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Arts & Entertainment

'Made,' 'Swingers' share same writer, stars

| Saturday, July 27, 2002

"Made" (2001)
Rated R
Three stars

It makes a lot of sense: If you have a couple of related movies and they're unlikely to sell or rent well individually, or you're recycling them, why not package them as a double bill• Give people two for the price of one.

That's what has happened with "Made" (2001), an enjoyable riff on small-potatoes gangsters, and "Swingers" (1996), which I must watch ASAP.

The links are their stars, Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, who co-star in both. Favreau also wrote them, he directed "Made," and he co-produced both, the former with Vaughn.

In "Made" they're 30-somethings still waiting to jump-start their lives. They box a little for spare change, join an occasional construction crew and run errands for L.A. mobsters (Peter Falk for one).

Favreau is the relatively reliable one, Vaughn a loose cannon with a motor mouth, bad manners and irritating habits. With him along, they'll be lucky to survive a mission to New York.

The stars fit so comfortably together, I'm looking forward to backtracking to "Swingers," in which Vaughn introduces Favreau to the Vegas singles scene.

The "Made" half of the DVD package comes with outtakes, deleted scenes, three documentaries on production and an audio commentary by the two stars.

"The Time Machine" (2002)
Rated PG-13
Two and a half stars

As we keep seeing in remakes such as "Planet of the Apes," the special effects are a little savvier, but nothing else works as well.

So it is with "The Time Machine," a dark and generally unattractive remake that tells a wonderful H.G. Wells story but compromises it in the usual misguided effort to twist and pummel a classic into a shape that next week's audience, whoever they are, might relate to.

Guy Pearce acts the time traveler who leaves Victorian New York (London in the novel and in the 1960 movie) and lands in the year 802701, where he meets the docile Eloi tribe and the cannibalistic Morlocks.

There's chasing and fighting, but the picture feels processed rather than inspired and for no rational reason is edited like a music video. Wells, were he alive, could only ask: "Since when does a good story require artificial juicing?"

The DVD has deleted scenes, making-of features and a commentary by a quarter that includes director Simon Wells.

"Behind the Sun" (2001)
Rated PG-13
Three stars

Considering Pittsburgh's art theaters do now book the great majority of foreign and independent movies made available beyond the shores of New York and Los Angeles, it's surprising that "Behind the Sun" slipped by without pausing for a week or two here.

It was directed by Walter Salles, whose great "Central Station" set a career precedent hard to live up to.

He has transplanted an Albanian tragic fable to Brazil, where it was gorgeously photographed by Walter Carvalho.

The feuding Breves and Ferreiras families maintain a lethal rivalry. The bloody shirt of the previous victim is hung out in the wind until it turns yellow, at which time the victim must be avenged.

Now it is the turn of the 20-year-old Tonho Breves (Rodrigo Santoro) to play assassin and maintain family honor. If he succeeds, someone eventually will slay him.

The story is narrated by his little brother (Ravi Ramos Lacerda), known only as the kid until an itinerant circus worker dubs him Pacu.

"K-9: P.I." (2002)
Rated PG-13
Two stars

Third in a series, "K-9: P.I." earns its straight-to-video fate with low-brow humor and manure enough to fertilize Kansas.

James Belushi, who should be having a better career, acts a retiring cop (in recent movies, every cop is on his first or last job). He's starting his own private investigation business with his dog Jerry Lee.

The dog swallows something and becomes constipated, which leads to the sort of protracted laxative-and-do-do sequence that will have the picture's target audience hooting and howling.

Belushi accepts a case involving a woman's missing fiance and the search for a microchip.

Along the way there are oodles of canine stud service jokes and the sort of effeminate gay man who was retired from visibility during the first 15-20 years of the AIDS crisis.

"Speed" (1994)
Rated R
Three stars

Suddenly "Speed" is everywhere. It's running on cable constantly, and now there's a deluxe two-disc DVD edition that contains hours of extra material for the 115-minute movie.

There's one commentary by director Jan De Bont, another by producer Mark Gordon and screenwriter Graham Yost, plus five extended scenes, interviews with several actors (Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper and Jeff Daniels, plus De Bont), a Billy Idol music video and enough featurettes on the stunts and visual effects to satisfy bus riders worldwide.

Hopper plants a bomb on a bus. It will detonate if passenger Bullock lets the bus' speed drop below 50 mph. Reeves acts an L.A. SWAT team specialist.

"Speed" hasn't one percent of the character or humanity of the great subway thrillers, "The Incident" and "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," but give it this: It moves.

"Kung Pow: Enter the Fist" (2002)
Rated PG-13
Two stars

Undoubtedly it would help to be a fan of martial arts movies if you're going to dunk a lethal toe into "Kung Pow: Enter the Fist," a sendup of cheesy Chinese action films.

Writer-director-star Steve Oedekerk bought the rights to "Savage Killers," also known as "Tiger and Crane Fists" (1976), and edited it to suit his narrative. He shot new footage with himself as The Chosen One and dubbed all of the voices himself except for the character of Whoa, acted and voiced by Jennifer Tung.

It's silly in the extreme, deliberately so, and just a little bit ingenuous.

Oedekerk does one of the three audio commentaries on the DVD and includes six alternate takes and 14 deleted scenes.

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