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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: May 17, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series—Shout! Factory
Video: 4
Audio: 3
Extras: 4
This series about high school misfits barely completed a semester during its original run, but it gained a devoted following. The six-disc, 18-episode series includes five installments that never aired on NBC, and they're a real find for fans that can't get enough of early '80s nostalgia.
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HT Staff Posted: Apr 11, 2005 0 comments
DVD: The Forgotten—Columbia/TriStar
A twisting, turning, supernatural story, The Forgotten stars Julianne Moore as Telly, a woman grieving the loss of her 8-year-old son. The only problem is, everyone around her insists that the boy she misses so desperately never actually existed. As she continues to cling to her memories, she finds herself sinking further into a nightmare. Although the heart of the film is about the unbreakable bond between parent and child, the story offers enough government conspiracy and X-Files-type intrigue to give it wider appeal.
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HT Staff Posted: Mar 09, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Schindler's List—Universal
Video: 4
Audio: 3
Extras: 4
The excitement I felt when I heard that Schindler's List was finally coming to DVD was quickly replaced by a sense of dread when I realized that, in order to review the disc, I'd have to watch the film. Don't misunderstand. I have nothing but the highest regard for this cinematic masterpiece, but it's not exactly a casual, fun evening in front of the tele. Schindler's List is meant to devastate you, to break your heart by putting a human face on so many of the faceless victims of the Holocaust. Devastate you it will, but you're better off for having witnessed it.
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HT Staff Posted: Apr 12, 2004 0 comments
DVD: The Cat in the Hat—Universal
Video: 5
Audio: 5
Extras: 2
It's always dangerous to remake a classic, yet director Bo Welch and company evidently had little fear of (or much respect for) the original Dr. Seuss tale in which a mischievous cat with a mysterious-but-colorful hat magically enters the lives of a brother and sister who need a lesson about balance in their lives. Although the DVD case claims that "the Classic Book Comes to Life," sadly, the childlike wonder and simple beauty of Suess' well-hewn prose and intriguingly alluring drawings are regularly shortchanged in favor of Mike Myers' antics and strangely out-of-place, off-color humor.
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HT Staff Posted: Jan 17, 2005 0 comments
DVD: Tanner '88—Criterion and Tanner on Tanner—Sundance Channel Home Entertainment
Audio: 3
Video: 2
Extras: 4
If last year's contentious presidential race wasn't enough to demonstrate how ridiculous politics can be, Tanner 88 and Tanner on Tanner should drive the point home.
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HT Staff Posted: Mar 15, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Mona Lisa Smile—Columbia TriStar
Video: 3
Audio: 3
Exras: 4
In Mona Lisa Smile, Julia Roberts stars as Katherine Watson, an art-history professor who comes to teach at Wellesley College, an all-women's school in Massachusetts. It's 1953, and, naturally, Katherine teaches the women more than just Picasso. It's a predictable movie; if you've seen Dead Poet's Society, you have a pretty good handle on how this film will play out.
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HT Staff Posted: Oct 11, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Raising Helen—Buena Vista
Video: 3
Audio: 3
Extras: 2
In the breezy comedy Raising Helen, Kate Hudson's fast track to agenting in the modeling business gets sidetracked when her sister's three kids move in with her after a fatal accident kills their mom. With the exception of a couple of surprisingly touching moments and the mega-talents of Joan Cusack, no feathers are ruffled too much, leading to the predictable conclusion with lots of smiles and hugs.
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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: Jun 06, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Popeye 75th-Anniversary Celebration Collector's Edition—Koch Vision
Video: 1
Audio: 2
Extras: 0
Cartoon connoisseurs are to be forgiven if they foolishly believe that a three-disc package entitled Popeye: 75th-Anniversary Celebration Collector's Edition might contain a minute or two of archival-worthy, eye-popping Popeye animation. After all, the beautifully designed case jacket proclaims the set offers "85 of the original King Features Syndicate cartoons" that have been "Digitally Remastered with Enhanced Audio and Visual Quality!" You'd also be excused if you didn't immediately realize that the eight hours of 4:3 video accompanied by glorious Dolby Mono sound was culled from those two watershed years of made-for-TV Popeye creativity: 1960 and 1961.
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HT Staff Posted: Feb 14, 2005 0 comments
DVD: The Grudge—Columbia TriStar
Audio: 3
Video: 3
Extras: 3
Since I didn't see this in the theater, I'm gonna have to assume that the audio on my disc wasn't screwed up and that the noise that's supposed to be terrifying the characters in the movie (and by association the viewer) as it signals the "Grudge" is approaching really does sound a lot like "creaaaaakkkkkkkkkk." Yep, kind of like a door hinge that needs to be oiled. It's just, not exactly terror inducing, at all—not even in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Overall, though, this film does compensate for weird plot twists and creaking noises with a decent-sounding DVD. Check out chapter 23 for a good dose of the nice horror movie soundtrack interlaced with the sound of splashing and the cries of that creepy little boy.
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HT Staff Posted: Apr 19, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Love Actually—Universal
Video: 4
Audio: 4
Extras: 4
A review quote on the Love Actually DVD box touts this as "the most delightful film of the year," and that is precisely the world that comes to mind as you watch it: delightful. Yes, it's a very British word to describe a very British film, but it also perfectly encapsulates the film's pacing and performances. Rather than focusing on the trials and tribulations of one couple, Love Actually tells many stories about many couples. It's the anti–Love Story and the screenplay instructor's nightmare, but it's wonderfully engaging (albeit unnecessarily hard on overweight people).
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HT Staff Posted: Feb 27, 2004 0 comments
DVD: Time Bandits DiViMax Special Edition—Anchor Bay
Audio: 2
Video: 3
Extras: 4
This is the third DVD release of Terry Gilliam's 1981 fantasy about a British schoolboy and his adventures with a motley band of time-traveling thieves, assorted historical figures (including John Cleese as Robin Hood and Sean Connery as Agamemnon), a tech-obsessed Evil, and a not-so-wrathful Supreme Being. Anchor Bay's release includes several special features not previously available on disc. There's a funny and revealing interview with Gilliam and co-writer Michael Palin about the production of the film, an AFI-produced documentary on Gilliam's filmography (up to 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), and a DVD-ROM copy of the screenplay. The specials are well done, but a commentary track would have been a welcome addition. A 1999 Criterion release includes such a track from Gilliam, Palin, Cleese, and others.
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HT Staff Posted: Aug 13, 2005 0 comments
DVD: Essential Steve McQueen Collection—Warner Bros
In the simplest possible terms, Steve McQueen had "It." Truly, women wanted him, and men wanted to be him. Maybe it was the eyes, the sense of intensity he conjured, or the impression that he knew something we didn't. Or perhaps it was his physicality, the grace with which he performed his own stunts, combined with his ease and outright glee with props. Warner has assembled some hard evidence of the actor's elusive mystique in their recent Essential Steve McQueen Collection, a grouping of souped-up reissues and new-to-DVD titles.
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HT Staff Posted: Jul 05, 2004 0 comments
DVD: National Lampoon's Senior Trip—New Line
Video: 2
Audio: 2
Extras: 1
The longest road trip you've ever taken won't feel so bad after sitting through this 90-minute "high schoolers-hit-the-road" piece of dreck. The jokes aren't funny, every character is an overdrawn cliché, and there's absolutely no one to hold our interest, let alone root for.

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