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    Standing in the Shadows of Motown

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on February 23rd, 2006

    Synopsis

    What bothers me about music, aside from the sanitized, overmarketing of a band or artist, is the way that those who play it for its enjoyment are cast aside so rudely and without thought. In Frank Zappa’s outstanding “The Real Frank Zappa Book”, he talks about appearing at a jazz festival with his group the Mothers of Invention, and witnessing the legendary Duke Ellington pleading for a $10 advance on his appearance fee. Quoting Zappa’s response; “We’d been together in one configuration or another …
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    Undiscovered

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on December 30th, 2005

    Meiert Avis’ new romantic comedy-drama Undiscovered has been turning up on more than a few worst lists for 2005, and while that may be an unfair assessment, as just about every film out this year could have made it onto the same list, it’s still no picnic. Some of the numbers are hip enough, and the two lead actors deliver likeable, though poorly written performances. However, Ashlee Simpson’s performance drives it all down into the mud and solidifies her standing as not just the least talented Simpson daughter, but also one of the most obnoxious wretches, who dares call herself a celebrity.
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    Stir of Echoes

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on September 2nd, 2004

    

    Synopsis

    The setting is working class Chicago. Kevin Bacon and wife Kathryn Erbe have a secondchild on the way, which means all kinds of financial pressures (and goodbye to whateverremained of his rock & roll dream). Bacon’s problems are just getting started, though. In thewake of being hypnotized by sister-in-law Illeana Douglas, Bacon starts seeing the ghost of ayoung woman (a ghost his young son has been seeing for some time), and he becomes obsessedwith finding out who she is.>

    Stir of Echoes was unjustly overshadowed at the time of its initial release by the hugesuccess of The Sixth Sense. Good as Shyamalan’s film is, David Koepp’s ghost tale is farmore terrifying, more grounded, and doesn’t resort to The Sixth Sense’s clichéd twistending. Smart and scary as hell, this is the perfect movie for a creepy Halloween night.

    Audio

    The initial DVD release had a 5.1 track. Now the options are 6.1 DTS ES and 5.1 EX. Stepsup, certainly, at least on paper, but the actual differences are undetectable to my ears. This isn’t tosay the sound is bad — it’s great, and always was, with deeply sinister surround whispers andandrenaline-boosting music cues attacking from all sides..

    Video

    The “digitally restored” widescreen picture isn’t detectably different from the previoustransfer (only now it is now referred to inaccurately and confusingly as and “enhanced”fullscreen version — it was always anamorphic widescreen). There is some very minor grain, butthe contrasts, colours, and very deep blacks are excellent, and the image is sharp.

    Special Features

    The commentary track (by writer/director Koepp) is the same as on the last release, but it wasa very strong one then, so who’s complaining. Most of the differences between the two editionscome down an extra load of featurettes here. “Behind the Echoes” is a 21-minute making-of,which is pretty solid as these things go. “The Mind’s Eye: Beneath the Trance” is a 10-minutelook at hypnosis (with input from Richard Matheson, on whose novel the film is based). “Sightof Spirits: Channeling the Supernatural” is completely straight-faced (and therefore wingnutty)look at contacting the beyond. Special effects and production design each get mini-featurettes(under four minutes long). There are 3 deleted scenes, 3 screen test clips of character make-up,the video for “Breathe” by Moist (which was also on the original release), and behind-the-scenes/final shot comparisons for four scenes. The menu, fully animated and scored, is thecreepiest one I’ve seen since The Exorcist, but is so over the top in its spookiness that itis a bit hard to navigate.

    Closing Thoughts

    Not a radical change from the original edition, so probably not worth a second purchase. Butmost definitely worth a first.

    Special Features List

    • Director
    • “Behind the Echoes” Making-of Featurette
    • “Sight of Spirits: Channeling the Supernatural” Featurette
    • “The Mind
    • Special FX and Production Design Featurettes
    • Deleted Scenes
    • Behind-the-Scenes/Final Cut Comparisons
    • Screen Test Clips
    • “Breathe” Video by Moist
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    S.I.C.K.

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on May 30th, 2004

    

    Synopsis

    Ken Hebert (lead actor and film’s producer) invites three friends out to his cabin in thewoods. Oddly, these friends are either people he hasn’t seen in years, or barely knows. Along theway, they pick up another young woman who’s been having some hitch-hiking problems. Thatnight, the stranger tells a gruesome story about a killer clown. And wouldn’t you know it? Oneby one, the cast starts being killed by that very figure.

    It’s amateur hour, folks. Looks like a bunch…
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    Quicksand

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on May 30th, 2004

    

    Synopsis

    Michael Keaton is a straight-arrow banker arriving in Nice to investigate some dubiousfinancial dealings at a film studio. The production is, in fact, a total scam, a front for whiteslavery operations run by the Russian mob. Keaton pokes his nose in where it isn’t wanted,refuses a bribe, and is promptly set up as the fall guy when a crooked police chief (on the outswith the Russians) is assassinated. On the run, Keaton must prove his innocence and take downthe mob. Also mix…
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    Uncovered

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on May 29th, 2004

    

    Synopsis

    Kate Beckinsale plays an art restorer. While working on her current commission, shediscovers a previously hidden inscription, which points to a murder conspiracy 500 years ago. Asshe tries to solve the mystery, whose key lies in the paintings depiction of a chess game, peoplearound her, connected in one way or another to the painting, begin to die. Is the past reaching outto wreak vengeance on the present? And who is the Black Queen?

    I won’t tell you, except to say …
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    Gnaw: Food of the Gods Part 2

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on April 29th, 2004

    

    Synopsis

    A young boy is growing huge and foul-mouthed due to a growth hormone injection gonewrong. The scientist who injected him (Jackie Burroughs) gets in touch with fellow researcherPaul Coufos, reasoning somehow that he might be able to come up with an antidote. Before hisresearch at the university is complete, however, animal rights activists break into his lab andrelease injected rats. Soon rats the size of wolves are prowling about the campus tunnels,munching on all and sundr…
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    S.I.C.K.

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on March 31st, 2004

    

    Synopsis

    Ken Hebert (lead actor and film’s producer) invites three friends out to his cabin in thewoods. Oddly, these friends are either people he hasn’t seen in years, or barely knows. Along theway, they pick up another young woman who’s been having some hitch-hiking problems. Thatnight, the stranger tells a gruesome story about a killer clown. And wouldn’t you know it? Oneby one, the cast starts being killed by that very figure.

    It’s amateur hour, folks. Looks like a bunch…
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    King of New York

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on March 30th, 2004

    

    Synopsis

    Crime kingpin Christopher Walken is released from prison, and immediately reasserts hiscontrol over the underworld. All sorts of rivals are dispatched messily. He is also at odds withthe police, who are determined to bring him down. Our ganglord isn’t all bad, though: he hasall sorts of impressive community projects in mind.

    This last detail is perhaps the most telling point: we are in the realm of full-on fantasy here.Director Abel Ferrara and long-time screenwrite…
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    Dracula’s Curse

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on March 12th, 2004

    

    Synopsis

    Jonathan Harker, his fiancee Mina and their friends are partying it up in Budapest when anone Vlad Tepes makes them an offer they can’t refuse. Lured by the dollar signs, Harker hieshimself off to Rumania to the castle of Count Tepes. The Count, of course, is exactly who youthink he is, and soon he and an Italian version of Dr. Van Helsing are locked in a familiarbattle.

    In its broad lines, the film is actually quite faithful to Stoker’s novel. The characters’nati…
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    Dinotopia – The Complete Series

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 25th, 2004

    James Gurney created a wonderful mythical land to rival Tolkien’s Middle Earth that was populated by stranded travelers and talking dinosaurs. Hallmark finally brought these settings to life on film with their popular mini-series. The ABC series that followed was unfortunately complete with several fatal flaws. The dino f/x were not really as good as we have become used to. The blurs and surreal appearance often takes one out of the experience. The actors used in the mini-series were replaced with virtual unknowns and a noticeable lack of skills. It was obviously a mistake to attempt such an ambitious project for weekly television.


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    Devil’s Pond

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on January 8th, 2004

    It seems to me that B-level actors sometimes agree to do a movie for the experience and practice as much as to further their career and get a paycheck. Other times, the opposite is true, and major stars purposely chose to do a small independent production following a major success, knowing that they could never top their last picture. Often times, it is obvious when an actor has their personal motives in mind when choosing to do a film. Kate Winslet’s decision to shoot Hideous Kinky following the hugely-succes…
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    Redemption

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on December 27th, 2003

    

    Synopsis

    The film is “based on true events” (an opening announcement the director wasn’t too happyabout) and tells the story of Christian Rayne (Brian White). He dreams of a career in acting, andignores the advice of his best friend, deciding against going to university. He doesn’t want to usehis family connections, however (having a rather conflicted relationship with his father), and thechoices he makes, and the people he meets, set him down a path to drugs and despair.


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    Adventures of Captain Marvel, The

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on December 20th, 2003

    

    Synopsis

    In a lost valley of Siam (which looks strangely like Southern California), an archaeologicalteam breaks open the ancient tomb of the Scorpion. Young Billy Batson doesn’t like thedesecration and turns away. Because he does not join in, the ancient wizard Shazam appearsbefore him and blesses him with incredible powers. Now, whenever Billy says “Shazam!” he isbecomes the Superman-clone Captain Marvel. Meanwhile, a hooded villain (the Scorpion, ofcourse), has designs on …
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    Promised Land

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on December 4th, 2003

    

    Synopsis

    We are at the end of high school. Jason Gedrick is the basketball star. Tracy Pollan is thecheerleader. Kiefer Sutherland is the sensitive loner. We see them all poised on the threshold ofthe next big step. Two years later, Sutherland returns to the home town, now in the company ofwild child Meg Ryan (and for those who keep track of these things, her turn puts the lie to thenotion that the recent In the Cut features her first nude scenes). The usual set of real-…
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    Scheme, The

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on December 2nd, 2003

    

    Synopsis

    Three losers want to get on easy street. After being kicked out of a blood bank for trying tosell their blood too often, they steal a mail carrier’s load, hoping to score some cash in the letters.Instead, they discover that the daughter of a bible-thumping politician is apparently strugglingwith her sexual longing. They decide to deflower her, secretly film the deed, and sell the tapeto a tabloid publisher. Everything starts to go wrong, not the least of which is the d…
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    Chicago Joe and the Showgirl

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on December 1st, 2003

    

    Synopsis

    London, 1944. Emily Lloyd thinks she’s a showgirl. She dreams of being a big star, orpossibly a gangster’s moll. Serviceman Kiefer Sutherland claims to be a gangster known asChicago Joe, heading up Al Capone’s outfit in London. Yeah, right. When these two meet, theyfeed each other’s fantasies. In order to live up to Lloyd’s image of a gangster, Sutherland letshimself be talked into ever more violent crimes, culminating in murder. Director Bernard Rosekeeps the movie …
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    Cat Chaser

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on November 25th, 2003

    

    Synopsis

    Ex-Lance Corporal Goerge Moran (Peter Weller) has a fairly comfortable life, if you leaveaside his disturbing dreams of his part in the military intervention in the Dominican Republic in1965. He has a slightly run-down beachfront hotel, and he takes it easy. His past won’t leave himalone, however. Not only does he make a return trip to the Dominican Republic, he renews hisrelationship with Kelly McGillis, wife of a former Dominian strongman. This brutal character isa…
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    Mr. St. Nick

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 25th, 2003

    It takes a lot to become a true Christmas classic. Mr. St. Nick just doesn’t have any of it. The story of a reluctant Santa Claus was done with much funnier results in the Tim Allen The Santa Clause films. Kelsey Grammer can be a very fine comedic actor as his stints in Cheers and Frasier have more than proven. The problem here is the material is old and tired and Grammer never seems to be able to decide on a tone for the film. I’m a fan of just simple fun, but this film never really takes me on a good ride.
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    Kiss Daddy Goodnight

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on November 23rd, 2003

    

    Synopsis

    Uma Thurman plays Laura, a young woman who picks older men, drugs them, and robsthem. Her little schemes go awry, however, when she starts being stalked. There is more,involving a relationship with a loser played by Paul (brother of Matt) Dillon, but none of it isinteresting. Deeply, deeply dull.

    Audio

    The sound is, apparently, 2.0 stereo, but it certainly isn’t surround. What it sounds like isextremely muzzy mono. The music is muddy and unex…
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    Bad Bizness

    Posted in Disc Reviews by David Annandale on November 23rd, 2003

    

    Synopsis

    In a lush Hawaiian resort, someone is killing off strippers and nude models. Security officerTraci Bingham investigates. You don’t really care about the plot, do you? Because no oneinvolved with this film did. The lackluster investigation fills in time between numbingly dullsoftcore couplings. Bad Bizness even has the nerve to recycle at least one sex scene fromFinal Examination, never mind that it has nothing to do with anything. Fred Olen Raydirected …
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    Brush with Fate

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 19th, 2003

    Brush With Fate is not a film in any traditional scenes. Based on Susan Vreeland’s novel, “Girl In Hyacinth Blue” this is in reality an anthology of vignettes. The common thread in these stories is that a certain painting is passed down through 300 years. The stories are overly simple. Some of the locations in the Netherlands shot for this film offer the only redeeming quality to be found. Some of the vistas are breathtaking.

    Audio

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is simple. Some enchanting music offers the best use of the digital sound.
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    Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on November 17th, 2003

    Being a white, middle-class American male, my knowledge of the black struggle with apartheid in South Africa during the latter half of the 20th Century is virtually nil. My exposure to the music that was so instrumental to the success of that movement is even less. With these facts in mind, I was dreading having to review this title, as it is a documentary film covering a subject that I really had very little interest in.

    My dread turned to fascination upon sitting down to watch the film, however. This is a…
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    New World

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on November 15th, 2003

    James Gandolfini is a brilliant actor. He is one of those rare talents that sneak in the back door to show business, hiding in the shadows until the public realizes just what a powerful artist he has always been. I, like many Americans, first began to notice Gandolfini through his work in the immensely successful HBO television series The Soprano’s. In the French/American hybrid film New World, Gandolfini is at top form yet again, playing an American soldier stationed in France in the 1950’s with more …
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    One Christmas

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 14th, 2003

    This 1994 Hallmark film is based on an obscure Truman Capote story. It’s loaded with the usual heavy sentimental trappings of a Hallmark film. The film attempts to create atmosphere through its 1930’s period setting. The trouble is I found it very hard to relate to or care about anyone in the film. The young Buddy appears to have each emotional turn literally forced out of him. Even the lovable Fonz, Henry Winkler, never gets a good foothold on his character. Katherine Hepburn’s age has obviously robbed her of the abilities she has so often displayed in her vast body of work.
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