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Scant News, More Flicks

December 28, 2006

So what is it? Everyone on vacation?

The NTIA is now saying the final rule setting out the details of the government's subsidy program for digital-to-analog converter boxes won't be ready until "early 2007."

Denon's next generation HDMI 1.3-equipped A/V receivers will be out mid-2007. The high-end models will have DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby True-HD decoders. Mid-level models will get by with Dolby Digital Plus decoders.

But if the HD-DVD and BD players have the decoders . . .

Expect a flood of announcements by CES 2007 (January 8 - 11).

So, for filler until then, five more DVD picks. Mixed bag this time.

First up, a western:

Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)

Directed by Sergio Leone

From the same guy who gave us The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and those other Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. No Eastwood this time. But some stars nevertheless (of that era): Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson.

This is a long flick, very deliberate at 165 minutes.

All about the coming of the railroad to the West, with money to be made if you're in the right position, and if you're a bad guy (and gang), an invitation to kill the people who are and take it for your own. Add a reluctant hero and damsel in need of a hero, and you've got an epic tale.

Once Upon A Time in the West

Oh, did I mention epic vistas and Sergio Leone style. This is a classic. Go for the two-disc special collector's edition that explains it all.

Tank Girl (1995)

Directed by Rachel Talalay

This is a weird film. Stars Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, and Malcolm McDowell as the evil head of Water and Power, the entity that controls everything after the apocalypse makes water the most valuable commodity on the planet.

Tank Girl (Petty) is part of the resistance, and pissed as hell when Water and Power blows away her sanctuary and kidnaps her little girl (of some relationship).

Then there are the Rippers (half-men and half-kangaroos) who Petty recruits in her counter-attack.

Tank Girl

It's not predicatable. It's way different. It's hilarious!

Enter with an open mind; be prepared to be stunned.

The Name of the Rose (1986)

Directed by Jean-Jacque Annaud

Stars Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Christian Slater, Ron Perlman, and a very hot Valentina Vargas.

This one surprised me (favorably). The sets are incredible. Story based on the Umberto Eco bestseller. From the back cover (edited):

It's the work of the Devil. That's what some say when a bizarre series of deaths strikes a 14th century monastery. Others find links between the deaths and the book of Revelation. But Brother William of Baskerville (Connery) thinks otherwise. He intends to find a murderer by using fact and reason--the tools of heresy.

The Name of the Rose

Christian Slater plays Adso, Brother William's aide and a youth on the verge of sexual and intellectual awakening.

F. Murray Abraham is arrogance incarnate as the inquisitor.

It's a mystery. It works on several levels. Filmed at an actual 12th-century monastery.

Catch-22 (1970)

Directed by Mike Nichols

This film is an anti-war satire based on Joseph Heller's novel.

It's about a WWII bomber unit operating in the Mediterranean. The bomber crews can go home after reaching a certain number of missions, except that the magic number keeps getting raised, always just out of reach.

It seems that everyone is crazy, some more than others, and you soon realize that reality is mixed up with fantasy. Its like a cross between Brazil and Apocalypse Now. A dark comedy.


Stars Martin Balsam, Art Garfunkel (the singer), Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Paula Prentiss, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, and Orson Welles.

Slaughterhouse Five (1972)

Directed by George Roy Hill

This one's a little like Catch-22 in that the action jumps around in time. With Slaughterhouse Five it does it a LOT. Also a comedy of sorts (neither of these is the sort of juvenile comedy we think of today), but more satiric wit. Or is it a drama?

Based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel, the film follows Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time, as he moves from WW II POW in fire-bombed Dresden, to his present-time boring middle-class existence in Ilium, NY, to a strange future on the planet of Tralfamadore where he is a well-tended resident of a zoo, "forced" to mate with the woman of his dreams (Valerie Perrine).

Slaughterhouse Five

These jumps in time do not occur in any predictable fashion. Neither might the perhaps illusive anti-war plot be altogether clear.

But entertaining, absolutely! The messages do not bash you in the head.