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HT Staff Posted: Sep 20, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Walking Tall—MGM/UA
Video: 3
Audio: 3
Extras: 3
It's hard to fathom why a DVD for a movie that runs a scant 73 minutes, not counting credits, would even have deleted scenes. After all, it's not like there wasn't room in the film. Still, we find three of them on the disc for Walking Tall, a silly but rather guilty pleasure for anyone wanting to see a good (fact-based) revenge story or the Rock whup some ass with a four-by-four cedar stick. You don't get to know any of the characters, and others are forgotten about altogether, but the fight scenes are well executed, and there are a few explosive moments.
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HT Staff Posted: Dec 08, 2004 0 comments
DVD: The Alamo—Buena Vista
Audio: 3
Video: 4
Features: 4
I'm not a huge history buff myself, but this version of the story of the men who held the Alamo against Mexican General Santa Ana is compelling and beautifully told, though some may argue that the story isn't historically accurate. As usual, Billy Bob Thornton (as Davy Crockett) steals the show, but the rest of the cast (Dennis Quaid, Jason Patric, and Patrick Wilson) hold their own as well.
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HT Staff Posted: Jun 14, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Field of Dreams Two-Disc Anniversary Edition—Universal
Video: 4
Audio: 4
Extras: 4
In one of those creative masterstrokes that elude most of us, the resurrection of Shoeless Joe Jackson is used as a foil to re-examine the American experience of the 20th century, first in the book and later in the movie Field of Dreams, wherein ex-hippie/farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) risks everything by plowing under his crop to give Jackson and others a place to play.
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HT Staff Posted: Mar 28, 2005 0 comments
DVD: Cellular—New Line
Abducted Jessica Martin's frantic wire-connecting on a smashed-up landline phone finally connects her with cell-phoned surfer-dude Ryan (Chris Evans) in Cellular, an action thriller that has just enough cool touches to make it effective. After Jessica (Kim Basinger) is threatened by three men looking for her husband, she is forced to protect her child, give up his locale, and beg this skeptical stranger to believe her and help her. Ryan eventually does and is determined to aid and not lose their tenuous phone link. Part Speed, part Phone Booth, this ride is filled with crashes and chases and is a high-octane trip that's a taut 95 minutes.
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HT Staff Posted: Aug 19, 2005 0 comments
DVD: Be Cool:
I am a big Get Shorty fan. The dialogue, the acting, and the plot all just exude a coolness that is never struggled for, just achieved. The thought of a sequel seemed a little odd, but knowing that it is based on the Elmore Leonard sequel novel, I had high hopes. The end result was admittedly funny but nowhere near the quality of the original. The story takes place a few years after Get Shorty, and Chili Palmer is deciding to get out of the movie business. After a friend gets murdered, he decides to get into the music business instead. Far too many jokes are rehashed, but that in itself isn't the problem. Whereas the original was an effortless cool, this movie tries too hard to be cool—and rarely succeeds. Far too much time is spent on the (admittedly excellent) secondary characters, with Chili himself just kind of showing up to drive the plot along. The effect, though, highlights two of the best aspects of this movie: the Rock and André 3000. These two absolutely steal the movie, and this disc is worth a rental just for them. There are many musician cameos, but, unlike in Get Shorty, where actor cameos are natural (as in, they can act), the musician cameos are often awkward and distracting.
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HT Staff Posted: Aug 16, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Purple Rain 20th-Anniversary Edition—Warner Brothers
Video: 4
Audio: 4
Extras: 4
The artist currently (and formerly) known as Prince experienced quite the career resurrection in 2004. The year began with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he followed that up with his biggest album and tour in ages. With the purple one's place atop the pop world once again secure, Warner Brothers has found the perfect time to release the 20th-anniversary, special-edition DVD of Purple Rain.
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HT Staff Posted: Apr 26, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Big Fish—Columbia TriStar
Video: 3
Audio: 4
Extras: 3
The volatile dynamic between fathers and sons is as much a part of our collective experience as the need to tell stories. Big Fish weaves the two elements into one tale about a man who loves to tell and retell the fantastic (and somewhat unbelievable) stories of his life and the son who just wants to know who his father really is. Amidst endlessly entertaining, imaginative vignettes brought to the screen as only director Tim Burton can, Big Fish deftly portrays the quiet familial struggle. Burton and crew strike the perfect balance between both story elements, and the result is a wonderfully sweet, poignant film.
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HT Staff Posted: Jun 21, 2004 0 comments
DVD: City of God—Buena Vista
Audio: 3
Video: 4
Extras: 4
The outskirts of Brazil's Rio de Janeiro stand in stark contrast to the festive, colorful city known for drawing tourists from around the world. In squalid, dangerous slums, children grow up relying on the protection of drug lords to survive, learning early on that the city's police force is not to be trusted. City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles, follows one young boy who eventually finds his way out of his miserable living conditions by taking photographs of the violence within.
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HT Staff Posted: Aug 30, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Dallas: The Complete First and Second Seasons—Warner Brothers
Video: 3
Audio: 2
Extras: 2
Dallas' premiere in 1978 helped to usher in a new television genre: the prime-time soap opera. It had been tried before, but the amazing success of Dallas spawned an instant wave of imitators. Flamingo Road, Falcon Crest, and Dynasty all soon hit the airwaves in an attempt to cash in on the craze. The attentive viewer will notice something similar about these shows: All of the characters are filthy rich. Yes, it seems that America loves to watch shows about miserable wealthy people. They say that money can't buy happiness, but I bet you'll have some trouble convincing Aaron Spelling of that fact.
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HT Staff Posted: Jul 12, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London—MGM/UA
Audio: 4
Video: 4
Extras: 2
If your kids are fans of the first Cody Banks movie, do yourselves a favor and just keep popping that puppy into the player. Steer clear of this strained and largely humorless sequel. What's the problem? Cody 2 has too much "spy" and not enough "kids." CIA operative Banks, now 16, is acting like a grown-up secret agent, which robs this film of the charm that Frankie Muniz displayed while learning the ropes in the first movie. There's zero chemistry between him and his female counterpart/love interest, Hannah Spearritt; and all the dads out there would probably agree that we'd rather watch statuesque Angie Harmon play Banks' "handler" than pudgy Anthony Anderson (even though Anderson tries to be funnier).
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HT Staff Posted: Oct 25, 2004 0 comments
DVD: That's Entertainment: The Complete Collection—MGM/UA
Video: 4
Audio: 4
Extras: 2
A fully remastered picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio make this compilation leap off the screen. A tribute to the golden-era of movie musicals and the studio that essentially made the medium, these four discs are full of wholesome entertainment. There is something sweeping and epic about these clips and performances, the grand scale on which these were mounted interspersed with classic solo dances from Fred Astaire and many others. Seeing the full body in motion, fluid and in long takes without cuts is really the only way photographed dance should be seen. The beauty of the art form in all its striking color and sound is simply a joy. Plus, some non-dance sequences are here from the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, and the like, highlighting the intricate choreography of physical comedy as well as classic verbal timing.
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HT Staff Posted: Jan 11, 2005 0 comments
DVD: This So-Called Disaster—MGM/UA
Video: 2
Audio: 2
Extras: 0
This avant-garde documentary traces the weeks of rehearsal leading up to a 2000 play by playwright and director Sam Shepard, based on his relationship with his own alcoholic father. Shepard assembled a cast that included Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, and Woody Harrelson, and while it's interesting to watch these pros prepare for their curtain call, they all seem to get along too well to make this more than an occasionally interesting behind-the-scenes look at live theater. The best drama—whether fiction or reality television—comes from conflict, but there's none to be found here, despite the disc jacket's claim that the play's characters "set off a powder keg of emotions so explosive that the actors themselves are drawn into the fray." This is just dull, and even Shepard appears to be dozing off during some of the script-reading sessions. The best moment comes when Harrelson and Penn, apparently competing with Nolte for the title Most Scruffy Looking Actor, bust each other's chops on some of their past film choices (yes, Shanghai Surprise comes into the conversation).
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HT Staff Posted: Apr 24, 2005 0 comments
DVD: Vanity Fair—Universal
In Mira Nair's (Monsoon Wedding) adaptation 19th-century Europe meets the cultural vibrancy of India. Reese Witherspoon stars as the ambitious heroine, Becky Sharp, one of literature's most intriguing and complex female characters. With nothing but wit, beauty, and sensuality at her disposal, Sharp travels on her scheme-filled journey to the height of society, only to find that the destination is as morally low as the gutter from which she came. Gabriel Bryne joins the cast as the devious Marquess of Steyne, along with James Purefoy as Rawdon Crawley. Witherspoon's performance is short of convincing, lacking a smooth transition from coyish girl to brazen coquette.
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HT Staff Posted: May 06, 2005 0 comments
DVD: I [Heart] Huckabees—20th Century Fox
I don't know if I hearted Huckabees, but I liked it an awful lot. It's an odd film (I expect nothing less from David O. Russell, the writer/director of Three Kings and Flirting with Disaster) about an environmental activist (Jason Schwartzman) who hires a pair of existential detectives to help him find meaning in a coincidence that he's experienced. With an incredibly strong cast at his disposal, Russell manages to explore weighty philosophical, political, and social subjects in a way that's both thoroughly relentless and charmingly playful.
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HT Staff Posted: Nov 23, 2004 0 comments
Camille Saint-Sans—Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 Organ (BMG)
[SACD]
Audiophiles the world over cherish RCA's Living Stereo classical recordings that were originally released on LP in the 1950s and remastered to CD in the mid '80s, and they have eagerly anticipated the transfer to SACD. The wait was worth it—pop on one of these Living Stereo discs, and you'll be listening through the mists of time back to the virtual dawn of the stereo era, and yet the realism of the soundstage trounces many more recent recordings. It's also worth noting that, since the original Saint-Sans Organ Symphony master tapes were lost for many years, this SACD is the first reissue sourced from the first-generation masters since it was released on LP.

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