|DVD Reviews for 12/28: Insert Semi-Gratuitous Milla Jovovich Reference Here.
|by Peter Sobczynski
Due to a relative dearth of new releases, a haphazard release schedule brought on by the holidays and mild laziness on my part, this week’s column is going to compose of the notable releases from both this week as well as the following week. Tune back in this weekend as my picks for the best DVDs of 2007 will be up at some point.
For the last time, I am asking for your help in coming up with potential titles to cover in my annual “DVD-M.I.A.” column focusing on titles that have yet to appear on DVD in any form in America. If you have some suggestions on a favorite obscurity, please pass them on either by clicking on the “Comments” section at the end of this article or by sending me an e-mail at email@example.com I will be accepting suggestions until December 30 and the column will run on January 4. Keep in mind that someone out there must be reading this column as three of last year’s selections, “The Silent Partner,” “Investigating Sex” and “Walker,” have either been issued or have had a release date announced.
NEW AND NOTABLE
AMERICAN PIE: BETA HOUSE (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Look, I love Eugene Levy as much as the next person, but come on–appearing in a third direct-to-video spinoff of the once-amusing “American Pie” franchise is something that even Bobby Bittman himself would have turned down flat.
THE BROTHERS SOLOMON (Sony Home Entertainment. $26.95): I will freely admit that of all of the pregnancy-based comedies to emerge in 2007, this oddity, in which Will Arnett and Will Forte play a pair of brilliant idiots (you’ll see) who are trying to sire a baby in order to impress their comatose father (Lee Majors), was the weakest of the bunch. That said, I will also freely admit to laughing far more often while watching it than I could have anticipated and if you go into it with suitably lowered expectations, you might find yourself taken with its weirdo charms as well. (However, if you are going into it with an all-consuming hatred of John Parr’s theme song from “St Elmo’s Fire,” you should probably give it a pass.)
EASTERN PROMISES (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): In the hands of virtually any other director, this film, which tells the story of a British midwife (Naomi Watts) whose attempts to track down the family of a recently deceased patient inadvertently lead her into the clutches of the Russian underworld, might have just turned out to be an ordinary thriller but in the hand of a master like David Cronenberg, it became a haunting, brutal and unforgettable exploration of the question of identity–a notion that has long fascinated him over the years–that was anchored by the hypnotic lead performance from Viggo Mortensen as a mob associate whose interest in the woman and her search is more complex than it seems. One of the very best films of 2007, the only problem with the DVD is that it lacks one of the erudite commentary tracks that Cronenberg usually supplies for his films–the bonus features here are simply a couple of brief featurettes on the making of the film and the story behind the elaborate tattoos that play an important part of the plot.
EXTREME MOVIE (The Weinstein Company. $19.95):This ribald series of vignettes surrounding the wacky world of teen sex–something that I think we can all laugh about these days thanks to Britney’s little sister–proved to be so daring, so wild and so outrageous that the Weinsteins decided to stick up on a shelf for many months before dumping it onto the direct-to-video market in the hopes that there are a few people willing to drop a double sawbuck in the hopes of seeing Frankie Muniz getting it on.
GALACTICA 1980 (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): After cancelling the original “Battlestar Galactica” after only one season because of low ratings, high production costs and terminal lameness, ABC tried to amortize the cost overruns of that series with this spinoff in which some of the crew members from that show (including Lorne Greene) found themselves on Earth in 1980 and helping people with their personal problems while fending off the occasional robot attack. The fact that the vast majority of you reading this have probably never even heard of the show before this moment should demonstrate just how successful it turned out to be in the end–hell, even fans of the original show thought that this was perhaps the lamest thing to ever hit television in the pre-“Small Wonder” era.
THE HEARTBREAK KID (Dreamworks Home Entertainment. $29.99): In this dreadful remake of Elaine May’s brilliant 1971 dark comedy from Peter & Bobby Farrelly, Ben Stiller steps on Charles Grodin’s shoes to play a newly-married schmuck who discovers on his honeymoon that his new bride (Malin Akerman) is a psycho and then meets up with his real dream girl (Michelle Monaghan). Curiously, although it still carries the “R” rating that it had during its brief theatrical run, there is an announcement on the package that states that “This film has been modified from it’s original version. It has been edited for content” but as far as I can tell, it appears that every sexist, racist, misogynistic and Carlos Mencia-related moment that appeared on the big screen is still there. If there is a student of this particular title out there who can remind me as to what is missing, I would be mildly grateful.
JACKASS 2.5 (Paramount Home Entertainment. $29.99): Once upon a time, the great French filmmaker Jacques Rivette combed through the outtakes of his 1992 masterpiece “La Belle Noiseuse” and used them to create 1993's “Divertimento,” a fascinating oddity that told the same story in a new and intriguing manner. No doubt following in Rivette’s footsteps, Johnny Knoxville and his gang of knuckleheads have plowed through the tons of unused footage shot for “Jackass 2" and have stitched it together into a direct-to-video feature. Like the previous “Jackass” films, the gags, pun intended, range from inspired to insipid to repellent but when they work (such as their take on the finale of “King Kong”), you may find yourself literally weeping from either laughter, shame or a combination of the two.
LOST AND FOUND: THE HARRY LANGDON COLLECTION (Facets Home Video $39.95): Once considered to be the equal of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd in terms of talent and popularity back in the 1920's, silent comedian Harry Langdon’s career quickly went downhill for a variety of reasons (ego and an inability to make the transition to sound among them) and his work has been so difficult to see in the ensuing decades that most scholars have downgraded his historical position. This four-disc set brings together 20 of his shorts, alternate versions done for television and the 8mm market, his first feature film, home movies and a feature-length documentary on his life and work in a fascinating package that reveals Langdon to be a drolly deadpan comedian whose work still feels surprisingly modern today. People unused to silent comedy may find it a bit odd but those with some familiarity with the genre will find this set to be a true treasure trove.
RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.98): Okay, so this eagerly-awaited third installment of the zombie franchise didn’t quite live up to expectations–mostly because the promised battles amidst the ruins of post-apocalyptic Las Vegas turned out to be much ado about nothing and star/goddess Milla Jovovich was pushed to the side to make way for the introduction of some singularly uninteresting new characters. That said, it still has a couple of worthwhile moments here and there and few post-apocalyptic warriors cut a more fetching figure in a duster than its heroine.
RUSH HOUR 3 (New Line Home Entertainment. $34.95): Plus, as threequels go, it isn’t nearly as bad as this shrill and ugly continuation of Chris Tucker’s career and Jackie Chan’s chronic mishandling by the American film industry. In choosing to play a Parisian police chief/amateur proctologist, Roman Polanski made the single most ill-advised move of his entire professional career. Okay, cheap joke but no cheaper than anything seen or heard here.
SEAQUEST DSV: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Universal Home Entertainment. $59.98): Wait, this went to a second season?
SEPTEMBER DAWN (Sony Home Entertainment. $26.95): In perhaps the most embarrassing pop-culture slap at the Church of the Latter-Day Saints to appear in 2007 (with the possible exception of that creepy doll dance that Marie Osmond did on “Dancing With the Stars,” this mildly controversial but largely unseen historical melodrama recounted the details of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, an 1857 incident in which 140 members of a wagon train heading to California were slaughtered in Missouri by a renegade Mormon bishop (Jon Voight at his Voightiest) and his followers. Sure, it is incompetently made and wildly intolerant but where else are you going to get a chance to see General Zod himself, Terrence Stamp, step into shoes previously filled by Vincent Price and play Brigham Young?
SHOOT EM UP (New Line Home Entertainment. $28.95): Armed with nothing more than his wits, his cunning, his ability to handle weapons ranging from guns to carrots and loyal, resourceful and chesty hooker Monica Bellucci, Clive Owen fends off a never-ending series of attacks to save a newborn child from the clutches of wisecracking hit man Paul Giamatti in an action thriller that starts off ridiculously over-the-top and proceeds from there. A flop in theaters, one of many suffered by New Line in the last year or so, the outright lunacy of this live-action cartoon does have a certain charm for a while but even the most indulgent adrenaline junkie is likely to grow a bit weary of it by the time it hits its seriously overwrought climax.
THE TUDORS–THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $42.99): Hoping to cash in on the success of HBO’s “Rome,” a historical series that brought new life to the stuff that we all struggled to care about in high school by including large doses of graphic sex and violence into the mix, Showtime took the same approach for this series in which Jonathan Rhys Meyers portrays the young King Henry VIII during the early and debauched days of his reign. Lots of pretty girls, enough blood to go around and if you aren’t careful, you just might learn something.
WAR (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): What is it good for? Well, unless you are such an ardent devotee of action stars Jet Li and Jason Statham that you have to see them in anything that they make, the answer here is “absolutely nothing.” Although the ads suggested that the film would essentially be one long brawl between them, it turned out to be a ridiculously convoluted cop thriller in which the hoped-for confrontation turned out to a.) be saved for the final reels and b.) not really worth the wait. However, fans of lunatic “what-the-hell?” last-minute plot twists should probably check it out because it supplies a couple of curve balls that almost make the final of “Dead Silence” look plausible by comparison.
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originally posted: 12/28/07 13:44:30
last updated: 12/28/07 16:49:58