"MY SISTER’S KEEPER"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: New Line Cinema
    Available on DVD November 17
    Official WB Blu-ray site



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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Based on a novel, “My Sister’s Keeper” tells the story of Anne Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin), a girl who was genetically engineered by her parents to become a donor for her older sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who is suffering from leukemia. When Kate takes a turn for the worst and endures renal failure, mother Sarah (Cameron Diaz) expects Anne to donate a kidney. Anne then hires a lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to help her sue for medical emancipation.

WHAT I LIKED
There were elements of this movie that were very well done. The cinematography was quite accomplished, and the acting was pretty good all around. At the time of its release, the focus seemed to be on Abigail Breslin and Cameron Diaz, but it was Sofia Vassilieva who steals the show as the sick older daughter.

The movie is advertised as being from the director of “The Notebook,” and that is exactly the kind of feel you get from this movie. The filmmaking elements are very well done, and if you want a movie that’s going to make you cry, this one will do it... as long as you’re not a cynical SOB like myself... read on...

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I don’t like to be manipulated, whether its by a person or a film. And “My Sister’s Keeper” is damned manipulative. It so deliberately pushes buttons, twisting the story and characters around to the point that I felt really put upon as an audience member. On a second viewing, this became worse, and I began to resent the film for how gratuitous it became.

In addition, the structure of the movie is very awkward, shifting narrative focus from character-to-character. I presume the book was like this, and it probably worked in prose. But shuffling POV in a movie like this becomes more annoying than confusing.

But the real problem I had with this movie was the wretched nature of the characters. I can’t say unequivocally that I wouldn’t behave as they would because I don’t have a child dying of leukemia (thank God). However, I’d like to think I’d approach this human problem with more humanity. In the Blu-ray special features, author Jodi Picoult says, “We like to say that we love all of our children equally, but it’s a big fat lie.”

Yup, that about sums up the wretchedness of the film’s logic. What an awful approach to family.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The Blu-ray comes with more than 15 minutes of additional scenes, if you haven’t had your heart strings tugged hard enough. Also, exclusive to the Blu-ray, there’s a featurette on Jodi Picoult and how the book was developed into a movie.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Those who like to weep at the human condition.



"GONE WITH THE WIND
70th Anniversary
Double-disc Edition"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Not Rated
    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Available on Blu-ray,
DVD, On Demand and Digital Download on November 17
    Official WB Blu-ray site

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Considered one of the greatest movies ever made, “Gone with the Wind” takes a glorified look at the South during the days of and following the Civil War. The story follows Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh) as her life is turned upside-down by the war. Over the years, she struggles to retain control of her family, her land and a semblance of wealth, becoming a stronger woman in the process.

WHAT I LIKED
Believe it or not, before I watched this new DVD, I had never seen “Gone with the Wind.” Now that I have seen it, I am happy about it, though not as swept up in the magic as many people are. But that doesn’t stop it from being a benchmark in movie history.

“Gone with the Wind” was made at a time when going to the movies was a far different thing. It’s all about the grandeur of the experience, and this also translates into the rich look and feel of the film. Coming at the beginning of film history, it’s easy to look back without knowing what a feat some of the imagery was. The coolest part of the movie is easily the burning of Atlanta prior to the Intermission, a spectacle in itself.

If ever the phrase, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” could fit a film, this is it. For better or for worse, “Gone with the Wind” is a product of its own era and says as much about the time in which it was made as it does about the time in which the story takes place.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
With all love and respect for the filmmaking process and the movie’s status in cinema history, I will say that I’m not a huge fan. While some elements are part of the time, including the musical interludes, the long scenes of grandeur and the awkward title cards telling about the war from afar, they still play long in my mind.

But that would be forgivable if two things were different. First, this is such an unabashed glorification of the Civil War South that it’s almost laughable. Sure, it was great to be a Southern belle, but it wasn’t so great to be one of the slave girls fanning the belles while they napped. I understand that in 1939, this wasn’t as tender of a subject as it is now, but it is a look at the good old days that really never happened... or at least never happened for most people living below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Additionally, I wasn’t a huge fan of Scarlett O’Hara... or Rhett Butler, for that matter. Vivian Leigh and Clarke Gable did fine jobs, but let’s face it, if there were ever anyone who needed to be medicated, it was the character of Scarlett O’Hara. She was whiny in the beginning, and she was more interested in money in the end than she should have been. And Rhett Butler was only in the movie for a small amount, which doesn’t make it much of a romance in my book.

DVD FEATURES
This two-disc 70th anniversary edition of the DVD comes with the movie separated at the intermission on the two discs. Historian Rudy Behlmer provides a commentary throughout the film. Of course, for the die-hard “Gone with the Wind” fan, you should probably pick up the commemorative box set on DVD or Blu-ray, which includes oodles of other special features and other cool packaging items.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Old school cinemaphiles and those who wish the South hadn’t lost the Civil War.



"ALLY MCBEAL:
THE COMPLETE SERIES"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Not Rated
    Studio: Fox

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Quirky and spunky Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) has left her old law firm to start working at a money-grabbing firm. The series follows McBeal as she deals with the fact she now works with her old college flame... and his wife. Over the course of the show’s run, Ally learns about love and life in the modern feminist America.

WHAT I LIKED
I never watched Ally McBeal when I was younger... mainly because I’m a dude. However, sampling the show’s first season, and catching some of the later episodes, I will say that I enjoyed it. For all the ribbing she got for her weight, I enjoyed the performance of Calista Flockhart. I’m not afraid to admit it, but she was just plain adorable.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Anything that comes from showrunner David E. Kelly is going to have some political bent, and that happened in “Ally McBeal.” It wasn’t as heavy-handed as it was in series like “Picket Fences,” but it was there. At least the humor and surreal nature of the series kept things light.

DVD FEATURES
The complete series is available in a whopping 31-disc box set. The 31st disc includes a slate of special features, including the featurettes “Bygone Days: An Ally McBeal Retrospective” and “Season 2 TV Special: Life and Trials of Ally McBeal.” There’s also a Vonda Shepard music video for “I Know Better” as well as vintage featurettes for seasons 2, 3 and 5.

Finally, for big fans of this show and David E. Kelly’s other lawyer series “The Practice,” they have included the episode “Axe Murderer,” which features a cross-over cast.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Modern-day feminists... at least from the late-1990s.



"HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER:
SEASON 4"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Not Rated
    Studio: FOX

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In the indeterminate future, a father is telling his children the stories of his friends from his younger days and how this all led to him meeting their mother. The show then flashes back to today in which a group of friends deal with each other’s oddities and quirks.

WHAT I LIKED
For some strange reason, “How I Met Your Mother” has eluded me for almost four years. And finally having a chance to sample it, I have to say that it’s a pretty funny show. It’s not my favorite, but it takes that “Seinfeld” formula of having characters deal with pretty much nothing and relationships and give it a modern-day spin.

The characters are pretty funny, if a little forced at times. The biggest win for this show is that it refuses to take itself seriously, which bodes well for a comedy. The bottom line is that with bathroom humor, sex and drinking, this series is offensive and fun, and I like that in a show.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Not being a fan or an avid watcher of the show, it did take some time to get into the characters. Part of this was because I wasn’t sure how they all fit together. Initially, this looks like a result of bad acting and writing – and I can’t say for sure that this isn’t necessarily true – but once you get into things, it all seems so much more natural.

DVD FEATURES
I was only sent the fourth disc for this series, so I can only speak as to what’s at the end. There is a commentary track for “The Naked Man” episode (which I have to try sometime, incidentally). There’s also a gag reel and the full version of “Barney Stinson: That Guy’s Awesome” music video.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who don’t take their sit coms seriously.



"MY LIFE IN RUINS"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: FOX

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Georgia (Nia Vardalos) is an aging tour guide in Greece who desperately wants to find love. She is less than enthusiastic about her job because tourists seem more interested in eating ice cream and buying cheap crap than learning Greek history. One day, she gets saddled with what appears to be the worst tour group in the country, but soon the mix of characters help her come out of her shell and even fall in love.

WHAT I LIKED
Well... the movie was in focus.

Seriously, this movie had little to love about it. I did find some of the antics of Harlan Williams and Rachel Dratch as obnoxious American tourists a wee bit funny, at least.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
This movie seems to be proof that Nia Vardalos is a one-hit wonder. She tries to do a lot of the same things in this movie, like coming out of her shell and falling in love with an unlikely dude. However, she’s ten years older and completely uncomfortable in the film. The story is loaded with cliches and weak characters that are simply too annoying to handle.

DVD FEATURES
The saving grace of this DVD is the fact that it includes some special features. There’s three commentary tracks, by Nia Vardalos, director Donald Petrie and writer Mike Reiss. There’s also a series of deleted and alternative scenes, along with an extended bit with Vardalos’ husband Ian Gomez called “Everybody Loves Poupi.”

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who thought Nia Vardalos got a bum rap after “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”




    

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