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Benjamin J Burgraff (Las Vegas)

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Houseboat (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
Houseboat (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Cary Grant
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 37.41
10 used & new from CDN$ 16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Charming, Family-Friendly Comedy!, Nov. 13 2002
'Houseboat' is a throwback to the kind of sweet, happy comedies Cary Grant did in the late '40s-early '50s, and it foreshadows the domestic comedies James Stewart and Henry Fonda would do in the sixties. Granted, there is more romance (and with Sophia Loren as the objection of affection, Cary has it all OVER Jimmy and Hank!) but ultimately, it scores as a terrific family movie, as Loren, playing an inept but adorable housekeeper/nanny, wins the affection of widower Grant's kids, and awakens in him a more complete love than he was experiencing with his society girlfriend (played effectively by the beautiful Martha Hyer).
Living in a rundown houseboat to save on expenses, Grant and family lives had become a boring routine, until the arrival of Hurricane Loren, with her Italian philosophy, her singing, and her unmistakable femininity and sex appeal (which introduces oldest son Paul Peterson to the joys of puberty, and to daughter Mimi Gibson and younger son Charles Herbert a mother-figure they both needed). Grant is at first oblivious to her charms, but she is hard to ignore for long! The question then becomes, when will Cary 'wake up', and realize everything he needs is right on the houseboat?
Filmed after Grant and Loren's whirlwind affair during the filming of 'The Pride and the Passion', the film was a bittersweet experience for both stars, particularly shooting the wedding scene, as Grant still desperately wanted to marry Loren, but she had already decided to remain with longtime love Carlo Ponti. Viewers aware of the 'behind-the-scenes' story will appreciate the performances of the two leads even more!
After you watch 'Houseboat', catch the flipside of this story in Grant's later 'Father Goose', as a drunken reprobate with a boat who must deal with governess Leslie Caron and her charges! The two films make a fascinating double-feature, and showcases Cary Grant's amazing versatility!
Seen either way, 'Houseboat' is a delight!

To Catch a Thief  (Bilingual)
To Catch a Thief (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Cary Grant
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 34.84
10 used & new from CDN$ 9.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock, Cary, and Grace...A Perfect Combination!, Nov. 6 2002
This review is from: To Catch a Thief (Bilingual) (DVD)
There is so much to like about Alfred Hitchcock's 'To Catch a Thief' that a special DVD edition is a cause for celebration! First, the very premise of Cary Grant as a retired cat burglar enjoying life on the Rivera until a copycat criminal thrusts him back into service (and the oh-so willing arms of Grace Kelly) was so irresistable that it lured Grant, who had retired from film, back to the screen (a very fortunate decision, as he went on to make 'North by Northwest', 'Operation Petticoat', 'Charade', and other memorable films). Second, it reteamed Hitchcock with not only his favorite actor, but also with Kelly, his favorite actress, and the archetype for all the other blonde actresses in his other great films of the 50s and 60s. Third, it was a light-hearted romp, full of beautiful scenery, bawdy double-entendres (At a picnic: "Do you want a leg or a breast?" "You make the choice."), and a plot as light as a French souffle, which was a welcome change for Hitch, after a series of much darker films.
Some of the supporting cast were French, which required some less than successful redubbing of dialogue, but great comic turns were provided by British character actor John Williams, and the redoubtable Jessie Royce Landis, who was so delightful as Kelly's mother that Hitchcock cast her as Cary Grant's mother in 'North by Northwest'! A bit of trivia: Brigitte Auber, who plays the busty, hormonally-charged French girl Kelly icily refers to as a 'child', was, in fact, nearly a year older than her!
Among the extras this very special DVD offers are a 'making-of' featurette, a Remembrance, featuring recollections of Hitchcock's daughter and granddaughter, an instructive look at how the story came to the screen, and a great piece about Hitchcock's favorite costume designer, Edith Head. You definitely get your money's worth!
If you want to lose yourself in a wonderful light romantic adventure, they don't come much better than this! Indulge yourself!

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars The Magic is Back!, Oct. 31 2002
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial's release (has it been 20 years???), Steven Spielberg made some cosmetic changes to the film (a la George Lucas with the Star Wars Trilogy), and returned it to theatres; now, in a beautiful package, BOTH versions of the film, plus an array of terrific special features, are available to buy for under $25, and it's a GREAT investment!
While only a few minor scenes were reinserted, the new version offers an E.T. with more expression and movement (thanks to C.G.I.), more colorful and magical night skies and alien spacecraft, and, as was widely publicized, the agents' guns have been all digitally changed to walkie-talkies (as Spielberg felt the weapons were too threatening). The best part of the package are the extras, including a 'Making-of' documentary, outtakes from the original film (did you know Harrison Ford originally had a cameo?), a concert version of the theme, performed by John Williams and orchestra, interviews with the artists who created the creature, and, best of all, a reunion of the original leads (they all look WONDERFUL!), with Spielberg. (No, B-movie star C. Thomas Howell, and Playmate/Actress Erika Eleniak, both of whom were in the original, are included in the reunion!)
The only disappointment in the Special Edition is that they DON'T address what has become the great unanswered controversy of E.T. ...who actually provided the voice of the creature? Debra Winger is the person most frequently mentioned, but the question is never even asked. I guess SOME mystery has to be maintained!
Definitely a keeper!

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Widescreen)
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Sandra Bullock
Offered by vidco
Price: CDN$ 6.37
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Wise, Witty, and Wonderful!, Oct. 31 2002
After all the hype and comparisons to 'Steel Magnolias', 'Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood', sadly, did not do much box office, which was a shame, as it is a more intimate, realistic vision of women and life-long friendships than the glossier 'Magnolias'.
Four girl friends in Louisiana create a secret sisterhood in 1937, swearing eternal devotion to each other, and they remain best friends through all the triumphs and tragedies in their lives. When the daughter of one of them (Sandra Bullock), a successful playright, has an interview with Time magazine in which she blasts her mother's impact on her life, the mother (Ellen Burstyn, who is superb!) goes ballistic, cutting the daughter out of her life, totally. Into this maelstrom charges the other members of the Sisterhood, kidnapping Bullock, and attempting to make things right!
The film then jumps back and forth in time, with Ashley Judd (who gives an Oscar-worthy performance) playing the younger Burstyn. She has a lot of happy adventures with her Ya-Ya sisters, but also has to deal with racism, a jealous religious zealot of a mother, an overly loving father (David Rasche, breaking free of his usual comic roles), a true love who dies in WWII, and a family with a guy she 'settles' for (played, in present day, by the wonderful James Garner). There is also a dark secret that is the core of the mother/daughter alienation, which must be dealt with in order for the rift between Bullock and Burstyn to heal (No, I will NOT give it away!)
If you do the math about the years covered, you realize the present-day story SHOULD be taking place in the early nineties, at the latest, but this doesn't hurt the overall effectiveness of the picture. As the other present-day sisters, Fionnula Flanagan, Shirley Knight, and (especially) Maggie Smith are WONDERFUL, as is Angus MacFadyen, as Bullock's sympathetic and likable fiance.
While this is unabashedly a 'chick flick', something I really liked was that they DIDN'T fall back on that old chestnut of somebody dying to serve as a convenient catalyst for change and the healing process. And the dialog is full of wickedly hilarious one-liners about men, alcohol, friendship, and growing old!
Don't miss this gem!

Chasers
Chasers
DVD ~ Tom Berenger
Offered by eplayplay
Price: CDN$ 27.05
13 used & new from CDN$ 7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Old-Fashioned, but Worth a Second Look!, Oct. 9 2002
This review is from: Chasers (DVD)
I'll admit, when I first saw this film, in 1994, I thought it was sophomoric, with overripe performances, a brain-dead plot, and an extremely gratuitous sex scene tossed in to show off Erika Eleniak's considerable assets.
However, seeing it again, recently, I came to realize this was actually a send-up of the 'good ol' boy' comedies of the seventies, the kind of 'B' movies Roger Corman produced, when he introduced directors like Ron Howard. As such, it's very enjoyable, and certainly worth another look!
The premise is that of an old-fashioned service comedy, with wheeler-dealer William McNamara and put-upon pal Crispen Glover pulling off one last big score before McNamara's discharge. Unfortunately, the scam goes awry as the young con artist is 'recruited' to assist grizzled vet 'Rock Reilly' (Tom Berenger, spitting out dialogue with a whiskey-soaked growl) in a prisoner transfer. The prisoner turns out to be the luscious Erika Eleniak, and as she quickly makes the first of several escape attempts, you get to see: a) exciting new uses for feminine hygiene products; b) the redneck charm of the countryside between Charleston and North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; c) some great cameos by Dean Stockwell, Seymour Cassel, Gary Busey, Marilu Henner, Fredric Forrest, and director Dennis Hopper, himself (sporting a bulbous nose and a blow-up sex toy!); d) the famous Eleniak nude love scene, followed by McNamara chasing her, naked, after she runs, again (he shows more skin than she does); and e) the obligatory happy ending, as Berenger proves he has a 'heart of gold', and that 'love (or a healthy lust, anyway!) conquers all'.
Is this a classic? Are you kidding? Then again, neither were the Corman films...but as a tribute to the genre, 'Chasers' is fun, and a terrific 'kick off the shoes, pop some popcorn' flick!

A Walk to Remember
A Walk to Remember
VHS
7 used & new from CDN$ 27.49

2.0 out of 5 stars Squeaky Clean Does NOT Equal Good!, Aug. 29 2002
This review is from: A Walk to Remember (VHS Tape)
I've been told that 'A Walk to Remember' should be forgiven for its multitude of faults because a)It has a positive Christian message for teens, and b)It's a 'Chick Flick', and, for some reason, that makes leaps of logic somehow acceptable. Personally, both arguments, to me, demean the groups referred to. A good film stands on its own merits; a bad film, and this one is a stinker, should not be rationalized away by saying it's target audience expects less!
'A Walk to Remember' opens with the world's most clean-cut 'gang' of overprivledged kids busting into an abandoned warehouse complex at night (shades of 'Footloose'), then daring a kid as a rite of initiation to dive from a tower into a sinkhole of water (shades of 'Breaking Away'). Conned by the charismatic leader (Shane West), the kid jumps, and is badly injured. Naturally, the police immediately arrive, and West is busted, for staying with the kid. As punishment, he is given probation, community service time...and he has to JOIN the DRAMA CLUB!!! (This is PUNISHMENT for nearing KILLING a kid???) In the Drama Club is school geek and Born-Again Christian Mandy Moore, who you can tell is 'The Good Girl' because she carries a Bible, doesn't wear makeup, and is wardrobe-challenged! From her soulful glances at him, and his arrogant smile in reply, you know that True Love is only a few plot-twists away. It takes Opening Night to provide the catalyst, though...apparently, this club doesn't believe in dress rehearsals, because when she walks onstage, in makeup, and a slinky dress with no underwear (one wonders how her minister father approved of THAT!), and sings to West, as the male lead (yes, despite having no acting ability, or experience, he gets the lead in the play), he sees how hot she is for the first time, and falls for her.
She warns him NOT to fall in love with her (ah, could there be a secret she's not sharing? DUH!), but he follows her around, anyway, even to the cemetery where she stargazes with her telescope at night. (This sets up one of the most brain-dead scenes of the film; he asks to see Pluto, to which she replies that it doesn't rise until two hours before sunrise. "I'll wait", he says...In reality, Pluto is impossible to see in a small telescope...it wasn't even discovered until 1930, in an amazing piece of detective work...and this supposedly brilliant astronomy hobbyist doesn't know this??? As a Born-Again Christian, you KNOW she wasn't fibbing to get a night alone with West...or was she?)
Eventually, Moore collapses, and it is revealed she is dying of cancer (shades of 'Here on Earth'), and, on her deathbed in the hospital, West proposes to her. His estranged doctor father pays to get her Home Care, for her last days...and the next scene, the couple are walking through the woods together, with Moore looking better than ever! (I believe in Love's healing powers, but this is a stretch, even for me!) The couple marry, and share a Summer of Love, before she finally dies (shades of 'Love Story'), and he, redeemed, goes on to ace Medical School (shades of 'Magnificent Obsession').
The acting is uneven, at best; Shane West does a credible job, certainly better than Chris Klein did in the 'Walk' clone, 'Here on Earth'. Peter Coyote, as Moore's minister father, does what he can in a role that seems to have been 'lifted' from John Lithgow's in 'Footloose'. Daryl Hannah, nearly unrecognizable with dark hair, is quite good as West's mother. But the rave reviews Mandy Moore has received as the dying girl seem unjustified; no makeup and stilted line readings do NOT equal a great performance! In order for a film like this to work, you must believe the heroine, and the bittersweet nature of her love. I never got beyond the 'golly, look, Mandy Moore is acting' stage, and her delivery often had me wincing!
There ARE some great tearjerkers out there, both classic and contemporary...'A Walk to Remember' is just NOT one of them!

Horror of Dracula (Widescreen)
Horror of Dracula (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Peter Cushing
Price: CDN$ 8.27
38 used & new from CDN$ 1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Christopher Lee Dracula film!, Aug. 5 2002
Whenever Dracula in film is discussed, Bela Lugosi's name is mentioned first (rightly, as he first defined the character), but for three generations of viewers, Christopher Lee has been the definitive Count, and this film marked his debut, and best performance!
The story is the basic legend; the vampire comes to England and wreaks havoc on two families, until his final confrontation with Van Helsing (Peter Cushing, in one of his greatest Hammer Films portrayals). The cat-and-mouse game between the two leads is brilliant, as Cushing spends most of the film one step behind Lee, trying to repair the damage while pursuing the Prince of Darkness. Lee, himself, is spectacular, his blood-glazed eyes defiant, his lust of flesh and blood insatiable! The film has liberal quantities of 1950's sex and titillation, and truly paved the way for the Vampire film of today.
Worth noting is the supporting cast of Hammer Film regulars, particularly Michael Gough (who would achieve fame years later as 'Alfred' in the 'Batman' films), as Arthur Holmwood, who incredulously watches his wife become one of the Undead, and spouts dialogue like "How could you SUGGEST such a thing??!!" when Van Helsing tells him a stake through the heart is the only option left for her. Campy, yes, but CLASSIC camp!
This is one DVD that should be an essential for any Lee, Cushing, or Hammer Film fan, and it is a cause for celebration that it has finally been released in this format.
Don't miss it!

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)"
"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)"
DVD ~ Spencer Tracy
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 38.97
9 used & new from CDN$ 6.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Funnier than 'Rat Race'!, Feb. 14 2002
Okay, I admit that I'm a diehard fan of this classic comedy, having first watched it way back in '64, but in terms of sheer insanity, none of the current crop of 'road' comedies with large casts can hold a candle to the original!
There are several reasons why. First, 'Mad...World' features a cast of legendary comedians, doing some of their best work, instead of actors trying to be funny. (Who can forget Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney's plane ride? Or Sid Caesar blowing up the basement of the hardware store? Or Jonathan Winters trashing the service station?) Even the cameos are hilarious, as Jerry Lewis gleefully drives over Spencer Tracy's hat, and the Three Stooges wait mutely as firemen to finish the damage to Hackett's plane. Terry-Thomas' tirade about American men's fixation with breasts is as naughty but true today as it was forty years ago. And if you think Whoopi's hairraising drive down the mountain in 'Rat Race' was funny...well, there's an even funnier version of it in 'Mad...World'!
Second, where the modern comedies get all fuzzy and sweet at their conclusions, showing everybody as totally changed and repentent, 'Mad...World' never attempts to turn it's characters into teddy bears! Until the last moment, everybody is still fighting for the stolen loot. No rock concert donations for 'Mad...World'! Instead, you get one of the wildest finales in film history, with the characters being rocketted into a variety of disasters off of a broken firetruck ladder! (Watch for Phil Silvers' imitation of Superman, Eddie Anderson's landing spot, and Dick Shawn's slide...they are all spectacular!)
Finally, the current films lack a central character to put everything into perspective. Spencer Tracy, despite being in very poor health, still gives 'Mad...World' a focus, and when this 'father-figure' finally gives in to the same greed as all the comedians, the message is clear; while greed may not be 'good', it is certainly universal!
Be sure and catch the 'Making Of' documentary included in the DVD, for some great stories behind the scenes, from the surviving cast members!
So, kids, check out the comedy that started it all, the one that had your baby boomer parents and grandparents in stitches! You'll be in for a treat!

The Neverending Story (Widescreen and Fullscreen) (Bilingual)
The Neverending Story (Widescreen and Fullscreen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Noah Hathaway
Offered by SURPLUSDVD NEW YORK
Price: CDN$ 34.21
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Neverending Pleasure!, Feb. 14 2002
It came as quite a shock to American critics when Wolfgang Petersen, best-known for his direction of the gritty submarine drama 'Das Boot', chose a children's fantasy for his first American film. But The Neverending Story is a fanciful, engaging, and thoroughly enchanting fairy tale, and has become a bit of a classic of the genre!
The story appears to be simple; a young boy named Bastian, withdrawn since his mother's death, and the target of local bullies, finds refuge in a magical book about a mythical world called Fantasia, filled with sweet and bizarre creatures, an ethereally beautiful Empress (played by the luminous Tami Stronach), and a young hero (Battlestar Galactica's Noah Hathaway) that he immediately relates to.
What truly sets this film apart is its underlying message of 'What Is Real?' The characters of the story keep referring to Bastian, and how he must save their world. Bastian must learn to use his imagination, to let go of preconceptions of reality...and, ultimately, the viewer is given the same choice, as well, in one of the most novel twists I've seen in a film in a long time!
Being produced by an international team, the film has a decidedly European 'feel', even with the participation of Gerald McRaney ('Simon and Simon', 'Major Dad') and the other American actors. Major pluses include the beautiful theme music, some terrific low-key creatures (I LOVED the giant flying dog!), and an approach to fantasy that is closer in spirit to 'The Princess Bride' than 'The Lord of the Rings'.
While the DVD has a great 'look', it has virtually no special features; one hopes a 'Director's Cut' DVD might eventually be made! Also, be forewarned that various sequels to this film have been produced, that aren't NEARLY as good as the original. THIS IS THE ONE TO BUY!
Treat your kids and yourself to a terrific tale! The Neverending Story is wonderful!

Supergirl (Widescreen)
Supergirl (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Helen Slater
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 125.61
13 used & new from CDN$ 54.74

4.0 out of 5 stars Supergirl DVD is more Super than the Movie!, Nov. 23 2001
This review is from: Supergirl (Widescreen) (DVD)
I was one of the many who first saw 'Supergirl' during it's theatrical release, and were stunned into disbelief by plotholes you could drive a TRUCK through, some really bargain basement FX, and acting that ranged from sleepwalking (O'Toole), to blandly sincere (Slater), to 'Mommy Dearest...The Sequel' (Dunaway). While the film wasn't QUITE as horrendous as 'Superman III' had been, it came close, and the critical and audience reaction soured the Salkinds on the entire 'Superman' franchise (they passed the torch to Golan/Globus, with Christopher Reeve taking on much of the production duties for 'Superman 4'.)
It is surprising, therefore, that the Special Edition 2-Disc DVD is amazingly good! Loaded with extras, it gives the viewer an enlightening glimpse at the behind-the-scenes work that creates a motion picture, from the casting (Slater was a charming, unpretentious girl of 19 when she won the role, and you can see her 'grow into' the part during the filming), to the tension on set (Jeannot Szwarc was not the easiest man to work with, and you can see him 'age' during the long shoot), to the marketing of the film (trying to revitalize a franchise that was already past its prime). 'Superman' expert Scott Bosco puts the film into perspective, noting its many flaws, but also acknowledging that there were good points, as well (there was a ballet-like quality to Slater's flying scenes, as well as her exuberance at having superpowers). Best of all is Szwarc's commentary...while he acknowledges that the film didn't turn out entirely as he had hoped, he was able to make it a more personal film than Richard Lester had, in his 'Superman' efforts.

The viewer is given two versions of the film to choose from; a slightly lengthened theatrical version, and a 'Director's Cut', with a lot of extra footage that never made it to the theatres.
While 'Supergirl' has never achieved more than a campy cult status, the Special Edition DVD 'set the bar high', and showed the industry what 'Special' meant. If you are a fan of DVDs that really give you your money's worth in extra features, this will be a very welcome addition to your collection!

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