DVD Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Directed by Julian Schnabel
Starring Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Consigny, Emma De Caunes, Max von Sydow
Miramax Films
Release Date: April 29, 2008

Pretentiousness and despair. Pretentiousness and despair. When presented with a French film, an American viewer is usually aware of one or both of these. Pretentiousness because French cinema is generalized as condescending and difficult to understand. Despair because the existential culture that pervades said films drives one to feel alone and responsible for the miseries of life.

When I sit down with my bowl of popcorn and my Budweiser to watch The Diving Bell and the Butterfly — the true story of Elle magazine’s editor-in-chief, I get the feeling that this film and I might not mesh completely. In fact, my relationship with the film was rocky from the start. I entered the experience having left last Oscar season behind me and fully prepared for the explosions, cheap laughs, and heavy CGI that summer brings. As such, when the opening credits stop, and we are presented with Jean-Dominique Bauby’s (Mathieu Amalric) point of view as he wakes from his stroke-induced coma, I was not emotionally prepared to take on Jean-Do’s plight. Nor was I mentally prepared to deal with all of the experimental cinematography – which is expertly created by Janusz Kaminsk (that’s Ya-noosh, like the possessed painter in Ghostbusters 2).

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DVD Review: Atonement

Directed by Joe Wright
Starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Harriet Walter
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 18, 2008

I just had a chance to spend about three hours conversing with Joe Wright about his latest release, Atonement. I don’t blame him. After spending two and half years doing anything, you’d have to be a dullard to devote less than ninety minutes talking about it.

Ok, so, I do not know, nor have I ever met Joe Wright. What I actually did was listen to his director commentary of Atonement and the subsequent commentary of the deleted scenes on the DVD. I give him props for stirring up all of that commentary. When you direct a film that gets more award nominations than God, you tend to get burnt out on talking about it.

Our primary heroine is Briony Tallis (played very well by Saoirse Ronan), who we are introduced to at the tender age of thirteen. She lives in a doll house (or is it a mansion?) with her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley). The grounds of this estate are kept by the boyishly handsome Robbie (James McAvoy). Briony is an aspiring playwright with an astute vocab and even better imagination. Her imagination and fascination with sexuality act as the catalyst for the plot.

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DVD Review: Futurama: Bender’s Big Score

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score
Directed by Dwayne Carey-Hill
Starring Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Release date: Nov. 27, 2007

The domination of the DVD allows cancelled television series to find new life on silvery discs. DVDs also escalated the shameless pandering to fans with feature-length renditions of their favorite cancelled faire. Sure, the fan bases of said franchises weren’t strong enough to keep the show on the air, but that doesn’t mean their money is no good. This is America for crying out loud!

Because this is America, we, the fans, are able to have countless, straight-to-DVD sequels to Dukes of Hazard and American Pie. We can watch entire seasons of Night Rider and MacGyver even though the first episodes of those series may predate our birth. And, when our beloved Futurama or Gumbel2Gumbel gets cancelled, we can whine and scream and purchase DVDs until our voices are heard.

And our voices heard about it, they have!

Confusing syntax aside, the good folks at Fox gave Matt Groening and company the opportunity to release a Futurama movie and shamelessly pander to dozens of fans. And pander they did! Anyone with access to two volumes of their roommate’s Futurama DVDs will find Bender’s Big Score incredibly rewarding. Everyone else should read the rest of this review and then forget they ever heard of it.

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Movie Review: Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Deep, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman
Rated R
Released date: Dec. 21, 2007

Ow’s uhbou uh meet poi, guvna? An’ perhaps uh touch uh gin ta waas it deown?

Aye, mum, Oi’d luv me a meet poi! Sowch uh taste woyd tickle me knickers, it woyd.

I enjoy a spot of deliciousness, too, every now and again.

The cockney-heavy production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is palatable enough. Macabre dream team Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Sacha Baron Cohen lay out a smorgasbord of a Broadway adaptation that will leave audiences drooling or writhing — depending on their tolerance of anthropophagi (juicy word, eh? Means cannibals).

The film opens with a treat of a credit reel courtesy of Mr. Burton. Those impatient geeks out there that had to watch the opening credits online know what I’m talking about — it does for blood what Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘s credit reel did for chocolate. Just writing about it conjures cravings of a strip steak: extra rare.

There is plenty of blood to go around.

Thereafter the audience is served up a common sight: Johnny Depp employing full British inflection and riding into town on a large wooden ship. The revelation occurs when he opens his mouth not to bark orders of swabbing the deck or putting out the jib, but to regale us with a voice that has too long been dormant. And once he opens his mouth to sing, there is a rare moment that he closes it.

That is the difficulty in adapting a three-hour musical into a 117-minute film. Songs are slashed in twain, exposition is bare bones and quickly delivered, and loose ends are left hopelessly untied. Adaptor (rightfully credited) John Logan was not totally equal to the task. However, of the major players in this production only Logan is top round where filet mignon was in order.

Juicy, sweet, extra-bloody filet mignon.

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DVD Review: Inside the Actor’s Studio – Johnny Depp

Inside the Actor’s Studio – Johnny Depp
Directed by Jeff Wurtz
Starring Johnny Depp, James Lipton
Shout! Factory

Inside the Actor’s Studio: The Depth of Depp

Over the years, Johnny Depp and I have enjoyed a healthy, long-term, committed relationship. And by ‘healthy’, ‘long term,’ and ‘committed’, I of course mean ‘unhealthy’, ‘obsessive,’ and ‘stalkee-stalker’ respectively. My admiration for the man goes beyond the realms of sanity.

Currently, his movies occupy the 4th, 9th, 13th, and 25th positions on my Top 50 List. His creative processes, personal philosophies, and overall outlook have all been a source of inspiration to me personally.

It is fitting, then, that my first review published by someone other than myself is James Lipton‘s quest to lead us all into the psyche of the Teen-Idol turned Hollywood Rebel turned Acting Legend that is Johnny Depp.

The world of video interviewing consists of several styles. There is the Pop Culture Talk Show Interview that consists mainly of humorous antectdotes, rambling banter, and the plug of a new movie, show, book, or plea of insanity. There is the Larry King School of Comfort interview where the interviewer’s job is to relax the interviewee into a casual conversation and get answers to the questions that intrigue the audience. Finally, there is the James Lipton School of Exhaustiveness where every possible question is meticulously researched, written on blue index cards, and delivered to the subject in biographical and chronological order.

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