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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

Check out my other column, This Week In Trailers, at SlashFilm.com and follow me on TWITTER under the name: Stipp

IRT: DEADLIEST ROADS - BLU-RAY REVIEW

irtI am a reality television fiend when it comes to ICE ROAD TRUCKERS.

Yes, there is no ice this time around but that doesn’t make this series any less thrilling. Missing a few episodes when it aired and then just waiting for the chance to see all the episodes all at once when it hit Blu-ray this was really well worth the wait. For those of us who enjoy series like this IRT: DEADLIEST ROADS does not disappoint.

Instead of cold driving truck drivers going across snowy strips of ice we’ve got a trio of drivers making their way on some of the most sinister roads in India. Brimming with genuine humor and the kind of appeal that makes shows like The Amazing Race some of the best television, this show was a delightful diversion for the junk that passes for other reality television out there.

The show is concerned with place and nowhere does it look better than in the Blu-ray presentation of the colors that drench India’s landscape. Filled with hope, heart, and true vertigo, this is a show that doesn’t need you to have seen other programs in the IRT series. For example, when the show sees our drivers battling gravity instead of frostbite, the drivers wheeling perilously close to edges of mountains and roads that simply fall straight shown there is a real sense of danger. Too often the staged antics of other shows take on an unexciting quality but in Deadliest Roads we have true fear. A rarity these days.

It wholly stands on its own and was, perhaps, one of the better programs to come out on Blu-ray this year. Highly recommended to anyone needing a show that is honest and fun. Such a small thing to ask for but it delivers big.

More details about the film:

“IRT: Deadliest Roads - The Complete Season One” on Blu-ray!

THIS MAY, FEAR IS DRIVEN TO NEW HEIGHTS WITH THE NEW ACTION-PACKED SPINOFF OF THE #1 HISTORY® SERIES

Get ready to rumble…over some of the most lethal roads in the world with the new, adrenaline-pumping spin-off from ICE ROAD TRUCKERS, the #1 rated series on HISTORY® with IRT: DEADLIEST ROADS!

From the crowded streets of Delhi, to treacherously steep, narrow and congested roads blasted into the mountainside, IRT: DEADLIEST ROADS: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE, sends today’s toughest drivers to navigate the world’s most dangerous roads, barreling their way through India’s Himalayan highways, some of the most historic - and lethal - on the planet.

Featuring seasoned - and fan-favorite — drivers Rick Yemm, Lisa Kelly and Alex Debogorski, this pulse-pounding series embarks on an exhilarating, exhausting and terrifying adventure, where the difference between life and death is just a few inches…or one very blind corner. Available on both DVD and Blu-ray, fear is driven to new heights as both releases feature nearly eight hours of in-the-cab insanity across 13 white-knuckle episodes, plus additional bonus footage!

On DVD and Blu-ray May 24, 2011!

KABOOM - DVD REVIEW

kaboom1What an aural experience.

Fueled by self-indulgence and steeped in the hyper sexualized lives of young people who are inwardly looking at every opportunity KABOOM is not for those looking for a leisurely stroll through adolescence.

KABOOM deals with a bizarre kid, played with fascinating energy by Thomas Dekker, who is not only dealing with intense dreams of apocalyptic proportions filled with stark colors and hues but is also a real college kid trying to work through issues of personal identity not the least of which is his own sexuality. Blending elements of the dream world, drug induced hallucination, and more nudity than you can shake your money maker at this movie does not disappoint.

Gregg Araki has always been a filmmaker who seems more interested in the idea rather than the selling of that idea. Nowhere is that more on display than in this film which shows us what the real cost is for someone who knows who he might be and is struggling on both the outside and the inside of what that could be. Superficially, yes, you could see this movie as nothing more than a facile attempt to deconstruct the college experience for those who remember what it was like going through that transitory time in their life but it’s so much more than that. This is a film for those who want to know what it means to internalize their feelings and not know how to make sense of that confusion.

More details about the film:

KABOOM: Sundance veteran Gregg Araki returns to the festival with KABOOM, a hyper-stylized Twin Peaks for the Coachella Generation, featuring a gorgeous, super hot young cast.

The film is a wild, sex-drenched, comical thriller that tells the story of Smith, an ambisexual 18-year-old college freshman who stumbles upon a monstrous conspiracy in a seemingly idyllic Southern California seaside town.

Written and directed by Araki (who has shown eight films at Sundance from his breakthrough The Living End to The Doom Generation to his masterpiece Mysterious Skin) and produced by Araki and his longtime producer Andrea Sperling, the film stars Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, Haley Bennett, Chris Zylka, Roxane Mesquida, Andy Fischer-Price, James Duval, and Kelly Lynch.

The film made its world premiere in the Main Selection at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and had its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2010.

I AM NUMBER FOUR - BLU-RAY REVIEW

I-Am-Number-Four-Blu-ray-DVD-Combo-PackLet’s get this out of the way: yes, it’s a little like Twilight. Yeah, it’s also like many other super hero films out there.

Now, since we have that out of the way here’s the big shocker: it’s a pretty fun film. I’m not sure whether it was the low expectations or the way in which other people associated it with being one of the marginally disappointing films to come out in the last year but I had a fine time with it.

Just watching this movie about a kid who is on the run from an E.T. who wants to destroy this boy who happens to also be an E.T. He tries to blend in with kids his own age (here comes the TWILIGHT references) but it eventually all comes to a head.

Seeing how this movie shares so much with the usual tropes of paranormal romance films that litter the landscape I could have easily seen myself growing tired with the narrative. However, it’s the second half of this film which really saves it and makes this a decent rental for the cost of a Redbox. The amount of money and effort that goes into battle sequences which really are on par with some of the most fun sci-fi shows on television today I AM NUMBER FOUR is a campy romp down a road that has long since been traveled over again and again. I could not recommend this movie more for the ladies of a certain teenage age demo as I think they would not only find this enjoyable but could learn and appreciate that special effects can go beyond making vampires sparkle.

More details about the film:

FROM THE DIRECTOR OF DISTURBIA AND PRODUCER MICHAEL BAY

On Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD, Movie Download
And On-Demand May 24th

Disc Extras Include Never-Before-Seen Bonus Features, Six Jaw-Dropping Deleted Scenes, Special Featurette on “Becoming Number 6″, Bloopers And More!

Burbank, Calif., April 4, 2011 – Just in time for summer break comes the ultimate action-packed, thriller I AM NUMBER FOUR, on Blu-ray, DVD, Movie Download and On-Demand May 24th. Starring sensation Dianna Agron (TV’s “Glee”) and heartthrobs Alex Pettyfer (Beastly) and Timothy Olyphant (TV’s “Justified”), I AM NUMBER FOUR will be available to own as either a 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy), a 1-Disc Blu-ray, and/or 1-Disc DVD that comes packaged complete with never-before-seen bonus features, including deleted scenes, a special featurette, bloopers and more.

From mega-producer Michael Bay (Transformers franchise) and the director of Disturbia, D.J. Caruso, I AM NUMBER FOUR takes viewers on a suspense-filled ride that keeps them on the edge of their seat as they follow the extraordinary story of a young man who is hiding his true identity to evade a deadly enemy that seeks to destroy him.

Bonus Features:

DVD:
• “Becoming Number 6″ Featurette
• Bloopers

Blu-ray:
Everything on the DVD plus…
• 6 Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Director D.J. Caruso
o “Strangers in Paradise” (Extended)
o “Sam’s Mom”
o “Worth Mentioning”
o “Power Prank”
o “Trying to Connect”
o “Extended Warsaw Basement”

Movie Download

About The Cast & Filmmakers:
Based on the young adult novel by Pittacus Lore, I AM NUMBER FOUR stars Dianna Agron (TV’s “Glee”), Alex Pettyfer (Beastly), Teresa Palmer (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Timothy Olyphant (TV’s “Justified”) and Kevin Durand (”Lost,” X-Men Origins: Wolverine). This film is directed by D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia), produced by Michael Bay (Transformers franchise, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th remakes), and a screenplay by Alfred Gough and Mies Millar (TV’s Smallville, Spider-Man 2, Lethal Weapon 4, The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor) and Marti Noxom (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Mad Men”).

About The Film:
Three are dead. Who is Number Four? From director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), producer Michael Bay (Transformers) and the writers of TV’s Smallville, comes this gripping, action-packed thriller. John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is an extraordinary teen masking his true identity to elude a deadly enemy sent to destroy him. Living with his guardian (Timothy Olyphant) in the small town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events — his first love (Dianna Agron, TV’s Glee), powerful new abilities and a secret connection to the others who share his incredible destiny. Complete with deleted scenes and more, I Am Number Four is an explosive, suspense-filled ride that will take you to the edge of your seat and beyond.

About DreamWorks Studios:DreamWorks Studios is a motion picture company formed in 2009 and led by Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider in partnership with The Reliance Anil DhirubhaiAmbani Group. Upcoming releases include Cowboys & Aliens, The Help, Fright Night, Real Steel and War Horse.

DreamWorks Studios can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DreamWorksStudios and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dw_studios.

LEMONADE MOUTH - DVD REVIEW

Lemonade-Mouth-DVDI had my daughter watch this movie and report back what she thought. She, and I quote, thought this film was really fun and that every girl should watch it. Now, that said, dad checked it out too to assess that review and I can say that while it wholesale robs blind the Breakfast Club (blasphemy!) the people at Disney have done a bang up job in making a movie that I could enjoy with my girl. If you’re looking for a battle of the bands, of sorts, that deals with one five member ensemble looking to fight it out on life’s proverbial stage this movie hits the, ahem, right notes.

For any parent who is finding it harder and harder to slip in a little innocuous entertainment with all the salaciousness out there Lemonade Mouth is harmless fun and makes me think back to the days when there was more attention given to building up kids’ self-esteem rather than pitting them against one another in order to create conflict.

Look, this isn’t going to win any awards for greatness but in terms of enjoyment this gets a thumbs up from the old man, if you ask me.

More details about the film:

Themes of believing in yourself, following your dreams, celebrating family and staying true to yourself are explored in the triumphant, music-driven “Lemonade Mouth,” a Disney Channel Original Movie based on the book of the same name, set to premiere on Disney Channel.

Geared towards kids, tweens and families, “Lemonade Mouth” tells the story of how a powerhouse band came to be after five uncelebrated students with a passion for music find each other and ultimately become The Voice of their generation.

Directed by award winning film director Patricia Riggen (”La Misma Luna”) and executive-produced by Debra Martin Chase (”The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” Disney Channel’s “The Cheetah Girls” movies), the movie showcases a remarkably talented cast led by popular stars of Disney Channel hits: Bridgit Mendler (”Good Luck Charlie”) as lead vocalist Olivia White, Adam Hicks (Disney XD’s “Zeke and Luther”) as keyboardist Wen Giford, Hayley Kiyoko (”Wizards of Waverly Place”) as electric guitarist Stella Yamada, Naomi Scott (Disney Channel UK’s “Life Bites”) as bass guitarist Mohini, and newcomer Blake Michael (who landed the role via an open casting call) as percussionist Charlie Delgado. Also starring are Nick Roux (”The Suite Life on Deck”) as Scott Pickett, Chris Brochu (”Soul Surfer”) as Ray Beach, Tisha Campbell-Martin (”My Wife and Kids”) as music teacher Miss Reznick and Christopher McDonald (”Boardwalk Empire”) as Principal Brenigan.

Eighteen year-old Adam Hicks has songwriting credits on three of the music tracks, marking the first time a cast member has written a song performed in a Disney Channel Original Movie.

“Lemonade Mouth” introduces an unlikely ensemble of five students – Olivia, Wen, Stella, Mohini and Charlie – who, after meeting in detention, gradually realize their shared musical connection and belief that it’s time for the students of Mesa High to stand up and be heard on things big and small (ranging from the school principal’s exclusive support of the athletic programs to the removal of the popular organic lemonade from the cafeteria). Ultimately, as they open up to each other and form friendships, they start a band — Lemonade Mouth –that soon resonates with students sidelined by the high school elite. However, not everyone in the school is ready to cheer them on, especially since the popular rock group Mudslide Crush is determined to maintain their headline status and win the coveted Rising Star music competition at Mesa High.

Based on the book Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes, the script was written by April Blair, and is directed by award-winning Patricia Riggen (”La Misma Luna” aka “Under the Same Moon”), executive-produced by Debra Martin Chase (”The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” Disney Channel’s “The Cheetah Girls” movies), co-produced by Gaylyn Fraiche (”Just Wright,” “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2″) and choreographed by Chris Scott (”So You Think You Can Dance”). “Lemonade Mouth” was filmed on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is a production of GWAVE Productions, LLC.

Thar She Blows or How Disney Cannibalized a Great Novel, Developed Indigestion and Shot out a CRAPTACULAR! By Ray Schillaci

pirates-of-the-caribbean-on-stranger-tides-movie-poster-02Let me start off by saying I liked the (not so) original “Pirates of the Caribbean,” even though at the time I was not happy that the powers that be had lifted some great material out of one of my all time favorite novels by Tim Powers, “On Stranger Tides”. The two pompous productions with their flimsy story lines that followed continued to take liberties with this great book. Then I came to find out that Powers, who wrote OST in 1987, had sold the rights to his wondrous novel to Disney. Lo and behold the churning and merging of one of their most popular rides with one of the best fantasy/adventure stories written was to become a franchise. Of course, after three big hits, Disney felt the well might be dry. But like the pirates they are, they continued to pillage and pick whatever meat was left on the bones of their property.

Previous director, Gore Verbinski must have seen the rocks ahead before this ship was about to crash so he abandoned it without hesitation. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, grabbed a life preserver full of money to float away to his pay day while sailing through lines like the monkey over the masts with its precious doubloon. As good as Geoffrey Rush is, he should have kept the dignity he had going with his prestige products and forsaken the harpies’ from Mäuse Kamp.

The greedy execs at Disney saw nothing wrong in dipping into their treasure chest one more time. After all, the crowds were still lining up at the Pirates ride at Disneyland. People still had an appetite for Captain Jack Sparrow.

It didn’t matter that they had cannibalized the property and nearly all that was left (in their one blind eye) was Blackbeard, mermaids and zombie pirates. I can hear the marketing exec before the production was green lit, “Heck, zombies are the new vampire. A TV show already has the franchise!” What they did not realize was when they finally opened that dead man’s chest all that was left were cobwebs and that is what Marshall and company has delivered us with a Captain Jack Sparrow wink and a smile.

Disney, in their infinite wisdom, hired Rob Marshall to commandeer this bloated production. They did it under the auspices of “from the Director of Chicago”. Never mind that it was eight years ago since his last hit. Oh, and they neglected to mention he was also responsible for 2009’s biggest yawn fest, “Nine,” a critical and box office fiasco.

“Pirates…” starts off promising with a foreboding omen fished from the sea and a wily Jack Sparrow posing as a magistrate during a friend’s trial. From there what poses as action or adventure starts up and comes across as tiring as watching Depp take the lead with his character. He looks like he is practically sleepwalking through the role. Nearly gone are the nuances that made Jack so much fun to watch. They only show up occasionally to be poked fun at. Sad to say it’s a flat performance that is as tiresome as director Rob Marshall’s stagey theatrics.

The action sequences can all be summed up in one overly dragged out scene from the second “Pirates…” movie – the ridiculous water wheel fight. It was a stupid staged scene that had taken every ounce of spontaneity out of that picture and Marshall seems to have repeated that process with nearly every action sequence. From the moment Sparrow is captured in London, his escape, the fight between the two Jacks and through every weighed down battle, Marshall proves he is far from adept at handling big adventure. In fact, one could probably run the Geena Davis trashed “Cutthroat Island” next to the new “Pirates” movie and one would not be able to tell the difference in the handling of either one of them.

Characters are thin to the point of non-descript and plot holes abound thanks to the lazy writing and directing. Some actors show promise, but they are quick to be walked off the plank for the sake of keeping a fast pace. Otherwise, the average audience may discover how they have been cheated with a bare bones story lacking anything resembling originality.

If there are any jewels to be found in this production it is Ian McShane as the dreaded Blackbeard. Unfortunately, that most interesting character is neutered as well. You can see where McShane is going and one wants to follow him as probably the most interesting one of the bunch, but God forbid any attempt of depth be found in a POTC movie. In fact, Blackbeard is probably the most promising character these films have introduced since Davey Jones, another under used character and actor, Bill Nighy.

Penelope Cruz does prove fetching as Jack’s ex-lover and is a suitable replacement for Keira Knightly. Cruz is far more fun and enjoyable to watch, but once again, saddled with a character not fully realized. The zombie pirates are a complete throwaway along with the hints of voodoo practice. Speaking of throwaways; the dozen or so characters that dart in and out of the movie barely have their names remembered in our mind. So, when somebody dies, we don’t care.

The mermaids are probably the most interesting part of the story with an alluring introduction set up with Gemma Ward. I would have given anything to see a stronger story with Blackbeard and the first mermaid. Ward’s performance (as short as it is) is hypnotic and sets the stage for a steaminess that the franchise rarely has portrayed.

Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Syrena, the captured mermaid is wonderfully mysterious and inviting in her portrayal as well. Her damsel/fish in distress is probably the only emotion captured beautifully in this otherwise cold film. Sadly, whatever is intimidated between her and the underwritten character of Philip, played honorably by Sam Claflin, becomes lost in the shuffle with nothing ever explained as to what happens to the both of them.

Had Disney set its ego aside and originally did the book instead of giving us a movie adapted for their famous ride we would have had the greatest adventure ever put on film. It could have surpassed anything Lucas or Spielberg ever developed. Instead, we get possibly the most bumbling and funny pirate since Bob Hope on a peg leg and run the character into the ground by the time we hit round two.

At the end of the picture, I could not help but feel irritated when credit is given to two time fantasy award winning author Tim Powers as a story suggested by him even though this may be true. “POTC: On Stranger Tides” bears little resemblance to Powers’ novel, but there would have never been a franchise if it were not for the purchase of OTS. I only hope for Mr. Powers’ sake that he was paid handsomely. I would suggest any of you out there looking for a great read, pick up his book ASAP.

In the end; the franchise continues to kill at the box office, a fifth screenplay has already been written, waiting for Mr. Depp to commit and the audience debates whether or not a POTC movie seen in 3D is worth shelling out a few more doubloons to get their timbers shivered. Also, it comes right down to the kids. Will they continue to come out in waves after this weekend or will the movie take a well deserved dip? My kids were divided. My 17 year-old was disappointed, sighting a lot of unanswered questions, lack of purpose of the characters and not being thrilled that Jack Sparrow was the lead. My 11 year-old loved it. He reveled in the piratry, locations, the “awesome” ships, mermaids, Jack Sparrow and Blackbeard and did not care too much about what the story was about – just like the filmmakers.

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