Dinosaurs - The Complete First and Second Seasons Tom Trbovich Bruce Bilson (II)  
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Created before the days of computer animation, Dinosaursis an early 1990s television comedy series featuring impressive anthropomorphic, animatronic creatures created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The story lines challenge some of society's most basic assumptions and explore some of the most universally troublesome aspects of "civilized" life. Set in six million three BC, the Sinclairs are your "typical" blue-collar dinosaur family attempting to adjust to the relatively new concept of communal living. The adjustments of moving from a nomadic lifestyle to one of domestication and social interaction are many, and challenging issues like the concepts of right and wrong, faith, and the intricacies of family relationships are forever besieging this every-man's family. Naturally, the Sinclair family approach is to address each obstacle with an abundance of slapstick comedy. The Dinosaursepisodes regularly function on dual levels: the puppetry and silly antics like Baby Sinclair's penchant for hitting her father over the head with a pan while hollering "Not the Mama" appeal to even the youngest children, but the often pointed social commentary and sometimes mature themes are squarely aimed at an adult audience. As a result, parental discretion and guidance are key in determining whether this series is appropriate for children under 9 or 10 years old. —Tami Horiuchi

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Dinosaurs - The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons Tom Trbovich Bruce Bilson (II)  
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Families and civilizations are, on the most fundamental level, built on relationships. The third and fourth (final) seasons of the 1991 television series Dinosaursdelve deeply into the relationships between the individual members of the Sinclair dinosaur family while simultaneously tackling huge societal issues like sexism, rising medical costs, the negative influence of television and advertising, environmentalism and conservationism, and the modern relevance of faith and ritual to everyday life with fervency and an abundance of slapstick humor. Parents can't help but relate to the extreme characterization of Baby Sinclair as completely possessed by evil upon entering his "Terrible Twos" and will laugh hysterically at Baby's response to the ineffective "solutions" of Dr. Piaget, the babysitter, and his parents. Teenage rebellion and the angst of growing up are just as outrageously satirized in episodes like "The Son Also Rises" and "Charlene's Flat World" and Dinosaurwriters poke fun at the debate about the effects of television and advertising on young children and society in virtually every episode. The complex issue of conservationism becomes all too personal to Earl in "If You Were a Tree" when he and a tree inadvertantly switch bodies and environmentalism becomes an intergalactic issue in "We Are Not Alone." Bonus features include seven never-before-seen-on-television episodes that deal with everything from the rituals of growing up to family bonding and the perils of materialism; optional audio commentary for the "Nature Calls" and "Into the Woods" episodes; a look at the incredibly funny, self-absorbed character of Baby with writer Kirk Thatcher, executive producer Brian Henson, and actor/puppeteer Kevin Clash; and a discussion about some of the causes behind the Dinosaursseries and how the program's format made it possible to address such far-reaching issues. Because Dinosaursfunctions on dual levels, appealing both to children with its silly puppet antics and adults with its pointed social commentary, some parental guidance may be in order for children under 9 years. —Tami Horiuchi

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Meredith Willson's The Music Man (TV Film) Jeff Bleckner  
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Meredith Willson's musical masterpiece is such an American classic, it deserves to be known by each new generation—and this sprightly TV-movie version spiffs it up nicely for the young folk. It's a testament to Willson's achievement that this 2003 production can survive a casting flub: the usually engaging Matthew Broderick's low-key charm is an exact mismatch for the brassy energy of traveling salesman Professor Harold Hill. When Broderick sings the words "thundering, thundering!" from "Seventy-Six Trombones," he sounds as though he's murmuring, murmuring. But he wears well (especially in a nifty "Marian the Librarian"), and he has lyrical support from Kristin Chenoweth's crystal-clear singing. Director Jeff Bleckner has a maddening tendency to cut away from the crucial moment of a scene, but the atmosphere of small-town Iowa is ably created. Adding zip is Molly Shannon, hilarious as chief busybody Mrs. Shinn. In short, the "Think System" still works. —Robert Horton

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Scent of a Woman Martin Brest  
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Hoo-hah! After seven Oscar nominations for his outstanding work in films such as The Godfather, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon, it's ironic that Al Pacino finally won the Oscar for his grandstanding lead performance in this 1992 crowd pleaser. As the blind, blunt, and ultimately benevolent retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, Pacino is both hammy and compelling, simultaneously subtle and grandly over-the-top when defending his new assistant and prep school student Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) at a disciplinary hearing. While the subplot involving Charlie's prep-school crisis plays like a sequel to Dead Poets Society, Pacino's adventurous escapades in New York City provide comic relief, rich character development, and a memorable supporting role for Gabrielle Anwar as the young woman who accepts the colonel's invitation to dance the tango. Scent of a Womanis a remake of the 1972 Italian film Profumo di donna. In addition to Pacino's award, the picture garnered Oscar nominations for director Martin Brest and for screenwriter Bo Goldman. —Jeff Shannon

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As Good As It Gets James L. Brooks  
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For all of its conventional plotting about an obsessive-compulsive curmudgeon (Jack Nicholson) who improves his personality at the urging of his gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear) and a waitress (Helen Hunt) who inspires his best behavior, this is one of the sharpest Hollywood comedies of the 1990s. Nicholson could play his role in his sleep (the Oscar he won should have gone to Robert Duvall for The Apostle), but his mischievous persona is precisely necessary to give heart to his seemingly heartless character, who is of all things a successful romance novelist. As a single mom with a chronically asthmatic young son, Hunt gives the film its conscience and integrity (along with plenty of wry humor), and she also won an Oscar for her wonderful performance. Greg Kinnear had to settle for an Oscar nomination (while cowriter-director James L. Brooks was inexplicably snubbed by Oscar that year), but his work was also singled out in the film's near-unanimous chorus of critical praise. It's questionable whether a romance between Hunt and the much older Nicholson is entirely believable, but this movie's smart enough—and charmingly funny enough—to make it seem endearingly possible. —Jeff Shannon

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Big Fish Tim Burton  
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After a string of mediocre movies, director Tim Burton regains his footing as he shifts from macabre fairy tales to Southern tall tales. Big Fishtwines in and out of the oversized stories of Edward Bloom, played as a young man by Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Down with Love) and as a dying father by Albert Finney (Tom Jones). Edward's son Will (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous) sits by his father's bedside but has little patience with the old man's fables, because he feels these stories have kept him from knowing who his father really is. Burton dives into Bloom's imagination with zest, sending the determined young man into haunted woods, an idealized Southern town, a traveling circus, and much more. The result is sweet but—thanks to the director's dark and clever sensibility—never saccharine. Also featuring Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny DeVito, and Steve Buscemi. —Bret Fetzer

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Lost in Translation Sofia Coppola  
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Like a good dream, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translationenvelops you with an aura of fantastic light, moody sound, head-turning love, and a feeling of déjà vu, even though you've probably never been to this neon-fused version of Tokyo. Certainly Bob Harris has not. The 50-ish actor has signed on for big money shooting whiskey ads instead of doing something good for his career or his long-distance family. Jetlagged, helplessly lost with his Japanese-speaking director, and out of sync with the metropolis, Harris (Bill Murray, never better) befriends the married but lovelorn 25-year-old Charlotte (played with heaps of poise by 18-year-old Scarlett Johansson). Even before her photographer husband all but abandons her, she is adrift like Harris but in a total entrapment of youth. How Charlotte and Bill discover they are soul mates will be cherished for years to come. Written and directed by Coppola (The Virgin Suicides), the film is far more atmospheric than plot-driven: we whiz through Tokyo parties, karaoke bars, and odd nightlife, always ending up in the impossibly posh hotel where the two are staying. The wisps of bittersweet loneliness of Bill and Charlotte are handled smartly and romantically, but unlike modern studio films, this isn't a May-November fling film. Surely and steadily, the film ends on a much-talked-about grace note, which may burn some, yet awards film lovers who "always had Paris" with another cinematic destination of the heart. —Doug Thomas

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Harry Potter 3) Alfonso Cuarón  
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In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Ron and Hermione now teenagers return for their third year at Hogwarts where they are forced to face escaped prisoner Sirius Black who poses a great threat to Harry. Harry and his friends spend their third year learning how to handle a half-horse half-eagle Hippogriff repel shape-shifting Boggarts and master the art of Divination. They also visit the wizarding village of Hogsmeade and the Shrieking Shack which is considered the most haunted building in Britain. In addition to these new experiences Harry must overcome the threats of the soul-sucking Dementors outsmart a dangerous werewolf and finally deal with the truth about Sirius Black and his relationship to Harry and his parents. With his best friends Harry masters advanced magic crosses the barriers of time and changes the course of more than one life. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron and based on J.K. Rowling's third book this wondrous spellbinder soars with laughs and the kind of breathless surprise only found in a Harry Potter adventure.Running Time: 144 min.System Requirements: Running Time 142 MinFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: ACTION/ADVENTURE Rating: NR UPC: 085392844524 Manufacturer No: 28445

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The Shawshank Redemption Frank Darabont  
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When this popular prison drama was released in 1994, some critics complained that the movie was too long (142 minutes) to sustain its story. Those complaints miss the point, because the passage of time is crucial to this story about patience, the squeaky wheels of justice, and the growth of a life-long friendship. Only when the film reaches its final, emotionally satisfying scene do you fully understand why writer-director Frank Darabont (adapting a novella by Stephen King) allows the story to unfold at its necessary pace, and the effect is dramatically rewarding. Tim Robbins plays a banker named Andy who's sent to Shawshank Prison on a murder charge, but as he gets to know a life-term prisoner named Red (Morgan Freeman), we realize there's reason to believe the banker's crime was justifiable. We also realize that Andy's calm, quiet exterior hides a great reserve of patience and fortitude, and Red comes to admire this mild-mannered man who first struck him as weak and unfit for prison life. So it is that The Shawshank Redemptionbuilds considerable impact as a prison drama that defies the conventions of the genre (violence, brutality, riots) to illustrate its theme of faith, friendship, and survival. Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor, and Screenplay, it's a remarkable film that signaled the arrival of a promising new filmmaker—a film that many movie lovers count among their all-time favorites. —Jeff Shannon

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Independence Day Roland Emmerich  
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In Independence Day, a scientist played by Jeff Goldblum once actually had a fistfight with a man (Bill Pullman) who is now president of the United States. That same president, late in the film, personally flies a jet fighter to deliver a payload of missiles against an attack by extraterrestrials. Independence Dayis the kind of movie so giddy with its own outrageousness that one doesn't even blink at such howlers in the plot. Directed by Roland Emmerich, Independence Dayis a pastiche of conventions from flying-saucer movies from the 1940s and 1950s, replete with icky monsters and bizarre coincidences that create convenient shortcuts in the story. (Such as the way the girlfriend of one of the film's heroes—played by Will Smith—just happens to run across the president's injured wife, who are then both rescued by Smith's character who somehow runs across them in alien-ravaged Los Angeles County.) The movie is just sheer fun, aided by a cast that knows how to balance the retro requirements of the genre with a more contemporary feel. —Tom Keogh

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The West Wing - The Complete First Season Jason Ensler  
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Conventional wisdom prior to season one of The West Wingwas that the only successful television shows were half hour sitcoms and hour long police, legal, or medical dramas. Building on surplus ideas from his film The American Presidentand the walk-and-talk style of comedy and drama from his critically acclaimed television show Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin bucked the trend and created his masterpiece, one of the most memorable American political depictions to reach the big or small screen. Season one introduces viewers to a Nobel Prize-winning economist and unabashed intellectual president Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his key staff members, a newly elected Democratic administration trying to find its footing amidst the corridors of the White House's west wing. To the credit of its cast and their brilliant ensemble acting, The West Wingmanages to immediately conjure nearly a dozen distinct and memorable characters. Perhaps the greatest star of all is Sorkin's rapid-fire dialogue, especially as delivered by Press Secretary C.J. Craig (Alison Janney), Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), and Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer). They carry on conversations while stalking purposefully and unhaltingly down corridors, around corners, and through doorways, and all of it unfurls with the choreographic precision of a classical ballet and the pace of an Olympic ping-pong rally.

What emerges is more than a collective liberal dream of an impassioned administration battling back ultra-conservative bogeymen ranging from the religious right to bigots to gun-toting militants. Wonderful episodes like "The Pilot" and "In Excelsis Deo" portray a government led by heroic, intelligent, and decent men and women. Whether or not one regards that as a political fantasy, it's a remarkably refreshing and appealing vision of politics and its practitioners, one that the public embraced with consistently strong television ratings. In a country whose citizens are used to viewing their elected leaders with mistrust and cynicism, that might be The West Wing's greatest accomplishment. —Eugene Wei

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Milos Forman  
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One of the key movies of the 1970s, when exciting, groundbreaking, personal films were still being made in Hollywood, Milos Forman's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nestemphasized the humanistic story at the heart of Ken Kesey's more hallucinogenic novel. Jack Nicholson was born to play the part of Randle Patrick McMurphy, the rebellious inmate of a psychiatric hospital who fights back against the authorities' cold attitudes of institutional superiority, as personified by Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). It's the classic antiestablishment tale of one man asserting his individuality in the face of a repressive, conformist system—and it works on every level. Forman populates his film with memorably eccentric faces, and gets such freshly detailed and spontaneous work from his ensemble that the picture sometimes feels like a documentary. Unlike a lot of films pitched at the "youth culture" of the 1970s, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nestreally hasn't dated a bit, because the qualities of human nature that Forman captures—playfulness, courage, inspiration, pride, stubbornness—are universal and timeless. The film swept the Academy Awards for 1976, winning in all the major categories (picture, director, actor, actress, screenplay) for the first time since Frank Capra's It Happened One Nightin 1931. —Jim Emerson

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