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Angels In America (HBO)  [DVD] 
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HBO's highly acclaimed heavyweight six-hour TV drama, adapted from two Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway plays by Tony Kushner, 'The Millennium Approaches' and 'Perestroika'. Kushner also wrote the screenplay for the TV adaptation, which stars Hollywood stalwarts Al Pacino and Meryl Streep alongside British actors Emma Thompson, Michael Gambon and Simon Callow. Set in a turbulent New York City in the mid-1980s, the drama follows the interconnected lives of various New Yorkers affected by issues of the day including the conservative Reagan administration, AIDS, religious bigotry, angst about their sexuality - and miraculous spiritual visitations. The drama won six Golden Globe awards, including 'Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television'.
Tony Kushner's prize-winning play Angels in America became the defining US theatrical event of the 1990s, an astonishing mix of philosophy, politics, and vibrant gay soap opera that summed up the Reagan era for an entire generation of theatre-goers. Post-9/11 would seem to be too late for a film version--philosophy and politics don't always age well--but this 2003 HBO adaptation, ably directed by Mike Nichols, provides a time capsule of the '80s and reveals the deep emotional subcurrents that will give the play lasting power.
The story centers around Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) and Louis Ironson (Ben Shenkman), a gay couple that falls apart when Prior grows ill as a result of AIDS. But cancer is not the only thing invading Prior's life: He begins to have religious visions of an angel (Emma Thompson) announcing that he is a prophet. Louis, who doesn't cope well with disease and suggestions of mortality, leaves and starts a relationship with Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson), a closeted Mormon who works for Roy Cohn (Al Pacino)--the real-life right-wing lawyer, notorious for his ruthless behind-the-scenes machinations. Add in Joe's depressed and hallucinating wife Harper (Mary Louise Parker), his determined but open-minded mother Hannah (Meryl Streep), a fierce drag queen/nurse named Belize (Jeffrey Wright, reprising his celebrated performance from the Broadway production), and you've still only begun to discover the wealth of characters and storylines in Kushner's ambitious work.
The powerhouse cast (also featuring James Cromwell, Michael Gambon, and Simon Callow) is uniformly superb. The script has its weaknesses--some of the fantastic elements, including Prior's journey to Heaven towards the end, fall flat--but even what doesn't work is bristling with ideas and a ferocious desire to capture human existence in this time and place. --Bret FetzerSee all Product description
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These words, spoken from one man to another on a deserted Long Island beach on a blustery sunny day, speak to the heart of this tale.
This is a multi-award winning filmed version of Tony Kushner's multi-award winning Broadway play. Set in 1985 Manhattan, it's all about ... well, it's all about Jews and Mormons, gays and straights, justice and lawyers, holes in the ozone layer, Reagan, little blue pills and green capsules, dreams and hallucinations, AIDS, passing blood, doubts, confessions, angels and burning ladders to heaven. OK? It's also about laughter, tears, wit, love, hate. It's a melodramatic whimsy, but subject to damn good writing and acting.
As for the acting, how can you go wrong with multiple parts played by Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, and Jeffrey Wright; with a knock-out performance by Al Pacino; and with cameos by James Cromwell, Michael Gambon, and Simon Callow? The central supporting cast led by Patrick Wilson and Ben Shenkman is outstanding.
Alas, no extras.
Although the ending seemed a bit of an anticlimax after all the sound fury that went on all through the movie, I loved every minute of it - and I'm ready to bet a a million bucks on who plays the rabbi at the beginning.
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