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The DVD Shopping Planner (March 2005 - Vol. 2)
by Erik Childress

Welcome to Vol. 2 of the DVD Shopping Planner where we look into this month's relationships, documentaries, something for the kids and dramas for the adults. Click on any title you want and throw it into your Amazonian shopping cart.

HOW’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

Alfie (2004) (Paramount)
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Jude Law stars in this trenchant dramatic-comedy, a remake of the 1966 British counterculture classic that launched the career of Michael Caine. This version is set in New York City and is pumped up with giddy, cleverly experimental editing. The story has Alfie (Law), a Don Juan-esque limo driver, speaking directly to the camera as he seduces the lovely ladies of the city. Eventually he's forced to take stock of the damage he's caused, and acknowledge the emptiness at the core of his chosen lifestyle. Playing the role of Alfie requires a fine balancing act from Law--he must be so charming that he seduces both the audience and himself, while also conveying the self-delusion and sadness at the character's core--and Law is up for the challenge, expertly conveying glimpses of the unfathomed depth beneath his polished shallowness. Equally good are his array of conquests, including Marisa Tomei as a single mom, Sienna Miller as a mood-swinging party girl, and Susan Sarandon as a rich older woman. A soundtrack by Mick Jagger and David Stewart (Eurythmics) adds liberal dollops of self-aware rock-and-roll melancholy.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Universal)
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It would be difficult to top the phenomenal success of BRIDGET JONES' DIARY, but the sequel certainly pulls it off. The incomparable Renée Zellweger (JERRY MACGUIRE, COLD MOUNTAIN) once again breathes hilarious life into the flawed heroine who sent her career soaring. This installment of Bridget's journal finds her dealing with the growing pains of a new relationship with Mark Darcy, her crush from the first film (stilted but passionate Colin Firth). Though wildly in love with him, Bridget, a TV producer, worries off and on that Mark and his stuffy attorney crowd may not be quite her cup of tea. When she attends an important law function as Mark's date, she manages to embarrass herself and offend his snobby colleagues. To top it off, Mark's gorgeous and willowy coworker Rebecca (Jacinda Barrett) seems to have a knack for showing up at just the wrong time. When Bridget finally asks Mark outright if he's having an affair with the leggy Rebecca, he refuses to answer. Bridget jets off in a huff, and it appears the relationship is officially on the rocks. To further complicate matters, her cute and caddish former love Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) asks her to join him on-location in Thailand for a TV shoot--another chance at romance for Bridget Jones. DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Closer (Columbia/Tri-Star)
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Are humans meant to mate for life? What drives someone in a perfectly good relationship to cheat and risk losing the one that they love and that loves them? Is it possible to love more than one person at the same time? How well does anyone really know the one that they love? Directed by Mike Nichols (THE GRADUATE, BIRDCAGE, WORKING GIRL), CLOSER questions the nature of relationships and fidelity as it follows the tangled web created by Dan (Jude Law), Alice (Natalie Portman), Anna (Julia Roberts), and Larry (Clive Owen). Dan, a British writer of obituaries, and Alice, a young American stripper, meet in the film's opening scene when a London cab runs her down. Cut to a year later: Dan and Alice are now a couple, but he is suddenly smitten with Anna, a beautiful American photographer. In an ironic twist of fate, Anna meets Larry, a British doctor, and they are soon a couple, despite Dan's continuing obsession. But the entanglements don't end there, and ultimately, someone is sure to get hurt. The four players do justice to a script that is humorous, raw and disarmingly honest about adult relationships.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Dolls (Palm Pictures)
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Takeshi Kitano continues alternating between introspective drama and violent films with DOLLS, which he wrote, directed, and edited in between the bloody gangster picture BROTHER (2000) and the samurai update THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI. Beginning with an excerpt from Bunraku puppet theater master Monzaemon Chikamatsu's THE COURIER FOR HELL, Kitano goes on to tell the story of three sets of men and women obsessed with ill-fated relationships. Matsumoto (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is in love with Sawako (Miho Kanno), but he chooses to marry his boss's daughter instead so he can get ahead in the world. After Sawako attempts suicide and loses her mind, Matsumoto chooses to do his penance by giving up everything to take care of her, leading her through the streets and parks tied to him with a red cord so she can't get away and hurt herself. Hiro (Tatsuya Mihashi) is a yakuza boss who left his love (Chieko Matsubara) long ago in order to make something of himself; she promised she would come to the park to wait for him every Saturday, and he is shocked when he returns to the bench decades later and finds her there, with his lunch. And traffic worker Nukui (Tsutomu Takeshige) is so dedicated to young pop sensation Haruna (real-life pop sensation Kyoko Fukada) that he makes a bizarre sacrifice after she is partially blinded in an accident. With an emotional score by Joe Hisaishi, DOLLS is a deep, dark, bleak, but mesmerizing look at lost love, as seen through the eyes of one of Japan's best filmmakers.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Lucky 13 (MGM)
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Starring Lauren Graham (BAD SANTA), Brad Hunt (FLASHPOINT), and Harland Williams (WAG THE DOG), LUCKY 13 is a screwball romantic comedy with a difference. Hunt plays Zach, a womanizer who has shed countless girlfriends over the years. Abbey (Graham) is about to move out of the small town habitat that houses both her and Zach, deciding to try her luck in New York City. All of a sudden, Zach realizes he's about to lose the only woman he's ever had genuine feelings of love for, and seeks a way to win her back before it's too late. Lining up all 12 of his ex-girlfriends, Zach seeks the truth about womanhood from them in order to win Abbey back. Infused with a wacky sense of fun, LUCKY 13 is a witty look at relationships and loss from director Chris Hall.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Mango Yellow (First Run Pictures)
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Set in the sizeable city of Recife in Brazil, MANGO YELLOW is a tale of hardship, romance, and ordinary lives. The principle characters center around the Texas Motel, a rundown retreat that attracts a variety of weird and wonderful people. Among them are Dunga (Matheus Nachtergaele), a gay cook who has a crush on a local butcher, Wellington (Chico Díaz); Kika (Dira Paes), who is Wellington's overtly religious wife; and the flirty Lígia (Leona Cavalli) who works at a nearby bar. Their stories add up to an absorbing portrayal of life in a populous Brazilian favela, as the group struggles to make their way through life.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Remember Me, My Love (First Look)
Italian director Gabriele Muccino (THE LAST KISS) directs this tale of a modern family who is on the verge of unraveling. On the surface, the Ristuccia family appears to have it all: Carlo (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) has a well-paying, secure job; Giulia (Laura Morante) is getting more beautiful with age; 18-year-old Valentina (Nicoletta Romanoff) has dreams of dancing stardom; and 19-year-old Paolo (Silvio Muccino) has fallen in love. But, as is the case with most things in life, desperation and hopelessness lie just around the corner. When Carlo bumps into a former flame (Monica Bellucci), the floodgates of passion are opened. Meanwhile, the other characters must confront demons of their own. After a near-fatal tragedy, the family is finally forced to confront its downward spiral. Muccino's bittersweet drama critically yet empathetically captures the lives of these tender souls. He uses sweeping Steadicam cinematography to reflect the swirling emotions within each character, and layers the picture with stacks of pop music. But Muccino's greatest talent lies in casting. As the conflicted Carlo, Bentivoglio shines, while Romanoff and Muccino (the director's brother) are completely natural in their roles. But the film's real standouts are Morante and Bellucci, two of the world's most beautiful actresses, who somehow manage to present themselves with a heartbreakingly believable fragility.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

White Palace (Universal)
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An offbeat romance is sparked when an advertising executive mourning the death of his wife has a late-night encounter with a fiercely independent woman who works in a hamburger joint, lives on the wrong side of town and is at least 15 years his senior.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

OLD SCHOOL ROMANCE


Arrowsmith (MGM)
A medical researcher is sent to a plague outbreak, where he has to decide priorities for the use of a vaccine.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Come and Get It (MGM)
In 1884 lumberman Barney Glasgow leaves his true love, saloon singer Lotta Morgan, to marry Emma Louise, his boss's daughter. His buddy Swan Bostrom marries Lotta instead. Barney becomes a lumber magnate by stripping the Wisconsin forests, without re-planting. After 23 years, Barney finally visits Swan. Lotta has died, but Barney is smitten by their daughter Lotta Bostrom, who looks almost like her mother. His lavish attentions to Lotta create gossip and a rivalry between Barney and his son Richard.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon
Enchantment (MGM)
Uncle Rollo finally retires to the house he was brought up in. Lost in thoughts of his lost love, Lark, he does not want to be disturbed in his last days. However, the appearance of his niece and the subsequent romance between her and Lark's nephew causes him to reevaluate his life and offer some advice so the young couple don't make the same mistake he did, all those years ago.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

We Live Again (MGM)
Nekhludoff, a Russian nobleman serving on a jury, discovers that the young girl on trial, Katusha, is someone he once seduced and abandoned and that he himself bears responsibility for reducing her to crime. He sets out to redeem her and himself in the process.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

COMEDY


29th Street (Anchor Bay)
A film based on the life of Frank Pesce, an actor who won $6 million in the first New York State Lottery. Set in the closely-knit Italian-American neighborhood where Pesce grew up, "29th Street" is the story of a man blessed with extraordinary luck and how this blessing becomes a curse. After using his luck to establish himself as an ace card shark, Frank gets involved with some neighborhood heavies -- and when it comes time to collect his new fortune, Frank must make the most difficult choice of his life. DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Dinner at Eight (1933) (Warner Bros.)
This poignant 1930s comedy features nearly flawless performances by an all-star cast under the deft direction of George Cukor. Based on the successful play by Edna Ferber and George Kaufman, DINNER AT EIGHT is the tale of a socially scheming Park Avenue hostess (Billie Burke) who performs a series of clever manipulations to bring about a dinner party for an aristocratic English couple. In the process, she largely ignores the troubles facing her ailing husband (Lionel Barrymore); unwittingly, her choice of guests creates a web of intrigue, malice, and romance. Jean Harlow is exceptional as the shrewd wife of Billie's business adversary, as is John Barrymore, in a powerful, somewhat autobiographical turn as a fading star who drinks his future away. Silent-film performer Marie Dressler made a comeback in the role of the aging stage actress Carlotta.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Libeled Lady (Warner Bros.)
A conniving newspaper editor uses his fiancee and an ex-employee to get the goods on a hot-headed heiress. But everything goes wrong and she sues him for $5 million. Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture. Remade as a musical in 1946 as "Easy to Wed."
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

To Be Or Not To Be (1942) (Warner Bros.)
A classic black comedy set in wartime Poland which deals with the members of an acting troupe who inadvertently become involved in the war effort.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Waydowntown (Home Vision)
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Tom (Fab Filippo) has a bet going with three of his office mates to see who can stay inside their apartment-office-shopping complex the longest. After 24 days of the wager, things begin to get shaky for the foursome. All their needs are provided for in the huge consumer complex. But Curt (Gordon Currie), the office Lothario, needs to find some action. Tom has the uptight Sandra (Marya Delver) convinced that the recycled air they've all been breathing is poisoning her. Meanwhile, Sandra sends Randy (Tobias Godson), an office trainee, on an errand that will force him into the outside world. Tom keeps himself medicated with marijuana, but the bizarre behavior of his cubical-mate (Don McKellar) is wearing on him, and his conscience begins to tug at him when he stays in the building after inadvertently causing an emergency situation outside. Writer-director Gary Burns captures the tedium of low-level office work and mall life in his acid, funny feature, WAYDOWNTOWN. Shot on digital video, the film features a wealth of neat visual effects, and fine comedic performances, particularly from McKellar, and from James McBurney as a peeping tom-security guard who finishes other peoples' sentences and gives mall patrons animal nicknames.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

DOCUMENTARIES


Arguing the World (First Run Pictures)
The story of four brilliant men caught up in the political struggle of our time--The Cold War. Since they were young radicals in the 30's, Irving Howe, Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, and Irving Kristol have been fighting for their ideas. Starting with their days in New York's immigrant neighborhoods, following them through their college days, the McCarthy era, the Leftist rise of the 60's, and on to the present, we trace the paths of these brilliant minds through the social and political changes of the century.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Blue Vinyl (Docurama)
Curious filmmaker Judith Helfand decided to follow up some doubts she had about PVC (polyvinyl chloride) when her parents took the step of coating their house with it. Taking her camera and co-director Daniel B. Gold with her, Helfand hit the road and headed to Louisiana, which is responsible for the bulk of the PVC used in America. They also venture out to California to meet an environmentalist, and to Italy, where a groundbreaking legal battle against the makers of PVC plays out. Fascinating and highly unique in its choice of subject matter, BLUE VINYL offers plenty of food for thought which is, in turns, both shocking and revealing.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

A Certain Kind of Death (Wellspring)
An unblinking and unsettling look at a mysterious process that goes on all around us: what happens to people who die with no next of kin?
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Chisholm 72 (Fox)
Marking a watershed moment in American politics, Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to run for a presidential nomination, and in doing so became a true "voice of the people." She stood on an openly liberal platform that defended the causes of the poor, the young, gays, minorities, and other marginalized Americans. Facing a more powerful and often bigoted opposition, Chisholm nonetheless won over a surprisingly large and vocal amount of support with her determination and refusal to kow-tow to the status quo. Eventually defeated by Senator George McGovern--viewed by many Democrats as the more "electable" candidate--she managed a few coups along the way, and remains an inspiration in markedly conservative times. This documentary is a stirring assemblage of archival footage, Chisholm's commentary both then and now, and interviews with supporters and opponents, as well as luminaries such as Black Panther founder Bobby Seale, authors Susan Brownmiller and Octavia Butler, author and activist Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), former Congressmen Reverend Walter Fauntroy and Ronald Dellums, and journalist/ historian Paula Giddings. The film is set to a compelling soundtrack of music contemporary with Chisholm's race.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Incident at Loch Ness (Fox)
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This inventive documentary features the renown German director Werner Herzog on the trail of the fabled Loch Ness Monster. The film begins in Herzog's Los Angeles home during a star-studded dinner party with, among others, Jeff Goldblum, Crispin Glover, and Ricky Jay. Herzog, who directed the legendary AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD and FITZCARRALDO, explains to cameras that the existence of the Loch Ness monster is far less important to him than society's collective experience of the imaginary creature. Herzog and his elite documentary crew travel to Scotland to begin production. On the first day, Producer Zak Penn (playing himself) encourages the entire crew to wear the awful jump suits they would wear if they were characters in an ocean melodrama such as THE ABYSS. Later, the crew discovers Penn has secretly hired an exotic-looking actress in a string bikini to operate the boat's sonar system. By the time the crew catches a glimpse of a mysterious shape moving through the water, Herzog believes that it must be Penn, again, tinkering with the "reality" of the documentary by creating false drama. As the director and producer angrily struggle over their disparate artistic visions, uneasiness reverberates throughout the crew; some even abandon ship. Herzog (and, in fact, everyone) become increasingly preoccupied with chasing down the story, and cannot fully appreciate the significance of what is actually happening. INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS provides witty commentary about the artifice involved in both moviemaking and storytelling. Pushing the boundaries of the documentary format, INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS points out the way that "truth" is often misconstrued.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Touch of Greatness (First Run Pictures)
School teacher Albert Cullum helped revolutionize classrooms with his innovative lessons. Choosing subject matter that deliberately rubbed against the grain of what was being taught at the time, Cullum introduced drama, poetry, and other (at the time) unheard of devices to help the flow of knowledge prosper. This documentary on Cullum's work is drawn from vintage footage of him in the classroom, as well as archive interviews with former students, and the man himself. It all adds up to a revealing portrait of a man who single-handedly took on the education system, and produced results that few could argue with.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILDREN ARE?


The Dust Factory (MGM)
THE DUST FACTORY is a dreamy coming-of-age tale in which a bump on the head after a bad fall from a bridge transports a young man (Hayden Panettiere) into a fantasy world. There he finds friends, family, and guidance, and in the process he learns a little bit about himself.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Rachida (First Run Pictures)
Although the word "terrorism" has become synonymous with grand acts of violence such as those carried out on September 11th, 2001, smaller acts of terror have proliferated throughout the globe for many years. The country of Algeria saw its citizens living under the shadow of terrorism for the bulk of the 1990s, and forms the focus for the moving drama, RACHIDA. Rachida is a teacher who attempts to make a start in her young life by imparting wisdom and educating the young. But her steadfast principals land her in trouble when she encounters a group of terrorists. Refusing to obey their unreasonable orders, Rachida unwittingly places the whole school in danger of a terrorist attack. A frank, honest look at the problems that beset Algeria in the final decade of the 20th century, this is a highly memorable film from director Yamina Bachir.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Stella Dallas (MGM)
King Vidor's adaptation of Oliver Higgins Prouty's famed tearjerker stars Barbara Stanwyck as the eponymous heroine. Eager to escape from her neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks and the home of her tyrannical father, Stella sets her sights on Stephen Dallas (John Boles), a plant manager from a wealthy family. After a brief courtship, Stephen and Stella marry and have a baby girl named Laurel. As time goes by, however, Stella's loud and vulgar manner and penchant for garish clothing begin to grate on Stephen, and she's equally put off by his perpetual lectures on correct behavior. She also begins spending much of her time with Ed Munn (Alan Hale), who shares her tastes, although not her bed, further alienating her husband. The couple decides to separate and Stephen soon marries Helen Morrison (Barbara O'Neil), a woman of similar background. Although Stella devotes herself to her daughter, she gradually comes to the painful realization that Laurel would have a better life away from her influence. So, feigning indifference, she sends her off to live with her father in New York. Stanwyck gives what may be her best performance, investing a character who could easily drown in pathos with energy, intelligence, and dignity. The ambivalence of Vidor's attitude toward the character and toward the issue of class in America also adds to the film's resonance.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Vera Drake (New Line)
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Mike Leigh produces another devastating masterpiece with the heartbreaking VERA DRAKE. Imelda Staunton is the title character, beloved wife of Stan (Phil Davis) and mother of Sid (Daniel Mays) and Ethel (Alex Kelly). Vera spends her days cleaning houses for money and looking in on elderly and sick neighbors out of the kindness of her heart. She even attempts to be a matchmaker for her daughter, inviting a lonely neighbor, Reg (Eddie Marsan), to see if he might be a perfect match for the introverted Ethel. But Vera performs another duty that her family doesn't know about, one that is deeply frowned upon by society. When tragedy befalls a young client of Vera's, the truth comes out, forcing her family to see their mother in an entirely different light. Staunton gives a towering performance and, in typical Mike Leigh fashion, the story, characters, and script were built from a grueling and intricate improvisation process, resulting in a film that burns with heart-wrenching sincerity. Rather than take a heavy-handed approach towards his controversial subject matter, Leigh heroically remains non-judgmental, delivering an achingly humanistic drama that will linger with audiences long after they’ve seen it. DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Virginia's Run (MGM)
This story of a family in turmoil is part coming-of-age tale, part social commentary on the functionality of the family unit. The "Virginia" of the title is a 13-year-old horse riding fanatic whose mother has just been killed. Sadly, her death came while riding, leading Virginia's grief stricken father to disallow Virginia from taking to the saddle ever again. Sneaking out at night to train with her horse, Stormy, Virginia disobeys her father's wishes and follows her passion. But further complications ensue, leading to a tense, grief-stricken finale to this touching story of a family in crisis.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Without a Trace (1983) (Anchor Bay)
Brooklynite Susan Selky's young son disappears on his way to school, causing her to relinquish her life (and her apartment) to the media and the police, led by overworked cop Al Menetti. A suspect is arrested, but Nelligan is not convinced of his guilt, meaning the kidnapper and his victim must be found before it's too late.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

KID CHECK-IN (THE MOVIES)


Barbie: Fairytopia (Lions Gate)
This richly-colored, computer animated Barbie extravaganza, set in the enchanted land of fairies, pixies, mermaids, and plenty of other mythical beings, whisks girls away to the land they've always dreamed of. Audiences travel with Barbie to Fairytopia, a land beneath the flowers where everything is bright, beautiful, and filled with magical adventure.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Candy Land: The Great Lollipop Adventure (Paramount)
The classic children's board game Candy Land springs to animated life in a fun-filled, feature-length cartoon geared toward the preschool set. THE GREAT LOLLIPOP ADVENTURE follows a gingerbread boy named Jib as he travels the Rainbow Road in search of the annual Sweet Celebration--only to discover that the nefarious Lord Licorice has hatched a plan to turn the brightly colored land into a licorice-hued expanse. Now it's up to Jib and his friends Mister Mint and Princess Frostine to foil the villain's dastardly plot and save the citizens of Candy Land from certain drabness. Fans of the iconic board game will recognize beloved landmarks such as the Gumdrop Pass, Peppermint Forest, Chocolate Swamp, and Candy Castle, all rendered in colorfully vivid animation and fantastical musical numbers.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (Paramount)
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A passion for drawing, a penchant for the films of Jacques Cousteau, and a career as a marine biologist were SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS creator Stephen Hillenburg's inspirations for bringing this fun character to life. A hugely popular Nickelodeon show based on SpongeBob inspires THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE, which brings the oceanic cast of animated oddballs to the big screen. The bubbly inhabitants of Bikini Bottom are in more trouble than a sinking ship at the start of the film. The evil Plankton (Doug Lawrence) has hatched a plan to send the Krusty Krab burger chain out of business. He steals the secret formula for the delicious Krabby Patty and then frames Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) for the theft of King Neptune's (Jeffrey Tambor) crown. With all eyes on Mr. Krabs, Plankton starts selling Krabby Patties at his own Chum Bucket restaurant. Just then, SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) steps in and, with his starfish pal Patrick (Rick Faggerbakke), sets out to find the crown and get Mr. Krabs out of hot water. What follows is an epic adventure in which the pair encounter some slippery villains, and a hero in the form of special guest star David Hasselhoff--who appears as himself in a bizarre fusion of animation and live action. SpongeBob and Patrick frantically race back to Bikini Bottom to stop megalomaniacal Plankton from taking over the world. All of this is played out before an eclectic soundtrack, which pairs indie rockers like The Flaming Lips and Wilco with teen-pop princess Avril Lavigne. Taking its first triumphant step into the feature film world, SPONGEBOB soaks up an enthusiastic crowd of children and adults alike.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

The Thief and the Cobbler (Buena Vista)
An animated tale set many years ago in the city of Baghdad, which is about to be besieged by the villainous One-Eye and his strongmen. But three magical gold balls that sit atop a tower watch over and protect the city. Thus One-Eye needs to gain possession of the globes, which he does thanks to a shady magician who desperately wants to marry Baghdad's beautiful Princess Yum-Yum. But coming to Baghdad's rescue is Tack, a simple, unassuming cobbler, who along with Yum-Yum sets out to re-acquire the orbs. Will this unlikely duo succeed -- and possibly fall in love in the process?
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

The Wind In The Willows (Complete First Series) (A&E)
Kenneth Grahame's classic adventure continues with The Wind in the Willows: The Complete Series, the first of five delightful seasons featuring the further adventures of Toad and company. With amazingly detailed sets that recreate Mole End, Toad Hall, and the Wild Wood, these episodes capture the spellbinding stop-motion genius of Cosgrove Hall Productions. Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger do their best to maintain the simple pleasures of life, even as the pesky weasels lurk nearby. Filled with music and song--and plenty of tea and jam--our gentlemanly quartet always finds a way to traverse life's ups and downs with aplomb. Available on DVD for the first time -- The Wind in the Willows: The Complete Series/ all 13 episodes deliver timeless pleasures with the magic and splendor of Kenneth Grahame's classic book.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

KID CHECK-IN (TELEVISION)

Astro Boy - The Complete Series (Columbia/Tri-Star)
The first Japanese manga to be adapted into an animated series, ASTRO BOY was directed by the legendary Osamu Tezuka, and is representative of a nostalgic golden age of comics. Astro is a robot who lives in the "retro-futuristic" Metro City. Originally created by research scientist Dr. Tenma in the image of his deceased son, he was discarded with the scientist's realization that his son could never be replaced. Later discovered by the kindly Dr. O'Shay, Astro was revived and given a robot family, while O'Shay served as his mentor, in the belief that humans and robots can and should get along with each other. Astro, however, is not like other robots; in addition to his superior strength and jet-rocket arms and legs, his brain is the most advanced in the world, and it is capable of feeling all human emotions. Astro is a reluctant superhero, fighting to keep the peace between robots and humans, and always coming to the city's rescue against all manner of nefarious evildoers. Episodes include "Rocket Ball," "Franken," "Deep City," and "The Blue Knight."
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Clutch Cargo (Cartoon Collection Vol. 1) (VCI)
This collection includes nine episodes of the innovative cartoon series, which featured a total of 52 episodes overall. Revolving around an adventurer named Clutch Cargo (and his pals: Spinner, Paddlefoot, and Swampy), the series was the first to use the Synchro-Vox animation system. Created by combining still animation cells with footage of live actor's mouths, this technique (which would later be used for comic purposes in shows such as LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN) made the show unique. Relying more on dialogue and plotline than on special effects, it was the show's handmade quality (cardboard character cutouts were often used in the background) that gave it its charm. Each episode of the series was composed of five, five-minute segments, the story being resolved only in the last chapter. Directed by Phil Booth, the series features the voices (and lips) of Richard Cotting, Margaret Kerry, and Hal Smith.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Cyberchase: The Snelfu Snafu (Paramount)
"The Snelfu Snafu" is part of CYBERCHASE’s program to help kids make sense of money. In the two-part title episode, when the all-important encryptor chip comes up for sale at an auction, the CyberSquad mobilizes to outbid Hacker. In Part II, the future of the virtual universe hangs in the balance as Digit and the kids face the ultimate challenge – getting control of Cyberspace back from Hacker! The CyberSquad must spend wisely – if they run out of money, Motherboard will be lost forever
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Fat Albert (2004) (Fox)
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Des Inspired by the 1970s animated television series, FAT ALBERT transports the loveable characters from their animated universe into the real world. When Doris (Kyla Pratt), a sad teenager in Philadelphia, turns on a rerun of FAT ALBERT AND THE COSBY KIDS, her tears compel the always-helpful Fat Albert to jump through the TV screen to her rescue. His friends quickly follow, and to Doris's astonishment, the whole Fat Albert gang magically transforms into real live people right in her living room. Not knowing what to do with her odd new friends, Doris adamantly denies having a problem, and encourages the boys to jump back into the TV set. But Albert can see that Doris is lonely and is determined to find her some friends. As Albert tries to fix Doris's problem, the rest of the gang tries to adjust to their new, unscripted world. Meanwhile, Albert finds himself falling in love with Doris's foster sister, Lauri. But as soon as the gang begins to enjoy the perks of being real, their brightly colored outfits start to fade. Taking this as a sign that they do not belong in the real world, the boys decide it's time to go home. Bill Cosby (co-writer of the film and creator of the original series) makes a guest appearance as himself, warning Albert that he must return to his animated world before evaporating into a cloud of celluloid dust. But before Albert can leave, he must solve Doris's problem.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (The Original Series - Vol. 1) (UrbanWorks)
One of the most popular and groundbreaking animated shows of the 1970s was FAT ALBERT AND THE COSBY KIDS. Based on comedian Bill Cosby's stand-up routines and the memories of his childhood in the poor black section of Philadelphia, Fat Albert concerns the adventures of the aptly named title character and his group of friends. Every episode features Albert and the gang learning something from their experiences, and Cosby and Filmation Studio intended the program to be socially educational, especially for African-American youth. THE ORIGINAL ANIMATED SERIES V. 1 contains the first 12 episodes, broadcast as they originally were on CBS in 1972. In these episodes, Albert and his friends discover the importance of school, the value of honesty, and many more life lessons.
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Fat Albert Easter Special (UrbanWorks)
Easter is celebrated through laughter, singing, and valuable messages in the FAT ALBERT EASTER SPECIAL. Like the groundbreaking series that combined entertainment and education, the EASTER SPECIAL features Albert and his friends exploring the holiday through their fun-loving antics but also learning an important lesson in the process.
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The Man Called Flintstone (Warner Bros.)
Fred finds he has a double, superspy Rock Slag, and when the agent is injured, Fred takes his place fighting crime in the Flintstone's first theatrical film.
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Max & Ruby (Springtime for Max & Ruby) (Paramount)
Based on a series of children's books by Rosemary Wells, this charming animated children's program chronicles the sibling rivalry between brother and sister bunnies Max and Ruby. Never content to let older sister Ruby boss him around, three-year-old Max always manages to brew up some mischief to get his own way. This springtime collection includes six fun-filled episodes: "Max's Chocolate Chicken," "Ruby's Beauty Shop," "Max Drives Away," "Ruby's Clubhouse," "Camp Out," and "Max's Picnic."
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KID CHECK-IN (TIME TO LEARN)

Boohbah (Hot Dog) (Paramount)
The unique PBS children's television series Boohbah is designed to spark creative thinking and physical movement in preschoolers ages 3-6. As the Boohbahs--brightly colored, blob-shaped characters representing atoms of energy--cavort in their magical onscreen universe, children are invited to dance along and participate in an interactive storytelling session. This volume features three fun-filled episodes, including "Squeaky Socks."
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Dora the Explorer (Big Sister Dora) (Paramount)
With her cheerful nature, inquiring mind, and colorful fashion sense, Nickelodeon's adorable bilingual heroine DORA THE EXPLORER has charmed both pre-school-age children and their parents alike. Designed to simulate a computer game, the animated series follows the cute little Latina girl, her monkey pal Boots, and their helpful cohorts Map and Backpack as they set out on problem-solving adventures that encourage interaction and physical activity while teaching simple concepts such as counting, logic skills, and basic Spanish. This volume includes two fun-filled, educational episodes celebrating family values: in "Big Sister Dora," Dora and Boots hurry home to meet a new family member; and in "Dora Saves the Game," the winsome duo help out a cousin in need.
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Jojo's Circus: Animal a Go Go (Buena Vista)
Disney scored another cartoon success with the entertaining and educational JOJO'S CIRCUS. JoJo is a young clown who lives at the circus and travels everywhere with a lion called Goliath, who is her best friend. Each episode features JoJo undertaking a new adventure beneath the big-top, while demonstrating the importance of social skills, and encouraging young viewers to undertake exercises with her. JOJO'S CIRCUS is intended for pre-school children, and is designed to be both a pleasurable exercise, and a learning experience. JOJO'S CIRCUS: ANIMAL A GO-GO features two episodes--four stories in total--of the children's program.
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Jojo's Circus: Take a Bow (Buena Vista)
Animated clown JoJo and her best friend Goliath the lion teach and entertain in Disney's successful JOJO'S CIRCUS. JoJo and Goliath travel about the circus, with each episode focusing on an important lesson, while interacting with the audience through a series of exercises. JOJO'S CIRCUS is made for pre-school children, and is intended to amuse, as well as demonstrating the importance of social skills, activity, and thinking. JOJO'S CIRCUS: TAKE A BOW features two episodes, each with two separate stories, of the children's program.
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Mickey and the Beanstalk (Buena Vista)
Disney's version of the well-known tale of a poor peasant boy who trades his cow for a handful of magic beans, featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy with quite a different twist.
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Mickey's Around the World in 80 Days (Buena Vista)
Mickey Mouse embarks on an educational journey in DISNEY LEARNING ADVENTURES: MICKEY'S AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. Young viewers learn beginning language skills and basic geography as they watch Mickey and other beloved Disney characters travel to various lands. Also included is information about the kinds of animals that dwell in different parts of the world, and how people live in many varied areas, all presented in Disney's trademark combination of humor and quality animation. The Walt Disney company has worked with leading educators to develop this look at cultures and environments around the world.
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Teletubbies (Naughty Noo-Noo!) (Paramount)
Slurpy slurp! The Teletubbies’ favorite friend, the Noo-noo becomes the center of attention in his very own episode! This friendly vacuum cleaner is very good at tidying up after the Teletubbies when they make a mess, but sometimes he just can’t help being naughty. In spite of this, the Teletubbies love the Noo-noo, and each other very much.
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The Wubbulous World of Dr Seuss (Cat's Play Pals) (Columbia/Tri-Star)
Dr. Seuss's whole cast of characters come to the TV screen in this fun, edifying series, which first charmed parents and children alike on the Nickelodeon station. Nominated for five daytime Emmy Awards, the show is hosted by the lovable Cat in the Hat, and combines 3-D computer animation with the live-action puppetry of Jim Henson. Children learn the value of sharing in "The Song of the Zubble-Wump," as Megan Mullally and Horton set off to steal the valuable Zubble-Wump egg back from the Grinch, who first stole it from Megan's family. But the egg's lovely song will be kept from everyone if the Grinch and Megan don't stop keeping it to themselves. Then, Thidwick is "The Birthday Moose," and he can't wait for the Birthday Bird to come and carry him to the party being held in his honor, as well as for all the other birthday celebrants. Finally, "The Guest" finds Larry Nooly and his family taking a trip to the Lodge--the most beautiful, wonderful place imaginable!
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GROWING UP


My Own Private Idaho (Criterion)
A narcoleptic, psychologically-scarred young man who peddles his body, and his best friend, who also works the streets though he's from a wealthy political family, wander together and apart, from Seattle to as far away as Italy. A loose reworking of Shakespeare's "Henry IV," with Reeves as the prodigal son who slums in the Pacific Northwest's junkie lowlife milieu.
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Paradise Alley (Universal)
Three none-too-bright brothers struggle to find a way out of New York's seedy Hell's Kitchen, circa 1946. One brother hopes to make it big as a wrestler. Film marked Mr. Stallone's debut as a "director," and he also sings the theme song.
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The River (1951) (Criterion)
The gentle rhythms of the Ganges provide background noise in Renoir's low-key film about three girls suffering the pangs of adolescence in post-WWII India. Harriet (Patricia Walters), a shy, poetic girl, Valerie (Adrienne Corri), a proud beauty, and Melanie (Radha), a reserved Anglo-Indian, display a powerful interest in Captain John (Thomas E. Breen), a WWII veteran staying with a neigboring relative. But when he loses his leg in the war, he plunges into a melancholy that makes him oblivious to their attention.
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Stand By Me (Collector's Edition) (Columbia/Tri-Star)
Based on Stephen King’s novella THE BODY, director Rob Reiner's STAND BY ME is the disarmingly tender and subtly sublime story of four kids on the precipice of early adulthood who embark upon a quest. There’s Gordie (Wil Wheaton), the intelligent, creative one with the obviously bright future. His best buddy, Chris (River Phoenix), hardens his image in order to hide the pain from the physical abuse he endures at home, all the while harboring the hope of escaping that image. Rounding out the foursome are Vern (Jerry O'Connell), the pudgy tagalong, and Teddy (Corey Feldman), a loyal and funny but troubled kid with a death wish. When the four boys hear about a dead body 20 miles down the railroad tracks from their small Oregon town, they clandestinely set upon the unwieldy journey to lay eyes on this rare find. Amid numerous misadventures, Gordie, Chris, Vern, and Teddy savor what may be their last chance to revel in the simple life of children; around the corner is a future that could tear them apart, not to mention a tough teen gang who desires local fame by finding the body first. Enhanced by excellent performances and an engaging plot, STAND BY ME ranks among the best of the myriad coming-of-age films to dot the 1980s cinematic landscape.
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Tom Brown's School Days (Acorn Media)
A conservative English boarding school is the setting for this glimpse into a boy's life during the Victorian era. Based on Thomas Hughes' novel of 1857, this moving film adaptation features one of child actor Freddie Bartholomew's finest performances. As Tom Brown, he arrives at Rugby School and encounters the tyrannical hazing of the school bullies in an institution where discipline has been nearly replaced by anarchy. While a stern new headmaster attempts to bring order, Tom and his friends stage their own revolution against the bullies, employing tricks, fisticuffs and ingenious practical jokes such as nailing the ringleader's furniture to the ceiling!
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Young Törless (Criterion)
Toerless (Matthieu Carriere) attends school at an early 20th Century Austrian military boarding school. He is distracted from the school's attempts to educate and train the young boys by the brutality of a few select students. As the school bullies terrorize and humiliate a fellow student, Toerless simply watches from afar, uneasy about speaking out. His attitude differs little from the cold, unaffected teaching staff. This first feature from Volker Schlondorff (THE TIN DRUM), a chilling indictment of dehumanizing military society, won the International Critics Prize at Cannes. The images of punching bags and the black and white photography of the oppressive school are strong allegorical statements against fascism. Based on an equally brutal novel by Robert Musil and featuring Barbara Steele as a prostitute who teaches the boys a few things.
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MORE DRAMA


Charly (MGM)
This intriguing drama, directed tenderly by Ralph Nelson, is based on the story FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by Daniel Keyes. The plot centers around a mentally retarded adult who instantly matures as the result of an operation on his brain. The result is a hybrid of documentary, romance, social drama and science fiction. Cliff Robertson is unpredictably touching as Charly Gordon, the sudden grown-up, and gives a hard-earned Academy Award winning performance. Claire Bloom is simple and magnetic as Alice Kinian, his sympathetic and protective caseworker. As his teacher, Miss Kinian, takes Charly to a clinic where doctors, who have Charly compete with a mouse named Algernon, observe him. Algernon, a once retarded mouse, is usually the winner thanks to an experiment that has greatly raised his intelligence. This experiment is given to Charly, who initially isn’t affected. However, he gradually becomes more and more educated, eventually becoming a genius. This change effects not only Charly but also all the people who have contributed to his metamorphosis.
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Distant (New Yorker)
Nuri Bilge Ceylan's DISTANT chronicles the numbing loneliness, longing, and isolation in the lives of two men who are consumed by their own problems. Istanbul photographer Mahmut (Muzaffer Ozdemir) reluctantly receives his relative Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak), but the mingling of their lives does little to alleviate their detachment. Mahmut's ex-wife is moving and Mahmut cannot deal with the residue of his feelings for her, and later, he must care for his ill mother. Yusuf unsuccessfully looks for work on a ship in hopes of seeing the world and having money left over for his family, but ends up wandering the city, failing to find the connection and inclusion he seems to desire. Despite a superficial effort by Mahmut to help by offering Yusuf a job on a photo shoot, their already distant relationship devolves into little more than sharing the same space, as neither can find a way to communicate at a deeper level. Ceylan uses his significant cinematic talents to great effect with long, meditative shots that emphasize a mood of alienation and stagnancy. Wintry Istanbul becomes its own character, as its foreboding weather and stark industrial areas create a physical distance among the characters. Imbued with pathos, this film provides a complex character study that speaks to the need for human connection. Ceylan's cast is comprised of his relatives and friends, all nonprofessional actors, who turn in refined performances. DISTANT won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

L' Eclisse (Criterion)
Michaelangelo Antonioni's L'ECLISSE is a visually stunning film with a strange, abstract plotline. Monica Vitti stars as Vittoria, a beautiful woman who, in the opening scene of the movie, dumps her boring boyfriend Riccardo (Francisco Rabal). Vittoria's mother (Lilla Brignone) passes her time at the stock exchange, watching the numbers rise and fall as if her whole life depends on the next high or low. In contrast, Vittoria wanders the streets of the city unhindered, dreaming, floating independently and waiting for whatever fate befalls her. She begins an affair with a powerful, handsome, emotionally vacant stockbroker, Piero (Alain Delon). Their relationship is fun, flirtatious, risky, and dangerous all at once--but mostly, it is an expression of true human affection, which the other characters in L'ECLISSE seem to lack. However, the plot of L'ECLISSE is hardly Antonioni's focus. As sweeping pans of the calm, dusty streets mix with the intense cacophony of the stock exchange, the director compares and contrasts the structure of city life with the still, silent aspects of a more natural environment, observing society's evolution into a technological monolith. L'ECLISSE is part of a trilogy of Antonioni films, along with LA NOTTE and L'AVVENTURA.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon

The Seagull's Laughter (Home Vision)
In 1954, following the death of her American serviceman husband, beautiful Freya (Margaret Vilhjalmsdottir) returns to her native Icelandic fishing village. With several trunks of fashionable clothing and astounding tales of life in postwar New York, she turns the town on its ear with her glamorous presence. Intent on finding another husband, she moves into the already bustling household of her grandparents, joining Granny, insecure young Dodo, mentally challenged Ninna, her grandfather (when he isn't out on a fishing boat), and precocious 11 year-old Agga (Ugla Egilsdottir). Agga is suspicious of Freya from the moment she arrives but eventually her distrust gives way to fascination. When Freya has a passionate encounter with Bjorn, an engineer and one of the town's most eligible bachelors, Agga helps iron out the kinks in the burgeoning romance. The drama that unfolds becomes the talk of the town, and eventually carries all the women of Freya's extended family into unexpectedly dark territory. Stunning Icelandic locales give THE SEAGULL'S LAUGHTER a distinctly exotic sense of time and place. Vilhjamsdottir is a beguiling screen presence, and in Egilsdottir, she has a winning, appealing foil. Veering between quaint, small-town-style comedy--in which the quaintness of the locals is played for laughs--and dark, myth-influenced drama, Agust Guomundsson's unique and amusing film is a treat for the adventurous filmgoer.
DVD FeaturesComing Soon


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1396
originally posted: 03/05/05 09:12:06
last updated: 03/25/05 09:11:53
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