Home Movies

Home Movies

The Illusionist

In turn-of-the-century Vienna, Eisenheim the Illusionist (Edward Norton) grips audiences with his amazing feats of magic. Less impressed is Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), who assigns Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) to expose his trickery. Writer-director Neil Burger’s cat-and-mouse game, with the prince’s mistress, Sophie (Jessica Biel) as the ultimate prize, makes for grand viewing. Like the audience in the film, we find ourselves mystified and beguiled by the mechanics of the illusions. Beautifully realized, photographed and performed, The Illusionist is escapist entertainment of the highest order. Commentary and featurettes materialize on the DVD. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Gridiron Gang

This juvenile delinquent version of The Longest Yard stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a frustrated youth detention camp probation officer. Aware that most of his charges will either wind up back in the camp or dead on the streets, Sean Porter (Johnson) convinces authorities to allow him to form a football team. What begins as a lesson in responsibility and teamwork becomes a rallying cry when the prisoners learn they have only four weeks before their first game. Even at its pedestrian worst, Gridiron Gang still manages to take the field and score. DVD scores with deleted scenes, commentary, featurettes and a multi-angle football sequence. (Yes, that’s what that button on the remote is for). (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Facing the Giants

Football fans looking for something more spiritual than spirited may want to check out this church-produced drama about a high school football coach at a crossroads in his professional and personal lives. Using faith to see him through his crisis, Coach Grant Taylor realizes that, no matter what direction his life takes, he’s always a winner. DVD’s game plan includes bloopers and outtakes, deleted scenes, featurettes and a filmmaker commentary. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

The Gathering

A crafty little thriller that stars Christina Ricci as an American backpacker involved in an accident while touring the English countryside. Her memory gone, Cassie (Ricci) relies on the kindness of strangers. With her arrival comes the discovery of a first-century church buried under the town and, when Cassie begins having horrific visions of death and demons, pieces of the puzzle start falling into place. To say anymore would be a crime. Unlike the current crop of slice-and-dice horror films, it’s nice to see an original horror-thriller with something weighty on its mind. (Weinstein/Genius)

Superman II

Having shot the first Superman film starring Christopher Reeve and most of its sequel, director Richard Donner was replaced by Richard Lester (The Three Musketeers). Lester refashioned the story, replaced and re-edited existing footage and brought a lighter tone to the sequel. What happened to Donner’s cut has become the stuff of Hollywood legend. Working piecemeal from Donner’s original footage, screen tests and on-the-fly special effects, the original cut of Superman II moves from urban legend to reality on a keepsake DVD dedicated to Reeve. Released in conjunction with Lester’s cut, along with Superman Returns, Superman II –The Richard Donner Cut, is a joyous celebration of what might have been. Donner’s vision is more crafty than Lester’s, with major revelations played out for maximum suspense. Especially enjoyable is Lois Lane’s (Margot Kidder) pursuit of proof that Clark Kent is really Superman. Some clumsy editing is a byproduct of the beast, with Donner substituting test footage to complete scenes. The DVD offers a fascinating introduction and commentary by Donner, plus a new featurette. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Bandidas

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meet Robin Hood in this saddle-sore western comedy about two Mexican women (Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz) who team up to become bank robbers after their res-pective fathers are killed or wounded by a greedy Amer-ican land baron. Set in turn-of-last-century Mexico, the film never looks or feels like a real western. The peasants speak perfect English and the plot reeks like overcooked menudo. The ladies sit down for a chit-chat on the commentary track, and are featured in a bonus featurette. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

~ HOME MOVIES ~

~ HOME MOVIES ~

Haven

Impressive debut from writer-director Frank E. Flowers follows a diverse group of characters as they dodge emotional and traditional land mines in the Cayman Islands. Orlando Bloom and Zoe Saldana set the story into motion with their forbidden romance, a tryst culminating in revenge and deceit. Bill Paxton co-stars as an American businessman fleeing to the island with his daughter to escape federal prosecution, only to find himself involved in a shady business deal. Excellent cast, colorful locations that defy the film’s intensity, and strong scenario make this thriller float. DVD includes featurette. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Uknown

This explosive, clever crime thriller arrives with all the conveniences of a high-class hooker: quick in, get the job done, and then a quick exit. Five strangers wake up in a locked-down, abandoned warehouse in the middle of the desert. Their memories erased, the strangers are faced with several questions, the highest priority being who are they, how did they get there, and why is one guy handcuffed to a pole with a bullet in him? As the strangers begin to piece together the puzzle, it becomes clear that some are good guys, some are bad guys, and one is a hostage ready to be executed. Outstanding cast features Jim Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Joe Pantoliano and Jeremy Sisto. Keeps you guessing right up until the final frame. Deleted and extended scenes complete the DVD experience. (Weinstein/Genius)

The Night Listener

Robin Williams delivers a sturdy performance as Gabriel Noone, a successful gay writer and late-night talk show host who connects with a young caller named Pete (Rory Culkin), whose stories of abusive foster parents and terminal illness force Noone to take action. Still dealing with the break-up from his former lover, Gabriel desperately wants to help Pete, but the closer he gets, the more he suspects something is wrong. Pete’s adoptive mother (Toni Collette) raises more questions, turning a simple act of human kindness into a mystery. It’s refreshing how writer-director Patrick Stettner and the cast can make something out of nothing. DVD includes deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurette. (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

American Pie 5: The Naked Mile

The American Pie franchise cuts off another slice with this direct-to-video sequel finding another member of the Stifler family looking for love in all the wrong places. After a game of peewee football and some inappropriate party games, the new group of freshly scrubbed kids are ready for a weekend of naked fun. Eugene Levy makes a pit stop to help link this DTV effort to its theatrical brothers. Lots of naked babes, shy guys, raunchy gags and enough sexual innuendo for two films. DVD extras strip down for more enjoyment. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Crank

Jason Statham (The Transporter) is electrifying as Chev, a hit man with a big problem: His rivals have injected him with a deadly poison that will kill him when his adrenaline level dips. In order to stay alive long enough to seek revenge, Chev finds himself on a no-holds-barred chase guaranteed to keep his adrenaline pumping. The writing-directing team of Neveldine/ Taylor turns a simple idea into one hell of a thrill ride, forcing Chev to manufacture one rush after another in order to reach his destiny, including having sex with girlfriend Amy Smart in the middle of Chinatown. Outrageous, in-your-face action, razor sharp performances and cunning camera work make Crank cook. On-screen featurette allows you to watch the film while experiencing the extras. (Lionsgate)

home movies

home movies

Snakes on a Plane

A passenger flight en route from Hawaii to Los Angeles carrying a federal witness is sabotaged with crates of deadly snakes in this giddy goof. Samuel L. Jackson stars

as one extremely pissed-off and resourceful federal agent trying

to wrap himself around the in-flight mayhem. A fuselage filled with stock characters encounters one grisly death after another, with only Jackson and retiring flight attendant Julianna Margulies standing between the reptiles and a crash landing. Ninety minutes of slithering fun. DVD sheds its skin to reveal deleted scenes, music videos, commentaries, featurettes and promotional spots. (New Line Home Entertainment)

Scanner Darkly

Philip K. Dick’s novel provides writer-director Richard Linklater with much to chew on, regurgitating Dick’s tale of a dark, drug-filled future into an animated slice of pulp fiction guaranteed to make your brain bleed. Keanu Reeves plays a narcotics agent assigned to infiltrate a group of friends to locate their dealer. To maintain his cover, Bob (Reeves) begins using drugs, eventually splitting him into two personalities. Things become really twisted when Bob’s alter ego is assigned to keep an eye on Bob. Linklater turns Dick’s words into visual treats, while the actors hiding under the graphics (Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder) are just as animated. DVD commentary and featurettes go the extra mile to eradicate confusion. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Step Up

Familiar Romeo and Juliet tale about a juvenile delinquent from the poor side of the tracks and the girl with dreams of becoming a dancer. Their paths cross when Tyler (Channing Tatum) and his friends trash a private arts school, get caught, and are forced to perform community service as janitors for the school. Intrigued by Nora (Jenna Dewan), a classically trained dancer, Tyler offers to step in when her dance partner is injured. It doesn’t take long for these two opposites to attract and Step Up for the big senior showcase. Target audience will appreciate the effort. DVD includes deleted scenes, bloopers, featurettes and videos. (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

The Wicker Man

Considering all of the talent involved, one can only wonder what went wrong. Remake of the 1970s cult classic stars Nicolas Cage as a California motorcycle cop summoned to the Pacific Northwest to help find his ex-fiancee’s daughter. Upon his arrival, Edward (Cage) finds himself trapped in a pagan commune where nothing is what it seems, and headmistress Ellen Burstyn has plans for the new member of their cult. Director Neil LaBute seems as lost as Edward, never giving the film an identity. You’re never sure if he’s serious or if this is some sort of twisted, absurd joke. More hysterics than horror or suspense. DVD includes unrated edition of film, and expansive commentary. (Warner Home Entertainment)

Factotum

Charles Bukowski can be a tough read. Making a film out of his words can be even tougher, yet director/co-writer Bent Hamer and actor Matt Dillon manage quite nicely in this gritty self-portrait of an alcoholic writer looking for meaning in his life. Part-time writer Hank (Dillon) spends more time swimming in self pity at the bottom of a bottle than establishing links to real life. His half-hearted attempts are funny, bittersweet and often sad, dreaming of greatness yet always settling for a noon buzz. Dillon is superb as Bukowski’s alter ego, while Marisa Tomei and Lili Taylor lend excellent support as two women from opposite ends of the spectrum. Powerful and engrossing. DVD includes documentary. (IFC Films)

Jet Li’s Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia)

For his final martial arts film, Jet Li goes out with honor in this epic and true life story of Huo Yuanjia, an expert in turn-of-the-20th-century China who uses his skill and strength to become the greatest champion in the land. Tragedy and ego force the master to seek redemption, which he finds with a surrogate family who teach him to win through peace rather than anger. Directed with panoramic scope by Ronny Yu and filled with dazzling action and beautiful cinematography, Fearless is the perfect legacy to leave the genre. DVD includes unrated version, documentary and deleted scene. (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

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