"SCRUBS: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON"


        MOVIE: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Zach Braff as DR. JOHN “J.D.” DORIAN
    Sarah Chalke as DR. ELLIOT REID
    Donald Faison as DR. CHRIS TURK
    Ken Jenkins as DR. BOB KELSO
    John C. McGinley as DR. PERRY COX
    Judy Reyes as CARLA ESPINOSA

    Rated TV-14
    Studio: Touchstone Television

    Created by: Bill Lawrence

It is said that there are certain signs that a show has jumped the shark. For example, if a new character is introduced (particularly if it is played by Ted McGinley), that’s a warning sign. Other warning signs include characters getting married or having babies. Fortunately for shows like “Scrubs,” the characters having babies didn’t kill it.

Season six of the hit surreal doctor’s show opens with Turk (Donald Faison) and Carla (Judy Reyes) having a baby. Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and his cantankerous wife Jordan (Christa Miller) are also ready to pop with their second child. And to make matters tenuous, J.D. (Zach Braff) has knocked up his doctor girlfriend Kim (Elizabeth Banks).

It’s baby fever through about half of the season, which can be truly appreciated by parents who watch the show. If you don’t have kids, it is still funny, but the jokes about having a baby, raising a baby and awaiting a baby are abound.

Ultimately, in its sixth season, “Scrubs” hasn’t jumped the shark and has remained fresh. It’s still a good enough show that when you hear Bill Lawrence announce in the special Easter egg hidden in the bonus features menu that the seventh season will be the last one, you can’t help but feel sad.

“Scrubs” has weathered a tough run, dancing a little too close to the dramatic side in the mid seasons and bouncing back to its surreal wackiness by the end of its run. The characters and stories haven’t lost their edge in this season, and the show continues to differentiate itself from the soap opera prime time dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy.” There are still tender episodes showing real emotions, like when Kim fakes a miscarriage. And there’s also episodes that highlight the unique creativity that “Scrubs” has always had, like the Broadway-style musical episode.

Part of what keeps “Scrubs” fresh is its generous ability to let the secondary and tertiary characters grow. Where some shows would abandon the bizarre supporting roles, “Scrubs” lets Sam Lloyd shine as the nervous lawyer.

The season six DVD set comes with an impressive number of special features for such a late season, considering most shows burn out of their extras by season three. There’s a making-of featurette for the musical episode, a spotlight on Judy Reyes, deleted scenes, alternate improv lines, audio commentaries and outtakes. The only sore spot is too much emphasis on the musical episode with an additional featurette that shows producer Debra Fordham gushing over Broadway star Stephanie D’Abruzzo.

"BELIEVERS"


        MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Johnny Messner as DAVID VAUGHN
    Jon Huertas as VICTOR
    Deanna Russo as REBECCA
    Saige Ryan Campbell as LIBBY
    Daniel Benzali as THE TEACHER

    Unrated
    Studio: Raw Feed

    Directed by: Daniel Myrick

    Own it on DVD October 16

    Check out the Believers official site

    Buy the DVD here.

It’s hard to come back from a hit, especially if its the first thing you’ve done in the mainstream. Almost ten years ago, Daniel Myrick, along with filmmaking partner Eduardo Sanchez, directed the eerie horror flick “The Blair Witch Project.” While this was a monumental feat in independent filmmaking, it put Myrick and Sanchez behind the eight ball with anticipation for what’s next.

Now, Myrick has struck out on his own to direct the thriller “Believers,” available from Raw Feed. The film follows a more traditional story, with two paramedics that get kidnapped by a doomsday cult when they respond to a 911 call. They are kept in cells, wondering their fate, as the cult prepares for the end of the world, which is coming in a matter of hours.

Part of what makes “Believers” work to a degree is Myrick’s ability to draw a realistic feel to his films. The high points come with the fly-on-the-wall observations of this cult. Unfortunately, the writing isn’t as strong, as might be expected for someone with such a high-profile history in improvised filmmaking. The conflict and struggles of the main characters devolve into cliche swearing at their captors.

However, there are elements to “Believers” that are downright creepy and disturbing. The scenes don’t deliver on the taboos as you might expect from a touted unrated release, but it doesn’t feel like too much is left out. Ultimately, the weak dialogue and familiar plot is tempered by a unique approach to the story.

The DVD comes with several special features, including commentary by Myrick and writer Julia Fair, an extended in-character interview segment with a cult leader, plus several behind-the-scenes videos presented in a hidden camera or forensic evidence style.

"HOME OF THE BRAVE"


        MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Samuel L. Jackson as WILL MARSH
    Jessica Biel as VANESSA PRICE
    Brian Presley as TOMMY YATES
    Christina Ricci as SARAH SCHIVINO
    Curtis Jackson as JAMAL AIKEN
    Chad Michael Murray as JORDAN OWENS

    Rated R
    Studio: MGM
    Directed by: Irwin Winkler
I originally had a chance to see “Home of the Brave” when it was dropped unceremoniously in the theatres during last year’s award season. Due to scheduling conflicts, I missed the screening, but I did feel a twinge of simultaneous regret and relief when I heard the awful reviews coming from my fellow local film critics. I was grateful because I didn’t feel like I missed a possible award contender, but I also felt relief because from what I heard, it wasn’t that great of a film.

Now I’ve seen it on DVD, and I come to it with a perspective different than I had a year ago. “Home of the Brave” is one of the first anti-war films launched by Hollywood. Now, we’re inundated with them. After suffering through the mind-numbingly boring “In the Valley of Elah” and the strawman preachiness of “Rendition” (both horrendous box office flops), I was numb to the message of “Home of the Brave.”

Contrary to what the posters and trailers might lead you to believe, “Home of the Brave” is not about the conflict. It is about the aftermath. Several soldiers are ambushed in Iraq, leaving them all emotionally scarred. The combat scenes only constitute the opening ten minutes of the film with the rest of the story showing the veterans’ struggles as they return to civilian life.

I don’t doubt that these are real struggles felt by our veterans of this war, but they are presented with such a heavy hand in “Home of the Brave,” it’s hard to take them seriously. While the film tries to be sensitive to the people’s plight, it does itself (and the soldiers) a disservice by presenting them as brittle, emotionally fragile victims.

Director Irvin Winkler has given us some decent films in the past, but its clear that the message he is trying to lobby in this film overshadowed his writing ability. This is illustrated with prejudice in once scene where Jessica Biel’s character and Brian Presley’s character meet in a movie theater to lament the war with every overblown cliche.

I don’t doubt the good nature Winkler had in making this film, but it appears to come with a complete ignorance of the everyday soldier’s attitude, training and resilience. Ultimately, these anti-war films are bombing (no pun intended), and I don’t even blame politics for this. The bottom line is that there is so much talk of the war permeating every nook and cranny of 24-hour cable news, the daily rags and the internet that I think the last thing the American people want is a weepy two-hour diatribe in the cineplex as well.

“Home of the Brave” comes with a commentary track and the original trailer.

"THE INVISIBLE"


        MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Justin Chatwin as NICK POWELL
    Margarita Levieva as ANNIE NEWTON
    Marcia Gay Harden as DIANE POWELL
    Chris Marquette as PETE
    Alex O’Loughlin as MARCUS BOHEM
    Callum Keith Rennie as BRIAN LARSON

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Hollywood Pictures
    Directed by: David S. Goyer

When “The Invisible” came out in the theatres earlier this year, it proved several things. First, it proved that by and large, when a studio doesn’t screen a film for the critics, it’s probably not that good. It also proved that David S. Goyer may be one of the better screenwriters in Hollywood, but he’s by far not one of the better directors.

“The Invisible” tells the story of a high school student named Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin) who is beaten up and left for dead. While his body lay dying in an undisclosed location, his spirit walks the earth. Soon he discovers he only has a limited time to solve his attempted murder and save his body from death.

Yes, it’s a great premise, but the execution was very weak. The core of the problem comes from the characters. As a hero, Nick is a bit of a creep. He doesn’t respect his mother, he makes his money by writing term papers for kids at school and his choice of friends is woefully pathetic. There is some sympathy attempted on his would-be murder (Margarita Levieva), but she is a real creep as well.

Where Goyer fails as a director, is he obsesses about the angst and problems in his characters’ lives, so much that he makes them undesirable. The film retains the dark and brooding quality you might expect from the original Swedish film, but it’s handled with about as much American sensitivity as a Nascar race.

The DVD comes with 13 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary, two music videos and two commentary tracks by Goyer and the writers.

"THE HOAX"


        MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING:
    Richard Gere as CLIFFORD IRVING
    Alfred Molina as DICK SUSKIND
    Hope Davis as ANDREA TATE
    Marcia Gay Harden as EDITH IRVING
    Stanley Tucci as SHELTON FISHER
    Julie Delpy as NINA VAN PALLANDT
    Eli Wallach as NOAH DIETRICH

    Rated R
    Studio: Miramax

    Directed by: Lasse Hallström

What struck me most about the DVD release of “The Hoax” was not the real Clifford Irving’s gumption or brilliance in orchestrating one of the biggest publishing hoaxes of the century. Instead, what struck me was what a gullible dumbass Mike Wallace is.

The film stars Richard Gere as Irving, a nobody writer who pretends to be writing the biography of Howard Hughes. Sure, this doesn’t mean a lot to us in today’s world. In fact, most of the movie-going audience doesn’t even know who Howard Hughes is, except as the guy from the Martin Scorsese picture a few years back. But this was a big deal in the 1970s. So much so that Irving scored a multimillion dollar deal with some of the biggest names in publishing.

Directed by Lasse Hallström, whose films I generally find decent but never stellar, “The Hoax” is an interesting study into the lengths people will go to for fame and fortune – and how they can dig themselves deeper and deeper in a hole. The acting is pretty solid with both Gere and Alfred Molina carrying the film. Marcia Gay Harden is only so-so as Irving’s wife, but fortunately, she’s not in much of the film.

At times the film becomes more about Richard Gere and his Oscar grab than about the story, and it breaks down a bit when we get too much into the personal lives of the characters. But the bait-and-switch moments as Irving plays the media are the highlights.

The bonus features include deleted scenes with commentary and two feature commentary tracks. But the real interesting features are the ones that focus on Mike Wallace. There’s a retrospective featurette about the real Clifford Irving, which features Wallace, but the real gem is the extended interview with Wallace himself. On one hand, Wallace puts himself up as a hard-core journalist, but at the same time he excuses the fact he was duped by basically saying that everyone was duped. These features don’t just reveal what a charlatan Irving was, but also how lazy our so-called investigative journalists were, even 35 years ago.

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