- Breaking News - Hong Kong action director Johnny To delivers this watchable Woo-alike about a police force that loses the support of the public when a robbery goes bad and is covered by a local news program. The set pieces are pretty tight, even if the drama and the statement To tries to make about the power and responsibility of the media doesn't fully come through.
- Free Enterprise: Special Edition - A self-effacing turn akin to Marlon Brando's in The Freshman and Pauly Shore's in Pauly Shore Is Dead is William Shatner, sending up the cult of personality that has followed him since the original Star Trek series ended its five year mission two years early in 1969. When fanboys Rafer Wiegel and Eric McCormack meet their boyhood idol, he is far from the super-cool man for all seasons they have long worshiped. He's bent on staging a one-man musical version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, a great running joke that culminates in the brilliant payoff that is the Shatner/The Rated R rap duet, "No Tears For Caesar". Writer-director Robert Meyer Burnett has created a love letter, not just to Trek, but to anyone who has ever loved anything with fanatical passion, and this long-overdue 2-disc treatment gives it the respect it was not afforded when it was first released in 1999. Check out the Pop-Up Video style trivia track, which annotates the geekery, new special effects, the making-of feature Where No Man Has Gone Before, and the unaired TV pilot, Café Fantastique, which features the real fans who inspired this smart, hardy-har-har trek. A sequel, My Big Fat Geek Wedding, has been listed on the IMDB for nearly 3 years now, and Mindfire Entertainment's website features a rudimentary mention of it, though no firm details are available as yet.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Special Edition - Death, and the gloomy heft that comes with it, visits Hogwarts in the fourth and most satisfying installment in the ongoing series so far. When an evil thought vanquished literally rears its ugly head again, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson) team up to expose it. Like the overwhelmingly dark Revenge Of The Sith, this is the first to bear the PG-13 rating (for "sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images"), though its decidedly down ending makes it feel more like The Empire Strikes Back. It is not unreasonable to expect studio Warner Brothers to keep their three leads on through Harry Potter and the As-Yet-Unwritten-and-Untitled Year 7 Story. This, of course, is despite the fact that they will be in their early 20's by then, but let us not forget that at least one of the 90210 kids was practically eligible for Social Security by the end of that run. Even at 157 minutes, the book has still been truncated, but it is doubly encouraging to know that kids will know what is missing and will sit still for that long in order to be able to go on smartly about it. The second disc is chock-full-o' extra goodies, and is available in full- and widescreen editions. A single disc version is also available.
- Howl's Moving Castle - Anyone whose impression of anime is the hyperkinetic rascals of Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! is in for an oh-so-thrilling surprise. The depth of veteran writer-director Hayao Miyazaki's latest masterpiece - this one about a young woman who is magically changed into an old hag and taken on a trip in a giant enchanted walking house - is considerable and precious. Diana Wynne Jones's beloved book springs to life in the Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke creator's hands, and while hardcore Nipponophiles will harrumph! Disney's more-than-passable dubbing job, most everyone else will be rightfully impressed with Miyazaki's rock-solid piece of storytelling. Newfound fans of Miyazaki-san will be thrilled to find that Disney has released a flood of his previous work on DVD recently, most notably last year's issue of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds and Porco Rosso, with My Neighbor Totoro and Whisper Of The Heart hitting shelves today, too.
- Jarhead - One would expect that the Oscar-winning director of the nearly perfect American Beauty would deliver the War Movie To End All War Movies. What Sam Mendes has made, however, is not much more than a nice breeze breaking
up a single afternoon of a seemingly interminable heat wave. Adapted from Anthony Swofford's best-selling book, it tells the based-on-a-true story of
Swofford's entry into the Marines (pre-Gulf War I) and his descent into what he, Mendes and Cast Away scribe (and Vietnam vet) William Broyles claim
is Swofford's insanity. The obvious nod to Apocalypse Now (the jarheads take a
break from training to watch the Coppola film) warns us of such madness ahead, but that big dive never really comes.
Omnipresent Jake Gyllenhaal plays "Swoff" a bit like Matthew
Modine's Private Joker in Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, another great war film
Jarhead tries too much to parrot. He is good, and Jamie Foxx as Swoff's sergeant redeems his head-scratching turn in Stealth. Some of the visuals are haunting, like a lifeless, firebombed traffic jam
and the flaming oil wells lighting up the night. Despite everyone's best efforts, David O. Russell's Three Kings is still does best in capturing the chaos of this desert storm. Also
available in a 2-disc Special Edition.
- Just Friends - Ryan Reynolds has managed a half a decade of stardom without carrying a single good movie, with recent turkeys like The Amityville Horror and Waiting... as his highs. However, this comedy, in which he plays a former fat kid who gets thin, becomes a stylin' record executive and gets a second shot at the girl he was "just friends" with in high school, shows a full range of reasons why there are so many Ryan Reynolds fans. The laughs are pretty non-stop, and Reynolds and writer Adam Davis do not miss a beat, giving punch lines to many of the movie's punch lines. Anna Faris is a riot as a maniacal pop star whom Reynolds babysits over Christmas, and Chris Klein plays a great Jekyll and Hyde as a rival admirer to Reynolds. Almost as funny as Wedding Crashers, it manages comedy without cruelty, sporting the humbling perspective that have allowed "ten years later" tales like Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and Grosse Pointe Blank relevancy almost ten years later.
- Kids in America - With nearly as much smart, subversive sass as Heathers, Pump Up The Volume and the recent Mean Girls, this somewhat true story of some conscientious teens who foment a revolt against their fascist principal really pops. Of course, due to the fact that this atypical flick offered theatrical audiences no real stars and had no major studio behind it, its limited theatrical release was extremely brief and served as little more than a gathering ground for positive quotes for the DVD box.
- LolliLove - While the coolness factor of James Gunn penning the 2004 remake of Zack Snyder's remake of George Romero's Dawn Of The Dead is negated by the fact that he also pinched off schweenplays for Scooby-Doo and its sequel, this irreverent mockumentary helps us forgive. Directed by Gunn's wife Jenna Fischer, who stars in NBC's The Office, the comedy is about a wealthy couple (Gunn and Fischer) who establish a non-profit organization to address the homeless problem - by giving them giant suckers with original artwork and motivational sayings on the wrappers. The movie, distributed by Troma (Gunn wrote the low-rent studio's Tromeo & Juliet), may not be the next A Mighty Wind, but it is funny and efficient, clocking in at just over an hour. It also includes over 3 hours of extras, including a making-of and a Lloyd Kaufman-hosted visit to the set of Gunn's latest project, the horror-comedy Slither, which opens in theaters nationwide on March 31st.
- Paper Clips - Struggling to grasp the concept of 6 million (Jewish) Holocaust victims, the students of Whitwell Middle School in rural Tennessee ultimately collected 11 million paper clips to better understand the full extent of this crime against all of humanity in this touching experiment in Holocaust education and lesson in prejudice.
- Prime - The last really memorable movie to address the whole older woman/younger man dynamic was Harold and Maude, but that is only part of why this romantic comedy is such a treat. Uma Thurman plays a 37-year-old divorcée who falls for a 23-year-old aspiring artist (Bryan Greenberg), unaware that his mother (Meryl Streep) is her therapist. As zany and gimmicky as it sounds, writer-director Ben Younger, who made the Mametesque Boiler Room, balances many elements with skill and tenderness while giving the cast -- and especially Streep -- room to play.
- The Tenants - The release of this drama about black-white racial tensions, on the heels of Crash's surprise Best Picture win at the Oscars, is quite fortunate, though its producers would be able to milk the happy coincidence for far longer if their film could bear the comparison. Set in 1971 and based on the novel by The Natural author Bernard Malamud, it's about a novelist (Dylan McDermott) who encounters a raw would-be author (Snoop Dogg) and must deal with his own prejudices. First-time director Danny Green can't seem to commit to creating an intimate character study or a broad stagy production. McDermott is not all that convincing or likable, though fans of Snoop (née Calvin Broadus) might be surprised that he can act (and that this role doesn't rely on tired jokes about weed, bitchez or a shaggy car that hops).
- 10th District Court - Pegging Raymond Depardon's documentary as merely a look inside the French legal system is selling it short. The director filmed 169 trials for relatively petty crimes and picked the 12 most telling, excerpting them from start to finish. What he reveals is a key flaw in our ability as a species to evolve - our refusal to admit responsibility for our frak-ups, all the while keeping a thread of humanity and not allowing the whole affair to devolve into a French Judge Judy, even if the no-nonsense Judge Michèle Bernard-Requin invites the comparison based on her approach to getting her job done.
- Zu Warriors -
Unfortunately, what was supposed to be Hong Kong titan Tsui Hark's
successor to Ang Lee's elegant, Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
is an ancient sword-and-sorcery epic of the loud-and-flashy variety. Crammed full of CGI and the kind of thick
begatting and begetting that would make Tolkien and that dude who wrote the Old Testament proud, the legendary story is
often confusing, and loyal purists will cringe at Miramax's dubbed English version, which truncates the original version
by about 25 minutes (much like they did with Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer). If
you have a choice between this and Infernal Affairs director Wae Keung (Andrew)
Lau's The Storm Riders, pick The Storm
Riders (even if you have to import it from Canada). A sequel to Hark's own 1983 flick, Zu: Time Warriors. Also available today is the epic The Warrior, starring button-cute
Ziyi Zhang (who has a cameo in Zu