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Reviews: December 3

3 Dec, 2006 By: Home Media Reviews

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Street 12/12
Sony Pictures, Comedy, B.O. $148.2 million, $28.95 DVD/UMD, $38.96 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13' and unrated versions available.
Stars Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Jane Lynch, Amy Adams.

It is impossible to take anything about Talladega Nights seriously. This is a fun DVD to its core. Even the commentary is silly, with director Adam McKay pompously declaring the film to be one of the all-time greats of cinema, even after he jokes about bankrupting several divisions of Sony Pictures while making the movie.

Sacha Baron Cohen is quietly enjoying a monster year of comedic success. Between disappearing into his role as the title character in Borat, and playing a French NASCAR driver in Talladega Nights, he has appeared in two of the funniest films of the year. Had The Pink Panther been remade now, there is no question he would be the perfect choice for Inspector Clouseau.

Cohen's style of improvisation melds perfectly with Ferrell's zaniness. Like McKay and Ferrell's Anchorman, much of the humor stems from the characters being so moronic, yet so sure of themselves. And then the movie exploits this setup by pointing out how goofy it all is. It borders on performance art, skewering sports movies, comeback tales and sappy father-son reconciliations.

The DVD includes 25 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, as well as alternate takes of several of the fake commercials filmed by Ferrell's fictional NASCAR champ Ricky Bobby. They're funny because they're so dumb, but also keeping with the tone of the finished movie so perfectly that it almost doesn't matter which take ultimately was chosen. The unrated version has a few extra scenes, such as the revelation that actor Patrick Duffy lives in an apartment under Ricky Bobby's house.

It's also a pretty good NASCAR movie, with sharp racing scenes, good action and spectacular crashes. But somehow, it just wouldn't be Talladega Nights if even these weren't mined for laughs. John Latchem

The Fox and the Hound 2
Street 12/12
BV/Disney, Animated, $29.99 DVD, ‘G.'
Voices of Patrick Swayze, Jeff Foxworthy, Reba McEntire.

Disney hit the mark with The Fox and the Hound 2. Purists might not agree, especially as mischievous fox Todd and clumsy hound-dog Copper have reverted to childhood. But the film has a down-home, good-natured feel that eschews the irony and pop-culture references found in most of today's animated theatrical releases.

It's a simple story about friendship, fame and music that keeps things moving with slapstick humor, countrified quotes, and catchy bluegrass and country songs.

Todd and Copper are still best friends and neighbors, and their parental units have reached an uneasy truce. But when Copper is discovered by a singing-dog quintet at the county fair, fame and pride in his new singing talent causes him to leave Todd behind.

Meanwhile, band leader Cash (Swayze) has booted petulant songstress Dixie (McEntire) from the band, and she'll do just about anything to win back her spot and Cash's love.

The DVD isn't chock-a-block with as many extras as a special-edition Disney double disc, but kids will like the interactive games. One allows you to “mix” a soundtrack song, and the other is a trivia game focused on Disney canine characters. The single featurette explores the music, featuring interviews with the composers, songwriters and performers, including McEntire, Trisha Yearwood and High School Musical's Lucas Grabeel.

Those who are neither kids nor country fans will be pleased with the inclusion of the classic 1939 short “Goofy and Wilbur,” in which Goofy takes his best friend, a grasshopper, fishing.

This film isn't for every Disney and animation aficionado — it's not the classic some believe the original to be. But, it's a good choice for kids, and many parents may enjoy the country-western flavor and the odd charm of canine characters based on Johnny Cash and June Carter. — Laura Tiffany

Brooklyn Lobster
Street 12/19
Hart Sharp, Drama, B.O. $0.1 million, $24.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Danny Aiello, Jane Curtain.

Danny Aiello was born to play a restaurateur, as his past roles in films like Dinner Rush and even Do the Right Thing have demonstrated. His gregarious likability helps him turn customers into family, and his blustering explosiveness turns up the heat in the kitchen.

This New York-born-and-bred persona once again serves him well in Brooklyn Lobster, providing him the charm to make a flawed character palatable.

Frank Giorgio is in a tough spot. His bank has gone kaput and the FDIC has demanded repayment of a huge loan for a restaurant expansion. The result is the upcoming auction of the 60-year-old family lobster store.

Son Michael (Daniel Sauli) is home for the holidays with his girlfriend. Wife Maureen (Curtain) has left Frank because of his obsession with the business, and daughter Lauren (Marisa Ryan) is trying to hold it all together. Everyone is doing whatever they can to save the business, but stubborn Frank refuses any help and mucks things up along the way.

This is ultimately a film about family, sacrifice, forgiveness and the close community a business can create.

The cast, led by Aiello and Curtain, are beyond reproach. With “3rd Rock From the Sun” still on the brain, it's easy to forget what a lovely dramatic actress Curtain can be. And Aiello is the perfect patriarch. This is director/screenwriter Kevin Jordan's second full-length film, and he shows a steady hand in both the direction and writing. Perhaps the biggest flaw is the predictable ending, but one still can't help but root for this family, even as the film gets formulaic.

Quirky families are ripe for independent film treatment, as films like Little Miss Sunshine, Pieces of April and The Daytrippers have well demonstrated. Brooklyn Lobster, while less comedic than those favorites, should be another inviting escape for fans of those films. — Laura Tiffany

A Dead Calling
Street 12/12
Lionsgate, Horror, $26.98 DVD, ‘R' for violence.
Stars Alexandra Holden, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, John Burke.

Fans of Rob Zombie's House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects will be sorely disappointed with this boring, predictable, straight-to-DVD movie. Although the film includes a trio of actors from Zombie's cult-classic films, including Haig, Moseley and Easterbrook, there's nothing scary, thrilling, or even demented about this trite tale.

Holden (from The Hot Chick) plays Rachel Beckwith, who discovers her real father is a serial killer who has recently escaped from jail. Most of the film takes place in a huge, abandoned house at night, where Rachel and her boss/boyfriend Stephen Javitz (Burke) first go searching for a ghost and then end up looking for the killer, who's definitely alive.

Ghosts do appear in the film, but they're of the benevolent kind, as Rachel's mother tries to help her rid the world of the husband/father who killed his family and many others.

Low budget movies like these rely more on decent acting than Hollywood films can get away with. Aside from some colorful performances by Haig and Easterbrook (a staple of the “Police Academy” movies) as Elizabeth's foster parents, the acting really drags the film down. The predictable plot plays out like a made-for-TV movie.

The film comes in special holo-foil packaging, which may attract some collectors, and has commentary by writer/director Michael Feifer (The Graveyard). — John Gaudiosi

Mr. Fix-It
Street 12/26
First Look, Comedy, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Stars David Boreanaz, Alana De La Garza, Paul Sorvino.

Positioned somewhere between Hitch and Failure to Launch comes Mr. Fix-It, a funny, well made date movie that stars everyone's favorite “Angel,” David Boreanaz.

Boreanaz plays Lance Valenteen, who hires himself out as a fixer of relationships-gone-bad. Newly dumped guys tell Lance that major flaw that made their former significant others show them the door. Lance gathers information on the ex-girlfriends, then sets up a time and place to “accidentally” bump into them.

He aggressively courts his subjects, eventually getting them to fall madly in love with him. Then he drops the bomb on the unsuspecting female by becoming a total jerk and making whatever the ex-boyfriend did seem like child's play.

The woman crawl back to their ex, Lance gets paid and everyone lives happily ever after. Not so fast.

All this comes at a price for poor Lance. Lance does not believe in true love, is totally miserable and does not want to grow old alone. During his time of vulnerability, Lance breaks his own rule by falling for one of his marks, the beautiful Sophia (De La Garza of “Law and Order” and “CSI: Miami”), who displays a few tricks of her own.

Mr. Fix-It is a very enjoyable movie that truly showcases the comic talents of Boreanaz. The makers of this movie know exactly what they are doing and who their audience is. The film never drags, has a very good soundtrack and the box art is first rate.

This movie should have no trouble selling itself, with Boreanaz's legion of female fans and his hit TV show “Bones.” There's plenty for men, too, with the very beautiful De La Garza more than holding her own on screen. — Jonathan Rosenbloom

Disney DVD Game World:
Disney Princess Edition/
Disney Dogs Edition
Street 12/5
BV/Disney, Game, $29.99 DVD each.

These games are the perfect entertainment for portable DVD players. Kids can play a board game on the move without keeping track of any pieces. However, younger children — those who don't easily manipulate DVD remotes — will need to play with older family members.

In the Princess Edition, players move through a castle, interacting with beloved characters such as Snow White, Cinderella and Ariel, and gathering the objects to go to the ball and become a Disney princess. In the Dogs Edition, players visit environments from different Disney movies trying to collect ribbons to win the Blue Ribbon Challenge. In both editions, players must play mini-games or answer trivia questions to collect their valued objects.

My 8-year-old easily navigated the game, pushing the buttons for the 4-year-old when it was her turn. Any youngster who has seen the Disney cartoons — and that's just about everyone — will find success answering many of the questions.

The trivia questions are expansive. My daughters played the game for about an hour without losing interest. The only complaint: It seemed on one Princess game a player never could spin a four.

The kids liked both of the games, but slightly preferred the Dogs Edition. My 4-year-old particularly liked the mini-game in which a drawing of a dog reveals itself slowly.

It's rare to find an activity in which an 8-year-old and 4-year-old are equally engaged, but these DVD games definitely do the trick. Another great thing about the games is that the 4-year-old actually beat her older sister on occasion, making for a more peaceful playing experience for kids and adults alike.

These DVDs are a great gift idea for families on the move, just in time for the holiday travel season. Stephanie Prange

Street 12/5
Sisu, SI, B.O. $49.95 three-DVD set, NR.

Responding to what Nobel Peace Prize-winning Elie Wiesel calls “the noisiest generation,” full of people who “yell, not speak,” Dialogues emerges as a timeless, even-handed, thoughtful look at hot-button issues.

In the 10-episode public TV show from 1997, two deep-feeling but even-tempered friends discuss such broad topics as personal responsibility and the power of memory, as well as such specific issues as euthanasia, capital punishment, genetic engineering and political correctness. The conversation between Wiesel and historian Richard D. Heffner shows that ethical living and hard moral choices are not about moral absolutes and strict laws, but case-by-case decisions.

The Jewish, concentration-camp survivor Wiesel, at the questioning prompts from host Heffner, exalts kindness, the immense value of human life, and human responsibility to preserve it. But he says his favorite phrase is “and yet,” and he employs it all the time. The Talmud teaches we must preserve life, and yet he made the choice in the camp to give his dying father rations he could have eaten himself, and he doesn't regret it.

Wiesel speaks with experience of human evil and cruelty, and yet he has great faith that humanity can live in peace — nation with nation, brother with brother. And we are all brothers, as they establish in the debut episode, “Am I My Brother's Keeper?”

It's clear Heffner and Wiesel, at their ripe old ages, are still trying to learn what it means to live well and to help, not hurt, the world. Their journey will be invigorating for fellow seekers.

Because Heffner and Wiesel allow such complexity to blossom in each half-hour episode, this set will be fertile soil for discussion groups and classes. Intellectually and morally curious individuals tired of the rhetoric and angry propaganda of today's news and opinion pundits will be refreshed by this welcome addition to the library of DVD philosophy. — Brendan Howard

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
Street 12/19
HBO Video, Documentary, $29.98 three-DVD set, NR.

The sight of Americans on rooftops pleading for rescue from rising flood waters shocked not only the nation, but the world.

Just months earlier, the country had sent aid to Tsunami victims half a world away. Now other countries were sending aid to America, as our own officials pointed fingers of blame for leaving thousands of people to fend for themselves in horrendous conditions.

Spike Lee's HBO postmortem of the Hurricane Katrina crisis delves into how the richest nation in the world could let such a thing happen.

It's painful Monday-morning quarterbacking, but it's necessary so the lethargic, clumsy response to Katrina's devastation will never be forgotten, or repeated.

It's easy to see why this aired spread out in small doses. After a while the personal accounts of horrifying devastation are almost overkill, but Lee weaves them skillfully with archival footage so each gives the other context. The detail and duration bring viewers into the agony of those who experienced it: For viewers, it's four hours. For the victims, it was days in terrifying squalor, followed by varying degrees of uncertainty that still remain.

Blame is laid squarely on government infighting and finger-pointing, as well as the kind of corner-cutting that left weak levees in place to begin with.

Lee's commentary focuses a lot on assembling the material, finding and contacting the subjects in the film, as well as his personal opinions on events and the public players. The DVD set also includes a fifth act with subjects commenting on what has — and hasn't — happened since the tragedy.

Another lesson is that a little personal responsibility never hurts. Regardless of the regional threat — earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes — viewers should scurry to repack their emergency kits after seeing this. — Holly J. Wagner

Prebook 12/5; Street 12/26
MTI, Horror, B.O. $24.95 DVD, ‘R' for strong aberrant sexuality, graphic nudity, language, and violence including a scene of rape.
Stars Fiona Horsey, Paul Conway, Phil Hayden.

Just when you thought you have seen everything, along comes Angst, a dark comedy about a young girl's vagina that kills every man she has sex with.

Helen (Horsey) is sexually hampered because when she was 9 years old she walked in on her mom engaged in S&M activities. All these painful memories come rushing back to poor young Helen while she is being brutally raped by her boyfriend, Jack, who is sucked into Helen's nether-region.

After being raped by her doctor and almost raped by her stepdad, Helen finds solace in the dim-witted Dennis (Conway), who truly loves Helen and apparently is the only male in the movie who does not want to rape her. But, with no control over her private part's desire to feed, Helen flees to London, where she does what any girl with a hungry, talking vagina would — she becomes a prostitute.

All Helen wants is to find true love, but her need to feed is getting out of control, as there are men missing all over London.

Meanwhile, Dennis makes his way to London, where he meets and falls in love with the intellectual Silvia. But, Silvia is not like other women; she is a conjoined twin whose other half, Sonia, is an obnoxious, jealous pain who does not want to see Silvia happy. In the heat of passion, Dennis takes a meat cleaver and chops the twins in half, killing Sonia.

This is truly a demented and very violent film, and after watching it I felt like calling a shrink. The director is trying to make a cult fave here, and I guess it could very well become one. Jonathan Rosenbloom

Quick Take: Turn Back the Clock

There's a lot to love about the seven-DVD 24: Season 5 collection from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In addition to all 24 episodes from the show's Emmy-winning season, the seven-DVD boxed set ($59.98) has a variety of great extras for fans of the show.

As has become tradition, the set includes a prequel for the upcoming sixth season. This 10-minute clip is mostly filler, featuring agent Jack Bauer's torture and attempted escape in a pristine new Toyota (which sponsored the spot), but it's enough to whet the appetites of die-hard fans.

More interesting is a featurette about composer Sean Callery, who demonstrates the power of music in cinema by scoring the same scene three different ways to create a new mood each time. John Latchem

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