Sunday, November 18, 2007

MELROSE PLACE: The Third Season

Written by Senora Bicho

Melrose Place originally aired from 1992-1999. The show was created by Darren Star as a spin-off from his already popular teenage drama Beverly Hills 90210. Star knows how to do TV and went on to develop the mega-hit Sex and The City. Melrose Place is also one of the many shows produced by the late, soap-opera genius Aaron Spelling. The combination of these two television giants proved to be very successful.

Melrose Place began as Beverly Hills 90210 with adults. It was about a group of people who all lived in an apartment complex on Melrose in West Hollywood. Everyone was nice to look at and they were the best of friends, this equated to a boring show with low ratings. Spelling then called on an old friend, Heather Locklear as Amanda Woodward, to spice up the show. She was initially brought in as a guest star but they were smart enough to realize that the show couldn’t survive without her. She was the only aspect of the show to earn a Golden Globe nomination for years 1994 to 1997. With her addition, the show was changed to a good, old-fashioned, down-and-dirty soap with skyrocketing ratings.

Season Three contains plenty over-the-top storylines and outrageous behavior. The season starts off with Michael (Thomas Calabro) getting run down and ending up with amnesia. Who would dare to run over Michael, the conniving, bad boy doctor? His ex-wife Jane (Josie Bissett), his wife Sydney (Laura Leighton) or his fiancĂ©e Kimberly (Marcia Cross)? One of the great lines of the season is delivered by Michael after he gets his memory back and realizes it was Kimberly that ran him over, “Kill me or love me but make up your damn mind!”

Locklear helped to save the show but Cross was always my favorite. They turned her devilishly evil and flat-out crazy. In this season, she kidnaps Jo’s (Daphne Zuniga) baby under the guise that it was a stillbirth and her downward spiral results in her blowing up the apartment complex in the finale. The explosion was originally scheduled to take place during the finale, but the Oklahoma City bombing took place early in the month so it was put off until the start of Season Four. Matt (Doug Savant) the sole gay character finally gets a love interest. Savant and Cross have both gone back to their soap roots with the now popular Desperate Housewives.

Jake (Grant Show) is almost blown to smithereens on his boat, thanks to guest star Kathy Ireland, and survives to break more hearts and protect those he cares about. He also finally finds the family he has been desperately looking for in his father and his brother Jake (Dan Cortese). Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith) deals with the aftershocks of her newly discovered child abuse and calls off her wedding to Billy (Andrew Shue). When Billy moves on, she turns to alcohol for comfort. Billy doesn’t do much this season but move from girlfriend to girlfriend until he finally weds Brooke, a new addition this season, played by Kristin Davis who later went on to bigger fame in the aforementioned Sex and The City. Jack Wagner, familiar to soap fans from his long run on General Hospital, also joined the cast as Amanda’s new on-again, off-again love interest and the hospital chief of staff. The finale is nice and juicy and leaves you wanting more with the explosion at Melrose Place, Jake and Jess falling from a building, and Matt set up for murder.

I was a huge fan of the show when it originally aired but would not have thought about purchasing any of the seasons. Watching Season Three reminded me of all of the reasons I enjoyed the show: crazy storylines, fun dialogue, attractive stars, and interesting characters. What I noticed this time around though is how the women looked: healthy. Don’t get me wrong they are thin, beautiful women running around in their mini-skirts, cut-off shirts, and tight clothes, but they actually have arms, stomachs, and no protruding bones. I miss those days of normal looking actresses and it makes Calista Flockhart, Ellen Pompeo, and others look even more unattractive.

The Season Three DVD set includes three “Too Hot for TV: Special Features.” “Melrose Place According to Jake” offers insights from Star and Spelling along with an interview with Show. “Melrose Place: 7 Minutes in Hell” highlights key quotes and scenes from the season. “Everything You Need to Know About Melrose Place: Season Three” features comedians Michael Colton and John Aboud who star in VH1’s The Best Week Ever and I Love the ’90s. They provide commentary on the storylines and scenes from the season and a few chuckles. However, none of these extras are particularly interesting or add anything of value to the set.

If you loved the show, then you should still get a kick out of it now, and if you never saw it but love campy drama, it is definitely worth checking out. Melrose Place holds up and brings laughs along with clever writing.


Written by Fumo Verde

Hitler: A Career isn’t like any of the other documentaries I have seen about Hitler. There isn’t talk of megalomania or his fatalistic charm. They don’t call him a mad genius who came close to conquering the world. No, the narrator in this documentary calls him what he was, a rabble-rouser who knew how to use fear, brutality, lies, and propaganda to get what he wanted. He played to the people’s wants and desires by tapping into their feelings of self worth that had seemed all but lost after the German defeat in World War I.

Very well put together with some rare “early party” footage. The story gives Hitler’s basic background up to his battle experiences on the Western Front, but it mainly sticks to how he became leader of the German people. What I thought was done skillfully was the way this film dismantled one of his speeches, showing step by step how he would work the crowd. Timing with Hitler was everything and during his speeches he would use this to his advantage, along with body gestures and a specific pattern during the speech that would feed upon the energy and emotion of the frenzied crowd. The film follows him all the way to his demise showing everyone that this man wasn’t so smart and truly had no plans to save his people.

This films digs real deep into what Nazism is, showing the complexities and contradictions of not only the movement but the leader himself. It explores the man and reveals his inequities and lonesomeness that plagued him wherever he went. There is amazing archival footage of Hitler’s early days before he became Chancellor of Germany, when the Party was only a few thousand strong, to those final days in the bunker just before he committed suicide. Why and how the National Socialists rose so quickly can be attributed to Hitler as well as its fall. For we learn that as more and more Germans started to believe in him, the man himself started to believe the propaganda he created. After a few battle victories he helped organize, Hitler thought he had become a great warrior general, those who he dreamed of while listing to the symphonies of Wagner.

Great orators say powerful things. They don’t need to work the crowd so they can get the best response. This DVD brings to light why all those people seemed so in a trance when Hitler spoke and how he used timing and body language to seduce those around him and how he played upon their worst fears to make him look like the only savior on the horizon. Hitler: A Career is one of the best films I have seen that explains how and why so many followed a man who rallied around hate and terror.

THE JAZZ SINGER (Three-Disc Deluxe Edition)

Written by FilmRadar's Karie Bible

If you love Hollywood history, this DVD is a must-have item for your home library. The Jazz Singer kicked off the sound revolution with a bang. It wasn’t exactly the first “all talking picture,” but it was the first silent with talking sequences that worked and ignited the public’s interest.

I’ve seen some other (and even earlier) silents with “talking” sequences, but they always feel very awkward. It is almost like the minute the sound and dialogue started, someone threw on the brakes and the film just came to a screeching halt. The Jazz Singer feels like it is hitting its peak when the sound comes in, and Al Jolson is the main reason this film works so well. There is something very electrifying about him.

This Three-Disc Deluxe Edition set features a new digital transfer for the film with restored picture elements and a refurbished soundtrack. It looks and sounds fantastic! There are also several Al Jolson shorts. Disc 2 of this collection features a wonderful feature-length documentary called “The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk.” It provides fascinating insight into the sound revolution and the impact it made on the film industry and on the movie-going public. Disc 3 contains a whopping 3-1/2 hours of rare, historic Vitaphone shorts. Many of these feature Vaudeville performers and in many cases it is the only surviving record of their work. If you’ve ever seen the Vitaphone programs at UCLA, then you know how wonderful and entertaining these shorts can be. I’m really hoping that more and more of the Vitaphones will get a DVD release in the future. The box set also includes a set of black and white postcards and three booklets about the film. The packaging is very nice and really well done.

Warner Bros. Home Video has done a first class job with all of the materials and they are hands down the best studio when it comes to releasing classic titles.