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June 15, 2002
Our Week Returns

Slacker
Nope, not the upcoming DVD release (Slackers) from Columbia Tri-Star, but me. I've been a real Slacker when it comes to the Our Week in DVD and Movies Column, so please accept my apologies for not updating this sooner. I am going to make a real effort to make sure this column does in fact come out more weekly than monthly :)

DVD Talk on AM Northwest
Some very good news for DVD Talk: I will be appearing now once a month on the ABC Morning Program here in Portland, OR called AM Northwest, talking about the DVD releases for the month. My next appearance is scheduled for the morning of June 13th, so if you live near Portland, be sure to tune in to KATU Channel 2 starting around 8 in the morning and you'll catch yours truly talking about DVD on TV. The last time I was on, I got to expose the 'AM Crowd' to the David Lynch masterpiece Mulholland Drive (a personal triumph). On June's show I'll be covering some of the Oscar films now coming to DVD (ie Monsters Ball, A Beautiful Mind, Gosford Park and the often overlooked I am Sam).

Don't Overlook I Am Sam
Here's a DVD for a movie that was terribly overlooked (both in the Box Office and at Oscar time. I have been a long time fan of Sean Penn's work (see Sweet and Lowdown, Dead Man Walking, Carlito's Way and I don't think you'll find a better example of his commitment to his characters than I am Sam. Combine this with a strong script, really solid directing and one of the better soundtracks I've heard in a while and you've got a real gem of a movie. I am Sam is one of New Line's Platinum DVDs (there are so many designations for special editions now adays I think they've lost their relevance), regardless of what they call it, the picture and sound quality are excellent and the commentary by Director Jessie Nelson is actually interesting (If I had a buck for every lame commentary I've had to endure recently, I'd be a rich man). I also really enjoyed the Doc Becoming Sam as well as the deleted scenes. If you are even remotely a Sean Penn fan or are looking for a touching film be real sure not to overlook I am Sam.

Most Wanted
I got very inspired by our very own CineSchlock-O-Rama and his CineSchlock-O-Rama's Most Wanted List and his effort to pull together movies he likes, which are less than likely to find their way from VHS to DVD. I tried to think of a movie that I used to really like that had a snowballs chance in hell of making DVD and the film that popped up is the 1981 Michael Crichton 'Techno-thriller' Looker with Albert Finney, James Coburn, and a young/attractive Susan Day (LA Law). I decided to check out the (Gasp) VHS of Looker to see how it stood up to the 20 or so years since I first saw it, and I still really enjoyed the not so subtle commentary on the use of technology in advertising. It's especially timely considering all the digital cinema work that's going on now (I'll never forget the scene in the Star Wars Phantom Menace Documentary where Lucas cuts out one actor and moves him around the screen). Since Warner's released Crichton's Westworld and Coma on DVD hopefully Looker isn't too far behind.

Star Wars II - Reconsidered
OK it's been a little while now since I saw Star Wars Episode II - Attack of the Clones, and after careful thought and consideration - It doesn't hold up. With Episode I I couldn't forgive the ridiculous Jar-Jar that got stuck in my craw, with Episode II it's the ludicrous romance between Anakin and Padmé that I just can't get past. The more I think about it, the more I realized that when watching the film I was far far to forgiving for scenes which are just poorly written (see any 'love scenes' or the scene w/ Anakin's Mom). This is not to say I didn't enjoy Star Wars II when I saw it, it's just now, after some thought it just doesn't hold up for me. One thing I do think back on is how good Ewan McGregor was (especially when compared to his dreadful performance in Episode I) his is a prime example of an actor taking a lemon of a script and making premium lemonade with his performance. Lets hope for III Lucas will do what he does better than anyone else: PRODUCE and turn the writing/directing reigns over to some fresh faces. Of course I fully expect to eat crow and declare the DVD for II (coming later this year) a masterpiece, as Episode I DVD showed, you CAN have an amazing DVD from a less than amazing movie.

John Q
While we're on the subject of good DVDs for less than great movies .... my experience of John Q was the epitome of how a studio can make a mediocre film look and sound fantastic. The transfer for John Q is eye popping, with extremely sharp, clear and vivid picture and colors. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS audio tracks are as solid as you get, but the movie is el crapo. Watch the trailer, then you've seen the movie. Actually watching the movie mean suffering through scenes where people sit around and voice sound bytes for an HMO debate. Don't the studios realize that movies made to prove a point never work as good as great stories where characters actually have a character arch. Denzel Washington is such a solid actor, it's painful to watch him in such a poor film.

A Beautiful DVD
Geez, reading over my column so far I seem like I real curmudgeon. I don't want people to get the idea that I sit around trying to find things wrong with films. Actually I desperately want to see a good movie. But this past week was packed with disappointments. First off I was subjected to the dreadful Bad Company... how a film Directed by Joel Schumacher and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer could be this bad (and this boring) is mind blowing. I went in expecting mindless fun, came out utterly disappointed. Next up John Q, yuck. Then I watched the first 15 mins of Rare Birds but bailed when I realized I didn't care about any of the characters. FINALLY, I found salvation in what can only be described as 'A Beautiful DVD'! For some reason I actually missed seeing A Beautiful Mind when it was in the theaters, so my first viewing of the film was on DVD, and I have to say it was one of the most satisfying movie experiences I've had in a while. Universal did a great job with this DVD (aside from the lack of DTS), it looks and sounds great, and is really packed to the gills with great extras. The most notable extra are the over 25 mins of deleted scenes all with Ron Howard commentary. After watching the cut scenes I wished I could see the movie over again with the scenes re-integrated.... Man would love to have that option on more DVDs.

Lots of New Columns and Content on DVD Talk
One of the things that really motivated me to get going with my column are all the other great new columns coming to DVD. Gil Jawetz (long time DVD Reviewer) has been filing reports from the 'New York Beat' in his new column CinemaGotham. In under a month he's already covered 2 film fests a premiere and Troma Party! Also coming to DVD Talk is a new column focused on Movies in The Theaters, it'll be penned by new DVD Talk Reviewer DK Holm, and last (but not least) DVD Talker Brian Nicholson is going to be penning a new column called The Blue Room 'Intelligent Talk About Adult DVDs'. We realize that there are people out there who buy an occasional Adult DVD or are interested in getting more info about them (but don't want to go to an ADULT site) we hope the new column will help people sift through all the Adult DVDs out there to find the best.

Well that's all for me this week. Again I'll try to get this column updated more frequently, and as always I am interested in your feedback!

Best Regards,
Geoffrey Kleinman - Editor DVDTalk


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