Monty Python Live! (2001) – DVD Review

monty python live dvd cover

Film:
DVD:

Directed by: Terry Hughes & Ian MacNaughton
Written by & Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones & Michael Palin

Features:

  • Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982)
  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Live at Aspen (1998)
  • Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Python (1989)
  • Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus: Episode #1 (1972)
  • “Post-Python Troupe Highlights”
  • “Pythonisms” – a dictionary of Pythonic terms
  • “Bleeding Critics” & “Confusing Musings” – small tidbits from various Python shows

Released by: A&E Home Video
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: N/A, appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Own It.

Read More

Dumbo (1941) – DVD Review

dumbo dvd review

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Joe Grant & Dick Huemer, based on a story by Aurie Battaglia, Otto Englander, Bill Peet, Joe Rinaldi, Webb Smith & Vernon Stallings, which was in turn based on the book by Helen Aberson & Harold Perl
Directed by: Ben Sharpsteen
Starring: Edward Brophy, Cliff Edwards, Sterling Holloway, Herman Bing, Verna Felton

Features:

  • Running commentary with animation historian John Canemaker
  • Music video for Michael Crawford’s rendition of “Baby Mine”
  • Trailers for Peter Pan 2, Cinderella 2 and The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2
  • Exclusive look at Dumbo 2
  • Art gallery featuring concept art
  • Original Walt Disney TV Introduction
  • “Celebrating Dumbo” Featurette
  • Sound design segment
  • Dumbo “DVD Storybook”
  • Silly Symphonies: “Elmer Elephant” and “The Flying Mouse”
  • Sing-Along Songs: “Look Out For Mr. Stork” and “Casey Jr.”
  • Theatrical trailers

Released by: Walt Disney Video
Region: 1
Rating: G
Anamorphic: N/A, appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Own It.

Read More

Devil May Cry (PS2) – Game Review

Devil May Cry PS2

Overall (not an average):

Developer: Capcom Entertainment
Publisher: Capcom Entertainment
Platform: Playstation 2
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

When word first came out about Devil May Cry, I was pretty excited. A big fan of the Resident Evil series, and just about any other action/adventure game that doesn’t rely on little anime-ish tykes with too-big heads, I couldn’t wait to see what happened when they took a dose of Blade, a dash of ResEvil, and a little touch of the gunslinging Western movie and made a game out of it. Having played it now, I can only say that it was close, but no cigar. While stylistically the game is definitely tops, the gameplay concepts are nothing new, the mechanics clunky and awkward in places, and the story all-too-familiar.

A little story background to set the stage: in the game, you play Dante, a half-devil/half-human crossbreed that works as a sort of private investigator of the utterly bizarre. Dante gets hired by the requisite noir femme fatale to keep a devil prince, recently escaped from his underworld prison, from furthering his ambitions of world domination. Along the way, you fight lots (and I do mean LOTS) of his minions, typically in really impressive environments that are beautifully designed and rendered.

Read More

Victoria & Albert (2001) – DVD Review

Victoria and Albert DVD cover

Film:
DVD:

Written by: John Goldsmith
Directed by: John Erman
Starring: Victoria Hamilton, Jonathan Firth, Nigel Hawthorne, Diana Rigg, David Suchet

Features:

  • Selected cast biographies/filmographies

Released by: A&E Home Video
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A, appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent It.

King William IV (Peter Ustinov) is getting older, and the heir to the throne is his niece, Victoria (Hamilton). Trouble is, she’s being kept cooped up in the estate of her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Penelope Wilton). The old bat wants to keep Victoria under her thumb in the hopes that the power of the throne will rub off on her and her co-conspirator, Sir John Conroy (Patrick Malahide). Meanwhile, the Baron von Stockmar (Suchet) is trying to use his power to set up Prince Albert (Firth) as the upcoming Queen’s consort. Family politics, national and international politics, and downright behind-the-back dealings set the stage for a relationship that helped to shape England.

Read More

Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor (PC) – Game Review

Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor PC Game

Overall:

Developer: Stormfront Studios
Publisher: UbiSoft (SSI)
Platform: PC (system requirements below)
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

The words “pool or radiance” serve as a kind of litmus test for hardcore computer role-playing gamers. Equally powerful is the phrase “gold box game.” If you remember when a badass machine had VGA graphics and a 286/16 processor, and are a fan of CRPGs, then you likely know of and probably played at least one of SSI’s legendary “gold-box games.” A series of games based on the popular Dungeons & Dragons pencil-and-paper game, the gold box games were a serious evolution of what role-playing meant on the PC. Along with the Bard’s Tale and early Might & Magic games, they set the standard for decent computer role-playing.

So naturally, when SSI stepped up and said they were going to bring the first computer game compatible with the spankin’ new D&D rules set, I was psyched. As were thousands of other gamers that remembered fondly the hours invested in the old gold-box series. It was going to be huge. However, as is increasingly the case with computer games today, the hype wrote checks that the software can’t cash. Buggy, sluggish, and tedious, the new Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor had a good chunk of the gamers that invested in it’s first-day release screaming for their money back, or worse, threatening legal action against UbiSoft.

Read More

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – Movie Review

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon movie poster

Written by: James Schamus, Kuo Jung Tsai, Hui-Ling Wang, based on the book by Du Lu Wang
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Pei-pei Cheng

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat) is a warrior who has had enough. Despite the fact that his master’s murderer, Jade Fox, is still loose out there somewhere, he’s tired of the warrior’s path. Because of how set he is on retiring, he is entrusting his sword, the Green Destiny, to his old compatriot, Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh). She takes the sword to their mutual friend, Sir Te (Sihung Lung), as a gift on Li Mu Bai’s behalf. But when the Destiny is stolen by a mysterious thief with magical fighting techniques, Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien are going to be drawn into a web of mystery and violence that involves not only a young princess (Ziyi) and an outlaw (Chen), but Jade Fox as well.

Read More

Traffic (2000) – Movie Review

traffic-movie-poster

Written by: Stephen Gaghan, based on the original BBC miniseries by Simon Moore
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio del Toro, Don Cheadle, Dennis Quaid

My Advice: Matinee

The macrocosm of worldwide drug trafficking condensed into the microcosm of a theatrical release film. A judge (Douglas) gets appointed to be the new U.S. drug czar, only to learn that his daughter (Erika Christensen) is addicted to the very stuff her dad now is in charge of stopping. The wife (Zeta-Jones) of a businessman (Steven Bauer) learns that her husband’s real business was trafficking drugs into the U.S.–after he’s been arrested, leaving her and her family in dire straits. A Mexican cop (del Toro) has to fight the system and his own ethics when dealing with the drug trade.

My primary beef with Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic is that it’s just so long and drawn out. It had a very powerful message, and dealt it the way my favorite “message films” have done. They say, “Here’s the scenario–now here is it from every angle. You figure out what to think.” The problem with this film is that it takes forever to get to where it’s going. Granted, when it finally gets there, it’s a hell of a bomb to drop.

Read More

Tool: Salival (2000) – DVD Review

Tool: Salival DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Directed by Ken Andrews, Adam Jones & Fred Stuhr

Features:

  • Five videos: “Hush,” “Sober,” “Prison Sex,” “Stinkfist,” “Ænema”
  • Bonus CD with eight tracks

Released by: Volcano
Region: 1
Rating: NR, but don’t let your kids pop it in
Anamorphic: N/A; videos appear in their original 1.33:1 format.

Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Own it.

Many, many moons ago, when I was in a band, Tool’s Opiate EP was one of the CDs I would use as a vocal warm-up on my way to gigs. People would ask me if I listened to Tool, due apparently to lead singer/vocal god Maynard’s influence on my particular stylings. That would always fill me with a sense of pride. When their next album, Undertow, came out, they had this disturbing little video for their single, “Sober,” which fascinated me. Featuring a deformed stop-motion puppet being tormented in a what appeared to be a blasted-out shell of a dead house, it was something I could watch over and over again, always finding some little bizarre nuance I had missed before.

Read More

Chocolat (2000) – Movie Review

Chocolat movie poster

Written by: Robert Nelson Jacobs, based on the novel by Joanne Harris
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Johnny Depp, Lena Olin, Judi Dench

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Vianne (Binoche) comes from a long line of wanderers, spreading the good word and the good chocolate, with her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) in tow. She just so happens to have wandered into a sleepy little French town circa 1959. She rents a shop and begins to get ready to open her confectionary shoppe for the benefit of the entire burg–but she’s doing all of this right before Lent, which doesn’t sit well with the town’s mayor (Molina). Before long, the battle lines are drawn: the establishment versus the iconoclastic chocoholics. Who will win? Three guesses.

Read More

The Cell (2000) – Movie Review

The Cell

Written by: Mark Protosevich
Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, Dylan Baker, Jake Weber

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Catherine (Lopez) is a former social worker who’s now finally able to get inside the mind of the child in her care. We’re talking literally here. She is able to project her mind into the minds of others using cutting edge technology, and is trying to help a catatonic child (Colton James) with his trauma. Into her life comes FBI agent Novak (Vaughn), and boy does she wish he was carrying flowers. But instead, he’s carrying Carl (D’Onofrio), a serial killer–and they need Catherine’s help to find the whacko’s latest victim.

Let’s get something out of the way first. This seems an awful lot like Dreamscape of the Lambs, with art direction by Joel-Peter Witkin. And yes, in the hands of less capable directors, that’s probably all it might have turned out to be: eye candy that wasn’t for the squeamish. However, Tarsem, he of the music videos, stepped up to the chair and brought with him much thoughts (and effective ones at that) about what the inner workings of a madman’s mind might be.

Read More