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BRAVO MEDIA HONORS THE LATE ROBIN WILLIAMS WITH HIS APPEARANCE ON THE EMMY AWARD-WINNING “INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO” THURSDAY, AUGUST 21 AT 8PM ET/PT News August 18, 2014 BRAVO MEDIA HONORS THE LATE ROBIN WILLIAMS WITH HIS APPEARANCE ON THE EMMY AWARD-WINNING “INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO” THURSDAY, AUGUST 21 AT 8PM ET/PT

August 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW YORK– August 18, 2014 – Bravo Media’s “Inside the Actors Studio” hosted by James Lipton, commemorates the life and career of legendary actor and comedian Robin Williams with a special broadcast of his appearance on the Emmy Award-winning series on Thursday, August 21 at 8pm ET/PT. The episode originally aired on Sunday, June 10, 2001, and for the 250th episode of “Inside the Actors Studio,” fans chose Williams’ appearance as their favorite in a poll on BravoTV.com. For a look back at the episode, visit: http://www.bravotv.com/videos/robin-williams-the-improv-master

“There are so many reasons to grieve the loss of Robin Williams,” Lipton said. “One of the saddest is that he takes with him the multitude of characters he created – fifty two of them in a three minute span in the film ‘Aladdin.’ If it is true that an actor’s talent lays in the role choices he or she makes, Robin’s talent was unmatchable. But we already knew that, didn’t we?”

Bravo is a program service of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, a division of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Bravo has been an NBCUniversal cable network since December 2002 and was the first television service dedicated to film and the performing arts when it launched in December 1980. Bravo Media is a part of NBCUniversal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media group. For more information, visit www.BravoTV.com. Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BravoPR.

Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Enjoyable now as when I first watched it more than 20 years ago!  “Good Morning Vietnam” is set during the Vietnam War, but the film focuses on one DJ’s job to make the soldiers laugh and at ease before they go out to combat.  Robin Williams is absolutely excellent in this film and there is not many people I can think of who can play this role with absolute efficacy.  “Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition” is recommended!

Images courtesy of ©2012 Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Good Morning Vietnam

FILM RELEASE: 1987

DURATION: 121 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH and French

COMPANY: Touchstone Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children)

Release Date: January 17, 2012

Directed by Barry Levinson

Written by Mitch Markowitz

Produced by Larry Brezner, Mark Johnson

Co-Produced by Harry Benn, Ben Moses

Music by Alex North

Cinematography by Peter Sova

Edited by Stu Linder

Casting by Louis DiGiaimo

Production Design by Roy Walker

Art Direction by Steve Spence

Set Decoration by Tessa Davies

Costume Design by Keith Denny

Starring:

Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer

Forest Whitaker as Edward Garlick

Tung Thanh Tran as Tuan

Chinatara Sukapatana as Trinh

Bruno Kirby as Lt. Steven Hauk

Robert Wuhl as Marty Lee Dreiwitz

J.T. Walsh as Sgt. Major Dickerson

Noble Willingham as Gen. Taylor

Richard Edson as Pvt. Abersold

Juney Smith as Phil McPherson

Richard Portnow as Dan “The Man” Levitan

Enjoy the unsurpassed digital sound quality of Blu-ray High Definition as Army deejay Adrian Cronauer (Williams) spins a red-hot soundtrack of ‘60s hits. His sidesplitting comedy and rapid fire wit make him a hero to the troops, but quickly get him in hot water with his by-the-book superiors. Featuring a behind-the-scenes look at Williams’ hilarious radio monologues, Good Morning, Vietnam remains the quintessential Robin Williams comedy.

Robin Williams absolutely shines in this war comedy loosely based on the life of military DJ Adrian Cronauer.

Adrian Cronauer, a Vietnam War vet and former AFRS DJ was trying to pitch a sitcom based on his experience but as the TV networks were not interested, he revamped his script which caught the attention of actor/comedian Robin Williams.

While Cronauer’s script was redone by screenwriter Mitch Markowitz (“M*A*S*H”, “Crazy People”) and the film was directed by Barry Levinson (“Toys”, “Wag the Dog”, “Sleepers”), the film would establish Robin Williams as a serious film actor (playing a different character from his previous character roles in “Popeye”, “The World According to Garp”, “Moscow on the Hudson”) yet maintaining that comedic side that many fans love.  His role on “Good Morning Vietnam” would earn the actor a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for “Best Actor”.

The film which was budgeted at $13 million would go on to make over $125 million in the box office and would be recognized by the American Film Institute in their 2000 “AFI’s 100 Years…10 Laughs”.

“Good Morning Vietnam” is a film that is set in Saigon, Vietnam in 1965.  Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer (played by Robin Williams, “Dead Poets Society”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Good Will Hunting”) of the United States Air Force was recently transfered from Crete to work as a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service.

As many of the radio service have heard about Cronauer’s comedy, no one quite knows what to expect from him.

Cronauer is greeted by Private First Class Edward Montesquieu Garlick (played by Forest Whitaker, “Platoon”, “The Last King of Scotland”, “The Crying Game”) and fellow DJ Marty Lee Dreiwitz (played by Robert Wuhl, “Bull Durham”, “Batman”) and they watch Cronauer take the mic with great enthusiasm and begins his show on the air with a “Good Morning Vietnam!” and is able to entertain everyone with his comedy and also playing the latest music hits to the armed forces.

But unfortunately, his two superiors are not so enthusiastic about his comedy and music selection.  Second Lt. Steven Hauk (played by Bruno Kirby) believes in his own style of outdated comedy and rather hear polka and jazz, while Sgt. Major Dickerson (played by J.T. Walsh) does not care about Cronauer and his style of comedy.    But despite his superiors not liking him, Brigadier General Taylor (played by Noble Willingham) and those working at the Armed Forces Radio Services do and they support him.

Meanwhile, Cronauer who has been wanting to see a beautiful woman (since he could not find any in Crete) is excited to see many women in Saigon and eventually falls for a Vietnamese young woman named Trinh (played by Chintara Sukapatana) and follows her to English class.  As Cronauer pays off the instructor to become an English instructor for the class in order to get close to Trinh, he is confronted by a young man in class who doesn’t like him.  The young man, Tuan (played by Tung Thanh Tran), happens to be Trinh’s sister and immediately, Cronauer feels that in order to get close to her, he must be cool with the brother.

And eventually, Cronauer befriends Tuan and even allows him to enter a G.I. bar (which is illegal) to join him and his fellow friends from the Radio Service for a few drinks.  But when a few soldiers are upset with Cronauer for bringing the Vietnamese women inside the bar towards his table, the soldiers confront Cronauer and see he has brought a Vietnamese into their bar.  Immediately, they start pushing Tuan around and Cronauer begins to defend him.  And not long after, a major brawl takes place.

Cronauer is reprimanded for the incident and because he helped Tuan out, Tuan establishes a date between Cronauer and his sister.   When Tuan goes to tell Cronauer about the date, he tells him to leave the bar area and when both walk out, a huge explosion blows up inside the bar and people are killed and injured.

For the first time, Cronauer sees that things are not as safe as they appear in Vietnam and when he goes to report on the radio of what he has seen, he finds out that the military has censored the story and Sgt. Major Dickerson tells Cronauer to keep his mouth shut.  But Cronauer is upset that the military is trying to prevent him from reporting the news of what he has seen, so he locks the doors and goes live on the radio station to report what he had seen and upset, Dickerson orders the radio engineers to shut down the station.

Because Cronauer has disobeyed orders, he is suspended and as a replacement, Second Lt. Steven Hauk takes his place.  But unfortunately, the response to Hauk is negative and many serviceman want Cronauer back on the air.

But Cronauer who is now actively pursuing a date with Trinh hears news that Brigadier General Taylor wants him back at his DJ position.  So, as Garlick rushes to give Cronauer the great news,  fearing Sgt. Major Dickerson may send him to the front lines, Cronauer  refuses to go back to work.  But when Garlick and Cronauer are stuck in a traffic jam, they are stopped by a convoy of soldiers and the GI’s try to persuade Cronauer to come back at the job because his comedy gives them a good laugh before they go back into combat.

Seeing how important his voice on the air is to the soldiers, Cronauer realizes his importance of being a DJ during the war.  But hearing that Cronauer is coming back is not good news for Sgt. Major Dickerson, so Dickerson devises a plot to get rid of Cronauer by sending him and Garlick to interview soldiers in the field of combat.  Will either men survive the ordeal?

VIDEO:

“Good Morning Vietnam” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1). Typically, when it comes to films created in the late ’80s to very early ’90s and they receive the Blu-ray treatment, I tend to notice that the films are not as detailed and often look aged at times. A friend and a fellow reviewer for a major Blu-ray review site had told me that during those times, due to costs, many films utilized cheaper film stock. With “Good Morning Vietnam”, the film does exhibit its age at times.  In fact, there are certain moments where the there is quite a bit of noise that comes out and definitely shows the film’s age.

But comparing this to the original 2006 special edition DVD, the colors are much more vibrant.  There is actually more detail during the closeup scenes of the various faces of characters and although shot in Thailand and not in Vietnam, this film still looks much sharper and colorful on Blu-ray.

For those who owned the 2006 DVD, if you love this film, the upgrade to Blu-ray for the better picture quality is worth it.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film is pretty much center and front channel driven, but there are moments where you hear the typewriters clicking and a moment of an explosion and pandemonium breaking out.  But possibly the most distinct feature of this film is its music soundtrack which comes out quite crisp and clear via lossless.

Subtitles are in English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Production Diary – (34:30) Featuring the following mini-feauturettes: How the Movie Came to Be (6:21), Actor Improv (9:49), Music of the Movie (6:00), Origin of the “Good Morning Vietnam” Sign-On (3:03), Shooting in Thailand (7:39), Overview of the Film a Year Later (1:37).
  • Raw Monologues – (13:07) Director Barry Levinson talks about taking advantage of Robin Williams for the improv DJ segments and this footage features those improv segments.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:31) The original theatrical trailer.
  • Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer – (1:31) A teaser trailer featuring Robin Williams improving as a DJ on the mic.

I remember this film quite well as a teenager.  I remember my family driving to the city and my father making an unusual request which was for us to have fun shopping, while he went to catch the new Robin Williams film “Good Morning Vietnam”.  My father was a Vietnam War veteran and while he didn’t fight in combat, he always had this loyalty towards watching these war-related films but at the same time, he would rather watch it away from the family.

But I can remember us rejoining him, waiting for the film to be done and he came out of the theater and was quite pleased with the film.

And when this movie made it to cable, a few years later, I found it to be enjoyable, but most of all, found Robin Williams to be tolerable and not so over-the-top.  At the time, I was a Robin Williams fan, mainly for being an actor that entertained me and my younger brother with his series “Mork & Mindy”.

But like many other kids who grew up around that time, watching him on “Happy Days”, the film “Popeye” and “The World According to Garp”, there was a comfort of watching a Robin Williams film because you knew that you were going to be entertained.  But when I watched “Good Morning Vietnam”, the first thing that came to my head was how much comedy can their be in a film that takes place during the Vietnam War?

Fortunately, Williams playing the role of Adrian Cronauer made sense.  He can be a DJ, be as bombastic, comedic or outrageous…whatever he wanted to be, and in this case, it was a role that perfectly suited him.  It was a role in which Williams can definitely show his comedic side, his improvisational skills but also to show the viewer that he can also take on a serious role.

Director Barry Levinson also did a great job in capturing reactions by the GI’s, from many various clips, may they be short, but still very important in capturing the look and feel of Vietnam War.  From soldiers patrolling the rivers, soldiers lounging or on drills and Cronauer’s voice or the music he plays, entertaining the crowd.  Levinson also succeeds in the fact that he gives Williams that space needed for him to wing it on the mic, and by watching the people around him…they are just entertained by it.  Whether or not it’s part of the acting, or they were just as entertained as the audience when Robin Williams was close to that mic.

But of course, this is a war film that must have its moments of tension.  From blown up restaurants, bodies on the floor, there is enough war elements to make the viewer wonder if Adrian Cronauer is going to survive because of his interest in a young Vietnam women and despite his fellow soldiers telling him not to get involved, he remains persistent of going alone inside Vietnam villages.

And of course, while there is tension due to the war, you have tension inside the radio office as Cronauer must deal with two individuals who would love to see him gone.  And with Cronauer’s anti-establishment tone, especially mocking Nixon, you knew that Cronauer would meet major difficulty.  But through this process of getting in trouble, discovering the dangers around him, we eventually see this character change….how his character grows.

There is also one element that also was important in the film and it’s the music soundtrack.   This film showcased a lot of hit music from the ’60s from the Beach Boys, the Castaways, the Searchers, the Vogues, The Riveira’s, Martha & the Vandellas, James Brown and also the use of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” was pretty entertaining and effective.

As for the Blu-ray release of “Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition”, the special features on this Blu-ray release are the same that were on the 2006 DVD special edition.  There is nothing new included but if you are a big fan of this film, the upgrade to better video and lossless audio is the major reason for previous owners to upgrade.

Overall, “Good Morning Vietnam” is a film that was easily the perfect vehicle for Robin Williams to showcase his acting skills.  You get to see Williams improv but also see the more serious side of his acting, but also to give credit to both director Barry Levinson for capturing the mood of the Vietnam War and Mitch Markowitz reworking the screenplay to compliment Robin Williams on camera and literally make this more of a comedy, than an actual war film.

Good Morning Vietnam” is set during the Vietnam War, but the film focuses on one DJ’s job to make the soldiers laugh and at ease before they go out to combat.  Robin Williams is absolutely excellent in this film and there is not many people I can think of who can play this role with absolute efficacy.  “Good Morning Vietnam: 25th Anniversary Edition” is recommended!

 

Dead Poets Society (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Sentimental, tragic and yet inspiring… “Dead Poets Society” is recommended.

Images courtesy of ©2011 Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dead Poets Society

FILM RELEASE: 1989

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH and French

COMPANY: Touchstone Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children)

Release Date: January 17, 2012

Directed by Peter Weir

Written by Tom Schulman

Produced by Steven Haft, Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas

Associate Producer: Duncan Henderson

Music by Maurice Jarre

Cinematography by John Seale

Edited by William M. Anderson

Casting by Howard Feuer

Production Design by Wendy Stites

Art Direction by Sandy Veneziano

Set Decoration by John H. Anderson

Starring:

Robin Williams as John Keating

Robert Sean Leonard as Neil Perry

Ethan Hawke as Todd Anderson

Josh Charles as Knox Overstreet

Gale Hansen as Charlie Dalton

Dylan Kussman as Richard Cameron

Allelon Ruggerio as Steven Meeks

James Waterston as Gerard Pitts

Normany Lloyd as Mr. Nolan

Kurtwood Smith as Mr. Perry

Carla Belver as Mrs. Perry

Leon Pownall as McAllister

George Martin as Dr. Hager

Kevin Cooney as Joe Danburry

For generations, Welton Academy students have been groomed to live lives of conformity and tradition – until new professor John Keating inspires them to think for themselves, live life to the fullest and “Carpe Diem.” This unconventional approach awakens the spirits of the students, but draws the wrath of a disapproving faculty when an unexpected tragedy strikes the school. With unforgettable characters and beautiful cinematography, Dead Poets Society will captivate and inspire you time and time again.

In 1989, “Dead Poets Society” would receive rave reviews from film critics.

Directed by Peter Weir (“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, “The Truman Show”, “The Way Back”) and written by Tom Schulman (“Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “What About Bob?”, “Medicine Man”), “Dead Poets Society” was a a winner of an Academy Award for “Best Original Screenplay” and earned actor Robin Williams an Academy Award nomination for “Best Actor”.

The film is based on the life of writer Tom Schulman who attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.   In the case of “Dead Poets Society”, the film is set at the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in Vermont back in 1959.

“Dead Poets Society” revolves around a group of students who are seniors at the Welton Academy prep school and through the school, they follow the tradition espouted by the school’s headmaster Gale Nolan (played by Norman Lloyd) of “tradition, honor, discipline and excellence”.

For the group of friends, they discuss what activities they are going to participate for their senior year and for Neil Perry (played by Robert Sean Leonard), he is excited to get back to being an editor at the school newspaper.  But his hopes are quickly dashed by his father (played by Kurtwood Smith), a man who is very strict and reminds Neil that he did a lot for his son to attend Welton and he will do all it takes to prepare for becoming a pre-med student in college.

Meanwhile, Neil has a new roommate named Todd Anderson (played by Ethan Hawke) and remains good friends with the more rebellious Charlie Dalton (played by Gale Hansen), Knox Overstreet (played by Josh Charles), Richard Cameron (played by Dylan Kussman), Steven Meeks (played by Allelon Ruggiero) and Gerard Pitts (played by James Waterston).

The students have their fair share of strict teachers but when they attend their poetry class taught by their new English teacher John Keating (played by Robin Williams), he is unlike any teacher they have ever encountered at Welton.

Keating whistles the 1812 Overture, has them rip out the introduction of their books and has them focus on “carpe diem” (Sieze the day) and has them call him by the name of “O Captain! My Captain!” in reference to a Walt Whitman poem.  Keating also has the students stand on the desk in order to view the world a different way and also has them look at poetry in a different way, to be more passionate about it and eventually inspires several of them.

As the group looks into an old Welton Academy yearbook, they look up John Keating and learn that he was once a rebel and a member of the “Dead Poets Society”.

When Neil and friends approach Keating about the club, he explains to them about the things they once did in the club, further inspiring Neil and the others too take revive the secret literary club and meet in cave off school grounds.

But it takes a bit of cajoling as Todd, a student who wants to become a writer is being forced to be a lawyer; Knox is in love with a girl named Chris and is not sure how to approach her and the other guys are unsure how poetry will change their lives.  But once they have the first meeting of their own “Dead Poets Society”, they realize that not only is it a wonderful way to unleash their literary passion, it further inspires them to take on their fears.

As these students continue to take classes by John Keating, they are inspired and the secret club meetings continue to inspire them for other things.  Such as Neil wanting to try out for a play to become a lead actor, Knox learning poetry to woo Chris, Charlie using poetry to hook up with ladies and also inspiring others to have fun as well.  But Todd is still cautious because he knows that Neil’s father would be furious, but nevertheless, Neil tries to teach him to follow his passion.  And during a class, when Todd (who is unlikely to read poetry but yet heavily interested in it) is pressured one day in front of class by Keating to let out his literary passion, the class is shocked to find out that Todd is also passionate as he realizes his true potential and his love for writing.

But the unorthodox teachings of Keating starts to catch the eye of other teachers including headmaster Gale Nolan, and becomes further problematic when Charlie’s rebelliousness starts to become more evident when he brings two female students to their club meetings and also slips a story of how girls should be admitted to Welton.  And when Charlie admits to submitting the article, Headmaster Nolan feels that Keating’s unorthodox teaching methods may be to blame.

But as these students now pursue the passions that have liberated them, for Neil Perry, what happens when he gets the part of Puck in a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and realizes his passion for acting but knows it will go against his father’s wishes?

VIDEO:

“Dead Poets Society” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1).   Typically, when it comes to films created in the late ’80s to very early ’90s and they receive the Blu-ray treatment, I tend to notice that the films are not as detailed and often look aged at times.  A friend and a fellow reviewer for a major Blu-ray review site had told me that during those times, due to costs, many films utilized cheaper film stock.  With “Dead Poets Society”, when the introduction first came on, once again, I felt that this was another film where the introduction looked noisy and aged.

Fortunately, as the film progressed pass the introduction, things looked much better.  The film presents a lot of outdoor scenes and I can easily remember one scene that look absolutely wonderful was when Knox Overstreet rides his bike to tell Chris of how he feels about her.  The overall scene looked vibrant and absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray.

In fact, the film manages to capture the seasons quite well and there was no hint of DNR or this waxy look.  Black levels are nice and deep, skin tones looked natural and aside from the initial introduction which looked aged, the majority of the film didn’t.  Colors were vibrant and compared to the original DVD, the upgrade to Blu-ray looked very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dead Poets Society” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and while the film is primarily dialogue-driven, there are times where you can hear the surround channels at play.  From the students playing around with instruments inside the cave, the noises of people in the distant or in crowds, the kick of the soccer ball, hearing the birds in the background, the chants of the students when they are outdoors with Keating, weather-related sounds….if anything, the ambiance of the film can be heard through the surround channels, while dialogue is quite clear.

Subtitles are in English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Dead Poets Society” comes with the following special features:

  • Dead Poets Society: A Look Back – (28:58) A featurette from 2007 as the now grown-up cast reflects on working with director Peter Weir and how open he was to their suggestions.  But also the preparations needed to work on the film.
  • Raw Takes – (7:57) Featuring various footage from the film (deleted/extended scenes).
  • Master of Sound: Alan Splet – (10:58) Director Peter Weir and also filmmaker David Lynch talk about how special it was to work with Alan Splet.
  • Cinematography Master Class – (14:42) A workshop on lighting by cinematographer John Seale and capturing the lighting for “Dead Poets Society”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:48) The original theatrical trailer for “Dead Poets Society”.
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an insightful audio commentary by director Peter Weir, Cinematographer John Seale and writer Tom Schulman.

A compelling film about a young group of boys finding inspiration from an unlikely source.

“Dead Poets Society” was a film that was beloved for its tragic story but also its sentimental storyline.  Sure, during the ’80s and ’90s, there were a plethora of films that explored the troubled students who were inspired by their teachers, to change their life.  And while these films tend to verge on focusing on students who come from the poorest backgrounds, “Dead Poets Society” stands out, not because the students are from a W.A.S.P. background and are upper-middle class but their troubles are not by society and upbringing but their parents who decide their lives of what to become.

And these students are inspired by their teacher John Keating who tries to show them the beauty of poetry and literary works of Tennyson, Herrick Whitman, etc. but also emphasizes to their students ala “Carpe Diem”, to seize the day and take advantage of opportunities.  These students who fear their parents primarily the characters of Neil and Todd, evolve through their senior year unfortunately to the chagrin of their parents.  And of course, Keating’s style of teaching becomes a growing concern to Welton’s headmaster as he feels it is inspiring rebelliousness towards the students.

While Robin Williams does a very good job at playing the teacher John Keating (and yes, we do get to see a little of Robin William’s crazy side poke through during his imitations of Marlon Brando and John Wayne), interesting enough is that the teacher is a mere catalyst and the role is not the main character of the film (similar films tend to focus on the teacher changing the lives of students, for “Dead Poets Society”…its the teachings of Keating that inspire the students and thus we watch how it has inspired the students through their actions – good and bad).  But I feel that Williams was most tolerable in this role, not necessarily subdued but played the role effectively.

Is the film contrived, sure… but has my appreciation for the film waned since I was 17-years-old?  Definitely not.

In fact, watching it again in 2011 is quite positive because I am far removed from the banality of similar films that existed around that era.  Sure, those other films were deeper in the sense because they dealt with poor kids who faced violence and gang activity, but for me, and it was something that struck me early as young man at the time was how it used poetry as an angle.  Way before the tie I began watching films by Eric Rohmer, Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni and other visually creative directors who used film as an artform and others who used their films to showcase literary angles, “Dead Poets Society” was inspiring to me because I was interested in the poetry angle, the passion one can feel for the words at the time.  For me, as a high school student, I played the role of Hamlet for Shakespearean event in high school and was so touched deeply by the words written.

Having had to memorize so many literary works and also growing up in a strict family similar to the character of Neil and having to go up on stage in front of my class, terrified of what was to become… I was transformed by the literary work, I was inspired by it and “Dead Poets Society”, it resonated deeply within me as a teenager and still enjoyed it as an adult.

As for the Blu-ray release of “Dead Poets Society”, having owned this film on DVD, I can tell you that the film looks much more vibrant, the lossless audio does sound much more clearer, especially the ambient noises which I recognized moreso now than before.  And you have the same special features from the original special edition DVD, including a pretty solid commentary and an interesting “look back” special feature. Granted, I wish there was something new added to this Blu-ray release but for the most part, those who owned the original special edition (and those who didn’t), can look at “Dead Poets Society” on Blu-ray as a worthy upgrade.

Overall, “Dead Poets Society” is a wonderful film about students being inspired by their teacher.  Granted, the film has been deconstructed and reinterpreted by some over the years but for me, I have always looked at this film of how one’s literary work can change and inspire an individual.  Sentimental, tragic and yet inspiring… “Dead Poets Society” is recommended.

 

EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION – VETERANS DAY SPECIAL (NOV. 11, 2011)

November 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

TY PENNINGTON AND JEWEL HOST
“EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION VETERANS DAY SPECIAL”
BENEFITING VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES FRIDAY NOVEMBER 11

The Entertainment Industry Foundation Enlists Whoopi Goldberg, George Lopez, J.R. Martinez,
Rachael Ray, Sherri Shepherd, Robin Williams and Major League Baseball players Clay Buchholz, Daniel Murphy and Shane Victorino to Participate in the Broadcast
And Encourage Donations Benefiting Veterans Groups

ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is teaming up with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) to present a one-hour special, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition A Veterans Day Special,” airing on Veterans Day, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. Hosts Ty Pennington and singer/songwriter Jewel, will take us back to some of the most heartwarming military stories featured over the years. The “EMHE” crew will also pay a visit to select heroic families to find out what they’ve been up to since the makeover and how they are paying it forward by helping their fellow veterans. The special will culminate in a celebratory event that will feature an audience of active-duty service members and veterans, in addition to a live musical performance by Jewel.

Throughout the episode, celebrities will shine a light on issues veterans face after serving in the military, as well as the strengths and skills returning veterans bring to the work force and their communities. The Veterans Day program will include appearances by Whoopi Goldberg, George Lopez, J.R. Martinez, Rachael Ray, Sherri Shepherd, Robin Williams and Major League Baseball (MLB) players Daniel Murphy of the Mets, Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox. The celebrities will encourage the public to donate via phone and web at www.riseandhonor.org.

Net proceeds raised during this one-hour special will benefit the following veteran-serving organizations: Fisher House Foundation, Hire Heroes USA, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, USO (United Service Organizations), Volunteers of America, and Welcome Back Veterans. These organizations provide vital services and support to our nation’s veterans and their families, including housing, job placement, career readiness, health care, rehabilitation and mental health treatment. This television event is made possible due to the generous support of ABC, The Clorox Company and MLB.

“We are thrilled to partner with ABC and the ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ team to honor the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country,” said Entertainment Industry Foundation President and CEO Lisa Paulsen. “We hope this inspiring program will rally Americans to give back to our military families and support organizations that provide vital services to our veterans and their families.”

“We’ve highlighted the difficult struggles our veterans often face when returning home. We are so proud to take this a step further with a moving tribute to our nation’s heroes, while inspiring Americans to give back to those who’ve given our country so much,” said George Verschoor, executive producer of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

“In 200 episodes, we’ve seen thousands of armed forces volunteer to help us rebuild homes and lives. Now we’re thrilled to be able to honor all veterans with this television special,” said Brady Connell, also executive producer of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Less than one percent of America’s men and women currently serve in our military. For many, the return to civilian life is marked with physical and emotional wounds. As of June 30, 2010, Veterans Affairs treated 594,000 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran patients. Of those, 295,000 were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, some face a grim economic reality. As recently as January 2011, the unemployment rate among veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was 15 percent; that’s nearly double the national average. Furthermore, their sacrifice extends beyond themselves to their families, as more than 700,000 children have experienced one or more parental deployments.

“All across the country, we have talented and dedicated veterans who have been unemployed for far too long,” said Hilda Solis, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. “These service men and women are right here and ready to get back to work. They just need a little help from all of us to find a good job at a fair wage and successfully transition from military to civilian life. We applaud ABC and the Entertainment Industry Foundation for broadcasting this special show to raise awareness of the needs of our returning veterans and their families.”

EIF, in collaboration with ABC, hopes to raise funds to combat challenges facing our veterans as well as educate Americans on how they can support our heroes through “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – A Veterans Day Special.” For more information and to make a donation to support veterans and military families, please visit www.riseandhonor.org.

ABOUT THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY FOUNDATION
The Entertainment Industry Foundation, as a leading charitable organization of the entertainment industry, has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support charitable initiatives addressing critical health, education and social issues. For more information, visit www.eifoundation.org.

ABOUT “EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION”
The Emmy Award-winning reality program “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” now in its 9th season, is produced by Endemol USA, a division of Endemol Holding. It is executive-produced by Brady Connell and George Verschoor. David Goldberg is Chairman, Endemol North America. The show airs Fridays from 8:00-10:00 p.m., ET on ABC.

ABOUT FISHER HOUSE FOUNDATION
The foundation builds “comfort homes” on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times – during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness and disease, or injury. Annually, the Fisher House program serves more than 12,000 families and has provided more than 3 million days of lodging to family members since 1990.

ABOUT HIRE HEROES USA (HHUSA)
HHUSA offers transition assistance, job search assistance and job placement services to those who have honorably served in the U.S. military and their spouses.

ABOUT INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND (IFHF)
The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is a leader in supporting the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families. Begun in 2000 under the auspices of the Intrepid Museum Foundation and established as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2003, the Fund has provided close to $120 million in support for the families of military personnel lost in service to our nation, and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans.

ABOUT USO
The USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families millions of times a year at hundreds of places worldwide. A private, nonprofit organization, the USO provides a touch of home through centers at airports and military bases, top quality entertainment and innovative programs and services. It also provides critical support to forward-deployed troops and their families, wounded warriors and their families and the families of the fallen.

ABOUT VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA (VOA)
Volunteers of America is a national, faith-based organization dedicated to helping America’s most vulnerable groups — including seniors, at-risk youth, the homeless and disabled — to rebuild their lives. Responding in particular to the challenges facing female veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, many of whom suffer Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Volunteers of America is building housing villages for female veterans whose families are at risk of disruption. Single mothers and other female veterans who are finding it difficult to transition back in to civilian life are targeted and provided support services on site.

ABOUT WELCOME BACK VETERANS (WBV)
Welcome Back Veterans is a MLB Charities initiative, in partnership with the Robert R.McCormick Foundation, designed to support returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families in helping them make a successful transition to civilian life. The program is supported by MLB Advanced Media and MLB Network. Welcome Back Veterans has granted $12 million in grants to non-profit agencies targeting veterans’ and their families’ greatest needs, focusing on treatment and research of PTSD and TBI. Beneficiaries include the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, which is dedicated to providing free and confidential clinical care and support services to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Funds have been contributed by MLB and McCormick Foundation, including funds raised through auctions of game-used products and a donation of sales from Stars & Stripes caps.

NEXT WEEK ON THE VIEW (4/18-22, 2011)

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA AND DR. JILL BIDEN TO MAKE
THEIR FIRST JOINT APPEARANCE ON “THE VIEW,” LIVE, APRIL 18

Robin Williams, Diane Lane and Melissa Leo Are Among the Featured Guests, April 18-22

Co-Host Sherri Shepherd’s Birthday, April 22, with Musical Guest Charlie Wilson

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, are confirmed to make their first joint appearance on “The View,” live, Monday, April 18 (11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, ET) on the ABC Television Network. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden will discuss their national campaign to recognize and honor military families and provide ways for everyone to step up and answer the call to support them. This marks Dr. Biden’s first appearance on the show. Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden’s appearances are part of the show’s continuing “Red, White & View” campaign highlighting interviews and informational segments that promote civic responsibility.

Robin Williams (Broadway’s “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”); Academy Award ™ winner Melissa Leo (“Treme”), Diane Lane (“Cinema Verite”) and musical guest Charlie Wilson are among the featured guests APRIL 18-22 (11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, ET) on the ABC Television Network.

ROYAL NEWS: Understanding the four-phase / high protein Dukan Diet, the No. 1 Diet in France, that princess-to-be Kate Middleton and her mother are rumored to be following in an effort to lose weight for the royal wedding, live, Wednesday, April 20.

Scheduled guests the week of APRIL 18-22 are as follows (subject to change):

MONDAY, APRIL 18 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden make their first joint appearance on “The View.”

TUESDAY, APRIL 19 – Robin Williams (Broadway’s “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”); the worst foods for your stomach.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20 – Academy Award(tm) winner Melissa Leo (“Treme”); the four-phase / high protein Dukan Diet, the No. 1 Diet in France, that princess-to-be Kate Middleton and her mother are rumored to be following in an effort to lose weight for the royal wedding.

THURSDAY, APRIL 21 – Diane Lane (“Cinema Verite”); fitness guru Billy Blanks.

FRIDAY, APRIL 22 – Co-host Sherri Shepherd’s birthday; musical guest Charlie Wilson, a breakout member of the Gap Band (“You Dropped a Bomb on Me”); Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief of Self, on the magazine’s Self Beauty Awards.

“The View” features Daytime Emmy Award-winning hosts Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd. It’s the original forum in which real women discuss everyday issues, share their opinions and engage in colorful conversations. “The View,” broadcast in HDTV and produced in 2-channel stereo sound, is now available to watch online daily at 4:00 p.m., ET/1:00 p.m., PT on the ABC Digital Full Episode Player at ABC.com. “The View” is produced by ABC Daytime and Ms. Walters’ Barwall Productions, with Ms. Walters serving as executive producer along with Bill Geddie, who also serves as executive producer for “The Barbara Walters Specials.” “The View” is directed by Mark Gentile.

For breaking news and updated videos follow “The View” (@theviewtv) and hosts Barbara Walters (@BarbaraJWalters), Joy Behar (@JoyVBehar), Elisabeth Hasselbeck (@ehasselbeck) and Sherri Shepherd (@SherriEShepherd) on Twitter.(tm)

A BARBARA WALTERS SPECIAL: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (2/4)

January 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“A BARBARA WALTERS SPECIAL: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH,” FEATURING
THE PERSONAL AND EMOTIONAL STORIES FROM THE MOST WELL-KNOWN
HEART PATIENTS, AIRS FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4 ON ABC

Barbara Walters, President Bill Clinton, David Letterman, Robin Williams, Regis Philbin and
Charlie Rose… Life Can Change in a Heartbeat, No Matter How Famous You Are

“I realized there was really no alternative, if I wanted to live, I had to do this,” President Bill Clinton

“I would find myself busting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably,” David Letterman

“…Stop the heart, work on it, restart it… good luck,” Robin Williams

“They’re going to put him on a gurney, roll him into the OR room and bust him open like a lobster!,” Regis Philbin

“It was hell,” Charlie Rose

“I probably would have had a heart attack and may very well have died,” Barbara Walters

What do Barbara Walters, President Bill Clinton, David Letterman, Regis Philbin, Robin Williams and Charlie Rose all have in common? They all went from being in the spotlight to being in the operating room for life-and-death open heart surgery. Now in a groundbreaking report, the “brotherhood of the cracked chest club” (as Robin Williams describes them) all open their hearts to Walters and reveal their emotional stories of how they triumphed over heart disease. Each account is an intimate portrait of these most public figures, infused with laughter and tears. Walters also takes viewers on an unprecedented behind-the-scenes journey of her own battle from discovery of a faulty heart valve to the operating table and recovery. In addition, she talks to doctors, including her own, about what viewers, especially women, need to know to save themselves and their loved ones. “A Barbara Walters Special: A Matter of Life and Death” airs FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 4 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on ABC.

Even though a half a million Americans annually will have their chests cracked open and their hearts literally stopped and repaired, open heart surgery remains shrouded in fear and mystery. As Walters says, “It’s no big deal… just a matter of life and death.”

Many Americans are ticking time bombs and they don’t even know it. Heart disease is America’s No. 1 killer – half of us will die from it, and it doesn’t discriminate. “It’s astounding that people think that heart disease is a disease of men, when in fact, it kills more women,” says Dr. Kathy Magliato, one of the few female heart surgeons in the world. But women do not have the same symptoms as men, and this report describes the difference.

“Take advantage of the technology and the care that’s available. There’s no reason why a man or woman in this day and age should unexpectedly drop dead of a heart attack,” says Letterman.

David Sloan is executive producer and Alan B. Goldberg is producer.

Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to documentaries that pay tribute to a rock star or musician, “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is possibly one of the best I have seen.  Featuring archived footage with Nilsson and the Beatles members, producers, songwriters, celebrities, family and friends.   A magnificent documentary!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Authorized Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2010

DURATION: 116 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color and B&W, 4:3

COMPANY: Lorber Films

RATED: N/A (Film contains language which may not be suitable for all audiences. Not rated)

RELEASE DATE: October 26, 2010

Written and Directed by John Scheinfeld

Executive Producer: Lee Blackman

Producer: David Leaf, John Schenfeld

Co-Producer: Peter S. Lynch II

Music by Harry Nilsson

Cinematography by James Mathers

Edited by Peter S. Lynch II

Starring (and featuring from archived footage):

Harry Nilsson

Gerry Beckley

Lee Blackman

Perry Botkin Jr.

Ray Cooper

Mickey Dolenz

Stanley Dorfman

Terry Gilliam

Bruce Grakal

Doug Hoefer

Dustin Hoffman

Mark Hudson

Danny Hutton

Eric Idle

Rick Jarrard

Al Looper

Trevor Lawrence

John Lennon

Randy Newman

Annie Nilsson

Beau Nilsson

Diane Nilsson

Harry Nilsson

Olivia Nilsson

Una Nilsson

Zach Nilsson

Zak Nilsson

Yoko Ono

May Pang

Van Dyke Parks

Richard Perry

Dick Smothers

Tom Smothers

Ringo Starr

Joan Taylor

John Taylor

Jon Voight

Jimmy Webb

Paul Williams

Robin Wiliams

Brian Wilson

Fred Wolf

Who Is Harry Nilsson…?, a wildly entertaining, star-studded documentary tells the story of one of the most talented and versatile singer-songwriters in pop music history and the man The Beatles dubbed their favorite American musician. The Grammy® Award-winners “Everybody’s Talkin” and “Without You”…the quirky “Coconut” (“Put de lime in de coconut…”)…the whimsical “Me And My Arrow,” and the poignant “One” (“…is the loneliest number”)…these recordings are all the work of Harry Nilsson. The documentary, which Ain’t It Cool News said, is “everything a great documentary needs to be,” reveals his spirited relationship with John Lennon and close bond with Ringo Starr, as well as Harry the legendary “bad boy” party animal who was at the same time a devoted husband and father. Director John Scheinfeld brings added emotion and intimacy to the story with over 50 Nilsson recordings, rare or never-before-seen film clips, home movies and personal photos. To this are added compelling interviews with top music and movie personalities who knew Harry well. They include Micky Dolenz, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Al Kooper, Randy Newman, Yoko Ono, Van Dyke Parks, The Smothers Brothers, Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams, Robin Williams, Brian Wilson and many others. As film critic Leonard Maltin noted, “Who Is Harry Nilsson? is a vivid portrait of a gifted man…what a great reminder of his talent.” The DVD also contains 93 minutes of Bonus Material – Deleted Scenes, Extended Sequences, an Alternate Ending and more.

For many people who grew up in the late ’60s and ’70s, Nilsson is a name recognized by many as it was the single name that the Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney  talked about when asked what American artists or bands they listened to.

From hit songs such as “Without You” (which was covered by Mariah Carey), “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City”, “Everybody’s Talkin'” (from the movie “Midnight Cowboy”), “Coconut” and “Jump into the Fire”, he was also a well-known songwriter who wrote tracks for The Monkees, Three Dog Night and Aimee Mann.

The man behind these songs was Harry Nilsson, a Grammy Award winner, an artist who has had tremendous success and was regarded as one of the most incredible singer/songwriters of his time.  But for those who really knew him, they also saw a man of extremes.  A man who was focused on music but also had his own personal demons which never got better as he was hooked on drugs and alcohol.  A man who had it all and then nearly lost it all.

“Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is a documentary written and directed by John Scheinfeld.  A documentary that explores Nilsson’s youth, to his early songwriting and music years to the height of his career and his multiple musical collaborations up to his death.

Scheinfeld interviews nearly everyone who worked with Harry Nilsson, who hung out and partied with Harry as well as interviewing his family members and more.

The documentary also shows us every facet of Harry Nilsson.  From growing up in Brooklyn and he and his mother being abandoned by his father and inspired the song “1941”.   This left him and his mother in extreme poverty which led him to leave home at the age of 15 and head to California where he worked at the Paramount Theater and also worked at a bank (he lied about graduating high school to get the job).  Despite dropping out of high school at ninth grade in order to make a living, he was an intellect and literally soaked everything up he had learned.  So, while living in Los Angeles, working on the bank’s computer at nights, he was able to focus on singing and songwriting and even becoming part of an Everly Brothers type of act.

While receiving singing lessons from his uncle, by chance, Harry met with songwriter Scott Turner and immediately Turner saw talent in Nilsson and gave him a job to sing demos and also write songs for $5 a track.  Nilsson eventually became popular as a songwriter and writing for many producers.

But it was not until 1966 when RCA Victor signed Harry Nilsson and literally impressed people not just by his songwriting skills but also his vocals.  One of those people was Derek Taylor, the press officer for the Beatles who bought a box of his album and started sharing it with the members of the Beatles and others.  And sure enough, Nilsson impressed the members of the Beatles who would say in their 1968 press conference for Apple Corps of who their favorite American artist or or group were and both John Lennon and Paul McCartney said “Nilsson” and from that moment, Nilsson’s popularity had surged with the release of his song “You Can’t Do That”.

Nilsson was a big fan of the Beatles and in many ways, he dreamed of being the fifth Beatle.  So, the fact that the Beatles mentioned his name and eventually Nilsson ended up hanging out with members of the Beatles put him in cloud nine.

But as quickly Harry Nilsson became a superstar and started to get involved in hard partying, he also became addicted to alcohol and drugs.  To the point where even recording music, he would get the musicians all high on drugs and needless to say, the documentary interviews the musicians and all the people who did hang out with Harry Nilsson, as he was known for his hard partying and people who accompanied him knew that when Harry called and asked them to come out, they would never know when they would be back.

The documentary also explores the family of Harry and his three marriages, especially his relationships with his children and possibly the part that people want to know about, Harry’s friendship and collaborations with John Lennon, Ringo Starr and others.  But also the changes Nilsson had went through after his friendship with John Lennon and what happened to him after Lennon was murdered.

“Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is an in-depth documentary which includes archived footage, home videos plus interviews with people who knew him well such as Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Micky Dolenz, Randy Newman, Yoko Ono, The Smothers Brothers, Three Dog Night, Robin Williams, Brian Wilson, his family and many, many more.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is presented in full screen (4:3) and is presented in Stereo.  It’s important to note that this documentary incorporates classic to modern footage and so picture quality and audio quality differ depending on what is featured on screen.  But for the most part, the overall quality of the film looks and sounds very good on DVD.  Footage is in color and black and white.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”comes with the following special features:

  • Trailer - (1:57) The theatrical trailer for “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”.
  • Additional Interviews & Deleted Scenes – There was a plenty of footage that was cut from the documentary to keep it under two hours and so many fans of this documentary who wished there was more, well there is more!

- Loneliness – (7:01) Yoko Ono talks about working with Harry and singing her song “Loneliness”.  Featuring the music video for Harry Nilsson’s “Loneliness”.

- Washington Hotel - (1:12) Harry Nilsson’s ex-wife Diane talks about Harry performing in London at the Washington Hotel.

- Singer – (5:50) Friends who worked with Harry talk about Harry Nilsson, the vocalist.

- Songwriter – (6:44) Friends who worked with Harry talk about Harry Nilsson, the songwriter.

- Nilsson Schmilsson – (7:38) How Nilsson’s popular album came about. Richard Perry talks about the creation of the album.

- Without You – (6:14) How “Without You” came to be and how Nilsson thought about the song.

- A Little Touch – (12:25) What happened when Nilsson called Derek Taylor, Gordon Jenkins and friends to work on a “standards” album.

- Promo – (2:50) Nilsson and friends talked about creating a promo.  A bet he did with RCA that he can produced the cheapest commercial for $5,000 budget for his single.

- Try – (1:56) Friends talk about how Harry Nilsson wanted to do one last album before he died.

- Adventures – (10:28) Harry’s friends talk about their adventures with Harry.

- Human Fly – (1:57)  Harry talks about he and Jimmy spending time in London and how they were on the 9th floor and the sliding door on the balcony had locked and they were stuck.  And what ensued next was Harry doing something incredibly crazy.

- Monty Python – (7:13) Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam talk about how they met Harry Nilsson during a “Monty Python” stage show.  Eric Idle sings the song he made for Harry.

- Fools – (1:55) Harry Nilsson did not suffer fools.  Despite dropping out of high school, Nilsson was an intellectual.

- Generosity – (4:18) Musicians talk about how Harry didn’t have an ego and welcomed people.  And also friends saying that he helped many people including talent by giving them large amounts of money when they were in need.

- Family – (6:01) Una Nilsson talks about her life with her husband Harry, how they named their children and also his children talk about their father and what he taught them.

- Annie – (1:20) Annie Nilsson talks about her memories of her father and how he saved her life when she was three.

- Harry – (5:40) Friends talks about their memories of Harry and give us the positives and negatives of his personality.

- Remember – (3:36)  Family and friends reflect on how Harry should be remembered.  Featuring a montage of home videos.

I have to admit that I only knew of Nilsson’s music growing up.  I was only a young boy when I started hearing his music on the radio or family members playing it and I never knew anything about the man behind the music.  So, when I first saw the trailer, the first thing that came to my mind is, “why is there a documentary on the guy who sung the ‘coconut’ song?”

Needless to say, after watching “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”, I was blown away and pretty much feeling that I have watched one of the best music documentaries paying tribute to a music artist.

It’s one thing to focus on the music and it’s another thing to find archived footage, but what I found remarkable about this documentary is the fact that John Scheinfeld was able to get the participation of those who worked with Harry, family and friends and rarely do you see all these talents coming together for one man.  So, that goes to show you how much Nilsson’s music and most of all, Harry Nilsson himself, had touched the lives of many people he encountered.

Everything you want in a documentary, from archived video footage, interviews, home video, photography, I was just amazed that so much of this was found.  Also, its important to mention that Harry Nilsson, as much as he was respected, he was also a man with his own personal demons and there are people he did hurt along the way.  You just don’t get these people participating in a documentary but they did.  In this case, former producers who produced hits for Harry were just dropped and would never see Harry again.  You can tell by the look in their face and their eyes, it was a hard thing for them to discuss.  You want natural emotions and you see it in their eyes and face, there is no BS.

When Micky Dolenz talked about receiving a Harry call or talking about how Harry disliked the song “Without You” because he didn’t write it and then you Richard Perry backing Dolenz comments up.  That was very sharp pacing and editing and making sure things were substantiated in the documentary.  And of course, the friendship between Nilsson and members of the Beatles.  This had a major impact on Nilsson’s life, especially his friendship with John Lennon.  And of course, we have archived video and footage of him and Lennon together, but it’s great to have Yoko Ono backing things up about their friendship but then on the opposite end, friends of Nilsson talking about how Nilsson’s friendship of Lennon changed him for the worst.

In fact, one of those moments was when Nilsson and John Lennon interrupted The Smothers Brothers comedy performance and resulted in a major brawl.  Can anyone substantiate what took place?  Scheinfeld not only got the Smothers Brothers to confirm the story and talk about it, we also get  John Lennon’s ex-girlfriend May Pang also corroborating the story and going into further detail of what took place on Nilsson and Lennon’s end.

This was smart documentary making and everything you can think of was covered in “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?”.

I have read various reviews for those who have watched the documentary in a screening and some have had criticized the nearly 2-hour documentary of not focusing too much on the music and the hits during the “Nilsson Schmilsson”era.  Well, this is what I love about this documentary on DVD because there is a lot more footage, especially on the music that is included in the special features.  There was just no way this documentary was going to be 3 hours long, so it’s good to know that the musical portions, deleted and extended material are included in this DVD.

Overall, “Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” is a fantastic music documentary!  A magnificent tribute to Harry Nilsson and even for those, like myself, who were familiar with the music but not the man behind the music, you’ll love this documentary.

Easily deserving of five stars!  Highly recommended!


Old Dogs – 3-Disc Combo Pack (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

If you enjoyed films like “Three Men and a Baby”, leave it to John Travolta and Robin Williams to take care of 7-year-old kids and provide laughs for the entire family.  If you enjoyed Walt Becker’s “Wild Hogs”, you’ll more than likely enjoy his latest film “Old Dogs”.

© Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Old Dogs – 3-Disc Combo Pack

DURATION: 88 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), AVC@33MBPS, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit), French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Tapestry Films/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Some Mild Rude Humor)

RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2010

Directed by Walt Becker

Written by David Diamond, David Weissman

Executive Producer: Garrett Grant

Producer: Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy, Andrew Panay

Cinematography by Jeffrey L. Kimball

Music by John Debney

Edited by Ryan Folsey, Tom Lewis

Casting by Kathleen Chopin, Anne McCarthy, Jay Scully

Production Design by David Gropman

Art Direction by Peter Rogness

Set Decoration by Ellen Christiansen

Costume Design by Joseph G. Aulisi

Starring:

John Travolta as Charlie

Robin Williams as Dan

Kelly Preston as Vicki

Conner Rayburn as Zach

Ella Bleu Travolta as Emily

Lori Loughlin as Amanda

Seth Green as Ralph White

Bernie Mac as Jimmy Lunchbox

Matt Dillon as Barry

Ann-Margret as Martha

Rita Wilson as Jenna

Amy Sedaris as Jenna

Dan (Robin Williams) and his best friend and business partner Charlie (John Travolta) are on the verge of the biggest deal in the history of their sports marketing firm when their lives are turned upside down by a surprise visit from Dan’s ex-wife Vicki (Kelly Preston). Vicki has big news for Dan—their ever-so-brief liaison produced twins Zach (Conner Rayburn) and Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta), now seven-years-old and in need of a dad to keep an eye on them for two weeks. With only high-living playboy Charlie for support, Dan’s bumbling attempts at “on the job training” in fatherhood result in a series of disastrously funny exploits that lead him to a new understanding of what really mattersin life. Featuring an extraordinary cast of comedy purebreds including Seth Green, Matt Dillon and Lori Loughlin, Old Dogs will have audiences rolling over and begging for more.

John Travolta and Robin Williams have been friends for decades but have never worked together on film.  That was until the release of the film “Old Dogs” directed by Walt Becker (“Wild Hogs”, “Van Wilder”) and features a screenplay by David Diamond (“Minutemen”, “The Family Man”) and David Weissman (“Minutemen”, “Evolution”, “Family Man”).  The film features cinematography from Jeffrey L. Kimball (“Mission: Impossible II”, “Star Trek: Nemesis”, “Hostage”) and music composed by John Debney (“Aliens in the Attic”, “Evan Almight”, “Iron Man 2″) and would feature many talent including Kelly Preston, Lori Loughlin, Bernie Mac, Seth Green, Matt Dillon, Ann-Margret, Rita Wilson, Amy Sedaris, Justin Long and many more.

The film would also be known as the last feature film for comedian/actor Bernie Mac who passed away several months after the film was completed and despite negative critic reviews, similar to Walt Becker’s previous film “Wild Hogs” (which garnered negative reviews but made an extreme amount of money), “Old Dogs” which cost $35 million to make, has made over $81 million worldwide in the box office guaranteeing another box office success for Becker and crew.

“Old Dogs” revolves around a two best friends since grade school.  Charlie Reed (played by John Travolta) and Dan Rayburn (Robin Williams) are successful partners of Rayburn+Reed, a successful sports marketing firm.

While Charlie is a flirt with the women and lives in a stylish apartment with his very old dog, Dan has had his share of personal problems after his first divorce seven years ago.  So, one day Charlie takes Dan to a vacation and hook up with Vicki (played by Travolta’s real life wife, Kelly Preston) and her weird friend/hand model Jenna (played by Rita Wilson). And somehow after many drinks, Dan who had tried to get a tattoo that says “Free Man” instead gets a tattoo that says “Fremont” across his chest and also manages to get married with Vicki.

The marriage is short lived and seven years later, while Charlie and Dan along with budding executive Ralph White (played by Seth Green) and translator Amanda (Lori Loughlin) are trying to land a very lucrative Japanese account, Dan receives a letter from Vicki.  Excited that Vicki wants to meet with him, Dan thinks that maybe Vicki wants to have a serious relationship but during the course of their meeting over dinner, finds out that Vicki is heading to jail for two weeks for an activist crime and felt it was time for Dan to know the truth.  That Dan is the father of two seven-year-old fraternal twins: Zach (played by Conner Rayburn) and Emily (played by Ella Bleu Travolta).

Before she goes to jail, she just wants Dan to know his children and shocked Dan is.  Charlie is not so thrilled because they have a major account to work on but nevertheless, gives his best friend support.

Dan goes with Vicki and the children to a few places and starts to become acquainted with them but its evident that he’s not used to being around children.  But as they bring the children to stay with Jenna for the two weeks that Vicki is in jail, Dan accidentally slams his car trunk on Jenna’s fingers and also has the trunk flip open and hit her on the face.

With Jenna now hospitalized and Vicki going to jail, Dan volunteers to take care of the kids for the next two weeks.  And because Dan’s apartment does not allow children, he and the kids must stay at Charlie’s place and now the two are forced to be like parents to both Zach and Emily while trying to gain this major Japanese account.

Can these two “old dogs” win the Japanese account and also raise two children in two weeks?

VIDEO:

“Old Dogs” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1).  Fortunately, “Old Dogs” is shot in daylight conditions.  So, there is a good amount of colors featured in the film and also the HD definitely brings out the skin pores and also the hairyness of Robin Williams as detail is quite evident.  But for the most part, the film is vibrant and follows the tradition of fantastic picture quality from Disney.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Old Digs” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit) and also French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  For the most part, the film is front and center channel driven as the film is primarily dialogue and music driven.  Dialogue and music are very clear with a few use of the surround channels when you hear the creaking of Charlie and Dan’s bones or when they participate in a frisbee game and get continuously tackled.  Overall, lossless audio is satisfactory for this type of film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Old Dogs” comes with a few special features presented in 1080p High Definition and 480 i with audio in English 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Digital with English SDH subtitles.  Included are:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Walt Becker, screenplay writers David Diamond and David Weissman and Producer Andrew Panay – A lively audio commentary by the four men discussing the film and working with the talent and seeing the film for the first time.
  • Bloopers – (2:26) Bloopers form “Old Dogs”.
  • Young Dogs Learn Old Tricks – (2:51) Conner Rayburn interviews Robin Williams and Ella Bleu Travolta interviews her father John Travolta.
  • Deleted Scenes – (3:30) Three deleted scenes: Body Check, Pate, Alternate Ending Tag: Tables Turned.
  • Music Videos – Two music videos featuring Bryan Adams singing “You’ve Been a Friend to Me” and John Travolta singing “Every Little Step” (a Bobby Brown cover) with his daughter Ella.

EXTRAS:

“Old Dogs” features a 3-Disc Combo Pack which includes the DVD version of the film and a digital copy.

If you enjoyed “Wild Hogs”, you’ll more than likely enjoy “Old Dogs”!

It’s kind of interesting because back in the ’60s we would get a good amount of films featuring older talent being friends, single and having fun.  May it be the Rat Pack or Lemmon and Matthau and really, there haven’t been any comedy films with older men who are living their lives ala youthful in their late 40’s or early 50’s.

I have to admit when the film started off with the photoshopped heads of Travolta and Williams  on other people’s bodies (which some looked unrealistic) trying to show that they have been friends since they were kids, right away I was thinking “this movie is going to suck!”.

But as the film went on, the film started to become entertaining.  Sure, it is a bit silly and contrived but it kind of reminded me of the “3 Men and a Baby” films.  Two bachelors who are trying to take care of two young children.  They don’t know how but they try to do their best.  Granted, “3 Men and a Baby” was much more entertaining film but despite the critics really despising Walt Becker’s films, somehow both “Wild Hogs” and “Old Dogs” have managed to make a lot of money!  The film does feature quite a bit of all-star talent but they are cameos at best but the most notable is Bernie Mac in his final character role in a film.

Is this film suitable for the children?  I watched this with my seven year old and there is no profanity and there is no adult situations but there is one scene where the guys get involved in a frisbee matchup and things get a bit out of hand (Justin Long starts bleeding from the mouth) but that is probably the extent the violence.  Everything else is appropriate for the children.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Old Dogs” comes with a DVD and digital copy.  The high definition features really good picture quality and lossless audio that is satisfactory for the film.  If anything, viewers get to see Robin Williams strip down (to get a tan) and the Blu-ray brings out the comedian’s hairy body which I’m sure that is not what one would want to see that close in high definition.

“Old Dogs” is not terrible and I know the concept of a film about bachelor older men has not been captured in a similar format as the women in a film such as “Sex and the City” but for the most part, “Wild Hogs” and “Old Dogs” are films that do well in the box office.  These films even since the ’80’s with comedies such as “Three Men and a Baby” and “The Three Amigos” featuring bachelor men have done well in the theater despite critical scrutiny.  People just want a popcorn flick and laugh, even if the jokes may be mediocre.

Overall, “Old Dogs” is far from being bad or terrible.  It’s a comedy that I was entertained and laughed, felt a little embarrassed of certain scenes and at the end, me and my younger son enjoyed parts of it and found certain scenes to be quite silly.  But we were entertained.  Although, the wife felt it was more of a film for the guys and was not amused by it.

“Old Dogs” 3-Disc Combo Pack on Blu-ray will be released on March 9th.

Patch Adams (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 1, 2002 by · Leave a Comment 

Netflix, Inc.

BUY THIS DVD

CAST: Robin Williams, Daniel London, Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman and more.
DIRECTED BY: Tom Shadyac
WRITTEN BY: Patch Adams, Maureen Mylander
INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE URL: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0129290
TYPE OF MOVIE: Comedy, Drama
DURATION: 115 minutes


In 1969, Hunter Adams was a troubled man who voluntarily committed himself into a mental institution. Once there, he finds that helping his fellow inmates there gives him a purpose in life. Thus inspired, he leaves the asylum and vows to become a doctor to help people professionally. However, what he finds at medical school is a sickeningly callous philosophy that advocates an arms-length attitude to the patients that does not address their emotional needs or the quality of their lives. “Patch” Adams is determined to find a better way to help them, although the consequences of his defiance of the rules and the authorities are severe.

DVD EXTRAS:

• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby, Surround Sound, Collector’s Edition
• Commentary by director Tom Shadyac
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• “The Medical Value of Laughter”, an original documentary featuring interviews with director Tom Shadyac, cast members Robin Williams and Monica Potter, producer Mike Farrell (I) and the real Dr. “Patch” Adams
• Outtakes
• Widescreen anamorphic format

KNOWN DVD SECRET(S):

Music score:
Select the “Medical Value of Laughter” option at the “Special Features” screen. Select the “Isolated Score” option at the bottom and press Play to hear Mark Shaiman’s complete music score.

DVD REVIEW:

This is a movie that some will love and some will hate.  Would you see Patch Adams wackiness as laughter to help patients or do you see this movie as invading one’s privacy.  I don’t know, what would you do if your doctor started to massage your feet?  You would freak…but then again, some of you might want it.

At any rate, the question is how you see this movie and that’s what made many critics feel divided about this movie.  Some loved how Patch Adams would use laughter to overcome certain challenges for himself and his patience. Some saw it as…if I’m told that I have this or that or if one’s going to die…do I need a doctor to make me laugh?

So, it depends on your perspective.

As for the DVD, assuming you bought the collector’s edition and not the barebones version of the DVD, then you will be treated with many cool special features such as the documentary, outtakes and director’s commentary.  The video is beautiful and the audio is good as can get for a dialogue film.

You may want to rent this movie first.

THE MOVIE: C+
THE DVD EXTRAS: B+
THE DVD OVERALL: B-

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