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|The Sound of Music [VHS]
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the pre-war life of the family Van Trapp
Some people may sneer at this 1965 musical, but the truth is the film has earned its status as a perennially watchable romantic-drama, largely on the strength of a fun story and chemistry between stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Veteran filmmaker Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still) mostly stays out of the way of the film's appealing elements, which include a based-on-fact tale of Austria's von Trapp family, who fled their Nazi-occupied country in 1938. Andrews is delightful and even fascinating as Maria, who sheds her tomboyish ways as a novice nun to accept the mantle of adulthood, becoming matron of the motherless von Trapp clan. Plummer is matinee-idol handsome and gives a smart performance to boot, and the cast of young people and kids who make up the singing von Trapp children make a strong impression. Based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical, the score includes such winners as "Maria" and the future John Coltrane hit "My Favorite Things." --Tom Keogh
|Rolling Thunder [VHS]
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Rolling Thunder's ex-Vietnam War POW Major Charles Rane (William Devane) returns to a hero's welcome in San Antonio in the early '70s. He's bestowed with a red Cadillac convertible, $2,500 in silver dollars, and accolades from all sides. Soon, however, he discovers that all is not as it seems; his wife strayed with a close friend during his years of confinement. He also finds that he has his own personal POW groupie, Linda; her fascination with him is met with the same shoulder-shrugging blandness that he shows toward everything else in what's left of his life. One day Rane comes home to find a houseful of assorted Texas white trash demanding his small fortune in silver dollars. Their efforts to beat him into revealing the location of the money are for naught, so they jam his right hand down a garbage disposal instead. When his wife and kid come home, the two gladly give up the money but the robbers cold-bloodedly gun them down anyway. Flash-forward: Rane has himself fitted with a hook prosthesis (which he sharpens on a grinder), cuts down a couple of shotguns, and points the scarlet Caddy land yacht south towards Nuevo Laredo, bent on revenge. With Linda in tow, he tracks the bad guys as far as Acuña and Juárez, where he hooks up with war buddy Johnny (Tommy Lee Jones) for a final showdown. What would otherwise play as a routine revenge story is given a measure of dimension and depth by Devane's performance and Paul Schrader's script. The comparison to Schrader scripts such as the previous year's Taxi Driver are inevitable and obvious. Like Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle, Rane wears opaque state-trooper sunglasses that allow no window into his dead soul. However, Bickle's internal monologues are missing; all the audience can see of Rane's character is what's on the surface, only what Rane wants others to see. He's simply a vengeful automaton, riddled with a cold, poisonous, implacable rage. Strong stuff indeed. --Jerry Renshaw
|The Odyssey [VHS]
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Actors: Armand Assante, Greta Scacchi, Isabella Rossellini, Bernadette Peters, Eric Roberts
Directors: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Writers: Andrey Konchalovskiy, Chris Solimine, Homer
Producers: Chris Thompson, Dyson Lovell, Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Number of tapes: 1
VHS Release Date: January 27, 1998
Run Time: 165 minut
Andrei Konchalovsky's expansive television mini-series production of Homer's epic poem gets off to clumsy start as he tries to squeeze the Trojan War into a mere half hour, but once the arrogant but honorable Odysseus (strikingly played by Armand Assante) and his loyal crew begin their doomed voyage home, this film turns into a fantastical adventure. Integrating often-stunning special effects with inventive art design, Konchalovsky achieves a beautiful look on a limited budget as he follows the 10-year ordeal of Odysseus from his battles with the Cyclops and the magical Circe (Bernadette Peters) to his secret homecoming and his confrontation with the treacherous Eurymachus (Eric Roberts). Isabella Rossellini appears as his spiritual guide, the goddess Athena, with Greta Scacchi as Odysseus's faithful wife and Vanessa Williams as the seductive Calypso. The rest of the cast includes Geraldine Chaplin, Jeroen Krabbé, Christopher Lee, and Irene Papas. The production was shot on location in and around the Mediterranean, making for a lush, lovely visual experience. --Sean Axmaker
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The time: World War II. The place: Morocco, setting with European refugees desperate for passage to the neutral Lisbon. The film: Casablanca, "the best Hollywood movie of all time" (Leonard Maltin).
The legends loom larger as time goes by. In the forty-fufth film of his carreer, tough guy Humphry Bogart at last becomes a romantic leading man (in a role originally intended for (Ronald Reagan).
Bogart and luminous Ingrid Bergman portray former lovers briefly reunited in the chos of war. They'll "always have Paris." And well always have their incomparable on-screen magic.
Bogart is Rick a worls-weary nighclub owner who claims, "I stick my neck out for nobody." Bergman is Lisa, fleeing the Nazis with her Resistance-here husband Only Rick can help the pair escape, but he refuses....until Lisa reawakens his idealism.
This restored and digitially remastered edition includes the original theatrical trailer and a special twenty-minute making of documentary narrated by Lauren Bacall.
Here's Looking at You!!
A truly perfect movie, the 1942 Casablanca still wows viewers today, and for good reason. Its unique story of a love triangle set against terribly high stakes in the war against a monster is sophisticated instead of outlandish, intriguing instead of garish. Humphrey Bogart plays the allegedly apolitical club owner in unoccupied French territory that is nevertheless crawling with Nazis; Ingrid Bergman is the lover who mysteriously deserted him in Paris; and Paul Heinreid is her heroic, slightly bewildered husband. Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Conrad Veidt are among what may be the best supporting cast in the history of Hollywood films. This is certainly among the most spirited and ennobling movies ever made. --Tom Keogh
|Strategic Air Command [VHS]
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Strategic Air Command is a 1955 Technicolor American film starring James Stewart and June Allyson, and directed by Anthony Mann. This Paramount Pictures release was the first of four films that depicted the role of the Strategic Air Command in the Cold War era. This would be Stewart and Mann's last collaboration and third of three movies that paired Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson, the others being The Stratton Story and The Glenn Miller Story.Free upgrade to first class mail.
Demonstrations of classic military tactical procedures and excellent footage of vintage aircraft (like the rare B-36), combine here to give viewers a cold war primer on the Air Force's defense capabilities, circa 1955. Former World War II pilot James Stewart is called out of retirement to assist in the strengthening of the Strategic Air Command, the new bomber forces that are America's first line of defense against the Russian nuclear threat. Wife June Allyson sits at home and frets over her husband's devotion to duty, while Harry Morgan lends a hand on the aircraft. Through Stewart, director Anthony Mann takes us on an ersatz tour of the elite Air Force operations that safeguarded America at the time. Unless you're interested in the aircraft of the day or stateside propaganda techniques during the cold war, Strategic Air Command tends to be a bit of a yawner. --Mark Savary
|Doctor Zhivago: 30th Anniversary Edition [VHS]
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2 tape set VHS.
David Lean focused all his talent as an epic-maker on Boris Pasternak's sweeping novel about a doctor-poet in revolutionary Russia. The results may sometimes veer toward soap opera, especially with the screen frequently filled with adoring close-ups of Omar Sharif and Julie Christie, but Lean's gift for cramming the screen with spectacle is not to be denied. The streets of Moscow, the snowy steppes of Russia, the house in the country taken over by ice; these are re-created with Lean's unerring sense of grandness. The movie is so lush and so long that it becomes an irresistible wallow, even when logic suffers--like Gone with the Wind before it and Titanic after. Sharif, who achieved stardom in Lean's previous film, Lawrence of Arabia, mostly looks noble, but the supporting cast is spiky: Rod Steiger as a fat-cat monster, Tom Courtenay as a self-righteous revolutionary, and Klaus Kinski and Alec Guinness in smaller roles. Geraldine Chaplin, in her adult debut, plays the doctor's compliant wife. Robert Bolt's screenplay won one of the film's five Oscars, with another going to perhaps the most immediately recognizable element of the movie: Maurice Jarre's romantic music, with its hugely popular "Lara's Theme" weaving in and out of a swooning score. --Robert Horton
|Sergeant York [VHS]
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A stirring biography of World War I hero Alvin York, SERGEANT YORK features Gary Cooper in one of his most famous roles as a wild, hard-drinking young man from rural Tennessee who finds religion and reforms after almost killing a man for revenge. Alvin becomes a pillar of his community; when the war breaks out, he refuses to defy the Bible and kill the enemy, and his pacifist views prevent him from enlisting. However, after being drafted and put into combat, Alvin realizes that duty to his fellow soldiers and his country are important as well and succeeds in capturing more than 100 Germans almost single-handedly at the Battle of Argonne. A moving war drama that boasts an Academy Award-winning performance by Cooper, SERGEANT YORK is an affectionate look at a simpler time in U.S. history as well as an inspirational portrait of a true American hero.
Gary Cooper plays Alvin York, the real-life country lad and sharpshooter drafted to fight during World War I but blocked from killing by his pacifist sentiments. Howard Hawks makes a rousing, heroic film out of the tale, and Cooper gives one of his best performances (for which he won an Oscar). The 1941 feature seems as much a valentine to wartime America (and a not-so-subtle piece of propaganda) as anything, with Hawks capturing splendidly shot scenes of life in York's home state of Tennessee, which in turn provide a striking contrast to the battlefield. A key scene in the film, in which York is presented with an argument in favor of killing in war, is still thought provoking. --Tom Keogh
|Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence [VHS]
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A highly unusual war movie with as many detractors as fans, this English-language feature directed by Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses) stars David Bowie as a silent, ethereal POW in a Japanese camp. Protesting--via his own enigmatic rebellion--the camp's brutal conditions and treatment of prisoners, Bowie's character earns the respect of the camp commandant (Ryuichi Sakamoto). While the two seem locked in an unspoken, spiritual understanding, another prisoner (Tom Conti) engages in a more conventional resistance against a monstrous sergeant (Takeshi). The film has a way of evoking as many questions as certainties, and it is not always easy to understand the internal logic of the characters' actions. But that's generally true of Oshima's movies, in which the power of certain relationships is almost hallucinatory in self-referential intensity. The cast is outstanding, and Bowie is particularly fascinating in his alien way. --Tom Keogh
|The Garden of the Finzi-Continis [VHS]
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Set in northern Italy's Ferrara community at the outbreak of World War II, this classic film by Vittorio De Sica concerns an old, aristocratic Jewish family, the Finzi-Continis, who maintain their isolated, idyllic ways within the stone walls of their lush estate while Mussolini imprisons Jews outside. The story's central figure, young Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio), is a middle-class Jew who has always found perfect sanctuary within the Finzi-Continis' walls and who is in love with his childhood friend from that family, Micol (Dominique Sanda). Micol, however, is sexually restless and fit to burst for want of experiences impossible under government oppression. As Giorgio suffers his estrangement from her, De Sica traces the disintegration of a lost and beautiful way of life, slowly turning his focus from the privileged refuge of tennis courts and private libraries to police barriers and rooms where Jews await transport to concentration camps. This powerful work of memory tragically captures a loss of innocence on both the most personal and historical stages. --Tom Keogh
|The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming [VHS]
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The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming looks overly cute now, but really, it was pretty hip for 1966. The cold war was in full deep-freeze when this well-meaning comedy tried to thaw things out a little: a Soviet submarine beaches on the New England coast, sending the locals into a paranoid frenzy. The chief pleasure of the film is Alan Arkin as the sub captain; this was Arkin's first major film role, and he had already mastered his exasperated, slow-burning frown (to say nothing of mastering his Russian dialogue). Arkin snagged an Oscar® nomination, with the movie receiving nominations for best picture, adapted screenplay, and editing--nods that reflect the film's smashing success at the box office. Somewhat dated now, the movie still has its place in the roster of raucous, American small-town comedies; seen in childhood, it will linger nicely as a depiction of foolish grown-ups. --Robert Horton
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