Monday, June 22, 2009

DVD Reviews

A small low budget film with an excellent, entertaining story. Two buddies decide to start a coyote business, guiding “illegals” into the US from Mexico. However, they bill themselves as the “kindler, gentler” coyotes who treat their customers well and go above and beyond the service of the standard trafficker.

The film starts out slowly, but builds into a decent story, though sometimes a bit melodramatic. An interesting piece of Australian history that I’m sure most viewers would admit to being unfamiliar.

Seven Pounds:
Make sure you’re in a somber, reflective mood before watching this film. The intense, emotional story is supported well by some excellent acting.

Kenny Wayne Shepard- 10 Days Out:
The young blues guitarist travels around the country to talk to and jam with many of the old, still living blues greats- some who are worldly famous, but most who only achieved regional acclaim. A nice smorgasbord of different, original blues styles.

Taxi to the Dark Side:
Documentary takes a look at US sponsored torture at Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Includes interviews with those directly involved and focuses on one particular victim- an innocent Afghan taxi driver who was tortured and beaten to death.

This drama tells the story of the Bielski brothers who led an armed Jewish resistance to the German Nazis in the forests of Belo-Russia. This is an important, inspiring piece of history with which I’m sure most people are not aware of. The film also addresses the question of whether you fight terror with terror, with the risk of acting no more civilized than your enemy.

Living Proof:
Emotional biopic that follows the journey of Dr. Dennis Slamon as he worked to fund research and test the drug, Herceptin as a useful tool against breast cancer. A good illustration of the roadblocks (particularly by the FDA) that lie ahead for those who want to desperately save their own lives or the lives of others.

Death in Gaza:
This is a 2002 James Miller documentary that takes a look at life in the occupied Palestinian territories by focusing on the lives of several children there. Mr. Miller had also hoped to make a parallel film about children in Israel, but he was shot dead by an IDF gunman during the making of this film.

Slumdog Millionaire:
An engaging, well-constructed story that includes a look at the caste system within India.

The Curious Life of Benjamin Button:
Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Brad Pitt is born with all the symptoms of old age. As he grows older, his body becomes younger, but his mind wiser. A whimsical story that requires patience in viewing.

Johnny Got His Gun:
1971 anti-war classic, written and directed by Dalton Trumbo, who also wrote the award winning novel that originated the story. Tim Bottoms plays a severely injured WWI American soldier who is kept alive, despite having lost both arms and legs, as well as the ability to speak, hear, and see.

Seinfeld- Seasons 1-9:
I watched all seasons, hoping there would be some of the 180 episodes that I had not seen. The only one I found was the second to last episode that was banned from syndication because of the burning of the Puerto Rican flag. Even if you’ve seen every episode these discs are worth viewing because- 1) the material is funny enough to enjoy watching numerous times, and- 2) the interviews, cast commentaries, deleted scenes, and blooper reels are a worthwhile bonus. My favorite episode- “The Merv Griffin Show.”

Documentary with footage of four Newport Folk Festivals from 1964-67. It includes performances by a young Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and prized footage of some early blues masters including Mississippi John Hurt and Son House. Pete Seeger articulates well the value of folk music:
“We believe the average man and woman can make his own music. In this machine age, its doesn’t all have to come out of a loud speaker. You can make it yourself. Whether you want to shout or croon, sing sweet or rough. And it can be your own music. And when I say your own music- the music of your own kind. Whether its your family, your town or region, your race or your place, your religion or wherever it is.”

Tom Cruise stars in this latest of several movies made on the subject of Col. Claus von Stauffenberg and the plot to kill Hitler during World War II. The film illustrates nicely the bravery and commitment necessary to mount a viable resistance movement.

Superb writing and acting characterize this story about doubt and mistrust inside a Catholic school in the Bronx.

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