Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties

Including bipartisan testimony by lawyers, politicians and victims of the USA Patriot Act, this DVD discusses how the Patriot Act of 2001 has taken away checks on law enforcement and continues to endanger the civil liberties of all Americans under the guise of being part of the war on terrorism. Following in the footsteps of Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election and Uncovered: The War on Iraq, this hour-long documentary illustrates how paranoia, fear and racial profiling have led to gross infringements on freedom and democracy without strengthening national security.

The Greatest DVDs Never Made

Want to buy that film-lover on your list The Magnificent Ambersons or The African Queen? Sorry, neither are available on DVD--at least not officially. Last year the rest of the Marx Brothers comedies and the great Astaire and Rogers musicals finally made it to DVD. So did La Dolce Vita, which had been involved in a legal dispute. And it took Warner Brothers several years to catch up but last year they finally released White Heat, Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Meet Me in St. Louis. Here are a few others I'm still waiting for: Johnny Guitar, Penny Serenade, Night on Earth, La Ronde (1950), Man in the Wilderness and Exterminating Angel. So what's on your most-wanted list?

Bah, Humbug! Who's the best Scrooge?

scrooge

There have been dozens of film and TV adaptations of Charles Dickens' classic Christmas ghost story A Christmas Carol including musical, animated and dramatic versions. But which is the best, and which features the most convincing portrayal of Ebeneezer Scrooge? Is it Reginald Owen, Alistair Sim, George C. Scott, Michael Caine, Mr. Magoo, Bill Murray, Disney's Uncle Scrooge, Patrick Stewart or someone else? Our family favorite is the musical 'Scrooge' featuring Albert Finney in the title role. Although this version is temporarily not available from the library's collections, it's worth looking for. What's your favorite?

Best-Reviewed Movies of 2005

Metacritic.com has released a list of the 20 best-reviewed movies of 2005. Although many of these titles won't be released on DVD until next year (especially those that have only recently arrived in theaters in that last mad dash for Oscar contention), a few of the lower-profile titles on the list are already here on DVD. Check out Downfall, Nobody Knows and Memories of Murder. Also on order are Murderball and Turtles Can Fly.

Lawyers in Movies

Ed Masry, the lawyer made famous by the oscar-award winning Erin Brockovich, recently died of complications from diabetes. Erin Brockovich, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is just one of many compelling movies centered around lawyers, courtrooms, and intense legal battles. Here are some others: Philadelphia, The Firm, Judgment at Nuremberg, 12 Angry Men, A Few Good Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and of course, I can't forget to mention this legal thriller!

The Sound of Music's 40th Anniversary

The Sound of Music is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a TV special this week and a special edition DVD. This classic American musical, an enduring guilty pleasure, has something for everyone: the stunning backdrop of the Alps; the story of a nun who...doesn't remain a nun; Rodgers and Hammerstein's indelible score; escaping the Nazis. Here are just a few of my favorite things: the masterful editing of the Doe-a-Deer sequence; the nuns' harmonies at the end of "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria"; the sizzling chemistry between Maria and Captain Von Trapp at the party; and Eleanor Parker's catty attempts to hang on to "Georg". The 40th anniversary DVD puts the, er, streusel on the strudel, with an all-new retrospective documentary featuring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer; several featurettes, including "The Von Trapp Family: Harmony and Discord" as seen on A&E; a karaoke singalong (!); and Mia Farrow's (!!) screen test.

Best Movie Endings

As the year's end draws near, I can't help but think of the greatest movie endings of all time. As the saying goes, "All good things must come to an end," and that's certainly true for good movies as well. Here are some films that end humorously, shockingly, creatively, or just plain beautifully: Casablanca, 400 Blows, Se7en, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Sixth Sense, The Graduate, The Godfather, and this one for all you maniacs!

What are some of your favorite movie endings? Or better yet, what are some absolutely horrible endings?

Best Sports Movies on DVD

Just in time to help you find that perfect gift for the sports fan on your list (and to support Cinderella Man, #22, as a contender when Oscar time rolls around), Entertainment Weekly has published its list of the 30 best sports movies on DVD. Numbers 1-5 are: Raging Bull, Caddyshack, Hoosiers, Rocky, and Bull Durham. See the complete list.

Clooney: The Next Redford?

30 years ago, Robert Redford was the politically progressive Hollywood hunk making movies like The Candidate and All the President's Men. This year George Clooney is credited with reviving the political hot-button genre with Good Night, and Good Luck (which he directs and acts) and Syriana (in which he stars). Although he tones down his good looks for the camera, he hasn't bothered to tone down his political views in the press. Sure, he irritates conservatives, but outspoken actors like Sean Penn and Tim Robbins have taken far worse beatings than Clooney has...so far. So what is it? Good looks? A good sense of humor? How about The Redford factor?

The Man Behind the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

There's only one week left before the new version of the Chronicles of Naria makes its way to theaters. Those interested in learning a bit more about the man behind the stories might be interested in The Question of God: Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. Based on a Harvard course taught by Dr. Armand Nicholi, this PBS production examines the respective beliefs of Freud and Lewis through dramatized scenes from their lives and a roundtable discussion with Nicholi and several other so-called experts. The roundtable discussion can be frustrating at times (too many voices, not enough time, not enough coherency), but the series is still informative and thought-provoking.

Other DVDs of interest include Shadowlands, the original BBC production about Lewis' spiritual crisis when his wife died from cancer, and the original BBC production of the Chronicles of Narnia.

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