Death Note

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This is a strong 3 star mostly for its incredible capturing the sense of manga in live action. This is both good and bad–the characters are often one-dimensional caricatures or so bizarre as to be silly. But it manages to pull you along in the way all good graphic novels do. The story has some interesting twists and the God of Death is just plain amusing. Apparently there are 2 sequels (in anime) that we’re curious to watch now that we’ve made it through this one. Definitely an acquired taste, but if you like anime and manga or just plain strange Japanese films, this’ll do ya.

Splice

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I really wanted this to be so much better. There are great elements and a good, romping, if improbably start. Then it starts going off the rails with stupid character choices and obvious plot moments. There is something in there, but it is never really realized and even on the level of simple, diverting sf horror, it is only marginal since so much is so obvious from the sound of the starting pipette.

Sliding Doors

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This was one of the first DVDs I purchased, and I knew nothing about it other than the cast and the description of the film when I did. It is, possibly, one of the most perfect romantic films ever made (and I include all the classics in that statement from Casablanca to Groundhog Day). John Hannah and Gwyneth Paltrow and the side-kicks are so enchanting that you cannot help but fall in love with Love and fall in love with them. Add to the lead performances pitch-perfect editing and I dare you to watch and not cry (in a good way). I’ve rewatched this film probably more than any other–much to even my own surprise– and I’ve never regretted turning it on and spending the time. The only drawbacks for me are a couple of weaker performances by Lynch and Tripplehorn, and that the original pressing of the DVD won’t fill a 1080 screen… I can only hope they’ll remaster it for the new technology soon so I can replace the copy in our library. I wish Howitt’s other endeavors had been so well conceived and executed, but I suspect that it was Sydney Pollack’s tutalege during the production that made all the difference.

Sliding Doors

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: Season 1

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A wonderful series full of great characters but not overly complex mysteries. Think Bagdad Cafe set in Africa. Filmed in Botswana with many locals it also provides a view into the people, land, and culture (by design). Would have been 5 stars if they hadn’t tried to set up a subsequent season which, now, may never come to be with the passing of Minghella. Some interesting extras on the discs as well. 

Art, writing, life explained… or at least commented upon…