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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Spoof > Drama > Dogs > French > Family > Sports > Boxing > Relationships > Armed & Dangerous (1986/Image Blu-ray)/Chocolat (2000/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Marley & Me: The Puppy Years (2011/Fox Blu-ray)/Park Benches (2009)/Peep World (2010/IFC/MPI DVDs)/Play It To The Bone (1999)/S

Armed & Dangerous (1986/Image Blu-ray)/Chocolat (2000/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Marley & Me: The Puppy Years (2011/Fox Blu-ray)/Park Benches (2009)/Peep World (2010/IFC/MPI DVDs)/Play It To The Bone (1999)/Scenes From A Mall (1991/Mill Creek Blu-rays)/Take Me Home Tonight (2011/Fox Blu-ray)/Two Can Play That Game (2001/Image Blu-ray)


Picture: C+ (Chocolat: B/Home: B-)     Sound: C+/B-/B-/C+/C+/C+/C/C+/C+     Extras: D/C/D/C/C-/D/D/D/C     Films: C+/C+/D/C+/C-/C-/D/D/C



The number of varied comedies that have not worked far outnumbers the ones that do, but it should be noted that ambition and good ideas are half the battle won in the genre.  Here is a set of films with less success than failure and here is why…



Though he does not get the credit for it, the late John Candy was one of the most natural comic talents around and Armed & Dangerous (1986) was another attempt to give him a hit.  The film did some business, but has been lost in the shuffle and thought not a great film, is fun and Candy shows why he was a true movie star and natural comic talent.  He is a police officer who gets himself fired, only to work security for a kennel, joined by the less-capable Eugene Levy.  Both are interested in the Bosses’ daughter (Meg Ryan looking better than usual), but her father is up to no good and one wacky thing after another keeps happening.  Director Mark L. Lester comes up with a good dumb comedy, but it’s a-level intentions never get above B-movie level.  Still, this is more ambitious than most comedies of late and looks like a screwball comedy classic in comparison, so you might want to revisit it.  Originally a Columbia Picture, Sony has licensed it to Image for Blu-ray release and there are no extras unfortunately.



Lasse Hallstrom is a good filmmaker, but even he could not make Chocolat (2000) really work, yet it was embraced at awards time with many nominations, but few to no wins.  The great Juliet Binoche moves into a religiously oppressed town and opens a chocolate shop, but the head of the church (Alfred Molina) is threatened and goes after her!  That she opens it during the lent period where Catholics (et al) give up temptations does not help, though wee never know if she did this intentionally or not.  She befriends Lena Olin’s lonely character, whose had it with her boyfriend played by the always reliable; Peter Stormare and falls for a free spirit played by Johnny Depp.  Judi Dench also steals every scene she is in and Leslie Caron even shows up.  Nice, but only so great, yet has its funny moments and the food looks good, so it is worth a look.  This is a Miramax film licensed to Lionsgate and extras include Deleted Scenes, three making of featurettes and feature length audio commentary with Hallstrom and Producers David Brown, Kit Golden and Leslie Holleran.



Playing out a very bad idea, Marley & Me: The Puppy Years (2011) is a cynical, tired, desperate attempt to squeeze a few more pennies out of the “cute talking (cg moth moving) dog” would-be franchise.  Cynical and dull, Director Michael Damian and company could be accused of animal and people abuse for making anyone sit through this dud.  Not even the talented Donnelly Rhodes could help.  Three making of featurettes are the only extras.



The last film on the list to we watchable is Bruno Podalydés’ Park Benches (2009) which is all over the place and never really adds up, but has some laughs and definitely owes something to the films of Jacques Tati.  Women in an office see a sign on a building that says “lonely man” and wonder if this is the prelude to a suicide or just a guy trying to find a date.  Three women from that office decide to investigate and break many norms in the process.  From there, we land up in a big retail hardware store and eventually a park with funny moments and vignettes all over the place.  Though not a great film, I had enough laughs to recommend people interested give it a try.  Deleted Scenes, a trailer and Behind The Scenes piece are the only extras.



Barry W. Blaustein’s Peep World (2010) is not as successful despite a cast that includes Sarah Silverman, Ron Rifkin, Michael C. Hall, Judy Greer, Taraji P. Henson, Kate Mara, Ben Schwartz, Leslie Ann Warren and Rainn Wilson as a dysfunctional family becomes more so at the 70th Birthday dinner for their father, but also igniting more fighting and the return of the repressed is a new hit book by one of them that is about the family, which shares the name of this film.  Unfortunately, this is more about shrill behavior and bad dialogue than character study or an honest look at anything.  Not that this is smug, but it is too self-amused and never really works.  Deleted Scenes and a Trailer are the only extras.



Ron Shelton has tired to mine the sports world for as much comedy as he could, but Play It To The Bone (1999) with Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson play best friends who are inadvertently forced to box each other in Vegas.  I never really bought it and the comedy is not based in real situations like Shelton’s superior Bull Durham, though having Lucy Liu and Lolita Davidovich does not hurt, but that cannot saver this dud.  Disney has licensed this Touchstone film to Mill Creek for Blu-ray release and there are no extras, which is also the case with…



Paul Mazursky’s Scenes From A Mall (1991), a very unfunny comedy that did not bring the director back and wastes the odd pairing of Woody Allen and Bette Midler in what could have been an interesting character study of its own and how the world has changed, but as a married couple unhappy and wondering what they should do next, Mazursky misses the boat and the film goes absolutely nowhere.  Its biggest problem is lack of ironic distance and I like the leads.  Too bad.



Michael Dowse’s Take Me Home Tonight (2011) is a film that wants to be about the 1980s and has no idea what that period was really about, so it decorates itself with music and some of the look of the period with no point.  Toper Grace from the sitcom That 70s Show which later became That 80s Show and neither version had any clue about the periods they took place in wants another chance to get together with the popular gal he liked in high School the most lying about working in finance when he works at the now-defunct Suncoast video store.  Anna Faris also stars in this dud that even music by Trevor Horn could not save and wow, is it lame.  If you want to understand 1980s humor or the period, you can see Armed & Dangerous as reviewed above or the far superior Real Genius, long overdue on Blu-ray.  Extras include Deleted Scenes, Cast Get-Together, Music Boom Box, a bad Music Video and Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices.



Finally we have Mark Brown’s Two Can Play That Game (2001), a comedy vehicle for the underrated Vivica A. Fox where she often talks to the camera/audience about how to have a better relationship with men and all the hidden truths in life in between.  This worked well enough that a sequel was made, which you can read more about at this link called Three Can Play That Game:





Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Anthony Anderson and Wendy Raquel are among the supporting actors in this watchable, amusing romp and it has not aged as badly as it might otherwise have.  Originally a Screen Gems/Columbia Picture, Sony has licensed it to Image for Blu-ray release and Extras include a Music Video, three making of featurettes and feature length audio commentary with the director.



The clear winner here picture-wise is the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Chocolat, followed by the 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 36 MBPS digital High Definition image on Tonight, which should have been the best being the newest but has softness issues among other minor flaws.  Chocolat could even look better, but this might be a slightly dated HD master and the film was shot by Director of Photography Roger Pratt, B.S.C., so the work is top rate.  The rest of the Blu-rays are problematic by either having aged HD masters or even print flaws, while the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 DVDs are their equal though they are soft and have lower definition.  Bone is 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition while the rest are 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition with Armed having the best color and some of the best shots at this level.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Chocolate and Marley have the best sonics on the list with good soundfields for dialogue-based releases, but none of the films on the list have anything so amazing to offer that you’ll be using it as demo material for your home theater system.  The same DTS-MA 5.1 on Tonight is underwhelming and not well recorded, while Mall and Bone are miscredited as Dolby Digital 2.0 when they are DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless stereo despite being 5.1 digital theatrical releases not helping either of them.


Armed and Game are here in PCM 2.0 Stereo mixed with vague Pro Logic surrounds like Mall and Bone, but while Game was a 5.1 digital release like those films, Armed was first issued in Dolby’s old A-type analog noise reduction system so it can have some of the oldest fidelity, yet it is more lively for what it is that you might expect.  That leaves both IFC DVDs with Dolby Digital 5.1 lossy mixes that may be limited (both are dialogue-based), but the recording quality is not bad.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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