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Reviews: July 23

23 Jul, 2006 By: Home Media Reviews

Scary Movie 4

Scary Movie 4: Unrated
Street 8/15
Dimension/ Genius, Comedy,
B.O. $89.6 million, $29.95 DVD
(‘R'-rated also available).
Stars Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Craig Bierko.

The unrated Scary Movie 4 arrives on DVD with more than two hours of hilarious, uncensored special features showcasing all of the disgusting humor from the mind of director David Zucker.

Starting with the basics, the DVD has a commentary track with Zucker, producer Robert K. Weiss and writer/producer Craig Mazin, who together deliver a narration of what happened behind the scenes. The real highlights of this DVD, however, are the 15 deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary, which includes an alternate ending, as well as seven minutes of bloopers — not nearly enough — with outtakes featuring Shaquille O'Neal, Dr. Phil and the rest of the film's stars and cameos.

Also excellent is the visual-effects featurette. Through interviews with the team that brought the film to life, it reveals how hard they had to work to re-create CGI and other effects to match those of such bigger-budget films as War of the Worlds. People spend weeks, sometimes months, creating something as simple, and as stupid, as butt-cheek-shaped clouds that shoot lightning — just for a few laughs. But they all agree it's worth it.

The DVD also looks at the prominent roles rappers play in the movie, with interviews from YoungBloodZ, Chingy, Lil' John and others, who are all fans of the series.

The last two featurettes serve as an homage to Zucker and the spoof humor genre he helped create.

Overall, it's a perfect combination of extras for what is by far the best “Scary Movie” to date. — Matt Miller

I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer
Street 8/15
Sony Pictures, Horror, $24.96 DVD, ‘R.'
Stars David Paetkau, K.C. Clyde.

In an attempt to squeeze a few more dollars out of the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” franchise, the third film in the series is being released direct to DVD. The cleverly titled film brings the infamous fisherman and his deadly hook to a small Colorado mountain town. A fresh batch of teens are devastated after a July 4 prank accidentally leads to the death of their friend, who happens to be the sheriff's son. Not wanting to get in trouble with the law, the group agrees not to tell anyone what really happened.

Unfortunately, their secret is only safe for so long. A year after the accident, the guilt-ridden friends begin receiving anonymous messages tormenting them about what happened last summer. The fisherman soon appears and starts slaughtering them one by one. What ensues is a long, bloody battle to find out the real identity of the madman who wants them dead.

In the end, although this installment in the series is gorier, the bad acting and extended nature shots will leave viewers not caring about what happened last summer or who the fisherman really is.

Also streeting Aug. 15 is a boxed set with all three films ($39.95).

Selling Points: This is the latest in a successful series of teen slasher flicks made famous by Jennifer Love Hewitt. — Matt Miller

Epitafios: The Complete First Season
Prebook 7/25; Street 8/29
HBO, Drama, $59.98 five-DVD set, NR. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Stars Julio Chavez, Villanueva Cosse.

Think The Silence of the Lambs in Spanish. An original series from HBO, “Epitafios” has the dark sensibilities of the earlier English-language Fox series “Millennium” and should be a hit with literate fans of the genre.

Detectives follow a mysterious phone call to an abandoned mansion and find dismembered body parts carefully arranged in the house — sans head — and an open grave marked with headstones forecasting doom for our heroes.

Calls and clues lead the detectives on the trail of a serial killer who knows how to push the buttons of detective Martin, burnout SWAT-sniper-cum-cab-driver Renzo Marquez, and psychiatrist Laura Santini. Our killer faxes cryptic epitaphs (epitafios) for his planned victims to a stonecutter. The predictive headstones serve as taunts and clues.

A season-long story arc takes us through the history they share with the mysterious killer. It's a path littered with bodies and full of the twists, turns and cliffhanger endings that keep crime mystery fans hooked in any language.

This has all the makings of a crossover language hit.

Selling Points: This show has the quality we've come to expect from HBO's original dramas. It's a gritty crime-horror series guaranteed to engage any fan of the genre who speaks Spanish or reads subtitles. — Holly J. Wagner

Prebook 7/21; Street 8/15
Strand, Thriller, B.O. $0.05 million, $24.99 DVD, NR. In French with English subtitles.
Stars Laurent Lucas, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling.

Reminiscent of the obtuse narratives of David Lynch's Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive but far more accessible, Lemming is a deep, rich and satisfying psychological drama from France by German director Dominick Moll. Not exactly a mystery/thriller or a mere tale of domestic tension, Lemming is both — a tense, mysterious tale of a couple faced with an unexpected challenge to their relationship.

The narrative concerns the ups and downs and relationship between two couples. Alain (Lucas) is a successful engineer who invites his boss and his wife over for dinner. When marital strife turns the evening into a social disaster, it also sets off a series of events that will dramatically affect or even end the lives of some or all of the characters.

When a not-very-surprising tragedy befalls one couple, it insinuates itself into the relationship of the other couple, straining the bonds of marriage as well as the boundaries of sanity.

Lemming is a welcome arrival for fans of meaty, grown-up fare. It's deliberately paced and relatively free of flashy effects and gimmicky shocks, relying on a character-driven story where none of the characters is a psycho killer. There are no kinky sex games, brooding bad guys or slinky bad girls. The film is decidedly low-key and yet oddly compelling. It's even moving, uniformly well acted and handsomely produced.

Selling Points: Fans of intelligent and provocative foreign films should gravitate here. The film should attract more attention with its attractive box art. — David Greenberg

Akeelah and the Bee
Prebook 8/2; Street 8/29
Lionsgate, Family, B.O. $18.5 million, $28.98 DVD, ‘PG' for some language.
Stars Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett.

Who'da thunk it? Spelling bees — the geekiest kids doing the nerdiest thing and America can't get enough. Akeelah and the Bee is the latest.

Akeelah, a bright but unmotivated kid living on the wrong side of the tracks in Los Angeles, has a gift: an almost infallible sense of how words are spelled. But when the school principal encourages her to enter a local spelling bee, she's reluctant, afraid she'll be the target of bullies. When she finally enters, she wins, becoming a heroine to her entire community.

A story about a child who overcomes difficult circumstances to triumph, Akeelah and the Bee is heartwarming and inspirational, if a little formulaic and expected. What rescues it from hopeless clich? is Palmer's wonderful turn as the girl willing to shoulder the dreams of an entire neighborhood. She delivers a performance filled with humor, humanity and joy.

Fishburne also is wonderful as a caring but damaged teacher who is healed by his gifted student. Bassett takes on the difficult role of a mother too preoccupied by the challenges her family faces to see her daughter's gift.

Despite its familiar plot, Akeelah and the Bee (the first movie produced by Starbucks) is a great family film. Pre-teens and 'tweens especially will be engaged by its charms.

Selling Points: Spelling bees are hot. They feature in the doc Spellbound and the Richard Gere starrer Bee Season, and ABC recently aired a national championship. And don't forget the doc Word Wars for lovers of the spelling game Scrabble. — Anne Sherber

What's on DVD?

  • Deleted scenes
  • Gag reel
  • Three featurettes
  • Keke Palmer music video

  • Unknown White Male
    Prebook 7/25; Street 9/5
    Wellspring/Genius, Documentary, B.O. $0.1 million, $24.95 DVD, ‘PG-13' for drug references and brief strong language.

    On July 2, 2003, a 35-year-old man checked himself into the emergency room at a Coney Island hospital claiming he didn't know who he was. Doctors who initially thought it was a prank discovered otherwise. This “unknown white male” was suffering from an unusual condition: total retrograde amnesia. He not only didn't know his name, but also didn't know where he was from, who his friends and family were, or anything else about his past prior to waking up on an empty subway car that morning.

    After a brief stint in a psych ward, a phone call placed to a random number found in his backpack revealed his identity. He was Douglas Bruce, a stockbroker-turned-photographer living in New York City. And so began Bruce's rediscovery of his former self.

    Unknown White Male documents Bruce's journey back to himself, following him as he gradually reconnects with the life he doesn't remember. Day by day, he revisits the pieces of his past, struggling for a glimmer of recognition that never arrives.

    Directed by one of his close former friends, Rupert Murray, UWM is a remarkably intimate study, owing both to the closeness Bruce afforded the filmmaker and Bruce's own compulsive need to shoot video footage. Before the idea for the film had even surfaced, he was already keeping a film diary, including his first visit to his apartment, his consultations with doctors and his reconnection with old friends. His is the most powerful footage in the film.

    There are, of course, the requisite expert talking-head interviews about memory loss, but their explanations are by and large conjectural, and Murray keeps their screen time mercifully short.

    Selling Points: Roger Ebert gave it a thumbs-up. Some accuse Bruce of fraud, but in a review, Ebert wrote that the possibility doesn't take away from the film's power. — Eddie Mullins

    Kinky Boots
    Prebook 7/25; Street 9/5
    BV/Miramax, Comedy, B.O. $1.7 million, $29.99 DVD, ‘PG-13' for thematic material involving sexuality and for language.
    Stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joel Edgerton.

    Kinky Boots belongs to that school of decidedly British comedy where plucky, quirky everymen overcome odds via a subversion of local mores — nudity, marijuana sales or, in this case, cross-dressing.

    Charlie (Edgerton) is the unwilling heir to a fourth-generation family shoe factory. The business is going under because of foreign competition, and he's ready to shut down. After a chance meeting with drag queen Lola (Ejiofor) and some pep-talking by one of his employees (Sarah-Jane Potts), Charlie decides to go niche with boots for cross-dressing men. Lessons are learned as Charlie gets to know Lola, and the factory workers are exposed to her lifestyle.

    The portrait of the small-business owner giving his all to save his employees' jobs is inspiring, but the film is still formulaic and predictable. What isn't predictable is Ejiofor's amazing presence and the mellifluous voice you cannot ignore (see Serenity, Dirty Pretty Things). He draws a fully realized character out of Lola and respects her inner struggles and the artistry of drag shows, rather than playing them for camp value.

    Best of the DVD extras are “The Real Kinky Boots Factory” featurette, which shares the story of the real factory on which the movie is based, and a deleted scene that gives the ending a much sadder note. Watch that one with director Julian Jerrold's commentary.

    Selling Points: This is a feel-good movie about a naughty subject that will delight moviegoers who liked walking on the not-so-wild side with The Full Monty and Mrs. Henderson Presents. — Laura Tiffany

    What's on DVD?

  • Two featurettes
  • Deleted scenes with optional commentary
  • Commentary with director and cast

  • The Conrad Noys
    Prebook 7/25; Street 8/22
    Newport Films/Victory, Drama, $24.99 DVD, NR.
    Stars Justin Lo, Boo Boo Stewart.

    Life isn't kind to the Conrad brothers. Death takes Charlie and Ben's mom, a single parent, when they're both young. Their father has been absent for more than six years and doesn't even show up at their mother's funeral.

    Older brother Charlie (Lo) is confused about things in his life. After his mother's death, he's forced to give up his aspirations and take care of his younger brother (Stewart).

    Initially, it seems like a recipe for a good movie, but The Conrad Boys never reaches its full potential.

    In this debut effort, Lo stars, directs, writes and produces. His effort as director is a decent one, but his portrayal as Charlie, the film's lead, doesn't work well for many reasons. Most awkward are his interactions and coming-out gay romance with the shady character Jordan (Nick Bartzen). The dialogue sometimes rings untrue as well.

    The Conrad Boys could have been a better flick, particularly since Lo tackles some unconventional topics worthy of much discussion. But he misses the mark in the end, failing to tie the loose ends together and leaving viewers hanging.

    DVD extras include a photo gallery and commentary by Lo.

    Selling Points: Fans of gay coming-out tales will enjoy this, as well indie fans who like to see first starts by budding filmmakers. — Benny Lopez

    Gilles' Wife
    Street 8/8
    Koch Lorber, Drama, $29.98 DVD, NR. In French with English subtitles.
    Stars Emmanuelle Devos, Clovis Cornillac.

    The moody romantic drama Gilles' Wife could entrance viewers even if it didn't have a story. The visually splendid film from director Frederic Fonteyne is a glorious two-hour photographic excursion through 1930 Belgium, using the seasons, dandy country settings and powerful close-ups to present a lesson in emotional cinematography.

    And, yes, there is a story. Devos plays a devoted wife and mother, hard-working and deeply in love with her miner husband (Cornillac). There's a problem, though: Elisa learns her husband is having an affair, and not with some town floozy either. Her husband is sleeping with Elisa's own ravishing younger sister.

    The affair devastates Elisa, but she remains quiet, suffering in silence even as she gives birth to her third child. Time passes, those beautiful seasons change, and something must give. These things just don't go away by themselves.

    Matching the film's visual beauty is a stunning performance from Devos, even more impressive because it's accomplished with few words.

    In fact, there's little dialogue in Gilles' Wife. Instead, the film shows emotion with its look, mood and strong, silent acting. It all makes for a compelling viewing experience.

    Selling Points: Arthouse fans who remember Fonteyne's previous film, An Affair of Love, and fans of the genre as a whole likely will be swept up in the film's distinct and rare visual style. — Dan Bennett

    Rock & Bop With the Doodlebops and Dance & Hop With The Doodlebops
    Street 8/1
    Lionsgate, Children's, $14.98 DVD each, NR.

    “The Doodlebops” are a cross between “The Wiggles” and “Pee-wee's Playhouse.” The TV show airs 11 times a week on Playhouse Disney, and Lionsgate and Cookie Jar Entertainment are bringing out the first U.S. DVDs from the preschool band.

    With bright colors, elaborate costumes and music, the fully painted live-action Doodlebops — Deedee, Rooney and Moe — take kids on adventures with their band while teaching life lessons.

    Preschoolers are the main audience, as older kids will likely have outgrown it. My 4-year-old easily recognized the franchise and got up to dance during certain segments of the DVDs.

    Selling Points: With preschoolers, familiarity breeds sales on DVD. In addition to regular TV airings, like “The Wiggles,” the group has starred in live shows and will launch a new tour this fall. The Doodlebops have scheduled promotional appearances in Los Angeles in late July and at Walt Disney World in late August. There's also a Walt Disney Records CD release timed to coordinate with the DVD release. Stephanie Prange

    QUICK TAKE: Random Film
    What the Bleep!? Down the Rabbit Hole: Quantum Edition turns the puzzling half-documentary, half-fictional ride of the quantum mechanics-obsessed film into a puzzle itself. Viewers can watch just the documentary interviews and/or random amounts and orders of documentary interviews in each “Rabbit Hole” (subject). The DVD extra promises a new film every time. For those fearful of such weirdness, the new edition also has a straightforward six hours of extended interviews. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment releases this three-disc set ($29.98) Aug. 1. Brendan Howard

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