DVD Reviews Archives (103 posts)

Confessions of a Superhero

Movie poster

Confessions of a Superhero (2007). Directed by Matthew Ogens.

You’ll find them on a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard by the Chinese Theatre - Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and The Hulk. They are in full costume and and if you want your picture taken with them, they remind you that they “work for tips.”

Confessions of a Superhero is a quirky documentary about an odd group of people that eke out a living as super heroes. Are they panhandlers or heroes? Each of them has an interesting story to tell that you won’t want to miss.

Christopher Lloyd Dennis (Superman) is a super hero purist. He believes that there are rules and responsibilities. For example, never smoke in public while wearing your costume. He’s also a fanatic collector of all things Superman. Oh, and he had a drug problem but that’s behind him now.

Maxwell “Batman” Allen looks a bit like George Clooney and he has a really bad temper but he’s working on that with his psychiatrist. He prefers to see his shrink in full costume and confesses to doing some really bad things in his past.

Jennifer Gehrt (Wonder Woman) was prom queen and homecoming queen but her acting career is slow to take off and her marriage is crumbling. Then there is Joe McQueen (The Hulk) from North Carolina. When he arrived in Hollywood he was homeless for 4 years.

This film is anything but low budget. It is beautifully filmed and director Matthew Ogens does a wonderful job of revealing the true identity of these heroes with honesty and sincerity. And if that isn’t enough there is the requisite Stan Lee cameo!

Confessions of a Superhero - Official site.


Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:18 PM


Terry Gilliam
Tideland (2005). Directed by Terry Gilliam.

On the Tideland DVD, Terry Gilliam introduces his film:

Hello. I’m Terry Gilliam and I have a confession to make. Many of you are not going to like this film. Many of you, luckily, are going to love it. And then, there are many of you who aren’t going to know what to think when the film finishes, but hopefully, you’ll be thinking.

You can view the full Tideland Intro on YouTube.

Terry, I didn’t like your film.

By the end of Tideland I was still thinking. I was thinking how disappointed I was after waiting so long to finally see it. The last Terry Gilliam I saw was The Brothers Grimm (2005), another disappointing film. Where is the genius that we saw in Brazil, The Fisher King, and Twelve Monkeys?

Jeff Bridges has an interesting role as a drugged-out psychotic version of Jeffrey Lebowski and the cinematography is first rate. I found it to be similar to The Fisher King in many ways but the fantasy world of Jeliza-Rose, the young girl at the centre of the film, just didn’t appeal to me.

I am dying to see what Gilliam did with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) which is Heath Ledger’s last film. It also stars Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law and Christopher Plummer!

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:43 PM

Rain of Madness mockumentary is hilarious

Rain of Madness is a 30 minute mockumentary that can be found on the Tropic Thunder Director’s Cut DVD. It’s just as funny as Tropic Thunder and if you know anything about Francis Ford Coppola or Werner Herzog then you’ll find this mocumentary to be hilarious.

Just as Tropic Thunder borrows heavily from Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), Rain of Madness parodies the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991) — a film about the extraordinary making of Apocalypse Now.


The entire mockumentary also emulates Werner Herzog’s style of documentary filmmaking and pokes fun at his films (Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Grizzly Man). There’s even a Werner Herzog character that narrates the film.

This is a brilliant film but don’t take my word for it. It has several awards to prove it:

  • Nominee: Best documentary (Pensylvania Dutch Film Festival)
  • Winner: Best documentary (Bangkok Adolescent Film Festival)
  • Winner: Tijuana’s Shrieking Donkey Award
  • Honorable Mention: Everyone’s A Winner Film Festival

I watched the Blu-ray version of the film and the video quality is outstanding. In fact, Tropic Thunder Director’s Cut is a must-have Blu-ray disc. The HD transfer is one of the best that I’ve seen and there are plenty of supplemental features.

Also worth watching on this disc is a feature called Full Mags — Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller improvise a scene for 11 minutes. This was funny and fascinating to watch. Robert Downey Jr. is simply brilliant.

The MTV Movie Awards feature is also very funny and worth a look if you haven’t seen it yet.

Tropic Thunder MTV Movie Awards Digital Short

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:04 AM

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997). Directed by Werner Herzog.

When I learned that the Hollywood film Rescue Dawn (2006) was based on the documentary film Little Dieter Needs to Fly, I had to see it.

Dieter Dengler is a true survivor. During World War II he survived the Allied bombings and postwar poverty in Germany. He was beaten regularly as he apprenticed to be a blacksmith but he really wanted to be a pilot.

He emigrated to the US and peeled potatoes in the US Air Force until he got the chance to fly for the Navy. In 1966 during the Viet Nam war he was shot down over Laos and became a prisoner of war. Down to 85 pounds, he managed to escape the POW camp, endure monsoons, leeches, and angry villagers with machetes until he was rescued.

Dengler took an early retirement from the Armed Forces and became a civilian test pilot. He survived another 4 crashes. Death didn’t want him is how Herzog explains it with his unique voiceover narration and a quote from Reveleation to set the tone for the film.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly

Through a series of interviews, archival footage and reenactments, Dieter tells the story of his fascinating life. Along the way we begin to understand how Dieter is haunted by his past.

Herzong captures the story of Dieter Dengler’s life brilliantly in this documentary and I think you’ll find that it is a better film than Rescue Dawn.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:32 PM

Hell Ride

Hell Rid

Hell Ride (2008). Directed by Larry Bishop.

This film has a great cast, great visuals, cool music, and absolutely no plot. Larry Bishop is a hack that tries to pay homage to Quentin Tarantino’s films but ends up copying most of them. The story is such a confusing mess that it is a wonder this film received a green light.

This wonderful piece of prose from the IMDB message boards sums this film up beautifully:

this movie was retardedly bad.
the plot made no sense, the story was extremely hard to follow.
the acting was the worst thing ive seen in my entire life and alot of things that went on had nothing to do with anything.
aka the gent sitting in a tree saying hoot hoot im an owl.
honestly what the hell is that

Don’t waste your time trying to watch this trash.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 7:56 PM

The Sugarland Express

The Sugarland Express

The Sugarland Express (1974). Directed by Steven Spielberg.

I’ve been watching classic 70s car chase films of late and Steven Spielberg’s first feature film, The Sugarland Express is worth watching if you’ve never seen it before. It’s based on the true story of two fugitives that kidnapped a policeman and forced him to drive from Port Arthur, TX to Wheelock, TX in 1969. At one point there were over 150 police cars and news vehicles in pursuit of the kidnappers. I wonder if OJ Simpson has seen this film?

In the film, Lou-Jean (Goldie Hawn) helps her husband Clovis (William Atherton) escape from prison and plan to kidnap their infant son who was placed with foster parents. Along the way they end up kidnapping a Texas state trooper which leads up to a downbeat ending a la Bonnie and Clyde.

Don’t expect a car chase movie like Vanishing Point or Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. The Sugarland Express has some great action sequences but it’s also strong on character development. By the end of the film you sympathize with Lou-Jean and Clovis instead of looking down on them as a couple of morons.

It’s interesting to see a few Spielberg trademarks that have carried through to this day — the John Williams score, the importance of family, scene transitions using bright light, innovation (first film to feature a tracking shot within a car). Take a look at the crane shot below. The camera pans up and turns into the floodlight of a police helicopter to transition to the next scene. For a second there I thought I was watching a scene from Close Encounters.

Crane shot in the Sugarland Express

It’s interesting to see what Pauline Kael had to say about this new, 26 year-old director back in 1974:

He could be that rarity among directors—a born entertainer—perhaps a new generation’s Howard Hawks. In terms of the pleasure that technical assurance gives an audience, this film is one of the most phenomenal debut films in the history of movies.

The DVD version of The Sugarland Express isn’t bad for a film that hasn’t been restored. There is some dirt and noticeable film grain but it doesn’t take away from the movie experience. I would love to see an updated version with a director’s commentary.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:20 PM


Gator (1976). Directed by Burt Reynolds.

If you need any proof that Burt Reynolds is a lousy director then look no further than the film Gator. This is the dreadful sequel to the White Lightning. The plot is thin — this time Federal agents convince Gator McKlusky to bring down a dangerous criminal named Bama McCall (Jerry Reed).

Burt Reynolds
The direction is aimless, loose and ends up being a complete mess at times. Add to that some of the worst cinematography that I’ve ever seen on DVD and you have a disappointing film. Some of the scenes are completely out of focus on the DVD version that I watched. How could MGM release this and ask people to pay for it?

To make things worse, most of the film is pan and scan except for the opening and closing scenes that were shown in a letterbox format (2.35:1).Try to watch this on cable or satellite where some have reported that is show in its original widescreen format.

Jerry Reed does a good job of playing a homicidal crime boss with his sawed-off shotgun but Burt hams it up a little too much and the film slowly loses its way. Reynolds and Reed are much better in the Smokey the Bandit films.

There are a couple of odd characters that you’ll find amusing — a weasel named Smiley and a giant named Bones played by 7’ 3” William Engesser. Unfortunately this is weak film that is slapped together with stunts, explosions and a few cheap gags.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 1:16 PM

White Lightning

Burt Reynolds

White Lightning (1973). Directed by Joseph Sargent.

White Lightning is a classic 1970s action film. Burt Reynolds plays an ex-con named Gator McKlusky who teams up with federal agents to break up a moonshine ring. Ned Beatty plays a corrupt sheriff named J.C. Connors who is responsible for the death of Gator’s brother. Naturally, Gator wants revenge.

Reynolds plays the role of Gator McKlusky seriously, without the silliness that he’s know for in Gator and Smokey and the Bandit. You tend to forget that Reynolds can be a very good actor. This is one of those rare performances.

Unfortunately this DVD is a fullscreen pan and scan version of the movie. The film is nicely shot and would have looked great in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

White Lightning was supposed to be Steven Spielberg’s first feature film as a director. According to IMDB he spent months on the pre-production. It turned out to be Laura Dern’s first film (uncredited) probably because her mom Diane Ladd (pictured above in the car) was Reynolds love interest in the film.

There is a realism to this film that I found quite enjoyable. It’s shot in the steamy south where the characters are always dripping wet. The dirt race track, the bayou, the southern church, the swamp and the country porch create a world that transports you back in time. White Lightning is definitely an underrated classic and one of Burt Reynolds best films.

Movie Trailer

Posted in DVD Reviews at 6:06 PM

The Mist (2007)

It’s been a while since my last DVD review or recommendation. After watching The Mist (2007) I had to write something. The Mist has mystery, originality, a surprise ending, and it sucks!

I was so disappointed with the ridiculous ending that the created a lot of buzz last November. It is dumb, dumb, dumb! I haven’t read the Stephen King novel that the film is based on and wonder if it ends in the same way. The idea just doesn’t work on film.

The acting in this horror movie is terrible. By the end of it you want everyone to vanish into the mist. The special effects are also pretty lame. The monster with tentacles looks like something out of a 1950s horror movie — something Ed Wood might have cooked up.

Marcia Gay Harden’s performance as a right-wing religious nut was actually painful to watch and completely unbelievable. Even crazier was the idea that she could have a cult-like following of 100 people in 24 hours. The idea is interesting but poorly developed.

The plot, the screenplay and the direction is weak. I should have checked Metacritic before I sat down to watch this. It makes me want to cry when I think about Frank Darabont’s brilliant direction in The Shawshank Redemption (1994). What happened Frank?

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:46 PM

Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987)

Taylor Hackford directed the Ray Charles biopic, Ray (2004) but have you seen his 1987 film Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987)? I’m not a huge fan of Chuck Berry but I couldn’t resist watching this documentary when I learned that Keith Richards put together a group of musicians (Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Julian Lennon and Etta James) to celebrate Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday.

The film leads up to a celebratory concert at St. Louis’ Fox Theatre. The rehearsals leading up to this concert are great. One of the best scenes has Berry insisting that Ketih Richards play a note correctly. Richards keeps flubbing the note and Berry makes him play it again and again.

The film shows why Berry is credited with being the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He’s a musical genius, an innovator and a very savvy businessman. His musical creativity and playing ability is incredible. Even at the age of 60 he was doing his trademark ‘duck walk’ around Linda Ronstadt.

He can be very unpredictable — changing the key of a song at the last minute, or going on stage without a set list and just going for it. Don’t turn the tables on him though. When Taylor Hackford tried to ask him about his time in jail, Berry got angry and refused to answer the question. It wasn’t one of the scripted questions that he prepared for.

I was surprised to see Berry driving himself to and from his own shows. He insists on taking care of business before playing and always fulfills a contract. If he gets paid to play 12 songs, he plays 12 songs. Nothing more, nothing less.

Hackford does an excellent job at helping the viewer appreciate what Chuck Berry has done for American music and how important he is when it comes to the origins of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

I couldn’t help noticing the physical similarities between Snoop Dogg and Chuck Berry but that’s another blog entry.

Chuck Berry turned 81 on October 18 and is still performing around the world.

Posted in DVD Reviews and Music at 2:08 AM

Rize (2005)

David LaChapelle is mostly known for his photography and music videos. If you haven’t seen his documentary film Rize (2005), then you’re probably not familiar with clowning and krumping — a dancing subculture in Los Angeles.

The film looks at the dance movement known as clowning which started in south central LA by Tommy The Clown. Tommy took a job dressing up as a clown to entertain kids at birthday parties in the hood. He incorporated dance into his show and krumping was born.

In the film Tommy drives around in his green 5.0. Now, how can you not like a guy like that drives a green Mustang, dresses up like a clown and creates an entire dance movement?!

The dancing in this film is incredible. The music is also great and you’ll want to jump off the sofa and bust a move but don’t. You’ll just look like an idiot.

Do rent this film. It’s extremely entertaining and you’ll thank me for the recommendation later.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:47 PM

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

It took a little while for me to get around to seeing Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) but it was worth it. Everyone knows something about the collapse of Enron but how much do you know about “the smartest guys in the room” — Jeffery Skilling, Kenneth Lay, Andrew Fastow and Lou Pai.

Alex Gibney’s film provides a great overview of the Enron scandal by giving us a glimpse into the lives of some first class weasels. Lou Pai is by far the luckiest and the smartest of the weasels. He left the company with $280 million, became the second largest land owner in Colorado and married his stripper girlfriend that had his love-child.

Without being to ‘preachy’, Gibney’s documentary shows how these guys thought they could outsmart the system. Their incredible greed and their willingness to rip off their stock holders and customers is legendary. There is a lot of information to absorb in this film but it does a fabulous job of explaining the whole scandal.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:25 AM

Gummo (1997)

Writer/director Harmony Corine is one strange dude. Gummo (1997) is one strange film. It follows two bored kids as they wander around a small town in Ohio looking for things to do.

They sniff glue, listen to black metal music, ride dirt bikes, kill cats and run into some of the strangest residents in the US. Harmony Corine claims that he cast the bizarre secondary characters in his film by hanging out at a Burger King for 45 minutes. I believe him.

Some of the more memorable moments in the film:

  • trailer trash hanging out in the kitchen, drinking beer and wrestling chairs ( I actually laughed out loud during this scene because it was so absurd and probably real)
  • a deaf couple screeching while having an argument in a bowling alley
  • kids sniffing glue and getting high
  • a mentally challenged woman shaving off her eyebrows
  • an albino woman without any toes talking to the camera

I tried watching Corine’s other film Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) and didn’t enjoy it either. Somebody in Hollywood thinks that Corine is a genius because of his bizarre films — random scenes, no narrative, weird characters.

His films could be described as experimental but I prefer to call it crap. This guy doesn’t come close to the creative genius of say, David Lynch.

Harmony Corine’s latest film Mister Lonely (2007) is due to be released this year. I’ll take a pass and I doubt that I’ll watch another film by Corine. In my opinion, there are much better films out there that I could watch.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:40 AM

Children of Men (2006)

I really wanted to watch Children of Men (2006) last Saturday but the 200 copies at the local Blockbuster were gone. What’s a guy to do when he has company over and has to make a good film pick? I paid full price for the DVD and I feel it was worth it.

Children of Men was on a lot of top ten lists last year and a lot of critics considered it to be the best film of the year. Was it better than Pan’s Labyrinth or The Departed? Hard to say. My favourite is still Pan’s Labyrinth.

Children of Men is dark, beautiful and definitely not a mainstream popcorn flick. It’s the type of film that stays with you long after it ends and will have some people wondering why they spent 109 minutes watching it. I enjoyed it and need to watch it again.

Set in the future, Children of Men presents a world where humankind is on the brink of extinction. A killer virus wiped out all the world’s children and left the adults infertile. Amidst all the anarchy and chaos, a pregnant woman appears with a miracle child, a saviour for the world.

Like The Matrix before it, Children of Men will surely inspire a number of university courses along the lines of “The Christology of Children of Men”. The biblical references run deep and will make this a popular film to analyze and discuss.

There were many incredible scenes in this film but the one that stuck with me the most involves the crying baby. The presence of this miracle child and its crying voice is louder than the deafening crackle of automatic gun fire. It’s one of those cinematic moments that you’ll remember for years—think Schindler’s List and the scene with the child in the red coat.

In the last few days there’s been quite a buzz about the incredible cinematography in this film—the long takes and the magnificent camera work will have you scratching your head. There is a lot to enjoy about this film if you’re willing to participate in it while you watch it.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:33 PM

The Fallen Idol (1948)

The Fallen Idol
The Fallen Idol (1948) was released a few months ago by The Criterion Collection. Having never seen the film I purchased a copy from CriterionDVD.com.

The Fallen Idol was directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene — the same team that created one of my favourite films, The Third Man (1949).

In The Fallen Idol, Baines the butler (Ralph Richardson) is suspected of killing his wife. The only witness to her death is a little boy named Phillipe (Bobby Henrey) with an active imagination.

The film is a good thriller that leaves you guessing right up until the end when everything gets resolved. Innocence, faith and betrayal are a few of the themes that are examined in this suspenseful drama.

Richardson is perfectly cast as “the fallen idol” and the performance by Phillipe is incredible considering he was an untrained actor and dealing with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A documentary on the DVD explains how Reed patiently worked with the child actor to keep him focused and deliver his lines. The resulting performance is brilliant.

There is a night scene where young Phillipe is running through the streets of London that will remind you of Orson Welles, running through the streets of Vienna in The Third Man. Rent (or buy) this film if you enjoyed The Third Man.

The audio and video quality of this new, restored version of the film is what you’d expect from The Criterion Collection. Excellent!

Posted in DVD Reviews at 9:58 PM

Junebug (2005)

Junebug (2005) is brilliant! An instant favourite. How did I miss such a perfect film?

Director Phil Morrison has created an incredible piece of art with writer Angus MacLachlan. Everything from the dialogue, casting, cinematography, music and direction is so carefully put together and magically real. You can’t help but believe in the characters and the story that unfolds before you.

Junebug requires a certain amount of patience from the viewer. Some of the shots might be unusually long and ‘artsy’ for some audiences but it sets a tone for certain scenes. At times the dialog is sparse but the acting speaks volumes.

The story is fairly simple but the characters are complex and very interesting. Newlyweds, Madeleine and George live in Chicago. They take a road trip to North Carolina so that Madeleine can meet George’s family and hopefully sign up an eccentric painter to Madeleine’s art gallery.

The artist is in North Carolina is like a character right out of the Civil War. The film is worth watching just to hear his accent. George’s family are an interesting bunch. I don’t want to give too much away because I think the less you know the more you’ll like the film. If you want a plot summary then check out IMDB.

I really wish there was a director commentary for this film because it raises a lot of questions and I’d love to know some of the intended meanings behind certain shots and some of the dialogue.

This is a film that I’ll be adding to my DVD library so that I can watch it again and again. It’s that good and I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 7:28 PM

The Night Listener (2006)

On Friday night I was watching the original version of D.O.A. (1950) when the step-daughter and the boyfriend walked in with a copy of The Night Listener (2006). For some reason they really wanted me to watch it. They said it had great reviews on the DVD case. it starred Robin Williams and Toni Collette, blah, blah, blah.

Being a snob when it comes to movies I said I would have to check Metacritic.com to see how it rated — 51/100. Ouch! Some critics loved it.

The Night Listener is intriguing, thought-provoking and harrowing by turns, with fine central and supporting performances and a richly satisfying feel.

The New York Post hated the film.

This Sundance dud is a turgid gay soap opera with a limp twist, showcasing Robin Williams at his maudlin worst.

The only way for me to decide was to see what Roger Ebert had to say. I like his reviews and taste in films. After a quick search I found that he gave The Night Listener three stars, two thumbs way up and called it “an atmospheric Hitchcockian thriller”. I was game.

Robin Williams plays a radio show host that starts a telephone friendship with one of his listeners, a 14-year-old boy (Rory Culkin). It turns out that this kid just wrote an autobiography that details years of sexual abuse from his parents and neighbours. As the movie drags on you start to ask yourself where the story is going. More questions are raised than answered. What is the point of Williams friendship with Culkin? Why does he want to find him so badly?

This is a terrible film. I should have taken the advice from some posters on the IMDB message board that described the film as a “lame”, “horrible movie” which was “a waste of 2 hours!”

Roger, you really let me down on this one. *

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:33 AM

Shut Up & Sing (2006)

I never ever thought I would watch a documentary film about the Dixie Chicks. I don’t really care for country music and I dismissed these women as pretty blondes from Texas with a record contract. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Shut Up & Sing (2006) is an excellent film. It chronicles the fallout from the anti-Bush comment that Natalie Maines (lead singer) made at a concert in 2003. Sean Penn, the Dixie Chicks, many in the entertainment industry didn’t believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They questioned what Bush was saying and didn’t believe him. It turns out they were right.


The problem is that Maines exercised her freedom of speech — opinions that the some right-wing Americans didn’t want to hear. The media saw an opportunity to create a controversy, sell more newspapers, discuss the topic ad nauseam on television, sell more advertising and make money (my opinion).


The film shows how the Dixie Chicks endured death threats, people labeling them communists, country radio’s boycott of their music, lost corporate sponsors and so on. Don’t get me wrong. These girls are filthy rich and I don’t think they suffered too much financially. Emotionally? Yes.

What I found truly amazing was how a right-wing group in the Republican party brought them down. They called the Dixie Chicks unpatriotic for making a joke and speaking out against George Bush. They convinced a lot of simple-minded people that the band was evil and deserving of their hate. Yikes! This happened in 2003!


Shut Up & Sing does a fabulous job of showcasing the talent of the Dixie Chicks. I had no idea that they were such incredible musicians and songwriters. I guess this is why I really liked the film—it completely changed my opinion of the band through great storytelling and direction. ***

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 7:36 PM

Bertolucci, Toback and Herzog

I’m a little behind my DVD reviews from last week. Bertolucci’s The Dreamer’s was the best of the bunch while Harvey Keitel in Fingers was just downright funny at times. The latest mini-reviews are in sidebar under Recently screened films.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:00 PM

Bombippy is a personal weblog

Bombippy is a personal weblog. I write about photography, food, web development and films. I write everything on this site. There isn’t a staff, there aren’t contributors, it’s all Jay Kerr (Bombippy).

I am a web designer/developer/photographer/video editor/blogger that loves cinema. I am not a film critic.

A lot of people visit this site and read the film reviews because they’re looking for a recommendation—an interesting film watch. Others are curious and just want to know what I did on the weekend.

Lately I’ve been getting some interesting comments by some confused individuals. I didn’t care too much for a documentary called The Shutka Book of Records. I merely offered an opinion and the feedback I get is

Shame on you, stupid reviewer. Shame on you.

I reviewed another documentary called SHAMELESS: The ART of Disability. I didn’t enjoy this one at all. It just didn’t appeal to me. I received a nasty email saying I should be more supportive, that I didn’t write my own reviews, and that I only give 4 stars to blockbusters like Casino Royale.

I don’t get upset by this kind of feedback. I welcome it. I love it! If you write it, I will post it (unless your name is Andrew and you live in Vancouver).

If I don’t like a film that you feel very passionately about, just know that I’m a blogger and not film critic. I’m not pretending to be another Pauline Kael and will never have her influence.

Posted in Bombippy and DVD Reviews and Movie Reviews at 1:16 AM

Crank (2006)

Jason Statham plays an LA hitman that has bee poisoned and has 87 minutes to live. If his heart rate drops below 55 MPH he will die. What follows is a stylish but poor rip off of the film, Speed (1994).

Some people told me that Crank (2006) was a good movie, others said it blew chunks. Lets just say that the 20 minutes of video commentary I watched was better than the 87 minutes I wasted on this film.

I like Jason Statham. I thought he was great in all of Guy Ritchie’s films. He was awesome in The Transporter but then he did Transporter 2 and we all wondered why. I guess its too easy to pass up a pay cheque for doing a crappy formulaic film these days.

Crank has a few interesting moments like the Google Earth video used to show you were the ‘bad guys’ are hiding out in LA. The hundreds of stunts and crazy camera work is interesting as well but it hardly adds up to a decent film.

If anyone recommends you rent Crank or worse, that you should purchase the DVD, slowly turn around and run as fast as you can.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:55 PM

Art School Confidential (2006)

DVD cover art
Within the first 10 minutes of watching Art School Confidential (2006) I knew that I was watching something special. The last time Director Terry Zwigoff teamed up with writer Daniel Clowes they gave us Ghost World (2001) — another great film.

Art School Confidnetial is clever and funny in the way it pokes fun at the whole art school experience. I loved the characters who desperately want to become recognized artists, showing their work in fancy galleries.

The main character played by Max Minghella (yes his dad is famous director Anthony) wants to be the next Picasso so he paints everything as Picasso would. His roomate played by Ethan Suplee is making an awful slasher film. The script is terrible — one cliché after another. Finally, during a script reading, an actress stops and asks Suplee’s character,

Why do you want to regurgitate this Hollywood crap for the gazillionth time? Don’t you have anything original to say?

I love this line because a good artist needs to find their own voice. Think different. Develop their own style. Be original. And even if a great artist can do all of things there’s no guarantee of success.

John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Angelica Huston and Steve Buscemi round out the cast in this dark comedy. Jim Broadbent is great in his role of a washed, alcoholic artist on the edge.

I haven’t really said what the film is about. If you want a synopsis then read the back of the DVD. If you want to be pleasantly surprised then just rent this disc and enjoy the demented vision of Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:22 AM

Bandidas (2006)

Salma Hayek and Penélope Cruz wanted to make a film together so they got their writer/director/producer friend, Luc Besson to come up with Bandidas (2006). A creepy looking Dwight Yoakam and the hilarious Steve Zahn are also along for the ride in this western comedy.

Bandidas is no Blood Diamond, Babel, or Bobby, but if you’re looking for a Friday night rental that will make you laugh, then this film should keep everyone happy. It certainly helps that it stars two of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood.

The Bandidas (Hayek and Cruz) become a pair of bank robbers to combat the man in black (Yoakam). He’s out of control, ripping off the Mexican people and shooting anyone who gets in his way.

Steve Zahn, in his toughest role yet, plays the love interest to the two Bandidas. Imagine having to sit naked, take after take while Salma Hayek and Penélope Cruz fight over who gets to kiss you next. What an awful job!

I have watched plenty of western comedies and Bandidas is full of the usual clichés but for some reason it works for me. It could be the script by Luc Besson, the ‘bullet-time’ gun fight or the babes with guns and knives. I don’t know. Give it a spin and let me know what you think.

Bandidas website.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 1:24 AM

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

A couple of nights ago I watched one of the year’s best indie films, Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Most critics loved the film and it has done quite well on video. I went to HMV to purchase a copy and they were sold out!

Little Miss Sunshine a hilariously sad film about a family of losers. Without giving too much away, the entire family is forced to go on a road trip from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach for a beauty pageant. Along the way they become much closer as a family without the assistance of sappy dialogue and swelling sound of violins in the soundtrack.

The characters are brilliant. My favourite is the heroin snorting grandfather played by Alan Arkin. Hilarious. Greg Kinnear plays the father—a motivational speaker that tries desperately not to be a failure. Paul Dano plays the son who has taken a vow of silence and writes everything down on a pad of paper. Trust me. The characters in this film are brilliant and the way they are forced together is genius.

I felt the ending was a little weak and too abrupt. I wanted a little more. Expected a little more. Maybe that’s the sign of a great film. ***

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 3:58 PM

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

I finally got around to watching An Inconvenient Truth (2006) and I was thoroughly impressed. I was also surprised by how little I really knew about global warming.

Gore’s presentation about the dangers of global warming are clear, direct, and undeniable. By making global warming into a moral issue (comparing it to lung cancer and tobacco), Gore makes it clear that only a fool would ignore the catastrophe we face if we choose to be skeptics or worse, apathetic, when it comes to the environment.

I watched part of an Inconvenient Truth with a friend of mine on the weekend and it amazed me how he took the side of the skeptics, who argue that global warming isn’t as bad as Al Gore or the scientific community would have you believe.

In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film.

— Roger Ebert

This friend of mine felt that Gore made An Inconvenient Truth for political gain or to stroke his ego. Yes, there are few attacks on the current US administration, but 90% of the film focuses on the environment and the alarming trends that threaten our future.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative…your mind will be changed in a nanosecond.

— Roger Friedman, Foxnews.com

Even if you can’t stand Gore you must have heard of Kyoto or read a headline about climate change. I wonder if my friend has noticed people wearing shorts in the middle of December, in Toronto. Then again, this is the same guy that leaves his lights on 24/7.

If you want to help prevent global warming then turn off the lights you’re not using! Use energy efficient light bulbs. Stop driving around in your gas-guzzling SUV. Use energy efficient appliances in your home. Watch An Inconvenient Truth. All of it! ***

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.


Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:59 PM

Catwoman (2004)

I’m always skeptical of movies that are directed by people with one name such as Pitof (Catwoman), McG (Charlie’s Angels), and Kaos (Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever). I wasn’t expecting much from Catwoman (2004), especially after all of the bad press it received but to his credit, Pitof did a decent job.

There are some interesting CGI (computer genereated image) sequences and camera moves that give the film a unique style and feeling of high production value. This falls flat wherever there was any character animation—the CGI Catwoman jumping around the buildings in downtown Vancouver looked unrealistic and cartoon-like.

Halle Berry is a great choice for Catwoman. She insisted on doing most of her own stunts and it pays off. The fight scenes are actually pretty good and fairly realistic. Unfortunately a lot of her dialog is really cheesy, giving the movie a campy feel reminiscent of the 1960s Batman television series.

Sharon Stone was interesting as a villain, who I’ll call the Botox Brick. It made sense that the cosmetic products she used made her skin as like a body armor but where did she get her mad fightin’ skills?

The movie is far from perfect but I think it is worth a spin in your DVD player if you’ve never seen it. **

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:58 AM

United 93 (2006)

I finally got around to watching United 93 (2006) on DVD last night. Wow!

I was surprised at how writer/director Paul Greengrass managed to engage the viewer up until the final moments of the film. You can’t help but remember where you were on 9/11 when you watch United 93. You start to relive that day the deeper into the film you get.

Before you know it, you feel like one of the doomed passengers and catch a glimpse of how awful and terrifying it must have been. United 93 is powerful filmmaking and worth a rental if you haven’t seen it. ***½

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:37 PM

Thunderball (1965)

Casino Royale is in theatres next week which means that MGM has another James Bond DVD box set. This is the third release of the Bond films on DVD. Yesterday I picked up James Bond Ultimate Edition: Volume 1 and James Bond Ultimate Edition: Volume 2 on DVD.

So why did MGM release yet another version of the Bond films on DVD? For the last three years Lowry Digital Images has been restoring every frame of the 20 Bond films — 42 miles of film. Using more than 600 Macintosh G5 computers Lowry Digital has been removing dirt, scratches, and colour inconsistencies from each frame of film in the Bond films.

Each of the films now has a DTS soundtrack that sounds impressive. DTS (Digital Theatre Systems) purchased Lowry Digital Images for $11 million last year which could mean that all of the films they restore will get new DTS soundtracks.

Last night I watched Thunderball (1965) from the new Ultimate Edition and can say that the film looks and sounds amazing. I’m glad I waited until now to add the Bond films to my library. Once the dust settles between HD DVD and Bluray, MGM will probably release the Complete Comprehensive Ultimate Special Edition of the films again. Oh well, you have to jump in somewhere.

I forgot how much of this film was spoofed my Michael Myers in his Austin Powers films. I found myself laughing in all the wrong places. Still there is nothing better than a Bond film and I’m looking forward to watching them again.

I’ve been watching too many obscure foreign films, documentaries and art films lately. A dozen Bond films should put some balance back into to my cinematic universe.

For a comprehensive review of this DVD release have a look at DVD Talk.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:23 PM

War Photographer (2001)

War Photographer (2001) is a fabulous documentary film about photographer, James Nachtwey.

The filmmakers attached a small video camera to the end of Nachtwey’s Canon lens, letting us see what he sees in places like The West Bank, Kosovo, and Rhwanda. Nachtwey’s whole life is devoted to photography. He constantly puts himself in danger to get ‘the shot’.

By the end of the film you realize that Nachtwey has been deeply affected by some of the things he’s photographed. So why does he continue to shoot photographs for Stern and Time? It’s not for the awards, to sell more photographs in mid-town Manhattan or to become a celebrity. Nachtwey says it best on his website:

I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.

To see some of Nachtwey’s work, visit his website at jamesnachtwey.com. Better still, watch War Photographer on DVD. ***½

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in DVD Reviews and Photography at 8:27 PM

Recently screened films

I’m posting my DVD reviews under Recently screened films in the sidebar. The reviews are shorter and will allow me to keep a better record of the films I’ve watched.

The most disappointing films I’ve seen recently have to be Shopgirl and Firewall. The best films have been Match Point and Le samouraï. 16 Blocks also surprised me as a film worth renting.

Posted in DVD Reviews and Movie Reviews at 11:51 AM

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

This is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. I enjoyed it so much that I watched it twice this weekend.

Shane Black wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) which stars Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in seeing this film but David Dylan Thomas has been praising it for a while now so I rented it last weekend.

From the opening title sequence you know the film is going to be a little different. It reminded me a lot of Catch Me If You Can (2002) and everything Saul Bass did to make the opening credits more interesting.

The opening shot of Robert Downey Jr. staring down into a pool pays homage to the first scene in Sunset Blvd. (1950). Downey Jr. even provides voiceover narration as does William Holden. For the next 90 minutest the references to other films come fast and furious, as do the jokes and the action.

When was the last time you had a clever film with jokes about writing and grammar? Everything about this film was refreshing in its attempts to be unique. It definitely doesn’t follow the mold of a typical Hollywood buddy picture. If you love movies and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang isn’t on your radar then you need to see this film.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 1:14 PM

La Commare Secca (1962)

La Commare Secca (1962) was Bernardo Bertolucci’s debut film. He directed and wrote La Commare Secca (The Grim Reaper) when he was only 21 years old. It’s not Citizen Kane but it’s a fine film — way better than most of the crap Hollywood is grinding out these days.

When a Roman prostitute is found dead, the usual suspects are rounded up and questioned by the police. A series of flashbacks explains where the suspects were at the time of the murder. But who is telling the truth?

The Criterion Collection DVD has a nice black and white transfer. There is also an interview with Bertolucci from 2003 that explains who he came to direct his first film while in his second year of university.

This is only the fourth Bertolucci film that I’ve seen. I’ll be checking Zip.ca to see what other titles they have on DVD.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:35 AM

The Amityville Horror (2005)

The step-daughter has an English assignment that involves watching The Amityville Horror (2005) not to be confused with The Amityville Horror (1979). It was actually cheaper to purchase the movie on DVD at Blockbuster ($4.99) than it was to rent it.

I don’t remember the original but it has to be better than the awful remake starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George. Why does Hollywood bother with remakes if they’re going to churn out crap? I guess it all comes down to profits—formulaic moviemaking for unsophisticated teenage audiences. Who cares if it isn’t art!

By the way, I’m guilty of going to see Lifeforce (1985) at the cineplex when I was 17.

The latest film version of the ‘real’ Amityville is painful to watch. I suffered through it because the step-daughter is afraid of horror movies. Yeah, I’m a sucker, but I took her to see Hollow Man (2000) when she was 12. I know, I’m terrible but I’m making up for it.

There are only a handful of scary parts in this film and they relied heavily on sound and special effects to achieve this. Great storytelling or directing wasn’t in the budget.

Anybody interested in a free copy of The Amityville Horror on DVD?

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:23 PM

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004)

I watched Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) the other night and found it to be really interesting. It’s a documentary film about one of the first pay-tv stations in the US and its brilliant programming chief, Jeff Harvey.

Harvey had a knack for finding obscure films and breathing new life into lesser known films by some famous directors—Robert Altman, Sam Peckinpah and Michael Cimino to name a few. Unfortunately for Z Channel, HBO and a other premium cable channels gave it a lot of competition.

Harvey suffered from depression and used to tell people that he was crazy. I suppose he was in the end because in the late 80s he killed his wife before committing suicide in LA. Shortly after that Z Channel also faded into obscurity.

One of the great things about this documentary is that it mentions a lot of obscure films that merit some attention. Here is a list of films that I hope to track down and watch at some point:

Overlord (1975) — directed by Stuart Cooper
Mädchen in Uniform (1931)
Silver Streak (1976)
Fingers (1978)
Bad Timing (1980)
The Passenger (1975)

Has anyone seen any of these films?

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:36 AM

Naked (1993)

Naked (1993) is the third Mike Leigh film I’ve watched and I thought it was fanastic. It deals with isolation and homelessness among other things.

David Thewlis in the lead character is absolutely brilliant. His performance, and all of the actors really, convey a sense of realism that you don’t often see in films.

Thewlis’ conversation with the ‘Archie the Scotsman with a Tick’ is so funny that I found myself watching the same scene five times. Part of the scene was improvised and is very entertaining.

If you like director Mike Leigh’s films for their realism and interesting characters then the special edition of Naked from the Criterion Collection will make a great rental. I’m considering adding it to my collection. It comes with an extra disc of supplementary features.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:02 PM

A History of Violence (2005)

I finally had a chance to watch this (DVD) on the weekend and I felt it lived up to all of the hype. One of the best films of the year? Sure. Why not.

I’m not a David Cronenberg fan, but this is easily his most likeable/accessible/mainstream film to date. It’s a little predictable at times but a solid film. Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello are great but Ed Harris and William Hurt as wise guys? Come on!

Ed Harris is great at being creepy and didn’t need makeup to achieve that. Is he believable as a mobster from Philly? Not a chance.

Then there is William Hurt. His accent was terrible and he was nominated for best supporting actor role? I must have missed something. Maybe I’ve been watching The Soprano’s for too long.

It was interesting to see how Cronenberg used Toronto, King City, Port Perry and Millbrook, Ontario for various American locations. There are a lot of great extras on the DVD that you’ll appreciate if you’re curious about the filmmaking process..

I wasn’t surprised to find out that Cronenberg comes to the set without any storyboards or notes for his actors, director of photography or sound crew. It was interesting to see his process for developing a scene — working collaboratively with the crew and rehearsing until he feels ready to film. Obviously it works for him.

There is also an interesting featurette on makeup and special effects. If you’re wondering how Viggo Mortenson was able to smash an actor’s nose into his skull then this is for you.

Lastly, there is an interesting comparison between the international and American versions of the film. It seems that the MPAA doesn’t like squirting blood, even if it is only shown for a quarter of a second. Blink and you won’t be able to tell the differences between the two versions but you will conclude that the MPAA is a complete waste of time.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:03 PM

Knife in the Water (1962)

Knife in the Water (1962) Roman Polanski’s first feature film—a psychological thriller. It’s considered one of his best films and I’d have to agree.

A Polish couple picks up a student hitchhiker and invites him to go sailing with them for the weekend on their yacht. Most of the film takes place on this yacht and the follows the three characters over a 24 hour period.

The camera work is beautifully done in black and white (1:33:1 aspect ratio). The jazz score gives it a real 60s feel that I really liked.

The actress in the film had the perfect look of the character but she wasn’t a trained actor. To get her to jump and look surprised in one scene, Polanksi had an assistant fire a flare gun behind her and just off camera.

The extras on this Criterion Collection disc are worth watching if you enjoyed this film. Polanski explains how he likes a steady camera shot which was a real challenge during the filming of Knife if the Water (shot mostly on the water). Apparently Polanski can’t stand the Dogma film movement and had this to say about it:

I’m allergic to Dogma, all that shaky camera nonsense. It looks like the cameraman has Parkinson’s Disease, or maybe while filming he’s masturbating.

Roman knows what he likes!

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:13 PM

Time of the Wolf (2003)

Another Michael Haneke film—Time of the Wolf (2003). This film the one Haneke made before Caché and it didn’t interest me in the least.

It starts of in the same way that Funny Games does. A French family goes to vacation at their cottage when they discover that they have some unwanted guests. Someone is murdered and chaos takes over for the rest of the film.

We follow this family for the rest of the film as they try to get to the south of France. Why? There has been terrorist act, or maybe or war has started or maybe the world is ending. We never find out. There is a gruesome scene involving the killing of a horse (the death of an animal seems to be a prerequisite for a Haneke film).

I found this one a struggle to watch because I didn’t care about the characters or the story.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:46 PM

Funny Games (1997)

Austrian director, Michael Haneke scares me.

After watching Caché (2005) I wanted to see some of his other films. Funny Games (1997) seemed like a good place to start.

How is this for a Haneke plot? A family goes to their cottage for a summer vacation. Two young guys dressed in white, wearing white gloves show up and want to borrow some eggs. Instead of leaving, they take the family hostage and play an number of not so funny games with the family.

It is similar to Caché in that you begin to understand what is happening as the characters in the film do. Even then, a lot of the story is unexplained. Other similarities? An animal is killed, a family is terrorized for no apparent reason, one of the lead characters dies a horrific death.

By the end of this film you’ll be totally creeped out. Guaranteed.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:32 PM

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

I’m not a huge fan of martial arts movies but and didn’t know what to expect from Kung Fu Hustle (2004). My friend Dave, insisted that this was a Jay movie and that I would love it. He was right on the money.

Kung Fu Hustle is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s an action-comedy kung fu movie, written and directed by Stephen Chow. It takes place in the 1940s and everything that happens is completely unpredictable.

There is plenty of Matrix-like action. You’ll marvel at all the special effects and wonder what all the fuss was about in the Matrix Reloaded. At times you’ll think you’re watching The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). You’ll probably laugh out loud when the bad guys start dancing like they’re in a dance video.

This is bizarre stuff but it is brilliantly done and very entertaining. Kung Fu Hustle 2 (2006) is due out this year. Just what we need, another sequel.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:11 PM

Touchez pas au grisbi (1954)

Touchez pas au grisbi (Hands Off the Loot!) is another classic film, directed by Jacques Becker. I can’t seem to get enough of these French gangster films. This one is great!

In Touchez pas au grisbi, a couple of aging gangsters want to retire and leave the underworld behind. Becker takes you back to Paris, 1954 and gives you glimpse at what the crime world may have been like. I’m always surprised, and pleased, at how gritty some of these French films were with the profanity, sex and violence—something you’d never see with an American or British film.

There is an honesty about these films that I find refreshing. Maybe its because I’m seeing them for the first time. I don’t know. I’m just glad that The Criterion Collection restores films like this. I’m sure I’d never see them otherwise.

The high definition transfer looks and sounds great. The DVD also contains several special features. Touchez pas au grisbi is a film that I would rank up there with Rififi and Bob le Flambeur and one that I plan to watch again.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 9:53 PM

The Brothers Grimm (2005)

To the director that gave us such gems as Brazil, The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys, I have to ask.. what happened to The Brothers Grimm? What a dreadful movie. It’s so bad that I don’t dare call it a film.

The trailer looked like it had such promise. Even with Jonathan Pryce (Brazil), this rambling, pointless, plotless movie goes nowhere. The special effects look cheap and distract from the story as well. I hope that Gilliam’s other film from last year, Tideland, comes out soon.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:45 PM

Grizzly Man (2005)

This is the first Werner Herzog documentary film that I’ve watched. Wow! He reminds me a little bit of Errol Morris in that he has a talent for finding incredibly weird subjects that are fascinating.

In this film, Timothy Treadwell is the Grizzly Man (who thinks he is an Alaskan version of the Crocodile Hunter). He videotapes his interaction with bears and foxes. His footage is incredible in that he gets very close to the dangerous bears. Timmy thinks that he is protecting the bears from poachers and hunters but its really therapy for himself as a recovering alcoholic.

Bizarre stuff. In the end, Treadwell and his girlfriend were attacked and killed by one of the grizzly bears. The audio from this attack was actually recorded (Treadwell didn’t have time to take the lens cap off but left the camera running). No you don’t get to hear the gruesome footage but the film and the people interviewed is really quite interesting.

I think poor Timmy wasn’t playing with a full deck near the end of his life. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had a death wish involving the bears. We’ll never know. If you found the March of the Penguins to be a little too cute then Grizzly Man is just what you’re looking for.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:39 PM

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

I watched this one on the weekend and I have to say that it scared the hell out of me. It is an interesting mix of horror and courtroom drama that works quite well. It’s also based on a true story which makes this film even creepier.

Jennifer Carpenter’s performance as Emily Rose and a great Dolby Digital sound mix will rattle your nerves and get your full attention as you watch this story unfold. The director tells the story of this failed exorcism from two perspectives—from the view of a Catholic believer and from the view of a medical professional.

The production value for this film is quite high. The cast is excellent—Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson and Campbell Scott. The colour palette is used consistently to enhance different moods and perspectives. There are also some interesting camera moves. In one scene the camera glides down a corridor and through the bars of a prison cell to show a close up of Tom Wilkinson’s face. David Fincher used this effect quite a bit in Panic Room a few years back.

If you haven’t seen this film then I would recommend it as a DVD rental. It’s one of the better films out there right now.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:13 PM

Back to work

I’m back to work after a nice little break. I saw a few movies in the last week. I need to add another blog to this site for recently screened films.

Right now I’m updating the movies in the sidebar manually but would like to have a record of the movies I’ve watched. I don’t always get a chance to write a review for everything I watch (I can’t imagine why not).

Here’s a quick overview of the last week.

The City of Lost Children (1997). Good. Directed by those “French guys” that gave us Delicatessen and Amélie (directed only by Jean-Pierre Jeunet). Starring Ron Pearlman who speaks French in this role.

Grand Illusion (1937). Great. Directed by Jean Renoir and considered by some to be one of the best films ever made. Definitely worth seeing and Criterion has done an amazing job with the restoration with this film.

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). Good. This was my New Year’s Eve film with the lovely. Last year it was Sideways. Gee-sha or guy-sha? Neither it is pronounced gay-sha. Good love story, amazing sets and costume but not a guy-flick.

Four Brothers (2005). Awful. Shot last year in Toronto (standing in for Detroit), this movie was dreadful. What happened to John Singleton. Camille, thanks for not giving this DVD to me as a gift.

Serenity (2005). Great. Based on the television show hat Fox butchered. Writer/director Joss Whedon has a winner on his hands. One of the best films I saw last month. The little bit of the commentary that I listened to was excellent.

Why We Fight (2005). Excellent! I watched a DivX copy of this film (thanks James) that should get a theatrical release this month. Still one of the best films that I saw last year.

The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004). Good. Another documentary on DivX that aired on the BBC last January. It looks at how the US and UK have used recent terrorist attacks to their advantage against a phantom menace we call Kaiser Sose, er I mean al-Qaeda.

Whisky Galore! (1949). Good. See my last entry for a review of this old favourite.

A Man Called Peter (1955). Good. Another film I first saw on TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies. It was recently released on DVD.

Cinderella Man (2005). Excellent! One of the best films of 2005. Review coming.

Raging Bull (1980). Great. Only my second time watching this and I’m growing to appreciate it more as another one of the best films ever made. There are some great extras on this 2-disc DVD.

Masculin, féminin (1966). Great. I enjoyed this a lot more than Truffaut’s Jules et Jim. Criterion has included some extras on this DVD that made me appreciate the “genius” of Jean-Luc Godard a little more.

Auntie Mame (1958). Okay. My mother-in-law went into great detail describing this film. For its time it was quite racy. Just not my type of film.

Now that half my morning is gone I really should get back to work. Right after i replenish my ZipList.

Posted in DVD Reviews and Movie Reviews at 10:55 AM

Whisky Galore! (1949)

I can’t think of a better film to watch on New Year’s Day. The first time I saw this was over ten years ago on Saturday Night at the Movies—a show hosted by Elwy Yost on TV Ontario.

Whisky Galore (1949) was recently released on DVD by Anchor Bay in a 5 DVD set called the Ealing Comedy Collection.

Whisky Galore is based on the true story. In WWII a ship sailing for Jamaica sank outside the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. It’s cargo, 250,000 cases of whiskey. Many of the locals gathered as much whiskey as they could before the proper authorities arrived.

The film takes place during the war on an island in the Outer Hebrides. The island has run out of whiskey and everyone is miserable, until, a shipwreck occurs. The ship is carrying 50,000 cases of whiskey which the locals try to salvage and hide from the authorities. It’s quite a funny film that has remained a favourite by many over the years including Sean Connery.

Sean Connery and several producers in the UK have been trying to raise enough money to do a remake of Whisky Galore! I think some films are better left alone. This is one of them. While it would be nice to see a colour version of this film shot in the Hebrides, I don’t think a remake could capture the charm of the original film.

DVD Times has a review of a two-disc special edition of Whisky Galore! released through Optimum Home Entertainment. Does anyone know if I can get this in Canada?

Posted in DVD Reviews at 1:40 PM

Layer Cake (2004)

I finally got around to seeing Layer Cake (2004) on DVD. Directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring Daniel Craig (the next James Bond).

Layer Cake is probably the best British gangster film in the last five years. It has the same style and coolness of a Guy Ritchie film like Snatch—great cinematography, good music and get this, it has an intelligent plot that makes sense! Regrettably, Guy Ritchie forgot to include this in Revolver.

I didn’t find the characters as interesting as the cast from Sexy Beast or Snatch but the story is pretty good, the acting is great and direction is excellent. Some of the scenes are quite interesting in the way that they are shot and the editing tries to push the envelope a little bit which is always a welcome change.

My only complaint about the film is that the dialogue was often difficult to hear. This made it difficult to follow a few scenes and I found myself skipping back to try and make out what some of the characters where whispering or mumbling at the time.

There are also a couple of alternate endings on the DVD. The ending in the film is the best one. I always like when a filmmaker includes extra material like this because it draws you into the whole movie making process a little more.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:44 PM

Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)

Movie poster.

Fragile, Andy Warhol look alike, Rodney Bingenheimer is the Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003). If you have no idea who radio DJ (KROQ in LA) Rodney is then you’re in for a treat.

This documentary takes a look at Rodney’s rise from rock fan, journalist, club owner to radio DJ. Since 1976 he’s been known as a DJ—the first one in the US to play and promote several bands such as Coldplay, Oasis, The Smiths, Blondie and Joan Jett.

He’s obsessed with being in the company of famous musicians and actors. In the 70s, Robert Plant claimed that Rodney had more “action” with the groupies and band-aids than he did. Hard to believe when you look at Rodney now and see him in the film.

You can’t help but feel sorry for Rodney when you watch this film. His mother divorced when he was very young. He spent most of his childhood alone, became very popular in the 70s but now finds himself alone again. He knows everyone and is friends with no one.

He’s still looking for the girl of his dreams. His radio show now airs on Sunday nights from midnight till 3 AM. When I look at Rodney today I see a sad and lonely man who is fading away. Watch the film and you’ll see this time and time again.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip is fascinating. Rodney is a great subject for a documentary and there is a huge celebrity factor to the film that I think most viewers will enjoy. If you enjoyed something like The Kid Stays In the Picture (2002) then you can’t go wrong with Mayor of the Sunset Strip.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:02 PM

Another Day in Paradise (1998)

Directed by Larry Clark. Unfortunately the DVD copy I had of this film was a full screen pan and scan version! Fortunately, the film was so good that the incorrect framing wasn’t an issue (I had pretty low expectations).

The cast of this film is great. James Woods was born to play his role as a small-time thief. He liked the role so much that he signed on as a producer.

Melanie Griffith is perfect as Woods’ junkie girlfriend with too many Botox injections. I haven’t seen Vincent Kartheiser since he played the lead in The Indian in the Cupboard (1995). He plays a young junkie that Woods and Griffith befriend to pull a few robberies.

Then there is Natasha Gregson Wagner who plays Kartheiser’s druggie girlfriend. She is Natalie Wood’s daughter and Robert Wagner’s step-daughter. Lou Diamond Phillips does an uncredited performance that will make you do a double-take.

I saw Larry Clark’s first film, Kids (1995) and didn’t think very much of it. I was surprised by how much I liked Another Day in Paradise (1998), mainly because all of characters in the film are low-life drug addicts. They do a couple of robberies hoping to get rich and lay low but each time disaster strikes and things go from bad to hopeless.

It’s too bad that James Woods has drifted into obscure TV roles and voiceover work because he’s a lot of fun to watch onscreen. This is probably the best film he’s done in the last seven years. Now if only somebody would release this film in its proper aspect ration of 1.85:1. It deserves at least that much.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:11 PM

New York Doll (2005)

New York Doll poster

One of the best films I’ve seen this year. New York Doll (2005) is a documentary film about Arthur “Killer” Kane—a recovering alcoholic, a Mormon, and the bass player for The New York Dolls.

Director Greg Whitely hit the jackpot when he chose Kane as the subject of his first documentary film. In 2004, Kane and his bandmates David Johansen (Buster Poindexter) and Sylvain Sylvain reunited for a couple of shows at Royal Festival Hall in London.

Although the film is more about Arthur Kane than a rockumentary about The New York Dolls, there are plenty of clips from Morrisey, Bob Geldoff, Chrissy Hynde, Mick Jones, Iggy Pop and more. If you’re unfamiliar with the band, you’ll have a greater appreciation for them by the end of this film.

Arthur Kane is a goofy, messed up, washed up rock star that you’ll grow to love through this film. His story is bitter sweet one that Greg Whitely does a beautiful job of telling.

The film is a part of the Hot Docs Doc Soup program. Tonight was the Canadian premiere at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto. Whitely flew in from Los Angeles to introduce the film and conducted a lengthy Q&A afterward. He mentioned that the film was purchased by Odeon Films and should be in theatres soon.

There is a great website for the film at www.newyorkdollmovie.com that has a trailer, production notes and more.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:45 PM

xXx: State of the Union (2005)

To most people, you’ll think that I have extremely poor taste after admitting that I recently watched xXx: State of the Union (2005) and enjoyed it. First a Tom Cruise movie and now a movie starring Ice Cube. Every now and again we have our guilty pleasures when it comes to film, music, novels.

Once again, I thought this movie was going to suck because of the star—Ice Cube as XXX instead of Vin Diesel. It turns out that Ice Cube is hilarious as an action hero (at least to me). I laughed all the way through this film at the sarcastic one-liners, the constant sneer on Ice Cube’s face and the unbelievable action. Don’t ask me how, but this film works.

It’s directed by New Zealander, Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day, Mullholland Falls) and also stars Samuel L. Jackson and Willem Dafoe. I think it was a gutsy move to cast Ice Cube in the lead role but if you give it a chance I think you’d enjoy this movie.

Okay, back to watching serious films by Jaques Becker and François Truffaut.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:53 PM

The Interpreter (2005)

Directed by Sydney Pollack, starring Sean Penn, Nicole Kidman and sometimes Catherine Keener. The Interpreter (2005) wasn’t bad. It tends to drag a little bit at times but there is enough excitement and suspense to keep you interested in how things will unravel.

The access to The United Nations that Sydney Pollack had in making this film is incredible. The building itself is one of the stars in this film and I have to wonder if the film would be as good without it.

If you’re watching this on DVD then don’t miss one of the extra features with Sydney Pollack discussing the merits of the widescreen format versus the dreaded pan & scan format. Sydney will show a few dozen examples of widescreen—good! Then he’ll show you a few dozen examples of fullscreen, pan and scan video—bad!

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:47 PM

War of the Worlds (2005)

Tom Cruise is an incredibly talented actor. Wait! Don’t vomit. I mean it. I thought I was going to hate War of the Worlds (2005) because of Cruise. Instead, I was blown away.

Okay it helps that Steven Spielberg directed this film but Cruise was not the annoying little weasel that we’ve seen in the press over the last year. He wasn’t a barrier to my enjoying this film and for that I am amazed.

The special effects are incredible and very believable. Try to remember back to the first time you saw Jaws and how real that mechanical shark seemed. War of the Worlds gave me the same feeling of uneasiness to the point that I had to remind myself that, this is just a movie.

If you’re like me and somehow missed this film in the theatre then be sure to watch in on DVD.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:34 PM

Gunner Palace (2004)

I can’t really call this a review because I only saw the first 31 minutes of Gunner Palace (2004). This documentary film shows what life is like for “The Gunners”—American soldiers whose barracks are the bombed palace of Uday Hussein.

I started nodding off after a half hour. Boring. Poorly edited. Aimless. No story. Almost as painful as watching your best friend’s wedding video. Pass on this one folks unless you have time to waste.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:08 AM

The Phantom (1996)

I forgot all about the 1996 film about The Phantom starring Billy Zane until Rob at SUPERHERO TV gave me his DVD copy to borrow. I watched the trailer, saw Billy Zane in purple tights, riding a horse through 1930s Manhattan, and put the DVD aside for a few days.

Unfortunately this movie was poorly marketed. Mistake number 1 — it was released on June 7, 1996 but it isn’t even close to being a blockbuster like Batman Begins. Mistake number 2 — the trailer is terrible and doesn’t convey the campy nature of the film.

Once I realized that The Phantom was a B-movie I started to really enjoy it. It’s actually a great film in my opinion and a lot of fun to watch.

The sets and costumes are excellent. I don’t normally pay a lot of attention this kind of detail in a film but everything from the furniture to motorcycles look very authentic. The production value is quite high but unfortunately some of the special effects were distracting.

When special effects are done well they should be invisible to the viewer. There is a scene where The Phantom is riding through the jungle, dodging bullets from the bad guys. A close-up shot shows a bullet hitting a tree and exploding into colourful fragments as if the tree was a box of Fruit Loops! I had to watch this several times, frame by frame to make sure I was seeing things correctly. Maybe this was intentional? I thought it took away from the scene.

For some reason the directory of photography chose a camera lens that gives off a really bad lens flare that looks like a blue laser. This had me confused in a few of the earlier scenes and just became annoyingly visible throughout the rest of the film.

Billy Zane as a super hero? You bet! He’s perfectly cast and hilarious! He always has a goofy grin and smart ass comment for every situation. I found myself laughing out loud several times. Treat Williams as bad guy Xander Drax is great as well.

If you passed this film over 10 years ago then it’s time to give it a second look. The DVD is anamorphic widescreen but the video quality is average. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and quite good. There’s nothing but a trailer in terms of extras but this wouldn’t prevent me from purchasing the disc. I’ll be adding this disc to my DVD library ASAP and look forward to watching it again.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 12:02 PM

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

A while ago I read some decent reviews of Assault on Precinct 13 and decided to give it a spin. It wasn’t Citizen Kane but as far as guilty pleasures go, this crime thriller was pretty good. The action is great and there are a few twists along the way that keep you interested in the plot.

Jean-François Richet directed this remake of John Carpenter’s original Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The cast is pretty decent — Ethan Hawke, Gabriel Byrne, Laurence Fishburne and Maria Bello (who seems to be in everything this year). The film was also shot in Toronto. I noticed Roy Thomson Hall in one scene but found it difficult to tell that the rest of the film was made here in TO.

Did I mention that there were a few guns in this film? Whoa! The DTS track on this DVD will give you home theatre a major workout. Turn the volume up to 11 and enjoy! A mediocre film like this is so much more interesting to watch when it has a great sound mix with lots of activity in the sub-woofer and surround speakers.

If crime films are your thing and you think that the best movie ever made was Predator then you’ll enjoy Assault on Precinct 13.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:18 PM

The Browning Version (1951)

I can’t remember why I rented this DVD but I’m glad that I did. The Browning Version is a British film, directed by Anthony Asquith in 1951. Michael Redgrave plays a bitter school teacher named Andrew Crocker-Harris who feels his life has been a complete failure. His health if failing, his wife detests him and his students see him as a joke.

Michael Redgrave won the prize for best actor at Cannes. His performance as Crocker-Harris is unforgettable. He becomes that quirky teacher we all had at some point in our lives. The voice he created for his character reminds me of Pete Postlewaite’s performance as Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects.

I’m willing to bet that Postlewaite watched the Browning Version a few times and based the character of Kobayashi on Michael Redgrave’s performance. Can anyone confirm this or deny it?

The film is well worth watching if you’ve never seen it. The Criterion Collection disc that I watched has an interview with director Mike Figgis. Turns out he did a remake of The Browning Version (1994) with Albert Finney playing Andrew Crocker-Harris. That disc will be going on my ZipList as well as a bunch of other Mike Figgis films I haven’t seen.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:01 PM

Directors Label Volumes 4-7

Directors Label is releasing four new discs containing the work of Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Glazer, Mark Romanek and Stéphane Sednaoui.

Mark Romank directed the Hurt video for Johnny Cash which will be on his Directors Label disc along with a lot of music, videos and documentaries. Should be really good.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:16 PM

Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

Okay, it took me six years to see this excellent documentary but I just wasn’t ready for it at the turn of the century. What did I care about forgotten Cuban musicians or Ry Cooder for that matter.

I watched this Wim Wenders film last night on DVD and was blown away. It sounds great in Dolby Digital and the visuals are fabulous. You’ll want to go to Cuba, listen to Cuban music and smoke cigars.

Live performances are mixed seamlessly with recording sessions and incredible visuals of the streets of Havana. Although the musicians are old (some are in their 80s) their playing ability and singing are exceptional.

Rubén González impressed me the most with his piano playing. He’s described as the best piano player to come out of Cuba. He died a couple of years ago and was 80 years old when the documentary was made.

Ibrahim Ferrer was a great singer with a lot of style. Getting to know him over the course of the documentary was almost as interesting as his music. Sadly, he died just a few weeks ago.

One of the funniest moments in the film is seeing these great musicians on the streets of New York for the first time and being amazed. One of them looks into a shop window at a figurine of president Kennedy and says something like “that guy looks familiar”.

It was weird to see some of the musicians looking at the World Trade Center buildings from the Empire State Building.

If you’re looking for a great documentary film then Buena Vista Social Club is a must see.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 3:16 PM

A Very Long Engagement (2004)

I watched Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004) last weekend. Twice. It’s that good.

It a WW I film that stars Audrey Tautou and is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who has a great photo on IMDB.com). He directed Tautou in Amelie (another favourite of mine).

Paris of the 1920s is beautifully recreated. The art direction is top-notch. The cinematography is interesting—love the scene where a grenade is thrown up in the air and explodes just in time to take down a German plane. The camera work during this sequence is great. The various panning shots around trains throughout the film are also interesting.

There are some interesting supplemental features on the second disc that explain how some of the scenes were filmed. For example, the Museé D’Orsay is digitally transformed to its former self—a train station. If you’ve ever been to Paris you won’t want to miss this one.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:28 PM

Criminal (2004)

This is a remake of Nueve reinas (2000) that was produced by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. Soderbergh also wrote part of the screenplay under the name Sam Lowry (which is the name of the lead character in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil).

Criminal (2004) is directed by Gregory Jacobs. It’s weird because at times I felt like I was watching Out of Sight or Traffic. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that Jacobs has been the first assistant director on every film directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Criminal is a pretty good film. It stars John C. Reilly who is great in his role as a con artist. The whole story had me fooled several times, right up until the end. Worth a rental.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:59 AM

Constantine (2005)

I watched Constantine (2005) last weekend. For an action movie that looks like the Matrix at times and stars Keanu Reeves, it rocks!

Forget about the theology in this film—chain-smoking angels, the Spear of Destiny (you know, the one that killed Christ and has incredible power) and half-angels that can supposedly earn their way into heaven by performing exorcisms.

There are some pretty spectacular and creepy moments in the film supported by some top-notch special effects. Don’t expect a film of the Exorcist’s quality and you’ll enjoy this one.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:20 PM

Team America: World Police (2004)

A couple of friends (Dave and Andy) saw Team America: World Police (2004) and told me that it was “brutal” because of how far Trey Parker and Matt Stone push the envelope in this one. A guy on my hockey team raved and said it was hilarious.

Did I mention that Dave and Andy in particular also enjoy Rob Schneider films like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999) and The Hot Chick (2002)? My step-daughter walked by then sat down when she realized that I was watching Team America: World Police. She’s already seen it a few times and said it “awesome”.

For some people this would have been plenty of warning that I was watching one of the worst movies of the year. I got as far as the 2 minute vomit scene when I had enough. I hit eject on the DVD player after enduring 23 minutes of this garbage.

How did Team America: World Police ever get made? What a pile of crap! I must be getting old. Maybe if I was sixteen years old I could waste a couple of hours watching watching marionettes blow each other up, defecate on each other and vomit endlessly.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:12 PM

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

Wow! The art direction in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) is just incredible! Sometimes it’s mind-boggling to see how much work goes into a Hollywood film. ILM did some amazing special effects on this film but the art direction is what really blew me away.

The sets are fantastic. The motion graphics for the titles at the end of the film is a short film that makes me feel hopelessy inadequate when it comes to animation.

Jim Carrey is a lot of fun to watch as he plays Count Olaf. His performance reminded me a little bit of his character in the Mask. Luis Guzman and Jennifer Coolidge (forever known now as Stifler’s mom) are wasted in their tiny roles. Blink and you’ll miss them. Timothy Spall (Secrets and Lies) is great in his role as Mr. Poe.

Recommended. And this is one your 6-year-old can watch safely.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 11:24 PM

The Aviator (2004)

I saw The Aviator (2004) recently and thought it was a great bio pic. Little Leo does a great job at depicting Howard Hughes. I still find it difficult, not to view him as a punk with supermodel girlfriends. That’s slowly changing, especially with his performance here.

I thought The Aviator was much better than Gangs of New York (2002) but still no Raging Bull. It feels grand, like a Hollywood picture from 50 years ago. The sets, costumes and actors are all top-notch—an enjoyable film to watch. I felt entertained but I didn’t really care much about Hugh’s in the end, unlike Ray (2004) where I wanted to know more and listen to his music.

Like Hoop Dreams, The Aviator is 170 minutes in length but a worthwhile rental.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:38 PM

Hoop Dreams (1994)

I watched Hoop Dreams (1994) for the first time on DVD (new release from the Criterion Collection). It runs almost three hours and you’ll feel like you’re watching the final seconds of an NBA championship at times—an amazing documentary.

Over a five year period, the filmmakers followed two kids who dreamed of making it to the NBA. This is only part of the story. You get an amazing glimpse into the family life of these two kids in some pretty rough Chicago neighbourhoods.

Siskel and Ebert declared Hoop Dreams as the best film of 1994 and lobbied for it to win best picture or at least best documentary. Incredibly, it wasn’t even nominated for best documentary (supposedly the Academy knew it would win because of its popularity).

It made most top ten lists that year and was loved by critics. At the time, it was also one of the best documentaries at the box office. It’s a ground-breaking film and deserves at least a viewing if you’ve never watched it.

The nice thing about the Criterion Collection release is the booklet that comes with the disc. There is an update on the two boys in the film and their families. Amazing stuff.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:12 PM

Closer (2004)

Last week I watched Closer (2004) on DVD. Great cast, great film, great dialogue.

Actually, there are a few scenes with some major shoe leather in terms of the dialogue. Think Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (2000) but worse and you get the idea.

The film is based on a play by Patrick Marber who also wrote the screenplay which is why the dialogue is so good. Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen star are a pair of hopeless couples that struggle with relationships. Did I mention that this is a great cast?

The opening scene uses a song called “The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice which works perfectly. It’s also used again at the end of the film providing a sense of closure to the story. I found myself going to iTunes the next day and downloading copy of “The Blower’s Daughter”.

Every time I hear this song I’ll have a clear picture of Jude Law and Natalie Portman slowly approaching each other on a crowded London street.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:55 PM

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

I finally watched Hotel Rwanda (2004) on DVD last night. Powerful film. If you haven’t seen this film then rent a copy soon.

Don Cheadle does a superb job at playing hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina. His performance was quite believable and worthy of an Oscar nomination. I’m glad that other stars in this film, Joaquin Phoenix and Nick Nolte didn’t get in the way of the story. I was surprised at how little screen time they had but this is a good thing.

You can’t help but feel angry after watching this film. It’s hard to believe that a million Tutsis were completely wiped out. Imagine a group of Canadian extremists wiping out the entire city of Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa or Hamilton. Then imagine the US or the UK sitting back and doing nothing while a million Canadians are slaughtered like animals.

Of course, this would never happen in Canada. We’re worth too much to the US and other countries because of our natural resources, trade, money. Western countries only invade other countries when there is money and power at stake. Do you really think the US invaded Iraq because they care that much about the Iraqi people?

If the US, UK and Canada cared at all that people are getting slaughtered around the world then the genocide in Rwanda would never have happened. Rwanda had nothing to give the west so we turned a blind eye. I think that westerners do care about people other than themselves, or they wouldn’t have given so generously to the Tsunami victims earlier this year.

You’d think that at least one world leader in the west would have a enough courage or conscience to do something about Rwanda. I guess Clinton was too busy getting blow jobs in the Whitehouse while Chretien was too busy stealing Canadian tax dollars to care about children getting slaughtered in Africa. Harsh words but if you’re going to be a world leader then you have a responsibility to do the right thing.

One of the few heroes was Paul Rusesabagina who did everything he could to save 1,200 lives. If only there were more like him. If only a handful of western leaders cared this whole mess could have been avoided.

The amazing thing is that this will probably happen all over again. It will end up buried on a cable news channel or on the back page of the New York Times. Somebody will make a movie about it 10 years later when it is too late and we’ll wonder how such a terrible thing happened.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:32 AM

Parapluies de Cherbourg, Les (1964)

Every once in a while I like to watch something different—enrich my cinematic experience. I read a few things about the The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and thought I would give it a chance.

I’m not a fan of musicals (still haven’t watched Chicago (2002) and don’t intend to) but enjoyed Singin’ In The Rain (1952). My rental copy of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg has been sitting downstairs for over a month so I thought it was time to expand my horizons.

The opening title sequence was interesting—great use of colour, interesting camera angles etc. Then the auto mechanics started singing and every single one of them just looked so happy. Too happy. And then they started to prance around.

I grabbed the remote and hit the DISPLAY. 10 minutes elapsed, 77 minutes to go. A few seconds later I hit the STOP button. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t finish it. I tried. I don’t have to like French musicals or watch them to appreciate French film any more than I do.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:41 AM

Be Cool (2005)

Another stinker. The sequel to Get Shorty (1995), even with John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn and a dozen cameos by other famous actors couldn’t save this movie. I kept waiting for something to happen in the first hour and almost fell asleep.

Vince Vaughn was the funniest part of the movie for me and Cedric the Entertainer has a great Samuel L. Jackson ‘monologue’ if you can wait long enough for it. Extras? I could only handle one deleted scene with Vince Vaughn and The Rock. Don’t waste your time with this one.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 9:13 PM

After the Sunset (2005)

Oh man was this a bad movie. It had popcorn flick written all over it but it was stale, tasteless and just plain dumb. There were maybe a two funny moments in the entire film. The reviews were pretty mixed but this was a waste of two hours.

I watched some of the extras and the main featurette seemed to be as long as the movie! I was amazed at how much money they spent ($50 million) and how much of an idiot, director Brett Ratner really is. I’m glad he’s not directing Superman Returns (2006). Note to self, try to avoid any Brett Ratner films in the future.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:59 PM

8½ (1963)

I’m embarrassed to say that this is the first Fellini film that I’ve ever watched. I purchased the two-disc Criterion Collection release of 8½ quite some time ago and finally got around to watching it. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m continually amazed at how often today’s filmmakers borrow, copy, pay homage to the likes of Fellini, Truffault, Godard and others. Director Terry Gilliam provides an introduction to the film on the Criterion Collection DVD.

Gilliam explains how important 8½ is to him and how it has influenced his films. This is most obvious in Brazil (1985) where several scenes borrow heavily from 8½.

Quentin Tarantino is another director that borrows heavily from the great directors before him. The famous dance scene in Pulp Fiction between Uma Thurman and John Travolta is lifted out of 8½.

This month in WIRED magazine, there is an article called QT: King of Thieves. It examines five scenes that Tarantino lifted from other films.

Back to 8½. I enjoyed the film and will definitely watch it again. And again. The two-disc set from Criterion is impressive. The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen and beautifully restored—looks as good as a movie that was shot in the last 5 years. An audio commentary, a couple of documentaries, some essays and more round are part of the extra features.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:03 AM

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004)

I picked up the 2-disc special edition of BullitThe Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004).

If you have any interest in film editing, admire the work of Walter Murch or have any idea who Thelma Schoonmaker then this doc, narrated by Kathy Bates is tailor-made for you. The Cutting Edge is similar to Edge Codes: The Art of Motion Picture Editing which was released earelier this year. Where Edge Codes suffers from poor production value in spots, The Cutting Edge is much slicker and polished.

I also liked that The Cutting Edge showed Walter Murch in his studio editing parts of Cold Mountain using Final Cut Pro. Murch actually takes the viewer through a few edits and explains the challenges involved. Inspiring stuff!

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:47 AM

Crumb (1994)

If you saw Ghost World 2000 a few years back, directed by Terry Zwigoff, then you won’t want to miss his documentary Crumb (1994).

It’s a fascinating look at a controversial cartoonist/artist, Robert Crumb, his work and his bizarre family. He’s the guy that dreamed up Fritz the Cat and those Keep on Truckin’ characters that ended up on millions of mud flaps. His art is extremely creative, racist, sexist, pornographic and often just weird. It’s hard to believe that he’s a functioning human being when you look at his two brothers—both have been institutionalized, suffer from depression and just look strange. A year after the film came out. One of his brothers committed suicide.

The more I watched the film, the more I realized that Steve Buscemi’s character is based on Robert Crumb. Some of the main themes that run through Ghost World come directly from Crumb—his complaint that our world is becoming too commercialized with strip malls, big box retail stores, logos on everything from t-shirts to foreheads.

I haven’t even discussed Crumb’s wives or kids. For that you’ll have to watch the documentary. I think Zwigoff does an excellent job of giving us a glimpse into the bizarre world of Robert Crumb.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:09 PM

Salesman (1969)

I’ve been on a documentary film binge lately and Salesman (1969) stands out as a favourite. The Maysles brothers directed this film and went on to do Gimme Shelter a year later—a documentary about the Rolling Stones which is another favourite of mine.

For Salesman the brothers followed a bunch of door-to-door bible salesman. It’s fascinating to see how these salesman persuade and manipulate people into purchasing these fancy bibles that they really can’t afford.

I’m convinced that some of these characters inspired David Mammet when he wrote Glengarry Glen Ross (1992). Jack Lemmon’s character in this movie talks and acts like one of the salesman in the documentary. This was a little bizarre to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lemmon watched this film a few times to develop his character.

If you get a chance, I recommend you give this a viewing. It provides a glimpse into the late 60s and an era of door-to-door sales that has been replaced by infomercials and banner ads.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 3:22 PM

Secrets & Lies (1996)

Written and directed by Mike Leigh who recently wrote and directed the Oscar-nominated Vera Drake (2004). Great acting. Pure drama. Enjoyable.

Leigh has a unique style where he tends to linger on characters faces allowing you to read their emotions, experience them. There are long awkward silences which add realism to each scene. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t anything like Gerry (2002) where an eternity goes by before anything happens. Secrets & Lies takes its time in telling an interesting story.

If you do happen to see the movie, watch the expressions of Lee Ross. He plays the character of Paul, Roxanne’s boyfriend and he’s hilarious to watch.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 3:59 PM

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)


My brother gave me this DVD to borrow and I wasn’t expecting much. The reviews for this doc have been great but I still wasn’t dying to see it. For me, Metallica was a band that peaked in the 90s. I thought their last album, St. Anger fell short of the material they released in the past and I never bothered purchasing a copy (or downloading it from Napster).

This documentary has renewed my interest in the band and it’s a great example of the magic in documentary filmmaking. What started out as a doc about the making of an album and group therapy sessions led to a lot of exciting drama—lead singer James Hetfield left the band to go into rehab for almost a year. This was totally unexpected and at the time, left the future of the band and the documentary in question.

The tension after Hetfield’s return is brutal. There are fights, reunions, the hiring of a new bass player, mixing sessions with hip hop artists and more. There are some really great moments captured here that give the audience and fans a glimpse into the lifestyle and struggles of a rock band.

You don’t have to be a Metallica fan to enjoy this documentary. Highly recommended.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 9:47 AM

My Architect: A Son’s Journey (2003)

This is an excellent documentary film. The director, Nathaniel Kahn is the son of American architect, Louis Kahn. He examines his father’s architectural work, some bizarre family relationships and some of the mysteries behind Louis Kahn.

Nathaniel Kahn never really knew his father (who died 25 years ago) and goes on a search to find out who he really was. For five years he traveled the world to examine his father’s buildings and talk to former colleagues. I think the results are fascinating.

The production value is exceptional with some great archival footage and a nice score. There is a nice Q&A feature on the DVD that gives you some great background information. If you enjoy documentary films then put this one on your list of required viewing.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:44 PM

Ed Wood (1994)

Zip.ca sent me this DVD about three weeks ago but I didn’t feel like watching it until Friday night. I forgot how great Tim Burton’s film about Hollywood’s worst director was.

Johnny Depp is a lot of fun to watch as Edward Wood Jr. Martin Landau is terrific as Bela Lugosi and won an Oscar for his performance.

My favourite scene is between Orson Welles (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) and Ed Wood in a bar. Welles complains to Wood about the difficulty he’s having in making a film about Don Quixote. Welles tried to make a film about Don Quixote for his entire life and never succeeded.

The irony in this scene is that Johnny Depp went on to star in Terry Gilliam’s film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote which was never completed. See Lost In La Mancha (2002) to see what happened to that film.

The black and white DVD video looks great in anamorphic wide screen (1:85:1). The sound is great as well but it won’t give your a receiver a workout by any means. DVD extras? Lots of them although nothing really stands at as a “must see” featurette.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:10 PM

Living in Oblivion (1995)

I finally had a chance to watch Living in Oblivion, written and directed by Tom DiCillo. It’s a quirky little film about filmmaking that will make you laugh and wonder how much of this film is based on real events.

Steve Buscemi stars as a troubled director of a film with no budget, fragile stars (Catherine Keener) and sensitive director of photography (Dermot Mulroney) who wears an eye patch. If you’re at all interested in the filmmaking process then you have to see this cult film.

As an added bonus, “the angry little dwarf” (Peter Dinklage) from the movie Elf has a funny role in this film. Your best bet for renting this will be Zip.ca or Netflix.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:06 PM

Thieves Highway (1949)

I watched Thieves Highway, directed by Jules Dassin on the weekend. This another recent release from the Criterion Collection.

Of the three Dassin films that I’ve seen to date, Rififi is by far the best. Thieves Highway was one of the last pictures that Dassin directed in the US before he was exiled to France. It has some nice moments—the scene where the transport truck veers off the road and crashes. Dassin describes this scene as being one of his favourites in an interview, included on the DVD.

The sad thing about Thieves Highway is that studio head, Daryl Zanuck changed the ending of the film without Dassin knowing. And Terry Gilliam thought he had it rough when Universal Pictures changed the ending to his film Brazil.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 10:58 AM

Night and the City (1950)

Thank you Zip.ca for sending me this brand new release from The Criterion Collection. Night and the City, is the third film released by The Criterion Collection, that is directed by Jules Dassin.

This is the second Dassin film that I’ve watched and continue to be impressed. If you enjoy film noir then this is required viewing. Shot entirely in London, Dassin shows us the gritty underworld of desperate hustlers and grifters. The lead character, Harry Fabian reminds me of Harry Lime in The Third Man—always running and hiding from someone.

The Criterion DVD has some great special features. I was most impressed with a 20-minute feature that compares the musical scores of the American and British versions of the film. Not only is the music entirely different but the film editing varies between the two versions as well. This provides a fascinating glimpse into the creative process of filmmaking. This is a film I could easily watch again and will consider adding to my collection.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 1:47 PM

Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Last night I watched Che Guevara road trip movie on DVD—The Motorcycle Diaries.

The visuals are stunning and make up for the moments where the film tends to drag. I didn’t know much about Guevara going into this film. By the end credits I still didn’t really know very much about him but I was entertained. Don’t expect much in terms of character development or biography. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

The anamorphic widescreen presentation made me feel like I was in South America. The scene at Machu Picchu is my favourite—damp, mystical, mysterious. It’s hard to believe that Universal also released this film in a fullscreen version. I pity the fool that rents/purchases a copy.

The soundtrack is also excellent and really adds some punch to the beautiful visuals. The song “Al Otro Lado Del Río” won the Oscar for best original song and sounds fabulous in Dolby Digital.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 2:00 PM

Cellular (2004)

The premise behind Cellular (2004) seems like an interesting concept—a young man receives a phone call from a woman who is kidnapped and must stay on the line with her until she is safe. The problem is that the screenplay, the acting, and the movie just blows.

The movie should have been called Cliché because it borrows heavily from every police thriller in the last 20 years. I broke out laughing near the end of the film when William H. Macy’s character does a slow motion dive and shoots bad guy Jason Statham to save the day. Oh sorry, I just gave away the ending.

So to sum up, terrible dialogue, over-acting and good action sequences add up to Cellular—a movie for the 13-year-old crowd at the cineplex. On a positive note the video transfer for this disc looks great and the audio is impressive. My advice, resist the urge to watch this film just because it is a new release.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 1:21 PM

Saw (2004)

A friend of mine watched this film back in November and mentioned how good it was, that it was worth seeing in the theatre. He was right. Saw is excellent! I watched it last night and was riveted from beginning to end. I jumped in a few places and cringed in others.

Saw is probably the best thriller since the David Fincher’s SE7EN (1995). It borrows a little too much from SE7EN and Silence of the Lambs but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The script is pretty clever and keeps you guessing until the very end of the film. It’s hard to believe that it was written and directed by a couple of Australian guys in their early 20s. But why not? Orson Welles made Citizen Kane when he was only 25.

It was nice to see Cary Elwes playing a lead in a decent film. Danny Glover plays a cop, a role he can do in his sleep, but to his credit, he brings a creepiness to the role.

The DVD looks great in anamorphic widescreen. If you have a DTS 6.1 receiver then you’re in for a treat because this is a terrific sounding disc. I’ve only seen the movie once but the commentary with director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell is supposed to be quite good and funny at times.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 2:02 PM

Ray (2004)

Last weekend I watched the special edition DVD of Ray. The music is excellent. Jamie Foxx does a fabulous job of becoming Ray Charles. I think he deserves an Oscar for his performance.

Who knew that Foxx was an accomplished pianist? Director Taylor Hackford was pleasantly surprised when he learned that Foxx would be able to play the piano for his film. More information like this is availabe on the special features DVD and worth watching.

There is a sadness to the story of Ray Charles that comes across in the film. I think you get a reall sense of this in the scenes that flashback to his childhood. Overall, the film is a great tribute to a musical genius. Turn up the volume and prepare to be impressed.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 3:18 PM

North by Northwest (1959)

I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest on the weekend for the first time. From the famous opening title sequence by Saul Bass, to the climax of the film on Mount Rushmore, I had a sense that I’d seen this film before.

A number of directors have paid homage to Hitchcock’s creative genius in a number of films. Here is what I’ve been able to spot in North by Northwest.

  • The Saul Bass title sequence where the titles share the same perspective as the Manhattan skyscrapers is completely reproduced for the opening title sequence of David Fincher’s Panic Room.
  • James Bond film, From Russia with Love borrows heavily from the crop duster scene where Cary Grant is almost run down by an airplane.
  • John Woo borrows from the same scene in Paycheck where a subway train is substituted for the crop duster
  • The English Patient where Ralph Fiennes is almost run down by a plane in the desert
  • Hitchcock reveals Cary Grant in the reflection of a TV set near the end of the film — M. Night Shyamalan shows the reflection of an alien in a TV set at the climax of his film Signs

If you have any other examples from North by Northwest or any other Hitchcock films I’d be interested in hearing from you. Send me an email.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 9:48 PM

Open Range (2003)

Last night I watched Kevin Costner’s Open Range based on The DVD Journal’s top 10 list of DVD releases for 2004. I wasn’t disappointed.

Open Range is a great western that didn’t do a lot of box office but is worth viewing., Costner directs and stars in the film along with Robert Dvual and Annette Bening. The cinematography is spectacular and left me wanting to head back to Calgary for another visit (the film was shot in Calgary, Alberta).

The story is pretty straightforward and the acting is solid. The sound design is incredible. I watched the DVD with the DTS track and whoa! You feel like you’re right there on the range with the wind and rain blowing around you. You can feel the blast of the shotgun when it is fired. This is one of the best sounding DVDs that I’ve seen in a while.

Overall, an enjoyable film. There is also a second disc that has a great documentary on modern filmmaking that I will have to view at some point.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 3:30 PM

The Terminal (2004)

In a moment of weakness, I rented The Terminal because I thought my wife might enjoy it. After enduring Cast Away (2000) few years ago, I never wanted to see another movie where Tom Hanks is in nearly every scene.

How bad could another Spielberg/Hanks movie be? I really enjoyed Catch Me If You Can (2002) and thought The Terminal might be okay. It was actually pretty good!

Hanks does a great job portraying an eastern European that is trapped in JFK for nine months. The supporting cast was excellent. My favourite character was Gupta—the janitor who enjoys mopping the floors in JFK and watching distracted travellers slip and fall. He’s played by Kumar Pallana who you might remember as the character of Pagoda in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).

If you’re in the mood for some light comedy then this is a good rental. There’s nothing special about the DVD other than maybe the DTS track.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 9:28 PM

The Fog of War (2003)

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a fabulous documentary film. I love the way that director, Errol Morris, shouts his question from behind the camera. The production value, the original music, the motion graphics, everything is beautifully put together.

McNamara has led a fascinating life—served in WWII, president of Ford Motor Company, US Secretary of Defense for Kennedy and Johnson and president of the World Bank. Even more fascinating are some of the darker moments in US history. In WW II the US wiped out 100,000 Japanese people in a single night of firebombing. 100,000 people! The number of civilians killed in the bombing of other Japanese cities is embarrassing. McNamara feels that many generals would have been tried as war criminals if the US had lost the war.

McNamara also makes a strong point about the US having the support of its allies before going to war against a nation—it didn’t have this with Vietnam and it lost. Fast-forward 30 years and look at what the Bush administration has learned from Vietnam. Not very much it seems.

McNamara played a role in the deaths of thousands of people. Quite often in the interviews with Morris, McNamara becomes quite emotional. How do go from being US Secretary of Defense to president of the World Bank? I can’t help but wonder if McNamara has been trying to ‘atone for his sins’.

The Fog of War is worth a viewing if you haven’t seen it yet. I’ll probably watch it again on DVD—there is a lot to digest in one sitting. There aren’t a lot of extras, maybe 10 minutes of deleted scenes but who cares? This film doesn’t really need them.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 7:45 PM

DVD Town

Movie news and reviews. I’m always on the lookout for great DVD sites. DVD Town is nicely designed, has great cover art photography, good reviews, announcements and HDDVD.org—a site devoted to the latest news on HD-DVD and Blue-Ray disc formats.

Posted in DVD Reviews and Web at 11:51 AM

The Door in the Floor (2004)

Fabulous! I wasn’t expecting much from this film and was really impressed by the time the end credits rolled. Jeff Bridges turns in a great performance as a writer and is the main reason I recommend viewing this film.

I found that the story stays with you, that you don’t want it to end, that you want to the know the characters more deeply. To satisfy my curiosity I purchased A Widow For One Year by John Irving—the book that The Door in the Floor is based on.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:02 PM

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

Okay, I have to be honest. By Saturday night at 11 PM I was starting to feel a little tired. After 70 minutes into The Chronicles of Riddick I fell asleep. Part of me wants to rent the DVD again but the other part of me is saying, “why bother?” Vin Diesel? Judi Dench? It just wasn’t working for me.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:03 PM

The Clearing

Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe. Solid acting but very predictable. Interesting use of time—Redford and Dafoe’s screen time takes place in the same day while the rest of the story is spread out over several days. I kept expecting more and was disappointed when I realized what the outcome would be.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:02 PM

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

I had a sneak peek at this DVD on Friday night (it isn’t due out until today). If you liked The Bourne Identity then you’ll love this DVD. The car chase scene is up there with The French Connection and Ronin.

The bonus features explain how they were able to bring more realism to the car chase which takes place in Moscow. Not to be missed!

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:58 PM

Aladdin (1992)

Lissa wanted to see this one again and Daniel has never seen it. So I picked up the 2-disc special edition that just came out. The last time I saw this was in the theatre in 1992.

The new DVD version has a Dolby Digital version and a Disney Enhanced Home Theatre Mix which sounded great. I have no idea what the difference is.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:54 PM

The Paradine Case (1947)

The Paradine Case (1947). Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Gregory Peck. This was my first time seeing this film and I really enjoyed it. Great courtroom drama. I found Charles Laughton’s performance as a fat, sexist, cigar-smoking, judge to be quite amusing.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 4:52 PM

Lost In La Mancha (2002)

At the last minute, Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe decided to make another documentary of a Terry Gilliam film—The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (in 1996 they made The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys). They figured that during the shoot of a Terry Gilliam film, anything can and will happen. What they captured on film is considered to be the first documentary of the un-making of a film.

Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was abandoned shortly after it was started. Jean Rochefort, playing Don Quixote had a prostate infection or was it a bad back? He spent seven months learning English for the role and would have been great. He was finished after the first week of shooting, suffering from back pain.

There was the freakish storm with golf ball size hail that literally washed away the entire set. Did I mention that this set was right beside a NATO bombing range?

You get to see Gilliam constantly losing it on the set as the problems mount. Nothing is censored. Johnny Depp, the other lead is often sitting around waiting, while Gilliam and company figure out how to shoot a scene as NATO jets scream by and drop bombs in the background.

If you’re a fan of Terry Gilliam’s films (Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys) then you won’t want to miss Lost In La Mancha. It’s a fascinating look at the filmmaking process and the chaos that often surrounds Gilliam’s films.

The second disc in the DVD edition of the film is packed with 3 hours of extra features—deleted scenes from the documentary, interviews with Johnny Depp, Terry Gilliam, Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe and a really interesting 55 minute conversation with Salman Rushdie and Terry Gilliam at the Telluride Film Festival.

Gilliam says that he will eventually make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. He is trying to buy back the rights to the screenplay and is hoping that his next feature, The Brothers Grimm (2005), is a big hit so that the studios will finance Quixote. Johnny Depp also said that he would continue making the film with Gilliam in a second.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 5:31 PM

A Decade Under the Influence (2003)

If you’re at all interested in films from the 1970s then you have to see this documentary. If you’ve read Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind then is mandatory viewing.

A Decade Under the Influence was directed by Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme—the last film Demme complete before dying of a heart attack. There was also a recent documentary based on Biskind’s book about 70s film culture but I don’t think it was as good.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 7:38 PM

The Faculty (1998)

Last night we watched The Faculty. Why The Faculty? Because I made the mistake of taking Vanessa with me to Blockbuster (she’s in love with Josh Hartnett). I was also surprised to see that Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Desperado) directed it.

I wasn’t expecting much but have to say that I enjoyed The Faculty—a well-done, campy, horror flick about a bunch of teenage misfits. Think of a ‘90s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers that pays homage to Lifeforce, Scream and slew of other movies. Robert Patrick was quite funny as the football coach. The cast also features Elijah Wood, Salma Hayek, Piper Laurie (played Sissy Spacek’s mother in Carrie), Jon Stewart and Bebe Neuwirth.

If you need to laugh and enjoyed similar movies like Scream, then rent The Faculty.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 6:14 PM

American Pie 2

I watched American Pie 2 last night. It ticked me off that Blockbuster is carrying the fullscreen version on DVD. I didn’t see anything on the DVD case to indicate that I was renting the fullscreen version and couldn’t be bothered driving back to get a widescreen version (if they carry one). The movie is just as funny as the first one and end up laughing all the way through. Stiffler rocks!

I also rented The Ghost and the Darkness (1996). Yeah, I know. Talk about change of pace. I’ve seen everything that’s recent so I usually walk up and down the rental aisles for 20 minutes trying to find something decent that I somehow missed. The Ghost and the Darkness is a good movie that IMDB describes as:

Set in 1898, this movie is based on the true story of two lions in Africa that killed 130 people over a nine month period, while a bridge engineer (Val Kilmer) and an experienced old hunter (Michael Douglas) tried to kill them.
Thanks to Mr. Kerr, I now have a DVD of The Rock. He picked up the Criterion Edition 2-disc set last week and gave me his ‘inferior’ copy. Maybe I’ll watch that tonight.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:58 PM

Following (1998)

Friday night I saw Following (1998). It was written and directed by Christopher Nolan who also wrote and directed Memento.

Shot in black and white, just over an hour long, this film is excellent—one that really challenges the viewer to constantly think and figure out what is going before it’s explained in the end. If you liked Memento then you’ll enjoy Following. The DVD also has some cool features where you can switch between the screenplay and the movie (as it is playing), or view the movie in chronological order.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 8:45 PM

Big Night (1996)

Lissa picked up one of my favourite films, Big Night (1996). It was one of the first films on DVD making it very difficult to find. She found it at Very Video here in Toronto (slightly cheaper than Amazon.com).

Stanley Tucci co-wrote, co-directed with Cambell Scott, and starred in this comedy about two Italian brothers whose fabulous restaurant is on the brink of bankruptcy. It also stars Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Tony Shaloub, Cambell Scott and Allison Janney.

Critically acclaimed, Big Night is an excellent film that will leave you with a strong desire to make an exotic Italian dish, once the credits roll.

Posted in DVD Reviews at 1:54 AM