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Reviews: September 9

9 Sep, 2007 By: Home Media Reviews


Deliverance: 35th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Street 9/18
Warner, Drama, $19.97 DVD, $28.99 HD DVD or Blu-ray, ‘R'.
Stars Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox.

Deliverance is such a powerful and popular film that I'm surprised this story of four men who test their survival skills by rafting down a Georgia river hasn't been remade for a contemporary audience.

The 35th anniversary deluxe edition, however, misfires with the extremely disappointing retrospective special features crafted by Laurent Bouzereau, who takes one more screen credit than anyone who actually created the film.

The four relatively short featurettes — “The Beginning,” “The Journey,” “Betraying the River” and “Delivered” — are simplistic and show a lack of engaging questions and research.

For example, why is there no mention or photograph of Jon Voight's accident and near drowning while making the movie? It was on the front page of many newspapers around the world when it happened.

Why is it that comedians such as Dennis Miller still get laughs when referencing the backwoods people Voight and his cinematic company encountered? Why has “squeal like a pig” been a vocal and visual part of several films since Deliverance debuted?

It's disappointing Warner couldn't simply get director John Boorman, who was nominated for an Oscar for his impressive work on the film, and the four stars in a room together and let them talk.

Boorman's thoughtful and intelligent commentary, plus the excellent “The Dangerous World of Deliverance,” a vintage behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of this classic film, set the bar of excellence that Bouzereau's by-the-numbers special features fail to approach. — Craig Modderno

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End
Prebook 9/12; Street 10/9
Fox, Horror, $26.98 DVD, Unrated.
Stars Erica Leerhsen, Texas Battle, Daniella Alonso, Crystal Lowe, Aleksa Palladino, Henry Rollins.

The 2003 theatrical release Wrong Turn stranded a group of motorists in the backwoods of West Virginia, where they fell prey to inbred, cannibal mutants. This direct-to-DVD sequel uses the same setting (as well as the parents of the original killers), but introduces Rollins as an ex-military commander who hosts a reality show that rips off “Survivor.”

The contestants are cast into the woods, which they quickly discover are home to a family of mutants poisoned by the water.

Director Joe Lynch has taken full advantage of the unrated tag. There are plenty of disturbing scenes, lots of gore and some pretty sick and twisted killings. Things get off to a bloody start from the very first scene.

Most impressive was how the movie took a simple premise about a reality show and turned it into something unique — and very scary. The film is very dark and often disturbing.

Rollins is always an interesting presence on screen, and he literally gets the chance to go Rambo on the mutant rednecks. Watching him don the black make-up (an homage to Schwarzenegger in Commando) and use dynamite to blow up some of the cannibals is just plain fun. Even his one-liners seem to work.

The mutants, who dine on their victims in a variety of ways (stew, roasting over an open fire), are pretty strong survivors themselves and can take a beating. This keeps the action quotient high, since there aren't a lot of them to go around, but there are plenty of humans to kill.

The final act offers some surprises that work well, and the door is left open for a third movie.

Wrong Turn 2 offers everything fans of the original film, and similar fare such as The Hills Have Eyes, have come to expect from the mutant-horror genre. — John Gaudiosi

Brooklyn Rules
Street 9/18
City Lights, Drama, B.O. $0.5 million, $29.98 DVD, ‘R' for violence, pervasive language and some sexual content.
Stars Freddie Prinze Jr., Scott Caan, Mena Suvari, Jerry Ferrara, Alec Baldwin.

The movie is supposedly based on the life of writer Terence Winter, who penned several “Sopranos” episodes over the years. The resulting film comes off like a sidebar to epic mob films such as The Godfather and The Departed.

In presenting simple themes such as honor and friendship, Brooklyn Rules is entertaining enough, if a tad predictable.

The cast is loaded with recognizable faces turning in solid work, including Prinze, whose acting career has been marked by a consistent string of duds.

He plays Mike, a streetwise kid in the 1980s bluffing his way through Columbia University. Mike is the balancing act between his best friends Bobby (Ferrara) and Carmine (Caan).

Ferrara has a way to go to ditch his “Turtle” persona from “Entourage,” but comes close here as a wide-eyed innocent trying to pass the U. S. Postal Service exam so he can marry his sweetheart and settle down. Carmine finds himself at the opposite end of the spectrum, falling in with Mafia thug Caesar.

Baldwin is great as the tough-as-nails kingpin, but his total screen time is too short.

Organized crime takes a backseat to Mike's attempts to find direction for his life. It's the flip side of Goodfellas, showing the effects joining the Mafia can have on a made man's closest friends.

Mike's future is nearly derailed after a chance encounter with a rival hothead who also is connected. Mike embarrasses him in a street fight, so he's out for revenge. Thanks to Carmine, Caesar puts Mike under his protection, and Mike tries to move on. But a movie like this can't exist without tragic consequences.

The DVD includes commentary with Winter and director Michael Corrente, cast interviews and a Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” music video. John Latchem

Three Days of Rain
Prebook 9/11; Street 10/9
Vivendi Visual, Drama, B.O. $0.003 million, $24.99 DVD, ‘R' for language, some sexual material, drug use and disturbing content.
Stars Peter Falk, Don Meredith, Erick Avari, Blythe Danner, Lyle Lovett.

If there is one constant about movies like this — those that weave together seemingly isolated stories — it is that at least one tale will end in great tragedy.

Three Days of Rain is no different. It presents a cacophony of sorrow spanning a persistent downpour in Cleveland, with tales of hope and despair supposedly inspired by the works of Anton Chekhov. Fans of movies like Crash or Babel should eat this one up, too.

As the rain begins to fall, a down-on-his-luck tile maker curses God as his roof gives way to leaks that destroy his clay creations. Desperate for cash, he resorts to harassing a poor widow whose husband didn't pay his bill before he died.

Another thread follows a lonely taxi driver (Meredith) whose son recently died. His attempts to discuss his loss and assuage his pain are universally rebuffed by sympathetic ears too caught up in the hustle-and-bustle of their own lives. One passenger (Danner) even goes so far as to bemoan her luck for having to hear of such suffering.

A third story presents a well-to-do man (Avari) who obsesses over the fate of a homeless man after his wife refuses to give the man food. He sees helping the man as his way of proving he is a good person, and wonders how he can stay married to such an unkind woman.

In another story, a heroin addict works as a babysitter for the foster daughter of a judge. She is the baby's natural mother, and the judge trades sexual favors for her right to see the child.

We also get Peter Falk as a drunkard who uses his doddering as an act to manipulate his son for financial support, and a story about a mentally challenged railroad worker.

Tying it all together is the reassuring voice of a disc jockey (Lovett) who reminds us that we're all struggling through this maze together. John Latchem

Christmas Do-Over
Prebook 9/13; Street 10/16
Sony Pictures, Family, $24.94 DVD, NR.
Stars Jay Mohr, Daphne Zuniga, Logan Grove, Adrienne Barbeau, David Millbern.

Groundhog Day meets A Christmas Carol with a dash of It's a Wonderful Life thrown in for good measure in Christmas Do-Over. That's the best way to describe a TV movie about one man's Christmas journey from jerk to gem.

Mohr is the less-than-perfect Kevin, a divorced father who arrives at his former in-laws' home so he can celebrate Christmas with his son. Also invited to the party is his ex-wife's current boyfriend, Todd (Millbern), a man who seems to be right out of a textbook on how to be a model parent.

Kevin, who is missing the Christmas-spirit gene, arrives for the celebration filled with anger and animosity, bitter about his divorce and disdainful of any display of holiday spirit. The day goes from bad to worse as Todd continually shows Kevin up with romantic gestures and fatherly advice.

What Kevin doesn't realize is that he's going to have to keep reliving this Christmas day until he gets it right. Once he figures out that there are no consequences, he is unleashed, picking the winning lottery numbers, brawling, and generally acting as badly as possible. Gradually he begins to understand what his son and his wife really need from him.

Mohr employs his natural smarminess to good effect as the self-centered, self-involved, self-pitying Kevin, who slowly begins to see the error of his ways. TV veteran Zuniga does a lot with a little. She manages to make the sparsely written character of ex-wife and concerned mother into something more. And Barbeau is delightful as the gently sarcastic mother-in-law who is secretly rooting for Kevin over the practically perfect Todd.

Although Christmas Do-Over pays almost slavish homage to Groundhog Day, the concept ports over to Christmas very nicely and there is something for everyone in the family in this pleasant, and often funny holiday diversion. — Anne Sherber

Every Woman Knows a Secret
Prebook 9/11; Street 10/9
BFS, Drama, $24.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Paul Bettany, Siobhan Redmond, Miles Anderson, Del Synnott.

Every Woman Knows a Secret is an emotionally charged British drama about a forbidden relationship between a middle-age woman and the young man blamed for the death of her only son, Danny.

Based on a novel by Rosie Thomas, the tragedy begins when Danny (Synnott) and his friend Rob (Bettany) find themselves in a high-speed pursuit with the cops after a night of drinking. The chase ends abruptly when Rob loses control and flips the car, killing Danny, while he walks away virtually unscathed.

Despite Rob's deep remorse, everyone, including the authorities, blames him for the death. But Rob doesn't let that discourage him from persistently seeking forgiveness from Danny's mother, Jess (Redmond).

As the holidays approach, their shared loneliness and grief brings them closer together, culminating in a passionate love affair that faces relentless criticism from Jess' family. With the fighting escalating and Rob's court date over Danny's death still looming, the infatuated lovers decide it would be best to run away from it all and start a new life together in Italy.

But their fantasy world quickly comes crashing down when Jess receives news that her daughter has breast cancer and decides to rush home to be by her side. Not wanting to wait in Italy alone, Rob decides to return home and turn himself over to the authorities, leaving Jess waiting for the outcome of Rob's sentencing and the prognosis of her daughter's cancer.

Faced with these two hardships, Jess is forced to reflect on her own life, leading her to make a difficult, life-changing decision.

Every Woman Knows a Secret first aired as a three-part British miniseries, but flows well as a full-length feature. With hard-hitting performances by Bettany (Silas from The Da Vinci Code) and Redmond, whose characters are highly sympathetic, the film offers a smart, passionate twist to the typical tragic love story. The originality gives the film a stylish arthouse feel that helps make it unforgettable.— Matt Miller

Chlorox, Ammonia and Coffee
Street 9/18
Cinequest, Comedy, $14.99 DVD, NR.
In Norwegian with English subtitles.

A wryly comic roundelay of lovelorn suburbanites, Chlorox, Ammonia and Coffee plays like a small-scale version of one of Robert Altman's trademark mixed narratives (e.g. Nashville, Shortcuts), minus the amiable auteur's uncanny gift for synthesis.

Maria is a mother and housewife who, on the verge of having her second child, realizes that her husband is having an affair. Gunvor, Maria's mother-in-law, is spending her retirement selling drugs with teenage Elin, Maria's babysitter. Elin's mother, Iris — who also happens to be Maria's midwife — is in love with her neighbor, Odd, who happens to arrest Maria under circumstances too ludicrous to explain.

Like its antecedents, Chlorox, Ammonia and Coffee relies heavily on coincidence to unite its various narrative threads. There is no subtending theme, other than the idea that love is elusive, confusing and a sometimes many-splendored thing.

Each of the characters has been uniquely wounded by a relationship, and it is not giving anything away to say that each is destined to find love anew by the end.

Predictable and fairly brimming with a roseate, all-is-right-with-the-world energy, Chlorox, Ammonia and Coffee may be harmless fluff, but it's the best kind of harmless fluff. — Eddie Mullins

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