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Reviews: October 22

22 Oct, 2006 By: Home Media Reviews

See No Evil
Prebook 11/1; Street 11/28
Lionsgate, Horror, B.O. $15 million, $28.98 DVD, ‘R' for for strong gruesome violence and gore throughout, language, sexual content and some drug use.
Stars Kane, Christina Vidal.

Anyone who's watched WWE programming is familiar with professional wrestler Glen Jacobs, better known as Kane, who makes his big screen debut in this first of many WWE Films productions from executive producer Vince McMahon.

Although Kane has one line of dialogue in the entire film, his hulking presence (7 feet, 400 pounds) as the maniac, Jacob, is certainly horrific with his maggot-filled head (the result of a gunshot long ago).

Eight juvenile delinquents head to the Blackwell Hotel, ordered to turn it into a homeless shelter. Little do they know the hotel is the home to a psychopath who carries a hook on a long chain.

First-time director Gregory Dark introduces plenty of victims and gets the blood dripping pretty quickly. The film is filled with gore, but Dark also makes time for some nudity, sex and marijuana.

Jacob, who lived in a cage under the religious tyranny of his mother, has been taught that sin is evil. Every time the kids perform one of these sins, he's there with his hook to put an end to it.

While the film doesn't push the psycho genre into any new directions, it does serve up a well-paced, bloody good time. The actors, none of whom are recognizable, keep the film moving along in between the gruesome deaths.

I give kudos to McMahon for knowing his audience and serving up an ‘R'-rated horror tale, rather than a watered-down ‘PG-13' film. Creating a new monster for Kane to inhabit outside of the ring works well, especially on DVD.

The sheer popularity of WWE, which seems to be on every night of the week, will make this horror film — already a genre that sells well — a draw for a wide reach of consumers. — John Gaudiosi

What's on DVD?

  • Two audio commentaries with writer Dan Madigan and director Gregory Dark
  • Making-of documentary
  • WWE promotional spots featurette
  • Storyboard-to-film comparison
  • Theatrical spots
  • The Kid & I
    Street 10/24
    Entertainment Studios, Comedy, $26.98 DVD, ‘PG-13' for some language, crude humor and drug references.
    Stars Tom Arnold, Eric Gores, Joe Mantegna.

    Like a tonic for a cynical world comes this sweet, good-natured family comedy.

    The film is based on a real-life event involving Eric Gores, a billionaire's son who is afflicted with cerebral palsy. Gores' father contracted his neighbor, Tom Arnold, to produce a sequel to Gores' favorite film, True Lies.

    The result is this film-within-a-film, in which Arnold plays a fictionalized version of himself, Bill Williams, hired by a billionaire (Mantegna) to write a movie for his son.

    Gores stars as Aaron Roman and basically plays himself, giddy with excitement about starring in an action movie with one of his favorite actors.

    Director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World) appears as herself as the director of Two Spies, a buddy picture with Bill and Aaron as secret agents sent to rescue a puppy from international terrorists.

    Aaron's enthusiasm is infectious, and soon everyone is committed to making his dream come true. Along the way, Aaron hopes to help the down-on-his-luck Bill realize there's more to life than, irony of ironies, making movies.

    The film is loaded with cameos by the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, wrestler Goldberg, Jamie Lee Curtis and the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Schwarzenegger's Terminator co-star Linda Hamilton appears as a film producer, while Henry Winkler of “Happy Days” pops in as an agent. “Desperate Housewives’ Brenda Strong and “American Pie's” Shannon Elizabeth star as Aaron's mother and stepmother, respectively. — John Latchem

    What's on DVD?

  • Bloopers
  • Outtakes
  • Behind the scenes
  • Featurette
  • Soundtrack
  • Wassup Rockers
    Prebook 10/24; Street 11/21
    First Look, Drama, B.O. $0.2million, $24.99 DVD, ‘R' for pervasive language, some violence, sexual content and teen drinking.
    Stars Jonathan Velasquez, Francisco Pedrasa.

    Director Larry Clark has made a cottage industry out of exploring the more extreme (but always hip) niches in contemporary youth culture.

    Though it's unlikely that he will ever better his freshman effort, Kids, he has still doggedly pursued new approaches to the same general subject through such films as Bully and the unreleased Ken Park.

    Wassup Rockers continues the trend, this time focusing on poor, adolescent Hispanics living in South Central Los Angeles. They are shiftless skateboarding enthusiasts with too much time on their hands. They drink, they play aggressive — but punishingly dull — rock music, and they skate. Constantly.

    Taking place over the course of a single weekend, the film starts off as an earnest, if vaguely fetishistic, exploration of the workaday lives of the teens. But when an innocent skating junket to Beverly Hills gets derailed by a racist, power-tripping police officer, the story veers radically away from its realistic beginnings and embraces a kind of unexpected, whimsical hyperbole.

    The teens are determined to make it back home without arrest. But it isn't long before a freak accident has them on the run again. Beset on all sides by an increasing raft of bizarre L.A. stereotypes, it seems the luckless band may never make it back to, in what becomes the film's most ironic twist, the relative “safety” of South Central.

    Told with a curious mix of loose energy and sincere feeling, Wassup Rockers may not be Clark's best film, but is perhaps his most interesting. It is rare for a film to so self-consciously re-define its tone (and its meaning) halfway through.

    This unique change-up marks a new development in Clark's growth as a storyteller and should definitely attract the notice of those who presumed he was a one-film-wonder. — Eddie Mullins

    The Marlon Brando Collection
    Street 11/7
    Warner, Drama, $59.92 six-DVD set, NR.
    Stars Marlon Brando.

    Few boxed sets show the range of their star as the Marlon Brando Collection. The five included films present the legendary actor in one of his few comedies (Teahouse of the August Moon, in which he plays an Asian!), showing his amazing skills minus any mumbling as Marc Anthony in the William Shakespeare-penned classic Julius Caesar, portraying evil with charm as a manipulative oil executive trying to con Los Angeles detective George C. Scott in The Formula, acting regal without reason in the lengthy 1962 remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, and as a military officer lusting after soldier Robert Forster while ignoring his wife, a lusty Elizabeth Taylor, in the John Huston-directed melodrama Reflections in a Golden Eye.

    The one complaint about the set is the varying quality of the special features. Mutiny on the Bounty has three of them, all concentrating on the boat built for the picture instead of the well-documented trouble Brando caused on the set, which resulted in the money-losing movie becoming the biggest studio disaster of its time behind Cleopatra.

    The featurette for Teahouse is enjoyable because it shows the recently deceased Glenn Ford using his charm with the Japanese locals. But a similar look at the filmmakers on Reflections in a Golden Eye, minus audio, is boring.

    Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osbourne's intro to Julius Caesar is a collection highlight.

    The best special feature is “The Rise of Two Legends,” which has original interviews with Brando's Apocalypse Now co-stars Dennis Hopper and Laurence Fishburne, plus John Avildsen, who also provides insightful commentary on the disc of his underrated directorial effort The Formula. The candor and insight these three filmmakers provide into the good, bad and ugly qualities of Brando's genius shows how special a special feature can truly be. — Craig Modderno

    Creature Comforts: The Complete Second Season
    Street 10/24
    Sony Pictures, Animated, $24.96 two-DVD set. NR.

    Aardman Animations, the studio best known for the full-length animated features Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Chicken Run, also is responsible for a quirky British show called “Creature Comforts.”

    Based on a short by Nick Park, the series animates interviews with everyday people, putting their words into the mouths of claymation animals sculpted in Aardman's signature bulbous-eyed, toothy style.

    In the second-season set, we're treated to 12 episodes on a number of topics, from sports and pet peeves to families and celebrity impressions, plus a much longer Christmas special, Merry Christmas Everybody.

    The animators do a bang-up job of ferreting out the subtlest bits of humor in the interviews, eliciting laughter with something as simple as a raised eyebrow or as outright silly as animating two elderly women as bats.

    The extras on the disc should satisfy anyone who is curious about the painstaking claymation process. The best extra is “Eyeballs and Fish Lips,” a 37-minute behind-the-scenes documentary directed by one of Aardman's interviewers.

    The doc introduces the staff of Aardman and the arduous process of “Creature Comforts,” from the interviews and brainstorming animation ideas to sculpting the characters and building the sets. The techniques and artistry are fascinating.

    Also included on the disc are some of the original interviews, which provide a fun look at the faces that inspired the animals; a PSA starring some of the favorite animal characters; and more footage of the animators at work.

    This is a must for any Aardman fan, or for those who think wry British humor is tops. The holiday special will be available separately for $9.95. — Laura Tiffany

    The Reading Room
    Street 10/24
    MTI, Drama, $24.95 DVD, NR.
    Stars James Earl Jones, Georg Stanford Brown, Tim Reid.

    James Earl Jones alone is worth the price of any DVD. If you're a fan — and how could you not be a James Earl Jones fan — this is another one to purchase for the collection.

    I know. You can say that about any of his films. Jones is just good theater.

    Handsome and stately, this gentleman is known as much for his deep, soothing voice — “This is CNN” — as he is for his ground-breaking performances. He delivers again in The Reading Room.

    The solid cast includes Brown, who also directs, the equally versatile Reid (“That ‘70s Show”), Douglas Spain (“Band of Brothers”), Joanna Cassidy (“Six Feet Under”) and Omar J. Dorsey (“Drumline”). They, along with Jones, and the storyline are the reason The Reading Room entertains, inspires and leaves an uplifting message. It's a good flick for families, too.

    Jones plays widower William Campbell. His way of giving back to the community — a promise he made to his dying wife — is operating a reading room that's open to everyone. And sometimes, that's part of the problem. Despite his good will and humanitarian efforts, William encounters difficulties. The neighborhood is just one of them, but William deals with them as smooth as Jones himself would.

    This DVD is definitely one to share with friends and family during the upcoming holidays. The Reading Room is a nice feel-good story, but more importantly, it is an excellent film. Simple as that. — Benny Lopez

    Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
    Street 10/24
    BV/Disney, Family, $19.99 DVD, NR.
    Stars Brenda Song, Shin Koyamada.

    The newest entry into the “teenagers save the world” genre made popular by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Spy Kids,” Wendy Wu also is an homage to the recent cinematic love affair with highly stylized martial arts films.

    In fact, Homecoming Warrior, which was made for Disney television, could be re-titled Crouching Tiger, Hidden Valley Girl.

    A popular Chinese-American teenager whose biggest concerns are related exclusively to clothing, makeup and hair is suddenly thrust into a world of ancient warriors and curses.

    Every 90 years, an evil spirit encased in a glowing orb has the chance to break free of its prison and take over the world. And every 90 years, one warrior must fight the spirit for the sake of all humanity. But she doesn't need to do it alone. Each warrior is aided by the reincarnated spirit of a Buddhist monk, who gives her the tools she needs to fight. As it happens, Wendy is the next warrior in line.

    Homecoming Warrior tries to hit on several cylinders and, in many ways, succeeds. Pre-teen and tween girls will be drawn to the portrait of life among the popular kids as two pretty girls battle it out for the title of Homecoming Queen. The pin-up ready Koyamada, as Wendy's tutor, will certainly catch girls' eyes.

    And boys will be drawn to frequent martial arts battles, some of which involve terra cotta warriors that come to life and fling themselves through the air in elaborate martial art ballets.

    Performances by the appealing cast of teen actors are good-natured. Veteran character actress Tsai Chin, whom audiences will recognize from a career that spans five decades, steals virtually every scene she is in as Wendy's slightly mystical Chinese grandmother. — Anne Sherber

    Invitation to a Suicide
    Street 10/24
    Lightyear, Comedy, $19.97 DVD, NR.
    Stars Pablo Schreiber, David Margulies.

    Invitation to a Suicide is an unusual black comedy because, aside from one violent scene at the beginning, it is so gentle. Its true success, though, lies in its sympathetic treatment of all its slightly demented characters.

    Kaz Malek (Schreiber), son of a Polish baker, tries to steal $10,000 from Brooklyn mobster Ferfichkin (Joseph Urla) to finance his dream of moving to California with Eva (Katherine Moennig), the girl he loves. Instead, he destroys it when he accidentally sets Ferfichkin's apartment on fire.

    Ferfichkin gives Kaz 24 hours to get the money back, or he'll kill Kaz's father (Margulies). Kaz makes a counter-offer: He'll kill himself in 48 hours and sell tickets to his suicide, raising the $10,000.

    Suddenly, people in Kaz's neighborhood who considered him a loser are stepping in to help.

    Kaz's father is ecstatic that his son will give his life to save the family bakery. A man in a medical clinic will attend if Kaz gives him a kidney, for which Kaz will get $5,000. Kaz's friend, Krysztof (Matthew Rauch), offers his mortuary as the arena, if he gets to do the funeral.

    Another friend, Ari (director Loren Marsh), will film it if Kaz tattoos “USDA Prime” on his forehead to demonstrate his commitment.

    Only Eva is unenthusiastic, giving Kaz second thoughts, and leading him to devise a scheme in which he keeps his life, Ferfichkin doesn't kill his father, and everyone else gets what they want.

    TV fans may be interested in seeing this collection of actors from popular cable shows, such as Schreiber of “The Wire,” Margulies of “The Sopranos” and Moennig of “The L Word.” — Mark Lowe

    The Swan
    Street 10/24
    Xenon, SI, $39.99 two-DVD set, NR.

    Like so many reality shows “The Swan” is a guilty pleasure, perhaps a bit guiltier than most. Everyone loves a makeover, as evidenced by the popularity of shows such as “Dr. 90210” and “Nip/Tuck.” With the increasing fascination of and devotion to cosmetic surgery, “The Swan” definitely strikes a chord.

    It would take a heart of stone to not feel at least a twinge while watching each episode's two ugly ducklings as they tearfully talk about all the things they hate about their appearance, and even more tearfully hear the news that they've been chosen for the elaborate (and painful) three-month-long makeover that will “fix” all those things.

    The team of doctors and trainers involved try to be as compassionate as possible with the understandably self-conscious women who have elected to undergo this process and have it filmed for national television.

    The show plays up the medical procedural elements of the makeovers, tying in a Discovery Channel fascination with all things surgical to the undeniable power of the transformational makeover, a staple of reality programming.

    Each contestant is urged to aim toward reaching the culminating Swan Pageant. At the end of an episode, only one duckling from each makeover is selected to advance. There is the feeling, however, that both are “winners” with their new looks and relative newfound confidence.

    Included on the DVDs is a “Where are they now” segment, which is quite interesting because every episode leaves you wondering just how taped together the makeovers were and how well the participants were able to maintain the transformation in their regular life without a team of makeup artists and hairstylists help.

    Also included is a personal makeover tip-sheet from a member of “The Swan” team. — Jessica Wolf

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