"THE NEGOTIATOR"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated R
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on DVD November 10
    Official WB Blu-ray site

    Back to DVD Review Home

   

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Samuel L. Jackson plays Danny Roman, a crackerjack hostage negotiator in Chicago who suddenly finds himself framed for embezzlement and murder. In order to clear his name, he turns the tables on his own job and takes a group of people hostage. To keep himself safe, he requests hostage negotiator Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey) to be his liaison, and soon they begin to unravel the mystery together.

WHAT I LIKED
While director F. Gary Gray can make a bad film, he definitely knows how to make a tense thriller. “The Negotiator” is one of his better movies, bolstered by a great cast that not only includes Jackson and Spacey, but J.T. Walsh, Ron Rifkin and Paul Giamatti. The silly comedy might escape Gray, but he has a handle on the intense thriller.

Not being a big fan of hostage movies, I was impressed by the fact that “The Negotiator” gives us something a little different. It’s not a hostage movie as much as it is a political mystery, and that gives an extra twist to the film’s thriller angle.

Unfortunately, this movie is a bit of a forgotten film. It’s not perfect, but it’s enjoyable enough to be one of those movies I might stop channel surfing to watch on late-night television.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
With any police drama, there’s a danger of the badass factor overpowering the film. This happens to a certain degree, which is to be expected from any Samuel L. Jackson vehicle. He’s not really the problem, though, but rather when Kevin Spacey tries to be badass. It’s like when a Pomeranian tries to bite you.

My only other problem with “The Negotiator” is the dirty cop angle. That’s such an overused plot point that I tend to roll my eyes. Sure, it happens, but not as much as you’d like to think. (And hopefully that praise of our boys in blue will get me out of a speeding ticket in the future.)

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray includes the features from the previous DVD release. The featurette “On Location” is a pretty extensive look at the film’s production. There’s also real-life hostage negotiators interviewed in “The 11th Hour: Stories From Real Negotiators,” which is actually pretty enlightening.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Action thriller junkies.



"RED HEAT"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated R
    Studio: Lionsgate

    Back to DVD Review Home

   

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Ivan Danko, a Russian policeman who is following a drug smuggler to Chicago. When the gangster is sprung by a local gang, Danko teams up with Chicago detective Art Ridzik (James Belushi) to track him down and bring him to justice.

WHAT I LIKED
I went to middle school and high school during Arnold Schwarzenegger’s halcyon days of action films. Along with Stallone, Schwarzenegger was an icon of the 80s, and as much as I love his big films like “The Terminator” and “Predator,” I have a soft spot for his stock action films like “Commando,” “The Running Man” and of course Walter Hill’s “Red Heat.” I remember seeing this movie on a whim in high school and having a blast watching it.

This is the perfect role for Schwarzenegger’s acting abilities. As Americans, we can totally accept his Austrian accent as a Russian one simply because of the clothes he wears. He’s been all about presence in his films, after all. And with James Belushi as a comedic foil, things work for Arnold as the straight man.

The movie is more violent and brutal than I remembered, but that’s okay for an R-rated action film. “Red Heat” might never be remembered as a great film – or even as a great Schwarzenegger film – but it’s a great slice of nostalgia for me.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Anything you can complain about with this film is going to be a criticism of 80s action. The punches sound canned. The acting is terrible. It’s steeped in Cold War angst and terror. And the gritty American city cop is really as much of a caricature as the Russian official is. But that’s all part of the charm of this genre, isn’t it?

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray comes with several featurettes, including “East Meets West” as a spotlight on the development of the film, “A Stunt Man for All Seasons” which is a tribute to legendary stuntman Bennie Dobbins who died while making the film and “I’m Not a Russian But I Play One On TV” which shines a light on the villainous Ed O’Ross who plays a rather convincing Russian drug dealer.

There’s also the original making-of television special from 1988 and the original TV spots and theatrical trailer.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of 80s action films.



"SAY ANYTHING..."
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

    Back to DVD Review Home

   

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
“Say Anything” is Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut about a high school independent named Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) who has his sights set on dating valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye). She doesn’t know he exists, but after some very persistent courting, Lloyd strikes up a relationship with her. However, with her college future likely taking her away from town, Diane’s father is suspicious of Lloyd’s intentions.

WHAT I LIKED
Even though I went to high school in the 1980s and was the perfect age to see a film like “Say Anything...,” I managed to miss this one. So it was nice to finally get a chance to sit down and watch it with my own high school experiences twenty years in my rear view mirror.

The cast is great in this movie, and they are who helped make this a classic. This is an iconic role for John Cusack and easily one of the movies that made him such a respectable actor today. He strikes a perfect balance between the rebellious teen and the nice guy. And Ione Skye gives us a different version of the pretty girl who is somewhat unattainable.

This movie gives a realistic view of high school love without over-glorifying it or making it too crazy. It touches at the heart of the experience as the John Hughes canon did while keeping itself as a drama rather than a comedy.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
With this amount of praise said, I can’t say I was a huge fan of the movie. Perhaps if I had gotten off my butt in 1989 and actually saw the film I could say I was. However, as a cynical adult with my motivations more in line with Diane’s dad than with Lloyd Dobler, I didn’t get wrapped up in the romantic nature of this romance.

Maybe it’s because I saw Lloyd as a borderline stalker. Maybe it’s because Diane was too aloof to really take seriously as a person you could have a deep relationship with. Maybe it was the ridiculous hat that Jeremy Piven wore in the movie. In any case, I can see why people love this movie, but I really didn’t.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray comes with a commentary by Cameron Crowe, John Cusack and Ione Skye. There’s also a retrospective featurette, “An Iconic Film Revisited: Say Anything... 20 Years Later,” to look at the movie’s impact on American pop culture.

With the amount of material that hit the cutting room floor, you could make a whole new movie. There’s five alternate scenes, ten deleted scenes and fifteen extended scenes.

Additional new featurettes include an interview with Cameron Crowe, a VH1-style interview montage with media figures explaining why “I Love Say Anything...” and a trivia track that can play through the movie. A vintage featurette, trailers, TV spots and photo gallery round out the mix.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who has pined for the love of another in high school.



"TWO GIRLS AND A GUY"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated R/NC-17
    Studio: 20th Century Fox

    Back to DVD Review Home

   

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
New York actor and scoundrel Blake Allen (Robert Downey Jr.) is playing a dangerous game... he’s dating two women (Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner), pretending each one is exclusive. When they both show up at his apartment to welcome him home from a trip, he has to explain himself and figure out how to deal with the powder keg in his home.

WHAT I LIKED
The concept is good. After all, who wouldn’t want to date two hot chicks at once? (Although I don’t know if I’d have the energy for the tap dance that it requires. Also, the actors all do a fine job in this film that rolls along more like a stage play. After all, Downey, Graham and Wagner need to keep things interesting in the cage of a single set and only each other to work with.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I’ve never been a big fan one-room stage adaptations that are made into films, and while this movie was not a play first, it really, really, really feels like one. I was interested to see where things would go with this movie, but after Blake returns home and we get over the initial shock, things just seem forced. It’s as if the director just made excuses to keep everyone in the apartment.

I can’t say the dialogue is unrealistic. In fact, it might be too realistic. There’s a lot of vapid discussions about sexuality and fidelity that sound like a late-night drunken dorm room conversation. In reality, there’s only about twenty minutes of story stretched into an 84-minute film.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray comes with both the R-rated version of the film and the NC-17 cut. Don’t get your hopes up too much... only a few frames have been shed from the sort-of sex scene between Graham and Downey. There’s nothing that graphic, really, just an obscured implication of what might be analingus and other nefarious acts that make the MPAA’s toes curl.

Additional features includes commentary by director James Toback, Robert Downey Jr. and Natasha Gregson Wagner. Also included is a new sit-down interview with James Toback, which is pretty excruciating to watch considering pretentious pseudo-intellectual behavior.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of one-on-one acting scenes, all taking place in one room.



"THE PROPOSAL"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Touchstone

    Back to DVD Review Home

   

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
High-powered book editor Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is faced with deportation to her native Canada because she violated her immigration status. In a desperate attempt to keep her home in New York (and consequently her career in publishing), Margaret bribes her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her. However, immigration official start an investigation on what they believe is a sham marriage, forcing Margaret to travel to Alaska to meet Andrew’s family. In the process, they learn about each other and have a shot at falling in love.

WHAT I LIKED
I tend to like Sandra Bullock’s romantic comedies, even if they are the bane of existence for most film critics. I find her charming and still very attractive, even though she’s 45 years old. Pair her with the similarly charming Ryan Reynolds, and you’ve got a great start to the cast.

The story is cute, although a little forced, but for the basic romantic comedy, you could do a lot worse. Reynolds and Bullock have good chemistry, and the supporting cast of Andrew’s family (which includes Craig T. Nelson and Betty White) help make the movie quite a bit of fun. Sure, it’s predictable, but the flick works and is quite satisfying in the end.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
It seems that more often than not, a movie has a scene that comes out of nowhere and really should have been excised from the film. There’s a scene like that in this film, featuring Bullock doing a not-so-native dance around a camp fire. I can’t imaging that scene was all that critical to the story, and it really slowed things down.

Aside from this, the movie only suffers from your basic rom com cliches, which actually work in a formula like this.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray includes both the deleted scenes from the DVD and additional deleted scenes. There’s also an alternate ending, which was definitely improved in the final cut, as well as outtakes and an audio commentary by director Anne Fletcher and writer Peter Chiarelli.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Chicks who like chick flicks.




    

Click here to read more DVD reviews!

Click here to read more movie reviews!

Click here to watch films by 7M Pictures!