Reviews: June 2525 Jun, 2006 By: Home Media Reviews
The Second Chance
Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $0.4 million, $24.96 DVD, ‘PG-13' for some drug references.
Stars Michael W. Smith, Jeff Obafemi Carr, J. Don Ferguson.
“All God's Children Need a Second Chance” are the words on a marquee in front of the Second Chance Community Church. Early on in this film, we get to see the slogan in action.
Grammy Award-winning Christian recording artist Smith stars as Ethan Jenkins, an associate pastor and talented musician at his dad's suburban megachurch, The Rock.After returning from a food bank mission for inner-city sister church Second Chance, Jenkins takes the blame for allowing Second Chance's renegade pastor, Jake Sanders (played superbly by Carr), to take the Rock pulpit and scold parishioners for not helping out in person. As a result, Jenkins finds himself exiled to Second Chance to “observe and learn.”
What we initially see is “Gucci” (Sanders' nickname for Jenkins, in reference to his shoes and lifestyle) at odds with Sanders. We also get a first-hand look at the fight against drug abuse, prostitution and poverty. As time goes on, Jenkins warms up to the community, and Sanders warms up to Jenkins.
When Second Chance is targeted for demolition, Sanders, Jenkins and Jenkin's dad come together to fight. It all culminates in a rooftop experience that is sure to move.
Selling Points: Viewers will cheer for the human spirit that calls for everyone, no matter their social or ethnic background, to help each other. Smith brings an established fan base to see his acting debut as well as his work behind the piano. — Kurt Wohlman
What's on DVD?
BV/Miramax, Drama, B.O. $2.9 million, $29.99 DVD, ‘R' for language and some strong violent content. In Tsotsi-Taal with English and Spanish subtitles.
Stars Presley Chweneyagae, Terry Pheto.
Tsotsi. Thug. A caricature of evil that is more beast than man, the word evokes youth gone forever astray. In Tsotsi, we meet our titular thug intact, still embracing a world where violence is more cartoon than real, still silencing the muttering of conscience and memory.
Because of director Gavin Hood's frequent and intrusive attempts at artistic significance, Tsotsi's brutality and tempestuous past are more film-school pretension than street-worthy grit, but Tsotsi's redemption is real. As we experience it with him, the movie evolves from mediocrity to a powerful exploration of spiritual deliverance. Tsotsi's strength rests in its portrayal of consequences. Although Tsotsi carries out his first few acts of cruelty with indifference, he begins to feel their import as he starts down the road of self-awareness. It is not an easy path. The key to his redemption is a baby accidentally kidnapped from a woman he has shot and robbed, a baby that he eventually realizes he must return.
Culminating in a near-perfect ending, the film truly begins the moment Tsotsi sets out on his journey to salvation.
The DVD features some intriguing bonus features, including a short film by Hood and a well-made behind-the-scenes doc on the making of the film. Of particular interest is the pair of alternate endings offered on the disc, both of which fall far short of the one used. Director's commentary and deleted scenes help round out the selection.
Selling Points: The 2006 Academy Award winner for best foreign film, Tsotsi was a success overseas and promises to grab foreign-film fans here. — J.R. Wick
Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story
Prebook 6/30; Street 7/25
Shout Factory, Comedy, B.O. $0.01 million, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Rob Corddry, Ed Helms.
Finally, the definitive paintball movie! Corddry (from “The Daily Show”) stars as Bobby Dukes, a paintball star who returns to town 10 years after leaving in disgrace following a major tournament. As recapped using “He-Man” action figures at the beginning, it seems Dukes committed the worst sin of paintball — wiping off paint after being hit.
Bobby's return is chronicled mockumentary-style as he forms a ragtag team to compete in an upcoming tournament. His reunions with people from his past create good opportunities for comedy.
The performances are largely improvised, which is easy to pull off when combining the casts of Comedy Central's “The Daily Show” and VH1's “Best Week Ever,” many of whom started out together in the comedy troupe Respecto Montalban.
Former “Saturday Night Live” featured player Rob Riggle gives a spirited performance as a militant who may be taking the game a tad too seriously, and Rob Huebel is funny as Dukes' cocksure rival. The deleted scenes are equally funny.
The paintball sequences are filmed with a gritty tension similar to — perhaps a parody of — Saving Private Ryan. The rules of paintball are mostly hinted at, and there's some confusion in the fight scenes as to which characters get hit, but the paintball montages are still effective and maintain the humorous spirit of the rest of the movie.
Selling Points: The film is similar to Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and fans of “The Daily Show” and “Best Week Ever” will want to check out it out. — John Latchem
What's on DVD?
Prebook 6/27; Street 7/25
First Look, Comedy, $24.98 DVD, ‘R' for crude and sex-related humor, nudity and language.
Stars Dave Thomas, Carly Pope, Dan Aykroyd, Dave Foley.
White Coats owes plenty to TV's “Scrubs” as well as recent raunchy comedies like American Pie. Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on viewers' taste — the “Scrubs”-like tale of new interns getting involved in medical mess-ups and miracles is peppered with, and usually overcome by, sex jokes and implausibly wild flings. A stripper-turned-doctor seduces the nerdiest intern. There's a food fight with human organs. A heart is accidentally restarted.
The film's main draw will not be the good-looking and mostly charismatic interns, but the comedy veterans filling out the chief doctors' roles. “SCTV” alum Thomas writes, directs and acts as the interns' chief teacher, Dr. Olson. Thomas snagged other well-known TV and film comics for the film: Aykroyd as the administrator selling off hospital equipment to keep it afloat, Dave Foley as arrogant, sexist, scenery-chewing cardiologist Dr. Whiteside, and “Max Headroom's” Matt Frewer as a quirky body-dissecting doctor.
The movie becomes so implausible in parts that the core story of interns wrestling with work and love falls flat, and the film's dramatic finale is less than moving. But those looking for good-looking young people and a few comic legends with a few funny lines will dig White Coats.
Selling Points: “Scrubs” still has everybody excited about medical comedy, and the comedy power hitters on the box art will grab curious viewers. — Brendan Howard
What's on DVD?
Prebook 6/26; Street 7/11
Hart Sharp, Documentary/Comedy, $19.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Drew Carey, Jeffrey Ross, Kathy Kinney.
Finished before Saddam Hussein's capture in December 2003, the comedy documentary Patriot Act is informative, entertaining and a little sad, given that the same weary U.S. troops in Iraq are still getting blown up by roadside bombs and killed by snipers two-and-a-half years later. No one hoped that the “home movie” of a comedy USO tour would resonate this much later.
The project was spawned by laughman Jeffrey Ross when he was called by Drew Carey to head to Iraq and some of the most dangerous U.S. outposts to crack jokes, sign autographs, shake hands and make troops laugh. Ross' hand-held camera catches a vision of Iraqi bellhops, bright-eyed soldiers, and overhead shots of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that we seldom see on the news. Joining Carey's sitcom co-star Kathy Kinney and stand-up comedians Blake Clark, Kyle Dunnigan, Andres Fernandez and Rocky LaPorte is the ghost of Bob Hope, who went overseas for decades to bring some American laughs to the homesick and who is a great inspiration to Ross and others.
Sure, it's indulgent for Ross to share his problems — missing his girlfriend for six days, a bout of dehydration and sleepless nights — but he's always reflective about how small his problems are compared to the men and women who fight in the service.Oh, yeah, and the comedians are pretty funny, too.
Selling Points: The war is still on, and this is a vision of the minds of the comedian and the everyday yet extraordinary soldier as well as brief glimpse of Iraq through one man's eyes that should not be missed. — Brendan Howard
What's on DVD?
How to Go Out on a Date in Queens
Prebook 7/11; Street 8/22
Allumination, Comedy, $29.98 DVD, Rating pending.
Stars Jason Alexander, Alison Eastwood, Ron Perlman, Rob Estes.
Dating is difficult enough, but as “Sex and the City” has taught us, dating in New York has its own particular challenges.
How to Go Out on a Date in Queens explores those obstacles, ranging in mood from dark comedy to gentle poignancy. The story follows several loosely connected characters as they tackle dating while also dealing with varied personal issues.Alexander plays the bookie Johnny, trying to make his mistress happy while also dealing with the fact that the Russian mob is after him. Artie (Estes) is an auto-mechanic still reeling from the death of his wife who agrees to accompany self-styled dating-expert pal Stan on a disastrous double date that goes comically awry.
Other characters also take the dating plunge, all of them learning that dating is fine, but too much stressing and too many dating rules hamper the experience. And it doesn't help when mobsters are chasing you.
The film avoids a lot of needless comic mayhem and keeps things reasonably subtle and clever, relying more on humorous dialogue and offbeat secondary characters to good effect.
A few cliche plot twists and regional stereotypes hinder, but How to Go Out ... survives its shortcomings and emerges as a decent romantic comedy, often as bold and sassy as the borough it honors.
Selling Points: The film earns a big boost of comic credibility with Alexander, still a favorite of “Seinfeld” fans. Estes has his own following from numerous TV roles. Father of the Bride daughter Kimberly Williams, now known as Kimberly Williams-Paisley, has a funny turn as one of the desperate daters. — Dan Bennett
La Mujer de Mi Hermano
Prebook 6/28; Street 7/25
Lionsgate, Drama, B.O. $2.8 million, $27.98 DVD, ‘R' for sexuality and language.
Stars Barbara Mori, Christian Meier.
Achingly slow in its attempts to seduce, La Mujer de Mi Hermano seems to confuse languor with eroticism. Although the movie ultimately has some juicy secrets, it takes so long to expose them, and does so with such lack of passion, that they are squandered.
Borrowing from one of the oldest stories in the book, La Mujer finds breathtaking Zoe (Mori) trapped in a sterile home and empty marriage. Bored by husband Ignacio's Saturdays-only sex policy and her own vacuous life, she seeks excitement in the most dangerous place she can imagine: the arms of Gonzalo, her husband's brother.
Gonzalo, a darkly passionate artist (at least insofar as we are told), seems strangely eager to oblige her, and the two quickly launch into an affair. Gonzalo's zest for cuckolding Ignacio first appears at odds with his brother's generosity, but exposed family secrets reveal his motivations.
Unfortunately, there's little reason to care about the characters involved, with the possible exception of Mori, who smolders until being extinguished by the languid pacing and dull script. By the time the darkest revelations appear, viewers will have little interest in their portent. Perhaps more disappointing for those who do survive the setup with interest intact is the fact that they're not rewarded for their patience.
Selling Points: With seductive imports at a surprising low, La Mujer may find some passion-starved viewers in need of a fix. The thick melodrama may delight a nation of soap opera fans, but the subtitles are likely to dissuade most of the target audience. — J.R. Wick
Cape of Good Hope
Prebook 7/19; Street 8/15
Metro/New Yorker, Drama, B.O. $0.03 million, $29.95 DVD, ‘PG-13' for mature situations including some violence, sexual content and brief strong language.
Stars Debbie Brown, Eriq Ebouaney.
It is something of a rarity for a South African film to arrive Stateside, especially one that doesn't concern itself primarily with apartheid. But Cape of Good Hope is just such a rarity. It's a quiet, smallish, earnest film that is far more You Can Count on Me than Cry Freedom, and we are lucky to have it.
The plot revolves around a group of luckless animal-shelter employees and the various personal travails they each endure. The shelter's manager, Kate, finds herself unable to extract herself from a debilitating affair with a married man. Her co-worker Sharifa (Quanita Adams) is having trouble conceiving, but is disinclined to confront her husband or seek medical assistance. And animal trainer Jean-Claude hopes to emigrate to Canada but is reluctant to abandon a promising romance with a local widow.
Each respective hurdle is given its due in terms of screen time. At no point does the film make the mistake of aspiring to anything more than a nuanced exploration of its subjects' very real, very credible problems.
The only niggling drawback is the occasional instance of predictability in the script. It relies, at times, on the familiar crutches of coincidence and easy resolution, but all of the characters are played with sufficient pathos and sensitivity to be liked, pitied and rooted for.
Selling Points: This is a sweet, well-acted foreign film in English. Even the subtitle haters will have nothing to complain about. — Eddie Mullins
QUICK TAKE: ‘Carnivale' Closes Up
Fans cried when HBO's “Carnivale” was canceled after its second season, but at least HBO Video's Carnivale: The Complete Second Season (street July 18, six-DVD set $99.98) answers questions left by the aborted epic about a battle of good and evil between a circus roustabout and a preacher. Alongside cast, crew and creator commentaries are a panel discussion with cast and producers, a featurette on filming, and a featurette on the show's mysterious apocalyptic mythology. — Brendan Howard
Prebook 6/27; Street 7/25
TLA, Thriller, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Alex O'Loughlin, Patrick Thompson.
Audiences would be well-advised to finish their popcorn before watching the stomach-turning Feed, which is almost as much for those who dig morbidly obese women as it is an action-detective movie.
Phil Jackson (Thompson), a Sydney-based Interpol agent who specializes in cyber-sex crimes, begins to investigate a U.S. Web site whose owner, Michael Carter (O'Loughlin), force-feeds overweight women until they weigh more than 600 pounds. Carter tantalizes his apparently willing victims with hamburgers and chocolates, and smears them and himself with spaghetti and barbecue sauce, broadcasting it to his subscribers over the Internet.
Obsessed with stopping Carter, Thompson violates orders and heads to the States, where he finds that previous women featured on Carter's site disappeared after subscribers placed bets on when the women would die — which Carter speeds up by force-feeding them a poisonous liquid.
The saving graces of Feed are its attempts to draw parallels between childhood traumas that Thompson and Carter both suffered, Carter's coolly irrational justification of his behavior as liberating women from unrealistic body type images, and a grim reversal-of-fortune twist ending.
Selling Points: Feed is an epilogue to Se7en, proving the exploration of deadly sins in film isn't over yet. — Mark Lowe
What's on DVD?
Prebook 8/3; Street 8/29
ThinkFilm, Horror, B.O. $0.05 million, $29.99 DVD, ‘R' for strong violence and language.
Stars Justin Chambers, Robin Tunney, Rory Culkin.
Most remember 1969 as the year of Woodstock and Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon. But if you were living in California, things might not have seemed so rosy. Two of America's most infamous murderers were on the loose: Charles Manson and the Zodiac Killer, who was never caught and whose real identity is still unknown. The mystery surrounding the Zodiac Killer has made the story endure over the years in books, TV shows and films trying to shed new light on the case.
Taking a page from Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, The Zodiac stands from earlier works in its shift in focus from the details of the murders to the relationships of those caught up in the crimes. More than a slasher film, The Zodiac becomes an intimate crime drama with well-developed characters and powerful suspense.
The film centers on small-town police detective Matt Parish (smartly played by “Grey's Anatomy” heartthrob Chambers), who makes it his sole mission to catch the killer while protecting those he loves. The intense assignment eventually causes Parish to lose touch with reality, shut out his wife (Tunney) and son (Culkin), and start drinking.
The cast of talented young actors and older character actors such as Philip Baker Hall help hold the film together, though the ending is a bit anticlimactic — even knowing the killer won't be caught.
Selling Points: The Zodiac wasn't a box office success, but should garner interest from thriller fans, especially because it's based on a real killer. Having Chambers from “Grey's Anatomy” doesn't hurt either. Also, another drama about the killer, Zodiac — starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. — is slated to hit theaters Sept. 22. — Matt Miller
Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy
Prebook 7/19; Street 8/29
Anchor Bay, Animated, $14.98 DVD, NR.
In this sequel to 2003's Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktakular, bratty Jimmy, who tried to scare his little cousin Hannah last Halloween, is completely freaked out by monsters and wants to ruin Halloween. Hannah, on the other hand, has embraced both the spooky holiday and her new ghoulish friends: Godmother, Mr. Skully Pettibone, Bug-a-Boo, Harry the werewolf, ghost kitty Boozle and a vampire family. It's up to her to save the spirit of Halloween on which her scary friends depend.
Based on author Jill Thompson's book series, the 44-minute Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy is a fun holiday cartoon, but it has some frightening problems of its own.
The story is too familiar and has logic that even kids will poke holes in. The computer-animated characters suffer terribly from anime-style, hauntingly soulless eyes. Putting their 3-D images on a flat background creates some interesting visuals, but it also makes them appear even more out of this world.
Still, the pun-filled humor is fun (coffin table, spell phone), Thompson's visual style is snappy, and who can resist cuddly monsters?
Selling Points: “Scary Godmother's” run on Cartoon Network helps visibility, and spooky monster cartoons like Monsters Inc., “Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends” and “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” prove friendly scares are always popular with kids. — Laura Tiffany
What's on DVD?
QUICK TAKE: Rogers Rides!
Famous cowboy Will Rogers was more than his range-riding persona. He tackled regular comedy, too, and four of his final ones — Doubting Thomas, In Old Kentucky, Life Begins at Forty and Steamboat Round the Bend — are caught in 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's The Will Rogers Collection Vol. One (street July 25, four-DVD set $59.98). Extras are included. — Brendan Howard