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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ William Shatner
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4.0 out of 5 stars It's surprising how well this movie works, January 22, 2004
The premise of "Star Trek: The Voyage Home" probably doesn't sound promising to those who haven't seen it- the Enterprise and the crew travel back to the present day to retrieve a pair of humpback whales. It's a welcome surprise then that "The Voyage Home" proves to be one of the most entertaining Star Trek entries; it's both interesting and funny, if a little low on tension.
Director Leonard Nimoy handles this situation perfectly. The "fish-out-of-water" story had grown old even when this movie was released in 1986, but it's still a riot to watch the Enterprise crew try to adapt to late 20th century San Francisco. There's also a good ecological message from "The Voyage Home"- if man continues to be short-sighted in his dealings with the environment, he may inadvertently destroy himself. There's not many major characters in the film outside of the Enterprise crew, but Catherine Hicks shows flair as a marine biologist that's trying to help out Kirk and Co.
The only thing that's missing from "The Voyage Home" is tension. There's no real villain and never really a sense that things won't turn out all right in the end. One could argue that the series needed to lighten up a bit after the dark and violent second and third entries, but it still sometimes feel that something's missing from "The Voyage Home".
Overall, this is a very entertaining movie, and one of the few "Star Trek" films that can appeal to a wide audience outside of its target one. Considering the quality of some of the "Star Trek" films that followed it ("The Final Frontier", "Generations"), "The Voyage Home" is definetely a quality Trek outing. If you don't own it yet, what are you waiting for?


Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ William Shatner
144 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate sequel doesn't live up to its predecessor, January 21, 2004
"Star Trek: The Search for Spock" came in the middle of the golden era of Star Trek films (1979-86, when "Star Trek" ruled at the box office and got critical raves), and it's a fairly well made entry in the long series. Comparisons between it and its immediate predecessor "The Wrath of Khan" are inevitable- perhaps this is why many fans were disappointed with this entry, because it fails to live up to "The Wrath of Khan" and has many flaws. However, I have still allowed it into my DVD collection, and there's plenty here for a "Star Trek" fan to like.
"The Search for Spock"'s biggest flaw is in its pacing. The first half hour of the film is very slow and not very interesting, as Kirk debates with others about Vulcan mythology and the current status of Spock's soul. Hard-core fans will undoubtedly love this stuff, but as a more casual fan I wasn't very excited with it. Likewise, the movie's final 20 minutes also are very slow and ponderous, with the final scene (I won't give it away) being the only highlight.
This pacing problem is a shame, because the film's middle hour is almost on the same caliber as "The Wrath of Khan" was. There are many tense and involving scenes as the Enterprise flees from a hostile Starfleet and battles evil Klingons on the Genesis planet.
Just like the last film, William Shatner's work as Kirk here is very good- he's effective at portraying Kirk's anguish over the loss of Spock, and then his resolve to save his friend no matter what. Leonard Nimoy's direction is pretty good considering that this was his first major film, and the "Star Trek" regulars show great ease with their roles here. Christopher Lloyd isn't as good as Richardo Montalban was, but is still effectively menacing as the Klingon Commander. Merritt Buttrick is improved as Kirk's son, and makes us care about his fate. Only Robin Curtis as Saavick is horribly miscast- she fails to make us care about her character at all.
In conclusion, "The Search for Spock" is an adequate "Star Trek" adventure that will surely please fans, though casual sci-fi fans may not like it as much. I'd recommend it to anyone who's building a "Star Trek" collection.


Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - The Director's Cut (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - The Director's Cut (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ William Shatner
171 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best "Star Trek" film, January 20, 2004
The "Star Trek" movies were all originally released on DVD with only the bare-minimum treatment- the "special features" were theatrical trailers and widescreen options. This upset me, especially since the second "Star Trek" film- "The Wrath of Khan"- is one of my favorite movies of all time. Finally in late 2002, "The Wrath of Khan" was given the treatment it deserved, and was fully loaded with special features. These further enhanced a film that actually didn't need them too much anyways, because it was so good.
"The Wrath of Khan" is my favorite "Star Trek" film, and is arguably the best film that the "Star Trek" franchise could ever be expected to deliver. It isn't a perfect film, but I still give it five stars because of how enjoyable it is. William Shatner- whose acting has never exactly been heralded- gives his best performance here, showing the right amount of leadership, arrogance, and tenderness. I won't say much about Ricardo Montalban's performace, since it can just be summed up as the best "Star Trek" villain ever. He hams it up like there's no tomorrow, and he's terrific to watch every step of the way. The returning "Star Trek" regulars all fit into their roles comfortably. Director Nicholas Meyer injected some much needed life into the series with this entry, as he added the right amount of humor, action, and emotional bonding. The ending when a major character dies is surprisingly wrenching, even over 20 years later. The only part where the film missteps is with Merritt Butrick's performance as David- he's really not very good (he would improve in the next entry). Other than that, this is one "Star Trek" film that will appeal to all sci-fi fans, not just Trekkies.
Ironically, this was easily the cheapest "Star Trek" film made, even when adjusted for inflation. The special effects do look somewhat dated now, and some people may object to the film's occasionally hokey tone. However, I think that this is simply a wonderful viewing experience, and was the peak of the "Star Trek" franchise. If you want to see just how the "Star Trek" magic works on its fans, look no further than "The Wrath of Khan".


Bad Boys II (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Bad Boys II (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Will Smith
Price: $14.94
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Buddy action genre at its worst, January 6, 2004
Once upon a time, director Michael Bay made a fun and thrilling action film called "The Rock". The box office success of that film did something do his brain, as he suddenly believed that he could do anything and everything he wanted- no action sequence was too over-the-top, no terrible line of dialogue was too embarrassing. Since "The Rock", Bay has delievered "Armageddeon" and "Pearl Harbor", two films infamous for drowning in their own self-importance, tricking the filmakers into thinking that we actually cared about the cliched characters they were making. I write all of this back story to say that all of the worst filmaking techniques that Michael Bay indulged in his two previous films are blown to outlandish proportions here. "Bad Boys II" makes "Armageddeon" look like Oscar material- if not the worst film of 2003, it was certainly one of the lamest and most disappointing.
There are many problems with this film, but the central one is that this is essentially an OK 95-minute film blown into a merciless 140-minute one. The action scenes are actually quite good, but they come so often and are so overblown that they quickly become numbing. The gore level is ridiculously high- how many times do we really need to see a bullet blowing out the back of a guy's head in slow motion? The scence where Smith and Lawrence mess around with ecstacy-stuffed corpses is downright sickening- apparently the filmakers thought this was funny. The only thing that I can recommened from "Bad Boys II" are the scenes of the comic bantering between Smith and Lawrence- they keep the film from becoming unwatchable.
I suppose Michael Bay fans will like this, but there are better ways to spend two and a half hours of your life. Go out with friends, spend time with someone you care about, watch some old classic action films. Any of these are much better than watching "Bad Boys II", and at least you will feel like you're being productive.


My Own Prison
My Own Prison
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You know, it's not that bad, December 13, 2003
This review is from: My Own Prison (Audio CD)
As a dedicated Pearl Jam and early grunge fan, I probably am unable to give an un-biased review of "My Own Prison". That MTV darlings such as Creed, Lifehouse, and Default have stolen all of Pearl Jam's thunder irritates me somewhat, and I'm definitely not a big fan of this "new grunge" Creed has helped to usher in. However, before Creed sold a gadzillion albums and softened their sound to appeal to the mainstream, they released this album that quietly became popular. And you know, I actually like it somewhat.
"My Own Prison" begins on a very high note, with four consecutive great songs ("Torn", "Ode", "My Own Prison", "Pity for a Dime"). While not terribly intelligent, these are all sufficient head bangers, and Scott Stapp gives some needed power and emotion to the songs. Suddenly, the album falls into mediocrity in the middle- none of songs 5-8 are particularly memorable. Stapp also sometimes sounds confused in his messages- "Only in America" sounds like a right-wing rally song, but just a couple songs earlier Stapp seemed to condemn the death penalty on "Ode". Well, I guess the listener decides what message they like better. The album finally comes back to life somewhat in its two closers, "What's This Life For?" and "One". "One" especially is a good song, and actually deserved all the airplay it got.
And so, I believe "My Own Prison" to be a good- but not great- album. Casual rock fans will find plenty to like here, and hard rock fans will be happy that the band here shows none of the willingness to cater to pop fans that would show on future albums. So I'll give it a recommend, but my generosity to Creed unfortunately ends here.


Dirt
Dirt
Price: $4.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars Grunge metal at its best, I miss you Layne, December 13, 2003
This review is from: Dirt (Audio CD)
"Dirt" is a great rock album, hands down. It's the defining album of grunge's darkest band, and it's in all of its raw glory.
This album is not for the faint of heart, if the titles of the songs didn't let you know that to begin with. If "Dirt" could be defined by a single concept, it's the emphasis on frontman Layne Staley's crippling addiction to heroin. He somehow finds a way to poke fun at it in "Junkhead" (one of the album's few spots of fun), but mostly "Dirt" is filled with the self-hating, depressing, and nihilistic lyrics of a helpless junkie. His screams of pain can be heard from the opening lyrics ("I believe them bones are me") to the album's final riffs.
However, like Nirvana's "In Utero", Alice in Chains manages to make this pain sound incredible, and crafted one of the decade's best rock albums here. "Dirt" had several radio hits, but there are gems here beyond those ("Down in a Hole", "Sickman", "Dirt", and "Godsmack" come to mind). My one complaint is that the album's so long it becomes numbing near the end, before recovering with the "Angry Chair/Would" duo. However, that's a minor little quibble of mine- most of this music is great.
This is a chance to capture Alice in Chains in all of their pure glory, before their semi-pathetic decline and the tragic death of Staley. This is a must-own for any grunge or heavy metal fan.
P.S. I hope that Fred Durst fan is only kidding, otherwise he's coming off as a total moron.


Batman & Robin
Batman & Robin
DVD ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How the mighty fell, December 3, 2003
This review is from: Batman & Robin (DVD)
I have heard that Warner Bros. is currently talking about reviving the "Batman" franchise. Before I proceed with this review, I have some advice for them if they wish for future "Batman" films to be successful: CALL TIM BURTON! TELL HIM YOU'RE SORRY! PAY HIM WHATEVER HE WANTS!!!
"Batman and Robin" is a cheesy campfest if there ever was one, and an insult to the Batman name. It's actually no worse than other bad summer blockbusters out there, but it's always bashed even more so because of comparisons to the first two "Batman" films. This is a perfect example of what happens to a franchise when people stop caring about it- Joel Schumacher was obviously far more interested in the $$$ signs than Tim Burton, who actually cared about the characters and how they were portrayed. The result is a film that's filled to the brim with impressive special effects, but is devoid of any emotional impact.
Things go wrong almost immediately- Clooney is terrible as Batman, and he himself admitted so in future interviews. He isn't helped by the script, which gives him such corny lines as, "This is why Superman works alone!" This is not the brooding Burton-Batman that I grew up with, and that's not a good thing. Robin- who was somewhat interesting in "Batman Forever"- is turned into a whiny brat here. Why the filmakers decided to include a Batgirl in the film is strange, because she's given nothing to do, and Silverstone plays her with the enthusiasm of someone going in for a tetanus shot.
Of course, it's really the villains that drive every "Batman" entry, but once again you're in for a huge disappointment. This could very well have been Schwarzenegger's worst performance ever. Moments where he tries to show emotion are unintentionally hilarious, and every other line out of his mouth is a bad joke about ice (Yep, this guy is somehow my governor). The screenwriters for his character were downright lazy. Only Uma Thurman shows flair as Poison Ivy, but her alliance with Mr. Freeze makes no logical sense- she wants to cover the world with plants, and he wants to freeze it. Hmmm.
This is technically the best looking "Batman" film if you judge by special effects alone, but all the dark wonder of Gotham City from "Batman Returns" is gone. There's no emotional stake for any of the characters, so we essentially just watch the pretty colors flashing in front of us like some kind of video game. It all cumulates in a phony happy ending that is an anticlimax if there ever was one.
This is one huge misfire of a film; everything that once made the "Batman" franchise good disappears in here. There's wall-to-wall action that you stop caring about after the first 20 minutes. Most of the acting ranges from mediocre to downright terrible. Not only is this the worst "Batman" film, but it's one of the most wrong-headed Hollywood attempts of the decade. Just watch the first two over again.


Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Returns (1992)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Batman film, one of the best comic book films, December 2, 2003
This review is from: Batman Returns (1992) (DVD)
"Batman Returns" is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every single way, and in my opinion is the best entry in the franchise. This is largely because Tim Burton was allowed more creative freedom than with the first "Batman", and so pours his heart and soul into it. This is a Burton film more than anything else, and that's not a bad thing.
One needed improvement in this one is that Michael Keaton gets to flesh out his character more. Bruce Wayne becomes more complex and sympathetic, a man who is doomed to protect Gotham but carries around deep personal insecurities. In fact, Batman in this film acts more like a Marvel comics character than the one-dimensional Batman of the cheesy 60's show. This feels more like Batman's film than the last one, and so makes us care about him more.
The villains are the best of the series. Both the Penguin and the Catwoman are tragic characters that are somewhat sympathetic. In fact, Catwoman's struggle is probably the real heart of this film- she's vengeful towards those who have hurt her in the past, but not really evil, and her motives are always mixed. Michele Pfeiffer is absolutely terrific in this role. Danny DeVito gives an unusual performance as the Penguin- he's demented and mean, angry at a society that treated him so badly. Burton shows a certain fondness for the villains, so that we root against them but also sympathize with them at the same time. Those wanting a more two-dimensional villain will get it in the form of business tycoon Max Shreck, who's out to destroy whichever character he can if it will get him more power in the city.
This was the best looking film of the series, even though future entries had bigger budgets and modern technology. Burton and designer Bo Welch create a dark and convincing Gotham, a dangerous place to live even during Christmas time. There's also a certain amount of fun shown in the look of this film that was not present in the first one, as made apparent by the designs of many of the buildings and the frequent use of clowns and cats.
If you haven't guessed by now, I love this movie, and I believe it's the high point of the Batman franchise. People debate over whether this or the first one is better; they're pretty close in quality, but I believe this one is because it's a more complex and unique film. I only hope they re-release both of them on Special Edition DVD's someday with making-of features, because Tim Burton's vision of the Batman world was utterly fascinating.


Batman (1989)
Batman (1989)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great start to the franchise, December 2, 2003
This review is from: Batman (1989) (DVD)
"Batman" stands as an example of how to make a good comic book film. Above all, the film is just oozing with atmosphere, and "Batman"'s look is undoubtedly its #1 strength. However, it also has some thrilling action sequences, a terrific villain (perhaps too good- see below), and, most importantly, a good man in the Batman suit.
The film belongs to Jack Nicholson- he is probably the real main character of this movie. He makes the Joker both a funny and menacing character, and he gets all of the best lines. This was a role Nicholson was born to play, and he enjoys it with relish.
Michael Keaton was the best Batman, in my opinion. OK, so he is a little short, but no one else played the Bruce Wayne part better than he did. He makes this a Batman to root for. If only we saw more of him...
Which brings me to the film's main flaw- this is the Joker's film the entire way, not Batman's. Why the filmakers decided to do this I don't completely understand, but it takes away something from the film. We never really get to bond with the superhero in this one (this was somewhat remedied in "Batman Returns"). Also, Kim Basinger's character is mainly eye candy and pales in comparison to future Batman girlfriends.
Nevertheless, I really do like this film, and I get caught up in its atmosphere every time I watch it- it still looks good 14 years later (although some of the Gotham backgrounds were obviously paintings). This is largely thanks to director Tim Burton, who mostly understood how to handle Batman and his universe- he was the best man for this job. He gets help from a great score by Danny Elfman and terrific designs by designer Anton Furst.
I would recommend this to all comic book fans, as it stands as an example of both a great comic book transition and of good filmaking in general.


X2: X-Men United (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition)
X2: X-Men United (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Patrick Stewart
Offered by megahitrecords
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably the best comic book film ever, November 30, 2003
I waited for three years for "X2" to be released, and I walked into the theater saying to myself, "Please God, don't let this movie suck like Batman and Robin". I walked out of it a happy person, as Bryan Singer continues the X-Men saga in high fashion.
"X2" is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every single way. It is longer and the charatcers are given more screen time. The action is better (the military attack on the X-school is probably the film's action highlight). The script is tighter and more focused, and the film is overall much more ambitious.
Singer took some obvious risks with "X2". Its themes are very dark for a mainstream comic book movie- genocide, parental rejection, repressed trauma. Magneto continues to be a great villain- not evil, but horribly misguided. Forcing him and the X-Men into an uneasy alliance was probably Singer's best move. The theme of the X-Men's curse is made more obvious here- they are doomed to protect people who hate and fear them. However, beneath all the darkness, this film is still fun- there's a couple moments of comic relief, and Wolverine still exudes a playful charm. Singer manages to strike the right balance here between welcome in-jokes and downright campiness, such as what the "Batman" franchise fell into.
To make things even better, "X2" is fully loaded with special features, including commentary and several making-of documentaries. I would highly recommend this film not only for X-Men fans, but fans of good action films in general. It's much better than most of the other stuff released this year, a welcome relief from the disappointments of "Daredevil", "The Matrix" sequels, and "Terminator 3". I simply love this movie.


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