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Reviews: November 19

19 Nov, 2006 By: Home Media Reviews

DVD Reviews

The Devil Wears Prada
Street 12/12
Fox, Comedy, B.O. $124.6 million, $29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13' for some sensuality.
Stars Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Adrian Grenier.

Translating the best-selling, dishy, somewhat mean-spirited novel about the rarified world of high-fashion magazine publishing could have been treacherous. After all, reading about self-involved, backstabbing fashionistas without a drop of human kindness can be a guilty pleasure.

But spending two hours watching people about whom it is impossible to care can be a bore. This is why the casting of Streep as the imperious, ruthless, domineering editrix Miranda Priestly was such a stroke of genius.

Underneath all the layers of Machiavellian scheming, Streep manages to reveal glimpses of a woman who has achieved the highest level of success through shear force of will, but at significant personal cost. She is, if not actually sympathetic, at least recognizable and human.

Also very good are Hathaway as the bright but dowdy Andi and Blunt as Miranda's viper-like assistant. Tucci steals every scene in which he appears as the magazine's long-suffering fashion director.

The disc is heavy with extras. Five featurettes are included: “The Trip to the Big Screen,” a standard, electronic press kit documentary detailing the making of the movie; “NYC and Fashion,” an interesting look at the city and the industry that play such important roles in the film; “Fashion Visionary Patricia Field,” a peek at the career of the stylist/designer who gave the film its fashion-forward look; “Getting Valentino,” which details how the world-famous designer was convinced to provide fashions for the film; and “Boss From Hell,” essentially an interview in which Streep discusses how she developed the character of Miranda.

Other extras include a deleted scenes feature with commentary by the film's director and editor, and a surprisingly unfunny gag reel. — Anne Sherber

Dane Cook: Vicious Circle
Street 11/28
HBO Video, Comedy, $24.98 DVD, NR.

As the Brad Pitt of the comedy world, Dane Cook tacks charm, charisma and a fair degree of talent onto his good looks. Although not quite the edgiest or cleverest comedian around, he knows the real secret to a joke; it's not what you say but how you say it.

The latest release from Cook, Vicious Circle, sees him proving this time and time again, seamlessly integrating his mix of frat-boy, hipster and wound-up entertainer into each bit, delighting less with the quality of the material than his ability to sell it.

Still, despite the occasional bouts of mediocrity, Vicious Circle has its degree of memorable moments, and Cook (who stars in the recent theatrical Employee of the Month) is such an efficient entertainer that the HBO special is an enjoyable, amusing experience from start to finish.

It may contain a little too much of Cook's self-indulgence for some, but there is little else to dislike. For good measure, the DVD throws in a handful of extras, including a lengthy reel of deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes look at the planning and setup for the special (the “Boston Cook Party”), and a trailer for Cook's upcoming Tourgasm, a reality TV-style look at his recent tour.

The deleted scenes are often as funny as those that made the final cut (likely most were cut for time reasons), and viewers will appreciate the considerable amount of added material. The “Boston Cook Party” is industry-standard behind-the-scenes kind of stuff, but it provides rabid fans with more of Cook to devour, as well as giving him with the opportunity to drop the names of a few comedians who inspired his act. — J.R. Wick

Spirit Trap
Prebook 11/21; Street 12/19
First Look, Horror, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Billie Piper, Luke Mably, Sam Troughton.

Set in London, this psychological horror is more of a love story than anything else, and that's not a bad thing.

A group of college students are summoned to an old mansion off campus, where they discover a broken spirit clock (a grandfather clock with more dials). The group includes Jenny (Piper of the new “Doctor Who”) and Tom (Mably of “The Prince & Me” franchise). Once the clock is fixed by Nick (Troughton of Alien vs. Predator), strange things start to occur.

The term “spirit trap” refers to the house itself, which has a horrible story to tell involving a love that was forbidden in its time. Through flashbacks, this love story unfolds, as does the brutal murder that occurred within its walls.

The trapped inhabitants of the house must deal with the undead while trying to solve the mystery before the clock ticks down.

This really isn't a horror movie. Like the second “Candyman” movie and the more recent The Skeleton Key, Spirit Trap uses the present to tell a story of the past and the brutality of the old days. The cast is solid, which helps keep the story focused on characters rather than bloodshed. As a result, this film should appeal more to women than the typical horror movie would.

Piper and Mably are both huge names in Europe, but also are recognizable in the United States. The movie certainly is worth recommending to those looking for a different kind of love story. — John Gaudiosi

Another Gay Movie
Street 11/21
TLA Releasing, Comedy, B.O. $0.7 million, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Graham Norton, Scott Thompson, Richard Hatch, Ant.

While making a parody of American Pie might seem redundant, Another Gay Movie can hardly be called more of the same. In fact, we may have never seen anything else quite like it.

A frantic, all-nonsense spoof, Another Gay Movie offers four gay high-school friends who pledge to each other that they will lose their virginity by the end of the summer. The race is on, and it's often not pretty, though certainly outrageous.

The four boys find themselves in increasingly desperate situations looking for ways to have sex, usually ending up embarrassed and unsuccessful. Along the way, the film has fun with countless gay stereotypes. There's the too-much-make-up-wearing guy obsessed with Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly. There is the overly understanding mom — even a cross-dressing mom. There is the dorky dad confused about his own sexuality (a sideways nod to Eugene Levy's character in American Pie). There are fashion disasters and ludicrous scenes in gay dance bars.

There's even a hot quiche for one of the characters to use as fantasy fulfillment, again referencing American Pie. I'm not sure you want to know more.

Celebrity appearances are plenty, including Richard Hatch, the former “Survivor” winner, playing himself, and suffering through one of a few scenes intended to not so much offend as gross you out.

Though overloaded with comedy, Another Gay Movie slows down once in a while for some poignancy, making the point that even characters as desperate for sex as this need some love, too.

With sex scenes aplenty, but way over-the-top comedy the ultimate goal, Another Gay Movie isn't steady and smart enough to land itself in the spoof-movie Hall of Fame, alongside such films as Airplane, for instance. Originality and overwhelming confidence, though, are its strengths. — Dan Bennett

Marshall University: Ashes to Glory
Street Nov. 28
Docurama, Sports, $26.95 DVD, NR.

Sports fans in their 40s or 50s probably remember the event as if it were yesterday. On Nov. 14, 1970, a DC-9 carrying 75 players, coaches and supporters of the Marshall University football team crashed, killing all on board, on a cold and rainy night just miles from the campus in Huntington, WV. Though 36 years have passed since this tragedy, many still think about it every day.

The highly recommended PBS documentary Ashes to Glory offers poignant memories and recollections — some of them chilling, including one by a player's mom predicting the crash — of the events that led up to the chaos on that fateful and foggy night. It also reveals how Marshall football and its fans recovered.

On the day of the crash, Marshall suffered a heartbreaking 17-14 setback at East Carolina. Ashes to Glory recounts this, the flight home and the activities of family members and former players when it all happened. Seemingly forgotten by many at the time was that the tragedy in West Virginia occurred less than two months after a plane crash in Colorado claimed the lives of 14 members of the Wichita State University football team.

Still, as the documentary shows, Marshall bounced back athletically. A year later, the football team scored a stunning victory over Xavier in its emotional home opener. Twenty years later, Marshall became one of college football's winningest programs and a training ground for future NFL prospects. Its stars include Randy Moss, the talented and controversial receiver with the Oakland Raiders; Chad Pennington, the quarterback of the New York Jets; and Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich. But Moss, it should be noted, became an infamous figure in Huntington after being quoted in a 1997 Sports Illustrated story, saying the plane crash “really wasn't nothing big.”

Ashes to Glory is produced by John Witek and Deborah Novak and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. It serves as a good companion to the upcoming Matthew McConaughey film We Are Marshall, a fictionalized recounting of the crash and its aftermath. — Benny Lopez

Air Buddies
Street 12/12
BV/Disney, Family, $29.99 DVD, ‘PG.'
Stars Cynthia Stevenson, Slade Pearce, Patrick Cranshaw, Richard Karn. Voices of Abigail Breslin, Spencer Fox, Michael Clarke Duncan, Don Knotts.

Air Buddies is the sixth film in the hugely successful “Air Bud” series, and the first to feature talking animals. One would think that this market is oversaturated, but don't tell that to the producers, who deliver a fun, fast-paced, action-packed adventure that young kids should love.

Everyone's famous sports-playing golden retriever, Bud, has pretty much hung up his jersey and found true love with Molly, the golden retriever that lives across the street. Their courtship yields five adorable puppies, who turn out to be more than Bud and his best human friend, Noah, can handle.

Just as the mischievous pups are put up for adoption, Bud and Molly are dog-napped by a wealthy businessman whose son wants Bud for a birthday present.

This might just be the lesson in responsibility the pups need, and they band together to search for their parents. In their wild journey to the other side of the city, they encounter a friendly wolf (voiced by Duncan of The Green Mile), a wisecracking goat (voiced by The Princess Bride's Wallace Shawn), and a hound dog (voiced by Knotts in his final role).

This is an ideal film for 3- to 10-year-old children, containing lessons of teamwork, love and courage. Adults may find interest in the homage to the classic 101 Dalmations.

There are some neat extras on the DVD that consist of a music video for the song “We Are Family,” an interview with the five pups and a fun feature on how to train a dog for show business. — Jonathan Rosenbloom

Street 12/26
Genius/IFC, Comedy, B.O. $0.8 million, $24.95 DVD, ‘R' for language and sexual content.
Stars Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei.

If you like watching Matt Dillon sit in silence, smoking a cigarette and drinking beer, then you will enjoy 60% of Factotum. If you need action, direction and reason behind a film, then look elsewhere.

Those who stick around will find Factotum to be an enjoyable but meandering trip through one man's alcohol-fueled disaffection. Dillon plays oft-unemployed drunk Henry Chinaski, an altar ego of beat author Charles Bukowski, who wrote the book upon which the film is based.

Chinaski moves from one menial job to another, from dive bar to dive bar, from girl to girl with little reason or foresight. Watching him do so can be tedious, but it mostly feels strangely peaceful and natural, given Dillon's controlled performance. Norwegian director Bent Hamer has a gift for creating atmosphere, lending the film's Los Angeles setting an eerie timelessness.

The film dawdles, however, and once you don't care about Chinaski's plight or lack of recognition, there doesn't seem to be a point to the character's ups and downs.

Dillon does a fine job bringing Chinaski's ennui to the screen, but he is upstaged by Taylor as his on-and-off-again girlfriend Jan. Taylor, of “Six Feet Under” and High Fidelity, has long been one of the finest actresses around. Her Jan is a tempestuous louse, just like Chinaski, and you can't take your eyes off her. It's no wonder he keeps going back to her.

Tomei also turns in a fine cameo, giving heart to a somewhat faceless gold-digger Chinaski meets in a bar and with whom he has a fling. Dillon's chemistry with her, and with Taylor, makes for a few magnetic scenes between Chinaski and the women. If only the film had allowed for more. Billy Gil

QUICK TAKE: Double Discs for Double-Oh-Seven

It's hard to imagine more bonus features could be added to the loaded special-edition “James Bond” DVDs that were previously released, but MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have done just that.

With the latest film featuring the famous superspy, Casino Royale, serving as a reboot of the franchise, the new two-disc “Ultimate Edition” DVDs present a golden opportunity for fans to re-live the first 20 films in the series, which basically birthed the action genre more than 40 years ago.

The discs are packaged in five-film volumes, with the first two boxed sets arriving Nov. 7. Vol. 1 includes Goldfinger, The World Is Not Enough, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man With the Golden Gun and The Living Daylights. Vol. 2 includes Thunderball, Die Another Day, The Spy Who Loved Me, A View to a Kill and License to Kill.

Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 arrive Dec. 12. John Latchem

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