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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, January 7, 2001

DVD Enhances Movie Versions of Books, Events

I've noticed a big surge in DVD loans at my library since the holidays, which leads me to suspect that a lot of folks got DVD players from St. Nick this year.

The advantage of DVDs is that they are smaller and lighter and easier to store. New feature films on DVD are also about a quarter of the price of one on VHS tape, which makes them an attractive purchase for the cost- conscious librarian. The fact that the viewer doesn't have to watch multiple trailers of coming attractions or rewind a tape is also a plus.

The downside of the DVD format seems to be its life expectancy. The little discs are easily ruined by careless handling; all it takes is one scratch. What I like most about DVDs, however, is the supplemental material; background information and interviews with the actors, directors and authors make for a fuller appreciation of the work.

Today's recommendations are all available through your public library, and most are on VHS as well if Santa didn't bring you a DVD player.

Tender Mercies (Republic, 1982).

The story of a down- on-his-luck country singer who meets a young widow and finds the will to live is one of those quietly powerful films that stay with you for years. When I saw that it had been reissued on DVD, I purchased it for the library and try to recommend it to people who missed it almost 20 years ago. Robert Duvall is one of my favorite actors, and his performance here is superb. A film which is this low key often puts me on guard. I keep waiting for something bad to happen. But in this case, the viewer can relax in the knowledge that nothing startling will jar or disturb his enjoyment.

Topsy Turvy (USA Home Entertainment, 2000).

The dialog in this English film from director Mike Leigh is a bit difficult to understand at first, but the many scenes from The Mikado make up for any deficiencies in this intimate portrait of Gilbert and Sullivan, who overcome their creative differences to create memorable theater. Music lovers, don't miss a wonderful evening's entertainment.

The Green Mile (Warner Brothers, 2000).

An elderly man recalls the incident that changed his life in 1935, when he supervised death row at a Louisiana state prison and encountered a gentle giant with mystical powers (played by Michael Clarke Duncan, who was an Oscar nominee for this role). Though the film has powerful moments, it is a bit too long at 188 minutes, and the many scenes of executions are tough to watch. However, it is still an excellent movie.

The Cider House Rules (Miramax, 1999).

Michael Caine won the Oscar for best supporting actor in his role as Dr. Wilbur Larch, obstetrician, orphanage director, ether addict and abortionist. But the hero of the tale is the doctor's favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who leaves the security of the orphanage to experience life as an orchard worker, in this bittersweet New England tale from John Irving. On DVD, there are interviews with the author, as well as actors and director, which greatly enriched my appreciation of both the film and the book.

Three Kings (Warner Brothers, 1999).

Here's one I picked up thinking my husband might enjoy a "guy movie." It is a surrealistic, violent and sometimes funny look at the Gulf War from young director David O. Russell. This is the story of four soldiers who go off on a hunt for a huge cache of gold rumored to have been stashed by Saddam Hussein's troops after the Gulf War. It is not your standard war drama and will not appeal to those who expect a traditional film in the John Wayne style.

The highly creative camera work gives a rich visual picture of an event that has not before received Hollywood's attention.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.