"NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    Not Rated
    Available on DVD May 4
     WarnerViveo.com
    Studio: Warner Bros.

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In the original inspiration for the Gomer Pyle character, Andy Griffith plays the strong but simple farm boy Will Stockdale, who is drafted into the U.S. Air Force. Will is pretty easy going, all the way through basic training, and this puts him at odds with his aggressive, old-timer sergeant Orville King (Myron McCormick). Will’s only true friend is the small and weak but in-your-face recruit Ben (Nick Adams). Together, Will and Nick face the struggles of surviving in the Air Force while Sgt. King tries to keep his sanity.

WHAT I LIKED
Unlike many movie buffs, I do tend to roll my eyes at the older fare. It’s not that I’m so spoiled that I can’t handle a black-and-white movie, but the filmmaking techniques have developed so much over the years, these early examples of cinema often border on the dull just in how the film is executed. However, I was pleasantly surprised with “No Time for Sergeants.”

Even though the characters were eventually rehashed for “Gomer Pyle USMC,” this film had a freshness about it, and that’s due mostly to the actors. Andy Griffith was not well known while making this, and he wasn’t burdened by years of character work in a different form. Both Griffith and Adams played off each other well, but it was the interaction with McCormick that made things click.

Much of the gags that were set-up, including Stockdale’s ability to hold his liquor and his affinity to cleaning latrines, were a slow burn with some pretty hilarious payoffs. Even today, more than 50 years after “No Time for Sergeants” was made, the film works as a comedy. Bottom line, it made me laugh.

Finally, the best moment of the picture was a fantastic bit part by Don Knotts, who showed his brilliant comic timing even in these early days.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There were only two main things that jumped out at me with this film, and both of them are incidental to the actual product itself. First, is the age of the movie. Being a film from the 50s, it feels very much of that genre. Based on a play, the movie does feel very theatrical, which tends to work better in the static shooting style of the 1950s.

Finally, if you’re most familiar with “Gomer Pyle USMC,” you might feel this is ripping it off. But keep in mind that this was made years before (and based on a play that was based on a novel), so this is actually the original source.

DVD FEATURES
Unfortunately, there aren’t any special features on this release.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who wants to see Andy Griffith and Don Knotts in an early comedy scene, and to catch the original screen look at what would become some very famous characters.

Watch this clip from "NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS"





"LOUIS L’AMOUR
WESTERN COLLECTION"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Not Rated
    Available on DVD May 18
     LouisLamourDVD.com
    Studio: Warner Bros.

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
One of the most famous western writers of all time is Louis L’Amour, and while his stories have not found a niche in popular feature films, there have been some filmed adaptations. Three adaptations are collected in a single set: the 1979 TV miniseries “The Sacketts,” the 1991 TNT original movie “Conagher” and the 1971 feature film “Catlow.”

WHAT I LIKED
Recently, I’ve been getting into westerns (thanks to a recent re-release of the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns on Blu-ray), and I realize that they just don’t make them like they used to. Sure, every year, there seems to be some decent attempts (including “Appaloosa,” “3:10 to Yuma” and the quite excellent “Open Range”). But the heyday of the western is gone for now. But I’ve read some of Louis L’Amour’s books, and his stories are timeless.

Overall, the movies in these collections aren’t fantastic adaptations. “The Sacketts” has a lot of potential ground to cover, and it just touches on the surface of that legendary western family. On the whole, this miniseries looks great, especially for the 70s era. And it stars Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott, two modern western movie legends, so their performances are the highlights.

“Conagher” likewise stars Elliott as a loner cowhand who befriends a widowed rancher, played by Elliott’s real-life wife Katharine Ross. It’s a basic story, about the bad guys coming after someone’s livelihood, and Elliott is just perfect for the genre, so that’s its strong point.

“Catlow” is the red-headed step-child of the bunch. Starring Yul Brenner, Richard Crenna and Leonard Nimoy, this film gives a more light-hearted spin on the western outlaw. Like the other movies in this collection, its the stars that make the film work, and it’s a fresh way to see both Brenner and Nimoy. Funny enough, being a theatrical release, it seems to be the more hard-nosed western, as well, and it’s my favorite of the batch.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
In general, these are not fantastic westerns, nor are they fantastic adaptations. A lot of the problems stem from the burden of being made for television. The production value is rather low, and remarkably low in “Conagher.” The look of the film is better with “Catlow,” but it is steeped in some 70s silliness that makes the production design look more like a back lot than the Old West.

A final word on “Conagher,” this is probably one of the worst video transfers I’ve seen in a while outside of a bootleg. It is alarming how murky the image is and how muddled the sound is. This may be the only way to see this film, but it’s not the best way by far.

DVD FEATURES
“The Sacketts” is presented on two discs with no special features. “Conagher” has some TNT trailers while “Catlow” has the movie’s original theatrical trailer.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Die-hard fans of the TV western and Louis L’Amour.

Watch this clip from "THE LOUIS L'AMOUR WESTERN COLLECTION"





"THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR:
THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    Not Rated
    Available on DVD May 11
     FreshPrinceDVD.com
    Studio: Warner Bros.

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Will Smith has spent the last four years living with his aunt and uncle in Bel-Air, turning the Bel-Air academy and its stuffy students on their ear. Now in its fifth year, the popular family sit-com sees Will try to become an adult by looking for a job, getting involved in several business ventures and actually trying to get married.

WHAT I LIKED
I was at an age where “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” pretty much escaped me when it was first broadcast. I was in college during its run, so I watched less TV, and until Will Smith became a huge box office name, the sum total of my experience with him was his hit single “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

This gave me a unique perspective to see the show after he became a star (which was in the middle of happening during this season with “Bad Boys” on the release and “Independence Day” not far behind). It also gave me a chance to experience the show long after the characters had gelled. This is both good and bad.

Looking back on the show, I can appreciate its popularity. It was made for the modern high school and college student at the time. It tried to keep up appearances as a family sit-com while be edgy enough that it was cool to watch. On the whole, it works as said sit-com, but I did get the sense that Smith was just marking time by this point, on his way to superstardom.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I like Will Smith. I just don’t like his too-cool-for-school, “Hell naw” attitude, which he honed on this series. The schtick gets old, unless you just adore Will Smith. So of all of his work, his super-cool from-the-streets-of-Philly persona falls far down on my list. Give me Hitch or even the dreaded Hancock any day over the Fresh Prince... but that’s just me being an old fart.

It is interesting to note this television show, which helped set trends in the mid-90s. It’s really quite racist, always pairing Will with a black girl and playing up Carlton Banks as the whitest black kid around. Like similar shows from previous decades, the segregated feel of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” wouldn’t quite fly on television today.

And the fashions! My god, I thought the 80s were bad. To quote Smith... “Damn!”

DVD FEATURES
It’s the fifth season of the series. There’s nothing new to put on special features. Just the 25 episodes, and you’re out.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Will Smith fans and anyone who wants to relive the Fresh Prince in his heyday.

Watch this clip from "THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR"




    

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