"LAKE PLACID 2"


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

    STARRING
    John Schneider as SHERIFF RILEY
    Sarah Lafleur as EMILY
    Sam McMurray as STRUTHERS
    Chad Collins as SCOTT RILEY
    Alicia Ziegler as KERRI
    Joe Holt as AHMAD

    Unrated
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

    Directed by: David Flores

In my opinion, there can never be too many giant crocodile movies. Sure, some of them aren’t that good, like last year’s “Primeval.” Others, like the original “Lake Placid,” are actually pretty good. The direct-to-video film “Lake Placid 2” is a sequel of the 1999 thriller with a healthy dose of cheese and extra crocs.

The film stars John Schneider as the sheriff of the small Maine town that a giant croc terrorized almost ten years ago. Although the town through the prehistoric beast was a thing of the past, they soon discover new attacks from a family of giant crocodiles hiding in the woods. The sheriff teams with a wildlife worker and a big game hunter to take out the beasts.

“Lake Placid 2” is far from high art. In fact, I would find it hard to call any part of it any type of art. But that doesn’t stop it from becoming a heap of fun. With a big-budget film like the original, no amount of camp is going to keep the filmmakers from taking themselves too seriously. However, in this low-rent sequel, things transpire with glorious corniness.

The characters are cardboard with random, disconnected emotions. On one hand, they’re terrified of the animals, which devour half of the cast. A minute later, they’re cracking jokes at each other. And don’t get me started on the embarrassingly bad CGI, making the crocodiles look like elements from a video game rather than a formidable opponent.

However, all of this is surprisingly forgivable considering how much fun this movie is to watch. The filmmakers understand their place in making a direct-to-video sequel. There’s no pretense whatsoever, and it revels in its own mediocrity.

This is never so apparent than in the special feature “Lake Placid 2: The Gnawed-Up Version,” which allows the viewer a 10-minute viewing of the film by fast-forwarding through everything but the nudity, violence and crocodile moments. Honestly, I wish all films came with this option.

Other special features include two behind-the-scene documentaries that feature the special effects and a spotlight on the unrated elements to the film.



"MISSIONARY MAN"


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

    STARRING
    Dolph Lundgren as RYDER
    John Enos III as JARFE
    August Schellenberg as WHITE DEER

    Rated R
    Studio: Sony Pictures

    Directed by: Dolph Lundgren

There is no doubt in my mind that Dolph Lundgren is one of the best movie badasses around. Not only did he make one hell of a smash debut as the villain in “Rocky IV,” he’s been a fun action star in lesser-known action flicks like “Universal Soldier,” “I Come in Peace,” “Red Scorpion” and “Showdown in Little Tokyo.”

While Lundgren is a solid on-screen hero, like his contemporary Sylvester Stallone, he’s also done his fair share of directing. His latest effort is the western homage “Missionary Man.”

No, it’s not the title of a new porn movie. Rather, it tells the story of a lone stranger who comes to a southwestern town to clean things up. The locals, which mostly consist of Indians on a failing reservation, are being strong-armed by a business owner who has his hands in all the illegal (and slightly illegal) activities. Lundgren, who has dealt with this type in the past, must fight them with words and eventually guns to save the town.

This film is a clear homage to the standard western story of a stranger riding into town to save the day. Instead of riding horses, they’re on motorcycles. The greedy landowner is represented by the businessman, and the gang of thugs emerge in the end as a biker gang.

Lundgren, who also wrote the script, takes things too seriously at times, but he evens the film out with plenty of action and shoot-em-up violence. Lundgren might be getting a little old, evidenced by the fact that he downplays the hand-to-hand combat in lieu of blood and bullets.

For your basic direct-to-video action flick, “Missionary Man” isn’t a waste. However, with all the blood and gunplay that deliver a hard R rating, I was expecting a little more in the skin department. Having had a chance to interview Lundgren about this film, I was assured that he would have more breasts in his next directorial effort.

The DVD comes with deleted scenes, which include an alternate opening and ending to the film.



"GOLDEN DOOR"


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

    STARRING
    Charlotte Gainsbourg as LUCY REED
    Vincenzo Amato as SALVATORE MANCUSO
    Aurora Quattrocchi as FORTUNATA MANCUSO
    Francesco Casisa as ANGELO MANCUSO
    Filippo Pucillo as PIETRO MANCUSO

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Miramax

    Directed by: Emanuele Crialese

Just because Martin Scorsese puts his name on a film does not mean you should run out and see it. Sure, he’s now an Oscar-winning director, but his endorsement for “Golden Door” is a little too high profile on the DVD box. It’s like renting some crappy 1980s Hong Kong action flick just because Quentin Tarantino slaps his name on the credits.

“Golden Door” is an Italian-language period piece that profiles the life of a family immigrating from Sicily to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century. Vincenzo Amato plays Salvatore Mancuso, who has come to America in search of prosperity. In the old country, there’s rumors of crops yielding vegetables the size of a human and rivers that run full of milk. However, upon coming across the Atlantic with his brother, his feeble mother and his mute son, Salvatore is awakened to some harsh realities.

After listening to the introduction of the film by Martin Scorsese, I can understand his connection to the movie. As a son of Sicilian immigrants, Scorsese praises the director for giving us a very realistic portrayal of the immigrant experience. I would imagine that if you have a close connection to Ellis Island immigrants, you will be similarly touched by this movie.

While I come from turn-of-the-century immigrant families on both sides of the family (Irish from my dad’s side and Hungarian from my mother’s), I got lost in the overbearing nature of the film’s art. The majority of the film is a visceral, realistic portrayal. Yet, here and there, director Emanuele Crialese dips into experimental and surreal techniques to punctuate the film. These sequences include the cast swimming in rivers of milk, carrying giant vegetables and the soundtrack breaking into an anachronistic blues set.

The Italian-language behind-the-scenes featurette included in the special features highlights Crialese’s desire to portray the immigrants based on their Ellis Island photographs. However, he takes things too far with their wide-eyed looks. He treats them more as dumbstruck animals rather than people who culturally never have seen a camera before.

I suppose there can be parallels made between this film and the treatment of immigrants of the day. However, the director’s message of poor treatment (including IQ tests given to the immigrants) fades in light of the open-door policy leading thousands into a current American entitlement system.



"JOSHUA"


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

    STARRING
    Sam Rockwell as BRAD CAIRN
    Vera Farmiga as ABBY CAIRN
    Celia Weston as HAZEL CAIRN
    Dallas Roberts as NED DAVIDOFF
    Michael McKean as CHESTER JENKINS
    Jacob Kogan as JOSHUA CAIRN

    PG-13
    Studio: Fox Searchlight

    Directed by: George Ratliff

Evil children are a staple in Hollywood films. The most notable would be Damien from “The Omen,” but many more little the landscape of cinema. Now there’s a new demon child in town – Joshua.

Fox Searchlight led the studios last year with releases acquired at the Sundance Film Festival. While movies like “Waitress” made a bigger splash, and others like “Juno” topped the chart with audience and awards, some got lost in the shuffle. “Joshua” was one of those films.

The movie follows a New York family dealing with the birth of their second child. Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga play Brad and Abby, parents who are struggling with post-partum depression and general modern New York guilt. This becomes the tool of their first child, Joshua (Jacob Kogan), who begins to dement into a evil little child.

The stand-out features of “Joshua” are also its downfall. On one hand, I think it’s impressive to make a demon child movie without showing the child as a full-blown demon. You never see Joshua commit the acts of violence, and the circumstantial evidence the viewer sees is what incriminates him. However, this doesn’t play well for a thriller considering it softens the villain for an otherwise savvy audience.

Additionally, the destruction of the family is confused in their own issues. In the end, it’s hard to tell whether Joshua’s evil is a result of a bad seed or a result of a family that just can’t get their crap together. Abby suffers from severe depression, which is not new to her. Brad struggles with being a modern, enlightened New Yorker that juggles work with fatherhood. Whether or not an evil child comes in the mix, I’m not sure if these folks would survive normal daily life.

“Joshua” is a so-so thriller and a so-so drama. It pulls its punches on either genre and leaves us with an undercommitted story. It’s a film more for people who don’t want the traditional thriller.

Special features on the DVD include quite a bit of behind-the-scenes content. There’s a commentary featuring director George Ratliff and co-writer David Gilbert, cast and crew interviews, clips from an internet advertising campaign, the audition for Jacob Kogan, deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer and a Dave Matthews music video.



"NATIONAL TREASURE: 2-DISC COLLECTOR’S EDITION"


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

    STARRING
    Nicolas Cage as BENJAMIN FRANKLIN GATES
    Diane Kruger as ABIGAIL CHASE
    Justin Bartha as RILEY POOLE
    Sean Bean as IAN HOWE
    Jon Voight as PATRICK HENRY GATES
    Harvey Keitel as SADUSKY
    Christopher Plummer JOHN ADAMS GATES

    PG
    Studio: Touchstone

    Directed by: John Turteltaub

With the sequel to Disney’s “National Treasure” making a hit in the theaters right now, it was time for the Mouse House to re-release the original film for another run on DVD. As might be expected, the 2-disc collector’s edition is now available.

There’s really nothing new added to the original movie, which follows Nicolas Cage as patriotic treasure hunter Benjamin Gates searching for an ancient treasure that goes back as far as the Templar Knights. During his quest, he enlists the help of museum curator Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) and his father, former treasure hunter Patrick Henry Gates (Jon Voight).

The movie’s the same, and Justin Bartha still steals the show, so don’t go stampeding to Best Buy to pick this up if you’re looking for an extended cut. In fact, if you already own the DVD, this really shouldn’t be enough to push you for another buy. This release is more for the audience that never purchased the DVD but want to get it now.

The first disc is basically what you got in the first DVD release, which includes the film plus a nice assortment of special features. Included on the first disc are deleted scenes and an alternate opening, all with director commentary. There’s also an on-location featurette, a look at the Knights Templar, treasure hunting coverage and three set-top game puzzles.

The second disc includes new deleted scenes with introductions by director Jon Turteltaub. However, the gem in the second disc are the featurettes, which include an informative look at code-breaking. Other featurettes focus on an action stunt, recreating American history and a look at how the filmmakers stole the Declaration of Independence.

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