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I love writer/director Albert Brooks’ movies because they are both funny and intelligent, something that so few Hollywood comedies are able to accomplish. Brooks’ hilarious look at the great hereafter, DEFENDING YOUR LIFE, is one of my favorite movies of all time and a film that I wish Warner would hurry up and release on DVD. Of course, this has nothing to do with THE MUSE ($25), the latest slice of heaven from Albert Brooks. In THE MUSE, Brooks portrays Hollywood screenwriter Steven Phillips, who discovers (to his dismay) that his career has hit a brick wall. Although no one can tell him exactly what the mean, everyone in Hollywood is convinced that Steven has "lost his edge" and that his career as a screenwriter is virtually over.

With a wife and children to support, Steven is not willing to give up his career, so he turns to his friend Jack Warrick (Jeff Bridges) for advice. After a bit of prodding, Jack tells Steven the secret of his success in Tinsel Town- he has a Muse to inspire him. When Jack says a Muse, he means a genuine Muse- as in one of the nine daughters of the Greek god Zeus, whose Earthly goal is to inspire creativity in mankind. Of course, Steven is understandably skeptical, but Jack convinces Steven that the woman named Sarah Liddle (Sharon Stone) is indeed a genuine goddess. Jack sets up a meeting between Sarah and Steven and she agrees to take him on as a client. However, the services of an inspirational goddess don’t come cheaply. Before he knows it, Steven finds himself at Sarah’s beck and call twenty-four hours a day, meeting every one of the goddess’s eccentric needs.

At first, the situation doesn’t sit too well with Steven’s wife Laura (Andie MacDowell), but as Sarah becomes a bigger part of their lives, even she begins to feel the divine spark of the goddess. Unfortunately, Steven find himself spending so much time taking care of Sarah’s needs that he begins to feel cheated, especially when he sees Sarah’s gifts having a magical effect on everyone around him. THE MUSE is something of a "Hollywood" movie with a number of inside jokes that only a film fan can appreciate fully. However, there is plenty of mirth to go around. Especially hilarious are the cameos featuring directors Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Rob Reiner. The directors all play themselves, as eager clients of The Muse. I also have to cite Sharon Stone’s work in THE MUSE; this is the most delightful performance of her career. Stone truly belongs in a screwball comedy- now if we could only get Hollywood to revive the dead art form. The cast of THE MUSE also includes Mark Feuerstein, Steven Wright, Dakin Matthews, Concetta Tomei, as well as Cybill Shepherd, Lorenzo Lamas and Jennifer Tilly in cameos.

USA Home Entertainment has made THE MUSE available on a dual layered, single sided DVD that offers both full screen and wide screen presentation. Other than the framing being wrong, there is nothing wrong with the full screen version. However, I think most fans will want to watch the beautiful wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. THE MUSE is framed at 1.85:1 and the image is crisp, with an astonishing level of detail. Colors are highly saturated and marvelously rendered, without bleeding or other distortions. Flesh tones are exceptionally pleasing. Blacks are pure, while both shadow detail and contrast are excellent. Digital compression artifacts are virtually nonexistent on the finely authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.0 channel soundtrack provides a basic comedy mix, which is very strong on dialogue, with modest use of the discrete channels for sound effect placement. For the most part, sound effects usage remains within the cleanly delineated forward soundstage. As for the rear channels, they primarily provide ambient sound and musical fill, however there are a couple of split surround effects. Elton John’s musical score is well reproduced, without any harshness in the orchestrations. An English Dolby Surround track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The Interactive menus are nicely designed, containing animation and music. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the disc’s extras. Supplement include a short "making-of" featurette, a theatrical teaser, a theatrical trailer, as well as cast biographies/filmographies.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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