Best Defense on DVD
Heres a real stinker that the world would be better off
never having to see on DVD.
The movie is the brainchild, if that can be said, of Gloria Katz
and Willard Huyck, the team who nearly ruined Indiana Jones thanks to their
story for Temple of Doom and who brought us the mega flop (though
not nearly as bad as some people made out) Howard the Duck.
The story, such as it is, concerns Wylie Cooper (Dudley Moore)
a down on his luck engineer working for a down on its luck company
looking to get some lucrative defense contracts. He comes into possession of a
nifty piece of technology that allows his company to snag just such a contract.
Then all hell breaks loose in a story that combines marital
infidelity (well, an attempt at such, anyway), spy intrigue and some supposed
slapstick with some truly embarrasing writing.
Meanwhile, in an series of cuts that make it appear as if this
part was added later as an afterthought to pad the movie out to feature length,
we jump ahead a couple of years to where Eddie Murphy is in Kuwait to test the
military tank that results from the Dudley Moore part of the movie. All hell
breaks loose as the tank runs amok just as Iraq invades Kuwait and Murphy gets
to mug for the camera along with his Kuwaiti people of hench.
Forget it. This is Hollywood military-and-U.S. bashing at its
worst and while the performances are all fine (these actors were obviously
pros, despite the lines they were given), they certainly didnt do their
careers any good by appearing in it.
Its nice to see Canadian actress Helen Shaver again,
Also along for the non-yukfest is Kate Capshaw, who also bears
much of the blame for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This time she plays
Moores wife. In one of the films more subtle moments (sarcasm is
indicated here), shes sitting in her car humming the theme from Indiana
Jones. A real gut buster, that yet probably the funniest part of the
The DVDs okay. At least its presented in anamorphic
widescreen (16x9 TV compatible). Colors are good, though we noticed plenty of
grain in places. Audio is Dolby Digital mono and its about as remarkable
as the screenplay. There are no extras, so once the movies over you can
safely and quickly take the disc out of your player, throw it away, and then
hose down your DVD player.
Just make sure its turned off first so you dont short
Best Defense, from Paramount Home Video
94 min. anamorphic
widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono
Moore, Eddie Murphy, Kate Capshaw, Helen Shaver
Produced by Gloria Katz
Written by Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, directed by Willard Huyck
Vanishing Point on DVD
This cult classic was never a great flick, and it certainly
hasnt aged well but on the other hand it was good to see it again
if only to take a wander down memory lane.
Vanishing Point is the tale of a guy named Kowalski (Barry
Newman), a former cop and racer who delivers cars to faraway cities. He bets a
friend from whom he gets some speed capsules that he can deliver a 1970 Dodge
Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours and we have
ourselves a movie.
Naturally, in order to pull off his amazing feat he has to drive
like a man possessed, and this almost immediately runs him afoul of the law.
But this is basically the Sixties (the decade of love and counterculture, which
spilled over into the Seventies) and so the poor misunderstood misfit is the
good guy and the cops are not only bad guys, but theyre evil idiots and
Kowalski drives not only like a man possessed, but like a madman,
a selfish road hog who treats other motorists as mere obstacles. Oh, he
isnt out to get anyone killed he even stops every time he runs
someone off the road to make sure they arent hurt.
The guys a bleedin saint!
His case, which stretches out from state to state, comes to the
attention of a blind radio DJ (Cleavon Little) thanks to a police scanner, and
he immediately makes Kowalski his cause du jour, singing his praises as the
last free man on the planet and coaching him in his journey by warning him of
impending doom in the form of black and white cruisers.
Its all rather silly in 2004, but the Challenger is really
nice and there are a few decent driving scenes. And if you want a time capsule
of the type of counterculture hit that the youth of the era (including this
reviewer) were flocking to, this one probably ranks up there with such other
minor hits as Billy Jack.
Theres a little bit of nudity, in a free spirited girl, some
drugs, the standard stuff of the genre.
Its worth a look, if only for the Dodge.
The DVD is actually pretty good. Presented in anamorphic
widescreen, the colors are really nice, though we noticed some grain at
different places throughout the film. Overall, however, its fine, and
showcases the excellent cinematography very well. Audio is Dolby Digital stereo
and it wont give your home theater much of a workout. But the Challenger
still sounds good
Extras? Well, the DVD contains both the US and British releases
(we watched the US one, cause thats the one we remembered) and
theres a full length commentary by director Richard C. Serafian. You also
get the trailer and some TV spots.
Vanishing Point, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital stereo
Newman, Dean Jagger, Cleavon Little
Produced by Norman Spencer
by Guillermo Cain, directed by Richard C. Serafian
Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold on
Can you say Indiana Jones wannabe?
If you can, and you still have a good taste in your mouth, perhaps
youll enjoy Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.
Okay, we'll admit that Allan Quatermain is a literary hero whereas
the abovementioned Dr. Jones is a tribute to such heroes. But Indiana Jones, at
least in his first and third outings, made for a great movie experience, while
Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold is a mere pretender to movie
Richard Chamberlain stars as the title character, rejoined in this
sequel to King Solomons Mines by Sharon Stone as his fiancee a
woman determined to take him back to America and make an honest man out of
But that wouldnt make much of a movie, would it? So we have
Allan heading off across the dark continent in search of his brother who is
apparently being held in some legendary lost city of gold populated by a lost
tribe of white Africans. Hes accompanied by his main squeeze, who is
always decorative at worst, some strange religious figure whos actually
the films comedy relief, and James Earl Jones as a larger than life
African whose role is to wield his weapons and whine about the religious guy
for the length of the film.
They're kind of the R2D2 and C2PO combination, though Jones is a
better actor than R2D2.
They face dangers on their way, including some cheesy special
effects and just as cheesy enemies. In the end they discover the tribe, the
lost city, and the brother, but have to defeat an evil dictator (Henry Silva)
and his people of hench who include Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira,
Mistress of the Dark.
Its all pretty silly and you never really get drawn in or
start to actually care about the characters, but if for some reason you
cant find Raiders of the Lost Ark you could watch this to find out, at
the very least, how not to do it.
The DVDs okay. The picture is presented in anamorphic
widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is fine. Audio is Dolby
Digital stereo surround and its okay.
Extras are limited to the theatrical trailer.
Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold
100 min. anamorphic
widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital stereo surround
Starring Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone, James Earl Jones, Henry Silva
Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Written by Gene Quintano,
directed by Gary Nelson
One Million Years
Forget Raquel, this is a Ray Harryhausen movie!
Besides, if youre talking about cast members, this is really
more a John Richardson movie than a Raquel Welch one. She basically plays his
main squeeze, a lady he meets while cruising the prehistoric landscape that
just happens to, rather unscientifically, have dinosaurs sharing the planet
with human beings.
It may not be scientific, but its the real reason to watch
this movie: Harryhausen!
Richardson is a member of the rock people (before there were
electric guitars), but hes banished thanks to some intra-tribe politics
and finds himself wandering around the landscape on his own.
Fortunately, he comes across Raquel and her entourage, members of
the Shell people. This is a more advanced tribe than his own, and he learns
enough from them to take some new technology back to his own people and snuggle
up to them again now accompanied by his woman, the marquee star of the
Forget the story. Its silly and seems only there to give
moviegoers/DVD viewers a chance to see Ray Harryhausens always wonderful
work, as well as to ogle Ms. Welch at the height of her star power (this, along
with Fantastic Voyage, is the role that put her on the map) and she does
fill the skin bikini quite nicely.
Harryhausen fans will enjoy watching the master at work with his
dinosaur models (including a neat battle between two of the giant beasts) as
well as with real, living beasties he manages to make look huge.
Welch fans will enjoy watching Welch strain not to fall out of the
skin bikini. And, alas, she never does.
Its a minor entry in the sci-fi movie catalog, and though it
definitely isnt one of Harryhausens best, his work is definitely
the highlight of the movie.
The DVD, part of a series of Welch features that includes
Bandolero, Myra Breckinridge, and Mother, Jugs and Speed, is pretty grainy.
Fortunately, its also anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, which is
the way it should be. Its watchable, and much of the grain is undoubtedly
due to the extra layers of film required to overlap the special effects
elements. A good remasterings probably in order, though we can think of
other Harryhausen titles wed rather see restored before they get around
to this one.
Audio, Dolby Digital stereo, is also nothing to write home
But give us an opportunity to watch Harryhausen any time and
One Million Years B.C. from 20th Century Fox Home
91 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible),
Dolby Digital stereo
Starring John Richardson, Raquel Welch,
by Michael Carreras,
Written by Michael Carreras, Directed by Don
The Alamo on DVD
John Wayne starred in, produced and directed this epic look at the
famed battle between Mexican forces and a wildly overmatched collection of
He plays Davy Crockett, folk hero and ex-politician who arrives in
Mexican-owned Texas with a group of fellow Tennesseeans who find themselves
front row center at a time in history that still echoes today. Richard Widmark
is Jim Bowie and Laurence Harvey is Col. Travis, the regular army officer
whos the bane of the irregulars who are a lot looser with
This Alamo is epic in look and feel, and according to the box was
shot entirely in Texas within miles of the actual Alamo mission. Its a
huge movie with hundreds of extras and the climactic hopeless battle is well
staged without being unduly graphic the way they used to make movies
when they didnt need to show the gore in order to make their point.
Waynes directorial debut is sprawling and patriotic and over
its 162 minute running time we get a highly entertaining western/war epic
thats well worth seeing. Waynes Crockett is a straight talking, fun
loving, larger than life frontiersman who bonds with the inscrutable Bowie like
a couple of brothers. The two are a marked contrast to the by the
book Colonel Travis.
In the end, of course, their stand is futile as a couple of
hundred men try to defend the mission from an army of several
And the DVD features a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer that,
overall, is sharp and clean and which offers good color. Audio is Dolby Digital
5.1 surround, supposedly, and the audio quality is good. The music stretches
across the front channels very nicely, with the dialogue limited to the center
(which is fine), though its quality isnt as good as the musics.
Extras include the interesting documentary John Waynes
The Alamo, as well as the original theatrical trailer.
The Alamo, from MGM Home Entertainment
162 min. anamorphic
widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio
Starring John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Frankie Avalon, Richard
Written by James Edward Grant
Produced and Directed by John
Shoot or be Shot on
Now heres a guilty pleasure if we ever saw one!
William Shatner chews the scenery in his typical manner in this
tale of a writer trying to get his script produced, a producer trying to get
anything produced, and a director trying to make a film without any script at
Sound like a dogs breakfast? Indeed it does, and its
one that had us laughing out loud more than once!
Shatners overacting actually works to make this film better.
Hes a mental patient with a script who escapes from the looney bin and
heads toward Hollywood determined to get his script made.
Harry Hamlin is also very good as the coiffed, cigar chewing
producer looking for a film thatll enhance his ultra low reputation. Most
of his titles have been B-type exploitation flicks, but then he meets an up and
coming director (Scott Rinker) who eschews scripts in favor of setting up
bizarre situations and then just shooting until something interesting
Well wouldnt you know Hamlin, Rinker and their tiny cast and
crew are out in the sticks trying to make film when Shatner shows up and, at
gunpoint, forces them to shoot his script instead of making the mess that was
There isnt really anything new or groundbreaking here, but
the film never takes itself too seriously and writers will undoubtedly get a
kick out of it as for once theyre actually taken seriously or as
seriously as anything in this ultimately silly film is taken.
Worth one viewing, anyway.
The DVD is actually excellent. The picture is presented in
anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, as well as Pan&Scan on opposite
sides of the same disc (the way it should be). The picture quality is
outstanding, with lovely color and excellent detail.
Audio is Dolby stereo and despite that modest technology,
its also very good.
Forget about any extras, though.
Shoot or be Shot, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible)/Pan&Scan, Dolby
Starring William Shatner, Harry Hamlin, Julieanne Christie,
Produced by Ralph Winter
Written by Alastair Salton,
Steven Catanzaro and J. Randall Argue, directed by J. Randall Argue
Its a blast from the past, a 60s era comedy
thats so 60s, and so silly, that you have to watch it just
Its a cold war comedy of spies and paranoia, delightfully
offbeat and with some good skewering of liberals and their hypocrisy in it as
James Coburn is Dr. Sidney Schaefer, a New York shrink whos
so good hes tapped to become the official shrink of the president of the
United States. But first hes tested by one of his clients (Godfrey
Cambridge), an American spy whos also one of the good doctors
So Schaefer gets the gig and moves to Washington with his live in
girlfriend who becomes his live-out girlfriend when its discovered
that the good doctor talks in his sleep and could be revealing state
It all gets to be too much for Schaefer, who starts seeing enemies
all around him, spies who want to either kill him or kidnap him and flush the
secrets out of his brain. Except that it isnt paranoia: everyone
is trying to either kill him or kidnap him and flush the secrets from
So he bugs out, disappearing into the American landscape and for a
while taking up with a hippie rock band to hide out. But you cant evade
professional spies that easily, and the next thing you know hes heading
back to shore from the Great Lakes in an Amphicar, on his way back to
Washington to take up his duties again thanks to a kindly Soviet spy (Severn
Darden) who now wants to be one of the good doctors clients.
Other than an emotionally gripping opening scene in which
Cambridges character recounts a childhood incident which totally
changes the mood of the film from comedy to drama - silliness reigns supreme
here. Schaefer is even accosted by the Canadian Secret Service, as represented
by a Cockney-sounding git.
The movie looks and acts almost like a 60s vintage spy
thriller, except that the characters and situations are way over the top.
In the process, the filmmakers send up the cold war, psycho-babble, political
correctness, hippies, bureaucrats, corporate domination, and, well, you name
it. This is good stuff.
Coburn, like his costars here, is wonderful. Hes at his
suave, Derek Flint-like best.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible,
and the picture quality is first rate. The image is sharp, colors are bright
and theres good detail. It looks like a quintessential 1960s
The 60s feel splashes over to the audio as well. Its
Dolby Digital mono and is unremarkable, though clean and basically distortion
free. It wont give your home theater a workout, however.
And there are no extras, unfortunately.
The Presidents Analyst, from Paramount Home
102 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible),
Dolby Digital mono
Starring James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden,
Produced by Stanley Rubin,
Written and directed by
Theodore J. Flicker
Barbershop 2: Back in Business on DVD
Talk about a bunch of cutups!
Ice Cube returns in his role of Calvin Palmer, owner of a
neighborhood barbershop which probably doesnt surprise anyone
considering the name of the movie.
The first movie was a hit and before reviewing 2 we must admit
that we never saw it, so that may color our comments.
The plot isn't particularly exciting and its pretty
predictable, but in the end we suppose its enjoyable enough.
The barbershop is doing business as usual, but an evil corporation
(arent they all evil to Hollywood?) is putting a hair cutting chain
outlet across the street and this promises to put the friendly neighborhood
barbershop owned by Palmer out of business. After all, all Palmer offers is
haircuts and camaraderie, while the interloper appears to be a full service
salon that provides just about everything short of hookers.
Maybe they'll add the hookers for Barbershop 3
Anyway, we get the usual small business and neighborhood values
collision with the Soulless Big Guys, interspersed with flashbacks to when
Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), the shop's oldest and most opinionated barber,
came to work for Calvin's dad years ago.
The original cast is back again and this time theyre joined
by Queen Latifah, as the owner of a nearby barbershop.
The performances are pretty good, though we had the dickens of a
time understanding half of what Cedric the Entertainer was saying.
The DVD is very good. The picture is presented in anamorphic
widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) and the picture quality is excellent. Colors
are rich and deep and the image is sharp and bright. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1
surround and its also very good, though it wont really give the
home theater a workout.
Extras include commentaries, one by Cedric the Entertainer, Sean
Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity, and Jazsmin Lewis and the other featuring director
Kevin Rodney Sullivan and producers Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr.. You
also get some deleted scenes, outtakes, music videos, a photo gallery and
Barbershop 2 Back in Business, from MGM Home Entertainment
min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas,
Eve, Queen Latifah
Produced by Robert Teitel, George Tillman, Jr. Alex
Written by Don D. Scott, Directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan
Moulin Rouge on DVD
If youve only seen the Baz Luhrman version of
Moulin Rouge youre really missing a treat
and owe it to yourself to pick up this John Huston/Jose Ferrer version.
This is one incredible film!
Its the story of the great artist-caricaturist Henri de
Toulouse-Lautrec, and this films superb quality comes from excellence on
the part of both John Huston and José Ferrer.
Huston was an extraordinary filmmaker and Ferrers portrayal
of the artist is unbelievable. He becomes the tormented, self-absorbed misfit
who managed to be loved platonically by most, but who could never really find
love himself despite many attempts.
Toulouse-Lautrec was a diminutive child of privilege whose legs
were permanently damaged due to a childhood accident that left him short and in
pain for the rest of his life. Lautrec leaves his easy life behind him to
become an artist in the rollicking Paris of the late 19th century.
Ferrers performance as the cognac-laced artist is Oscar-worthy; you
really do forget its Jose Ferrer and believe its Lautrec. Not only that,
but in the longer shots where you can see just how short the man was we found
ourselves wondering how they did that in the days before digital effects.
Huston does such a great job of creating the era and the locale
that you almost think this is a documentary except of course for the
fact that the technology to make such a record didnt exist at the
And if youve only known Zsa Zsa Gabor for either being
Evas sister or a cop-slapping socialite, youre in for a surprise
here as she turns up as a Moulin Rouge entertainer and friend of Lautrec. She's
How good is this movie? We didnt even really want to see it,
since the Lurhman version spoiled the subject for us (though it's a great
DVD!), but almost immediately upon starting the movie we found ourselves drawn
in and ended up being riveted to the screen (which really hurt!).
The DVD leaves a bit to be desired, though. Its presented in
its original full frame aspect ratio, which is fine even though it isnt
16x9 TV compatible, but while in places the picture looks terrific, at other
points it looks to be crying out for a nice digital remastering. The color
production design and the costumes (Both of which won Oscars) really cries out
for a high quality DVD, and this one isnt quite up to snuff.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and its unremarkable.
The only extra is the theatrical trailer.
Still, this is a movie tour de force and we recommend it
Moulin Rouge, from MGM Home Entertainment
119 min. full frame
(1.33:1, not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Jose Ferrer,
Zsa Zsa Gabor, Suzanne Flon, Colette Marchand
Written by Anthony Veiller
and John Huston, directed by John Huston
Charlie Chan Chanthology on DVD
Okay, so he may not be in the class of Sam Spade or at
least the movies arent in the same class but Charlie Chan is one
of Hollywoods legendary sleuths and this collection brings together six
of his adventures in one boxed set.
Its an interesting blast from the past. How can you
Sidney Toler stars as Chan; he starred in 11 Chan pictures before
apparently buying the rights to the character and taking his ball to another
studio. Toler died in 1947 and was replaced by Roland Winters.
Anyway, the six films collected here are apparently the first six
Chan titles after Toler got control of the character, and all but five are
directed by Phil Rosen. The six are pretty interchangeable as long as you
dont mind learning new names for characters and methods of committing
murder. But that isnt necessarily a bad thing; James Bond movies are much
the same in their formula, and theyre one of the most respected and
lucrative series in movie history.
Of course these are no Bond movies....
Here are the titles in this collection:
Charlie Chan in The Secret Service: Chan investigates the death of
a wartime inventor
The Chinese Cat: a San Francisco socialite croaks
Meeting at Midnight (originally titled Black Magic): Chans daughter
Frances is suspected in the murder of a supposed psychic
The Jade Mask:
features number four son along for the ride as a much hated
government scientist is killed
The Scarlet Clue: features death by remote
control and top secret radar technology
The Shanghai Cobra: drags number
three son into the action as Chan is called upon to investigate a series of
mysterious murders by the use of cobra venom.
The Chan series is interesting for its blend of murder mystery and
humor, and of course Chan is always ready to utter one pithy proverb or
Each film in this boxed set comes in its own case and includes a
fact from the vault on the rear panel. Other than that you can
forget about any extras.
All the movies, not surprisingly, are presented in the 1.33:1 full
frame aspect ratio, which means that owners of 16x9 TVs may want to
stretch and/or zoom the picture to fill their screens if their particular
TVs are prone to burn in. Picture quality is pretty good for low budget
old black and white fare.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and is unremarkable but okay.
The Charlie Chan Chanthology, from MGM Home Entertainment
Murder on the Orient
Express on DVD
Heres an oldie but a goodie, a classic Agatha Christie
whodunit with an all star cast and a nifty twist ending.
And what a cast! Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset,
John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave and Lauren Bacall are some of
the big names on board, with Albert Finney as Dame Agatha Christie's famed
Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot.
The crime? Well, murder obviously: someone has done in Richard
Widmark, a really nasty piece of work as it turns out, while he and a zillion
other people are riding the Orient Express. The weird thing that Poirot
discovers is that everyone has a motive of one type or other, which adds a lot
of confusion but a lot of opportunity for a fun whodunit.
And that's what we get. Its a fun ensemble piece, in which
each of the stars has enough meat in his role to make it interesting without
taking over the whole show and director Sidney Lumet does a nice job of
stringing the story along. The performances, not surprisingly, are excellent
and Ingrid Bergman was awarded an Oscar for her role.
But its Finney who really steals the show as the intrepid
sleuth who takes the case basically because it interests him. We dont
think hes as good a Poirot as Peter Ustinov, but hes still very
The film is an exquisitely crafted period piece and mystery rolled
into one. And the revelation of the identity of whodunit is
delicious. Theres also some great dialog.
The DVDs pretty good, though it also comes in the annoying
type of box Paramount has been using recently that has two little locking tabs
that make getting it open even more annoying than usual. Presented in
anamorphic widescreen, the picture quality is first rate, with a sharp image,
good detail and rich color. Audio has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 and
restored mono; its fine, though nothing remarkable.
For extras, you get a 4 part "making of" documentary which would
probably have worked better as one feature, but at least its relatively
substantial. Theres also a nice look at Agatha Christie, the author, and
the theatrical trailer.
Murder on the Orient Express, from Paramount Home
127 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible),
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin
Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Anthony
Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark, Michael York
Produced by John
Brabourne and Richard Goodwin
Written by Paul Dehn, directed by Sidney
How to Steal a Million on DVD
Audrey Hepburn and Peter OToole were at their most glamorous
in this comedy from master director William Wyler.
Shes the daughter of an art collector (Hugh Griffith)
whos an artist in his own right except that his main talent seems
to be for reproducing the work of other artists. This could come back to bite
him, of course, and thats what his loving daughter is doing her best to
So she hires crack art thief OToole to steal the masterpiece
her dad has on display in a Paris museum because that supposed masterpiece is a
As it turns out, sos OToole, though it takes quite a
bit of the movie for Hepburn to discover that.
And of course there ends up being more to their relationship than
employer and employee
Hepburn and OToole make a charming couple and if youve
only seen OToole in Lawrence of
Arabia you may be surprised to see just how good a comedic actor he is. If
youve seen My Favorite Year you
wont be surprised, but this movie made in the mid 1960s when
OToole was still making his name for himself post Lawrence -
predates that one by nearly two decades
Anyway, OToole and Hepburn need to steal the statue from a
high security nearly impregnable for the day museum, a highly
imaginative caper fit for such movies as both Oceans 11s, Entrapment and so many more that have come before
and since. Its a grand scheme but does it work?
Besides the stars and Griffith, the cast is rounded out by Eli
Wallach as an art collector whose sights are set on the statue in question
and who wants it regardless of what it takes or whether he could even
display it. Also on hand is Charles Boyer, providing the French atmosphere that
doesnt come already from the sets and locations.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible,
and the picture is very good. Its colorful and bright and sharp and about
as good as you could expect from this vintage of film. The high resolution DVD
format does justice to the marvelous art design and cinematography.
Audio is Dolby Digital stereo and it's okay.
Extras include a running commentary by Eli Wallach and Catherine
Wyler, a Biography of Audrey Hepburn, and the theatrical trailer.
How to Steal A Million, from 20th Century Fox Home
123 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1/16x9 TV compatible),
Dolby Digital stereo
Starring Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Eli Wallach,
Produced by Fred Kohlmar
Written by Harry Kurnitz,
directed by William Wyler
Festival Express on DVD
Imagine the party it must have been!
A collection of rock, blues and folk legends at the height of
their popularity gets onto a private train for the trip across Canada from
Toronto to Calgary, stopping along the way to mount a festival concert in
Winnipeg. Between festivals they hung out together, played music, and generally
had a ripping good time so good that they ran out of booze between
Winnipeg and Calgary and had to re-stock at a whistle stop.
The year was 1970, after the success of Woodstock, promoter Ken
Walker dreamed up the idea of a mobile festival where, instead of the audience
traveling to the bands, the bands would travel to the audiences. It was an
audacious and, as it turned out, expensive prospect that saw such acts as Janis
Joplin, The Band, the Grateful Dead, Flying Burrito Brothers, Mashmakan, Ian
and Sylvia, Buddy Guy Blues Band and Sha Na Na having the time of their lives
while Walker lost his shirt.
Festival Express is a documentary of that series of events and the
rockin railroad ride that linked them. Its a marvelous time capsule
with surprisingly good audio and video and some excellent performances. There
are performances from all of the abovementioned stars, sometimes more than one,
as well as impromptu performances performed drunkenly aboard the train.
MGM has put together an excellent two disc set that includes the
film of the event as well as enough extras to please anyone for whom the title
would be of interest. The movie itself is presented in anamorphic widescreen,
16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is far better than we expected from
such an obscure source. Audio is offered in both dts and Dolby Digital 5.1
surround and it is also surprisingly good. In fact, the sound on the concert
footage is excellent.
The movie is a fitting testament to a forgotten event that
appeared to be so much fun for the participants that it makes one wonder just
what went on when the cameras werent rolling! Some of this is hinted at
during present day interviews with some of the survivors.
And there are the extras. Disc One also includes over 50 minutes
of footage including some performances not in the main feature as well as some
other musical tracks.
Disc Two features extended interviews with Bob Weir, Buddy Guy,
Ken Walker, Phil Lesh and others who remember the event fondly. Theres
also a making of documentary thats pretty interesting in its
own right, as well as a photo gallery and trailer.
If youre a child or a student - of the 1960s,
you really ought to see Festival Express!
Festival Express, from MGM Home Entertainment
anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital and dts 5.1
Starring Janis Joplin, The Band, the Grateful Dead, Flying Burrito
Brothers, Mashmakan, Ian and Sylvia, Buddy Guy Blues Band and Sha Na Na
Produced by Gavin Poolman and John Trapman, directed by Bob Smeaton.
It's nice to see Rupert Grint have an acting life beyond his second banana in Harry Potter, but it's too bad it had to be in this movie.
Here's how Sony Pictures describes it: "Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey) stars as Laura Marshall, an overzealous, evangelical Christian do-gooder who fills her home with down-and-out boarders, including a senile, cross-dressing murderous mute. Desperate to expand his horizons, Laura’s shy teenage son Ben (Rupert Grint, of Harry Potter fame) lands a job tending to self-proclaimed "Dame" Evie Walton (Oscar nominee Julie Walters, Billy Elliot), an over-the-hill actress with the mouth of a drunken sailor and an insatiable lust for life. The battle for Ben’s soul begins as Evie shanghais Ben away from his repressive roots and takes him on an adventure that transforms him from boy to man. A winning entry at the 2006 Moscow International Film Festival, Driving Lessons is an experience Stephen Farber of Movieline calls "a delightful coming-of-age story."
Except that it isn't that delightful. It has its moments, but this is a pretty dark movie and we found it an ordeal to sit through. We had been expecting something lighter, maybe not quite in the vein of "The Full Monty" or those other great British comedies. And perhaps that affected our enjoyment because this movie is definitely not a comedy.
Walters' character isn't likeable. She's a wizened old bag as full of herself as Norma Desmond, and when she ventures out of her safe environment to perform a gig she'd agreed to do, she falls apart in an unbelievable and totally unprofessional way. Yet she's being held up as the role model this kid needs.
Grint is fine, but his character spends a lot of time just reacting to other people and their actions, at least up to the time when he finally takes some control over his life. And Linney is as wild-eyed and stereotyped as you'd expect a Christian in a typical movie to be.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture quality is adequate. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and it's also adequate. Not a lot of images or sounds are going to be leaping out of the audio/video equipment with this one, so if you're loooking for a demo disc, this isn't the one.
You do get several extras, including a "making of" feature, some outtakes and a selection of deleted scenes.
Driving Lessons, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
98 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Julie Walters, Rupert Grint, Laura Linney
written and directed by Jeremy Brock
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