March 2006

New On DVD

by Alan Rapp on March 28, 2006

in Home Video/DVD News 

We’re here to let you know what’s out there for your entertainment dollar.  Every week a new batch of DVD’s gets shipped out and thrown onto the shelves.  This week we’ve got the entire first season of Robot Chicken, season sets of Six Feet Under, Northern Exposure, and Quantum Leap along with three (count ‘em three) of my worst films of 2005, and more.  Take a peek inside for the full list.

N/A

Here’s what is getting released today on DVD:

Film:

King Kong – Let’s just say no one here at RazorFine thought much of Peter Jackson’s 3-hour-plus take on King Kong.  The first of three films from my worst of 2005 list released this week.  Read our original reviews:  review #1, review #2, review #3, and review #4.  The movie is out in two different editions: a one-disc regular DVD and a two-disc special edition.  The first is a more bare bones edition with only two short featurettes while the special edition contains and intro by Peter Jackson and his “post-production diaries,” and featurettes on 30’s New York and Skull Island.

Stay – Well here we go with another loser from 2005 (made my #3 worst film, and like Kong stars Naomi Watts).  The film is about a psychiatrist (Ewan McGregor) afraid of a patient (Ryan Gosling) and his girlfriend (Watts) separtely killing themselves.  Or is it?  In one of those constantly changing plot twist films (I seriously believe not even the director or screenwriter knew what this film was actually about) that in the end makes absolutely no sense.  The DVD contains “scene specific” commentary by director Marc Forster (see even he didn’t want to have to watch the whole thing!) and a couple of featurettes.  Read the original review.

A Sound of Thunder – Believe it or not there were actually two films worse than Stay last year, one comes out next week and the other is the worst movie of 2005.  Horrific adaption of the Ray Bradbury short story.  This movie is stunningly bad.  No one can defend it and the filmmakers don’t even try on this barebones DVD where the only extra is the trailer.  Just how bad is it?  Read the original review and find out.

Memoirs of a Geisha – The tale of a young girl’s journey into becoming a geisha is beautiful to look at (it won Oscars for Art Direction, Costume Design, and Cinematography).  December liked it enough to include it on her top ten films of 2005.  The two-disc special edition includes commentary by director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca along with a production commentary by costume designer Colleen Atwood, production designer John Myre, and editor Pietro Scalia.  There is also a huge collection of featurettes on making the novel into a film, shooting in Japan, a look at the geisha life, the actresses training to become geisha, the music of the film and more.  Read the original review.

Sliver (Unrated Edition) – Yeah you know I was just thinking how my world was incomplete without a director’s edition of this early 90’s crapfest with Sharon Stone and William Baldwin.  Oh wait a minute, no I wasn’t!!!  Obviously trying to pull in some of that Basic Instint 2 cash (all $6 of it) this “unrated version” is supposed to be better (did they replace William Baldwin with a sock puppet?)  Don’t ask me folks; I don’t get this either.

Family/Animated:

A Boy Named Charlie Brown – Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang in their classic 60’s cartoons that involve a kite-eating tree, humiliation on the baseball field, a national spelling bee and more.

TV:

Robot Chicken – Volume 1 – All 20 episodes from the gold standard of Adult Swim are contained in this two-disc set which includes commentary for every single episode and tons of extras like a behind the scenes featurette and deleted and extended skits (including the originals from Sweet J Presents) packing the discs full o’ fun.  Seth Green, you da’ man!  Matthew Senrich, you rule!  Read the full review

Six Feet UnderThe Complete Fifth Season – Final season of the HBO acclaimed series includes all 12 episodes of the Fisher family including the series finale.  The set also contains commentary by writers and directors for six of the episodes, three featurettes including a look back featurette, episode recaps and previews.

Northern ExposureThe Complete Fourth Season – The misadventures of Dr. Joel Fleishman and the townspeople of Cicely, Alaska continue.  All 25 fourth season episodes are included on three discs with deleted and extended scenes and a gag reel.

Doctor Who – The Beginning Collection – Well folks this is where it all started back in 1963 with William Hartnell as the Doctor.  Three of the first episodes (“An Unearthly Child,” “The Daleks,” and “The Edge of Destruction”) along with extras including a studio pilot, commentary by producer Verity Lambert and directors Waris Hussein, Chritopher Barry, and Richard Martin and actors Carole Ann Ford and Willaim Russell, and featurettes on the Daleks, the Doctor’s origins, and the T.A.R.D.I.S.

Quantum LeapThe Complete Fourth Season – Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) continues leaping through time in 22 episodes.  The DVD set contains a featurette on the 80’s flashbacks and a special bonus episode from the fifth season.

Knots LandingThe Complete First Season – The long running drama got its start back in 1979 as a mid-season replacement.  All 13 episodes are gathered together on five discs…five discs??  Wow trying to get your money’s worth aren’t you folks?!  Yeah, you know a disc holds more than two hours right?  Extras include cast commentary on two episodes and an interview featurette with Ted Shackleford and Joan Van Ark.

This Week

by Alan Rapp on March 27, 2006

in Film News & Trailers

So what’s out there this week.  Well today we’ll take a look at the films scheduled to be released this Friday including the sequels to Ice Age and Basic Instinct, yet another horror film will Slither its way onto the screen and more.  Read on…

N/A

Here’s what’s scheduled to hit theaters this week.  Want to know more, just click on the title for film info including a full cast list.  Want a closer look, just click on the poster or link to watch the trailer.

Ice Age (2): The Meltdown

Sequel to the 2002 animated hit reunites director Carlos Saldanha with the voices of Ray Ramano, Dennis Leary, John Leguizamo, and Stephen Root (but no Jack Black, Cedric the Entertainer, or Alan Tudyk this time out).  Nope, this time we get voices of Seann William Scott, Queen Latifah and Will Arnett.  The sequel involves the end of the Ice Age as the animals worry the melting ice (hmmm….Global Warming inferences??) will destroy their home.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first film and don’t think it really earned a sequel (though it made enough $$ to make this film inevitable). 

Basic Instinct 2

Speaking of unnecessary sequels….  Sharon Stone reprises the role that made her a star.  Once again novelist Catherine Trammel is in the middle of murder only this time in England.  David Morrissey co-stars as the shrink called into evaluate her and falls under her spell of seduction….yeah, whatever.  Can a sequel (that took 14 years to get made) to a ridiculous film actually be any good?  Can a 48 year-old Stone still play the femme fatale?  Who at Sony thought this was a good idea?  Directed by Michael Caton-Jones (City by the Sea, The Jackal, Doc Hollywood), this one’s got train-wreck written all over it.

ATL

Four high school friends ponder life after high school down at the local rollerskating rink in Atlanta named Jellybeans.  With a cast of young unknowns (Ablie Clark, April Daniels, and T.I. and Big Boi) first time feature director Chris Robinson (whose done only music videos to date) and a script by Tina Gordon Chism (who gave us the underrated Drumline), how this one will turn out is anyone’s guess.

Slither

Yet another horror film dumped into the early year’s batch of “soon to be forgotten.”  Though to be fair this one’s got an interesting cast including Firefly star Nathan Fillion, B-movie tough guys Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry, Elizabeth Banks (The 40 Year Old Virgin), and Rob Zombie.  Written and directed by James Gunn (who wrote the Dawn of the Dead remake and both Scooby-Doo films…ugh) the story involves a small town invaded by an alien plague that slithers around and turns them into zombies and monsters.  Early response from the film has been less than enthusiastic.

In Limited Release:


Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School – Robert Carlyle as a widower who finds meaning in taking ballroom dance lessons.  Based on director Randall Miller’s original 1990 short film, though you might remember a similar film with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez called Shall We Dance.  This one’s got Marisa Tomei, Donnie Walberg, and John Goodman.  Joy.  View the trailer

Swimmers – Regional tale in a small Maryland fishing town tells the story of an 11-year old girl (Tara Devon Gallagher) forced to give up swimming due to an injury and her friendship with a woman (Sarah Paulson) who has just returned having dealt with her own tragedy.  View the trailer

Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! – How do you like your Beastie Boys?  The film was taped by audience members at a 2004 performance.  Around 50 fans were chosen and given hand-held Hi8 cameras and the footage was pieced together to make the film.  View the trailer

Adam & Steve – Gay love story about two men who meet and fall in love only to discover that they met 20 years before under less happy circumstances.  Written and directer by Craig Chester (who also stars).  View the trailer

The Devil and Daniel Johnston (New York and Los Angeles only) – Manic-depressive singer/songwriter/painter/artist Daniel Johnson’s life and career are examined in this documentary by Jeff Feuerzeig that includes interviews with Johnston, his family and his friends.  View the trailer

Brick (New York and Los Angeles only) – A loner (Joesph Gordon Levitt) who in searching for the truth about the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend finds himself suddenly in the middle of a high school crime ring.  Written and directed by Rian Johnson.  View the trailer

Die Hard in a Bank

by Alan Rapp on March 24, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Well that’s different and kinda the same.  That was my reaction to Spike Lee’s latest Inside Man which is his first try and a mainstream action-thriller.  While not what I would expect from Spike Lee, for a heist flick it’s not too bad.  Sure it could use a tweak here an there in the writing and some more editing (129 minute running time), and sure he steals the ending from (oh, I don’t want to give that away), but for the most part the film works and entertains.

Inside Man
3 Stars

I love heist flicks.  I mean I l-o-v-e ‘em!  So I’m predisposed to like a film like this though I also tend to nitpick at them as well.  Spike Lee’s attempt to make a mainstream film has actually produced a pretty good genre flick.  While not a great movie Inside Man works pretty well as a heist flick and makes the most of its cast and setting.

The film starts out with a bank robbery in New York.  The leader of the robbers (Clive Owen) and his crew seemingly have thought out their plan to perfection, but a problem occurs when a cop discovers the attempted robbery and calls it in.  The block is sealed off and a negotiator Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and his partner (Chiwetel Elijofor) arrive on the scene.  From here things get a little complicated as the cat and mouse game begins and Frasier starts to question whether the heist may not be more and less than it seems.  Complicating things are the bank’s owner (Christopher Plummer) who has something hidden in the bank he doesn’t want found and his hired gun (Jodie Foster) sent to the crime scene with and agenda all her own.

The heist itself works quite well.  One of the first things the robbers do is take everyone’s cell phones and strip them down and have them put on clothing and masks similar to the robbers.  Then the hostages are broken into small groups and left blindfolded in separate rooms; periodically a hostage or two will be switched from room to room.  The result becomes the hostages, even to themselves, have become indistinguishable from the robbers.

The movie is inter-cut with flash-forward scenes to Frazier and his partner interrogating different hostages trying to find out what really happened inside and whether they are part of the robbery.  This makes the film a little different than your average heist flick, but also raises some problems because if you watch closely it starts to give away parts of the film’s secret.

Spike Lee is obviously a fan of Die Hard and the film really wants to be the same type of film; it doesn’t quite succeed though it is a fun ride.  Part of the problem lies in how easily and early the film gives away many of its secrets and part of the problem is the truth about what Plummer’s character is hiding is nothing new to film/TV/DVD and isn’t hard to figure out or that shocking when revealed; something a little more original would have helped here.  My last issue isn’t so much with the ending it steals from a classic American author (just mentioning his name would give it away) but the cutesy little epilogue that isn’t really necessary or believable.

Aside from these issues the film still works and entertains and the performances are first rate by Washington, Foster, Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and RazorFine favorite Ejiofor.  There are some great supporting roles by the hostages and the film is excellently shot and the story is managed quite well (even if it is too long) by the director.

Inside Man is an entertaining heist film filled with great performances.  Could it have been done better?  Absolutely!  But despite all my issues with the film, in the end what Lee gives us is very entertaining.  Because it gives away it’s secrets too easily it never quite works as a suspense film, but it still works quite well as an action-drama.  And it’s a pretty good heist flick.  If you’re a fan of the genre or these actors I’d recommend the film to you.

Tsotsi

by December Lambeth on March 24, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Amongst the February dump of really bad films (released exactly one month ago in a limited release, out today in wide release), comes Tsotsi a film with more quality than most of the streamline Oscar Nominees. Beautifully shot and clear storyline, Tsotsi takes the audience through 6 days of a young gang leader’s transformation in the ghetto of Johannesburg. South Africa’s foreign film Oscar nomination is violent and gritty, but in the same form it’s very graceful and pure.

Tsotsi
3 & 1/2 Stars

From the production notes:
“The word “tsotsi” means a black urban criminal, a street thug or gang member in the vernacular of black townships in South Africa. Its origin is possibly a corruption of the Sesotho word “tsotsa” meaning to dress flashily, zoot suits being originally associated with tsotsis. A male is called a tsotsi and a female tsotsi is called a noasisa. Tsotsis are usually part of the urban youth gang society that grew up on the streets of the ghetto. Their history goes back to the famous youth gangs of the 1930’s in the Soweto township area outside Johannesburg.”

Following the tracks of a young thug as he makes one bad choice after another, leading to a catch 22 he can never escape, or can he? Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) is a leader of a small group of young men who spend their time robbing, drinking and playing the dice, their way of leading the life that was dealt to them. Tsotsi starts to realize his need to escape the destruction that is controlling his life and destroying others, but not until he car jacks a lady and ends up with her baby. Almost abandoning this child with the car, he goes back and carries him home in a paper sack. Tsotsi makes an attempt of taking care of the child on his own, as if it’s a pet, but realizes he cannot provide adequate food or shelter. He holds a local girl at gun point to breastfeed the child and goes back to rob the home he stole the car from to gather up the child’s belongings. In that moment, he shoots one of his “brothers” to save the father’s life and thus a big leap in his transformation. In a slow progression to doing what’s right, but still doing it wrong, Tsotsi begins to come into his own and starts to take on responsibilities for his own actions. Before he blamed a poor childhood, a mean father and living in concrete tubes outside of the township, poor and destitute, as his crutch for reasoning. Tsotsi now realizes, that it’s his own actions that can create a better quality of life for himself and others around him. He has a good heart and has taken care of all of his “brothers” at one time or another, but still wreaks havoc on society. Still robs, thieves and treats others around him with little to no regard.

Progressively he cares for the child and starts to find a fondness towards the young widowed mother, Miriam (Terry Pheto), who eventually talks him into returning the baby. The ending of the film is the most moving of all. He returns the child, but gets caught between the mother and father he stole him from and the police. Giving up the baby with tears in his eyes and the hope for a second chance is a very powerful moment, does he get a second chance or is there no changing what life has handed to you?

 

Capturing a young audience with both rich and humanistic characters and a hip South African Kwaito artist, Zola, producer Peter Fudakowski played his cards right. Intriguing and luring, Tsotsi, keeps the audience completely attached to the character. Creates a sense of empathy for a thug that should deserve no forgiveness, but rises above it all and earns forgiveness and hopefully a second chance. Based on the novel by Athol Fugard, Tsotsi is set in modern times for expense reasons and to prove even a post apartheid South Africa still has it’s problems, but can rise above it all just like the character. Tsotsi was written in 1980 with a setting in the South African apartheid and a character that isn’t given a second chance at the end, a producer choosing to take the meaning of the story more over the exact story makes a more successful film. A few shots too close to the eye line to keep the audience tide with the lead character are a little over done, but can be forgiven for the richness surrounding those shots. The film is much about poverty vs. wealth and violence vs. compassion; the production design gives us the contrast even in the ghetto between Tsotsi’s dark rich and bare shack compared to Miriam’s warm, soft and inviting surroundings. The music compliments every scene and the actors bring out their best over coming some very rough and emotional moments.

Tsotsi is a rich and powerfully emotional film that will move the audience and aspire even those who may not agree with the quality of story.

Holy Sh*t Dude!

by Alan Rapp on March 23, 2006

in Uncategorized

Wow.  Well you knew Trey Parker and Matt Stone weren’t going to take Isaac Hayes’ leaving the show and all that negative publicity lying down, but DAMN!  The post-Hayes episodes started last night poking fun of Hayes’ departure from the show by with Chef’s brainwashing by a “fruity little club” of child molesters.  The parallel to Hayes and Scientology wasn’t subtle nor is the message Parker and Stone give by turning the character into a pedophile and then killing him in the most brutal manner possible thus ending Chef’s tenure on the show.  Kyle’s eulogy said it all “A lot of us don’t agree with the choices Chef made in the last few days (comments by Hayes about the show’s mocking of Scientology and his choice to leave the show), some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us.  But we can’t let the events of the past few weeks take away the memories of how Chef made us smile.  We shouldn’t be mad at Chef for leaving us; we should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains.”  Let us know if you saw it and if you’ve got an opinion of the episode (and the Lucas themed ending).

South Park
N/A

Let us know what you thought of last night’s show.