farrellís outstanding performance, this is disc that NEEDS to be on your shelf. This is an underrated gem that was sadly overlooked.

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