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The Emperors’ March

June 23, 2008

By Reviewed by Su Aziz; Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan

MARCH OF THE PENGUINS

A film documentary by Luc Jacquet

Distributed by Speedy Video Distributors

I REMEMBERED watching this documentary in French, a couple of years ago, and reading the English subtitles to make head or tail of it all.

After a few minutes of this, it was simply hypnotising to listen to the lulling French voiceover with beautiful music accompaniment and enjoy the visuals of Antarctica and the extraordinary march of the Emperor penguins towards it.

This is a story about love. In a single file as long as 33km, these penguins will walk day and night continuously to breed their young in the darkest, driest and coldest continent on Earth.

As the narrator of the English version of this film, Morgan Freeman, said: “There are few places that are harder to get to in this world but there aren’t any that are harder to live in.”

While the penguins may be equipped to brave Antarctica’s extreme temperatures, the makers of this film had to adapt quickly. In the special features section, Of Penguins and Men, watch their year- long stay there as they researched and lived with the Emperor penguins and their race against winter before their base is shut out from the outside world.

The harsh weather of Antarctica makes it impossible for others to penetrate through.

It gives, most of all, an insight just how much a team goes through to document, film and research for the pleasurable viewing of the likes of us.

While in this section it is about men, the other special feature, National Geographic Crittercam: Emperor Penguins, is all about the penguins.

With cameras strapped onto their backs, it is an enlightening view of their world under the coldest waters, sliding down the hardest glaciers and basking in the harshest sunrays.

These two bits are perhaps just enjoyable as the film itself, if not more and will definitely give one an overwhelming appreciation of the birth of this film. Plus all the other great documentaries made, yet to be made and are in the making.

Pick up this DVD. It is terrific for all ages. The music itself is melancholic and it will transport you into that vast, white world appearing on your television screen. – Su Aziz

Rating: *****

YOU’VE GOT MAIL

Directed by Nora Ephron

Starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks

Distributed by Speedy Video Distributors

Meeting and falling in love with someone in the early 1990s was still a new thing. So were e-mails and online chatting. Hence this cover version of the 1940 film, Shop Around the Corner that starred James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

In the modern version, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet each other via e-mail and, surprise, surprise, fall in love.

Complications stem from them, unknowingly, becoming competitors outside the cyber world. Charming while resonating what is fast becoming the dating trend in those days, it is quickly becoming passe today.

However, this DVD release features two new special features.

The first, Delivering You’ve Got Mail, is really nothing more than a three-way interview with the film’s two main characters and the director, and how they’ve taken such a long time to get this off the ground, how the idea got started (from Shop Around the Corner, of course) and why.

It is not nearly as interesting as the second new special feature, You’ve Got Chemistry. This one could be appreciated by romantics of all ages.

This film is Meg Ryan’s and Tom Hanks’ third time acting together. In this special feature, it shows re-pairing of screen couples such as Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart and Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

All these couples are shown as comparisons on the screen chemistry that Ryan and Hanks showed, three times over. It is fun watching snippets of black and white romances. Truly! Besides, their unmistakable chemistry gives out a familiarity that makes us, their audience, believe that they are, or could be in love.

The other special features include director’s commentary, a conversation with the director and my other favourite, Discover New York’s Upper West Side Map Tour.

Here is where all the location used in this film around New York is featured.

Oh yes, there is also Music-Only Audio Track – the whole film without dialogue, only the background music. – Su Aziz

Rating: ***

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

Directed by Chris Weitz

Starring Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, Sam Elliott, Eva Green and Daniel Craig.

Distributed by Speedy Video Distributors Sdn Bhd

DESPITE the presence of Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green and the voice of Ian McKellen, I still find this movie unentertaining, not because of the storyline but because of its slow and painful pace. You could take breaks in-between and not miss anything.

There’s something about children’s stories and animation that I find entertaining.

I think it’s the imagination-fuelled storylines that these movies allow that make them exciting. It is always a delight to watch movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Charlotte’s Web.

But the same expectation is immediately smashed by long speeches and very little action, making this movie a drag, when you should float like Tinkerbell in following the tale.

I find Richards’s acting to be so two-dimensional with an inability to display real emotions.

When she hugs the polar bear Iorek Byrnison before the duel, there isn’t any sadness or fear that one could feel. Obviously, she is not the other Dakota.

Acting aside, you could still feast your eyes on the beautiful CGI technology that the movie employs in the polar bears and the animal-form souls.

The DVD version of this movie does not come with any special features and that is a major letdown.

If there are fans of this movie out there, they should be given a treat because on its own, at least to me, this film is not much of an attraction. – Syida Lizta

Rating: **

BLOOD DIAMOND

Directed by Edward Zwick

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Arnold Vosloo and Anthony Coleman

Distributed by Alliance Entertainment (M) Sdn Bhd

BY telling the story of conflict diamonds and opening the public eye to what really happens behind that five-carat diamond engagement ring, Edward Zwick accomplishes so much more.

In over two hours, the movie questions what we perceive as valuable, juxtaposes Africa, where the diamonds are found, with the world in which they are sold and gives a heart to an otherwise unsympathetic soul.

This is a fine movie with beautiful cinematography and Zwick’s crisp direction takes the audience through Africa to follow Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) and Danny Archer’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) perilous journey to rescue the former’s family.

The extensive special features in this two-disc DVD will give you a better understanding of the situation in Sierra Leone which forms the background of the story. The commentary by Zwick (the movie plays in silence in the background, except for some parts) has him explaining every scene in the movie for better understanding.

Sierra Leone journalist Sorious Samura contributes a documentary about conflict diamonds and he found out that even when the conflict has ended, there are still diamonds smuggled out from the country.

He talked to child soldiers who were in the thick of action and one of them cried, recalling how he killed a man whom he thought was hiding a stone.

Becoming Archer profiles DiCaprio’s character and the preparations he took before filming, including shooting lessons and a class with dialect coach.

What I find disappointing is “Journalism on the Front Line”. I am hoping for interviews with women journalists who cover conflicts but what I get is just analysis on Jennifer Connelly’s character and her opinions about these reporters.

No deleted scenes feature in this one. There’s no need to, when the movie and the explanatory features are more than satisfactory. – Syida Lizta

Rating: ****

***** Excellent

**** Very Good

*** Good

** Fair

* Poor

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