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15 reviews in total 
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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Delightful animated film with great voice acting, 31 July 2008

I picked this DVD up at Comic-Con, because I saw that Chris Sarandon was in it, and I've always been a fan of his. I had no idea what awaited me when I popped it into the DVD player, but I loved it! "The Chosen One" is a quirky, delightful animated feature with a relaxed, offbeat sense of humor that compliments its sincerity.

The plot- involving the adventures of a dweeby everyguy named Lou who discovers his superpowers, and encounters temptation in the form of Lucifer (Tim Curry)- is familiar, but it's not bland or formulaic. The everyguy hero is a doofus, but he's smart; his sidekicks are endearing, and the story takes a number of unexpected twists and turns. The voice acting is especially fine. Tim Curry makes a terrific Lucifer, both dapper and ominous, and Chris Sarandon is hilarious- and nearly unrecognizable- in the role of Zebulon Kirk, Lou's ancient roommate. As for the animation, I loved the character designs- I found them adorable- and the whole look of the movie was refreshingly non-CGI'ed. "The Chosen One" manages to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it!

10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
But what if you don't own a spice rack...?, 31 May 2005

This Scholastic video version of Kathryn Lasky's "Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor" is not so great, but it's short enough, and it's less obnoxious than, say, an episode of Dragonball Z. The plot mainly consists of kiddie Elizabeth writing in her diary, suffering the torments of her half-sister Mary (who is yet again portrayed as having black hair- when actually her hair was as red as Elizabeth's), and trying to keep her good stepmom Queen Catherine from becoming Beheaded Wife #3. It's all pleasantly ludicrous, and the costumes are nicer than you'd expect for a straight-to-video production. But one wonders- were *any* English child actors available to Scholastic Inc.? It seems that they chose the American child actors who were least able fake a convincing English accent; Tamara Hope's accent wanders all over the place, from upper Wisconsin to Cockney a la Dick van Dyke. But it's all harmless enough, I suppose, and worthwhile enough for a twelve-year-old with a Tudor obsession to check out from the library. (But the book is much better.)

19 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
I really wanted to like this movie, 31 May 2005

I really wanted to like this movie; I really did. I figured that since I have always loved "The Wizard of Oz," "Forbidden Planet," and "Samson and Delilah," that "Thief" would appeal to me. After all, I figured, it would combine the best of the art direction and fantasy of "Wizard" with the otherworldliness of "Planet," along with the lush Hollywood exoticism of "Samson and Delilah." Unfortunately, this was not the case. I am sorry to say that all of those previously mentioned movies are much better than "Thief of Bagdad."

For starters, I was particularly disappointed in the story- it seemed to jump all over the place, and there was a lack of any really convincing character arcs for the leads. Sabu, who is adorable and energetic as always, made for an appealing hero, but we didn't really see enough of him- instead, we saw more of the insipid romantic leads, John Justin and June Duprez, who are only stunning in their absolute inability to emote. Conrad Veidt made a good villain, but I wanted to know a little more about why he was doing what he was doing. Granted, in "The Wizard of Oz," the Wicked Witch of the West is not given a detailed backstory, but Dorothy's house landed on top of her sister, which is a very good reason for the Witch to be after Dorothy! Unlike the Wicked Witch, I did not ever feel that Conrad Veidt's character was ever a real threat or menace. Perhaps it is because in "Thief" the characters are given precious little personality and motivation; also, there seems to be little continuity in the colorful incidents that occur. For example, one moment Abu, Sabu's character, has smashed the magical all-seeing eye- the next moment he is being bowed to by a bunch of elderly sultans in white. Huh? Did I miss something? Now, I understand that this is supposed to be a fairy tale, but even in fantasy worlds, things are supposed to make sense within the context of that world. Again, "The Wizard of Oz" is a good example of an early fantasy movie with excellent continuity and world-building.

The movie, on the whole, was very pretty to look at, and the sets, crowd scenes and matte paintings were spectacular. However, I must say that I found the color scheme of the film to be very irritating- everything seemed to be in shades of pastels, mostly pale pink and baby blue, as if it were one of those old "My Little Pony" commercials. I understand this is a matter of personal taste, since in movies I tend to prefer vivid colors. However, whenever I read the "Arabian Nights," I always pictured a very rich color palette, with scarlets, blues, golds, and desert browns. Maybe it's just me, but a pastel palette doesn't seem to go with the very nature of the stories "Thief" is claiming to represent.

In any case, I am glad that I have finally seen "Thief of Bagdad," but I would not see it again. Perhaps it's something that I needed to see when I was little to make any impression on me. All in all, I personally found it to be too mannered, precious and dull to sufficiently convey the earthiness, vigor and gusto of the original "Arabian Nights."

Harem (1986) (TV)
27 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
The guilty pleasure to end all guilty pleasures, 29 May 2005

When I heard that Nancy Travis, who played across Mike Myers in "So I Married an Axe Murderer," and Art Malik, who played the heavy in "True Lies," were the romantic leads in this 1980s TV drama, I knew it was something I had to see. In its ludicrous, Reagan-era soap operatic way, it's an entertaining little gem, filled with delightfully cringe-inducing lines like, "Because you don't have a woman's heart!"

It's also a compendium of just about every cliché known to man, from the freedom-loving American ingénue who shoots like Annie Oakley, to the stuffy Victorian aunt, to the student revolutionary who jumps on soapboxes at every opportunity, to the uber-Orientalist portrayal of the harem with all its poisonous plots and sexy belly dancers. It's set back around 1907 in the Ottoman Empire, and the story, such as it is, involves the adventures of a blond, dewy-eyed American girl named Jessica (Travis) who goes to Turkey with her proper and equally blond English fiancée (Julian Sands), and gets kidnapped. Inevitably, she ends up in a harem, fending off the advances of a besotted sultan (Omar Sharif), and the wicked intrigues of his chief wife (Ava Gardner, channeling the stepmother from "Snow White"). Although the sultan is awfully keen on her, Jessica falls in love with the leader of the revolutionary movement, Tarik Pasha- who is played with a completely straight face by Art Malik.

The whole story unfolds like a dime store novel, which I suppose is appropriate given the setting, and even though it's as preposterous as the average episode of the old Zorro TV show, it's still a lot of fun. The whole premise of the show, with its emphasis on the tyrannized and barbarous East, would probably give old Edward Said fits, but it's notable for the fact that it has good Turks alongside its bad, and that it has a genuine Muslim actor as the hero. There's quite a few hot Middle Eastern and South Asian guys running around in this, and Art Malik is surprisingly appealing (and gorgeous) as the idealistic young Turkish hothead. There are also plenty of beautiful location shots in the old Moorish mosques and palaces in Granada and Cordoba, and in Morocco as well, although the director seemed to forget that the Sahara desert is nowhere near Turkey.

It's actually comparable to "The Lady and the Highwayman," another kitschy, lavishly produced '80s period soap, although unlike "Lady," "Harem" does not have Hugh Grant and was never released to DVD. However, it's definitely worth a watch if you don't mind your entertainment on the corny side. Even though I was groaning at many of the plot twists and dialogue, I would happily watch it again.

11 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
So I endured two hours of Richard Burton's overacting..., 29 May 2005

I'm not quite sure why so many people love this movie; I've seen and enjoyed scores of costume dramas, and I was practically falling asleep in the middle of this one. I suppose it's because I can't stand Richard Burton in general. He always seems to play the same loud, swaggering blowhard over and over again, in every single film I've ever seen him in, and "Anne" is no exception. Hey, maybe he's just playing himself! Genevieve Bujold looks wonderful, and does fairly well as the title character, given the clunky nature of the script, but there seems to be zero chemistry between her and Burton- repeatedly he declares that he's burning with lust for her, but he seems less like a tormented, lusty Henry VIII and more like a boozy Richard Burton reading from cue cards.

I wasn't too impressed by the production either. After watching Zeffirelli's sumptuous, beautiful and exciting "Romeo and Juliet," made only a year before, "Anne" seems like a tacky filmed stage production, where half the cast seem to be wearing costumes of rayon and polyester. Granted, some of the costumes worn by Burton and Bujold are nice, but nothing to write home about, especially compared to the fantastic costuming in Zeffirelli's 1960s Shakespeare movies, and the far superior Tudor outfits in "Lady Jane." Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if I was watching a widescreen version on DVD, as opposed to the version which is currently the only one available- a murky, grainy, panned-and-scanned VHS. A movie like this one is chiefly enjoyable because of the spectacle, and it's hard to get into the spirit of things when you realize you're losing half the picture.

11 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Okay kiddie costume drama, 1 October 2004

I really think Disney, when doing period films, did best when sticking to the musical comedy vein, as in "Mary Poppins" or the lesser-known (but hilarious) "Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin." When they tried to play it straight, the results are usually nothing to write home about, such is the case in "The Sword and the Rose." Now, Glynis Johns is beautiful and provides a very fine performance, and James Robertson Justice as Henry VIII, doing his best Falstaff impersonation, is quite amusing. I also enjoyed many of the supporting players, from the pratfalling King of France to his evil Pepe le Pew successor, Francis.

Unfortunately, Richard Todd as Charles Brandon is dull, dull, dull. One thing is for certain, he is no Errol Flynn. I kept thinking- why would Princess Mary want to run off with this guy? Todd is unfortunately typical of many 1950s leading men, like Cornel Wilde and Rory Calhoun, who seemed to substitute square jaws and blank stoicism for actual charm, charisma, and talent. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the film more if there had been more action scenes and swashbuckling, but there were so many scenes of Brandon and the Princess cooing over each other that I found myself getting restless. At times like this, a vaudeville number would be much appreciated.

However, the movie is relatively fast paced enough, so I wasn't too bored. The costuming, for a '50s Disney movie, is okay, although of course no one will be surprised to hear that it actually bears little resemblance to early Tudor fashions circa 1514. Justice is way too old to be playing Henry (Henry would have been in his mid 20s at the time) and all of his clothes look to be taken from the Holbein portraits from the 1530s and 1540s. All the women are wearing farthingales (not introduced until later), and most annoying, is that Catherine of Aragon, who was really a plump, sweet-natured redhead, is portrayed as a dour stick-thin black-haired hag who flounces around in a succession of horrifically gaudy outfits. Well, what else can be expected of a Disney movie, I suppose. It's a reasonably pleasant, inoffensive way of passing the time, and I very much liked Glynis Johns, although I constantly expected her to burst out singing: "Well done, Sister Suffragette!"

65 out of 70 people found the following review useful:
Fun with llamas!, 17 September 2004

Although my affection for other Disney movies of the 1990s has decidedly waned, my love for "The Emperor's New Groove" is still as strong as ever. In fact, I'm now beginning to think it's a work of genius. It's clever, unpretentious, fast-paced, and- like "Lilo and Stitch"- you don't feel that the vision of the film was muddled up by the suits. The characters are not constantly breaking into song, and there is a welcome lack of cloying sentiment. No cutesy talking teacups here! The lightning- fast comic timing, sharp writing and constant loony non sequiturs (i.e. "For the last time, we did not order a giant trampoline!") improves upon each viewing, and the voice work is uniformly excellent, from David Spade's hilariously bratty emperor to Patrick Warburton's dim boy-toy Kronk to Eartha Kitt's Yzma (an over-the-top screeching Erte-style villainess with an alleged "secret lab" who is also "scary beyond all reason"). You get the impression that everyone involved had lots of fun making this. The art direction, with its whirling cartoon Inca motifs, is simultaneously goofy and gorgeous- and it shows what marvels can be done with nary a pixel in sight. I even love all the local L.A. humor, with even Bob's Big Boy making an appearance. Although I was initially dismayed when I heard that the project, originally entitled, "The Kingdom of the the Sun," was to be changed to "The Emperor's New Groove," I think in the end the changes were a good thing. Did the world really need yet another bombastic Disney musical?

No, I didn't think so either.

Cromwell (1970)
44 out of 71 people found the following review useful:
From Cromwell with love, 9 September 2004

Honestly, this is the kind of movie that gives historical drama a bad name.

Granted, it is handsomely produced, with lavish costumes and sets, but it's mostly a big snooze. Especially when one compares it to Richard Lester's "The Three Musketeers," made only three years later, large parts of this film feel inescapably stagebound, much like the historical epics that were regularly churned out during the early 1950s, at the beginning of Cinemascope (i.e. "The Robe").

Yet the battle scenes and crowd scenes are impressive in their pageantry, and are about the only times in this movie where things seem to come alive. The cinematography is pretty nice, and Alec Guinness's performance as King Charles is remarkable in its subtlety and complexity. But Richard Harris' performance as Cromwell verges on camp, and he provides many unintentional chuckles, as he chews the scenery and spits it out again with a vengeance. One wonders why they didn't just get Chuck Heston for the role. "Get your stinking paws off of me, you DAMNED DIRTY KING!!" But maybe he just wasn't available. So here we have a grandstanding Dick Harris in what should perhaps be called "Planet of the Roundheads."

The major problem is that there are really no characters- with the sole exception of King Charles- that are interesting. Virtually everyone in this movie can be described with one adjective. Cromwell is righteous, the Queen is scheming, Prince Rupert is foppish, Fairfax is moderate, etc. etc.

It's impossible to care about any of these cardboard cut-outs in fancy dress, and after a while I was beginning to wish one of those Diggers would go postal and mow down the principal players with the 17th century equivalent of a Glock. The music is particularly obnoxious too- a Carmina Burana rip-off complete with a chorus bellowing out, at intervals, "REJOICE! REJOICE!" And I'm not even going to touch the subject of the director's highly questionable decision to canonize someone like Oliver Cromwell, whose character might be charitably called "complex." I'm not even Irish, but my stomach was lurching at those- many- moments when Richard Harris was staring nobly off into the distance while that damn chorus screeched away in the background like it was the umpteenth millionth remake of "Quo Vadis."

However, with all this said, it's impossible for me to hate this movie. It tries... so... hard! The final result is dubious, to say the least, but at least the project's ambition is commendable, and rather touching in a way. "Cromwell" is a noble experiment which- rather like Cromwell's Commonwealth itself- ends ultimately in failure.

But hey, on the bright side, at least there's Alec Guinness!

11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Interminable Amber, 3 September 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Wow, this movie is long. It also makes "Mary Poppins" look like a BBC production, as the number of English actors in this War and Peace sized epic of ye Olde England during the Restoration can be counted on one hand... and that's probably being generous. I was just amazed how remarkably American everyone in this movie sounds, with the sole exception of George Saunders and Jessica Tandy. Even "Black Jack Mallard" sounds just like John Wayne. Yet it can't be any worse than its source, Kathleen Winsor's lengthy yet mediocre wartime pulp novel, which is essentially a thousand pages of lines like: "It was not until after he was dead that Amber realized how much Rex Morgan had meant to her."

Despite the long running time and the coma-inducing script, Linda Darnell tries her best to portray Amber "I want much more than this provincial life" St. Clare, who goes from Puritan Miss to Material Girl within about 15 minutes (and 15 costume changes). I agree with the previous reviewer that this movie would have been much more enjoyable if there had been some glimmering of a spark between Linda Darnell and Cornell Wilde. But Wilde is a crashing bore, and probably the least attractive of all of Amber's boyfriends. God only knows why she finds him so fascinating... no doubt because it was in the script. After the increasingly slutty Amber jumps in and out of various situations like a Jack in the box, the movie grinds to a halt when Cornell Wilde comes back to London with his wholesome new American missus. **SPOILERS** In a situation more than reminiscent of "Madama Butterfly," Wilde then wants to take Amber's illegitimate kid back to the Colonies with him, where he can raise him away from all that decadent old world nastiness. Although, unlike Butterfly, Amber doesn't commit ritual suicide (although I rather kept wishing she would) she lets the kid go, and... that's it. Linda Darnell turns towards the camera, emoting, and roll credits.

That is, all in all, quite possibly the lamest ending I've seen in any movie, ever.

Mainly one watches a movie like this for the eye candy, but the sets are nothing to write home about and the costumes only bear a passing resemblance to actual Restoration fashion. Full-bottomed wigs and petticoat breeches are nowhere to be seen, all the doublets are padded thickly in the shoulders like gangster suits, and Linda Darnell herself wears a succession of poofy dresses indistinguishable from a hundred other costume epics done in the '40s. "Frenchman's Creek," filmed three years before, actually does a far better job in the costuming department (and with honest-to-God English actors in the lead roles!) Also, for old swashbuckling Hollywood glamor, Errol Flynn's "The Adventures of Don Juan" is a thousand times more entertaining, and for anyone with a passing interest in the period of time that "Amber" strives to portray, should immediately hie themselves to a video store and get "Restoration" with Sam Neill and Robert Downey Jr. "Forever Amber" is right in that it seemingly takes forever, and goes nowhere. It is, in a word, interminable.

The Devils (1971)
7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Not great, but interesting, 3 September 2004

Yes, Oliver Reed delivers a tour-de-force performance (not to mention he looks great). Vanessa Redgrave is both radiant and convincingly insane, and, on the whole, the movie is interesting, but hard for me to take very seriously. Evidently Ken Russell took many of the historical facts in Aldous Huxley's "The Devils of Loudon," and added large parts from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and what looks to be a particularly over-the-top college production of "Marat/Sade."

First of all, I have to say that my main interest in the movie was just to check out the art direction. I'm quite fond of movies set in the 17th century, and several stills I had seen from the movie had piqued my interest. Now, there are many excellent and accurate baroque costumes and hairstyles (Oliver Reed, with his waxed mustache and gorgeous vestments, looks very much like the actual Urbain Grandier, and Georgina Hale as the spoiled baron's daughter wears a perfect 1630s coif), but there is a bizarre inconsistency to the entire production. For example, take Richelieu's 1930s era wire-rimmed specs, Michael Gothard's purple-tinted John Lennon frames, the mod-looking bob on Gemma Jones, and what the hell was up with Georgina Hale's black lipstick? Not to mention the guy playing Louis XIII seemed to be channelling a combination of Gary Glitter and Caligula, and sports pasties and a perm in the first scene when he was dancing the "naked moon" or whatever that routine was supposed to be.

An earlier reviewer stated that all Catholics should see this movie. As a Catholic, I would say that the horrifying facts of the possession of Loudon are done a disservice by the garish silliness of Ken Russell's direction. But the acting's good, and so is the art direction in large part. Also, Oliver Reed's death scene is quite well done, although I was scarcely as horrified as I thought I would be. As far as disturbing avant-garde films go, "The Devils" has nothing on Peter Brook's "Marat/Sade." But all in all, it's worth a look.

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