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DVD Reviews For 2/12: "You Can't Shoot Me! I Have A Very Low Threshold Of Death!"
by Peter Sobczynski

A couple of all-time classics, a couple of movies that you probably didn't see in theaters but should have, several that you probably didn't see that aren't worth catching up on and a bunch of nifty catalogue titles finally making their Blu-ray debuts (one of which also happens to include one of the great nude scenes in film history, if you are into that sort of thing)--these are just some of the offerings to be found below. And while I won't be officially covering it until next, it must be noted that this Tuesday--i.e. Valentine's Day--sees the release of "The Human Centipede II": if any of you out there are crazy enough to pick that up as a gift for your amour, please drop a line and tell me how that went for you.

NEW AND NOTABLE

ANONYMOUS (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): There have any number of conspiracy theories over the years developed by people who want to convince themselves that William Shakespeare never actually wrote any of the works credited to his name but none of them have been as insulting to the intelligence as this windy, witless and worthless take on the topic from noted intellectual Roland Emmerich. I won't even bother to summarize his premise--other than to say that it is gibberish--but if you are an admirer of the Bard or coherent storytelling, you will want to give this one a pass.


THE BIG YEAR (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): Despite the high-powered casting of Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, few people turned up in theaters to see this comedy in which the play a trio of birdwatching enthusiasts competing against each other in a cross-country contest to spot the most and rarest specimens over the course of a year. There are a few scattered laughs throughout but the three stars and their contrasting comedic styles never mesh together and the whole thing just sags as a result. That said, it isn't offensively bad and I suspect that it may come across a little better at home, where its low-key approach may play a little better.


THE DOUBLE (Image Entertainment. $27.97): Richard Gere stars as a retired CIA agent who is pressed back into service when the snake to his proverbial mongoose--a Russian assassin long believed to be dead--appears to be back and up to his old tricks. Along with green FBI agent Topher Grace (yeah, you heard me), he goes off in pursuit but the real mystery is whether viewers will be able to actually make it to the end of this weak thriller without dozing off or switching over to something else. Luckily, the film makes it easier for people to do just that by telling a story whose twists are so predictable that virtually everyone will figure out the big twist long before the characters do despite giving it away fairly early in the proceedings--most will be able to pull this off even before putting the disc into the machine--while failing to give any reason to stick around while the others play catch-up.


DOWNTON ABBEY: SEASON 2 (BBC. $44.99): Yes, I know that this British series about the goings-on within the walls of of a lavish British home--scandalous enough to rival the world war raging on outside---is all the rage with the kids, the critics and the unapologetic Anglophiles these days but I must confess that I have yet to watch an episode. That said, I did see an ad for it on "Saturday Night Live" a couple of weeks ago and based on that, my interest is somewhat piqued. Other TV-related DVDs now available include "CSI: Grave Danger" (a.k.a. The One Quentin Tarantino Directed) (Paramount Home Video. $24.99), "The Father Dowling Mysteries: The First Season" {i](Paramount Home Video. $29.99) and "Police Woman: The Complete Second Season" (Shout! Factory. $44.99).














DREAM HOUSE (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): With a cast featuring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts working under the direction of acclaimed filmmaker Jim Sheridan, how could this ghost story about possibly fail. Well, it does and then some and the result is one of the biggest wastes of time and talent that I can remember. I can't understand why all of the aforementioned people signed on for this claptrap but considering the troubled nature of the project (including extensive reshoots and Sheridan essentially being fired before completion), I am fairly certain that they all regretted it fairly quickly.


DRIVE (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.99): Let's face it--no matter what the hipster movie geeks might like to believe, there is no way that this slick and violent thriller featuring Ryan Gosling as a quiet young man who works as a stunt driver for the movies by day and as a freelance getaway driver for criminals by night was ever going to be nominated for multiple Oscars. I'm not saying that it didn't deserve them--it was one of the best films of 2011 and a worthy successor to the classic crime films of Walter Hill and Michael Mann that director Nicholas Winding Refn was clearly trying to emulate--but the Academy rarely tends to go for unapologetic genre films, even one as stylishly done as this one. (Hell, even "Heat," a film generally considered to be a modern classic, received zero nominations when it came out in 1995.) However, Albert Brooks, brilliantly cast against type as a quietly fearsome crime boss, was completely screwed out of a seemingly sure-fire Best Supporting Actor nomination. (Yah, he probably would have lost to Christopher Plummer, but still . . .) Nevertheless, I understand Brooks holds no grudges and would like to take all the members of the Academy out for Chinese food to show that there are no hard feelings.


FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99): With a cast featuring such heavyweights as Julia Roberts, Willem Dafoe, Ryan Reynolds, Emily Watson, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hayden Panettiere, how could a film possibly go so wrong that it wound up sitting on a shelf for years before finally getting trickled out into a handful of theaters. Quite quickly and quite definitively as anyone who tries sitting through this dreary domestic drama about and estranged family whose not-so-buried tensions return with full force when they are thrown together again by an unexpected tragedy. The title, by the way, comes from a Robert Frost poem and reading it over and over again for two solid hours would be far more entertaining and edifying that watching this film, believe you me.

IN TIME (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.98): Despite an intriguing premise (a future world in which time has become the universal commodity, the rich can theoretically live for ever and the poor literally have a day-to-day existence), a top-notch writer-director (Andrew Niccol, the man behind such mind-benders as "Gattaca," "The Truman Show" and the underrated "Simone") and a game lead actor (the generally entertaining Justin Timberlake), this bit of sci-fi silliness (in which the formerly poor Timberlake winds up with lots of time on his hands who winds up threatening the very balance of power in this world) never comes close to working thanks to a silly story, somnambulant acting from its cast (with Amanda Seyfreid as the worst culprit) and some of the most painfully obvious reshoots in recent memory. How bad is it? The notoriously litigious author Harlan Ellison, who decried being identified as a science-fiction author but who has a long record of suing filmmakers whom he feels have stolen his ideas, filed suit against this one as well but wound up dropping the whole thing as soon as he saw it, no doubt unwilling to be associated with something so silly.


LADY AND THE TRAMP (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $39.99): To be honest, this 1955 Disney animated film chronicling the adventures and blossoming romance between a privileged cocker spaniel cast out of her home and the rough-and-tumble mutt who takes her under his paw is not one of the top-tier entertainments from the studio--it simply lacks the majesty and wonder of such masterpieces as "Snow White," "Dumbo" and "Fantasia," to name only a few. That said, the film is still an absolute delight from start to finish, thanks to such elements as the gorgeous widescreen imagery, the songs featuring Peggy Lee and a certain immortal spaghetti dinner, that if anyone comes away from it claiming to be completely unmoved by what they have seen, they are clearly an unfeeling monster and I will personally fight them if necessary. (That said, I must confess that my favorite part of the film are the nasty and troublemaking Siamese cats but that may just be because I am more of a cat person than a dog person). Making its Blu-ray debut, the film comes loaded with plenty of extras for viewers of all ages including deleted scenes/songs and recordings of the original script conferences that Walt Disney himself held in order to properly hammer out the story. Whether you have kids or not or are a pet person or not, this title is pretty much essential.


THE MILL & THE CROSS (Kino Entertainment. $29.95): Part historical drama and part art history lesson, this strangely fascinating work from Lech Majewski examines Pieter Bruegel famous painting "The Way to Calvary," which he painted in 1564 to depict both the suffering of Christ on the way to his crucifixion and the persecution of Protestants in his homeland of Flanders at the hands of the Spanish, by having Bruegel himself (played by Rutger Hauer) literally take viewers on a guided tour of his work to discuss what he was striving to achieve. Granted, some viewers may find the opening sequence observing the minute details of life in Flanders to be a bit tedious and some of the dialogue a bit clunky. However, those elements are besides the point because the film as a whole is such a ravishing visual treasure to behold (thanks to some expertly deployed digital effects that immerse viewers into the world Bruegel has created on the canvas) that such flaws won't even register. Maybe not the ideal Saturday night kick-back-and-relax movie but for anyone with an interest in art history, this is essential viewing.


OUTRAGE: THE WAY OF THE YAKUZA (Magnolia Home Video. $29.98): After spending the last decade making fairly mediocre films outside the super-violent gangster genre that made him an international sensation (such as "Violent Cop," "Sonatine" and "Fireworks"), Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano returns to his various breads and various butters with this gory and action-packed saga in which he (under his acting name of Beat Takeshi) plays a Yakuza boss who discovers that a trusted aide is in cahoots with a rival gang and his desire for retribution kicks off a massive battle involving all the various crime families. Sure, it is fun to see the eternally impassive Kitano dishing out the blood and guts instead of palling around with adorable children (as he did in the hideous "Kikujiro") but the film too often feels like a string of expertly staged and staggeringly violent set-pieces haphazardly strung together than a fully-fleshed out narrative. Fans of Kitano will probably enjoy it but newcomers are advised to hunt down copies of "Sonatine" and "Fireworks" to see what he can achieve when all his cylinders are firing properly.


PROJECT NIM (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98): If you ever wondered what a Wes Anderson film might be like with a monkey as the central character, you might be interested in checking out this documentary chronicling a bizarre 1970's-era experiment in which a chimpanzee was taken from its mother at birth and raised as if it were human in order to prove that it could develop communication skills in such an environment. Naturally, the whole thing went to hell and the film charts his downhill spiral as he is increasingly mistreated by those less interested in taking care of him than in making names for themselves. The story is interesting, I suppose, but director James Marsh (whose previous effort was the award-winning hit "Man on Wire") is a little too restrained in how he presents the story and it never quite generates the righteous anger that one might expect from such a story. It is worth checking out, I suppose, but I have to admit that not only did "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" tackle much of the same basic material, it did so in a better and more entertaining and thought-provoking manner that this.

TEXAS KILLING FIELDS (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $26.98): As everyone knows by now, actress Jessica Chastain emerged from relative obscurity to appear in seemingly every movie released in 2011. Of them, the one that I can pretty much guarantee that the majority of you neither saw nor even heard of was this true-crime drama in which she plays a Texas cop who joins forces with her ex-husband (Sam Worthington), another cop in a neighboring county, and his New York-bred partner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to solve a string of brutal murders. A millions miles removed from the amiable ditz from "The Help" or the ethereal spirit of "The Tree of Life," Chastain is good here--as is Chloe Grace Moretz as a young girl who also get tied up in the case--but can't rescue a story done in by plodding direction by Ami Canaan Mann (daughter of Michael, who produced) and a miserable central performance from professional planker Worthington that demonstrates that a Texas drawl is yet another acting skill that he has been unable to master.


THE THING (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Not so much a film as a hugely expensive piece of fan fiction, this prequel to John Carpenter's brilliant 1982 remake of the sci-fi horror classic purports to show what happened at the Norwegian outpost in the Antarctic after scientists inadvertently revived an alien they discovered under the ice with the ability to take over and assume the form of any living thing. As it turns out, what occurs is pretty much the exact same thing that happened in the Carpenter film, lacking only the tension, excitement and still-stunning special effects. Granted, it took years before Carpenter's film was finally accepted as the masterpiece that it was all along but I don't think anyone has to worry about this craptacular getting a similar reappraisal anytime this millennium.


TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN--PART I (Summit Entertainment. $30.99): If you are a fan of the increasingly tedious saga of the romance between glittery vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and mopey teen Bella (Kristen Stewart)--this time charting their long-awaited fairy-tale wedding, the even-longer-awaited consummation of their romance (a room-destroying affair that director Bill Condon couldn't bring himself to actually show in any great detail) and the surprisingly speedy gestation of a fetus that threatens Bella's life--you will want to to grab this disc (who am I kidding--you already ran out and bought it). Not only does it include the film in all its glory (which is the worst of the lot, a shock since Condon, the man behind "Gods and Monsters" and "Kinsey," is the best director that the series has had to date), it also offers up a plethora of bonus features ranging from a faux-wedding video featuring the various character to a commentary from Condon and behind-the-scenes documentaries that reveal everything right down to what was used to concoct the goo on display during the climactic birth scene (arguably the most chaotic since the one seen in "It's Alive") On the other hand, if you have somehow managed to resist the highly debatable charms of this particular franchise, there is nothing here for you except the vaguely comforting notion that there is only one more entry in the series to go.


2-HEADED SHARK ATTACK (Asylum Entertainment. $14.95): Seriously, do I really need to add anything else to this particular entry? Okay, how about the fact that it co-stars Carmen Electra and Brooke Hogan as two of the potential snacks? Well, you may never actually watch the entire movie but I am almost certain that you will be rushing over to YouTube in a second to check out the trailer.


A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR CHRISTMAS (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Considering my general loathing of movies featuring Christmas, 3D and the chaotic misadventures of wacky potheads Harold and Kumar, I can't say I was looking forward to this particular film--which combines all three--with anything resembling excitement and was therefor surprised to discover how much I enjoyed it. Sure, the plot is nonsense, the jokes start off by skirting the border of good taste and then skip over it entirely and the whole thing is so silly that you forget virtually everything about it (save for the creature known as Wafflebot--don't ask) the minute that it ends. This time, however, more jokes hit than miss, the chemistry of co-stars John Cho and Kal Penn is undeniable (though they won't make anyone forget Hope & Crosby anytime soon) and the ritual cameo appearance by Neil Patrick Harris as a gonzo version of himself is funny as ever. Certainly not for the entire family but as late-night holiday viewing when the rum is overtaking the egg nog and you can't stomach another screening of "A Christmas Story," this will do quite nicely.


LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (Astralwerks. $14.95): Last year, the French electronic pop duo known as Air (perhaps best-known in these parts for the hypnotic score they proovided to Sofia Coppola's debut film "The Virgin Suicides") were asked to provide music for a restoration of George Melies' famous 1902 short "A Trip to the Moon" (generally considered the first major science-fiction film and the first to utilize elaborate special effects) that premiered at last year's Cannes Film Festival to great acclaim. This package includes a CD of all the music that they composed for the project (since the film only lasts about 16 minutes, many of the tracks are extended versions of what was heard in the film) and a DVD of the film itself in all its original hand-tinted glory and looking about as good as any film of that age possibly could. The music is dreamy enough--though I suppose you have to be a fan of the group to really get into it--but the inclusion of the short is worth the purchase price all by itself, especially if you are a fan of the Melies celebration known as "Hugo."









ALSO ON



ADAPTATION (Sony Home Entertainment. $17.97)

CASINO ROYALE (MGM Home Entertainment. $19.99)

COLD MOUNTAIN (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)



DANGEROUS LIAISONS (Warner Home Video. $19.98)

DR SEUSS' THE CAT IN THE HAT (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98)

THE ENGLISH PATIENT (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)



FRIDA (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)

GRAND CANYON (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $17.95)

HAWAII FIVE-O: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $72.99)



IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (MGM Home Entertainment. $19.99)

LA JETEE/SANS SOLEIEL (The Criterion Collection. $39.95)

LOVE STORY (Paramount Home Video. $22.99)



MALCOLM X (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $34.99)

NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (Blue Underground. $29.98)

NOTHING IN COMMON (Sony Home Entertainment. $17.97)



THE PIANO (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.99)

A STAR IS BORN (Kino Video. $29.95)



STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION--THE NEXT LEVEL (Paramount Home Video. $22.99)

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Universal Home Entertainment. $26.98)


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3356
originally posted: 02/13/12 06:05:15
last updated: 02/13/12 09:01:10
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