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cover Working Girl (1988) Starring: Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Melanie Griffith. Director: Mike Nichols.
I found this in the Comedy section, hadn't seen it in a while. A nice little story about 'stickin it to the man,' or the woman in this case, with great music by Carly Simon. Always fun to see a movie set in New York City, too. -Dan (3/10/06)
Melanie Griffith had a fling with stardom in this Mike Nichols comedy about an executive secretary (Griffith) who can't get her deserved shot at upward mobility in the brokerage industry. Hardly taken seriously by male bosses, things aren't really any better for her once she starts working for a female exec (Sigourney Weaver, never more delightful), a narcissist with a boy-toy banker (Harrison Ford) and a tendency to steal the best ideas from her underlings. When Weaver's character is laid up with a broken leg, Griffith poses as a replacement wheeler-dealer, flirting with Ford and working on a new client who doesn't suspect the deception. Nichols brings a lot of snap and sass to Kevin Wade's smart script about chafing against class restrictions and perceptions. Sundry scenes are played quite charmingly, especially those of Griffith and Ford's mutual pickup in a bar and Joan Cusack's championing of Griffith's crusade. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actress (Griffith), and two Supporting Actress awards (Weaver, Cusack); Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run" won the Oscar.
cover North by Northwest (1959) Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint; Director: Alfred Hitchcock.
Hitchcock and Cary Grant never disappoint. A classic that I always enjoy. -Dan (2/25/06)
A strong candidate for the most sheerly entertaining and enjoyable movie ever made by a Hollywood studio (with Citizen Kane, Only Angels Have Wings and Trouble in Paradise running neck and neck). Positioned between the much heavier and more profoundly disturbing Vertigo (1958) and the stark horror of Psycho (1960), North by Northwest (1959) is Alfred Hitchcock at his most effervescent in a romantic comedy-thriller that also features one of the definitive Cary Grant performances. Which is not to say that this is just "Hitchcock Lite"; seminal Hitchcock critic Robin Wood (in his book Hitchcock's Films Revisited) makes an airtight case for this glossy MGM production as one of The Master's "unbroken series of masterpieces from Vertigo to Marnie." It's a classic Hitchcock Wrong Man scenario: Grant is Roger O. Thornhill (initials ROT), an advertising executive who is mistaken by enemy spies for a U.S. undercover agent named George Kaplan. Convinced these sinister fellows (James Mason as the boss, and Martin Landau as his henchman) are trying to kill him, Roger flees and meets a sexy Stranger on a Train (Eva Marie Saint), with whom he engages in one of the longest, most convolutedly choreographed kisses in screen history. And, of course, there are the famous set pieces: the stabbing at the United Nations, the crop-duster plane attack in the cornfield (where a pedestrian has no place to hide), and the cliffhanger finale atop the stone faces of Mount Rushmore. Plus a sparkling Ernest Lehman script and that pulse-quickening Bernard Herrmann score. What more could a moviegoer possibly desire?
cover Three Days of the Condor (1975) Starring: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway; Director: Sydney Pollack.
I couldn't believe it but this film is even more relevant today than when it was released. It's a thriller, right to the end, and the cast is first-rate. -Dan (11/4/05)
Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack continued their longtime collaboration (the actor and director have worked together on Jeremiah Johnson, The Way We Were, The Electric Horseman, and Out of Africa, among other films) with this taut spy drama. Redford plays a reader for U.S. intelligence who becomes a hunted man after he is not among the victims of a mass murder of his colleagues. Faye Dunaway does solid work as the frightened and mystified woman whom he forces to conceal him, and Max von Sydow is appropriately cool as a professional assassin. That same, sustained tone of danger and expectation that made Pollack's The Firm so much fun can be found in this 1975 thriller, albeit with an appropriate dose of post-Watergate paranoia.
cover Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Starring: Cary Grant
I hadn't seen this movie in a long time. I had forgotten that it was a Halloween movie. It's thoroughly entertaining and Cary Grant is hilarious. What a face! -Dan (10/28/05)
You'll die laughing! Frank Capra directs Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and stellar cast in the hit Broadway farce about a nutcase family with well-intentioned homicidal tendencies.
cover Nature - Pale Male (2004) Starring: Pale Male
The book, "Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park" was followed by a PBS Nature episode devoted to the male hawk, Pale Male. I would rather the time spent on the enthusiasm of the birders had been used to show even more about the hawks but otherwise a very fascinating story. Great for kids, too! -Dan (12/13/04)
Of the millions of newcomers who flock to New York City, a red-tailed hawk's astounding arrival in 1991 made history. No other red-tailed hawk had ever attempted to make Manhattan his territory. Affectionately dubbed Pale Male, he made an exclusive Fifth Avenue apartment building his home. Pale Male became an instant celebrity who made New Yorkers' hearts and imaginations soar. Oscar-winner Joanne Woodward narrates this award-winning presentation of the Emmy-honored PBS series, NATURE. Join the close-knit community of bird-watchers who faithfully gather daily to follow the progress of this exquisite, powerful bird of prey, as he hunts Central Park's wild creatures, courts his mate on Woody Allen's balcony, builds a penthouse nest, fiercely protects his family from attacking crows, and encourages his baby chicks to fly. Pale Male and his family become a magnificent obsession for the captivated crowds below. To the regulars on the beach, it's better than Broadway. And so is this very special program that the Audubon Society has proclaimed "a classic."
cover The Deer Hunter (1978) Starring: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken
I decided to watch this because John Kerry said that, of the films of Viet Nam, it was the one that he felt most represented the experience. I was young at the time but I remember the body counts on the evening news and men coming home. As I watched this film I kept thinking, Oh, God, I canít believe weíre going through this madness all over again. -Dan (11/26/04)
Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, The Deer Hunter is simultaneously an audacious directorial conceit and one of the greatest films ever made about friendship and the personal impact of war. Like Apocalypse Now, it's hardly a conventional battle film--the soldier's experience was handled with greater authenticity in Platoon--but its depiction of war on an intimate scale packs a devastatingly dramatic punch. Director Michael Cimino may be manipulating our emotions with masterful skill, but he does it in a way that stirs the soul and pinches our collective nerves with graphic, high-intensity scenes of men under life-threatening duress. Although Russian-roulette gambling games were not a common occurrence during the Vietnam war, they're used here as a metaphor for the futility of the war itself. To the viewer, they become unforgettably intense rites of passage for the best friends--Pennsylvania steelworkers played by Robert De Niro, John Savage, and Oscar winner Christopher Walken--who may survive or perish during their tour through a tropical landscape of hell. Back home, their loved ones must cope with the war's domestic impact, and in doing so they allow The Deer Hunter to achieve a rare combination of epic storytelling and intimate, heart-rending drama.
cover Legally Blonde (2001) Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson
This was OK. It continually verged on terrible however I couldn't turn it off. Very light entertainment. I think it paved the way for the likes of Paris Hilton. -Dan (11/17/04)
If you've ever doubted how much a star can carry a movie, look no further than Legally Blonde, Robert Luketic's pop fluff about a sorority girl who becomes the reigning brain at Harvard Law School. The film tries way too hard to be pop fluff, but thankfully it also understands the comic glories of Reese Witherspoon. As Elle Woods, the supposedly dimwitted heroine, Witherspoon gives a high-wattage performance that somehow comes across as both lusciously cartoonish and warmly human. It's a radiant comic turn worthy of Marilyn Monroe, and Luketic throws the whole movie at her, even though its intentional kitsch and sledgehammer contrivances don't trust you enough to figure out on your own what might be guilty fun about it. It's a lame movie, essentially, that redeems itself by knowing just enough to keep things sunny and moving right along. The film is content to follow several steps behind the regal Witherspoon, carrying her train. You probably will be, too.
cover The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh
Black and white. Great cast. It's hard to imagine that the recent remake is better in any way from this original classic. I watched it on Election night. A bit haunting. -Dan (11/5/04)
You will never find a more chillingly suspenseful, perversely funny, or viciously satirical political thriller than The Manchurian Candidate, based on the novel by Richard Condon (author of Winter Kills). The film, withheld from distribution by star Frank Sinatra for almost a quarter century after President Kennedy's assassination, has lost none of its potency over time. Former infantryman Bennet Marco (Sinatra) is haunted by nightmares about his platoon having been captured and brainwashed in Korea. The indecipherable dreams seem to center on Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), a decorated war hero but a cold fish of a man whose own mother (Angela Lansbury, in one of the all-time great dragon-lady roles) describes him as looking like his head is "always about to come to a point." Mrs. Bates has nothing on Lansbury's character, the manipulative queen behind her second husband, Senator John Iselin (James Gregory), a notoriously McCarthyesque demagogue.
cover Magnolia Starring: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore
This is a great movie that is just a bit too long. I can't ever seem to watch the whole thing in one sitting. However, if you enjoy movies where there are many stories occurring simultaneously, this one's for you. -Dan (11/1/04)
A handful of people in the San Fernando Valley are having one hell of a day. TV mogul Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is on his deathbed; his trophy wife (Julianne Moore) is popping pills with alarming frequency. Earl's nurse (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is trying desperately to get in touch with Earl's only son, sex guru Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), who's about to have his carefully constructed past blown by a TV reporter (April Grace). Whiz kid Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) is being goaded by his selfish dad into breaking the record for the game show What Do Kids Know? Meanwhile, Stanley's predecessor, the grown-up quiz kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) has lost his job and is nursing a severe case of unrequited love. And the host of What Do Kids Know?, the affable Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), like Earl, is dying of cancer, and his attempt to reconcile with his cokehead daughter (Melora Walters) fails miserably. She, meanwhile, is running hot and cold with a cop (John C. Reilly) who would love to date her, if she can sit still for long enough. And over it all, a foreboding sky threatens to pour something more than just rain. This third feature from Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) is a maddening, magnificent piece of filmmaking, and it's an ensemble film to rank with the best of Robert Altman--every little piece of the film means something, and it's solidly there for a reason. Deftly juggling a breathtaking ensemble of actors, Anderson crafts a tale of neglectful parents, resentful children, and love-starved souls that's amazing in scope, both thematically and emotionally. Part of the charge of Magnolia is seeing exactly how may characters Anderson can juggle, and can he keep all those balls in air (indeed he can, even if it means throwing frogs into the mix). And it's been far too long since we've seen a filmmaker whose love of making movies is so purely joyful, and this electric energy is reflected in the actors, from Cruise's revelatory performance to Reilly's quietly powerful turn as the moral center of the story. While at three hours it's definitely not suited to everyone's taste, Magnolia is a compelling, heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful mediation on the accidents of chance that make up our lives. Featuring eight wonderful songs by Aimee Mann, including "Save Me."