"IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY
IN PHILADELPHIA:
A VERY SUNNY CHRISTMAS"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Not Rated
    Studio: FX

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
The gang from Paddy’s Pub is frantically getting ready for Christmas. Dennis and Sweet Dee are still miffed that Frank has never given them proper Christmas gifts, so they embark on a plan to make Frank live the story from “A Christmas Carol.” Meanwhile, Charlie and Mac are on a mission to re-ignite the Christmas spirit, which results in some harrowing revelations about their childhood and leads to a bloody run-in with a department store Santa.

WHAT I LIKED
I have always loved “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” because of the show’s refusal to have any growth or betterment of the characters. During a time of year when we are bombarded with positive messages and faithful retellings of classic holiday tales, it’s nice to see a show that gives us the exact opposite. Using the trademark cynicism of the Paddy’s Pub gang, this show has delivered a fantastic Christmas special that is right up there with the “Black Adder Christmas” and the “Married With Children” Christmas specials in terms of counter-programming.

Also, as a direct-to-video film, there are fewer restrictions on the gang, even compared to their relatively liberal FX censors. Be ready for some quality f-bombs delivered in the best possible ways. And the series re-imagining of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation is simply breathtaking, in ways that are both good and bad... but even the bad is in a good way.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Not much. I love this show, and I loved this special. The episode runs 44 minutes, so it could have been longer, but that’s twice the “Sunny” you normally get on a weekly basis. Also, it is a bit of a slow starter, but once you reach the half-way point, things really pick up.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray and DVD include deleted scenes from Mac and Charlie’s childhood flashbacks, a behind-the-scenes making-of featurette and a “Sunny Sing-A-Long” which is just plain bizarre... again, in a good way.

There’s also a special introduction to the Blu-ray by the producers, asking for forgiveness for the Blu-ray format being almost too good for the show.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Cynical SOBs like myself.



"NORTH BY NORTHWEST:
50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Not Rated
    Studio: Warner Bros.     Available on DVD November 3
    Official WB Blu-ray site


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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In Hitchcock’s classic tale of intrigue and suspense, Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, a philandering advertising executive who is mistaken for a government agent. He’s kidnapped by international spies, later finding himself in a cross-country chase. No one believes him except for a beautiful woman he meets on a train. As the twisted plot begins to unravel, Roger must find a way to save himself and avoid betraying his country.

WHAT I LIKED
It has been years since I have watched “North By Northwest,” and it is a treat to revisit it again on home video. Behind “Psycho” and “Rear Window,” this is easily one of my favorite Hitchcock movies of all time. It has all the classic elements of a Hitchcock film – well timed suspense, an overall mystery, a compelling cast and some brilliantly conceived scenes. Although Cary Grant was getting older when this was filmed, the movie nonetheless presents him as a charming leading man opposite the lovely Eva Marie Saint.

Plus, as a huge fan of Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety,” I couldn’t help but grin at all the Hitchcock stand-bys that made it into that parody film.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There’s very little criticism I can give Hitchcock for this movie. Even the basic complaints a modern audience might have for a film made in the late 50s don’t apply so much. This era of filmmaking was relatively static, but Hitchcock managed to infuse plenty of energy in the otherwise basic shots.

The only problem I had with the film is the ending, which may be a classic but does play a little abrupt and too easy for a modern crowd.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
Like the other classic releases that Warner Bros. has put on Blu-ray recently – including “300” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” this product is an amazing package. First, the Blu-ray transfer is quite brilliant, showing off Hitchcock’s vision in a crisp and beautiful image. Few films from the 50s warrant the high-def experience, and this is one of them.

The Blu-ray disc is packaged in a commemorative book which gives a nice retrospective to the classic film.

On the disc itself, you have hours of special features, including a commentary by screenwriter Ernest Lehman. There’s also the option for a music-only track, a stills gallery, the theatrical trailer and a TV spot.

The new documentary “The Master’s Touch: Hitchcock’s Signature Style” looks at the famous director’s work. The feature-length documentary “Cary Grant: A Class Apart” takes a look at the life and career of the man who became the screen legend. “North By Northwest: One for the Ages” breaks down the film and how it was brought to life. Finally, the featurette “Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North By Northwest” is a 2000 documentary about the film.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Hitchcock fans.



Watch this clip from "North by Northwest"



"STARGATE:
15TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Lionsgate

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) is convinced that humans did not build the pyramids. When he is visited by the Air Force to give them help in a top secret project, he learns he is right. Jackson is paired with a team led by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) on a mission through an ancient Stargate, which sends them to another planet millions of light years away. There, they encounter a primitive civilization that has been enslaved by an alien. Jackson and O’Neil have to find a way to free the civilization and kill the alien while also discovering how to return home.

WHAT I LIKED
I tend to like most of Roland Emmerich’s films, and it was “Stargate” that first showed up on my radar fifteen years ago. It’s not Emmerich’s best directorial effort, but it is still a neat piece of science fiction. What Emmerich achieves is a sense of grand scale that makes the film fun to watch as a space adventure. The performances are a bit cheesy, though it works for a modern sci-fi epic, but that might me my own prejudice toward the subsequent series this film launched.

I remember when this film came out in the mid-1990s, and it was a movie event. In fact, it set the stage for the return of the science fiction epic, which seems so natural now but was actually pretty rare when “Stargate” hit the screens.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
As a huge fan of “Stargate SG-1” and “Stargate Atlantis,” I see this film as the humble beginnings of those series. It’s a bit strange to watch it again in this decade after watching a full fifteen seasons of television that succeeded it. I found myself picking apart the continuity from the later shows, even though this was the actual continuity that was ignored.

Back when I saw the movie and even today, I do get a little disinterested in the primitive culture in a futuristic series. Ever since the “Mad Max” movies established tribal sci-fi, too many writers and directors lean on this when they don’t want to put the effort into creating a more fantastic race. I would have liked to have seen more about the adversarial alien in this film rather than the tribe living on the planet.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The 15th Anniversary Blu-ray release includes all the features from the previous DVD special edition. This includes both the theatrical version and the extended version of the film. Vintage featurettes “Is There a Stargate?,” “The Making of Stargate” and the feature commentary with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin are also available.

New features include the “Deciphering the Gate: Concepts and Casting,” “Opening the Gate: The Making of the Movie” and “Passing Through the Gate: The Legacy” featurettes. There’s also a picture-in-picture trivia track available as well as a interactive trivia challenge and a newly released gag reel.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of epic sci-fi adventures.



"I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Fox Atomic

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In the middle of his graduation speech, a geeky valedictorian (Paul Rust) professes his love to Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), the most popular girl in school. In the process, he also tells off a bunch of the kids in the class and embarrasses much of the school. However, Beth is mildly impressed with his gusto, so she joins him for a last night of high school partying and gives him the time of his life.

WHAT I LIKED
There’s a certain nostalgia that comes from a film like “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” Even though I went to high school during the classic John Hughes era, this film has a lot in common with those moves (possibly because it was directed by Hughes protege Chris Columbus). While I may have never had a crazy night on the town with a hot cheerleader, I can relate to some of the shenanigans that happen in this film.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
While Chris Columbus gives us some John Hughes flavor, we never quite reach the same level of edge that were in films like “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club.” Columbus tries to bridge the gap between the 80s and the modern teen flicks from Judd Apatow, but it never quite hits its mark. The movie isn’t edgy enough to turn heads and lingers in the safe land of PG-13.

Ultimately, the film fails because of its cast. Paul Rust gives a decent performance, but pixie-esque Hayden Panettiere just doesn’t sizzle as the teen sexpot. Finally, the film gives a mixed message that it’s endearing for a geek like Rust to admire Beth Cooper from afar, but when he meets the girls that think he’s cute, it’s okay to reject them with the same snide attitude.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray comes with an alternate ending that actually manages to address some of the questions I had about the film ion the theatrical cut, though it is clear that this was not the best ending for the movie. There are also some deleted scenes available.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
The PG-13 crowd that had a crush on the hot girl in school.



"BATTLESTAR GALACTICA:
THE PLAN"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Not Rated
    Studio: Universal

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Even though the epic tale of “Battlestar Galactica” is over, there’s still a story to tell. “The Plan” takes a look at the first two seasons of the series from the Cylons’ point of view. We have been told they had a plan for years, now we get to see what that was... and how it fell apart.

WHAT I LIKED
I dearly loved the re-imagining of “Battlestar Galactica,” though I will admit that it did get a little dark. While “The Plan” retains this darkness to a point, there’s a certain whimsical nature in showing how the Cylons can implode politically just as us humans can.

For die-hard fans, this is another way to enjoy watching your favorite characters once again on screen. Consider it a patch until the “Caprica” series starts next year. It also works if you know the series quite well. There’s plenty of inside jokes and points where you’ll find yourself saying, “Oh, so that’s what happened.” I found the movie to be a piece of brilliant writing because it managed to retrofit a neat little story arc into an existing series.

Also, even though this is just a one-shot movie and the effects on the show were always spectacular, the movie stepped up the action. You get to see the epic destruction of the colonies and how it affected the different people in the story – Cylons and humans alike.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
My biggest problem I had watching this movie was the hint of sadness knowing that the series is over. I really enjoyed it. Now if you’ll pardon me, I’ll go whine to myself for a while.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes and a commentary track with director Edward James Olmos and writer Jane Espenson. Hi-def featurettes include “From Admiral to Director: Edward James Olmos and The Plan,” “The Cylons of The Plan,” “The Cylon Attack” and a look at the visual effects.

Other Blu-ray exclusives include a Battlestar Galactica trivia challenge and access to Universal’s BD-Live center, which provides trailers and other Internet-based exclusives.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Frakking toasters.




    

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