"GARY UNMARRIED:
THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


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

    Not Rated
    Studio: ABC Studios

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Gary Brooks (Jay Mohr) is recently divorced from his wife Allison (Paula Marshall). Although they still share two children, the couple insists they hate each other. Both Gary and Alison have moved on to new relationships, but they still have to deal with their own sexual tension, their post-divorce snarking at each other and the general problems they face as they try to raise two kids in this new, extended family.

WHAT I LIKED
I must admit that when I first saw the advertisements and promos for “Gary Unmarried,” I cringed. This sounded like a terrible sit com stretched thinly across a thinner premise. However, after watching the first season, I have to admit that it definitely has its laughs.

The strength comes from its cast, with Jay Mohr leading the way. He’s got a great sense of sit com timing, even when he’s not delivering the best material. Likewise, Paula Marshall as Alison makes things roll pretty well, especially later in the season when their timing started to gel. And the supporting cast of Ed Begley Jr. as their former relationship counselor and later Allison’s fiancé as well as Jamie King as Gary’s new lover definitely helps.

The real gem in the mix is Ryan Malgarini as Gary and Allison’s son. He doesn’t have much to do early in the series, but as the season goes on, he warrants his own stories and shows that he has some pretty solid comedy chops at an early age.

Yes, “Gary Unmarried” is a very basic modern sit com that references sex alongside family comedy. It’s not high brow, but I found myself laughing quite a bit. It works as a nice escape from more heavy programming.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The biggest problems I had with the series were some pretty forced writing and a complete miscast on the role of Gary and Allison’s daughter. When it comes to the forced writing, you should expect that from any sit com, but the writers tend to ignore reality a little too much when going for the staged joke. Whether its dealing with how Gary’s friend would really react to his buddy dating his sister or who makes money and pays alimony, sometimes the comedy isn’t worth it.

And while Ryan Malgarini is pretty spot-on as a young comedian as the son, Kathryn Newton is a mistake in the role of their daughter Louise. She was initially played by Laura Marano (who was likewise replaced as a daughter on the other sit com “Back to You” not too long ago), and the new actor works. However, her character of the eco-friendly do-gooding daughter is too much of a cliche, and her character isn’t given much to work with from the comedy perspective. Obviously, few stories involve her, and that’s actually a good thing.

DVD FEATURES
The DVD comes with some decent features, although there are no commentaries offered. There’s a set of bloopers, a peek at Ed Begley Jr.’s green lifestyle, a look at a day on the set with Jay Mohr and “The Chemistry of Comedy,” which examines the cast’s interactions in the series.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who wants an escapist family sit com masquerading as a raunchy sex romp.



"THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Warner Bros.

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Eric Bana plays a man with the uncanny ability to randomly travel through time. Over the years, he falls in love with a woman, played by Rachel McAdams, who marries him in spite of his sporadic appearances and questionable ability to have kids. Based on a best-selling book, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is more of a relationship drama than science fiction and focuses on how the couple survives such a bizarre challenge together.

WHAT I LIKED
I look at “The Time Traveler’s Wife” the same way I looked at the film “Atonement” several years ago. My thoughts on “Atonement” were that while it wasn’t a Jane Austen film, it could have been. Similarly, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was not written by Nicholas Sparks, but it could have been.

Think of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” as “The Notebook” with some sci-fi elements shoehorned into the relationship. If you like that sort of thing – the rich, human relationship drama with an outside force keeping the characters apart – you’ll love this movie.

It’s not my cup of tea, but I will say that the film is very well made from all perspectives. The acting is good, and both Bana and McAdams have fine chemistry. The cinematography is excellent, and the composition of the film – while challenging – comes off very well. I never read the book, but after watching the making-of special feature which explains the challenges they faced, I understand what a feat this was.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” is a chick flick all around, and fans of the chick flick genre are going to eat this movie up.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Like I said before, this isn’t my cup of tea. I found the twists and turns of a time traveler to be far more interesting than whether or not he and his wife are going to stay together. Just as the movie started to swerve into some neat science fiction concepts, it ground to a halt with Henry trying to deal with Clare’s sometimes annoying and unnecessary mood swings. She knew what she was getting into with this whole relationship from the start, but she complains about it anyway.

It’d be at this point that I’d sigh and say, “That’s just like a woman,” but I’d get into too much trouble if I did.

DVD FEATURES
There’s one special feature on this disc, which is the well made 20-minute retrospective “The Time Traveler’s Wife: Love Beyond Words” in which the stars, the director and the screenwriter talk about bringing the project to life.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who want a science fiction story with a Nicholas Sparks feel.



"SURROGATES"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Comedy Central

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Bruce Willis plays Tom Greer, a detective in a world where people use robotic surrogates to live their lives. When he discovers that someone is killing the users of surrogates by destroying the surrogates themselves, he starts investigating, which causes him to break some laws about human-surrogate relations. Soon, Tom finds himself working in the world as a real human, with which he hasn’t interacted first-hand for years.

WHAT I LIKED
For some reason, I was looking forward to “Surrogates” as the summer wound down to an end more than I probably should have. But I’m a sucker for this kind of movie. As much as I enjoy the massive blockbusters that come out in the summer and the holiday season, I also love the smaller – and sometimes cheesier – sci-fi action flicks that hit the screens in the fall. Movies like “Paycheck” and even Nicolas Cage’s “Next” are a guilty pleasure of mine.

“Surrogates” fits squarely in that description. It’s pretty high concept, based on a graphic novel that is more gritty and innovative than the movie itself. Things have been gussied up for the feature film adaptation, with some neat special effects and explosive action sequences.

I enjoy Jonathan Mostow’s work, even though he is considered a hack by many critics. I can’t disagree with that, but that doesn’t stop me from loving the action-filled movies like “Terminator 3,” “U-571” and “Breakdown.”

Ultimately, “Surrogates” isn’t going to break any records, but it’s the kind of movie I’d stop at while channel surfing and watch the whole damn thing on a Saturday afternoon.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The biggest hurdle that “Surrogates” faces is that it takes itself too seriously. The movie seems to think it’s a tentpole release even though it was buried in the late-September schedule. That works to a degree with the movie, but it definitely has its flaws in script and pacing. After all, the movie can’t decide whether it wants to be a high concept story about taking social networking to the nth degree or if it wants to be a relationship drama between Tom and his wife.

Additionally, the movie serves as a misplaced cautionary tale about the dangers of technology, but wallows in hypocrisy considering it uses such technology to achieve the effects and also used modern social networking services as well as the internet in general for promotional purposes.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
Both the DVD and the Blu-ray come with a music video by Breaking Benjamin and a feature commentary track by director Jonathan Mostow. The Blu-ray offers some additional exclusive features, including some deleted scenes, a featurette on bringing the graphic novel to life and a neat featurette called “A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates” which examines the possibility of human surrogates and the advances in the robotics industry.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of sci-fi action movies that exist outside of the summer tentpole releases.





"THE BOYS ARE BACK"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Miramax

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Joe Warr (Clive Owen) faces a new challenge when his beloved wife dies and leaves him in charge of his son. In order to cope, Joe adopts a controversial hands-off parenting technique, which he also employs to help his older son, who has come to live with him. Joe struggles to maintain the sanity at home while continuing his work as a popular sports writer in Australia.

WHAT I LIKED
More than a story about a struggling sports writer, “The Boys Are Back” is a story of a father learning to be a parent to his boys. As a stay-at-home dad, I can relate to a lot of the connections in this film. Sure, I haven’t lost my wife (thank god), and my kids are relatively well adjusted and don’t live under a chaotic hands-off parenting rule, but I can understand the father’s love, which propels this story.

“The Boys Are Back” is a touching film at times, showing how a man struggles to get to know his own kids. It’s put against a pretty unique backdrop, but the essence of the relationship is still there.

The acting is well done in this film, not just from Clive Owen but also from the young actors playing his sons. Additionally, the cinematography of the lesser-seen Australian landscape is quite beautiful.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
As a father who has a healthy relationship with three young sons, I felt a level of exasperation with how the character of Joe handled his own children. I’m not a fan of men (or women, for that matter) who have a problem stepping up to the role of a parent, regardless of the situation. This might come across as a bit judgmental, but speaking as someone who does take on the role of caregiver, I know it is possible and a wonderful experience.

DVD FEATURES
The DVD comes with the featurette “The Boys Are Back: A Photographic Journey,” which includes optional commentary by director Scott Hicks looking at various images from the production of the film. More interesting is “A Father And Two Sons, On Set,” which brings in the subjects of the true story on which this film is based to visit the set.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Those who like a different style of family drama with an art house bent to it.




    

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