"HOME IMPROVEMENT: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON"


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

    STARRING
    Tim Allen as TIM TAYLOR
    Patricia Richardson as JILL TAYLOR
    Zachery Ty Bryan as BRAD TAYLOR
    Tarn Noah Smith as MARK TAYLOR
    Richard Karn as AL
    Earl Hindeman as WILSON
    Debbe Dunning as HEIDI KEPPERT
    Jonathan Taylor Thomas as RANDY TAYLOR

    Rated TV-PG
    Studio: ABC

I have to admit that “Home Improvement” has really grown over me throughout the years. Sure, it never grew on me when it was first broadcast. I was in college when it started, and I was overwhelmed with the feminization of America in the early 90s. Now that this kookiness has receded a bit, and the show grew in its later seasons, I’ve become a bit of a fan.

I never watched the show in its initial run, but now I have seen all of the episodes on DVD. Like “The Golden Girls” and “That 70s Show,” I was able to watch everything at my own leisure, for better or for worse.

The eighth and final season of “Home Improvement” is now available on DVD, completing the collection. I know there are some fans of the show that still miss it, and this will give you a chance to wrap up your collection.

The series doesn’t break too much new ground (which is good, considering they finally had a good thing going). There were your “very special episodes,” like when Jill discovers she has a tumor and needs to have a hysterectomy. There’s also some relatively shocking moments, like Al’s mother’s reaction to his new would-be bride.

Ultimately, though, the film shines in its final season. It really didn’t jump the shark, and while it’s clear the writers were wrapping things up throughout the last half of the season, on an episode-by-episode basis, the show still holds its worth.

I did find the three-part series finale a bit tedious, with an entire flashback episode in the middle (which is great when you watch it week to week but annoying when you’ve got the DVDs of the whole series sitting on a bookshelf). And the last episode was strangely ambiguous. Still, it was a nice way to go out close to the top.

The special features are better than more recent seasons, considering it’s loaded with some farewell spots. There’s the standard blooper reel, which is fun. There’s also the full look-back show that followed the final episode when it was broadcast (and includes a look at Wilson’s face). The most interesting thing is the hour-long television special from 2002 that served as a reunion of sorts for Tim, Al and Heidi.

“Home Improvement” fans are going to adore this set, and the special features will probably make them cry. For a curmudgeon like myself, I still thought the series definitely had its moments.



"ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM"


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

    STARRING
    Steven Pasquale as DALLAS
    Reiko Aylesworth as KELLY
    John Ortiz as MORALES
    Johnny Lewis as RICKY
    Ariel Gade as MOLLY
    Kristen Hager as JESSE
    Sam Trammell as TIM
    Robert Joy as COL STEVENS

    Unrated
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

    Directed by: The Brothers Strause

If you saw “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem” in the theaters, I’m sure that you had a double take when they released the Unrated DVD. Like last year’s “The Hills Have Eyes 2,” I had to wonder what could be worse in the unrated version that wasn’t shown in the rated version.

After all, this film, which is a modern equivalent of a 1950s monster movie (in which ugly creatures attack a small town while the people living there run around like drunk chickens), featured a variety of horrible things: aliens eating kids, decapitations, dead dogs and xenomorph mutants infecting a pregnant woman.

Believe me, the unrated version is worse.

It’s not that bad, really. If you could make it through the theatrical release, you should be able to make it through this one.

The movie takes up where the last “AVP” film left off. The Chuck Norris Predator has been alerted that his compadres’ ship has crashed on earth, and he’s dispatched to clean things up. On earth, the alien has melded with a predator to make an uber-hybrid known as the Predalien. With irrelevant human storylines scattering about, things lead up to the ultimate clash between the Chuck Norris Predator and the Predalien.

The unrated cut offers more gore and a little more story. More people get killed and in more gruesome ways. Ultimately, it’s a better film because it was made as an action gore-fest, so the unrated cut is one to catch on DVD.

The special features include two commentary tracks, five featurettes, a still gallery and the red band trailers of the film. But my favorite feature is the added footage marker, which can be enabled during the play of the movie. This allows you to see the parts of the film – from a few frames to several minutes – that were added to the theatrical release.



"RESURRECTING THE CHAMP"


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

    STARRING
    Samuel L. Jackson as CHAMP
    Josh Hartnett as ERIK
    Kathryn Morris as JOYCE
    Alan Alda as METZ
    Teri Hatcher as ANDREA FLAK

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Yari Film Group

    Directed by: Rod Lurie

“Resurrecting the Champ” is a film that was forgotten by most critics (and audiences, unfortunately for that matter), but it made my list of the ten best films of 2007.

Directed by Rod Lurie, the film tells the story of a sports writer named Erik (Josh Hartnett) who can’t really find his voice. As he struggles with his job and being a father to his son, he discovers a homeless man that turns out to be a former boxing champ. This leads Erik to write an award-worthy piece about the fighter, and he is finally noticed. However, his new-found fame starts to go awry when problems arise with the story.

Normally, I don’t like these sort of heavy human interest stories. However, there was something that touched me about this movie. Perhaps it was because the main character was a writer like myself. Perhaps it was because he was dealing with the struggles of being a father, which I encounter as well.

Ultimately, I found this movie to be a powerhouse of acting. The usually awesome Samuel L. Jackson gave an Oscar-worthy performance as the pathetic Champ. And Josh Hartnett, whom I normally find dull, actually pulled out some acting chops to go toe-to-toe with Jackson in the film.

The DVD comes with cast and crew interviews and a behind-the-scenes featurette. There’s also a commentary track by director Rod Lurie, along with an assortment of studio trailers.

“Resurrecting the Champ” is a simple film, but it is remarkable in its own right. It’s not perfect, but few films are. Sadly, it was mostly forgotten in its theatrical release. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from seeing it, because it is a fabulous piece of movie making.



"JUNO"


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

    STARRING
    Ellen Page as JUNO MACGUFF
    Michael Cera as PAULIE BLEEKER
    Jennifer Garner as VANESSA LORING
    Jason Bateman as MARK LORING
    Allison Janney as BREN MACGUFF
    J.K. Simmons as MAC MACGUFF
    Olivia Thirlby as LEAH

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Fox Searchlight

    Developed by: Jason Reitman

If you haven’t heard about the film “Juno” yet, you shouldn’t be watching movies. Like last year’s “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Juno” was the little independent film that could.

The story follows a high school girl named Juno (Ellen Page) who gets pregnant and must deal with her situation as she finds proper parents for her child. Along the way, with the endearing support of her whole family, Juno finds a young couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) who want to adopt her child. However, things aren’t terribly smooth in Juno’s journey, and she must learn to grow up faster than she really should.

Diablo Cody won an Oscar for her script of this film, and it was much deserved, no matter what the haters may say. While the dialogue is far from realistic and jam-packed with catch phrases and pop culture colloquialisms, it’s not meant to be a true representation of a real high school experience. Rather, the film encapsulates the charm of family in a hyper-realistic framework. Like “That 70s Show,” “Juno” is galvanized in its own time with charming and lovable characters that make things work.

The acting is stellar, with Ellen Page shining as the title character. Michael Cera plays directly to type as the caught-off-guard but utterly game father. The real joy in the film comes from Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons as Juno’s parents who are far from stereotypical and totally loving.

It’s hard for Hollywood to make any movie that doesn’t involve some sort of preaching. However, Jason Reitman managed to do one outside of the studio system. The fact that the film deals with teenage pregnancy – and doesn’t preach at all – is a feat of filmmaking.

Included on the single-disc DVD are deleted scenes, a gag reel, a gag take, a musical jam with the cast and crew (featuring a sizzling hot Olivia Thirlby), screen tests, a commentary with Reitman and Cody, a featurette about the creation of the film and spotlights on Juno, Leah, Bleeker, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman.

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