Archive for May, 2009

Most of us have seen the Die Hard-like movies in which an ordinary cop finds himself in a dangerous situation requiring extraordinary heroism. But what if the expected hero is an overweight mall security guard?

Paul Blart (Kevin James) has failed all attempts to join the city’s police force because he has hypoglycemia, which causes him to pass out at any given time. So instead he’s settled for a job as a mall cop, which he takes very seriously. He’s also a very committed single father but his daughter is ready to share him with another woman. Coincidentally, Amy (Jayma Mays) has just started working at the mall. After sabotaging several attempts to get to know her better, Paul gets his chance – she’s taken hostage during a robbery and he’s going to rescue her. The thieves, who have taken their names from Santa’s reindeer, are skilfully travelling through the mall to steal debit card numbers.

Mall Cop is somewhat of a situational comedy in which all the things you’d expect to happen do; this combined with the trailer did not leave a lot to discover. Most of the non-physical comedy is related to Paul’s weight but avoids being cruel. Additionally, Paul forms a strange relationship over a bedazzled pink cell phone with Pahud (Adhir Kalyan), a young woman’s heartbroken boyfriend. In the end, everything works out for the “average Joe.”

Filmmakers make an interesting attempt to distinguish its film from others by using action sport athletes as the robbers. Skateboarders, BMX riders and free runners perform various tricks while implementing their plan and trying to dispose of Paul. This addition makes for an entertaining aspect of the story.

The special features include audio commentary by James, who also co-wrote the narrative, and producer Todd Garner, which plays like a conversation between the two. There are 10 deleted scenes, including a little boy Paul makes uncomfortable when he won’t hug him, a couple more fun exchanges with Pahud, and an explanation of roles in the robbery by Veck (Keir O’Donnell). In addition, there are 10 featurettes that run approximately five minutes each; most of these are about the X-gamers and free runners, including a few videos shot by BMX-er Mike Escamilla. The BD Live feature is CineChat, in which people can talk on-screen with each other during the movie via a messenger-like chat program.

Television has brought us a lot of bad vampire-based shows – but HBO isn’t regular television.

In the world of True Blood, vampires revealed themselves two years ago and a drop of their blood is an unmatchable high for humans. The narrative follows Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a 173-year-old vampire that recently returned to Bon Temps, the small town of his birth, and Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a waitress that can hear people’s thoughts. However, Sookie is drawn to Bill not only because of his nature but because she can let her guard down around him because she can’t hear what Bill is thinking. In the meantime, someone is murdering women that have had sex with vampires, a.k.a. “fangbangers,” and Sookie is next on the list even though her brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is the prime suspect.

The vampires are a mix of peaceful, gothic romantics and viciousness fuelled by a superior entitlement. Bill usually represents the former, but is not immune to exhibiting the latter. One of the interesting aspects of True Blood is the other characters get roughly equal screen time. We know almost as much about Bill and Sookie as we do about Jason, Sookie’s boss Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), and her best friend Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley). Not putting the primary focus on the star-crossed lovers allows for several different story arcs and developments.

Another element that keeps viewers coming back every week is each episode ends with an intense cliff hanger, which is usually reserved for a TV series’ season finale. The series instantly transforms viewers into loyal fans because it seamlessly draws you into its world so you must know what happens next.

Each episode has the option of enhanced viewing. If turned on, windows pop up in the corners of the screen during the episode revealing hints to the characters’ development, helpful facts, the origins of individual vampires and animated maps of Bon Temps. It also allows the viewer to break off from the show to watch a vampire documentary, commercials for synthetic blood, and vampire rights public service announcements. The best element of this feature is Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis), Tara’s amusing gay cousin that knows a little about everybody and isn’t shy about sharing. There are also six audio commentaries with the cast and crew, including Paquin, Moyer and creator Alan Ball, who persistently and somewhat maddeningly points to future plot points without actually revealing anything.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Danny Glover, Geena Davis – these are the names of actors that went on bloody missions of vengeance to regain their children. Now Liam Neeson can count himself amongst them.

Bryan Mills (Neeson) is a government spy; but having missed most of his daughter Kim’s (Maggie Grace) childhood, he’s given up the life of espionage for a “normal” version that allows him to spend time with her. Instead, Kim goes to Paris where she’s kidnapped by a human trafficking ring for prostitution. Mills immediately goes into special agent mode and sets out to get back his daughter by any means necessary.

What makes Taken standout from Commando or Missing in Action III is Neeson. He’s not your typical action star, but he gets very dirty in this film. His cold, calculated attitude towards murder, coercion and prostitution is entrancing; yet he appears so mild-mannered it’s also unsettling. One of the best moments of the film is Mills’ one-sided conversation with one of the kidnappers, in which he informs them of his intentions: “I will find you and I will kill you.”

Mills is in control of all of the battles. There is never a moment when one thinks he may fail. The fight sequences are relatively bloodless, which does not at all detract from the intensity of the violence.

The special features include two commentaries, one with director Pierre Morel and cinematographer Michel Abramowicz (with subtitles) about decisions made while shooting; and the other is writer Luc Besson, who focuses mostly on character development. There’s also a making of documentary aptly titled “Le Making-of” featurette as it is in French; side-by-side comparisons of six finished scenes with its on-set counterpart; and footage from the premiere of the film. By far, the coolest feature is the Black Ops Field Manual, which displays picture-in-picture geographical locators, anatomical information, relevant facts and a self updating mission dashboard that tracks distance travelled, time remaining and the number Bryan’s killed and injured. A second disc holds a digital copy of the film.

After years of The Simpsons‘ Homer existing unchallenged in his foolhardiness, Seth MacFarlane arrived on the scene. First he brought us Peter Griffin, then Stan Smith. Now Stan’s fourth season escapades are permanently captured on DVD.

Stan is a CIA agent that’s relatively good at his job despite never actually killing anyone. His wife Francine is a former party girl that epitomizes the empty-headed blonde stereotype. Their children are Haley, a rebellious, tree-hugging teen, and Steve, a leader among nerds. In addition, there’s Klaus, a German spy imprisoned in the body of a goldfish, and Roger, an alien with a love of disguises and alcohol.

The first episode of the season was an impressive Bond spoof, featuring a scantily clad Sexpun T’Come (a.k.a. Francine), a human Klaus and Stan as himself. Tearjerker (a.k.a. Roger) plans to make the world’s population cry itself to death. The story was unique and an innovation for the series; not to mention it was explosively funny. Other episodes include “Red October Sky,” in which Stan fears Steve is being turned into a Communist by a former KGB agent; “Spring Break-up,” in which Roger becomes the king of spring break and Stan falls for a sexy co-ed; and “Escape from Pearl Bailey,” a plot driven by Steve in which the rest of the family appears once briefly.

Every episode is accompanied by commentary by the directors, animators, voice talent and producers in which they discuss story decisions, character animation and development, mistakes and solutions, and voice decisions. In addition, there are numerous deleted scenes from various episodes and four featurettes, including a table read with the entire voice cast at Comic-Con 2008.

If you ever thought Family Guy or American Dad were inappropriate, this is not the DVD for you.

It’s dirty; it’s funny; and it’s uncensored. The creator of the previously mentioned primetime cartoons has gone farther than he’s ever gone before. MacFarlane releases non-stop hilarity with 50 shorts parodying all manner of pop culture, including Super Mario, Jesus Christ, Jeff Goldblum, Ted Nugent and Quentin Tarantino.

Some of the animated shorts, voiced by MacFarlane and an extensive list of guest voices, originally aired on YouTube and Now, the raw, inappropriate, laugh-out-loud episodes too outrageous for television are packed into a single DVD. See a circumcision performed with a Hattori Hanzo sword; a series of odd characters having sex; an ungrateful Princess Toadstool; a conversation between Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Popeye; a sheep that enjoys his sheering a little too much; the list goes on.

The special features include footage from the red carpet premiere of the DVD, featuring interviews with many of the voice talent including MacFarlane and Seth Green, and three still galleries that inadvertently highlight the similarities between the characters’ appearances.

If within 24 hours you missed your plane, were fired from your job and your daughter told you she wants her step father to give her away at her wedding instead of you, what would you do with the next 24 hours?

Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) is a jingle composer in denial of the technological dominance of his industry. Determined to retain his position, he flies to London for his daughter’s wedding, planning to leave directly after the ceremony to return for a meeting. When he fails to make it back in time, he’s fired. While sulking, Harvey runs into Kate Walker (Emma Thompson) – a part-time student and airport employee with a mother obsessed with her overdue singleness. As Harvey aggressively pursues her, she finds it difficult to resist his charm.

Hoffman is well-suited to the dejected, charismatic lost character. He has “depressed man” down pat but can also be successfully charming. Thompson is effectively warm but somewhat skeptical. Her fear of being hurt by a relationship is always hovering under the surface of her responses and choices.

The tale is incredibly sweet and heart-warming. It’s a love story about two people that have given up on finding that special someone, feeling that their time has passed. When they cross paths, Kate finds it especially difficult to believe she could be in love after all this time. Meanwhile, Harvey is unwilling to lose it now that he’s found it.

The special features are a 16-minute featurette about the making of Last Chance Harvey, in which Hoffman and Thompson confess to portraying the characters as close to their real-life selves as possible, and an audio commentary with Hoffman, Thompson and writer/director Joel Hopkins.

Chinese martial arts films and Indian Bollywood films are often big productions with considerable built-in audiences. So does combining the two Asian styles create a super-movie?

Sidhu (Akshay Kumar) dreams of escaping his tedious life as a vegetable cutter at a roadside food stand in Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Delhi, India. When two men from China appear on his doorstep to inform Sidhu he is the reincarnation of a Chinese war hero, Sidhu sees a way out as well as fame and fortune. While travelling with the men to China, Sidhu falls in love with the captivating Sakhi (Deepika Padukone). But his true test comes when he must survive his fated battle Hojo (Gordon Liu), a vicious smuggler.

By incorporating a neighbouring country’s narrative style, India finds a way of showcasing its own martial arts talent. While the story unfolds in India, it loosely follows the Bollywood template; there’s some singing and the start of a love story. But once the plane lands in China, the singing stops and the classic battle of good versus evil begins.

Rather than embark on a serious journey of self-discovery and honourable battle, Chandni Chowk to China is more of a humorous romp in traditionally serious territory. Think razor-equipped bowler hat and ”wax on, wax off” with a rolling pin.

The special features consist of eight additional scenes, which audiences can really do without – especially with a feature running time of two-and-a-half hours.