Reviews: January 2828 Jan, 2007 By: Home Media Reviews
Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
BV/Disney, Animated, $29.99 DVD, ‘G.'
The latest addition to the Walt Disney Co.'s phenomenally successful “Princess” line smartly returns to the original formula by featuring one storyline (as opposed to the ill-received three-tale Cinderella II), the original characters and a ballad-filled soundtrack.
On Cinderella and Prince Charming's first anniversary, stepsister Anastasia steals the Fairy Godmother's magic wand. The evil stepmother uses it to reverse time to make the prince believe he loves Anastasia by making the glass slipper fit her. It's up to Cinderella and her rodent pals Jacque and Gus to reverse the spell before he marries Anastasia.
The story gets a little heavy-handed with the lessons — particularly Anastasia learning the true meaning of love — and the old-school premise of storybook love solving all life's woes will probably give feminist moms the willies. But, at least this time around the prince has an actual personality, and the fast pace, short length and slapstick comedy will keep the young ones interested.
The DVD doesn't have many extras — just a five-minute doc on the Cinderella stage show from the Disney cruise ship, a preview clip from the next “Disney Princess Enchanted Tales” DVD, and a music video of the title song by the latest teen starlet (Hayden Panettiere of “Heroes”).
The interactive features are much cooler. A game allows kids to view a secret room after correctly selecting which character enchanted certain objects in the castle. On the DVD-ROM, young ones can use the “Princess Party Creator” to decorate the castle ballroom to their heart's desire, importing photos, and printing or saving their creations. There's also a “Printable Party” feature that offers printable invitations, place cards, a coloring page and more for kids who want their own princess party.
Cinderella III in no way compares to the original, but it's a serviceable 'toon that will satiate the appetite of rabid Disney Princess fans. However, it's likely that viewers will spend more time playing with the interactive extras than watching the film. — Laura Tiffany
Prebook 2/1; Street 2/27
ThinkFilm, Drama, B.O. $0.07 million, $27.98 two-DVD set, ‘R' for bizarre and disturbing content, including drug use, sexuality and gruesome situations — all involving a child, and for some language.
Stars Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer, Jennifer Tilly, Jeff Bridges.
Perhaps in exchange for directing a mainstream film such as The Brothers Grimm, Terry Gilliam goes off the deepest end with Tideland — and most won't want to go with him.
The reviews for Tideland have been nearly all dismal — like, Gigli bad — calling Tideland weird, squirmy and a bore. Grow up, I say. It's plenty weird and squirmy, but that's no reason to dismiss a film, and with Gilliam at the helm, there's nothing boring about it.
Based on the novel by Mitch Cullin, the film stars Ferland as Jeliza-Rose, a girl continuously neglected by her junkie parents, played with gleeful camp by Bridges and Tilly. When the girl's father takes her to his mother's rural home, Jeliza-Rose finds herself retreating further and further into her fantasies, where squirrels and doll heads can talk.
From that description, one might expect tons of visual tricks from Gilliam, known for fantastical wonders such as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Not so: Most of the fantasies occur only in Jeliza-Rose's head, save for a few scenes, including a bizarre sequence with doll heads floating inside of Jeff Bridges' ribcage.
It's a far-from-perfect depiction that could have been edited down, particularly the first half. The second half is better, when Jeliza-Rose meets a mentally challenged man-child and his deranged sister, who alternates between caring for the girl and terrorizing her.
Ferland's portrayal of sad, deluded Jeliza-Rose is flat-out astonishing. Whatever people thought of the film, the 12-year-old actress has something she can be proud of for a long time, giving extraordinary depth to a girl who can't possibly cope with the crumbling world around her.
Gilliam fans likely will be pleased to see the director follow his muse to places most people can't fathom, producing yet another film that, however flawed, also is hard to shake.
The DVD includes an introduction and commentary by Gilliam, a making-of featurette and an interview with the director, as well as the short film Getting Gilliam, which has its own commentary. — Billy Gil
It's a Big Big World: Investigate Your World/The Sky Above
Sony Pictures, Children, $14.94 DVD each, NR.
The center of “It's a Big Big World” is a big, big tree where such jungle inhabitants as sloths, monkeys and birds wile away the day while teaching preschool and young elementary-school-age kids about nature, animals, science and geography.
The star of the show is Snook, a giant tree sloth who charmingly channels Keanu Reeves in Point Break. In each episode, Snook accompanies his friends — including two marmosets, a tree frog, a turtle, a quetzal bird, an anteater, a fish and a monkey — on an exploratory adventure. For example, Smooch and Winslow, the marmosets, lose their new friend Wartz. They search high and low, uncovering clues as they go, and eventually learn that Wartz the tadpole has unexpectedly become Wartz the frog. Both the gang and the viewers learn about metamorphosis. On another episode, Snook wanders around on a hot day, learning where and how each animal keeps cool.
Created by Mitchell Kriegman (“Bear in the Big Blue House”), the show is filmed with Kriegman's own unique process that combines traditional Japanese bun rako puppets with CGI sets and backgrounds. The effect is at first disorienting. But, this diminishes as you begin to concentrate on the puppets, all very huggable and kid-friendly. Each episode also is punctuated with catchy songs that infuse world beats and island rhythms to get kids moving.
Each DVD has four or five episodes and a few extras. Kids can watch the songs separately as music videos, and they can view the “Animal Fun Facts,” which come from the end of each episode where Snook shares facts about the animals on the show.
What kids will really enjoy is the seed packet that comes with each DVD, encouraging viewers to get to know nature one-on-one by growing their own plant. With such a strong educational aspect, these are the type of DVDs that parents will want kids to watch. — Laura Tiffany
Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back — '65 Tour Deluxe Edition
Prebook 1/30; Street 2/27
Docurama, Music, $49.95 two-DVD set, NR.
A documentary about Dylan's early days, Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back is not to be missed by anyone who loves rock 'n' roll, art or the good ol' USA.
Following Dylan's 1965 tour of England, which saw him accompanied by former lover Joan Baez, the film opens a window into another world — and then shows us just how Dylan and his generation helped changed that world into our own.
For Dylan fans, equally important is the change he undergoes as an artist during the film, which essentially marks his transition from folk to rock.
Included with the original's slew of live performances and interviews, featuring an endless line of famous rockers, two added commentaries from filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and former tour manager Bob Neuwirth, and an additional disc worth of never-before-seen footage, make this new deluxe edition well worth the price.
Whether singing or speaking, Dylan himself clearly is a true treasure, and it is the new footage that helps put the value of this release over the top. The commentaries, too, add dimensions only hinted at in the original film, as they explain the happenings behind the scenes, from a point of view other than Dylan.
It's a must for anyone serious about music. — J.R. Wick
The U.S. vs. John LennonStreet 2/13
Lionsgate, Documentary, B.O. $1.1 million, $27.98 DVD, ‘PG-13' for some strong language, violent images and drug references.
John Lennon might admire John Mayer's talent but probably spins in his grave every time “Waiting for the World to Change” is played. Lennon saw his fame as at once ridiculous and the perfect platform for creating change. And it got him into plenty of trouble.
Lennon's genius was also his Achilles' heel. It wasn't only that his songs were masterpieces; he realized that the media would follow him wherever he went, physically or creatively, and chose to lead them where he wanted them to go.
In one clip, he says you have to sell peace like you were selling soap, until housewives see their choice between two products: peace and war. That message made him a dangerous man. He was a relentless voice of a generation that, for the first third of his career, was unable to vote and felt powerless to influence world events.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon is a great bookend to the 2003 documentary The Fog of War, but for an audience that may have found former defense secretary Robert McNamara's pompous reminiscences too abstract. Its voice is likely to ring louder in the ears of youngsters who don't remember Vietnam and don't see the relevance of an elder statesman, but, just as in the 1970s, idolize their musical icons.
Both films examine the hazards of undeclared wars (oh yeah, remember? That wasn't a war, it was a “police action”), both in the countries where they are fought and on our own soil. It raises the specter of rights, freedoms and privacies lost in a society willing to justify any intrusion in the oft-blasphemed name of national security.
With the Democrats taking over Congress, it seems inevitable we will hear many more comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq.
Directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld did not have the luxury of interviewing Lennon himself. Instead they had to rely on archival footage and comments from Lennon's contemporaries, some adversarial. But that serves to compare the rhetoric that led the country into both wars. — Holly J. Wagner
Prebook 1/30; Street 2/27
Universal/Screen Media, Comedy, $24.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Ishmael Butler, Bonz Malone, Anita Kopacz, Andre Royo.
The eccentric characters are the most appealing elements of this quirky comedy, and the main reason Planet Brooklyn generates some laughs during its 96-minute run.
For the most part, the film is a feel-good story with a hip-hop hook. It features roommates Ish (Malone) and Oz (Butler), who revel in their unemployment status and dream of starting a band.
Oz easily takes the cake as far as characters go. He is one of the film's most peculiar personalities — a gambler who enjoys sharing his occasional good fortune with friends and strangers. Strangely, he also delights in watching cooking shows, honing his culinary skills to impress his daughter's grandmother.
Ish is a graffiti artist, and his taste in art leads him to another artist, a lovely honey named Veronica (Kopacz).
Junie (Royo), best known as Bubbles on the HBO series “The Wire,” is another off-center character and frequently one of the funniest. He likes to brag about his popping rap beats and insists that Ish and Oz need them for the band to be a success. When Junie isn't popping off about his riffs, he enjoys name-dropping celebrities who are interested in producing his work.
The DVD's bonus features include deleted scenes and director's commentary.Planet Brooklyn, which debuted in 2004, represents the inaugural work of Mad Matthewz, who some in the film industry believe to be among the best upcoming filmmakers.
Matthewz co-directed (with Mark Banning) and produced Jellysmoke, a drama that captured the Best Narrative Film Award at the 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival. — Benny Lopez
BFS, Comedy, $24.98 two-DVD set, NR.
Stars Billy Connolly, Douglas Henshall, Sarah Lancashire.
The British television comedy Gentlemen's Relish is delivered with a naughty wink — a frisky start to a new year.
Connolly stars as Kingdom Swann, a Scottish artist living in Edwardian London whose work is a little behind the times. Seeking to revitalize the career of her boss, housemaid Violet buys Swann a camera, suggesting this is the way of the future.
Swann is willing to give it a go, but soon finds himself taking “society” photographs rather than focusing on artistic work.
Things get dicier — and racier — when Swann's conniving assistant convinces him to take photographs of nude females. Swann reluctantly agrees, not wishing to be left out of the rush toward modern mores, but the assistant is secretly selling some of the photos to a pornographer.
A conservative politician becomes involved, as do elements of the women's movement, leaving the perplexed Swann to deal with his newfound notoriety.
Gentlemen's Relish is harmless and mostly effective entertainment that has some small fun with satire of the upper crust and all things too pompous.
The usually boisterous comedian Connolly is allowed to play the picked-on centerpiece, a quieter role that calls for Connolly to scratch his head in wonder and worry about all the strange goings-on.
The juicier role goes to Henshall as his scheming assistant. Henshall is delightful as the tricky cad who consistently fools his puzzled employer.
No big messages break through, yet Gentlemen's Relish manages a few swats at the establishment while remaining mostly sweet and enjoyable. A special DVD feature provides cast profiles of the stars and worthy ensemble. — Dan Bennett
Prebook 1/29; Street 2/20
Monarch, Action, $26.95 two-DVD set, ‘PG' for some mild language and a brief scuffle.
Stars Riley Smith, Dominique Swain, Tom Sizemore.
This film is aimed at the extreme-sports crowd and, in particular, rabid fans of the half-pipe snowboarding event. It scores a direct hit.
Essentially a collection of world-class snowboarding footage edited together like a music video and set to a throbbing pop-punk/hip-hop soundtrack with the barest thread of a plot linking everything together, White Air is, nonetheless, consistently entertaining.
Smith (New York Minute, Radio) stars as Alex Crow, a once-promising amateur snowboarder whose dreams of turning professional have faded, replaced by a job as a mechanic. When an opportunity for a second shot at snowboarding glory threatens to conflict with a chance to become a certified and licensed mechanic, Alex must choose to either go for his dream or settle for the safety and security of a stable profession.
Alex is torn between the support of his mentor (a former boarder), his boss, Steve (Tom Sizemore), and a complicated relationship with Christy (Dominique Swain), his rival's girlfriend.
U. Wolfgang Wagenknecht, the director and co-writer, clearly saves his creative muscles for the frequent snowboarding sequences — several of which are conveniently recycled, appearing over and over as flashbacks. The narrative sequences are often filmed with a handheld camera and filled with improvisational acting.
While the sport of half-pipe snowboarding is decidedly modern, the elements of the plot here are seriously old school — the uncertain hero; the snarling rival; the girl; the coach, the friend and the boss who all believe in him even when he does not believe in himself; the “big game” climax and the “follow your heart” message are all classic hallmarks of movies about athletes and, true to the spirit of teamwork, each plays an important role in making this film as engaging and enjoyable as it is. — David Greenberg
The Comedians of Comedy
Anchor Bay, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, Zach Galifianakis.
If you've ever wondered whether stand-up comedians are the same people offstage as on, The Comedians of Comedy has the answer: They are.
Posehn (“Just Shoot Me”) jokes in his act about being a nerd — a collector of comic books and a “Star Wars” fan who thinks the second trilogy of movies are a betrayal (actually, a violation of much more graphic proportions) of George Lucas' original vision.
Midway through the “Comedians of Comedy” tour — of which this movie is part documentary, part concert-film — he and comrade-in-arms Oswalt (“King of Queens”) find themselves compelled to check out a legendary comic book shop, and later an arcade that features perfect, working-condition 1980s video games.
The documentary segments are often as hilarious as the filmed comedy sets performed by Oswalt (who organized the 2004 tour), Posehn, Bamford (“CatDog”) and Galifianakis (“Tru Calling,” “Dog Bites Man”).
Life is, for them, one extended stand-up routine, whether it's in the tour RV, a diner or their motel room.
Sometimes the lines between documentary and comedy are blurred. One segment finds Galifianakis sitting on a chair outdoors lambasting slapstick comedy. A leg of the chair suddenly breaks, sending him rolling down a hill; moments later, Oswalt and Posehn stroll in naked.
While Posehn and Oswalt have the most screen time, the comics who make Comedians of Comedy worth watching are Bamford and Galifianakis. Bamford's onstage persona is, again, herself: an insecure woman with a squeaky, girly intonation and multiple personalities bursting out of her in distinctive voices — frequently self-absorbed yuppies abusing and belittling department-store clerks.
The film's real high point is Galifianakis' efforts to somehow work into the act three men he meets outside a San Francisco laundromat who sing acappela doo-wop.
It would spoil the joke to say exactly how it turns out. It's enough to say that it would be hard to think that a one-liner about e-mail could make such beautiful and funny three-part harmony. — Mark Lowe
Quick Take: A Glimpse of the Golden State
Questar's new six-disc boxed set A Taste of California ($59.99) is a great tool for anyone who wants to see more of the state. Originally airing on British television, this travelogue keys viewers in to some of the state's cultural landmarks, its wine and its food.
Host Simon Kane deftly guides viewers through most of the significant regions of California, with each of the 18 episodes devoted to a specific area or city. The level of interest in each episode probably will vary depending on where you're from. Here in Orange County, the Costa Mesa episode plays like an infomercial for the South Coast Plaza shopping center. I assume someone from Paso Robles might find it as helpful for planning a trip here as I would find the Paso Robles episode for planning a trip there.
The history lessons are short but sweet, and the photography really highlights the beauty of the landscapes. — John Latchem