Young Dorothy Gale (played by Judy Garland), her dog, Toto, and her three companions on the yellow brick road to Oz -- the Tin Man (Jack Haley), the Cowardly...... more
Young Dorothy Gale (played by Judy Garland), her dog, Toto, and her three companions on the yellow brick road to Oz -- the Tin Man (Jack Haley), the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), and the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) -- have become pop-culture icons and central figures in the legacy of fantasy for children. Actress Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch who covets Dorothy's enchanted ruby slippers, has had the singular honour of scaring the wits out of children for more than six decades. The film's still as fresh, frightening and funny as it was when first released in 1939. It may take some liberal detours from the original story by L. Frank Baum, but it's loyal to the Baum legacy while charting its own course as a spectacular film. Partly shot in glorious Technicolor, befitting its dynamic production design (Munchkinland alone is a psychedelic explosion of colour and decor), The Wizard of Oz may not appeal to every taste as the years go by, but it's nonetheless required viewing for kids of all ages. --Jeff Shannon
If any artist deserved a hagiography it was Hendrix, and Joe Boyd's 1973 "authorised" tribute The Jimi Hendrix Story adequately sanctifies the legend....... more
If any artist deserved a hagiography it was Hendrix, and Joe Boyd's 1973 "authorised" tribute The Jimi Hendrix Story adequately sanctifies the legend. Perversely for a documentary, it achieves this simply by well-chosen concert footage rather than through the insights of the various talking heads. Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Lou Reed and Germaine Greer are all wheeled out to wax lyrical about their days with Jimi--but nothing is more eloquent than watching and listening to him play. From "Hey Joe" in grainy black and white on Ready Steady Go, classic footage of Monterey, Woodstock (yes, "The Star-Spangled Banner") and the Isle of White festivals, to an acoustic 12-string rendition of "Hear My Train a' Comin'", Hendrix the musician speaks for himself. But if Hendrix the musician shines through, this is not the most insightful profile of Hendrix the man: the circumstances surrounding his death, for example, are hardly touched upon (girlfriend at the time Monika Dannemann gets only a few seconds screen time). Interview footage with Hendrix himself plus some occasionally rambling and incoherent comments from such intimates as his father, army buddies, ex-girlfriends (including Linda Keith, who "discovered" him in New York and brought him to England) and fellow musicians all take second place to the music itself. The most sensible quote comes from Little Richard, who proves once and for all that he's utterly bonkers, when he says of Jimi's music: "At times he made my big toes shoot up into my boot." On the DVD: This is a dual-layer disc, with a widescreen (1.85:1) print on one side and a standard (4:3) ratio version on the other--although watching in widescreen is redundant, as the film is shot in 4:3 anyway. There are no extras other than a theatrical trailer (despite being advertised as such a menu and scene access surely don't count as "special features": what use is a disc without them?) --Mark Walker
This 1987 thriller was a predictable hit with the teen audience it worked overtime to attract. Like most of director Joel Schumacher's films, it's conspicuously...... more
This 1987 thriller was a predictable hit with the teen audience it worked overtime to attract. Like most of director Joel Schumacher's films, it's conspicuously designed to push the right marketing and demographic buttons and, granted, there's some pretty cool stuff going on here and there. Take Kiefer Sutherland, for instance. In Stand by Me he played a memorable bully, but here he goes one step further as a memorable bully vampire who leads a tribe of teenage vampires on their nocturnal spree of bloodsucking havoc. Jason Patric plays the new guy in town, who quickly attracts a lovely girlfriend (Jami Gertz), only to find that she might be recruiting him into the vampire fold. The movie gets sillier as it goes along, and resorts to a routine action-movie showdown, but it's a visual knockout (featuring great cinematography by Michael Chapman) and boasts a cast that's eminently able (pardon the pun) to sink their teeth into the best parts of an uneven screenplay. --Jeff Shannon
One of the key films of the 1970s, John Boorman's Deliverance is a nightmarish adaptation of poet-novelist James Dickey's book about various kinds of survival...... more
One of the key films of the 1970s, John Boorman's Deliverance is a nightmarish adaptation of poet-novelist James Dickey's book about various kinds of survival in modern America. The story concerns four Atlanta businessmen of various male stripe: Jon Voight's character is a reflective, civilized fellow; Burt Reynolds plays a strapping hunter-gatherer in urban clothes; Ned Beatty is a sweaty, weak-willed boy-man, and Ronny Cox essays a spirited, neighbourly type. Together they decide to answer the ancient call of men testing themselves against the elements and set out on a treacherous ride on the rapids of an Appalachian river. What they don't understand until it is too late is that they have ventured into Dickey's variation on the American underbelly, a wild, lawless, dangerous (and dangerously inbred) place isolated from the gloss of the late 20th century. In short order, the four men dig deep into their own suppressed primitiveness, defending themselves against armed cretins, facing the shock of real death on their carefully planned, death-defying adventure and then squarely facing the suspicions of authority over their concealed actions. Boorman, a master teller of stories about individuals on peculiarly mythical journeys, does a terrifying and beautiful job of revealing the complexity of private and collective character--the way one can never be the same after glimpsing the sharp-clawed survivor in one's soul. --Tom Keogh, Amazon.com
Living in exile in Paris after eluding a controversial charge of statutory rape in America, director Roman Polanski seemed professionally adrift during the...... more
Living in exile in Paris after eluding a controversial charge of statutory rape in America, director Roman Polanski seemed professionally adrift during the 1980s, making only one film (the ill-fated Pirates) between 1979 and 1988. Then Polanski found inspiration--and a major star in Harrison Ford--to make Frantic, a thriller that played directly into Polanski's gift for creating an atmosphere of mystery, dread, escalating suspense and uncertain fate. Set in Paris (Polanski couldn't go to Hollywood, so Hollywood came to him), the story begins when an American heart surgeon (Ford) arrives in the City of Lights with his wife (Betty Buckly) for a medical convention. They check into a posh hotel, and in a brilliantly directed scene, Ford takes a shower and emerges to find that his wife has vanished. This mysterious disappearance--and a confusion between two identical pieces of luggage--leads Ford into the Paris underground and a plot that grows increasingly dangerous as he approaches the truth of his wife's disappearance. The plot of Frantic gets too complicated, and the pace drops off in the cluttered second half, but in Polanski's capable hands the film is blessed with moments of heightened suspense in the tradition of classic thrillers. --Jeff Shannon
A big Oscar winner in 1975, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest still holds up remarkably well. Ken Kesey's novel, an allegory of repression and rebellion set in a...... more
A big Oscar winner in 1975, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest still holds up remarkably well. Ken Kesey's novel, an allegory of repression and rebellion set in a mental hospital in the early 1960s, is cannily adapted by Czech director Milos Forman into a comedy drama with a cool, unassuming, near-documentary look. Jack Nicholson has his most jacknicholsonian role as Randle P McMurphy, a livewire troublemaker who unwisely cons his way out of prison and into a mental institution without realising he has switched from serving a sentence with a release date to being committed until adjudged sane by the same people he is winding up on a daily basis. Louise Fletcher, in a career-defining turn, is Nurse Ratched, the soft-spoken sadist who represents the worst type of matronly authoritarianism and clashes with Randle all down the line. Taking another look at the picture after all these years, it's a surprise that all the unknown actors who seemed like real mental patients have graduated to becoming prolific character actor stars: Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Brad Dourif, the late Will Sampson, Sidney Lassick, Michael Berryman. Unlike many Best Picture Oscar winners, this deals with profound subject matter without seeming self-important: Forman's approach and all-round great acting make it play as a small character story as well as a Big Statement about the human condition. Full marks also for Jack Nitzsche's musical saw-based score. On the DVD:One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest comes to DVD in a two-disc special edition with a great-looking anamorphic 1.85:1 print and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack, plus tracks in French and Italian and optional subtitles in half a dozen languages. Disc 2 has the trailer, about 13 minutes of deleted scenes (mostly from the first third of the film, and all pretty good) and a making-of retrospective documentary with interesting material from producers Michael Douglas (who inherited the rights from Kirk) and Saul Zaentz, Forman, screenwriter Bo Goldman and many cast-members (though not Nicholson). There's also a commentary track by Forman, Douglas and others which repeats a few things from the documentary but also goes into more scene-specific detail about the development and shooting. --Kim Newman
Showdown in Little Tokyo is a 1991 martial arts action comedy which, in pitting Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee as LA cops against Japanese drug dealers, plays...... more
Showdown in Little Tokyo is a 1991 martial arts action comedy which, in pitting Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee as LA cops against Japanese drug dealers, plays like a B-movie Tango and Cash or Lethal Weapon 2 (both released just two years before). Between career highs in Rocky IV (1985) and Universal Soldier (1992) it looked as if Lundgren might make it big at the box-office, and clearly wanting to be the new Schwarzenegger he is here directed by Mark L Lester, who had earlier helmed Arnie's Commando (1985). In the event both actor and director headed for straight-to-video territory. The 75-minute running time suggests the studio lost confidence and seriously cut the movie though, as the space between the action is filled with nothing but cringe-inducing dialogue, thriller clichés and Lundgren "romancing" Tia Carrere, it still makes sense. Basing its title on John Carpenter's 1986 fantasy-comedy Big Trouble in Little China and anticipating Rush Hour (1998), Showdown in Little Tokyo alternates between crude tongue-in-cheek moments and action so ludicrous it's unintentionally hilarious . A camp disaster which simply defies belief, this is stupidly entertaining so-bad-its-good six-pack entertainment.
From its cleverly choreographed opening sequence to its heart-stopping climax on a rampant carousel, this 1951 Hitchcock classic readily earns its reputation as...... more
From its cleverly choreographed opening sequence to its heart-stopping climax on a rampant carousel, this 1951 Hitchcock classic readily earns its reputation as one of the director's finest examples of timeless cinematic suspense. It's not just a ripping-good thriller but a film student's delight and a perversely enjoyable battle of wits between tennis pro Guy (Farley Granger) and his mysterious, sycophantic admirer, Bruno (Robert Walker), who proposes a "criss-cross" scheme of traded murders. Bruno agrees to kill Guy's unfaithful wife, in return for which Guy will (or so it seems) kill Bruno's spiteful father. With an emphasis on narrative and visual strategy, Hitchcock controls the escalating tension with a master's flair for cinematic design, and the plot (coscripted by Raymond Chandler) is so tightly constructed that you'll be white-knuckled even after multiple viewings. Strangers on a Train remains one of Hitchcock's crowning achievements and a suspenseful classic that never loses its capacity to thrill and delight. --Jeff Shannon
Advantages: entertaining, great length, good features, appealing natural comedy Disadvantages: sorry, if you're under 12, its a no-go!
...Hill's TV Burp Gold DVD, however I did not imagine it would be bought for me. You can imagine my face when I unwrapped the DVD on Christmas Morning though, Harry Hill shining up at me! On the front of the case, the background is a scene of clouds, so calming and natural. In contrast, mounted, Harry Hill has decided to ride around on a TV remote. This purely adds humour before we have even begun to...
Advantages: Funny! Disadvantages: Not long enough!
...If I'm relaxing before getting ready for a night out on a Saturday , one of the shows I enjoy watching is Harry Hill's TV Burp. The show which is broadcast on ITV every saturday night , consists of 'joker' Harry Hill taking the mickey out of 'this week's television'. Such 'taking the mickey' includeds showing clips of Coronation Street for example , one of the characters saying a line all...
Advantages: good acting, direction Disadvantages: a bit too long, not many extras
...has a some real emotional moments like Shawshank before it.
The dvd is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the print quality is perfect with the warm and cold colours perfectly matched. The sound is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is quite atmospheric and makes good use of the rear speakers. It's quite suprising considering that the film is mainly dialogue based.
There isn't much in...