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DVD Reviews for July-August 2001, Pt. 2 of 2

[Click on each DVD to go directly to its review]

The Legend Of Bagger Vance (2000)

A young man in the South is as skilled a golfer as any. He has a lovely young lady to whom he is engaged and all is well at least until the war comes along he is obligated to do his duty and serve his country. The horrors he witnesses under combat will change him forever. He is no longer the man who left for battle, but a disillusioned shadow of himself, destined to live an unfulfilled life without the sport that he once loved. His fiancé has given up all hope of their being together and has come upon the arduous task of trying to salvage her family fortune which was put into a fabulously extravagant golf resort. The depression has left her in dire straits, so what does she decide to do? The answer lies in a charity golf match for a prize larger than any before it. Her plan involves finding the best golfers available and getting the media exposure necessary to stay solvent.

But where is the lost golfer who can hit better and harder and with more style than any other? A young boy knows and goes off to convince our hero to come back and play another game. The boy encourages him to come back in order to try and find himself again. He is not easily persuaded, but soon comes to realize that this may be his only chance to heal the wounds deep within his heart and soul. Here enters a mysterious caddy that will not only help him in his golf game, but in rediscovering who he once was and helping him to know that he can be that person again. Bagger Vance is a wonderful movie full of magic and hope that doesn't require an extended interest in golf to enjoy. You won't be disappointed.

- Brian Bloom

 

Bus Stop (1956)

A young cowboy without the experience of women or city folk is on his way to a rodeo in the big city. His companion is an older gentleman whose function is to keep an eye on this wild and wooly lad. Needless to say the movie contains lots of riding in a bus. When they finally arrive in town and make their way to the hotel they notice a nice bar across the way where all the cowboys are hanging out. Here is where the sparks begin to fly, as our young man is smitten with the lovely Cherie. He decides that he will make her his woman no matter what anyone thinks and kidnaps her on the bus back home. She has other ideas and this conflict makes for a fun ride home.

This film is considered by some to be one of Marilyn's best works. She really does a good job in the role and even though most of the characters are caricatures of themselves, they work well together and make the movie light and enjoyable. If you are not familiar with Marilyn aside from her pinups, then it is time to take a look and discover a real actress. The film looks a little dated and grainy, but has good color and the restoration improves upon the look of the original.

- Brian Bloom

Prelude To A Kiss (1992)

A man and a woman meet at a party. They both seem to be a little bit odd. Peter is a bit of nerd, while Rita claims to not having slept since she was a teenager. An interesting pair to say the least, but after some small stumbling and chit chat the two notice a sparkle in each other that anyone who has had it happen can identify-love at first sight. The next day Peter finds himself in a bar looking for that same girl, and not completely understanding why. The relationship begins to develop as they both learn their quirks, and all the things that make them unique and desirable to each other. Eventually there is no question that they must marry and devote themselves to each other completely.

Aside from the nerve-wracking nature of a wedding in general, everything seems to be going fine. And then a strange man shows up and slips into the wedding reception. After some food and drink he makes an unforgettable request: that he be allowed to kiss the bride. Strange weather appears signaling a change about to occur-a change that could destroy their love and alter their destiny. Rita seems different. She is not the same person, and the honeymoon is anything but wonderful. As Peter tries to pick up the pieces he soon becomes convinced that the old man and his wife have exchanged souls. His love remains strong, and his pursuit begins. He won't stop until his love is back in his arms, but does this mean he must love an old man?

The back of the DVD case calls this movie a comedy, but that doesn't appropriately describe the film. There is a lot to get out of this film. Recommended, especially for couples, lovers, spouses, or anyone who has ever been in love. In the end we all cheer for the chance that two people will find love and be able to hold onto it. That can't be so bad.

- Brian Bloom

Magnificent Seven (1960)

If you have ever seen Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai, then you've seen the inspiration for this American remake. In fact most of the story elements and characters are preserved. Where the original classic tells of some peasants in Japan needing protection from brigands, this film portrays outlaws who are terrorizing a Mexican village which hires gunfighters to help stop the trouble. The pillaging of their village continues to get worse until those in the village are forced to go into town to get help. While in the town the peasants see the bravery exhibited by a few of the men and realize that instead of going to get guns to try and repel the outlaws themselves, they might as well try and hire these men to do their dirty work. They don't have much to offer, but out of honor one man after another accepts the offer and they assemble a group of seven men. While six of them are seasoned veterans, one man is younger and more of an upstart, which is in keeping with the Toshiro Mifune character in the original. Resistance from both sides make the outcome somewhat uncertain, but in the end good will triumph, despite the devastations that may come along with it.

The film contains many well-known actors of the time and delivers lots of good action and excitement. I guess it doesn't hurt that the original film was a classic, but the remake incorporates a good soundtrack and the film works in any language as the ideas portrayed rise above any cultural differences. Color was a bit dull and there was some video noise, but otherwise it was good. Sound must have been remastered for 5.1 and there was a varying amount of surround content depending on scene. Overall, this was a very good film taken on its own, but if you haven't seen The Seven Samurai, then I recommend checking that out as well.

- Brian Bloom


Platoon (1986)

A young man enters the war in Vietnam with many ideas of what will come to pass, many of which are soon replaced with the reality of war. He is in a company of men different from any he has ever experienced before. Many of these men had no place to go except "out:" out of their small towns to do what they believed to be a great service for their country. None of them will ever be the same again.

This movie details many of the experiences of this young man with the enemy. The enemy takes many forms and is not limited to the Viet Cong. It includes his fellow soldiers and even himself. As he moves up the ranks and is no longer a new "grunt" taking on all the hard manual labor duties, he begins to understand the difficult situation in which he has put himself. It is not just his body that tires and grows weary, but his mind is under great stress, and he sees some who are unable to handle this. Activities and depictions portrayed are not always pleasant, but they do appear to be as true to life as the filmmaker thought possible.

The film won the best picture in 1986 for good reason. The special edition has the extra features not present in the original and an entire commentary track from the military consultant on the film. It is easy to empathize with the main character and feel his frustration, confusion, and the unfairness of it all as he suffers through his tour of duty. The monologue at the end may be a bit blatant and corny, but most of this film is hard to complain about. It's as if Stone knew what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it, and this film is the realization of his vision. If you can handle some uncomfortable footage then there is no reason why you shouldn't see this film.

- Brian Bloom


Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

A new tactic is needed in the war against the Germans during WW II. It has been decided that the Air Force has to repeatedly bomb the Germans during the daytime in an effort to destroy supply lines, military forces, and key production areas. The boys in the planes are becoming more and more weary and it is deemed necessary to send in a new man to take over the troops. His plan is to make the weak and soft boys into hard and disciplined men through intensive training, practice missions, and real-life bombing raids. The men have no great liking for their new leader and wish to transfer out. With the help of the colonel who has great faith in the ideals put forward by the General, the men eventually pull into line and work as a successful unit. All is not well with the General as the pressure builds and builds and the men are required to deliver "maximum effort." In the end we see what men and boys are really made of and what patriot can mean to one and all.

In its day, Twelve O'Clock High may have seemed more serious. Don't get me wrong; it is a serious film that is meant to inspire, but it is also laden with corny scenes and corny acting. This prevented it from getting a higher rating in my book, but doesn't diminish it as a good film. Picture was average mainly due to its age and some noise and flickering in parts. Sound was good; loud and distinctive considering its age. This film won Best Sound in 1949 by the way. Twelve O'Clock High is another good film about WW II with some good acting and storytelling.

- Brian Bloom

Jules Dassin's Rififi (1955)

Blacklisted director Dassin had to go to Paris and work for peanuts to make this raw and realistic heist movie that later inspired a whole genre of film noir. He hired down-and-out veteran actor Servais, who looked exactly the part without half trying. Four ex-cons are sure they have everything planned out perfectly for their last glorious burglary, but their safe-cracker expert's soft spot for a nightclub singer (she sings the song Rififi) slowly becomes their complete undoing. Dassin had to play the safe-cracker at the last minute when there was a snafu getting the intended actor. The longish recent video interview with Dassin is fascinating and informative; I think I prefer this approach to "extras" to that of separate soundtrack commentaries. Georges Auric wrote the film score but agreed to observe complete silence for a gripping 30-minute section while the criminals are carefully cutting through the ceiling of the jewelry store they are in the process of robbing. There's some dark Hitchcockian humor too. This expressionistic tour de force is film noir with a vengeance. Contributing to the engrossing experience is (as the outside case truthfully claims) a pristine digital transfer that looks like the film was just shot last week.

- John Sunier


The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

A famous doctor ends up dead and the circumstances behind the death seem rather strange. When more strange deaths seem to follow the detective in charge must struggle to find a connection. With enough conviction and searching they seem to locate a single medical file that may hold the answer. All the people who appear to be murdered were all present during a surgery of a woman who did not survive. A strange old man with a young assistant manages to figure in prominently in this equation. The husband of the woman is listed as dead via a car crash, so who could this old organ player be? The police put the remaining members under their protection, but Dr. Phibes has his own plan to treat them to an ancient curse with nine methods of death. After they all are dead he himself can finally rest: "Nine killed her, nine shall die, nine eternities in doom!"

Interesting sets and general strangeness make this movie entertaining. In parts I definitely felt it was a little weird, and the storyline pretty much dictated the conclusion, but there is something about the film that makes you wonder what will happen next. The Dr. Phibes character seemed to make the police look like idiots unable to find a man even when they knew everything about him! And the car was so distinctive and he lived at a house that seems like it would be obvious how to get to him. Well, this film doesn't really hold up to heavy analysis, and some of the methods of death seem quite unbelievable, but it is billed as a "Midnite Movie" and that it is. You have to be in the mood for this kind of film, but if you are you probably won't be disappointed.

- Brian Bloom          bigbrianb@usa.net 

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