All 6 entries tagged DVD

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January 31, 2007

You will be sadly missed

Follow-up to Impulse from [TBA]

That’s the tagline on my latest temptation to keep me from my PhD: the Six Feet Under complete DVD collection. It looks stunning and murky, just like the show! Got to prepare my class for tomorrow though, but lots of dark fun will be had in the next few weeks!


January 26, 2007

Impulse

I feel a bit sick :-/

I just spent a load of money on a boxset of one of the best TV shows ever broadcast. And this is after I received the first series of The Sopranos this morning.

Maybe it would be best if the maths department would keep hold of my salary until I actually need it…

To make me feel better I’m planning to spend the whole weekend reading up on cloud physics and parallel programming.

Sometimes I wonder whether my cells were leftovers and outcasts and decided the only way to survive was to form me.


December 21, 2006

East Side Story

Writing about web page http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/rent/index.html

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Will I lose my dignity?
Will someone care?
Will I wake tomorrow,
from this nightmare?

It’s a shame and a blessing this song is so utterly depressing, as it means we’ll never do it in Rev.

RENT is anything but depressing. Unfortunately I’ve been too late with my career moves [1] to see the stage version, but with widescreen and surround sound and an amazing adaptation, the film takes away the need to spend a fortune to watch this live. Instead, after having seen it 3+ times in one week, I can honestly say it doesn’t lose any of its impact.

Apparently, I’ve been informed, the film gains its strength from the director’s approach. Chris Columbus – famous for directing and producing such great films as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Stepmom, and Home Alone – managed to attract some of the original Broadway cast, and as such kept some of the stage elements of the screenplay, hardly focussing on a single person, but showing the interactions between the characters. It seems to draw out the similarities between the characters, rather than their differences, which is a good thing when we’re talking about seasons of love.

I’m not too sure why I love it so much. Usually I try to find a reason to give less than 5 stars in a review, but I’m actively trying to have everyone I know to see this film. It’s got characters for everyone to enjoy – although most of them are artists (bohemians) to some extent, there is the geek, the introvert, the extrovert, the madwoman, the businesswoman – and it’s got diverse musical influences with 80s house, gospel and soul, 90s rock, though mostly in a musical flavour.

Earlier today, I told someone it’s about New York, love, bills, and AIDS. Rich (my other housemate) thought he’d elaborate and said he appreciated the juxtaposition [2] of the wealthy, moneymaking individuals, and the poor but loving and funmaking group of tenants. I appreciate that it isn’t a musical just about a romantic story, but that it shows so much about the society of the setting.

I was a bit worried after seeing the placid film adaption of Phantom of the Opera, which seemed to have combined the worst parts of stage and cinema. However, RENT is simply wonderful, so let me know when you want to see it! [3]

1 Most tragically, being born too late to actually be aware of this musical in theatres in a place I could easily get too at a later stage in my life.

2 He didn’t actually say juxtaposition I think, but Alice of Vicar of Dibley used it earlier today and it got stuck in my head.

3 But please wait until I’ve actually managed to leave the country despite the fog, and then wait till I have come back in the new year.


May 01, 2006

Natural Born Killers

Title:
Rating:
Not rated

Right.

I guess it's about love. And death. A lot of death. A lot of bloody death.

At first I nearly got sick coz of all the gore. And then I stopped caring, so that I could watch the film. I guess that's how serial killers are born.

Watch this film if you are a fan of Tarantino's work, or if you liked Kill Bill I & II (in my eyes not exactly a tautology). Or if you like road or prison movies and don't mind too much violence.

If you're no fan of either, then at least consider the excellent soundtrack.


September 25, 2005

The World's Greatest

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Rubbish! I'm positive someone on the Warwick blogosphere had already written a great review of this film but I can't find it! Hmm… guess I'll have to spend a bit longer on this entry than planned.

I'm not a fan of boxing. Neither am I fond of glorifying films. However, this pic manages to depict what it's not meant to be depicting. The boxing sequences are a delight to watch – you crawl into Ali's mind and see all the punches fly at you whilst thinking out tactics [walk back] then switch to a long shot of just the footwork of the two fighters, without making you feel you're missing any of the action. And for glorification there is no space reserved – the part of Ali's (or Cassius') life that forms the storyline is not glorious at all. It almost ends up being a socio-political drama instead.

Actually, I lied. There is quite some glorifying. Although I'm not too informed on 1960s American history to know whether Ali was as big a political figure as Malcolm X. But that's what the film makes you believe. And the way this film has been produced, I'm quite happy to believe Ali was a great figure in that time. Someone should have taught him to speak clearly though.

Nearly everything in this film is perfect. The soundtrack on its own is worth 5 stars, and is seamlessly incorporated into each scene, often more thought provoking than the images themselves, but also given new meaning – or clarified in their relevance to the time [A Change Is Gonna Come after Malcolm X is shot dead – this shouldn't be a spoiler. Actually, I could tell the whole storyline and not spoil anything unless you know nothing about Ali's life] by whatever is on screen. And those images are wonderful in their own right. A lot of play with light and dark, and great interplay between Ali's life and current affairs.

Acting performances are great. Smith manages to make you believe he is a great boxer – maybe even Ali – as he dances inside and outside the ring. His scenes with sportscaster Howard Cosell [an amazing performance from Jon Voight – seriously, this actor sneaks into great films like a fox and you never know it's him till you see the credits. I truly believed this was a real-life sportscaster! Interviewing Will Smith…] are great amusement and the two must have had fun re-enacting those moments. Jamie Foxx is hardly recognizable as a balding (Jewish?) alcoholic who happens to be Ali's motivator, but puts down the most outstanding performance [apart from Jon Voight, but I thought that was a guy doing his actual job so let's just talk about obvious actors here] in this film, but unfortunately he doesn't spend too much time on screen here.

There is the greatest debit of the film. Although the scenes follow each other perfectly, and the story is not too hard to follow, in the 3 hours it takes from A to B, there are too many sub plots and sidetracks to actually enable us to enjoy a single character. It starts of with the focus on Cassius Clay becoming a champion and being renamed Mohammed Ali, with in the background his friendship with Malcolm X. The second part shows us Ali's trouble with the draft, a pending imprisonment, and his lack of income due to lack of boxing license. And the third and final is all about the build up to the Rumble in the Jungle, Ali's fight with George Foreman in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). In 3 hours we get to see about 4 people around Ali helping in his boxing career – seems pretty important to me to get to know them, but only Foxx manages to leave some impression, but not enough to give us an idea what his character actually did for Ali. Then there are 3 wives (at different times) who just come and go. Yes, just like that. Somewhere in between there is the friendship with and murder of Malcolm X, and a row between Ali and his dad about discarding the family (slave) name of Clay. With about 20 important people in Ali's life, the only character I feel I really got to know is Cosell [Jon Voight's]. And I learned some more about the social and political ongoings in the 1960s.

As a story-telling film, that's where its shortcomings lay. No problems with Smith's performance – the emphasis was just too much on what we already know: Ali's a womanizer, a great boxer, and had some great punchlines as well. As a 'motion picture' it's great. What your eyes get to register is one of the best and most beautiful film sequences – especially when boxing is concerned. The film is entertaining and educational, with great acting and a wonderful soundtrack. It's just a shame Ali had so many important and people worthy-of-a-story around him.


April 09, 2005

A Tale of Two Families

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

While the buzz of the latest American hot drama (Desperate Housewives) is wearing off, it's time to remind us of a modern classic: the Sopranos.

Revolving around capo Tony Soprano, the story tells us about the middle aged family man trying to control his own family and working his way up in his extended family, the New Jersey mob. His fortune is troubled by a God-awful mother who is never satisfied, and by meat—induced anxiety attacks.

The show is carried by outstanding performances by its lead actors James Gandolfini (playing Tony Soprano) and Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano). Despite all the crimes and blasphemy, it is hard not to feel connected to their characters. If not, there is a perfect character for every age group, making the show an unlikely family program. I was convinced that with all the swearing and prostitution that the show was big amongst men, but apparently women are its most avid viewers.

The first series – supposedly what this review is about – introduces us to Tony's world. His character is quickly developed, leaving room for the numerous sideshow villains to grow up fastly and die young (and nastily). Its pro is the lack of annoying characters (of which there's one in any of the next series) though it lacks a truly binding storyline (being the first series).

The second series is probably the best so far, as it gets harder for Tony to keep his two families apart. Friends and family all become possible victims and traitors as the feds get more interest in the Sopranos' "waste disposal" company.

The third series is the reason I write this entry. I got the series for Christmas 2003 and watched it in the same break (possibly even in 2 days). Last week (in fact, after a Desperate Housewives episode) I decided to show my friend what a real good show is like, which marked the first time since that Christmas that I watched the DVDs again. The third series lacks the pace and excitement of the first two, and it's harder to like Tony himself as he starts off being a racist and ends up killing people closer to him than ever before. Still, some of the best episodes – mainly involving funerals – reside in these series, as especially the blood family relations become clearer.

The fourth series has appeared on DVD by now and brings us Joe Pantoliano in the role of Ralphie, one of the annoying characters I referred to earlier. Again less pace than the previous series, though ever so gruesome. Ralphie already appeared in series 3, but now he really makes Tony's life miserable. Still, his story is not the most shocking one in these series. The quality of the show never gets worse than that of the best Desperate Housewives episode. The same can be said for series 5, though by that time, some of the more interesting characters have joined the "witness protection" program, and the show turns its eye on a battle of the mobs, as the New York maffia gets more involved in New Jersey.

Before my laptop battery fails on me again, let me advise you to follow the show chronologically, if you're interested. The first series is not extremely important, but a great way to get into the New Jersey maffia lifestyle. If you like any of the American shows Channel 4 currently broadcasts, you should definitely give it a go. Less long winded than Desperate Housewives and definitely less over the top than the OC, it's quality entertainment. Don't forget to stock in on pizza!


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