DVD Reviews

It is easy to complain that there are no good movies coming out of Hollywood anymore, but the truth is Family Values sell, and if you are in the mood to buy (or rent) here are three recent release you may want to check out.
Secondhand Lions
New Line Cinema
If writer/director Tim McCanlies’ script was removed from the big screen and instead told around a family dinner table, it would still be a marvelous tale. It is a story about longings and needs, for a home and family, for a purpose in life, for lost love. It is a roller coaster of adventure, joy, sadness, anger, hope, and love. It is a story about growing up and growing old.
Secondhand Lions has a bevy of great actors, headed up by Academy Award Winners Robert Duvall and Michael Caine who play a pair of gruff and eccentric brothers, Hub and Garth. These two old coots believe that shotguns are equally useful for saying “no” to traveling salesmen and for fishing. Life is rather boring for them. They sit in their rocking chairs waiting to die – until the summer that Walter comes to visit.
Haley Joel Osment plays Walter, the son of Hub and Garth’s niece, Mae. Mae is an irresponsible floozy who prefers dumping her young son off with
unsuspecting relatives, while she chases men and her dreams. Walter is a sad, insecure adolescent, wanting nothing more than a real family and Osment portrays this flesh and blood Pinocchio with heartbreaking poignancy.
It doesn’t take Walter long to realize that Hub and Garth are not just a couple of senior citizens, living their golden years on a quiet Texas farm. There is a mystery surrounding these two. Everyone tells him that the brothers have millions of dollars stashed on their land and no one knows where it is or how they got it. Some say the old men are bank robbers, some believe they were hit men for the mob.
Walter, however, isn’t interested in his great uncles’ money. He would much rather spend his time learning more about their colorful past. With the finesse of a master story-teller, Garth paints a picture of his and Hub’s younger years that would satisfy any young man. Walter drinks it all in and, in the process, learns the first lessons of manhood.
Second Hand Lions stands up to repeated viewing, delivering the laughs and choke-up moments with equal fervor. Addition features on the DVD include 30
Minutes of Deleted/Alternate Scenes With Optional Director Commentary;
The featurettes
1. “SECONDHAND LIONS: One Screenplay’s Wild Ride in Hollywood”
2. “On the Set With SECONDHAND LIONS”
3. “Haley Joel Osment: An Actor Comes of Age”
and the theatrical trailer.
Radio
Sony
In the South of the 1970’s, Friday nights in autumn were sacred. That was when the local high school football team played – rain or shine, sweltering
heat or snowing snow. Braggin’ rights were at a premium, and small town pride was often attached to the win-loss record. The head coach was only a
little less revered than God – if he produced a winning season. If he lost he was only a little less reviled than Satan.
Such is the setting for Revolution Studios’ new film, “Radio” (available now on DVD from Sony Home Video).
Veteran tough guy, Ed Harris, plays Head Coach Harold Jones, the man whose job it is to lead the Yellow Jackets to a district championship. Jones eats,
drinks, and sleeps football. When he is not thinking about football, he’s thinking about football. Until he encounters Radio (Academy Award winner,
Cuba Gooding, Jr.), a mentally challenged young man who likes to hang around the practice field.
After a heartless prank by members of the football squad, Jones takes an interest in Radio’s welfare that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Please disregard all the cynical movie critics about ‘We’re not teaching Radio. Radio’s been teaching us.’ You’ve got to be a Grinch with a heart
three sizes too small to dislike this film. Ed Harris’ performance took me back to my high school football days. He could have been my coach. S. Epatha
Merkerson, (of Law & Order fame) is quietly dignified as Radio’s long-suffering mother, Maggie. Academy Award nominee Debra Winger and
newcomer Sarah Drew as Coach Jones’ oft-neglected wife and daughter give genuine understated performances. Even the film’s bad guy, Frank Helton
(Chris Mulkey), wasn’t evil – just a normal, if somewhat overzealous, father. (You know the kind. You see them at your kids’ soccer games every weekend.)
And Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s portrayal of Radio? Astounding. Uncanny. Amazing. Oscar-worthy.
The Fighting Temptations
Paramount
Speaking of the multi-talented Gooding, he does a pretty good break-dance at the end of the hokey, but lovable, The Fighting Temptations.
The Fighting Temptations could be renamed Sister Act III- The Protestant Reformation. Cuba Gooding, Jr. picks up where Whoopie Goldberg left off, but instead of a lounge singer running from the mob and finding refuge in a nunnery, Gooding plays Darrin, an out-of-work junior advertising exec with bill collectors on his tail who hides out in a smalltown, Georgia Baptist Church.
Backstory shows a very young Darrin and his four year-old friend, Lilly, singing in the church choir. After service there is a verbal altercation between the church`s self-appointed keeper-of-the-ancient-ways and Darrin`s lounge-singer mother which results in her expulsion from the church choir. She leaves the church and takes Darrin with her as she pursues the life of an itinerant singer.
Fast forward to the present. Darrin gets canned from his ad agency job on the same day he finds out his Aunt Sally has died. He returns to the small Georgia town of his boyhood, attends the funeral and hears the reading of the will. To his delight, Aunt Sally has left him stock worth $150 G`s – on the condition that he direct the church choir and lead them to victory in the Gospel Explosion choir festival (is this starting to sound familiar?).
Darrin`s challenge is to recruit choir members who can actually carry a tune in the proverbial bucket, and mold them into a harmonious unit rather than a bickering crowd of individuals. As luck would have it, The O`Jays run the local barber shop; Melba Moore is a long time choir member; T-Bone is incarcerated at the local penitentiary; and Beyonce Knowles (Lilly) is the local lounge singer who has been ostracized by the same self-appointed keeper-of-the-ancient-ways. Playing Lilly doesn`t seem to be much of a stretch for Beyonce, a professing believer who has probably heard all the same criticisms from the church (the songs you sing; the way you dress; the places you perform).
While the plot is predictable, the dialogue sparkles, the acting is superb, and the music is explosive. Shirley Caesar lights up the screen at Aunt Sally`s funeral, and supplies the foil for a huge laugh as Darrin complements her singing. “You`re pretty good.” Well, Duh! The O’Jays redefine the term “barbershop quartet” with a fabulous rendition of Paul Simon`s “Love Me Like A Rock.” T-Bone employs his trademark, machinegun-fire rap, and 6’8′ Montell Jordan is hilarious with his high-pitched falsetto. Mary Mary, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Angie Stone, Faith Evans – the list goes on. The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission, and as an added bonus the DVD features eight extended musical numbers.

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