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DVD Reviews For 2/18: "Shooting A Man In The Middle Of His Cadenza? That Ain't Good Form, You Know."
by Peter Sobczynski

Now that both professional football and "Downton Abbey" have both come to an end for the time being--and who could have predicted that the latter would end with a chase, shootout and the revelation that Maggie Smith was working with Internal Affairs all along?--and "Do No Harm" will not being going to six seasons and a movie (or even six episodes), you may be in search of stuff to entertain you on a cold winter's night and with the following selection of titles, ranging the gamut from kiddie entertainment to would-be star vehicles to hardcore pornography, there is almost certainly something that will be up your alley. Of course, you could always just watch hockey but we all know that would just be crazy. . .


ALEX CROSS (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $29.95): When it was announced that the latest attempt to bring the best-selling novels of James Patterson to the big screen would feature none other than Tyler Perry in the role of brilliant police investigator/psychologist Alex Cross (a role previously filled by Morgan Freeman), many observers made jokes about Perry playing the role in his Madea drag. Actually, if he had dressed up that way, the end result would have been scarcely more ridiculous than anything else on display in this laughably bad procedural that Cross in a staggeringly uninteresting battle of half-wits with a goofball psycho (Matthew Fox). Perry isn't very good here but to be fair, every other choice made by uber-hack director Rob Cohen is so incredibly inept that he actually comes off as borderline competent by comparison.

BABY GENIUSES AND THE MYSTERY OF THE CROWN JEWELS (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $19.95): You know what, I saw the original, which featured babies talking at length about "diaper gravy," and I even saw the sequel, which included Scott Baio as the nominal hero and Jon "Nothing Can Possibly Embarrass Me At This Point" Voight as the cloddish villain. If you have any curiosity about this direct-to-video item, look it up for yourself.

DANGEROUS LIAISONS (Well GoUSA. $24.98): The literary classic by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, already the subject of several earlier films, is given yet another run-through in this adaptation that finds 1930's Shanghai playing 18th century France, Cecilia Cheung playing Glenn Close, Jang Dong-kun playing John Malkovich and Ziyi Zhang playing Michelle Pfeiffer. Although this version doesn't come close to topping the award-winning 1988 take, it still plays decently enough as an interesting variation on a familiar theme and I, for one, will take any chance to bask in the glory that is Ziyi Zhang whenever it is offered.

DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (E1 Entertainment. $24.98): Following in the footsteps of such notable fashionistas as Isaac Mizrahi, Valentino and Anna Wintour, the former editor of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue gets the documentary treatment with this film chronicling her life and career. Although not particularly distinguished by any means, this film does do a reasonably good job of charting her significance in the fashion world in an breezy and entertaining manner.

FLIGHT (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): After spending too many years making films that were little more than elaborate technical exercises, director Robert Zemeckis finally returned to the land of recognizably human filmmaking with this powerhouse drama about a self-absorbed pilot (Denzel Washington) who is deemed a hero after miraculously land his plane after a mid-air disaster only to find his life fall apart afterwards when it is discovered that he was drunk at the time. Although it goes on maybe a reel too long, this is still an exceptionally well-made film that poses tricky moral and ethical questions and then has the guts to follow though with them, aided in no small part by what may be the best performance of Denzel Washington's entire career.

GOSSIP GIRL: THE COMPLETE 6th AND FINAL SEASON (Warner Home Video. $39.98): Blair And Serena Forever, Yo! Other TV-related titles now available include "Cougar Town: The Complete 3rd Season" (Lionsgate Home Entertainmment. $19.98), "Family Matters: The Complete third Season" (Warner Home Video. $29.98), "Nurse Jackie: Seasn 4" (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $39.98), "Storage Wars: Volume 4" (A&E Home Entertainment. $19.98) and "Weeds: Season 8" (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $39.98).

THE KID WITH A BIKE (The Criterion Collection. $29.95): Another light and frothy romp from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the award-winning directors of "Rosetta," "The Child" and "Lorna's Promise," this one tells the story of a lonely and emotionally damaged 11-year-old boy (Thomas Doret) who is essentially abandoned by his wayward father (Dardenne regular Jeremie Renier) and, despite the efforts of a local hairdresser (Cecile de France) who agrees to serve as a foster parent on weekends, begins to spiral out of control in ways that lead him into potential trouble. Like the Dardenne's previous efforts, it is thoughtful, well-made, well-intentioned and filled with affecting performances but beyond that, they aren't really offering viewers anything particularly new or fresh this time around. I'm not saying that they should do a caper comedy or anything like that but I for one would be interested in seeing them flex their considerable artistic muscles in a different area at some point.

KILL FOR ME (Sony Home Entertainment. $19.98): "Revolution" star Tracy Spiridakos trades in her crossbow for more conventional weaponry in this direct-to-video item in which she and Katie Cassidy play a couple of young women who bond over their shared abusive pasts and move in together--as things develop, however, the possibility begins to arise that she may be more than just a simple victim. The two leads are engaging enough but the whole thing is just too familiar and too dumb for its own good.

A LATE QUARTET (Fox Home Entertainment. $22.98): Not to be confused with the similarly titled film now playing in theaters about the emotional travails of a group of aging opera singers inspired by an unexpected reunion, this effort tells the story of the emotional travails of a group of classical musicians (including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener) inspired the impending loss of their famed cellist (Christopher Walken). Of the two, I give the edge to this one, largely based on the quality of the performances--Walken is especially strong and his work here serves as a reminder that there is still a strong actor beneath all the odd tics and mannerisms.

LITTLE WHITE LIES (MPI Home Entertainment. $24.98): For his follow-up to the internationally successful thriller "Tell No One," Guillaume Canet recruited such notable names as Jean Dujardin and Marion Cotillard to star in this comedy-drama about a group of friends whose annual get-together in the south of France takes an unexpected turn when the serious injury one suffers forces them all to confront what it is that they mean to each other. In other words, if you have seen the likes of "Return of the Secaucus 7" and "The Big Chill," you have pretty much seen this one as well but as retreads go, this one goes down easily enough, aided immeasurably by the lovely scenery and the presence of the increasingly-valuable Cotillard.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Just because one is a superfan of something does not necessarily mean that one can actually do whatever that might be themselves. Apparently this was never properly explained to rap icon/martial-arts film fanatic The RZA because we now have this boring and badly-staged attempt to recreate the glories of kung-fu cinema in which he plays a simple blacksmith who replaces his chopped-off hands with iron gloves in order to go on a rampage of revenge against those who wronged him. (Do not ask why he put fingers on them or why they are able to move if you want to retain any semblance of your sanity.) Despite being a novice on both sides of the screen, Mr. RZA was somehow able to score a fairly decent budget and the participation of such players as Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe--and even though he couldn't be putting less evident effort into his performance if he tried, Crowe is still more convincing here than he is in "Les Miserables" or "Broken City" combined.

PETER PAN (Walt Disney Home Entertainment. $39.99): Walt Disney's 1953 animated version of the beloved J.M. Barrie classic about the boy who never grew up, the ordinary children he whisks away for adventure in Neverland and the malevolent Captain Hook makes its long-awaited Blu-Ray debut in a multi-disc set featuring hours of extras including games and puzzles for the kids and behind-the-scenes histories and deleted songs and scenes for older viewers. Although not quite top-tier Disney--the story is a bit slight, some of the ethnic depictions are a bit questionable and the line between "charming imp" and "self-centered brat" that Peter straddles is a bit too blurry for my tastes--it still has its moments of greatness (generally the ones involving Hook) and still beats the vast majority of today's animation glut.

SAME TIME EVERY YEAR/SERENA (Impulse Films. $24.95 each): Although best known to aficionados of grindhouse cinema for his performance as one of the thugs in the horror classic "The Last House on the Left," Fred J. Lincoln (who recently passed away) also carved out a career for himself as a director of pornographic films during the waning days of their golden age. Outside of the novelty of the person behind the camera, there isn't really much here to differentiate these two titles from other made during this time so unless you love such accoutrements of the form as bushy hair and a relatively young and dewy Ron Jeremy, you need not make too much on an effort to seek these out.

SILENT HILL: REVELATION (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): Here, at long last, is the sequel to the 2006 screen adaptation of the horror video game and if nothing else, it pulls off the seemingly impossible task of making the original film seem as straightforward and lucid as a Neil Simon play by comparison--there are long stretches of time here in which there is no evident connection between the individual lines of dialogue, let alone the scenes. To even attempt to recount the plot or connect it with the events of the original would drive both you and I to the brink of madness Suffice it to say, a young girl (Adelaide Clemens, who looks enough like the younger Michelle Williams to suggest that they could appear in a sequel to "Looper") returns to the menacing ghost town of Silent Hill to rescue her father (Sean Bean) from weirdos who need her to help release or suppress an evil spirit that will destroy the world or something like that. In other words, more of the same but the main difference this time around is that writer-director Michael J. Bassett does not possess the same keen visual eye that Christophe Gans brought to the original--outside of one reasonably creepy sequence involving some mannequins and a particularly strange spider-like creature, there is nothing especially memorable on display this time around. To be fair, there may be some person out there who is familiar enough with the entire mythology of the video game and the other movie to be able to fully explain at length how every detail of "Silent Hill: Revelation" makes perfect sense and fits together to supply a complex and cogent narrative. That said, the notion of being stuck sitting next to such a person on a long bus ride is infinitely more terrifying than anything in the film itself.

SKYFALL (MGM Home Entertainment. $29.99): Following the lackluster "Quantum of Solace," the James Bond film franchise had the biggest hit of its 50-year history with this tale in which the super-spy (Daniel Craig) is in pursuit of a mysterious bad guy (Javier Bardem) with a personal vendetta against M (Dame Judi Dench) and similarities to Bond himself. Although it may not be the absolute pinnacle of the series as some have claimed (that would still be either "Goldfinger" or "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" if you ask me and by reading this, you have implicitly done just that), it is the first one in a long time to warrant such debate thanks to an unusually strong story that offers up all the expected spectacular action beats (staged surprisingly well by director Sam Mendes) while offering new insight and deeper understanding into the character of Bond. Throw in strong performances across the board (including a late-inning turn from Albert Finney), spectacular locations and a theme song from Adele that should be winning the Oscar from Best Song in a few days and you have one of the few screen spectaculars in recent memory to actually live up to its considerable hype.

SMILEY (Arc Entertainment. $14.99): An emotionally fragile girl goes off to college and learns of an urban legend about a serial killer who can be summoned to do his bloody deeds via the Internet--is she the victim of a cruel and elaborate hoax or could the rumors be true. Although the idea of a high-tech variation of the "Bloody Mary" legend has some potential, I suppose, it is thoroughly undercut here by a stupid story, uninteresting characters and a would-be icon of terror that is not in the least bit scary.

SO UNDERCOVER (Millennium Films. $28.99): Miley Cyrus stars as a tough private detective who is hired by the FBI to go undercover at a college sorority in order to protect the daughter of a key witness in an upcoming trial and by this point, you may have already begun to understand why this only got the briefest of token theatrical releases before going almost directly to video.

YOU MAY NOT KISS THE BRIDE (Freestyle Releasing. $22.99): In this extremely strained stab at screwball romantic comedy, a pet photographer (Dave Annable) is forced, through circumstances too contrived to get into here, into marrying the daughter of a Croatian crime boss so that she can get her green card. The good news--she's played by the delightful Katherine McPhee. The bad news--she gets kidnapped during their Tahitian "honeymoon" and he, along with a pair of local cousins (played, in what can only be described as exceptionally optimistic casting, by Tia Carrere and Rob Schneider), is forced to go off in pursuit of her. You know, I like McPhee and everything but between this film (which also gives Kathy Bates and Mena Suvari chances to embarrass themselves) and that "Smash" nonsense, I have the feeling that my acute McPheever may brea before much longer.


THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA (The Criterion Collection. $29.95)

BULLY (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.98)

CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99)

CABARET (Warner Home Video. $27.98)

DEADFALL (Magnolia Home Video. $26.98)

HERE COMES THE BOOM (Sony Home Entertainment. $30.99)

IN LIKE FLINT (Twilight Time. $29.95)

NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA (Twilight Time. $29.95)

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $19.98)

THE SESSIONS (Fox Home Entertainment. $22.98)

SIDE BY SIDE (Docurama. $26.99)

A STAR IS BORN (Warner Home Video. $27.98)

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originally posted: 02/21/13 04:49:31
last updated: 02/23/13 01:33:54
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