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Angels in America

4.3 out of 5 stars 309 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Angels in America (DVD)

Academy Award-winners Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson lead an all-star cast in a 6-hour HBO Films Event. Directed by Mike Nichols and written by Tony Kushner based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play: Angels in America.



Tony Kushner's prize-winning play Angels in America became the defining theatrical event of the 1990s, an astonishing mix of philosophy, politics, and vibrant gay soap opera that summed up the Reagan era for an entire generation of theater-goers. Post-9/11 would seem to be too late for a film version--philosophy and politics don't always age well--but this 2003 HBO adaptation, ably directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate), provides a time capsule of the '80s and reveals the deep emotional subcurrents that will give the play lasting power.

The story centers around Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) and Louis Ironson (Ben Shenkman), a gay couple that falls apart when Prior grows ill as a result of AIDS. But cancer is not the only thing invading Prior's life: He begins to have religious visions of an angel (Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility) announcing that he is a prophet. Louis, who doesn't cope well with disease and suggestions of mortality, leaves and starts a relationship with Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson), a closeted Mormon who works for Roy Cohn (Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon)--the real-life right-wing lawyer, notorious for his ruthless behind-the-scenes machinations. Add in Joe's depressed and hallucinating wife Harper (Mary Louise Parker, Fried Green Tomatoes), his determined but open-minded mother Hannah (Meryl Streep, Adaptation), a fierce drag queen/nurse named Belize (Jeffrey Wright, Basquiat, reprising his celebrated performance from the Broadway production), and you've still only begun to discover the wealth of characters and storylines in Kushner's ambitious work.

The powerhouse cast (also featuring James Cromwell, Michael Gambon, and Simon Callow) is uniformly superb. The script has its weaknesses--some of the fantastic elements, including Prior's journey to Heaven towards the end, fall flat--but even what doesn't work is bristling with ideas and a ferocious desire to capture human existence in this time and place. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

  • The complete miniseries (Part 1: Millenium Approaches, Part 2: Perestroika) on two discs

Product Details

  • Actors: Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Patrick Wilson, Mary-Louise Parker
  • Directors: Mike Nichols
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: December 5, 2006
  • Run Time: 352 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (309 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001I2BUI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,661 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Angels in America" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 3, 2004
Format: DVD
A jaw-dropping film adaptation of Tony Kushner's epic, 5-hour play, which was a defining artistic statement documenting the political and social upheaval that AIDS-HIV disease brought to America's gay community and to the wider America around it. Mixing agitprop and camp with magical realism and utter, heart-rending, pathos, Kushner and director Mike Nichols bring the story to the screen in a big, big way, with all-around amazing performances by a perfectly cast ensemble. Al Pacino gets to chew up yards of scenery in his portrayal of the sleazy, venal, far-rightwing attorney Roy Cohn (who acted as Joe McCarthy's point man in the infamous 1950s prosecution of "atom spies" Julius and Ethel Rosenberg) and for once, all of Pacino's high-decibel yelling pays off with some real dramatic ooompf.
There are a lot of things that you could comment on in this play -- the exploration of Jewish-American assimilation, the powerful reaffirmation of a supposedly marginalized leftist perspective, etc. -- but the most profound insight Kushner has to offer is about who the real redeeming angels will have to be in our nation's coming cultural reconciliation. The humanity that he is able to impart into the character of the middle-American Mormon, Mother Pitt (played faultlessly by Meryl Streep), is a marvel of modern political drama: and it rings undeniably true. Pushing past our narrowly defined social and political "roles," and into our shared humanity, is the only road open to folks who want to see America's moral and ethical core liberated from the ideological intrusions of the religious far-right, and the resulting frustrated anger of the disenfranchised middle-liberal-left. In a strictly us-vs-them world view, Mother Pitt would be derided by those on the we're-here-we're-queer Left...
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My expectations were high when I learned that HBO was going to spend over $60 million on an adaptation of Tony Kushner's extraordinary 6-hour epic play, but I could nt have imagined that the resulting film would move to the top of my list of best films ever made in the United States - but that is precisely what Angels in America has done.
Streep and Pacino deliver the finest performances of their careers here (Streep in 4 roles!). Emma Thompson is radiant. And the performances of Jeffrey Wright, Mary-Louise Parker, Justin Kirk and Ben Shenkman positively shine.
And the WRITING and DIRECTION! As close to Shakespearean as any American work I have ever read. And scenes that captivate in their composition and lighting, in their structure and their content. And a magical blending of profundity, humor, pathos, tragedy, and ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit over desperation and resignation. A musical score to match the high levels of word and vision.
In short, this film is nothing short of miraculous. All who worked on this masterpiece should be proud of their achievement. Angels in America stands as testimony to what the human mind can accomplish at its finest and most creative.
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Many people get stuck on the fact that Angels In America contains many gay themes, and it's sad. The themes in this film run so far beyond gays and into every vein of American society. I challenge everyone to view this film or see the play even if you are vehemently anti-gay. I guarantee it will open your eyes to a picture much much bigger than you can ever imagine. I don't believe this movie at any time condemns anyone for their beliefs, it simply asks us to evaluate our beliefs, and to question the status quo.
I was a lighting designer for a production of this (both parts!) while I was in college, and it opened my eyes then. To see a movie made of it is simply wonderful. I think Kushner did a wonderful job translating it for the screen. The director I worked under always said this play was really a film, and he was absolutely right.
I refuse to call this a movie because to me a movie is just another thing to watch. This is truly a film. It is film at it's finest, coming together with theatre to truly touch our hearts. Please, see this film. You will walk away asking yourself more questions than you ever thought possible.
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The shocking intolerance on display below, in some of the negative reviews of this production, is one of the main subjects of this series, and only helps to show how direly we need productions like this one. It ought to be broadcast on prime time national TV. Much of Angels is about how 'keeping up appearances' can destroy people's lives; its core subject is the fundamentally inhuman nature of conservatism. The Angels are "cosmic reactionaries", as one character has it; one of them (Emma Thompson) descends on the main protagonist, Prior Walter (Justin Kirk), to tell him that people have to stop moving. Movement shakes up Heaven, which relies on stasis, eternal sameness. Walter is promoted to a "prophet" of this message, a mission he grapples with but ultimately refuses. This central story interweaves with his conflicted relationship with Louis (Ben Shenkman), his politically engaged liberal boyfriend who runs out on him because he can't deal with the ravages of Prior's illness, AIDS. Louis in turn upsets the marriage of valium-addicted Harper (Marie Louise Parker) and closeted homosexual attorney Joe (Patrick Wilson). Joe breaks away from his stifling routines, much to the dismay of his Mormon mother Hannah (Meryl Streep), who comes over from Salt Lake City to intervene, and ends up finding typical (or even "stereotypical") homosexuals not quite as bad as she thought. Harper meanwhile escapes into her own Antarctic dream world. Another person not pleased is Joe's employer, none other than Roy Cohn (Al Pacino), a viciously homophobic homosexual, who tells his doctor that he hasn't got AIDS, but liver cancer.Read more ›
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