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Content by Steven Y.
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Reviews Written by
Steven Y. "Pop Culture Addict" (Marvel Universe 616)

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A Beautiful Mind (Widescreen Awards Edition) (2002) (Bilingual) [Import]
A Beautiful Mind (Widescreen Awards Edition) (2002) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Russell Crowe
Offered by True Blue Vintage
Price: CDN$ 14.99
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars "They are my past. Everyone is haunted by their past.", July 13 2004
Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind" is a tragic and inspiring masterwork that showcases one of the most impressive acting performances in recent memory. If there were still any lingering doubts as to the extent of Russell Crowe's acting prowess, this film dashed them all.
John Nash (Crowe) is a brilliant mathematician who makes an amazing breakthrough in his field while a student at Princeton. After graduating, he teaches at M.I.T. while working for the federal government as a code-breaker. He begins a relationship with a graduate student (Jennifer Connelly) and soon they are married and settle into a quiet domestic life. However, Nash soon starts to see patterns and associations of information everywhere and it is soon discovered that he is suffering from schizophrenia. Serious questions as to his perceptions of the real world, both in the past and in the present, must now be confronted.
Virtually all aspects of "A Beautiful Mind" work beautifully. Howard's confident direction and the strong lead performances by Crowe and Connelly is the glue that holds the entire production together. However, the important contributions made by supporting actors Paul Bettany, Ed Harris, and Christopher Plummer, composer James Horner, and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman should not be underestimated and should also be acknowledged. Furthermore, "A Beautiful Mind" deserves credit for not sentimentalizing Nash's struggle against mental illness. The darker aspects of his tortuous road to recovery are not avoided and are unflinchingly presented warts and all. It is a credit to Crowe's talent that we come to know John Nash so well and come to care so much for him. Nash's life is an amazing story and "A Beautiful Mind" is an amazing recounting of it.

It Happened One Night (Bilingual) [Import]
It Happened One Night (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Clark Gable
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 32.93
21 used & new from CDN$ 17.99

3.0 out of 5 stars "Excuse me lady, but that upon which you sit is mine.", July 11 2004
Peter Warne: Why didn't you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.
Ellie Andrews: Well, ooo, I'll remember that when we need forty cars.
On-screen chemistry has the ability to turn a good film into something special. Look no further than Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" for proof of this. Whoever came up with the idea of pairing Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert together in this production certainly earned his or her paycheck.
Rich girl Ellie Andrews (Colbert) runs away from her father so that she can be with her one true love, King Westley (Jameson Thomas). Ellie has little knowledge of how the outside world works so she hooks up with reporter Peter Warne (Gable) who offers to help her reach New York in return for the exclusive rights to her story. The pair finds each other intolerable at the outset but as they spend more time together, their opinions of each other start to change. By the time they arrive in New York, Ellie and Peter must decide if they should act upon the newfound affection they have developed towards one another.
"It Happened One Night" is effectively funny and romantic at the same time. The out-of-the-way situations Ellie and Peter find themselves involved in is screwball comedy at its finest and the love that develops between them is Hollywood magic at its most charming. Colbert and Gable show why they were two of the biggest stars of their era and the chemistry they display on screen still is magnetic to this very day. "It Happened One Night" is also a fascinating cultural text due to its suggestive sexual overtones and its vivid depiction of a woman who is determined to take matters into her own hands when the situation calls for it. Both of these aspects are especially noteworthy when one considers the period in which the film was made. Yet, if "It Happened One Night" is to be remembered for anything, it should be remembered for the classic that it is. After all, when you speak of pure cinematic bliss, you speak of scenes like the one where Ellie flashes her thigh to stop an approaching car - truly one of the greatest moments ever caught on film.

Young Frankenstein (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
Young Frankenstein (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Gene Wilder
Offered by Renaud-Bray
Price: CDN$ 14.24
22 used & new from CDN$ 1.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Roll, roll, roll in ze hay.", July 11 2004
Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" is not only a loving tribute to James Whale's original Frankenstein films, but a wildly entertaining spoof that still generates laughs years after its original release. This is Brooks in his prime and that is indeed a wonderful sight to behold.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is the grandson of the notorious Victor Frankenstein. After reviewing his grandfather's work, Frederick tries to recreate the famous reanimation experiment at his ancestral castle. Frederick succeeds in bringing his own creation to life but as luck would have it, there is a problem with the brain implanted in the monster (Peter Boyle). Soon, the monster is roaming the countryside and finding itself in one hilarious situation after another until Frederick catches up with him and promptly puts his tap-dancing talents to good use.
"Young Frankenstein" is blessed with top quality comedic performances from start to finish. Wilder and Boyle are pitch perfect as the doctor and his creation and the supporting cast of Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr, Cloris Leachman, and Gene Hackman all shine. The production design also is top notch as the Frankenstein Castle's interiors and exteriors are faithfully recreated - with the help of some of the original props - in glorious black and white and literally look like holdover sets from Universal's "Frankenstein" (1931) and "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935). You would never think that source material like Mary Shelley's original work could inspire such a funny film, but leave it to Brooks to prove it could be done.

Die Hard: Five Star Collection (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Die Hard: Five Star Collection (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Bruce Willis
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 53.41
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Do I sound like I'm ordering a pizza?", July 10 2004
John McTiernan's "Die Hard" is one of the more celebrated entries in the action-adventure genre. Yet, the film upon close inspection is really just another "shoot-'em-up" production that ultimately wears out its welcome long before the final baddie is gunned down.
John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a New York police officer who has arrived in Los Angeles for Christmas. His wife (Bonnie Bedelia) has accepted a vice-president position with Nakatomi Corporation. While McClane is attending a Christmas party at his wife's new office building, a group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) seize the high-rise so that they may steal millions of dollars in negotiable bonds. McClane takes it upon himself to defeat the terrorists and free the hostages they have taken.
"Die Hard" does introduce some novel aspects to the genre - it's a nice change of pace to see an everyman hero instead of the typical secret agent or military super-soldier at the center of an action film, it's nice to see an action hero with a sensitive side, and it's also nice to see a villain with a degree of sophistication. But "Die Hard" intermixes these elements with so many loud explosions and gunfights that one becomes numb after awhile. Throw in too many supporting characters who are deficient in the intelligence department and one inexcusable resurrection at the end, and all you're left with is a film that is great to look at but nothing more. Willis more than proves he can play an action hero and Bedelia adds a welcome degree of charm to the proceedings. Yet, "Die Hard" turns out to be only a smidgen better than its action contemporaries from the period and that is not enough to make it something special.

The Others (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
The Others (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Nicole Kidman
Offered by TUNESUS
Price: CDN$ 6.52
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I just feel more and more cut off from the world.", July 10 2004
Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others" is a reminder that very good films need not be glitzy or gimmicky. Neither is an excess of special effects or action sequences required. Film is an exercise in storytelling and good films succeed in telling their story well no matter how small and quaint the film may appear to be.
Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) and her two children, Nicholas (James Bentley) and Anne (Alakina Mann), live in a manor off the British coast. Three strangers arrive one day in answer to a placed advertisement for domestic help. For some strange reason, the three strangers prove to be familiar with Grace's house. Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), and the gardener Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) soon immerse themselves in the daily routine of the manor, but the mood of the house suddenly seems changed with them around. Is there something to the strangers or is Grace's imagination just getting the better of her?
"The Others" revels in its simplicity. This is a film reminiscent of an earlier era in terms of filmmaking craft but it does not at all feel like a time-displaced relic when viewed through the filter of modern sensibilities. A legitimately unsettling atmosphere is created under the deft direction of Amenabar and Kidman is granted a wonderful opportunity to put her acting talents on display. She takes full advantage of her chance to carry a film on her own and succeeds admirably. Kidman is the emotional and dramatic catalyst of the story and the film as a whole would have been far less effective had she faltered. Flanagan, Cassidy, and Sykes are also great as the sweet but creepy strangers. From the outset, we know that there is something amiss by their arrival on the scene but we cannot put our finger on it. A tip of the hat to Amenabar for keeping us in suspense until the very end. Good work all around.

A Christmas Story (Two-Disc Special Edition) [Import]
A Christmas Story (Two-Disc Special Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Peter Billingsley
Offered by momox ca
Price: CDN$ 12.69
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Oh, I hate the smell of tapioca.", July 4 2004
Bob Clark's "A Christmas Story" is a cinematic slice of Americana. It chronicles an era long since gone when a BB gun was the dream present of every young child and when saying the wrong word would set up a meeting between your mouth and a bar of soap.
Young Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) longs for a Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action BB Gun and makes no secret that he wants one for Christmas. However, everyone in his northern Indiana town warns him that he will shoot his eye out if his wish is granted. Ralphie stubbornly refuses to waver and hopes against hope that his wish will be granted while navigating around the other problems in his life - a school bully, a brother who has outgrown his snowsuit, an aunt who thinks he's a girl, a hazardous visit to Santa Claus at the department store, a tongue stuck on a frozen lamp post, and a decoder ring that decodes an uninspiring message.
There really is nothing that distinguishes "A Christmas Story" from your run-of-the-mill seasonal made-for-television Christmas production. The feeling of nostalgia that the film generates basically is its only notable aspect. The jokes are routine and the characters are the typical generic stock figures you would find in any modern Christmas tale. Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon are amusing as Ralphie's parents and Billingsley has a short of charm as young Ralphie, but the performances aren't special enough to elevate the material. "A Christmas Story" does a wonderful job of recreating a certain place and time. However, it does not accomplish much more than that. In the realm of big-screen Christmas features, "A Christmas Story" places somewhere in the middle of the pack.

The Celebration [Import]
The Celebration [Import]
DVD ~ Ulrich Thomsen
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 55.06
9 used & new from CDN$ 33.97

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Every family has a secret.", July 4 2004
This review is from: The Celebration [Import] (DVD)
Thomas Vinterberg's "The Celebration" examines what happens when the unease typically in the air at a family gathering transforms into horror upon the revelation of a dark family secret to everyone in attendance. Yet, the most noteworthy aspect of this film is not so much its story but the manner in which that story is told. "The Celebration" is a fascinating venture that is equal parts a straight drama and a surreal experimental work.
Helge (Henning Moritzen) is celebrating his 60th birthday at his family inn at Denmark. His three children, Christian (Ulrich Thomsen), Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen), and Helene (Paprika Steen) return home for the party but their joy is tempered by a recent suicide in the family. At the birthday celebration, Christian stands before the assembled guests and exclaims that his father is not the upstanding man that many believe him to be. In fact, Christian accuses his father of horrible acts committed upon his children when they were younger. The evening further spirals out of control when Helene's boyfriend becomes the target of the family's bigotry and a servant reveals an affair she had with a family member. By the next morning, the dynamics of Helge's family have irrevocably changed.
"The Celebration" is one of the products of the "Dogma 95" document in which a group of Danish directors pledged to shoot films using only hand-held cameras and the natural sounds and props found on location. These films were not to include any special effects or musical scores. This minimalist approach to filmmaking proves fascinating as it allows the true essence of the creative process to filter through in the end product. Vinterberg had nothing at his disposal to enhance or salvage his film if what he had on film proved lacking. He had to produce an involving product with only his wits and instincts to guide him on a day-to-day basis. Did he succeed? Most definitely. One viewing of "The Celebration" proves that Vinterberg successfully crafted a quality film in as pure and raw a form as possible. It is a testament to the unconventional and unyielding vision of a talented director.

Talk to Her (Bilingual) [Import]
Talk to Her (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Rosario Flores
Offered by Permaculture Solutions
Price: CDN$ 19.95
31 used & new from CDN$ 2.13

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Nothing is simple.", June 27 2004
Pedro Almodovar's "Talk to Her" is a disappointing follow-up to the director's much-superior "All About My Mother." While this outing aims for the same emotional bullseye that the previous film hit, it misses its mark by incalculable lengths. The end result is a mess of a film that is just all over the place.
Writer Marco Zuluaga (Darío Grandinetti) meets male nurse Benigno Martín (Javier Cámara) after Lydia González (Rosario Flores), a famous female matador, is gored. Staying at Lydia's bedside, he notices that one of the other patients on the same floor is a ballerina named Alicia (Leonor Watling) who has been in a coma since she was involved in a traffic accident. As Marco spends more and more time at Lydia's bedside, he starts to develop a deep friendship with Benigno who displays a similar devotion toward Alicia. Both men speak of their innermost feelings to their comatose companions which helps them to bring their lives into better focus. However, the friendship between the two men is severely tested when Benigno's relationship with Alicia takes a dark turn.
"Talk to Her" offers a unique take on the nature of companionship as its two male leads find some meaning in their lives by spending time with companions who may never be aware of their presence. It also explores the more feminine aspects of the male persona as both men assume the caretaker roles typically assigned to women and find satisfaction in it. However, when "Talk to Her" begins to examine the obsessive turn of one of the relationships, it becomes muddled. Instead of just being content with chronicling the nature and dynamics of male-female relationships, the film introduces a moral dilemma into the proceedings that adds a sinister undercurrent to the story. In essence, a strong character study film transforms into a morality tale that asks the viewer whether a wrong can be truly considered a wrong when it produces a positive outcome. This strange turn is not for the better. In the end, watching "Talk to Her" just feels like watching two disparate stories clumsily edited together.

Streetcar Named Desire (Full Screen)
Streetcar Named Desire (Full Screen)
DVD ~ Vivien Leigh
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 34.68
20 used & new from CDN$ 3.18

2.0 out of 5 stars "Luck is believing you're lucky, that's all.", June 27 2004
Elia Kazan's film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" features some of the best tour-de-force acting cinema has ever seen. Yet, the film feels strangely lacking and deficient. This is due more to the shortcomings of the source material than Kazan's direction. While Williams' minimalist story contained enough material to produce an engaging stage play, the same work comes across as diminutive when adapted to the larger canvas of the big screen.
Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) arrives in New Orleans after losing her family estate. Scandalous rumors have tarnished her reputation and she is hoping to find some comfort and peace of mind by moving in with her sister, Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter). Blanche tries to mask her fragile psyche by weaving tall tales about herself but Stanley (Marlon Brando), Stella's brute of a husband, sees right through them. Conflict ensues in the household as Stanley uses his insight to torment Stella while his wife tries to maintain the peace.
Brando is magnificent in "A Streetcar Named Desire." This fact is hardly in dispute. His portrayal of Stanley is tremendously masculine as the iconic image of him in his torn shirt in the pouring rain screaming for his wife will attest. His acting is also surprisingly sensitive in the quiet moments when Stanley and Stella are making romantic small-talk. The other performers are stellar as Hunter, Leigh, and Karl Malden actually manage to keep pace with Brando. However, the new standards set for cinematic emotional conflict and realism cannot overcome the simple nature of the story. This lack of narrative complexity limits "A Streetcar Named Desire" to being only a brilliant acting showcase.

Stand by Me (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
Stand by Me (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Wil Wheaton
Price: CDN$ 4.88
40 used & new from CDN$ 3.20

3.0 out of 5 stars "Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman's a real guy.", June 19 2004
Rob Reiner's "Stand By Me" is a celebration of those youthful adventures that eventually transform into cherished memories as the years go by. It is also a touching tale centered around the strong ties of friendship and the eventual loss of innocence one experiences when one comes of age. Definitely unusual themes when you consider the original source material for the film was a work by horror-master Stephen King.

Gordie LaChance (Will Wheaton), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell) set out one day to find the body of a missing child. They stumble into a series of adventures along their journey when they encounter a vicious dog, an oncoming train, leeches, and a group of older boys who also are searching for the body. By the time the four boys end their trek, they realize that their childhood ended during their quest and that they have taken the first steps into adulthood.
Not many films succeed in developing their characters to the point where they truly feel like flesh-and-blood individuals. However, Reiner amazingly manages to vividly define and develop the film's four young leads to the point where they start to stir up distant memories and lead you to recall certain friends you had while you were growing up. By the time "Stand By Me" ends, Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern have transcend their fictional existence and have started to merge with the memories you possess of the pals you had in your youth. The coming of age aspect of the film also is emotionally powerful as it forces you to remember the exact point in your life when you ceased to be a child and moved into a new phase in life. A tip of the hat to Reiner and his young performers for creating such an engaging and nostalgic cinematic work.

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