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Reviews: October 1

1 Oct, 2006 By: Home Media Reviews

Point Break

Point Break: Pure Adrenaline Edition
Street 10/3
Fox, Action, B.O. $43.2 million, $19.98 DVD, ‘R.'
Stars Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey.

The buddy movie is a staple of Hollywood, especially those that pair a star on the rise with an aging veteran.

Some films can be seen in retrospect as a passing of the torch when a young actor later achieves superstardom. Such is the case with 1991's Point Break.

Reeves had garnered some attention with the “Bill & Ted” movies, but was still three years from breaking out in Speed. Swayze's biggest projects, as it turned out, were all behind him.

The story is well known: FBI rookie Johnny Utah (Reeves) poses as a surfer to infiltrate a pack of waveriders who rob banks. The Fast and the Furious 10 years later would use the same plot, but with cars instead of surfboards.

While the film is primarily known for its surfing, many film fans might remember the unique gimmick of the bank robbers, known as the Ex-Presidents gang because they wear masks of former commanders-in-chief during their holdups (not to be confused with the X-Presidents, the animated sketch from “Saturday Night Live”).

The plot shifts from surfing to some breathtaking skydiving scenes — shot with such earnestness that you want to overlook their similarity to action sequences from “James Bond” movies 15 years earlier.

In fact, the featurette “Ride the Wave” would have us believe that between the surfing and skydiving, the film inspired the extreme sports movement of the 1990s.

Swayze was more interested in the spiritual aspects of surfing, but found filming the actual scenes to be quite dangerous. He preferred the skydiving, which he said made the role more fun than any previous film he had done.

The filmmakers put a lot of emphasis on a scene in which Swayze falls out of a plane, and the camera stays on him without cutting away as he disappears from sight.

Fans will want this new DVD for the deleted scenes and new featurettes, and it's a good pickup for those who only know the film by reputation and are curious enough to finally see it. John Latchem

Greg the Bunny: Best of the Film Parodies
Prebook 10/4; Street 10/24
Shout Factory, Comedy, $24.98 two-DVD set, NR. Contains adult language and adult situations.

There's something perversely funny about seeing children's characters in adult situations. Maybe there's relief in poking fun at our childhood.

And maybe that's why “Greg the Bunny” gets funnier the raunchier it gets. It's just so endearing to see a cute, furry button-eyed bunny in an adult bookstore trying to sell homemade pornography.

Not to be confused with the relatively tame Fox sitcom from the same creative team, this “Greg the Bunny” is a series of interstitial programming used by IFC to promote its airings of independent films.

For film fans, this DVD is hours of pure comedy. Fans of the Fox show should love it as well, but it is definitely not for kids.

If anyone were begging to know what would happen if the puppets from “Sesame Street” were forced to get by in an adult world, “Greg the Bunny” provides the answer.

Most sketches take the form of an acting troupe working on a show that produces film parodies for IFC. Several begin with the puppets trying to perform one parody, only to rebel and embark on an adventure that serves as the real parody.

For example, one puppet's complaint about dressing in drag to play Tootsie leads to a road trip reminiscent of Easy Rider (or, according to the oft-confused Greg, Mannequin).

One recurring character, Count Blah, is an obvious ripoff of the Count from “Sesame Street,” and seems to have an inferiority complex when compared to his more famous counterpart.

The subversive humor doesn't end with the sketches. The DVD has a great parody of those behind-the-scenes interviews other DVDs pass off as bonus materials.

Even the menus are hilarious, as the various characters make comments waiting for the viewer to actually select something. John Latchem

Three Wise Guys
Prebook 10/4; Street 10/31
Lionsgate, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Eddie McClintock, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe.

Like the unexpected gift under the tree that winds up being the best Christmas present of all, Three Wise Guys is a surprising bundle of joy.

Just when it seems that the holiday movie genre has run dry, this film shows up. It really deserves to emerge from the pack and will, hopefully, find a sizable audience.

There will never be a moratorium on Christmas movies, so it is especially miraculous to find one that both stretches against the confines of the genre while at the same time acknowledging and referencing big chunks of holiday mythology and literature.

The film, originally produced for TV, centers around three hitmen, played by McClintock, Judd Nelson, and Nicholas Turturro, who have to locate the pregnant mistress (O'Keefe) of Vegas casino boss Murray (Tom Arnold) and retrieve the incriminating evidence she has run off with.

With the Sin City setting and the slick wiseguys front and center in the story, this film feels like the Swingers Holiday Special. While the bickering mobsters have such an enjoyable Three Stooges-like rapport with each other, there is plenty of room for individual actors to shine and show off.

The real fun in this film comes from being able to pick out all the different elements of the traditional Christmas stories that have been employed here, from a character named Jake Marley to the image of the North Star and, yes, a birth in a manger followed by gifts from three wise men.

The film is a really welcome addition to the genre — falling somewhere between recent films Elf and Bad Santa — and should appeal to anyone who needs an alternative to the classics. While technically not rated, the film falls squarely into ‘PG-13' territory. — David Greenberg

Prebook 10/9; Street 11/7
Vivendi Visual/Codeblack, Thriller, B.O. $0.4 million, $26.99 DVD, ‘R' for strong graphic violence and sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use.
Stars Cuba Gooding Jr., Helen Mirren, Stephen Dorff, Mo'Nique, Macy Gray, Vanessa Ferlito.

Contract killings, seduction, a loose-mouth crackhead and some toe-curling situations highlight this crime thriller involving the exploits of a pair of hired guns. Gooding and Mirren carry the movie, heading a superb cast that features notable performances from singer Gray, Mo'Nique and Ferlito.

Gooding plays Mikey, the stepson and lover of Mirren's character, Rose. They portray a mother-son team of professional killers whose sometimes-eccentric relationship adds another twist to the story. Rose has a defiant, hard-edged nature that softens somewhat as she ages and senses mortality.

Mikey, on the other hand, is a yes man. He's considerably younger — sometimes more than others when his childish characteristics emerge — and grants practically any wish Rose desires, including bailing out a pregnant character named Vickie (Ferlito), who unwillingly becomes part of their family.

There might be a few holes in Shadowboxer — and sometimes the pace seems to move a bit slow — but the performances and the wonderful storyline written by William Lipz more than fill them.

Fans of Gooding, who won a supporting actor Oscar for Jerry Maguire, will definitely appreciate his work in this film. — Benny Lopez

¡Viva Baseball!
Street 10/3
Anchor Bay, Sports, $14.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Luis Tiant, Tony Perez, Rod Carew. Narrated by Marc Anthony.

This thoughtful documentary uses vintage footage and new interviews to paint a vivid picture of the history of baseball from a Latino perspective. Director Dan Klores isn't afraid to delve into controversial topics and does so with deft balance.

The primary focus of Viva Baseball is to profile some of the greatest Hispanic stars of professional baseball through the ages. What the film doesn't do is really examine the impact Latinos had on the game, except to say their mere contribution should be celebrated.

In addition to celebrating Hispanic heritage, Viva Baseball should be appreciated by any baseball fan and serves as a nice companion to Ken Burns' Baseball, which focused mainly on the Major and Negro Leagues.

Viva Baseball traces baseball's roots in Latin America to its popularity in Cuba, where the game was seen as a subtle protest to imperial Spanish rule because it wasn't soccer. Cubans were the primary source of Latin talent in the early 20th century, but that changed in 1959 with the rise to power of Fidel Castro, whose turn to communism blocked the elite Cuban players from playing in the Majors. Their only alternative to the poor conditions was to defect, at great risk to themselves and their families, who faced political reprisals.

At first, only light-skinned Cubans were invited to play in the Major Leagues; racist policies excluded their darker-skinned brethren. Even after Jackie Robinson, many Latino players were subjected to vile racism that in many cases they didn't understand.

This pressure to assimilate as well as perform on the field, according to the film, gave rise to the stereotypical image of the hot-tempered Latin ballplayer. When tempers boiled over during a brawl between the Dodgers and Giants in 1965 in which Juan Marichal attacked Johnny Roseboro with a baseball bat, the public turned on Marichal, citing his Hispanic background over the mild-mannered reputation he had enjoyed previously.

On the flip side is the iconic Roberto Clemente, who resented that many of his feats on the field may have been overlooked because of his heritage. Eventually, he would claim greatness, and his tragic death during a humanitarian mission to Nicaragua in 1972 only adds to his heroic status among not only Hispanics, but all fans of baseball. John Latchem

The Woods
Street 10/3
Sony Pictures, Horror, $24.96 DVD, ‘R' for horror, violence and language, including sexual references.
Stars Bruce Campbell, Patricia Clarkson, Agnes Bruckner.

Positively dripping with style, mood and atmosphere, The Woods is an ominous, creepy piece reminiscent of the works of David Lynch.

The film is presented as a straight-up horror film, and fans of the genre will either be slightly let down by the relative lack of scares or they will be surprised and captivated by the supernatural or psychological thriller elements that are so pervasive.

Either way, the makers of The Woods have issues and ideas to express, but they do not spoon-feed their messages to the audience. This is a thinking person's thriller.

Set in 1965, the film concerns the plight of Heather Fasulo (Bruckner), a rebellious, passionate girl whose parents send her to a small, remote, all-girls boarding school. Once there, Heather must contend with the rigid and mysterious staff.

As is often the case in films such as this, Heather also must navigate the tricky social dynamics of the student body, befriending the misfit girl and angering the popular girl. But cattiness and a creepy faculty are the least of Heather's issues.

Students vanish from their beds in the middle of the night and are replaced with piles of dead leaves. The forest surrounding the campus is off limits, and legends of its magical and sinister properties are well known amongst the students.

The film is extraordinarily well made, with effective production design almost stealing the show. Vines decorate the interior of the school, and every classroom seems to feature posters and chalkboard activities related to forestry.

The cast is uniformly fine throughout, with Bruckner really standing out as the conflicted teen. The always-reliable Clarkson delivers a chilly, reserved performance as the head of the school, and horror favorite Campbell gets to show his stuff in a smaller but significant role. — David Greenberg

The Three Stooges: Stooges on the Run
Street 10/3
Sony Pictures, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard.

Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk! Four classic Stooges shorts are presented on one disc in both black-and-white and colorized versions.

In “Dizzy Doctors,” the boys find jobs selling Brighto, which at first they believe is a cleaning fluid. When it takes the paint off cars and burns holes in a policeman's uniform, they decide that it's actually a medicine.

In “Disorder in the Court,” the Stooges turn into detectives. One of their friends is on trial for murder, and the boys decide to try to find the real culprit.

In “Calling All Curs,” the Stooges are in charge at a pet hospital when dognappers steal the precious poodle of a society lady.

And in “Pop Goes the Easel,” with the cops chasing them, the Stooges are mistaken for art students in a fine-art academy.

Many aficionados believe that the shorts the trio made for Columbia in the 1930s, including these four, represent the troupe's best work. The humor is pure, physical slapstick that includes, but is not limited to, eye gouging, slapping, poking, ear pulling, head-smashing, seltzer spraying and toupee toppling.

Viewers can toggle between the original black-and-white versions and the colorized versions included on the disc.

Fans of this much-maligned trio (particularly persons of the male persuasion) will find these shorts delightful. — Anne Sherber

Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos
Street 10/3
BV/Miramax, Sports, B.O. $0.1 million, $29.99 DVD, ‘PG-13' for language and nudity.
Stars Pel?, Mia Hamm. Narrated by Matt Dillon.

Once in a Lifetime is a wonderful documentary about the rise and fall of the Cosmos, the most visible and popular team in the old North American Soccer League during the 1970s.

The Cosmos, despite winning the NASL title in 1972, were largely unknown until the club went out and landed the great Pel?, soccer's biggest international star.

Pel? is just one of many characters in this cast that makes this DVD special. Also included is the late Steven J. Ross, one of the founders of the Cosmos, a visionary who was once chairman of the board of Warner Communications. Ross, with his endless connections to high-profile stars, contributed to the Cosmos being the life of the party in New York during the 1970s.

Celebrities and entertainers flocking to the Cosmos games included Mick Jagger, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, Muhammad Ali and even former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The stars revolved around the Cosmos despite several other attention-grabbing events during this era. In 1977, the Summer of Sam murders, a major blackout in New York and the death of Elvis Presley occurred. Still, the Cosmos were the talk of the town.

This DVD is a must-have for soccer aficionados and even casual sports fans. — Benny Lopez

What's on DVD?

  • Pel?'s farewell game
  • SportsCentury archival interviews about Pel?
  • Deleted scene: “Haitian Divorce”
  • 1980 Soccer Bowl: New York Cosmos vs. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
  • 1981 Soccer Bowl: New York Cosmos vs. Chicago Sting

  • Angela
    Street 10/17
    First Look, Drama, $24.99 DVD, ‘R' for some sexuality, language, drug content and some violence.
    In Italian with English subtitles.
    Stars Donatella Finocchiaro.

    Mafia wife Angela (Finocchiaro) is an ambitious woman who married into the mob for both money and power — or so says the back of the DVD box.

    Unfortunately, that's about all the information given about Angela's history and her motivations in this docudrama that's based on a true story.

    The film has been hailed at several international film festivals, especially for Finocchiaro's performance. Organized-crime film aficionados may be interested in this look at the lifestyle from a different angle.

    Angela's world — which revolves around the shoe shop she and her husband run as a front for their drug dealing — begins spiraling when she falls for her husband's new assistant, a sleazy young man who had to leave his last home for romancing his previous boss' wife.

    When the cops finally bust the drug operation, Angela's life enters a complete descent.

    While the cin?ma v?rit? style is used well by director and screenwriter Roberta Torre, it doesn't add any clarity to the story. The herky-jerky camera loves both the gritty streets of Palermo and Finocchiaro's expansive, soulful beauty, but the short scenes and barely-there script jerks around the story too much.

    There is little explanation behind pivotal events — such as the police bust and its aftermath, and the teenage daughter who's neglected by both her parents and the film.

    While it's admirable that Torre chose to tell the story of a character often left on the sidelines — the supportive, yet gold-digging mob wife — it's a shame she focused more on the film's style than substance. — Laura Tiffany

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