UltimateDisney.com Presents: March 2006 DVD Roundup

By Aaron Wallace

A male prostitution vehicle for a former "Saturday Night Live" cast member, an ESPN documentary about a high schooler on the brink of the NBA, and a lighthearted drama marketed on the appeal of a former "Jackass." Clearly, the three subjects of our debut DVD Roundup have nothing in common, except for the facts that Buena Vista Home Entertainment released them on DVD in the past two months and that they're likely to be of interest to some of this site's readership. So, without any further ado, enjoy the first three reviews in our new "capsule" format.

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo - Little Black Book Edition | Through the Fire | Daltry Calhoun

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (Little Black Book Edition)
88 Minutes / Rating: R / Theatrical Release Date: December 10, 1999
Director: Mike Mitchell
Cast: Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow), Eddie Griffin (T.J. Hicks), William Forsythe (Detective Chuck Fowler), Arija Bareikis (Kate), Gail O'Grady (Claire), Oded Fehr (Antoine Laconte), Richard Riehle (Bob Bigalow), Amy Poehler (Ruth), Jacqueline Obradors (Elaine Fowler), Big Boy (Jabba Lady/Fluisa/Naomi), Dina Platias (Bergita), Torsten Voges (Tina), Deborah Lemen (Carol), Bree Turner (Allison), Andrew Shaifer (Neil), Norm MacDonald (Bartender/Himself)
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French); Subtitles: English, French; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 / DVD Release Date: March 14, 2006 / Sneak Peeks: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Casanova, Glory Road

This comedic tale of a misguided fish doctor who finds himself mixed up in the world of male prostitution stars Rob Schneider -- who also co-authored the screenplay -- in the title role. The humor presented in Deuce is of the crudest kind, laced with profanity, crass sexuality, and partial nudity that make its R rating a much-deserved one. The laughs are cheap, but they're laughs nonetheless. Often random and sometimes offensive, the movie can't begin to hold up against even a generous critical evaluation, though it does manage to amuse. While it may be slightly tamer than some others in its ilk, the dramatic payoff that sometimes justifies these affairs is flimsy and boring in Deuce.

Deuce is put off by his newest client's body type. Star and co-writer Rob Schneider talks about the making of the film in "Making the Deuce." Too bad they don't make Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo bobble-heads in real life!

The "Little Black Book Edition" marks the film's second DVD release and it comes just after Sony's sequel made its home video debut. The 1.85:1 transfer is enhanced for 16x9 displays and looks pretty good, free of any major complaints. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track is disappointing, as almost all of the sound comes from the front speakers, the center channel in particular. Volume levels are extremely inconsistent and having a remote at your side is a requirement for viewing. The disc expands upon the last release's 2½-minute making-of piece with a 9-minute featurette titled "Making the Deuce", but drops a storyboard-to-scene comparison and (for no good reason) the theatrical trailer, while adding seven deleted scenes (no play-all option provided), several "fly on the set" shorts, which let the cameras roll in between scenes (again, no play-all option provided), and a "video diary" made up of on-set footage taken by the director himself. There's also an easy-to-find but pretty unremarkable Easter egg (okay, animal lovers might like it) in the Bonus Features section.

Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo is amusing, but not exactly entertaining. A rental will prove to be useful and satisfactory to some, but many will want to skip this all together and very few will deem it worth owning. The "Little Black Book Edition" is certainly distinguishable from the film's first release (and not just by its corny title), but whether or not it's an upgrade is hard to say. A far-from perfect DVD release of a comedy that is as mediocre as it is raunchy, Deuce doesn't quite come recommended.

UD Rating: out of 5

Buy Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (Little Black Book Edition) from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Sky High • Jack • Mr. 3000 • Scrubs: The Complete Second Season • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Through the Fire (Director's Cut - Extended and Uncensored)
103 Minutes / Not Rated ("R" equivalent for language) / Original Airdate: March 12, 2006
Director: Jonathan Hock
1.78:1 Non-anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: March 14, 2006 / Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 / Sneak Peeks: Code Breakers, ESPN & ESPN2 HD

Through the Fire illustrates how strange the world in which we live is. This documentary, which aired this March on ESPN (in a shortened, less profane fashion), explores the senior year of high school basketball star Sebastian Telfair, as he leads the Lincoln Railsplitters of Brooklyn's Coney Island to a third consecutive league title while attracting non-stop interest from the media and scouts on both a collegiate and professional level. The foul-mouthed Telfair and his fellow teammates operate within a system which caters to misguided arrogance, where their athletic endeavours bring them widespread heroic adulation. That isn't as ridiculous as it should be, for the showy point guard seems like a shoo-in for a multi-million dollar deal with an NBA team as well as the equally lucrative (and now obligatory) sneaker contract. This bizarre reality makes Telfair's senior year the potential final stepping stone to wealth and celebrity for doing what he seems to already do - spend all his time playing basketball and working out. Vicarious thrills are in order here, as few teenagers ever enjoy as much attention or as promising prospects as Telfair. The 18-year-old comes off surprisingly level-headed while entertaining an offer from the University of Louisville's reputed coach Rick Pitino alongside the allure of pro basketball. Unfortunately, the film's ultimate message seems to be that education is irrelevant for those with physical talents, a dangerous example to set for the countless other impoverished youngsters who are destined for the NBA-or-nothing path that left Telfair's older brother to enjoy merely the obscurity of Greece's basketball league.

The territory seems like a perfect fit for director/producer Jonathan Hock, whose previous credits include playground highlight videos and the 2000 IMAX film Michael Jordan to the Max. Through the Fire plays out like a less extensive, less epic version of Hoop Dreams, with an unusual happy ending that isn't satisfactorily explored. Its all-access approach to a surreal world for gifted, hard-working athletes is both fascinating and revealing. Depending on the viewer and his or her stance on pro sports, the end result can vary from depressing to inspiring.

It's not your typical teenager who calls a press conference during his senior year of high school.... ...or poses for the cover of Sports Illustrated. Louisville coach Rick Pitino speaks candidly in one of the disc's several extended interviews.

The DVD boasts a widescreen transfer which, though surprisingly not enhanced for 16x9 displays, makes the digital video footage look fine and a 5.1 track which is largely limited to the front and center speakers. Bonus material is rather abundant. It includes over 14 minutes of deleted scenes, mostly covering Telfair's time in Oklahoma City for the McDonald's All-American game and in Greece to workout with his brother. There are another 31 minutes of highlight montages from the playground and league play, most extensively culled from ESPN and ESPN2 broadcasts of the important Progressive tournament victory and the failed assists record attempt McDonald's game. A pair of featurettes run twelve minutes: Telfair and Hock answer questions at a 2005 Tribeca Film Festival screening, while Telfair's cousin/fellow Railsplitter-turned-NBA baller Stephon Marbury talks about his childhood hometown in an excerpt from something called "The Life." Candid interviews with Pitino, Lincoln coach Tiny Morton, and Telfair's older brother Jamel Thomas complement the feature and three additional interviews with Telfair himself. Finally and most substantially, Hock and cinematographer Alastair Christopher provide a feature-length audio commentary.

UD Rating: ½ out of 5

Buy Through the Fire (Director's Cut) from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Aliens of the Deep • America's Heart & Soul • Remember the Titans: Director's Cut • Dream On Silly Dreamer

Daltry Calhoun
93 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Theatrical Release Date: September 25, 2005
Director: Katrina Holden Bronson
Cast: Johnny Knoxville (Daltry Calhoun), Sophie Traub (June), Elizabeth Banks (May), Juliette Lewis (Flora), Kick Gurry (Frankie), David Koechner (Doyle Earl), Laura Cayouette (Wanda Banks), Beth Grant (Dee), Matthew Sharp (Eugene), James Parks (Arlo)
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 / DVD Release Date: February 7, 2006 / Sneak Peeks: Proof, Zu Warriors, Underclassman

If you're like me, a DVD with the names Quentin Tarantino and Johnny Knoxville (the man who gave us MTV's “Jackass”) proudly printed across the top is none too appealing. Daltry Calhoun turns out to be a pleasant surprise, however, as it's more a light-hearted drama than it is an obnoxious comedy. Though the title character (Knoxville) is billed as the star, it is his daughter, June (Sophie Traub), who is actually positioned as the central protagonist (not to mention narrator). Abandoned by Daltry at a young age, June tracks him down once she turns 14, along with her mother (Elizabeth Banks), whose health is failing. The Daltry Calhoun they find is hardly the dead end-bound young man he had been when he fathered June, but instead of a successful entrepreneur who secretly faces a financial scare. The narrative focuses on June and Daltry's adjustments to one another as their lives take upward and downward swings. This is hardly a stunning drama, but its simplicity is alluring, as it tells a story for the story's sake. A capable cast, skilled direction, and wonderful soundtrack are all complimentary to that end.

Daltry hits the big-time: the local news. Daltry's daughter, June Frankie gets off a bus in one of the disc's deleted scenes.

The film opens with a largely windowboxed frame that soon becomes a 2.35:1 widescreen image, enhanced for 16x9 displays. Both the video and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track are pleasing, as is the wide array of bonus features. There's a pretty interesting audio commentary by Katrina Holden Bronson (writer and director), Danielle Renfrew (producer) and, of course, Quentin Tarantino (executive producer) together on one track. That's followed by a 12-minute making-of featurette, five deleted scenes (each presented with the optional accompaniment of the commentary crew), a fun and brief piece called "The B Team" that spends some time with three cast members (Juliette Lewis, David Koechner, and Kick Gurry) who felt left out after they joined the filming a few days late, a blooper reel, and a music video for "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" by Blue Mother Tupelo. That's quite a roster for a low-key release, but it doesn't stop there: there's also some icing for that cake: the theatrical trailer has been included, something that Buena Vista rarely does these days. With that impressive list of offerings and a solid film in the spotlight, the Daltry Calhoun DVD deserves at least consideration.

UD Rating: ½ out of 5

Buy Daltry Calhoun from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Proof • Dear Frankie • Prozac Nation • Carolina • Bride & Prejudice

Roundup posted March 27, 2006.

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