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DVD Reviews for 3/6: Who Watches The DVDS?
by Peter Sobczynski

As part of a diabolical plan to inspire world peace by causing a tragedy so sever that it will cause all the nations of the world to finally join together as one, I will not be doing a long DVD review this week. However, be sure to tune in next week--not only will things be back to normal but the long review will most likely include the words “diabolical” and “tragedy” to boot.


ACE VENTURA JR: PET DETECTIVE (Warner Home Video. $24.98): Continuing in the fine tradition of such other sequels to Jim Carrey movies that Jim Carrey refused to appear in as “Son of the Mask” and “Dumb and Dumberer,” this direct-to-video disaster offers us the spectacle of his alleged spawn (Josh Flitter) stepping into Dad’s shoes (okay, Hawaiian shirts) when a baby panda from the local zoo goes missing. Granted, I was never exactly a fan of the original “Ace Ventura” movies but even they deserve better than this painfully unfunny attempt to reconfigure a raunchfest into just another kiddie movie filled with adorable animals and somewhat less adorable kids mugging for camera time amidst the pratfalls and other nonsense.

AIR BUD: SPECIAL EDITION (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.99): The feature-length Stupid Pet Trick that somehow managed to launch a cottage industry of direct-to-video films involving dogs playing sports in leagues where the officials seem to have no problem with animals taking the field gets the special edition treatment in a package that includes a “Dog-U-Commentary With The Entire Buddies Family” and a dog tag that will be fairly useless to you unless you or your animal is named Buddy. Meanwhile, the immortal classic “Gus” (the haunting saga of a place-kicking mule) languishes on a shelf somewhere deep in the vaults at Disney while patiently waiting for its own well-deserved deluxe version--any movie featuring the likes of Ed Asner, Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Dick Butkus, Bob Crane and a place-kicking mule has to have plenty of behind-the-scenes stories that need to be told.

ASHES OF TIME REDUX (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.96): I have to admit that even though I have watched Wong Kar Wai’s reedited and refurbished edition of his decidedly peculiar 1994 martial arts epic a couple of times now(in both configurations), I still couldn’t begin to explain the plot to you in any coherent manner. That said, the film is as beautiful as it is baffling (and it is certainly baffling) and those of you who have responded favorably to his other films (including “In the Mood for Love,” “2046” and “My Blueberry Nights”) are likely to be equally entranced with this combination of gorgeous visuals and elliptical storytelling. Fans will also want to pick this up for the invaluable 45-minute long Q&A that the director did after screening the film at the 2008 New York Film Festival.

AUSTRALIA (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): When I reviewed “Moulin Rouge,” the previous effort from Australian filmmaker/madman Baz Luhrmann, when it originally came out, I claimed that while it was essentially an unholy mess, it was the kind of mess that would assuredly be given a prominent place in the annals of film history--the only question was whether it would be listed under the heading of all-time classic, cult oddity or Golden Turkey. While I don’t think that the same can quite be said for his epic follow-up about the romance between pampered widow Nicole Kidman and rough-hewn cattle driver Hugh Jackman--it just meanders off in too many directions for its own good and it never seems clear what kind of story Luhrmann wanted to tell in the first place--I can’t deny the fact that I found myself vaguely riveted by the thing despite its sheer silliness (and sometimes because of it). Many level-headed moviegoers will likely reject it as an overblown mess and I can’t really argue with that assessment. However, if you are in the mood for a jumbo-sized slice of go-for-broke filmmaking that seems to have come from someone’s imagination instead of a screenwriting manual, then it may well be right up your alley.

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA (Buena Vista Home Entertainment. $29.99): The good news is that “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is not the 90-minute-long ethnic joke that the incessant trailers have been promising for the last few months. The bad news is that it isn’t much of anything else either. Ostensibly the latest in a long line of films produced by Walt Disney Studios over the years involving adorable dogs getting into wacky hijinks while pet lovers in the audience collectively go “Awwww” every few moments, it is instead as painfully earnest and painfully dull a kiddie film as has been seen in a while and not even the occasional shots of pure weirdness on display will be enough to perk the interest of any parents or older siblings forced to tag along for the ride with their young charges, unless the idea of sitting through what feels like an extremely extended version of one of those old Taco Bell commercials really floats their collective boats. Not even the presence of longtime crush object Piper Perabo in the main two-legged role is enough to save this from terminal mediocrity, though Drew Barrymore does give it her all as the voice of the pampered gringa Chihuahua who learns all sorts of life lessons when she is lost on the streets of Mexico City.

DEAD IN 3 DAYS (The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. $19.98): In this German-made take on the ever-popular mad slasher genre, a group of teenagers begin receiving cell-phone messages warning that they will be shuffling off this moral coil in three days time. When these predictions start coming true, courtesy of a shrouded psychopath, one of those threatened stumbles upon a clue and takes it upon herself to try to uncover the killer’s identity. In other words, this is the kind of film where if a mysterious note turns up reading “DIE BART DIE,” it might not necessarily mean “The Bart The.”

EAST OF EDEN (Acorn Media. $59.98): Although the 1955 film of the John Steinbeck novel is the more famous adaptation of the story (primarily because of the presence of James Dean in the cast), some have regarded this 1981 TV miniseries take as the superior version, if for no other reason than the expanded running time (382 minutes) allowed it to tell more of the sprawling saga of the Trask family with a cast including Jane Seymour (who is the subject of an interview that makes up this set‘s sole bonus feature), the always-awesome Warren Oates, Lloyd Bridges, Anne Baxter, Timothy Bottoms, Bruce Boxleitner, Hart Bochner, Sam Bottoms and Karen Allen.

THE HILLS: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $39.98): In the 20 episodes of the tragically popular MTV reality series collected here (which is being released in time to hype the premiere of what is said to be its final season), Lauren says something vapid, Audrina says something vapid but looks hot while doing it, Heidi says something vapid while looking like a drag version of herself and the other two say vapid things without making much of an impression. If you actually have some kind of non-ironic interest in this nonsense, you will probably be thrilled to know that this three-disc set includes deleted scenes, interviews and a behind-the-scenes look at a tension-filled photo shoot for Rolling Stone that, sadly, did not end with a pillow/knife fight. Other TV-related DVDs premiering this week include “7th Heaven: The Eighth Season” (CBS DVD. $49.98), “ER--The Complete Tenth Season” (Warner Home Video. $49.98), “Hotel Babylon: Season 3” (BBC Warner. $39.98), “My Two Dads: Season One” (Shout! Factory. $34.99), “Nash Bridges: The Second Season” (CBS DVD. $49.99), “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” (Acorn Media. $24.99), “Rick and Steve: The Complete Second Season” (Paramount Home Video. $19.99) and “Trial and Retribution: Set 2” (Acorn Media. $59.99).

IN THE ELECTRIC MIST (Image Entertainment. $27.98): Having sat on a shelf for a long time, Bertrand Tavernier’s adaptation of one of the James Lee Burke mystery novels featuring detective Dave Robicheaux (played here by Tommy Lee Jones), in which his investigation of series of gruesome murders puts him toe-to-toe with bayou mobster John Goodman, is finally getting released, though only as a direct-to-DVD item that belies the number of talented people who worked on it (besides those mentioned, the film co-stars Peter Sarsgaard and Mary Steenburgen and was co written by the duo who did the adaptation for Sean Penn’s brilliant and underrated “The Pledge”). It should be noted, however, that this film apparently had what the kids today call a “troubled” production history and as a result, this version is one that was recut by the producers that runs about 15 minutes shorter than Tavernier’s cut, which recently premiered to some acclaim at the Berlin Film Festival.

I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (Sony Home Entertainment. $29.98):In a performance that has been receiving raves ever since the film premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Kristin Scott Thomas stars as a cool and reserved woman who has spent the last 15 years in prison (for reasons that are gradually revealed and explained as the story progresses) who moves in with her younger sister (Elsa Zylberstein), who is eager to reconnect with the sibling that she hardly knows, and her family while trying to set up a new life for herself. Although the story itself isn’t much (which is a little odd when you consider that director Philippe Claudel, making his directorial debut here, is actually a well-regarded novelist), the performances from Thomas and Zylberstein are enough to push it over the edge.

RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (Paramount Home Video. $19.99): Fifteen years after the cancellation of the popular Sixties-era spy series, stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum returned for this 1983 TV movie in which the now-retired Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin are pressed into service one more time to defeat THRUSH’s latest stab at world domination. This film has some intermittent charms but makes the bizarre choice of utilizing a plot that requires its two stars to be separated for a good portion of the running time, more or less defeating the whole purpose of the enterprise. Keep an eye out for appearances from Patrick MacNee, George Lazenby and, perhaps inevitably, Anthony Zerbe.

STILETTO (First Look Films. $24.98): After discovering that her former lover (Tom Berenger), a tough mob boss, is responsible for the kidnapping of her sister, an even-tougher fatale femme (Stana Katic) straps on her sidearms and begins cutting a bloody swath through his associates in order to save the day. I suppose I could go into more detail but let’s be honest--you have either already gone on to the next title or you are still staring at the box cover. Whichever is the case, I suppose I can’t really blame you.

TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD STARLET (Starz/Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $19.97): In a story torn from today’s gossip magazines, a famous pop tartlet (Joanna “Jo-Jo” Levesque) is released from rehab for alcoholism and is sent to live with her aunt (Valerie Bertinelli) in Indiana on the theory that there is nothing in that state that would ever drive anyone to hit the bottle. Sounds tempting, I suppose, but seeing as how this film premiered on Lifetime, I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone involved is going to learn a noble lesson or two and that the lurid stuff is going to be kept to a minimum.

WATCHMEN--THE COMPLETE MOTION COMIC (Warner Home Video. $29.98): Suppose that you want to brush up on your knowledge of the seminal comic-book series by Alan Moore before seeing the big-screen adaptation by “visionary” director Zack Snyder but you don’t want to actually take the time and effort to actually pull it down from off your bookshelf and re-read it--what are you to do in such a situation. Well, in order to provide a public service (and cash in on all the hype surrounding the film), Warner Brothers has thoughtfully offered up this so-called “motion comic”--a 5 ½ project in which the entire saga (not including all the between-chapter interludes that offered additional background to the story) is presented by taking the original graphics and adding limited motion, sound effects and all the dialogue being read by one person. In other words, it is basically a book-on-DVD and outside of the addition of a discount pass for a ticket to the actual movie, it is hard to understand who is going to go for this other than “Watchmen” fanatics who will pick up anything with a smiley face emblazoned on it.

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originally posted: 03/06/09 04:54:06
last updated: 03/06/09 05:08:17
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