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Reviews: July 29

29 Jul, 2007 By: Home Media Reviews

Wild Hogs

Wild Hogs
Street 8/14
Disney/Touchstone, Comedy, B.O. $168 million, $29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13' for for crude and sexual content, and some violence.
Stars Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei.

Wild Hogs proves that the best cure for a midlife crisis is anything that doesn't involve birds flying in your face at full speed or fighting tattooed maniacs.

The comedy has Travolta, Allen, Macy and Lawrence as everyday guys looking for some excitement in their boring lives, and choosing a long trip on Harleys as the best remedy.

This choice proves challenging for the quartet, who are not only clueless about bikes, but in many ways clueless in general.

Along the way, the guys encounter low tree branches, bad diner food, eccentric motorcycle cops and a gang of hoodlums eager to teach the newcomers about life on the road.

The result is a gag-a-minute comedy starring some of film's biggest names. The DVD version is notable for its many extras, including a making-of documentary that allow us to observe how these screen giants learned to ride the bikes — and were humbled by the massive choppers that became their co-stars. We also see how they learned to run from angry bulls, among other stunts.

The documentary uses interviews with all four actors and director Walt Becker, recounting funny stories from the set. A second feature focuses on how the characters convinced their wives that such a trip was a good idea, offering hints on how real-life folks might do the same.

An outtake reel has some good laughs, as does a deleted scene involving the roughing up of a guy dressed like a chili pepper.

An alternate ending is also amusing, suggesting the filmmakers could have gone in many different directions with the story.

There also are options for running commentary by the director, explaining what it was like to work with both the movie stars and Harleys. — Dan Bennett

Elvis: The Hollywood Collection
Street 8/7
Warner, Musical, $49.92 six-DVD set, $12.97 individual titles, NR.

This six-disc set of films that haven't been available previously on DVD should have been called “The Colonel Tom Parker Sellout Collection” in honor of the influence of Elvis' only manager.

It's no secret that The Colonel (as he liked to be called) envisioned his client doing films solely as an excuse to sell soundtrack albums.

Five of these movies (Girl Happy; Kissin' Cousins; Tickle Me; Stay Away, Joe; and Live A Little, Love a Little) reflect that philosophy and are as lame as their titles.

Warner wisely hasn't tried to claim otherwise, with the only real special features being the restoration of a song apiece in two of the pictures.

The one real surprise is Charro!, which is easily one of the worst film titles ever and void of anything connected to the hoochie-coochie singer-celebrity ex-wife of bandleader Xavier Cugat.

A longtime fan of Westerns, Elvis plays an ex-outlaw trying to go straight with a low-key portrait that evokes memories of his strong acting in the underrated Don Siegel Western Flaming Star.

Since all these titles are sold individually as well as in the collection, true Elvis fans should at least check out Charro!

With Warner, Paramount and MGM all coming out with other collections to “celebrate” the 30th anniversary of The King's passing, this collection is for those fans who love Elvis for his considerable charm and sex appeal, not his rugged acting ability, which only is allowed to surface in Charro! — Craig Modderno

Brigitte Bardot 5-Film Collection
Street 8/7
Lionsgate, Drama, $39.99 three-DVD set, NR.
Stars Brigitte Bardot.

All these movies are in French, starring an actress who debuted nearly 50 years ago and who never had a huge American hit. So why should we be interested in this enjoyable collection?

Because the delectable Bardot brought a pout and a genuine sex appeal that's lacking among contemporary actresses. Can you name a current sex symbol who can even compare?

The influence of the foreign superstar with the legendary lips is best explained in the informative special feature “Larger Than Life: Brigitte Bardot and the Mythology of the Sex Symbol,” which includes interviews with Hugh Hefner and three college professors, along with rare footage and photos.

The surprise thing about these five films is the range of Bardot's acting skills. She shows a light comedic touch and wholesome sex appeal much like Sandra Dee, her American counterpart at the time, in the zany Naughty Girl.

In the lighthearted mystery Come Dance With Me, Bardot reminds me of Doris Day for the ease in which she shifts from comedy to drama. Rounding out the set are Love on a Pillow, The Vixen and Two Weeks in September.

The true mark of any cinematic superstar is if you can't take your eyes off them when they're on screen. They may not be the best actors or work from the best scripts, but their charisma is such that you get your money's worth. Bardot has passed the test of time as one of the screen's most magnetic women, and this collection shows why. — Craig Modderno

Prebook 7/31; Street 8/28
MTI, Thriller, $24.95 DVD, ‘R' for language, some sexuality and brief violence.
Stars Ali Larter, Eugene Byrd, William Sadler.

In today's world, there's nothing more dangerous than a hacker with a grudge. Just ask Terell Lessor (8 Mile's Byrd), a technology whiz and ex-hacker, who worked hard to develop a proprietary surveillance technology that was stolen from him by his former partner and a greedy venture capitalist.

Now broke and out for revenge, Terell goes after the establishment he blames for his downfall the only way he can: by using the power of the Internet.

Confess is a timely political thriller that follows Terell and his behind-the-scenes accomplice, Olivia (Larter, the deadly vixen from NBC's “Heroes”), as they develop an online forum where they post video clips of politicians, CEOs and other influential figures in compromising situations — committing acts of adultery and admitting their true, shocking beliefs.

It doesn't take long for the renegade site to become front-page news and spread like a virus across cyberspace. Terrell's antics also catch the attention of the FBI, which dubs him a cyber-terrorist and wants him brought to justice immediately.

Before the agency can track him down, imitators start running rampant and post their own videos, which take Terell's abduction-and-confession model to violent new extremes.

As society continues to spiral out of control, Terell begins to question his actions, knowing he's the only one who can stop the madness he has initiated.

The release of Confess on DVD couldn't come at a better time, following the recent success of “Heroes.”

And while Larter delivers a solid supporting role, the film is really a one-man show featuring Byrd's commanding performance as a street-smart computer-geek-turned-nouveau-celebrity.

The film is also very topical, bringing up issues such as global warming and terrorism, and is strangely satisfying for anyone who ever wishes that someone would expose all the hypocrisy and corruption in society. — Matt Miller

Peter Beard: Scrapbooks from Africa and Beyond
Prebook 7/31; Street 8/28
Palm, Documentary, $26.99 DVD, NR.

Artist, photographer, writer and New York native Peter Beard delivers some vivid and disturbing images in this 75-minute film that covers a wide range of topics.

It highlights the artist's photographic work in Africa and of some notable subjects in the United States.

In Africa, much of the images involve wildlife in Kenya. Some of the particularly memorable ones include images of crocodiles, elephants, zebras, rhinos and dead carcasses of other animals.

Beard almost lost his life during his frequent journeys. In one brush with death he gets trampled by a charging elephant. Viewers witness footage of this in the documentary, as Beard suffers through a grueling four-hour car trip for medical treatment.

Beard's fascination with Africa began when he was 17 and his mother took him there in the 1950s. By the 1960s, the journeys became more frequent, partially inspired by Karen Blixen's book Out of Africa. Africa also was the source of Beard's first book, The End Game, published in 1965, a story about the demise of more than 35,000 elephants.

There also are some poignant images focusing on the Kennedy family. Beard befriended the family at an early age and later was linked romantically with the sister of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. This footage captures the innocence and beauty of the Kennedys, long before the family's string of tragedies.

This documentary seems more of an extension of Beard's personal life, which includes a brief marriage to former model and actress Cheryl Tiegs, associations with the likes of Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Mick and Bianca Jagger, David Bowie and Iman, all of whom are subjects of photographic collections by Beard.

This documentary is directed toward a mature audience. There is some nudity and graphic images. — Benny Lopez

Air Guitar Nation
Prebook 7/31; Street 8/28
Docurama, Documentary, B.O. $0.07 million, $26.95 DVD, ‘R' for some language and brief nudity.

Is playing the air guitar art? Sure. What is art, after all, but something with the capacity to entertain, delight and inspire?

Certainly, playing the air guitar is more challenging than covering a canvas with a single color of paint, snapping off a photo or delivering a few memorized lines in front of a camera. So why not call it art?

Is it an art worth an 80-minute documentary? Probably not, but its luminaries are ridiculous and reckless enough to at least make Air Guitar Nation as enjoyable as any other real rock doc out there.

The personalities of the air guitar masters are no different than those who, in their youth, chose real guitars over their illusory counterparts — if anything, despite their inherent absurdity and over-hip sarcasm, these fake rockers are a lot more fun and human than their musically gifted contemporaries.

Yet for all its chops, Air Guitar Nation doesn't hit more than its one note joke, and although it entertains for far longer than you might think, it may eventually tire some viewers.

Plus, as is often the complaint with rockumentaries, the performances often seem too few and far between. — J.R. Wick

Street 8/7
City Lights, Action, $19.98 DVD, NR.

Franchises such as “Tomb Raider” and “Mortal Combat” may prove that it's possible to turn a successful video game into a fairly successful (if not very high-brow) film. But Hollywood's only slightly less obvious trend of changing the cinematic experience into that of watching a video game has met with less success.

The second “Star Wars” trilogy and final installment of “The Matrix” provide more than perfect examples — as does Underground, a recent low-budget Street Fighter clone that takes the formula to the extreme.

While other video-game inspired films may go overboard on CGI, Underground simply uses the video game framework as its model. We receive only the tiniest sliver of a true plot — 12 different types of fighters are chosen by a group of wealthy corporate types to duke it out for a cool $1 million.

Then the story is revealed to us in clips, often voiced over, giving us a cursory glance into the personalities of the investors and fighters. Finally, as though guided by two unseen gamers, we get some well choreographed (and somewhat brutal) fight scenes.

The film features a cast of stuntmen from such films as Batman Begins, Casino Royale, Blade II and the upcoming The Bourne Ultimatum.

For those who like constant action and minimal mental activity, it's not a bad formula. Despite its rather inane premise and scripting, Underground flies along at a rapid clip, pausing only long enough to give us a little extra incentive for our next fight. — J.R. Wick

I'm Reed Fish
Prebook 8/7; Street 9/4
Universal/Screen Media, Comedy, B.O. $0.004 million, $24.98 DVD, ‘PG' for language.
Stars Jay Baruchel, Alexis Bledel, Schuyler Fisk, D.J. Qualls, A.J. Cook, Katey Sagal, Victor Rasuk, Chris Parnell.

In this genuinely quirky romantic comedy, local boy Reed (Baruchel) is a talk jock on the extremely local radio station who has the power to shame the public works department into fixing potholes and persuade the fire department to rescue an errant chicken. He's also about to marry his high school sweetheart (Bledel).

Or is he? After Reed's carefully constructed world comes crashing down, he decides that he needs to shake things up. He quits his job at the radio station, takes the insurance money he received when his parents died and makes a movie about his life, casting all the people he knows as themselves.

I'm Reed Fish, which is based on the experience of the film's screenwriter, Reed Fish, is a kind of meta-movie, within a movie, about making a movie. An appealing cast keeps the quirkiness at acceptable levels and Baruchel demonstrates keen comic timing as the young man in the middle of an existential crisis.

Fisk, daughter of Sissy Spacek, not only establishes that she has inherited at least some of her mother's talent, but also in the course of the film, writes and performs two songs impressively. Sagal exudes warmth and wisdom as the small town's mayor.

In its tone, I'm Reed Fish owes something to cult favorite Napoleon Dynamite.

But even consumers who are not card-carrying members of Gen Y will find much to like in this eccentric little film. — Anne Sherber

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros
Prebook 7/31; Street 8/28
TLA, Drama, B.O. $0.03 million, $19.99 DVD, NR.
Stars J.R. Valentin, Nathan Lopez, Soliman Cruz.

The subject of a gay young man's coming-of-age has rarely gotten the sweet, humane treatment it receives in the Filipino film The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros.

What stands out from this film is not just the incredibly brave and natural performance of Lopez as Maxi, but the wonderful depiction of the deep bond and love of his close-knit, male-dominated family, which realizes that Maxi is a gift, and does not judge him for his gender confusion.

Maxi, with barrettes in his hair, sashays through his neighborhood and puts on faux beauty pageants with his friends. His brothers, much older than 12-year-old Maxi, good-naturedly rib him about his feminine ways, but also are ferociously protective.

The father watches over the entire clan, which makes its living fencing stolen cell phones and running numbers.

The neighborhood — and Maxi's family — are disrupted by new cop Victor, a handsome, earnest man who is immune to the bribery that keeps the peace between cops and petty criminals.

Maxi falls hard for Victor, and the two become friends. Victor tries to ignore Maxi's crush and lead him away from a criminal future. But the friendship is doomed with each on opposite sides of the law.

The film was heavily recognized on the festival circuit and hopefully will find the audience it deserves.

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros is tender without being sappy. The film has a gritty realism that offers insight into living on the edge of poverty without being cloying. The Manila neighborhood, while poor, also is celebrated. Life is vibrant, and everyone knows one another.

There are no good guys and bad guys. Rather, people make tough decisions to abide by their own code, whether it's to keep a family out of poverty or to always do right by the law.

And at the center of this universe is a child, who is steadfastly trying to find his place in life, and is amazingly accepted for exactly who he is. — Laura Tiffany

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