DIVISION III: FOOTBALL’S FINEST
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
I’m not a football fan, but I do like myself a raunchy comedy now and then. So I was a bit intrigued when I saw the announcement for “Division III: Football’s Finest.” The story follows a minor college with a division III football rating as they try to built up their team and become champions. This is accomplished by hiring a legendary and infamous has-been coach with serious mental and physical problems.
WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?
Andy Dick is the star of the film, playing the coach and looking alarmingly old in the process. But this doesn’t stop Dick from doing whatever he can to get a laugh, even if it’s terribly embarrassing and doesn’t end up getting one. But rest assured, Dick fans, you’ll see plenty of his in this raunchy college comedy... if you’re into those kinds of things.
Ever since “Animal House” and other seminal college comedies became huge moneymakers, filmmakers large and small have tried to cash in on the same thing. You’ll notice some jokes from better films like “Revenge of the Nerds” thrown in, but I will give the filmmakers credit that there’s some original content in the movie.
How much you’ll like this movie directly depends on how much you like Andy Dick. If you’d go to one of his stand-up shows, facing the danger of being groped or urinated on, you’ll probably enjoy this. He is the only thing that gets any laughs in the film, after all.
But the rest of the film is shaky at best. It doesn’t help that writer/director Marshall Cook cast himself as the lead quarterback. I understand the need to do this sometimes for an independent film because some actors cannot be reliable or controllable. However, there’s at least a part of this production that hints at this decision giving him a chance to lock lips with the pretty but pointless love interest, played by Alison Haislip.
Everyone else in the cast is almost entirely forgettable, with a few exceptions of comedy cameos by people like Adam Carolla, Will Sasso and Debra Wilson.
There’s really nothing terribly offensive about “Division III: Football’s Finest,” and that plays against it, actually. But it’s at least one of the more coherent things that Andy Dick has done in recent years.
The Blu-ray includes and audio commentary by Dick and Cook, as well as a slew of outtakes and deleted scenes.
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Every now and then, a movie comes out that really isn’t that good, but the stars are so charming that it raises the quality of the production to a likeable level. This is exactly what happens with “What’s Your Number?”
The story follows a woman (Anna Faris) living in Boston who just can’t seem to find Mr. Right. She reads in a magazine that if the number of men she’s slept with reaches twenty, it will become impossible for her to find a husband. Realizing that her number is at the limit, she starts to track down all of her ex-boyfriends in an attempt to rekindle a relationship. Along for the ride is her womanizing next door neighbor (Chris Evans), who uses his detective skills to find her exes while she helps him hide from women leaving his apartment the morning after his one night stands.
“What’s Your Number?” is a very basic romantic comedy, only with a lot of profanity and sex talk thrown in to make itself relevant and edgy in today’s marketplace. This has been a go-to position for some rom-coms since movies like “Knocked Up,” “Friends with Benefits” and “Bridesmaids” have blown up at the box office. Sometimes such movies are godawful (like “The Ugly Truth”), and sometimes they work. Here, it works, but not because of the writing, story or characters.
“What’s Your Number?” rests mostly on the adorable shoulders of Anna Faris, who is just so darn cute in her performance that I tended to forget all the movies foibles (of which there are many, from annoying side characters to logical and chronological inconsistencies). If Jennifer Lopez or Katherine Heigl starred in this movie, I probably would have clawed my eyes out. The appeal of the lead actress goes a long way.
Helping Faris along is Chris Evans, who is equally charming (though not quite the full focus of the story). Still, if his role had gone to Matthew McCaughnehey or Patrick Dempsey, more eye-clawing would have surely ensued.
Not all the jokes are original, including the opening scene which mirrors the opening scene of “Bridesmaids.” However, it’s still a fun movie. And the raunch factor isn’t off the charts, which can make it a decent date movie if you’re in a pinch.
The Blu-ray comes with the theatrical cut and the extended cut, which adds several scenes that actually improve the movie’s flow and cast. There’s also a cute gag reel and a slate of deleted scenes, including some date flashbacks.
by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Call me a sucker, but I like Ryan Reynolds. Sure, the guy hasn’t had much of a hit outside of a few films, and those were either big on home video (like “Van Wilder”) or movies that made money but not because of him (like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”). I even liked him in “Green Lantern,” for which he took a critical beating.
SWITCHED AT BIRTH: VOLUME ONE
Partner Reynolds up with a veteran comic actor like Jason Bateman, and you’ve got a great cast. Together, they make “The Change-Up” work, even though not many critics or audience members agree with me on this point.
The story is your basic “Freaky Friday” set-up, where two friends wish for each other’s life. Because they did this while peeing in a magic fountain, ne’er do well ladies man Mitch (Reynolds) switches bodies with family man Dave (Bateman). They then have to deal with the hassles and challenges of each others’ lives while they track down the fountain so they can make the switch back.
“The Change-Up” is a comedy first, even though the film tries to give a tender message near the end. Of course, that’s what’s expected of most films, and I can forgive it here. The key to the film is the chemistry between Reynolds and Bateman, who work off each other but can also be very funny in their own scenes. Working with a secondary cast that includes Olivia Wilde and Leslie Mann, both men show quite a level of versatility.
At this time of year, in retrospective of 2011, many people point to films like “Bridesmaids” and “Crazy Stupid Love” as the best comedies of the summer, but I contend that “The Change-Up” is funnier. In fact, the only film it doesn’t beat in laughs from summer 2011 is “Horrible Bosses” (which also stars Bateman).
There’s very little redeeming value to “The Change-Up,” but that’s okay. There is an inherent sweetness at times, and the film doesn’t overuse its child actors for a saccharine effect. The movie is heavy on the dirty jokes, from Mitch’s constant swearing to weird fetish moments that will make quite a few people cringe.
In the end, “The Change-Up” made me laugh, and it moved at a decent pace as to not bore me. It’s not a bad rental for anyone looking for a fun movie on a Saturday night.
The Blu-ray comes with the theatrical and the unrated version of the film, which includes about five more minutes. There’s BD-Live and pocketBLU accessibility, as well as a DVD and a Digital Copy disc.
Features include deleted scenes, a gaga reel, feature commentary and some behind-the-scenes featurettes on the production.
by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)
ABC Family starts a new, popular teen drama, “Switched at Birth.” The story follows two families – a wealthy one and a single mom struggling to raise her daughter – who discover that they took home the wrong baby girl fifteen years ago. The two families learn to deal with this drama and the realization that they’ve been raising someone else’s daughter.
SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN
Like most ABC Family shows, “Switched at Birth” focuses almost too much on the premise. Similar to “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which fixates on teen sex in almost every scene, “Switched at Birth” constantly reminds you that the girls were literally switched at birth.
However, unlike many other ABC Family shows, the acting and line delivery is a little more even, especially with the adults. Of course, being made for a teenage girl audience, this show follows the ABC Family method of having every character act and react like a teenage girl, no matter what age they are. This, to me, is an indication that the cast (particularly the adult actors) are better than most other shows, and that makes it more watchable.
Both girls are fine actors. Katie Leclerc channels Rachel McAdams (to the point that it’s actually mentioned in the show) but fortunately is written into a less perfect character by the end of this volume. Similarly, Vanessa Marano lays on the sullen, dark-haired teen girl with the nasally, sarcastic quips a bit too thick. Again, by the end of the episode on these discs, she’s evened out a bit.
Basically, once the show rises above the OMG factor of the premise, things turn into a more standard teen drama.
The two-disc DVD has the first ten episodes of the series, with no special features.
by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)
I am not Chinese. Nor am I a woman. So I suppose I’m not the best judge of a film like “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.” The story does not particularly interest me, and as beautifully shot as the film is, it’s not the kind of movie I’d really ever like.
The story follows two sets of Chinese girls. one takes place centuries ago, with two “sworn sisters,” bonded together with a secret pact. They support each other through the ups and downs of their village, dealing with harrowing traditions like foot-binding and arranged marriages. The same actresses play their descendents in modern-day Shanghai, similarly bonded together but facing much more modern challenges.
Even if I didn’t know “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” was based on a best-selling book, I could have guessed it. This relationship-that-transcends-generations is exactly what you’d expect from a housewife book club selection. That’s not to say this is a bad story; it’s just not of interest beyond that fan base. But more power to you if you love these stories. In fact, if you do, get your hands on this movie fast because you’ll adore it.
One of the big challenges of “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” is in its adaptation. Director Wayne Wang chose to produce this film in multiple languages, which adds to realism but can be difficult to follow as the viewer shifts from English listening to subtitle reading. Additionally, the choice to cast the same actors for both generations can be a bit confusing. On one hand, it keeps the relationship straight. On the other hand, it left me wondering if there was a certain spiritual level that showed the girls bonded together over different times.
It’s a well shot film with beautiful cinematography, though it does feel a bit too constrained at times. But as beautiful as it was, the story and characters failed to grab me.
The Blu-ray comes with a featurette called “The Sworn Sisterhood of the Secret Fan,” which interviews the author and other filmmakers, examining Chinese traditions that serve as the basis for the story.
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