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Reviews: February 4

4 Feb, 2007 By: Home Media Reviews

Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror

Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror
Prebook 2/6; Street 3/6
Vivendi Visual/Xenon, Horror, $24.99 DVD, ‘R' for pervasive strong violence and gore, sexuality, nudity and language.
Stars Snoop Dogg, Danny Trejo, Daniella Alonso, Billy Dee Williams, Anson Mount, Brande Roderick, Ernie Hudson, Richard Gant, Aries Spears, Pooch Hall, Jason Alexander, Diamond Dallas Page, Lin Shaye.

Fans of cheesy splatter films should be all over this anthology hosted by Snoop Dogg himself, fo shizzle. It's got all the requisite bloody make-up, over-the-top death scenes and hammy acting from a parade of ‘B'-list celebrities.

Snoop, basically playing himself, is the “Crib-keeper” Devon, who introduces three stories of hubris in the vein of “Tales From the Crypt,” but with an urban flavor.

These tales are connected by a lengthy animated sequence that depicts Devon's life as a gangster, and his deal with the devil to restore his sister's life when she is accidentally shot in one of his drive-bys. He becomes a Hound of Hell (one of many plays on the HOH abbreviation of the title), and is instructed to collect souls and “do it with style.”

In “Crossed Out,” an angel of death gives a young artist (Alonso) the power to control the destiny of gang-bangers by crossing off their graffiti tags. This leads to several Final Destination-style “accidents,” including a creative, if extremely improbable, death scene in which a gangster manages to impale his head on a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor.

“The Scumlord” features an obnoxious Southerner whose father's will requires him to live with a group of black Vietnam veterans to earn the townhouse they all live in. The segment has a few good lines of dialogue, and it's nice to see Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) and Richard Gant (“Deadwood”) in action.

Lastly, “Rapsody Askew” tells the story of an up-and-coming rapper (Hall) who's visited by the ghost of a murdered friend (Spears) who wants to expose a few guilty secrets.

Since the movie was inspired by a comic book, the animation is appropriate, although the parts don't mesh well and the transitions to live action are clunky. With gore this goofy, most viewers won't care, taking delight as the filmmakers ramp up the gushy sound effects with each spray of blood. John Latchem

Eddie Murphy: Delirious
Street 2/6
Entertainment Studios/Starz, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Eddie Murphy.

It's hard to believe almost 25 years have passed since Eddie Murphy staged this comedy classic. When Delirious was released in 1983, Murphy was one of the hottest personalities in Hollywood. Some believed he would be one of the greatest comics of all time.

Granted, for a while he seemed like the second coming of Richard Pryor, but of course time would tell otherwise as Murphy — and several other comics — failed to even come close to the genius of the late Pryor.

Still, Delirious offers Murphy fans some major laughs and a return to a time when he was at his best. On stage, particularly in Delirious, Murphy seems more in his element, as opposed to performing as a leading man in one of his films. Delirious, with the exception of the disgusting red leather outfit Murphy wears, showcases the raunchy comedy that became a Murphy trademark and elevated him to superstar status.

Until recently, his star status had dimmed with a string of bad movies. A split from his wife and additional stories in tabloids dictated much of the news concerning Murphy. But the recent success of Dreamgirls changed that. Murphy captured a Golden Globe award for best supporting actor and earned an Oscar nomination for the role in the same category.

The DVD extras include an interview with Byron Allen. In it, Murphy reveals his two biggest admirers — Pryor and Bill Cosby — how he got started as a comedian and some of his early routines. He seems to tease viewers about the possibility of his return to stand-up. Additional bonus features include unreleased material from the Delirious concert. — Benny Lopez

Slippin' — Ten Years With the Bloods
Prebook 2/6; Street 3/6
Kino, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.

Filmmakers Tommy Sowards and Joachim Schroeder deserve much credit for the access they gained in making this riveting and disturbing movie. Living to tell about it is a major accomplishment, too.

Slippin' gives us a front-row seat to the violence and casualties claimed in the longtime gang war between the notorious Bloods and Crips. The footage and content of this DVD is as raw as any documentary. It offers a glimpse into the senseless and brutal culture, told from the point of view of the gang members. Included as a bonus is “Slippin' Ghettocam 1993,” featuring 28 minutes of footage shot by the gang members themselves.

The main feature focuses on the precarious lives of five members of the Bloods. These aren't stories you'll hear at any Boy Scout meeting. There are characters such as Low Down Lemar, Jumbo Chris, Dig Dug Douglas and K.K. Calvin, who talk about how they dodge and cheat death every day.

They also tell, sometimes with glee, how they kill Crips for revenge or for the thrill of it, never giving their actions a second thought. They tell how they duck retaliation from their rivals. The violence … you throw up your hands and ask why? They don't value their lives, so why would you think they value yours?

Motifs working throughout this documentary include murder and shootings, crack cocaine and drug dealing, but the most prominent one to emerge is the gang members themselves. There are the ongoing tensions between gangs and law enforcement. The poor black people — particularly the innocent and young ones — live in fear of the daily dangers from this conflict. Innocent bystanders are all-too-common victims of the crossfire.

Slippin' doesn't offer any solutions to gang violence, but that doesn't lessen the film's impact. However, it does leave viewers wondering just how long can this madness of gang violence can continue. — Benny Lopez

Quick Take: The Meaning of Legacy

The demonstrable value of free speech is inherent in programs such as Malcolm & Martin: Implications of Their Legacies for the Future. Some will love it; some will hate it; some will ignore it. Regardless, Victory Multimedia's $20 DVD is well-timed for Black History Month.

In this seminar held in Oakland in 2005, Muslim Imam Zaid Shakir and Christian Dr. Cornel West take turns offering their interpretations of the legacies of 1960s African-American icons Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Shakir urges minorities to fight through double standards and put the needs of the community ahead of their own. West says the institution of America is designed to suppress blacks. They aren't looking for the next great leader … they urge individuals to simply be great and let history sort things out. They also aren't fans of the military, but don't offer their own insights into the global war on terror.

Some of their observations are insightful, some may raise ire and most are sure to spark debate. John Latchem

Soup of the Day
Street 2/6
Echo Bridge, Comedy, $19.99 two-DVD set, NR.
Stars Jon Crowley, Catherine Reitman, Patty Wortham, Tina Molina, Brian Palermo, Rob Cesternino.

Soup of the Day is a quirky, indie romantic comedy with improvised dialogue and some very funny gags. But it is also a landmark experiment of the social phenomenon that is viral video.

The movie was cut together from 19 “servings” of a popular Internet serial from 2006. In between bowls of his favorite split-pea soup, Brandon (Crowley) tells his friends tales of dating three girlfriends, each filling a different psychological need.

In this sense, it shares a premise with the teeny-bopper comedy John Tucker Must Die, although that film focused more on the idea of the girls seeking revenge, topped off with a dose of over-the-top Hollywood gloss.

Soup of the Day instead deals with Brandon's ultimate choice. It works because Brandon is a sympathetic character, despite his lechery.

As a film narrative, Brandon's decision seems obvious. Episodically, Soup of the Day gives viewers a chance to hang with each girl, and in the hiatus between episodes get used to the idea of their personalities. Viewers could interact with the filmmakers via Brandon's MySpace.com page, providing feedback that guided the storyline.

In a testament to the unpredictability of audience reaction, the most common feedback was not about the three girlfriends, but whether Brandon would have time for a fourth. Had the film been completely scripted, according to the filmmakers, the final decision would have been quite different.

Soup of the Day was the brainchild of Cesternino (of reality-TV staple “Survivor”) and Scott Zakarin, the same creative team behind The Scorned, a quasi-horror spoof with a reality-TV-star cast. The film aptly contains references to its reality-TV and Internet roots, and the enjoyable DVD is loaded with even more behind-the-scenes insights.

Fans of the Webisodes can enjoy them again, while newcomers can jump into the movie version. There are advantages to each format, and the DVD does a great job presenting the complete experience. John Latchem

Disaster! The Movie
Street 2/6
Universal/Screen Media, Comedy, $24.98 DVD,
Available in ‘R'-rated and unrated versions.
Voices of Glenn Morshower, Jim Cummings, Mötley Cr?e.

According to Roger Ebert's First Law of Funny Names, an attempt to give characters inherently humorous monikers is a sign of desperation at the screenplay level.

And thus we get the aptly named Disaster. Instead of a clever spoof of the disaster-movie genre, it's basically just an hour-and-a-half of poop and fart jokes. Every character's name is a bad pun — and usually a cheesy double entendre at that.

An exception is Dr. Hanukkah Jones, an airhead rocket scientist who riffs on Denise Richards from The World Is Not Enough, which is, of course, a James Bond movie and not a disaster flick.

This wannabe Team America is a nearly scene-for-scene parody of Armageddon, rendered in claymation.

The production values bring to mind MTV's “Celebrity Deathmatch,” which used many of the same animators. But the film lacks the bite of Cartoon Network's “Robot Chicken,” which managed a far-superior parody in a two-minute sketch.

In the few instances in which the filmmakers actually decided to write real jokes, the movie offers some genuine laughs — provided the viewer has a working knowledge of pop culture conventions. Anyone shopping for highbrow entertainment is advised to look elsewhere.

Even the filmmakers in their commentary seem embarrassed by some of the scatological humor. Director Roy T. Wood, lead puppet fabricator Morgan Hay and production designer Jim Towler do make some comments on the crass jokes, but mainly focus on the technical details of the production. They also point out hidden gags and behind-the-scenes trivia, such as real people who served as the visual models for some of the characters.

The movie has been heavily promoted by Mötley Cr?e, whose members make a voiceover cameo, and also features Morshower of “24” and the ubiquitous Cummings, a stalwart of Disney and other animated projects. John Latchem

My Mother's Courage
Street 2/13
BFS, Drama, $24.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Pauline Collins, Ulrich Tukur.

Part first-person reminiscence, part historical narrative, My Mother's Courage is an atypical World War II drama both for its unique narration and framing device, and for its unusually narrow focus.

Taken from George Tabori's novel and play of the same name, the film is narrated by the author, who also appears in the film. As he begins to relate the story of his mother — the bulk of the film is a flashback — he occasionally drifts whimsically off subject, only to dutifully steer the narrative back on course when he remembers himself. It's an odd, vaguely airy introduction to what quickly becomes a very serious scenario.

Tabori's mother was the kind of woman who had never truly grown up; someone who indefatigably believed that “so long as she was a good girl, everything would turn out for the best.” When she, along with most of the other Jews living in Budapest in 1944, is rounded up for “relocation,” the idea that anything untoward is afoot never occurs to her. It is not until she witnesses firsthand the brutality of the Germans — shooting unarmed men, allowing casual rape among their captives — that she even begins to appreciate her predicament.

Summoning what for her, being naturally, almost painfully timid, was an extraordinary quantity of courage, she approaches the SS guard in charge of her train and explains to him, amid the open derision of his subalterns, that her arrest was a mistake. In a strange and unaccountable demonstration of trust, he believes her (or so it seems), and shortly thereafter blithely permits her to escape while the rest are shipped to Auschwitz.

The kinds of specific, moment-to-moment details the film explores are usually given short shrift by epic-scale productions, and are fascinating in their own small way. The blending of the now-successful author's recollections with his mother's story — a device somewhat reminiscent of The Nasty Girl — makes for an interesting interpretive window through which to view it, and gives the film an added sense of how the small actions of a single individual can positively, however much after the fact, impact the future. — Eddie Mullins

Man About Town
Street 2/13
Lionsgate, Comedy, $26.98 DVD, ‘R' for language, some sexual content and a scene of violence.
Stars Ben Affleck, Rebecca Romijn, Samuel Ball, Mike Binder, Gina Gershon, Adam Goldberg, Howard Hesseman, Bai Ling, Jerry O'Connell, Kal Penn, Amber Valletta, Damien Wayans, John Cleese.

The curious career of writer-director-actor Mike Binder continues here with another solid film that deserves more attention than it got.

Binder has been bouncing around the business for years now writing and/or directing Coupe de Ville, Crossing the Bridge, Indian Summer and the recent The Upside of Anger, among others. While his career has never been especially hot, all that could change with the upcoming release of his 9/11 drama Reign Over Me, starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. For now, however, Man About Town is his latest release, and it's worth checking out.

The wildly narcissistic film industry never seems to tire of material by and about itself. Credit, too, an audience that is always curious to see what life is like behind the scenes, off the set and away from the glamour that is endlessly paraded before our eyes.

It is to Binder's credit that he turns the cameras on the industry where he makes his money.

Affleck turns in yet another solid but woefully underseen performance as Jack Giamoro, a slick, successful Hollywood agent with a beautiful wife (Romijn), his own company and mounting personal problems. His ailing father has moved in with him, he is having trouble landing a hot client, and he then finds out his wife is cheating on him.

Giamoro enrolls in a journal-writing course as a way of exploring the therapeutic nature of self-expression. When the journal is stolen under mysterious circumstances, Giamoro has to reach deep inside and examine his life in ways that he could never have imagined.

Ostensibly presented as a comedy, Man About Town has some very funny moments, but it is the drama of the protagonist's moving journey toward clarity that really stands out. — David Greenberg

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