New on DVD

New on DVD

The Pink Panther 2
Rated PG for some suggestive humor, brief mild language and action
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Steve Martin once again stars as French Inspector Jacques Clouseau, a bumbling detective that is on the search for The Tornado, an international thief that has stolen some of the world’s greatest treasures including the infamous Pink Panther diamond.  What I find most amazing about a film like this is how so many great actors (John Cleese, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, and Jeremy Irons) could star in such a mediocre film.  Or how it could be mediocre with all of them in it.  Maybe it’s because they are all trying to do slapstick, and none of them are very good at it.  Some of the dialogue is a little funny, but the movie depends on its pratfalls to succeed and this just gets in the way (although the horrendous plot doesn’t help the film either).  The disc isn’t a lost cause though.  While the main disc has the movie and special features, which I can’t recommend highly, disc two contains almost three hours of wonderful classic Pink Panther cartoons.  C-

Entourage: The Complete Fifth Season
Unrated but contains adult content
Available on DVD

After Vince’s Cannes Film Festival nightmare, he is now an almost uncastable actor in bad need of a way to bring his career back.  While his manager and best friend Eric and his agent Ari both have their own battles to contend with, they still fight to get Vince into a movie that might bring him back to the top.  With season six coming back July 12th on HBO, I found it to be the perfect time to sit back and review what’s gone on up to now.  After all, due to its amazing pacing, this show just flies by and makes an entire season seem to last no time at all.  And even after five seasons, it’s still very fresh and just as funny.  The set is lean on features, but the commentaries with creator Doug Ellin and the cast is worth a listen.  B+

Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition
Rated R
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Spike Lee’s controversial film hit its 20th birthday this year, and while Spike Lee openly admits that New York is not nearly as racist as it used to be back then, he admits on his new documentary that it still has problems.  Right Thing centers around boiling racial tensions on the hottest day of the year in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood.  And while Lee’s assessment that New York is not nearly as racist now, I still get the feeling that Lee still is.  I remember how angry the ending of this film made me, and how Lee justified it.  And listening to him on the new commentary he still justifies it.  The 25th Hour and Inside Man prove that he has it in him to make great movies, and no one doubts his skills and artistic abilities as a director.  I just wish he would have said something in this 20th Anniversary Edition that showed that his own racist thoughts and beliefs have subsided.  On the plus side, I was glad to see a focus on the artistic approach to the film and the interviews with the very talented crew since these are features that are usually lacking on most DVD special editions.  B-

The IT Crowd: The Complete Second Season
Available on DVD

The second season of this International Emmy-winning British comedy about an IT director that knows nothing about computers and her two nerdy techs has really hit a nice stride.  The first season was funny, but this new season is wicked hysterical and wildly creative.  With many directions to go, the six episodes are all over the place story-wise, but all are very clever and should cause many a guffaw if you can appreciate dry British wit.  But even if you can’t, there is enough physical comedy to keep you satisfied.  I’ve never recommended this before, but when you put the disc in just leave it alone a bit and you’ll get a nice chuckle at the screen saver.  A-

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and Josh Duhamel
Directed by Michael Bay
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, language, some crude and sexual material, and brief drug material
Appropriate for ages 10+

    Thematically similar to the first film, when the evil Decepticon forces pose a threat to the future of the entire planet, it is up to Optimus Prime and his Autobots to save mankind and Earth from utter destruction.  This time out, Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) is starting his first year in college and just wants to be a normal student.  Unfortunately, the map to the whereabouts of a secret device that can destroy the sun is buried in Sam’s brain, which makes Sam far from normal, and a target for the bad guys.

    I will admit right off the bat that this film has problems.  At two and a half hours, it is far too long of a film for this genre.  Slicing 30-45 minutes off of the battle scenes would have been a good move.  Or maybe had they dumped the subplot of the President’s adviser that tries to get in the way of the Autobots, they could have cut not only an unnecessary story line, but a dozen or so minutes off of the film as well.  There is just no reason a film like this should have an almost Godfather-like length. 

    On top of that, there were several script flaws and plot holes, way too many eye-rolling, cheesy moments, and a couple of annoying twin robots that were very insensitively written.  I didn’t mind the way they talked, but when the one with the gold tooth declares that he ain’t much for readin, well – they are just asking for a little trouble there.  I also didn’t understand why a robot would hump Megan Foxes leg, although many others will empathize with said robot.  What seems funny to me is that all of the problems with the film could have been left on the cutting room floor and the film would have been much better for it. 

    That being said, I was still thoroughly engaged and entertained.  The film had both a dark and ominous feel, yet was quite funny at the same time.  Whoever they hired to punch up the script with jokes did a very good job (comedian Patton Oswald worked on the first film – not sure about this one).  The special effects here were mind-boggling to say the least.  I do wish the filmmakers would have chosen more distinctive colors for the two sides so that the audience could more easily tell the robots apart during the massive fight sequences, but at least the very blue and red Optimus and yellow Bumblebee were clear enough.

    So while I have seen most of the critics bashing this film, I can’t agree.  I think that if you are in the mood for a bigger than life Transformers movie – you are going to get what you pay for – and you’ll have fun.  Sure it could have been a little more critic-friendly, a little more intellectual, maybe even a little less silly, but Michael Bay is first and foremost an entertainer and in my opinion he once again gets the job done.  B-

New on DVD

New on DVD

Waltz with Bashir
Rated R for some disturbing images of atrocities, strong violence, brief nudity, and a scene of graphic sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Filmmaker and Israeli war veteran Ari Folman encounters a friend that is having nightmares brought on by the events of the First Lebanon War where they fought together.  When he realizes that he has many gaps in his own memory, he attempts to reconnect with many of the soldiers he fought with in an attempt to face the horrors of war he has shut away out of his mind.  Innovative in every way, this animated film that plays like a documentary was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  That being said, this is not a film for everyone.  It is a tough, challenging film filled with disturbing content that you will wish to forget just as Folman is trying to remember.  It does give an account of this war that most, including myself, are largely unfamiliar with.  The disc contains both the English and Hebrew language versions of the films, as well as tons of special features to give deeper insight.  B+

Confessions of a Shopahollic
Rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Based on the popular book series, Confessions follows a college grad that lands a job at a major financial magazine.  The only problem is that she is horrible with money, in deep debt and addicted to shopping.  Not knowing what to write about, she uses clothes as a metaphor for business and somehow becomes popular throughout the world.  Poorly written, lazily directed, and badly acted, this Bridget Jones wannabe is just miserable to watch.  Some might say that it’s good for teens and young girls due to it’s lack of mature content and wholesome feel, but I feel that the movie is so demeaning and insulting to women that I would have to disagree.  While there are women out there like this, I am thankful that it is the exception and not the norm this film portrays.  D

The Diary of Anne Frank: 50th Anniversary Edition
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This beautiful but sad tale of a young Jewish girl and her family hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during WWII is hitting 50 this year.  While there is no sign of restoration of the original print, the film still holds up in looks and with Blu-ray manages to pop pretty well.  What this film doesn’t lack in is special features.  Both the DVD and blu-ray contain many new featurettes.  The blu-ray also contains loads of extras not found on the DVD edition such as a making-of commentary, archival footage and previously produced specials.  A

Blu-ray TV
This week also sees the introduction of some great shows finally released on blu-ray.  Lost Seasons 1 and 2 not only give you more than 20 episodes each to take in again, but contain some really interesting commentaries with interludes showing examples of production discussions.  And Hawaii in HD?  All I can say is wow.  Also on blu-ray this week is HBO’s John Adams.  What makes this set so interesting is the blu-ray only special feature of historical facts that pop up on the screen during the course of the series.  Not only are you entertained, but thoroughly educated as well.  Lost: Season 1 A; Lost: Season 2 B+; John Adams A-

Year One

Year One

Starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, and Oliver Platt
Directed by Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day)
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, brief strong language and comic violence
Appropriate for teenage boys and stoners

    Jack Black and Michael Cera are two cavemen that are booted from their tribe and set off to wander the world.  Once out in the real world, they find themselves involved with many biblical characters such as Cain, Abel, Abraham, and Isaak.  I think that there might be some more story to it, but I was totally lost.

    I can usually find merit in any film, but I can’t think of one positive thing to say about it except for maybe that it’s only about 90 minutes long not including the credits. 

    The story itself is incoherent and so hard to follow that you just don’t care.  The plot is not even remotely clever and the dialogue, much of which appears to be badly improvised, is insulting to the audience.  I hate that this came from Harold Ramis, for whom I have the utmost of respect for as a writer and director.  For this to be created by the same person that brought us Caddyshack, Animal House, Groundhog Day and many other brilliant comedies, shows us that either the well is dry or he is just phoning it in. 

    To make matters worse, Jack Black is the same Jack Black that we see in every other movie he’s in.  I remember when his shtick was fresh and funny, but this film is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and he has officially reached annoying in my book ( I’m sure he got there much earlier for others).  It’s too bad because I think he could really make something great if he’d stop acting like a jester and grow up a little. 

    The rest of the cast are just clueless with this loser script and fail to make anything comical come alive on screen.

    What really gets me is how much toilet humor there is in this film.  Whether it is watching Jack Black eat from a pile of fresh feces or Michael Cera hanging upside down urinating on his face and into his mouth and nostrils, the jokes are just gross, childish, and not in the least bit funny. 

    So maybe if you are a teenage boy or taking some kind of mind-altering drugs, you might find this an entertaining film.  As for everyone else, stay far away from this stinker.  F

The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta, and James Gandolfini
Directed by Tony Scott (Man on Fire)
Rated R for violence and pervasive language
Appropriate for ages 17+

    When armed men following a ruthless leader (Travolta) hijack a subway car and hold it for ransom, dispatcher Walter Garber (Washington) must becomes both the negotiator and the only hope that the hostages have of surviving.

    This remake of the 1974 film starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw is a nice update and a solid action thriller.  Travolta makes for a pretty decent villain here, although at times he seems a little too out of control for someone of his background and former status.  Washington once again turns in a great performance, raising the acting from those around him to a higher level.  Gandolfini is very believable as the mayor of the city trying desperately hard to both do the right thing and yet still get reelected.  The only miscast is John Turturo, who acted like he was still in Transformers-mode and was very difficult to take seriously. 

    Tony Scott (Deja Vu, Spy Game) is very good at directing and pacing with this genre and this film is no different.  The film moves very fast and doesn’t give you much time to think about its various problems, such as a secondary very weak plot involving the gold market. 

    One thing I don’t like about Scott’s latest films is that he puts his thumb print all over the films in post-production and this one is his worst offender yet.  The opening credit sequence is the most annoying and difficult to watch that I can remember ever seeing.  There are far too many speed-up, slow-down, look at what I can do in the editing room moments throughout the film and this inability to just tell a good story is so distracting that I actually left the theater deflated.  I really like his stories (even when they are remakes), but sometimes I just don’t like the way he tells them.  I hope that when he takes on his next project, rumored to be a remake of The Warriors, that he doesn’t insist on telling us throughout the film that it’s him that is making it.  C

New on DVD

New on DVD

Friday the 13th: Killer Cut
Rated R for strong bloody violence, some graphic sexual content, nudity, language, and drug material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

What they are calling a reinventing of the Friday the 13th franchise is merely just a slicker Michael Bay version of the violent film series from the 80s and 90s.  In this new edition, a group of teenagers is staying at a cabin across the water from Camp Crystal Lake when goalie-masked baddie Jason Voorhees shows up, knocking them off one by one.  I knew that this wasn’t going to be a brilliant film by any means, but I did expect more.  Michael Bay’s reimagining of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was at least a little more inventive than the original, although a little too gruesome for my taste.  This new Jason flick, however, is still just the same old silly formula with beautiful naked college students getting mutilated by a supernatural madman in laughable ways.  D+

Unrated and appropriate for all ages
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This French import has turned out to be a huge hit in Europe, although with very little fanfare it will have a tougher time finding a US audience.  Home is a two-hour documentary with aerial footage from 54 countries showing how all of the problems of our planet are interlinked.  The dialogue, narrated by Glenn Close, might be a little too preachy for some, but overall a convincing argument is made that the abundance our planet has to offer is running out.  With its beautiful and surreal photography, it plays like a cross between Planet Earth and An Inconvenient Truth, putting its audience in both a state of awe and utter discomfort.  Noticeably missing are any special features showing how the film was made.  With images this breathtaking, I figured that the filmmakers would have been proud enough of their work to show it off in a behind-the-scenes setting.  A-

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 45th Anniversary Special Edition
Rated PG for thematic elements, some violent content, sexual humor, and mild language
Available on blu-ray

Stanley Kubrick’s classic cold war comedy starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott gets the blu-ray brush up in this loaded special edition.  Strangelove was responsible for so many of the world’s thoughts on the cold war that even though most of the film is entirely fictional, they are widely considered to be fact.  The film has an advanced picture-in-picture and pop-up trivia track that gives these facts of the cold war and dispels many of the misconceptions that this brilliant film created.  The track does block much of the screen though, so if you haven’t seen the movie before, or at least haven’t seen it in a while, I highly recommend that you watch it without first.  The disc is also loaded with a ton of special featurettes and even an interview with Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson.  I think it’s safe to say that this is the most powerful and influential comedies in the history of Hollywood.  A+

The Hangover

The Hangover

Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis
Directed by Todd Phillips (Old School)
Rated R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity and some drug material
Appropriate for ages 18+
    What was supposed to be just a fun-filled normal bachelor party in Vegas turns to disaster when the three friends of the groom wake up in their destroyed hotel room to find a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, a missing groom, and no clue what happened the night before.  Trying to piece together clues and evidence, the three must try to put together what happened and somehow get the groom back to L.A. in time for his wedding.  

    If you laughed hard at the trailers and thought to yourself “I’ve just seen all of the funny scenes,” you’ve thought wrong.  This is one hilarious movie that will keep you laughing and coughing knee-slapping throughout.  The humor is a little raunchy at times, but it is almost always clever, interesting, and unconventional.  I had a smile glued to my face for hours after I left the theater.  I am chuckling as I am sitting here writing this.  So if you can’t tell through my subtlety, I think that this is a pretty darn humorous movie.

    While the comedy is strong, its the smart script by Jon Lucas that brings it to the next level.  I can’t believe that this was written by the same guy who wrote Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.  Doesn’t seem probable.  To watch the film unfold like a mystery is just plain brilliant and completely engaging for the audience.

    Director Todd Phillips easily has enough pull to have gotten some big names for this cast, but instead he chose folks that you might have seen before, but aren’t exactly household names.  When quizzed, most folks will say it starred the dude from that chick flick, the nerd from The Office, and that guy from Comedy Central, but Phillips and co were able to see enough potential from this very cohesive group of guys to take a risk, and I hope that it pays off for them at the box office.  

    The only thing I didn’t like is that the film got a little dry towards the end during the Rain Man sequence.  It’s cute, but not nearly as clever as the rest of the film.  Also, this film is very much for adults.  I know the R should be a strong enough warning, but I’ll put a little extra emphasis on this.  The movie celebrates Roman-like debauchery and I was a little uncomfortable with all of the kids and teenagers in the audience. 

    This little film has cult classic written all over it and will probably go down as the greatest bachelor party film of all time.  Well done.  A

New on DVD

New on DVD

Gran Torino
Rated R for language throughout, and some violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Director/star Clint Eastwood is a disgruntled Korean War vet named Walt Kowalski whose prize possession is a 1972 Gran Torino in mint condition.  When the Asian boy from the house next door tries to steal it after being pressured by his cousin’s gang, the kids family makes him work off his debt to Walt to make it up to him.  As the racist Walt grows attached to the family he once hated, he becomes mixed up in a battle to keep the young boy out of his cousin’s gang and keep his family safe.  While I didn’t really like the film much as a whole – I understand why it was a runaway hit at the box office: people connected with Clint Eastwood again.  Clint is fun to watch, engaging, and you can’t wait to hear what his character will say next.  The rest of the film, however, is bad.  The acting by the boy and girl next door, as well as the pushy priest, is pretty darn horrible.  One of the things that might have contributed to the bad acting is that the directing job is one of Clint’s worst.  It felt like Clint didn’t rehearse the scenes at all and only shot one take.  Still, if you are just looking for a racist old comical coot and a story with a decent message, you’ll probably find it entertaining.  C+

The International
Rated R for some sequences of violence and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Clive Owen is in Interpol agent trying to expose a high-profile financial institution’s role in an arms smuggling deal.  As far as action thrillers go, there’s a decent tale here, but it’s been played before.  Owen’s character seems like a mix of all of his other thriller roles and Naomi Watts stars in a complete throw-away part.  I have liked some of director Tom Tykwer’s work, such as Run Lola Run and Perfume, but The International serves as a completely average and forgettable movie. C

Fired Up
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, partial nudity, language and some teen partying
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
The two most popular guys in high school decide to ditch football camp in favor of cheerleader camp in the hopes of scoring with as many of the 300 cheerleaders in attendance.  Instead of making a complete parody of Bring it On and calling it Cheerleader Movie (I really hope this never happens), Fired Up goes for a much subtler parody, yet wittier concept.  Sure it’s stupid, silly, childish, and immature.  But it also provides some very big belly laughs and I found the leads, Nicholas D’Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen to be very charismatic and fun to watch.  While the unrated version would have obviously gotten an R rating, I am very surprised that the PG-13 version made it through the MPAA.  It’s a pretty vulgar film for teenagers to be watching.  B-