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

    Chris Pine as DANNY
    Eddie Kaye Thomas as LARRY
    Anjali Jay as LEEZA
    Stephen Tobolowsky as DR. PERKINS
    Jane Seymour as DR. EVANS

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films

    Directed by: James Keach

I think puns are cute. I’ll admit that they are often the lowest forms of humor, but they do make me laugh. However, I do get a little nervous when a movie seems to hinge on the clever pun title. It makes me worry that the funny ended with the concept (much like the failed television pilot “Blind Men” about guys who sell blinds for windows, which I was fortunate enough to see a few years back as part of a focus group).

In this respect, I didn’t think that “Blind Dating” was that bad, but it wasn’t the greatest cinematic experience to come to DVD. But then again, was anyone expecting this?

The film stars Chris Pine as Danny, a guy who has been blind all his life. However, Danny has never come to terms with his problem, and he doesn’t like to be labeled “blind.” Trying to live a normal life without letting on that he can’t see has given him challenges through life, especially the dating world. Soon, his older brother Larry (Eddie Kaye Thomas) makes it his mission to get Danny a girlfriend.

Chris Pine has flirted with success before, starring in the sequel to “The Princess Diaries” as well as a Lindsay Lohan rom-com before her career spiraled into Jerry Springer-esque oblivion. He hasn’t had his break, although that might be coming with the “Star Trek” adaptation in which he plays a young Kirk.

By as it stands, at this point, Pine is struggling. He seems better than this film, which plays out as a typical independent movie striving to be a mainstream hit. The biggest problem with the movie, though, is that it tries to tackle too many issues in an attempt to differentiate itself.

The film could live as a movie about a blind guy trying to find love without letting his dates know he’s blind. But it mixes too many issues when he falls in love with an Indian girl (Anjali Jay). The movie then tries to deal with her problems of breaking away from traditional Indian marriage practices. In the end, the movie muddles the plot even more with Danny going through experimental surgery to solve his blindness, which erupts into a media frenzy.

“Blind Dating” could have been three different movies, but it tries to cram everything into one package, making a mess of things. It works to a degree as a small-budget film, but it tries to hard to be mainstream without following the rules of that genre.

The DVD comes with deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette that covers the making of the film.


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

    Loren Horsley as LILY
    Jemaine Clement as JARROD

    Rated R
    Studio: Miramax

    Directed by: Taika Waititi

Last year, I heard a lot about “Eagle vs Shark.” It won some nice awards in the festival circuit and made some noise during the early part of the year. So, the bar was set somewhat for the movie.

In the end, “Eagle vs Shark” lives up to the hype because the hype didn’t overtake the film. The movie is a story of geek love, which has been popular lately. Lily (Loren Horsley) is a quiet girl who works at a burger joint in New Zealand. When her job is pulled out from under her, she makes an attempt to be social.

At a party, she meets up with Jarrod (Jemaine Clement), a total dork who revels in his uncoolness. They hook up at the party and start a somewhat awkward relationship. Ultimately, Jarrod invites her on a trip, but their relationship starts to crumble, with Jarrod’s utter awkwardness amplifying through the entire experience.

I think “Eagle vs Shark” would have made a bigger splash if “Napoleon Dynamite” hadn’t come out of nowhere just a couple years ago. In many ways, the movies have virtually the same look and feel. Both focus on the uncool geeks that so many of us know (or are). Instead of the characters turning their backs on their geekiness, it is heralded, giving the nerdier class their own movie heroes.

While “Eagle vs Shark” is quite funny at times, it’s not without its flaws or its low points. “Napoleon Dynamite” has a much stronger focus where ‘Eagle vs Shark” hits several speed bumps along the way, which left me wondering (and not really caring) where things would go.

The strength of “Eagle vs Shark” lies in its unconventional story with unconventional leads. It definitely made me laugh at points, but too often it seemed to try too hard to be the converse of what you might expect from a standard Hollywood movie.

Fans of independent film should enjoy this movie, if for no other reason that it doesn’t march to the usual drum beat of romantic comedies. However, it’s just a little too purposely quirky to really have me fall in love with it.

The DVD comes with deleted scenes with commentary from the director, outtakes, a feature commentary with the filmmakers and cast and a music video.


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

    Casey Affleck as PATRICK KENZIE
    Michelle Monaghan as ANGIE GENNARO
    Morgan Freeman as CAPT. JACK DOYLE
    Ed Harris as DET. REMY BRESSANT
    John Aston as DET. NICK POOLE
    Amy Madigan as BEA MCCREADY

    Rated R
    Studio: Miramax

    Directed by: Ben Affleck

“Gone Baby Gone” was one of those movies like “We Own the Night,” which came out when the films vying for end-of-the-year awards started to really ramp up for release. Both films were decent enough to stay in my mind, but they didn’t make a strong enough mark to overpower later releases like “Juno” or “No Country for Old Men.”

Well, except for Amy Ryan’s performance, which ended up earning her an Academy Award nomination.

“Gone Baby Gone” tells the story of a private detective named Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), who is hired by a family to search for a missing child. Using his connections in the Boston community, he’s able to go where the police can’t, and soon he starts to unravel the mystery of the missing girl. After some red herrings and dead ends, he starts to solve the mystery behind the mystery.

In many ways, “Gone Baby Gone” was a very impressive film for what you would expect. Ben Affleck, who won an Oscar for co-writing “Good Will Hunting,” takes a stab at directing this film, the screenplay for which he also directed. With this movie, Affleck proved that his “Good Will Hunting” moment wasn’t an aberration, and he also showed that he didn’t need Matt Damon in tow to make a great movie.

Like Affleck’s other script, this one can be very raw at times, and with the original source material coming from the guy who wrote “Mystic River,” you can expect some disturbing subject matter. Affleck also does a fine job directing his brother Casey in the lead role (which was much more deserving of an Oscar nom than lil’ Affleck’s other big role of 2007).

This movie has plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and the actors carry the movie. The atmosphere of the movie gets very heavy and thick, and it could have easily bogged down into a depressing mess. While it comes close to this at times, the people behind the movie (actors, director and crew) help lift it up.

It’s not the best movie of the year, but it was a nice introduction to awards season.

The DVD comes with a nice selection of special features, including an extended ending that enriches the characters for a final moment. There’s also plenty of deleted scenes with commentary as well as a feature commentary with Ben Affleck and co-writer Aaron Stockard. Finally, things wrap up with two featurettes, one about the use of Boston as a character and the other about the casting.


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

    Anne Hatahway as JANE AUSTEN
    James McAvoy as TOM LEFROY
    Julie Walters as MRS. AUSTEN
    James Cromwell as REV. AUSTEN
    Maggie Smith as LADY GRESHAM

    Rated PG
    Studio: Miramax

    Developed by: Julian Jarrold

It is no big surprise to those who know me that I’m not a big Jane Austen fan. I’m not even a little Jane Austen fan. Sure, some of the modernized adaptations (like “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and “Clueless”) are actually quite clever. But set the film in its original time frame with the stuffy nature of society back then, and you’ll find me snoozing in the back row... which is what I did, in fact, when I first saw this movie.

After all, to me, the only thing more boring than a Jane Austen movie is a movie about Jane Austen herself. I swear, I tried to stay awake for this one. I really, really tried. But after an our and a half of repressed nothingness, I lost the battle. And I could barely make it through on video.

Still, if you’re a Jane Austen fan, this is probably right up your alley. The movie tells the story behind the woman that was Jane Austen. Anne Hathaway plays the classic novelist, and the story draws from Austen’s own works to explain how she developed into the writer she’s now known as.

The film shows Austen as a young woman before she became a celebrated writer. She had her life planned out for her, but her independent spirit chose a different path. The movie also portrays her early love life with the dashing Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), who helps mold her character and paint the future heroes of her books.

Not being a Jane Austen fan, I didn’t find all the nuances that are dropped in this movie that relate to her books. So, without a pretext and knowledge of the classic author, much of the richness of this movie got lost. I’m sure those who know everything about the author’s life and novels will find the layers of interest that were just not there for me.

In the end, I was left respecting the film for what it was, but I still would rather watch Anne Hathaway in her more mainstream roles.

The DVD comes with deleted scenes and an audio commentary from the director, writer and producer. There’s also pop-up facts that display throughout the movie for anyone who wants a deeper level of understanding. Finally, the most interesting feature to me was a behind the scenes look at the film that explains the historical and biographical context of Jane Austen and her writing.

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