[DVD] The Brain That Wouldn't Die from Cult Classics
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Actors:
Jason Evers / Virginia Leith
Description:

Product Description Brilliant but borderline psychotic surgeon does secretive, experimental work with limb transplants and tissue rejection drugs, much to the chagrin of his surgeon-father. When he crashes his car and his fiancee is decapitated, his research - far from complete - is put to the test. His focus then becomes finding an appropriate donor body to make his fiancee whole, while the current and failed experiments in his basement laboratory grow restless. (Summary found on IMDb, written by Alan Brewster.)

Directors:
Joseph Green
15 Minutes (Infinifilm Edition)
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Release Date:
8/14/2001
Description:

Amazon.com 15 Minutes wants to be provocative, but it exists in an alternate reality where rules of logic and credibility no longer apply. In his underrated film 2 Days in the Valley, writer-director John Herzfeld wryly exposed the underbelly of California's San Fernando Valley, but in the artificial New York City of 15 Minutes, he attempts a timely mixture of satire and social commentary that's only marginally convincing. Herzfeld's premise is both vivid and valid in addressing the deterioration of morals in American mass media, but in exploring the dark side of fame, the last few minutes of Taxi Driver have more impact than this entire movie.

Robert De Niro stars as Eddie Flemming, a hotshot homicide detective whose current double-murder case teams him with arson investigator Jordy Warsaw (Edward Burns). Their investigation leads to a pair of Eastern European nut-jobs (one Czech, one Russian) who've embarked on an impromptu killing spree--all captured on video by the Russian, who fancies himself an auteur of the American dream. In a pileup of contrivances, a reporter (Melina Kanakaredes) is also Eddie's girlfriend, and a tabloid TV host (Kelsey Grammer) seeks the killers' video with the scruples of Adolf Hitler. Blink and you'll miss Charlize Theron in a throwaway role, but that's nothing compared to the killing of a major character--a scene devoid of emotion that's more grist for the media mill. With appalling bloodlust, 15 Minutes sheds a sickening light on America's twisted character, but instead of illuminating, it only darkens the gloom. --Jeff Shannon

Description Robert DeNiro (Meet The Parents, Analyse This) and Ed Burns (Any Given Sunday, Saving Private Ryan) star as two detectives on the trail of two killers who videotape their crimes.

DVD Features:
Audio Commentary:Commentary by director John Herzfeld
DVD ROM Features
Deleted Scenes
Documentaries:"True Tabloid" and "Does Crime Really Pay?" documentaries.
Featurette:"Oleg's Video," actual video footage captured from actor Oleg Taktarov's perspective.
Interviews
Music Video:God Lives Underwater "Fame" Music Video
Theatrical Trailer

Directors:
John Herzfeld
50 Movie Family Classics
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Release Date:
6/1/2004
Description:

Description 50 Full Length Movies… One Low Price!! An Instant Library of Entertainment!!

Enjoy endless hours of family fun with fifty classic movies digitally re-mastered onto twelve DVDs. This classic collection features screen legends from Bob Hope and Gary Cooper to Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland; child prodigies like Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney; comedic masters from Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to The Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello. Step back in time to cinema classics including, A

Farewell to Arms, A Star is Born, Our Town, The Last Time I Saw Paris and The Inspector General.

1941 (Collector's Edition)
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Release Date:
3/23/1999
Actors:
Dan Aykroyd / John Belushi / Tim Matheson / Treat Williams / Nancy Allen
Description:

Amazon.com Watching this director's cut, it's finally possible to see why the studio made Spielberg mercilessly hack up this comedy: it's a screaming movie (everyone screams a lot), and screaming movies do not need character development. So all those character-development scenes hit the cutting-room floor and, surprise, they were all critical to Spielberg's pace for the humor in this film. The screaming wasn't that funny then--and it still isn't--but what is funny are the reinserted development scenes, showcasing the now-evident sense of hysteria in the Los Angeles community, post-Pearl Harbor. A bunch of certified nitwits, and a few certified lunatics, act as if Tojo Hideki's entire Imperial force is just off the mainland. Actually, one Japanese submarine is, and it helps fuel the frenzy. John Belushi is Wild Bill Kelso, an insane fighter pilot, and Dan Aykroyd plays a conciliatory tank commander. Robert Stack's performance as General Stilwell, one of the best of the film, finally makes sense. Also fun for the numerous cameos, Spielberg's inside jokes, and John Williams's great score. --Keith Simanton

Directors:
Steven Spielberg
2001: A Space Odyssey
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Release Date:
8/25/1998
Actors:
Keir Dullea / Gary Lockwood
Description:

Amazon.com essential video When Stanley Kubrick recruited Arthur C. Clarke to collaborate on "the proverbial intelligent science fiction film," it's a safe bet neither the maverick auteur nor the great science fiction writer knew they would virtually redefine the parameters of the cinema experience. A daring experiment in unconventional narrative inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel," 2001 is a visual tone poem (barely 40 minutes of dialogue in a 139-minute film) that charts a phenomenal history of human evolution. From the dawn-of-man discovery of crude but deadly tools in the film's opening sequence to the journey of the spaceship Discovery and metaphysical birth of the "star child" at film's end, Kubrick's vision is meticulous and precise. In keeping with the director's underlying theme of dehumanization by technology, the notorious, seemingly omniscient computer HAL 9000 has more warmth and personality than the human astronauts it supposedly is serving. (The director also leaves the meaning of the black, rectangular alien monoliths open for discussion.) This theme, in part, is what makes 2001 a film like no other, though dated now that its postmillennial space exploration has proven optimistic compared to reality. Still, the film is timelessly provocative in its pioneering exploration of inner- and outer-space consciousness. With spectacular, painstakingly authentic special effects that have stood the test of time, Kubrick's film is nothing less than a cinematic milestone--puzzling, provocative, and perfect. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Stanley Kubrick
2010
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Release Date:
10/5/2004
Actors:
Roy Scheider / John Lithgow
Description:

Amazon.com No director could ever have hoped to repeat the artistic achievement of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and nobody knew that better than Peter Hyams, who made this much more conventional film from the first of three sequel novels by Arthur C. Clarke. Whereas Kubrick made a poetic film of mind-expanding ideas and metaphysical mysteries, Hyams shouldn't be blamed for taking a more practical, crowd-pleasing approach. In revealing much of what Kubrick deliberately left unexplained, 2010 lacks the enigmatic awe of its predecessor, but it's still a riveting tale of space exploration and extraterrestrial contact, beginning when a joint American-Soviet mission embarks to determine the cause of failure of the derelict spaceship Discovery. Having arrived at Discovery near the planet Jupiter, the American mission leader (Roy Scheider) and his Russian counterpart (Helen Mirren) must investigate the apparent failure of the ship's infamous onboard computer, HAL 9000, as well as the meaning of countless mysterious black monoliths amassing on Jupiter's surface (an interpretation Kubrick originally left up to his viewers). Meanwhile, Earth is on the brink of nuclear war, and an apparition of astronaut David Bowman (Keir Dullea) appears to repeatedly promise that "something wonderful" is about to happen. The DVD includes an interview with Arthur C. Clarke, an eight-page booklet, and original trailers for 2001 and 2010. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Peter Hyams
About Schmidt
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Release Date:
6/7/2005
Actors:
Jack Nicholson / Hope Davis / Dermot Mulroney
Description:

Amazon.com While confirming Jack Nicholson's status as an American national treasure, About Schmidt is sure to provoke polarized reactions. Stoked by the success of Election, director Alexander Payne and cowriter Jim Taylor have altered Louis Begley's novel to suit their comedic agenda, turning Nicholson's titular character into a 66-year-old, newly retired Omaha insurance actuary, weary from decades of drudgery and passionless marriage. When his wife suddenly dies, he attempts to reclaim his life in a king-sized Winnebago, desperate to convince his daughter (Hope Davis) not to marry the Denver dimwit (Dermot Mulroney) whose mother (Kathy Bates) has her own baggage of peculiar peccadilloes. Nicholson perfectly (and often hilariously) nails the seething anger beneath his character's façade of resignation, but Payne and Taylor convey cold-hearted contempt for these Midwestern malcontents. Think of this as Ikiru with bleaker humanity, until Schmidt finds meaning--and some small reward--in a quiet gesture of goodwill. Love it or hate it, About Schmidt is a movie you won't soon forget. --Jeff Shannon

Description Warren Schmidt (Nicholson) is about to taste a not so sweet slice of life. When he retired, he and his wife Helen had big plans, but an unexpected twist changed everything. Now, all of Schmidt's attention is focused his daughter's upcoming wedding to a loser waterbed salesman. From meeting hippie parents to sponsoring a Tanzanian foster child, Schmidt embarks on a search for answers...and discovers that life is full of trick questions.

Directors:
Alexander Payne
Adaptation (Superbit Collection)
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Release Date:
5/20/2003
Actors:
Nicolas Cage / Chris Cooper / Meryl Streep / Jim Beaver / Brian Cox / Gary Farmer / Judy Greer / Maggie Gyllenhaal / Curtis Hanson / Gregory Itzin / Peter Jason / Doug Jones / Litefoot / Ron Livingston / Cara Seymour / Tilda Swinton / Jay Tavare / Stephen Tobolowsky / Roger Willie
Description:

Amazon.com Twisty brilliance from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, the team who created Being John Malkovich. Nicolas Cage returns to form with a funny, sad, and sneaky performance as Charlie Kaufman, a self-loathing screenwriter who has been hired to adapt Susan Orlean's book The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. Frustrated and infatuated by Orlean's elegant but plotless book (which is largely a rumination on flowers), Kaufman begins to write a screenplay about himself trying to write a screenplay about The Orchid Thief, all the while hounded by his twin brother Donald (Cage again), who's cheerfully writing the kind of formulaic action movie that Kaufman finds repugnant. By its conclusion, Adaptation is the most artistically ambitious, most utterly cynical, and most uncategorizable movie ever to come out of Hollywood. Also starring Meryl Streep (as Susan Orlean), Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, and Brian Cox; superb performances throughout. --Bret Fetzer

Description The Superbit titles utilize a special high bit rate digital encoding process which optimizes video quality while offering a choice of both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. These titles have been produced by a team of Sony Pictures Digital Studios video, sound and mastering engineers and comes housed in a special package complete with a 4 page booklet that contains technical information on the Superbit process. By reallocating space on the disc normally used for value-added content, Superbit DVDs can be encoded at double their normal bit rate while maintaining full compatibility with the DVD video format.

Adventures of Francis The Talking Mule - Volume 1
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Release Date:
6/1/2004
Actors:
Donald O'Connor / Patricia Medina
Directors:
Arthur Lubin
The Adventures of Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark/The Temple of Doom/The Last Crusade) - Widescreen
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Release Date:
10/21/2003
Actors:
Harrison Ford
Description:

Amazon.com As with Star Wars, the George Lucas-produced Indiana Jones trilogy was not just a plaything for kids but an act of nostalgic affection toward a lost phenomenon: the cliffhanging movie serials of the past. Episodic in structure and with fate hanging in the balance about every 10 minutes, the Jones features tapped into Lucas's extremely profitable Star Wars formula of modernizing the look and feel of an old, but popular, story model. Steven Spielberg directed all three films, which are set in the late 1930s and early '40s: the comic book-like Raiders of the Lost Ark, the spooky, Gunga Din-inspired Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the cautious but entertaining Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Fans and critics disagree over the order of preference, some even finding the middle movie nearly repugnant in its violence. (Pro-Temple of Doom people, on the other hand, believe that film to be the most disarmingly creative and emotionally effective of the trio.) One thing's for sure: Harrison Ford's swaggering, two-fisted, self-effacing performance worked like a charm, and the art of cracking bullwhips was probably never quite the iconic activity it soon became after Raiders. Supporting players and costars were very much a part of the series, too--Karen Allen, Sean Connery (as Indie's dad), Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Denholm Elliot, River Phoenix, and John Rhys-Davies among them. Years have passed since the last film (another is supposedly in the works), but emerging film buffs can have the same fun their predecessors did picking out numerous references to Hollywood classics and B-movies of the past. --Tom Keogh

The Adventures of Ma & Pa Kettle - Volume 1
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Release Date:
2/10/2004
Actors:
Bob Craven
Description:

Description When it comes to homespun fun, the Kettles rule the roost, and now four of their hillbilly tales, including The Egg and I, The Further Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle, Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town and Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm, are together in a spanking new collection, The Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle: Volume 1. Whether they're hobnobbing with city folk, or tangling with newfangled appliances, Ma (Majorie Main) and Pa (Percy Kilbride) always stay true to their country roots as they try and make sense of our crazy world. Pa might be a tad too gullible, and Ma might be a bit too feisty, but they always seem to get the best of every zany situation with luck, pluck and a whole lot of good old-fashioned love. From beginning to end, it's total madcap adventure and country corn at its finest.

The Adventures of Ma & Pa Kettle - Volume 2
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Release Date:
5/4/2004
Description:

Description America's favorite country couple are back together again in a brand new collection featuring four of their all-time favorite films. Ma & Pa Kettle (Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride) continue to charm audiences with their down-home humor and hilarious antics, inspiring in The Adventures of Ma & Pa Kettle: Volume 2, featuring Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair, Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation, Ma and Pa Kettle at Home, Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki. Join the Kettles this time as they travel the globe, getting involved in everything from international spies and pineapple plantations to harness racing and hurricanes in this delightful special collector's set.

Directors:
Lee Sholem
The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle
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Release Date:
8/24/2004
Actors:
Rene Russo / Piper Perabo / Robert De Niro
Description:

Amazon.com The problem with live-action movies based on beloved cartoon characters is that humans are never as flexible, as unpredictable, or just plain as goofy as their animated counterparts. So it is with this blend of animation and live action. Rocky and Bullwinkle remain animated characters (trapped in our reality), while Boris and Natasha (Jason Alexander and Rene Russo), along with their boss, Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro), are transformed from cartoons to human reproductions when they escape from rerun land. They've come to our world to take it over; the FBI springs Rocky and Bullwinkle from the second dimension to stop them. But the writing in Kenneth Lonergan's script lacks the throw-away flair of the jokes that characterized Jay Ward's much-beloved animated series of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Part of the problem is that Russo, Alexander, and De Niro are so obviously working at acting cartoonish, instead of simply being cartoons. And part is that the script rarely comes up with the kind of wonderful wordplay in which Ward specialized. The moose, as usual, gets all the best lines, but they're too few and far between to salvage this underachieving summer film. --Marshall Fine

Directors:
Des McAnuff
Airplane 2 - The Sequel
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Release Date:
10/24/2000
Actors:
Robert Hays / Julie Hagerty
Description:

Amazon.com The 1982 sequel to Airplane! is basically more of the same class-clown ironies but with a more forced feeling to the jokes. In the first film, veterans such as Peter Graves, Robert Stack, and Lloyd Bridges were feeling their way through self-parody, and the air of experimentation was part of the fun. By this film, however, everybody knows what's up, and the assuredness of new cast members Raymond Burr, William Shatner, and Chuck Connors is almost counterproductive. Still, there's lots to laugh about. --Tom Keogh

Directors:
Ken Finkleman
Airport Terminal Pack (Airport/Airport '75/Airport '77/Airport '79 - The Concord)
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Release Date:
2/10/2004
Description:

Description The Academy Award-nominated Airport and the sensational sequels that followed are now together in one high flying collection, the Airport Terminal Pack. Prepare to take off for non-stop thrills and edge-of-your-seat excitement as you fly to extremes with Hollywood’s royal jet set, including: Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Jacqueline Bisset, Dean Martin, George Kennedy and many more.

Airport
The original airplane disaster movie nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Airport 1975
A mid-air collision leaves a 747 without a pilot and little hope for survival.

Airport ‘77
A 747 is trapped underwater in the Bermuda Triangle. It’s a race against time and the elements to save the passengers and crew!

The Concorde: Airport ‘79
At twice the speed of sound, the Concorde must evade a vicious attack by a traitorous arms smuggler!

Directors:
Jerry Jameson / Jack Smight / George Seaton
Alien
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Release Date:
6/1/1999
Actors:
Tom Skerritt / Sigourney Weaver / Veronica Cartwright / Harry Dean Stanton / John Hurt / Ian Holm / Yaphet Kotto / Bolaji Badejo / Helen Horton / Eddie Powell
Description:

Amazon.com essential video A landmark of science fiction and horror, Alien arrived in 1979 between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back as a stylishly malevolent alternative to George Lucas's space fantasy. Partially inspired by 1958's It! The Terror from Beyond Space, this instant classic set a tone of its own, offering richly detailed sets, ominous atmosphere, relentless suspense, and a flawless ensemble cast as the crew of the space freighter Nostromo, who fall prey to a vicious creature (designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger) that had gestated inside one of the ill-fated crew members. In a star-making role, Sigourney Weaver excels as sole survivor Ripley, becoming the screen's most popular heroine in a lucrative movie franchise. To measure the film's success, one need only recall the many images that have been burned into our collective psyche, including the "facehugger," the "chestburster," and Ripley's climactic encounter with the full-grown monster. Impeccably directed by Ridley Scott, Alien is one of the cinema's most unforgettable nightmares. --Jeff Shannon

Description The terror begins when the crew of a spaceship investigates a transmission from a desolate planet, and discovers a life form that is perfectly evolved to annihilate mankind. One by one, each crew member is slain until only Ripley is left, leading to an explosive conclusion that sets the stage for its stunning sequel, "Aliens."

Directors:
Ridley Scott
Almost Famous
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Release Date:
3/13/2001
Actors:
Billy Crudup
Description:

Amazon.com Almost Famous is the movie Cameron Crowe has been waiting a lifetime to tell. The fictionalization of Crowe's days as a teenage reporter for Creem and Rolling Stone has all the well-written characters and wonderful "movie moments" that we expect from Crowe (Jerry Maguire), but the film has an intangible something extra--an insider's touch that will turn the film into the ode to '70s rock & roll for years to come. We are introduced to Crowe's alter ego, William Miller (Patrick Fugit), at home, where his progressive mom (Frances McDormand, just superb) has outlawed rock music and sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) has slipped him LPs that will "set his mind free." Following the wisdom of Creem's disheveled editor, Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman in an instant-classic performance), Miller gets on the inside with the up-and-coming band Stillwater (a fictionalized mixture of the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, and others). A simple visit with the band turns into a three-week, life-altering odyssey into the heyday of American rock. Of the characters he meets on the road, the two most important are groupie extraordinaire Penny Lane (Kate Hudson in a star-making performance) and Stillwater's enigmatic lead guitarist (Billy Crudup), who keeps stringing Miller along for an interview. From the handwritten credits (done by Crowe) to the bittersweet finale, Crowe's comedic valentine is an indelible, heartbreaking romance of music, women, and the privilege of youth. --Doug Thomas

Description Audiences and critics alike are raving about this larger-than-life rock'n 'roll favorite that Roger Ebert calls "one of the best movies of the year!" The guys of Stillwater have the sound, they have the look and Rolling Stone Magazine wants their story. For young reporter William Miller, it's the opportunity of a lifetime as he hits the road with his favorite band and discovers the price of fame, the value of family and the limits of friendship.

Directors:
Cameron Crowe
Amadeus
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Release Date:
9/7/2004
Actors:
F. Murray Abraham / Tom Hulce
Description:

Amazon.com The satirical sensibilities of writer Peter Shaffer and director Milos Forman (One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest) were ideally matched in this Oscar-winning movie adaptation of Shaffer's hit play about the rivalry between two composers in the court of Austrian Emperor Joseph II--official royal composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), and the younger but superior prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce). The conceit is absolutely delicious: Salieri secretly loathes Mozart's crude and bratty personality, but is astounded by the beauty of his music. That's the heart of Salieri's torment--although he's in a unique position to recognize and cultivate both Mozart's talent and career, he's also consumed with envy and insecurity in the face of such genius. That such magnificent music should come from such a vulgar little creature strikes Salieri as one of God's cruelest jokes, and it drives him insane. Amadeus creates peculiar and delightful contrasts between the impeccably re-created details of its lavish period setting and the jarring (but humorously refreshing and unstuffy) modern tone of its dialogue and performances--all of which serve to remind us that these were people before they became enshrined in historical and artistic legend. Jeffrey Jones, best-known as Ferris Bueller's principal, is particularly wonderful as the bumbling emperor (with the voice of a modern midlevel businessman). The film's eight Oscars include statuettes for Best Director Forman, Best Actor Abraham (Hulce was also nominated), Best Screenplay, and Best Picture. --Jim Emerson

Directors:
Milos Forman
American Beauty (Widescreen Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
10/24/2000
Actors:
Annette Bening / Thora Birch / Chris Cooper / Peter Gallagher / Sam Robards
Date Added:
9/25/2007
Description:

Amazon.com essential video From its first gliding aerial shot of a generic suburban street, American Beauty moves with a mesmerizing confidence and acuity epitomized by Kevin Spacey's calm narration. Spacey is Lester Burnham, a harried Everyman whose midlife awakening is the spine of the story, and his very first lines hook us with their teasing fatalism--like Sunset Boulevard's Joe Gillis, Burnham tells us his story from beyond the grave.

It's an audacious start for a film that justifies that audacity. Weaving social satire, domestic tragedy, and whodunit into a single package, Alan Ball's first theatrical script dares to blur generic lines and keep us off balance, winking seamlessly from dark, scabrous comedy to deeply moving drama. The Burnham family joins the cinematic short list of great dysfunctional American families, as Lester is pitted against his manic, materialistic realtor wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening, making the most of a mostly unsympathetic role) and his sullen, contemptuous teenaged daughter, Jane (Thora Birch, utterly convincing in her edgy balance of self-absorption and wistful longing). Into their lives come two catalytic outsiders. A young cheerleader (Mena Suvari) jolts Lester into a sexual epiphany that blooms into a second adolescence. And an eerily calm young neighbor (Wes Bentley) transforms both Lester and Jane with his canny influence.

Credit another big-screen newcomer, English theatrical director Sam Mendes, with expertly juggling these potentially disjunctive elements into a superb ensemble piece that achieves a stylized pace without lapsing into transparent self-indulgence. Mendes has shrewdly insured his success with a solid crew of stage veterans, yet he's also made an inspired discovery in Bentley, whose Ricky Fitts becomes a fulcrum for both plot and theme. Cinematographer Conrad Hall's sumptuous visual design further elevates the film, infusing the beige interiors of the Burnhams' lives with vivid bursts of deep crimson, the color of roses--and of blood. --Sam Sutherland

Directors:
Sam Mendes
American Dreamz (Widescreen Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
10/17/2006
Actors:
Hugh Grant / Dennis Quaid / Mandy Moore (II) / Willem Dafoe / Chris Klein
Description:

Amazon.com Thinly disguised versions of American Idol and the Bush presidency collide in the satire American Dreamz. Bored and self-loathing, Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant, About a Boy) wants to give his hugely popular reality show American Dreamz an extra boost by courting political controversy--but suspects he may find personal redemption in the form of scheming contestant Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore, Saved!), who manipulates her boyfriend (Chris Klein, Election) to give herself a vote-winning backstory. Meanwhile, equally desperate to court popularity, the President's chief of staff (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, looking suspiciously Dick-Cheney-esque) gets Tweed to let the President (Dennis Quaid, The Rookie) be a guest judge on the show. But unbeknownst to all, a privately conflicted terrorist (Sam Golzari) has been selected as a contestant, and his sleeper cell wants him to blow up the President in the final competition. This complicated storyline doesn't quite have the bite it's reaching for; the political edge is particularly blunted--even diehard Republicans are unlikely to be offended. But sharp and funny lines are sprinkled throughout and the cast is uniformly excellent; the relationship between Grant and Moore is oddly touching, and Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) makes an amazing First Lady--is this satire, or what we all wish Laura Bush was really like? An uneven movie, but with some delicious tidbits. --Bret Fetzer

Directors:
Paul Weitz
American Flyers
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Release Date:
2/3/2004
Actors:
Kevin Costner / David Marshall Grant
Description:

Amazon.com American Flyers could roughly be referred to as a cross between Breaking Away (also written by Steve Tesich) and Brian's Song. Sports physician Marcus (Kevin Costner, sporting a ludicrously big mustache) coaxes his flaky brother David (David Marshall Grant) into doing something with his life and training for a grueling bike race in the Colorado Rockies. The scenario is complicated, though, by family frictions and the fact that the brothers' dad died of a cerebral aneurysm that has been handed down to one of the brothers. The two train rigorously for the big event (part of their routine involves outrunning an angry pit bull every day), then pack the van and head West. Marcus's girlfriend is also the ex-wife of his main rival in the race circuit, providing a bit more intrigue. Veteran action director John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, War Games) excels during the bike-race segments, capturing the breathtaking scenery and the demanding nature of the event nicely. The film is somewhat hobbled, though, by the screenplay and character development; the film plays a bit too much to the sports-movie cliché and the dysfunctional-family story seems like a lengthy prologue to the race. Also, try not to be too bothered by the annoyingly dated soundtrack, and this should be a fairly entertaining, unpretentious little film. --Jerry Renshaw

Directors:
John Badham
American Wedding (Widescreen Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
5/31/2005
Actors:
Jason Biggs / Seann William Scott / Alyson Hannigan / Eugene Levy
Description:

Amazon.com The producers of the American Pie movies pushed their luck with a third slice of their lucrative raunchy comedy franchise, and American Wedding cooked up surprisingly well. It's the sourest serving of Pie, with half of the original cast missing, and there's something undeniably desperate about comedic highlights (involving dog poop, a lusty old lady, two strippers to offset the absence of Shannon Elizabeth, and the ill-advised use of a trimming razor) that arise more from obligation than inspiration, on the assumption that another penile mishap is guaranteed to please. And yet, that's just what this movie does for devoted Pie-munchers: It gives 'em what they want, especially when the notorious Stifler (Seann William Scott) nearly ruins the frantic nuptials of Jim (Jason Biggs) and his band-camping sweetheart Michelle (Alyson Hannigan). Eugene Levy and Eddie Kaye Thomas also return for some reliable comic relief, but the one who's laughing most is three-time Pie writer Adam Herz--laughing loudly and often, all the way to the bank. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Jesse Dylan
An American in Paris
Front Cover
Release Date:
4/27/1999
Actors:
Gene Kelly
Description:

Amazon.com essential video A GI (Gene Kelly) stays in Paris after the war to become an artist, and has to choose between the patronage of a rich American woman (Nina Foch) and a French gamine (Leslie Caron) engaged to an older man. The plot is mostly an excuse for director Vincente Minnelli to pool his own extraordinary talent with those of choreographer-dancer-actor Kelly and the artists behind the screenplay, art direction, cinematography, and score, creating a rapturous musical not quite like anything else in cinema. The final section of the film comprises a 17-minute dance sequence that took a month to film and is breathtaking. Songs include "'S Wonderful," "I Got Rhythm," and "Love Is Here to Stay." --Tom Keogh

Directors:
Vincente Minnelli
An Officer and a Gentleman
Front Cover
Release Date:
12/12/2000
Actors:
Richard Gere / Debra Winger
Description:

Amazon.com essential video Richard Gere plays an enrollee at a Naval officers candidate school, and Debra Winger is the woman who wants him. That's pretty much it, story-wise, in this romantic drama, which is more effective in a moment-to-moment, scene-by-scene way, where the two stars and Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr.--as Gere's tough-as-nails drill instructor--are fun to watch. Sexy, syrupy, with occasional pitches of high drama (Gere having a near-breakdown during training is pretty strong), An Officer and a Gentleman proves to be a no-brainer date movie. --Tom Keogh

Analyze This
Front Cover
Release Date:
8/17/1999
Actors:
Robert De Niro / Billy Crystal / Lisa Kudrow / Chazz Palminteri / Kresimir Novakovic
Date Added:
8/20/2007
Description:

Amazon.com essential video Cast Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal together in a film and it should be a sucker's bet as to who's going to be funnier and who's going to give the more nuanced performance. Somehow, though, De Niro walks away with most of the laughs in Analyze This, a buddy action-comedy about a mob boss (De Niro, natch) suffering from panic attacks who makes a nebbishy shrink (Crystal, natch) an offer he can't refuse--actually, it's not really an offer, it's a command. The good doctor is forced to help the gangster get in touch with his feelings. Had the brilliant TV series The Sopranos not underscored how thin and watery and shticky director-cowriter Harold Ramis's approach to such potentially rich material actually is, the movie--a hit in theaters and De Niro's biggest film ever--would seem more fresh and kicky. De Niro's definitely a hoot as the ever milder menace, and Crystal actually concentrates on giving a credible performance opposite the acting legend (alas, he doesn't turn his character's fear of his patient into inspired comedy, as Alan Arkin did in Grosse Pointe Blank). The conclusion devolves into the requisite gunplay, and Chazz Palminteri and Lisa Kudrow are criminally wasted as an opposing mob boss and Crystal's fiancée, respectively, but overall, it's breezy fun. --David Kronke

Directors:
Harold Ramis
Anchors Aweigh
Front Cover
Release Date:
5/2/2000
Actors:
Frank Sinatra / Kathryn Grayson / Gene Kelly
Description:

Amazon.com essential video Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra teamed up for their first of three musical comedies in this frothy confection of sailors on leave in Hollywood, with gawky, shy young Sinatra tagging along with his worldly buddy Kelly, who promises to show him the ropes. Overlong at more than two hours, this meandering production is light on story, and more than a little sentimental, but full of first-rate entertainment. Sinatra croons "I Fall in Love Too Easily" and "What Makes the Sunset," chirpy costar Kathryn Grayson sings "All of a Sudden My Heart Sings," classical pianist José Iturbi provides a little highbrow interlude, and Gene Kelly dances with cartoon mouse Jerry (of Tom and Jerry fame) when not chasing dames. Somewhere in the midst of this, little Dean Stockwell makes his film debut as a runaway orphan who melts the heart of self-centered Kelly. This big-budget Technicolor extravaganza, directed by MGM stalwart and musical specialist George Sidney (Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate), was one of the studio's biggest hits in 1945. --Sean Axmaker

Directors:
George Sidney (II)
Andersonville
Front Cover
Release Date:
6/1/2004
Description:

Description They left the nightmare...and entered Hell. Captured Union soilders cope with life inside the Civil War's most notorious prisoner-of-war camp. A powerful, compeling tale of war and will, with Emmy Award-winning direction by John Frankenheimer and a cast including Frederic Forrest (Apocalypse Now) and William H. Macy (ER, Fargo) Year: 1996 Director: John Frankenheimer Starring: Jarrod Emick, Frederic Forrest, Ted Marcoux

Directors:
John Frankenheimer
Annie Get Your Gun
Front Cover
Release Date:
7/3/2001
Actors:
Betty Hutton / Howard Keel
Description:

Amazon.com Never before available on home video and unseen on television since 1973, the 1950 production of Annie Get Your Gun has achieved somewhat legendary status, most notably for who would inherit the role Ethel Merman had made famous on Broadway in 1946. MGM originally cast Judy Garland, but her ongoing drug and alcohol problems led to her being fired and replaced by Betty Hutton. Fortunately, the bright and brassy Hutton sparkles in this highly fictionalized story of Annie Oakley, the sharpshooter who wins fame in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and wins the heart of fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler (Howard Keel). Dashing baritone Keel was beginning his career as one of MGM's favorite leading men in the 1950s (including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Kiss Me, Kate). Together they make gold of the many Irving Berlin hits--"Doin' What Comes Naturally," "Anything You Can Do," "They Say It's Wonderful," "I Got the Sun in the Morning," and the classic anthem "There's No Business Like Show Business."

Annie Get Your Gun is unquestionably a product of the 1950s. Keel's relentless chauvinism and Hutton's constant fawning over him grow tiresome (though she does stand up to him in a battle of the sexes), and the Indians wear full headdresses and face paint, say "Ugh," and destroy modern conveniences. (In the name of political correctness, the 1999 Broadway revival starring Bernadette Peters removed "I'm an Indian Too" and received its own share of criticism from purists.) Quibbles aside, the excellent cast and immortal score make Annie Get Your Gun a classic musical. It's great to have it back. --David Horiuchi

Directors:
George Sidney (II) / Busby Berkeley / Charles Walters
Annie Hall
Front Cover
Release Date:
10/7/2003
Actors:
Woody Allen / Diane Keaton
Description:

Amazon.com essential video Annie Hall is one of the truest, most bittersweet romances on film. In it, Allen plays a thinly disguised version of himself: Alvy Singer, a successful--if neurotic--television comedian living in Manhattan. Annie (the wholesomely luminous Dianne Keaton) is a Midwestern transplant who dabbles in photography and sings in small clubs. When the two meet, the sparks are immediate--if repressed. Alone in her apartment for the first time, Alvy and Annie navigate a minefield of self-conscious "is-this-person-someone-I'd-want-to-get-involved-with?" conversation. As they speak, subtitles flash their unspoken thoughts: the likes of "I'm not smart enough for him" and "I sound like a jerk." Despite all their caution, they connect, and we're swept up in the flush of their new romance. Allen's antic sensibility shines here in a series of flashbacks to Alvy's childhood, growing up, quite literally, under a rumbling roller coaster. His boisterous Jewish family's dinner table shares a split screen with the WASP-y Hall's tight-lipped holiday table, one Alvy has joined for the first time. His position as outsider is uncontestable he looks down the table and sizes up Annie's "Grammy Hall" as "a classic Jew-hater."

The relationship arcs, as does Annie's growing desire for independence. It quickly becomes clear that the two are on separate tracks, as what was once endearing becomes annoying. Annie Hall embraces Allen's central themes--his love affair with New York (and hatred of Los Angeles), how impossible relationships are, and his fear of death. But their balance is just right, the chemistry between Allen's worry-wart Alvy and Keaton's gangly, loopy Annie is one of the screen's best pairings. It couldn't be more engaging. --Susan Benson

Directors:
Woody Allen
Apollo 13 (DTS)
Front Cover
Release Date:
1/7/2003
Actors:
Tom Hanks / Bill Paxton / Kevin Bacon / Gary Sinise / Ed Harris
Description:

Amazon.com essential video NASA's worst nightmare turned into one of the space agency's most heroic moments in 1970, when the Apollo 13 crew was forced to hobble home in a disabled capsule after an explosion seriously damaged the moon-bound spacecraft. Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton play (respectively) astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise in director Ron Howard's intense, painstakingly authentic docudrama. The Apollo 13 crew and Houston-based mission controllers race against time and heavy odds to return the damaged spacecraft safely to Earth from a distance of 205,500 miles. Using state-of-the-art special effects and ingenious filmmaking techniques, Howard and his stellar cast and crew build nail-biting tension while maintaining close fidelity to the facts. The result is a fitting tribute to the Apollo 13 mission and one of the biggest box-office hits of 1995. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Ron Howard
Apollo 13 (Widescreen 2-Disc Anniversary Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
3/29/2005
Actors:
Tom Hanks / Bill Paxton / Kevin Bacon / Gary Sinise / Ed Harris
Description:

Amazon.com NASA's worst nightmare turned into one of the space agency's most heroic moments in 1970, when the Apollo 13 crew was forced to hobble home in a disabled capsule after an explosion seriously damaged the moon-bound spacecraft. Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton play (respectively) astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise in director Ron Howard's intense, painstakingly authentic docudrama. The Apollo 13 crew and Houston-based mission controllers race against time and heavy odds to return the damaged spacecraft safely to Earth from a distance of 205,500 miles. Using state-of-the-art special effects and ingenious filmmaking techniques, Howard and his stellar cast and crew build nail-biting tension while maintaining close fidelity to the facts. The result is a fitting tribute to the Apollo 13 mission and one of the biggest box-office hits of 1995. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Ron Howard
As Good As It Gets
Front Cover
Release Date:
2/4/2003
Actors:
Jack Nicholson / Helen Hunt / Greg Kinnear
Description:

Amazon.com For all of its conventional plotting about an obsessive-compulsive curmudgeon (Jack Nicholson) who improves his personality at the urging of his gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear) and a waitress (Helen Hunt) who inspires his best behavior, this is one of the sharpest Hollywood comedies of the 1990s. Nicholson could play his role in his sleep (the Oscar he won should have gone to Robert Duvall for The Apostle), but his mischievous persona is precisely necessary to give heart to his seemingly heartless character, who is of all things a successful romance novelist. As a single mom with a chronically asthmatic young son, Hunt gives the film its conscience and integrity (along with plenty of wry humor), and she also won an Oscar for her wonderful performance. Greg Kinnear had to settle for an Oscar nomination (while cowriter-director James L. Brooks was inexplicably snubbed by Oscar that year), but his work was also singled out in the film's near-unanimous chorus of critical praise. It's questionable whether a romance between Hunt and the much older Nicholson is entirely believable, but this movie's smart enough--and charmingly funny enough--to make it seem endearingly possible. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
James L. Brooks
Astaire & Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition (Flying Down to Rio / The Gay Divorcee / Roberta / Top Hat / Swing Time / Carefree etc.)
Front Cover
Release Date:
10/24/2006
Actors:
Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers
Description:

Amazon.com 2006 marks the arrival of five Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films (Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Carefree, and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle) on DVD after the first five were released in 2005. The big package is this Astaire & Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition, which contains all 10 films plus a CD, a bonus DVD with the documentary Astaire and Rogers: Partners in Rhythm, press-book replicas, and some other material. If you want the big package with the extra stuff but already bought the five films in 2005, you can get the Astaire & Rogers Partial Ultimate Collector's Edition, which includes everything except the actual discs of those first five films. Or, if you only want the five new films, pick up Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 2 as a bookend to Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 1.

The Astaire-Rogers films mix light romantic comedy (usually centered around mistaken identities and ending, inevitably, in blissful wedding promises) with elegant dinner wear and surreal sets intended to transport '30s audiences away from the Depression to such locales as Rio, Paris, and Venice. The two stars are also aided by a recurring stable of RKO players such as Edward Everett Horton (master of the double-take), Eric Blore, and Helen Broderick. And then there's that sensational dancing set to great songs by the likes of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, and Jerome Kern, numbers that are not merely entertaining but also innovative for their time in that they reveal character and advance the plot. Add it all up, and you have a recipe for an irrepressible joie de vivre that practically defines the movie musical.

Flying Down to Rio (1933) headlined Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond, but it was the fourth- and fifth-billed stars who would rewrite cinematic history. Astaire and Rogers had limited screen time, but were still able to establish many of the trademarks of their later films. The heart of the film is "The Carioca," a company dance extravaganza in which they take the floor together for the first time; their eyes meet and their foreheads touch. Their dance lasts only a few minutes, but it was the highlight of the film and audiences wanted more. The Gay Divorcee (1934) is their best early picture, a loose adaptation of Astaire's stage show, 'The Gay Divorce.' The only song retained for the movie is Cole Porter's smash hit "Night and Day," which is the setting for a sublime pas de deux between Fred and Ginger. The closer is the sprawling 17-minute ensemble number "The Continental." Roberta (1935) was a step backward, with too much time spent on 1930s Parisian fashion and the romance between top-billed Irene Dunne (who gets the best Jerome Kern ballads, "Yesterdays" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") and Randolph Scott. But as the second-banana couple Astaire and Rogers still get a tap battle, a romantic duet, and plenty of comic banter.

With a score by Irving Berlin, Top Hat (1935) is most famous for two numbers, Astaire's definitive tuxedo setting "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails" and the feathery duet "Cheek to Cheek." But other joys include Astaire's "Fancy Free" declaration, "Isn't It a Lovely Day," and the grand finale "The Piccolino." Follow the Fleet (1936) changes the pace a bit, with Astaire playing a sailor, and it suffers from making him and Rogers the second-banana couple to the dull Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard. But it still has plenty of laughs and some classic Irving Berlin numbers, including "Pick Yourself Up," which Rogers sings before she and Astaire compete in a dance contest; a Rogers solo tap number; "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket," their best comic dance. The pièce de résistance is "Let's Face the Music and Dance," a show within a show in which the pair dons their customary evening formals. Effortlessly flowing from pantomime to song to dance, this sublime piece of storytelling is one of the series' defining moments. Maybe their most enjoyable picture, Swing Time (1936) features the set-piece "Pick Yourself Up," in which Rogers "teaches" Astaireto dance before they break into a spectacularnumber; the farewell ode "Never Gonna Dance," and the Oscar-winning "Just the Way You Look Tonight," from the team of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.

Shall We Dance (1937) has a complex plot that has Astaire and Rogers actually getting married before the final credits roll, and turns George and Ira Gershwin's brilliant "They Can't Take That Away from Me" into a heartbreaking ode. Other great songs include "Slap That Bass," "They All Laughed," and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," unforgettably performed on roller skates. The eighth and ninth entries in the series tried some different approaches, with the underrated Carefree (1938) more of a comedy vehicle for Ginger (yet still including some fine dances and Irving Berlin songs as well as their first onscreen kiss) and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) portraying the pair as historical dancing stars and using a score of turn-of-the-century standards. The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) is the oddity, reuniting the stars 10 years after their last RKO picture when Judy Garland had to be replaced due to health problems. It's trademark MGM: splashy colors, Fred in a gimmicky solo number (playing sorcerer's apprentice to a line of unoccupied shoes), Oscar Levant providing his usual dynamic pianism and acerbic personality, and a score that is at its best when it borrows songs from a previous generation (including the big ballroom number set to "They Can't Take That Away from Me"). The film falls short of their best work, but serves as a fond remembrance of the most glorious partnership in film history. --David Horiuchi

Austin Powers - International Man of Mystery (New Line Platinum Series)
Front Cover
Release Date:
9/14/2004
Actors:
Mike Myers / Elizabeth Hurley
Description:

Amazon.com If you don't think Austin Powers is one of the funniest movies of the 1990s, maybe you should be packed into a cryogenic time-chamber and sent back to the decade whence you came. Perhaps it was the 1960s--the shag-a-delic decade when London hipster Austin Powers scored with gorgeous chicks as a fashion photographer by day, crime-fighting international man of mystery by night. Yeah, baby, yeah! But when Powers's arch nemesis, Dr. Evil, puts himself into a deep-freeze and travels via time-machine to the late 1990s, Powers must follow him and foil Evil's nefarious scheme of global domination. Mike Myers plays dual roles as Powers and Dr. Evil, with Elizabeth Hurley as his present-day sidekick and karate- kicking paramour. A hilarious spoof of '60s spy movies, this colorful comedy actually gets funnier with successive viewings, making it a perfect home video for gloomy days and randy nights. Oh, behave! --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Jay Roach
Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged Me (New Line Platinum Series)
Front Cover
Release Date:
6/1/2004
Actors:
Mike Myers / Heather Graham
Description:

Amazon.com "I put the grrr in swinger, baby!" a deliciously randy Austin Powers coos near the beginning of The Spy Who Shagged Me, and if the imagination of Austin creator Mike Myers seems to have sagged a bit, his energy surely hasn't. This friendly, go-for-broke sequel to 1997's Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery finds our man Austin heading back to the '60s to keep perennial nemesis Dr. Evil (Myers again) from blowing up the world--and, more importantly, to get back his mojo, that man-juice that turns Austin into irresistible catnip for women, especially American spygirl Felicity Shagwell (a pretty but vacant Heather Graham). The plot may be irreverent and illogical, the jokes may be bad (with characters named Ivana Humpalot and Robin Swallows, née Spitz), and the scenes may run on too long, but it's all delivered sunnily and with tongue firmly in cheek.

Myers's true triumph, though, is his turn as the neurotic Dr. Evil, who tends to spout the right cultural reference at exactly the wrong time (referring to his moon base as a "Death Star" with Moon Units Alpha and Zappa--in 1969). Myers teams Dr. Evil with a diminutive clone, Mini-Me (Verne J. Troyer), who soon replaces slacker son Scott Evil (Seth Green) as the apple of the doctor's eye; Myers and Troyer work magic in what could plausibly be one of the year's most affecting (and hysterically funny) love stories. Despite a stellar supporting cast--including a sly Rob Lowe as Robert Wagner's younger self and Mindy Sterling as the forbidding Frau Farbissina--it's basically Myers's show, and he pulls a hat trick by playing a third character, the obese and disgusting Scottish assassin Fat Bastard. Many viewers will reel in disgust at Mr. Bastard's repulsive antics and the scatological bent Myers indulges in, including one showstopper involving coffee and--shudder--a stool sample. Still, Myers's good humor and dead-on cultural references win the day; Austin is one spy who proves he can still shag like a minx. --Mark Englehart

Directors:
Jay Roach
Austin Powers in Goldmember (Infinifilm Widescreen Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
9/14/2004
Actors:
Mike Myers
Description:

Amazon.com Despite symptoms of sequelitis, Austin Powers in Goldmember is must-see lunacy for devoted fans of the shagadelic franchise. Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns is in full effect: for every big-name cameo and raunchy double-entendre, there's an equal share of redundant shtick, juvenile scatology, and pop-cultural spoofery. All is forgiven when the hilarity level is consistently high, and Mike Myers--returning here as randy Brit spy Austin, his nemesis Dr. Evil, the bloated Scottish henchman Fat Bastard, and new Dutch disco-villain Goldmember--thrives by favoring comedic chaos over coherent plotting. Once they've tossed Austin into the disco fever of 1975 (where he's sent to rescue his father, gamely played by Michael Caine), Myers and director Jay Roach seem vaguely adrift with old and new characters, including Verne Troyer's Mini-Me and pop star Beyoncé Knowles as Pam Grier-ish blaxpo-babe Foxxy Cleopatra. A bit tired, perhaps, but Powers hasn't lost his mojo. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Jay Roach
The Avengers - The Complete Emma Peel Megaset
Front Cover
Release Date:
8/28/2001
Actors:
Avengers / Diana Rigg
Description:

Description The object of many pre-pubescent lads' desires, Mrs. Emma Peel - as brought to light by Dame Diana Rigg - dazzled television screens on both sides of the Atlantic from 1965 - 1967. Now, for the first time anywhere, all 51 of the enduringly classic adventures featuring the dynamic duo of Steed and Peel are gathered together in one massive collection. The Complete Emma Peel Mega-Set is a one-stop haven for DVD collectors, with all episodes remastered and bolder than ever, with the digital clarity only DVD can deliver! It also includes galleries of extremely rare, high-quality production stills culled from the archives of The Avengers. Contains all 51 Avengers episodes ever made featuring Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel.

The Aviator (2-Disc Widescreen Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
5/24/2005
Actors:
Kate Beckinsale / Cate Blanchett / Leonardo DiCaprio
Description:

Amazon.com

From Hollywood's legendary Cocoanut Grove to the pioneering conquest of the wild blue yonder, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator celebrates old-school filmmaking at its finest. We say "old school" only because Scorsese's love of golden-age Hollywood is evident in his approach to his subject--Howard Hughes in his prime (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in his)--and especially in his technical mastery of the medium reflecting his love for classical filmmaking of the studio era. Even when he's using state-of-the-art digital trickery for the film's exciting flight scenes (including one of the most spectacular crashes ever filmed), Scorsese's meticulous attention to art direction and costume design suggests an impassioned pursuit of craftsmanship from a bygone era; every frame seems to glow with gilded detail. And while DiCaprio bears little physical resemblance to Hughes during the film's 20-year span (late 1920s to late '40s), he efficiently captures the eccentric millionaire's golden-boy essence, and his tragic descent into obsessive-compulsive seclusion. Bolstered by Cate Blanchett's uncannily accurate portrayal of Katharine Hepburn as Hughes' most beloved lover, The Aviator is easily Scorsese's most accessible film, inviting mainstream popularity without compromising Scorsese's artistic reputation. As compelling crowd-pleasers go, it's a class act from start to finish. --Jeff Shannon


DVD Features
In his commentary track, director Martin Scorsese offers his own impressions of Howard Hughes and rattles off his memories of experiencing Hughes's films. He mentions how he made Cate Blanchett watch every Katharine Hepburn film from the '30s on the big screen, and observes that Kate Beckinsale had "a real sense of the stature of a Hollywood goddess." But in general he doesn't talk much about the craft of making the film. That area is covered better by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who also appears on the commentary track, and producer Michael Mann makes a few appearances (all were recorded separately). The picture is brilliant, but the 5.1 sound is not as aggressive in the rear speakers and subwoofer as one might expect, other than some nice surround effects in the Hell's Angels flying sequence.

The second disc collects almost three hours of features. There's one unnecessary deleted scene, and an 11-minute making-of featurette that's basically the cast and director heaping praise on each other. More interesting are the short featurettes on visual effects (including the XF-11 scene, of course), production design, costumes, hair and makeup, and score, and Loudon Wainwright discusses his and his children's musical performances. Historical perspective is provided by spotlights on Hughes's role in aviation and his obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a 43-minute Hughes documentary from the History Channel (part of the Modern Marvels series, it focuses on his mechanical innovations and spends less than a minute on his movies). More unusual are DiCaprio and Scorsese's appearance on an OCD panel, and a half-hour interview segment DiCaprio did with Alan Alda. --David Horiuchi

The Personalities of The Aviator

Click the links to explore more movies by these stars.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes
"Sometimes I truly fear that I... am losing my mind. And if I did it... it would be like flying blind."
Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn
Howard Hughes: "You're the tallest woman I have ever met."
Katharine Hepburn: "And all sharp elbows and knees. Beware."
Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner
Howard Hughes: "Does that look clean to you?"
Ava Gardner: "Nothing's clean, Howard. But we do our best, right?"
Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow
Jean Harlow in Hell's Angels: "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?"
Jude Law as Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn in Captain Blood: "Up the riggings, you monkeys! Break out those sails and watch them fill with the wind that's carrying us all to freedom!"
Director Martin Scorsese
"You get a sense of Howard Hughes being Icarus with the wax wings. Those wings were great for a while, but he flies too close to the sun." --Martin Scorsese

Other Movies by The Aviator's Oscar® Winners

Production Designer Dante Ferretti
Film Editor Thelma Schoonmaker
Costume Designer Sandy Powell
Cinematographer Robert Richardson
See all the Oscar® winners at Oscar Central

The Aviator at Amazon.com


The Aviator soundtrack

The Screenplay

Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator


Howard Hughes movies

Great movies of the 1930s

The films of Martin Scorsese

Description An epic biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes' career, from the late 1920's to the mid-1940's.

DVD Features:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Scorsese
Deleted Scenes:Deleted scene: Howard Tells Ava About His Car Accident
Documentaries:Modern Marvels: Howard Hughes-- a 45 minute Documentary By The History Channel
Documentary:2 Music Featurettes: Scoring The Aviator: The Work Of Howard Shore The Wainwright Family - Loudon, Rufus And Martha
Featurette:A Life Without Limits: The Making of The Aviator The Role Of Howard Hughes In Aviation History An evening with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alan Alda The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD Panel Discussion With Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, And Howard Hughes' Widow Terry Moore
Other:2 Behind-the-scenes featurettes: The Age Of Glamour: The Hair And Makeup Of The The Visual Effects Of The Aviator
Photo gallery

Babylon 5 - The Complete Fifth Season
Front Cover
Release Date:
4/13/2004
Actors:
Bruce Boxleitner / Tracy Scoggins
Description:

Amazon.com A disappointment after the superb two previous seasons, the final run of Babylon 5 found Claudia Christian departed and Ivanova replaced by Captain Elizabeth Lochley (Tracy Scoggins), who in a soap-opera twist turned out to be Sheridan's first wife. Sheridan was promoted to President of the Interstellar Alliance and the action moved to a group of telepaths seeking sanctuary from the PSI-Corp on B5. Giving a prominent role to Patricia Tallman's Lyta Alexander, a love story for her was woven with the leader of the telepaths, Byron (Robin Atkin Downs). Meanwhile the aftermath of the Shadow War was explored as the origin of human telepaths became clear in "Secrets of the Soul," and the appearance of PSI-Corp's Bester (Walter Koenig) brought the plight of the refugees to a powerful close in "A Tragedy of Telepaths" and "Phoenix Rising."

This was immediately followed by a rare episode not written by J. Michael Straczynski. Much was expected of "Day of the Dead," penned by Neil Gaiman, the British creator of DC's landmark Sandman comic and graphic novel series. Yet despite a change of tone including a guest appearance by Penn & Teller as 23rd-century comedy favorites Rebo & Zooty, the story proved an incongruous side trip into an unexplained twilight zone of fantasy. As usual the season picked up toward the end, with a string of fine political episodes leading to "The Fall of Centauri Prime" and the haunting "Objects at Rest," in which Sheridan and Delenn leave Babylon 5 for new quarters on Minbar.

The final episode, "Sleeping in Light," was directed by J. Michael Straczynski and made an epilogue to the series. Set 20 years later, after all the sound and fury this quiet, elegiac tale is the apotheosis of the love story that proved the balance to the tragedy of the preceding darkness. A personal story resolved against a background of the epic, at once transcendent, deeply human, and profoundly optimistic, "Sleeping in Light" is as moving as any hour in the history of television drama and a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to one of the greatest series ever made. --Gary S. Dalkin

Product Description From the beginning, both were running out of time. The space station that was the last, best hope for peace was sooner or later certain to be eclipsed by new political coalitions and technical advances. And John Sheridan, who guided the massive freeport t

Babylon 5 - The Complete First Season
Front Cover
Release Date:
11/5/2002
Actors:
Michael O'Hare / Claudia Christian
Description:

Amazon.com The epic sci-fi series Babylon 5 was a unique experiment in the history of television. It was effectively a novel for television in five seasons, consisting of 110 episodes with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The first season introduces the main characters, headed this year by Commander Jeffery Sinclair (Michael O'Hare) and Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle), and familiarizes the audience with the unique environment of a five-mile-long space station in the year 2257.

The first episode, "Midnight on the Firing Line," plays at a breathless pace, introducing Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) and establishing the conflict between the Narn and Centauri races as represented by their ambassadors, G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas) and Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik). Then follow several mediocre episodes that initially give the impression that B5 is a Star Trek clone afflicted with "silly alien of the week" syndrome. With "And the Sky Full of Stars," B5 really begins to hit its stride, Sinclair being forced to relive his mysterious experiences during the Earth-Minbari war. Filler shows such as "TKO" are notable only for being controversially violent, while the disappointing "Grail" points to writer-creator J. Michael Straczynski's fascination with Arthurian mythology. "Signs and Portents" introduces the sinister Mr. Morden (Ed Wasser) and offers the chilling first appearance of the Shadows, an ancient alien threat.

B5 hits warp speed with a run of exceptional episodes building to the season finale. The two-part "Voice in the Wilderness" has Mars breaking into open revolt against Earth and the discovery of a "Great Machine" on the dead world Epsilon 3. Referencing 1950s sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, the story leads to the superb time-travel-based "Babylon Squared." Season finale "Chrysalis" proves more than just the usual television cliffhanger, placing Minbari ambassador Delenn in conflict with her ruling Grey Council and forcing on her a decision that laid the groundwork for Babylon 5's eventually becoming a great love story. --Gary S. Dalkin

Product Description The award-winning series about the space station that's the tumultuous center of the 23rd Century's bid for peace among humans and aliens hyperdrives onto DVD in a Deluxe 6-Disc Set. Featuring 22 episodes digitally remastered for upgraded picture and soun

Babylon 5 - The Complete Fourth Season
Front Cover
Release Date:
1/6/2004
Actors:
Bruce Boxleitner / Claudia Christian
Description:

Product Description The future begins - or ends - here and now. Here is the huge space station Babylon 5. Now is the fateful year 2261. Commander John Sheridan has already declared the station free, breaking the ties between it and Earth Alliance. It was perhaps only a matte

Amazon.com Season 4 began on a high point with the Centauri Prime in the grip of the insane Emperor Cartagia (Wortham Krimmer) and a run of six shows leading to the climax of the war against the Shadows in "Into the Fire." If this colossal narrative was resolved a little too easily and the ultimate aim of the Shadows turned out to be a tad disappointing, it still proved to be the most powerful slice of space opera to ever grace the small screen. In the aftermath the sheer scale dropped back a little but the pace never slowed as the rest of the season played out in one relentless cycle of conspiracy, betrayal and conflict, Babylon 5 siding with the rebel Mars colony against the totalitarian Earth.

Meanwhile Delenn came increasingly into conflict with her own people and, paralleling her relationship with Sheridan, Garibaldi became involved with his ex-fiancée Lise Hampton (Denise Gentile), while an intense platonic love grew between Ivanova and Marcus Cole. On an unstoppable wave fuelled by roller-coaster plot twists and spectacular action shows from "No Surrender, No Retreat"--when Sheridan avows to overthrow EarthGov--to "Rising Star"--when the aim is realized--Babylon 5 achieved a consistent excellence rare in television. Yet within that run "Intersections in Real Time" stood out as a bold experiment; essentially a two-hand drama taking place entirely within one dimly lit room. Beyond this a major character died and Sheridan and Delenn married before the season finale again broke with expectation. In "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars," a future descendant of humanity one million years hence reviews excerpts from the history of Babylon 5. In one sequence set in 2762, a Brother is devoted to the preserving of history some time after the "Big Burn." A homage to Walter M. Miller's classic A Canticle for Leibowitz, Sheridan and Delenn have themselves become the stuff of legend. --Gary S. Dalkin

Babylon 5 - The Complete Second Season
Front Cover
Release Date:
4/29/2003
Actors:
Bruce Boxleitner / Claudia Christian
Description:

Amazon.com Delenn's future love interest, Captain John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) arrived on Babylon 5 in the first episode of season 2, "Points of Departure." The show marked the handing over of command of B5 to Sheridan from Commander Jeffery Sinclair, actor Michael O'Hare becoming a victim of studio politicians who wanted a bigger star in the leading role. This excellent installment also revealed more about why the Minbari surrendered to Earth at the Battle of the Line when they were on the verge of victory. "Revelations" explains that Sheridan's wife, Anna, died during an archaeological survey of the world Z'ha'dum, the name being just one of many references to Tolkien's the Lord of the Rings (the bridge at Khazad-Dum). "The Geometry of Shadows" introduced the Technomages, characters who featured more significantly in the ill-fated spinoff series Crusade (1999), while "The Coming of Shadows" proved to be Babylon 5's finest hour to date. The story of political intrigue foreshadowing the fate of two of the major characters beat Apollo 13, Toy Story, 12 Monkeys, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Visitor" to win the Hugo award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the 1996 World Science Fiction Convention and proved so powerful that J. Michael Straczynski included it in his Complete Book of Scriptwriting.

"And Now for a Word" took the unusual step of presenting a day-in-the-life of B5 seen through the eyes of a TV news crew, just as the Narn declared war on the Centauri. The inclusion of a PSI-Corps commercial paid homage to Paul Verhoeven's satirical ads in Robocop (1987), while his later Starship Troopers (1997) seemed at times like a spoof of B5's earnest space opera. In "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum," Sheridan learns that Morden was on the ship on which Anna died; the episode sees the captain pushed to his limits by grief and determination to discover why Morden survived. Three exceptional shows conclude the season. The Narn-Centauri war escalates in "The Long, Twilight Struggle," Sheridan faces a most unusual ordeal in "Comes the Inquisitor," and in "The Fall of Night" all hope of peace is shattered as a nerve-racking assassination attempt reveals a startling secret about Ambassador Kosh. --Gary S. Dalkin

Product Description President John J. Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) replaces Sinclair as the leader of the peaceful space station Babylon 5 in this complete collection of the science fiction program's second season. Among the highlights from this sophomore effort are episodes

Babylon 5 - The Complete Third Season
Front Cover
Release Date:
8/12/2003
Actors:
Bruce Boxleitner / Claudia Christian
Description:

Product Description Covering a variety of social issues in the stratosphere, BABYLON 5 continues to be the point of negotiation for humans and aliens alike in the 23rd Century. John J. Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) leads his crew out of the military dictatorship that is now ru

Amazon.com "Matters of Honor" launched Babylon 5's third season with the introduction of the White Star, a spacecraft added to enable more of the action to take place away from the station. Also introduced was Marcus Cole (Jason Carter)--in another nod to The Lord of the Rings, a Ranger not so far removed from Tolkien's Strider. In "Voices of Authority" the show finds an epic scale as Ivanova seeks the mysterious "First Ones" for allies against the Shadows, and evidence is discovered pointing to the truth behind President Santiago's assassination. A third of the way through the season "Messages from Earth," "Point of No Return," and "Severed Dreams" prove pivotal, changing the nature of the story in a way previously unimaginable on network TV. Earth slides into dictatorship, the fascistic Nightwatch takes control of off-world security, and Sheridan take decisive action by declaring Babylon 5 independent.

"Interludes and Examinations" presented the death of a major supporting character, while the two-part "War Without End" reached apocalyptic dimensions in a complex tale resolving the destiny of Sinclair and the fate of Babylon 4 (dovetailing elegantly with the events of the first season's "Babylon Squared"), resolving a 1,000-year-old paradox and presenting a vision of a very dark future for Sheridan and Delenn. All this was trumped by the monumental "Z'ha'dum." In the preceding "Shadow Dancing" Anna Sheridan (Melissa Gilbert, Bruce Boxleitner's real-life wife) returned from the dead, no longer entirely human. In the mythologically resonant climax Anna invited Sheridan back to the Shadow homeworld with no hope of survival. Just as in The Lord of the Rings Gandalf fell into the abyss at Khazad-Dum, so Sheridan took a comparable leap into the unknown on an alien world. --Gary S. Dalkin

Back to the Future - The Complete Trilogy (Widescreen Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
1/25/2005
Actors:
Michael J. Fox
Description:

Amazon.com essential video Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis topped his breakaway hit Romancing the Stone with Back to the Future, a joyous comedy with a dazzling hook: what would it be like to meet your parents in their youth? Billed as a special-effects comedy, the imaginative film (the top box-office smash of 1985) has staying power because of the heart behind Zemeckis and Bob Gale's script. High schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, during the height of his TV success) is catapulted back to the '50s where he sees his parents in their teens, and accidentally changes the history of how Mom and Dad met. Filled with the humorous ideology of the '50s, filtered through the knowledge of the '80s (actor Ronald Reagan is president, ha!), the film comes off as a Twilight Zone episode written by Preston Sturges. Filled with memorable effects and two wonderfully off-key, perfectly cast performances: Christopher Lloyd as the crazy scientist who builds the time machine (a DeLorean luxury car) and Crispin Glover as Marty's geeky dad. --Doug Thomas

Critics and audiences didn't seem too happy with Back to the Future, Part II, the inventive, perhaps too clever sequel. Director Zemeckis and cast bent over backwards to add layers of time-travel complication, and while it surely exercises the brain it isn't necessarily funny in the same way that its predecessor was. It's well worth a visit, though, just to appreciate the imagination that went into it, particularly in a finale that has Marty watching his own actions from the first film. --Tom Keogh

Shot back-to-back with the second chapter in the trilogy, Back to the Future, Part III is less hectic than that film and has the same sweet spirit of the first, albeit in a whole new setting. This time, Marty ends up in the Old West of 1885, trying to prevent the death of mad scientist Christopher Lloyd at the hands of gunman Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson, who had a recurring role as the bully Biff). Director Zemeckis successfully blends exciting special effects with the traditions of a Western and comes up with something original and fun. --Tom Keogh

The Band Wagon (Two-Disc Special Edition) with Slipcover
Front Cover
Release Date:
3/15/2005
Actors:
Fred Astaire / Cyd Charisse
Description:

Amazon.com The Band Wagon (1953) marked the culmination of a series of near-autobiographical pictures Fred Astaire made for MGM following his return from premature retirement in the late '40s. Astaire plays Tony Hunter, a fading film star (his big hit: Flying Down to Panama) who decides to return to his former glory, the Broadway stage. (In 1931, Astaire had starred on Broadway with sister Adele in The Band Wagon, a revue that lent some of its songs to this film.) His playwright-songwriter friends (Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant) hook him up with Broadway's hottest director, Jeffrey Cordova (a nicely hammy Jack Buchanan), who proves that the "new" theater traditions can be an awkward fit with the old. Hunter also finds himself at odds with his prima ballerina leading lady (Cyd Charisse), one of his chief worries being that she seems a little tall. Along the way, producer Arthur Freed, director Vincente Minnelli, choreographer Michael Kidd, and songwriters Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz treat us to some quintessential MGM numbers: Astaire's solo ode "By Myself," the flashy arcade romp "A Shine on Your Shoes," Astaire and Charisse's romantic duet "Dancing in the Dark," the faux-German drinking song "I Love Louisa," the manic trio "Triplets" (with Astaire, Fabray, and Buchanan in matching baby outfits), the Mickey Spillane-esque "Girl Hunt Ballet," and the classic show-biz anthem "That's Entertainment." Even if its ending and obligatory romance fall a little flat, The Band Wagon is one of the classic backstage musicals, a grandiose MGM spectacle that also manages to poke some fun at how grandiose MGM pictures had become. --David Horiuchi

Directors:
Vincente Minnelli
Bang The Drum Slowly
Front Cover
Release Date:
3/4/2003
Actors:
Michael Moriarty / Robert De Niro / Vincent Gardenia / Phil Foster / Ann Wedgeworth
Description:

Amazon.com Only those with ice water in their veins won't get misty-eyed watching this moving film about the friendship of two professional baseball players, one of whom--in every sense--is playing his last season. A pre-stardom Robert De Niro portrays a rather simple-minded rookie catcher who comes under the wing of a veteran pitcher (Michael Moriarty). When De Niro's character is diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, Moriarty tries to help him get through one more season. Directed by John Hancock and based on the novel by Mark Harris (who also wrote the screenplay), the film builds on baseball's ability to foster its own lore of courage, nobility, loyalty, and--sadly--tragedy. Watching the youthful De Niro and Moriarty, with all that promise in their bones, adds to the overall romance of the film today. Also appearing are Vincent Gardenia and Danny Aiello. A perennial favorite for many. --Tom Keogh

Directors:
John D. Hancock
Barton Fink
Front Cover
Release Date:
5/20/2003
Description:

Amazon.com essential video A darkly comic ride, this intense and original 1991 offering from the Coen brothers (Fargo, Blood Simple) gleefully attacks the Hollywood system and those who seek to sell out to it, portraying the writer's suffering as a loony vision of hell. John Turturro (Miller's Crossing, Jungle Fever) plays the title character, a pretentious left-wing writer from New York City who is brought to 1930s Hollywood to write a script for a wrestling movie for palooka actor Wallace Beery. Fink thinks the job is beneath him, but his desire for acceptance gets the better of him, and he suddenly finds himself holed up in a fleabag hotel in Los Angeles, where he is almost immediately afflicted with writer's block. Various distractions begin to enter his life, first in the form of a famous southern writer (John Mahoney) whom Fink idolizes, and then his neighbor in the hotel, a seemingly amiable salesman played by John Goodman (Sea of Love, Raising Arizona). The writer turns out to be a self-loathing drunk whose secretary (Judy Davis) is the one actually doing the writing. And the neighbor, the working-class hero who Fink made his reputation writing about, may have a horrifying secret of his own. Equal parts social commentary and hilarious farce, and winner of the Best Picture, Actor, and Director prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, Barton Fink is a visionary and original comic masterpiece not to be missed. --Robert Lane

Description Set in Hollywood during the 1940's, "Barton Fink" is a comic satire about creative egos, flashy moguls, a travelling salesman and a nasty case of writer's block. Barton Fink (John Turturro) is a New York playwright lured to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter. It doesn't take long for Barton's life to erupt in complete chaos. His studio boss orders the serious-minded Barton to write a low budget wrestling movie. Deeply disappointed, Barton returns to his seedy hotel, types one sentence and then¿ nothing. To make matters worse, he is continually interrupted by Charlie (John Goodman), a chatty travelling insurance salesman who lives next door. Eventually they become friends and Charlie tries to help Barton by teaching him the finer points of wrestling. As the clock ticks away and the temperature climbs, Barton becomes more desperate as his life spins out of control.

Directors:
Joel Coen / Ethan Coen
Basic Instinct
Front Cover
Release Date:
12/16/2003
Actors:
Michael Douglas / Sharon Stone
Directors:
Paul Verhoeven
Batman
Front Cover
Release Date:
8/22/1997
Actors:
Michael Keaton / Jack Nicholson
Description:

Amazon.com Thanks to the ambitious vision of director Tim Burton, the blockbuster hit of 1989 delivers the goods despite an occasionally spotty script, giving the caped crusader a thorough overhaul in keeping with the crime fighter's evolution in DC Comics. Michael Keaton strikes just the right mood as the brooding "Dark Knight" of Gotham City; Kim Basinger plays Gotham's intrepid reporter Vicki Vale; and Jack Nicholson goes wild as the maniacal and scene-stealing Joker, who plots a takeover of the city with his lethal Smilex gas. Triumphant Oscar-winning production design by the late Anton Furst turns Batman into a visual feast, and Burton brilliantly establishes a darkly mythic approach to Batman's legacy. Danny Elfman's now-classic score propels the action with bold, muscular verve. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Tim Burton
Batman & Robin
Front Cover
Release Date:
10/21/1997
Actors:
Arnold Schwarzenegger / George Clooney
Description:

Amazon.com Following Val Kilmer's portrayal of the caped crusader in Batman Forever, the fourth Batman feature stars George Clooney under the pointy-eared cowl, with Chris O'Donnell returning as Robin the Boy Wonder. This time the dynamic duo is up against the nefarious Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is bent on turning the world into an iceberg, and the slyly seductive but highly toxic Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), who wants to eliminate all animal life and turn the Earth into a gigantic greenhouse. Alicia Silverstone lends a hand as Batgirl, and Elle McPherson plays the thankless role of Batman/Bruce Wayne's fiancée. A sensory assault of dazzling colors, senseless action, and lavish sets run amok, this Batman & Robin offers an overdose of eye candy, but it is strictly for devoted Bat-o-philes. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Joel Schumacher
Batman Forever
Front Cover
Release Date:
8/22/1997
Actors:
Val Kilmer / Tommy Lee Jones / Jim Carrey / Nicole Kidman / Chris O'Donnell
Description:

Amazon.com When Tim Burton and Michael Keaton announced that they'd had enough of the Batman franchise, director Joel Schumacher stepped in (with Burton as coproducer) to make this action-packed extravaganza starring Val Kilmer as the caped crusader. Batman is up against two of Gotham City's most colorful criminals, the Riddler (a role tailor-made for funnyman Jim Carrey) and the diabolical Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), who join forces to conquer Gotham's population with a brain-draining device. Nicole Kidman plays the seductive psychologist who wants to know what makes Batman tick. Boasting a redesigned Batmobile and plenty of new Bat hardware, Batman Forever also introduces Robin the Boy Wonder (Chris O'Donnell) whose close alliance with Batman led more than a few critics to ponder the series' homoerotic subtext. No matter how you interpret it, Schumacher's take on the Batman legacy is simultaneously amusing, lavishly epic, and prone to chronic sensory overload. --Jeff Shannon

Description Riddle me this, riddle me that, you'll adventure on the wings of bat! Brace for excitement as Val Kilmer (Batman), Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face), Jim Carrey (the Riddler), Nicole Kidman (Dr. Chase Meridian) and Chris O'Donnell (Robin) star in the third spectacular film in Warner Bros.' Batman series. Joel Schumacher (The Client) directs and Tim Burton co-produces this thrill-ride of a movie that thunders along on Batmobile, Batwing, Batboat, Batsub and bold heroics. Hang on!

Directors:
Joel Schumacher
Batman Returns
Front Cover
Release Date:
8/22/1997
Actors:
Michael Keaton / Danny DeVito / Michelle Pfeiffer
Description:

Amazon.com The first Batman sequel takes a wicked turn with the villainous exploits of the freakish and mean-spirited Penguin (Danny DeVito), whose criminal collaboration with evil tycoon Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) threatens to drain Gotham City of its energy supply. As if that weren't enough, Batman (Michael Keaton) has his hands full with the vengeful Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), who turns out to be a lot more dangerous than a kitten with a whip. As with the first Batman feature, director Tim Burton brings his distinct visual style to the frantic action, but this time there's a darker malevolence lurking beneath all that extraordinary production design. --Jeff Shannon

Directors:
Tim Burton
A Beautiful Mind (Widescreen Awards Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
2/8/2005
Actors:
Russell Crowe / Ed Harris
Description:

Amazon.com essential video A Beautiful Mind manages to twist enough pathos out of John Nash's incredible life story to redeem an at-times goofy portrayal of schizophrenia. Russell Crowe tackles the role with characteristic fervor, playing the Nobel prize-winning mathematician from his days at Princeton, where he developed a groundbreaking economic theory, to his meteoric rise to the cover of Forbes magazine and an MIT professorship, and on through to his eventual dismissal due to schizophrenic delusions. Of course, it is the delusions that fascinate director Ron Howard and, predictably, go astray. Nash's other world, populated as it is by a maniacal Department of Defense agent (Ed Harris), an imagined college roommate who seems straight out of Dead Poets Society, and an orphaned girl, is so fluid and scriptlike as to make the viewer wonder if schizophrenia is really as slick as depicted. Crowe's physical intensity drags us along as he works admirably to carry the film on his considerable shoulders. No doubt the story of Nash's amazing will to recover his life without the aid of medication is a worthy one, his eventual triumph heartening. Unfortunately, Howard's flashy style is unable to convey much of it. --Fionn Meade

Directors:
Ron Howard
Before Sunrise
Front Cover
Release Date:
11/6/2001
Actors:
Ethan Hawke / Julie Delpy
Description:

Amazon.com This romantic, witty, and ultimately poignant glimpse at two strangers (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who share thoughts, affections, and past experiences during one 14-hour tryst in Vienna somehow remains writer/director Richard Linklater's (Dazed and Confused, Slacker) most overlooked gem. Delpy, a stunning, low-key Parisian, meets the stammering American Hawke, as the two share a Eurorail seat--she's starting school in Paris, he's finishing a vacation. Their mutual attraction leads to an awkward meeting (beautifully played by each performer), and Hawke suggests that Delpy spend his remaining 14 hours in Vienna with him.

Typically, this skeleton is as much plot as Linklater provides; as usual, he's more interested in concentrating his talents on observing the casual, playful conversations between his leads. His tight time frame allows the characters to say anything to one another, and topics ranging from politics to past romances to fears of the future flow with subtle finesse. The short time frame is also cruel, however, because beneath this love affair lies the painful reality that the two most likely will never see each other again and will be left only with memories--an idea Linklater drives home with an effective snapshot conclusion.

Hardly the trite Gen-X bitch session that many '90s films using this approach become, the film feels more like a Bresson or Rohmer piece, containing sharp perceptions--and flawed humans rather than stereotypes. The protagonists' frank revelations and heated exchanges flow in a stream-of-consciousness style, and its no accident that Linklater set the film in Vienna, where Freud invented and practiced psychotherapy. --Dave McCoy

Directors:
Richard Linklater
Before Sunset
Front Cover
Release Date:
2/8/2005
Actors:
Ethan Hawke / Julie Delpy
Description:

Amazon.com In 1994, director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Waking Life) made Before Sunrise, a gorgeous poem of a movie about two strangers (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) wandering around Vienna, talking, and falling in love. Ten years later, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy have returned with Before Sunset, which reunites the same characters after Hawke has written a book about that night. Delpy appears at the final book reading of his European tour; they have less than two hours before Hawke has to catch a flight to New York...and in that time, they walk around Paris, talk, and fall in love all over again. It sounds simple, perhaps dull, but it's written with such skill and care and acted with such richness that it's a miracle of filmmaking. On its own, Before Sunset is moving and wonderful; seen right after Before Sunrise, it will break your heart. --Bret Fetzer

Directors:
Richard Linklater
Bells Are Ringing
Front Cover
Release Date:
3/15/2005
Actors:
Judy Holliday / Dean Martin
Description:

Amazon.com Judy Holliday's final film, Bells Are Ringing, is, fittingly enough, a tailor-made vehicle for her brassy talent. She'd won a Tony for the Broadway version of the show, playing an overly sympathetic telephone receptionist who gets involved in her customers' lives. Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapted their stage musical, amusingly framing the film as a TV commercial for "Susanswerphone," the answering service Judy works for. Director Vincente Minnelli, in one of his less inspired outings, seems content to showcase Holliday's crack comic timing, which appears to have been transferred almost intact from the stage. Despite the somewhat muted tone, there are delightful bits: a typical Comden & Green showbiz party (with a number about name-dropping), Frank Gorshin's send-up of a Brando-inflected actor, and Dean Martin crooning while shouldering his way through a Manhattan crowd. "The Party's Over," that unforgettable end-of-the-evening lament, and "Just in Time" are the Jule Styne standards from the score. --Robert Horton

Directors:
Vincente Minnelli
Ben-Hur
Front Cover
Release Date:
9/14/2004
Actors:
Charlton Heston / Jack Hawkins / Stephen Boyd
Description:

Amazon.com essential video Ben-Hur scooped an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards® in 1959 and, unlike some later rivals, richly deserved every single one. This is epic filmmaking on a scale that had not been seen before and is unlikely ever to be seen again. But it's not just running time or a cast of thousands that makes an epic, it's the subject matter, and here the subject--Prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and his estrangement from old Roman pal Messala (Stephen Boyd)--is rich, detailed, and sensitively handled. Director William Wyler, who had been a junior assistant on MGM's original silent version back in 1925, never sacrifices the human focus of the story in favor of spectacle, and is aided immeasurably by Miklos Rozsa's majestic musical score, arguably the greatest ever written for a Hollywood picture. At four hours it's a long haul (especially given some of the portentous dialogue), but all in all, Ben-Hur is a great movie, best seen on the biggest screen possible. --Mark Walker

Description After his boyhood friend Messala's fanatic loyalty to Rome makes him a powerful enemy, Judah Ben-Hur is found guilty of an attempted murder he did not commit. His family is banished and he is enslaved on a warship. Through his ferocity in a raging sea battle, he is able to escape and become a horse trainer. To exact his revenge, Ben-Hur decides to compete against Messala in the Roman chariot races. They race, locked in a battle to the death. Barely surviving, Ben-Hur forsakes the sword for Christ and finally finds redemption. Winner of a record 11 Academy Award, including Best Picture and Actor (Charlton Heston).

Directors:
William Wyler
Best in Show
Front Cover
Release Date:
2/3/2004
Actors:
Catherine O'Hara / Eugene Levy / Jennifer Coolidge
Description:

Amazon.com Christopher Guest, the man behind Waiting for Guffman, turns his comic eye on another little world that takes itself a bit too seriously: the world of competitive dog shows. Best in Show follows a clutch of dog owners as they prepare and preen their dogs to win a national competition. They include the yuppie pair (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) who fear they've traumatized their Weimaraner by having sex in front of him; a suburban husband and wife (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara) with a terrier and a long history of previous lovers on the wife's part; the Southern owner of a bloodhound (Guest himself) with aspirations as a ventriloquist; and many more. Following the same "mockumentary" format of Spinal Tap and Guffman, Best in Show takes in some of the dog show officials, the manager of a nearby hotel that allows dogs to stay there, and the commentators of the competition (a particularly knockout comic turn by Fred Willard as an oafish announcer). The movie manages to paint an affectionate portrait of its quirky characters without ever losing sight of the ridiculousness of their obsessive world. Almost all of the scenes were created through improvisation. While lacking the overall focus of a written script, Best in Show captures hilarious and absurd aspects of human behavior that could never be written down. The movie's success is a testament to both the talent of the actors and Guest's discerning eye. --Bret Fetzer

Directors:
Christopher Guest
The Best of Abbott & Costello - Volume 1 (8 Film Collection)
Front Cover
Release Date:
2/8/2005
Actors:
Bud Abbott / Lou Costello
Description:

Description Get ready for big laughs with Abbott and Costello, undeniably the most popular comedy team of all time! Now, the classic films of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are available on DVD in this hilarious collection.

The wildly popular comic duo has entertained audiences since 1931, conquering vaudeville, radio and the silver screen in nearly 40 films. Enjoy these side-splitting hits like Buck Privates and Hold That Ghost in this collection of eight full-length features. The Best of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello: Volume 1 will have you laughing out loud again and again!

One Night in the Tropics (1940)
Bud and Lou get mixed up in a "Love Insurance" scheme.

Buck Privates (1941)
The duo accidentally enlists in the U.S. Army to avoid getting arrested!

In the Navy (1941)
Bud and Lou are sailors bound for duty on the high seas in this musical comedy.

Hold that Ghost (1941)
The boys inherit a haunted house formerly owned by a mobster.

Keep ‘Em Flying (1941)
Bud and Lou enlist in the Army Air Corps and get caught up in a love triangle.

Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942)
The duo head to the Lazy S ranch to hide after Lou accidentally proposes to an Indian girl.

Pardon My Sarong (1942)
Bud and Lou travel to the South Seas where Lou is mistaken for a legendary god!

Who Done It? (1942)
The boys are suspected of murder while being targeted by the actual killer.

Directors:
Arthur Lubin
The Best of Abbott & Costello - Volume 2 (8 Film Collection)
Front Cover
Release Date:
2/8/2005
Description:

Description By popular demand, the legendary Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are back in eight brand-new-to-DVD comedy classics! Still one of the greatest comedy teams in the history of show business, their films continue to generate new legions of fans around the world.

Now some of their greatest gags and most stellar skits, including the complete version of their signature routine "Who's on First?", are available in this side-splitting collection. It's the boys at their very best and illustrates why Bud and Lou rightly deserve their place among the brightest stars of the silver screen!

Hit the Ice (1943)
Bud and Lou hit the slopes at the Sun Valley Resort after getting mixed up with gangsters.

In Society (1944)
The boys find themselves in hot water after a plumbing job goes wrong at a high society bash.

Here Come the Co-Eds (1945)
Bud and Lou head to campus and attempt to save Bixby College from closing down.

The Naughty Nineties (1945)
Set aboard the River Queen showboat, Bud and Lou perform their legendary "Who's on First?" routine.

Little Giant (1946)
Lou plays a little man with big dreams...and ends up selling vacuum cleaners!

The Time of Their Lives (1946)
Mistaken as a traitor, Lou's ghost is trapped in Danbury Mansion until his innocence is proven.

Buck Privates Come Home (1947)
Bud and Lou return to civilian life and get involved in midget car racing in the sequel to Buck Privates!

The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947)
Accused of murder, Lou is forced to take care of a widow and her children on a farm.

Directors:
Charles Barton
The Best of Abbott & Costello - Volume 3 (8 Film Collection)
Front Cover
Release Date:
5/31/2005
Actors:
Bud Abbott / Lou Costello / Mari Blanchard / Robert Paige (IV) / Martha Hyer
Description:

Description Includes the following movies,
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Mexican Hayride
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff
Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
Comin' Round the Mountain
Lost in Alaska
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars

Directors:
Charles Lamont
Best of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Vol 4
Front Cover
Release Date:
10/4/2005
Actors:
Bud Abbott
Description:

Description America's most beloved comedy team pair up with a cast of monsters and The Keystone Kops in this collector's set filled with 6 classics. The last installment in this hilarious franchise includes revealing documentaries and interviews that give an in-depth look at the genius behind Abbott and Costello and their continued popularity. Also featured is the making of the original classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, which spawned an industry of comedy/horror films. Partnered with great legends like Boris Karloff, these masterpieces truly stand the test of time.

Betty Grable Collection, Vol. 1 (My Blue Heaven / The Dolly Sisters / Moon Over Miami / Down Argentine Way)
Front Cover
Release Date:
6/13/2006
Description:

Description Disk 1: MY BLUE HEAVEN Disk 2: THE DOLLY SISTERS Disk 3: MOON OVER MIAMI Disk 4: DOWN ARGENTINE WAY

Directors:
Walter Lang / Henry Koster / Irving Cummings
Beverly Hills Cop (Special Collector's Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
12/12/2003
Actors:
Eddie Murphy
Description:

Amazon.com essential video While its sequels were formulaic and safe, the first Beverly Hills Cop set out to explore some uncharted territory, and succeeded. A blend of violent action picture and sharp comedy, the film has an excellent director, Martin Brest (Scent of a Woman), who finds some original perspectives on stock scenes (highway chases, police rousts) and hits a gleeful note with Murphy while skewering L.A. culture. Good support from Judge Reinhold and John Ashton as local cops not used to doing things the Detroit way (Murphy's character hails from the Motor City). Paul Reiser has a funny, brief moment at the beginning, and Bronson Pinchot makes a hilarious impression in a great, never-to-be-duplicated scene with the star. --Tom Keogh

Directors:
Martin Brest
The Big Chill
Front Cover
Release Date:
10/30/2001
Actors:
Tom Berenger / Glenn Close / Jeff Goldblum / William Hurt / Kevin Kline
Description:

Amazon.com essential video Lawrence Kasdan's 1983 big-budget variation on John Sayles's The Return of the Secaucus Seven finds a cluster of old college radicals--who have since gone on to sundry professions and various degrees of materialism--reuniting over the death of a friend. Both playful and thoughtful, the film represents Kasdan (Body Heat) at his most astute. The attractive cast meshes perfectly into a group of characters for which a former closeness is out of synch with their current lives, yet their warmth is enviable and inviting. The script may be a bit too glib, with many one-liners, but it is still a perfectly designed story with telling irony and no little passion. --Tom Keogh

Directors:
Lawrence Kasdan
The Big Easy
Front Cover
Release Date:
2/2/1999
Actors:
Dennis Quaid / Ellen Barkin
Description:

Amazon.com An atmospheric and sexy crime caper, this stars Dennis Quaid as a New Orleans police detective. He's a smooth talker who butts heads with the new assistant district attorney, Ellen Barkin. She's rigid and plays by the rules; he is mildly corrupt. They soon find themselves romantically entwined, and a bit chagrined.

Director Jim McBride (Great Balls of Fire) was in top form with this 1987 sizzler. You may not remember the particulars of the plot, which concerns supposed gang killings and police corruption, because it is the romance that has staying power. Blame this on Quaid and Barkin, who send off enough sparks to light up Bourbon Street. They are not only sexy together, but endearing, which makes you want to like them as much as they like each other. --Rochelle O'Gorman

Directors:
Jim McBride
The Big Lebowski (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
Front Cover
Release Date:
10/18/2005
Actors:
Jeff Bridges / John Goodman / Julianne Moore / Steve Buscemi / David Huddleston / Philip Seymour Hoffman / Tara Reid / Philip Moon / Mark Pellegrino / Peter Stormare / Flea / Torsten Voges / Jimmie Dale Gilmore / Jack Kehler / John Turturro / James G. Hoosier / Carlos Leon / Terrence Burton / Richard Gant / Christian Clemenson
Description:

Amazon.com essential video After the tight plotting and quirky intensity of Fargo, this casually amusing follow-up from the prolifically inventive Coen (Ethan and Joel) brothers seems like a bit of a lark, and the result was a box-office disappointment. The good news is, The Big Lebowski is every bit a Coen movie, and its lazy plot is part of its laidback charm. After all, how many movies can claim as their hero a pot-bellied, pot-smoking loser named Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) who spends most of his time bowling and getting stoned? And where else could you find a hairnetted Latino bowler named Jesus (John Turturro) who sports dazzling purple footgear, or an erotic artist (Julianne Moore) whose creativity consists of covering her naked body in paint, flying through the air in a leather harness, and splatting herself against a giant canvas? Who else but the Coens would think of showing you a camera view from inside the holes of a bowling ball, or an elaborate Busby Berkely-styled musical dream sequence involving a Viking goddess and giant bowling pins? The plot--which finds Lebowski involved in a kidnapping scheme after he's mistaken for a rich guy with the same name--is almost beside the point. What counts here is a steady cascade of hilarious dialogue, great work from Coen regulars John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, and the kind of cinematic ingenuity that puts the Coens in a class all their own. Be sure to watch with snacks in hand, because The Big Lebowski might give you a giddy case of the munchies. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description The Coen brothers irreverent cult hit comes to DVD as a Collector's Edition, with all-new bonus material. The hilariously twisted comedy-thriller stars Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore. Join the Dude and his bowling buddies on their journey that blends unforgettable characters, kidnapping, a case of mistaken identity and White Russians. Enter the visually unique and entertaining world from the creative minds of the Coen brothers and remember: the Dude abides.

System Requirements:

  • Running Time 118 Mins.

    Format: DVD MOVIE

  • Directors:
    Joel Coen
    Billy Jack
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Tom Laughlin
    Description:

    Amazon.com This time-capsule film from 1971 is a perfect example of having one's cake and eating it, too. Written and directed by filmmaker Tom Laughlin--and starring him in the title role--Billy Jack concerns a half-white, half-Indian karate expert who protects a free school built on principles of pacifism by kicking hell out of pesky rednecks. The story actually embraces that tension between Billy Jack's way of doing things and that of the school's founder (Delores Taylor), but their tension doesn't so much lead to an examination of principles as it leads to an excuse for Laughlin to incorporate fight scenes between hippie politics. Crude and brutal, the film is pretty exploitative of a viewer's torn sympathies, and in that way Billy Jack actually anticipates much of the simple-minded, violent fare that followed in the movies of the '70s and '80s. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Tom Laughlin
    Bing Crosby: Screen Legend Collection (Double or Nothing / East Side of Heaven / Here Come the Waves / If I Had My Way / Waikiki Wedding)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/14/2006
    Actors:
    Bing Crosby / Martha Raye / Andy Devine / Mary Carlisle / William Frawley / Benny Baker / Samuel S. Hinds / William Henry / Fay Holden / Bert Hanlon / Harry Barris / Frances Faye / James Notaro / Arthur Housman / Charles Irwin / Ethelreda Leopold / Tex Morrissey / Andre Calgary / M.J. Pecarovich / Steve Calgary
    Directors:
    Theodore Reed / Frank Tuttle / David Butler
    The Birds (Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/2/2003
    Actors:
    Rod Taylor / Tippi Hedren
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Vacationing in northern California, Alfred Hitchcock was struck by a story in a Santa Cruz newspaper: "Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes." From this peculiar incident, and his memory of a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the master of suspense created one of his strangest and most terrifying films. The Birds follows a chic blonde, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), as she travels to the coastal town of Bodega Bay to hook up with a rugged fellow (Rod Taylor) she's only just met. Before long the town is attacked by marauding birds, and Hitchcock's skill at staging action is brought to the fore. Beyond the superb effects, however, The Birds is also one of Hitchcock's most psychologically complicated scenarios, a tense study of violence, loneliness, and complacency. What really gets under your skin are not the bird skirmishes but the anxiety and the eerie quiet between attacks. The director elevated an unknown model, Tippi Hedren (mother of Melanie Griffith), to being his latest cool, blond leading lady, an experience that was not always easy on the much-pecked Ms. Hedren. Still, she returned for the next Hitchcock picture, the underrated Marnie. Treated with scant attention by serious critics in 1963, The Birds has grown into a classic and--despite the sci-fi trappings--one of Hitchcock's most serious films. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Birth Of The Blues/Blue Skies - Double Feature
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/6/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com It's a flimsy excuse to romp through more than two dozen Irving Berlin songs, but Blue Skies is good fun nonetheless (and one of the top-grossing films of 1946). Bing Crosby is a restless nightclub entrepreneur, Fred Astaire his Broadway buddy, Joan Caulfield the woman they both want. Ignore the plot and enjoy the numbers, especially Astaire's marvelous "Puttin' on the Ritz," which is breathtaking even before multiple images of Fred are introduced dancing in a row (who needs CGI, anyway?). Bing and Fred flash great showbiz chutzpah in "A Couple of Song and Dance Men," which wonderfully captures the appeal of both stars: Fred's heavenly precision, and Bing's "can-you-believe-they're-payin'-me-for-this?" sense of play.

    Bing Crosby founds the first white Dixieland band in Birth of the Blues, a tuneful turn-of-the-century tale--if highly suspect as musical history. Borrowing hot licks from black musicians (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson comments, "Our music sure has gone highbrow"), Bing and his players struggle to invade the straight-laced clubs, succeeding only after songbird Mary Martin joins the band. Martin, in one of her infrequent movie appearances, has fun with Der Bingle jazzing up "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," a highlight of this breezily enjoyable nonsense. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Victor Schertzinger
    Blade (New Line Platinum Series)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/22/1998
    Actors:
    Stephen Dorff / Kris Kristofferson / Wesley Snipes / N'Bushe Wright
    Description:

    Amazon.com The recipe for Blade is quite simple; you take one part Batman, one part horror flick, and two parts kung fu and frost it all over with some truly campy acting. What do you get? An action flick that will reaffirm your belief that the superhero action genre did not die in the fluorescent hands of Joel Schumacher. Blade is the story of a ruthless and supreme vampire slayer (Wesley Snipes) who makes other contemporary slayers (Buffy et al.) look like amateurs. Armed with a samurai sword made of silver and guns that shoot silver bullets, he lives to hunt and kill "Sucker Heads." Pitted against our hero is a cast of villains led by Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), a crafty and charismatic vampire who believes that his people should be ruling the world, and that the human race is merely the food source they prey on. Born half-human and half-vampire after his mother had been attacked by a blood-sucker, Blade is brought to life by a very buff-looking Snipes in his best action performance to date. Apparent throughout the film is the fluid grace and admirable skill that Snipes brings to the many breathtaking action sequences that lift this movie into a league of its own. The influence of Hong Kong action cinema is clear, and you may even notice vague impressions of Japanese anime sprinkled innovatively throughout. Dorff holds his own against Snipes as the menacing nemesis Frost, and the grizzly Kris Kristofferson brings a tough, cynical edge to his role as Whistler, Blade's mentor and friend. Ample credit should also go to director Stephen Norrington and screenwriter David S. Goyer, who prove it is possible to adapt comic book characters to the big screen without making them look absurd. Indeed, quite the reverse happens here: Blade comes vividly to life from the moment you first see him, in an outstanding opening sequence that sets the tone for the action-packed film that follows. From that moment onward you are pulled into the world of Blade and his perpetual battle against the vampire race. --Jeremy Storey

    Blade Runner (The Director's Cut)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/14/2004
    Actors:
    Harrison Ford / Rutger Hauer / Sean Young
    Description:

    Amazon.com Customer Note We regret that this DVD is under certain restrictions that prohibit sales to customers who live outside the North American continent. If you do not live in the United States or Canada, we will not be able to ship you this DVD. Thank you for understanding.

    Directors:
    Ridley Scott
    Blazing Saddles
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Cleavon Little / Gene Wilder
    Description:

    Amazon.com Mel Brooks scored his first commercial hit with this raucous Western spoof starring the late Cleavon Little as the newly hired (and conspicuously black) sheriff of Rock Ridge. Sheriff Bart teams up with deputy Jim (Gene Wilder) to foil the railroad-building scheme of the nefarious Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman). The simple plot is just an excuse for a steady stream of gags, many of them unabashedly tasteless, that Brooks and his wacky cast pull off with side-splitting success. The humor is so juvenile and crude that you just have to surrender to it; highlights abound, from the lunkheaded Alex Karras as the ox-riding Mongo to Madeline Kahn's uproarious send-up of Marlene Dietrich as saloon songstress Lili Von Shtupp. Adding to the comedic excess is the infamous campfire scene involving a bunch of hungry cowboys, heaping servings of baked beans and, well, you get the idea. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Mel Brooks
    The Blues Brothers (Widescreen 25th Anniversary Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/30/2005
    Actors:
    Dan Aykroyd / John Belushi / Cab Calloway / John Candy / James Brown / Ray Charles / Steve Cropper / Donald Dunn / Murphy Dunne / Carrie Fisher / Aretha Franklin / Kathleen Freeman / Henry Gibson / Willie Hall / Steve Lawrence / Tom Malone (II) / Lou Marini / Matt Murphy / Alan Rubin
    Description:

    Amazon.com After building up the duo's popularity through recordings and several performances on Saturday Night Live, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd--as "legendary" Chicago blues brothers Jake and Elwood Blues--took their act to the big screen in this action-packed hit from 1980. As Jake and Elwood struggle to reunite their old band and save the Chicago orphanage where they were raised, they wreak enough good-natured havoc to attract the entire Cook County police force. The result is a big-budget stunt-fest on a scale rarely attempted before or since, including extended car chases that result in the wanton destruction of shopping malls and more police cars than you can count. Along the way there's plenty of music to punctuate the action, including performances by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and James Brown that are guaranteed to knock you out. As played with deadpan wit by Belushi and Aykroyd, the Blues Brothers are "on a mission from God," and that gives them a kind of reckless glee that keeps the movie from losing its comedic appeal. Otherwise this might have been just a bloated marathon of mayhem that quickly wears out its welcome (which is how some critics described this film and its 1998 sequel). Keep an eye out for Steven Spielberg as the city clerk who stamps some crucial paperwork near the end of the film.--Jeff Shannon

    Bob Hope Tribute Collection - The Road Show Series (The Road to Morocco / The Road to Singapore / The Road to Utopia / The Road to Zanzibar)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/1/2003
    Actors:
    Bob Hope / Bing Crosby
    Description:

    Amazon.com Road to Singapore
    Here's the first trip in what would become one of Paramount Pictures' most profitable film series of the '40s. When this comedy was released in 1940, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope had separately achieved stardom, though Crosby was an established power and Hope still a hot comedian new to movies. In fact, Hope is billed third in Road to Singapore, below Der Bingle and Dorothy Lamour. The script establishes what would be a constant in the Road series: a ramshackle plot, a handful of songs, and plenty of irreverent banter between the two boys. Crosby plays Josh Mallon, scion of a wealthy family, who prefers the vagabond life to his stuffy family; his pal Ace Lannigan (Hope) is only too happy to escape. They end up sharing a waterfront shack in Singapore and vying for the affections of a sarong-clad local (Lamour), amidst stabs at conning the natives with a dubious elixir variously known as "Spot-O" (stain remover) and "Scram-O" (cockroach killer). Singapore isn't as loose as some of the wacky subsequent entries in the series, but it already shows Crosby and Hope grooving to each other's perfectly timed burlesque rhythms in scenes that clearly depart from the script. They specialized in muttered asides, show-biz in-jokes, and gratuitous insults--and this one's got a song and dance number with an ocarina. No wonder it became a franchise. --Robert Horton

    Road to Zanzibar
    The second Road movie from Paramount Pictures finds barnstorming con artists Chuck Reardon (Bing Crosby) and Hubert "Fearless" Frazier (Bob Hope) at liberty after their act goes haywire. (In these movies, Crosby generally lures the suckers into the tent, while Hope is always stuck getting shot out of the cannon.) A phony map to a diamond mine brings our boys into the middle of Africa, which means there's a good chance they'll end up sitting in a cauldron while natives perform a cannibal dance around them. These stereotypes would be offensive if the movie wasn't actively parodying the kind of jungle movie popular in 1941 (just as Road to Morocco would satirize the Arabian nights picture). Dorothy Lamour is along for the ride, of course, and her scene in a tight clinch with Hope established a tradition of steamy comic exchanges through the series (as she croons a love song to him, he checks to see if his wallet is still in his pocket). This is the first Road movie to actively wink at the audience; in one scene, Lamour mocks the way movies always have characters break out into song in the middle of nowhere with a full orchestra backing--which is exactly what happens next. The chatter between Crosby and Hope already feels improvised, and it should be noted that the secret of their chemistry is not a sentimental friendship but a cheerfully hostile rivalry between the two characters, a cheeky approach that must've delighted audiences used to the Andy Hardy niceness of most Hollywood movies of that era. Oh, and they do their patty-cake routine, too. --Robert Horton

    Road to Morocco
    Road to Morocco, number three in the series of breezy comedies teaming Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, may be the funniest of the bunch. Bing and Bob find themselves Morocco-bound ("like Webster's dictionary"), caught in an elaborately faked-up world of harems, palm trees, and other Arabian Nights bric-a-brac. Naturally, Dorothy Lamour is also there, as she was the customary target of male rivalry in the Road scenarios. There is something so loose and ingratiating about the patter between Hope and Crosby that it doesn't ultimately matter if half the jokes don't land; these guys had their own comfortable rhythm, fueled by cheerful one-upmanship. Their sense of spontaneity broke the fourth wall between movie and audience in a way only the Marx Brothers had really accomplished before, and audiences--feeling in on the joke--ate it up. Songs (including "Moonlight Becomes You"), topical references, and ancient vaudeville routines fill out the program. --Robert Horton

    Road to Utopia
    I feel sorry for people who can't appreciate Hope and Crosby Road pictures. This is the fourth in the series, and has the boys masquerading as the killers Sperry and McGurk, from whom they've stolen the map to a gold mine, but which really belongs to Dorothy Lamour, but which... and you know it really doesn't matter anyway. The point is they've got this thin plot on which to hang a series of hit-and-miss jokes, coming fast enough to make it just all right and a certain amount of time to see who gets Dorothy Lamour, while maintaining their fierce and friendly and wisecracking rivalry. They're in the Klondike this time around, which doesn't stop the film from working in a glimpse of Dorothy in her sarong. Along the way, animals talk, including the humorist Robert Benchley, whose thoroughly dispensable introduction and running commentary I wouldn't dispense with for anything. This is arguably the goofiest of the road pictures. My favorite joke is when Bob is bested in fishing with Bing. Bob remarks, "My worm must have B.O." Bing comes back with "Couldn't B.U." You may not care where you're going, just as long as you're with them. Put it there, pal, put it there. --Jim Gay

    Bond Girls are Forever (Limited Edition)
    Bonnie and Clyde
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/18/1999
    Description:

    Amazon.com One of the landmark films of the 1960s, Bonnie and Clyde changed the course of American cinema. Setting a milestone for screen violence that paved the way for Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, this exercise in mythologized biography should not be labeled as a bloodbath; as critic Pauline Kael wrote in her rave review, "it's the absence of sadism that throws the audience off balance." The film is more of a poetic ode to the Great Depression, starring the dream team of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the titular antiheroes, who barrel across the South and Midwest robbing banks with Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), Buck's frantic wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and their faithful accomplice C.W. Moss (the inimitable Michael J. Pollard). Bonnie and Clyde is an unforgettable classic that has lost none of its power since the 1967 release. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Arthur Penn
    Boogie Nights
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/7/1998
    Actors:
    Burt Reynolds / Julianne Moore / Mark Wahlberg
    Description:

    Amazon.com Even if the notorious 1970s porn-filmmaking milieu doesn't exactly turn you on, don't let it turn you off to this movie's extraordinary virtues, either. Boogie Nights is one of the key movies of the 1990s, and among the most ambitious and exuberantly alive American movies in years. It's also the breakthrough for an amazing new director, whose dazzling kaleidoscopic style here recalls the Robert Altman of Nashville and the Martin Scorsese of GoodFellas. Although loosely based on the sleazy life and times of real-life porn legend John Holmes, at heart it's a classic Hollywood rise-and-fall fable: a naive, good-looking young busboy is discovered in a San Fernando Valley disco by a famous motion picture producer, becomes a hotshot movie star, lives the high life, and then loses everything when he gets too big for his britches, succumbs to insobriety, and is left behind by new times and new technology. Of course, it ain't exactly A Star Is Born or Singin' in the Rain. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (in only his second feature!) puts his own affectionately sardonic twist on the old showbiz biopic formula: the ambitious upstart changes his name and achieves stardom in porno films as "Dirk Diggler." Instead of drinking to excess, he snorts cocaine (the classic drug of '70s hedonism); and it's the coming of home video (rather than talkies) that helps to dash his big-screen dreams. As for the britches ... well, the controversial "money shot" explains everything. And the cast is one of the great ensembles of the '90s, including Oscar nominees Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore, Mark Wahlberg (who really can act--from the waist up, too!), Heather Graham (as Rollergirl), William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, and Ricky Jay. DVD extras include nine deleted scenes and a commentary track from Anderson. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Paul Thomas Anderson
    The Bourne Identity (Widescreen Extended Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/8/2005
    Actors:
    Matt Damon / Franka Potente
    Description:

    Amazon.com Freely adapted from Robert Ludlum's 1980 bestseller, The Bourne Identity starts fast and never slows down. The twisting plot revs up in Zurich, where amnesiac CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), with no memory of his name, profession, or recent activities, recruits a penniless German traveler (Run Lola Run's Franka Potente) to assist in solving the puzzle of his missing identity. While his CIA superior (Chris Cooper) dispatches assassins to kill Bourne and thus cover up his failed mission, Bourne exercises his lethal training to leave a trail of bodies from Switzerland to Paris. Director Doug Liman (Go) infuses Ludlum's intricate plotting with a maverick's eye for character detail, matching breathtaking action with the humorous, thrill-seeking chemistry of Damon and Potente. Previously made as a 1988 TV movie starring Richard Chamberlain, The Bourne Identity benefits from the sharp talent of rising stars, offering intelligent, crowd-pleasing excitement from start to finish. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Doug Liman
    The Bourne Supremacy (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/7/2004
    Actors:
    Matt Damon / Franka Potente / Brian Cox / Julia Stiles / Joan Allen
    Description:

    Amazon.com Good enough to suggest long-term franchise potential, The Bourne Supremacy is a thriller fans will appreciate for its well-crafted suspense, and for its triumph of competence over logic (or lack thereof). Picking up where The Bourne Identity left off, the action begins when CIA assassin and partial amnesiac Jason Bourne (a role reprised with efficient intensity by Matt Damon) is framed for a murder in Berlin, setting off a chain reaction of pursuits involving CIA handlers (led by Joan Allen and the duplicitous Brian Cox, with Julia Stiles returning from the previous film) and a shadowy Russian oil magnate. The fast-paced action hurtles from India to Berlin, Moscow, and Italy, and as he did with the critically acclaimed Bloody Sunday, director Paul Greengrass puts you right in the thick of it with split-second editing (too much of it, actually) and a knack for well-sustained tension. It doesn't all make sense, and bears little resemblance to Robert Ludlum's novel, but with Damon proving to be an appealingly unconventional action hero, there's plenty to look forward to. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Paul Greengrass
    The Bourne Ultimatum (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/11/2007
    Actors:
    Matt Damon / Joan Allen / Albert Finney / Scott Glenn / Colin Stinton
    Date Added:
    12/11/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com The often breathtaking, final installment in the Bourne trilogy finds the titular assassin with no memory closing in on his past, finally answering his own questions about his real identity and how he came to be a seemingly unstoppable killing machine. Matt Damon returns for another intensely physical performance as Jason Bourne, the rogue operative at war with the CIA, which made him who and what he is and managed to kill his girlfriend in the series' second film, The Bourne Supremacy. Now looking for payback, Bourne goes in search for the renegade chief of CIA operations in Europe and North Africa, partnering for a time with a mysterious woman from his past (Julia Stiles) and constantly--constantly--on the run from assassins, intelligence foot soldiers, and cops. Directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93) with the director's thrilling, trademark textures and shaky, documentary style, The Bourne Ultimatum is largely a succession of action scenes that reveal a lot about the story's characters while they're under duress. Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, and Paddy Considine comprise the film's terrific supporting cast, and the well-traveled movie leads viewers through Turin, Madrid, Tangiers, Paris, London, and New York. Overall, this is a satisfying conclusion to Bourne's exciting and protracted mystery. --Tom Keogh

    Product Description
    Matt Damon returns as highly trained assassin Jason Bourne, who is on the hunt for the agents who stole his memory and true identity. With a new generation of skilled CIA operatives tracking his every move, Bourne is in a non-stop race around the globe as he finally learns the truth behind his mysterious past. Loaded with incredible fight and chase sequences, it's the exhilarating movie with "mind-blowing action" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) that you can't afford to miss!

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    Description Matt Damon returns as highly trained assassin Jason Bourne, who is on the hunt for the agents who stole his memory and true identity. With a new generation of skilled CIA operatives tracking his every move, Bourne is in a non-stop race around the globe as he finally learns the truth behind his mysterious past. Loaded with incredible fight and chase sequences, it's the exhilarating movie with "mind-blowing action" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) that you can't afford to miss!

    Directors:
    Paul Greengrass
    The Bridge on the River Kwai
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/21/2000
    Actors:
    William Holden / Alec Guinness
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Director David Lean's masterful 1957 realization of Pierre Boulle's novel remains a benchmark for war films, and a deeply absorbing movie by any standard--like most of Lean's canon, The Bridge on the River Kwai achieves a richness in theme, narrative, and characterization that transcends genre.

    The story centers on a Japanese prison camp isolated deep in the jungles of Southeast Asia, where the remorseless Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) has been charged with building a vitally important railway bridge. His clash of wills with a British prisoner, the charismatic Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), escalates into a duel of honor, Nicholson defying his captor's demands to win concessions for his troops. How the two officers reach a compromise, and Nicholson becomes obsessed with building that bridge, provides the story's thematic spine; the parallel movement of a team of commandos dispatched to stop the project, led by a British major (Jack Hawkins) and guided by an American escapee (William Holden), supplies the story's suspense and forward momentum.

    Shot on location in Sri Lanka, Kwai moves with a careful, even deliberate pace that survivors of latter-day, high-concept blockbusters might find lulling--Lean doesn't pander to attention deficit disorders with an explosion every 15 minutes. Instead, he guides us toward the intersection of the two plots, accruing remarkable character details through extraordinary performances. Hayakawa's cruel camp commander is gradually revealed as a victim of his own sense of honor, Holden's callow opportunist proves heroic without softening his nihilistic edge, and Guinness (who won a Best Actor Oscar, one of the production's seven wins) disappears as only he can into Nicholson's brittle, duty-driven, delusional psychosis. His final glimpse of self-knowledge remains an astonishing moment--story, character, and image coalescing with explosive impact.

    Like Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai has been beautifully restored and released in a highly recommended widescreen version that preserves its original aspect ratio. --Sam Sutherland

    Directors:
    David Lean
    Brief Encounter - Criterion Collection
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/27/2000
    Actors:
    Celia Johnson / Trevor Howard
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video To many, Brief Encounter may seem like a relic of more proper times--or, specifically, more properly British times--when the pressures of marital decorum and fidelity were perhaps more keenly felt. In truth, David Lean's fourth film remains a timeless study of true love (or, rather, the promise of it), and the aching desire for intimate connection that is often subdued by the obligations of marriage. And so it is that ordinary Londoners Alec (Trevor Howard), a married doctor, and contented housewife Laura (Celia Johnson) meet by chance one day in a train station, when he volunteers to remove a fleck of ash from her eye (a romantic gesture that, perhaps, inspired Robert Towne's "flaw in the iris" scene in Chinatown).

    It so happens that their schedules coincide at the train station every Thursday, and their casual attraction grows, through quiet conversation and longing expressions, into the desperate recognition of mutual love. From this point forward, Lean turns this utterly precise, 85-minute film into a bracing study of romantic suspense, leading inevitably, and with the paranoid, furtive glances of a spy thriller, to the moment when this brief encounter must be consummated or abandoned altogether. Decades later, the outcome of this affair--both agonizing and rapturous--is subtle and yet powerful enough to draw tears from the numbest of souls, and spark debate regarding the tragedy or virtue of the choices made. A truly universal film, with meticulously controlled emotions revealed through the flawless performances of Howard and Johnson, and an enduring masterpiece that continued Lean on his course to cinematic greatness. --Jeff Shannon

    Description From Noël Coward's play Still Life, legendary filmmaker David Lean deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance in the dour, gray Britain of 1945. From a chance meeting on a train platform, a middle-aged married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a quietly passionate, ultimately doomed love affair, set to a swirling Rachmaninoff score. Criterion is proud to present Lean's award-winning masterpiece a beautifully restored digital transfer.

    Directors:
    David Lean
    Brigadoon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/15/2005
    Actors:
    Gene Kelly / Van Johnson
    Description:

    Amazon.com This Cinemascope production brought Lerner and Loewe's hit Broadway musical to the big screen with Gene Kelly and Van Johnson as the American hunters who stumble upon Brigadoon, the magical Scottish village that went to sleep in 1754 and awakens for just one day each century. MGM had originally planned to shoot this film on location in Scotland, but budget considerations turned it into a studio production, costarring Cyd Charisse as the bonny lass who wins Kelly's heart. Although it has never been ranked among the great musicals of MGM's golden age, Brigadoon has still got plenty of charm and continues to gain a loyal following. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Vincente Minnelli
    Brigadoon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/22/1997
    Actors:
    Gene Kelly / Van Johnson
    Description:

    Amazon.com This Cinemascope production brought Lerner and Loewe's hit Broadway musical to the big screen with Gene Kelly and Van Johnson as the American hunters who stumble upon Brigadoon, the magical Scottish village that went to sleep in 1754 and awakens for just one day each century. MGM had originally planned to shoot this film on location in Scotland, but budget considerations turned it into a studio production, costarring Cyd Charisse as the bonny lass who wins Kelly's heart. Although it has never been ranked among the great musicals of MGM's golden age, Brigadoon has still got plenty of charm and continues to gain a loyal following. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Vincente Minnelli
    Broadway Melody of 1940
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/22/2003
    Actors:
    Fred Astaire / Eleanor Powell
    Description:

    Amazon.com One of the most famous tap numbers in film history distinguishes Broadway Melody of 1940, the fourth and final installment in MGM's Broadway Melody series. When Clare Bennett (Eleanor Powell, who had appeared in Broadway Melody of 1936 and 1938) needs a new partner for her hit Broadway show, small-time hoofers Johnny Brett (Fred Astaire in his MGM debut) and King Shaw (George Murphy) get their big chance. But due to a case of mistaken identity, King, rather than the more talented Johnny, gets the job, and the girl. Astaire and Powell can't match the chemistry he had with Ginger Rogers at RKO, but she was the best technical dancer he was ever teamed with, and the sense of fun they share is infectious. Their above-mentioned tap duet to Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" is legendary, but there are other fine moments as well: Astaire and Murphy's duet "Please Don't Monkey with Broadway," Powell's athletic number with a chorus of sailors "I Am the Captain," Astaire playing the piano and singing "I've Got My Eyes on You," and his and Powell's high-velocity duet "Jukebox Dance." --David Horiuchi

    Directors:
    Norman Taurog
    The Buddy Holly Story
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/7/2005
    Actors:
    Gary Busey
    Description:

    Amazon.com Rock historians and hard-core Buddy Holly fans can and do take issue with director Steve Rash's 1978 biopic of the Lubbock, Texas, rocker's life: the script liberally juggles details from Holly's brief but blazing career, replacing producer Norman Petty and Holly's original bassist and drummer with fictionalized composite characters. Yet the core of the film, and the reason it's definitely worth a look and listen, is Gary Busey's lusty performance in the title role, triumphing against what might have seemed miscasting.

    The burly, lantern-jawed Busey steps into the lankier, narrow-faced Holly's blue suede shoes and dances off with the movie. At a time when live rock albums thought little of overdubbing mistakes in the studio, director Rash honored Busey's nervy gamble in performing these songs live, singing in his own raw voice and rumbling through his own approximations of Holly's guitar work. What's lost in precise verisimilitude is more than compensated by Busey's conviction and a palpable, almost ecstatic terror as he charges through Holly's wonderful songs before indifferent roller-rink audiences.

    Other films have nailed the period more accurately through art direction or script, but Busey's authentic energy gives this movie an emotional veracity that's just right for this chapter in rock history. Still, for musical purposes, go straight to the source, Holly's wonderful recordings.--Sam Sutherland

    Directors:
    Steve Rash
    A Bug's Life
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/20/1999
    Actors:
    Dave Foley / Kevin Spacey
    Description:

    Amazon.com There was such a magic on the screen in 1995 when the people at Pixar came up with the first fully computer-animated film, Toy Story. Their second feature film, A Bug's Life, may miss the bull's-eye but Pixar's target is so lofty, it's hard to find the film anything less than irresistible.

    Brighter and more colorful than the other animated insect movie of 1998 (Antz), A Bug's Life is the sweetly told story of Flik (voiced by David Foley), an ant searching for better ways to be a bug. His colony unfortunately revolves around feeding and fearing the local grasshoppers (lead by Hopper, voiced with gleeful menace by Kevin Spacey). When Flik accidentally destroys the seasonal food supply for the grasshoppers he decides to look for help ("We need bigger bugs!"). The ants, led by Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), are eager to dispose of the troublesome Flik. Yet he finds help--a hearty bunch of bug warriors--and brings them back to the colony. Unfortunately they are just traveling performers afraid of conflict.

    As with Toy Story, the ensemble of creatures and voices is remarkable and often inspired. Highlights include wiseacre comedian Denis Leary as an un-ladylike ladybug, Joe Ranft as the German-accented caterpillar, David Hyde Pierce as a stick bug, and Michael McShane as a pair of unintelligible pillbugs. The scene-stealer is Atta's squeaky-voiced sister, baby Dot (Hayden Panettiere), who has a big sweet spot for Flik.

    More gentle and kid-friendly than Antz, A Bug Life's still has some good suspense and a wonderful demise of the villain. However, the film--a giant worldwide hit--will be remembered for its most creative touch: "outtakes" over the end credits à la many live-action comedy films. These dozen or so scenes (both "editions" of outtakes are contained here) are brilliant and deserve a special place in film history right along with 1998's other most talked-about sequence: the opening Normandy invasion in Saving Private Ryan.

    The video and DVD also contain Pixar's delightful Oscar-winning short, Geri's Game. --Doug Thomas

    Directors:
    John Lasseter / Andrew Stanton
    Bull Durham
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/21/1998
    Actors:
    Kevin Costner / Susan Sarandon / Tim Robbins
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Bull Durham is about minor league baseball. It's also about romance, sex, poetry, metaphysics, and talent--though not necessarily in that order. Susan Sarandon plays a loopy lady who just loves America's national pastime--and the men who play it. At the opening of every season, she attaches herself to a promising rookie and guides him through the season. Unfortunately, the player she bestows her favors upon does not really deserve it. She knows it, and veteran Kevin Costner knows it. Her choice, a dim bulb played for laughs by Tim Robbins, is the only one who doesn't know it. The film, directed by its writer, Ron Shelton, a former minor league player, is rich in subtle detail. There are Edith Piaf records playing in the background, fast-talking managers, and minor characters as developed as the leads. Sarandon's retro-'50s outfits make you think she's just another bimbo, not an English teacher very much in control of her life. And Costner's clear-eyed, slightly vitriolic performance is devastatingly sexy and keenly witty. The love scenes, though tasteful, are almost as humorous as they are hot. Sarandon's character likes to tie her players up and expand their horizons by reading Walt Whitman to them, "'cause a guy will listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay." How can you not love a movie with such a wicked sense of humor? --Rochelle O'Gorman

    Description Two of America's favorite pastimes--baseball and sex--team up in this winning comedy. Set in the bedrooms and ballparks of the minor leagues, this major league love story follows a seasoned catcher whose best years on the field are behind him, but whose finest moments in the bedroom still lie ahead.

    Directors:
    Ron Shelton
    Bullitt
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/19/1997
    Description:

    Amazon.com San Francisco has been the setting of a lot of exciting movie car chases over the years, but this 1968 police thriller is still the one to beat when it comes to high-octane action on the steep hills of the city by the Bay. The outstanding car chase earned an Oscar for best editing, but the rest of the movie is pretty good, too. Bullitt is a perfect star vehicle for cool guy Steve McQueen, who stars as a tenacious detective (is there any other kind?) determined to track down the killers of the star witness in an important trial. Director Peter Yates (Breaking Away) approached the story with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, using a variety of San Francisco locations. Jacqueline Bisset and Robert Duvall appear in early roles, and Robert Vaughn plays the criminal kingpin who pulls the deadly strings of the tightly wound plot. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Peter Yates
    Bus Stop
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/14/2002
    Actors:
    Marilyn Monroe / Don Murray
    Description:

    Amazon.com Though it seems dated now, this film adaptation of William Inge's romantic comedy-drama was considered pretty hot stuff in its day, which was 1956. Directed by Joshua Logan from George Axelrod's script of Inge's Broadway hit, the film stars Marilyn Monroe as the kind of woman who can't understand why she always brings out the worst in men. A singer who has attracted the attention of a young rodeo rider (Don Murray) whom she meets on a bus, she finds herself trapped at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere during a blizzard. The young cowboy, whose intentions are honorable, can't control his temper and can't understand why this experienced woman won't take him seriously--and why she rejects him when he begins acting jealous and possessive. Love takes its lumps but comes out slugging in the end, with Marilyn at her vulnerable, jaded best. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Joshua Logan
    The Busby Berkeley Collection (Footlight Parade / Gold Diggers of 1933 / Dames / Gold Diggers of 1935 / 42nd Street)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/21/2006
    Description:

    Description The Busby Berkeley Collection is a 6-disc compilation of five remastered Warner Bros. classics from one of the greatest motion picture choreographers of all time.

    Directors:
    Lloyd Bacon / Mervyn LeRoy / Ray Enright
    Cabaret
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/28/1998
    Actors:
    Liza Minnelli / Michael York
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Winner of eight Academy Awards, including Best Director (Bob Fosse), Best Actress (Liza Minnelli), and Best Supporting Actor (Joel Grey), Cabaret would also have taken Best Picture if it hadn't been competing against The Godfather as the most acclaimed film of 1972. (Francis Ford Coppola would have to wait two years before winning Best Director, for The Godfather, Part II.) Brilliantly adapted from the acclaimed stage production, which was in turn inspired by Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories and the play and movie I Am a Camera, this remarkable musical turns the pre-war Berlin of 1931 into a sexually charged haven of decadence. Minnelli commands the screen as nightclub entertainer Sally Bowles, who radiantly goes on with the show as the Nazis rise to power, holding her many male admirers (including Michael York and Helmut Griem) at a distance that keeps her from having to bother with genuinely deep emotions. Joel Grey is the master of ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub who will guarantee a great show night after night as a way of staving off the inevitable effects of war and dictatorship. They're all living in a morally ambiguous vacuum of desperate anxiety, determined to keep up appearances as the real world--the world outside the comfortable sanctuary of the cabaret--prepares for the nightmarish chaos of war. Director-choreographer Fosse achieves a finely tuned combination of devastating drama and ebullient entertainment, and the result is one of the most substantial screen musicals ever made. The dual-layered Special Edition widescreen DVD includes an exclusive 25th-anniversary documentary, Cabaret: A Legend in the Making, a 1972 promotional featurette, a photo gallery, production notes, the theatrical trailer, and more. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Bob Fosse
    Caddyshack
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Chevy Chase / Rodney Dangerfield / Bill Murray
    Description:

    Amazon.com Ever caught yourself wondering what exactly "Noonan" means? To avoid further embarrassment, every golfer--hack or scratch--must tee it up at Bushwood Country Club for the golf classic Caddyshack. Harold Ramis directs a who's who of 1970s and 1980s stand-up and sketch comedy: Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield battle the forces of greed, golf, and gophers in a film that has become a comedy classic.--Richard M. Seanor

    Directors:
    Harold Ramis
    Can-Can
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/22/2007
    Actors:
    Frank Sinatra / Shirley MacLaine / Maurice Chevalier / Louis Jourdan / Juliet Prowse
    Directors:
    Walter Lang
    Casablanca (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/5/2003
    Actors:
    Humphrey Bogart / Ingrid Bergman / Paul Henreid / Claude Rains / Conrad Veidt / Sydney Greenstreet / Peter Lorre / S.Z. Sakall / Madeleine LeBeau / Dooley Wilson / Joy Page / John Qualen / Leonid Kinskey / Curt Bois / Marcel Dalio / Paul Porcasi / Louis V. Arco / Torben Meyer / Dewey Robinson / Georges Renavent
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A truly perfect movie, the 1942 Casablanca still wows viewers today, and for good reason. Its unique story of a love triangle set against terribly high stakes in the war against a monster is sophisticated instead of outlandish, intriguing instead of garish. Humphrey Bogart plays the allegedly apolitical club owner in unoccupied French territory that is nevertheless crawling with Nazis; Ingrid Bergman is the lover who mysteriously deserted him in Paris; and Paul Heinreid is her heroic, slightly bewildered husband. Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt are among what may be the best supporting cast in the history of Hollywood films. This is certainly among the most spirited and ennobling movies ever made. --Tom Keogh

    Description Considered by many to be the greatest Hollywood movie ever made, this WW2 classic takes place in war-torn Casablanca and tells the tale of mysterious nightclub owner Bogart and his old Flame (Bergman), her husband, underground leader (Heinreid), and other skeletons from his past. Won 3 Oscars - Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay.

    Directors:
    Michael Curtiz / Scott Benson (II) / David Heeley
    Casino Royale
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/7/2003
    Actors:
    Peter Sellers
    Description:

    Amazon.com John Huston was only one of five directors on this expensive, all-star 1967 spoof of Ian Fleming's 007 lore. David Niven is the aging Sir James Bond, called out of retirement to take on the organized threat of SMERSH and pass on the secret-agent mantle to his idiot son (Woody Allen). An amazing cast (Orson Welles, Peter Sellers, Deborah Kerr, etc.) is wonderful to look at, but the film is not as funny as it should be, and the romping starts to look mannered after awhile. The musical score by Burt Bacharach, however, is a keeper. --Tom Keogh

    Casino Royale (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/13/2007
    Actors:
    Daniel Craig / Eva Green / Mads Mikkelsen / Judi Dench / Jeffrey Wright / Giancarlo Giannini / Caterina Murino / Simon Abkarian / Isaach De Bankolé / Jesper Christensen / Ivana Milicevic / Tobias Menzies / Claudio Santamaria / Sebastien Foucan / Malcolm Sinclair / Richard Sammel / Ludger Pistor / Joseph Millson / Daud Shah / Clemens Schick
    Description:

    Amazon.com The most successful invigoration of a cinematic franchise since Batman Begins, Casino Royale offers a new Bond identity. Based on the Ian Fleming novel that introduced Agent 007 into a Cold War world, Casino Royale is the most brutal and viscerally exciting James Bond film since Sean Connery left Her Majesty's Secret Service. Meet the new Bond; not the same as the old Bond. Daniel Craig gives a galvanizing performance as the freshly minted double-0 agent. Suave, yes, but also a "blunt instrument," reckless, and possessed with an ego that compromises his judgment during his first mission to root out the mastermind behind an operation that funds international terrorists. In classic Bond film tradition, his global itinerary takes him to far-flung locales, including Uganda, Madagascar, the Bahamas (that's more like it), and Montenegro, where he is pitted against his nemesis in a poker game, with hundreds of millions in the pot. The stakes get even higher when Bond lets down his "armor" and falls in love with Vesper (Eva Green), the ravishing banker's representative fronting him the money.


    For longtime fans of the franchise, Casino Royale offers some retro kicks. Bond wins his iconic Astin-Martin at the gaming table, and when a bartender asks if he wants his martini "shaken or stirred," he disdainfully replies, "Do I look like I give a damn?" There's no Moneypenny or "Q," but Dame Judi Dench is back as the exasperated M, who one senses, admires Bond's "bloody cheek." A Bond film is only as good as its villain, and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, who weeps blood, is a sinister dandy. From its punishing violence and virtuoso action sequences to its romance, Casino Royale is a Bond film that, in the words of one character, makes you feel it, particularly during an excruciating torture sequence. Double-0s, Bond observes early on, "have a short life expectancy." But with Craig, there is new life in the old franchise yet, as well as genuine anticipation for the next one when, at last, the signature James Bond theme kicks in following the best last line ever in any Bond film. To quote Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin, now I know what I've been faking all these years. --Donald Liebenson


    Extras from Casino Royale



    "Beginning Of Bond," featurette
    high bandwidth

    See a clip from the action packed construction scene
    high bandwidth

    Music video "You Know My Name," by Chris Cornell:
    high bandwidth
    Stills from Casino Royale (click for larger image)









    Beyond Casino Royale on Amazon.com


    On Blu-ray

    CD Soundtrack

    Why We Love Daniel Craig

    The Amazon.com James Bond Store

    Where Have I Seen Daniel Craig?

    Bond on Set: Filming Casino Royale Book

    Product Description Casino Royale introduces James Bond before he holds his license to kill. But Bond is no less dangerous, and with two professional assassinations in quick succession, he is elevated to "00" status. "M" (Judi Dench), head of the British Secret Service, sends the newly-promoted 007 on his first mission that takes him to Madagascar, the Bahamas and eventually leads him to Montenegro to face Le Chiffre, a ruthless financier under threat from his terrorist clientele, who is attempting to restore his funds in a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale. "M" places Bond under the watchful eye of the Treasury official Vesper Lynd. At first skeptical of what value Vesper can provide, Bond's interest in her deepens as they brave danger together. Le Chiffre's cunning and cruelty come to bear on them both in a way Bond could never imagine, and he learns his most important lesson: Trust no one.

    Directors:
    Martin Campbell
    Catch-22
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/22/2001
    Description:

    Amazon.com Joseph Heller's novel was one of the seminal literary events of the 1960s, but Mike Nichols's film ultimately proved too literal in its attempt to bring Heller's fragmented fiction to the screen. Still, Nichols, who made this on the heels of The Graduate, seemed the ideal candidate to tackle this Buck Henry adaptation. The story deals with bomber pilot Yossarian (Alan Arkin), who has flown enough missions to get out of World War II but can't because the number of missions needed for discharge keeps getting raised. The satire and absurdity of Heller's book get lost in Nichols's effort to give screen time to the members of his all-star cast, which includes Orson Welles, Jon Voight, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Richard Benjamin, and Martin Sheen, among others. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Mike Nichols
    Catch Me If You Can (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Actors:
    Leonardo DiCaprio / Tom Hanks / Christopher Walken / Martin Sheen / Nathalie Baye
    Date Added:
    9/11/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com An enormously entertaining (if somewhat shallow) affair from blockbuster director Steven Spielberg. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Frank Abagnale, Jr., a dazzling young con man who spent four years impersonating an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer--all before he turned 21. All the while he's pursued by a dedicated FBI agent named Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), whose dogged determination stays one step behind Abagnale's spontaneous wits. Both DiCaprio and Hanks turn in enjoyable performances and the movie has a bouncy rhythm that keeps it zipping along. However, it never gets under the surface of Frank's drive to lose himself in other identities, other than a simplistic desire to please his father (Christopher Walken, excellent as always), nor does it explore the complex mechanics of fraud with any depth. By the movie's end, it feels like one of Frank's pilot uniforms--appearance without substance. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Steven Spielberg
    Charade (Letterbox) - Criterion Collection
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/6/2004
    Actors:
    Cary Grant / Audrey Hepburn
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Audrey Hepburn plays a Parisienne whose husband is murdered and who finds she is being followed by four men seeking the fortune her late spouse had hidden away. Cary Grant is the stranger who comes to her aid, but his real motives aren't entirely clear--could he even be the killer? The 1963 film is directed by Stanley Donen, but it has been called "Hitchcockian" for good reason: the possible duplicities between lovers, the unspoken agendas between a man and woman sharing secrets. Charade is nowhere as significant as a Hitchcock film, but suspense-wise it holds its own; and Donen's glossy production lends itself to the welcome experience of stargazing. One wants Cary Grant to be Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn to be no one but Audrey Hepburn in a Hollywood product such as this, and they certainly don't let us down. --Tom Keogh

    Description A young American in Paris (Audrey Hepburn) flees a trio of crooks, who are trying to recover the fortune her late husband stole from them. The only person she can trust is a suave stranger (Cary Grant). A deliciously dark comedic thriller, Stanley Donen's Charade dazzles with style and macabre wit to spare. Criterion is proud to present this '60s suspense classic in a gorgeous widescreen transfer.

    Directors:
    Stanley Donen
    Charlie Chan Collection, Vol. 1 (Charlie Chan in London / Charlie Chan in Paris / Charlie Chan in Egypt / Charlie Chan in Shanghai / Eran Trece)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/20/2006
    Description:

    Description Disk 1: CHARLIE CHAN IN LONDON (1934) *Full Screen Feature *The Legacy of Charlie Chan Featurette (15:00) *Theatrical Trailer

    Disk 2: CHARLIE CHAN IN PARIS (1935) *Full Screen Feature *In Search of Charlie Chan Featurette (20:00) *Charlie Chan In London Trailer

    Disk 3: CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT (1935) *Full Screen Feature *The Real Charlie Chan Featurette (20:00) *Charlie Chan In London Trailer

    Disk 4: CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI (1935) *Full Screen Feature *ERAN TRECE Fullscreen Feature (79:00) *Eran Trece Theatrical Trailer *Charlie Chan In London Trailer

    Directors:
    Eugene Forde / Hamilton MacFadden / Lewis Seiler
    Charlie's Angels
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/11/2001
    Actors:
    Cameron Diaz / Drew Barrymore / Lucy Liu / Bill Murray
    Description:

    Amazon.com For every TV-into-movie success like The Fugitive, there are dozens of uninspired films like The Mod Squad. Happily--and surprisingly--this breezy update of the seminal '70s jiggle show falls into the first category, with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore (who also produced), and Lucy Liu starring as the hair-tossing, fashion-setting, kung fu-fighting trio employed by the mysterious Charlie (voiced by the original Charlie, John Forsythe). When a high-tech programmer (Sam Rockwell) is kidnapped, the angels seek out the suspects, with the daffy Bosley (Bill Murray in a casting coup) in tow. A happy, cornball popcorn flick, Charlie's Angels is played for laughs with plenty of ribbing references to the old TV show as well as modern caper films like Mission: Impossible. McG, a music video director making his feature film debut (usually a death warrant for a movie's integrity), infuses the film with plenty of Matrix-style combat pyrotechnics, and the result is the first successful all-American Hong Kong-style action flick. Plenty of movies boast a New Age feminism that has their stars touting their sexuality while being their own women, but unlike something as obnoxious as Coyote Ugly, Angels succeeds with a positive spin on Girl Power for the new millennium (Diaz especially sizzles in her role of crack super agent/airhead blonde). From the send-up of the TV show's credit sequence to the outtakes over the end credits, Charlie's Angels is a delight. --Doug Thomas

    Description They're beautiful, they're brilliant and they work for Charlie. This is a sexy, high-octane update of the popular hit show, Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore) and Alex (Lucy Liu), alongside faithful lieutenant Bosley (Bill Murray), must foil an elaborate murder-revenge plot that could not only destroy individual privacy and corporate security worldwide, but spell the end of Charlie and his Angels.

    Directors:
    McG
    Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle (Special Unrated Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/1/2005
    Actors:
    Cameron Diaz / Drew Barrymore / Lucy Liu
    Description:

    Amazon.com Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is a big, fun, bubble-brained mess of a movie, and that's exactly as it should be. Its popular 2000 predecessor got the formula right: gorgeous babes, throwaway plots, and as many current pop-cultural trends as you could stuff into a candy-coated dollop of Hollywood mayhem. This sequel goes one "better": The plot's even more disposable (if that's possible), the babes, cars, and fashions even more outlandish, and the stuntwork (heavily digital, heavily absurd) reaches astonishing heights of cartoon silliness. Reprising their titular (and shamelessly titillating) roles, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu are having the time of their lives, especially when sparring with ultra-buff rogue angel Demi Moore (looking better at 40 than most women half her age) and Justin Theroux as a sleazy Irish mobster. Bernie Mac replaces Bill Murray as angel-sidekick Bosley (they're step-brothers, don'cha know), which is one more indication of McG's intentionally reckless stewardship of an intentionally reckless franchise. Our advice: sit back, relax, and get jiggly with it. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    McG
    Chicago (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/3/2004
    Actors:
    Catherine Zeta-Jones / Renée Zellweger
    Description:

    Amazon.com Bob Fosse's sexy cynicism still shines in Chicago, a faithful movie adaptation of the choreographer-director's 1975 Broadway musical. Of course the story, all about merry murderesses and tabloid fame, is set in the Roaring '20s, but Chicago reeks of '70s disenchantment--this isn't just Fosse's material, it's his attitude, too. That's probably why the movie's breathless observations on fleeting fame and fickle public taste already seem dated. However, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are beautifully matched as Jazz Age vixens, and Richard Gere gleefully sheds his customary cool to belt out a showstopper. (Yes, they all do their own singing and dancing.) Whatever qualms musical purists may have about director Rob Marshall's cut-cut-cut style, the film's sheer exuberance is intoxicating. Given the scarcity of big-screen musicals in the last 25 years, that's a cause for singing, dancing, cheering. And all that jazz. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Rob Marshall
    Chinatown
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/9/2005
    Actors:
    Jack Nicholson / Faye Dunaway / John Huston
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Roman Polanski's brooding film noir exposes the darkest side of the land of sunshine, the Los Angeles of the 1930s, where power is the only currency--and the only real thing worth buying. Jack Nicholson is J.J. Gittes, a private eye in the Chandler mold, who during a routine straying-spouse investigation finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into a jigsaw puzzle of clues and corruption. The glamorous Evelyn Mulwray (a dazzling Faye Dunaway) and her titanic father, Noah Cross (John Huston), are at the black-hole center of this tale of treachery, incest, and political bribery. The crackling, hard-bitten script by Robert Towne won a well-deserved Oscar, and the muted color cinematography makes the goings-on seem both bleak and impossibly vibrant. Polanski himself has a brief, memorable cameo as the thug who tangles with Nicholson's nose. One of the greatest, most completely satisfying crime films of all time. --Anne Hurley

    Directors:
    Roman Polanski
    A Chorus Line
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/15/2003
    Actors:
    Michael Douglas / Terrence Mann
    Description:

    Amazon.com If you've never seen this popular production performed on stage in its original form as one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, the movie version is probably your next best option--heck, it's your only option! But beware the major difference between the experience of stage and screen, because A Chorus Line is a perfect example of a show that doesn't translate well from one medium to another. Director Richard Attenborough gives it his best shot, cutting some of the production numbers and adding new ones while "opening up" the show to explore the off-stage lives of struggling performers as they prepare for another grueling audition. Michael Douglas plays the harsh, workaholic director who puts the auditioning "gypsies" through the paces, winnowing a large group of hopefuls down to eight lucky cast members for his next big show. There's a subplot about the director's former girlfriend, who returns for the big audition, and along the way the other hopefuls sing and dance while revealing their various hopes and fears. On screen, the musical works best when focused on its dramatic passages; otherwise it's impossible to escape the fact that this material is best suited to live performance. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Richard Attenborough
    Cinderella (Wide World of Disney)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/27/2002
    Description:

    Amazon.com More is not necessarily better. A glitzy Hollywood cast and a big budget did not improve the wonderful 1957 teleplay (or its equally charming 1964 remake) upon which this version is based. This is partly because Brandy, cast in the title role, cannot act. Not helping matters are Whoopi Goldberg as the prince's mother and Jason Alexander as his valet. Their shtick wears thin very quickly. However, Paolo Montalban is charismatic as the prince, and Whitney Houston plays a fairy godmother with pizzazz. The production cost millions, and is certainly lavish, but the whole affair feels forced and overdone, reminding one of a prom queen wearing too much makeup. It does deserve credit for a multi-ethnic cast, the addition of two new songs and a hip attitude. However, the 1964 version (the original was not taped) is much sweeter and more romantic. Originally released as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. --Rochelle O'Gorman

    Directors:
    Robert Iscove
    Citizen Kane
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/25/2001
    Actors:
    Georgia Backus / Fortunio Bonanova / Sonny Bupp / Ray Collins / Dorothy Comingore / Joseph Cotten / George Coulouris / Herman J. Mankiewicz / Agnes Moorehead / Everett Sloane / Paul Stewart / Buddy Swan / Philip Van Zandt / Orson Welles
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Arguably the greatest of American films, Orson Welles's 1941 masterpiece, made when he was only 26, still unfurls like a dream and carries the viewer along the mysterious currents of time and memory to reach a mature (if ambiguous) conclusion: people are the sum of their contradictions, and can't be known easily. Welles plays newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, taken from his mother as a boy and made the ward of a rich industrialist. The result is that every well-meaning or tyrannical or self-destructive move he makes for the rest of his life appears in some way to be a reaction to that deeply wounding event. Written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz, and photographed by Gregg Toland, the film is the sum of Welles's awesome ambitions as an artist in Hollywood. He pushes the limits of then-available technology to create a true magic show, a visual and aural feast that almost seems to be rising up from a viewer's subconsciousness. As Kane, Welles even ushers in the influence of Bertolt Brecht on film acting. This is truly a one-of-a-kind work, and in many ways is still the most modern of modern films from the 20th century. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Orson Welles
    City Slickers
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/8/2001
    Actors:
    Billy Crystal / Jack Palance
    Description:

    Amazon.com Three middle-age buddies (Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby) facing personal crises decide to sign up for a two-week cattle run for a change of pace. The trail proves a tougher place than anyone thought, and the boss (Jack Palance) is a grizzled taskmaster who doesn't cotton to tenderfoot urbanites. Popular in theaters, the film is both funny and moving, with Crystal giving one of his most complete performances and Palance (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) a lot of colorful fun. Director Ron Underwood (Heart and Souls) subtly shifts the tone of the film from broad comedy to poignancy over its running time, and he makes the story's end a bittersweet victory that feels like life as most people know it. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Ron Underwood
    City Slickers 2 - The Legend of Curly's Gold
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/1/2003
    Description:

    Description Urban cowboy Mitch Robbins, played by Billy Crystal, is at it again in this adventure-comedy film. After discovering a treasure map in the band of Curly's hat, he and his good pal Phil (Daniel Stern) and his mooching brother (Jon Lovitz) set out on an adventure to find the lost treasure. Jack Palance co-stars. Year: 1994 Director: Paul Weiland Starring: Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Jon Lovitz, Jack Palace

    Directors:
    Paul Weiland
    Clash of the Titans
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Ursula Andress / Claire Bloom / Judi Bowker / Susan Fleetwood / Harry Hamlin
    Date Added:
    8/20/2007
    Description:

    Description The classic Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda re-told with an all-star cast. To win the right to marry his love (Andromeda) and fufill his destiny, Perseus must complete various tasks including taming Pegasus, capturing Medusa, and answering riddles. The result is a timeless adventure that's a treat for kids and adults.

    Amazon.com You have a classic tale full of drama, passion, and adventure. A tale of universal archetypes that speak to everyone. A tale that has remained unfailingly popular for thousands of years. Why not spice it up with a wacky mechanical owl? Such was the thinking behind Clash of the Titans. Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier, and Harry Hamlin (one of these things is not like the others...) star in a toga-ripper about a valiant hero, capricious immortals, and lots and lots of giant stop-action monsters. Perseus (Hamlin) is the favored son of the god Zeus (Olivier), but he has unwittingly ticked off the sea goddess Thetis (Smith). Just to make things worse, Perseus falls in love with the lovely Princess Andromeda, who used to be engaged to Thetis's son. Soon Perseus is off on one quest after another, with Zeus helping, Thetis hindering, and lots of innocent bystanders getting stabbed, drowned, and squished. Of course, the whole thing is just an excuse to show as much of Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation as possible, and good thing too. It's an old technique, but it still looks pretty darn cool, and it means the cast can just relax and do a bunch of reaction shots. Don't use this one to study for that big classical mythology exam, but if you just turn your brain off and enjoy the Kraken, it's pretty good fun. --Ali Davis

    Directors:
    Desmond Davis
    Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory (Ziegfeld Follies / Till the Clouds Roll By / Three Little Words / Summer Stock / It's Always Fair Weather)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/25/2006
    Actors:
    Classic Musicals Collection
    Description:

    Amazon.com Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory is a five-film collection of enjoyable but not-quite-top-tier movies from MGM's peak period between the mid-1940s and mid-'50s. The best films are the two with Gene Kelly. In Summer Stock (1950), he teams with Judy Garland in a traditional "let's put on a show" setting. Garland was in her last MGM film, but she shares a tap duel with Kelly and performs one of her most famous routines, "Get Happy" in a black jacket and fedora. It's Always Fair Weather (1955) features Kelly alongside Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd as three GIs who return from the war, a plot reminiscent of On the Town, another Kelly collaboration with Stanley Donen. The songs aren't much, but highlights include the three GIs' trash-can-lid dance, Cyd Charisse's solo supported by a crew of boxers, and Kelly's number on roller skates, "I Like Myself." Ziegfeld Follies (1946) follows the format of a revue, with a wisp of a plot (producer Florenz Ziegfeld is in heaven imagining his dream revue; he's played by William Powell, who had played the character 10 years earlier in The Great Ziegfeld) and a bunch of diverse musical numbers: Fred Astaire's dances with Charisse, Lucille Bremer, and Gene Kelly (their only screen collaboration till That's Entertainment II in 1976); a water number with Esther Williams; and songs by Judy Garland, Lena Horne, and Kathryn Grayson. Also following the revue format is Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), which features famous performances by Frank Sinatra ("Ol' Man River"), Lena Horne ("Can't Help Lovin' That Man"), and Judy Garland ("Look for the Silver Lining"). Interspersed among the numbers is a lackluster biography of songwriter Jerome Kern. For a more traditional songwriter biography, try Three Little Words (1950), starring Astaire and Red Skelton as Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, respectively, whose Tin Pan Alley and Broadway songs include "Who's Sorry Now," "My Sunny Tennessee," "I Wanna Be Loved by You," and the title tune. Vera-Ellen is an excellent partner for Astaire, and a young Debbie Reynolds appears as Boop-a-Doop girl Helen Kane.

    All the discs are supplemented by new featurettes and classic shorts and cartoons. Deserving special mention is Till the Clouds Roll By, which has been available for years on inferior public-domain DVDs. This version has the best picture by far, and also offers musical outtakes by Judy Garland and Kathryn Grayson. --David Horiuchi

    Description It's Always Fair Weather Ziegfeld Follies Till the Clouds Roll By Three Little Words Summer Stock

    Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory, Vol. 2 (The Pirate / Words and Music / That's Dancing / The Belle of New York & Royal Wedding / That Midnight Kiss & The Toast of New Orleans)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/24/2007
    Actors:
    Judy Garland / Gene Kelly / Fred Astaire / Jane Powell / Kathryn Grayson
    Description:

    Studio description Includes: The Pirate (1948), Words and Music (1948), That's Dancing! (1985), The Belle of New York (1952), Royal Wedding (1951), That Midnight Kiss (1949), The Toast of New Orleans (1950).

    Directors:
    Vincente Minnelli
    the Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection
    Front Cover
    Description:
    Includes: Tarantula
    An experiment to create a growth formula that could end starvation evolves into a nightmare when a contaminated spider grows gargantuan — with an appetite to match!
    The Mole People
    Deep below the surface of the earth, three scientists stumble upon a tyrannical tribe of albinos who have enslaved a mutant — and dangerous race of mole people.
    The Incredible Shrinking Man
    After encountering a mysterious radioactive mist, an ordinary businessman finds his physical size diminishing as his ordinary household becomes a terrifying trap of doom.
    The Monolith Monsters
    In a desperate race against time and nature, a geologist and a scientist must find a way to stop the effects of killer outer-space rocks that are literally petrifying people with fear!
    Monster on the Campus
    Terror sweeps a college campus when the discovery of a prehistoric fish turns animals and humans that come into contact with it into bloodthirsty monsters.
    The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection: Volume 2
    Front Cover
    Date Added:
    9/25/2007
    Description:

    Product Description Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime with give captivating sci-fi films in THE CLASSIC SCI-FI ULTIMATE COLLECTION: VOLUME 2! This fascinating collection will mesmerize you with supernatural tales from the golden age of Hollywood -- "Dr. Cyclops", "Cult of the Cobra", "The Land Unknown", "The Deadly Mantis" and "The Leech Woman". Loaded with innovative special effects, these shocking classics capture the fun and excitement of a time that will not soon be forgotten!

    Clear and Present Danger
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/21/2002
    Actors:
    Harrison Ford / Willem Dafoe
    Description:

    Amazon.com The third installment in the cinematic incarnation of Tom Clancy's CIA analyst Jack Ryan and the second starring Harrison Ford, this follow-up to Patriot Games is a more complex, rewarding, and bolder film than its predecessor. Ford returns as Ryan, this time embroiled in a failed White House bid to wipe out a Colombian drug cartel and cover up the mess. The script, by Clancy and John Milius (Red Dawn), has an air of true adventure about it as Ryan places himself in harm's way to extract covert soldiers abandoned in a Latin American jungle. There are a couple of remarkable set pieces expertly handled by Patriot Games director Phillip Noyce, especially a shocking scene involving an ambush on Ryan's car in an alley. The supporting cast is superb, including Willem Dafoe as the soldiers' leader, Henry Czerny as Ryan's enemy at the CIA, Joaquim de Almeida as a smooth-talking villain, Ann Magnuson as an unwitting confederate in international crime, and James Earl Jones as Ryan's dying boss. The DVD release has a widescreen presentation, theatrical trailer, closed captioning, optional French soundtrack, and optional Spanish subtitles. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Phillip Noyce
    Cliffhanger (Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/13/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com Cliffhanger was a 1994 comeback of sorts for action hero Sylvester Stallone, this time thanks to director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2 and Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) and some spectacularly rugged and vertigo-inducing high- mountain terrain. The opening sequence alone delivers what the title promises, and there's a doozy of an airplane stunt that was later reprised, with modifications, in Air Force One. Stallone, looking as tough and craggy as the mountains themselves, is a rescue climber who finds himself going after a gang of crooks (headed by John Lithgow in his bad-guy mode) who've hijacked a U.S. Treasury plane and crash landed in the Rockies (played by the Italian Dolomites) with millions of bucks. Outrageous action-packed, snow-packed, and scenery-packed chase sequences (featuring whirring helicopters, whooshing skis, popping gunfire, and clanging pitons that earned the movie Oscar nominations for sound and sound editing) take full advantage of the digital video disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Renny Harlin
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/29/2001
    Actors:
    Richard Dreyfuss / François Truffaut / Teri Garr
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Anybody who has written him off because of his string of stinkers--or anybody who's too young to remember The Goodbye Girl--may be shocked at the accomplishment and nuance of Richard Dreyfuss's performance in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Here, he plays a man possessed; contacted by aliens, he (along with other members of the "chosen") is drawn toward the site of the incipient landing: Devil's Tower, in rural Wyoming. As in many Spielberg films, there are no personalized enemies; the struggle is between those who have been called and a scientific establishment that seeks to protect them by keeping them away from the arriving spacecraft. The ship, and the special effects in general, are every bit as jaw-dropping on the small screen as they were in the theater (well, almost). Released in 1977 as a cerebral alternative to the swashbuckling science fiction epics then in vogue, Close Encounters now seems almost wholesome in its representation of alien contact and interested less in philosophizing about extraterrestrials than it is in examining the nature of the inner "call." Ultimately a motion picture about the obsession of the driven artist or determined visionary, Close Encounters comes complete with the stock Spielberg wives and girlfriends who seek to tether the dreamy, possessed protagonists to the more mundane concerns of the everyday. So a spectacular, seminal motion picture indeed, but one with gender politics that are all too terrestrial. --Miles Bethany

    Directors:
    Steven Spielberg
    Cocoon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video An offbeat and charming comedy with elements of science fiction thrown in, director Ron Howard's (Ransom, Apollo 13) unlikely fantasy ponders the price of immortality and the power of everlasting love. A group of aliens travel to a Florida retirement community to rescue some long-stranded colleagues cocooned and buried beneath the sea. But as the aliens take on human form and stash their counterparts in a swimming pool, a group of elderly retirees discover the pool and after swimming in the water find themselves rejuvenated, with boundless energy and insatiable appetites. Soon the retirees are forced to choose between living out their lives on earth with their families, or leaving with the aliens and attaining immortality. More character driven than dependent on the incredible plot, the film's charm comes from its characters and the wonderful cast, including Don Ameche, who won an Academy Award for his role as one of the randy retirees. --Robert Lane

    Directors:
    Ron Howard
    Collateral
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/14/2004
    Actors:
    Tom Cruise / Jamie Foxx / Jada Pinkett Smith / Mark Ruffalo / Peter Berg / Bruce McGill / Irma P. Hall / Barry Shabaka Henley / Richard T. Jones / Klea Scott / Bodhi Elfman / Debi Mazar / Javier Bardem / Emilio Rivera / Jamie McBride / Ken VerCammen / Charlie E. Schmidt Jr. / Michael Bentt / Ian Hannin / Robert Deamer
    Description:

    Amazon.com Collateral offers a change of pace for Tom Cruise as a ruthless contract killer, but that's just one of many reasons to recommend this well-crafted thriller. It's from Michael Mann, after all, and the director's stellar track record with crime thrillers (Thief, Manhunter, and especially Heat) guarantees a rich combination of intelligent plotting, well-drawn characters, and escalating tension, beginning here when icy hit-man Vincent (Cruise) recruits cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) to drive him through a nocturnal tour of Los Angeles, during which he will execute five people in a 10-hour spree. While Stuart Beattie's screenplay deftly combines intimate character study with raw bursts of action (in keeping with Mann's directorial trademark), Foxx does the best work of his career to date (between his excellent performance in Ali and his title-role showcase in Ray), and Cruise is fiercely convincing as an ultra-disciplined sociopath. Jada Pinkett-Smith rises above the limitations of a supporting role, and Mann directs with the confidence of a master, turning L.A. into a third major character (much as it was in the Mann-produced TV series Robbery Homicide Division). Collateral is a bit slow at first, but as it develops subtle themes of elusive dreams and lives on the edge, it shifts into overdrive and races, with breathtaking precision, toward a nail-biting climax. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Michael Mann
    The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/27/2006
    Actors:
    Richard Greene / Basil Rathbone / Wendy Barrie / Nigel Bruce / Lionel Atwill / John Carradine / Barlowe Borland / Beryl Mercer / Morton Lowry / Eily Malyon / E.E. Clive / Ralph Forbes / Lionel Pape / Nigel De Brulier / Mary Gordon / Ian Maclaren / Peter Willes / David Thursby / Mary Young / Vesey O'Davoren
    Description:

    Description The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection stars Basil Rathbone as the legendary Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as the venerable Dr. John H. Watson. The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection is comprised of all 14 classic films on 5 discs: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES SHERLOCKHOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR SHERLOCK HOMLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE SPIDER WOMAN SHERLOCK HOLMES THE SCARLET CLAW SHERLOCK HOLMES IN PEARL OF DEATH SHERLOCK HOLMES HOUSE OF FEAR SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE WOMAN IN GREEN SHERLOCK HOLMES PURSUIT TO ALGIERS SHERLOCK HOLMES TERROR BY NIGHT SHERLOCK HOLMES DRESSED TO KILL

    Directors:
    Sidney Lanfield / Alfred L. Werker / John Rawlins
    The Complete Thin Man Collection (The Thin Man / After the Thin Man / Another Thin Man / Shadow of the Thin Man / The Thin Man Goes Home / Song of the Thin Man)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/2/2005
    Actors:
    Myrna Loy / William Powell
    Description:

    Amazon.com Almost as welcome as a shaker full of martinis, The Complete Thin Man Collection represents an eagerly awaited DVD milestone for fans of the fizzy MGM movie series. The best film in the series came first: The Thin Man (1934), W.S. Van Dyke's marvelous adaptation of a Dashiell Hammet novel. The movie gods were in a generous mood when they paired William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, the upper-class sophisticates whose sleuthing escapades somehow joined the classic form of the whodunit with the giddyup of screwball comedy. Among the series' many attributes, one of its most radical notions was the idea that a married couple might find each other delightful and view life as a goofy adventure together.

    It is common wisdom that the Thin Man sequels adhere to the law of diminishing returns, and while none of the follow-ups reach the diamond level of the first film, all afford pleasures. There's the cocktail-swilling chemistry of Powell and Loy, for one thing, as well as the considerable satisfaction of average movies made during the studio system: the craftsmanship of studio hands, and a gallery of terrific character actors filling in supporting roles. First sequel After the Thin Man (1936) is very good, with the couple in San Francisco and a supporting part for rising player James Stewart. The scenery moves again, to Long Island, for the rather impudently-titled Another Thin Man (1939), which adds baby Nick, Jr., to the mix (a "bad idea," thought Pauline Kael, perhaps a sign of the domestication of the series).

    Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) sets the action around a racetrack, and is the last of the series to be directed by the fast-working Van Dyke. The Thin Man Goes Home (1944) finds Nick escorting family to his parents' house for a visit. Song of the Thin Man (1947) engagingly adds a jazz milieu to the Charles's detective work; at this point, Nick, Jr. was played by child star Dean Stockwell. The series stuck with certain staples: the unveiling of the guilty party, a wirehaired terrier named Asta (who became a star in its own right), and booze. When Nick opines, in the first film, that a dry martini should always be shaken to "waltz time," you know why audiences fell in love with these guilt-free comedies. --Robert Horton

    Description The sparkling series featured the irresistible William Powell and Myrna Loy chemistry as husband and wife sleuths who solved murders with the aid of their wire-haired terrier, Asta. Set in the glamorous world of 1930s upper-class Manhattan, The Thin Man and its sequels established the standard for witty comedy, clever dialogue and urbane one upmanship. The 7-Disc set includes THE THIN MAN, AFTER THE THIN MAN, ANOTHER THIN MAN, SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN, SONG OF THE THIN MAN, THE THIN MAN GOES HOME, and the ALIAS NICK & NORA bonus documentary disc.

    Con Air
    Front Cover
    Description:

    Amazon.com Con Air is proof that the slick, absurdly overblown action formula of Hollywood mega-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, The Rock, Crimson Tide) lives on, even after Simpson's druggy death. (Read Charles Fleming's exposé, High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess, for more about that.) Nicolas Cage, sporting a disconcerting mane of hair, is a wrongly convicted prisoner on a transport plane with a bunch of infamously psychopathic criminals, including head creep Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich), black militant Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), and serial killer Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi, making the most of his pallid, rodent-like qualities). Naturally, the convicts take over the plane; meanwhile, on the ground, a US marshal (John Cusack) and a DEA agent (Colm Meaney), try to figure out what to do. As is the postmodern way, the movie displays a self-consciously ironic awareness that its story and characters are really just excuses for a high-tech cinematic thrill ride. Best idea: the filmmakers persuaded the owners of the legendary Sands Hotel in Las Vegas to let them help out with the structure's demolition by crashing their plane into it. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Simon West
    The Constant Gardener (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/10/2006
    Actors:
    Ralph Fiennes / Rachel Weisz / Hubert Koundé / Danny Huston / Daniele Harford / Packson Ngugi / Damaris Itenyo Agweyu / Bernard Otieno Oduor / Bill Nighy / Keith Pearson / John Sibi-Okumu / Donald Sumpter / Archie Panjabi / Nick Reding / Gerard McSorley / Juliet Aubrey / Jacqueline Maribe / Donald Apiyo / Pete Postlethwaite / Samuel Otage
    Description:

    Amazon.com The Constant Gardener is the kind of thriller that hasn't been seen since the 1970s: Smart, politically complex, cinematically adventurous, genuinely thrilling and even heartbreaking. Mild diplomat Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes, The English Patient, Schindler's List) has a loose cannon of a wife named Tessa (Rachel Weisz, The Shape of Things, The Mummy), who's digging into the dirty doings of a major pharmaceutical company in Kenya. Her brutal murder forces Justin to continue her investigation down some deadly avenues. This simple plot description doesn't capture the rich texture and slippery, sinuous movement of The Constant Gardener, superbly directed by Fernando Meirelles (Oscar-nominated for his first film, City of God). Shifting back and forth in time, the movie skillfully captures the engaging romance between Justin and Tessa (Fiennes shows considerably more chemistry with Weisz than he had with Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan) and builds a vivid, gripping, and all-too-justified paranoia. And on top of it all, the movie is beautiful, due to both its incredible shots of the African landscape (which at times is haunting and unearthly) and the gorgeous cinematography. Featuring an all-around excellent cast, including Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father), and Danny Huston (Silver City). --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Fernando Meirelles
    The Contender
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/6/2004
    Actors:
    Gary Oldman / Joan Allen / Jeff Bridges
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Depending on your perspective, The Contender can be praised and damned for the same reasons. A political thriller with an insider's view, it's deadly earnest in its defense of truth, justice, and the American way, but writer-director (and former film critic) Rod Lurie resorts to the same manipulation that his film purports to condemn. But with political savvy, a timely idea (a female vice president), and a cast of first-rate actors, this high-office chess game is unabashedly entertaining. You can argue with Lurie's tactics, but you can't fault his patriotic passion.

    In a role written especially for her, Joan Allen is outstanding (if a bit too saintly) as the Republican-turned-Democrat senator who is chosen by the president (Jeff Bridges) to fill a vice presidential vacancy. Bridges is a cagey chief executive, seemingly aloof as he gleefully challenges the White House's 24-hour kitchen staff but more than a match for the embittered and unscrupulous congressman (Gary Oldman) who plots to destroy Allen's character with seemingly dark secrets from her past.

    As a gender-switching response to the Lewinsky scandal, The Contender asks potent questions with its impassioned plea for integrity in public service. That makes this a film well worth defending, and the stellar cast (which includes Christian Slater and William Petersen) triumphs over most of the plot's hokey machinations. The ideas are more compelling than their execution, however, and although Lurie's climactic revelation is a vast improvement over the reckless cheat of his previous film Deterrence, it still threatens to tarnish the gloss of an otherwise fascinating film. --Jeff Shannon

    Description When the truth becomes a weapon, power comes at a stunning price. Gary Oldman, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater deliver electrifying performances in this controversial, suspenseful and critically-acclaimed thriller that Ebert & Roeper and the Movies call "exciting and unusually intelligent, two very enthusiastic thumbs up!" Sometimes you can assassinate a leader without firing a shot.

    Directors:
    Rod Lurie
    Courage Under Fire
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/26/2000
    Actors:
    Denzel Washington / Meg Ryan / Lou Diamond Phillips / Michael Moriarty / Matt Damon / Bronson Pinchot / Seth Gilliam / Regina Taylor / Zeljko Ivanek / Scott Glenn / Tim Guinee / Tim Ransom / Sean Astin / Armand Darrius / Ned Vaughn / Manny Perez (II) / David McSwain / Sean Patrick Thomas / Ken Jenkins / Kathleen Widdoes
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A year after a devastating friendly fire incident during the Gulf War, Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is in a Washington, D.C., desk job assigned the rudimentary task of overseeing a Medal of Honor candidate who died in the war. However, the case and soldier in question are a political hot potato--Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) is America's first female soldier to be killed in combat.

    Serling soon finds discrepancies in the case of a downed Medevac helicopter in the rocky Kuwait territory. What unfolds in flashback are several versions of Walden's tactics (à la Kurosawa's Rashomon) to rescue the soldiers and survive the downing. As with Glory, Director Edward Zwick's cast of unknown and famous faces always comes off as the real article. Walden's crew is especially convincing. Matt Damon as the medic comes off as the giddy scaredy-cat when telling his story to Washington. In battle he's a flawed, humorous soldier. The most surprising work in the movie is done by Lou Diamond Phillips (as the group's gunman), whose career had been headed to straight-to-video oblivion.

    Then there's Ryan. She has done well with dramatic work in the past (When a Man Loves a Woman, Flesh and Bone) but has never been able to escape the romantic-comedy image. With dyed hair, a light accent, and the dramatics of the situation, Ryan finally has an enduring dramatic film. Even though she has half of Washington's screen time, her brave and ultimately haunting performance makes Courage something special, right down to its curious but rewarding final scene. --Doug Thomas

    Description When Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is asked to review the posthumous candidacy of the first woman (Meg Ryan) to receive a medal of honor, he finds himself plunged into an apparent cover-up surrounding the actions that led to her death. As he struggles to uncover the truth, he also finds himself forced to confront his own tormenting demons. Matt Damon co-stars in this powerful and provocative drama.

    Directors:
    Edward Zwick
    The Court Jester
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/24/2003
    Actors:
    Danny Kaye / Glynis Johns
    Description:

    Amazon.com Danny Kaye spoofs Robin Hood and Scaramouche in this inventive slapstick swashbuckler. Portraying the clownish but good-hearted entertainer Hawkins, he infiltrates the court of the corrupt Basil Rathbone (up to his usual brand of cruel villainy) disguised as the legendary king of jesters, Giacomo. After a court sorceress hypnotizes Hawkins into believing he is also a legendary assassin, Hawkins has more identities than he can keep straight, and Kaye zips back and forth between them at, literally, a snap of the fingers. Comic highlights include a wonderful sword fight with Rathbone in which he constantly switches identities, and the classic "chalice from the palace/vessel with pestle" wordplay as Hawkins plays "hide the poison" and forgets where it is. With comely Glynis Johns as his spy-in-arms love interest, Angela Lansbury as the scheming princess, and Mildred Natwick as the dotty spellcaster, this is Danny Kaye at his comic best. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    Melvin Frank / Norman Panama
    Cover Girl
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/19/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential Cover Girl was one of the big hits of Rita Hayworth's run as movie queen (and World War II pinup girl), a splashy musical geared to the talents of its redheaded star. Be warned: this is the kind of movie in which a single magazine cover turns an unknown dancer into the toast of her own Broadway show, virtually overnight. The corn runs high, but so do the spirits; plus, Eve Arden is around to toss in her trademark one-liners. Gene Kelly, as Hayworth's sulky choreographer and part-time boyfriend, stops the movie cold with his brilliant dance alongside his own reflection. The Jerome Kern-Ira Gershwin songs are middling, except for the lovely "Long Ago and Far Away." One number presents a parade of magazine cover girls come to life (great snapshot of an era). And check out the movie's hats: a parade of insane creations, perched uncertainly on many beautiful women's heads. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Charles Vidor
    Crash (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/6/2005
    Actors:
    Karina Arroyave / Dato Bakhtadze / Sandra Bullock / Don Cheadle / Art Chudabala / Sean Cory / Tony Danza / Keith David / Loretta Devine / Matt Dillon / Michael Peña / Jennifer Esposito / Ime Etuk / Eddie J. Fernandez / William Fichtner / Howard Fong / Nona Gaye / Brendan Fraser / Billy Gallo / Ken Garito
    Description:

    Amazon.com Movie studios, by and large, avoid controversial subjects like race the way you might avoid a hive of angry bees. So it's remarkable that Crash even got made; that it's a rich, intelligent, and moving exploration of the interlocking lives of a dozen Los Angeles residents--black, white, latino, Asian, and Persian--is downright amazing. A politically nervous district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his high-strung wife (Sandra Bullock, biting into a welcome change of pace from Miss Congeniality) get car-jacked by an oddly sociological pair of young black men (Larenz Tate and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges); a rich black T.V. director (Terrence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) get pulled over by a white racist cop (Matt Dillon) and his reluctant partner (Ryan Phillipe); a detective (Don Cheadle) and his Latina partner and lover (Jennifer Esposito) investigate a white cop who shot a black cop--these are only three of the interlocking stories that reach up and down class lines. Writer/director Paul Haggis (who wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby) spins every character in unpredictable directions, refusing to let anyone sink into a stereotype. The cast--ranging from the famous names above to lesser-known but just as capable actors like Michael Pena (Buffalo Soldiers) and Loretta Devine (Woman Thou Art Loosed)--meets the strong script head-on, delivering galvanizing performances in short vignettes, brief glimpses that build with gut-wrenching force. This sort of multi-character mosaic is hard to pull off; Crash rivals such classics as Nashville and Short Cuts. A knockout. --Bret Fetzer

    Stills from Crash (click for larger image)







    Description They all live in Los Angeles. And in the next 36 hours, they will collide.

    Directors:
    Paul Haggis
    Crocodile Dundee
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/13/2003
    Actors:
    Paul Hogan / Linda Kozlowski
    Description:

    Amazon.com This 1986 comedy out of Australia is so old-fashioned in its romantic charm that one can't help but wonder what it would have looked like with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in the leads. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine anyone besides Paul Hogan as the title character, a laid-back Aussie tracker who shows an American reporter (Linda Kozlowski) around bush country, then accompanies her to New York City. Sure, Hollywood has done the fish-out-of-water scenario to death in the last 20 years, and while this film has sufficient sport with the gimmick, it is largely driven by the principal characters and their developing love affair. Hogan cowrote the script and director Peter Faiman evokes the goofy, enchanted air of screwball comedies. The climactic scene, set in a subway station with scores of bystanders witnessing a conversation about relationship commitment, feels like vintage Capra. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Peter Faiman
    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/5/2001
    Actors:
    Chang Chen / Chow Yun-Fat / Chang Cheng / Cheng Pei-Pei / Sihung Lung
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Hong Kong wuxia films, or martial arts fantasies, traditionally squeeze poor acting, slapstick humor, and silly story lines between elaborate fight scenes in which characters can literally fly. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has no shortage of breathtaking battles, but it also has the dramatic soul of a Greek tragedy and the sweep of an epic romance. This is the work of director Ang Lee, who fell in love with movies while watching wuxia films as a youngster and made Crouching Tiger as a tribute to the form. To elevate the genre above its B-movie roots and broaden its appeal, Lee did two important things. First, he assembled an all-star lineup of talent, joining the famous Asian actors Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh with the striking, charismatic newcomer Zhang Ziyi. Behind the scenes, Lee called upon cinematographer Peter Pau (The Killer, The Bride with White Hair) and legendary fight choreographer Yuen Wo-ping, best known outside Asia for his work on The Matrix. Second, in adapting the story from a Chinese pulp-fiction novel written by Wang Du Lu, Lee focused not on the pursuit of a legendary sword known as "The Green Destiny," but instead on the struggles of his female leads against social obligation. In his hands, the requisite fight scenes become another means of expressing the individual spirits of his characters and their conflicts with society and each other.

    The filming required an immense effort from all involved. Chow and Yeoh had to learn to speak Mandarin, which Lee insisted on using instead of Cantonese to achieve a more classic, lyrical feel. The astonishing battles between Jen (Zhang) and Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh) on the rooftops and Jen and Li Mu Bai (Chow) atop the branches of bamboo trees required weeks of excruciating wire and harness work (which in turn required meticulous "digital wire removal"). But the result is a seamless blend of action, romance, and social commentary in a populist film that, like its young star Zhang, soars with balletic grace and dignity. --Eugene Wei

    Description An epic set against the breathtaking landscapes of ancient China, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, combines the exhilarating martial arts choreography by Yuen Wo-Pind (The Matrix) with the sensitivity and classical storytelling of an Ang Lee film. The result is something truly unexpected: romantic, emotionally powerful entertainment.

    Directors:
    Ang Lee
    The Crying Game (Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/25/2005
    Description:

    Amazon.com The Crying Game offers a rare and precious movie experience. The film is an unclassifiable original that surprises, intrigues, confounds, and delights you with its freshness, humor, and honesty from beginning to end. It starts as a psychological thriller, as IRA foot soldier Fergus (the incomparable Stephen Rea) kidnaps a British soldier (Forest Whitaker) and waits for the news that will determine whether he executes his victim or sets him free. As the night wears on, a peculiar bond begins to form between the two men. Later, the movie shifts tone and morphs into something of a romantic comedy as Fergus unexpectedly becomes involved with the soldier's girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson) and discovers more about himself, and human nature in general, than he ever dreamed possible. Like Spielberg's E.T., The Crying Game was supposed to be director Neil Jordan's "little, personal movie," the one he just had to make, even though no studio was willing to give him money because the story was so unusual. Instead, it became a surprise popular sensation, thanks in part to Miramax's cleverly provocative campaign playing up the hush-hush nature of the movie's big secret. The performances (including Miranda Richardson as one of Fergus's IRA colleagues) are subtly shaded, and the writing and direction are tantalizingly rich and suggestive; you're always trying to figure out the characters' true motives and feelings--even when they themselves are fully aware of their own motives and feelings. The Crying Game is a wise, witty, wondrous treasure of a movie. Director Jordan's credits include Mona Lisa, Interview with the Vampire, Michael Collins, and The Butcher Boy. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Neil Jordan
    Daddy Long Legs
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/21/2006
    Description:

    Description Fred Astaire becomes both the benefactor and suitor of Leslie Caron in this charming story of a playboy who falls under the spell of a beautiful French orphan. While traveling through France, Jervis Pendleton lll (Astaire) anonymously sponsors an 18-year-old girl named Julie (Caron), whom he sends to college in America. Two years later they finally meet face to face and start to fall in love. But complications arise and their happiness is threatened when Jervis embarks on a noble yet misguided attempt to do "the right thing" about their age difference. Featuring imaginative production numbers and a Johnny Mercer score that includes the 1955 Oscar® -nominated hit for Best Song "Something's Gotta Give", Daddy Long Legs is a song-filled blend of dance and fantasy for romantics of all ages.

    Directors:
    Jean Negulesco
    Darkman
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/1/2003
    Actors:
    Liam Neeson / Frances McDormand
    Description:

    Amazon.com When attorney Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand) uncovers corrupt city real estate dealings, evil thugs attack her scientist boyfriend, Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson). Left for dead after his lab is detonated, he miraculously survives when the ensuing blast hurls him into the nearby harbor. Treated as a John Doe at a city hospital, he is unknowingly submitted to radical therapy which numbs his nerves to feeling--but which heightens his strength and his emotions. Once conscious, Peyton escapes from the hospital and builds a ramshackle lab in an abandoned industrial plant. Horribly burned and scarred by the lab explosion, he uses synthetic skin to impersonate his would-be murderers and seek retribution for their evil deeds. Peyton also tries to reunite with Julie, who believes him to be dead. While the film has an average script, it is overcome by the flashy cinematography of Bill Pope, the bombastic score by Danny Elfman, and the well-choreographed direction of Sam Raimi. The director confidently walks the line between suspense, action, comedy, and romance as he examines a bitter, victimized antihero who risks becoming as monstrous on the inside as he appears on the outside. --Bryan Reesman

    Directors:
    Sam Raimi
    The Day the Earth Stood Still
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/4/2003
    Actors:
    Frances Bavier / Marshall Bradford / John Burton / Wheaton Chambers / James Craven
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A hallmark of the science fiction genre as well as a wry commentary on the political climate of the 1950s, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a sci-fi movie less concerned with special effects than with a social parable. A spacecraft lands in Washington, D.C., carrying a humanoid messenger from another world (Michael Rennie) imparting a warning to the people of Earth to cease their violent behavior. But panic ensues as the messenger lands and is shot by a nervous soldier. His large robot companion destroys the Capitol as the messenger escapes the confines of the hospital. He moves in with a family as a boarder and blends into society to observe the full range of the human experience. Director Robert Wise (West Side Story) not only provides one of the most recognizable icons of the science fiction world in his depiction of the massive robot loyal to his master, but he avoids the obvious camp elements of the story to create a quiet and observant story highlighting both the good and the bad in human nature. --Robert Lane

    Description The Day The Earth Stood Still depicts the arrival of an alien dignitary, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), who has come to earth with his deadly robot, Gort (Lock Martin), to deliver the message that earthlings must stop warring among themselves--or else. After being shot at by military guards, Klaatu is brought to a Washington, D.C. hospital, where he begs a sympathetic but frank Major White (Robert Osterloh) to gather all the world's leaders so he can tell them more specifically what he has come to warn them about. Losing patience, Klaatu slips into the human world, adapting a false identity and living at a boarding house where he meets a smart woman with a conscience and her inquisitive son. Both mother and son soon find themselves embroiled in the complex mystery of Klaatu, his message and the government's witch hunt for the alien.

    Directors:
    Robert Wise
    Dazed & Confused (Widescreen Flashback Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/2/2004
    Actors:
    Jason London / Rory Cochrane / Wiley Wiggins / Sasha Jenson / Michelle Burke / Adam Goldberg / Anthony Rapp / Matthew McConaughey / Marissa Ribisi / Shawn Andrews / Cole Hauser / Milla Jovovich / Joey Lauren Adams / Christin Hinojosa / Ben Affleck / Jason O. Smith / Deena Martin / Parker Posey / Nicky Katt / Catherine Avril Morris
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video You remember high school? Really remember? If you think you do, watch this film: it'll all really come racing back. After changing the world with the generation-defining Slacker, director Richard Linklater turned his free-range vérité sensibility on the 1970s. As before, his all-seeing camera meanders across a landscape studded with goofy pop culture references and poignant glimpses of human nature. Only this time around, he's spreading a thick layer of nostalgia over the lens (and across the soundtrack). It's as if Fast Times at Ridgemont High was directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The story deals with a group of friends on the last day of high school, 1976. Good-natured football star Randall "Pink" Floyd navigates effortlessly between the warring worlds of jocks, stoners, wannabes, and rockers with girlfriend and new-freshman buddy in tow. Surprisingly, it's not a coming-of-age movie, but a film that dares ask the eternal, overwhelming, adolescent question, "What happens next?" It's a little too honest to be a light comedy (representative quote: "If I ever say these were the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself."). But it's also way too much fun (remember souped-up Corvettes and bicentennial madness?) to be just another existential-essay-on-celluloid. --Grant Balfour

    On the DVD
    With a perfect combination of awesome '70s-era packaging and a totally rockin' selection of bonus features, the Criterion Collection's director-approved special edition two-disc release of Dazed and Confused instantly qualifies as one of the very best DVDs of 2006--the 30th anniversary of the Bicentennial, man! That's what I'm talkin' about! As a sublime companion piece to Criterion's release of Richard Linklater's previous film Slacker, the set comes in a slipcase (complete with "Physical Graffiti"-like picture-windows) festooned with Flair-pen high-school "doodling" (just like you'd scribble on your Pee Chee folders, back in the day), and the features get off on a high note (kinda like Slater, y'know?) with writer-director Linklater's feature-length commentary, which offers all aspiring filmmakers an important lesson protecting your vision and knowing when not to compromise. In recalling the many struggles he endured during production, Linklater covers a lot of territory (notes from the studio, the fantasy abundance of muscle cars, selection of music, and his acute disappointment when Robert Plant--but not Jimmy Page--refused to allow Led Zeppelin songs to be used in the film), and his engaging, good-humored perspective (and appropriate sense of vindication) clearly arises from his film's eventual acceptance as a classic. (For all you film buffs out there, Linklater quite rightly recommends Tim Hunter's Over the Edge and Lindsay Anderson's If... as "great teenage films" that defined the genre before Dazed.) The film itself never looked or sounded better (Linklater and cinematographer Lee Daniel supervised the high-def digital transfer), and a generous selection of deleted scenes will be welcomed by the film's legion of loyal fans.

    The Disc 2 supplements are highlighted by Making "Dazed", filmmaker Kahane Corn's decade-in-the-making 50-minute documentary, chronicling all aspects of the production from casting to the Dazed tenth-anniversary celebration in Austin, Texas, in 2003. "Beer Bust at the Moon Tower" allows random viewing of a 118-minute compilation of behind-the-scenes footage, on-set interviews (with cast members both in and out of character), audition footage, and recollections from the anniversary bash. The accompanying 72-page booklet is a Criterion master-stroke: Designed like a small-scale high-school yearbook, it's filled with more "doodling" artwork, lots of photos, three appreciative mini-essays (the best being by journalist/author Chuck Klosterman), recollections by cast and crew, and humorous "Profiles in Confusion" portraits of the characters in Dazed, reprinted from the film's similarly designed companion book. It's all topped off by a miniature reproduction of the film's original poster, designed by Frank Kozik. In terms of capturing "The Spirit of '76" and the film's celebratory sense of anti-nostalgia, this is surely one of Criterion's finest releases to date. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Richard Linklater
    Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack (Three Smart Girls / Something In the Wind / First Love / It Started with Eve / Can't Help Singing / Lady on a Train)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/3/2004
    Actors:
    Deanna Durbin
    Directors:
    Henry Koster
    De-Lovely
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/21/2004
    Actors:
    Kevin Kline / Ashley Judd / Jonathan Pryce / Kevin McNally / Sandra Nelson
    Description:

    Amazon.com It's astonishing that one man could have written so many memorable songs, but musical gems keep popping up in De-Lovely, about the life and loves of Cole Porter. Played by Kevin Kline (In & Out, A Fish Called Wanda), an elderly Porter is summoned by a mysterious director (Jonathan Pryce, Brazil) to view his own story, which unfolds as a series of theatrical tableaux. The movie is open (if a bit chaste) about Porter's homosexuality, but argues that the love of his life was still his devoted platonic relationship with Linda Lee (Ashley Judd, Ruby in Paradise, Kiss the Girls). Unfortunately, the narrative suffers from the fate of many biographies; by trying to cram in a person's entire life, it ends up a collection of snapshots without depth or context. The parade of celebrity singers (Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow) were apparently chosen for their jarringly modern vocal mannerisms. --Bret Fetzer

    Description "The most unusual and enchanting musical in years" (Roger Ebert), this cinematic ode to legendary composer Cole Porter is at once buoyantly fun and "heartbreakingly beautiful" (Liz Smith). OscarÂ(r) winner* Kevin Kline (The Ice Storm) is "perfection" (Rolling Stone) as the elegant and deeply complex Porter in a film that offers "knockout performances" (Gene Shalit) from Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Alanis Morissette and Robbie Williams, and "melancholy, wit and style to burn" (The Philadelphia Inquirer)! From Paris to Venice to Broadway to Hollywood, the lives of Cole (Kline) and Linda (Ashley Judd) Porter were never less thanglamorous and wildly unconventional. Though Cole's thirst for life strained their marriage, Linda never stopped being his muse, inspiring some of the greatest songs of the twentieth century.*1988: Supporting Actor, A Fish Called Wanda

    Directors:
    Irwin Winkler
    Demetrius and the Gladiators
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/22/2005
    Actors:
    Victor Mature / Susan Hayward
    Description:

    Amazon.com Amid a cast of all-stars in 1953's The Robe, Victor Mature made the strongest impression as the Greek slave, Demetrius. It was only natural, then, that Mature should star in this 1954 sequel, in which the newly liberated Demetrius forges an alliance with his Christian brethren to hide the sacred robe of Christ, coveted for its "magic" by the vile emperor Caligula (Jay Robinson, also reprising his role in The Robe). Captured and manipulated into believing his beloved Lucia (Debra Paget) has been killed, Demetrius rejects his pacifist faith, plots vengeance while becoming a rising star in the bloody arena, and falls prey to the scheming senator's wife Messalina (Susan Hayward), who craves his... affection. It all leads to a crisis of faith that will determine Demetrius's fate as a noble Christian or downfallen hedonist.

    Inheriting The Robe's CinemaScope production values, Demetrius and the Gladiators has everything you'd want in a Biblical epic, riding the wave that would crest two years later with Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments. It's campy, of course--Robinson is outrageously over-the-top; Mature is too contemporary (preceding the absurdity of Richard Gere's King David by 30 years); and Hayward seems closer to Rodeo Drive than ancient Rome. Still, there are abundant pleasures here, from the lavish arena battles (a bit cheesy, but still impressive) to a straightforward morality tale that doesn't compromise its themes of religious loyalty. You don't watch movies like this for historical accuracy, but for the combination of thrills, passion, and glory that were Hollywood trademarks of 1950s epics, long before the more secular ambition of Gladiator. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Delmer Daves
    Diamonds are Forever
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/17/2000
    Actors:
    Sean Connery / Jill St. John
    Description:

    Amazon.com Sean Connery retired from the 007 franchise after You Only Live Twice (replaced by George Lazenby in the underrated and underperforming On Her Majesty's Secret Service) but was lured back for one last official appearance as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever. He's in fine form--cool but ruthless--in a sharp precredits sequence hunting the unkillable Blofeld (a suavely menacing Charles Gray in this incarnation), but the MacGuffin of a story (involving diamond smuggling, a superlaser on a satellite, and Blofeld's latest plot to rule the world ) is full of the groaning tongue-in-cheek gags that Roger Moore would make his signature. Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton keeps the film zipping along gamely from one entertaining set piece to another, including a terrific car chase in a parking lot, a battle with a pair of bikini-clad killer gymnasts named Bambi and Thumper, and a deadly game with a bizarre pair of fey, sardonic killers who dispatch their victims with elaborate invention. Jill St. John is the brassy but not too bright American smuggler Tiffany Case, and country singer and pork sausage king Jimmy Dean costars as a reclusive billionaire with not-so-subtle parallels to Howard Hughes. Shirley Bassey belts out the memorable theme song, one of the series' best. Connery retired again after this one but he returned once more, for Never Say Never Again 15 years later for a rival production company. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    Guy Hamilton
    Dick Tracy Collection 4pk
    Release Date:
    11/18/2003
    Actors:
    Dick Tracy
    Die Another Day (Widescreen Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/8/2004
    Actors:
    Pierce Brosnan / Halle Berry / Rosamund Pike
    Description:

    Amazon.com The 20th James Bond adventure, Die Another Day succeeds on three important fronts: it avoids comparison to Austin Powers by keeping its cheesy humor in check, allows Halle Berry to be sexy and worthy of a spinoff franchise, and keeps pace with the technical wizardry that modern action films demand. Pierce Brosnan's got style and staying power as James Bond, now bearing little resemblance to Ian Fleming's original British super-spy, but able to hold his own at the box office. He's paired with American agent Jinx (Berry) in chasing a genetically altered North Korean villain (Rick Yune) armed with a satellite capable of destroying just about anything. John Cleese and Judi Dench reprise their recurring roles (as "Q" and "M," respectively); they're accompanied by weapons-laden sports cars, a hokey cameo by Madonna (who sings the techno-pulsed theme song), and enough double-entendres to keep Bond-philes adequately shaken and stirred. With clever nods to 007's cinematic legacy, Die Another Day makes you welcome the familiar end-credits promise: James Bond will return. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Lee Tamahori
    Diner
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Steve Guttenberg / Mickey Rourke / Kevin Bacon
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Barry Levinson's debut film as a writer-director nearly got lost in the shuffle before New York critics rescued it from oblivion. Set in his native Baltimore in 1959, it focuses on a group of pals coping with life post high school. Each of them has problems with women, it seems, whether it's Steve Guttenberg (as a guy about to get married who forces his fiancée to pass a test about the Baltimore Colts), Mickey Rourke (as the womanizing hairdresser with a gambling problem), or Daniel Stern (as the married one who makes his wife miserable with his carefully cataloged record collection). The only time these guys seem like they have it together is when they gather at the diner to sling the bull. The cast includes Ellen Barkin, Timothy Daly, Paul Reiser, and Kevin Bacon--each in a breakthrough role. --Marshall Fine

    Description The film that launched successful careers for Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin, Paul Reiser, Mickey Rourke and more! It's a lively, poignant tale of friends trying to recapture their lost innocence in 1959 Baltimore.

    Directors:
    Barry Levinson
    Dirty Dancing (Ultimate Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/9/2003
    Actors:
    Jennifer Grey / Patrick Swayze
    Description:

    Amazon.com As with Grease (1978) and Footloose (1984) before it, Dirty Dancing was a cultural phenomenon that now plays more like camp. That very campiness, though, is part of its biggest charm. And if the dancing in the movie doesn't seem particularly "dirty" by today's standards--or 1987's--it does take place in an era (the early '60s) when it would have. Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey, daughter of ageless hoofer Joel Grey) has been vacationing in the Catskills with her family for many years. Uneventfully. One summer, she falls under the sway (as it were) of dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze). Baby is a pampered pup, but Johnny is a man of the world. Baby's father, Jake (Law and Order's Jerry Orbach), can't see the basic decency in greaser Johnny that she can. It should come as no surprise to find that Baby, who can be as immature as her name, learns more about love and life--and dancing--from free-spirited Johnny than traditionalist Jake.

    Dirty Dancing spawned two successful soundtracks, a short-lived TV series, and a stage musical. It may be predictable, but Grey and Swayze have chemistry, charisma, and all the right moves. It's a sometimes silly movie with occasionally mind-boggling dialogue--"No one puts Baby in a corner!"--that nonetheless carries an underlying message about tolerance and is filled with the kind of exuberant spirit that's hard for even the most cynical to resist. Not that they'd ever admit it. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

    Doctor Zhivago (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/24/2002
    Actors:
    Omar Sharif / Julie Christie
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video David Lean focused all his talent as an epic-maker on Boris Pasternak's sweeping novel about a doctor-poet in revolutionary Russia. The results may sometimes veer toward soap opera, especially with the screen frequently filled with adoring close-ups of Omar Sharif and Julie Christie, but Lean's gift for cramming the screen with spectacle is not to be denied. The streets of Moscow, the snowy steppes of Russia, the house in the country taken over by ice; these are re-created with Lean's unerring sense of grandness. The movie is so lush and so long that it becomes an irresistible wallow, even when logic suffers--like Gone with the Wind before it and Titanic after. Sharif, who achieved stardom in Lean's previous film, Lawrence of Arabia, mostly looks noble, but the supporting cast is spiky: Rod Steiger as a fat-cat monster, Tom Courtenay as a self-righteous revolutionary, and Klaus Kinski and Alec Guinness in smaller roles. Geraldine Chaplin, in her adult debut, plays the doctor's compliant wife. Robert Bolt's screenplay won one of the film's five Oscars, with another going to perhaps the most immediately recognizable element of the movie: Maurice Jarre's romantic music, with its hugely popular "Lara's Theme" weaving in and out of a swooning score. --Robert Horton

    Description Lara inspires lechery in Komarovsky (her mother's lover who is a master at surviving whoever runs Russia) and can't compete with passion for the revolution of the man she marries, Pasha. Her true love is Zhivago who also loves his wife. Lara is the one who inspires poetry. The story is narrated by Zhivago's half brother Yevgraf, who has made his career in the Soviet Army. At the beginning of the film he is about to meet a young woman he believes may be the long lost daughter of Lara and Zhivago.

    Directors:
    David Lean
    Don Juan DeMarco
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Marlon Brando / Johnny Depp
    Description:

    Amazon.com You might not get a thrill from the sight of Faye Dunaway and Marlon Brando throwing popcorn into each other's mouths, but that didn't stop this movie from gaining a new lease on life thanks to cable television and home video. It's a quirky romantic comedy about a mental patient (Johnny Depp) who claims to be Don Juan, the world's greatest lover, and he gets quite a few women to believe it's true. Brando plays the psychiatrist who tries to analyze his patient's apparent delusion, and Dunaway plays Brando's wife, who wants to inject some Don Juan-ish romance into their marital routine. Walking a fine line between precious comedy, wistful drama, and delicate fantasy, the movie gets a big dose of charm from its esteemed cast, with Depp delivering dialogue that would have sounded ludicrous from a lesser actor. This may not be a great movie, but it is guaranteed to put you in an amorous mood. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Jeremy Leven
    Donnie Brasco (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/7/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com Based on a memoir by former undercover cop Joe Pistone (whose daring and unprecedented infiltration of the New York Mob scene earned him a place in the federal witness protection program), Donnie Brasco is like a de- romanticized, de-mythologized version of The Godfather. It offers an uncommonly detailed, privileged glimpse inside the world of organized crime from the perspective of the little guys at the bottom of Mafia hierarchy rather than from the kingpins at the top. Donnie Brasco is not only one of the great modern-day gangster movies to put in the company of The Godfather films and GoodFellas, but it is also one of the great undercover police movies--arguably surpassing Serpico and Prince of the City in richness of character, detail, and moral complexity. Donnie (Johnny Depp, a splendid actor) is practically adopted by Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino), a gregarious, low-level "made" man who grows to love his young protégé like a son. (Pacino really sinks into this guy's skin and polyester slacks, and creates his freshest, most fully realized character since his 1970s heyday.) As Donnie acclimates himself to Lefty's world, he distances himself from his wife (a terrific Anne Heche) and family for their own protection. Almost imperceptibly his sense of identity slips away from him. Questioning his own confused loyalties, unable to trust anybody else because he himself is an imposter, Donnie loses his way in a murky and treacherous no-man's land. The film is directed by Mike Newell, who also headed up Four Weddings and a Funeral and the gritty, true crime melodrama Dance with a Stranger. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Mike Newell
    Down with Love (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/7/2003
    Actors:
    Renée Zellweger / Ewan McGregor / Sarah Paulson / David Hyde Pierce / Rachel Dratch
    Description:

    Amazon.com The bright, glossy world of Doris Day and Rock Hudson sex comedies gets a self-aware brush-up in Down with Love. Pillow-lipped Renée Zellweger (Chicago) plays Barbara Novak, the author of a bestselling book called Down with Love that advises women to focus on their careers and have sex à la carte--just like a man would. Determined to prove that Novak is just as vulnerable to love as any woman, dashingly chauvinist magazine writer Catcher Block (ever-charming Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge) pretends to be a courtly astronaut who wouldn't dream of putting his hand on a woman's knee. This piffle of a story seems like nothing more than an excuse for ironic double-entendres and dazzling production design, until a sneaky plot twist suddenly raises the stakes for the movie's end. As he always does, the brilliant David Hyde Pierce (Frasier) scores the most comic points as Block's fussy editor. --Bret Fetzer

    Description Renee Zellweger (Chicago) and Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge) are the toast of the town in the most stylish romantic comedy of the year! From the producers of American Beauty and the director of Bring It On comes a teasing, tantalizing battle of the sexes that is "pure enchantment" (Daily News). When best-selling feminist author Barbara Novak (Zellweger) becomes the target of dashing playboy Catcher Block (McGregor), these sparring, would-be lovers generate enough sparks to fly you to the moon and back. In other words, the ultimate catch has just met his match!

    Directors:
    Peyton Reed
    Dr. No (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/22/2002
    Actors:
    Sean Connery / Ursula Andress / Bernard Lee
    Description:

    Amazon.com Released in 1962, this first James Bond movie remains one of the best, and serves as an entertaining reminder that the Bond series began (in keeping with Ian Fleming's novels) with a surprising lack of gadgetry and big-budget fireworks. Sean Connery was just 32 years old when he won the role of Agent 007. In his first adventure James Bond is called to Jamaica where a colleague and secretary have been mysteriously killed. With an American CIA agent (Jack Lord, pre-Hawaii Five-O), they discover that the nefarious Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) is scheming to blackmail the U.S. government with a device capable of deflecting and destroying U.S. rockets launched from Cape Canaveral. Of course, Bond takes time off from his exploits to enjoy the company of a few gorgeous women, including the bikini-clad Ursula Andress. She gloriously kicks off the long-standing tradition of Bond women who know how to please their favorite secret agent. A sexist anachronism? Maybe, but this is Bond at his purest, kicking off a series of movies that shows no sign of slowing down. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Terence Young
    Dr. Seuss - How the Grinch Stole Christmas/Horton Hears a Who
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/5/2004
    Actors:
    Boris Karloff / Thurl Ravenscroft
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video This all-time classic now has Horton Hears a Who! on the same video for a great double bill.

    How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    To heck with the kids--this is one of the best holiday presents you can give yourself. Adapted from the children's book by Dr. Seuss, this charming story is one to watch every holiday season. It is just edgy enough to help you forget the more cloying aspects of Christmas, yet it is also sweet enough to remind you of the reason for all that holiday cheer. Animation genius Chuck Jones directed this 1966 television production featuring the voice of Boris Karloff as the mean greenie. Bitter and selfish, the Grinch decides to steal Christmas away from the Whos, the sweet little folk who live at the bottom of his mountain home. When little Cindy Loo Who returns his hateful act with kindness, she melts the old miser's heart. There are many reasons to watch this: inventive wordplay, Karloff's impressive narration, and a very memorable soundtrack. --Rochelle O'Gorman

    Horton Hears a Who!
    Chuck Jones was chief animator on this lively adaptation of the famous book by Dr. Seuss. The story of a friendly elephant named Horton who discovers--deep inside a daisy--a tiny city called Whoville with tiny, intelligent residents--this film (fleshed out a bit from the source) is strong on character and has striking, appealing visuals. The little folks of Whoville, with their natural air of aristocracy, are a kick, and when they come to see Horton as a hero for his democratic view of all life big and small, the effect is quite touching. This should be a real treat for kids already familiar with the book, and just might inspire those who haven't read it to pick it up. --Tom Keogh

    Description Every Who down in Who-ville likes Christmas a lot & ; But the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville did NOT! So the cuddly as a cactus Grinch (with termites in his smile and garlic in his soul) tries to wipe out Christmas for the cheerful Who-villians, only to discover: Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more! Magnificently narrated by Boris Karloff and animated by cartoon legend Chuck Jones, it's an award-winning Who-roast-beast-feast of a holiday classic!

    Directors:
    Ben Washam / Chuck Jones
    Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/27/2001
    Actors:
    James B. Harris / Alexander Walker / Leon Minoff / Ken Adam / Nile Southern
    Date Added:
    12/10/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Arguably the greatest black comedy ever made, Stanley Kubrick's cold-war classic is the ultimate satire of the nuclear age. Dr. Strangelove is a perfect spoof of political and military insanity, beginning when General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), a maniacal warrior obsessed with "the purity of precious bodily fluids," mounts his singular campaign against Communism by ordering a squadron of B-52 bombers to attack the Soviet Union. The Soviets counter the threat with a so- called "Doomsday Device," and the world hangs in the balance while the U.S. president (Peter Sellers) engages in hilarious hot-line negotiations with his Soviet counterpart. Sellers also plays a British military attaché and the mad bomb-maker Dr. Strangelove; George C. Scott is outrageously frantic as General Buck Turgidson, whose presidential advice consists mainly of panic and statistics about "acceptable losses." With dialogue ("You can't fight here! This is the war room!") and images (Slim Pickens's character riding the bomb to oblivion) that have become a part of our cultural vocabulary, Kubrick's film regularly appears on critics' lists of the all-time best. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    David Naylor / Stanley Kubrick
    Dr. T & The Women
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/21/2003
    Actors:
    Richard Gere
    Description:

    Amazon.com Loose-limbed and casual even for a Robert Altman movie, Dr. T & the Women has a sly, offhanded wit that makes up for its ramshackle structure. Richard Gere's eponymous gynecologist seems the model of success: his office is packed daily with the cream of Dallas's society matrons clamoring for an appointment, his home life is blessed with loving wife Farrah Fawcett and daughters Tara Reid and Kate Hudson, and when he needs a break from the estrogen congestion there are always weekends to be spent with his trio of hunting buddies. But on a trip to the mall to shop for Hudson's upcoming nuptials, Fawcett strips naked and leaps about in a waterfall. Her subsequent incarceration in a mental hospital (she's diagnosed with the fictional "Hestia complex," suffering from receiving too much affection) along with the ongoing preparations for the wedding barely make a dent in Gere's charming, compassionate demeanor. Then his golf course hires a new female pro who's everything the other women in his life are not--independent, self-confident, Helen Hunt--and Dr. T finds himself with yet another woman to love. Though the minor characters are mostly nasty little caricatures, the film is not the bitter misogynistic rant its detractors claim it is; the problems in Dr. T's life are placed squarely on his own inability to see that women don't need his genteel protection, and Gere perfectly captures this sweet yet condescending blind spot. --Bruce Reid

    Directors:
    Robert Altman
    Dragonslayer
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/21/2003
    Actors:
    Peter MacNicol / Caitlin Clarke / Ralph Richardson / John Hallam / Peter Eyre
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Despite its box-office failure in 1981, Dragonslayer was gradually recognized as one of the finest fantasies to emerge from the post-Star Wars boom in special effects. It's still one of the best adventures of its kind, featuring one of the most fearsome fire-breathing serpents in movie history. Ominously named Vermithrax Pejorative, this ill-tempered monster terrorizes the peasantry of sixth-century England, feeding on maidens sacrificed by a duplicitous king until a sorcerer's apprentice named Galen (Peter MacNicol, long before Ally McBeal) is recruited as a reluctant hero. Aided by a tenacious beauty (Caitlin Clarke) and his resurrected mentor (Ralph Richardson), Galen confronts the soaring beast in a breathtaking climax. Employing a then-innovative technique called Go-Motion to animate the dragon, the special effects are still dazzling, and stunning locations in Scotland and Wales allow director Matthew Robbins (cowriter of Steven Spielberg's feature debut, The Sugarland Express) to maintain a vivid atmosphere for the wealth of movie magic. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Matthew Robbins
    The Dream Team
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2003
    Actors:
    Michael Keaton / Christopher Lloyd
    Directors:
    Howard Zieff
    E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/22/2002
    Actors:
    Henry Thomas / Drew Barrymore / Peter Coyote
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Steven Spielberg's 1982 hit about a stranded alien and his loving relationship with a fatherless boy (Henry Thomas) struck a chord with audiences everywhere, and it furthered Spielberg's reputation as a director of equally strong commercial sensibilities and classical leanings. Henry Thomas gives a strong, emotional performance as E.T.'s young friend, Robert MacNaughton and Drew Barrymore make a solid impression as his siblings, and Dee Wallace is lively as the kids' mother. The special effects almost look a bit quaint now with all the computer advancements that have occurred since, but they also have more heart behind them than a lot of what we see today. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Steven Spielberg
    Easter Parade (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/15/2005
    Actors:
    Judy Garland / Fred Astaire
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) is devastated when his longtime dancing partner, Nadine Hale (Ann Miller), breaks up the team to set out on her own. Determined to prove that he can succeed without her, Astaire vows that he can pick any random chorus girl and make her a star. Fortunately for him, the chorus girl he picks happens to be one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century, Judy Garland (playing Hannah Brown). Easter Parade turned out to be the first and only collaboration between the two screen legends. Garland made the 1948 film despite ongoing health problems then had to pull out of a planned follow-up, The Barkleys of Broadway (Ginger Rogers replaced her); Astaire had retired following Blue Skies in 1946 but was brought in for this film as an emergency replacement after Gene Kelly broke his ankle playing touch football. Fortunately, Easter Parade always feels like an Astaire film rather than a Kelly film, from its Pygmalion-esque plot (which helps explain the principals' 23-year age disparity) to its score of Irving Berlin standards (some new, some recycled from earlier films). The film capitalizes on the strengths of both stars, Astaire in dance solos, including "Drum Crazy" and "Steppin' Out with My Baby" (MGM's take on Astaire's earlier, persona-defining "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails"), and Garland in vocal solos, including the torchy "Better Luck Next Time." The stars especially shine, however, when they perform together in their vaudeville numbers, most notably the persona-defying hobo routine "We're a Couple of Swells." Watch this classic every Easter. --David Horiuchi

    Directors:
    Charles Walters
    Eddie and the Cruisers
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/4/2001
    Actors:
    Tom Berenger / Michael Paré / Joe Pantoliano / Matthew Laurance / Helen Schneider
    Description:

    Amazon.com Perhaps best known for its faux Springsteen soundtrack, the 1983 Eddie and the Cruisers is a rock lover's fantasy run wild. The story finds a reporter (Ellen Barkin) tracking down rumors of an unreleased album by a band whose charismatic leader (Michael Paré) allegedly died years before. As she approaches surviving members--who have since gone on to other things--she gets different points of view on Eddie's life and artistic drive, and the mystery about that album deepens. The trouble with the film is simple: it's impossible to accept. Michael Paré is far from suitable to play a Jersey shore rocker with thematic pretensions toward Rimbaud that go back to the '60s, and the soundtrack by John Cafferty sounds like a hack's rendition of E Street Band magic. An all-around embarrassment. --Tom Keogh

    Description They say rock 'n' roll never dies, but one dark night in 1963, Eddie Wilson's car took a dive off aJersey bridge with the troubled rock idol at the wheel. His body was never found. Tom Berenger (Platoon), Michael ParÃ(c) (Streets of Fire) and Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love) star in this cool, compelling classic that really rocks! Twenty years after the lead singer (ParÃ(c)) of"Eddie and the Cruisers" disappeared, the band's songs are hotter than ever. And renewed interest in the band leads TV reporter Maggie Foley (Barkin) to pursue a tantalizing mystery: What if Eddie isstill alive? The circumstances surrounding his death are just shadowy enough to make it a distinct possibility, and someone (could it be Eddie?) has been ransacking the homes of surviving band members in a desperate search for tapes of the group's visionary, never-released album. As Maggie interviews the former "Cruisers," the pieces of the puzzle start to fit...but only until still deeper mysteries begin to surface.

    Directors:
    Martin Davidson
    EdTV (Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/4/2003
    Actors:
    Matthew McConaughey / Jenna Elfman
    Description:

    Amazon.com The third entry of 1998-99's cinematic TV trilogy kind of got lost in the shuffle following The Truman Show, an art film masquerading as a blockbuster, and Pleasantville, a heartfelt feel-good movie masquerading as a special-effects extravaganza. EDtv is nothing more than it appears: a scruffy comedy about fame and its discontents. Matthew McConaughey stars as Ed, a white-trash rube who gets his own dawn-to-midnight TV series in which every aspect of his life, no matter how sordid or dull or embarrassing, becomes mass entertainment (it inverts Truman by having the protagonist invite the pervasive cameras). Predictably, fame makes him miserable and, unsurprisingly, he finds a way out of his predicament. Albert Brooks covered this same territory in the funnier Real Life, and it's probably not the best idea for a load of comfy celebs to preach to us about how difficult fame is. But the film is cannily cast, including a number of performers who themselves have fallen victim to stupid media tricks (McConaughey, Ellen DeGeneres as the network executive, Elizabeth Hurley as a vamp hitching her star to Ed's, and Woody Harrelson as Ed's even dumber brother). Structurally, the movie is a mess. It looks as if the filmmakers had the choice between making a fully realized, two-and-a-half-hour-long movie that no one would sit through or one that clocks in under two hours but has a lot of plot holes; they opted for the latter (Hurley's character disappears, practically without comment). Still, there are enough laughs to keep things moving, and as a shaggy dog tale it's decent fun. --David Kronke

    Directors:
    Ron Howard
    Election
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/19/1999
    Actors:
    Matthew Broderick / Reese Witherspoon / Chris Klein / Jessica Campbell / Phil Reeves / Molly Hagan / Delaney Driscoll / Mark Harelik / Colleen Camp / Frankie Ingrassia / Joel Parks (III) / Matt Malloy / Holmes Osborne / Jeanine Jackson / Loren Nelson / Emily Martin / Jonathan Marion / Amy Falcone / Matt Justesen / Nick Kenny (II)
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Matthew Broderick makes up for years of wet-noodle performances with his low-key but unsparing characterization of Jim McAllister, a high school teacher at George Washington Carver High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Driven by a strange mixture of loathing and lust for pathologically overachieving student Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), McAllister encourages a dim but popular athlete, Paul (Chris Klein from American Pie), to run against her in the election for student-council president. Director-cowriter Alexander Payne (Citizen Ruth) turns this deceptively simple premise into a complex and scathing comedy of ambition, corruption, and desire, all at its most naked and petty. Every scene contains some painfully funny nuance that will make you wince in a mixture of astonishment and empathy. Witherspoon flips effortlessly back and forth from adolescent vulnerability to steely-eyed strength; she's becoming a contemporary Carole Lombard. The movie itself feels like a magnificent throwback to the richly layered comedies of the '30s, which drew their humor from sharply drawn characters and twisting plots instead of explosions of bodily fluids. With a wealth of smart, cutting details, Election rewards multiple viewing. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Alexander Payne
    Empire of the Sun
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/6/2001
    Actors:
    Christian Bale / John Malkovich / Miranda Richardson
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Roundly dismissed as one of Steven Spielberg's least successful efforts, this very underrated film poignantly follows the World War II adventures of young Jim (a brilliant Christian Bale), caught in the throes of the fall of China. What if you once had everything and lost it all in an afternoon? What if you were only 12? Bale's transformation, from pampered British ruling-class child to an imprisoned, desperate, nearly feral boy, is nothing short of stunning. Also stunning are exceptional sets, cinematography, and music (the last courtesy of John Williams) that enhance author J.G. Ballard's and screenwriter Tom Stoppard's depiction of another, less familiar casualty of war.

    In a time when competitors were releasing "comedic," derivative coming-of-age films, Empire of the Sun stands out as an epic in the classic David Lean sense--despite confusion or perceived competition with the equally excellent The Last Emperor (also released in 1987, and also a coming-of-age in a similar setting). It is also a remarkable testament to, yes, the human spirit. And despite its disappointing box-office returns, Empire of the Sun helped to further establish Spielberg as more than a commercial director and set the standard, tone, and look for future efforts Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. --N.F. Mendoza

    Description Steven Spielberg's epic about a youngster's harrowing and remarkable experiences in World War II-era China after the Japanese invasion. Best Picture,Director/ National Board of Review.

    Directors:
    Steven Spielberg
    Enter the Dragon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/7/2005
    Actors:
    Bruce Lee
    Description:

    Amazon.com The last film completed by Bruce Lee before his untimely death, Enter the Dragon was his entrée into Hollywood. The American-Hong Kong coproduction, shot in Asia by American director Robert Clouse, stars Lee as a British agent sent to infiltrate the criminal empire of bloodthirsty Asian crime lord Han (Shih Kien) through his annual international martial arts tournament. Lee spends his days taking on tournament combatants and nights breaking into the heavily guarded underground fortress, kicking the living tar out of anyone who stands in his way. The mix of kung fu fighting (choreographed by Lee himself) and James Bond intrigue (the plot has more than a passing resemblance to Dr. No) is pulpy by any standard, but the generous budget and talented cast of world-class martial artists puts this film in a category well above Lee's primitive Hong Kong productions. Unfortunately he's off the screen for large chunks of time as American maverick competitors (and champion martial artists) John Saxon and Jim Kelly take center stage, but once the fighting starts Lee takes over. The tournament setting provides an ample display of martial arts mastery of many styles and climaxes with a huge free-for-all, but the highlight is Lee's brutal one-on-one with the claw-fisted Han in the dynamic hall-of-mirrors battle. Lee narrows his eyes and tenses into a wiry force of sinew, speed, and ruthless determination. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    Robert Clouse
    Eraser
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/14/2004
    Actors:
    Arnold Schwarzenegger / James Caan / Vanessa L. Williams / James Coburn
    Description:

    Amazon.com If you're going to submit yourself to a dazzling example of mainstream action, this thriller is as good a choice as any. Eraser is a live-action cartoon, the kind of movie in which Arnold Schwarzenegger can survive nail bombs, hails of bullets, an attack by voracious alligators ("You're luggage," he says, after killing one of the beasts), and still emerge from the mayhem relatively intact. Arnold plays an "eraser" from the Federal Witness Protection Program, so named because he can virtually erase the existence of anyone he's been assigned to protect. His latest beneficiary is an FBI employee (Vanessa Williams) who stumbled across a secret government group involved in the sale and export of an advanced weapon capable of shooting rounds at nearly the speed of light. Fantastic action sequences are handled with flair by director Charles Russell (The Mask), so it's easy to forgive the fact that this movie is almost completely ridiculous. --Jeff Shannon

    Description Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Eraser, an elite federal marshal who "erases" the pasts of jeopardized informers and relocates them into safe anonymity.

    Directors:
    Chuck Russell
    The Errol Flynn Signature Collection (Captain Blood / The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex / The Sea Hawk / They Died with Their Boots On / Dodge City / The Adventures of Errol Flynn)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/19/2005
    Actors:
    Errol Flynn / Olivia de Havilland
    Description:

    Amazon.com Errol Flynn is one of those names that define movie stardom. Chiseled good looks that stopped just short of being preposterous. A brash and jaunty manner that charmed men and women alike. Whiffs of bad-boy scandal offscreen that only enhanced his legend (not for nothing did "In like Flynn" become a national catchphrase!). And enough marquee-worthy titles that in memory's ear ring like classics.

    Flynn's stardom wasn't on a par with the richly ambiguous artistry of Cary Grant, or the deep, enduring heroic legacy of John Wayne, or the indelible character work amassed by Flynn's Warner Bros. contemporaries Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson. Still, this most celebrated of Tasmanian devils was a one-of-a-kind, often raffishly entertaining icon of Hollywood in the '30s and '40s who played a big part in making the golden age glow. And for most of us, to say "swashbuckler" is to conjure up Flynn's wolfish grin above a rapier, director Mike Curtiz's wall-filling shadows of dueling men, and the symphonic, trumpet-filled music scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

    Stardom came swiftly. After two small-part assignments at Warners, the studio awarded Flynn the title role in Captain Blood (1935)--in retrospect, a sort of rough draft for his most beloved movie, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938; not in this collection). The hero, an Irish-born physician wrongly convicted of treason during the reign of King James, is sentenced to a life of slavery in Jamaica. In short order he's charmed his new master's niece (the bright-eyed Olivia De Havilland, Maid Marian-to-be) and contrived an escape with his rebel comrades to become lusty, albeit passionately populist, buccaneers. The film's budget was clearly limited (there's a stark absence of horizons in the tropic and seagoing scenes), but director Curtiz's camerawork cunningly evokes the ever-present tilting and rolling of life aboard ship. Much-Oscar-nominated, the movie certified Flynn as the Douglas Fairbanks of the sound era--even in blond tresses and without what would become his signatory mustache.

    If Captain Blood became the Flynn-Curtiz prototype for swashbucklers, The Sea Hawk was the last, luxury model off the line. Warners was always wired in to the zeitgeist, and this 1940 movie about English privateers saving Queen Elizabeth's island nation from the Spanish Armada does double duty as an in-Der-Fuehrer's-face allegory of the looming world war. No blank horizons here, and every wall sports a towering map of a world ripe for conquest. Slickness is all: Claude Rains and Henry Daniell are impeccably devious diplomats, and Sol Polito's black-and-white cinematography shifts into sultry sepiatone when the Sea Hawks sneak off to the tropics on a transatlantic espionage mission. (As for Flynn's mission, his swashbuckling would hereafter be confined to contemporary war pictures for the duration.)

    He also saddled up for some lively Westerns. Dodge City (1939) is a knock-down, drag-out barn-burner in brassy Technicolor, with Flynn as a trail boss reluctantly turned town marshal. Curtiz directs yet again, with flair if not necessarily historical conviction, and the presence of Robin Hood costars Olivia De Havilland and Alan Hale (Little John) is virtually mandatory by this point. Ripe villainy is supplied by Bruce Cabot and--substituting, perhaps, for the un-frontier-worthy Basil Rathbone--the fox-faced Victor Jory.

    They Died with Their Boots On (1942) is filled with spectacular Civil War and cavalry action, though its hagiographic treatment of George Armstrong Custer should set historically enlightened viewers on the warpath. Nonetheless, it features Flynn's most interesting performance in the collection. Whereas Curtiz was the ideal director for the star in boy's-own-adventure mode, Raoul Walsh elicited more nuanced work from him (see especially their wonderful Gentleman Jim, not included in this collection), and the scenes between Flynn and Olivia De Havilland achieve a tenderness that deepens with each reel. The magic-hour cinematography is by veteran John Ford cameraman Bert Glennon.

    And that--apart from a new documentary feature, The Adventures of Errol Flynn--leaves The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). Sad to say, that doesn't leave much. Bette Davis (taking the role Flora Robson played in The Sea Hawk) and Flynn (as the English knight the not-so-Virgin Queen loved but feared as a rival) have zero chemistry; she delivers a mannered performance only a Bette Davis impersonator could love, and Flynn demonstrates how stiff he could be (no pun intended) when clueless about his material. In fairness to both, the movie is a static adaptation of a very repetitious and declamatory Maxwell Anderson play. Its inclusion here is notable only as a vast technical improvement on the long-ago VHS release. --Richard T. Jameson

    Escape from New York (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/16/2003
    Actors:
    Tom Atkins / Adrienne Barbeau / Joel Bennett / Garrett Bergfeld / Ernest Borgnine
    Description:

    Amazon.com In the future, crime is out of control and New York City is a maximum security prison. Grabbing a bargaining chip right out of the air, convicts bring down the President's plane in bad old Gotham. Gruff Snake Plissken, a one-eyed warrior new to prison life, is coerced into bringing the President, and his cargo, out of this land of undesirables. Kurt Russell put his Disney days behind him as the nicest bad guy in the picture. All comic-book sensibilities and macho posturing, this is one of writer-director John Carpenter's better brainless escapes. There are snappy one-liners and explosive action scenes. However, the film lacks tension and some believability even within the realm of SF fantasy. Even when it fails to gel, though, it always manages to amuse, thanks in great part to a varied and unusual supporting cast (watch for Ernest Borgnine as a cabdriver). Followed in 1996 by Carpenter's overdone and campy Escape from L.A. --Rochelle O'Gorman

    Description A thrilling landmark film that jolts along at a breakneck pace, Escape From New York leapt to cult status with high-octane action, edge-of-your-seat suspense and a mind-blowing vision of a lone warrior (Kurt Russell) battling his way out of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan! Hailed as "stylish and scary" (Los Angeles Times), "dark and dangerous" (Newsweek) and "gloriously...fun" (Tyler Morning Telegraph), this fast-paced and furiously entertaining thriller grabs you by the throat and won't let go! In a world ravaged by crime, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted to a walled prison where brutal prisoners roam. But when the U.S. President (Donald Pleasence) crash-lands inside, only one man can bring him back: notorious outlaw and former Special Forces war hero Snake Plissken (Russell). But time is short: in 24 hours, an explosive device implanted in his neck will end Snake's missionand his lifeunless he succeeds!

    The Essential Steve McQueen Collection (Bullitt Two-Disc Special Edition / The Getaway Deluxe Edition / The Cincinnati Kid / Papillon / Tom Horn / Never So Few)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/31/2005
    Description:

    Description 6 Steve McQueen classic movies are now available in one giftset -- THE ESSENTIAL STEVE McQUEEN COLLECTION! BULLITT TWO DISC-SPECIAL EDITION: Buckle up for gritty police procedure and a wild, trend-setting chase over Frisco's hills with THE GETAWAY DELUXE EDITION A heist gone wrong is dead-right in the hands of McQueen and director Sam Peckinpah. THE CINCINNATI KID McQueen and Edward G. Robinson ante up. Norman Jewison guides the big-time poker flick. NEVER SO FEW Commando action in World War II Burma! McQueen's first big-budget film. Frank Sinatra stars. PAPILLON Can McQueen and Dustin Hoffman escape Devil's Island? From the director of Patton. TOM HORN True to the cowboy way! McQueen rides tall in a star-packed elegy to a changing West. Titles also available separately.

    Directors:
    Peter Yates / Sam Peckinpah / Norman Jewison
    Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/28/2004
    Actors:
    Jim Carrey / Kate Winslet / Gerry Robert Byrne / Elijah Wood / Thomas Jay Ryan / Mark Ruffalo / Jane Adams (II) / David Cross (II) / Kirsten Dunst / Tom Wilkinson / Ryan Whitney / Debbon Ayer / Amir Ali Said / Brian Price (IV) / Paul Litowsky / Josh Flitter / Lola Daehler / Deirdre O'Connell / Lauren Adler
    Description:

    Amazon.com Screenwriters rarely develop a distinctive voice that can be recognized from movie to movie, but the ornate imagination of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) has made him a unique and much-needed cinematic presence. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a guy decides to have the memories of his ex-girlfriend erased after she's had him erased from her own memory--but midway through the procedure, he changes his mind and struggles to hang on to their experiences together. In other hands, the premise of memory-erasing would become a trashy science-fiction thriller; Kaufman, along with director Michel Gondry, spins this idea into a funny, sad, structurally complex, and simply enthralling love story that juggles morality, identity, and heartbreak with confident skill. The entire cast--Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and more--give superb performances, carefully pitched so that cleverness never trumps feeling. A great movie. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Michel Gondry
    Everybody's All-American
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Jessica Lange / Dennis Quaid
    Description:

    Amazon.com When the cheering and MVP perks stop, what then? This ambitious adaptation of Frank Deford's novel about three tumultuous decades in the lives of a Washington Redskins football star and his two biggest fans attempts to answer this question. Dennis Quaid has his rangiest role to date as Gavin Grey, who goes, De Niro-like, from sinewy gridiron Adonis to embittered has-been with sizable beer gut. Jessica Lange brings her customary class and inner strength to Babs, the Louisiana State homecoming queen who marries college sweetheart Gavin and forfeits her identity; Timothy Hutton is Donnie, Gavin's cousin who secretly pines for the neglected Babs. But it's big guy John Goodman in one of his first screen roles who blasts through in this cross between The Way We Were and North Dallas Forty. Taylor Hackford, no slouch at epic melodramas (The Devil's Advocate), directed from a script by Tom Rickman (Oscar-nominated for Coal Miner's Daughter). Gavin's two-hours-later epiphany? "There's more to life than making touchdowns." --Glenn Lovell

    Directors:
    Taylor Hackford
    The Exorcist (The Version You've Never Seen)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/26/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com Director William Friedkin was a hot ticket in Hollywood after the success of The French Connection, and he turned heads (in more ways than one) when he decided to make The Exorcist as his follow-up film. Adapted by William Peter Blatty from his controversial bestseller, this shocking 1973 thriller set an intense and often-copied milestone for screen terror with its unflinching depiction of a young girl (Linda Blair) who is possessed by an evil spirit. Jason Miller and Max von Sydow are perfectly cast as the priests who risk their sanity and their lives to administer the rites of demonic exorcism, and Ellen Burstyn plays Blair's mother, who can only stand by in horror as her daughter's body is wracked by satanic disfiguration. One of the most frightening films ever made, The Exorcist was mysteriously plagued by troubles during production, and the years have not diminished its capacity to disturb even the most stoical viewers. The film is presented in letterbox format on digital video disc, with a soundtrack that's guaranteed to curdle your blood. Don't say you weren't warned! --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    William Friedkin
    The Falcon and the Snowman
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/1/1999
    Actors:
    Timothy Hutton / Sean Penn
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn play two young men from wealthy families who sell government secrets to the Russians. Based on the true story of Christopher Boyce (Hutton) and Daulton Lee (Penn), this is sometimes edgy, occasionally humorous, and ultimately heartbreaking. Boyce, whose job it is to guard top-secret government papers, becomes disillusioned with the United States and decides to make a deal with the Soviets. His partner in espionage is propelled by less-ideal reasons for his acts, as Penn plays a grungy drug addict in it for the money. An intelligent script is matched on two counts: by John Schlesinger's tight direction and by provocative performances by both actors. --Rochelle O'Gorman

    Directors:
    John Schlesinger
    Far from Heaven
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/1/2003
    Actors:
    Patricia Clarkson / Dennis Haysbert / Matt Malloy / Julianne Moore / Dennis Quaid / James Rebhorn / Celia Weston / Viola Davis / Mylika Davis
    Description:

    Amazon.com This uniquely beautiful film--from one of the smartest and most idiosyncratic of contemporary directors, Todd Haynes (Safe, Velvet Goldmine)--takes the lush 1950s visual style of so-called women's pictures (particularly those of Douglas Sirk, director of Imitation of Life and Magnificent Obsession) to tell a story that mixes both sexual and racial prejudice. Julianne Moore, an amazing fusion of vulnerability and will power, plays a housewife whose husband (Dennis Quaid) has a secret gay life. When she finds solace in the company of a black gardener (Dennis Haysbert), rumors and peer pressure destroy any chance she has at happiness. It's astonishing how a movie with such a stylized veneer can be so emotionally compelling; the cast and filmmakers have such an impeccable command of the look and feel of the genre that every moment is simultaneously artificial and deeply felt. Far from Heaven is ingenious and completely engrossing. --Bret Fetzer

    Product Description Julianne Moore (Hannibal, Boogie Nights) and Dennis Quaid (The Rookie, Frequency) star in this seductive story of a seemingly perfect family, and the forbidden desires that threaten to tear them apart.

    Cathy Whitaker (Moore) has it all a lovely

    Directors:
    Todd Haynes
    Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Widescreen Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/2/2004
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Before he became an overrated filmmaker, Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) was a reporter for Rolling Stone who was so youthful looking that he could go undercover for a year at a California high school and write a book about it. He wrote the script for this film, based on that book, and it launched the careers of several young actors, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, and, above all, Sean Penn. The story line is episodic, dealing with the lives of iconic teen types: one of the school's cool kids, a nerd, a teen queen, and, most enjoyably, the class stoner (Penn), who finds himself at odds with a strict history teacher (a wonderfully spiky Ray Walston). This is not a great movie but very entertaining and, for a certain age group, a seminal movie experience. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Amy Heckerling
    A Few Good Men (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/29/2001
    Description:

    Amazon.com A U.S. soldier is dead, and military lawyers Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee and Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway want to know who killed him. "You want the truth?" snaps Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson). "You can't handle the truth!" Astonishingly, Jack Nicholson's legendary performance as a military tough guy in A Few Good Men really amounts to a glorified cameo: he's only in a few scenes. But they're killer scenes, and the film has much more to offer. Tom Cruise (Kaffee) shines as a lazy lawyer who rises to the occasion, and Demi Moore (Galloway) gives a command performance. Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, J.T. Walsh, and Cuba Gooding Jr. (of Jerry Maguire fame) round out the superb cast. Director Rob Reiner poses important questions about the rights of the powerful and the responsibilities of those just following orders in this classic courtroom drama.

    Directors:
    Rob Reiner
    Fiddler on the Roof
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/30/1998
    Actors:
    Topol / Norma Crane
    Description:

    Amazon.com This rousing musical, based on the stories of Shalom Aleichem, takes place in pre-revolutionary Russia and centers on the life of Tevye (Topol), a milkman who is trying to keep his family's traditions in place while marrying off his three older daughters. Yet, times are changing and the daughters want to make their own matches, breaking free of many of the constricting customs required of them by Judaism. In the background of these events, Russia is on the brink of revolution and Jews are feeling increasingly unwelcome in their villages. Tevye--who expresses his desire for sameness in the opening number, "Tradition"--is trying to keep everyone, and everything, together. The movie is strongly allegorical--Tevye represents the common man--but it does it dexterously, and the resulting film is a stunning work of art. The music is excellent (it won Oscars for the scoring and the sound), with plenty of familiar songs such as "Sunrise, Sunset" and "If I Were a Rich Man," which you'll be humming long after the movie is over. Isaac Stern's violin--he provides the music for the fiddler on the roof--is hauntingly beautiful. And despite the serious subject matter, the film is quite comedic in parts; it also well deserves the Oscar it won for cinematography. --Jenny Brown

    Directors:
    Norman Jewison
    Field of Dreams (Widescreen Two-Disc Anniversary Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/8/2004
    Actors:
    Kevin Costner / Amy Madigan / Gaby Hoffmann / Ray Liotta / Timothy Busfield
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A phenomenal hit when it was released in 1989, Field of Dreams has become a modern classic and a uniquely American slice of cinema. It functions effectively as a moving drama about the power of dreams, a fantasy ode to our national pastime, and a brilliant adaptation of W.P. Kinsella's exquisite baseball novel Shoeless Joe. Kinsella himself found the film a delightful surprise, differing greatly from his novel but benefiting from its own creative variations. It is the film that cemented Kevin Costner's status as an all-American screen star, but the story resonates far beyond Costner's handsome appeal. As just about everyone knows by now, Costner stars as Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, who hears the mysterious words "If you build it, he will come," and is compelled to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. His wife (Amy Madigan) supports the wild idea, but a reclusive novelist (modeled after J.D. Salinger and played by James Earl Jones) is not so easily persuaded. The idealistic farmer is either a visionary or a deluded fool, but his persistence is rewarded when spirits from baseball's past begin appearing on the ball field. Past and present intermingle in the person of "Moonlight Graham" (superbly played by Burt Lancaster), an unknown player who sacrificed his dreams of baseball glory for a dignified life as a small-town physician ... but what all of this means is unclear until the film's memorably heartfelt conclusion. A meditation on family, memory, and faith, the film balances humor and magic to strike just the right chord of thoughtful emotion, affecting audiences so deeply that the baseball field created for the production has now become a mecca of sorts for dreamers around the world. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Phil Alden Robinson
    Film Noir Classic Collection 4pk
    Release Date:
    11/18/2003
    Actors:
    Tom Neal
    Film Noir Classic Collection (The Asphalt Jungle/Gun Crazy/Murder My Sweet/Out of the Past/The Set-Up)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/6/2004
    Actors:
    James Whitmore
    Description:

    Amazon.com Some boxed sets claim to be definitive, but are haphazardly selected. Not this one. Four of the five titles here can legitimately lay claim to being essentials in the film noir canon, and the fifth, The Set-Up, is a terrific boxing picture with a strong noir atmosphere. If you're a fan of noir--or have no idea what it's all about--this collection is a treat.

    Of course, none of these movies were made as "film noir." The term was coined later by French critics to describe the moody, anxious feel of postwar American movies, especially the genre that highlighted duplicitous dames and susceptible men lost in the criminal jungle. Indeed, the title The Asphalt Jungle conveys the edgy urban arena of these pictures. That film is John Huston's masterly 1950 account of a heist, with Sterling Hayden the disenchanted, noirish hero. Joseph H. Lewis's Gun Crazy (1949) is one of the most supercharged (and sexually perverse) of noir films, with John Dall and Peggy Cummins as young criminals in love. Murder, My Sweet (1944) is a straight adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel Farewell, My Lovely. Amid the film's shadowy chiaroscuro, former musical comedy star Dick Powell makes a career-changing transition as Chandler's private dick, Philip Marlowe. Out of the Past puts Robert Mitchum (perhaps the quintessential noir actor) in trouble with gangster Kirk Douglas, complicated by classic femme fatale Jane Greer. Jacques Tourneur provides the evocative direction. And The Set-Up plays out an ingenious boxing tale in "real time," superbly enacted by (former boxer) Robert Ryan. --Robert Horton

    Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2 (Born to Kill / Clash by Night / Crossfire / Dillinger (1945) / The Narrow Margin (1952))
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/5/2005
    Description:

    Amazon.com Film noir is such a rich cinematic zone that second-tier specimens compel nearly as much fascination as the classics. At a glance, Volume 2 of Warner Bros.' (ever-expanding, we hope) Film Noir Collection is a distinct step down from Volume 1--inevitable when you've launched your series with five landmark titles, including three outright noir masterpieces (The Asphalt Jungle, Gun Crazy, Out of the Past). But linger beyond that first glance, because the second set is a flavorful mix of sleazoid iconography (two vehicles for B-movie bad boy Lawrence Tierney), an offbeat outing for a major director (Fritz Lang in his Howard Hughes RKO period), Poverty Row production circumstances that encourage aggressively peculiar, verging-on-radical filmmaking (the strange mélange that is Monogram's Dillinger), and two pressure-cooker suspense pictures that are landmark films in their own right (Crossfire and The Narrow Margin).

    Jean-Luc Godard dedicated Breathless to Monogram Pictures, and Dillinger (1945) was probably the main reason why. With an Oscar-nominated script credited to Philip Yordan (abetted by his friend William Castle, director of Monogram's excellent When Strangers Marry), Max Nosseck's 60some-minute account of the Depression-era outlaw's brashly improvisatory career is a hypnotic mix of bargain-basement filmmaking (lotsa stock footage and minimalist sets), astute ripoff (the rain-and-gas-bomb robbery sequence from Lang's You Only Live Once), and Brechtian bravura. The major Hollywood studios had taken a vow of chastity when it came to glorifying gangsterism; Monogram ignored the embargo and barreled ahead to unaccustomed popular and critical success. The storyline actually scants the ultraviolence (no Bohemia Lodge shootout) and all-star supporting cast (no Pretty Boy Floyd, no Baby Face Nelson) of Dillinger's real life--likely a matter of cost-cutting rather than abstemiousness. Newcomer Lawrence Tierney nails the guy's coldblooded freakiness and animal magnetism, and the supporting cast includes such éminences noirs as Marc Lawrence, Eduardo Ciannelli, and Elisha Cook Jr. Producers Maurice and Frank King would make Gun Crazy four years later.

    Born to Kill (1947) is the second helping of Tierney, playing a psychotic drifter who's irresistible to women ("His eyes run up and down ya like a searchlight!" breathes housemaid Ellen Colby, just about the only female he doesn't bother targeting). A number of people end up dead by his hand, but the kicker is that he crosses paths with a woman--socialite-divorcee Claire Trevor--just as heartless as he, and even more treacherous. The script makes less sense with each passing reel, but there are ripe character turns by Walter Slezak, as a philosophical private eye who operates out of a diner; Elisha Cook Jr., as Tierney's more level-headed partner; and Esther Howard, as a hard-bitten old bat who flirts with Cook in a nightmarish nocturnal wasteland outside San Francisco.

    Three Roberts--Young, Mitchum, and Ryan--costar in Crossfire (1947), one of only a handful of noirs to be sanctified with Academy Award nominations: best picture, director Edward Dmytryk, screenwriter John Paxton, and supporting players Ryan and Gloria Grahame. The film unreels during a single sweaty, post-WWII night when one among a squad of GIs on leave in Washington, D.C., murders a nice Jewish man (Sam Levene) because he doesn't like "his kind." The audience knows who's guilty before the cops do, and Ryan's portrayal of the bigot will make the hair on your neck rise. Police detective Robert Young plays with his pipe too much and makes one speech too many, but the atmosphere is memorably taut and surreal.

    Robert Ryan may be even scarier in Fritz Lang's Clash by Night (1952), a rare noir without any criminal aspect: all its bitterness and savagery is emotional, psychological, and--preeminently--sexual. Barbara Stanwyck, slightly past her stellar peak but in her prime as an actress, plays a married woman in a New England fishing town who knows what a bad idea it is but falls anyway for a vicious, misogynistic movie projectionist. Sample Clifford Odets dialogue, Stanwyck to Ryan: "What do you want to do to me? Put your teeth in me? Hurt me?" Clinching ensues. (All this and Marilyn Monroe, too.)

    We've saved the best for last. Narrow Margin (1952) is the kind of trim, beautifully paced movie people have in mind when asking, "Why don't they make 'em like that anymore?" Two cops have to guard a gangster's widow against assassination as she rides the Golden West Limited sleeper train from Chicago to give evidence in L.A. Soon there's only one cop (gravel-voiced Charles McGraw, usually a villain), and he's finding the sharp-tongued widow (Marie Windsor) as obnoxious as she is endangered. Nothing goes quite as you'd expect in this exemplary train thriller, which rattles and rocks toward its destination without a music track or a wasted moment. --Richard T. Jameson

    Description Hollywood's legendary tough guys and femme fatales collide again in The Film Noir Classic Collection Volume Two. The Collection includes five smoldering classics, all new to DVD and all digitally remastered: Born to Kill, Clash By Night, Crossfire, Dillinger and The Narrow Margin. The movies star film noir icons Robert Mitchum, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor, among others, and feature commentaries from film historians and directors including Robert Wise on Born To Kill Peter Bogdanovich, with archival contributions from Fritz Lang, on Clash By Night; John Milius on Dillinger and William Friedkin and Richard Fleischer on The Narrow Margin.

    Directors:
    Robert Wise / Fritz Lang / Edward Dmytryk
    Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 (Border Incident / His Kind of Woman / Lady in the Lake / On Dangerous Ground / The Racket)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/18/2006
    Actors:
    Film Noir Classics Collection
    Description:

    Amazon.com Two peak achievements by as many top noir directors ... a customized vehicle for one of noir's premier icons ... an oddball experiment in making a truly "private eye" movie ... and a Howard Hughes remake of his earliest contribution to the gangster genre. Such are the five titles corralled for Warner Home Video's third box set of film noir classics.

    For eye-popping dynamism coupled with ferocious intensity, no noir director matched Anthony Mann. Border Incident (1949) was Mann's and cinematographer John Alton's first film for MGM following a string of darkly dazzling low-budget beauties at Eagle-Lion (T-Men, Raw Deal, The Black Book, et al.). In structure it's virtually a remake of T-Men, transposed from the shadowy city where a Secret Service team battled counterfeiters, to California's Imperial Valley where the Immigration Service sets out to infiltrate a gang exploiting--and often murdering--Mexicans eager to work the farms. From the opening night scene of three laborers trying to recross the border and meeting a grisly end, the movie relentlessly imagines ways the human body can merge with the earth. Visually stunning, and replete with memorable villains (headed by Howard Da Silva, a past master at making affability lethal), this is one of Mann's strongest noirs and surely his most inventive. Its neglect can be explained only by people's assumption that nothing worthwhile could come of a movie top-billing Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy (as the government agents). Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    After a scalding first reel in big-city night streets, Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground (RKO, 1951) likewise forsakes familiar noir terrain for the countryside--the mountains and snowfields where city cop Robert Ryan seeks a psychotic killer. For both the actor and the director, Ryan's character is an exemplary creation: a man with personal demons whose overzealous pursuit of criminals has pushed him into sadism. His passage from urban darkness into the silent white mountain country becomes a redemptive journey, thanks largely to his interaction with a blind woman (Ida Lupino) in an isolated farmhouse whose younger brother may be the quarry he's after. Ray developed the screenplay with A.I. Bezzerides under the supervision of producer John Houseman (for whom Ray had made his feature debut, They Live By Night). The film boasts a thrilling music score by Bernard Herrmann, anticipating his great soundtrack for North by Northwest.

    His Kind of Woman (also RKO, 1951) is a vehicle for both RKO's reigning bad boy, Robert Mitchum, and Howard Hughes' definitive coup of distaff engineering, Jane Russell. Their characters cross paths en route to a seaside Mexican resort, where she aims to continue her gold-digger pursuit of Hollywood ham Vincent Price, and Mitchum will figure in a plot to get deported mobster Raymond Burr back into the U.S.A. The slow-brewing romance between this dauntingly tall, broad-shouldered pair gives off little heat, but the players' good-natured, weary-pro rapport as they go through their mostly preposterous paces makes for very good fun. Still more is supplied by Price, who just about steals the movie when he gets to extend his sub-Errol Flynn screen heroism into real life--all the while supplying his own florid running commentary on the action. The urbane director John Farrow filled the movie with one delicious, what-the-hell-is-going-on-here scene after another (highlight: a bored Mitchum ironing his money), but that wasn't enough for studio boss Hughes. Richard Fleischer was brought in to stretch the climactic melodrama aboard Burr's yacht in the harbor, and the picture grew to an overblown two hours in length. Not that you're likely to regret a minute of it.

    Robert Montgomery directed and played Phillip Marlowe in Lady in the Lake (MGM, 1947), Raymond Chandler's novel as adapted by Steve Fisher (I Wake Up Screaming). The gimmick is that, apart from a few scenes of private detective Marlowe chatting us up in his office, everything is viewed through his eyes, with Marlowe himself remaining unseen unless he glances in a mirror. This literal-minded conceit is more curious than compelling; the camera simply doesn't see the way the human eye does, and the artificiality constantly calls attention to itself. Montgomery, a suave actor who enjoyed playing it coarse and obnoxious on occasion, makes his screen Marlowe more smartass than any other ("dumb, brave, and cheap"). With him cracking wise off-camera, much of the movie is really carried by Audrey Totter, a swell late-'40s dame who has to stand up under more relentless scrutiny than even her shifty character deserves.

    The Racket (RKO, 1951) is the second film version of a 1920s play about municipal corruption, gangsterism, and the attempt to squash an honest police precinct captain. John Cromwell had acted in the original Broadway production, which may help explain why, as director, he let so much of this movie turn back into a play. Eventually studio boss Howard Hughes, who had produced the 1928 film version (directed by Lewis Milestone), once again called in another director to do salvage work.

    That was Nicholas Ray, whose scenes include police captain Robert Mitchum's pursuit of the man who has just bombed his home. Mitchum's fellow cast members include Robert Ryan as the ultra-paranoid gangster; husky-voiced noir blonde Lizabeth Scott as a nightclub thrush romanced by Ryan's brother; future Perry Mason D.A. William Talman as a dedicated street cop; and Ray Collins and William Conrad as two municipal officials negotiating a delicate dance with morality and expediency. --Richard T. Jameson

    Description Five more film noir classics lined up with genre stars such as Robert Mitchum, Robert Montgomery, Robert Ryan, and Jane Russell, are now available in Volume 3 of the Film Noir Classics Collection series. The new 6-Disc DVD set is only available as a collection and includes a bonus documentary disc on the Noir genre.

    Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 (Act of Violence / Mystery Street / Crime Wave / Decoy / Illegal / The Big Steal / They Live By Night / Side Street / Where Danger Lives / Tension)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/31/2007
    Actors:
    Van Heflin / Robert Ryan / Janet Leigh / Mary Astor / Phyllis Thaxter
    Date Added:
    10/2/2007
    Description:

    Description Ex-World War II pilot Frank Enley (Van Heflin) is a respected contractor and family man. Then his troubled, gimp-legged bombardier (Robert Ryan) shows up with a gun and a score to settle. Perhaps neither man is what he seems to be as director Fred Zinnemann (The Day of the Jackal) guides a searing Act of Violence, "the first postwar noir to take a challenging look at the ethics of men in combat" (Eddie Muller, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir). Murder lives on Mystery Street. John Sturges (The Great Escape) directs a revealing-for-the-era procedural about a Boston cop (Ricardo Montalban) solving a whodunit with the help of a Harvard forsensic expert (Bruce Bennett). Welcome to CSI Noir.

    Directors:
    Fred Zinnemann / John Sturges / André De Toth
    Finding Forrester
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/24/2001
    Actors:
    F. Murray Abraham / Charles Bernstein (III) / Stephanie Berry / Rob Brown (VI) / Sean Connery / Richard Easton (II) / Glenn Fitzgerald / April Grace / Tom Kearns (II) / Damien Lee / Matt Malloy / Damany Mathis / Michael Nouri / Anna Paquin / Michael Pitt (II) / Busta Rhymes / Fly Williams III / Matthew Noah Word / Lil' Zane
    Description:

    Amazon.com Finding Forrester could have been a shallow variant of The Karate Kid, congratulating itself for featuring a 16-year-old black kid from the South Bronx who's a brilliant scholar-athlete. Instead, director Gus Van Sant plays it matter-of-fact and totally real, casting a nonactor (Rob Brown) as Jamal, a basketball player and gifted student whose writing talent is nurtured by a famously reclusive author. William Forrester (Sean Connery) became a literary icon four decades earlier with a Pulitzer-winning novel, then disappeared (like J.D. Salinger) into his dark, book-filled apartment, agoraphobic and withdrawn from publishing, but as passionate as ever about writing. On a dare, Jamal sneaks into Forrester's musty sanctuary, and what might have been a condescending cliché--homeboy rescued by wiser white mentor--turns into an inspiring meeting of minds, with mutual respect and intelligence erasing boundaries of culture and generation.

    Comparisons to Van Sant's Good Will Hunting are inevitable, but Finding Forrester is more honest and less prone to touchy-feely sentiment, as in the way Jamal and a private-school classmate (Anna Paquin) develop a mutual attraction that remains almost entirely unspoken. The film takes a conventional turn when Jamal must defend his integrity (with Forrester's help) in a writing contest judged by a skeptical teacher (F. Murray Abraham), but this ethical subplot is a credible catalyst for Forrester's most dramatic display of friendship. It's one of many fine moments for Connery and Brown (a screen natural), in a memorable film that transcends issues of race to embrace the joy of learning. --Jeff Shannon

    Finding Neverland (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/22/2005
    Actors:
    Johnny Depp / Kate Winslet / Julie Christie
    Description:

    Amazon.com Sweetness that doesn't turn saccharine is hard to find these days; Finding Neverland hits the mark. Much credit is due to the actors: Johnny Depp applies his genius for sly whimsy in his portrayal of playwright J. M. Barrie, who finds inspiration for his greatest creation from four lively boys, the sons of widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet, who miraculously fuses romantic yearning with common sense). Though the friendship threatens his already dwindling marriage, Barrie spends endless hours with the boys, pretending to be pirates or Indians--and gradually the elements of Peter Pan take shape in his mind. The relationship between Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies family sparks both an imagined world and a quiet rebellion against the stuffy forces of respectability, given physical form by Barrie's resentful wife (Radha Mitchell, High Art) and Sylvia's mother (Julie Christie, McCabe and Mrs. Miller). This gentle silliness could have turned to treacle, but Depp and Winslet--along with newcomer Freddie Highmore as one of the boys--keep their feet on the earth while their eyes gaze into their dreams. Also featuring a comically crusty turn from Dustin Hoffman (who appeared in another Peter Pan-themed movie, Hook) as a long-suffering theater producer. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Marc Forster
    Finian's Rainbow
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/15/2005
    Actors:
    Fred Astaire / Petula Clark
    Description:

    Amazon.com A funny thing happened to Finian's Rainbow in between its debut as a Broadway musical in 1947 and its appearance as a film in 1968. After 21 years, its theme of racial tension in the American South was no longer cutting edge, and the fact that its heroes are a group of sharecroppers called the Rainbow Valley Tobacco Cooperative dates it even further. Add a number of subplots and the heavy hand of a 29-year-old Francis Ford Coppola directing his first and only musical, and the two-and-a-half-hour running time feels bloated. Hermes Pan (best known for the classic Astaire-Rogers movies) is credited with choreographing the overbusy musical numbers, but he was reportedly overruled by Coppola at every turn. Still, there is a lot to enjoy in this movie, most notably Fred Astaire in his last lead role in a musical. Fred plays Finian McLonergan, an Irishman who has traveled to America in hopes of planting a pilfered pot of gold near Fort Knox and watching it grow. Even at 69, Fred shows he is still capable of a sprightly step and warbling "Look to the Rainbow." Another plus is the casting of '60s pop icon Petula Clark as his daughter, as she sings with an unaffected loveliness. Finally, the score by Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg includes two of the best Broadway songs ever written--"Old Devil Moon" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"--as well as the comic ditty "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love." --David Horiuchi

    Directors:
    Francis Ford Coppola
    A Fish Called Wanda
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/1/2001
    Actors:
    John Cleese / Jamie Lee Curtis
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Kevin Kline took home an Oscar for his performance as a self-absorbed lothario who prepares for lovemaking by drinking in his own "manly" musk, but it would be hard to single him out as the best thing about the film. The fact is, the entire cast of this hilarious comedy is perfect: John Cleese as the conservative barrister defending a member of sexy Jamie Lee Curtis's gang, Ms. Curtis as the conniving crook out to grab the haul for herself, and Michael Palin as the stuttering, animal-loving hit man whose attempts to murder a little old lady only decrease the size of her poodle pack. Cleese cowrote the zingy script with British comedy veteran Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob), whose smooth direction balances Monty Python farce, hysterically tasteless gags, and an unexpectedly romantic subplot with style and confidence. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    John Cleese / Charles Crichton
    The Five Pennies
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/13/2005
    Description:

    Amazon.com Danny Kaye shows off his keen musical sense in the lead role of The Five Pennies, the life story of cornet master Red Nichols--or at least the Hollywood version of Nichols'd life. The movie gets off to a kicky start as Nichols joins a big-city band, meets his future wife (Barbara Bel Geddes), and sits in on a speakeasy session with Louis Armstrong. Armstrong's in the movie a lot, and there are smaller roles for other musical names such as Bob Crosby and Ray Anthony. The tunes include a batch of standards but also new songs written by Sylvia Fine, Danny Kaye's wife and the creator of his signature wordplay routines. The film's main dramatic device--that Nichols eventually sacrifices his career to care for a sick daughter--must be slogged through while the decent jazz sequences come and go. Whether you're a Danny Kaye fan or not, this film emphasizes his very real musical "touch" (in his manner, not his cornet playing; Red Nichols dubbed the horn himself). It also proved Kaye could handle melodrama at least as easily as frantic comedy, and yet this 1959 film was near the end of his run as a movie actor. Director Melville Shavelson, most associated with comedy, does an atmospheric job of staging the jazz numbers, especially in the colorful clubs. This is well-served by a snazzy transfer to DVD--even the opening credits are a treat, a cool example of late-1950s graphic design. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Melville Shavelson
    The Fly (1958)/Return of the Fly (1959)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/4/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com The plot device is so damned great that it simply had to be revisited: a scientist invents a device that transmits matter by disintegrating it in one chamber and reintegrating it in another. When he attempts to transmit his own body, he accidentally allows a fly into the chamber, and the resulting man-insect hybrid runs rampant across the Canadian countryside. Philippe, the son of that ill-fated scientist, is told the family history by a benevolent uncle (an oddly prim Vincent Price); possessed with the scientific will-to-know, he becomes determined to re-create his father's experiments. The legendarily silly costuming of the original Fly returns, and with it, the perplexing logic of transmogrification--it becomes difficult to decipher which of the man-insect hybrids we're meant to understand as possessing Phillipe's agency. The film is hampered by the lack of a strong female lead, and by performances by all principals that are disappointingly modern in their clear motivation and restraint. Almost normal--even by modern standards--Return of the Fly represents an interesting bridging piece between the arty, abstract, symbolist sci-fi aesthetic of the early '50s and the naturalist, highly mimetic, realist style that quickly came to dominate the genre. --Miles Bethany

    Directors:
    Edward Bernds
    For Love of the Game
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/6/2004
    Actors:
    Kevin Costner / Kelly Preston
    Description:

    Amazon.com Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) is having a bad day. His girlfriend Jane (Kelly Preston, stunning as ever) says she's leaving, and his boss (Brian Cox) says he's selling the business and ace employee Billy may be out of job. Sounds like business as usual for an old-fashioned veteran. However, the business is baseball and for Billy Chapel, the 40-year old former all-star for the Detroit Tigers, it means his career--and his life--is at a crossroads.

    Although it is no Bull Durham, For Love of the Game finds a solid and very believable role for Costner. The film is based on Michael Shaara's (The Killer Angels) stream-of-consciousness novel (the rough manuscript was found after his death 1988). The entire film takes place on Billy's day on the mound against the Yankees, a meaningless late-season game for the Tigers, but everything for Billy. In flashbacks, he lingers over his long relationship with Jane and his baseball career (from World Series heroism to a career-threatening injury). His one viable link to the game at hand is his catcher, played winningly by John C. Reilly. Costner, like Chapel, is looking for one more great performance, but the film is too simplistic and loopy at times to resonate. The love story has an extra helping of cuteness, and legendary baseball announcer Vin Scully nearly takes on a leading role, waxing grandiloquent. It's no grand slam, but a solid double. --Doug Thomas

    Directors:
    Sam Raimi
    For Me And My Gal
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/6/2004
    Actors:
    Judy Garland / George Murphy / Gene Kelly
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video "Say, he looks like an actor," says the platform conductor. And with that introduction, Gene Kelly steps off the train and into his film career. After starring on Broadway in Pal Joey, Kelly made his film debut in For Me and My Gal opposite Judy Garland, with the pair playing vaudeville performers who team up to find success and, of course, romance. But just when things are looking up, World War I intervenes, and Kelly has to take drastic measures to keep a promise and avoid the war, at least temporarily.

    Bad move, Gene. Filmed in 1942, For Me and My Gal vigorously supports the war effort, including teaching Kelly the error of his ways. The old-time setting also allows for a basketful of nostalgic charmers, including "After You've Gone," "Oh You Beautiful Doll," and "Ballin' the Jack," and Kelly and Garland's crooning and tapping of the title tune is pure joy. --David Horiuchi

    Description Gene Kelly makes his film debut in this WW I musical playing a man who deliberately injures his hand to avoid being drafted into the army. He starts a vaudeville act with a young woman and they become determined to play The Palace.

    Directors:
    Busby Berkeley
    For Your Eyes Only
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/19/1999
    Actors:
    Roger Moore / Carole Bouquet
    Directors:
    John Glen (II)
    Forrest Gump
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/29/2004
    Actors:
    Tom Hanks / Robin Wright Penn / Gary Sinise / Sally Field
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video The Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Best Director Robert Zemeckis, and Best Actor Tom Hanks, this unlikely story of a slow-witted but good-hearted man somehow at the center of the pivotal events of the 20th century is a funny and heartwarming epic. Hanks plays the title character, a shy Southern boy in love with his childhood best friend (Robin Wright) who finds that his ability to run fast takes him places. As an All-Star football player he meets John F. Kennedy; as a soldier in Vietnam he's a war hero; and as a world champion Ping-Pong player he's hailed by Richard Nixon. Becoming a successful shrimp-boat captain, he still yearns for the love of his life, who takes a quite different and much sadder path in life. The visual effects incorporating Hanks into existing newsreel footage is both funny and impressive, but the heart of the film lies in its sweet love story and in the triumphant performance of Hanks as an unassuming soul who savors the most from his life and times. --Robert Lane

    Book Description "Bein' a idiot is no box of chocolates," but "at least I ain't led no hum-drum life," says Forrest Gump, the lovable, surprisingly savvy hero of this wonderful comic tale. When the University of Alabama's football team drafts Forrest and makes him a star, that's only the beginning! He flunks out--and goes on to be a Vietnam war hero, a world-class Ping-Pong player, a wrestler, and a business tycoon. He compares battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discovers the truth about Richard Nixon, and suffers the ups and downs of true love. Now, Forrest Gump's telling all--in a madcap, screwball romp through three decades of the American landscape. It's Gump's amazing travels...and you've got to hear them to believe them.

    Directors:
    Robert Zemeckis
    Foul Play
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/16/2004
    Actors:
    Goldie Hawn / Chevy Chase
    Description:

    Amazon.com Not short on murder, mayhem, or any other screwball '70s conventions, Foul Play is a wonderful vehicle for Goldie Hawn. She plays Gloria, a librarian "ready to take a chance again," who ends up the target of an assassination ring. Chevy Chase, fresh off of Saturday Night Live, does the closest thing to real acting he would ever achieve (okay, maybe Fletch) as Tony, the cop assigned to protect Gloria. Dudley Moore made an indelible impression on American audiences as Stanley Tibbets, a surprisingly kinky symphony conductor. But it's the quirky things that make this film: the grandmothers playing Scrabble with expletives, Burgess Meredith's snake Esme, the old Japanese couple in the back of the careening limo. From the opening credits with Barry Manilow crooning the title song, this is a fond trip down memory lane. --Keith Simanton

    Directors:
    Colin Higgins
    The Four Feathers
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/19/2005
    Actors:
    John Clements / Ralph Richardson
    Description:

    Amazon.com Some movies you just have to love. Oh, they may be well, even beautifully, made; wonderfully cast and stirringly acted; uplifting in theme and noble in motive. That's fine. In fact, that's great. For that, you admire them. But you love them because they are perfect distillations of a mood, of a moment in the history of filmmaking, of a breed of imagination that, like the best of fairy tales, transcends the tides of taste and empire, and certainly of political correctness.

    Consider The Four Feathers, produced in England in 1939, at Alexander Korda's London Films studios, where a family of Hungarian expatriates aspired to exalt their newly adopted country, its history and traditions, and also to out-Hollywood Hollywood. With this film, they realized both ambitions, in spades.

    A.E.W. Mason's novel of stiff-upper-lip honor and valor had already been filmed three times (and at least that many remakes have followed, superfluously). This is the only version that matters. On the eve of the British army's departure to reconquer the Sudan, a young lieutenant descended from a long line of military heroes resigns his commission and is tendered a white feather--the symbol of cowardice--by each of three brother officers. From his fiancée's plume he plucks a fourth, then fades out of their lives... to embark, a year later, on a private quest that will carry him down continents and through unimaginable sacrifice to hard-won redemption.

    John Clements (who never had much of a film career) is excellent as the tormented Harry Faversham. But it's Ralph Richardson, as Harry's romantic rival John Durrance (wonderful names!), you'll cherish--he and that spitting image of the Duke of Wellington, C. Aubrey Smith, whose blustery recollections of the Crimean War strike a satiric yet affectionate keynote. Directed by one Korda brother, Zoltan--who shot spectacular sequences in the Sudan--and exquisitely designed by another, Vincent, The Four Feathers is a Technicolor milestone, and its music score is an early triumph by one of the Kordas's legion of Hungarian-expatriate helpmates, Miklos Rosza. --Richard T. Jameson

    Directors:
    Zoltan Korda
    The Four Musketeers
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/1/2002
    Actors:
    Raquel Welch / Michael York
    Description:

    Amazon.com Richard Lester's 1975 sequel to his romping Three Musketeers--released the year before--reunites his swashbuckling cast for a decidedly less happy and more somber experience. This time, D'Artagnan (Michael York) and his Musketeer mentors (Richard Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay) have a tougher fight against their old enemies, and the adventure is not without its casualties. But the film is highly entertaining, filled with that same loony air that makes most films by Lester (How I Won the War, A Hard Day's Night, Help!) so much fun. The actors are with him every step of the way: Reed, Chamberlain, Finlay, and York are a heroic version of the Marx brothers, Raquel Welch was never better, and Charlton Heston clearly enjoys playing the evil Cardinal Richelieu. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Richard Lester
    The French Connection
    Release Date:
    2/8/2005
    Actors:
    Gene Hackman / Roy Scheider
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video William Friedkin's classic policier was propelled to box-office glory, and a fistful of Oscars, in 1972 by its pedal-to-the-metal filmmaking and fashionably cynical attitude toward law enforcement. Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle, a brutally pushy New York City narcotics detective, is a dauntless crime fighter and Vietnam-era "pig," a reckless vulgarian whose antics get innocent people killed. Loosely based upon an actual investigation that led to what was then the biggest heroin seizure in U.S. history, the picture traces the efforts of Doyle and his partner (Roy Scheider) to close the pipeline pumping Middle Eastern smack into the States through the French port of Marseilles. (The actual French Connection cops, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, make cameo appearances.) It was widely recognized at the time that Friedkin had lifted a lot of his high-strung technique from the Costa-Gavras thrillers The Sleeping Car Murders and Z--he even imported one of Costa-Gavras's favorite thugs, Marcel Bozzuffi, to play the Euro-trash hit man plugged by Doyle in an elevated train station. There was an impressive official sequel in 1975, French Connection II, directed by John Frankenheimer, which took Popeye to the south of France and got him hooked on horse. A couple of semi-official spinoffs followed, The Seven-Ups, which elevated Scheider to the leading role, and Badge 373, with Robert Duvall stepping in as the pugnacious flatfoot. --David Chute

    Directors:
    William Friedkin
    Friday Night Lights - The First Season
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/28/2007
    Actors:
    Kyle Chandler / Connie Britton / Zach Gilford
    Date Added:
    10/9/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com The first season of Friday Night Lights accomplishes something that few television dramas are able to do: It betters the 2004 film (starring Billy Bob Thornton) on which the series is based. Set in Dillon, Texas, where football--even on the high school level--is everything, Friday Night Lights is a compelling drama with a football subplot. Poignantly and effectively touching on racism, rape, steroids, jealousy, infidelity, and life-changing injuries, the series presents the inhabitants of Dillon as real people who are flawed, but remarkable in their ordinariness. Though the series struggled to find an audience during its inaugural year, it was a critical favorite thanks to some fine acting by leads Kyle Chandler (as Coach Eric Taylor) and Connie Britton (who portrays his wife, Tami). Coach Taylor's career depends on his ability to get the Dillon Panthers to the state championship. If the team suffers a losing streak, he knows his family, which includes daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden), will no longer be welcome in Dillon. Britton, who also played the coach's wife in the film version, is a phenomenal actress who shares simmering chemistry with Chandler. Not content at just being the coach's wife, she lands a job as a counselor at the local high school. That position plays a pivotal role in the season finale, which leaves viewers wondering whether Eric will leave Dillon to accept a coveted coaching job with a university. Though the majority of the twentysomething actors appear too mature to portray high school students, they have the mannerisms of teens down pat. Gaius Charles is perfect as cocky running back Brian "Smash" Williams, who'll risk his health to make sure he gets a football scholarship to college. Local sweethearts Jason Street (Scott Porter) and Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly) are the high school's golden couple. When a football injury leaves him paralyzed, he finds strength in what the future holds for him, but Lyla finds herself in a short-lived affair with Jason's best friend Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch). Once the relationship comes out in the open, their classmates' reactions to the "traitors" show that sexual inequality is rampant even in the teen set. Tim's teammates briefly ostracize him, but just as quickly forgive him, especially since he's so valuable on the football field. But Lyla becomes persona non grata to the girls at school who take too much glee in calling the head cheerleader a slut. The hits she takes verbally are no less lethal than the ones the boys take on the gridiron. And the tentative relationship between Julie Taylor and Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) is the best depiction of teenage love since Angela Chase fell for Jordan Catalano on My So-Called Life. The actors do a wonderful job conveying the sweetness, pain, and hurt of falling in love without really understanding all of its implications. Peter Berg, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, has a strong presence as a writer on the series and evenly distributes the storylines between the kids and the adults. Friday Night Lights is a drama with teenage characters at its core. But the stories are universal. --Jae-Ha Kim

    Description TV's hottest new drama, Friday Night Lights, touches down on DVD with all 22 Season One episodes in a 5-disc collection! In the small town of Dillon, everyone comes together on Friday nights when the Dillon High Panthers play. But life is not a game; and the charismatic players, new coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), and the passionate fans find that their biggest challenges and obstacles come off the field in the compelling day-to-day dramas of their tight-knit community. From producers Brian Grazer (The Da Vinci Code) and Peter Berg (The Kingdom) comes the critically acclaimed TV series based on the best-selling novel and hit theatrical movie. Discover why The Associated Press calls it "breathtaking in how it captures ordinary life set against extraordinary passions."

    From Russia With Love
    Front Cover
    Actors:
    Sean Connery / Lotte Lenya / Robert Shaw
    Description:

    Amazon.com Directed with consummate skill by Terence Young, the second James Bond spy thriller is considered by many fans to be the best of them all. Certainly Sean Connery was never better as the dashing Agent 007, whose latest mission takes him to Istanbul to retrieve a top-secret Russian decoding machine. His efforts are thwarted when he gets romantically distracted by a sexy Russian double agent (Daniela Bianchi), and is tracked by a lovely assassin (Lotte Lenya) with switchblade shoes, and by a crazed killer (Robert Shaw), who clashes with Bond during the film's dazzling climax aboard the Orient Express. From Russia with Love is classic James Bond, before the gadgets, pyrotechnics, and Roger Moore steered the movies away from the more realistic tone of the books by Ian Fleming. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Terence Young
    The Fugitive (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Harrison Ford / Tommy Lee Jones / Sela Ward / Julianne Moore / Joe Pantoliano / Andreas Katsulas / Jeroen Krabbé / Daniel Roebuck / L. Scott Caldwell / Tom Wood (II) / Ron Dean / Joseph F. Kosala / Miguel Nino / John Drummond / Tony Fosco / Joseph F. Fisher / James Liautuad / David Darlow / Tom Galouzis / James F. McKinsey
    Description:

    Amazon.com Do you know anyone who hasn't seen this movie? A box-office smash when released in 1993, this spectacular update of the popular 1960s TV series stars Harrison Ford as a surgeon wrongly accused of the murder of his wife. He escapes from a prison transport bus (in one of the most spectacular stunt-action sequences ever filmed) and embarks on a frantic quest for the true killer's identity, while a tenacious U.S. marshal (Tommy Lee Jones, in an Oscar-winning role) remains hot on his trail. Director Andrew Davis hit the big time with this expert display of polished style and escalating suspense, but it's the antagonistic chemistry between Jones and Ford that keeps this thriller cooking to the very end. In roles that seem custom-fit to their screen personas, the two stars maintain a sharply human focus to the grand-scale manhunt, and the intelligent screenplay never resorts to convenient escapes or narrative shortcuts. Equally effective as a thriller and a character study, this is a Hollywood blockbuster that truly deserves its ongoing popularity. --Jeff Shannon

    Description Catch him if you can. The Fugitive is on the run! Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones race through the breathless manhunt movie based on the classic TV series. Ford is prison escapee Dr. Richard Kimble, a Chicago surgeon falsely convicted of killing his wife and determined to prove his innocence by leading his pursuers to the one-armed man who actually committed the crime. Jones (1993 Academy Award and Golden Globe winner as Best Supporting Actor) is Sam Gerard, an unrelenting bloodhound of a U.S. Marshal. They are hunted and hunter. And as directed by Andrew Davis (Under Siege), their nonstop chase has one exhilarating speed: all-out. So catch him if you can. And catch an 11-on-a-scale-of-10 train wreck (yes, the train is real), a plunge down a waterfall, a cat-and-mouse jaunt through a Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade and much more. Better hurry. Kimble doesn't stay in one place very long!

    Directors:
    Andrew Davis
    Funny Face
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/10/2001
    Actors:
    Audrey Hepburn / Fred Astaire
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Fred Astaire plays a fashion photographer based on real-life cameraman Richard Avedon, in this entertaining musical directed by Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain). The story finds Astaire's character turning Audrey Hepburn into a chic Paris model--not a tough premise to buy, especially within this film's air of enchantment and surrounded by a great Gershwin score. Based on an unproduced play, this is one of the best films from the latter part of Astaire's career. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Stanley Donen
    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/18/2003
    Actors:
    Zero Mostel / Phil Silvers
    Description:

    Amazon.com "Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone: a comedy tonight!" Those words from the opening song pretty much describe the menu in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a frantic adaptation of the stage musical by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove. The wild story, set in ancient Rome, follows a slave named Pseudolus (Zero Mostel, snorting and gibbering) as he tries to extricate himself from an increasingly farcical situation; Mostel and a bevy of inspired clowns, including Phil Silvers, Jack Gilford, and Buster Keaton, keep the slapstick and the patter perking. The cast also includes the young Michael Crawford as a love-struck innocent. This project landed in the lap of Richard Lester, then one of the hottest directors in the world after his success with the Beatles' films. Lester telescoped the material through his own joke-a-second sensibility, and also ripped out some of the songs from Stephen Sondheim's Broadway score. The result is a pixilated romp and very close to the vaudeville spirit suggested by the title--though anyone with a low tolerance for Zero Mostel's overbearing buffoonery may be in trouble. Oddly enough, amidst all the frenzy, Lester creates a grungy, earthy Rome that seems closer to the real thing than countless respectable historical films on the subject. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Richard Lester
    Galaxy Quest
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/2/2000
    Actors:
    Patrick Breen / Jeffrey Howard / Kevin McDonald / Alan Rickman / Sam Rockwell
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video You don't have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy Galaxy Quest, but it certainly helps. A knowingly affectionate tribute to Trek and any other science fiction TV series of the 1960s and beyond, this crowd-pleasing comedy offers in-jokes at warp speed, hitting the bull's-eye for anyone who knows that (1) the starship captain always removes his shirt to display his manly physique; (2) any crew member not in the regular cast is dead meat; and (3) the heroes always stop the doomsday clock with one second to spare. So it is with Commander Taggart (Tim Allen) and the stalwart crew of the NSEA Protector, whose intergalactic exploits on TV have now been reduced to a dreary cycle of fan conventions and promotional appearances. That's when the Thermians arrive, begging to be saved from Sarris, the reptilian villain who threatens to destroy their home planet.

    Can actors rise to the challenge and play their roles for real? The Thermians are counting on it, having studied the "historical documents" of the Galaxy Quest TV show, and their hero worship (not to mention their taste for Monte Cristo sandwiches) is ultimately proven worthy, with the help of some Galaxy geeks on planet Earth. And while Galaxy Quest serves up great special effects and impressive Stan Winston creatures, director Dean Parisot (Home Fries) is never condescending, lending warm acceptance to this gentle send-up of sci-fi TV and the phenomenon of fandom. Best of all is the splendid cast, including Sigourney Weaver as buxom blonde Gwen DeMarco; Alan Rickman as frustrated thespian Alexander Dane; Tony Shalhoub as dimwit Fred Kwan; Daryl Mitchell as former child-star Tommy Webber; and Enrico Colantoni as Thermian leader Mathesar, whose sing-song voice is a comedic coup de grâce. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Dean Parisot
    Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/29/2001
    Actors:
    Jane Russell / Marilyn Monroe / Charles Coburn
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Anita Loos's old story from the 1920s about a pair of single women in search of husbands gets a makeover in Howard Hawks's 1953 musical, starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe as friends who go to Paris looking for mates. The film is charged by Hawks's stylish snap, a famous set piece or two (Monroe descending that staircase while singing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"), Russell's wit, and songs by Leo Robin and Jule Styne. The film may largely be a fluff project best remembered as a showcase for its leading actresses, but then Monroe and Russell rarely got such extended opportunities to prove that they were more than cinematic icons. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Howard Hawks
    Get Shorty
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/6/2003
    Actors:
    John Travolta / Gene Hackman / Rene Russo / Danny DeVito
    Description:

    Amazon.com Hailed by many critics as one of the best films of 1995, this finely tuned black comedy sparked a renewed interest in movies based on books by prolific crime novelist Elmore Leonard, whose trademark combination of tight plotting and sharp humor is perfectly captured here. After the success of Pulp Fiction, John Travolta continued his meteoric comeback as Chili Palmer, a Mob "mechanic" whose latest assignment takes him to Los Angeles, where his fascination with the movie business turns into a new career as a would-be movie producer. He pitches ideas with a sleazy producer (Gene Hackman) and a major star (Danny DeVito), and also finds time to deal with a vengeful Mobster (Dennis Farina) and assorted Hollywood types (including Renee Russo and Delroy Lindo) who all want their piece of a tempting show-biz pie. The plot unfolds with enticing precision, but it's really Elmore's snappy dialogue--and the performances that bring it to life--that make this one of the best comedies of the 1990s. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Barry Sonnenfeld
    Ghostbusters
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/26/2000
    Actors:
    Bill Murray / Dan Aykroyd / Sigourney Weaver
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the script, but Bill Murray gets all the best lines and moments in this 1984 comedy directed by Ivan Reitman (Meatballs). The three comics, plus Ernie Hudson, play the New York City-based team that provides supernatural pest control, and Sigourney Weaver is the love interest possessed by an ancient demon. Reitman and company are full of original ideas about hobgoblins--who knew they could "slime" people with green plasma goo?--but hovering above the plot is Murray's patented ironic view of all the action. Still a lot of fun, and an obvious model for sci-fi comedies such as Men in Black. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Ivan Reitman
    Giant (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Digipack)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/10/2003
    Actors:
    Elizabeth Taylor / Rock Hudson / James Dean / Carroll Baker / Jane Withers / Chill Wills / Mercedes McCambridge / Dennis Hopper / Sal Mineo / Rod Taylor / Judith Evelyn / Earl Holliman / Robert Nichols / Paul Fix / Alexander Scourby / Fran Bennett (II) / Charles Watts / Elsa Cárdenas / Carolyn Craig / Monte Hale
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video They call it Giant because everything in this picture is big, from the generous running time (more than 200 minutes) to the sprawling ranch location (a horizon-to-horizon plain with a lonely, modest mansion dropped in the middle) to the high-powered stars. Stocky Rock Hudson stars as the confident, stubborn young ranch baron Bick Benedict, who woos and wins the hand of Southern belle Elizabeth Taylor, a seemingly demure young beauty who proves to be Hudson's match after she settles into the family homestead. For many the film is chiefly remembered for James Dean's final performance, as poor former ranch hand Jett Rink, who strikes oil and transforms himself into a flamboyant millionaire playboy. Director George Stevens won his second Oscar for this ambitious, grandly realized (if sometimes slow moving) epic of the changing socioeconomic (and physical) landscape of modern Texas, based on Edna Ferber's bestselling novel. The talented supporting cast includes Mercedes McCambridge as Bick's frustrated sister, put out by the new "woman of the house"; Chill Wills as the Benedicts' garrulous rancher neighbor; Carroll Baker and Dennis Hopper as the Benedicts' rebellious children; and Earl Holliman and Sal Mineo as dedicated ranch hands. --Sean Axmaker

    Description Texan rancher Bick Benedict visits a Maryland farm to buy a prize horse. Whilst there he meets and falls in love with the owner's daughter Leslie, they are married immediately and return to his ranch. The story of their family and its rivalry with cowboy and (later oil tycoon) Jett Rink unfolds across two generations.

    Directors:
    George Stevens
    Gigi
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/2/2000
    Actors:
    Leslie Caron / Maurice Chevalier
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1958 direct-to-screen follow-up to their My Fair Lady was--miraculously--every bit as memorable as that stage smash. Set in fin-de-siècle Paris and based on a Colette story, Gigi also is about a girl (Leslie Caron) on a lower rung of society who blossoms into Cinderellahood before our eyes and ears. Thank heaven for Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier as her mentors, and Louis Jourdan as her prince. The screenplay writer and lyricist Lerner always said that Gigi's title song was his favorite of all he'd written, and it's easy to see why--"Gigi" is a transcendent anthem to being transformed by love from an unexpected source. The entire score, including "Say a Prayer" (which had been cut from My Fair Lady), "I Remember It Well," "The Night They Invented Champagne," and "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," comprise a sparkling, rare soundtrack recording that stands alone and can be enjoyed and understood by those who have not yet seen the movie, deprived souls that they are. The winner of nine Academy Awards (plus a special Oscar for Chevalier), including Best Picture, Gigi was the last great MGM movie musical and one of the best. --Robert Windeler

    Book Description A story of burgeoning womanhood and blossoming love, Colette's masterpiece reveals the author's grasp of the politics of relationships. With music, drama, and the charm of French-inflected English, this unabridged novella follows Gigi's training as a courtesan. Leslie Caron, the star of the best-loved film based on Gigi brings to life the Paris of 1899 in all its sensuous detail. 2 cassettes.

    Directors:
    Charles Walters / Vincente Minnelli
    Gilda
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/10/2004
    Actors:
    Rita Hayworth / Rita Hayworth / Glenn Ford
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video All film noirs need deceit, betrayal, dialogue hard as diamonds--and dames even harder than that. But Gilda is the only one with the dame front and center, and for good reason. Rita Hayworth shimmers in the 1946 classic, which spins on a tortured plot involving the title character (Hayworth); her imperious husband (George Macready), a ruthless casino owner and head of an Argentine tungsten cartel (!); and Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford), Gilda's ex-lover and now her husband's go-fer. But no one watches Gilda for the plot, except to learn that all the characters have secrets--perhaps even ones they would kill for. Hayworth captures Gilda's vulnerability beneath her devil-may-care front ("If I'd been a ranch, they would have named me the Bar Nothing"). Not to be missed: Hayworth's slinky striptease to "Put the Blame on Mame." --Anne Hurley

    Directors:
    Charles Vidor
    The Girl in the Cafe
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/6/2005
    Actors:
    Bill Nighy / Kelly Macdonald / Meneka Das / Anton Lesser / Paul Ritter
    Date Added:
    9/21/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com As a pop star on the comeback trail, Bill Nighy handily stole Love Actually away from his more famous co-stars. In BBC/HBO co-production The Girl in the Café, he takes the lead--and runs with it. Written by Richard Curtis (Notting Hill), the offbeat political-romance concerns Lawrence, a 57-year-old Londoner with a successful governmental career and nonexistent social life. One day he stops in a café and meets the mysterious, considerably younger Gina (Kelly Macdonald, Trainspotting). To their mutual amazement, they hit it off and agree to meet again (and yet again). Then he invites her to accompany him to the G8 Summit in Reykjavík, where she upends his carefully ordered world in ways both wonderful and terrible. Suddenly this "man who has nothing in his life but his work" must find a way to make room for something "tender and true." With Corin Redgrave as the Prime Minister. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

    Description He's a shy civil servant (Bill Nighy, Love Actually) working for the British delegation to the 2005 G8 Summit. She's an alluring young woman (Kelly McDonald, Finding Neverland) he meets at a cafe - and invites her to the Summit on a whim. Together, this unlikely couple might just change history.

    Directors:
    David Yates (II)
    Glory (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/30/2001
    Description:

    Amazon.com One of the very best films about the Civil War, this instant classic from 1989 is also one of the few films to depict the participation of African American soldiers in Civil War combat. Based in part on the books Lay This Laurel by Lincoln Kirstein and One Gallant Rush by Peter Burchard, the film also draws from the letters of Robert Gould Shaw (played by Matthew Broderick), the 25-year-old son of Boston abolitionists who volunteered to command the all-black 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Their training and battle experience leads them to their final assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina, where their heroic bravery turned bitter defeat into a symbolic victory that brought recognition to black soldiers and turned the tide of the war. With painstaking attention to historical detail and richness of character, the film boasts superior performances by Denzel Washington (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, and Andre Braugher. Directed by Edward Zwick (co-creator of the TV series thirtysomething), this unforgettable drama is as important as Schindler's List in its treatment of a noble yet little-known episode of history. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Edward Zwick
    The Godfather DVD Collection
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/23/2004
    Actors:
    Marlon Brando / Al Pacino / Robert De Niro / Al Pacino
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Throughout his long, wandering, often distinguished career Francis Ford Coppola has made many films that are good and fine, many more that are flawed but undeniably interesting, and a handful of duds that are worth viewing if only because his personality is so flagrantly absent. Yet he is and always shall be known as the man who directed the Godfather films, a series that has dominated and defined their creator in a way perhaps no other director can understand. Coppola has never been able to leave them alone, whether returning after 15 years to make a trilogy of the diptych, or re-editing the first two films into chronological order for a separate video release as The Godfather Saga. The films are our very own Shakespearean cycle: they tell a tale of a vicious mobster and his extended personal and professional families (once the stuff of righteous moral comeuppance), and they dared to present themselves with an epic sweep and an unapologetically tragic tone. Murder, it turned out, was a serious business. The first film remains a towering achievement, brilliantly cast and conceived. The entry of Michael Corleone into the family business, the transition of power from his father, the ruthless dispatch of his enemies--all this is told with an assurance that is breathtaking to behold. And it turned out to be merely prologue; two years later The Godfather, Part II balanced Michael's ever-greater acquisition of power and influence during the fall of Cuba with the story of his father's own youthful rise from immigrant slums. The stakes were higher, the story's construction more elaborate, and the isolated despair at the end wholly earned. (Has there ever been a cinematic performance greater than Al Pacino's Michael, so smart and ambitious, marching through the years into what he knows is his own doom with eyes open and hungry?) The Godfather, Part III was mostly written off as an attempted cash-in, but it is a wholly worthy conclusion, less slow than autumnally patient and almost merciless in the way it brings Michael's past sins crashing down around him even as he tries to redeem himself. --Bruce Reid

    Directors:
    Francis Ford Coppola
    Godzilla
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/23/2004
    Actors:
    Matthew Broderick / Jean Reno
    Description:

    Amazon.com Godzilla's return to the big screen mixes old and new; this monster of a flick infuses '90s special effects into the classic tale of a lizard gone awry. In effect, the movie's soundtrack embraces a similar resurrection: established artists either breathing new life into well-worn tunes or showcasing exclusive tracks and new lineups. And, like the movie, the soundtrack only succeeds on certain levels. The Wallflowers' recording of David Bowie's "Heroes" (the album's single) is hardly groundbreaking, and the predictable Puffdaddy treatment to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" drags on. The Foo Fighters, here in their first recording to feature new guitarist Franz Stahl, take a mellow pop tromp. Ben Folds Five's "Air" and Green Day's "Brain Stew," the latter remixed especially for Godzilla, are the album highlights. As the saying goes, sometimes bigger isn't better. --Jason Verlinde

    Directors:
    Roland Emmerich
    Going My Way/Holiday Inn
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/24/2004
    Actors:
    Bing Crosby / Barry Fitzgerald
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Going My Way
    This irresistible Oscar winner from writer-director Leo McCarey (An Affair to Remember) stars Bing Crosby as a low-key, crooning priest who joins the parish of a no-nonsense but sweet old Irish man of the cloth (Barry Fitzgerald). While Bing turns local toughs into a choir, the elder priest worries over the church building fund and whether he'll get a chance to see his old mother back in Ireland before she dies. One would have to have a heart of stone not to be won over by this charmer, with a lovely ending guaranteed to make you bawl for a week. --Tom Keogh

    Holiday Inn
    This perennial, Christmas-season favorite from 1942 teamed Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as entertainers (and rival suitors of Marjorie Reynolds) running an inn that is only open on holidays. It's a great excuse for lots of singing and dancing, seamlessly wrapped in a catchy story, and Astaire's frequent director Mark Sandrich (Top Hat, Shall We Dance) doesn't let us down. The Irving Berlin numbers (each one connected to a different holiday) are winners, with Crosby's warm performance of "White Christmas" a movie touchstone. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Leo McCarey
    Goldeneye (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/22/2002
    Actors:
    Pierce Brosnan / Sean Bean / Izabella Scorupco
    Description:

    Amazon.com The 18th James Bond adventure was a runaway box-office success when released in 1995, thanks to the arrival of Pierce Brosnan as the fifth actor (following the departure of Timothy Dalton) to play the suave, danger-loving Agent 007. This James Bond is a bit more vulnerable and psychologically complex--and just a shade more politically correct--but he's still a formally attired playboy at heart, with a lovely Russian beauty (Izabella Scorupco) as his sexy ally against a cadre of renegade Russians bent on--what else?--global domination. There's also a seductive villainous with the suggestive name of Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), and the great actress Judi Dench makes her first appearance as Bond's superior, M, who wisecracks about 007's "dinosaur" status as a globetrotting sexist. All in all, this action-packed Bond adventure provided a much-needed boost the long-running movie series, revitalizing the 007 franchise for the turn of the millennium. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Martin Campbell
    Goldfinger (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/22/2002
    Actors:
    Sean Connery / Honor Blackman / Gert Fröbe
    Description:

    Amazon.com To own Goldfinger (1964) on digital video disc is to have at your fingertips the proof that Sean Connery is the definitive James Bond. Dry as ice, dripping with deadpan witticisms, only Connery's Bond would dare disparage the Beatles, that other 1964 phenomenon. No one but Connery can believably seduce women so effortlessly, kill with almost as much ease, and then pull another bottle of Dom Perignon '53 out of the fridge. Goldfinger contains many of the most memorable scenes in the Bond series: gorgeous Shirley Eaton (as Jill Masterson) coated in gold paint by evil Auric Goldfinger and deposited in Bond's bed; silent Oddjob, flipping a razor-sharp derby like a Frisbee to sever heads; our hero spread-eagle on a table while a laser beam moves threateningly toward his crotch. Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore is the prototype for the series' rash of man-hating supermodels. And Desmond Llewelyn makes his first appearance as Q, giving Bond what is still his most impressive car, a snazzy little number that fires off smoke screens, punctures the tires of vehicles on the chase, and boasts a handy ejector seat. Goldfinger's two climaxes, inside Fort Knox and aboard a private plane, have to be seen to be believed. --Raphael Shargel

    Directors:
    Guy Hamilton
    Gone with the Wind
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/7/2005
    Actors:
    Clark Gable / Vivien Leigh
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video David O. Selznick wanted Gone with the Wind to be somehow more than a movie, a film that would broaden the very idea of what a film could be and do and look like. In many respects he got what he worked so hard to achieve in this 1939 epic (and all-time box-office champ in terms of tickets sold), and in some respects he fell far short of the goal. While the first half of this Civil War drama is taut and suspenseful and nostalgic, the second is ramshackle and arbitrary. But there's no question that the film is an enormous achievement in terms of its every resource--art direction, color, sound, cinematography--being pushed to new limits for the greater glory of telling an American story as fully as possible. Vivien Leigh is still magnificently narcissistic, Olivia de Havilland angelic and lovely, Leslie Howard reckless and aristocratic. As for Clark Gable: we're talking one of the most vital, masculine performances ever committed to film. --Tom Keogh

    Description Vivien Leigh is Scarlett to Clark Gable's Rhett in cinema's greatest epic of passion and adventure. With its immortal cast, magnificent cinematography and sweeping score, this cherished classic continues to thrill audiences today. Year: 1939

    Directors:
    Sam Wood / George Cukor / Victor Fleming
    Good News
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/19/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com Tait College football captain Tommy Marlowe (Peter Lawford) is used to getting any girl he wants. When new coed Pat McClellan (Patricia Marshall) arrives on campus sporting racy fashions and pseudo-French phrases, he decides he wants her. But Pat only has eyes for men with millions, so Tommy enlists sweet Connie Lane (June Allyson), Pat's sorority sister who is working her way through Tait as an assistant librarian, to help him learn French. Tommy falls for down-to-Earth Connie, who falls for him right back, but his ego gets in the way when Pat does a turnabout and decides she does want him after all.

    Based on the Broadway play and 1930s musical, Good News is an enthusiastic, good-hearted romp through late-'20s college life. Broadway actress Joan McCracken as Connie's roommate Babe Doolittle exudes energy as she leads nearly all the musical numbers, particularly shining in "Good News" and "Pass the Peace Pipe." A young Mel Tormé sings a lovely reprise of "The Best Things in Life Are Free," and one of the signature songs, "The Varsity Drag," is led by Allyson and Lawford showcasing their dancing and singing talents (Lawford is a better hoofer than vocalist). Though the movie seems mainly constructed around the musical numbers, the writing is sharp and the cast members seems to be enjoying themselves. Director Charles Walters went on to direct Easter Parade and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green would make their mark with, among others, On the Town and Singin' in the Rain. --Dana Van Nest

    Directors:
    Charles Walters
    Gosford Park
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/25/2002
    Actors:
    Eileen Atkins / Alan Bates / Charles Dance / Stephen Fry / Michael Gambon / Richard E. Grant / Derek Jacobi / Helen Mirren / Clive Owen / Meg Wynn Owen / Kristin Scott Thomas / Maggie Smith / Geraldine Somerville / Sophie Thompson / Frank Thornton / James Wilby / Bob Balaban / George Sherman / John Fountain / Joanna Maude
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Gosford Park finds director Robert Altman in sumptuously fine form indeed. From the opening shots, as the camera peers through the trees at an opulent English country estate, Altman exploits the 1930s period setting and whodunit formula of the film expertly. Aristocrats gather together for a weekend shooting party with their dutiful servants in tow, and the upstairs/downstairs division of the classes is perfectly tailored to Altman's method (as employed in Nashville and Short Cuts) of overlapping bits of dialogue and numerous subplots in order to betray underlying motives and the sins that propel them. Greed, vengeance, snobbery, and lust stir comic unrest as the near dizzying effect of brisk script turns is allayed by perhaps Altman's strongest ensemble to date. First and foremost, Maggie Smith is marvelous as Constance, a dependent countess with a quip for every occasion; Michael Gambon, as the ill-fated host, Sir William McCordle, is one of the most palpably salacious characters ever on screen; Kristin Scott Thomas is perfectly cold yet sexy as Lady Sylvia, Sir William's wife; and Helen Mirren, Emily Watson, and Clive Owen are equally memorable as key characters from the bustling servants' quarters below. Gosford Park manages to be fabulously entertaining while exposing human shortcomings, compromises, and our endless need for confession. --Fionn Meade

    Product Description In GOSFORD PARK, Robert Altman explores the English class system and master-servant relations via his preferred modus operandi of multiple characters and intertwining storylines, which he achieved so brilliantly in NASHVILLE. Featuring an all-star British

    Directors:
    Robert Altman
    The Graduate (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/8/2004
    Actors:
    Anne Bancroft / Dustin Hoffman
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Few films have defined a generation as The Graduate did. The alienation, the nonconformity, the intergenerational romance, the blissful Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack--they all served to lob a cultural grenade smack into the middle of 1967 America, ultimately making the film the third most profitable up to that time. Seen from a later perspective, its radical chicness has dimmed a bit, yet it's still a joy to see Dustin Hoffman's bemused Benjamin and Anne Bancroft's deliciously decadent, sardonic Mrs. Robinson. The script by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham is still offbeat and dryly funny, and Mike Nichols, who won an Oscar for his direction, has just the right, light touch. --Anne Hurley

    Directors:
    Mike Nichols
    The Grass Is Greener
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/26/2002
    Actors:
    Cary Grant / Deborah Kerr / Robert Mitchum / Jean Simmons
    Description:

    Amazon.com Cary Grant is the befuddled English earl casually puttering around his tourist attraction of a grand old estate in casual dress while a bull of an American millionaire (Robert Mitchum) crashes into his life and seduces Grant's sophisticated lady (Deborah Kerr). It's pure fantasy, of course, with its cool, cultured lovers swapping witty banter with the same calm they swap gunshots in an old-fashioned duel. Have adultery and jealousy ever been so civilized? Stanley Donen never shakes this very British drawing-room comedy of manners free of its talky, stagebound source or its deliberate snail's pace, but he does manages to bring a lightness that softens the wit with an American lilt. Ultimately, though, it's all about a crack cast in fine form: Mitchum's sleepy-eyed insolence, Kerr's easy elegance, Jean Simmons's flighty outrageousness, and especially the charm and measured grace that is Cary Grant. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    Stanley Donen
    The Great New Wonderful
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/12/2006
    Actors:
    Maggie Gyllenhaal / Thomas McCarthy / Judy Greer / Naseeruddin Shah / Sharat Saxena
    Description:

    Amazon.com A rich portrait of life in New York in the wake of disaster, The Great New Wonderful offers a kind of compassion rare in film. Five storylines intertwine--including competitive pastry chefs (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Secretary, and Edie Falco, The Sopranos), an elderly woman (Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck) realizing she can't stand her lumpish husband, and a middle-class parents (Judy Greer, Arrested Development, and Tom McCarthy, Syriana) coping with their increasingly sociopathic child--all of them thick with brilliantly observed social tension. As a therapist (Tony Shalhoub, Big Night) questions a patient (Jim Gaffigan), it's ambiguous whether he's diagnosing the patient's anger or actually causing it. The Great New Wonderful makes compelling drama out of the subtle discords of commonplace life, the kind of frustration and hostility that rises up constantly but has to be tamped back down in order to get through the day--but in the aftermath of a catastrophe like 9/11, the smallest things become unbearable. The Great New Wonderful doesn't rise to the scope of Robert Altman's best work (like Nashville), but it successfully avoids the forced pretensions of other ensemble pieces like Magnolia. Subtlety is too often invoked to excuse a lack of substance, but this movie genuinely makes small nuances tangible and compelling. --Bret Fetzer

    Description Maggie Gyllenhaal, Edie Falco, Tony Shaloub, Stephen Colbert and Olympia Dukakis star in this lighthearted comedy about life in New York City one year following 9/11. It's a comedy about starting over.

    Directors:
    Danny Leiner
    The Greatest Show on Earth
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/6/2004
    Actors:
    Lillian Albertson / Lyle Bettger / Robert Carson / Antoinette Concello / Cucciola
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video The Greatest Show on Earth is a heaping helping of flapdoodle served up by one of Hollywood's canniest entertainers: producer-director Cecil B. DeMille. This overripe melodrama purports to be life inside the Ringling Brothers Circus; maybe it's not, but the circus ought to be like this. The actors wrestling with the purple dialogue are: early-career Charlton Heston, as the tough-as-nails circus manager; Cornel Wilde and Betty Hutton as trapeze artistes; and Gloria Grahame (who won an Oscar), dangling from elephants. Best of all, James Stewart plays a clown who--for mysterious reasons--never removes his makeup. (Stewart took the supporting role simply because he'd always wanted to play a clown.) This is a fried-baloney sandwich of a movie: it ain't sophisticated, and probably isn't good for you, but once you start you can't stop. It was the box-office champ of 1952, and it shocked everybody by winning the best picture Oscar. --Robert Horton

    The Green Mile
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/14/2004
    Actors:
    Tom Hanks / Michael Clarke Duncan
    Description:

    Amazon.com "The book was better" has been the complaint of many a reader since the invention of movies. Frank Darabont's second adaptation of a Stephen King prison drama (The Shawshank Redemption was the first) is a very faithful adaptation of King's serial novel. In the middle of the Depression, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) runs death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary. Into this dreary world walks a mammoth prisoner, John Coffey (Michael Duncan) who, very slowly, reveals a special gift that will change the men working and dying (in the electric chair, masterfully and grippingly staged) on the mile . As with King's book, Darabont takes plenty of time to show us Edgecomb's world before delving into John Coffey's mystery. With Darabont's superior storytelling abilities, his touch for perfect casting, and a leisurely 188-minute running time, his movie brings to life nearly every character and scene from the novel. Darabont even improves the novel's two endings, creating a more emotionally satisfying experience. The running time may try patience, but those who want a story, as opposed to quick-fix entertainment, will be rewarded by this finely tailored tale. --Doug Thomas

    Directors:
    Frank Darabont
    Groundhog Day
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/6/2001
    Actors:
    Bill Murray / Andie MacDowell
    Description:

    Amazon.com Bill Murray does warmth in his most consistently effective post-Stripes comedy, a romantic fantasy about a wacky weatherman forced to relive one strange day over and over again, until he gets it right. Snowed in during a road-trip expedition to watch the famous groundhog encounter his shadow, Murray falls into a time warp that is never explained but pays off so richly that it doesn't need to be. The elaborate loop-the-loop plot structure cooked up by screenwriter Danny Rubin is crystal-clear every step of the way, but it's Murray's world-class reactive timing that makes the jokes explode, and we end up looking forward to each new variation. He squeezes all the available juice out of every scene. Without forcing the issue, he makes us understand why this fly-away personality responds so intensely to the radiant sanity of the TV producer played by Andie MacDowell. The blissfully clueless Chris Elliott (Cabin Boy) is Murray's nudnik cameraman. --David Chute

    Directors:
    Harold Ramis
    Guys and Dolls
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/18/2003
    Actors:
    Marlon Brando / Jean Simmons / Frank Sinatra
    Description:

    Amazon.com Joseph Mankiewicz's brightly stylized film of Frank Loesser's classic musical (based on the stories of Damon Runyon) casts the criminal underworld as a harmless fantasy in this whimsical vision of the Big Apple. Nonsingers Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons acquit themselves fine in the lead roles as high-rolling gambler Sky Masterson and Salvation Army missionary Sarah Brown. It's odd casting, to say the least. Frank Sinatra, who plays the good old reliable Nathan Detroit (who runs "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York") is left with novelty tunes while husky Brando delivers the love songs and hits, including "Luck Be a Lady." But in the context of the colorful dialogue and comically affected speech patterns (a giddy gangster-speak straight out of Runyon's breezy stories) the song performances aren't the least out of place. Stubby Kaye, reprising his role as Nicely Nicely from the Broadway run, practically steals the show in his few scenes and his show-stopping solo "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat." The film is overlong at two and a half hours and somewhat stagily confined in the stylized, studio-bound sets--perhaps the mark of a director who had never helmed a musical before--but a terrific cast of eccentrics and Michael Kidd's high-energy choreography gives the film a memorable and enchanting character. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    Joseph L. Mankiewicz
    Gypsy
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/2/2000
    Actors:
    Rosalind Russell / Natalie Wood
    Description:

    Amazon.com Widely considered, top to bottom, one of the finest musicals in Broadway history, Gypsy got lucky in its film version. Granted, Rosalind Russell doesn't have the bell-ringing voice one craves for in "Everything's Coming Up Roses," but as a domineering stage mom, she's truly fearsome. Trouping through vaudeville with her is her daughter, the future celebrity stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, played by Natalie Wood in all her youthful lusciousness. The production is studio-bound, but this actually fits the unreal show-biz world depicted. The Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim score has no weak spots, and some of the burlesque numbers ("Let Me Entertain You" and the riotous "You Gotta Get a Gimmick") are so authentic, you'd swear they were at least 100 years old. Gypsy is one of those big, somewhat stately musicals that does satisfying credit to its stage origins; no cinematic ground-breaking here, but a swell way to spend a rainy afternoon. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Mervyn LeRoy
    Hans Christian Andersen
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/29/1998
    Actors:
    Danny Kaye / Farley Granger
    Description:

    Amazon.com Of all the Danny Kaye movies, this musical biography of the legendary vagabond storyteller is definitely the most poignant, extending the performer's range far beyond his usual comic shtick. It may not be as funny as Wonder Man, but it has so much more going for it. In fact, the film is really more about Kaye than Andersen, providing rare insight into his humanitarian ideals and rapport with children. The Frank Loesser score is beautiful, as is the Technicolor cinematography. Among the songs performed, "Inchworm," "Thumbelina," and "Ugly Duckling" are the standout favorites. --Bill Desowitz

    Directors:
    Charles Vidor
    Happy Go Lovely
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/6/2001
    Directors:
    H. Bruce Humberstone
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Widescreen Edition) (Harry Potter 2)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/6/2005
    Actors:
    Daniel Radcliffe / Rupert Grint / Emma Watson (II)
    Description:

    Amazon.com First sequels are the true test of an enduring movie franchise, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets passes with flying colors. Expanding upon the lavish sets, special effects, and grand adventure of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry's second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry involves a darker, more malevolent tale (parents with younger children beware), beginning with the petrified bodies of several Hogwarts students and magical clues leading Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) to a 50-year-old mystery in the monster-laden Chamber of Secrets. House elves, squealing mandrakes, giant spiders, and venomous serpents populate this loyal adaptation (by Sorcerer's Stone director Chris Columbus and screenwriter Steve Kloves), and Kenneth Branagh delightfully tops the supreme supporting cast as the vainglorious charlatan Gilderoy Lockhart (be sure to view past the credits for a visual punchline at Lockhart's expense). At 161 minutes, the film suffers from lack of depth and uneven pacing, and John Williams' score mostly reprises established themes. The young, fast-growing cast offers ample compensation, however, as does the late Richard Harris in his final screen appearance as Professor Albus Dumbledore. Brimming with cleverness, wonderment, and big-budget splendor, Chamber honors the legacy of J.K. Rowling's novels. --Jeff Shannon

    Description The next installment in the Harry Potter series finds young wizard Harry Potter (DANIEL RADCLIFFE) and his friends Ron Weasley (RUPERT GRINT) and Hermione Granger (EMMA WATSON) facing new challenges during their second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as they try to uncover a dark force that is terrorizing the school.

    DVD Features:
    DVD ROM Features:Over 15 animated puzzles, sliders, screensavers, matching challenges and magical trading cards.Keep track of events with the Hogwarts official, animated timeline
    Deleted Scenes:19 additional/extended scenes
    Interviews:Exclusive interview with author J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves.Interviews with actors who play Harry, Ron, Hermione and other students and professors
    Other:Escape the Forbidden Forest, sneak into the Chamber and visit Lockhart's classroomCrystal-clear self-guided tours of the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore's Office and Diagon Alley.

    Directors:
    Chris Columbus
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/11/2007
    Actors:
    Timothy Bateson / Helena Bonham Carter / Robbie Coltrane / Warwick Davis / Ralph Fiennes
    Date Added:
    12/11/2007
    Description:

    Description Lord Voldemort has returned, but few want to believe it. In fact, the Ministry of Magic is doing everything it can to keep the wizarding world from knowing the truth - including appointing Ministry official Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. When Professor Umbridge refuses to train her students in practical defensive magic, a select group of students decides to learn on their own. With Harry Potter as their leader, these students (who call themselves "Dumbledore's Army") meet secretly in a hidden room at Hogwarts to hone their wizarding skills in preparation for battle with the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters. . New adventure - more dangerous , more thrilling than ever - is yours in this enthralling film version of the fifth novel in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. A terrifying showdown between good and evil awaits. Prepare for battle!

    HARRY POTTER characters, names, and related indicia are trademarks of and (c) Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights (c) J.K.R. (c) 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2-Disc Widescreen Edition) (Harry Potter 3)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/6/2005
    Actors:
    Daniel Radcliffe / Rupert Grint / Emma Watson (II)
    Description:

    Amazon.com Some movie-loving wizards must have cast a magic spell on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, because it's another grand slam for the Harry Potter franchise. Demonstrating remarkable versatility after the arthouse success of Y Tu Mamá También, director Alfonso Cuarón proves a perfect choice to guide Harry, Hermione, and Ron into treacherous puberty as the now 13-year-old students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry face a new and daunting challenge: Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison, and for reasons yet unknown (unless, of course, you've read J.K. Rowling's book, considered by many to be the best in the series), he's after Harry in a bid for revenge. This dark and dangerous mystery drives the action while Harry (the fast-growing Daniel Radcliffe) and his third-year Hogwarts classmates discover the flying hippogriff Buckbeak (a marvelous CGI creature), the benevolent but enigmatic Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), horrifying black-robed Dementors, sneaky Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), and the wonderful advantage of having a Time-Turner just when you need one. The familiar Hogwarts staff returns in fine form (including the delightful Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the goggle-eyed Sybil Trelawney), and even Julie Christie joins this prestigious production for a brief but welcome cameo. Technically dazzling, fast-paced, and chock-full of Rowling's boundless imagination (loyally adapted by ace screenwriter Steve Kloves), The Prisoner of Azkaban is a Potter-movie classic. --Jeff Shannon

    Description In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry, Ron and Hermione, now teenagers, return for their third year at Hogwarts, where they are forced to face escaped prisoner, Sirius Black, who poses a great threat to Harry. Harry and his friends spend their third year learning how to handle a half-horse half-eagle Hippogriff, repel shape-shifting Boggarts and master the art of Divination. They also visit the wizarding village of Hogsmeade and the Shrieking Shack, which is considered the most haunted building in Britain. In addition to these new experiences, Harry must overcome the threats of the soul-sucking Dementors, outsmart a dangerous werewolf and finally deal with the truth about Sirius Black and his relationship to Harry and his parents. With his best friends, Harry masters advanced magic, crosses the barriers of time and changes the course of more than one life. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron and based on J.K. Rowling 's third book, this wondrous spellbinder soars with laughs, and the kind of breathless surprise only found in a Harry Potter adventure.

    DVD Features:
    3D Animated Menus
    Challenges:Three great interactive challenges! Test your memory with "Magic You May Have Missed", help Crookshanks "Catch Scabbers", and go on an unexpected quest with Sir Cadogan.
    DVD ROM Features:Wizard Trading Cards.Hogwarts Timeline.
    Deleted Scenes:A selection of mystifying exclusive never-before-seen footage
    Featurette:Conjuring a Scene - an in-depth look at the making of key scenes from the filmMeet the animal trainers from the movie in Care of Magical Creatures.
    Interviews:Raucous interviews with the cast lead by Johnny Vaughan and the Shrunken HeadCreating the Vision - a revealing interview with J.K. Rowling and the filmmakers.
    Other:Self-guided iPIX tours into Honeydukes and Professor Lupin's Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Choir Practice - sing-along with the Hogwarts choir.Hogwarts Portrait Gallery - get a closer look at the various portraits lining the walls of Hogwarts castle. Electronic Arts game preview.
    Theatrical Trailer:Harry Potter 1, Harry Potter 2, Harry Potter 3

    Directors:
    Alfonso Cuarón
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Widescreen Special Edition) (Harry Potter 1)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/16/2005
    Actors:
    Daniel Radcliffe
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Here's an event movie that holds up to being an event. This filmed version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, adapted from the wildly popular book by J.K. Rowling, stunningly brings to life Harry Potter's world of Hogwarts, the school for young witches and wizards. The greatest strength of the film comes from its faithfulness to the novel, and this new cinematic world is filled with all the details of Rowling's imagination, thanks to exuberant sets, elaborate costumes, clever makeup and visual effects, and a crème de la crème cast, including Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, and more. Especially fine is the interplay between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his schoolmates Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), as well as his protector, the looming Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). The second-half adventure--involving the titular sorcerer's stone--doesn't translate perfectly from page to screen, ultimately because of the film's fidelity to the novel; this is a case of making a movie for the book's fans, as opposed to a transcending film. Writer Steve Kloves and director Chris Columbus keep the spooks in check, making this a true family film, and with its resourceful hero wide-eyed and ready, one can't wait for Harry's return. Ages 8 and up. --Doug Thomas

    Description In this enchanting film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's delightful bestseller, Harry Potter learns on his 11th birthday that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and posseses magical powers of his own. At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. He learns the high-flying sport Quidditch and plays a thrilling game with living chess pieces on his way to face a Dark Wizard bent on destroying him. For the most extraordinary adventure, see you on Platform 9 3/4!

    DVD Features:
    DVD ROM Features:Be sorted by the Sorting HatCollect wizard trading cardsDownload Quidditch screensaver and your own RemembrallReceive Owl email messagesSample game demos and much more!
    Deleted Scenes:Never-before-seen footage
    Featurette:Self-guided tour of Hogwarts, including the Gryffindor common room, the Great Hall, Harry's room, and Hagrid's hut controlled by your own remote.Learn to play Quidditch with an original Quidditch montage featuring Oliver Wood and Harry.Meet the ghosts of Hogwarts.Open a Screaming Book, enjoy video highlights of students and professors, and much more!
    Interactive Menus
    Interviews:Interviews with Director Chirs Columbus and Producer David Heyman
    Other:Catch a Snitch with your remote!Have a wand choose you at Ollivanders Wands.Cast a spell over a scene and in eight languages with "Harry Potter throughout the world".Create potions correctly or wind up in the infirmary.Sneak past Fluffy and other challenges to reveal the secret in the Mirror of Erised.
    Scene Access
    Theatrical Trailer

    Directors:
    Chris Columbus
    Heartbreak Ridge
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/1/2002
    Actors:
    Clint Eastwood / Marsha Mason
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video The controversial, Reagan-era invasion of Grenada by U.S. troops is, oddly enough, at the center of this initially interesting story of a seasoned Marine sergeant (Clint Eastwood) routinely insulted by younger officers for being a symbol of the war that America "lost" in Vietnam. Looking for both a victory and a little redemption, Eastwood's character trains a squadron of scrappy pups and turns them into fighting grunts, just in time to follow White House orders and take the little island. Marsha Mason plays Eastwood's love interest, and Mario Van Peebles is funny as an undisciplined con artist who joins Clint's men and finally catches the spirit after getting his butt kicked a few times. --Tom Keogh

    Description After serving in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway finds himself with a collection of medals and no war to fight. Training a new group of Marines that are more green than mean, Highway complicates matters by attempting to reconcile with his former wife, Aggie. Rekindling the spark in his failed marriage won't be easy with a crisis brewing in Grenada and his pathetic platoon far from ready.

    DVD Features:
    Filmographies:Cast/Screenwriter Film Highlights
    Interactive Menus
    Scene Access
    Theatrical Trailer

    Directors:
    Clint Eastwood
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch (New Line Platinum Series)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/11/2001
    Actors:
    John Cameron Mitchell / Miriam Shor
    Description:

    Amazon.com Sometimes grace and hope come in surprising packages. The title character of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a would-be glam-rock star from East Germany, undergoes a botched gender-change operation in order to escape from the Soviet bloc, only to watch the Berlin Wall come down on TV after being abandoned in a trailer park in middle America. Hedwig gets involved with Tommy, an adolescent boy who steals her songs and becomes a stadium-filling musical act. Suffering from a broken heart and a lust for revenge, Hedwig follows Tommy's tour, playing with her band (the Angry Inch) at tacky theme restaurants. Into this simple storyline, writer-director-star John Cameron Mitchell packs an astonishing mix of sadness, yearning, humor, and kick-ass songs with a little Platonic philosophy tucked inside for good measure. A visually dazzling gem of a movie. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    John Cameron Mitchell
    High Crimes
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/17/2004
    Actors:
    Ashley Judd / Morgan Freeman / James Caviezel
    Description:

    Amazon.com A welcomed reunion of Kiss the Girls costars Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman makes High Crimes a worthwhile thriller with vivid, likable characters. Efficiently directed by Carl Franklin, this military mystery doesn't have the unpredictable edginess of Franklin's Devil in a Blue Dress, but its twisting plot is sure to hold anyone's attention. Judd plays a successful, happily married lawyer whose husband (Jim Caviezel) is accused of killing innocent citizens during his military service in El Salvador some 13 years earlier. A cover-up implicates a powerful Brigadier General (Bruce Davison), but when Judd hires a maverick attorney (Freeman), Judd is caught in a potentially lethal trap of threats and deception. Attentive viewers will stay ahead of the action, and alleged villains are posed as obvious decoys. Still, Judd and Freeman have an appealing rapport (shared with Amanda Peet, playing Judd's vivacious sister), and Freeman's character flaws add worldly spice to yet another rich performance. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Carl Franklin
    High Fidelity
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/8/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com Transplanted from England to the not-so-mean streets of Chicago, the screen adaptation of Nick Hornby's cult-classic novel High Fidelity emerges unscathed from its Americanization, idiosyncrasies intact, thanks to John Cusack's inimitable charm and a nimble, nifty screenplay (cowritten by Cusack). Early-thirtysomething Rob Gordon (Cusack) is a slacker who owns a vintage record shop, a massive collection of LPs, and innumerable top-five lists in his head. At the opening of the film, Rob recounts directly to the audience his all-time top-five breakups--which doesn't include his recent falling out with his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle), who has just moved out of their apartment. Thunderstruck and obsessed with Laura's desertion (but loath to admit it), Rob begins a quest to confront the women who instigated the aforementioned top-five breakups to find out just what he did wrong.

    Low on plot and high on self-discovery, High Fidelity takes a good 30 minutes or so to find its groove (not unlike Cusack's Grosse Pointe Blank), but once it does, it settles into it comfortably and builds a surprisingly touching momentum. Rob is basically a grown-up version of Cusack's character in Say Anything (who was told "Don't be a guy--be a man!"), and if you like Cusack's brand of smart-alecky romanticism, you'll automatically be won over (if you can handle Cusack's almost-nonstop talking to the camera). Still, it's hard not to be moved by Rob's plight. At the beginning of the film he and his coworkers at the record store (played hilariously by Jack Black and Todd Louiso) seem like overgrown boys in their secret clubhouse; by the end, they've grown up considerably, with a clear-eyed view of life. Ably directed by Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons), High Fidelity features a notable supporting cast of the women in Rob's life, including the striking, Danish-born Hjejle, Lisa Bonet as a sultry singer-songwriter, and the triumphant triumvirate of Lili Taylor, Joelle Carter, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Rob's ex-girlfriends. With brief cameos by Tim Robbins as Laura's new, New Age boyfriend and Bruce Springsteen as himself. --Mark Englehart

    Description From the guys who brought you GROSSE POINTE BLANK comes the absolutely hilarious HIGH FIDELITY. John Cusack (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH) stars as Rob Gordon, the owner of a semi-failing record store located on one of the back streets of Chicago. He sells music the old-fashioned way -- on vinyl, with two wacky clerks, the hysterically funny rock snob Barry (Jack Black) and the more quietly opinionated underachiever Dick (Todd Luiso). But Rob's business isn't the only thing in his life that's floundering -- his needle skips the love groove when his longtime girlfriend Laura (newcomer Iben Hjejle) walks out on him. And this forces him to examine his past failed attempts at romance the only way he knows how! For a rocking fun time, give HIGH FIDELITY a spin. It's sure to make your all-time top five list for comedies -- with a bullet.

    Directors:
    Stephen Frears
    High Society
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/22/2003
    Actors:
    Bing Crosby / Grace Kelly / Frank Sinatra
    Description:

    Description This witty, musical version of The Philadelphia Story stars Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and the jazz master himself, Louis Armstrong, playing the hottest trumpet in the land. Year: 1956 Director: Charles Waters Starring: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong

    Directors:
    Charles Walters
    His Girl Friday
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/3/2000
    Actors:
    Cary Grant / Rosalind Russell
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video The Front Page, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's classic 1928 newspaper play, has had three official film versions and contributed structural DNA to half the movies ever made about professional camaraderie and fierce love-hate friendships. Lewis Milestone's 1931 movie is well respected (Billy Wilder's 1974 version isn't), but this is one case where the remake towers brilliantined head and blocked shoulders above the original.

    Howard Hawks had the inspired notion of making Hildy Johnson--the ace newsman whom demonic editor Walter Burns is trying to keep from quitting and getting married--a she instead of a he. What's more, she's not only Walter's star reporter but also his ex-wife. When Hildy (Rosalind Russell) comes to tell Walter (Cary Grant) she's leaving the newspaper business, he bamboozles her into carrying out one last assignment--a death-row interview with a little nebbish (John Qualen) convicted of killing a policeman. It sounds like a snap, but before you can say screwball comedy, the press room of the Criminal Courts Building has become ground zero for all the lunacy a jailbreak, a shooting, an impromptu suicide, a corrupt city administration, and the most Machiavellian "hero" in the American cinema can supply.

    His Girl Friday is one of the, oh, five greatest dialogue comedies ever made; Hawks had his cast play it at breakneck speed, and audiences hyperventilate trying to finish with one laugh so they can do justice to the four that have accumulated in the meantime. Russell, not Hawks's first choice to play Hildy, is triumphant in the part, holding her own as "one of the guys" and creating an enduring feminist icon. Grant is a force of nature, giving a performance of such concentrated frenzy and diamond brilliance that you owe it to yourself to devote at least one viewing of the movie to watching him alone. But then you have to go back (lucky you) and watch it again for the sake of the press-room gang--Roscoe Karns, Porter Hall, Cliff Edwards, Regis Toomey, Frank Jenks, and others--the kind of ensemble work that gets character actors onto Parnassus. --Richard T. Jameson

    Description This hilarious re-working of The Front Page teams Grant and Rosalind Russell. This version adds the twin lures of sex and romance. Undoubtedly Grant’s greatest comedic role.

    Includes "Cary Grant On Film" - a documentary, an intro by Tony Curtis, and the trailer for Gunga Din.

    Menus: English • Spanish • Chinese • Japanese
    Subtitles: Spanish • Chinese • Japanese

    B&W/Color
    Running Time: 121 min.

    Directors:
    Howard Hawks
    Hot Shots!
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/7/2004
    Actors:
    Charlie Sheen / Cary Elwes / Valeria Golino / Lloyd Bridges / Kevin Dunn
    Description:

    Amazon.com The gang that created Airplane and The Naked Gun sets its sights on Top Gun in this often hilarious spoof starring Charlie Sheen, who previously only inspired laughs with his personal life. He plays Topper Harley, a fighter pilot with an ax to grind: clearing the family name. He gets involved in a relationship with Valerie Golino, a woman with an unusually talented stomach. But his mission is to avenge his father. Lloyd Bridges, late in his career, revealed an aptitude for this kind of silliness, here as a commander who is both incredibly dim and delightfully accident prone. Directed by Jim Abrahams, the film makes fun of a variety of other films as well, from Dances with Wolves to The Fabulous Baker Boys. It was so successful that they all returned in the sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Jim Abrahams
    Hot Shots! Part Deux
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/7/2004
    Actors:
    Charlie Sheen / Lloyd Bridges / Valeria Golino
    Description:

    Amazon.com The sequel to the wonderfully wacky Hot Shots! uses Rambo as its model for nonstop send-ups (though director Jim Abrahams can't resist inserting a Saddam Hussein lookalike, given the film's post-Gulf War release). This time, Lloyd Bridges, who was an admiral in the first movie, has become president (take that, Colin Powell!) and needs someone to take care of the threat posed by a certain mustached Middle Eastern dictator. Who better than ever-reliable Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen)? In addition to trying to take out Saddam commando-style, Topper must juggle two women: Valerie Golino, from the original, and CIA babe Brenda Bakke, who knows a thing or two about close-quarters combat. If anything, this may be funnier than the first. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Jim Abrahams
    How to Commit Marriage
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/21/2000
    Directors:
    Norman Panama
    How To Marry A Millionaire
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/29/2001
    Actors:
    Betty Grable / Marilyn Monroe / Lauren Bacall
    Description:

    Amazon.com Nunnally Johnson's Broadway comedy was brought to the big screen by director Jean Negulesco, built around a trio of female stars, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, and Betty Grable. They play friends who come up with a plan to find and marry rich men. They rent a lavish penthouse and use it as their launching pad to lure men with money in the bank. But each eventually finds that love is more important that material possessions, though it takes a while. One running joke has Monroe so insecure about her looks that she refuses to wear glasses, though this means she bumps into furniture and walls. The other has Bacall rejecting suitor Cameron Mitchell because he doesn't wear a tie, assuming this means he's low-class when, in fact, he's the Donald Trump of 1954. Pre-feminist comedy captures the mindset of an era in which women's identities were based on the men they married. It has its moments, but much of the humor seems dated, though its take on sexual politics is occasionally acute. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Jean Negulesco
    How to Steal a Million
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/7/2004
    Actors:
    Audrey Hepburn / Peter O'Toole / Eli Wallach / Hugh Griffith / Charles Boyer
    Date Added:
    8/28/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Audrey Hepburn was never more sleek and glamorous than in this delightful romantic caper costarring Peter O'Toole and directed by William Wyler. She's the chic daughter of a renowned art collector and covert forger (the always eccentric Hugh Griffith) who's deposited his best work, a famous statue, in a Paris museum. Trouble is, technology can now detect such forgery, so Hepburn plots to steal the statue with the help of O'Toole, an amateur thief and covert inspector. Of course, neither of them knows the whole truth about the other. They make an utterly charming couple, with O'Toole stealing the show in an uncharacteristically lighthearted turn. --Bill Desowitz

    Description The daughter (Audrey Hepburn) of a wealthy Frenchman (Hugh Griffith) who creates counterfeit art learns her father is in danger of being exposed as a crook. She decides to steal the family's forged Cellini sculpture from a museum before experts can examine it and enlists a society burglar (Peter O'Toole) to help her.

    Directors:
    William Wyler
    How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
    Release Date:
    3/18/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com This fizzy musical was a Broadway smash in 1962, and boy, is it a product of its era. Executive washrooms, gray-flannel-suit businessmen, hip-swinging secretaries--they're all preserved in the movie's brightly colored amber. J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse) is the window washer who climbs the corporate ladder in a few days, guided by a how-to book. The Frank Loesser songs are great fun, the Bob Fosse dances are very clever and mod, and the gaudy set design may have given Andy Warhol a few ideas. The jack-in-the-box performance of the elfin Robert Morse doesn't seem toned down from his Tony-winning stage turn; think Mickey Rooney doing Jerry Lewis. Still, Morse is a unique presence, and his mad little solo dance down a real Manhattan street is an interlude of sublime daffiness. Grand old crooner Rudy Vallee shines as the president of Worldwide Wicket, barking his beloved alma mater's fight song: "Groundhog! Groundhog!" --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    David Swift (II)
    Humanoids from the Deep
    Release Date:
    8/26/2003
    Directors:
    Jeff Yonis
    The Hunt for Red October
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/21/2002
    Actors:
    Sean Connery / Alec Baldwin
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Before Harrison Ford assumed the mantle of playing Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan hero in Patriot Games, Alec Baldwin took a swing at the character in this John McTiernan film and hit one to the fence. If less instantly sympathetic than Ford, Baldwin is in some respects more interesting and nuanced as Ryan, and drawing comparisons between both actors' performances can make for some interesting postmovie discussion. That aside, The Hunt for Red October stands alone as a uniquely exciting adventure with a fantastic costar: Sean Connery as a Russian nuclear submarine captain attempting to defect to the West on his ship. Ryan must figure out his true motives for approaching the U.S. McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard) made an exceptionally handsome movie here with action sequences that really do take one's breath away. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    John McTiernan
    I, Robot (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/14/2004
    Actors:
    Will Smith / Bridget Moynahan / Alan Tudyk / James Cromwell / Bruce Greenwood
    Description:

    Amazon.com As paranoid cop Del Spooner, Will Smith (Independence Day, Men in Black) displays both his trademark quips and some impressive pectoral muscles in I, Robot. Only Spooner suspects that the robots that provide the near future with menial labor are going to turn on mankind--he's just not sure how. When a leading roboticist dies suspiciously, Spooner pursues a trail that may prove his suspicions. Don't expect much of a connection to Isaac Asimov's classic science fiction stories; I, Robot, the action movie, isn't prepared for any ruminations on the significance of artificial intelligence. This likable, efficient movie won't break any new ground, but it does have an idea or two to accompany its jolts and thrills, which puts it ahead of most recent action flicks. Also featuring Bridget Moynahan (The Sum of All Fears), Bruce Greenwood (The Sweet Hereafter), and James Cromwell (Babe, LA Confidential). --Bret Fetzer

    Description In the year 2035, technology and robots are a trusted part of everyday life. But that trust is broken when a scientist is found dead and a skeptical detective (Smith) believes that a robot is responsible. Bridget Moynahan co-stars in this high-tech action thriller that questions whether technology will ultimately lead to mankind's salvation . . . or annihilation.

    Directors:
    Alex Proyas
    In Good Company (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/10/2005
    Actors:
    Dennis Quaid / Topher Grace / Scarlett Johansson / Marg Helgenberger / David Paymer / Clark Gregg / Philip Baker Hall / Selma Blair / Frankie Faison / Ty Burrell / Kevin Chapman / Amy Aquino / Zena Grey / Colleen Camp / Lauren Tom / Ron Bottitta / Jon Collin / Shishir Kurup / Tim Rhoze / Enrique Castillo
    Description:

    Amazon.com Nowadays it's rare to find a movie that pays attention to human weakness as well as strength, and that sees a whole person as having both. When a sports magazine gets bought by a media conglomerate, an ad sales executive named Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid, The Rookie) finds himself playing second-in-command to Carter Duryea, a hotshot barely half his age (Topher Grace, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!) whose marriage has just fallen apart. One evening Carter invites himself over to Dan's house to escape his loneliness, where he meets Dan's daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation). The two strike immediate sparks and when they run into each other later in the city, a relationship begins--which they discreetly keep from Dan. But the heart of the movie is not in its plot, but in the way that Dan responds to the news that his wife is pregnant, or how Carter tries to fortify his self-image with a new car. These aren't jokes; the actors inhabit these moments fully and turn them into psychological events. Quaid plays Dan as a simple man, but his straightforwardness feels genuine (rather than a failure of the writer's imagination). Grace and Johansson have terrific chemistry as lovers, but so do Grace and Quaid, both as rivals and as a substitute father and son. In Good Company isn't likely to win any awards, but it's honest and honorable; there's a core of truth to its characters and their problems aren't resolved too neatly. Sometimes, that's worth watching. --Bret Fetzer

    Product Description Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is a loving husband, caring father and star ad executive. But now, life is putting him through the ultimate test. Carter Duryea (Topher Grace), a young hotshot half his age, has just become his boss. And to complicate matters, D

    Directors:
    Paul Weitz
    In Like Flint
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/16/2002
    Actors:
    James Coburn / Lee J. Cobb
    Description:

    Amazon.com There was bound to be a Flint sequel, and this one delivers the same kind of zany fun as its predecessor, Our Man Flint. Flint is recruited once again by Lee J. Cobb to be the government's top secret agent, this time to solve a mishap involving the President. Turns out, the Chief Executive has been replaced by an evil duplicate. The new plan for world domination involves feminine aggression, and Flint, with his overpowering charisma, is just the man to turn the hostile forces around. In Like Flint is still over the top, but some of the novelty has worn off, and it doesn't have quite the same edge as the original. Even Jerry Goldsmith's score is a bit more subdued. But the film still has James Coburn and that funny phone. --Bill Desowitz

    Directors:
    Gordon Douglas
    Indecent Proposal
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/19/2003
    Actors:
    Robert Redford / Demi Moore / Woody Harrelson
    Description:

    Amazon.com One of the biggest teases in film history, this film's sensational plot finds a young wife (Demi Moore) solicited for sex by a wealthy bachelor (Robert Redford), for which the latter offers to pay a cool million bucks to her and her underachieving husband (Woody Harrelson). The two accept Redford's deal, and their marriage is ruined. The twist in the film, though, is that the sin doesn't lie with the rich guy, but rather with this unfocused, immature, equivocating couple who would do such a thing, naively believing it would get their lives on track. Director Adrian Lyne, who caused an even greater stir by filming Lolita (the one starring Jeremy Irons), thus pulls a kind of thinking person's bait and switch, promising something tawdry and then turning the story around so its focus is on a rite of passage for the estranged spouses. Still, Lyne has some peculiarly garish ideas at times: the final disposition of that million dollars is like a joke out of Monty Python. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Adrian Lyne
    Independence Day (Five Star Collection)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/16/2001
    Actors:
    Bill Pullman / Jeff Goldblum / Will Smith
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video In Independence Day, a scientist played by Jeff Goldblum once actually had a fistfight with a man (Bill Pullman) who is now president of the United States. That same president, late in the film, personally flies a jet fighter to deliver a payload of missiles against an attack by extraterrestrials. Independence Day is the kind of movie so giddy with its own outrageousness that one doesn't even blink at such howlers in the plot. Directed by Roland Emmerich, Independence Day is a pastiche of conventions from flying-saucer movies from the 1940s and 1950s, replete with icky monsters and bizarre coincidences that create convenient shortcuts in the story. (Such as the way the girlfriend of one of the film's heroes--played by Will Smith--just happens to run across the president's injured wife, who are then both rescued by Smith's character who somehow runs across them in alien-ravaged Los Angeles County.) The movie is just sheer fun, aided by a cast that knows how to balance the retro requirements of the genre with a more contemporary feel. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Roland Emmerich
    The Insider
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Al Pacino / Russell Crowe
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video As revisionist history, Michael Mann's intelligent docudrama The Insider is a simmering brew of altered facts and dramatic license. In a broader perspective, however, the film (cowritten with Forrest Gump Oscar-winner Eric Roth) is effectively accurate as an engrossing study of ethics in the corruptible industries of tobacco and broadcast journalism. On one side, there is Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), the former tobacco scientist who violated contractual agreements to expose Brown & Williamson's inclusion of addictive ingredients in cigarettes, casting himself into a vortex of moral dilemma. On the other side is 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), whose struggle to report Wigand's story puts him at odds with veteran correspondent Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer) and senior executives at CBS News.

    As the urgency of the story increases, so does the film's palpable sense of paranoia, inviting favorable comparison to All the President's Men. While Pacino downplays the theatrical excess that plagued him in previous roles, Crow is superb as a man who retains his tortured integrity at great personal cost. The Insider is two movies--a cover-up thriller and a drama about journalistic ethics--that combine to embrace the noble values personified by Wigand and Bergman. Even if the details aren't always precise (as Mike Wallace and others protested prior to the film's release), the film adheres to a higher truth that was so blatantly violated by tobacco executives seen in an oft-repeated video clip, lying under oath in the service of greed. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Michael Mann
    The Interpreter (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/4/2005
    Actors:
    Catherine Keener / Nicole Kidman / Sean Penn / Yvan Attal / Earl Cameron / Jesper Christensen / Robert Clohessy / Curtiss Cook / Yusuf Gatewood / George Harris (II) / Maz Jobrani / Eric Keenleyside / John Knox (II) / Clyde Kusatsu / Terry Serpico / Hugo Speer / Byron Utley / David Wolos-Fonteno / Michael Wright
    Description:

    Amazon.com Director Sydney Pollack delivers megawatt star power, high gloss, and political passion to The Interpreter, his first thriller since The Firm. With Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn delivering smooth, understated performances, the film more closely recalls Pollack's 1975 Robert Redford/Faye Dunaway paranoid thriller Three Days of the Condor, trading conspiratorial politicians for potential assassination in the United Nations General Assembly (this being the first film ever granted permission to use actual U.N. locations). Kidman plays a U.N. interpreter who inadvertently overhears hints of a plot to kill the reviled, tyrannical leader of her (fictional) African homeland; Penn is the Secret Service agent assigned to protect her, or to determine her role (if any) in the assassination scenario. By distancing itself from real-life politics, The Interpreter softens its potential impact as a thriller about contemporary globalization and threats to international peace, but the Penn/Kidman personal drama (between two people who gain a deep appreciation for shared anguish, without being artificially forced into romance) adds a richly human dimension to Pollack's expert handling of the thriller elements of a complex yet easily-followed plot. Indie-film stalwart Catherine Keener shines in her supporting role as Penn's sarcastic by sympathetic Secret Service partner. --Jeff Shannon

    Interview with the Vampire
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/6/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com When it was announced that Tom Cruise would play the vampire Lestat in this adaptation of Anne Rice's bestselling novel, even Rice chimed in with a highly publicized objection. The author wisely and justifiably recanted her negative opinion when she saw Cruise's excellent performance, which perceptively addresses the pain and chronic melancholy that plagues anyone cursed with immortal bloodlust. Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst are equally good at maintaining the dark and brooding tone of Rice's novel. And in this rare mainstream project for a major studio, director Neil Jordan compensates for a lumbering plot by honoring the literate, Romantic qualities of Rice's screenplay. Considered a disappointment while being embraced by Rice's loyal followers, the movie is too slow to be a satisfying thriller, but it is definitely one of the most lavish, intelligent horror films ever made. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Neil Jordan
    Intolerable Cruelty (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/10/2004
    Actors:
    George Clooney / Catherine Zeta-Jones / Geoffrey Rush / Cedric the Entertainer / Edward Herrmann / Paul Adelstein / Richard Jenkins / Billy Bob Thornton / Julia Duffy / Jonathan Hadary / Tom Aldredge / Stacey Travis / Jack Kyle / Irwin Keyes / Judith Drake / Royce D. Applegate / George Ives / Booth Colman / Kristin Dattilo / Wendle Josepher
    Description:

    Amazon.com A sleek George Clooney and a seductive Catherine Zeta-Jones square off magnificently in the divorce comedy Intolerable Cruelty. The plot is simple: Lawyer supreme Miles Massey (Clooney, Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven) skillfully outmaneuvers gold-digger Marylin Rexroth (Zeta-Jones, Chicago, Traffic) when she divorces her wealthy husband--and she sets out to get revenge. But this movie comes from the creative minds of the Coen Brothers (Fargo, Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou?), and so Intolerable Cruelty includes a Scottish wedding chapel in Vegas, an asthmatic hit man, fluffy-dog-stroking European nobility, and a legendarily unbreakable pre-nuptial agreement. Still, it's pretty restrained for the Coens; smooth and consistent, it never stumbles as disappointingly as their movies can, but also never quite hits the operatic pitch of their best work. It's still damn funny, though, with top-notch performances from the leads as well as Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, and Billy Bob Thornton. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Joel Coen / Ethan Coen
    The Iron Giant
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/23/1999
    Actors:
    Harry Connick Jr. / Eli Marienthal
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video This gentle reworking of Ted Hughes's 1968 novella was the unseen gem of 1999. Hogarth, a young boy who lives in the Maine woods during the cold war, befriends a giant robot. As with E.T., the iron giant is a misunderstood outsider who becomes a child's best friend, and Hogarth does his best to hide the massive figure from his mom (voiced by Jennifer Aniston) and the local scrap-yard beatnik (Harry Connick Jr.). Soon the suspicions of neighbors and a government agent (Christopher McDonald) spell trouble.

    With no songs, no sidekicks, and no cheap ending, The Iron Giant is a refreshing change-- like an off-Broadway production compared to the glitz of Disney's annual animated extravaganzas. Director Brad Bird may have Family Dog and The Simpsons to his credit, but this film doesn't have that brand of scatological humor. As with the best family entertainments, there are gags that adults will howl at while the kids are watching something else (see Bird's interpretation of cold war propaganda). And the star is one cool piece of animated magic. Voiced by Vin Diesel (Saving Private Ryan's hulking Private Caparzo) and filled with more gadgets than a Swiss army knife, the giant is a grand thing to behold. And like another famous cinema tin man, our hero--and the movie--has heart. Superb entertainment for ages 5 and up. --Doug Thomas

    Description Something humongous is among us! A young boy rescues a huge robot which has rocketed to earth from space - and tries to protect the genial giant from a nosey government agent and the military. A captivating animated feature that's part metal, part magic and all heart.

    DVD Features:
    DVD ROM Features
    Documentary
    Music Video
    Theatrical Trailer

    Directors:
    Brad Bird
    The Italian Job (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/7/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com Though it bears little resemblance to the original 1969 thriller starring Michael Caine, the 2003 remake of The Italian Job stands on its own as a caper comedy that's well above average. The title's a misnomer--this time it's actually a Los Angeles job--but the action's just as exciting as it propels a breezy tale of honor and dishonor among competing thieves. Inheriting Caine's role as ace heist-planner Charlie Croker, Mark Wahlberg plays straight-man to a well-cast team of accomplices, including Mos Def, Jason Statham, and scene-stealer Seth Green in a variation of the role originally played by Noel Coward. As the daughter of Croker's ill-fated mentor (Donald Sutherland), Charlize Theron is recruited to double-cross a double-crosser (Edward Norton in oily villain mode), and once again, speedily versatile Mini Coopers play a pivotal role in director F. Gary Gray's exhilarating car-chase climax. It's perhaps the greatest product placement in movie history, and just as fun the second time around. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    F. Gary Gray
    The Italian Job
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/7/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Internal countercasting is a big plus in this caper comedy: where else are you going to find Benny Hill and Michael Caine in the same movie? Peter Collinson directs those two as well as Noel Coward, Raf Vallone, Rossano Brazzi, and Irene Handl in a story about the effort to steal gold bullion from the town of Turin. Screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin eschews heist film tradition by placing more emphasis on the gang's getaway than on the complex robbery itself. The film's main claim to comic fame is a wild chase scene set against an enormous traffic jam. The rest of the movie is less memorable, but that extended action sequence is well worth the wait. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Peter Collinson
    It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/7/2003
    Actors:
    Spencer Tracy / Milton Berle / Sid Caesar / Ethel Merman / Mickey Rooney
    Description:

    Amazon.com Stanley Kramer's sprawling 1963 comedy about a search for buried treasure by at least a dozen people--all played by well-known entertainers of their day--is the kind of mass comedy that Hollywood hasn't made in many years. (Another example from around the same time is Blake Edwards's The Great Race.) After a number of strangers (including Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, and others) witness a dying stranger (Jimmy Durante) identify the location of hidden money, a conflict-ridden hunt begins, watched over carefully by a suspicious cop (Spencer Tracy). The ensuing two and a half hours of mayhem has its ups and downs--some bits and performers are certainly funnier than others. But Kramer, who is better known for socially conscious, serious cinema (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?), is in a mood for broad comic characterization, and some of his jokes are so intentionally obvious (Durante literally kicks a bucket when he dies), they'd have a place in Airplane! Watch for lots of cameo appearances, including Jerry Lewis (who had called Kramer and asked him why he hadn't been invited to participate). --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Stanley Kramer
    Jerry Maguire
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/25/1997
    Actors:
    Tom Cruise / Cuba Gooding Jr. / Renée Zellweger / Kelly Preston / Jerry O'Connell / Jay Mohr / Bonnie Hunt / Regina King / Jonathan Lipnicki / Todd Louiso / Mark Pellington / Jeremy Suarez / Jared Jussim / Benjamin Kimball Smith / Ingrid Beer / Jann Wenner / Nada Despotovich / Alexandra Wentworth / Aries Spears / Kelly Coffield
    Description:

    Amazon.com One of the best romantic comedies of the 1990s, this box-office hit cemented writer-director Cameron Crowe's reputation as "the voice of a generation." Crowe could probably do without that label, but he's definitely in sync with the times with this savvy story about a sports agent (Tom Cruise) whose fall from grace motivates his quest for professional recovery, and the slow-dawning realization that he needs the love and respect of the single mom (Renée Zellweger in her breakthrough role) who has supported him through the worst of times. This is one of Cruise's best, most underrated performances, and in an Oscar-winning role, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays the football star who remains Jerry Maguire's only loyal client on a hard road to redemption and personal growth. If that sounds touchy-feely, it is only because Crowe has combined sharp entertainment with a depth of character that is rarely found in mainstream comedy. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Cameron Crowe
    Johnny English (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/13/2004
    Actors:
    Rowan Atkinson / Natalie Imbruglia / John Malkovich
    Description:

    Amazon.com Mr. Bean meets Mr. Bond in Johnny English, a spy spoof that skewers the genre with Rowan Atkinson's trademark brand of veddy-British slapstick. It's a bit half-baked as a wannabe franchise, but Atkinson's creation of a new screen persona is just promising enough to warrant a sequel, despite critics' complaints that Austin Powers had already exhausted the spy-spoof's potential. Poppycock! Atkinson's gift for physical and, in this case, even verbal humor will surely please his devoted fans, even when a rather tepidly comedic screenplay prevents the British funnyman from reaching new heights of absurdity. As bumbling superspy Johnny English, who gains top-level MI-7 clearance after inadvertently causing a colleague's demise, Atkinson breathes life into gags that are too familiar to earn such an amusing revival. With John Malkovich as a smarmy Frenchman determined to overthrow the British monarchy, and Natalie Imbruglia as Johnny's comely comrade-in-arms, this slight but enjoyable comedy gives Atkinson plenty of opportunity to mug it up as only he can. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Peter Howitt (II)
    Jurassic Park (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/24/2004
    Actors:
    Sam Neill / Laura Dern
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Steven Spielberg's 1993 mega-hit rivals Jaws as the most intense and frightening film he'd ever made prior to Schindler's List, but it was also among his weakest stories. Based on Michael Crichton's novel about an island amusement park populated by cloned dinosaurs, the film works best as a thrill ride with none of the interesting human dynamics of Spielberg's Jaws. That lapse proves unfortunate, but there's no shortage of raw terror as a rampaging T-rex and nasty raptors try to make fast food out of the cast. The effects are still astonishing (despite the fact that the computer-generated technology has since been improved upon) and at times primeval, such as the sight of a herd of whatever-they-are scampering through a valley. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Steven Spielberg
    Key Largo
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/15/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) directed this smart thriller about a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) who holds a number of people hostage in a hotel in the Florida Keys during a tropical storm. Humphrey Bogart is the returning war veteran who takes on the villains, and Lauren Bacall is on hand as one of the people on the wrong end of Robinson's gun. Somewhat similar in tone to Howard Hawks's To Have and Have Not (which also featured Bogart and Bacall), this moody movie captures a certain despair offset by the bond between individuals united by common purpose. Claire Trevor won an Academy Award for her part as Robinson's alcoholic girlfriend. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    John Huston
    The King of Comedy
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/17/2002
    Actors:
    Robert De Niro / Jerry Lewis
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video The King of Comedy, which flopped at the box office, is actually a gem waiting to be rediscovered. Like A Face in the Crowd (a not-so-distant cousin to this film), Network, and The Truman Show, its target is show business--specifically the burning desire to become famous or be near the famous, no matter what. Robert De Niro plays the emotionally unstable, horrendously untalented Rupert Pupkin, a wannabe Vegas-style comedian. His fantasies are egged on by Marsha, a talk-show groupie (brilliantly played by Sandra Bernhard) who hatches a devious, sure-to-backfire plan. Jerry Lewis is terrific in the straight role as the Johnny Carson-like talk-show host Jerry Langford. De Niro's performance as the obsessive Pupkin is among his finest (which is saying a lot) and he never tries to make the character likable in any way. Because there's no hero and no one to root for, and because at times the film insists we get a little too close and personal with Pupkin, some will be put off. Yet it's one of Scorsese's most original and fascinating films, giving viewers much to consider on the subject of celebrity. Its inevitable climax is clever and quietly horrific. --Christopher J. Jarmick

    Description Martin Scorsese's The King Of Comedy is a funny depiction of the dangers of celebrity fandom. Robert De Niro plays the ridiculously inept Rupert Rupkin, an aspiring comic who idolizes talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Still living at home with his mother, Rupert spends his days trying to arrange a meeting with his hero. When he isn't doing that, he's at home talking to carboard cutouts in his makeshift television studio. After Rupert convinces Rita (Diahnne Abbot), a pretty bartender, that Langford has invited them to his house outside the city, the reality of the situation makes itself painfully apparent upon arriving at the star's front door. Trouble is, Rupert's too delusional to take the hint. He eventually hatches a plan with an equally obsessed fan, Masha (Sandra Berhard), to kidnap Langford in exchange for a chance to let him deliver his routine on the air.

    Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/13/2006
    Actors:
    Robert Downey Jr. / Val Kilmer / Michelle Monaghan / Corbin Bernsen / Dash Mihok
    Description:

    Amazon.com As a screenwriter, Shane Black made millions of dollars from screenplays for the big-budget action movies Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, among others. With his directing debut Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Black mocks and undercuts every cliche he once helped to invent. While fleeing from the cops, small time hood Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr., Wonder Boys) stumbles into an acting audition--and does so well he gets taken to Hollywood, where--pursuing a girl he loved in high school (foxy Michelle Monaghan, North Country)--he gets caught up in twisty murder mystery. His only chance of getting out alive is a private detective named Gay Perry (Val Kilmer, Wonderland, The Doors), who sidelights as a consultant for movies. No plot turn goes untweaked by Black's clever, witty script, and Downey, Kilmer, and Monaghan clearly have a ball playing their screwball variations on action movie stereotypes. There's nothing profound about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, but it brings back wicked mischief to a genre that all often takes itself too seriously. --Bret Fetzer

    Description In Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, a breezy take on writer-director Shane Black's trademark buddy action/comedy oeuvre, a petty thief (Robert Downey Jr.) is brought to Los Angeles for an unlikely audition and finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation, along with his high school dream girl (Michelle Monaghan) and a detective (Val Kilmer) who has been training him for his upcoming role.

    DVD Features:
    Documentary:Long Shadows Sharp Tongue: A Noir Documentary
    Gag Reel
    Theatrical Trailer

    Directors:
    Shane Black
    Kiss Me Kate
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/22/2003
    Actors:
    Kathryn Grayson / Howard Keel
    Description:

    Amazon.com Cole Porter, Shakespeare, and 3-D: Not the usual recipe for an MGM musical, but hey--it works. Although it runs hot and cold, this 1953 take on Porter's delightful Broadway smash lets a chewy cast gorge on some terrific songs and show-biz in-jokes. Think of the plot as His Girl Friday in greasepaint: vain star Howard Keel wants to lure ex-wife Kathryn Grayson back to the boards with a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. The movie's weakness is too much Shakespeare, not enough backstage backbiting (and why are two of the best numbers, "So in Love" and Ann Miller's zippy "Too Darn Hot," confined to a prologue?). Then there's the tendency to throw things at the camera--3-D, what hath you wrought? The candy-store color design is great fun, and Tommy Rall and future dance titan Bob Fosse are turned loose for some sensational leaps. Now that's "Wunderbar." --Robert Horton

    Description Fred and Lilly are a divorced pair of actors who are brought together by Cole Porter who has written a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. Of course, the couple seem to act a great deal like the characters they play. A fight on the opening night threatens the production, as well as two thugs who have the mistaken idea that Fred owes their boss money and insist on staying next to him all night.

    Directors:
    George Sidney (II)
    Kiss The Girls
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/12/2003
    Actors:
    Morgan Freeman / Ashley Judd / Cary Elwes
    Description:

    Amazon.com Coming after The Silence of the Lambs and Seven, this thriller about a collaboration between two serial killers feels like a pale attempt to cash in on the success of those earlier, better films. That's a pity, because this film certainly has its strengths--particularly in the central performances of Morgan Freeman as a forensic detective and Ashley Judd as a would-be victim who escaped from one of the killers. Director Gary Fleder demonstrates visual flair and maintains an involving undercurrent of tension, but as this adaptation of James Patterson's novel approaches its climax, familiar elements combine to form a chronic case of thriller déjà vu. It's altogether competent filmmaking in the service of a moribund story of competing psychopaths, and by the time the serial killers reach the home stretch of their twisted contest, the movie's dangerously close to Freddy Kruger territory, with a finale that could've been borrowed from any dozen similar thrillers. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Gary Fleder
    L.A. Confidential
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/7/2005
    Actors:
    Kevin Spacey / Russell Crowe / Guy Pearce / Kim Basinger
    Description:

    Amazon.com In a time when it seems that every other movie makes some claim to being a film noir, L.A. Confidential is the real thing--a gritty, sordid tale of sex, scandal, betrayal, and corruption of all sorts (police, political, press--and, of course, very personal) in 1940s Hollywood. The Oscar-winning screenplay is actually based on several titles in James Ellroy's series of chronological thriller novels (including the title volume, The Big Nowhere, and White Jazz)--a compelling blend of L.A. history and pulp fiction that has earned it comparisons to the greatest of all Technicolor noir films, Chinatown. Kim Basinger richly deserved her Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a conflicted femme fatale; unfortunately, her male costars are so uniformly fine that they may have canceled each other out with the Academy voters: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, and James Cromwell play LAPD officers of varying stripes. Pearce's character is a particularly intriguing study in Hollywood amorality and ambition, a strait-laced "hero" (and son of a departmental legend) whose career goals outweigh all other moral, ethical, and legal considerations. If he's a good guy, it's only because he sees it as the quickest route to a promotion. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Curtis Hanson
    L.A. Story
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/15/2002
    Actors:
    Steve Martin / Victoria Tennant / Richard E. Grant / Sarah Jessica Parker
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Steve Martin wrote this film as a meditation on both love and Los Angeles (and then-wife Victoria Tennant). He plays a L.A. TV weatherman who finds himself conflicted about what to do with his life, both professionally and personally. As he works his way through a couple of relationships (including a very funny one with a frisky Sarah Jessica Parker, who talks him into colonic therapy), he discovers a L.A. freeway sign that gives him romantic advice. It helps him realize what he knows intuitively: that the British woman he is attracted to (Tennant) is the one he should pursue. A big cast (and lots of cameos) have fun with this witty (if slight) material and director Mick Jackson adds visual pizzazz. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Mick Jackson
    Lady Sings the Blues
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/8/2005
    Actors:
    Diana Ross / Billy Dee Williams / Richard Pryor / James T. Callahan / Paul Hampton
    Description:

    Amazon.com Diana Ross stars as legendary blues singer Billie Holiday in this biopic that chronicles her rise and fall. It begins with her late childhood, a stint as a prostitute, those early days as a blues singer, her marriages, and her drug addiction. Overly glossy and lacking depth, this is worth seeing only for the performances. Diana Ross was nominated for an Oscar for her acting debut. A dynamo with sparkling screen presence, she realistically conveys the confusion and unhappiness that caused Holiday so much grief. Her performance is almost matched by romantic interest Billy Dee Williams. Watch for Richard Pryor, who is most powerful in a dramatic supporting role as the piano player in a brothel. --Rochelle O'Gorman

    Description The essence of Billie Holiday, one of America's most loved and memorable blues singers, is captured brilliantly in a tour-de-force debut performance by singer Diana Ross. Filled with the greatest songs of the incomparable "Lady Day," this stunning film biography received five Academy Award. nominations, including Diana Ross for "Best Actress." Costarring Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor.

    Directors:
    Sidney J. Furie
    Lady Vanishes (1938)/39 Steps
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/6/2003
    Actors:
    Robert Donat / Madeleine Carroll
    Description:

    Description 2 DVD SET INCLUDES:

    -The Lady Vanishes
    -The 39 Steps

    B&W/180 min.

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    The Lady Vanishes
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/19/1998
    Actors:
    Margaret Lockwood / Michael Redgrave
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video At first glance The Lady Vanishes appears to be a frothy, lightweight treat, a testament to Alfred Hitchcock's nimble touch. This snappy, sophisticated romantic thriller begins innocently enough, as a contingent of eccentric tourists spend the night in a picture-postcard village inn nestled in the Swiss Alps before setting off on the train the next morning. In a wonderfully Hitchcockian twist on "meeting cute," attractive young Iris (Margaret Lockwood) clashes with brash music student Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) when his nocturnal concerts give her no peace. She gets him kicked out of his room, so he barges in on hers: True love is inevitable, but not before they are both plunged into an international conspiracy. The next day on the train, kindly old Mrs. Froy (Dame May Whitty) vanishes from her train car without a trace and the once quarrelsome couple unite to search the train and uncover a dastardly plot. No one is as he or she seems, but sorting out the villains from the merely mysterious is a challenge in itself, as our innocents abroad face resistance from the entire passenger list. Hitchcock effortlessly navigates this vivid thriller from light comedy to high tension and back again, creating one of his most enchanting and entertaining mysteries. Though this wasn't his final British film before departing for Hollywood (that honor goes to Jamaica Inn), many critics prefer to think of this as his fond farewell to the British Film Industry. --Sean Axmaker

    Description When a seemingly innocuous old woman disappears while on board a train, an acquaintance sets out to find her. What follows is a series of ingenious twists and turns finally steaming toward a suspenseful denouement.

    Includes the trailer for Hitchcock’s film "Shadow Of A Doubt".

    Menus: English • Spanish • Chinese • Japanese
    Subtitles: Spanish • Chinese • Japanese

    B&W/94 min.

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Laurel Canyon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/15/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com When young psychiatrist Sam (Christian Bale), the son of record producer Jane (Frances McDormand), brings his girlfriend Alex (Kate Beckinsale) to stay at his mother's house, he's expecting that Jane will be gone--but a delay in finishing an album with a British rocker named Ian (Alessandro Nivola) has kept her there. Instantly, the tensions of Sam's counterculture childhood set off a series of betrayals and attractions that threaten to wreck Sam and Alex's relationship. Director Lisa Cholodenko has a keen eye for the behavior, delineating doctors and musicians by the ways they talk and greet each other--it's an almost anthropological study of different tribes. Laurel Canyon lacks the focused story of High Art, Cholodenko's previous movie, and some viewers may find the ways the characters change too subtle to be rewarding; but for others, the rich, detailed performances will be a pleasure worth having. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Lisa Cholodenko
    Lawrence of Arabia (Limited Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/3/2001
    Actors:
    Peter O'Toole
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video There's no getting around a simple, basic truth: watching Lawrence of Arabia in any home-video format represents a compromise. There's no better way to appreciate this epic biographical adventure than to see it projected in 70 millimeter onto a huge theater screen. That caveat aside, David Lean's masterful "desert classic" is still enjoyable on the small screen, especially if viewed in widescreen format. (If your only option is to view a "pan & scan" version, it's best not to bother; this is a film for which the widescreen format is utterly mandatory.) Peter O'Toole gives a star-making performance as T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British officer who united the desert tribes of Arabia against the Turks during World War I. Lean orchestrates sweeping battle sequences and breathtaking action, but the film is really about the adventures and trials that transform Lawrence into a legendary man of the desert. Lean traces this transformation on a vast canvas of awesome physicality; no other movie has captured the expanse of the desert with such scope and grandeur. Equally important is the psychology of Lawrence, who remains an enigma even as we grasp his identification with the desert. Perhaps the greatest triumph of this landmark film is that Lean has conveyed the romance, danger, and allure of the desert with such physical and emotional power. It's a film about a man who leads one life but is irresistibly drawn to another, where his greatness and mystery are allowed to flourish in equal measure. --Jeff Shannon

    Description Director David Lean follows the heroic true-life odyssey of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) in this dramatic portrait of the famed British officer's journey to the Middle East. Assigned to Arabia during World War I, Lawrence courageously unites the warring Arab factions into a strong guerrilla front and leads them to brilliant victories in treacherous desert battlefields where they eventually defeat the ruling Turkish Empire.

    Directors:
    David Lean
    Le Divorce
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/27/2004
    Actors:
    Kate Hudson / Jean-Marie Lhomme / Naomi Watts / Esmée Buchet-Deàk / Jean-Jacques Pivert
    Description:

    Amazon.com The cinematic team of Merchant Ivory (Howard's End, The Remains of the Day) leaves corsets behind for the contemporary world of Americans in Paris. The day Isabel Walker (Kate Hudson, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days) comes to visit her pregnant sister Roxy (Naomi Watts, Mullholland Drive) is the day Roxy's French husband leaves her. The divorce proceedings end up centering around a painting, long owned by the Walkers, that the husband's family would like to claim--but their maneuverings are complicated when Isabel begins an affair with a diplomat (Thierry Lhermitte, The Closet) who just happens to be Roxy's uncle-in-law. At its best moments, Le Divorce has the feel of one of Woody Allen's serio-comic films like Hannah and Her Sisters, and there's a genuinely suspenseful climactic scene on the Eiffel Tower. Also featuring Leslie Caron, Glenn Close, Matthew Modine, Stephen Fry, Sam Waterston, and Stockard Channing. --Bret Fetzer

    Description Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) lights up the screen as Isabel, a film school dropout who jets off to Paris when her pregant step-sister Roxy (Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive) is abandoned by her husband. Soon, Isabel has a scandal of her own when she falls for an older man who's related to Roxy's cheating husband! Ths stylish romantic comedy by the acclaimed Merchant Ivory team (The Remains of the Day) features a top cast, including Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Matthew Modine and Bebe Newirth.

    Directors:
    James Ivory
    Legal Eagles
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/1/2003
    Actors:
    Robert Redford / Debra Winger / Daryl Hannah
    Description:

    Amazon.com Robert Redford, usually a pretty good judge of material, got snookered badly in this Ivan Reitman comedy that also starred Debra Winger and Daryl Hannah. Redford is a rising assistant D.A. who is prosecuting a woman (Hannah) for theft of a painting by her father. Before he knows what hit him, he's involved romantically both with the defendant and with her scattered lawyer (Winger). Redford is as good as he can be, given the circumstances, but this is a movie that doesn't know where it's going. Originally intended as a serious film about the legal wrangling over the estate of the late Mark Rothko, this film quickly degenerated when the script was turned over to Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr., whose sparkling oeuvre includes Turner and Hooch. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Ivan Reitman
    The Lemon Drop Kid
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/21/2000
    Actors:
    Bob Hope / Marilyn Maxwell
    Description:

    Amazon.com Bob Hope plays a small-time con artist with a fondness for lemon candy in this film based on a Damon Runyon story. When the Lemon Drop Kid accidentally cheats gangster Moose Moran (Fred Clark) out of his track winnings, the Kid promises to repay Moose the money by Christmas. Creating a fake charity for "Apple Annie" Nellie Thursday, the Kid tricks his gang into donning Santa suits and "collecting dough for old dolls" like Nellie who have nowhere to live. Radio personality Marilyn Maxwell assists as the Kid's girlfriend, while William Frawley and Jay C. Flippen play the lovable, gruff crooks that fall for the Kid's Santa scam.

    Hope is great as the fast-talking sharpster, and the comical gangsters are well worth the price of admission. Music by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (including the classic Christmas song "Silver Bells") makes The Lemon Drop Kid that much sweeter. --Mark Savary

    Directors:
    Frank Tashlin / Sidney Lanfield
    Les Girls
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/22/2003
    Actors:
    Gene Kelly / Mitzi Gaynor / Kay Kendall / Taina Elg
    Description:

    Amazon.com Never heard of Kay Kendall? Chic, leggy, funny Kay Kendall? Check out Les Girls, one of the best moments for the beautiful British actress (and wife of Rex Harrison), whose promising career ended when she died two years after this film's 1957 release. A cheeky musical variation on Rashomon, the film gives three flashbacks on the Parisian sojourn of a dance master (Gene Kelly) and his featured artists (Kendall, Tania Elg, Mitzi Gaynor). The film isn't a peak outing for director George Cukor, and the Cole Porter songs are infrequent and not top-drawer. But there's a kooky dance number inspired by motorcycle gangs (Kelly in Wild Ones territory), and Kendall has a long drunk scene that she handles with regal aplomb. A stuffy suitor asks les girls why they spend their youth scurrying around Europe in a dance troupe: "Is having fun so important?" The film answers a resounding "mais oui." -- Robert Horton

    Directors:
    George Cukor
    Licence To Kill (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/22/2002
    Actors:
    Timothy Dalton / Robert Davi
    Description:

    Amazon.com Timothy Dalton's second and last shot at playing James Bond isn't nearly as much fun as his debut, two years earlier, in the 1987 The Living Daylights. This time Bond gets mad after a close friend (David Hedison) from the intelligence sector is assassinated on his wedding day, and 007 goes undercover to link the murder to an international drug cartel. Robert Davi makes an interesting adversary, but as with most of the Bond films in the '70s, '80s, and '90s--and especially since the end of the cold war--one has to wonder why we should still care about these lesser villains and their unimaginative crimes. Still, Dalton did manage in his short time with the character to make 007 his own, which neither Roger Moore did nor Pierce Brosnan did. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    John Glen (II)
    Li'l Abner
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/19/2005
    Description:

    Amazon.com This is one movie musical that doesn't bother adapting its stage presentation for the big screen: Li'l Abner cheerfully uses brightly colored, patently fake backdrops and stage sets for its mythical setting. And why not? A movie musical based on a cartoon strip is about as far from reality as you can get. Al Capp's legendary comic about the hillbilly denizens of Dogpatch was brought to Broadway by the estimable comedy team Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, who also produced the movie. Along with sampling Capp's world (the pursuit of noncommittal Abner by Daisy Mae on Sadie Hawkins Day is a major plot device), the movie is a goofy record of 1950s attitudes and concerns--in fact, Dogpatch is threatened with destruction when the government wants to use it as an atomic test site. The actors' Broadway delivery has a deadening effect after a while, and some of the makeup is downright weird (think the Whos in the live-action Grinch). Gene de Paul's music is unmemorable, but Johnny Mercer's lyrics provide considerable fun, and the athletic dances are based on Michael Kidd's stage choreography. Plus, the movie honors Capp's eye for impossibly bodacious women by casting Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones and Stella Stevens (her first movie role) as Appassionata Von Climax. --Robert Horton

    Description LI’L ABNER, the beloved cartoon strip from Al Capp, takes place in the hillbilly town of Dogpatch, which is deemed the most useless community in America. When the city is chosen as a test site for A-bombs, its colorful citizens take up the good fight, with lots of fun and merriment.

    Directors:
    Melvin Frank
    Little Miss Sunshine
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/19/2006
    Actors:
    Abigail Breslin / Greg Kinnear / Paul Dano / Alan Arkin / Toni Collette
    Date Added:
    12/10/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com Pile together a blue-ribbon cast, a screenplay high in quirkiness, and the Sundance stamp of approval, and you've got yourself a crossover indie hit. That formula worked for Little Miss Sunshine, a frequently hilarious study of family dysfunction. Meet the Hoovers, an Albuquerque clan riddled with depression, hostility, and the tattered remnants of the American Dream; despite their flakiness, they manage to pile into a VW van for a weekend trek to L.A. in order to get moppet daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Much of the pleasure of this journey comes from watching some skillful comic actors doing their thing: Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette as the parents (he's hoping to become a self-help authority), Alan Arkin as a grandfather all too willing to give uproariously inappropriate advice to a sullen teenage grandson (Paul Dano), and a subdued Steve Carell as a jilted gay professor on the verge of suicide. The film is a crowd-pleaser, and if anything is a little too eager to bend itself in the direction of quirk-loving Sundance audiences; it can feel forced. But the breezy momentum and the ingenious actors help push the material over any bumps in the road.-- Robert Horton


    Beyond Little Miss Sunshine


    More Dysfunctional Family Comedies

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    Stills from Little Miss Sunshine




    Description Take a hilarious ride with the Hoovers, one of the most endearingly fractured families in comedy history.

    Father Richard (Greg Kinnear) is desperately trying to sell his motivational success program...with no success. Meanwhile, "pro-honesty" mom Sheryl (Toni Collette) lends support to her eccentric family, including her depressed brother (Steve Carell), fresh out of the hospital after being jilted by his lover. Then there are the younger Hoovers?the seven-year-old, would-be beauty queen Olive (Abigail Breslin) and Dwayne (Paul Dano), a Nietzsche-reading teen who has taken a vow of silence. Topping off the family is the foul-mouthed grandfather (Alan Arkin), whose outrageous behavior recently got him evicted from his retirement home. When Olive is invited to compete in the "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant in far-off California, the family piles into their rusted-out VW bus to rally behind her?with riotously funny results.

    Directors:
    Valerie Faris / Jonathan Dayton
    Live and Let Die
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/19/1999
    Actors:
    Roger Moore / Yaphet Kotto
    Description:

    Amazon.com Roger Moore was introduced as James Bond in this 1973 action movie featuring secret agent 007. More self-consciously suave and formal than predecessor Sean Connery, he immediately reestablished Bond as an uncomplicated and wooden fellow for the feel-good '70s. This film also marks a deviation from the more character-driven stories of the Connery years, a deliberate shift to plastic action (multiple chases, bravura stunts) that made the franchise more of a comic book or machine. If that's not depressing enough, there's even a good British director on board, Guy Hamilton (Force 10 from Navarone). The story finds Bond taking on an international drug dealer (Yaphet Kotto), and while that may be superficially relevant, it isn't exactly the same as fighting supervillains on the order of Goldfinger. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Guy Hamilton
    The Living Daylights
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/17/2000
    Actors:
    Timothy Dalton / Maryam d'Abo
    Description:

    Amazon.com Timothy Dalton made his 007 debut in the lean, mean mode of Sean Connery, doing away with the pun-filled camp of Roger Moore's final outings. He establishes his persona right from the gritty pre-credits sequence, in which he hangs from a speeding truck as it barrels down narrow cobblestone streets, battles an assassin mano a mano, and lands in the arms of a bikinied babe. This James Bond is ruthless, tough, and romantic. The Living Daylights, set during the thaw of the cold war, begins with the defection of Russian KGB General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) and his revelation of a Soviet plot to eliminate Britain's secret agent force. Assigned to eliminate Koskov's Soviet boss (John Rhys-Davies, cutting a memorable figure in his brief appearance), Bond uncovers a conspiracy involving Koskov and an American arms dealer (Joe Don Baker). Maryam d'Abo makes a fine Bond girl as Koskov's beautiful cellist girlfriend, a classy innocent who soon loses her naive blush and shows her pluck. The villains are lackluster--Krabbé is a clown and Baker a blowhard--and Dalton hadn't yet mastered the delivery of the trademark quips, but it's a sleek script with a no-nonsense attitude. Veteran series director John Glen's action scenes have never been better--especially the show-stopping mid-air battle on the net of a speeding cargo plane--and he returns the series to the smart, rough, high-energy adventures that made the Bond reputation. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    John Glen (II)
    The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/6/2002
    Actors:
    Ian McKellen
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video As the triumphant start of a trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring leaves you begging for more. By necessity, Peter Jackson's ambitious epic compresses J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Lord of the Rings, but this robust adaptation maintains reverent allegiance to Tolkien's creation, instantly qualifying as one of the greatest fantasy films ever made. At 178 minutes, it's long enough to establish the myriad inhabitants of Middle-earth, the legendary Rings of Power, and the fellowship of hobbits, elves, dwarves, and humans--led by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the brave hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood)--who must battle terrifying forces of evil on their perilous journey to destroy the One Ring in the land of Mordor. Superbly paced, the film is both epic and intimate, offering astonishing special effects and production design while emphasizing the emotional intensity of Frodo's adventure. Ending on a perfect note of heroic loyalty and rich anticipation, this wondrous fantasy continues in The Two Towers (2002). --Jeff Shannon

    Description Based on J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is an epic adventure of good against evil, the power of friendship and individual courage. The saga centers around an unassuming Hobbit named Frodo Baggins who inherits a Ring that would give a dark and powerful lord the power to enslave the world. With a loyal fellowship of elves, dwarves, men and a wizard, Frodo embarks on a heroic quest to destroy the One Ring and pave the way for the emergence of mankind.

    DVD Features:
    3D Animated Menus
    DVD ROM Features:Exclusive online content
    Documentaries:3 in-depth programs that reveal the secrets behind the production of this epic adventure, including:-"Welcome to Middle-earth" in-store special as shown by Houghton Mifflin-"The Quest for the Ring" as debuted on the FBC Network-"A Passage to Middle-earth" as premiered on the SCI-FI Channel
    Featurette:15 featurettes originally created for lordoftherings.net, which explore the locales and cultures of Middle-earth and include interviews with cast members Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler and others.Exclusive 10-minute behind-the-scenes preview of the next The Lord of the Rings theatrical release, The Two Towers.
    Music Video:Enya "May It Be" music video
    Other:An inside look at the Special Extended DVD Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingPreview of Electronic Arts' video game, The Two TowersDouble Amaray Packaging
    TV Spot
    Theatrical Trailer:Original theatrical trailers

    Directors:
    Peter Jackson
    The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/25/2004
    Actors:
    Viggo Mortensen / Ian McKellen / Elijah Wood
    Description:

    Amazon.com With The Return of the King, the greatest fantasy epic in film history draws to a grand and glorious conclusion. Director Peter Jackson's awe-inspiring adaptation of the Tolkien classic The Lord of the Rings could never fully satisfy those who remain exclusively loyal to Tolkien's expansive literature, but as a showcase for physical and technical craftsmanship it is unsurpassed in pure scale and ambition, setting milestone after cinematic milestone as the brave yet charmingly innocent Hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) continues his mission to Mordor, where he is destined to destroy the soul-corrupting One Ring of Power in the molten lava of Mount Doom. While the heir to the kingdom of Men, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), endures the massive battle at Minas Tirith with the allegiance of the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and the great wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Frodo and stalwart companion Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) must survive the schizoid deceptions of Gollum, who remains utterly convincing as a hybrid of performance (by Andy Serkis) and subtly nuanced computer animation.

    Jackson and cowriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have much ground to cover; that they do so with intense pacing and epic sweep is impressive enough, but by investing greater depth and consequence in the actions of fellow Hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), they ensure that The Return of the King maintains the trilogy's emphasis on intimate fellowship. While several major characters appear only briefly, and one (Christopher Lee's evil wizard, Saruman) was relegated entirely to the extended-version DVD, Jackson is to be commended for his editorial acumen; like Legolas the archer, his aim as a filmmaker is consistently true, and he remains faithful to Tolkien's overall vision. If Return suffers from too many endings, as some critic suggested, it's only because the epic's conclusion is so loyally inclusive of the actors--most notably Astin--who gave it such strength to begin with. By ending the LOTR trilogy with noble integrity and faith in the power of imaginative storytelling, The Return of the King, like its predecessors, will stand as an adventure for the ages. --Jeff Shannon

    Description The final battle for Middle-earth begins. Frodo and Sam, led by Gollum, continue their dangerous mission toward the fires of Mount Doom in order to destroy the One Ring. Aragorn struggles to fulfill his legacy as he leads his outnumbered followers against the growing power of the Dark Lord Sauron, so that the Ring-bearer may complete his quest.

    DVD Features:
    3D Animated Menus
    DVD ROM Features:Exclusive online content Link to www.lordoftherings.net
    Documentaries:3 in-depth programs that reveal the secrets behind the production of this epic adventure, including: "The Quest Fulfilled: A Director's Vision" (23:05)"A Filmmaker's Journey: Making The Return of The King" (28:30) National Geographic Special (45:57)
    Featurette:6 featurettes--Aragorn's Destiny (3:25) --Minas Tirith: Capital of Gondor (3:10) --The Battle of Pelennor Fields (2:14) --Samwise the Brave (4:32) --Eowyn: White Lady of Rohan (3:45) --Digital Horse Doubles (4:35)
    Other:2-DISC SET The Battle For Middle Eath Continues--Video Games from EA (3:00)
    TV Spot
    Theatrical Trailer:Original Theatrical Trailers"The Lord of The Rings" Trilogy Supertrailer (6:45)

    Directors:
    Peter Jackson
    The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/27/2005
    Actors:
    Elijah Wood / Ian McKellen / Viggo Mortensen
    Description:

    Amazon.com The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a seamless continuation of Peter Jackson's epic fantasy based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. After the breaking of the Fellowship, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) journey to Mordor to destroy the One Ring of Power with the creature Gollum as their guide. Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) join in the defense of the people of Rohan, who are the first target in the eradication of the race of Men by the renegade wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) and the dark lord Sauron. Fantastic creatures, astounding visual effects, and a climactic battle at the fortress of Helm's Deep make The Two Towers a worthy successor to The Fellowship of the Ring, grander in scale but retaining the story's emotional intimacy. These two films are perhaps the greatest fantasy films ever made, but they're merely a prelude to the cataclysmic events of The Return of the King. --David Horiuchi

    Description Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship continue their quest to destroy the One Ring and stand against the evil of the dark lord Sauron. The Fellowship has divided and now find themselves taking different paths to defeating Sauron and his allies. Their destinies now lie at two towers - Orthanc Tower in Isengard, where the corrupted wizard Saruman waits and Sauron's fortress at Baraddur, deep within the dark lands of Mordor.

    DVD Features:
    DVD ROM Features:Exclusive online content
    Documentaries:2 in-depth programs that reveal the secrets behind the production of this epic adventure, including:"On the set - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (Starz/Encore special) "Return to Middle-earth" (WB special)
    Featurette:8 featurettes originally created for lordoftherings.net: Forces of Darkness Sounds of Middle-earth)Edoras & Rohan Culture Creatures Gandalf the White Arms & Armor Helm's DeepGollum: Andy Serkis, Bay Raitt
    Interactive Menus
    Music Video:Emiliana Torrini "Gollum Song" music video
    Other:Exclusive 10-minute behind-the-scenes preview of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingShort film by Sean Astin "The Long and Short of It" + making of Preview of Electronic Arts' video game, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingAn inside look at the Special Extended DVD Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
    Theatrical Trailer:Original theatrical trailers and TV spots

    Directors:
    Peter Jackson
    Lost in Translation
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Scarlett Johansson / Bill Murray / Akiko Takeshita / Kazuyoshi Minamimagoe / Kazuko Shibata / Take / Ryuichiro Baba / Akira Yamaguchi (II) / Catherine Lambert (II) / François du Bois / Tim Leffman / Gregory Pekar / Richard Allen (XV) / Giovanni Ribisi / Diamond Yukai / Jun Maki / Nao Asuka / Tetsuro Naka / Kanako Nakazato / Fumihiro Hayashi
    Description:

    Amazon.com Like a good dream, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation envelops you with an aura of fantastic light, moody sound, head-turning love, and a feeling of déjà vu, even though you've probably never been to this neon-fused version of Tokyo. Certainly Bob Harris has not. The 50-ish actor has signed on for big money shooting whiskey ads instead of doing something good for his career or his long-distance family. Jetlagged, helplessly lost with his Japanese-speaking director, and out of sync with the metropolis, Harris (Bill Murray, never better) befriends the married but lovelorn 25-year-old Charlotte (played with heaps of poise by 18-year-old Scarlett Johansson). Even before her photographer husband all but abandons her, she is adrift like Harris but in a total entrapment of youth. How Charlotte and Bill discover they are soul mates will be cherished for years to come. Written and directed by Coppola (The Virgin Suicides), the film is far more atmospheric than plot-driven: we whiz through Tokyo parties, karaoke bars, and odd nightlife, always ending up in the impossibly posh hotel where the two are staying. The wisps of bittersweet loneliness of Bill and Charlotte are handled smartly and romantically, but unlike modern studio films, this isn't a May-November fling film. Surely and steadily, the film ends on a much-talked-about grace note, which may burn some, yet awards film lovers who "always had Paris" with another cinematic destination of the heart. --Doug Thomas

    Directors:
    Sofia Coppola
    Love Actually (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/27/2004
    Actors:
    Liam Neeson / Hugh Grant
    Description:

    Amazon.com With no fewer than eight couples vying for our attention, Love Actually is like the Boston Marathon of romantic comedies, and everybody wins. Having mastered the genre as the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones's Diary, it appears that first-time director Richard Curtis is just like his screenplays: He just wants to be loved, and he'll go to absurdly appealing lengths to win our affection. With Love Actually, Curtis orchestrates a minor miracle of romantic choreography, guiding a brilliant cast of stars and newcomers as they careen toward love and holiday cheer in London, among them the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) who's smitten with his caterer; a widower (Liam Neeson) whose young son nurses the ultimate schoolboy crush; a writer (Colin Firth) who falls for his Portuguese housekeeper; a devoted wife and mother (Emma Thompson) coping with her potentially unfaithful husband (Alan Rickman); and a lovelorn American (Laura Linney) who's desperately attracted to a colleague. There's more--too much more--as Curtis wraps his Christmas gift with enough happy endings to sweeten a dozen other movies. That he pulls it off so entertainingly is undeniably impressive; that he does it so shamelessly suggests that his writing fares better with other, less ingratiating directors. --Jeff Shannon

    Description Get ready for fun! (Leah Rozen, People) with the "feel good movie of the year!" (Clay Smith, Access Hollywood) Love Actually is the ultimate romantic comedy from the makers of Bridget Jones's Diary and Notting Hill. Funny, irresistible and heartwarming, an all-star cast (Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth and Emma Thompson, to name a few!) will take you on a breathtaking tour of love's delightful twists and turns. Fall under the spell Love Actually and share the laughs and charm again and again.

    Directors:
    Richard Curtis
    Lover Come Back
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/6/2004
    Actors:
    Rock Hudson / Doris Day / Tony Randall
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Rock Hudson and Doris Day had one of the sweetest chemistries in the movies--as demonstrated in several light comedies, including this film's predecessor, 1959's Pillow Talk. The two similar films feature a handsome, duplicitous Hudson duping--then falling for--an earnest Day. In Lover Come Back, the two play Jerry Webster and Carol Templeton, rival advertising agents, vying for the same clients--until Jerry makes up a product, Vip, to get out of a scrape. As Madison Avenue catches Vip fever, Jerry falls deeper into the façade-and into love with Carol, who schemes to steal the nonexistent account away from him. Tony Randall plays Peter Ramsay, Webster's hapless boss. While Day and Hudson are as adorable as ever (and would continue to be in 1964's Send Me No Flowers), a standout is fellow Pillow Talk and Send Me No Flowers costar Randall. He's an effective foil--both comically and physically (as he stands next to the much taller Hudson). Their brands of humor blend charmingly: Hudson's sardonic coyness, Day's innocent sweetness, and Randall's nervous edginess. Look for a pre-Brady Bunch Ann B. Davis as Mille, Carol's loyal assistant, and a pre-Beverly Hillbillies Donna Douglas as Ramsay's secretary. --N.F. Mendoza

    Description Rock Hudson and Doris Day are together again! Jerry Webster (Hudson) and Carol Templeton (Day) are rival Madison Avenue advertising executives who each dislike each other’s methods. After he steals a client out from under her cute little nose, revenge prompts her to infiltrate his secret "VIP" campaign in order to persuade the mystery product’s scientist to switch to her firm. Trouble is, the product is phony and the "scientist" is Jerry, who uses all his intelligence and charm to steal her heart in this outrageous comedy of mistaken identity, co-starring the ever-delightful Tony Randall.

    Directors:
    Delbert Mann
    Mackenna's Gold
    Front Cover
    Description:

    Amazon.com Attempting to do for Westerns what his Guns of Navarone had done for World War II action epics, director J. Lee Thompson crafted Mackenna's Gold as a lavish, absurdly ambitious variation on Erich Von Stroheim's Greed, resulting in a last-gasp Western so eager to encompass the genre's traditions that it turns into a big, silly, wildly entertaining mess. Gregory Peck surely had more serious intentions when he signed on, and he brings prestigious gravitas to his glum role as Marshall Mackenna, who gets shanghaied into searching for the gold-filled canyon of an elusive Apache legend. The rest of the 1969 film labors to undermine Peck's respectable demeanor; how else to explain Omar Sharif as a Mexican villain, Julie Newmar as a hot-blooded Apache temptress (with underwater nude scenes that were celebrated in Playboy magazine), and a jaw-dropping finale that's so ridiculous it's impressive in spite of itself?

    Formerly blacklisted screenwriter Carl Foreman and composer Dimitri Tiomkin joined up to coproduce the film, and one can only imagine how Anthony Mann or Howard Hawks might've handled Foreman's sensible script. Thompson goes for scenic splendor, heavy action, and heavier emotions, casting everything at a fever pitch that's wildly enjoyable without betraying his "serious" intentions. A stable of Hollywood veterans (Eli Wallach, Raymond Massey, Edward G. Robinson, and others) appear in lively supporting roles--they're all dispatched in a garish Apache ambush--and Camilla Sparv is an ingénue with plenty of fighting attitude. Gold fever reaches its peak, along with some awesome special effects, and divine intervention reaches new heights of intensity. Top it off with José Feliciano's theme song, and you'll be in zany Western heaven. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    J. Lee Thompson
    Magnolia (New Line Platinum Series)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/29/2000
    Actors:
    Tom Cruise / William H. Macy
    Description:

    Amazon.com A handful of people in the San Fernando Valley are having one hell of a day. TV mogul Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is on his deathbed; his trophy wife (Julianne Moore) is popping pills with alarming frequency. Earl's nurse (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is trying desperately to get in touch with Earl's only son, sex guru Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), who's about to have his carefully constructed past blown by a TV reporter (April Grace). Whiz kid Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) is being goaded by his selfish dad into breaking the record for the game show What Do Kids Know? Meanwhile, Stanley's predecessor, the grown-up quiz kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) has lost his job and is nursing a severe case of unrequited love. And the host of What Do Kids Know?, the affable Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), like Earl, is dying of cancer, and his attempt to reconcile with his cokehead daughter (Melora Walters) fails miserably. She, meanwhile, is running hot and cold with a cop (John C. Reilly) who would love to date her, if she can sit still for long enough. And over it all, a foreboding sky threatens to pour something more than just rain.

    This third feature from Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) is a maddening, magnificent piece of filmmaking, and it's an ensemble film to rank with the best of Robert Altman--every little piece of the film means something, and it's solidly there for a reason. Deftly juggling a breathtaking ensemble of actors, Anderson crafts a tale of neglectful parents, resentful children, and love-starved souls that's amazing in scope, both thematically and emotionally. Part of the charge of Magnolia is seeing exactly how may characters Anderson can juggle, and can he keep all those balls in air (indeed he can, even if it means throwing frogs into the mix). And it's been far too long since we've seen a filmmaker whose love of making movies is so purely joyful, and this electric energy is reflected in the actors, from Cruise's revelatory performance to Reilly's quietly powerful turn as the moral center of the story. While at three hours it's definitely not suited to everyone's taste, Magnolia is a compelling, heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful mediation on the accidents of chance that make up our lives. Featuring eight wonderful songs by Aimee Mann, including "Save Me." --Mark Englehart

    Description An intriguing and entertaining study in characters going through varying levels of crisis and introspection. This psychological drama leads you in several different directions, weaving and intersecting various subplots and characters, from a brilliant Tom Cruise, as a self-proclaimed pied-piper, to a child forced to go on a TV game show and the pressures he faces from a ruthless father.

    Major League
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/24/2002
    Actors:
    Tom Berenger / Charlie Sheen / Corbin Bernsen / Margaret Whitton / James Gammon / Rene Russo / Wesley Snipes / Charles Cyphers / Chelcie Ross / Dennis Haysbert / Andy Romano / Bob Uecker / Steve Yeager (II) / Peter Vuckovich / Stacy Carroll / Richard Pickren / Kevin Crowley / Mary Seibel / Bill Leff / Mike Bacarella
    Description:

    Amazon.com A baseball comedy and slob comedy rolled into one, this one actually works as entertainment, if not as a piece of cinematic mastery. James Gammon is the has-been manager hired to lead the last-place Cleveland Indians whose owner wants them to lose so she can sell them. But the team of has-beens and never-wases that he assembles (including Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, and Wesley Snipes) develops a sense of pride and turns the team around. There's plenty of rowdy humor about sex, race, and whatever else they can make fun of. Look for Rene Russo (in her first film role) as Berenger's romantic interest; Snipes also had his first showy role as Willie Mays Hayes, the team's base-stealing ace. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    David S. Ward
    The Maltese Falcon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/15/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Still the tightest, sharpest, and most cynical of Hollywood's official deathless classics, bracingly tough even by post-Tarantino standards. Humphrey Bogart is Dashiell Hammett's definitive private eye, Sam Spade, struggling to keep his hard-boiled cool as the double-crosses pile up around his ankles. The plot, which dances all around the stolen Middle Eastern statuette of the title, is too baroque to try to follow, and it doesn't make a bit of difference. The dialogue, much of it lifted straight from Hammett, is delivered with whip-crack speed and sneering ferocity, as Bogie faces off against Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet, fends off the duplicitous advances of Mary Astor, and roughs up a cringing "gunsel" played by Elisha Cook Jr. It's an action movie of sorts, at least by implication: the characters always seem keyed up, right on the verge of erupting into violence. This is a turning-point picture in several respects: John Huston (The African Queen) made his directorial debut here in 1941, and Bogart, who had mostly played bad guys, was a last-minute substitution for George Raft, who must have been kicking himself for years afterward. This is the role that made Bogart a star and established his trend-setting (and still influential) antihero persona. --David Chute

    Description Sam Spade is caught in a frantic search for the jeweled falcon of Malta and his partner's killer. His pursuit leads him to a group of desperate individuals who also want the bird.

    Directors:
    John Huston
    Man of La Mancha
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/11/2004
    Actors:
    Peter O'Toole / Sophia Loren / James Coco
    Description:

    Amazon.com It's hard to imagine a finer Don Quixote than Peter O'Toole, who's spent most of his career with a slightly mad, dreaming look in his marvelous eyes. O'Toole's suitability for the role is tested by the Broadway treatment of Man of La Mancha, the film version of the hit stage musical. Everybody knows "The Impossible Dream," that indomitable hymn to, well, quixotic questing, and it is indeed the best of the Spanish-inflected songs. Despite the location shooting in Italy, Love Story director Arthur Hiller can't elude the stagey concept (in which Cervantes, imprisoned by the Inquisition, acts out the tale of Don Quixote for his fellow prisoners). James Coco, as Sancho Panza, is overshadowed by the film's irresistible Dulcinea: Sophia Loren, at her mature peak. (Her singing, alas, is not as ripe as her beautiful self.) If you love Cervantes for his earthy ironies, this movie will seem a curious slice of inspirational shtick. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Arthur Hiller
    Man on the Moon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/30/2000
    Actors:
    Jim Carrey / Danny DeVito
    Description:

    Amazon.com "There is no real you," jokes Lynn Margulies (Courtney Love) to her boyfriend, Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey), as he grows more contemplative during a battle with cancer. "I forgot," he says, playing along, though the question of Kaufman's reality is always at issue in Milos Forman's underappreciated Man on the Moon.

    The story of Kaufman's quick rise to fame through early appearances on Saturday Night Live and the conceptual stunts that made his club and concert appearances an instant legend in the irony-fueled 1970s and early '80s, Man on the Moon never makes the mistake of artificially delineating Comic Andy from Private Andy. True, we get to see something of his private interest in meditation and some of the flakier extremes of alternative medicine, but even these interludes suggest the presence of an ultimate con behind apparent miracles of transformation.

    Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (The People vs. Larry Flynt) allege that transformation was Kaufman's purpose--more than a shtick but less than a destiny. As we see him constantly up the ante on the credibility of his performance personae (the obnoxious nightclub comic Tony Clifton; the insulting, misogynistic professional wrestler), Forman makes it harder and harder to detect Kaufman's sleight of hand. But it's there, always there, always the transcendent Andy watching the havoc he creates and the emotions he stirs.

    Carrey is magnificent as Kaufman, re-creating uncannily detailed comedy pieces etched in the memory of anyone who remembers the real Andy. But while Carrey's mimicry of Kaufman is flawless and funny, the actor probes much deeper into an enigmatic character who, in life, was often a moving target even for those closest to him. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Milos Forman
    The Man Who Knew Too Little
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/5/2004
    Actors:
    Bill Murray / Peter Gallagher / Joanne Whalley / Richard Wilson (II)
    Description:

    Amazon.com Only die-hard Bill Murray fans will likely consider this movie for their home-video library, but it's not without its rewards. You can see why someone as comically astute as Murray would agree to play a dimwitted American who can't tell the difference between improvised theater and a real-life espionage plot. There's certainly plenty of potential for belly laughs, and Murray milks the opportunities like the old pro that he is. Here he plays an American tourist in London who thinks he's been recruited into a street-theater act called "Theater of Life"; actually, he's stepped into a complicated spy scheme that plays like a cross between Hitchcock and the Marx Brothers. Joanne Whalley costars as the femme fatale who may or may not be a double agent, and along the way there's enough comical confusion to foil any number of idiotic villains. The movie stretches its one-joke premise to desperate extremes (Murray thinks he's in a play, so he's oblivious to genuine danger), and 95 minutes is more than enough time to exhaust the comedic possibilities. But, as always, Murray finds a way to mine gold from a few clever bits, and he cuts loose with some inspired lunacy during a climactic scene involving a hidden bomb and a troupe of dancing Cossacks. It's not Murray's finest hour, but give him credit for making the best out of a challenging situation. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Jon Amiel
    The Man Who Knew Too Much
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/6/2001
    Actors:
    James Stewart / Doris Day
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 remake of his own 1934 spy thriller is an exciting event in its own right, with several justifiably famous sequences. James Stewart and Doris Day play American tourists who discover more than they wanted to know about an assassination plot. When their son is kidnapped to keep them quiet, they are caught between concern for him and the terrible secret they hold. When asked about the difference between this version of the story and the one he made 22 years earlier, Hitchcock always said the first was the work of a talented amateur while the second was the act of a seasoned professional. Indeed, several extraordinary moments in this update represent consummate filmmaking, particularly a relentlessly exciting Albert Hall scene, with a blaring symphony, an assassin's gun, and Doris Day's scream. Along with Hitchcock's other films from the mid-1950s to 1960 (including Vertigo, Rear Window, and Psycho), The Man Who Knew Too Much is the work of a master in his prime. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    The Man With The Golden Gun (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/22/2002
    Actors:
    Roger Moore / Christopher Lee
    Description:

    Amazon.com The British superspy with a license to kill takes on his dark underworld double, a classy assassin who kills with golden bullets at $1 million a hit. Roger Moore, in his second outing as James Bond, meets Christopher Lee's Scaramanga, one of the most magnetic villains in the entire series, in this entertaining but rather wan entry in the 007 sweepstakes. Bond's globetrotting search takes him to Hong Kong, Bangkok, and finally China, where Scaramanga turns his island retreat into a twisted theme park for a deadly game of wits between the gunmen, moderated by Scaramanga's diminutive man Friday Nick Nack (Fantasy Island's Hervé Villechaize). Britt Ekland does her best as the most embarrassingly inept Bond girl in 007 history, a clumsy, dim agent named Mary Goodnight who looks fetching in a bikini, while Maud Adams is Scaramanga's tough but haunted lover and assistant (she returns to the series as the title character in Octopussy). Clifton James, the redneck sheriff from Live and Let Die, makes an embarrassing and ill-advised appearance as a racist tourist who briefly teams up with 007 in what is otherwise the film's highlight, a high-energy chase through the crowded streets of Bangkok that climaxes with a breathtaking midair corkscrew jump. Bond and company are let down by a lazy script, but Moore balances the overplayed humor with a steely performance and Lee's charm and enthusiasm makes Scaramanga a cool, deadly, and thoroughly enchanting adversary. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    Guy Hamilton
    The Manchurian Candidate (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/21/2004
    Actors:
    Jeffrey Wright / Pablo Schreiber / Anthony Mackie / Dorian Missick / Jose Pablo Cantillo
    Date Added:
    9/25/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com The Manchurian Candidate, a classic of paranoid cinema from the 1960s, gets a cunning update, rife with hot-topic references to corporate war profiteering and electronic voting machines. Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington, Training Day) has been haunted by nightmares ever since a firefight during the first Gulf War--a battle in which he believes he was saved by the heroism of Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber, Kate & Leopold). But Marco's nightmares suggest otherwise and drive him to investigate what happened, which may threaten Shaw's candidacy for vice-president. Meryl Streep plays Shaw's mother, a senior senator who manipulates everyone around her with an iron will and a sharp tongue. The Manchurian Candidate loses steam towards the end, but up until then director Jonathan Demme keeps the movie rolling fluidly, crafting some creepy paranoia of his own while Streep tears into everything in her path. --Bret Fetzer

    Description Serving together in the Persian Gulf War, Captain Bennett Marco and Sgt. Raymond Shaw were part of a platoon of soldiers kidnapped and brainwashed. Ten years later, Shaw gears up for his vice presidential campaign while Marco eventually remembers being kidnapped and discovers Shaw's powerful mother played a big part in that scheme. Determined to reveal the truth behind everything, Marco must first convince Shaw that the brainwashing really happened.

    Directors:
    Jonathan Demme
    The Manchurian Candidate
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/1/2001
    Actors:
    Frank Sinatra / Laurence Harvey
    Description:

    Amazon.com You will never find a more chillingly suspenseful, perversely funny, or viciously satirical political thriller than The Manchurian Candidate, based on the novel by Richard Condon (author of Winter Kills). The film, withheld from distribution by star Frank Sinatra for almost a quarter century after President Kennedy's assassination, has lost none of its potency over time. Former infantryman Bennet Marco (Sinatra) is haunted by nightmares about his platoon having been captured and brainwashed in Korea. The indecipherable dreams seem to center on Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), a decorated war hero but a cold fish of a man whose own mother (Angela Lansbury, in one of the all-time great dragon-lady roles) describes him as looking like his head is "always about to come to a point." Mrs. Bates has nothing on Lansbury's character, the manipulative queen behind her second husband, Senator John Iselin (James Gregory), a notoriously McCarthyesque demagogue. Digital video disc extras include interviews with Sinatra, producer George Axelrod, and director John Frankenheimer, and audio commentary by Frankenheimer. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    John Frankenheimer
    Marilyn Monroe - The Diamond Collection II (Don't Bother to Knock / Let's Make Love / Monkey Business / Niagara / River of No Return)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/14/2002
    Description:

    Amazon.com Some essential examples of the Marilyn Monroe mystique make up this second collection of titles from MM's years at Twentieth Century Fox. After sparkling in small roles, she burst upon the public consciousness in 1952, thanks to five films and a certain nude calendar. Two of the 1952 pictures, showing very different sides of the new actress, are included here. One is Monkey Business, Howard Hawks's raucous comedy about a youth serum, in which top-lined stars Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers regress to a state of adolescent abandon, with Monroe doing spot-on supporting duty. Don't Bother to Knock gives Marilyn her first lead role, in a tense little film noir; she's a babysitter with an unstable streak, a fine performance hinting at depths rarely touched in her career.

    In Niagara, Monroe is a full-fledged sex goddess, a scheming wife tormenting husband Joseph Cotten in their cabin by the falls. This Technicolor slice of pseudo-Hitchcock is a fun location picture with a genuinely exciting climax. Otto Preminger's River of No Return has Marilyn livened up by the presence of costar Robert Mitchum, in a strong outdoorsy Western that catches the two stars in appealing form. By the time of 1960's Let's Make Love, MM looks tired. This backstage musical is more interesting as a time capsule than as a romance, although one number shines: "My Heart Belongs to Daddy." Less urgent for Monroe fans than the first Diamond Collection, this set is still a good one for the die-hards. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Henry Hathaway / George Cukor / Jean Negulesco
    Marilyn Monroe - The Final Days
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/2/2005
    Description:

    Amazon.com In The Final Days, producer-director Patty Ivins chronicles Marilyn Monroe's final, aborted feature film, Something's Got to Give, which was ultimately shut down after the star was dismissed from the production. Beyond Monroe's fragile emotional and physical health, this well-crafted profile examines the financial crisis facing her studio as well as the mounting frustration of meticulous director George Cukor and his cast, including costar Dean Martin, as Monroe's absences drove the shoot over budget. The 2001 documentary, which was previously available only as part of The Diamond Collection, concludes with a 40-minute reconstruction of footage completed for the feature, which would subsequently be reshot as a vehicle for Doris Day and James Garner, Move Over, Darling. --Sam Sutherland

    Description Over 40 years after Marilyn Monroe's death halted production on 20th Century Fox's light comedy Something's Got To Give, this celebration of the ultimate screen goddess offers viewers the world premiere of the edited reconstruction of her final film.

    Directors:
    Patty Ivins Specht
    Marnie
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/30/2000
    Actors:
    Tippi Hedren / Sean Connery
    Description:

    Amazon.com You could call this one Hoot Along with Hitch. With the possible exceptions of Topaz and Family Plot, this is Hitchcock's cheesiest movie, visually and psychologically crass in comparison with a peak achievement like Vertigo--although it shares some of that film's characteristic obsessive themes. Sean Connery, fresh from the second Bond picture, From Russia with Love, is a Philadelphia playboy who begins to fall for Tippi Hedren's blonde ice goddess only when he realizes that she's a professional thief; she's come to work in his upper-crust insurance office in order to embezzle mass quantities. His patient program of investigation and surveillance has a creepy, voyeuristic quality that's pure Hitchcock, but all's lost when it emerges that the root of Marnie's problem is phobic sexual frigidity, induced by a childhood trauma. Luckily, Sean is up to the challenge. As it were. Not even D.H. Lawrence believed as fervently as Hitchcock in the curative properties of sexual release. --David Chute

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Mars Attacks!
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Jack Nicholson / Annette Bening / Pierce Brosnan / Sarah Jessica Parker
    Description:

    Amazon.com It's enlightening to view Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! as his twisted satire of the blockbuster film Independence Day, which was released earlier the same year, although the movies were in production simultaneously. Burton's eye-popping, schlock tribute to 1950s UFO movies actually plays better on video than it did in theaters. The idea of invading aliens ray gunning the big-name movie stars in the cast is a cleverly subversive one, and the bulb-headed, funny-sounding animated Martians are pretty nifty, but it all seemed to be spread thin on the big screen. On video, however, the movie's kooky humor seems a bit more concentrated. The Earth actors (most of whom get zapped or kidnapped for alien science experiments) include Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rod Steiger, Michael J. Fox, Lukas Haas, Jim Brown, Tom Jones, and Pam Grier. The digital video disc features an isolated track for Danny Elfman's score, as well as a few other clever and nasty little Martian surprises. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Tim Burton
    The Marx Brothers Collection (A Night at The Opera/A Day at The Races/A Night in Casablanca/Room Service/At the Circus/Go West/The Big Store)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/4/2004
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video When it comes to long-awaited treats like The Marx Brothers Collection, you can never get too much of a good thing. These seven comedies can't compare to the sheer lunacy of the five classics (The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup) that the Marx Bros. made for Paramount between 1929 and 1933 (available in The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection), but when uber-producer Irving Thalberg signed Groucho, Harpo, and Chico to an MGM contract in 1935 (by which time sibling costar Zeppo had become the team's off-screen manager), he knew just how to cure their box-office blues. As a result, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races were critical and commercial hits, lavishly produced according to the "Tiffany" studio's golden-age formula of glamorous set pieces and musical numbers combined with sensible plots that smoothly integrated snappy, well-written Marxian antics. Opera is the jewel of this set, with timeless scenes (the Stateroom, the Groucho-Chico contract negotiation, etc.) that rank among the greatest bits of silver-screen comedy... not to mention Groucho's flirtatious insults at Margaret Dumont's upper-crust expense.

    A Day at the Races deserves near-equal acclaim ("Get-a your tootsie-fruitsie ice cream!"), but Thalberg's death in 1937 dealt a devastating blow, and the Marxes suffered from studio indifference, resulting in a succession of comedies that are timelessly enjoyable even as they fall prey to diminishing returns. By the time they made Go West and The Big Store, the Marxes were out of their element, and a few of the musical interludes indulge racial stereotypes that were common in the studio era. Despite this, these movies remain fresh and frantic, and Warner Bros. (holder of the RKO and MGM libraries) has done a marvelous job of packaging The Marx Brothers Collection to nostalgically approximate the filmgoing experience of the 1930s and '40s, with vintage shorts (Our Gang, Robert Benchley comedies, MGM cartoons, etc.) from the time of each feature's original release. Archival materials are slim but worthwhile (especially Groucho's 1961 interview with TV talk-show host Hy Gardner), and while Glenn Mitchell's commentary on Races is sparse and superficial, Leonard Maltin brings his usual superfan's enthusiasm and encyclopedic knowledge to bear on a full-length Opera commentary track. The new documentaries are somewhat redundant, but essential viewing for Marx Bros. neophytes. With all seven films presented in pristine condition, this is definitely a Marx Brothers Collection worth having. --Jeff Shannon

    Description This set includes seven of only thirteen Marx Brothers films ever made! Collection includes: "A Night at the Opera" (1935) - The Marx Brothers turn Mrs. Claypool's opera into chaos in their efforts to help two young hopefuls get a break. It contains the famous scene where Groucho, Chico and Harpo cram a ship's stateroom with wall-to-wall people, gags, one-liners, musical riffs and two hard-boiled eggs. "A Day at the Races" (1937) - Groucho stars as Hugo Z. Hackenbush, a horse veterinarian dispensing horse pills and quips with equal glee. Chico selling racing tips, Harpo destroying a piano to turn it into a harp and favorite foil actress Margaret Dumont make this thoroughbred comedy wall-to-wall hilarity. "A Night in Casablanca" (1946) - This parody of the Bogart/Bergman 1943 classic features the Nazis vs. the "nutsies" as the Marx Brothers foil Axis criminals when they find stolen jewels and paintings Nazis have hidden in a hotel. "Room Service"/"At the Circus" - These two films are combined on one disc to provide double doses of laughter. In "Room Service" (1938), Lucille Ball and Ann Miller provide comic co-star support while the Marx Brothers play producers trying to keep their show above water and a hotel room over their head. In "At the Circus" (1939) Groucho stars as professional shyster lawyer J. Cheever Loophole in the middle of big-top bedlam as the boys try to save the circus and look to Margaret Dumont for the money to do so. Groucho sings one of his famous songs, "Lydia the Tattooed Lady." "Go West"/"The Big Store" - Another Marx Brothers twin bill makes this a hilarious comedy "two-fer." In the first, the Marxmen "Go West" (1940) to the land of outlaws and Indians where the fun never stops and where they outwit a land grabber. In "The Big Store" (1941), Groucho plays Attorney Wolf J. Flywheel who with sidekick Wacky (Harpo) and bodyguard Ravelli (Chico) are investigating the shady dealings of a crooked department store owner. Bonus extras include commentary by Leonard Maltin.

    Directors:
    William A. Seiter / Archie Mayo / Charles Reisner
    Mary Poppins (Disney Gold Classic Collection)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/30/2000
    Actors:
    Julie Andrews / Dick Van Dyke
    Description:

    Amazon.com There is only one word that comes close to accurately describing the enchanting Mary Poppins, and that term was coined by the movie itself: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Even at 2 hours and 20 minutes, Disney's pioneering mixture of live action and animation (based on the books by P.L. Travers) still holds kids spellbound. Julie Andrews won an Oscar as the world's most magically idealized nanny ("practically perfect in every way," and complete with lighter-than-air umbrella), and Dick Van Dyke is her clownishly charming beau, Bert the chimney sweep. The songs are also terrific, ranging from bright and cheery ("A Spoonful of Sugar") to dark and cheery (the Oscar-winning "Chim-Chim Cheree") to touchingly melancholy ("Feed the Birds"). Many consider Mary Poppins to be the crowning achievement of Walt Disney's career--and it was the only one of his features to be nominated for a best picture Academy Award until Beauty and the Beast in 1991. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Robert Stevenson
    Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/20/2004
    Actors:
    Russell Crowe / Paul Bettany / James D'Arcy / Billy Boyd
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video In the capable hands of director Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a seafaring adventure like no other, impeccably authentic, dynamically cast, and thrilling enough to give any classic swashbuckler a run for its money. In adapting two of Patrick O'Brian's enormously popular novels about British naval hero Capt. Jack Aubrey, Weir and cowriter John Collee have changed the timeframe from the British/American war of 1812 to the British/French opposition of 1805, where the HMS Surprise, under Aubrey's confident command, is patrolling the South Atlantic in pursuit of the Acheron, a French warship with the strategic advantage of greater size, speed, and artillery. Russell Crowe is outstanding as Aubrey, firm and fiercely loyal, focused on his prey even if it means locking horns with his friend and ship's surgeon, played by Crowe's A Beautiful Mind costar Paul Bettany. Employing a seamless combination of carefully matched ocean footage, detailed models, full-scale ships, and CGI enhancements, Weir pays exacting attention to every nautical detail, while maintaining a very human story of honor, warfare, and survival under wretched conditions. Raging storms and hull-shattering battles provide pulse-pounding action, and a visit to the Galapagos Islands lends a note of otherworldly wonder, adding yet another layer of historical perspective to this splendidly epic adventure. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Peter Weir
    The Matrix Reloaded (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/14/2004
    Actors:
    Lambert Wilson / Harold Perrineau
    Description:

    Amazon.com Considering the lofty expectations that preceded it, The Matrix Reloaded triumphs where most sequels fail. It would be impossible to match the fresh audacity that made The Matrix a global phenomenon in 1999, but in continuing the exploits of rebellious Neo (Keanu Reeves), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) as they struggle to save the human sanctuary of Zion from invading machines, the codirecting Wachowski brothers have their priorities well in order. They offer the obligatory bigger and better highlights (including the impressive "Burly Brawl" and freeway chase sequences) while remaining focused on cleverly plotting the middle of a brain-teasing trilogy that ends with The Matrix Revolutions. The metaphysical underpinnings can be dismissed or scrutinized, and choosing the latter course (this is, after all, an epic about choice and free will) leads to astonishing repercussions that made Reloaded an explosive hit with critics and hardcore fans alike. As the centerpiece of a multimedia franchise, this dynamic sequel ends with a cliffhanger that virtually guarantees a mind-blowing conclusion. --Jeff Shannon

    Description In the second chapter of the Matrix trilogy, Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) continue to lead the revolt against the Machine Army. In their quest to save the human race from extinction, they gain greater insight into the construct of The Matrix and Neo's pivotal role in the fate of mankind.

    Directors:
    Andy Wachowski / Larry Wachowski
    The Matrix Revolutions (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/14/2004
    Actors:
    Lambert Wilson / Carrie-Anne Moss / Keanu Reeves / Laurence Fishburne
    Description:

    Amazon.com Despite the inevitable law of diminishing returns, The Matrix Revolutions is quite satisfying as an adrenalized action epic, marking yet another milestone in the exponential evolution of computer-generated special effects. That may not be enough to satisfy hardcore Matrix fans who turned the Wachowski Brothers' hacker mythology into a quasi-religious pop-cultural phenomenon, but there's no denying that the trilogy goes out with a cosmic bang instead of the whimper that many expected. Picking up precisely where The Matrix Reloaded left off, this 130-minute finale finds Neo (Keanu Reeves) at a virtual junction, defending the besieged human enclave of Zion by confronting the attacking machines on their home turf, while humans combat swarms of tentacled mechanical sentinels as Zion's fate lies in the balance. It all amounts to a blaze of CGI glory, devoid of all but the shallowest emotions, and so full of metaphysical hokum that the trilogy's detractors can gloat with I-told-you-so sarcasm. And yet, Revolutions still succeeds as a slick, exciting hybrid of cinema and video game, operating by its own internal logic with enough forward momentum to make the whole trilogy seem like a thrilling, magnificent dream. -- Jeff Shannon

    Description Provocative Futuristic Action Thriller. The Matrix Revolutions marks the final explosive chapter in the Matrix trilogy.

    Directors:
    Larry Wachowski / Andy Wachowski
    The Matrix
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/21/1999
    Actors:
    Keanu Reeves / Laurence Fishburne / Carrie-Anne Moss
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video By following up their debut thriller Bound with the 1999 box-office smash The Matrix, the codirecting Wachowski brothers--Andy and Larry--annihilated any suggestion of a sophomore jinx, crafting one of the most exhilarating sci-fi/action movies of the 1990s. Set in the not too distant future in an insipid, characterless city, we find a young man named Neo (Keanu Reeves). A software techie by day and a computer hacker by night, he sits alone at home by his monitor, waiting for a sign, a signal--from what or whom he doesn't know--until one night, a mysterious woman named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) seeks him out and introduces him to that faceless character he has been waiting for: Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). A messiah of sorts, Morpheus presents Neo with the truth about his world by shedding light on the dark secrets that have troubled him for so long: "You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad." Ultimately, Morpheus illustrates to Neo what the Matrix is--a reality beyond reality that controls all of their lives, in a way that Neo can barely comprehend.

    Neo thus embarks on an adventure that is both terrifying and enthralling. Pitted against an enemy that transcends human concepts of evil, Morpheus and his team must train Neo to believe that he is the chosen champion of their fight. With mind-boggling, technically innovative special effects and a thought-provoking script that owes a debt of inspiration to the legacy of cyberpunk fiction, this is much more than an out-and-out action yarn; it's a thinking man's journey into the realm of futuristic fantasy, a dreamscape full of eye candy that will satisfy sci-fi, kung fu, action, and adventure fans alike. Although the film is headlined by Reeves and Fishburne--who both turn in fine performances--much of the fun and excitement should be attributed to Moss, who flawlessly mixes vulnerability with immense strength, making other contemporary female heroines look timid by comparison. And if we were going to cast a vote for most dastardly movie villain of 1999, it would have to go to Hugo Weaving, who plays the feckless, semipsychotic Agent Smith with panache and edginess. As the film's box-office profits soared, the Wachowski brothers announced that The Matrix is merely the first chapter in a cinematically dazzling franchise--a chapter that is arguably superior to the other sci-fi smash of 1999 (you know... the one starring Jar Jar Binks). --Jeremy Storey

    Description Set in the 22nd century, "Matrix" tells of a computer hacker (Reeves) who joins a group of underground insurgents fighting the vast and powerful computers who now rule the earth. The computers are powered by human beings...

    Directors:
    Andy Wachowski / Larry Wachowski
    Meet Me In St. Louis (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/6/2004
    Actors:
    Judy Garland / Margaret O'Brien
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video One of the finest American musicals, this 1944 film by Vincente Minnelli is an intentionally self-contained story set in 1903, in which a happy St. Louis family is shaken to their roots by the prospect of moving to New York, where the father has a better job pending. Judy Garland heads the cast in what amounts to a splendid, end-of-an-era story that nicely rhymes with the onset of the 20th century. The film is extraordinarily alive, the characters strong, and the musical numbers are so splendidly part of the storytelling that you don't feel the film has stopped for an interlude. --Tom Keogh

    Description St. Louis 1903. The well-off Smith family has four beautiful daughters, including Esther and little Tootie. 17-year old Esther has fallen in love with the boy next door who has just moved in, John. He however, barely notices her at first. The family is shocked when Mr. Smith reveals that he has been transfered to a nice position in New York, which means that the family has to leave St. Louis and the St. Louis Fair.

    Directors:
    Vincente Minnelli
    Men in Black (Collector's Series) - DTS
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/5/2000
    Actors:
    Tommy Lee Jones / Will Smith
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video This imaginative summer comedy from director Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty) is a lot of fun, largely on the strength of Will Smith's engaging performance as the rookie partner of a secret agent (Tommy Lee Jones) assigned to keep tabs on Earth-dwelling extraterrestrials. There's lots of comedy to spare in this bright film, some of the funniest stuff found in the margins of the major action. (A scene with Smith's character being trounced in the distance by a huge alien while Jones questions a witness is a riot.) The inventiveness never lets up, and the cast--including Vincent D'Onofrio doing frighteningly convincing work as an alien occupying a decaying human--hold up their end splendidly. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Barry Sonnenfeld
    Men in Black II (Widescreen Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/26/2002
    Actors:
    Lara Flynn Boyle / David Cross (II) / Rosario Dawson / Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine / Jay Johnston / Tommy Lee Jones / Jack Kehler / Johnny Knoxville / Joel McKinnon Miller / Alpheus Merchant / Michael Rivkin / Tony Shalhoub / Michael Bailey Smith / Will Smith / Peter Spellos / Howard Spiegel / Rip Torn / Lenny Venito / Patrick Warburton
    Description:

    Amazon.com More remake than sequel, Men in Black II safely repeats everything that made Men in Black the blockbuster hit of 1997. That's fine if you loved the original's fresh humor, weird aliens, and loopy ingenuity, but as sequels go, it's pure déjà vu. Makeup wizard Rick Baker is the only MIB alumnus who's trying anything new, while director Barry Sonnenfeld and costars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (as alien-fighting agents Jay and Kay, respectively) are on autopilot with an uninspired screenplay. The quest of a multitentacled alien--on Earth in the form of Lara Flynn Boyle--for the light of Zartha requires Jay to deneuralize Kay, whose restored memory contains the key to saving the planet. The tissue-thin premise allows all varieties of special effects--mostly familiar, with some oddly hilarious new stuff tossed in for good measure. Certainly enjoyable as a popcorn distraction, but the MIB magic has worn a bit thin. --Jeff Shannon

    A Mighty Wind
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/23/2003
    Actors:
    Eugene Levy / Michael McKean / Harry Shearer
    Description:

    Amazon.com There's A Mighty Wind a-blowin', along with the gales of laughter you'll get from Christopher Guest's third exercise in brilliant "mockumentary." After tackling small-town theatricals in Waiting for Guffman and obsessive dog-show contestants in Best in Show, Guest and his reliable stable of repertory players (including Fred Willard, Parker Posey, and Bob Balaban) apply their improvisational genius to a latter-day reunion of fictional '60s-era folk singers, a comedic goldmine that Guest first explored 30 years earlier on The National Lampoon Radio Hour. Collaborating with costar and cowriter Eugene Levy (who gives the film's funniest performance), Guest is so delicate in his satirical approach that the laughs aren't always obvious, and the subtlety can be as wistful (as in Catherine O'Hara's performance as Levy's auto-harpist partner) as it is hilarious. Some may wish for more blatant comedy, but that would compromise the genuine affection that Guest & Co. have for the music they're spoofing. --Jeff Shannon

    Description Documentary-style Comedy. Christopher Guest follows up his acclaimed ensemble comedies Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman with a docu-comedy about three folk groups from the 60s who reunite for a memorial concert in New York City following the death of a legendary folk manager.

    Million Dollar Baby (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/12/2005
    Actors:
    Morgan Freeman / Hilary Swank
    Description:

    Amazon.com Clint Eastwood's 25th film as a director, Million Dollar Baby stands proudly with Unforgiven and Mystic River as the masterwork of a great American filmmaker. In an age of bloated spectacle and computer-generated effects extravaganzas, Eastwood turns an elegant screenplay by Paul Haggis (adapted from the book Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner by F.X. Toole, a pseudonym for veteran boxing manager Jerry Boyd) into a simple, humanitarian example of classical filmmaking, as deeply felt in its heart-wrenching emotions as it is streamlined in its character-driven storytelling. In the course of developing powerful bonds between "white-trash" Missouri waitress and aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), her grizzled, reluctant trainer Frankie Dunn (Eastwood), and Frankie's best friend and training-gym partner Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman), 74-year-old Eastwood mines gold from each and every character, resulting in stellar work from his well-chosen cast. Containing deep reserves of love, loss, and the universal desire for something better in hard-scrabble lives, Million Dollar Baby emerged, quietly and gracefully, as one of the most acclaimed films of 2004, released just in time to earn an abundance of year-end accolades, all of them well-deserved. --Jeff Shannon

    Description "I DON'T TRAIN GIRLS", trainer Frankie Dunn growls. But something's different about the spirited boxing hopeful who shows up daily at Dunn's gym. All she wants is a fighting chance. Clint Eastwood plays Dunn and directs, produces and composes music for this acclaimed, multi-award-winning tale of heart, hope and family. Hilary Swank plays resilient Maggie, determined not to abandon her one dream. And Morgan Freeman is Scrap, gym caretaker and counterpoint to Dunn's crustiness. Grab your dreams and come out swinging.

    DVD Features:
    Documentaries:Born to Fight
    Featurette:Behind the scenes: Producers Round 15
    Interviews:Roundtable with Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman hosted by James Lipton ("Inside the Actor's Studio")

    Minority Report (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/23/2005
    Actors:
    Tom Cruise / Max von Sydow
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Set in the chillingly possible future of 2054, Steven Spielberg's Minority Report is arguably the most intelligently provocative sci-fi thriller since Blade Runner. Like Ridley Scott's "future noir" classic, Spielberg's gritty vision was freely adapted from a story by Philip K. Dick, with its central premise of "Precrime" law enforcement, totally reliant on three isolated human "precogs" capable (due to drug-related mutation) of envisioning murders before they're committed. As Precrime's confident captain, Tom Cruise preempts these killings like a true action hero, only to run for his life when he is himself implicated in one of the precogs' visions. Inspired by the brainstorming of expert futurists, Spielberg packs this paranoid chase with potential conspirators (Max Von Sydow, Colin Farrell), domestic tragedy, and a heartbreaking precog pawn (Samantha Morton), while Cruise's performance gains depth and substance with each passing scene. Making judicious use of astonishing special effects, Minority Report brilliantly extrapolates a future that's utterly convincing, and too close for comfort. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Steven Spielberg
    The Misfits
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/19/2001
    Actors:
    Clark Gable / Marilyn Monroe / Montgomery Clift
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video It was the last roundup for Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, who gave their final performances in this melancholy modern Western. Arthur Miller wrote the script (some say overwrote) as a contemplation of his then-wife, Monroe, and set the piece in the half-world of Reno, Nevada. The dangers of this kind of meta-fictional approach are not entirely avoided, but the clean, clear-eyed direction of John Huston keeps the film grounded. And then there are the people: Gable a warrior past his time, Monroe overwhelmed by the world and its attentions, Montgomery Clift visibly broken in pieces, Eli Wallach a postwar neurotic. If the encroaching mortality of Gable, Monroe, and Clift weren't enough, the stark photography and Alex North's score confirm this as a film about loss. It may have its problems, but seen at a distance of many years, The Misfits scatters its tender mercies with an aching beauty. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    John Huston
    Mission Impossible
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/19/2003
    Actors:
    Tom Cruise / Jon Voight / Emmanuelle Béart
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A flashy, splashy summer-movie blockbuster that's fun and exciting without being mindless? That's the impossible mission accomplished by director Brian De Palma, star-coproducer Tom Cruise, and the crack team of Mission: Impossible. Based on the '60s TV show and an almost impenetrably complex (but nonetheless thrilling) original story by David Koepp (Jurassic Park) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List), with a screenplay by Koepp and Robert Towne (Chinatown, Shampoo), Mission: Impossible begins with veteran agent Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) and his expert crew embarking on a mission that goes horribly, horribly wrong. But nothing is what it seems. The nail-biting set piece--always a signature of director De Palma (Carrie, The Untouchables)--in which Cruise is lowered from the ceiling to retrieve information from a computer in a high-security vault--is an instant classic. But perhaps even more impressive, at least in retrospect, is a flashback sequence in which two characters attempt to reconstruct a series of events from multiple points of view. It's pretty daring and sophisticated stuff for a big-budget spy movie, but brains were always what put the Mission: Impossible team ahead of the competition, anyway, no? --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Brian De Palma
    Mission Impossible 2
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/19/2003
    Actors:
    Tom Cruise
    Description:

    Amazon.com Visually stunning, and a likely must for John Woo aficionados, the second Mission: Impossible outing from megastar Tom Cruise suffers from an inconsistent tone and tired plot devices--not only recycled from other films, but repeated throughout the film. Despite remarkable cinematography and awe-inspiring, trademark Woo photography, the movie offers a tepid story from legendary screenwriter-director Robert Towne (Chinatown, Without Limits) and a host of other writers, most uncredited.

    It is, regrettably, as forgettable as the first big-budget, big box-office MI in 1996, and it's clear (as Towne confirms) that the plot was developed around Woo- and Cruise-written action sequences. The film combines equal elements of romance and action, and is best when it features the stunning allure of Thandie Newton as Nyah, a master thief recruited by the sinewy charms of Ethan Hunt (a fit Cruise). Deeply in love after a passionate night, the couple must then combat MI nemesis (and Nyah's former lover) Sean Ambrose (Ever After's Dougray Scott). Ambrose holds hostage a virus and its cure, and offers them to the highest bidder.

    Woo's famed mythic filmmaking is far from subtle, with heroic Hunt frequently slow-motion walking through fire, smoke, or other similar devices, replete with a white dove among pigeons to signal his presence. The emphasis on romance is an attempt to develop character and a more human side to superspy Hunt, but still the dreary story proves a distraction from the exciting action sequences. John Polson (as an MI team member) is an Aussie talent to keep an eye on. --N.F. Mendoza

    Directors:
    John Woo
    Mission Impossible III (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/30/2006
    Actors:
    Tom Cruise / Philip Seymour Hoffman / Ving Rhames / Billy Crudup / Michelle Monaghan
    Date Added:
    9/25/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com At the time of its release, Mission: Impossible III's box office was plagued by the publicity backlash against couch-jumping star Tom Cruise. It's too bad, because this third installment of the spy thriller franchise deserved a better reception than it got. First-time feature director J.J. Abrams (bigwig TV director/producer of Lost, Alias, & Felicity) proves more than able-bodied in creating a Mission: Impossible that's leaner and less over-stylized than John Woo's sequel and less confusing than Brian De Palma's original. Plot is still a throwaway here (Cruise's Ethan Hunt rescues his kidnapped former trainee and works to steal a device that... well, we don't really know what it does, but it's something about mass destruction that costs $850 million), but the action sequences, particularly one where Ethan faces down a helicopter on a bridge and gets flung hard against the side of a car, are particularly impressive since Cruise, at 44, is still doing most of his own stunts and shows no hint of the weathered look that's struck his action-star peers. (Though no Mission: Impossible stunt will ever be quite as simultaneously nail-biting and funny as the first film's wire-dangling break-in of CIA headquarters.)

    Mission: Impossible III boasts a pedigreed cast, particularly Oscar® winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) as baddie arms dealer Owen Davian. Hoffman plays Owen all teeth-clenched and cool, especially when threatening to kill Ethan in front of his lovely new wife (Michelle Monaghan) who has no idea of his spy life. But in his first action-film lead role, Hoffman's almost too calm and collected to really make a memorable villain, especially when the rest of the cast--Ving Rhames (the only other cast member to return for all three films), Asian film star Maggie Q, and an underused Jonathan Rhys-Meyers--are a highlight as Ethan's IMF team. Mission: Impossible is still fun popcorn spy fare, and if Cruise chooses to end the franchise here, at least he goes out on a high note. --Ellen A. Kim

    Description Tom Cruise returns as Special Agent Ethan Hunt, who faces the mission of his life in "Mission: Impossible III." Director J. J. Abrams ("Lost"," "Alias") brings his unique blend of action and drama to the billion-dollar franchise.

    Directors:
    J.J. Abrams
    Modesty Blaise
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/16/2002
    Description:

    Amazon.com A pop-art explosion that makes Austin Powers look demure, Modesty Blaise is a bizarre relic from the heyday of Swinging London. Based on a comic book, the movie is strong on psychedelic art direction, long on camp (especially Dirk Bogarde's aristocratic, white-haired villain), and thin on plot--and what plot there is cannot possibly be deciphered. Italian actress Monica Vitti, the ennui-weary star of many Antonioni classics, makes an odd choice for stylish spy Modesty Blaise (a female 007 without portfolio), especially given her uncertain command of English. The gifted director Joseph Losey, not noted for his humor, apes various New Wave techniques in his approach, even allowing Vitti and costar Terence Stamp to warble an off-key song. But the most coherent contribution is the jazzy swing of John Dankworth's score, which you won't be able to get out of your head, even if you want to. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Joseph Losey
    Mona Lisa Smile
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/7/2005
    Actors:
    Julia Roberts / Kirsten Dunst / Julia Stiles / Maggie Gyllenhaal / Marcia Gay Harden
    Description:

    Amazon.com Julia Roberts's command of the screen is so effortless, it's easy for moviegoers to take her for granted--but we shouldn't. Mona Lisa Smile--about a noncomformist teacher at a private school who encourages students to pursue their individuality--is pretty much an all-girls version of Dead Poets Society that mixes '50s fashions with '70s feminist thought. However, its lack of ambition doesn't diminish the talent that's gone into it: The writing and directing are well-honed and skillful; the actors--a talent-studded cast featuring Marcia Gay Harden, Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julia Stiles, and Juliet Stevenson--are uniformly excellent. But without question, Mona Lisa Smile rides on Roberts's shoulders and she carries it with ease. She's possibly the only contemporary actor who simply owns a movie the way Bette Davis, Jean Arthur, or Claudette Colbert once did, radiating a engaging mix of intelligence, drive, and emotional warmth that cannot be matched. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Mike Newell
    Monty Python's Life of Brian
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/27/2004
    Actors:
    Graham Chapman / John Cleese / Michael Palin
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video "Blessed are the cheesemakers," a wise man once said. Or maybe not. But the point is Monty Python's Life of Brian is a religious satire that does not target specific religions or religious leaders (like, say, Jesus of Nazareth). Instead, it pokes fun at the mindless and fanatical among their followers--it's an attack on religious zealotry and hypocrisy--things that that fellow from Nazareth didn't particularly care for either. Nevertheless, at the time of its release in 1979, those who hadn't seen it considered it to be quite "controversial."

    Life of Brian, you see, is about a chap named Brian (Graham Chapman) born December 25 in a hovel not far from a soon-to-be-famous Bethlehem manger. Brian is mistaken for the messiah and, therefore, manipulated, abused, and exploited by various religious and political factions. And it's really, really funny. Particularly memorable bits include the brassy Shirley Bassey/James Bond-like title song; the bitter rivalry between the anti-Roman resistance groups, the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea; Michael Palin's turn as a lisping, risible Pontius Pilate; Brian urging a throng of false-idol worshippers to think for themselves--to which they reply en masse "Yes, we must think for ourselves!"; the fact that everything Brian does, including losing his sandal in an attempt to flee these wackos, is interpreted as "a sign." Life of Brian is not only one of Monty Python's funniest achievements, it's also the group's sharpest and smartest sustained satire. Blessed are the Pythons. --Jim Emerson

    Description The Gospel according to Monty Python: In Judea, a boy is born in a manger a short distance from and about the same time, as Jesus Christ. Three wise men from the East are for a time deceived by this proximity into believing that he is the promised Messiah, but it soon becomes apparent that he is, in fact, only a hapless peasant named Brian. However, the "Life of Brian" causes plenty of commotion for the Roman Empire and leaves him desperate to escape his burgeoning popularity.

    Directors:
    Terry Jones
    Moonraker
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/16/2000
    Actors:
    Roger Moore
    Description:

    Amazon.com This was the first James Bond adventure produced after the success of Star Wars, so it jumped on the sci-fi bandwagon by combining the suave appeal of Agent 007 (once again played by Roger Moore) with enough high-tech hardware and special effects to make Luke Skywalker want to join Her Majesty's Secret Service. After the razzle-dazzle of The Spy Who Loved Me, this attempt to latch onto a trend proved to be a case of overkill, even though it brought back the steel-toothed villain Jaws (Richard Kiel) and scored a major hit at the box office. This time Bond is up against a criminal industrialist named Drax (Michel Lonsdale) who wants to control the world from his orbiting space station. In keeping with his well-groomed style, Bond thwarts this maniacal Neo-Hitler's scheme with the help of a beautiful, sleek-figured scientist (played by Lois Chiles with all the vitality of a department-store mannequin). There's a grand-scale climax involving space shuttles and ray guns, but despite the film's popular success, this is one Bond adventure that never quite gets off the launching pad. It's as if the caretakers of the James Bond franchise had forgotten that it's Bond--and not a barrage of gizmos and gadgets (including a land-worthy Venetian gondola)--that fuels the series' success. Despite Moore's passive performance (which Pauline Kael described as "like an office manager who is turning into dead wood but hanging on to collect his pension"), Moonraker had no problem attracting an appreciative audience, and there are even a few renegade Bond-philes who consider it one of their favorites. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Lewis Gilbert (II)
    Morgan!
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/4/2001
    Actors:
    David Warner / Vanessa Redgrave / Robert Stephens
    Directors:
    Karel Reisz
    The Mosquito Coast
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Harrison Ford / Helen Mirren
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A year after his American film debut, Peter Weir reteamed with his Witness star (Harrison Ford) for a tricky adaptation of Paul Theroux's novel of a modern man who takes his family into the jungle. The results are mixed, but the film is galvanized by Ford's atypical performance as inventor/madman Allie Fox. Paul Schrader's script sets up Allie as a man who follows his idea: that America is dying and the real "four-in-the-morning courage" is found in returning to the essence of life, here the jungles of a fictional Central American country (it was shot in Belize). With his family in tow (including Helen Mirren and River Phoenix), Allie creates a utopia when his inventions create a local sensation, but seedier elements from bandits to evangelicals (led by Andre Gregory) take their toll. Certainly, it's hard to root for a central character who is unpleasant ("a know-it-all who is sometimes right," as one states), and the film's second half is not as interesting. But Weir's film is logical and true in its progression and, as usual, is beautifully crafted (he also reteams with the cinematographer, editor, and composer of Witness). Ford's rawness is reminiscent of many an actor's foray into the meaty role of an independent film--which this film is certainly not--and, unfortunately, it was not the direction he ultimately pursued. --Doug Thomas

    Description Harrison Ford gives one of his most powerful portrayals as an obsessive inventor whose dream of creating a jungle paradise erodes into a survival-of-the-fittest nightmare. Year: 1986 Director: Peter Weir Starring: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix

    Directors:
    Peter Weir
    Moulin Rouge (Double Digipack)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/14/2003
    Actors:
    Nicole Kidman / Ewan McGregor
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A dazzling and yet frequently maddening bid to bring the movie musical kicking and screaming into the 21st century, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge bears no relation to the many previous films set in the famous Parisian nightclub. This may appear to be Paris in the 1890s, with can-can dancers, bohemian denizens like Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo), and ribaldry at every turn, but it's really Luhrmann's pop-cultural wonderland. Everyone and everything is encouraged to shatter boundaries of time and texture, colliding and careening in a fast-cutting frenzy that thinks nothing of casting Elton John's "Your Song" 80 years before its time. Nothing is original in this kaleidoscopic, absinthe-inspired love tragedy--the words, the music, it's all been heard before. But when filtered through Luhrmann's love for pop songs and timeless showmanship, you're reminded of the cinema's power to renew itself while paying homage to its past.

    Luhrmann's overall success with his third "red-curtain" extravaganza (following Strictly Ballroom and William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet) is wildly debatable: the scenario is simple to the point of silliness, and how can you appreciate choreography when it's been diced into hash by attention-deficit editing? Still, there's something genuine brewing between costars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (as, respectively, a poor writer and his unobtainable object of desire), and their vocal talents are impressive enough to match Luhrmann's orgy of extraordinary sets, costumes, and digital wizardry. The movie's novelty may wear thin, along with its shallow indulgence of a marketable soundtrack, but Luhrmann's inventiveness yields moments that border on ecstasy, when sound and vision point the way to a moribund genre's joyously welcomed revival. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Baz Luhrmann
    Mr. 3000 (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/1/2005
    Actors:
    Bernie Mac / Angela Bassett / Michael Rispoli / Brian J. White / Ian Anthony Dale / Evan Jones / Amaury Nolasco / Dondre Whitfield / Paul Sorvino / Earl Billings / Chris Noth / Neil Brown Jr. / Scott Martin Brooks / Rich Komenich / David Devey / John McConnell / Ric Reitz / Jaqueline Fleming / Travis Kerber / Phil Ridarelli
    Description:

    Product Description Excellent condition, includes the dvd, case, and paperwork, different cover but same movie, fast shipped, ask me for my DVD List! :)

    Amazon.com Bernie Mac is perfectly cast in Mr. 3000, a feel-good baseball comedy that capitalizes on Mac's established comedy persona. He plays Stan Ross, veteran first-baseman for the struggling Milwaukee Brewers, who quit the team during a pennant race and, nine years later, discovers that he's actually three hits short of his 3,000 career-hit claim to fame. When he attempts a comeback to correct his record, his selfish past returns to haunt him, along with a former flame (Angela Bassett, who deserves better roles) who's covering Stan's return to baseball for ESPN. It's strictly formula, but the comedy is consistently entertaining, and director Charles Stone III proves that his 2002 sleeper hit Drumline was no fluke, injecting observant details into a very predictable plotline. Easily recommended, Mr. 3000 makes a good double-header with 1989's hit baseball comedy Major League. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Charles Stone III
    Mr. Saturday Night
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/8/1998
    Actors:
    Billy Crystal
    Description:

    Amazon.com Billy Crystal co-wrote, directed, and starred in this ambitious 1992 comedy-drama about an aged comedian named Buddy Young Jr., whose foul attitude and poor judgment have a strongly negative effect on his career and the people who care for him most. A survivor of the Borscht Belt tradition of stand-up comedians, Buddy's quick with a one-liner but clueless about how to treat people--he's like a cross between George Burns, Milton Berle, and a rabid pit bull. Helen Hunt plays Buddy's tolerant new agent who's been hired to revive his lagging career, but the movie's saving grace is David Paymer's Oscar-nominated performance as Buddy's much-maligned brother, who's helpless to stop Buddy's downward spiral. Having invented the Buddy Young character for his own comedy routines, Crystal knows this comic curmudgeon inside and out, and his show-biz savvy adds much-needed authenticity under layers of phony-looking old-age makeup. The movie works best when it's offering insight into Buddy's lifetime of disappointment, and some of the dialogue is memorably sharp. Crystal can't resist a seemingly forced happy ending, however, and the closing scenes resort to sentimentality that clashes with the rest of the movie. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Billy Crystal
    Munich (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/9/2006
    Actors:
    Eric Bana / Daniel Craig / Ciarán Hinds / Mathieu Kassovitz / Hanns Zischler
    Description:

    Amazon.com At its core, Munich is a straightforward thriller. Based on the book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas, it's built on a relatively stock movie premise, the revenge plot: innocent people are killed, the bad guys got away with it, and someone has to make them pay. But director Steven Spielberg uses that as a starting point to delve into complex ethical questions about the cyclic nature of revenge and the moral price of violence. The movie starts with a rush. The opening portrays the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes by PLO terrorists at the 1972 Olympics with scenes as heart-stopping and terrifying as the best of any horror movie. After the tragic incident is over and several of the terrorists have gone free, the Israeli government of Golda Meir recruits Avner (Eric Bana) to lead a team of paid-off-the-book agents to hunt down those responsible throughout Europe, and eliminate them one-by-one (in reality, there were several teams). It's physically and emotionally messy work, and conflicts between Avner and his team's handler, Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), over information Avner doesn't want to provide only make things harder. Soon the work starts to take its toll on Avner, and the deeper moral questions of right and wrong come into play, especially as it becomes clear that Avner is being hunted in return, and that his family's safety may be in jeopardy.

    By all rights, Munich should be an unqualified success--it has gripping subject matter relevant to current events; it was co-written by one of America's greatest living playwrights (Tony Kushner, Angels in America) and an accomplished screenwriter (Eric Roth); it stars an appealing and likeable actor in Eric Bana; and it was helmed by Steven Spielberg, of all people. While it certainly is a great movie, it falls just short of the immense heights such talent should propel it to. This is due more to some questionable plot devices than anything else (such as the contrived use of a family of French informants to locate the terrorists). But while certain aspects ring hollow, the movie as a whole is a profound accomplishment, despite being only "inspired by true events," and not factually based on them. From the ferocious beginning to the unforgettable closing shot, Munich works on a visceral level while making a poignant plea for peace, and issuing an unmistakable warning about the destructive cycle of terror and revenge. As one of the characters intones, "There is no peace at the end of this." --Daniel Vancini

    Directors:
    Steven Spielberg
    The Music Man (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Robert Preston / Shirley Jones
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video The Music Man was one of the last great movie musicals from any studio, and it proved to be that rarest of events: a Broadway show that was measurably improved by its transition to the screen. Robert Preston made his musical debut--both live and on film--as "Professor" Harold Hill, the upbeat charlatan who promises to teach a small-town boys band by the "think system." But it's the part Preston was born to play and the one for which he will always be best remembered. Composer Meredith Willson based The Music Man on his own small-town Midwestern boyhood, circa 1912, a quasi-mythical place where the old-maid librarian looks and sings like Shirley Jones. The boy himself is an adorable Ron Howard, lisp-singing "Gary, Indiana." Willson's entire score, featuring a combination of what are now standards, such as "Goodnight My Someone" and "Till There Was You" and show-specific numbers ("Trouble," "76 Trombones"), is never less than infectious. This dazzling special edition is also as bright and sunny as any 4th of July in Iowa could ever hope to be. --Robert Windeler

    Description Let 76 trombones lead the big parade from the Great White Way into your home. It's the Music Man, the screen version of one of Broadway's all-time blockbusters, a skyburst of Americana as irresistible as 4th of July fireworks. Robert Preston and Shirley J Year: 1962

    Directors:
    Morton DaCosta
    My Fair Lady
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/8/1998
    Actors:
    Audrey Hepburn / Rex Harrison
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Hollywood's legendary "woman's director," George Cukor (The Women, The Philadelphia Story), transformed Audrey Hepburn into street-urchin-turned-proper-lady Eliza Doolittle in this film version of the Lerner and Loewe musical. Based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady stars Rex Harrison as linguist Henry Higgins (Harrison also played the role, opposite Julie Andrews, on stage), who draws Eliza into a social experiment that works almost too well. The letterbox edition of this film on video certainly pays tribute to the pageantry of Cukor's set, but it also underscores a certain visual stiffness that can slow viewer enthusiasm just a tad. But it's really star wattage that keeps this film exciting, that and such great songs as "On the Street Where You Live" and "I Could Have Danced All Night." Actor Jeremy Brett, who gained a huge following later in life portraying Sherlock Holmes, is quite electric as Eliza's determined suitor. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    George Cukor
    My Favorite Brunette
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/25/1998
    Actors:
    Bob Hope / Dorothy Lamour
    Directors:
    Elliott Nugent
    Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection (Manhattan Melodrama / Evelyn Prentice / Double Wedding / I Love You Again / Love Crazy)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/7/2007
    Actors:
    Myrna Loy / William Powell / Jack Carson / Clark Gable
    Date Added:
    9/17/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com The Thin Man was just the beginning. Myrna Loy and William Powell were one of Hollywood's best-matched screen teams, with the chemistry fairly bubbling in their scenes together, as this Warner treasure trove boxed set shows. Audiences in the '30s and '40s delighted in the fact that Loy's urbane sophisticate characters could match Powell's quip for quip, martini for martini.

    Manhattan Melodrama (1934) showcases Powell and Clark Gable as longtime friends on opposite sides of the law, and is the first pairing of Loy and Powell (and the first of four films they would make in 1934 alone. The film is briskly directed and the crackling screenplay won an Oscar the next year. Evelyn Prentice (1934) is the troubled wife (Loy) of a preoccupied attorney (Powell) who appears oblivious. The story isn't one of the strongest in the collection, but the cast sparkles nonetheless. A witchy Rosalind Russell makes her memorable film debut as a femme fatale.

    Double Wedding (1937) lets Loy and Powell flex their comedic chops. The plot is full of switchbacks and misunderstandings, but the key point is that their pal Waldo (John Beal) is that dreaded '30s male screen archetype, the milquetoast. Much of the film's fun is watching Powell's character coach poor Waldo to grow a backbone: "Women don't like noble, self-sacrificing men. Women are not civilized like we are. They like bloodshed!"

    I Love You Again (1940) is one of the top screwball comedies of all time. George (Powell) is bonked on the head and realizes he's had amnesia for the past several years, has been terribly boring and has been, yes, a milquetoast--who's about to be divorced by his fed-up wife, Kay (Loy). The crazy plot is lofted by the brilliant screenplay and the delivery of the two leads, who spar like expert fencers: George: "You be careful, madam, or you'll turn my pretty head with your flattery!" Kay: "I often wished I could turn your head--on a spit, over a slow fire." Divine! Love Crazy (1941) is another classic farce, featuring Powell in drag, Powell faking insanity, Powell conniving to win back Loy's love--all in a witty, urbane way, of course.

    The set is also chockfull of great extras, with each feature paired with a classic comedy or musical short, plus cartoon or audio radio interviews. The icing on the cake: The fabulous packaging, including an image from the original movie posters on the discs themselves. Film lovers won't want to miss this splendid collection. --A.T. Hurley

    Mystic River (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/27/2005
    Actors:
    Sean Penn / Tim Robbins / Kevin Bacon / Laurence Fishburne / Laura Linney / Emmy Rossum
    Description:

    Amazon.com Superior acting, writing, and direction are on impressive display in the critically acclaimed Mystic River, Clint Eastwood's 24th directorial outing and one of the finest films of 2003. Sharply adapted by L.A. Confidential Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland from the novel by Dennis Lehane, this chilling mystery revolves around three boyhood friends in working-class Boston--played as adults by Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and Kevin Bacon--drawn together by a crime from the past and a murder (of the Penn character's 19-year-old daughter) in the present. These dual tragedies arouse a vicious cycle of suspicion, guilt, and repressed anxieties, primed to explode with devastating and unpredictable results. Eastwood is perfectly in tune with this brooding material, giving his flawless cast (including Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden and Laurence Fishburne) ample opportunity to plumb the depths of a resonant human tragedy, leading to an ambiguous ending that qualifies Mystic River for contemporary classic status. --Jeff Shannon

    Description Drama. Mystic River tells the story of three men whose dark, interwoven history forces them to come to terms with a brutal murder on the mean streets of Boston.

    Directors:
    Clint Eastwood
    The Naked Gun 2 1/2 - The Smell of Fear
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/15/2000
    Actors:
    Leslie Nielsen / Priscilla Presley
    Description:

    Amazon.com It's more of Leslie Nielsen's Lt. Frank Drebin, the bumbling cop from the old Police Squad! television series. This time, Drebin uncovers a plot--led by supervillain Robert Goulet!--to sabotage America's energy policy. The jokes don't stick as well as those of the first film (Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!), but there are some very funny slapstick moments, including several involving former First Lady Barbara Bush (played by an actress, of course). --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    David Zucker
    The Naked Gun 33 1/3 - The Final Insult
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/21/2002
    Actors:
    Leslie Nielsen / Priscilla Presley
    Description:

    Amazon.com The usual way of the world is that sequels amount to thinner and thinner carbon copies of the original. But not in the case of Naked Gun movies, which only seemed to get funnier with each new entry. This third episode in the series finds Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) retired from his police squad and married to the woman of his dreams (Priscilla Presley). But he is pressed back into action to infiltrate a group of terrorists who plan to blow up the Oscars. The filmmakers make hay with spoofs of prison films and, particularly, of the Oscars themselves, in an award-show send-up that includes such real-life stars as Raquel Welch and Pia Zadora--and Drebin being mistaken for Phil Donahue. The takeoff on the dreadful production numbers that always drag out the Academy Awards will have you howling. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Peter Segal
    The Naked Gun - From the Files of Police Squad!
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/21/2002
    Actors:
    Leslie Nielsen / Priscilla Presley / O.J. Simpson
    Description:

    Amazon.com David Zucker--of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker creative troika behind Airplane! and television's Police Squad!--directed this 1988 feature film based on the latter show. Leslie Nielsen returns to his old TV role of Lt. Frank Drebin, the deadpan idiot with a detective's badge. The reinvention of the failed series as a theatrical feature seems to have inspired everyone involved to make a pretty funny movie, and the jokes gather a momentum that lasts until the final act. Ricardo Montalban is a perfect foil as a villain whose aquarium is being invaded by Drebin during routine questioning, and George Kennedy is delightful in a self-parodying part as an earnest but obtuse lawman. There's a hilarious bit when Drebin--wearing a live police wire while going to the bathroom--can be overheard over the loudspeakers at a speech given by a flustered mayor (Nancy Marchand). Yes, that's O.J. Simpson as a detective who ends up on the wrong side of numerous Drebin blunders. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    David Zucker
    The Name of the Rose
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/6/2004
    Description:

    Amazon.com Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Name of the Rose is a flawed attempt to adapt Umberto Eco's highly convoluted medieval bestseller for the screen, necessarily excising much of the esoterica that made the book so compelling. Still, what's left is a riveting whodunit set in a grimly and grimily realistic 14th-century Benedictine monastery populated by a parade of grotesque characters, all of whom spend their time lurking in dark places or scuttling, half-unseen, in the omnipresent gloom. A series of mysterious and gruesome deaths are somehow tied up with the unwelcome attention of the Inquisition, sent to root out suspected heretical behavior among the monastic scribes whose lives are dedicated to transcribing ancient manuscripts for their famous library, access to which is prevented by an ingenious maze-like layout.

    Enter Sean Connery as investigator-monk William of Baskerville (the Sherlock Holmes connection made explicit in his name) and his naive young assistant Adso (a youthful Christian Slater). The Grand Inquisitor Bernado Gui (F. Murray Abraham) suspects devilry; but William and Adso, using Holmesian forensic techniques, uncover a much more human cause: the secrets of the library are being protected at a terrible cost. A fine international cast and the splendidly evocative location compensate for a screenplay that struggles to present Eco's multifaceted story even partially intact; Annaud's idiosyncratic direction complements the sinister, unsettling aura of the tale ideally. --Mark Walker

    Description "The Name of the Rose" is a gothic medieval mystery thriller set in a 14th-century Italian monastery. Franciscan monk William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) and a young novice (Christian Slater) arrive for a conference to find that several monks have been murdered in mysterious circumstances. To solve the crimes, William must rise up against the Church authority and fight the shadowy conspiracy of monastery monks using only his wit and intelligence.

    DVD Features:
    Audio Commentary:Commentary by Director Jean-Jaques Annaud
    Documentary:Vintage making-of documentary - The Abbey of Crime: Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose"
    Featurette:All-new Photo Video Journey with Jean-Jacques Annaud
    Scene Access
    Theatrical Trailer

    Directors:
    Jean-Jacques Annaud
    Nashville
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/15/2000
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video This 1975 film sits near the top of any list of the best films of the 1970s, perhaps in the top five and, in some people's minds, at the pinnacle itself. Robert Altman, at his most Altmanesque, spins together plot strands involving two dozen people over the course of one particularly busy weekend in Music City, USA. Though several of the story lines deal with country-western stars--played by Henry Gibson, Ronee Blakley and Karen Black--the plot also deals with the country scene's wannabes, the business people who pull the strings and the operative for a mysterious presidential candidate who is trying to get the de facto endorsement of some of the country stars by having them appear at a rally for him. (The unknown but rocketing presidential aspirant was eerily echoed the next year, when Jimmy Carter came out of nowhere to win the presidency.) Blakley is heartbreakingly fragile as a Loretta Lynn-like singer on the verge of total mental meltdown, while Lily Tomlin is outstanding as a housewife-gospel singer who has a dalliance with a randy folk-rock cad, perfectly played by Keith Carradine (who won an Oscar for his song "I'm Easy"). The cast also includes Jeff Goldblum, Scott Glenn, Keenan Wynn, Shelley Duvall, Geraldine Chaplin (hilarious as a fatuous British TV journalist), Barbara Harris, Michael Murphy, and Ned Beatty, with cameos by Elliott Gould and Julie Christie as themselves. Next to Mean Streets, perhaps the most influential film of the decade. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Robert Altman
    National Lampoon's Animal House (Widescreen Double Secret Probation Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/8/2005
    Actors:
    John Belushi / Karen Allen
    Description:

    Amazon.com This is one of those movies that works for all the wrong reasons--disgusting, lowbrow, base humor that we are all far too sophisticated to find amusing. So, just don't tell anyone you still think it's a riot to watch John Belushi as the brutish Bluto slurp Jell-O or terrorize his less-aggressive fellow students. This crude parody of college life in the '60s spawned many imitations, but none could match the fresh-faced talent or bad taste of this huge box office success. (Remember all those toga parties in the '80s?) The first of the National Lampoon movies, this was originally released as National Lampoon's Animal House. Keep an eye out for a very young Kevin Bacon in his first credited screen appearance. --Rochelle O'Gorman

    Directors:
    John Landis
    National Lampoon's Vacation (20th Anniversary Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/19/2003
    Actors:
    Chevy Chase / Beverly D'Angelo
    Description:

    Amazon.com Vacation paved the way for the John Hughes movie dynasty of the 1980s. Written by Hughes (who would go on to write, direct, and/or produce The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Uncle Buck, Home Alone, and so on) and directed by Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Stuart Saves His Family), the first Vacation movie introduces us to the all-American Griswold family: father Clark (Chevy Chase), mother Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), son Rusty (future Hughes staple Anthony Michael Hall), and daughter Audrey (Dana Barron). They all pile into the car for a cross-country road trip to Walley World, stopping along the way to view the world's biggest ball of twine. John Candy, Imogene Coca, and Randy Quaid (as yokel Cousin Eddie) pop up along the way. The movie was a big hit, and was followed by several sequels--National Lampoon's European Vacation, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation--but this one is still probably the freshest and funniest of the bunch. --Jim Emerson

    Description The Griswolds have planned all year for a great summer vacation. From their suburban Chicago home, across America, to the wonders of Wally World fun park in California, every step of the way has been carefully plotted. Except a few hundred hysterical exceptions. National Lampoon's Vacation is a sublimely goofy comedy, thanks largely to Chevy Chase in his signature role of Clark Griswold. The inept but sincere Clark takes misfortune in stride. So what if they lose all their money when their new car gets wrecked. And it's not too bad when Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) deposits sour Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) in their back seat for a lift to Phoenix. But what really keeps Clark's eyes on the road is a flirtation with a mysterious blonde (Christie Brinkley) in a red Ferrari. For those along on the ride, National Lampoon's Vacation, called "fast, funny satire" by The New York Times' Janet Maslin, is a jolly jaunt.

    Never Say Never Again
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/17/2000
    Actors:
    Sean Connery / Kim Basinger
    Description:

    Amazon.com After years of enduring Roger Moore in the role of James Bond, it was good to have Sean Connery back in this 1983 film for a one-time-only trip down 007's memory lane. Connery's Bond, a bit of a dinosaur in the British secret service at (then) 52, is still in demand during times of crisis. Sadly, the film is not very good. In this rehash of Thunderball, Bond is pitted against a worthy underwater villain (Klaus Maria Brandauer); and while the requisite Bond Girls include beauties Kim Basinger and Barbara Carrera, they can't save the movie. The script has several truly dumb passages, among them a (gasp) video-game duel between 007 and his nemesis that now looks utterly anachronistic. For Connery fans, however, this widescreen print of the Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) film is a chance to say a final goodbye to a perfect marriage of actor and character. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Irvin Kershner
    Nine to Five
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/17/2001
    Actors:
    Jane Fonda / Lily Tomlin / Dolly Parton
    Description:

    Amazon.com With a nod to Preston Sturges's classic dark comedy Unfaithfully Yours (about a man who fantasizes about murdering his possibly philandering wife), this 1980 cotton-candy-feminist-vendetta film concerns a monstrous boss (Dabney Coleman) whose more capable underlings dream of ways of punishing him. That much of the film is particularly fun, but the rest of it descends into silliness when the women stumble onto a real-life opportunity to teach him a lesson. Fonda, the biggest star in the film at the time, takes a back seat to Parton's and Tomlin's showier roles. Written and directed by the late Colin Higgins (who made a lot of people happy in the '70s with his script for the beloved Harold and Maude). --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Colin Higgins
    Norma Rae
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/17/2001
    Actors:
    Beau Bridges / Sally Field
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Veteran director Martin Ritt (Sounder) directed this earnest and very popular tale of a naive textile worker, widow, and mother in the U.S. South who becomes empowered by standing up for her rights in the workplace. Sally Field stars in the Oscar-winning title role as a woman who has been content to go along with the status quo until she realizes that she is entitled to more and can succeed if she stands up for herself. Her fight to improve deplorable working conditions at the textile plant causes a rift between her and the people closest to her, but her determination brings a new awareness to her and to all the women with whom she works. Ritt's typical, socially conscious story uses the politics of Norma Rae's struggle and also its emotions to build the film to a rousing climax. --Robert Lane

    Description In an Oscar-winning performance, Sally Field is unforgettable as Norma Rae, the Southern millworker who revolutionizes a small town and discovers a power in herself she never had. Under the guidance of a New York unionizer (Ron Leibman) and with increasing courage and determination, Norma Rae organizes her fellow factory workers to fight for better conditions and wages. Based on a true story, Norma Rae is the mesmerizing tale of a modern day heroine. Beau Bridges co-stars.

    North by Northwest
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/29/2000
    Actors:
    Cary Grant / Eva Marie Saint
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A strong candidate for the most sheerly entertaining and enjoyable movie ever made by a Hollywood studio (with Citizen Kane, Only Angels Have Wings and Trouble in Paradise running neck and neck). Positioned between the much heavier and more profoundly disturbing Vertigo (1958) and the stark horror of Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959) is Alfred Hitchcock at his most effervescent in a romantic comedy-thriller that also features one of the definitive Cary Grant performances. Which is not to say that this is just "Hitchcock Lite"; seminal Hitchcock critic Robin Wood (in his book Hitchcock's Films Revisited) makes an airtight case for this glossy MGM production as one of The Master's "unbroken series of masterpieces from Vertigo to Marnie." It's a classic Hitchcock Wrong Man scenario: Grant is Roger O. Thornhill (initials ROT), an advertising executive who is mistaken by enemy spies for a U.S. undercover agent named George Kaplan. Convinced these sinister fellows (James Mason as the boss, and Martin Landau as his henchman) are trying to kill him, Roger flees and meets a sexy Stranger on a Train (Eva Marie Saint), with whom he engages in one of the longest, most convolutedly choreographed kisses in screen history. And, of course, there are the famous set pieces: the stabbing at the United Nations, the crop-duster plane attack in the cornfield (where a pedestrian has no place to hide), and the cliffhanger finale atop the stone faces of Mount Rushmore. Plus a sparkling Ernest Lehman script and that pulse-quickening Bernard Herrmann score. What more could a moviegoer possibly desire? --Jim Emerson

    Description Cary Grant teams with director Alfred Hitchcock for the fourth and final time in this superlative espionage caper judged on of the American Film Institute's Top-100 American Films and spruced up with a new digital transfer and remixed Dolby Digital Stereo. He plays a Manhattan advertising executive plunged into a realm of spy (James Mason) and counterspy (Eva Marie Saint) and variously abducted, framed for murder, chased and in another signature set piece, crop-dusted. He also holds on for dear life from the facial features of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore (backlot sets were used). But don't expect the Master of Suspense to leave star or audience hanging.

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Notorious
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/7/1999
    Actors:
    Cary Grant / Ingrid Bergman / Claude Rains
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video One of Alfred Hitchcock's classics, this romantic thriller features a cast to kill for: Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, and Claude Rains. Bergman plays the daughter of a disgraced father who is recruited by American agents to infiltrate a post-World War II spy ring in Brazil. Her control agent is Grant, who treats her with disdain while developing a deep romantic bond with her. Her assignment: to marry the suspected head of the ring (Rains) and get the goods on everyone involved. Danger, deceit, betrayal--and, yes, romance--all come together in a nearly perfect blend as the film builds to a terrific (and surprising) climax. Grant and Bergman rarely have been better. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Notting Hill (Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/9/1999
    Actors:
    Julia Roberts / Hugh Grant
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video They don't really make many romantic comedies like Notting Hill anymore--blissfully romantic, sincerely sweet, and not grounded in any reality whatsoever. Pure fairy tale, and with a huge debt to Roman Holiday, Notting Hill ponders what would happen if a beautiful, world-famous person were to suddenly drop into your life unannounced and promptly fall in love with you. That's the crux of the situation for William Thacker (Hugh Grant), who owns a travel bookshop in London's fashionable Notting Hill district. Hopelessly ordinary (well, as ordinary as you can be when you're Hugh Grant), William is going about his life when renowned movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks into his bookstore and into his heart. After another contrived meet-cute involving spilled orange juice, William and Anna share a spontaneous kiss (big suspension of disbelief required here), and soon both are smitten. The question is, of course, can William and Anna reconcile his decidedly commonplace bookseller existence and her lifestyle as a jet-setting, paparazzi-stalked celebrity? (Take a wild guess at the answer.) Smartly scripted by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and directed by Roger Michell (Persuasion), Notting Hill is hardly realistic, but as wish fulfillment and a romantic comedy, it's irresistible. True, Roberts doesn't really have to stretch very far to play a big-time actress who makes $15 million per movie, but she's more winning and relaxed than she's been in years, and Grant is sweetly understated as a man blindsided by love. Together, in moments of quiet, they're a charming couple, and you can feel her craving for real love and his awe and amazement at the wonderful person for whom he has fallen. The only blight on the film is its overbearing pop soundtrack, though Elvis Costello's heart-wrenching version of "She" gets poignant exposure. With Rhys Ifans as Grant's scene-stealing, slovenly housemate and Alec Baldwin in a sly, perfectly cast cameo. --Mark Englehart

    Directors:
    Roger Michell
    Ocean's 11
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/8/2002
    Actors:
    Frank Sinatra / Dean Martin
    Description:

    Amazon.com Leave it to the Chairman of the Board to rope in a great director for the first Rat Pack movie. Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front) indeed directed this 1960 caper movie starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop; but the results now seem like more of a historical artifact than a good time. The tone of the film is curiously serious--one somehow expected that the Rat Pack would have made a more buoyant first picture. But it is something to see these guys together, if largely for nostalgia reasons. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Lewis Milestone
    Ocean's Eleven (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/14/2004
    Actors:
    George Clooney / Brad Pitt
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Ocean's Eleven improves on 1960's Rat Pack original with supernova casting, a slickly updated plot, and Steven Soderbergh's graceful touch behind the camera. Soderbergh reportedly relished the opportunity "to make a movie that has no desire except to give pleasure from beginning to end," and he succeeds on those terms, blessed by the casting of George Clooney as Danny Ocean, the title role originated by Frank Sinatra. Fresh out of jail, Ocean masterminds a plot to steal $163 million from the seemingly impervious vault of Las Vegas's Bellagio casino, not just for the money but to win his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) back from the casino's ruthless owner (Andy Garcia). Soderbergh doesn't scrimp on the caper's comically intricate strategy, but he finds greater joy in assembling a stellar team (including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and Carl Reiner) and indulging their strengths as actors. The result is a film that's as smooth as a silk suit and just as stylish. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Steven Soderbergh
    Ocean's Twelve (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/12/2005
    Actors:
    Brad Pitt / Catherine Zeta-Jones / George Clooney / Ed Kross / Julia Roberts / Don Tiffany / Anne Jacques / David Sontag (II) / Larry Sontag / Andy Garcia / Casey Affleck / Dina Connolly / Scott Caan / Nelson Peltz / Mini Anden / Shaobo Qin / Jennifer Liu / Leah Zhang / Bernie Mac / Don Cheadle
    Description:

    Amazon.com Like its predecessor Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve is a piffle of a caper, a preposterous plot given juice and vitality by a combination of movie star glamour and the exuberant filmmaking skill of director Steven Soderbergh (Out of Sight, The Limey). The heist hijinks of the first film come to roost for a team of eleven thieves (including the glossy mugs of Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, and Don Cheadle), who find themselves pursued not only by the guy they robbed (silky Andy Garcia), but also by a top-notch detective (plush Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a jealous master thief (well-oiled Vincent Cassel) who wants to prove that team leader Danny Ocean (dapper George Clooney) isn't the best in the field. As if all that star power weren't enough--and the eternally coltish Julia Roberts also returns as Ocean's wife--one movie star cameo raises the movie's combined wattage to absurd proportions. But all these handsome faces are matched by Soderbergh's visual flash, cunning editing, and excellent use of Amsterdam, Paris, and Rome, among other highly decorative locations. The whole affair should collapse under the weight of its own silliness, but somehow it doesn't--the movie's raffish spirit and offhand wit soar along, providing lightweight but undeniable entertainment. --Bret Fetzer

    Description Twelve is the new eleven.

    Directors:
    Steven Soderbergh
    Octopussy
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/17/2000
    Actors:
    Roger Moore / Maud Adams
    Description:

    Amazon.com Roger Moore was nearing the end of his reign as James Bond when he made Octopussy, and he looks a little worn out. But the movie itself infuses some new blood into the old franchise, with a frisky pace and a pair of sturdy villains. Maud Adams--who'd also been in the Bond outing The Man with the Golden Gun--plays the improbably named Octopussy, while old smoothie Louis Jourdan is her crafty partner in crime. There's an island populated only by women, plus a fantastic sequence with a hand-to-hand fight that happens on a plane--and on top of a plane. The film even has an extra emotional punch, since this time out 007 is not only following the orders of Her Majesty's Secret Service, but he is also exacting a personal revenge: a fellow double-0 agent has been killed. Two Bond films were actually released in 1983 within a few months of each other, as Octopussy was followed by Sean Connery's comeback in Never Say Never Again. The success of both pictures proved that there was still plenty of mileage left in the old license to kill, though Moore had one more workout--A View to a Kill--before hanging it up. And that title? The franchise had already used up the titles to Ian Fleming's novels, so Octopussy was taken from a lesser-known Fleming short story. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    John Glen (II)
    Oklahoma!
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/13/2002
    Actors:
    Gordon MacRae / Gloria Grahame
    Description:

    Amazon.com The hit Broadway musical from the 1940s gets a lavish if not always exciting workout in this 1955 film version directed by old lion Fred Zinnemann (High Noon). Gordon MacRae brings his sterling voice to the role of cowboy Curly, and Shirley Jones plays Laurie, the object of his affection. The Rodgers and Hammerstein score includes "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top," "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," and "People Will Say We're in Love," and Agnes DeMille provides the buoyant choreography. Among the supporting cast, Gloria Grahame is memorable as Ado Annie, the "girl who cain't say no," and Rod Steiger overdoes it as the villainous Jud. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Fred Zinnemann
    Old School
    Actors:
    Luke Wilson
    Description:

    Product Description PC friendly,interactive menus,scene selection,

    Directors:
    Todd Phillips
    Old School (Widescreen Unrated Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/10/2003
    Actors:
    Luke Wilson / Will Ferrell / Vince Vaughn
    Description:

    Amazon.com When three thirtysomething friends with woman troubles (Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn) decide to form a fraternity, it's supposedly to save Wilson from losing his house, which the nearby college is trying to claim for academic purposes. But really, Ferrell and Vaughn are desperate to return to the reckless, feckless days of beer bongs and hot chicks, and they drag Wilson along with them as they throw themselves into gathering frat pledges of all ages. Old School could have been just another string of bad jokes hanging on a flimsy plot, but the script and the cast have a jovial energy and just enough grounding in reality--at least, up until the obligatory beat-the-system ending, but by that point you'll forgive the excesses of this silly, cheerful, and frequently funny movie. Featuring Jeremy Piven and Juliette Lewis, with cameos by Snoop Dog, Andy Dick, and others. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Todd Phillips
    On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/16/2000
    Actors:
    George Lazenby / Diana Rigg / Telly Savalas
    Description:

    Amazon.com Australian model George Lazenby took up the mantle of the world's most suave secret agent when Sean Connery retired as James Bond--prematurely, it turned out. Connery returned in Diamonds Are Forever before leaving the role to Roger Moore and Lazenby's subsequent career fizzled, yet this one-hit wonder is responsible for one of the best Bond films of all time.

    In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, 007 leaves the Service to privately pursue his SPECTRE nemesis Blofeld (played this time by Telly Savalas), whose latest master plan involves a threat to the world's crops by agricultural sterilization. Bond teams up with suave international crime lord Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti) and falls in love with--and marries--his elegant daughter, Tracy (Diana Rigg). Bond goes monogamous? Not at first; after all he has Blofeld's harem to seduce. Lazenby hasn't the intensity of Connery but he has fun with his quips and even lampoons the Bond image in a playful pre-credits sequence, and Rigg, fresh from playing sexy Emma Peel in The Avengers, matches 007 in every way. Former editor Peter Hunt makes a strong directorial debut, deftly handling the elaborate action sequences--including a car chase turned road rally through the icy snow--with a kinetic finesse and a dash of humor. Though not a hit on its original release, On Her Majesty's Secret Service has become a fan favorite and the closest the series has come to capturing the spirit of Ian Fleming's books. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    Peter R. Hunt
    On the Riviera
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/22/2007
    Actors:
    Danny Kaye / Gene Tierney / Corinne Calvet / Marcel Dalio / Jean Murat
    Directors:
    Walter Lang
    On the Town
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/2/2000
    Actors:
    Gene Kelly / Frank Sinatra
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video New York, New York--it's a helluva town; the Bronx is up and the Battery's down; the people ride in a hole in the ground.... Well, you get the idea. Those lyrics (by Betty Comden and Adolph Green), set to Leonard Bernstein's music, have made On the Town a permanent part of the psychological landscape of New York City. The story (inspired by Jerome Robbins's ballet Fancy Free) is pretty slight: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin play sailors with 24 hours' leave to take their bite out of the Big Apple. When they meet, and then lose, this month's Miss Turnstiles (Vera-Ellen), they scour the town in search of her, bumping into a lady anthropologist (Ann Miller) along the way. Shot mostly in the studio, but with location exteriors all over town, from Coney Island to the Statue of Liberty to Central Park, this 1949 gem was the first of three great musicals codirected by Kelly and Stanley Donen, followed by Singin' in the Rain (1952) and the underrated It's Always Fair Weather (1955). --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Stanley Donen / Gene Kelly
    Once Upon a Time in America (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/10/2003
    Actors:
    Robert De Niro / James Woods
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video This movie has a checkered history, having been chopped from its original 227-minute director's cut to 139 minutes for its U.S. release. This longer edition benefits from having the complete story (the short version has huge gaps) about turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrants in America finding their way into lives of crime, as told in flashback by an aging Jewish gangster named Noodles (Robert De Niro). On the other hand, it's almost four hours long, and this sometimes-indulgent Sergio Leone film is no Godfather. Still, it is notable for the contrast between Leone's elegiac take on the gangster film and his occasional explosive action, as well as for the mix of the stoic, inexpressive De Niro and the hyperactive James Woods as his lifelong friend and rival. --Marshall Fine

    Description Robert De Niro and James Woods star in Sergio Leone's award winning epic about a ruthless criminal empire. The original director's version of a timeless movie masterpiece.

    Directors:
    Sergio Leone
    Once Upon a Time in the West
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/18/2003
    Actors:
    Henry Fonda / Charles Bronson
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video The so-called spaghetti Western achieved its apotheosis in Sergio Leone's magnificently mythic (and utterly outlandish) Once upon a Time in the West. After a series of international hits starring Clint Eastwood (from A Fistful of Dollars to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), Leone outdid himself with this spectacular, larger-than-life, horse-operatic epic about how the West was won. (And make no mistake: this is the wide, wide West, folks--so the widescreen/letterboxed version is strongly recommended.) The unholy trinity of Italian cinema--Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Dario Argento--concocted the story about a woman (Claudia Cardinale) hanging onto her land in hopes that the transcontinental railroad would reach her before a steely-eyed, black-hearted killer (Fonda) does. (The film's advertising slogan was: "There were three men in her life. One to take her ... one to love her ... and one to kill her.") Meanwhile, Leone shoots his stars' faces as if they were expansive Western landscapes, and their towering bodies as if they were looming rock formations in John Ford's Monument Valley. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Sergio Leone
    Orange County
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/12/2003
    Actors:
    Colin Hanks / Jack Black
    Description:

    Amazon.com While it invites charges of Hollywood nepotism, Orange County overcomes that stigma with a delightful cast of newcomers and veterans alike. It's no better or worse than many teen comedies, but director Jake Kasdan (son of director Lawrence Kasdan) astutely combines teen-flick staples (stoner gags, raucous parties) with a biting undercurrent of southern California absurdity. This comedic texture helps Colin Hanks (son of Tom) and Schuyler Fisk (daughter of Sissy Spacek) to prove their big-screen promise. They play (respectively) an Orange County teen and aspiring writer named Shaun who yearns for admission to Stanford, and his sensible girlfriend who knows just how to nurture his dreams. Much of the comedy arises from the foibles of Shaun's dysfunctional family (played to perfection by Jack Black, Catherine O'Hara, and John Lithgow), while unbilled cameos by Ben Stiller and Kevin Kline add zest to a movie that tries to be different, and mostly succeeds. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Jake Kasdan
    Our Man Flint
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/16/2002
    Actors:
    James Coburn / Lee J. Cobb
    Description:

    Amazon.com There's really been only one rival to James Bond: Derek Flint. That's because of James Coburn's special brand of American cool. He's so cool, in fact, that he doesn't care to save the world. That is, until he's personally threatened. He's a true libertarian, with more gadgets and girls than Bond, but with none of his stress or responsibility. Here he's totally unflappable as he thwarts mad scientists who control the weather--and an island of pleasure drones. Lee J. Cobb costars as Flint's flustered superior, and Edward Mulhare plays a British nemesis with snob appeal. For fans of Austin Powers, incidentally, the funny-sounding phone comes from the Flint films. However, Our Man Flint's best gadget remains the watch that enables Flint to feign death. There's a great Jerry Goldsmith score, too. --Bill Desowitz

    Directors:
    Daniel Mann
    Paint Your Wagon
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/24/2001
    Description:

    Amazon.com This film and Hello Dolly were the knockout blows to the studio movie musical, but Paint doesn't deserve its tarnished name. Ben Rumson (Lee Marvin) takes the model of a rakish derelict to an unequaled high as a prospector who teams up with a greenhorn named Pardner (Clint Eastwood), and they both end up marrying the same scorned woman (Jean Seberg). No-Name City, the prospecting town they found, is Sodom and Gomorrah without the camels, and a vision of humanity left to its own devices. The songs are mostly wonderful melodies from Lerner and Loewe, with definite high points, notably "They Call the Wind Maria" and "Wand'rin' Star." Clint Eastwood always gets flack for his versions of "I Still See Elisa" and "I Talk to the Trees," but that scorn is equally undeserved. Perhaps Paint's biggest sin, in retrospect, was trying to combine the aesthetics of the musical with the aesthetics of the male protagonists' world-weary machismo. Not the easiest task, but Paint pulls it off. --Keith Simanton

    Directors:
    Joshua Logan
    The Pajama Game
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/21/1999
    Actors:
    Doris Day / John Raitt / Carol Haney
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video This 1957 version of the Tony-winning Pajama Game is one of the finest film adaptations of a hit Broadway musical. The story is simple enough: Babe Williams, the head of a pajama company's grievance committee, falls for an exec--the new superintendent--Sid Sorokin (John Raitt). Doris Day, as Babe, has never been so efficiently cute. Raitt starred in the Broadway version, as did much of the film's cast (Day replaced original stage star Janis Paige). The Pajama Game is filled with recognizable, classic songs, done so well and danced so athletically that this musical can engage an action-film fan. Bob Fosse's trademark choreography shines.

    Check out two numbers danced by the late, underused, and underrated Carol Haney, who performs amazing feats for "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway." Both Day and Raitt deliver lovely renditions of "Hey There." They're also supported by a great cast that includes, in addition to Haney, a slyly coy Reta Shaw and a dynamic Eddie Foy Jr. --N.F. Mendoza

    Directors:
    George Abbott / Stanley Donen
    Pal Joey
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/23/2003
    Actors:
    Rita Hayworth / Frank Sinatra / Kim Novak
    Description:

    Amazon.com First born in the pages of The New Yorker, then translated into a hit Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical, the title character of Pal Joey had undergone quite a transformation by the time he hit the movies in 1957. He was a singer, rather than a dancer, but more importantly he'd had his rough edges sweetly softened; the callous heel dreamed up by novelist John O'Hara was more of a naughty scamp in the film version. However, Pal Joey remains delightfully watchable for two very good reasons: a terrific song score and a surplus of glittering star power. Frank Sinatra, at the zenith of his cocky, world-on-a-string popularity, glides through the film with breezy nonchalance, romancing showgirl Kim Novak (Columbia Pictures' new sex symbol) and wealthy widow Rita Hayworth (Columbia Pictures' former sex symbol). The film also benefits from location shooting in San Francisco, caught in the moonlight-and-supper-club glow of the late '50s. Sinatra does beautifully with the Rodgers and Hart classics "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and "I Could Write a Book," and his performance of "The Lady Is a Tramp" (evocatively shot by director George Sidney) is flat-out genius. Sinatra's ease with hep-cat lingo nearly outdoes Bing Crosby at his best, and included in the DVD is a trailer in which Sinatra instructs the audience in "Joey's Jargon," a collection of hip slang words such as "gasser" and "mouse." If not one of Sinatra's very best movies, Pal Joey is nevertheless a classy vehicle that fits like a glove. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    George Sidney (II)
    Panic Room (Superbit Collection)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/2/2003
    Actors:
    Jodie Foster / Kristen Stewart
    Description:

    Amazon.com An effective exercise in "confined cinema," Panic Room is a finely crafted thriller that ultimately transcends the thinness of its premise. David Koepp's screenplay is basically Wait Until Dark on steroids, so director David Fincher (Seven, The Game) compensates with elaborate CGI-assisted camera moves, jazzing up his visuals while a relocated New York divorcée (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (Kristen Stewart) fight for their lives against a trio of tenacious burglars (Jared Leto, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam) in their new Manhattan townhouse. They're safe in a customized, impenetrable "panic room," but the burglars want what's in the room's safe, so mother and daughter (and Koepp and Fincher) must find clever ways to turn the tables and persevere. Suspense and intelligence are admirably maintained, with Foster (who replaced the then-injured Nicole Kidman) riffing on her Silence of the Lambs resourcefulness. It's not as viscerally satisfying as Fincher's previous thrillers, but Panic Room definitely holds your attention. --Jeff Shannon

    Description The Superbit titles utilize a special high bit rate digital encoding process which optimizes video quality while offering a choice of both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. These titles have been produced by a team of Sony Pictures Digital Studios video, sound and mastering engineers and comes housed in a special package complete with a 4 page booklet that contains technical information on the Superbit process. By reallocating space on the disc normally used for value-added content, Superbit DVDs can be encoded at double their normal bit rate while maintaining full compatibility with the DVD video format.

    Directors:
    David Fincher
    The Paradine Case
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/7/1999
    Actors:
    Gregory Peck / Ann Todd
    Description:

    Amazon.com This minor 1948 film by Alfred Hitchcock beats a familiar Hitchcockian drum: an attorney (Gregory Peck), in love with the client (Alida Valli) he is defending on a murder charge, implicates himself in her guilt by trying to put the blame on another man. The no-one-is-innocent theme may be consistent with Hitchcock's best films and worldview, but this is one of the movies that got away from his crucial passion for the plastic side of creative directing. Stuck in a courtroom for much of the story, the film is fit to burst with possibility but is pinned down like a freshly caught butterfly in someone's airless collection. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    The Parallax View
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/22/1999
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Directed by Alan J. Pakula (All the President's Men, Sophie's Choice), this is an excellent, paranoid thriller and a benchmark for films of this type from the 1970s. Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde) plays Joseph Frady, an arrogant investigative reporter who witnesses the assassination of a United States senator and then discovers that other reporters who were on the scene are dying under mysterious circumstances. With the help of his editor (Hume Cronyn), Frady goes underground to infiltrate the Parallax Corporation, which uses mind control to train assassins. And Frady might be the next one in line to take a fall. Featuring a classic brainwashing sequence and laced with intensity from start to finish, The Parallax View is essential viewing for fans of the political thriller genre. --Robert Lane

    Directors:
    Alan J. Pakula
    The Parent Trap (1961) and The Parent Trap II (1986): 2-Movie Collection (2-Disc Set)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/27/2005
    Description:

    Description Hayley Mills, Special Academy Award(R) winner for 1960's POLLLYANNA, lights up the screen in Disney's fondly remembered release of THE PARENT TRAP. Mills stars as Susan and Sharon, identical twins separated at birth. Neither twin knows the other exists until a simple twist of fate finds them at the same summer camp. Then, realizing who they are, they plan a little twist of their own. They switch places with high hopes of getting their parents back together. This delightful and heartwarming comedy will have your whole family doubling up with laughter. First time on DVD! In the full-length sequel THE PARENT TRAP II, Hayley Mills returns to reprise her roles as identical twins Sharon and Susan. Now all grown up, Sharon is a single mom whose 11-year-old daughter Nikki is just as mischievous as she was! During summer school Nikki and her new friend Mary turn into scheming matchmakers when they try to get Sharon and Mary's widowed father together. Not quite able to make it happen, they turn to the one person who can really help -- Sharon's twin Susan!

    Patriot Games
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/21/2002
    Actors:
    Harrison Ford / Sean Bean
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Let's see--he's been Han Solo in three films and Indiana Jones in three more. So why shouldn't Harrison Ford take on a new continuing character in Tom Clancy's CIA analyst Jack Ryan? In this film, directed by Phillip Noyce, Ford picked up the baton when Alec Baldwin, who played Ryan in The Hunt for Red October, opted for a Broadway role instead. In this film, Ryan and his family are on vacation when Ryan saves a member of the British royal family from attack by Irish terrorists. The next thing he knows, the Ryan clan has been targeted by the same terrorists, who invade his Maryland home. The film can't shed all of Clancy's lumbering prose, or his techno-dweeb fascination with spy satellites and the like. But no one is better than Ford at righteous heroism--and Sean Bean makes a suitably snakey villain. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    Phillip Noyce
    Patton
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/20/2003
    Actors:
    George C. Scott / Karl Malden
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video One of the greatest screen biographies ever produced, this monumental film runs nearly three hours, won seven Academy Awards, and gave George C. Scott the greatest role of his career. It was released in 1970 when protest against the Vietnam War still raged at home and abroad, and many critics and moviegoers struggled to reconcile current events with the movie's glorification of Gen. George S. Patton as a crazy-brave genius of World War II.

    How could a movie so huge in scope and so fascinated by its subject be considered an anti-war film? The simple truth is that it's not--Patton is less about World War II than about the rise and fall of a man whose life was literally defined by war, and who felt lost and lonely without the grand-scale pursuit of an enemy. George C. Scott embodies his role so fully, so convincingly, that we can't help but be drawn to and fascinated by Patton as a man who is simultaneously bound for hell and glory. The film's opening monologue alone is a masterful display of acting and character analysis, and everything that follows is sheer brilliance on the part of Scott and director Franklin J. Schaffner.

    Filmed on an epic scale at literally dozens of European locations, Patton does not embrace war as a noble pursuit, nor does it deny the reality of war as a breeding ground for heroes. Through the awesome achievement of Scott's performance and the film's grand ambition, Patton shows all the complexities of a man who accepted his role in life and (like Scott) played it to the hilt. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Franklin J. Schaffner
    The Peacemaker
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/3/2003
    Actors:
    George Clooney / Nicole Kidman
    Description:

    Amazon.com It seems that thrillers these days--even good ones--are all about scene-chewing bad guys, cute retorts fit for the Dennis Miller show, and one big special effect to end the movie. Well, something like The Peacemaker, the first feature film from DreamWorks, puts the record straight. Here is an expertly paced thriller with a sensible villain, smart instead of cute dialogue, and a focus on action instead of special effects. It's not original, just solid. It's the second of these energetic and effective thrillers that writer Michael Schiffer (Crimson Tide) has penned. The White House Nuclear Smuggling Group tracks down 10 stolen nuclear bombs after a suspicious train wreck in Russia. The acting head of the department (Nicole Kidman) and her military field officer (George Clooney) are off to Europe to track down the bombs. Instead of a Gary Oldman-Bruce Dern madman, The Peacemaker's heavy is an unknown Romanian actor (Marcul Iures) playing a Bosnian rebel who works passionately and quietly. This may be a popcorn movie, but it uses the ripe emotions of the Bosnian War to create tension. This is the best film vehicle yet for the overwhelming charisma of George Clooney as a quick witted, generally warm Oliver North type who will seek deadly vengeance without pause. He's matched very well by the professional polish of Nicole Kidman who is showing great flexibility in dividing her roles between serious and fun fare. --Doug Thomas

    Directors:
    Mimi Leder
    Peggy Sue Got Married
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/23/2004
    Actors:
    Kathleen Turner / Nicolas Cage
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Francis Ford Coppola's passable 1986 comedy stars Kathleen Turner as an unhappy, middle-aged woman who goes back in time to her high school years and meets her future husband (Nicolas Cage) all over again. A lightweight entry from Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), the film has some clever, backward-looking jokes (Turner's character laughs incredulously when someone turns up with a brand-new Edsel); and the lead actress does bring intelligence and searching emotions to her role. Cage (Coppola's nephew), who specialized in these dumb-guy roles back then (see Raising Arizona), is in sharp, raw form. Worth a visit, but don't expect to be bowled over this time by the legendary director. The DVD release has optional full-screen and widescreen presentations, theatrical trailer, optional Spanish soundtrack and optional Spanish and French subtitles. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Francis Ford Coppola
    A Perfect Murder
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/8/2005
    Actors:
    Michael Douglas / Gwyneth Paltrow / Viggo Mortensen
    Description:

    Amazon.com The husband (Michael Douglas) is a currency trader whose portfolio value is going right down the drain. The wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the heiress to a $100 million fortune. The marriage is not a happy one, but the promise of long-term affluence keeps them together. The wife pursues an affair with an artist (Viggo Mortenson) who gives her all the passion she doesn't get at home, and when the husband finds out, well ... someone's going to pay with their life. Who will the unlucky one be? We wouldn't dare spoil the elegant plot twists of this devious thriller, but it's well known that Douglas excels at portraying greedy characters with ice in their veins. Here, it's easy to assume that Douglas has pulled off, as the title implies, a killing that nobody will ever pin on him. But this is the kind of glossy thriller (loosely inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder) that delights in disrupting your expectations, so it grabs your attention right up to the final scene. It's a bit too cold to really draw you in (hey, these are not very nice people we're dealing with here!), but with its able cast and stylish direction by Andrew Davis, this less-than-perfect murder thriller is still definitely worth a look. The widescreen Special Edition DVD includes audio commentary by Michael Douglas, Andrew Davis, and producer Peter McGregor Scott, an alternate ending deleted from the finished film, and sketches by the film's costume designer. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Andrew Davis
    Philadelphia (Anniversary Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/2/2004
    Actors:
    Tom Hanks / Denzel Washington
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Philadelphia wasn't the first movie about AIDS (it followed such worthy independent films as Parting Glances and Longtime Companion), but it was the first Hollywood studio picture to take AIDS as its primary subject. In that sense, Philadelphia is a historically important film. As such, it's worth remembering that director Jonathan Demme (Melvin and Howard, Something Wild, The Silence of the Lambs) wasn't interested in preaching to the converted; he set out to make a film that would connect with a mainstream audience. And he succeeded. Philadelphia was not only a hit, it also won Oscars for Bruce Springsteen's haunting "The Streets of Philadelphia," and for Tom Hanks as the gay lawyer Andrew Beckett who is unjustly fired by his firm because he has AIDS. Denzel Washington is another lawyer (functioning as the mainstream-audience surrogate) who reluctantly takes Beckett's case and learns to overcome his misconceptions about the disease, about those who contract it, and about gay people in general. The combined warmth and humanism of Hanks and Demme were absolutely essential to making this picture a success. The cast also features Jason Robards, Antonio Banderas (as Beckett's lover), Joanne Woodward, and Robert Ridgely, and, of course, those Demme regulars Charles Napier, Tracey Walter, and Roger Corman. --Jim Emerson

    The Pink Panther Film Collection (The Pink Panther / A Shot in the Dark / Strikes Again / Revenge of / Trail)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/6/2004
    Actors:
    Peter Sellers
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Cue the Henry Mancini music and watch out for Cato--the gist of the Pink Panther series has been gathered in a six-disc boxed set. At the center of it is Peter Sellers's incarnation of inspector Jacques Clouseau, a hopelessly bumbling detective with a genius for resting his hands in the wrong place (on the surface of a spinning globe, for instance) and mangling the English language.

    Writer-director Blake Edwards cast Peter Ustinov as Clouseau in The Pink Panther, but Ustinov dropped out just before shooting began. Edwards (who recounts this story in a spotty commentary track included here) and Sellers bonded over their affection for Laurel and Hardy, and immediately transformed the character of Clouseau into a walking sight gag. The first film has a delicious swinging sixties vibe, while jewel thief David Niven, Claudia Cardinale, and Capucine occupy as much screen time as Sellers. Sellers really hits his stride in A Shot in the Dark, an elegantly funny tale of Clouseau sleuthing out a murder investigation. This one introduced Herbert Lom, as the increasingly frazzled Inspector Dreyfus, and Burt Kwouk, as Clouseau's houseboy-nemesis Cato. Sellers and Edwards, whose relationship was stormy, put Clouseau aside for over 10 years, until a trilogy of mid-1970s comedies restored the character to commercial (and dare we say cultural) primacy.

    Unfortunately, the very funny comeback picture, Return of the Pink Panther, is absent from this set due to rights issues with the studios involved. The Pink Panther Strikes Again has Dreyfus going bananas and targeting Clouseau; Revenge of the Pink Panther puts Clouseau in a hilarious series of disguises, climaxing in a wonderfully mounted sequence in Hong Kong. (Throughout the series, the calm, classical staging of gags by Blake Edwards reminds you of what a lost art this has become.) Trail of the Pink Panther looks better now than it did when originally released in 1982, shortly after Sellers's death; it's a batch of unused Sellers routines from previous pictures, strung together with a loose plot. In other words, it's a "deleted scenes" extra, and quite funny at times.

    Subsequent efforts Curse of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther are neither included nor mentioned. A half-hour documentary gives pleasant memories from Edwards, but feels incomplete. The cartoon Panther gets his own 11-minute mini-doc, plus six cartoon shorts including the Oscar-winning "The Pink Phink." --Robert Horton

    Pin-Up Girl
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/21/2006
    Description:

    Description Betty Grable in the role that she made famous throughout World War II. A classic musical romance with Martha Raye and Joe E. Brown.

    Directors:
    H. Bruce Humberstone
    Planet of the Apes Special Edition
    Front Cover
    Actors:
    Mark Wahlberg
    Description:

    Product Description From back cover: Over 13 hours of primate packed extras. Audio commentaries by Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. Enhanced viewing mode takes yo behind the scenes as you watch the film. 6 Documentaries created exclusively for this DVD release, "Ape School" "Makeup" "Costume Tests" "Shooting on Location" "Scoring the Film" and "Ape Stunts" 5 extended scenes. HBO Special. Multi-Angle Scene Studies. Music Video. Concept Art Gallery Theatrical Trailers and TV spots. DVD ROM Features. Script-to-Screen comparison and web links. Anamorphic widescreen Audio English 5.1 DTS, English 5.1 Dolby surround and Spanish Dolby Surround.

    Directors:
    Tim Burton
    The Player (Special Edition) (New Line Platinum Series)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/16/1997
    Description:

    Amazon.com A wicked satirical fable about corporate backstabbing--and actual murder--in the movie business, The Player benefits from director Robert Altman's long and bitter experience working within, and without, the Hollywood studio system. Rising young executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is tormented by threats from an anonymous writer. The pressure and paranoia build until Griffin loses control one night and semi-accidentally kills screenwriter David Kahane (Vincent D'Onofrio), who may or may not be the source of the threats. From that point, Griffin's life and career begin to fall apart. In keeping with the ironic spirit of the film itself, Altman's scathingly funny attack on the moral bankruptcy of Hollywood was embraced by many of the same people it was intended to savage, and restored the director to commercial and critical favor. Michael Tolkin adapted the screenplay from his own novel, and the movie is studded with cameos by famous faces, many of whom appear as themselves. The digital video disc includes a commentary track with Altman and Tolkin, some deleted scenes, a documentary about Altman, and a key to help identify more than 50 of the picture's big-name cameos. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Robert Altman
    Poltergeist
    Front Cover
    Actors:
    JoBeth Williams / Heather O'Rourke
    Description:

    Amazon.com What a combo! Tobe Hooper, the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, teamed up with family-oriented producer Steven Spielberg to make Poltergeist. The film is about a haunted suburban tract home in a development very much like the Arizona one in which Spielberg was raised. (Because it came out the same summer as Spielberg's E.T., it was tempting to see both movies as representing Spielberg's ambivalent feelings about childhood in suburbia. One was a fantasy, the other a nightmare.) Spielberg also cowrote the screenplay, which taps into primal, childlike fears of monsters under the bed, monsters in the closet, sinister clown faces, and all manner of things that go bump in the night. At first, some of the odd happenings in the house are kind of funny and amusing, but they grow gradually creepier until the film climaxes in a terrifying special-effects extravaganza when 5-year-old Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke) is kidnapped by the spooks and held hostage in another dimension. Though not nearly as frightening as Hooper's magnum opus, or the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, which came along two years later, Poltergeist is one of the smartest and most entertaining horror pictures of its time. --Jim Emerson

    Description This awesome supernatural thriller stars Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams as a California couple swept up in a wave of horror after sinister spirits invade their home and kidnap their child. Year: 1982 Director: Tobe Hooper Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Jo Beth Williams, Beatrice Straight

    Directors:
    Tobe Hooper
    Pot O' Gold
    Release Date:
    8/25/1998
    Actors:
    James Stewart / Paulette Goddard / Horace Heidt
    Directors:
    George Marshall
    Preston Sturges - The Filmmaker Collection (Sullivan's Travels/The Lady Eve/The Palm Beach Story/Hail the Conquering Hero/The Great McGinty/Christmas in July/The Great Moment)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/21/2006
    Actors:
    Preston Sturges
    Description:

    Amazon.com Preston Sturges was a 20th-century Renaissance man who, at Paramount Pictures between 1940 and 1943, wrote and directed eight original movies unlike anything before or since. All but one were high-energy, brilliantly detailed, and very, very funny comedies that became instant classics. No one ever dreamed up a more colorful assortment of characters, wrote more lovingly textured dialogue for them, or sent them hurtling and skittering through more outrageous situations, with undertones often darker than most dramatic films. Seven of these pictures comprise this boxed set; The Miracle of Morgan's Creek is missing because it remained with Paramount when most of the studio's pre-1949 inventory was acquired decades ago by Universal/MCA. (It's on DVD via Paramount.) The omission of a single film from the cycle--and one of the very best--is regrettable, but there's plenty here to relish.

    Sturges was already an established playwright and screenwriter when he cajoled Paramount into letting him direct one of his own scripts. The Great McGinty won him the 1940 Oscar for best original screenplay, the raffish tale of a bum (Brian Donlevy) who ingratiates himself with the political machine of a heartland city by successfully voting 37 times in one election, then rises to become "reform" candidate for governor. The film is a glowing example of Sturges's penchant for filling the foregrounds as well as backgrounds of his movies with flavorful, mostly nameless character actors and according each of them star status, if only for one world-class line of dialogue. They and Sturges stood by one another throughout the cycle, and the result was a richness variously--and aptly--likened to Dickens or Bruegel.

    Christmas in July (1940) followed, a sardonic but big-hearted comedy about a young working-class couple (Dick Powell and Ellen Drew) duped into believing one topsy-turvy afternoon that they've struck it rich by winning a slogan contest. Then came the film widely regarded as Sturges's most side-splitting, The Lady Eve (1941). Barbara Stanwyck is merciless--and breathtakingly sexy--as a second-generation con artist who targets brewing heir Henry Fonda, a clueless amateur herpetologist who has spent entirely too much time up the Amazon.

    Then again, there are people who name Sullivan's Travels (1942) among the best films ever made. Joel McCrea plays a successful director of Hollywood comedies who decides he must make a social-consciousness allegory, O Brother Where Art Thou? His exploratory road trip disguised as a hobo, with starlet Veronica Lake for companionship, combines Hollywood satire with starkest drama verging on horror. The film is utterly unique and shatteringly powerful.

    The Palm Beach Story (1942), a return to screwball comedy, dances a goofy tarantella on the American obsession with wealth. There are a couple of dozen millionaires at large in this movie, every one of them insane: Robert Dudley as a comic deus-ex-machina ("the Wienie King"), a railroad club car filled with Sturges stalwarts ("the Ale and Quail Club"), and '20s crooner Rudy Vallee ascending to character-actor immortality as the devoted suitor of Joel McCrea's runaway wife, Claudette Colbert. At that point (still in 1942) Sturges embarked on his most tortuous project, Triumph over Pain, the fact-based chronicle of the Boston dentist (Joel McCrea) who discovered the use of ether for anaesthesia. Instead of being canonized, he was destroyed. Sturges, whose 1933 screenplay The Power and the Glory had anticipated the fractured time scheme of Citizen Kane by eight years, tried for even more complicated narrative-in-reverse here--and also studded the tragic story with startling bursts of slapstick humor. Paramount recut the film drastically and changed the title to The Great Moment; the fitful results would not be released till two years later.

    Meanwhile, Sturges scored a pair of best-screenplay Oscar nominations in 1944 for The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero, two small-town comedies starring Eddie Bracken as a nebbish ill-made for heroism yet obliged by wartime circumstance to rise to the occasion. Each of these films is a comic masterpiece, each asking discomfiting questions about cherished, arguably destructive American values, yet finding its own cockeyed way to affirmation. Miracle isn't available here, but Hail the Conquering Hero casts a lingering spell, beyond satire. To quote its last line: "You got no idea." --Richard T. Jameson

    Pretty in Pink
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/20/2002
    Description:

    Amazon.com The era of Molly Ringwald's profitable collaboration with writer-producer-director John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club) was at its peak with this 1986 film (directed by Howard Deutch but in every sense part of the developing Hughes empire). Ringwald plays a high school girl on the budget side of the tracks, living with her warm and loving father (Harry Dean Stanton) and usually accompanied by her insecure best friend (Jon Cryer). When a wealthy but well-meaning boy (Andrew McCarthy) asks her out, her perspective is overturned and Cryer's character is threatened. As was the case in the mid-'80s, Hughes (who wrote the script and produced the film) brought his special feel for the cross-currents of adolescent life to this story. In its very commercial way, it is an honest, entertaining piece about growing pains. The attractive supporting cast (many of whom are much better known now) does a terrific job, and Ringwald and Cryer have excellent chemistry. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Howard Deutch
    Primary Colors
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/28/2004
    Actors:
    John Travolta / Emma Thompson / Kathy Bates / Larry Hagman
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Based on the novel by Anonymous (a.k.a. political reporter Joe Klein) and released when the Monica Lewinsky scandal was in full swing, Primary Colors may have been a case of too much, too soon for many moviegoers, who preferred the real-life Clinton crisis over the movie's thinly disguised "Clintonesque" comedy. The general public felt that the film was exploiting the president's indiscretions, and as a result one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 1998 was a box-office disappointment. But when considered apart from the Clinton scandals and judged on its own considerable merits, this superb comedy-drama provides an illuminating, insightful, and frequently hilarious look at the harsh realities of presidential politics. John Travolta stars as Jack Stanton, a presidential hopeful whose campaign is challenged by dual dilemmas: how to squelch a scandal involving the candidate's alleged sex with an underage girl, and how to handle information that could potentially ruin Stanton's opponent (superbly played by Larry Hagman). Stanton's wife (Emma Thompson) stands by her man despite awareness of his infidelities, but his loyal campaign planners (played by Billy Bob Thornton, Maura Tierney, and promising newcomer Adrian Lester) experience a crisis of conscience. So does one of the Stantons' oldest friends (Kathy Bates, in an Oscar-nominated role), whose sense of betrayal and lost idealism proves too much to bear. Masterfully adapted by director Mike Nichols and his former-comedy-partner-turned-screenwriter, Elaine May, Primary Colors plays like a sophisticated comedy with loads of memorable scenes and dialogue, but it sneaks up on you with devastating dramatic impact. Anchored by Travolta's superb performance (which is reminiscent of Clinton without being a cheap impersonation), the movie presents a story of great moral complexity and leaves viewers to contemplate their own reactions to the volatile and ethically complicated game of modern politics. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Mike Nichols
    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    7/6/2004
    Actors:
    Maggie Smith / Robert Stephens / Pamela Franklin / Gordon Jackson / Celia Johnson
    Date Added:
    8/28/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Maggie Smith is so witty and commanding in this film, you might forget that the script paints Jean Brodie as an ultimately self-deluding spinster. Dame Maggie won the first of her two Oscars for playing a teacher in 1930s Edinburgh more in thrall to her romantic notions of art and beauty than the real world, a cultivator of worshipping "Brodie Girls." (She exalts the Mona Lisa and Mussolini with equal fervor.) Smith's expert playing makes many of the brogue-heavy Brodie-isms worth memorizing ("She seeks to intimidate me by the use of quarter-hours.") and raises the picture above its generally theatrical style. Real-life husband Robert Stephens plays Jean's married lover, Celia Johnson excels as the hostile headmistress, and Pamela Franklin is the deadpan whistle-blower within Miss Brodie's coven. The dippy music of Rod McKuen helps mark the movie as more of a reflection of the '60s than the '30s. --Robert Horton

    Description Based on Muriel Spark?s best-selling novel, the film The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie earned a Best Actress Oscar for its star, Maggie Smith, in 1969. The theme song, ?Jean? written by Rod McKuen, was also nominated for a Best Song Academy Award. An inspiration to the young girls she teaches and a challenge to the 1932 Edinburgh school who retains her services, Jean Brodie (Smith) espouses her wisdom on art and music, defends fascism, and otherwise encourages fiercely independent thinking in her students. As she engages in ongoing battles with the school?s rigid heads and bewilders two men in love with her, Miss Brodie also faces the biggest trial of her life when her career and livelihood become threatened.

    Directors:
    Ronald Neame
    The Producers (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/8/2003
    Actors:
    Zero Mostel / Gene Wilder
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Mel Brooks's directorial debut remains both a career high point and a classic show business farce. Hinging on a crafty plot premise, which in turn unleashes a joyously insane onstage spoof, The Producers is powered by a clutch of over-the-top performances, capped by the odd couple pairing of the late Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, making his screen debut.

    Mostel is Max Bialystock, a gone-to-seed Broadway producer who spends his days wheedling checks from his "investors," elderly women for whom Bialystock is only too willing to provide company. When wide-eyed auditor Leo Bloom (Wilder) comes to check the books, he unwittingly inspires the wild-eyed Max to hatch a sure-fire plan: sell 25,000 percent of his next show, produce a deliberate flop, then abscond with the proceeds. Unfortunately for the producers (but fortunately for us), their candidate for failure is Springtime for Hitler, a Brooksian conceit that envisions what Goebbels might have accomplished with a little help from Busby Berkeley.

    Truly startling during its original 1968 release, The Producers does show signs of age in some peripheral scenes that make merry at the expense of gays and women. But the show's nifty cast (notably including the late Dick Shawn as LSD, the space cadet that snags the musical's title role, and Kenneth Mars as the helmeted playwright) clicks throughout, and the sight of Mostel fleecing his marks is irresistibly funny. Add Wilder's literally hysterical Bloom, and it's easy to understand the film's exalted status among late-'60s comedies. --Sam Sutherland

    Directors:
    Mel Brooks
    Pulp Fiction
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/19/1998
    Actors:
    John Travolta / Samuel L. Jackson / Bruce Willis
    Description:

    Amazon.com With the knockout one-two punch of 1992's Reservoir Dogs and 1994's Pulp Fiction writer-director Quentin Tarantino stunned the filmmaking world, exploding into prominence as a cinematic heavyweight contender. But Pulp Fiction was more than just the follow-up to an impressive first feature, or the winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival, or a script stuffed with the sort of juicy bubblegum dialogue actors just love to chew, or the vehicle that reestablished John Travolta on the A-list, or the relatively low-budget ($8 million) independent showcase for an ultrahip mixture of established marquee names and rising stars from the indie scene (among them Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Julia Sweeney, Kathy Griffin, and Phil Lamar). It was more, even, than an unprecedented $100-million-plus hit for indie distributor Miramax. Pulp Fiction was a sensation. No, it was not the Second Coming (I actually think Reservoir Dogs is a more substantial film; and P.T. Anderson outdid Tarantino in 1997 by making his directorial debut with two even more mature and accomplished pictures, Hard Eight and Boogie Nights). But Pulp Fiction packs so much energy and invention into telling its nonchronologically interwoven short stories (all about temptation, corruption, and redemption amongst modern criminals, large and small) it leaves viewers both exhilarated and exhausted--hearts racing and knuckles white from the ride. (Oh, and the infectious, surf-guitar-based soundtrack is tastier than a Royale with Cheese.) --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Quentin Tarantino
    Punchline
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Sally Field / Tom Hanks / John Goodman
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video At the height of the standup-comedy boom of the 1980s, this film offered the revelation that many comedians were, in fact, rather psychologically unstable individuals for whom performing was an outlet for hostility and aggression. Wow--who would have guessed? This film focuses on two who meet and forge an unlikely friendship: Tom Hanks plays a caustic, self-destructive comic looking for his big break and Sally Field plays a more Roseannelike comedian who begins neglecting her husband (John Goodman) and children because she gets such a kick out of performing. The offstage stuff is strictly soap opera, but Hanks and Field both develop solid comedic rhythms once they get behind a microphone. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    David Seltzer
    The Quiet American
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/19/2005
    Actors:
    Audie Murphy / Michael Redgrave
    Description:

    Description A love triangle brews amidst a growing political tempest in this "brilliantly intellectual" (Los Angeles Times) film in which nothing is quite as it seems. Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Graham Greene, Academy Award-winning writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's screenplay "delivers dialogue that not only sparkles but bites deep with the irony of truth" (Citizen-News). In 1952, Saigon is caught between the corrupt colonial powers and the Communist uprising. An idealistic young American (Audie Murphy) champions a shadowy Third Force, but cynical British journalist Thomas Fowler (Michael Redgrave) is concerned only with the American's interest in his mistress. When jealousy forces Fowler to take sides at last, the personal and political consequences are devastating.

    Directors:
    Joseph L. Mankiewicz
    R2-D2 Under the Dome
    Description:

    Product Description DVD of the TV Special. A tongue-in-cheek "Mocumentary" biography of actor R2-D2

    Directors:
    George Lucas
    Rain Man (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/11/2005
    Actors:
    Dustin Hoffman / Tom Cruise
    Description:

    Amazon.com Rain Man is the kind of touching drama that Oscars are made for--and, sure enough, the film took Academy honors for best picture, director, screenplay, and actor (Dustin Hoffman) in 1988. Hoffman plays Raymond, an autistic savant whose late father has left him $3 million in a trust. This gets the attention of his materialistic younger brother, a hot-shot LA car dealer named Charlie (Tom Cruise) who wasn't even aware of Raymond's existence until he read his estranged father's will. Charlie picks up Raymond and takes him on a cross-country journey that becomes a voyage of discovery for Charlie, and, perhaps, for Raymond, too. Rain Man will either captivate you or irritate you (Raymond's sputtering of repetitious phrases is enough to drive anyone crazy), but it is obviously a labor of love for those involved. Hoffman had been attached to the film for many years, as various directors and writers came and went, but his persistence eventually paid off--kind of like Raymond in Las Vegas. Look for director Barry Levinson in a cameo as a psychiatrist near the end of the film. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Barry Levinson
    Random Hearts
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/29/2000
    Actors:
    Harrison Ford / Kristin Scott Thomas
    Description:

    Amazon.com Reviled by critics and largely ignored by moviegoers when released in 1999, Random Hearts is a pox on the reputations of Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas, and director Sydney Pollack, but it doesn't entirely deserve its lowly fate. The movie's lugubriously paced and its repressed passions are dulled under the weight of relentless melancholy, but Pollack deserves credit for defying the Hollywood Zeitgeist with a mature, substantial film about the power of betrayal to reach beyond the grave.

    Ford plays a Washington, D.C. detective; Scott Thomas is a Congresswoman in the midst of a re-election campaign. When their spouses die in a plane crash, the cop is convinced they'd been having an affair, and his obsessive, masochistic quest for the painful truth draws him closer to the Congresswoman despite the mutual risks to their careers and domestic privacy. While she hides behind a façade of denial, his agonized investigation makes him simultaneously unappealing (a risk Ford may have taken as a challenge), sympathetic, and sadly compelling.

    Pollack takes his own chances by keeping everything so relentlessly downbeat, but anyone receptive to the story will find that Random Hearts is a subtly rewarding study of tormented adults who've discovered too late the weaknesses of their seemingly stable marriages. It's anything but cheerful, and a subplot involving a corrupt cop (Dennis Haysbert) is a formulaic distraction. But Random Hearts provides welcome relief from dramas that flirt with emotional anguish without delving into its deeper consequences. --Jeff Shannon

    Rat Race
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/29/2002
    Description:

    Amazon.com Modeled after 1963's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Jerry Zucker's Rat Race lacks the irreverence of Zucker's 1980 hit Airplane! but has enough chuckles to make it an agreeable time-killer. Like Mad, Mad, Mad..., it employs a huge ensemble of comedy stalwarts, assembled by an eccentric hotelier (pearly-toothed John Cleese) to race from Las Vegas to New Mexico for a $2 million jackpot. With a backstage gambling subplot, Rowan Atkinson's Italian-geek lunacy, Seth Green's slacker antics, and some nicely understated work from SCTV alumnus Dave Thomas, the movie has almost as many highlights as clunkers, and Zucker's embrace of easy gags and traditional slapstick will tickle anyone's old-fashioned funny bone. Other ingredients are hopelessly stale: Whoopi Goldberg's frantic mugging, Cuba Gooding's latter-day Stepin Fetchit, "mature" humor that compromises the movie's broad appeal, and the assumption that crashing vehicles are inherently hilarious. Lamentable decisions, perhaps, but Rat Race maintains a pleasantly altruistic spirit. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Jerry Zucker
    Reality Bites (10th Anniversary Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/8/2004
    Actors:
    Winona Ryder / Ethan Hawke
    Description:

    Amazon.com Ben Stiller's directorial debut was this sporadically successful twentysomething comedy that tries too hard to codify the generational experience of its young adult characters. Winona Ryder plays a still-unformed woman struggling with career and relationship issues, Janeane Garofalo portrays her best friend, and Ethan Hawke and Stiller play the two lovers pursuing her. The story is as also about generation-X confusion over how to get by in a hand-me-down world with not much to get excited about, a world filled with a pop culture currency of bad music and poetry slams. The film's chief strength is its appealing cast, which is bolstered by appearances from David Spade, Renee Zellweger, Kevin Pollak, Jeanne Triplehorn, and Stiller's mother, Anne Meara. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Ben Stiller
    Rear Window (Collector's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/2/2003
    Actors:
    James Stewart / Grace Kelly
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Like the Greenwich Village courtyard view from its titular portal, Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window is both confined and multileveled: both its story and visual perspective are dictated by its protagonist's imprisonment in his apartment, convalescing in a wheelchair, from which both he and the audience observe the lives of his neighbors. Cheerful voyeurism, as well as the behavior glimpsed among the various tenants, affords a droll comic atmosphere that gradually darkens when he sees clues to what may be a murder.

    Photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart) is, in fact, a voyeur by trade, a professional photographer sidelined by an accident while on assignment. His immersion in the human drama (and comedy) visible from his window is a by-product of boredom, underlined by the disapproval of his girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), and a wisecracking visiting nurse (Thelma Ritter). Yet when the invalid wife of Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) disappears, Jeff enlists the two women to help him to determine whether she's really left town, as Thorwald insists, or been murdered.

    Hitchcock scholar Donald Spoto convincingly argues that the crime at the center of this mystery is the MacGuffin--a mere pretext--in a film that's more interested in the implications of Jeff's sentinel perspective. We actually learn more about the lives of the other neighbors (given generic names by Jeff, even as he's drawn into their lives) he, and we, watch undetected than we do the putative murderer and his victim. Jeff's evident fear of intimacy and commitment with the elegant, adoring Lisa provides the other vital thread to the script, one woven not only into the couple's own relationship, but reflected and even commented upon through the various neighbors' lives.

    At minimum, Hitchcock's skill at making us accomplices to Jeff's spying, coupled with an ingenious escalation of suspense as the teasingly vague evidence coalesces into ominous proof, deliver a superb thriller spiked with droll humor, right up to its nail-biting, nightmarish climax. At deeper levels, however, Rear Window plumbs issues of moral responsibility and emotional honesty, while offering further proof (were any needed) of the director's brilliance as a visual storyteller. --Sam Sutherland

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Rebecca
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/7/1999
    Actors:
    Laurence Olivier / Joan Fontaine
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Rebecca is an ageless, timeless adult movie about a woman who marries a widower but fears she lives in the shadow of her predecessor. This was Hitchcock's first American feature, and it garnered the Best Picture statue at the 1941 Academy Awards. In today's films, most twists and surprises are ridiculous or just gratuitous, so it's sobering to look back on this film where every revelation not only shocks, but makes organic sense with the story line. Laurence Olivier is dashing and weak, fierce and cowed. Joan Fontaine is strong yet submissive, defiant yet accommodating. There isn't a false moment or misstep, but the film must have killed the employment outlook of any women named Danvers for about 20 years. Brilliant stuff. --Keith Simanton

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Reds (25th Anniversary Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/17/2006
    Actors:
    Beatty / Nicholson / Keaton
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Warren Beatty's lengthy 1981 drama about American Communist John Reed and his relationships with both the Russian Revolution and a writer named Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) is a compelling piece of little-known history told in a uniquely personal way. Beatty plays Reed as he did the title gangster in Bugsy and Senator in Bulworth, as a visionary likely to die before anyone fully recognizes the progressiveness of the vision, including those who are supposed to be on the same page. Jack Nicholson has an interesting part as fellow intellectual Eugene O'Neill, and the late author Jerzy Kosinski--himself a refugee from then-Soviet-controlled Poland--makes a strong impression as Reed's problematic Russian liaison. --Tom Keogh

    Description Reds is the story of the love affair of John Reed and Louise Bryant in a war-torn world and how the Russian Revolution shook their lives.

    Rescue Me - The Complete First Season
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/7/2005
    Actors:
    Denis Leary / Mike Lombardi / James McCaffrey / Jack McGee / Steven Pasquale / Andrea Roth / John Scurti / Daniel Sunjata / Diane Farr
    Description:

    Amazon.com Dennis Leary snarls as naturally as most actors smile. Leary's trademark ferocity and fearlessness drive Rescue Me, a series about a team of firemen struggling with their wives and lovers in post-9/11 New York City. Tommy Gavin (Leary, No Cure for Cancer, The Ref) is the guy everyone confides in, the heart of the firehouse--but he's also an active alcoholic who rages about his wife Janet (Andrea Roth) leaving him, a man guilt-ridden and literally haunted by all the people he blames himself for failing to save. Surrounding him are a crew of vivid characters, played by a little-known but outstanding cast: Handsome lothario Franco Rivera (Daniel Sunjata) discovers he's fathered a daughter with a psychotic ex-girlfriend; Ken Shea (John Scurti) struggles to resolve his post-traumatic stress by writing poetry; Mike Siletti (Mike Lombardi), the newest guy on the team, finds love with a partner the rest of the crew finds unacceptable; Chief Jerry Reilly (Jack McGee) risks his career when he beats a gay firefighter in a bar; and several others, all multi-faceted and sharply written. Rescue Me's first season launches with a full head of steam, tackling divorce, homophobia, and male bonding in a pellmell rush. The core theme of the show, however, is how men react to stress--how anger, bragging, competition, sex, and booze pacify their jagged emotions, pulling the firefighters together and isolating them at the same time. The first eight or so episodes rip along, spiced with high-energy scenes of fires and obscene, scatological banter. The second half of the series grows a little repetitive (beatings and steamy sex lose their vigor after a while) and some storylines stretch credulity, but the characters never lose their engaging complexity. Leary, who co-created the show and co-wrote many of the episodes, barrels through each hour like a force of nature, even as Tommy's increasingly erratic behavior threatens to alienate his family and his team. This bilious fusion of vices and virtues guarantees compelling television. --Bret Fetzer

    Description Tommy Gavin is a lifesaver. Whether he is pulling survivors from fiery high-rise infernos or the twisted steel of a subway collision, Gavin takes great pride in leading the heroic but often overwhelmed firefighters of New York City's Truck Company 62. Gavin (Denis Leary) is also a man drifting between sorrow and anger over a recent separation from his wife (Andrea Roth) and three kids, and recurring memories of comrades and New Yorkers fallen victim. Leary and multiple Emmy Award-winning writer-producer Peter Tolan (The Larry Sanders Show, Murphy Brown), the team behind the critically-acclaimed cop drama The JobRescue Me.

    Rescue Me - The Complete Second Season
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/9/2006
    Actors:
    Denis Leary / Mike Lombardi / James McCaffrey / Jack McGee / Steven Pasquale / Andrea Roth / John Scurti / Daniel Sunjata / Diane Farr
    Description:

    Amazon.com Rescue Me is a wake up call for every man who (as a kid) dreamed about becoming a fireman and every woman who fantasized about being with one. As flawed and complicated as they are selfless and heroic, the fire fighters in this FX series are a compelling lot. They deal with infidelity, drug addiction, and sexual abuse on a daily basis and make it seem like old hat. But the characters are so well thought out that they almost always make viewers care about what's developing in their lives. This second season surpasses the debut year in terms of story lines and pacing. Series creator Denis Leary (Ice Age, No Cure for Cancer) reprises his role of Tommy Gavin. Separated from his wife and children and also battling a drinking addiction, Tommy is now working as the new guy in a Staten Island firehouse. He isn't a hero so much as he's his own best victim. Luckily, he's still got some loyal friends who're quick to nip his pity-parties short: "You feeling a little angry? You feeling a little hurt? You feeling betrayed? Well, congratulations, you're feeling, and you're feeling because you're sober." With his hangdog features and fast-paced speech pattern, Leary is surprisingly believable in the role. Returning character Chief Reilly (Jack McGee) faces some struggles of his own, as he watches his wife's spiral downward thanks to Alzheimer's. And it's not much easier for Franco (Daniel Sunjata), who is trying to figure out the best ways to care for his daughter while working an unpredictable schedule. While the drama on this show can sometimes be fiery and intense, the series provides enough biting humor to lend it an air of humanity and, at times, even a little warmth. It doesn't leave viewers wanting to be fire fighters, but rather empathizing with them. --Jae-Ha Kim

    Description Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) is a lifesaver. Whether he is pulling survivors from fiery high-rise infernos or the twisted steel of a subway collision, Gavin takes great pride in leading the heroic but often overwhelmed firefighters of New York City's Truck Company 62. Gavin is also a man drifting between sorrow and anger over a recent separation from his wife (Andrea Roth) and three kids, and recurring memories of comrades and New Yorkers fallen victim. Leary and multiple Emmy Award-winning writer-producer Peter Tolan ("The Larry Sanders Show, Murphy Brown"), the team behind the critically-acclaimed cop drama "The Job", have re-teamed as creators, writers and executive producers of RESCUE ME.

    The Return of the Pink Panther
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/20/2001
    Actors:
    Peter Sellers / Christopher Plummer
    Description:

    Amazon.com Peter Sellers's third go-around as the prideful but bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau is funny enough, but this 1975 Blake Edwards revival of the Sellers-Clouseau connection is a little weak in comparison to predecessors The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark (both made in 1964). Costar Christopher Plummer actually gets some of the most interesting screen time as a retired cat burglar whom Clouseau accuses of getting back into the business. (If it sounds like there might be a To Catch a Thief vibe mixed in here, you're right.) Herbert Lom is hilarious as Clouseau's psychologically eroding boss, and Clouseau's ritualistic collisions with valet Cato (Burt Kwouk) are great examples of Edwards's delicious comic timing. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Blake Edwards
    The Right Stuff (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/10/2003
    Actors:
    Sam Shepard / Scott Glenn / Ed Harris / Dennis Quaid / Fred Ward
    Description:

    Amazon.com Philip Kaufman's intimate epic about the Mercury astronauts (based on Tom Wolfe's book) was one of the most ambitious and spectacularly exciting movies of the 1980s. It surprised almost everybody by not becoming a smash hit. By all rights, the film should have been every bit the success that Apollo 13 would later become; The Right Stuff is not only just as thrilling, but it is also a bigger and better movie. Combining history (both established and revisionist), grand mythmaking (and myth puncturing), adventure, melodrama, behind-the-scenes dish, spectacular visuals, and a down-to-earth sense of humor, The Right Stuff chronicles NASA's efforts to put a man in orbit. Such an achievement would be the first step toward President Kennedy's goal of reaching the moon, and, perhaps most important of all, would win a crucial public relations/morale victory over the Soviets, who had delivered a stunning blow to American pride by launching Sputnik, the first satellite. The movie contrasts the daring feats of the unsung test pilots--one of whom, Chuck Yeager, embodied more than anyone else the skill and spirit of Wolfe's title--against the heavily publicized (and sanitized) accomplishments of the Mercury astronauts. Through no fault of their own, the spacemen became prisoners of the heroic images the government created for them in order to capture the public's imagination. The casting is inspired; the film features Sam Shepard as the legendary Yeager, Ed Harris as John Glenn, Dennis Quaid as "Gordo" Cooper, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, Fred Ward as Gus Grissom, Scott Wilson as Scott Crossfield, and Pamela Reed and Veronica Cartwright are superb in their thankless roles as astronauts' wives. --Jim Emerson

    Description Four Academy Awards(R)! Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Sam Shepard and a stellar cast give soaring life to the glory years of America's space program. From Tom Wolfe's best seller. Year: 1983 Director: Philip Kaufman Starring: Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid

    Directors:
    Philip Kaufman
    Road to Bali
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/21/2000
    Actors:
    Bing Crosby / Bob Hope / Dorothy Lamour
    Directors:
    Hal Walker
    The Road to Hong Kong
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/11/2005
    Actors:
    Bing Crosby / Bob Hope
    Directors:
    Norman Panama
    Road to Perdition (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/25/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com In Road to Perdition, Tom Hanks plays a hit man who finds his heart. Michael Sullivan (Hanks) is the right-hand man of crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman), but when Sullivan's son accidentally witnesses one of his hits, he must choose between his crime family and his real one. The movie has a slow pace, largely because director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) seems to be in love with the gorgeous period locations. Hanks gives a deceptively battened-down performance at first, only opening up toward the very end of the film, making his character's personal transformation all the more convincing. Newman turns in a masterful piece of work, revealing Rooney's advancing age but at the same time, his terrifying power. Jude Law is also a standout, playing a hit man-photographer with chilling creepiness. This movie requires a little patience, but the beautiful cinematography and moving ending make it well worth the wait. --Ali Davis

    Directors:
    Sam Mendes
    Road to Rio
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/21/2000
    Actors:
    Bing Crosby / Bob Hope / Dorothy Lamour
    Directors:
    Norman Z. McLeod
    Road Trip (Unrated Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/15/2005
    Actors:
    Breckin Meyer / Seann William Scott / Amy Smart / Paulo Costanzo / DJ Qualls / Tom Green (III)
    Description:

    Amazon.com Road Trip is a mostly agreeable, by-the-numbers teen flick with a handful of inspired sequences, most of them involving MTV's resident disturbed soul, Tom Green. It concerns a sleepy University of Ithaca student named Josh (Breckin Meyer) who accidentally mails a video of his sexual encounter with an infatuation (Amy Smart) to his longtime girlfriend (Rachel Blanchard), who's seemingly avoiding him while at school in Austin, Texas. Naturally, he recruits some buddies--Seann William Scott as the lech, D.J. Qualls as the hopeless nerd, and Paulo Costanzo as the doper genius--to hit the open highway and intercept the package. Even more naturally, mayhem ensues: A car explodes, a bus is stolen, a nerd is deflowered, French toast is horribly violated, and an elderly man bogarts both pot and Viagra.

    The film's humor is more democratic than politically correct, as everyone--women and minority characters, not just the hipster white guys--have a hand in the high jinks. Green plays Barry Manilow (no, not that one), a professional student (eight years and counting)--he relates the film's story to skeptical prospective students while leading them on a tour of the college--and thrill-seeking dork extraordinaire. In particular, in an already justly famous sequence of scenes, he sadistically anticipates and endeavors to accelerate a mouse's demise at the jaws of a python. It's very much in the vein of American Pie, perhaps a smidgen tamer, but at least its characters don't really learn any dopey lessons in the end. Director and coscreenwriter Todd Phillips, who earlier made the much-questioned documentary Frat House, again proves he's more adept at staging fictional comic sequences than real ones. --David Kronke

    Directors:
    Todd Phillips
    Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves (Two-Disc Special Extended Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/10/2003
    Actors:
    Kevin Costner / Morgan Freeman / Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio / Christian Slater / Alan Rickman / Michael McShane / Brian Blessed / Michael Wincott / Nick Brimble / Soo Drouet / Daniel Newman / Daniel Peacock / Walter Sparrow / Harold Innocent / Jack Wild / Michael Goldie / Liam Halligan / Marc Zuber / Merelina Kendall / Imogen Bain
    Description:

    Amazon.com Kevin Costner's lousy English accent is a small obstacle in this often exciting version of the Robin Hood fable. That aside, it's refreshing to have a preface to the old story in which we meet the robber hero of Sherwood Forest as a soldier in King Richard's Crusades, coming home to find his people under siege from the cruelties of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman). After Robin and his community of outcasts and fighters take to the trees, director Kevin Reynolds (Fandango, 187) is on more familiar narrative ground, and he goes for the gusto with lots of original action (Robin shoots two arrows simultaneously from his bow in two directions). Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as Marion, makes a convincing damsel in distress, and Morgan Freeman brings dignity to his role as Robin's Moor friend. Alan Rickman, however, gets the most attention for his scene-chewing role as the rotten sheriff, an almost campy performance that is highly entertaining but perhaps a little out of sorts with the rest of the film. --Tom Keogh

    Description For the good of all men, and the love of one woman, he fought to uphold justice by breaking the law. In this richly-detailed, action-packed retelling of the legendary story, Robin Hood must battle the evil Sheriff of Nottingham not only to save King Richard the Lionhearted and England but also to save his love, the noble beauty Maid Marian.

    Directors:
    Kevin Reynolds
    The Rock
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/3/1997
    Description:

    Amazon.com Between his high-octane debut, Bad Boys, and 1998's wannabe blockbuster Armageddon, hotshot director Michael Bay forged his dubious reputation with this crowd-pleasing action extravaganza. In it a psychotically disgruntled war hero (Ed Harris) seizes the island prison of Alcatraz and threatens to wage chemical warfare against nearby San Francisco unless the government publicly recognizes the men who were killed under Harris's top-secret command. Nicolas Cage plays the biochemist who teams up with the only man ever to have escaped from Alcatraz (Sean Connery) in an attempt to foil Harris's terrorist scheme. As one might expect, what follows is an action-packed barrage of bullets, bodies, and climactic confrontations, replete with enough plot contrivances to give even the most jaded action fan cause for alarm. It's a load of hooey, but the cast is obviously having a grand old time, and there's enough wit to make the recycled action sequences tolerable. If you're ordering this movie on DVD, be careful with the volume knobs on your home-theater sound systems, because The Rock could cause partial hearing loss and structural damage to your home. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Michael Bay
    Rocky
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/2/2003
    Actors:
    Sylvester Stallone / Talia Shire
    Description:

    Amazon.com The only remaining evidence that Sylvester Stallone might have had a respectable career, this 1976 Oscar winner (for Best Picture, Director, and Editing) is still the quintessential ode to an underdog and one of the best boxing movies ever made. After writing the script about a two-bit boxer who gets a "million-to-one shot" against the world heavyweight champion, Stallone insisted that he star in the title role, and his equally unknown status helped to catapult him (and this rousing film) to overnight success. The story is familiar, but it has been handled with such vitality and emotional honesty that you can't help but leap and cheer for Rocky Balboa, the chump turned champ (despite his valiant defeat in the ring) who stuns the boxing world with the support of his timid girlfriend, Adrian (Talia Shire), and grizzled trainer, Gus (Burgess Meredith). Oscar nominations went to all the lead actors (including Burt Young as Adrian's hot-tempered brother), but four sequels could never top the universal appeal of this low-budget crowd pleaser. --Jeff Shannon

    Description Rocky Balboa, club fighter from the mean streets of Philadelphia, gets an unlikely shot at the heavyweight championship of the world by taking on champion Apollo Creed. The irresistible story of the boxer who gives his all to win the championship title won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director and catapulted Sylvester Stallone to superstardom.

    Directors:
    John G. Avildsen
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (25th Anniversary Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/3/2000
    Actors:
    Tim Curry / Susan Sarandon / Barry Bostwick / Richard O'Brien
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video If a musical sci-fi satire about an alien transvestite named Frank-n-Furter, who is building the perfect man while playing sexual games with his virginal visitors, sounds like an intriguing premise for a movie, then you're in for a treat. Not only is The Rocky Horror Picture all this and more, but it stars the surprising cast of Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick (as the demure Janet and uptight Brad, who get lost in a storm and find themselves stranded at Frank-n-Furter's mansion), Meat Loaf (as the rebel Eddie), Charles Gray (as our criminologist and narrator), and, of course, the inimitable Tim Curry as our "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania."

    Upon its release in 1975, the film was an astounding flop. But a few devotees persuaded a New York theater to show it at midnight, and thus was born one of the ultimate cult films of all time. The songs are addictive (just try getting "The Time Warp" or "Toucha Toucha Touch Me" out of your head), the raunchiness amusing, and the plot line utterly ridiculous--in other words, this film is simply tremendous good fun. The downfall, however, is that much of the amusement is found in the audience participation that is obviously missing from a video version (viewers in theaters shout lines at the screen and use props--such as holding up newspapers and shooting water guns during the storm, and throwing rice during a wedding scene). Watched alone as a straight movie, Rocky Horror loses a tremendous amount of its charm. Yet, for those who wish to perfect their lip-synching techniques for movie theater performances or for those who want to gather a crowd around the TV at home for some good, old-fashioned, rowdy fun, this film can't be beat. --Jenny Brown

    Directors:
    Jim Sharman
    Romance on the High Seas
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/10/2007
    Actors:
    Jack Carson / Janis Paige / Don DeFore / Doris Day / Oscar Levant
    Date Added:
    8/28/2007
    Description:

    Amazon.com For a crystal-clear lesson in how an unknown vaults into immediate stardom, look no further than Romance on the High Seas, the silly 1948 musical that launched the movie career of Doris Day. A band singer, Day was plucked from the ranks when Warner Bros. and director Michael Curtiz needed to find a replacement for a role intended first for Judy Garland and then for Betty Hutton. She's fourth-billed, but there's no question Doris Day owns the picture; in retrospect, the part seems tailor-made to break a new star. The plot is a howler: society wife Janis Paige is suspicious when husband Don DeFore (hubby to TV's Hazel) claims he must stay in New York on business instead of going on a cruise to South America. So Paige gives the cruise ticket to lounge singer Doris, on the condition that she pretend to be Paige, while wifey hangs back in New York. Make sense? Meanwhile, a suspicious DeFore hires a detective (Jack Carson) to spy on his wife during the cruise, except of course it isn't really his wife, it's... well, you get the picture. Day is somewhat sassier than her later well-scrubbed image would allow; she actually seems like an up-from-the-streets, well-traveled barnstormer. The saucy script has a handsome pedigree; it was penned by Casablanca boys Julius and Philip Epstein and polished by future Billy Wilder partner I.A.L. Diamond. However, it must be stated that Curtiz is nobody's idea of a buoyant comedy director, even if the lounge-singing sequences are sharply made. The cast is stocked with screwball stalwarts such as S.Z. Sakall, Eric Blore, and Franklin Pangborn. As Day's accompanist and suitor, the celebrated musican-wit Oscar Levant has one of his better screen roles--and his experience here was likely the source of his later quip, "I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin." If you see her cheeky performance here, you might agree with him. --Robert Horton

    Description Elvira is supposed to go on a cruise, but decides to stay home when she suspects her husband is cheating on her. Her husband suspects the same of his wife, and sends an investigator to spy on her on the cruise - but he is really spying on Elvira's husband.

    Directors:
    Michael Curtiz
    Romancing the Stone
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/4/2003
    Actors:
    Michael Douglas / Kathleen Turner
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Contact) had a hit with this 1984 comedy that first teamed Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito. Turner steals the show from the guys, however, playing a pushy romance novelist who gets stuck among some dangerous figures in Colombia and has only a rumpled guide (Michael Douglas) as an ally. The chemistry between the stars is infectious (the trio went on to make a sequel, Jewel of the Nile, and then an interesting, dark comedy directed by DeVito, The War of the Roses). Zemeckis--whose specialty at the time was creating set pieces of raucous action (as in his Back to the Future)--keeps things hopping with lots of kinetic material. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Robert Zemeckis
    Royal Wedding
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/8/1997
    Actors:
    Fred Astaire / Jane Powell
    Description:

    Amazon.com Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling in this 1951 Alan Jay Lerner musical for MGM, directed by Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain). The appealing story finds Astaire as part of a brother-and-sister act (along with Jane Powell) that travels to London at the time of Queen Elizabeth II's wedding. Astaire and Powell each find romances that threaten to break up the act, but that's mostly fun window dressing in a movie better known for some truly creative sequences made vivid by Donen, including Astaire's famous dance with a hat rack and his duet with Powell, "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You (When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life)?" --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Stanley Donen
    The Running Man (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/16/2004
    Actors:
    Arnold Schwarzenegger / Maria Conchita Alonso / Yaphet Kotto / Jim Brown / Jesse Ventura
    Description:

    Amazon.com In this action thriller based on an early story by Stephen King, Los Angeles in the year 2017 has become a police state in the wake of the global economy's total collapse. All forms of entertainment are government controlled, and the most popular show on television is an elaborate game show in which convicted criminals are given a chance to escape by running through a gauntlet of brutal killers known as "Stalkers." Anyone who survives is given their freedom and a condominium in Hawaii, so when a wrongly accused citizen (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is chosen as a contestant, all hell breaks loose. Cheesy sets and a slimy role for game-show host Richard Dawson make this violent mess of mayhem a candidate for guilty pleasure; it is the kind of movie that truly devoted Arnold fans will want to watch more than once. And check those credits--choreography by Paula Abdul! --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Paul Michael Glaser
    Running Mates
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/5/2004
    Description:

    Amazon.com This made-for-television movie featuring Tom Selleck as the Democratic nominee for president is thin on plot but benefits from its sharp portrayals of the ambience surrounding its fictitious Democratic convention in Los Angeles. The story involves whom Selleck's Governor Pryce will pick as his running mate as well as the candidate's relationships with various women in his life, played by Nancy Travis, Teri Hatcher, Laura Linney, and Faye Dunaway. While the plot at times seems extraneous, the cascade of cynical jokes and one-liners about politics in America, no doubt derived from the experiences of former political operative Gerald Rafshoon, who coproduced the film, keep the momentum going. Real-life pundits from CNN pop up on TV talking about the fictional characters (the film was originally shown on one of Ted Turner's entertainment channels), and the scenes at the fictitious political convention look real enough to be taken from network news clips. The film delivers insightful glimpses of how politicians travel, interact with their fractious staffs (and families), and occasionally startle everyone by taking a moral stand. Perhaps the best of many throwaway lines in the film is delivered by Teri Hatcher, playing a shallow Hollywood fundraiser who needs to find a celebrity to sing the national anthem: "No, Madonna would not be nice, she's too old and she doesn't wear clothes." --Robert J. McNamara

    Directors:
    Ron Lagomarsino
    Running Mates
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/5/2004
    Description:

    Amazon.com This made-for-television movie featuring Tom Selleck as the Democratic nominee for president is thin on plot but benefits from its sharp portrayals of the ambience surrounding its fictitious Democratic convention in Los Angeles. The story involves whom Selleck's Governor Pryce will pick as his running mate as well as the candidate's relationships with various women in his life, played by Nancy Travis, Teri Hatcher, Laura Linney, and Faye Dunaway. While the plot at times seems extraneous, the cascade of cynical jokes and one-liners about politics in America, no doubt derived from the experiences of former political operative Gerald Rafshoon, who coproduced the film, keep the momentum going. Real-life pundits from CNN pop up on TV talking about the fictional characters (the film was originally shown on one of Ted Turner's entertainment channels), and the scenes at the fictitious political convention look real enough to be taken from network news clips. The film delivers insightful glimpses of how politicians travel, interact with their fractious staffs (and families), and occasionally startle everyone by taking a moral stand. Perhaps the best of many throwaway lines in the film is delivered by Teri Hatcher, playing a shallow Hollywood fundraiser who needs to find a celebrity to sing the national anthem: "No, Madonna would not be nice, she's too old and she doesn't wear clothes." --Robert J. McNamara

    Directors:
    Ron Lagomarsino
    Sabotage
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/24/1998
    Actors:
    Sylvia Sidney / Oskar Homolka
    Description:

    Amazon.com Alfred Hitchcock's 1936 drama, among his darkest, is the one to which he regretfully pointed later as the exception that proved his usual rule about good suspense: you have to let an audience know the precise danger that a character doesn't know he imminently faces. Then you have to withdraw or cancel out the danger lest viewers feel betrayed. The "betrayal" in Sabotage rather famously involves a bomb, a boy, and a bus. But in the context of the story (based on Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, inevitably confused with Hitchcock's quite different film called Secret Agent), the twist has a devastating significance, ushering in the director's pet themes about the proximity of chaos to ordinary life and the nature and transference of guilt. Sylvia Sidney stars as the naive American wife of a German spy, the latter using a movie theater as a cover for his terrorist activities. When he asks his wife's young brother to make a delivery--a package containing a ticking bomb, unknown to the child--a bus delay causes the boy to die in the timed explosion. Sidney's character murders her spouse in revenge, but as in Hitch's great Blackmail, the deed is obscured by a sympathetic lawman who ultimately shares her secret. Wrong or right, right or wrong--the clear distinctions don't often exist in the great director's movies, and Sabotage is no exception. The print of the film used in the DVD release is serviceable and probably comparable to an average 16mm classroom or museum presentation. The DVD also includes a Hitchcock filmography, trivia questions, a director biography, and scene access. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Sabrina
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/29/2004
    Actors:
    Harrison Ford / Julia Ormond / Greg Kinnear
    Description:

    Amazon.com Julia Ormond faced one of the great challenges of her career when she tried to re-create Audrey Hepburn's title role in the 1995 remake of 1954's Sabrina. Happily, Ormond performed admirably, and while she may not have the same gamine charm of Hepburn, she makes the role her own. In fact, her transformation from mousy girl to sophisticated young woman is actually more dramatic in this updated version. The basic plot is the same--chauffeur's daughter falls in love with the son of the rich household, only to be wooed away by the older brother for business purposes--but it has been entertainingly modernized: The head of the Larrabee household is the strong matriarch (Nancy Marchand); Sabrina goes to Paris to work with a photographer instead of going to cooking school (although that means the wonderful "new egg" scene of the original had to be ditched); David's (Greg Kinnear) character has been toned down and made more sympathetic; and Humphrey Bogart's revolutionary plastic has become the flattest TV screen ever made. Lauren Holly does a fine job playing Elizabeth Tyson, David's fiancée. If you watch this for its own worth--instead of comparing it to the original--this will prove to be a terrific lighthearted romantic comedy. --Jenny Brown

    Directors:
    Sydney Pollack
    Sabrina
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/29/2004
    Actors:
    Humphrey Bogart / Audrey Hepburn / William Holden
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Audrey Hepburn is the delightful young Sabrina, the daughter of a chauffeur who is hopelessly in love with David Larrabee (William Holden), the playboy younger son in the rich Long Island household her father works for. In order to help her forget her woes, Sabrina is shipped off to cooking school in Paris. While there, she befriends a baron who provides a bit of culture--and the encouragement to snip off her childlike ponytail. Upon her return to New York, Sabrina is transformed into a sophisticated woman, and David is entranced by her. However, his older brother Linus (Humphrey Bogart) has arranged David's marriage to Elizabeth Tyson in order to seal a business merger and thus must steer David away from Sabrina. To do this, Linus takes on the task of wooing her for himself. Full of great dialogue ("A woman happy in love, she burns the soufflé; a woman unhappy in love, she forgets to turn on the oven") and wonderful performances, this film is a romantic masterpiece. Also enjoyable is the 1995 remake, starring Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford. --Jenny Brown

    Directors:
    Billy Wilder
    Saturday Night Fever
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/19/2003
    Actors:
    John Travolta
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Saturday Night Fever is one of those movies that comes along and seems to change the cultural temperature in a flash. After the movie's release in 1977, disco ruled the dance floors, and a blow-dried member of a TV-sitcom ensemble became the hottest star in the U.S. For all that, the story is conventional: a 19-year-old Italian American from Brooklyn, Tony Manero (John Travolta), works in a humble paint store and lives with his family. After dark, he becomes the polyester-clad stallion of the local nightclub; Tony's brother, a priest, observes that when Tony hits the dance floor, the crowd parts like the Red Sea before Moses. Director John Badham captures the electric connection between music and dance, and also the desperation that lies beneath Tony's ambitions to break out of his limited world. The soundtrack, which spawned a massively successful album, is dominated by the disco classics of the Bee Gees, including "Staying Alive" (Travolta's theme during the strutting opening) and "Night Fever." The Oscar®-nominated Travolta, plucked from the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter, for his first starring role, is incandescent and unbelievably confident, and his dancing is terrific. Oh, and the white suit rules. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    John Badham
    Saturday Night Live - The Complete First Season
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    12/5/2006
    Actors:
    Dan Aykroyd / Jim Henson / Frank Oz / Fran Brill / Richard Hunt / Jerry Nelson / Lorne Michaels / Alice Tweedy / John Belushi / Garrett Morris / Gilda Radner / Laraine Newman / Jane Curtin / Al Franken
    Description:

    Amazon.com Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season boxed set is much more than the sum of its parts, in fact it's one of the most significant TV DVD releases yet. This isn't just an 8-disc set featuring 24 episodes of live sketch comedy, it's a big box of zeitgeist. This really is the complete first season, mostly uncut and complete with every musical act and short film intact (a few bumpers and transitions were removed to make it flow better on DVD). The first broadcast aired on October 11, 1975, hosted by George Carlin and featured musical guests Billy Preston and Janis Ian. At first, things seem a little raw: Carlin's opening monologue is painfully unfunny, Chase's first shot at the seminal "Weekend Update" is amusing but sloppy, and much of the cast seem to be holding back. But the groundwork is all there, and soon in subsequent episodes you can see it all start to come together (especially with John Belushi who lets his simmering intensity out to tremendous effect), proving that the first episode simply belies the historic impact the show would come to have on popular culture. Here you'll find the first airing of some of the many skits that stayed famous over the years: the Land Shark, Samurai Hotel, Chevy Chase's opening pratfalls and the impersonations of Gerald Ford which would spin off into the proud SNL tradition of presidential parodies.

    The set is a very entertaining look at a significant point in TV and American cultural history. It is so 1975, but that's a major part of its appeal: did Chevy Chase really used to look that young? Did a young George Carlin really used to look so old? Check out Abba in those disco jumpsuits. And if you're a fan of The Muppets, seeing them here on late-night TV making jokes about getting drunk will blow your mind. Younger fans may not fully understand just how groundbreaking this show was at the time. For example, Richard Pryor hosting the seventh episode, which includes the famous "Word Association" sketch. Back then, to have a comedian of Pryor's reputation joking about drugs, sex, and race on live TV was a tremendous risk (it's also gratifying to see the obvious effect he had on the next generation of comics like Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock), and it helped established the show's cache as unpredictable and edgy. The DVD set is full of moments like this and, like the show itself, it has its ups and downs. Watching hosts like Rob Reiner (back when he was still in his "Meathead" days from All in the Family), Madeleine Kahn, and Desi Arnaz work their comedy chops with the cast are high points. Whereas the infamous Louise Lasser episode, which is known for being among the worst episodes in the show's history… not so much. Still, it's entirely to Executive Producer Lorne Michaels's credit that it's included here. It's a tremendous collection of everything that gave birth to Saturday Night Live, and the seed of what SNL would become, spawning many movies (not to mention a few catch-phrases), launching the careers of many great comedians, and providing TV viewers with some of the most famous, and infamous, moments in broadcast history. And it all started right here.

    The set is packaged in a well-designed, sleek fold-out digi-pack with every episode listed on the sleeves, with hosts, musical guests, and the original air date. The special features include a collectible booklet of photos, the casts' original screen tests, and a 1975 TV interview with the cast. --Daniel Vancini

    Description Nicknamed the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players," the original cast of Saturday Night Live ignited a comedy revolution with their mix of irreverent characters and satirical impressions of political figures and pop culture icons. From the premiere of this groundbreaking sketch comedy show on October 11, 1975, live from historic Studio 8H in New York City's Rockefeller Center, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner launched themselves into instant stardom and were often referred to as "The Beatles of Comedy." Created by Lorne Michaels over three decades ago, Saturday Night Live has had the cultural impact and relevance that few shows can claim. Nowhere else can you see the complete first season of SNL, featuring hosts George Carlin, Rob Reiner, Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Elliott Gould, Candice Bergen, or original musical performances by Simon & Garfunkel, ABBA, Patti Smith, Jimmy Cliff, and Carly Simon. And if you're curious as to how the original cast was hired, check out the DVD bonus features, which include the screen tests of each performer.

    Scent of a Woman
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/29/1998
    Actors:
    Al Pacino / Chris O'Donnell / James Rebhorn / Gabrielle Anwar / Philip Seymour Hoffman / Richard Venture / Bradley Whitford / Rochelle Oliver / Margaret Eginton / Tom Riis Farrell / Nicholas Sadler / Todd Louiso / Matt Smith (II) / Gene Canfield / Frances Conroy / June Squibb / Ron Eldard / Sally Murphy / Michael Santoro / Alyson Feldman
    Description:

    Amazon.com Hoo-hah! After seven Oscar nominations for his outstanding work in films such as The Godfather, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon, it's ironic that Al Pacino finally won the Oscar for his grandstanding lead performance in this 1992 crowd pleaser. As the blind, blunt, and ultimately benevolent retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, Pacino is both hammy and compelling, simultaneously subtle and grandly over-the-top when defending his new assistant and prep school student Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) at a disciplinary hearing. While the subplot involving Charlie's prep-school crisis plays like a sequel to Dead Poets Society, Pacino's adventurous escapades in New York City provide comic relief, rich character development, and a memorable supporting role for Gabrielle Anwar as the young woman who accepts the colonel's invitation to dance the tango. Scent of a Woman is a remake of the 1972 Italian film Profumo di donna. In addition to Pacino's award, the picture garnered Oscar nominations for director Martin Brest and for screenwriter Bo Goldman. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Martin Brest
    School of Rock (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/2/2004
    Actors:
    Jack Black / Adam Pascal / Lucas Papaelias / Chris Stack / Sarah Silverman / Mike White / Lucas Babin / Joan Cusack / Jordan-Claire Green / Veronica Afflerbach / Miranda Cosgrove / Joey Gaydos Jr. / Robert Tsai / Angelo Massagli / Kevin Alexander Clark / Maryam Hassan / Caitlin Hale / Cole Hawkins / Brian Falduto / James Hosey
    Description:

    Amazon.com Turbo-charged comic Jack Black shakes School of Rock to its foundations, wailing with born-again metalhead passion as Dewey Finn, a guitarist who gets kicked out of a band because he grandstands too much--or, to put it another way, enjoys himself. Through an intercepted phone call, Finn gets a job as a substitute teacher for a fifth grade class at a private grade school. Neither students nor teacher quite know what to do with each other until Finn discovers that some of his young charges can play instruments; at once he starts turning them into a blistering rock & roll troupe that can crush his former band at an upcoming competition. School of Rock is silly and formulaic, but director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), writer Mike White (The Good Girl), and especially Black and co-star Joan Cusack invest the formulas with such glee that the movie is irresistibly fun. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Richard Linklater
    The Scout
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Albert Brooks / Brendan Fraser
    Description:

    Amazon.com Like the millions of fans who endured the St. Louis Cardinals' disappointing 1998 baseball season to watch the heroics of Mark McGwire, so will Albert Brooks devotees thrill to their comedy god stepping up to the plate in a rare starring role in a film he did not direct and knocking it, if not quite out of the park, then certainly to deep center field.

    Brooks, sporting a paunch and a beat-up straw hat, stars as Al Percolo, a disheveled, down-but-not-out New York Yankees scout. His latest sensation, a high school phenom, blows his Yankee stadium debut after he unceremoniously throws up on the mound. Al is not fired, but instead banished to the backwaters of Mexico, where he discovers his own Babe Ruth and ticket back to the majors: local sensation Steve Nebraska, who has a 100 m.p.h. fastball and a titanic swing. As winningly played by Brendan Fraser, he is also an incredible screwball, part Encino Man and part George of the Jungle

    The Yankees are willing to pay the outrageous salary of $55 million (those were the days!) for him. But first he must get a clean bill of mental health. That won't be easy for a guy prone to throw dinnerware at the press. In a scene that recalls Brooks's increasingly desperate lobbying to get casino owner Garry Marshall to return the nest egg his wife squandered in Lost in America, Brooks strikes out in his attempts to get Steve's psychiatrist, Dr. H. Aaron (Dianne Wiest), to rubber-stamp the case. As Al becomes a surrogate father to the troubled youth, Dr. Aaron uncovers dark secrets from his past.

    While perhaps not in the same league as Bull Durham, The Scout will be a hit with everyone who loves baseball and Brooks (not to mention Brendan). --Donald Liebenson

    Directors:
    Michael Ritchie
    Seabiscuit (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/31/2005
    Actors:
    Jeff Bridges / Chris Cooper
    Description:

    Amazon.com Proving that truth is often greater than fiction, the handsome production of Seabiscuit offers a healthy alternative to Hollywood's staple diet of mayhem. With superior production values at his disposal, writer-director Gary Ross (Pleasantville) is a bit too reverent toward Laura Hillenbrand's captivating bestseller, unnecessarily using archival material--and David McCullough's familiar PBS-styled narration--to pay Ken Burns-like tribute to Hillenbrand's acclaimed history of Seabiscuit, the knobby-kneed thoroughbred who "came from behind" in the late 1930s to win the hearts of Depression-weary Americans. That caveat aside, Ross's adaptation retains much of the horse-and-human heroism that Hillenbrand so effectively conveyed; this is a classically styled "legend" movie like The Natural, which was also heightened by a lushly sentimental Randy Newman score. Led by Tobey Maguire as Seabiscuit's hard-luck jockey, the film's first-rate cast is uniformly excellent, including William H. Macy as a wacky trackside announcer who fills this earnest film with a much-needed spirit of fun. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Gary Ross
    Second Chorus
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/29/2003
    Actors:
    Fred Astaire / Paulette Goddard
    Description:

    Amazon.com Second Chorus has one little gem of a moment that has found its way into many Fred Astaire highlight reels. Astaire sings and taps "I Ain't Hep to That Step but I'll Dig It" then tries to coax Paulette Goddard onto the floor. She declines twice, then joins him in a joyous dance. The rest of the movie is not as enticing. Astaire and Burgess Meredith portray trumpet players vying for a spot in Artie Shaw's orchestra and for the affections of Goddard. The interplay among the three stars has its charms, and there's plenty of toe-tapping big-band music from Shaw, who plays himself in a substantial part and wrote the Oscar-nominated "Would You Like to Be the Love of My Life" with Johnny Mercer. Filmed in 1940, Second Chorus pales in comparison to the nine-film Astaire-Ginger Rogers partnership that had just ended. Astaire doesn't dance enough, and a tedious subplot involving Charles Butterworth stretches the movie about 15 minutes too long. No great surprise that like Royal Wedding, Second Chorus has slipped into the public domain and is generally available in poor-quality prints. --David Horiuchi

    Directors:
    H.C. Potter
    Serial Mom
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/1/2004
    Actors:
    Kathleen Turner
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Director John Waters creates here a wickedly funny--and nasty--comedy starring Kathleen Turner as the ultimate suburbanite: a woman so obsessed with suburban perfection that she kills a neighbor for not separating her recyclables. Hubby Sam Waterston and kids Matthew Lillard and Ricki Lake don't have a clue that in fact it is squeaky-clean mom who is the killer at large in their Baltimore neighborhood and who has murdered, among others, the guy who dumped her daughter. The final courtroom scene is a riot, turning her into a celebrity defendant (long before O.J.) and featuring a terrific cameo by Patty Hearst (yes, that Patty Hearst). Not for the squeamish or the easily offended, Waters's fans will find him in classic form. --Marshall Fine

    Directors:
    John Waters
    Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/27/1999
    Actors:
    Howard Keel / Jane Powell
    Description:

    Amazon.com Well, bless my beautiful hide! Director Stanley Donen invests this rollicking musical with a hearty exuberance. Howard Keel, with his big-as-all-outdoors baritone, stars as a bold "mountain man" living in the Oregon woods who brings home a bride (plucky songbird soprano Jane Powell) to his six slovenly brothers. Taming the rambunctious brood, Jane proceeds to make gentlemen of them so they can woo sweethearts of their own. But old habits die hard: their flirting gives way to fighting in the film's celebrated barn-raising scene, a lively acrobatic dance number exuberantly choreographed by Michael Kidd. Big brother chimes in with his own brand of advice--an old-fashioned kidnapping! Donen manages to get away with such a politically incorrect plot by investing the boys with a innocent sweetness, most notably the youngest brother played with genial earnestness by Rusty (Russ) Tamblyn (pre-West Side Story). This modest production became a huge hit and remains one of MGM's best-loved musical comedies, an energetic, high-kicking classic. --Sean Axmaker

    Directors:
    Stanley Donen
    The Seven Little Foys
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/21/2000
    Actors:
    Bob Hope / Milly Vitale
    Directors:
    Melville Shavelson
    The Seven Year Itch
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/14/2002
    Actors:
    Marilyn Monroe / Tom Ewell
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video A married man, left alone during a hot summer, fantasizes madly about the impossibly gorgeous woman living in the upstairs apartment. When the woman is Marilyn Monroe, such fantasies are the stuff of epics, and The Seven Year Itch is a memorable laugh machine. Tom Ewell, repeating his role from George Axelrod's Broadway hit, plays the itchy protagonist, whose vivid imagination gets the better of him. When Monroe finally comes downstairs and becomes friends (confiding, among other things, that she keeps her undies in the icebox in this hot weather), imagination meets reality in a merciless attack on the male libido. Ewell's crack timing is matched by Monroe's zesty comic flair, and the scene in which her white dress is blown skyward by a passing subway train has entered the encyclopedia of great movie images. Director Billy Wilder adapted the play with Axelrod; if the film is not one of Wilder's signature works (Some Like It Hot and The Apartment would soon follow), it is nevertheless a smoothly crafted comedy. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Billy Wilder
    sex, lies, and videotape
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/31/2004
    Actors:
    James Spader / Andie MacDowell
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Winner of the Palm d'Or and Best Actor awards at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, sex, lies, and videotape transformed the independent film industry and turned writer-director Steven Soderbergh into the envy of aspiring filmmakers everywhere. Sly, seductive, and coolly intelligent, the movie explores the sexual shenanigans and personal preoccupations of its four central characters, revolving around a selfish lawyer (Peter Gallagher) who responds to his wife by having an affair with her free-spirited sister (Laura San Giacomo). But when the lawyer's college roommate (James Spader) arrives for an unexpectedly extended visit, the neglected wife (Andie MacDowell) is surprisingly responsive to his seductive hobby of videotaping women as they describe their sexual fantasies. It's his way of compensating for impotence, but the curious wife considers this a sexual challenge, and Soderbergh turns sex, lies, and videotape into a fascinating chamber piece that puts a decidedly different spin on the consequences of infidelity. Balanced on a risky and finely tuned performance by Spader, the film delivers frisky passion and emotional intrigue, and yet much of its allure is found in the exchange of secrets and the hidden mysteries of sexual desire. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Steven Soderbergh
    Shallow Hal
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/17/2004
    Actors:
    Gwyneth Paltrow / Jack Black
    Description:

    Amazon.com Coming from the creators of Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary, the sensitivity of Shallow Hal seems like a minor miracle. The codirecting Farrelly brothers haven't forsaken their lowbrow inclinations, but this clever romantic fantasy offers unexpected substance with the same comedic effrontery that made the Farrellys famous. Their antihero is Hal (Jack Black), whose fixation on beautiful women is reversed (after an encounter with self-help guru Tony Robbins) so he can see only the inner beauty of "undesirables" like his new girlfriend Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), now gorgeous in Hal's eyes despite being grossly obese. The movie's handling of this conundrum is sweetly sincere, poking fun at social prejudices while validating those (overweight, homely, disabled) who are often heartbroken by Hal's brand of shallowness. The concept won't hold up to scrutiny (i.e., the movie trades one set of stereotypes for another), but Shallow Hal works as an often hilarious reminder that physical beauty is only skin deep. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Bobby Farrelly / Peter Farrelly
    Shampoo (Ws Sub)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    1/21/2003
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video For those who consider Bulworth to be a savage and unprecedented political send-up, it's worth revisiting Warren Beatty's first, and best, attempt at outrageous social criticism. Mercilessly exposing the essential vacuity of both the sexual revolution and conservative alarmism over cultural permissiveness, Shampoo remains the best movie ever made about Nixon's America, and one of the very best about the tragic and disappointing conclusion to the 1960s. Set on the eve of the 1968 presidential election that elevated Nixon to the Oval Office, Beatty's uproarious satire follows a hairdressing Lothario (played by Mr. You're So Vain himself) in and out of the beds of several women, including the wife of a wealthy businessman, his mistress, and his young daughter (Carrie Fisher, in her first screen role). Juxtaposing tropes from Restoration comedy with Southern California dialogue and a healthy, hilarious dash of running commentary from election returns, Beatty's ruthless awareness cuts through the film like a scalpel. The performances are uniformly excellent and surprisingly ego-free; though Jack Warden's portrayal of Lester, the twice-cuckolded businessman, stands out as a model of sensitive, nuanced parodic acting. Released in 1975 during the messy cleanup at the conclusion of the Watergate era, Shampoo neatly bookends the Nixon presidency, and concludes with the frightening finality of an iron door slamming on a cell. Commended for including the live version of Jefferson Airplane's Plastic Fantastic Lover. --Miles Bethany

    Directors:
    Hal Ashby
    The Shawshank Redemption
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Tim Robbins / Morgan Freeman
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video When this popular prison drama was released in 1994, some critics complained that the movie was too long (142 minutes) to sustain its story. Those complaints miss the point, because the passage of time is crucial to this story about patience, the squeaky wheels of justice, and the growth of a life-long friendship. Only when the film reaches its final, emotionally satisfying scene do you fully understand why writer-director Frank Darabont (adapting a novella by Stephen King) allows the story to unfold at its necessary pace, and the effect is dramatically rewarding. Tim Robbins plays a banker named Andy who's sent to Shawshank Prison on a murder charge, but as he gets to know a life-term prisoner named Red (Morgan Freeman), we realize there's reason to believe the banker's crime was justifiable. We also realize that Andy's calm, quiet exterior hides a great reserve of patience and fortitude, and Red comes to admire this mild-mannered man who first struck him as weak and unfit for prison life. So it is that The Shawshank Redemption builds considerable impact as a prison drama that defies the conventions of the genre (violence, brutality, riots) to illustrate its theme of faith, friendship, and survival. Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor, and Screenplay, it's a remarkable film that signaled the arrival of a promising new filmmaker--a film that many movie lovers count among their all-time favorites. --Jeff Shannon

    Description A prominent banker unjustly convicted of murder spends many years in the Shawshank prison. He is befriended by a convict who knows the ropes and helps him to cope with the frightning realities of prison life.

    Directors:
    Frank Darabont
    Sherlock Holmes Classics (4pc)
    Release Date:
    6/10/2003
    Actors:
    Sherlock Holmes Classics
    Shrek (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/2/2001
    Actors:
    Mike Myers / Eddie Murphy
    Description:

    Amazon.com William Steig's delightfully fractured fairy tale is the right stuff for this computer-animated adaptation full of verve and wit. Our title character (voiced by Mike Myers) is an agreeable enough ogre who wants to live his days in peace. When the diminutive Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) evicts local fairy-tale creatures (including the now-famous Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and the Gingerbread Man), they settle in the ogre's swamp and Shrek wants answers from Farquaad. A quest of sorts starts for Shrek and his new pal, a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy), where battles have to be won and a princess (Cameron Diaz) must be rescued from a dragon lair in a thrilling action sequence. The story is stronger than most animated fare, but it's the humor that makes Shrek a winner. The PG rating is stretched when Murphy and Myers hit their strides. The mild potty humor is fun enough for 10-year-olds but will never embarrass their parents. Shrek is never as warm and inspired as the Toy Story films, but the realistic computer animation and a rollicking soundtrack keep the entertainment in fine form. Produced by DreamWorks, the film also takes several delicious stabs at its crosstown rival, Disney. --Doug Thomas

    Directors:
    Vicky Jenson / Andrew Adamson
    Sideways (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/5/2005
    Actors:
    Paul Giamatti / Thomas Haden Church / Virginia Madsen / Sandra Oh
    Description:

    Amazon.com With Sideways, Paul Giamatti (American Splendor, Storytelling) has become an unlikely but engaging romantic lead. Struggling novelist and wine connoisseur Miles (Giamatti) takes his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church, Wings) on a wine-tasting tour of California vineyards for a kind of extended bachelor party. Almost immediately, Jack's insatiable need to sow some wild oats before his marriage leads them into double-dates with a rambunctious wine pourer (Sandra Oh, Under the Tuscan Sun) and a recently divorced waitress (Virginia Madsen, The Hot Spot)--and Miles discovers a little hope that he hasn't let himself feel in a long time. Sideways is a modest but finely tuned film; with gentle compassion, it explores the failures, struggles, and lowered expectations of mid-life. Giamatti makes regret and self-loathing sympathetic, almost sweet. From the director of Election and About Schmidt. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Alexander Payne
    Silk Stockings
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/22/2003
    Actors:
    Fred Astaire / Cyd Charisse
    Description:

    Amazon.com Fred Astaire took one of his final musical turns in this delightful 1957 comedy, a cold war update of the classic Ninotchka. Cyd Charisse, having previously wrapped her endless legs around Fred in The Band Wagon, plays the Greta Garbo role: a humorless Soviet functionary who sternly refuses the allure of Paris… for a while, anyway. Like some of the first widescreen musicals, Silk Stockings feels a little slowed down by the horizontal format, but nothing can dim the sparkle of Astaire and Charisse, nor quench the razzmatazz of Janis Paige. Paige and Astaire assess the current state of movies by singing that films today need "glorious Technicolor, breathtaking CinemaScope, and Stereophonic sound!" In the hands of Cole Porter, that phrase becomes wonderfully musical--and by the way, it's nice to see the composer identified with so many breezy 1930s songs staying au courant in the age of Sputnik and television. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Rouben Mamoulian
    Silkwood
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/7/2003
    Actors:
    Meryl Streep / Kurt Russell / Cher / Craig T. Nelson
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Based on the harrowing account of whistle blower Karen Silkwood, this 1983 film directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Postcards from the Edge) is as much a character study of a woman galvanized by injustice as a story of the dangers of nuclear power and the extremes of corporate greed. When Karen discovers unsafe conditions and reckless protocol at the plant where she works, her actions in uncovering the dangers that lie at the plant not only cause a rift between her and her lover (Kurt Russell) and her best friend (Cher), but they threaten her very life. Streep gives yet another bravura performance as a wild child in Oklahoma forced to confront the harsh realities of her life, and the supporting cast, from Cher to Russell to Diana Scarwid is first rate. This true story of the woman who disappeared under mysterious circumstances while trying to find the truth is a well-told, challenging, and emotionally complex tale. --Robert Lane

    Directors:
    Mike Nichols
    Sin City
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/16/2005
    Description:

    Amazon.com Brutal and breathtaking, Sin City is Robert Rodriguez's stunningly realized vision of Frank Miller's pulpy comic books. In the first of three separate but loosely related stories, Marv (Mickey Rourke in heavy makeup) tries to track down the killers of a woman who ended up dead in his bed. In the second story, Dwight's (Clive Owen) attempt to defend a woman from a brutal abuser goes horribly wrong, and threatens to destroy the uneasy truce among the police, the mob, and the women of Old Town. Finally, an aging cop on his last day on the job (Bruce Willis) rescues a young girl from a kidnapper, but is himself thrown in jail. Years later, he has a chance to save her again.


    Read our interview with Frank Miller.
    Based on three of Miller's immensely popular and immensely gritty books (The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard), Sin City is unquestionably the most faithful comic-book-based movie ever made. Each shot looks like a panel from its source material, and director Rodriguez (who refers to it as a "translation" rather than an adaptation) resigned from the Directors Guild so that Miller could share a directing credit. Like the books, it's almost entirely in stark black and white with some occasional bursts of color (a woman's red lips, a villain's yellow face). The backgrounds are entirely digitally generated, yet not self-consciously so, and perfectly capture Miller's gritty cityscape. And though most of Miller's copious nudity is absent, the violence is unrelentingly present. That may be the biggest obstacle to viewers who aren't already fans of the books and who may have been turned off by Kill Bill (whose director, Quentin Tarantino, helmed one scene of Sin City). In addition, it's a bleak, desperate world in which the heroes are killers, corruption rules, and the women are almost all prostitutes or strippers. But Miller's stories are riveting, and the huge cast--which also includes Jessica Alba, Jaime King, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Michael Clarke Duncan, Devin Aoki, Carla Gugino, and Josh Hartnett--is just about perfect. (Only Bruce Willis and Michael Madsen, while very well-suited to their roles, seem hard to separate from their established screen personas.) In what Rodriguez hopes is the first of a series, Sin City is a spectacular achievement. --David Horiuchi

    More Sin City at Amazon.com


    The Graphic Novels and Books

    Films by Robert Rodriguez

    From Graphic Novel to Big Screen

    The Soundtrack

    Films by guest director Quentin Tarantino

    Crime on DVD

    Directors:
    Quentin Tarantino / Frank Miller (II) / Robert Rodriguez
    Singin' in the Rain
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/22/1997
    Actors:
    Gene Kelly / Donald O'Connor / Debbie Reynolds
    Description:

    Amazon.com Decades before the Hollywood film industry became famous for megabudget disaster and science fiction spectaculars, the studios of Southern California (and particularly Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) were renowned for a uniquely American (and nearly extinct) kind of picture known as The Musical. Indeed, when the prestigious British film magazine Sight & Sound conducts its international critics poll in the second year of every decade, this 1952 MGM picture is the American musical that consistently ranks among the 10 best movies ever made. It's not only a great song-and-dance piece starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and a sprightly Debbie Reynolds; it's also an affectionately funny insider spoof about the film industry's uneasy transition from silent pictures to "talkies." Kelly plays debonair star Don Lockwood, whose leading lady Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) has a screechy voice hilariously ill-suited to the new technology (and her glamorous screen image). Among the musical highlights: O'Connor's knockout "Make 'Em Laugh"; the big "Broadway Melody" production number; and, best of all, that charming little title ditty in which Kelly makes movie magic on a drenched set with nothing but a few puddles, a lamppost, and an umbrella. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Gene Kelly / Stanley Donen
    Singin' in the Rain (Two-Disc Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/24/2002
    Actors:
    Gene Kelly / Donald O'Connor / Debbie Reynolds
    Description:

    Amazon.com Decades before the Hollywood film industry became famous for megabudget disaster and science fiction spectaculars, the studios of Southern California (and particularly Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) were renowned for a uniquely American (and nearly extinct) kind of picture known as The Musical. Indeed, when the prestigious British film magazine Sight & Sound conducts its international critics poll in the second year of every decade, this 1952 MGM picture is the American musical that consistently ranks among the 10 best movies ever made. It's not only a great song-and-dance piece starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and a sprightly Debbie Reynolds; it's also an affectionately funny insider spoof about the film industry's uneasy transition from silent pictures to "talkies." Kelly plays debonair star Don Lockwood, whose leading lady Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) has a screechy voice hilariously ill-suited to the new technology (and her glamorous screen image). Among the musical highlights: O'Connor's knockout "Make 'Em Laugh"; the big "Broadway Melody" production number; and, best of all, that charming little title ditty in which Kelly makes movie magic on a drenched set with nothing but a few puddles, a lamppost, and an umbrella. --Jim Emerson

    Description Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds in 45th-anniversary restoration of the best-loved Hollywood musical ever-filled with memorable songs, lavish routines and Kelly's fabulous song-and-dance number performed in the rain.

    Directors:
    Gene Kelly / Stanley Donen
    Sixteen Candles (High School Reunion Collection)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/2/2003
    Actors:
    Molly Ringwald / Justin Henry / Michael Schoeffling / Haviland Morris / Gedde Watanabe / Anthony Michael Hall / Paul Dooley / Carlin Glynn / Blanche Baker / Edward Andrews / Billie Bird / Carole Cook / Max Showalter / Liane Alexandra Curtis / John Cusack / Darren Harris / Deborah Pollack / Ross Berkson / Jonathan Chapin / Joan Cusack
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Molly Ringwald established herself as the teen queen of the '80s in this fresh comedy. The movie is a day in the life of Samantha, whose 16th birthday is turning out to be anything but sweet. All the traumas of teendom come down on one long day, which sees Samantha surrounded by dithery relatives, mooning over a high school hunk, and pursued by a sawed-off Lothario. Sixteen Candles marked the directing debut of John Hughes, and its goofy energy displayed a promising talent with a great ear for high school lingo ... a promise neglected since Hughes became, after Home Alone, a one-man entertainment industry. There are some pretty crass moments (Why the stereotype of the foreign-exchange student from Asia?), but Ringwald's steady appeal smoothes over the rough spots. As the pubescent, self-styled lady-killer, Anthony Michael Hall turns in a hilarious portrait of a young swinger; he and Ringwald would reteam with Hughes for The Breakfast Club, another key teen picture of the decade. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    John Hughes
    Sleepless in Seattle
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    6/26/1997
    Actors:
    Tom Hanks / Meg Ryan
    Description:

    Amazon.com The director and stars of 1998's You've Got Mail scored a breakthrough hit with this hugely popular romantic comedy from 1993, about a recently engaged woman (Meg Ryan) who hears the sad story of a grieving widower (Tom Hanks) on the radio and believes that they're destined to be together. She's single in New York, he lives in Seattle with a young son, but the cross-country attraction proves irresistible, and pretty soon Meg's on a westbound flight. What happens from there is ... well, you must have been living in a cave to have let this sweet-hearted comedy slip below your pop-cultural radar. There's little complexity or depth to writer-director Nora Ephron's cheesy tale of a romantic fait accompli, and more than a little contrivance to the subplots that threaten to keep Hanks and Ryan from actually meeting. But the purity of star chemistry here is hard to deny, and this may be the first film to indicate the more serious and sympathetic side of Hanks that is revealed in later roles. With its clever jokes about "chick movies" and repeated homage to the classic weeper An Affair to Remember, this may not be everybody's brand of amorous entertainment, but it's got an old-Hollywood charm that appeals to many a movie fan. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Nora Ephron
    Some Like It Hot
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/22/2001
    Actors:
    Marilyn Monroe / Tony Curtis / Jack Lemmon
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Maybe "nobody's perfect," as one character in this masterpiece suggests. But some movies are perfect, and Some Like It Hot is one of them. In Chicago, during the Prohibition era, two skirt-chasing musicians, Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon), inadvertently witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. In order to escape the wrath of gangland chief Spats Colombo (George Raft), the boys, in drag, join an all-woman band headed for Florida. They vie for the attention of the lead singer, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), a much-disappointed songbird who warbles "I'm Through with Love" but remains vulnerable to yet another unreliable saxophone player. (When Curtis courts her without his dress, he adopts the voice of Cary Grant--a spot-on impersonation.) The script by director Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond is beautifully measured; everything works, like a flawless clock. Aspiring screenwriters would be well advised to throw away the how-to books and simply study this film. The bulk of the slapstick is handled by an unhinged Lemmon and the razor-sharp Joe E. Brown, who plays a horny retiree smitten by Jerry's feminine charms. For all the gags, the film is also wonderfully romantic, as Wilder indulges in just the right amounts of moonlight and the lilting melody of "Park Avenue Fantasy." Some Like It Hot is so delightfully fizzy, it's hard to believe the shooting of the film was a headache, with an unhappy Monroe on her worst behavior. The results, however, are sublime. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Billy Wilder
    Something's Gotta Give
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/16/2005
    Actors:
    Jack Nicholson / Diane Keaton / Keanu Reeves / Frances McDormand / Amanda Peet
    Description:

    Amazon.com As upscale sitcoms go, Something's Gotta Give has more to offer than most romantic comedies. Obviously working through some semi-autobiographical issues regarding "women of a certain age," writer-director Nancy Meyers brings adequate credibility and above-average intelligence to what is essentially (but not exclusively) a fantasy premise, in which an aging lothario who's always dated younger women (Jack Nicholson, more or less playing himself) falls for a successful middle-aged playwright (Diane Keaton) who's convinced she's past the age of romance, much less sexual re-awakening. As long as old pals Nicholson and Keaton are on screen discussing their dilemma or discovering their mutual desire, Something's Gotta Give is terrific, proving (in case anyone had forgotten) that Hollywood can and should aim for an older demographic. Myers falls short with the sitcom device of a younger lover (Keanu Reeves) who wants Keaton as much as Nicholson does; it's believable but shallow and too easily dismissed. Myers also skimps on supporting roles for Frances McDormand, Amanda Peet, and Jon Favreau, but thankfully this is one romantic comedy that doesn't pander to youth. Mature viewers, rejoice! --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Nancy Meyers
    Son of Paleface
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/21/2000
    Actors:
    Bob Hope / Jane Russell
    Description:

    Amazon.com Bob Hope returned to the wild West in Son of Paleface, mining the rootin' shootin' genre for gag after gag. Hope plays Junior Potter--another variation on his lascivious, cowardly, yet somehow endearing persona--a college boy who's come to California seeking his father's hidden gold. What he finds is an empty treasure chest, a pile of unpaid bills, vengeful Indians, buxom Jane Russell (as a saloon girl by day, wily bandit by night), and singing cowboy Roy Rogers. It's prime silliness, an ancestor to movies like Airplane! that never let a moment go by without an absurd joke. Russell sashays about in spectacular form-fitting outfits, Rogers yodels a few tunes, and Hope snivels and wheedles his way out of endless scrapes. Good-natured slapstick (though its depiction of Native Americans will raise the hackles on politically correct viewers). --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Frank Tashlin
    The Sound of Music (Five Star Collection)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/21/2000
    Actors:
    Julie Andrews / Christopher Plummer
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Some people may sneer at this 1965 musical, but the truth is the film has earned its status as a perennially watchable romantic-drama, largely on the strength of a fun story and chemistry between stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Veteran filmmaker Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still) mostly stays out of the way of the film's appealing elements, which include a based-on-fact tale of Austria's von Trapp family, who fled their Nazi-occupied country in 1938. Andrews is delightful and even fascinating as Maria, who sheds her tomboyish ways as a novice nun to accept the mantle of adulthood, becoming matron of the motherless von Trapp clan. Plummer is matinee-idol handsome and gives a smart performance to boot, and the cast of young people and kids who make up the singing von Trapp children make a strong impression. Based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical, the score includes such winners as "Maria" and the future John Coltrane hit "My Favorite Things." --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Robert Wise
    South Pacific
    Release Date:
    8/13/2002
    Actors:
    Rossano Brazzi / Mitzi Gaynor / John Kerr (II)
    Description:

    Amazon.com The dazzling Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, brought to lush life by the director of the original stage version, Joshua Logan. Set on a remote island during the Second World War, South Pacific tracks two parallel romances: one between a Navy nurse (Mitzi Gaynor) "as corny as Kansas in August" and a wealthy French plantation owner (Rossano Brazzi), the other between a young American officer (John Kerr) and a native girl (France Nuyen). The theme of interracial love was still daring in 1958, and so was director Logan's decision to overlay emotional moments with tinted filters--a technique that misfires as often as it hits. The comic relief tends to fall flat, and an overly spunky Mitzi Gaynor is a poor substitute for the stage original's Mary Martin. But the location scenery on the Hawaiian island of Kauai is gorgeous, and the songs are among the finest in the American musical catalog: "Some Enchanted Evening," "Younger than Springtime," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," "This Nearly Was Mine." That's Juanita Hall as the sly native trader Bloody Mary, singing the haunting tune that launched a thousand tiki bars, "Bali H'ai." Based on stories from James Michener's book Tales from the South Pacific. --Robert Horton

    Directors:
    Joshua Logan
    Space Cowboys
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/3/2004
    Actors:
    Clint Eastwood / Tommy Lee Jones
    Description:

    Amazon.com This slice of cornball Americana is so much fun you'll be tempted to stand up and salute. Director and costar Clint Eastwood manages to turn what might have been ludicrous into a jubilant tribute to age and experience, and Space Cowboys succeeds as two movies in one--a comedy about retired pilots given one last shot at glory and an Apollo 13-like thriller with all the requisite heroics. With a dream cast of Hollywood vets playing old farts described in tabloids as "The Ripe Stuff," the movie jumps from a 1958 prologue (establishing their lost bid for space travel) to 40-plus years later, when the retired Air Force aces (Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones) volunteer to rescue a falling Russian satellite that only Eastwood's character can repair.

    It turns out that Russky bird is a cold war leftover equipped with live nuclear warheads, and Space Cowboys revs up to a rousing climax in which our heroes prove their mettle. But first the comedy: watching these codgers struggle to pass NASA's physical tests is a total hoot, with running gags about wrinkles, dentures, and oysters for sagging libidos. (Sutherland is the scene-stealer, but they're all having a blast.) Once in space, the movie gets down to business, and the visual-effects wizards at Industrial Light and Magic provide stunning vistas from Earth's orbit; a shot looking down at the boot of Italy is particularly beautiful. A subplot involving a weasely NASA administrator (James Cromwell) is rather perfunctory, but it hardly matters. Space Cowboys earns its wings, once again demonstrating Eastwood's comfort with any genre he chooses. --Jeff Shannon

    Description In 1958, the members of Team Daedalus, a group of top Air Force test pilots, were ready to serve their country as the first Americans in space but were pushed aside. Now, as a Russian satellite fails and is about to crash into earth, Team Daedalus is back in action in a rescue mission.

    Directors:
    Clint Eastwood
    Spanglish
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/5/2005
    Description:

    Amazon.com Anyone familiar with writer/director James L. Brooks (Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets) knows the man has a real feel for interesting women and a disarming way with a one-liner. The main women in Spanglish are Deborah Clasky (Téa Leoni), a moneyed SoCal mom, and non-English speaking Flor Moreno (Paz Vega), the beautiful Latina whom Deborah hires as a housekeeper. The one-liners, some of them amusing, are everywhere. Brooks provides an intriguing set-up for the two women to butt heads--Deborah's pudgy daughter Bernice (Sarah Steele) needs the affection at which Flor excels, while Flor's clever, bi-lingual daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce) is enamored of the financial advantages Deborah can provide--then proceeds to make Deborah so hatefully ignorant you can't imagine why her neuroses are the main thrust of the film. And Deborah's celebrated chef husband John (Adam Sandler, way over his head) is such a perfect parent he doesn't seem human--what happened to the Brooks who had Terms of Endearment mom Debra Winger turn to her scowling little boy and grunt "Don't make me hit you in the street"? Cloris Leachman has a nifty supporting role as Deborah's boozy, ex-jazz singer mother, but it's only one offbeat chord in an earnest film that hits all the wrong notes. --Steve Wiecking

    Description John Clasky (Adam Sandler) is a devoted dad whose skills as a chef have afforded his family (T=E9a Leoni, Cloris Leachman) a very upscale life, including a summer home in Malibu and a breathtaking new housekeeper, Flor (Paz Vega), who has recently immigrated to L.A. from Mexico, and is trying to find a better life for her remarkable daughter, Cristina (Shelbie Bruce), who is rapidly embracing the American way of life. When Flor and Cristina move in with the Claskys for the summer, Flor has to fight for her daughter's soul as she discovers that life in a new country is perilous...especially when you're being embraced by an affluent, eccentric American family.

    Directors:
    James L. Brooks
    Speed
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/1/2005
    Actors:
    Keanu Reeves / Dennis Hopper / Sandra Bullock / Joe Morton / Jeff Daniels / Alan Ruck / Glenn Plummer / Richard Lineback / Beth Grant / Hawthorne James / Carlos Carrasco / David Kriegel / Natsuko Ohama / Daniel Villarreal / Simone Gad / Loretta Jean Crudup / Sherri Villanueva / Margaret Medina / Jordan Lund / Robert Mailhouse
    Description:

    Description Hold on tight for a rush of pulse-pounding thrills, breathtaking stunts and unexpected romance in a film you'll want to see again and again. Keanu Reeves stars as Jack Traven, an L.A.P.D. SWAT team specialist who is sent to diffuse a bomb that a revenge-driven extortionist (Dennis Hopper) has planted on a bus. But until he does, Jack and passenger Sandra Bullock must keep the bus speeding through the streets of Los Angeles at more than 50 miles per hour - or the bomb will explode. A high-octane chase of suspense, non-stop action and surprise twists, Speed is a joyride sure to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

    Directors:
    Jan de Bont
    Spellbound
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    9/7/1999
    Actors:
    Ingrid Bergman / Gregory Peck
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Alfred Hitchcock takes on Sigmund Freud in this thriller in which psychologist Ingrid Bergman tries to solve a murder by unlocking the clues hidden in the mind of amnesiac suspect Gregory Peck. Among the highlights is a bizarre dream sequence seemingly designed by Salvador Dali--complete with huge eyeballs and pointy scissors. Although the film is in black and white, the original release contained one subliminal blood-red frame, appearing when a gun pointed directly at the camera goes off. Spellbound is one of Hitchcock's strangest and most atmospheric films, providing the director with plenty of opportunities to explore what he called "pure cinema"--i.e., the power of pure visual associations. Miklós Rózsa's haunting score (which features a creepy theremin) won an Oscar, and the movie was nominated for best picture, director, supporting actor (Michael Chekhov), cinematography, and special visual effects. --Jim Emerson

    Directors:
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Sphere
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    2/8/2005
    Actors:
    Dustin Hoffman / Sharon Stone / Samuel L. Jackson / Peter Coyote
    Description:

    Amazon.com From yet another derivative science fiction novel by Michael Crichton comes this equally derivative and flaccid movie, in which three top Hollywood stars struggle to squeeze tension and excitement out of material that doesn't match their talents. You're supposed to find awe and mystery in Crichton's story about a team of scientists and scholars who discover a 300-year-old alien spacecraft deep on the ocean floor, but mostly you feel that this is all much ado about nothing. The exploration team consists of a psychologist (Dustin Hoffman), mathematician (Samuel L. Jackson), biochemist (Sharon Stone), and an astrophysicist (Liev Schreiber), and when they enter the alien ship they discover a mysterious sphere inside. What they don't know is that the sphere has the power to manipulate their thoughts and perceptions, and before long the scientists' undersea habitat is a veritable haunted house of frightening visions and creeping paranoia. Who can be trusted? What is the sphere's purpose, and why is it on the ocean floor? Sphere makes some attempt to answer these questions, but the film is a mess, and it leads to one of the most anticlimactic endings of any science fiction film ever made. There are moments of high intensity and psychological suspense, and the stellar cast works hard to boost the talky screenplay. But it's clear that this was a hurried production (Hoffman and director Barry Levinson made Wag the Dog during an extended production delay), and as a result Sphere looks and feels like a film that wasn't quite ready for the cameras. Though it's by no means a waste of time, it's undeniably disappointing. The special edition DVD includes audio commentary by Hoffman and Jackson and a behind-the-scenes featurette, Shaping the Sphere: The Art of the Special Effects Supervisor, exploring the alien ship's design and creation by special effects technicians. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Barry Levinson
    Spider-Man 2 (Widescreen Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/30/2004
    Description:

    Amazon.com More than a few critics hailed Spider-Man 2 as "the best superhero movie ever," and there's no compelling reason to argue--thanks to a bigger budget, better special effects, and a dynamic, character-driven plot, it's a notch above Spider-Man in terms of emotional depth and rich comic-book sensibility. Ordinary People Oscar®-winner Alvin Sargent received screenplay credit, and celebrated author and comic-book expert Michael Chabon worked on the story, but it's director Sam Raimi's affinity for the material that brings Spidey 2 to vivid life. When a fusion experiment goes terribly wrong, a brilliant physicist (Alfred Molina) is turned into Spidey's newest nemesis, the deranged, mechanically tentacled "Doctor Octopus," obsessed with completing his experiment and killing Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) in the process. Even more compelling is Peter Parker's urgent dilemma: continue his burdensome, lonely life of crime-fighting as Spider-Man, or pursue love and happiness with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst)? Molina's outstanding as a tragic villain controlled by his own invention, and the action sequences are nothing less than breathtaking, but the real success of Spider-Man 2 is its sense of priorities. With all of Hollywood's biggest and best toys at his disposal, Raimi and his writers stay true to the Marvel mythology, honoring Spider-Man creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and setting the bar impressively high for the challenge of Spider-Man 3. --Jeff Shannon

    Description Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) gives up his crime-fighting identity of Spider-Man in a desperate attempt to return to ordinary life and keep the love of MJ (Kirsten Dunst). But a ruthless, terrifying new villain, the multi-tentacled Doc Ock, forces Peter to swing back into action to save everything he holds dear.

    Directors:
    Sam Raimi
    Spider-Man (Widescreen Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/1/2002
    Description:

    Amazon.com For devoted fans and nonfans alike, Spider-Man offers nothing less--and nothing more--than what you'd expect from a superhero blockbuster. Having proven his comic-book savvy with the original Darkman, director Sam Raimi brings ample energy and enthusiasm to Spidey's origin story, nicely establishing high-school nebbish Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) as a brainy outcast who reacts with appropriate euphoria--and well-tempered maturity--when a "super-spider" bite transforms him into the amazingly agile, web-shooting Spider-Man. That's all well and good, and so is Kirsten Dunst as Parker's girl-next-door sweetheart. Where Spider-Man falls short is in its hyperactive CGI action sequences, which play like a video game instead of the gravity-defying exploits of a flesh-and-blood superhero. Willem Dafoe is perfectly cast as Spidey's schizoid nemesis, the Green Goblin, and the movie's a lot of fun overall. It's no match for Superman and Batman in bringing a beloved character to the screen, but it places a respectable third. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Sam Raimi
    Spy Game (Widescreen Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    4/9/2002
    Actors:
    Brad Pitt / Robert Redford
    Description:

    Amazon.com A thinking person's thriller, Spy Game employs dense plotting without sacrificing the kinetic momentum that is director Tony Scott's trademark. The film has the byzantine scope of a novel, focusing on veteran CIA operative Nathan Muir (Robert Redford), whose protégé Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is scheduled for execution in a Chinese prison. It's Muir's last day before retiring (cliché alert!), and Bishop is being deliberately sacrificed by oily CIA officials to ensure healthy trade with China. Muir has 24 hours to rescue Bishop and his perfunctory love interest (Catherine McCormack), and Spy Game connects the mentor's end-run strategy to flashbacks of his student's exploits in Berlin, Beirut, and beyond. Ambitious but emotionally bland--and not as exciting as Scott's Enemy of the State--Spy Game offers pass-the-torch humor between leather-faced Redford and pretty boy Pitt, and although their dialogue is occasionally limp, the movie compensates with efficient style and substance. --Jeff Shannon

    The Spy Who Loved Me (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/22/2002
    Actors:
    Roger Moore / Barbara Bach
    Description:

    Amazon.com The best of the James Bond adventures starring Roger Moore as tuxedoed Agent 007, this globe-trotting thriller introduced the steel-toothed Jaws (played by seven-foot-two-inch-tall actor Richard Kiel) as one of the most memorable and indestructible Bond villains. Jaws is so tenacious, in fact, that Moore looks genuinely frightened, and that adds to the abundant fun. This time Bond teams up with yet another lovely Russian agent (Barbara Bach) to track a pair of nuclear submarines that the nefarious Stromberg (Curt Jürgens) plans to use in his plot to start World War III. Featuring lavish sets designed by the great Ken Adam (Dr. Strangelove), The Spy Who Loved Me is a galaxy away from the suave Sean Connery exploits of the 1960s, but the film works perfectly as grandiose entertainment. From cavernous undersea lairs to the vast horizons of Egypt, this Bond thriller keeps its tongue firmly in cheek with a plot tailor-made for daredevil escapism. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Lewis Gilbert (II)
    The Squid and the Whale (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/21/2006
    Actors:
    Owen Kline / Jeff Daniels / Laura Linney / Jesse Eisenberg / William Baldwin / David Benger / Anna Paquin / Molly Barton / Bo Berkman / Matthew Kaplan / Simon Kaplan / Matthew Kirsch (II) / Daniella Markowicz / Elizabeth Meriwether / Ben Schrank / Amy Srebnick / Josh Srebnick / Emma Straub / Alan Wilkis / James Hamilton
    Description:

    Amazon.com The Squid and the Whale follows the divorce of Joan (Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me) and Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels, The Purple Rose of Cairo) as it wreaks havoc on the emotional lives of their two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg, Roger Dodger) and Frank (Owen Kline, The Anniversary Party). Though there's no plot in the usual sense, the movie progresses with growing emotional force from the separation into the bitter fighting between Joan and Bernard and the hapless, floundering behavior of Walt and Frank, who act out through plagiarism, sexual acts, and drinking. Some viewers may find the ending too diffuse; others will appreciate that writer/director Noah Baumbach (Mr. Jealousy) doesn't wrap up the messiness of life in a false cinematic package. Either way, viewers will appreciate how the specificity of the personalities makes The Squid and the Whale so compelling, as Baumbach has drawn the characters with such detail, both engaging and off-putting, that they leap off the screen. Naturally, he's greatly helped by the cast: Linney, Eisenberg, Kline, and especially Daniels bite into these often unsympathetic portraits and give fearlessly honest performances, interlocked in both painful and funny ways--rarely have family dynamics been captured so vividly. If there was an ensemble Oscar, this cast would deserve it. --Bret Fetzer

    Directors:
    Noah Baumbach
    St. Elmo's Fire
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/20/2001
    Actors:
    Rob Lowe / Andrew McCarthy / Demi Moore
    Description:

    Amazon.com A collective vanity piece for the so-called Brat Pack of the 1980s, this coming-of-age movie--written and directed by Joel Schumacher (A Time to Kill)--is a largely unbelievable ensemble piece about college grads having trouble getting a lift-off into adulthood. As in John Hughes's Breakfast Club--which has a lot of casting overlap with this film--each actor plays a rather narrow type with problems common to his or her classification. Some (as with Rob Lowe's seemingly doomstruck character) are more absurd than others. But absurdity isn't the issue in this movie; a general sense of indulgence is. Schumacher not only presumes an undeserved mystique about this cast, but he also exploits it and comes up empty. --Tom Keogh

    Directors:
    Joel Schumacher
    A Star Is Born
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/1/2001
    Actors:
    Judy Garland / James Mason
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video "This is Mrs. Norman Maine": Could these be the most heartbreaking words Judy Garland ever uttered? George Cukor directed and Moss Hart wrote this film, a musical remake of the 1937 original. The story is a show-biz classic: He (James Mason) is a major movie star who is past his prime and on the way down; she (Garland) is an aspiring singer who, with his help, becomes a bigger star than he was. Their marriage becomes a seesaw of success and failure, as he slowly drinks himself to death out of bitterness at the fickleness of fame, until his bad behavior begins to threaten the career of his long-suffering and loving wife. Mason and Garland are both terrific, with her singing "The Man That Got Away" among others. Remade in a 1976 Barbra Streisand vanity production. --Marshall Fine

    Description A Star is Born marked Judy Garland's return to movies after a four-year absence, director George Cukor's first musical and first color film, and a showcase for great Harold Arden/Ira Gershwin songs in state-of-the-art stereo. One of the most beloved show-business stories of all time, it represents a career peak for many involved. Garland is singer Esther Blodgett, an undeniable talent on the rise. She catches the eye of Norman Maine (James Mason), an alcoholic actor in career decline. Their intense love transforms them both. Only one will survive Hollywood's slings and arrows. Shortened in response to exhibitor complaints after its premiers, the movie underwent one rebirth in 1983 when film historian Ronald Haver found almost all the cut sequences and supervised a reconstruction to near its original length. Its new rebirth is this breathtaking digital surround stereo track and incorporating picture and musical material recently found in the vaults. Star always had a shine to it. Now watch it sparkle as never before.

    Directors:
    George Cukor
    Star Trek - First Contact
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/13/2003
    Actors:
    Jonathan Frakes / Patrick Stewart / Brent Spiner / LeVar Burton / Michael Dorn / Gates McFadden / Marina Sirtis / Alfre Woodard / James Cromwell / Alice Krige
    Description:

    Amazon.com Even-numbered Star Trek movies tend to be better, and First Contact (#8 in the popular movie series) is no exception--an intelligently handled plot involving the galaxy-conquering Borg and their attempt to invade Earth's past, alter history, and "assimilate" the entire human race. Time travel, a dazzling new Enterprise, and capable direction by Next Generation alumnus Jonathan Frakes makes this one rank with the best of the bunch. Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his able crew travel back in time to Earth in the year 2063, where they hope to ensure that the inventor of warp drive (played by James Cromwell) will successfully carry out his pioneering warp-drive flight and precipitate Earth's "first contact" with an alien race. A seductive Borg queen (Alice Krige) holds Lt. Data (Brent Spiner) hostage in an effort to sabotage the Federation's preservation of history, and the captive android finds himself tempted by the queen's tantalizing sins of the flesh! Sharply conceived to fit snugly into the burgeoning Star Trek chronology, First Contact leads to a surprise revelation that marks an important historical chapter in the ongoing mission "to boldly go where no one has gone before." --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Jonathan Frakes
    Star Trek - Insurrection
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/13/2003
    Actors:
    Jonathan Frakes / Patrick Stewart / Brent Spiner / LeVar Burton / Michael Dorn / Gates McFadden / Marina Sirtis
    Description:

    Amazon.com Star Trek fans were decidedly mixed in their reactions to this, the ninth big-screen feature in Paramount's lucrative Trek franchise, but die-hard loyalists will appreciate the way this Next Generation adventure rekindles the spirit of the original Trek TV series while combining a tolerable dose of New-Agey philosophy with a lighthearted plot for the TNG cast. This time out, Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his executive crew must transport to a Shangri-la-like planet to see why their android crewmate Data (Brent Spiner) has run amuck in a village full of peaceful Ba'ku artisans who--thanks to their planet's "metaphasic radiation"--haven't aged in 309 years.

    It turns out there's a conspiracy afoot, masterminded by the devious, gruesomely aged Ru'afo (F. Murray Abraham, hamming it up under makeup resembling a cosmetic surgeon's worst nightmare), who's in cahoots with a renegade Starfleet admiral (Anthony Zerbe, in one of his final screen roles). They covet the fountain-of-youth power of the Ba'ku planet, but because their takeover plan violates Starfleet's Prime Directive of noninterference, it's up to Picard and crew to stop the scheme. Along the way, they all benefit from the metaphasic effect, which manifests itself as Worf's puberty (visible as a conspicuous case of Klingon acne), Picard's youthful romance with a Ba'ku woman (the lovely Donna Murphy), the touching though temporary return of Geordi's natural eyesight, and a moment when Troi asks Dr. Crusher if she's noticed that her "boobs are firming up."

    Some fans scoffed at these humorous asides, but they're what make this Trek film as entertaining as it is slightly disappointing. Without the laughs (including Data's rousing excerpt from Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore), this is a pretty routine entry in the franchise, with no real surprises, a number of plot holes, and the overall appearance of a big-budget TV episode. As costar and director, Jonathan Frakes proves a capable carrier of the Star Trek flame--and it's nice to see women in their 40s portrayed as smart and sexy--but while this is surely an adequate Trek adventure, it doesn't quite rank with the best in the series. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Jonathan Frakes
    Star Trek - The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    11/6/2001
    Actors:
    Nimoy / Shatner / William Shatner
    Description:

    Amazon.com Back when the first Star Trek feature was released in December 1979, the Trek franchise was still relatively modest, consisting of the original TV series, an animated cartoon series from 1973-74, and a burgeoning fan network around the world. Series creator Gene Roddenberry had conceived a second TV series, but after the success of Star Wars the project was upgraded into this lavish feature film, which reunited the original series cast aboard a beautifully redesigned starship U.S.S. Enterprise. Under the direction of Robert Wise (best known for West Side Story), the film proved to be a mixed blessing for Trek fans, who heatedly debated its merits; but it was, of course, a phenomenal hit. Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) leads his crew into the vast structures surrounding V'Ger, an all-powerful being that is cutting a destructive course through Starfleet space. With his new First Officer (Stephen Collins), the bald and beautiful Lieutenant Ilia (played by the late Persis Khambatta) and his returning veteran crew, Kirk must decipher the secret of V'Ger's true purpose and restore the safety of the galaxy. The story is rather overblown and derivative of plots from the original series, and avid Trekkies greeted the film's bland costumes with derisive laughter. But as a feast for the eyes, this is an adventure worthy of big-screen trekkin'. Douglas Trumbull's visual effects are astonishing, and Jerry Goldmith's score is regarded as one of the prolific composer's very best (with its main theme later used for Star Trek: The Next Generation). And, fortunately for Star Trek fans, the expanded 143-minute version (originally shown for the film's network TV premiere) is generally considered an improvement over the original theatrical release. --Jeff Shannon

    Star Trek Generations
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    5/13/2003
    Actors:
    Patrick Stewart / Jonathan Frakes / Brent Spiner / LeVar Burton / Michael Dorn / Gates McFadden / Marina Sirtis / Malcolm McDowell / William Shatner
    Description:

    Amazon.com There were only two ways for "classic Trek" cast members to appear in a movie with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation: either Capt. Kirk and his contemporaries would have to be very, very old, or there would be some time travel involved in the plot. Since geriatric heroes aren't very exciting (despite a welcomed cameo appearance by the aged Dr. McCoy), Star Trek: Generations unites Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in a time-jumping race to stop a madman's quest for heavenly contentment. When a mysterious energy coil called the Nexus nearly destroys the newly christened U.S.S. Enterprise-B, the just-retired Capt. Kirk is lost and presumed dead. But he's actually been happily trapped in the timeless purgatory of the Nexus--an idyllic state of being described by the mystical Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) as "pure joy." Picard must convince Kirk to leave this artificial comfort zone and confront Dr. Soran (Malcolm McDowell), the madman who will threaten billions of lives to be reunited with the addictive pleasure of the Nexus. With subplots involving the android Data's unpredictable "emotion chip" and the spectacular crash-landing of the starship Enterprise, this crossover movie not only satisfied Trek fans, but it also gave them something they'd never had to confront before: the heroic and truly final death of a beloved Star Trek character. Passing the torch to the Next Generation with dignity and entertaining adventure, the movie isn't going to please everyone with its somewhat hokey plot, but it still ranks as a worthy big-screen launch for Picard and his stalwart crew. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    David Carson
    Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan (Director's Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    8/6/2002
    Description:

    Amazon.com essential video Although Star Trek: The Motion Picture had been a box-office hit, it was by no means a unanimous success with Star Trek fans, who responded much more favorably to the "classic Trek" scenario of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Inspired by the "Space Seed" episode of the original TV series, the film reunites newly promoted Admiral Kirk with his nemesis from the earlier episode--the genetically superior Khan (Ricardo Montalban)--who is now seeking revenge upon Kirk for having been imprisoned on a desolated planet. Their battle ensues over control of the Genesis device, a top-secret Starfleet project enabling entire planets to be transformed into life-supporting worlds, pioneered by the mother (Bibi Besch) of Kirk's estranged and now-adult son. While Mr. Spock mentors the young Vulcan Lt. Saavik (then-newcomer Kirstie Alley), Kirk must battle Khan to the bitter end, through a climactic starship chase and an unexpected crisis that will cost the life of Kirk's closest friend. This was the kind of character-based Trek that fans were waiting for, boosted by spectacular special effects, a great villain (thanks to Montalban's splendidly melodramatic performance), and a deft combination of humor, excitement, and wondrous imagination. Director Nicholas Meyer (who would play a substantial role in the success of future Trek features) handles the film as a combination of Moby Dick, Shakespearean tragedy, World War II submarine thriller, and dazzling science fiction, setting the successful tone for the Trek films that followed. --Jeff Shannon

    Directors:
    Nicholas Meyer
    Star Trek III - The Search for Spock (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    10/22/2002
    Actors:
    DeForest Kelley / William Shatner
    Description:

    Amazon.com You didn't think Mr. Spock was really dead, did you? When Spock's casket landed on the surface of the Genesis planet at the end of Star Trek II, we had already been told that Genesis had the power to bring "life from lifelessness." So it's no surprise that this energetic but somewhat hokey sequel gives Spock a new lease on life, beginning with his rebirth and rapid growth as the Genesis planet literally shakes itself apart in a series of tumultuous geological spasms. As Kirk is getting to know his estranged son (Merritt Butrick), he must also do battle with the fiendish Klingon Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), who is determined to seize the power of Genesis from the Federation. Meanwhile, the regenerated Spock returns to his home planet, and Star Trek III gains considerable interest by exploring the ceremonial (and, of course, highly logical) traditions of Vulcan society. The movie's a minor disappointment compared to Star Trek II, but it's a--well, logical--sequel that successfully restores Spock (and first-time film director Leonard Nimoy) to the phenomenal Trek franchise...as if he were ever really gone. With Kirk's willful destruction of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Robin Curtis replacing the departing Kirstie Alley as Vulcan Lt. Saavik, this was clearly a transitional film in the series, clearing the way for the highly popular Star Trek IV. --Jeff Shannon

    Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home (Special Edition)
    Front Cover
    Release Date:
    3/4/2003
    Actors:
    DeForest Kelley / William Shatner
    Description:

    Amazon.com Widely considered the best movie in the "classic Trek" series of feature films, Star Trek IV returns to one of the favorite themes of the original TV series--time travel--to bring Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov from the 23rd century to present-day San Francisco. In their own time, the Starfleet heroes encounter an alien probe emitting a mysterious message--a message delivered in the song of the now-extinct Earth species of humpback whales. Failure to respond to the probe will result in Earth's destruction, so Kirk and company time-travel to 20th-century Earth--in their capture