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Lily Williams, Movie Reviewer

Thursday
Feb282008

DAN IN REAL LIFE

dan%20in%20real.jpeg DIRECTOR:
Peter Hedges

WRITERS:
Pierce Gardner and Peter Hedges

ACTORS:
Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Diane Wiest, and Emily Blunt

RELEASING COMPANY:
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

SUGGESTED PRICE:
$23.95

REVIEWED BY:
Isabella Lucero

Steve Carell plays Dan Burns, a newspaper columnist who offers advice to parents.  He has recently lost his beloved wife and is working hard to raise three blond and precocious daughters.  Dan carefully prepares their lunch, three different kinds of no crust sandwiches, which includes taking the time to draw a smile, with honey, on the peanut butter sandwich. These details show what a loving and attentive father Dan is to his three willful daughters, one 17 year old desperate to drive a car (Dan won’t let her because it is too dangerous), one who is in love (Dan is against her passion because this daughter is too young), and the little one who is too young to push boundaries.

The real fun starts when Dan unexpectedly falls in love with the quirky (she has traveled, she is mysterious, she is Hollywood quirky!) Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a bookstore, however, this becomes a huge problem since Marie is the girlfriend of Dan’s brother, Mitch (Dane Cook), and the whole darn family is staying together for their annual family reunion in this big house and Dan and Marie have to smother and try to cover their abiding and growing love for one another.

It has some of the usual problems that big Hollywood movies have in that a few scenes don’t work so well, however, I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this movie.  It has a lot of heart and illustrates truths about the importance and difficulties of the family.  I laughed a lot, which is what I always do with a Steve Carell movie.  I could really identify with him and how he struggled to keep those willful teenage daughters on track.  Dan is trying so hard to be a good single parent that he has abandoned his own love life, something that I think a lot of parents do.

My favorite scene had Steve Carell and Dane Cook singing, “Let My Love Open the Door”, by The Who’s Pete Townshend, during a family talent show.   They can’t actually sing, but this is the tender moment when Dan is finally starting to feel emotion for a woman again, after a really long dry spell. I also completely enjoyed a cameo by Emily Blunt, who plays a sexy plastic surgeon.  She has just one short scene, but it is as funny as can be. I also loved her in “The Devil Wears Prada”. Someone give that girl a starring role!

“Dan in Real Life” is a fine movie to enjoy with the entire family, which is rather refreshing considering all the blood, gore, and family dysfunction so prevalent in film these days.  It is wonderful to see a film that celebrates family in such a loving way.

Bonus features include deleted scenes, ‘real life’ outtakes, the making of the movie, the normal audio commentary with the Writer/Director Peter Hedges, and my favorite, a section on how the composer made the score. The Director wanted the music to be a character and he found a young, talented, and cute Norwegian musician called Sondre Lerch, who used his acoustic guitar to create some “handmade music”.  The music is a nice backdrop for the sad, vulnerable, yet hopeful Dan as he rediscovers what it means to love.  The music in this film is excellent and it is nice to have a section paying tribute to the fantastic composer.

7 out of 10 binkies

Isabella Lucero is a writer, mother, cook, and gardener living in Tucson, Arizona.

Tuesday
Feb192008

SOUL FOOD, THE SERIES/3RD SEASON

soul%20food.jpegReviewed by Cricket Nelson Hater

Starring:
Nicole Ari Parker
Malinda Williams
Vanessa Williams
Aaron Meeks
Rockmond Dunbar
Darrin Dewitt Henson
Boris Kodjoe

They are beautiful. They are smart. They are sisters. The television series Soul Food, grew out of the very popular big screen hit of the same name. The third season DVD collection is the continuation of the family dynamics and drama of the Joseph sisters. The characters perfectly depict the birth order roles of driven eldest sister, Terri, level-headed middle child Maxine and free spirit youngest “Bird”. These women also have incredibly handsome husbands, who bring a lot of the drama to the show because of their rebellious pasts or controversial behavior.

In this collection of episodes, we see testing and rebuilding in all the marriages. Terri reconnects with Damon. (By the way- those two are married in real life!) In addition, Maxine and Kenny, who are previously separated renew their vows in a beautiful ceremony in the episode “Let‘s Do It Again“. This episode is especially meaningful with added narration from the character of Ahmad, Maxine and Kenny’s son. Bird faces an unexpected relationship in the episode “Attracting Opposites“. “ Falling from grace” wraps up the set as Terri and Damon move towards marriage but face a roadblock when a child temporarily placed in their care is given back to his natural mother.

The best thing about Soul Food is how invested you get in the lives of this family. You really begin to care about whether they stay together, where they work and what their futures hold. Another added bonus to the series that isn’t left out in this collection are the guest stars. Throughout these episodes artists like Ludacris, Usher , Star Jones, Kimberly Elise and Faye Dunaway add their clout to this already credible ensemble.

It is definitely a DVD set you want to save until after hours. There is quite a bit of graphic sex, bad language and nudity. Overall, this series reel you in and you feel like you are sitting around the Sunday dinner table with Terri, Maxine and Bird!

8 out of 10 binkies.

Cricket Hater works part-time at a non-profit that helps women go back to work, serves at church, loves movies and decorating her new house . She lives in Louisville, KY with her husband and son.

Tuesday
Feb052008

THE BEST OF COMEDY CENTRAL PRESENTS UNCENSORED

south%20park.jpegRating: US Not Rated
Studio: Comedy Central
Run Time: Approx: 160 minutes
Release Date: February 5, 2006
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99

Reviewed by:  Mary Anne O’Connell

Featured Comedians: Lewis Black, Dane Cook, Jeff Dunham, Jim Gaffigan, Mitch Hedberg, Demetri Martin, Carlos Mencia and Brian Regan

The Best of Comedy Central Presents Uncensored
contains eight different comedians performing their stand-up acts.  Each show runs 20-minutes (when originally aired, each show was 30 minutes due to commercials).  Comedians on this DVD are listed above.  

Our family loves stand-up comedy and we always look forward to “Comedy Central Presents” to see what comedian will be on.  Over the years we have picked our favorites and even gone to see them several times when they perform at the Improv in Irvine.  Because the majority of the acts on this DVD are quite old, (1999 to 2003), we have already taped them for our own personal library. Also, a few of the acts on this DVD can be found on previously released DVD’s by each comedian.  But it is nice to have them all on one DVD.

A couple of the comedians in this DVD are worth special mention. Our favorite by far is Brian Regan. We have been a fan of his since Day One!! He is so funny -- especially is old stuff (which is on this DVD).  I don’t think a day goes by in our house that we don’t use one of his lines!  His bits range from how to make Pop-Tarts to waking up on the day of the science fair realizing you didn’t do a project – so you put dirt in a cup!  I can go on and on about Brian but one point I want to mention about him is that he does not need to be “uncensored” because his act is completely clean and family friendly!!

On the other end of the spectrum is Dane Cook.  In this 2000 performance he is just all over the place. He looks really young (compared to his appearance in the movie “Employee of the Month), sports spiky hair, a black wife-beater T-shirt and feels the need to scream and bounce around the stage desperate for a laugh!  He does have a funny routine about going to Mass on Sunday and his experience working at a Burger King drive-through, but that is it!

Another worthy mention goes to Jim Gaffigan.  We discovered Jim about a year ago and, man, is he funny!  Here again, is an old performance (2000) but a classic.  He is a pale-skinned funny man from the Midwest who’s routine includes bits about Catholicism, manatees and birthday cakes!

Lewis Black’s rant is from 2002.  He has an angry stage persona but that’s part of his schtick.  His routines are usually politically based, right-on, and funny. I love his comparison of Christmas to Chanukah! He also appears frequently on The John Stewart Show.  

The remaining comedians I will comment on briefly:  
Carlos Mencia – is a funny, racially-based comedian who has is own show on Comedy Central “Mind of Mencia.”  

Jeff Dunham -  comedian/ventriloquist.  Has a couple cute puppets/characters, but our family never got into him.

Demetri Martin -  a slow, one-liner comedian (reminds me of Steven Wright), plays the piano and uses a sketchpad to get jokes.

Mitch Hedberg – Deceased.  This is one of his old performances from 1999. His long-hair always in his face, dark sunglasses and deadpan delivery of jokes and one-liners… never quite got!  

The choice of acts on this DVD is quite interesting, how they came up with them I don’t know.  I would recommend that routines by comedians be organized by year of performance.  This way consumers could have the option of buying a performers old stuff or new stuff.  

Extras:  There are four quick-clips of South Park, Lil’ Bush, The Colbert Report, and  The Sarah Silverman Program and a couple trailers.

I give it 7 out of 10 binkies.

Mary Anne O’Connell is a mom and part-time nurse.  She lives in California with her husband, two children, one pug dog, one love bird, one cat, one hamster, and four snakes.



Sunday
Jan202008

LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY: THE THIRD SEASON

laverne%20%20shirley.jpegStarring:
Penny Marshal
Cindy Williams
Michael McKean
David Lander

Amazon $34.99

Reviewed by Cricket Hater

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 .Schlemiel! Schlemazl…You hear those words and you know what’s coming. Two friends running down the street, elbow to elbow. It’s like getting a call from an old friend. That’s how I felt while watching this DVD set. All 24 episodes of the third season are as funny now as I remember thinking they were “back then."

As a matter of fact, I think they may seem more funny now that I am grown up and understand some of the jokes. Not to say it is crude or inappropriate, but like a good family comedy there are things for viewers of all ages to laugh at.

Laverne and Shirley, for those who didn’t grow up in the ‘70’s, is a sitcom revolving around the lives of roommates Laverne De Fazio and Shirley Feeney. Originally a spin-off of the popular Happy Days, it didn’t take long for Laverne and Shirley to stand on it’s own as a genuine hit! The main characters are co-workers at a local brewery, ”Hasenpfeffer Incorporated“. Each episode finds the girls in a different situation involving either their annoying neighbors, Lenny and Squiggy, Shirley’s boyfriend Carmine (what a cutie!) or Laverne’s family, Dad Frank and step-mom Edna. Not to mention a variety of guest stars who add to the fun!

This set of the third season does not disappoint to highlight all the reasons I loved this show. In the episode, “Tag Team Wrestling“, the girls find themselves in the ring against two female wrestlers and it is the perfect chance to show off the physical comedy this show made look so effortless. Dressed up as ballerinas, complete with pink tutu’s, it is nothing less than hilarious!

What I liked the most about getting reacquainted with the gang from Milwaukee was I didn’t feel embarrassed to watch it with my son, I didn’t blush at single joke and I actually laughed, out-loud. I would say this sitcom is part of a foundation that all new sitcoms should aim to be built on. That said, I can see why so many shows today can’t measure up. It was pure magic! (Or maybe I am just nostalgic!)

The only down-side to this DVD set are no backstage glances. No blooper or cast interviews. But that is really a minor thing compared to how much fun the rest of it was to watch! Get the family! Get the popcorn! Time has done nothing to weaken the humor. That's why it is a classic!!!

10 out of 10 binkies

Sunday
Jan132008

EAGLE VS SHARK

image004-1.jpgDirected & Written By Taika Waititi
Starring Loren Horsley, Jemaine Clement, Brian Sergent, Rachel House, Joel Tobeck
Produced by Emanuel Michael, Ainsley Gardiner, Cliff Curtis
MIRAMAX FILMS
$20.99 at Amazon

Reviewed By Meenu Gupta

I thought that this movie would be a familiar romantic comedy, but it soon got a hold of me.The movie is about two socially awkward misfits, Lily a fast food waitress and Jarrod a video-game clerk.The title derives from the animal-costume party, which Jarrod hosts as an eagle and Lily dresses as a lonely shark. Jarrod is obsessed with taking revenge on his high-school enemy Eric Elisi but loses again. Ashamed, he tries to escape but Lily accepts him as he is. Love is not judgemental like our perfection-seeking society.

It is a must see because of this message of acceptance and compassion that Lily conveys. A serious message packed in a comic style with a New Zealand accent makes the movie different. The comic scene I liked best was when Jarrod leaves a telephone message for his adversary saying,"Justice awaits him" but the message is taken as "Justin awaits him."

Movie is Rated R for language and brief violence, hence it is not suitable for kids.

Bonus features comprise of deleted scenes, bloopers with commentary by director Taika Waititi. There is the music video of the song "Going Fishing." Set Up includes audio options in Spanish besides English. Subtitles are provided in English, Spanish and French.

Enjoy the movie widescreen or with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, you won't regret watching this entertainer.


7 out of 10 binkies

Meenu Gupta is a reader, contributor and member of Mothering Heights . Her other works can be found at Indian Currents.