This column has become ridiculously late, so apologies all around and a promise that we’re getting back on track.
Lots more coming this week!
Director Todd Philips remakes Planes, Trains and Automobiles with neither acknowledging the source nor providing the touching back story that made that film so memorable. In the film, Robert Downey Jr.’s Peter Highman is racing home to meet his wife, Sarah (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang co-star Michelle Monaghan) and winds up in the center of a series of unrealistic antics and hijinks thanks to man-child Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galafanakis), who is headed west to become an actor. Along the way Tremblay wants to spread his late father’s ashes, which lends the film it’s several minutes of genuine emotion. Jamie Foxx appears in an extended cameo as an old friend of Downey’s who may or may not be having an affair with Sarah (a cliche subplot as is that is handled sloppily and altogether forgotten).
As a fan of Philips’ work, I found Due Date to be his weakest, in no small part to the lack of attention and detail within the characters of Peter and Ethan. Downey spends the majority of the film acting frustrated, but almost seemingly angry having decided to be in the film. Galafanakis, has no character beyond his quirks and Philips lets the comedian just do what he want with mixed results. The DVD’s lone feature is a gag real and the the Blu-ray/DVD Combo release will include that, additional scenes, a complete Two and a Half Men scene featuring Ethan Tremblay, and two Mash-Ups. Due Date is flawed, emotionally vacant, and worse, not funny.
Warner Archive / Released February 15, 2011
This gem from the Warner Archive isn’t quite a screwball comedy, but it isn’t quite a drama either. Set at an exclusive girl’s school, Virginia Radcliffe (Frances Dee) is the naive rich girl who learns that appearances are quite deceiving. Behind the closed doors of the proper institution, the girls drink, smoke, and sneak off into New York City. There, Virginia meets and falls for Ralph McFarland (Bruce Cabot) a struggling waiter/med student. The school and it’s headmistress Beulah Bondi worry only about the appearance and legacy of it’s reputation rather than the needs of it’s students. Dee is mesmerizing and Ginger Rogers is adorable and charming as her roommate, Pony. John Halliday is also memorable in his brief role as Virginia’s father and Billie Burke clucks it up as his social status driven wife. No extras on this release. Recommended.
Warner Archive / Released February 15, 2011
An effeminate shark leads a rock band can only indicate the mindset of 1976 in this collaboration from Hanna Barbera and Ruby Spears. Borrowing heavily from both plot lines (Josie and the Pussycats) and character types (Scooby Doo), Jabberjaw is truly an amalgam of seventies animation and despite the fact that it aged like (pardon the pun) fish, I watched the entire series with a smile plastered across my mug. Nevertheless, Jabberjaw held up remarkably well and is well worth your time and purchase. No extras, but who cares? It’s a shark in a band! They call him Jabber-Jabber-Jabber-Jabber-Jabber-Jabber-Jabber-Jaw!
Brass Brancroft of the Secret Service Mysteries Collection
Warner Archive / Released October 19, 2010
A four movie collection of near forgotten pulp adventures starring Ronald Regan as Brancroft. Included are the films: Secret Service of the Air, Code of the Secret Service, Smashing the Money Ring and Murder in the Air. Reagan is pretty solid as a B movie patriotic action hero, charismatic and believable. The plots are fairly forgettable, but they were designed to be, with each film running approximately an hour or so, but extremely entertaining. In these adventures, Brick battles human traffickers, counterfeiters and spies with fisticuffs, gadgets and with a sense of humor and a bit of camp. Reagan takes the part seriously, but there’s a twinkle in his eye that reveals that he’s having a great time. No extras, but the presentation is pretty solid considering the age of the material. Highly recommended.
Paramount / Released February 25, 2011
I’m a bit curious what kind of committee put this together. Uninspired, unimaginative and worse of all, a bit racist (bear with me), Megamind is not only a mess of a film, but a pale comparison to both the comic books that it rips off and the films (Superman:The Movie, The Incredibles) that it pays “homage” to. Using the Superman archetype as inspiration, Metro Man is rocketed to Earth and leads a blissful life, a heroic inspiration to all, while the parallel character, Megamind, is also rocketed to Earth and is ostracized primarily for the color of his (blue) skin, spiralling him into a lifetime of evil. After he accidentally kills (or does he?) Megamind, he assumes the identity of a Caucasian man (using an image projecting gadget) and finds happiness and true love.
No better message for the kids than, “if you’re anything but white, you’re evil”. Now, I’m well aware that I might be reading a bit too much from this, but I can’t imagine that it’s a positive message. The design work and voices are dull, with Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, David Cross and Jonah Hill phoning it in. Also strange is it’s choice of music which includes “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood & the Destroyers, a remix of Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation”, Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You”, “Highway to Hell” and “Back in Black” by AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”, and “Welcome to the Jungle” from Guns ‘N Roses. You know, kid’s favorites.
DVD extras include commentary, featurettes, a new short, Megamind: The Button of Doom, a video comic book, and DVD-ROM material. Megamind is not only dull, but also derivative. Skip it.