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Seen Your Video: Current DVD Reviews

Posted by October 26th, 2005 No Comments »

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Tim Burton
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Lee, Missi Pyle, Annasophia Robb, James Fox, Julia Winter, David Kelly, Deep Roy, Noah Taylor

Let me start by admitting that I have never read the book. I also didn’t see the first movie starring Gene Wilder until the age of 30. And it creeped me out.

I’d heard of this beloved childrens’ book, and here it was, another movie. And it was freaky. A bit darker than I anticipated. I was totally unprepared! A candy coated acid trip gone wild. It took Johnny Depp to make me take another look, and I’m thankful I did. I really enjoyed this newest version.

Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, can you do no wrong? I’m a huge Johnny Depp fan. Not simply because he’s one of the most beautiful men on the planet, but because he is, hands down, one of the most talented. Johnny Depp has an admirable history of taking difficult roles that could make or break a career. He then plays those parts in ways that most actors would never have imagined. A risk taker who has just begun to get the attention and praise he deserves.

This newest version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is no different. This Willy Wonka is strange, brilliant and complex. Part dark soul, part cartoon character. Depp plays this role with a perfect childlike honesty. A better director could not have been chosen for this film. Tim Burton is deep in his element any time you mix this kind of wholesome fairytale meets twisted fantasy. The Oompa-Loompas rock (literally)! I found them (him, as there was only one actor, Deep Roy “how great a name is that?“ playing all of the Oompa-Loompas) to be far more entertaining in this version. They just seemed happier.

I saw the movie with a friend who read the book as a child and loved it. So I can safely say that whether you read the book, saw the first movie, or are making your first venture into the world of Willy Wonka, you will enjoy this movie. – Traci Adams

Hostage 
Director: Florent Emilio Siri
Cast: Bruce Willis, Kevin Pollak, Jimmy Bennett, Michelle Horn, Ben Foster, Jonathan Tucker, Marshall Allman, Serena Scott Thomas, Rumer Willis, Kim Coates

If there was a movie menage a trois between Die Hard, The Crow and Panic Room, Hostage would be its roly poly offspring.

This is an odd and interesting movie. If you;re an art-house movie fan, then you might be offended by director Siria’s attempts at making Bruce Willis action artsy. If you’re an action-film addict, then there’s a good chance you’ll be offended by all the artsy cinematography between cool explosions. Let’s all take two steps out of our respective boxes for a moment and view this movie without pretense or baggage.

Hostage is a veritable orgy of action, gunfire and explosions. Helicopters zoom overhead, S.W.A.T. teams and sharp shooters abound, and blood is spilled with reckless abandon. It’s also a decent attempt at taking action a step further with a more complex layering of story lines, interesting plot twists and creative camera work.

Bruce Willis? Bruce Willis will always be Bruce Willis. Though his acting has improved greatly and I admire the fact that he reaches for more challenging roles (12 Monkeys, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable), there are many people who fault Bruce for the lack of range of his characters. I don’t feel this hinders him. He works to improve within his range and has the decency to stick to roles where his abilities shine. As far as I am concerned, Bruce Willis has earned his place in Hollywood.

However the movie is nearly stolen from Willis by the character of Mars Krupcheck, played by Ben Foster. About midway through the film Foster’s character grabs your attention and holds it in his gaze. I wasn’t prepared for this actor’s strength of emotion. I re-watched a couple of his scenes over and over again. I’m a fan of facial expressions and being able to read emotion through the eyes, and really felt the complexity of his character came through with hardly a word spoken. – Traci Adams

Born Into Brothels
Director: Ross Kauffman & Zana Briski

This Oscar-winning documentary takes you into the very heart of the red-light districts of Calcutta, India. Into the lives of a group of amazing children who live in the brothels where their mothers work as prostitutes.

Zana Briski, a photographer documenting life in the brothels, begins teaching the children photography. She guides them as they begin to look at, study, and photograph their surroundings. Hoping to give them more options for their future, Zana struggles to get them into boarding schools and out of the brothels.

The most impressive thing about this documentary are the children themselves. These extraordinarily bright children have no illusions about their circumstances, and a painfully clear view of their probable futures. They know there is no fairytale ending waiting for them. Their dream is simply to stay out of “the line,” out of “the trade” and possibly get an education. Still, in the light of this harsh reality, these children somehow rise above it all with humor and imagination.

The director has done a wonderful job here. There is no soapbox judgment and no unrealistic expectation, and still, there remains a glimmer of hope. This film is definitely worth your time. If nothing else, it may give you a renewed appreciation for your own childhood. – Traci Adams

Director: Siddiq Barmak
Starring: Marina Golbahari, Arif Herati

The movie was inspired by a newspaper account that director Siddiq Barmak read. It was the first film to be made in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. It tells the tale of a family of women trying to survive under an oppressive Taliban regime. They make the decision to dress up their 12-year-old daughter, Osama, as a boy so that she can work to support the family.

A very talented cast (of non-actors) including Marina Golbahari and Zubaida Sahar adds to the film’s integrity. If you are searching for answers, if you are looking to find the happy ending to hard times, if you are looking for a girl-power flick, this is not the film for you. If you are, on the other hand, looking for the reality of someone else’s life, if you are looking for some understanding of the sufferings of others, then you may want to see this film.

It makes the brutal life in Afghanistan feel a little more real to those of us who simply cannot understand. If you are a woman raised in a Western culture, you will find yourself asking why these women don’t rise up, you will find yourself urging them to fight back, to kill. All the while watching the reality of their situation, as they do not. This is a tragic and painful tale that is worth watching. – Traci Adams

Like morning wood, but dead.Deadwood
Creator: David Milch

It was a warm spring Saturday morning when I woke to find my roommate totally engrossed in a TV show. You must understand, my roommate seldom watches TV. So to find him not only doing it, but early in the morning, was odd. He was watching the second season of HBO’s Deadwood via On Demand. I sat down to watch the last half of that episode with him before he left.

It took about 20 minutes, and I was hooked. I blush to admit that I spent the rest of that sunny, beautiful day on my ass on the couch watching every episode of season two. I quickly rented the DVDs for season one, and within the span of about three days, I was all caught up and salivating for season three, which was months away. I now own season one on DVD and will own season two soon.

I tell you all of this so that you might be ready to grasp a little of the genius I see in this show. I haven’t been hooked like this since I was introduced to Firefly on DVD (and don’t get me started on the greatest mistake in TV history – the idiot that took that show off the air should quite simply be shot).

Deadwood is based on the real mining town of Deadwood in the Black Hills of South Dakota during the mid/late 1800s. A time when the dream of a quick fortune and the lust for gold drove many settlers to invade Native American lands illegally but without fear of the government, whose responsibility it was to honor the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie (which forever ceded the Black Hills to the Lakota-Sioux) but ignored the settlers actions.

This is the way all shows should be. So much is put into the accuracy of the period, so much into the art of every shot, every movement, every beat. Tangibly classic, Deadwood is big-screen perfection gone weekly TV series. The writing is poetic – dirty, crass and brutally poetic. It has the feel of Shakespeare with a hell of a lot of “fuck” and “cunt” thrown in. It’s a more accurate rendering of the language one might have heard in a mining town than you tend to find in the typical westerns of our parents’ era.

I cannot say enough about the actors in this series. These characters are not only believable, but flawlessly believable; or maybe I should say “perfectly flawed.”. Every one of them is complex and multi-layered. You love, hate, pity and root for each of them. You can see pieces of yourself in them. To save you from drowning in the waves of my gushing admiration I will be brief: I would go so far as to say that this series showcases some of the finest actors I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of actors) in roles they were seemingly born to play.

Chomping at the bit I await season three, which will not air until 2006. So you have plenty of time to rent the DVDs for seasons one and two and get all caught up. – Traci Adams

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