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DVD mini-reviews
This week's update By: doc     visit DWF

This week docweasel.com brings you some reviews of new and old DVDs to add (or not) to your collection. Once again presented with the highly prejudiced, biased and not necessarily consistant movie sensibilities combining Roger Ebert and Mr. Cranky of our own doc

DVD mini-reviews
by doc

Some new purchases at the new and the used DVD stores:

I'll start with the good, because there's plenty of bad:

Buy it! Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
This movie rules. Its one of those movies with hundreds of quotable lines and just great perfomances. The characters are original and fresh and the acting spot-on. The main character is a dork who doesn't know he's dork, and has that supreme confidence of someone geeky who thinks he's cool. And you know what, it makes him cool. Of course he lives in Idaho, where the most popular guy and girl in the school are pretty fucking dorky themselves so there's not a lot to aspire to. Great story and performances, and all on a very small budget. Much more entertaining and worthy that some of the following movies that probably cost about 10x what Nap Dy did.

Buy it! Alien Quadrilogy
I owned some of these individually and in various forms, but if you are a fan of the series this one really organizes them nicely- 9 disks, one for each movie in both its theatrical and 'director's cut' form. The 'cut' adds a lot of footage, mostly stuff that was rightly edited out but ifyou are fan you want to see everything shot, its interesting. Then each movie has a companion disk with very nicely arranged features in 3 forms : 1)making of features divided into pre production/production/post production, 2)still photos 3)design artwork. Each one of _these_ has the wonderful feature "play all" so you don't have to sit there minding the DVD, you can just let it play. Plus they are very uniform and consistant. Other collections could take a cue from this policy.

Buy it! Alien (1979)
The first one, great combo of sci-fi and horror movie, and it still stands up even 25 years later because of great production values, great design and excellent acting. At the time none of these guys but John Hurt were really stars but fantastic director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) cast some superb actors that were either over-looked but great character actors or newcomers who would become stars: Tom Skerrit, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm (Bilbo! Angela Cartwright and of course Segourney Weaver (that's the entire cast except for the cat and the Alien). Fantastic pacing and suspense, with great surprise shocks and innovations. When was the last time you saw the hero try to defuse the bomb up to the last second- and fail!? Great stuff. Plus I even love the gratuitous panty shots of Weaver- even though critics have panned the sex, hey, all great horror movies have some sex and T&A. It's like icing on the cake.

Buy it! Aliens (1986)
My least favorite of the series. I dispise James Cameron and his self-congratulatory commentary with then-wife/producer Gale Ann Hurd is nearly insufferable. Something no one ever mentions about this movie is that the acting fucking sucks ass. The entire premise is pretty lame, basically there is zero suspense. Its just the Marines come in, shoot up some aliens while getting killed one by one until only Weaver (what a surprise) and the little girl are left. You will wish the little girl was dead by about the 20th time she shrieks with ear-splitting frequencies. Still, the special effects work is great and thanks to the inspired choice of having Giger again design the creature and the ships (at least inspired by his drawings) the production stands up even in these cgi times. Fast-paced action movie, but not a great movie.

Buy it! Alien3 (1992)
This is very stylish and interesting, but suffers from the lack of a plot. Its still one of the scariest and goriest of the series, and David Fincher (Se7en) had a great visual style, but the studio and the owners of the franchise fucked with him during the entire making of the movie, his first after a successful career as a music vid and commercial director. This one has the added advantage over "Aliens" of having good and great actors instead of hacks like Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn. Most are British, except Charles Dutton, who believably pulls off a very over-the-top role with lots of melodramatic dialogue. He does a great job and is a real presence in the movie. Weaver seems a little tired of the role and plays it as if she hates the entire thing, but it adds a kind of edginess to the entire thing.

The look and design is vastly different from the first 2 installments, more midieval than space age, and that gives a really eerie and atmospheric take to the entire movie. The original was just about wrecked by interference from the producers, but the enhanced version restores most of Fincher's vision and is a pretty awesome movie. The only disappointment is the ending, which is still a little weak. According to the 'making of', they went in without a finalized script and the ending was devised, then changed (now restored) and it kind of shows, its the worst part of the movie. However, the rest is so good I would still highly recommend this.

Buy it! Alien Resurrection (1997)

This one was not a hit, was slammed by the critics and the original production/executive team basically disowned it as a betrayal of the series (yeah, and they were part of the abominble and horrendous Alien Vs. Predator so go figure) but its my personal favorite of the series. Jean-Pierre Jeunot (Amelie, City of Lost Children) directs and gives the entire film his unique visual style, both in the oversaturation of the colors and his striking color pallette, plus in the look of many of the actors and the retro/dystopian design of the space ships interiors, weapons, costumes, reminiscient of Brazil or Blade Runner.

It is also the only Alien movie with a real sense of humor. It has amazing visual moments, really wonderful performances from a stellar cast of mostly unknown or overlooked actors: Michael Wincott (The Crow) as the leader of the pirate crew, Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast, City of Lost Children) as his thuggish 2nd in command, the hilarious Dominique Pinon (Amelie) as a paraplegic mechanic, Kim Flowers (who has one of the best asses in movies today) as Wincott's gf, and of course Winona Rider, way out of her depth here among real actors, who gives a pretty shitty perfomance as a whiny robot android. She is a star of course so they had to have her, but god her acting sucks.

Plus of course Segourney Weaver, in her best charactorization of Ripley yet. She is really fantastic, has a huge range here, and is very stylish and affected in her portrayal. This movie is probably the most brutally violent and gross of the series, but it really works without being gratuitous. Its also the first one to use a lot of cgi, but its nicely done and there is still plenty of quality miniature and practical effects to make it look a lot less cartoony than movies that were contemporaneous to Alien4 like Starship Troopers.

The aliens look very scary and realistic in this movie, again, mostly thanks to the genius of H.R. Giger (listening to the commentaries I found out its pronounced "Gee-ger") and they even went back to the original design of the queen. This movie is fastest paced, interesting throughout and also great supporting cast with the hilarious Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dune) and Dan Hedaya (Clueless, Cheers). Mostly because of the humor, the fast pace, the really great look and French cinema sensibilities plus fantastic acting and plotting, this is my favorite of the series. Even if you don't like the others, check this one out, its a really unique addition to the series. I can kind of see why American action movie audiences didn't like, the same reason they loved the Terminator movies: they are morons.

Buy it! Monster (2003)
I've read no end what a fantastic performance this was and amazing, it didn't even look like Charlize Theron and she completely transformed herself and isn't it just an awesome talent. Well John Hurt didn't look much like the Elephant Man either until they put 20 lbs. of make-up and prothetics on his face. I think the movie Monster is actually ruined by all the make-up. Every scene I could barely pay attention to what is going on because of the distraction of Theron looking like a scarred burn victim with a half-inch or more of foam rubber appliances attached to her face. On substance, I have a great deal of trouble reconciling a movie that takes a sympathetic view of a mass murderer.

We have only the real Wournos word for it that she was attacked or brutalized by one of the men she murdered, and admittedly she murdered others in cold blood with no provocation other than the fact she wanted to rob them. All this is excused by her 'love' for her girl-toy Shelby, played with catatonic dullness by the always moronic Christina Ricci. Has Ricci ever been good in a movie? Mermaids and Pecker were good movies, but she was nothing but a prop in both. Watching her act in this one, my main thought was "jesus she has big tits for a small girl".

Total waste of time and energy, highly NOT recommended. All hype, no movie. Bruce Dern was cool though as a whacked out Viet-Nam vet. Why didn't they just A) hire a more talented but perhaps less striking acctress and lose the makeup or B) just let Theron play it straight. Hollywood movies are replete with pretty actresses playing real-life dogs. The movie would have been a lot better.

Buy it! The Others (2001)
Jesus this takes a long time to get the point, which is pretty obvious at about the 15 minute mark: THEY'RE ALL DEAD! Oh yeah, spoiler alert.

Buy it! Cold Mountain (2003)
Yet another Nicole Kidman movie. If she would just get naked in every movie, it would redeem even the most shitty film. She does in this one, but not enough to save it. Some of the worst Southern accents I've ever heard, and in a huge big budget epic. Can't they afford some dialogue and dialect coaches? Fuck, 65 years ago Gone With the Wind had the production values and good taste to at least TRY to get the actors to speak with faux southern accents. They were so bad it was annoying and almost made it impossible to watch. Rene Zellwegger (Jerry Maguire) does a fair approximation, but seems to be channelling B.B. Thornton in Slingblade, she says "alright then" about 100 times, just like he does.

She's about as addled as his Carl character as well. And there's an albino bad-guy who looks like a young Johnny (or Edgar Winter) who has an accent that, well I don't know what its supposed to be actually. Its the same with the other actors, its not that its a bad Southern accent, its just you can't tell wtf its supposed to be. They also use quaint 19th century phrases that sound really idiotic and fake in their mouths. Casting an Autralian and a Brit in the lead roles probably didn't help but 'box office rules'. Again, long, and in the end, pointless suffering, brutality and a lot of just dreary hardship and for what? A big shootout denoument! Yee-haw!

Again, big critical rave that gets no recommendation from me, even though I'm a big Jude Law fan and there is some nice naked ass in this movie (plus a big fat naked woman for you chubby chasers). Phillip Seymour Hoffman is great in his small role, as always, but he gets killed too quickly. He also has a hilarious approximation of a Southern accent.

Buy it! Terminator 3 (2003)
This movie is terrible. The effects are lame, the acting is painfully inept even for an action flick, the plot is basically the same as Terminator 2: the bad terminator chases the 3-some around for 90 minutes until they finally kill it. You know how the first 2 movies had catchphrases like "I'll be bock!" †and "Hasta La Vista Baby"? Well this one has 20, with the Terminator spewing out a string of 'funny' one-liners. This movie is as lame as a made for TV version, and there is almost zero gore (maybe that's why it only seems to be available in full screen on Amazon?) Lots of explosions and wrecked cars etc. Highly not recommended.

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