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Arts & Entertainment

Ed Blank's DVD reviews

| Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007

Tribune-Review film critic Ed Blank looks at a few recent popular and/or critically acclaimed films available on DVD:

'The Guardian' PG-13; 2006; Three and a half stars

I guessed wrong.

I found "The Guardian" so enjoyable I thought it would be Kevin Costner's biggest picture in more than a decade. It did finish a close second to "Open Range" among all Costners of the past 11 years and was by no means a flop, it did not become a breakout success.

Most of "The Guardian" has a comfort-zone familiarity, but the pieces are arranged to heighten a compassionate response.

Costner is a veteran U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer in dry dock. He's to mentor a motley class of trainees that includes the overly self-confident Ashton Kutcher and the hard-luck, try-try-again Brian Geraghty.

There's a particularly affecting scene involving barmaid Bonnie Bramlett that should have had her in awards contention.

The DVD has an alternate ending, deleted scenes, a tribute to Coast Guard swimmers, a making-of featurette and a commentary by director Andrew Davis and writer Ron L. Brinkerhoff.

'Brokeback Mountain Collector's Edition' R; 2005; Four stars

Some folks are against it no matter what.

About a year ago when "Brokeback Mountain" was an Oscar contender for best picture -- it lost to "Crash" -- Motion Picture Academy members Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine went on record as having voted against it.

I still think it's one of the two or three most mature, complex depictions of a homosexual relationship to date -- a challenging portrait of two bisexual men who, despite being in denial, enter into an affair with each other. Part of what distinguishes the film is its depiction of the consequences for other family members.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal co-star with a particularly moving performance by Michelle Williams as Ledger's wife.

The new double-disc DVD contains recycled extras -- a profile of Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, interviews with screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana -- plus new featurettes on the musicians who played the Oscar-winning score and on the film's worldwide reception.

Doris Day trio

Doris Day, 82, hasn't made a movie since 1968. There was little to recommend in the flat, if popular, TV sitcom she did from 1968-73. But for most of the 21 years that she spent starring in 39 movies, including five heavy dramatic roles, Day was as big as any actress in pictures.

She was to prove less iconic than such contemporaries as Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Because Day's bright-and-scrubbed 1948-68 persona, tied inaccurately to a virginal persona -- she played wives in nearly half of her films, after all -- she's out of step with contemporary mores.

Three of the final eight movies she made in the 1960s are making their DVD debuts, but only one meets the screenplay standards she usually enjoyed.

"Move Over, Darling" G in nature; 1963; Three and a half stars

Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin were shooting a remake of "My Favorite Wife" called "Something's Got to Give," when, after just 37 minutes of usable footage, Monroe was fired for chronic tardiness and absenteeism.

Fox tried to replace her with Lee Remick, but Martin quit, saying his contact stipulated Monroe as co-star. By some accounts, Monroe was rehired, but she died shortly afterward. Fox retooled the romantic comedy as "Move Over, Darling" for Day, James Garner and Polly Bergen.

It's the one about Day being rescued from a desert island years after her disappearance in a boating accident. She surprises husband Garner on the day he marries the jewelry-clattering Bergen.

The DVD's extras include background on the aborted and completed versions and a conversation with Bergen.

"Do Not Disturb" G in nature; 1965; Two and a half stars

Living in rural England, the American Day sees so little of preoccupied executive-husband Rod Taylor that she invents a beau to steal his attention back from his secretary.

The DVD has featurettes on Day, supporting player Michael Romanoff and songwriter Mort Garson.

"Caprice" G in nature; 1967; Two stars

This hopelessly gauche spoof of the spy-comedy cycle was ignited by the James Bond films. Cosmetics spy Day becomes involved with international spy Richard Harris. An artifact at best. The DVD's featurettes are pure puffery, but authors John Cork and Pierre Patrick provide a commentary for the film.

'Looker' PG; 1981; Two and a half stars

Michael Crichton was writing and directing good stuff in one or both capacities ("Westworld," "Coma," "Jurassic Park") when he settled too readily for his own substandard script and failed in the filming to hide its flaws.

The Hollywood models worked on by plastic surgeon Albert Finney begin dying under suspicious circumstances that seem to involve tycoon James Coburn. Susan Dey may be the next victim.

The film addresses people duplication and dehumanization, but "Coma." "The Stepford Wives" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" got their first with more imagination and suspense.

Crichton did a commentary for the DVD.

'Jesus Camp' PG-13; 2006; Two stars

I have reservations about "Jesus Camp," but it might have more merit for others.

It's a documentary that penetrates a school of evangelicals in Missouri and later at camp in North Dakota and, in the guise of being friendly filmmaking observers, subjects the participants to suspicion and ridicule.

In its overview, the film seems horrified that the children indoctrinated in Christianity may wind up being -- heaven forbid! -- conservatives. The DVD has deleted scenes and a commentary by the co-directors.

Additional Information:

Additional DVDs released this week

Alvin and the Chipmunks: A Chipmunk Valentine Saw III Sherrybaby This Film is Not Yet Rated

Coming Tuesday

Band of Angels Catch a Fire Facing the Giants Flyboys Madame Curie The Marine One Night With the King Open Season

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