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NoirDame, Vintage film/TV/radio writer & collector "NoirDame.com" (Houston, TX, USA)

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Return to Earth
Return to Earth
by Edwin E., Aldrin
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 1.31

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting real-life story of pivotal astronaut, April 12 2004
This review is from: Return to Earth (Hardcover)
Hmm... Another reviewer comments that Aldrin seems self-involved, but this is a brave book - written by a guy who up until then had focused relentlessly on achieving goals and on his career. That's kind of the point - all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, capische? Many depressed people are self-involved - self-loathing, feeling negatively towards themselves to the point where they can't relate to other people, let alone notice their comings and goings.
His candor about suffering from alcoholism and depression is astonishing, and not common in the military. This is not a guy who went on to spend the rest of his life as a victim, but someone who woke up from a fugue, having risked his marriage, family and health, and proceeded to turn things around. He's a very inspiring guy, as he went on to promote space travel and colonization, and still is.
There aren't the same kind of introspective, thoughtful books by many of the other astronauts. Aldrin, in fact, is probably better known because Neil Armstrong has stayed out of the public eye (though a director at a regional space center told me several years ago that Armstrong avoided publicity due to some issues with the USPS and bringing stamps into space?! perhaps someone could shed some light on that rumor).
Aldrin talks about the pressure to keep the stress and day to day problems inside, and its effect on his marriage. For instance, his vivacious wife was refused a chance to host her own radio talk show because of what it might "do" to the space program. (Definitely not like today's world, where Howard Dean's wife Judy was criticized but ultimately lauded for staying off the campaign trail to take care of her patients.) I thought the "Wives Club" episode of "From the Earth to the Moon" summed it up pretty well. Of the "New Nine" who were selected after the "Mercury Seven," only two of their marriages survived intact - the Bormans and the Lovells (who were featured in "Apollo 13"). Two of the other "Nine" wives were widowed, one of them eventually committing suicide.
There are a lot of stories there, folks, that still haven't been told.
Random second and third thoughts:
1) The story about his second wife and he getting hepatitis has caused me to view Coca-Cola differently. yuck. He could have left that out, but then again, it does serve as a medical warning.
2) I wonder if his next book will detail his punching out of the San Diego man who accosted him on a public street, claiming the space walk never happened. I heard the crackpot who bothered Aldrin on the radio and just laughed.

From The Earth To The Moon (Four Disc Collector'S Edition)
From The Earth To The Moon (Four Disc Collector'S Edition)
7 used & new from CDN$ 31.19

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating, inspiring, uneven - and worth every minute, Jan. 30 2004
Yes, yes - it is uneven, but that's part of why this miniseries is so good. Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and friends were smart enough not to merely recycle "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13," but to experiment with different stories and different viewpoints and visuals. As the majority has commented, great pains have also been taken to cover more than the "highlight reel", and be more historically accurate.
Some of the standouts:
"Apollo One" covers the tragic training exercise that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White. Interestingly, I have never seen Mark Rolston (Grissom) in a sympathetic part before, and here he plays one of the most revered astronauts of the entire space program! Both here and in a later episode, the engineers behind the spacecraft are profiled - one of the most intriguing and interesting parts of the whole series. Engineers and designers are so rarely given credit or shown to be "cool" or even dedicated, kudos to the producers for doing so.
The episode "1968" mixes disturbing and compelling real-life news footage to show the prevailing chaos that year. The skillful editing really gives you a sense of the paranoia that reigned that year, with MLK and RFK being assassinated within months of each other, as well as the Chicago DNC riots.
Bryan Cranston and Tony Goldwyn crackle in their roles as tense Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. The next episode is a relief: Dave Foley is very, very funny, along with Tom Verica and Paul Crane as the 'also-rans' of the Apollo program.
Overall, it's just a pleasure to see the different approaches. Even when it falls flat a bit, the producers deserve so much credit for taking chances here.
I disliked the third episode, mocked up as a '60s documentary (it came off as way too polished, rather than the astro "Medium Cool" it apparently was meant to be)... And the episode with reporter "Emmett Smith" being sucker-punched by a young and hungry Jay Mohr wasn't as strong as it could have been, since we hadn't seen so much of "Smith's" personal side up until then, although he is one of the few constants through the many episode. If they had developed "Smith" as a character more, it would have been much more effective. Both cases were more critiques of the media than dramatic storytelling or historical reenactment.
Kudos also for paying attention to the heavy burden carried by astronaut wives - many of whom had already paid dues as test pilot wives. The original novel "The Right Stuff" is absolutely poetic on the same topic.
Note: A below review claims that the Russians sent an "unqualified woman" into space. Ouch! Sounds like selective history. Actually, the Soviet Union has had a long history of female aviators, namely the famed "Nacht Waxen", bomber and fighter pilots who fought during WWII. The Soviets even had two female aces, both of whom died in combat.
When the Mercury group was picked in the US, men with aviation experience were selected. Only a few, like Gus Grissom, were also scientists with advanced degrees. (Today, very few astronauts are primarily military-trained pilots, with most of them being literally, our brightest scientists.)
Likewise, Valentina Tereshkova was a parachutist, which is why she was one of the three women initially selected to train as a cosmonaut. After the training and poking and prodding she received, just like the Mercury astronauts, it's hardly fair to call her "unqualified".
Laika the dog was unqualified, but not Tereshkova. Geez.
I suppose that because she was an industrial worker, her parachuting experience was slighted by the reviewer, even though communism often sent bright, but socially unconnected men and women into factories and menial labor.
Ironically, the US had many qualified women pilots - Jacqueline Cochran, a record-breaking test pilot springs to mind - but waited until 1983 to send a woman into space.

Moving Mars: A Novel
Moving Mars: A Novel
by Greg Bear
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, intelligent book with parallels to real history, Jan. 26 2004
Enjoying "Moving Mars" will depend on a number of things, particularly your attitude about how a science fiction novel "ought" to be. For instance, one of the below reviewers refers to the beginning of the book as being "fantasy," apparently for no other reason than Bear's emphasis on character development - fantasy novels, more often written for and about women, tend to spend a lot more time building their character's "back story" and emotional life. The payoff here is that Bear's careful development of his lead characters, and the strange yet familiar pioneer world of the Martian settlers, helps explain later choices.
More than with most books, the appeal of this work will depend on your own personality and interests. If you're the type of person who refers to him or herself as being "right-brained" or by contrast, essentially "scientific and logical," and tend to stick to one social sphere of people with similar bents, you may find half the book fascinating, and the other half cryptic or boring. Strictly hard SF readers who want nothing but science fact and science ideas may not like the strong social and emotional undertones; readers of historical, military and general fiction may find the heady physics of the latter half hard to digest.
If you like SF a lot but don't follow the news or read history, the many parallels here with real-life history may be lost on you. Frankly, I found another review quite amusing. The reviewer didn't like the lead character, stating that she was just another young woman with a lack of life experience, like herself, and how unrealistic it would be for such a person to ascend to the vice presidency. Actually, I think this is one of Bear's strongest points in the book! Reviewer, have you ever read about Harry S. Truman - you know, the ordinary guy thrust into the presidency (after FDR died suddenly) who unleashed the atomic bomb in 1945? By the way, he was left *much* more in the dark, as vice president, than most people realize, less prepared than the character in the book to use an "ultimate weapon". Not to mention that all of us generally start off as naive children and teenagers, whether we become great leaders or decent citizens with a smaller realm of impact. So yes, Casseia is believable.
Bear is pointing out that leaders often come about because of chance - being in the right place at the right time - not because they have been groomed from birth or have some special mutant power. It's also what makes him fresh as a SF writer, when so many writers in fantasy and SF still use the "Slan" mold. Here, even a genius like Charles Franklin is also an ordinary, decent man with issues and inadequacies, and smart but essentially normal ("high natural") Casseia transforms her world.
The day after re-reading "Moving Mars," I stumbled upon a terrific documentary about the 1989 protests in Tiannamen Square. One of the leaders who convinced students to stay at Tiannamen Square, knowing full-well that blood would be shed, was a mild-mannered young woman crying into a microphone, talking about freedom. She was a twenty-three year old psychology student, not some Superwoman. It's the belief that leaders must be superhuman that has retarded the political process and prevented real growth in our society.
If you love science and science fiction, but also love history and the humanities, you'll enjoy this. If you only like two out of four, some but probably not all of the book will appeal to you.

Persuasion (Sous-titres français)
Persuasion (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Amanda Root
Price: CDN$ 12.58
35 used & new from CDN$ 6.03

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A solid adaptation of Austen's quietest novel, Jan. 8 2004
My copy of the novel "Persuasion" refers to it as having an "autumnal" tone, which has definitely carried over into this adaptation. It makes no pretensions to being another "Pride and Prejudice," or "Sense and Sensibility", lacking those books' underlying theme of warm friendship between sisters. Nor is it like "Emma" or "Northanger Abbey," both comedies featuring immature women and their self-discovery. In other words, "Persuasion" may be a disappointment to those who passionately love one of those other stories, and expect the same thing. This is ironic, considering that some believe "Persuasion" was based on an incident in Jane Austen's real life, where she apparently turned away a suitor in her youth, and later regretted it.
Again - the "autumnal" tone is picked up by the two leads, who are older and less conventionally attractive than, say, Kate Beckingsdale or Jeremy Northam. Ciaran Hinds has a quiet charisma that grows the longer you watch him, and has developed into a viable leading man. Amanda Root begins the film as a grey little mouse and transforms into a more lovely woman halfway through, solely through her skill as an actress, and not through a film of vasoline smeared on the camera.
Those who complain that Root is not pretty enough to fit their mental image are missing the point, and probably did not read the book, where Austen points out that Anne's beauty had faded with age. (As we read on, we realize that it's her love for life that's dimmed, which in turn has affected her attractiveness to others. Her handsome father certainly becomes less good-looking each time his prissy behavior is described.)
In the film, it would be easy to pull a "Grease"-like transformation - where, like Olivia Newton John, Amanda Root comes out all dolled up in makeup and a hot bodice, ready to jump on the Regency tilt-a-whirl. But the Captain and Anne regain their passion for another through their rediscovery of each other's hearts, not their good looks - although seeing each other's good character instantly brightens their countenance and puts a spring in their step, making them much more attractive. Neither Hinds nor Root need a gallon of makeup to make this transformation believable.
The two performances that I enjoyed most, however, were that of Sophie Thompson and Fiona Shaw. Thompson, who was only vaguely boorish in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," as a woman despairing of meeting a quality mate, goes full-hog as a high maintenance mooch. Very funny.
Shaw, on the other hand, is one of the funniest things about the "Harry Potter" movies, as Harry's dreadful aunt. Here, she is positively vibrant as a happy naval wife. She just brims with love and vigor, believable as a woman who has travelled the seas to be with her husband, and who wishes happiness for her younger brother and all around her. Both the character and the portrayal make a fine contrast to Anne's waspish sisters and father, and the overindulgent yet loving Musgroves. Only five years older than costar Root, with what seems to be a great range, I wonder what charm Shaw might have brought to the role of Anne if she had been offered the part at an appropriate age.
This is a warm, and yes, subtle movie, which will chase away the blues on a winter day.

Babylon 5: The Gathering/In the Beginning (Widescreen, 2 Discs)
Babylon 5: The Gathering/In the Beginning (Widescreen, 2 Discs)
DVD ~ Michael O'Hare
Offered by SURPLUSDVD NEW YORK
Price: CDN$ 31.64
11 used & new from CDN$ 24.92

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lack of extras the only drawback - terrific pilot & movie, Jan. 8 2004
Yep, it has no real extras to speak of - but "In the Beginning" more than makes up for it, a strong TV movie that not only further develops favorite B5 characters but makes you wistful for bigger movie budgets - and how it could have fleshed out the "Battle of the Line" even more dramatically.
"The Gathering" is most fascinating for the evident changes between the original pilot and the final syndicated (later TNT) series - namely in the appearance of Mira Furlan as Delenn. Her original makeup masks Furlan's delicate features and makes the character more androgynous and much more ambivalent as a potential heroine.
Speaking of actresses, with the crappy overdubbing removed, Tamlyn Tomita shows why she was hired in the first place. Apparently, Tomita's role as a tough second-in-command was a little too threatening to some of the network "suits", who forced redubbing of all of her lines, to "soften" them. The first time I saw Babylon 5, it was through this pilot, and I thought Tomita was *terrible* - only to see and appreciate her skill in later films like "Joy Luck Club". The dubbing really hurt her perfomance, which is quite solid for a pilot. [Fans who delve deeper and deeper into the series, and read through some of producer JMS' postings on the web will find her portrayal of Laurel even more interesting, once they learn some more facts (...being vague so as not to spoil the series)].
The score by Stewart Copeland (ex-Police) is also interesting, as it suggests different directions than what regular composer Christopher Franke later chose.
Those who are or become regular viewers of Babylon 5 may be surprised *just* how much JMS had already planned this storyline, and how much of the pilot was retained or further developed later in the series. So, although most TV pilots suffer in comparison to their "final" series, where actors, writers, and other crew have had the chance to "gell", this one is still a cut above.
"In the Beginning," by contrast, was shot after B5 had hit its stride as one of TV's best dramatic series. Backtracking to the war between the humans and Minbari, it should not be seen if you haven't watched the two part episode "War Without End" and other pivotal episodes from the first three seasons. It's one piece that improves and becomes much more dramatic the more you've previously seen of "B5".
While some of the other B5 TV movies veer around in quality, this stars the four strongest, most solid performers from the show: Furlan, Bruce Boxleitner (who manages to convince us he is a younger officer), Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik, with good support from Richard Biggs and Claudia Christian, two other favorites.
The last major scene set in the past is both stirring and heartbreaking, with character actor Tricia O'Neil adding her usual blend of class and vulnerability to a tough role - the president of Earth. Theodore Bikel turns in a good performance too as a Minbari whose faith and wisdom outshines his enemies in the "warrior caste". Jurasik, meanwhile, who explains the history and action to viewers, takes lines that could be dry exposition and turns them into poetry.
A definite buy for those who already appreciate Babylon 5; for those of you just starting to see the series, watch some more before getting this disc.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Widescreen Extended Edition) (4 Discs)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Widescreen Extended Edition) (4 Discs)
DVD ~ Elijah Wood
Offered by Deal Beat
Price: CDN$ 28.99
38 used & new from CDN$ 2.06

5.0 out of 5 stars Fellowship's extended DVD worth its weight in gold, Jan. 6 2004
It's difficult to review these films without lots of superlatives. If you are either a film lover, aspiring pro or a student interested in what makes a film tick, these DVDs are priceless. Many DVD sets have a director and perhaps a few pivotal cast members talking about their work on a film - this DVD takes the time to question the production designers and other "below the line" crew to ask them how they put LOTR together.
The documentaries here are excellent: a brief biography of Tolkien himself, all sorts of goodies on the making of this production, storyboards and crude computer animation for scenes, showing how the special effects were designed in certain scenes - you can even watch the crude animation and the finished scenes side by side! I particularly enjoyed learning about the Tolkien illustrators (especially Alan Lee) whose work influenced Jackson, and were then coaxed into leading the production design teams. Costume designers and illustrators will no doubt love the diverse galleries and pictures that are also available on the DVD.
You do get a sense of what an adventure the film was for the actors, especially the four younger men playing Frodo, Legolas, Merry and Pippin, who are all at the beginning of their careers (literally so for Bloom). Their exuberance is balanced by more seasoned actors like Mortensen and McKellan.
Elijah Wood rolls his eyes describing how Sean Astin overprotected him - just as Samwise Gamgee would - particularly on a helicopter shoot. I found this unintentionally funny in a dark sort of way (TANGENT ALERT). Both Astin and Wood grew up in front of the cameras, but Astin is 10 years older, more likely to know of the "Twilight Zone: The Movie" helicopter accident which killed actor Vic Morrow (father to Jennifer Jason Leigh). (Weirdly, Bloom would win a role in "Black Hawk Down" around the time of "LOTR" playing Todd Blackburn, the young Army Ranger whose fall from a helicopter figured heavily in the Battle of Mogadishu. I guess Elijah didn't read *that* script.) Interestingly, Sean Astin, whose parents are John Astin and Patty Duke, used to study with Stella Adler, who promoted the Stansilaski method of acting, usually known as "the method". (I.e, the actor "becomes" his or her role, and Nic Cage has an excuse to eat cockroaches - yes, just read about his role in "Vampire's Kiss".) By the final reel of "King", he comes off as one of the strongest players, even outshining Wood. Sean, keep up with the air traffic control - especially if it helps your performance!
As far as the acting is concerned, "Fellowship" is so full of moments and terrific scenes that it really does seem to get better upon multiple viewings. A standout example is that of Sean Bean as Boromir. It's easy to dismiss Boromir as a weak, would-be Judas (particularly if you've seen "Ronin" or "Goldeneye", rather than his excellent British TV work as "Sharpe") but after the initial shock of his choice fades, on second and third viewings, Bean is touching, a troubled yet courageous knight who finally redeems himself. Boromir is even easier to sympathize with if you view the extended "Two Towers" DVD, which sheds insight into his father -the steward of Gondor- and the dark expectations heaped upon Boromir, his first son and heir. It also helps bridge the relationship between Boromir and Faromir.
All the "LOTR" films, but especially "The Fellowship of the Ring", seem more like historical drama than fantasy. The last piece to attempt this, the "Mists of Avalon" miniseries, does not come close in terms of depth and believability, despite being based on truthful historical trends (i.e. the passing of pagan Europe to Christianity and the ensuing turmoil).
The scenery is also breathtaking: Jackson's aerial shots of the snowcapped Mountains of Moria, where one of the Fellowship sacrifices himself for his friends, are absolutely stunning. Strangely, a "pro" review snippily suggested German "mountain films" as a major influence on the cinematography and film! If you're a non-film geek, a suggestion that something is reminiscent of a "German mountain film" is usually a back-handed swipe, since those stories are often lumped together with Nazi cinema. Leni Riefenstahl initially distinguished herself as a "mountain film" actress and later directed "The Blue Light" before "Triumph of the Will". These films had their heyday during Germany's withering Weimar regime, and anticipated a lot of the same themes (purity of man and environment, social Darwinism) that were later developed in Nazi propaganda. Ergo, Peter Jackson films a beautiful, snowy vista, and it's automatically a "homage" to these films and thus suggestive of Nazism? This is downright insulting when you consider that this entire saga is about a fellowship of different races uniting and saving Middle Earth.
Moreover, the love for nature is inherent to Tolkien's original text. Jackson has built on top of detailed, thoughtful words - creating a gorgeous, treacherous, seemingly real world. George Lucas's recent films have been just as beautiful visually - stunning, really - and yet they seem much more "fantastical", unreal, than what we see in the filmed LOTR. Moreover, not only do Jackson and company seem more passionate about the world they've created in these films, their characters are more passionate...fully-breathing, fully realized...as well. (And I say this despite being very excited about the third Star Wars prequel.)
After the popularity dies down a bit, expect some academics, especially those with a Marxist bent, to find lots of faults with the film - especially considering its large budget. (Again with the "German mountain film" suggestion). Some academic critics seem to believe the last good fiction film was "Battleship Potemkin". Don't let these people ruin your enjoyment of intelligent, beautiful films.
If "Fellowship" has an Achilles' heel, it's that it must serve as exposition and explanation for the second two films, as well as parts of "The Hobbit". Despite that, it manages to be a feast for the eyes, ears, and brain.

All the President's Men
All the President's Men
by Bob Woodward
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.71
101 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How journalism ought to be..., Jan. 6 2004
Even after repeat viewings of the film "All the President's Men" on DVD, and really appreciating what a classic it is, it cannot beat the original book. In fact, along with "The Final Days," the film is even *better* when read in tandem with the book. Students should be reading it in either high school or college - it is not only compulsively readable, but manages to help those of us born after Watergate understand what really happened. And it's also a great introduction to life inside the (Washington D.C.) Beltway.
The reputation of journalism as a profession, and the ideal of truth and accuracy in reporting, has taken a beating. In the last few years, between the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times and the New Republic embarassment with Stephen Glass, it's refreshing to read this book and see what journalism is meant to be. For one thing, Woodward and Bernstein endeavored to be objective even when describing themselves, and their own actions - being honest about their own weaknesses and habits as reporters. There is no bombast or ego here, or in "Final Days", about what brilliant reporting they did, or how they broke this white-hot story when they were both quite young. It makes Blair and Glass's arrogance much harder to stomach.

All the President's Men (Widescreen/Full Screen)
All the President's Men (Widescreen/Full Screen)
DVD ~ Dustin Hoffman
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 34.73
8 used & new from CDN$ 7.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Classic film deserves much better DVD package, Jan. 3 2004
"I have a wife and a family and a dog and a cat."
The four stars would be five - but a star has been lopped off for such poor presentation on the DVD - "All The President's Men" deserves a five star DVD, such as with "Thirteen Days", even moreso than the usual action picture blow-em-up epic!
I agree with previous reviewers: this film's classic status is partly due to its worth as a historical and investigative "document". Well-written, well-paced, with lots of great cameos by notable actors beginning their careers (Stephen Collins, Meredith Baxter, F. Murray Abraham, Jane Alexander, even Lindsay Crouse). Probably the finest film Robert Redford ever did as an actor.
Yet most people who were of age during Watergate have already seen this movie and have a broader, deeper understanding of the time in which it was made. Viewers like me, who were born after Watergate, may initially find the story a little cold and hard to follow. Simply, we don't have the same emotional stakes here, only experiencing the disappointment and shock of Watergate's "long national nightmare" secondhand through our parents or possibly through history textbooks. Similarly, a child born in the mid-1980s will probably not feel the same outrage over Morton Thiokol's O-ring scandal as a Gen-Xer, who likely watched the space shuttle Challenger explosion from a seat in their classroom.
In short, if you're in your early thirties or younger, you'll probably enjoy the film much more if you read the book by "Woodstein" (Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's joint nickname) first, and study the Watergate years more - otherwise, the ending in particular will seem anticlimatic instead of chilling. The book is also a much better companion to this film than the DVD extra, which are a cobbling together of vague text - even a online encyclopedia will provide you with more information. Worse, the "suggested features" option refers to "Mars Attacks" as a movie with "political intrigue"!

Star Trek: Nemesis (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Star Trek: Nemesis (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Patrick Stewart
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 4.85
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars First Trek movie requiring toothpicks to prop your eyes up, Jan. 3 2004
In more than twenty-five years of watching Trek, from childhood on, I have never been so disillusioned with the series. Never before have I been so ... frankly, bored. The Romulans are my favorite villains and were completely wasted here. I expect some Star Trek fans (the minority who feel it is wrong to criticize any Star Trek story, any time) to therefore find this review "unhelpful," which is too bad - I cared very deeply for this series, and for many of the characters, but the actors seem tired.
Given time - and by that, I mean time away, with the franchise hibernating for a while, kind of like Disney and their "vault" for animation releases - Star Trek will probably come back and regain the love and loyalty of both diehard fans and the average person who enjoys these adventures. Star Trek can get away with being goofy or politically incorrect, then too politically *correct* - and still tell a classic tale. Having rewatched "First Contact," it still holds up years later, marvelously, and the Borg are if anything more menacing than they were on the TV show. But now the series needs time off.
While this will probably antagonize Battlestar Galactica purists, I recommend tracking down some web-based interviews with Ronald D. Moore, who left Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and discussed very candidly the problems accumulating with Voyager, Enterprise and this movie, and how televised science fiction could grow. Even if you hate Moore's version of Galactica, that interview will help you appreciate the tensions that went into the most recent incarnations of Star Trek, and why so many ardent fans have stopped watching. For real entertainment, of course, you could just get "First Contact" or "Wrath of Khan".
...

A Christmas Story (Two-Disc Special Edition)
A Christmas Story (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Peter Billingsley
Offered by MILA TECHNOLOGIES CA
Price: CDN$ 19.51
16 used & new from CDN$ 3.72

4.0 out of 5 stars Christmas classic; special features are more fun for kids, Dec 19 2003
This poignant yet non-saccachrine story is one tradition shared by at least 1/6th of all Americans, which is apparently how many tuned in to see this movie being played 24 hours a day on cable channel TNT last Christmas.
It is hard to believe that, like "It's a Wonderful Life," this film didn't automatically hit a home run at the box office, but after twenty years, it's met the test of time, picking up new fans each generation. So many of the actors turn in understated, wry performances, including the children, who don't resort to "the cutesys" in order to keep audience interest high, and come off as true to life, rather than "movie" kids. While everyone who ever dreamt of a special toy for Christmas can relate to Ralphie, adults will love Ralphie's parents, played by Melinda Dillon and Darren McGann, and to a lesser extent, the teacher. Along with Ralphie's fun fantasies and excitement over his decoder ring, there's magic in small moments - the mother tastes Lifebuoy, the father flipping a forlorn piece of turkey, and of course, the moment when the grownups have their "battle on Cleveland Street". The overall message is one of gruff love and wonder in the face of life's little disappointments.

As for the two DVDs and the special features, this is one set that was made primarily for a family audience, and may disappoint more seasoned DVD viewers. One of the disc easter eggs is a tacky and unfunny advertisement for a Leg Lamp as seen in the picture - ironically, considering the Little Orphan Annie/Ovaltine decoder ring incident in this film. The commentary track is in a polite, measured tone by Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) and director Bob Clark, who delicately refers to Jean Shepherd's difficult reputation, mentioning that Steven Spielberg asked him, "How did you deal with him?" after meeting Shepherd. Clark also notes that he asked Shepherd to leave the set after a few weeks, but never bad-mouths him, instead reminiscing about the first time he heard Shepherd on the radio, driving to a date in Florida, and deciding at once that he would make a film of Shepherd's stories.
Jean Shepherd's original radio monologues are on here, but the interface, shaped like a classic radio, is a little confusing. Using the left/right keys will switch between the two stories on the radio, but using the up key is the only way to exit; my DVD player did not allow me to redirect to the main or sub-menu.
While the Double Dog Dare trivia challenge is cute, the featurette, interviewing most of the child actors and Clark, is broken up by several script pages filled with silly rhymes. One of these "pages" would have been enough. "Scut Farkus" actually steals the show here, upbeat, energetic and mock-hostile, telling the tale of a Christmas bulb he'd prefer to forget. Fortunately, "Flick" does not detail some of the poor choices he recently made employment-wise.

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