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Reviews: February 25

25 Feb, 2007 By: Home Media Reviews

Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa
Street 3/20
Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $69.7 million, $28.95 DVD/UMD, $38.96 Blu-ray, ‘PG' for boxing violence and some language.
Stars Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia, Geraldine Hughes, Tony Burton, James Francis Kelly III, Antonio Tarver, A.J. Benza.

This isn't so much a sequel as it is an epilogue, like one of those “where are they now” pieces aired by news programs from time to time. Officially the sixth film in the franchise, Rocky Balboa is virtually a blow-by-blow remake of the 1976 original, filled with a great deal of sentimentality fans will appreciate, yet is still absolutely in step with the formula we've come to love and expect. This loaded DVD completes the journey.

Rocky (Stallone), now older and wiser, finds his life empty after the death of his beloved Adrian. When an ESPN computer simulation projects Rocky in his prime could knock out the current boxing champ (Tarver), Rocky gets the urge to start fighting again, and the champ, feeling disrespected, challenges him to an exhibition. Does it strain credulity to suggest this 60-year-old can still compete? Maybe, but as long as we still believe in him, does it matter?

To make the final fight as authentic as possible, Stallone mimics the style of HBO's boxing coverage, complete with glitzy graphics and the real commentators. Max Kellerman's boyish enthusiasm mirrors that of many a viewer who grew up on these films. How can you not smile when Bill Conti's music takes its characteristic twists and turns as the fight wears on? An alternate ending gives fans a chance to see the end result the other way — and why it wouldn't have worked.

Rocky's return parallels that of Stallone, who wanted a shot at redemption after the disappointment of Rocky V way back in 1990, and no one wanted to give him the chance. In one behind-the-scenes moment, Stallone as Rocky is introduced to a real Las Vegas boxing crowd, which doesn't know whether to cheer or boo.

Listening to the commentary is like hearing Rocky's inner monologue. Thankfully, Stallone avoids attempting the erudite vocabulary he used for the special-edition DVD of the first movie. However, he does mention putting together a director's cut of Rocky Balboa, and he doesn't sound like he's joking.

The most interesting featurette concerns the making of the fight simulation, which involved Stallone and Tarver posing for motion-capture cameras. As a treat for the fans, the unedited simulation is included. John Latchem

Entourage: Season Three — Part One
Prebook 2/27; Street 4/3
HBO Video, Comedy, $39.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Debi Mazar, Jeremy Piven.

In its story of four childhood friends navigating the treacherous waters of the celebrity scene, “Entourage” works so well because it takes to heart the basic values of friendship and loyalty.

In the third season, up-and-coming star Vince Chase (Grenier) basks in the success of his Aquaman film by refusing to appear in a hurried sequel, then scrambling to find work when his agent, Ari Gold (Piven), alienates half of Hollywood and endangers his chances of starring in a movie about the Ramones.

Piven, of course, won the Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy series for his role on this show, and his manic pomposity is the main reason to check it out.

Season three also is notable for its instant classic “Vegas Baby, Vegas!” episode, a sinister guest turn from Seth Green as a caricature of himself, and an episode that plays with the idea of couples who make lists of celebrities they are allowed to sleep with if ever they should meet.

Accompanying the Vegas episode is a behind-the-scenes featurette previously available on HBO's on-demand cable service.

Three episodes feature commentaries with creator Doug Ellin and stars Ferrara and Dillon. They point out some interesting tidbits, but they blatantly admit to hoping for a better review than the “B-” the second-season commentaries scored from Entertainment Weekly.

The set also includes brief recaps of the first two seasons as a quick refresher course.

These recaps underscore the most glaring omission — a lack of a preview of the upcoming second half of the third season, which starts April 8 on HBO. Speaking of which, the show has been on hiatus so long I'm surprised they don't just call the upcoming episodes the fourth season. John Latchem

Prebook 3/1; Street 3/27

ThinkFilm, Drama, B.O. $0.05 million, $27.98 DVD, ‘R' for pervasive depiction of drug addiction, disturbing images, language, sexual content and nudity.

Stars Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush.

Candy may be readily subsumed within the small, youngish genre of “junkies in love,” which includes such pictures as Jesus's Son, Requiem for a Dream and Midnight Cowboy. It's among the better films of the category, although it doesn't have any new insights or revelations. Like most films in this genre, the basic message is “junk will ruin you.”

Ledger plays Dan, a charming but reckless young poet with a regular habit who, with scant reluctance, introduces his art-student girlfriend, Candy (Cornish), to heroin. From there, the familiar trajectory begins. At first, everything is bliss and beauty, ecstasy and passion. It soon turns ugly by dramatic turns.

Dan nearly overdoses at their wedding, Candy is soon turning tricks to support their addiction, and their child dies at birth owing to inevitable complications. It's predictably sordid, and occasionally makes the happy-go-lucky junkies from Danny Boyle's Trainspotting seem tame (and even lucky) by comparison.

What separates Candy from potential seen-it-all-before tedium are the performances. Ledger is strong as Dan, and Cornish is nothing short of astonishing. Her interpretation of the eponymous role is by turns riveting, seductive and terrifying.

She's uncommonly beautiful — think Nicole Kidman, but less icy, more earthy — and has an effortless, live-inside-the-performance style that calls to mind actresses as sublimely gifted as Meryl Streep or Cate Blanchett.

If the “junkies in love” genre is your cup of tea, then Candy is must-see material; if it isn't, you should see it anyway, if only for the reason that it introduces the world to this remarkable young actress. — Eddie Mullins

The Best of the Flip Wilson Show
Street 2/27
Rhino, Comedy, $49.95 three-DVD set, NR.
Stars Flip Wilson, Ray Charles, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Albert Brooks, Redd Foxx, Joe Namath, Johnny Cash, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Tim Conway.

Not just another variety show, “The Flip Wilson Show” was a slice of pop culture, ushering in the 1970s with a gifted comedian as host who could have us in stitches with just one look — particularly when dressed in drag as “Geraldine Jones,” his sassy, liberated alter ego.

A black variety show host, in those days, was adventurous enough, but one who poked fun at black culture was, in the jargon of the time, “far out.”

In that regard, Clerow “Flip” Wilson laid the groundwork for a line of black comics all the way up to Dave Chappelle, whose hugely successful show borrowed more liberally from old Flip than one might presume.

This best-of DVD contains six full-length episodes, in which Flip is joined by a number of celebrated guests.

In true Rhino Home Video form, there also are gobs of quality extras, including an interview with producer Bob Henry, episode introductions from Conway and Diller, and a poignant biography of Wilson, who after his show's 1970-74 network run continued to pop up on TV, guesting on shows such as “The Love Boat” and hosting “Saturday Night Live.” He died of liver cancer in 1998. Thomas K. Arnold

Always Will
Prebook 2/27; Street 3/20
MTI, Family, $24.95 DVD, ‘PG' for some bullying, teen smoking and brief mild language.
Stars Andrew Baglini, John Schmidt, Mark Schroeder, Noelle Meixell, Andrew Sammaciccia, Bart Mallard, Jody Seymour.

It's probably the rare person who has never wondered about the road not traveled, or has never wanted to go back and do things a little differently, knowing today that what seemed like an insignificant decision back then turned out to make all the difference in the world.

First-time director Michael Sammaciccia largely captures those sentiments with a cast of mostly first-time actors in this coming-of-age story about a high-school senior, Will (Baglini), who discovers that a time capsule in his basement allows him to revisit the past and change decisions he regrets making.

Will faces a number of teenage predicaments: He doesn't have many friends, he's not doing well in school, he can't gain the respect of his stepfather (Mallard), and he's not sure how to help his mother (Seymour), who has her own dreams of going back to college and becoming an architect.

Using the time capsule, Will changes much of his past to turn his present situation around and become the most popular kid in school. Yet, his new life is bittersweet when he realizes his stepfather respects him even less, his mother's still unhappy, and most of what he has he hasn't truly earned. Can he use the time capsule to turn things around for the better without such a self-centered focus?

Always Will is a small-budget group effort shot at a Pennsylvania high school using actual students, so there aren't any dazzling time-travel special effects, and the acting is about average for untrained unknowns.

But, in striving for authenticity, sincerity and a wholesome message — that growing up means thinking about more than yourself — Always Will stands above the gore-fests and lame comedies aimed at its target audience of teenagers. —Mark Lowe

Eloise in Hollywood
Street 3/13
Starz, Animated, $14.98 DVD, NR.
Voices of Mary Matilyn Mouser, Tim Curry, Lynn Redgrave, Cynthia Nixon, Lacey Chabert, Alan Cumming, Nestor Carbonell.

Author Kay Thompson's irrepressible, Plaza Hotel-dwelling, 6-year-old sophisticate Eloise comes alive once again in this charming adventure that is very respectful of Thompson's original work and its legions of multi-generational fans.

When Eloise's largely absent mother phones from Hollywood to say that she won't be home as scheduled, Eloise is bereft. But Eloise is in for a treat: Her mother has arranged for Eloise and Nanny to fly to California and visit the set of a movie being made by a director-friend of the family.

And that's not even the most exciting part. When Eloise arrives, she discovers she has the opportunity to have a small role in the movie. Everything seems to be going so well until Eloise meets the star of the film, a girl about Eloise's own age who has been studying the How to Be a Diva handbook of film acting.

As in the previous two titles in this incarnation of Eloise, Redgrave steals the show as Eloise's nervous but indulgent nanny. Mouser walks the fine line between appealing and annoying that is Eloise's hallmark. And there is enough humor aimed at adults to make this a pain-free way for consumers to enjoy family viewing.

Perhaps because she is imperfect, sometimes selfish, sometimes less than polite and occasionally thoughtless, Eloise seems to reach each new generation of children. With the help of the adults around her, she manages, ultimately, to reign in the havoc she wreaks, so adults will find her delightful as well.

Eloise in Hollywood will satisfy both her newest and her most steadfast fans. — Anne Sherber

A Brush With Death
Street 3/6
Vivendi Visual, Horror, $24.99 DVD, ‘R' for violence and some language.

Five hot cheerleaders decide to go on a road trip to a haunted farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, where 40 years earlier a young boy killed his abusive older brother, whose ghost lingers.

The legend goes that two backpackers had the misfortune of coming across the house; they entered but never came out. Now, these five best friends venture out to the country to see if the story is true.

On the way their car breaks down, and the girls are immediately met by a creepy local mechanic and his mentally challenged assistant. A flashback reveals the mechanic's hobby of kidnapping young girls and having his way with them. After fixing the car, the mechanic warns the girls about the house, but they journey on.

After what seems like days spent swimming, playing games and drinking, the girls finally reach the house, only to be attacked one by one.

A Brush With Death is amateurish, as if the filmmakers just took a camera out and started shooting. The box art features a hottie in peril, and I was hoping for good kills, a scare or two, or even a dose of nudity. But, there's too much talking, and the resolution comes too quickly.

Good horror films make money; bad horror films make money. Why should this be any different? — Jonathan Rosenbloom

Megadeth: That One Night — Live in Buenos Aires
Street 3/6
Image, Music, $19.99 DVD, NR.

Shot at Megadeth's 2005 concert at Obras Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the footage finds its subjects well past their U.S. relevancy.

Though no longer in their youthful prime, the band can still deliver its share of bone-crushing metal licks, hard-rock beats and surprisingly melodic tunes — all of which the 25,000 screaming, chanting and cheering kids of Buenos Aires devour as though the aging metal rockers were the second coming of The Beatles.

That One Night does nothing to reinvent the idea of the concert documentary, but it nevertheless captures the technical prowess of the players, the thrill of the crowd, and the magic of Megadeth's more-popular numbers.

Some of these have been a bit dulled by time and age, while others seem to have been perfected by years of touring. There is something a bit tired about seeing the band — weathered and widened by time — perform the same numbers that catapulted them to fame more than a decade ago, but they at least deliver most of the songs as though they still believed in their viability.

Any fans of Megadeth or heavy metal, new or old, are likely to find something to enjoy in this DVD. — J.R. Wick

Quick Take: Cult Cop Classics

Fans of the “Police Academy” movies might want to check out two new Somerville House DVDs of cult favorites starring Terence Hill. Crime Busters and Super Fuzz (aka Super Snooper) hit shelves Feb. 27.

In 1976's Crime Busters, two jobless rogues played by Hill and Bud Spencer attempt a bank heist only to mistakenly break into a police recruitment center and inadvertently become amazing crime fighters. In 1980's Super Fuzz, Hill plays a cop imbued with superpowers by a nuclear spacecraft. Ernest Borgnine and Joanne Dru co-star.These are Italian productions with some bad English dubbing, but their kitsch value is clear. Crime Busters includes an interview with Spencer, who teamed with Hill for many movies, including the famed “Trinity” Westerns. The DVDs are $14.98 each and distributed by Koch Entertainment. John Latchem

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