|DVD Reviews for 12/22: Tats, Tots And . . .You Know!
|by Peter Sobczynski
In which your faithful critic is too lazy to turn in a full lead review but tries to make up for it by covering enough of the avalanche of new releases so that you won't notice after all.
Due to minor technical difficulties and major burnout, there will not be a major DVD review this week–try to contain your grief. Below, however, you will find the usual round-up of the week’s major releases. Instead, I would like to take this moment to remind you once again that I am still soliciting title suggestions for the article on films not currently available on DVD that will be running on January 5. If you have a favorite film–famous or obscure–that has inexplicably not been officially released on DVD in America, please send it to me either by clicking on the response box at the end of this piece or by contacting me directly at email@example.com by January 2. If you have any questions, please consult last week’s DVD column or drop me a line at the above address. Trust me–you’ll be glad that you did.
Don’t worry–I promise that I will be up to speed next week and will present my list of the 10 Best DVDs of the year, something that has never been done before in the history of journalism.
Now, back to the usual nonsense.
NEW AND NOTABLE
ALL THE KING’S MEN (Sony Home Entertainment. $29.95): Thanks to the rapidly diminishing theatrical-to-video window, you can now spend award season watching failed bits of Oscar bait, such as this long-delayed and poorly put-together adaptation of the Robert Penn Warren novel (previously transformed into a popular-but-dated 1949 award-winner), from the comfort of your own home. A huge array of talented actors (including Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson and James Gandolfini) are completely wasted–none more so than Kate Winslet, whose work here is the second-dullest performance of her usually illustrious career (outdone only by her current turn in the execrable “The Holiday”).
ALEX RIDER–OPERATION STORMBREAKER (Genius Products. $29.99): A popular series of youth-oriented spy books stumbles in its transformation to the big screen in this noisy and annoying kiddie flick that is enlivened only by a typically odd turn from man-god Mickey Rourke as the chief villain.
AMERICAN PIE: THE NAKED MILE (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Can some please explain to Eugene Levy the concepts of savings accounts and wise financial planning so he doesn’t have to continue making embarrassingly pointless appearances in a once-proud film series that has mutated into an annual helping of DTV fodder at its worst? Of course, he may just being doing it because he likes topless women–if so, can someone give him a copy of the original “American Pie” and remind him that it won’t get better than Shannon Elizabeth?
FEARLESS (Universal Home Video. $29.98): If this historically-based martial-arts epic does indeed prove to be Jet Li’s final excursion in the genre, it at least has him going out on a reasonably high note, which is more than I can say for Jackie Chan these days.
THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (Warner Home Video. $19.98): In this adaptation of the Ray Bradbury story collection, Rod Steiger plays the title character, a mysterious man covered head-to-toe in elaborate tattoos that come to life and tell a terrifying trio of tales. Like most anthology films, this one is decidedly uneven–one wishes that the film had a slightly more visionary director behind it than the workmanlike Jack Smight–but as misfires go, it does have the occasional striking moment or two.
INVINCIBLE (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.99): If “Rocky Balboa” and “We Are Marshall” don’t satisfy your jones for inspirational sports melodramas, you might want to check out this not-that-bad biopic (albeit one that fudges key facts) that follows ordinary joe Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) as he goes from the stands to the gridiron when his beloved Philadelphia Eagles hold an open tryout. For those of you not into inspirational sports melodramas, the film also features the equally inspirational sight of Elizabeth Banks looking fetching in a New York Giants jersey.
LADY IN THE WATER (Warner Home Video. $28.98): a.k.a. “When the Night Comes Falling From The Sky.”
THE LIBRARIAN–RETURN TO KING SOLOMON’S MINES (Warner Home Video. $19.98): In this sequel to the cheesy-but-popular basic-cable “Indiana Jones” rip-off from a couple of years ago, two-fisted librarian Noah Wyle goes off in search of the long-hidden mines of King Solomon and instead discovers the equally long-hidden Gabrielle Anwar. This is not necessarily a bad trade-off in my opinion–did you see “Body Snatchers”?
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): I don’t care how many awards it wins or how many 10 Best lists it lands on, this comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family taking an eventful road trip to a kiddie beauty pageant still strikes me as little more than a barely disguised indie-hipster remake of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” without the rally fun pack or Christie Brinkley.
MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): Showing the refined taste and discernment that led to a 2006 slate that included “Just My Luck” and “Date Movie,” 20th Century Fox flushed away one hilarious Luke Wilson vehicle in their possession, Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy,” yet gave this painfully unfunny Wilson vehicle, in which he plays a dopey guy who dumps superheroine girlfriend Uma Thurman (don’t ask) only to discover that she is the vengeful type, a wide release. I know that doesn’t make any sense but who am I to argue with the guys who decided to fund “Deck the Halls” and “Epic Movie”?
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S PLEDGE THIS (Film Mates. $26.99): Fresh from its gala world premiere in the suburbs of Chicago–an event marred by rumors that star Paris Hilton was considering bailing on the event because of how bad it was–this latest desecration of the once-proud Lampoon name involves with a bunch of misfit college co-eds who decide to get back at snooty sorority president Hilton when she rejects them for membership. I think I speak for everyone here when I say, “Paris Hilton as a college student?”
A SCANNER DARKLY (Warner Home Video. $27.98): Many have attempted to bring the twisty and paranoid prose of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick to the big screen over the years and while “Blade Runner” is still the best film inspired by Dick’s work, this trippy effort from Richard Linklater (which utilizes the same rotoscoping process he previously deployed in “Waking Life”) probably comes the closest to transporting Dick’s unique vision from the page to the screen. As a narc so deep undercover that he is ordered to spy on himself, Keanu Reeves turns in one of his better performances and he is ably supported by Woody Harrellson, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder (in the best performance she has given in years).
THE SIMPSONS–THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON (Fox Home Entertainment. $49.98): In this four-disc collection that chronicles one of the last years of the golden age of the animated comedy perennial, Homer drags the family to New York to reclaim his car, joins the NRA, takes command of a submarine and joins a cult. Not to be outdone, Bart takes over Lisa’s news show, becomes a carny and turns into a fly during the Halloween episode. The extras are the usual collection of deleted scenes, chatty commentaries and bric-a-brac along with a preview of the eagerly-awaited upcoming feature film.
STEP UP (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.98): Unless you are a 12-year-old girl or a Rachel Griffiths completest, there is absolutely no reason why you should be picking up this ridiculous teen-oriented musical drama about a hood from the wrong side of the tracks (Channing Tatum) and a privileged hottie from the correct side (Jenna Dewan) who become dance partners when he is sentenced to do time at the performing arts school he trashed in an act of extreme plot contrivance.
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN . . .(Warner Home Video. $19.98): In this mixture of the Western and prison film genres, with healthy dollops of comedy and drama thrown in for good measure, Kirk Douglas stars as a charming thief who cruelly exploits everyone in his path in his effort to bust out of prison and retrieve a fortune that he stashed away before his arrest. Although this quirky 1970 film, written by Robert Benton & David Newman in the wake of “Bonnie & Clyde,” never found an audience during its brief release in theaters, it is a curiosity that is definitely worth checking out today.
WALT DISNEY TREASURES–WAVE 6 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.98 each): This latest wave of cartoons, television shows and assorted ephemera from the Disney Vaults should appeal both to hard-core collectors and families simply looking for a couple of hours of entertainment. “The Complete Pluto–Volume Two” offers up a series of shorts from the official Disney dog released between 1947 and 1951. “More Silly Symphonies–1929-1938" is another collection of one-off musically-based shorts that Walt Disney often used as a testing ground for his new artistic processes. “The Mickey Mouse Club Featuring The Hardy Boys”presents an adaptation of the first book featuring the smuggler-busting brothers, “The Tower Treasure,”that ran as part of “The Mickey Mouse Club” between 1956-57. From a historical perspective, the most intriguing set of the bunch looks to be “Your Host, Walt Disney” a collection of episodes from the old “Walt Disney Presents” television show that concentrated on behind-the-scenes looks at the man and his work.
WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE (HBO Home Video. $29.98): Outraged by what he was seeing on the television during the early days of the Hurrican Katrina tragedy, Spike Lee went down to New Orleans to cover the disaster and the government’s lack of response for himself and the result is this powerful, angry and deeply moving 4-hour work that is among the very best works of his entire career. Originally seen on HBO, this three-disc set contains the film, a 105-minute epilogue and a commentary track from Lee in which he discusses his experiences and his feelings towards the Bush administration.
THE WICKER MAN (Warner Home Entertainment. $29.98): I guess I’m in the minority on this one but I kind of liked Neil LaBute’s oddball take on the 1973 British horror film in which a repressed cop (Nicolas Cage) who goes off to an isolated island in search of a missing girl and stumbles across a mysterious cult (a feminist enclave led by Ellen Burstyn substituting for Christopher Lee’s band of bawdy paganists that have plans for their visitor. As a horror film, it doesn’t really work but as a sly self-parody of LaBute’s image as a misogynistic artist, it is most assuredly an item of interest for fans of his work. (Those who aren’t may still get a kick out of the screw-loose final reel in which Cage indulges in some prime scenery-chewing histrionics.) Purists should also note that Anchor Bay is also issuing a 2-disc version of the original this week that contains all the extras found on previously editions (two cuts of the film and interviews) along with a newly recorded commentary track featuring Christopher Lee and director Robin Hardy.
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originally posted: 12/22/06 16:24:31
last updated: 12/22/06 16:55:16