Reviews: June 43 Jun, 2006 By: Home Media Reviews
She's the Man
Prebook 6/6; Street 7/18
Paramount, Comedy, B.O. $33 million, $29.99 DVD, ‘PG-13' for some sexual material.
Stars Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum.
The 1985 comedy Just One of the Guys featured a high-school girl who dresses up as a guy to prove to everyone that teachers and society take men more seriously than women. Along the way, she falls in love with a guy as she plays a guy. It all works out in the end.
Despite its pretensions of inspiration by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, She's the Man owes much more to Just One of the Guys. Amanda Bynes plays Viola (a character name from Shakespeare) whose musician brother skips school to tour with his band. Viola takes up the challenge of making sure his bro doesn't get kicked out of his latest school by masquerading as Sebastian. Girl power comes in when she can prove that girls can play soccer, too. Of course, she falls for a guy while she's a guy, creating comedic tension.
The film's plot is too dopey to appeal to most adults, but it moves fast and Bynes is very charismatic. She should yield a solid acting career after her journeyman work in the TV comedies “The Amanda Show” and “What I Like About You.”
Selling Points: Bynes is a favorite for lots of pre-teen girls. There are plenty of good-natured laughs at boys and girls as well as slapstick carried off well by Bynes, whose big expressive eyes and malleable face work as a guy or a gal. — Brendan Howard
What's on DVD?
30 Days: Season One
Prebook 6/14; Street 7/11
Fox, Documentary, $26.98 two-DVD set, NR.
Following up on his mega-hit Super Size Me, documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock presents the series “30 Days,” a sequel of sorts to his film.
The show conducts social experiments in which people spend 30 days living in someone else's shoes. Like the movie, the episodes enhance the narrative with animation, interviews and cutaways of subjects' backgrounds.
Spurlock participates directly only in the pilot of the first season's six episodes, serving as host and narrator in the others. He and his girlfriend explore poverty by spending a month living on minimum wage and, not accustomed to the hardships involved with the lifestyle, manage to blow their budget with $1,200 in hospital fees.
Two episodes feature Christians taking up lifestyles to which they're ignorant. In one, a soldier lives with a gay roommate. In another, a white man lives according to the customs of Islam.
Each segment has deleted scenes, and some have commentary with Spurlock and the people featured in the episode.
The episodes try not to be preachy, but instead promote tolerance through the idea that stereotypes cannot hold up against knowledge and experience, although Christianity doesn't exactly emerge smelling like a rose.
The most bittersweet story involves a soccer mom taking up binge drinking hoping to illustrate the dangers of it to her college-age daughter. Sadly, the daughter misinterprets the gesture as her mother joining the party that is her life, and remains unperceptive to the prospect of change.
The daughter may be oblivious, but the tragedy of the situation is plain for everyone else to see.
Selling Points: In addition to fans of Super Size Me, the show should appeal to reality show viewers, especially of shows like “Wife Swap.” — John Latchem
DVD EXTRAS: The Quiet Earth
Anchor Bay, Sci-Fi, $24.98 DVD, ‘R.'
Stars Bruno Lawrence.
Whisked from the dusty archives of science-fiction film, the 1985 New Zealand film The Quiet Earth has arisen in a standard-size metal case from Anchor Bay. The film will appeal most to fans of movies about last survivors in empty worlds.
Scientist Zac Hobson wakes up one morning to discover everyone has disappeared. The first and best third of the film is occupied with his loneliness until he runs into a young woman and a Maori trucker. The trio finally discover that the first “Effect” may have only been the start of the end of the universe.
Commentary is provided by writer-producer Sam Pillsbury, who sheds some light on ambiguities of the film, but spends a little too much time on sets and visual effects.
The eight-page booklet includes some photos and a five-page essay. It'll appeal to sci-fi fans, as Smith compares the film to end-of-the-world and last-man-standing films, from 1924's The Last Man on Earth to 2003's 28 Days Later. — Brendan Howard
Prebook 6/13; Street 7/4
Universal/Screen Media, Drama, B.O. $0.04 million, $19.98 DVD, ‘R' or Unrated.
Stars Leo Gregory, Monet Mazur.
This 2005 biopic on Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones is a compelling and, one may assume, accurate look at one of rock's most tragic figures. Jones' 1969 death at the bottom of a swimming pool was the first in a series of notorious rock 'n' roll deaths that, within a few years, would claim the lives of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.
Jones had just been let go from the band he founded, and Stoned examines his final days — which in many ways were a sped-up, hyped-up culmination of the excessive, hedonistic lifestyle he led. Through a series of flashbacks, we see Jones swallowing tabs of acid, engaging in sadomasochistic encounters with pretty young groupies and exploding into rage when a backyard wall isn't built to his liking. Exasperated workers proceed to pound down the wall, only to find Jones recanting and saying it should have remained where it was after all. Stoned may not be daring or cover new ground from what's already been chronicled in several books, bios and even movies, but that's just it — it doesn't need to. Tragic falls are fun to watch.
Selling Points: The aging Rolling Stones are touring again and have further made news due to the recent hospital stay of guitarist Keith Richards — who, incidentally, stole Jones' girlfriend — after he fell out of a tree. Stoned was filmed on a small budget by producer Stephen Woolley, but that didn't stop the film from snagging several award nominations. — Thomas K. Arnold
Prebook 6/9; Street 6/27
Blue Underground, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, NR.
A therapist tells the camera in the documentary Porn King that being around Al Goldstein — famous for his sex-focused magazine Screw and TV show “Midnight Blue” — is like being in a mental institution. That's apt. On trial for harassment, the obese, bearded Goldstein gets bawdy and offensive with everyone: attorneys, reporters, people wandering in the lobby. He's obviously smart, but his multimillion-dollar fortune from success mostly in the 1970s slips through his fingers. Free-speech fights make the front page when you're hot, but nobody cares when you're through.
What's most surprising about watching Goldstein as he fades into obscurity and homelessness is that he's a thoughtful man who is sexist and racist, yes, but also honest with himself and others. He talks about his own outlandish speeches as performances and laments that his son doesn't want anything to do with his porn-peddling pa.
Porn King works because it lets its subject do the talking. Doc fans who can handle sex and a lot of bad language will want to listen.
Selling Points: Blue Underground has released prior DVDs of “Midnight Blue” shows. This documentary sports the last episodes of “Midnight Blue,” which are quoted and excerpted in the film. — Brendan Howard
Prebook 6/14; Street 7/11
Lionsgate, Horror, $26.98 DVD, ‘R' for horror violence and gore.
Stars Susana Gibb, Reece Rios.
After Sundown is a low-budget, ‘B'-grade horror film, but at least it's ambitious.
It starts in a modern-day small town, where cemetery workers are relocating old graves. They stumble across the bodies of a baby and a young woman, both with stakes in them, that haven't decayed in more than 100 years of burial. An unthinking de-staking by a funeral director awakens the lady vampire, who starts turning the living and the dead into flesh-eating zombies. Her husband, a cowboy-hat-wearing bloodsucker, is looking for her and the baby. A female heroine reads the lady vampire's old journal, written before she was a vampire, and decides the only way to stop this plague of vampires and flesh-eaters is to keep the baby out of cowboy-vampire's hands.
After Sundown has some horror strengths. It has a fun way of mixing vampires and zombies, it draws from two eras to tell its story, and the zombie and gun attacks involve lots of extras and good makeup. Relegating it to ‘B' status, however, is boring dialogue, some poorly orchestrated action scenes (especially the final battle on the top of a car) and a plot that doesn't answer some important questions: How or why did the husband become a cowboy vampire? Why is the baby the linchpin of the evil plans? Answering questions like these is important for horror films that rely on the slow revelation of the past to explain present disaster.
Selling Points: This is fun for a low-budget horror film, but mainstream audiences will not tolerate its flaws. — Brendan Howard
We Are Dad
Prebook 6/6; Street 6/27
Indie-Pictures, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.
We Are Dad is a documentary well worth watching. Even if viewers just want some conversation fodder for the next cocktail party, there's plenty of controversy to discuss here. From gay rights to children's welfare, this film is sure to have everyone interested. At least everyone will have an opinion.
Take the case of two altruistic individuals who have decided to take in five unwanted children from the Florida State child services system. The problem? The children are black and were born with AIDS. The catch is, the two altruists are a homosexual couple, a fact that prohibits them from adopting in the state of Florida. The film presents audiences with a well-balanced array of perspectives on the issue. While the situation seems desperate at times, this isn't a sob story or a pity piece. Audiences are left to form their own opinions. The audience gets a complete view of this strange unusual family arrangement — the good and the bad.
At first, the story is a little unclear — mostly because there's no narrator. But a narrator can get monotonous. Also, audiences are allowed to ask their own questions throughout the film, rather than being spoon-fed by a host.
Selling Points: With same-sex marriage a political hot potato these days, this film offers a broader perspective on the controversy. — Justin-Nicholas Toyama
QUICK TAKE: ‘Old ‘Yellow'
The cast of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's Yellowbeard (street June 27; DVD $14.94) has impressive comedy credentials. “Monty Python's” Graham Chapman co-wrote and starred in the film — his last feature film before he died in 1989 — with appearances by Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong; Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn and Peter Boyle (brilliant together in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein); and Chapman's fellow Pythoners Eric Idle and John Cleese. Fans of those goofy stars will enjoy the dopey humor, with Chapman's way-over-the-top, sneering pirate alter ego as the centerpiece. — Brendan Howard