No Reservations(Warner Bros.)
From its cheap, mid-'90s-looking package to its woefully scant extras (one pre-chewed Food Network behind-the-scenes, blech) to its wide-screen/full-screen option, this feels like something dropped right into the discount bins; it probably debuts at half-off this week. And this soufflé of a romantic comedy deserves better: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart, as warring chefs reheating 2001's Mostly Martha with director Scott Hicks, keep things smart, light and tight amid a story that coulda been penned on the back of a recipe card. Zeta-Jones is the neurotic chef tethered to her dead sister's daughter (Abigail Breslin, mopey-cute); Eckhart's the square-jawed cook come to rescue them both. Formula, yes, but it works, given the good ingredients well-prepared—and it lingers like light brunch, leaving plenty of room for something more filling. (RW)
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I Could Never Be Your Woman (Genius)
Shelved since 2005 allegedly because of tussles between money-maker and moviemaker, this dreary romantic comedy from Cluelesswriter/director Amy Heckerling is unreleasable for any and every reason—even straight to home video. It plays like 97 minutes' worth of deleted scenes, beginning with Tracey Ullman's rambling monologue as muse and Mother Nature—oh, brother. Then it's on to the plot, which involves an "older" TV teen-dramedy producer (Michelle Pfeiffer) falling for a "younger" actor (Paul Rudd, wasted as "the next Ben Stiller"). Both actors overplay their parts in a desperate attempt to fill in the underwritten screenplay, full of pop-culture references clipped from a yellowed Entertainment Weekly. Heckerling drones and groans through her bitter commentary. Embarrassing except maybe for Atonement's Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan, whose debut has been released right to a shelf. (RW)
In the Shadow of the Moon (THINKFilm)
For any stargazer, then or now, David Sington's reverent documentary about the Apollo space program is a must-see: an engrossing oral history of the space race, recounted with zest by the astronauts themselves and studded with NASA archival footage that trumps 2001 for sci-fi astonishment. What the DVD loses in the big-screen splendor of those celestial vistas, it gains in special features—specifically, more than an hour of deleted and extended scenes filled with wonders. See rocket jockeys trail from tethers as the Earth recedes lazily in the background, watch as Neil Armstrong coolly radios NASA from a capsule tumbling end over end through the cosmos, and hear the astronauts testify to "the dark side of Apollo"—the toll the pursuit of heaven took on life back on Earth. (JR)
The Independent (Allumination)
This mockumentary about an independent filmmaker has three jokes that it repeats endlessly, to varying effect. The celebrity cameos—mostly by real indie directors including Roger Corman and Peter Bogdanovich—fall flat. Jerry Stiller, as the titular director, plays that same guy he's played for the past 20 years, which means lots of yelling and about 50 percent hilarious. But the glimpses we see of the films created by Stiller's character deliver the goods. With titles like The Foxy Chocolate Robot and plots about Siamese twins drafted into 'Nam, they amount to brilliant comedy sketches squashed down to a minute each. Of course, the rest of The Independent can't compare. And it doesn't help that, in the seven years since the film was made, mockumentaries went from being a tired concept to a dead one. (JH)
Our top DVD picks scheduled for release this week: The Amateurs (First Look); The Beatrix Potter Collection (BBC Warner); Becoming Jane (Miramax); Blade: The Series—The Complete Series (New Line); Blue State (MGM); Charlie Chan: Volume 4 (Fox); Dallas: The Complete Eighth Season (Warner Bros.); Dedication (Weinstein); The Equalizer: Season One (Universal); Family Ties: The Third Season (Paramount); General Hospital: Night Shift—Complete First Season (Buena Vista); George of the Jungle: The Complete Original Series (Classic Media); Girlfriends: The Third Season (Paramount); Gone Baby Gone (Miramax); Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: 40th Anniversary Edition (Sony); Martian Child (New Line); Romance & Cigarettes (Sony); Tell Me You Love Me: The Complete First Season (HBO); We Own the Night (Sony); The Wiz: 30th Anniversary Edition (Universal).