"KICKIN’ IT OLD SKOOL"
I suppose this film was meant to be a fish-out-of-water comedy, but I’ve seen this sort of thing done more effectively in other films. And while Jamie Kennedy’s character of Justin is supposed to be an 11-year-old in a 30-year-old’s body, it seems he has suffered irreparable brain damage in his coma.
Beyond the bad writing, the godawful performances and the tired premise, one of the biggest strikes against this film is the ridiculously hot Jennifer (Maria Menounos) falling for a dork like Justin. It’s one thing to bring the hot chick into a film for eye candy purposes, but to leave her void of a character and personality, and to not even grace us with a good bikini moment, is unforgivable.
There are some funny moments here and there, but they’re linked together by overly long sequences of mediocre breakdancing, good actors (i.e., Christopher McDonald and Debra Jo Rupp) chewing the scenery to pick up a paycheck and unbelievable unfunny gags with Kennedy and company.
The DVD comes with deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.
"THE ULTIMATE GIFT"
For people like my mother-in-law... “The Ultimate Gift” is an uplifting film about an incredibly wealthy man who bestows a gift in his will to his grandson. He challenges the boy to become a better person in order to get his inheritance. By learning about hard work, true friendship and the need to help his fellow man, we see a young brat blossom into a caring individual.
For people like me... “The Ultimate Gift” will put you in a diabetic coma. It follows a terribly contrived story that bashes on old-school stereotypes of the rich, yet makes an ultimate award out of a 2-billion dollar estate. Preaching begins in the first scene of the film and continues throughout. With its schmaltzy plot points and overdose of good nature, I found myself riffing on the film like the guys from “Mystery-Science Theater 3000.”
The DVD comes with a behind-the-scene featurette about the making of the film, as well as an advertisement for the “Ultimate Gift” family kit to help your family get more out of the film. Also, because the original novel was written by a blind man, the DVD also include a spoken description track for the visually impaired viewers.
"THE DARWIN AWARDS"
“The Darwin Awards” follows an ex-profiler named Michael Burrows (Joseph Fiennes) who is trying to get a job with an insurance company. He’s trying to prove that there’s some way to profile utter stupidity and include that into the risk fact for insurance. He’s assigned to a cynical and bitter adjuster (Winona Ryder) to do his research. As they get on each other’s nerves, Burrows starts to take on traits of those he is studying, which somehow lead him to solve the unsolved murder case that got him kicked off the force.
The biggest problem with this film is that it tries to take on too much. I was hoping for a film about the recipients of the Darwin Awards. While they’re in there for several stories, the movie is more about Burrows trying to remotely solved a murder back home. This culminates into a strange path to beatnik society in San Francisco, contributing to the randomness of the plot.
Fiennes and Ryder have decent chemistry, but they aren’t given a very strong script. And once we start to get into their characters, we’re taken on a divergent path to follow Darwin Award cases for 10 to 15 minutes. If writer/director Finn Taylor could have made up his mind about the movie he was making, it would have held together better.
The DVD includes a making-of featurette along with individual interviews with the director and a half-dozen cast members.
The fact that “The Lookout” takes the heist from a “Momento” angle is its strength. Strip away the head-trauma hero, and you’re left with a white-trash heist film. (Granted, I haven’t seen any of those, but that descriptor doesn’t quite grab me.) What’s interesting about this is that the robbers are realistic characters. It’s not a team of geniuses that have the most brilliant plan around. Instead, they’re not to bright and a bit desperate.
As a heist film, it’s not the greatest, but it’s not bad either. It’s an independent, alternative take on the genre, it works to a degree. The performances are great, especially the normally clean cut and suave Matthew Goode as the grisly sleaze bag.
The DVD comes with an audio commentary, plus two featurettes that examine the character and injuries of Chris Pratt as well as how the film was constructed.
“Renaissance” is a imported French animated action piece. It’s a cyberpunk story set in Paris in 2054, where a passionate detective gets wind of a missing person’s case. He breaks the rules and digs into his underworld connections to try to solve it. However, he soon learns that the kidnapping goes farther than one person and may hold the answer to the secrets of life and death.
Like most cyberpunk, this film has a stellar premise. However, also in the tradition of cyberpunk, its storytelling and presentation is as murky as its production design. I loved the scope of this film, and the animation with no shades of gray was brilliant. But the story just dragged along, and there was no excitement or energy behind it. Perhaps this was lost in the French/English translation, or maybe it was a result of the French perspective. In any respect, “Renaissance” falls woefully short of interesting my American mind.
The DVD comes with a making-of featurette, which is interesting enough if you can handle subtitles throughout its 20+ minute running time.