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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Stand Up > Biography > Relationships > Immigration > Lesbian > French > Road Movie > Food > Romance > Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays (2014/HBO DVD)/Chinese Puzzle (2013/Cohen Blu-ray)/Land Ho! (2014/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)/Le Chef (2012/Cohen Blu-ray)/Satellite (2006/Indiepix DVD)/Shotgun Garfunkel (2013/Cine

Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays (2014/HBO DVD)/Chinese Puzzle (2013/Cohen Blu-ray)/Land Ho! (2014/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)/Le Chef (2012/Cohen Blu-ray)/Satellite (2006/Indiepix DVD)/Shotgun Garfunkel (2013/Cinema Epoch DVD)

Picture: C+/B/B- & C/B-/C/C+ Sound: C+/B/B- & C/B/C/C Extras: D/C+/C/B-/C/C- Main Programs: B/B-/C/B-/C/C

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Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays (2014) is a long, smart stage show by the veteran comic that runs over two hours (134 minutes), has Crystal non-stop at his best, has him boldly telling much of his life story and doing it in a way that is a tour-de-force of his long, often impressive career. He talks about his early years with his family and how his father founded Commodore Records, which became a legendary record label, launching some of the most important jazz artists and American artists of all time. That includes Billie Holliday and the first-ever protest song: Strange Fruit. His father helped produce them all. After some more ups and downs, Crystal explains how he came back and has dozens of great character impressions throughout.

He never discusses hardly any of his films or his groundbreaking success on Soap, though it is ironic that his co-star from that show Jay Johnson has just delivered a great stand-up show of his own (see The Two & Only elsewhere on this site) showing the calibre of talent that show offered. They are two of the only survivors of it left. Like Johnson, Crystal shows sides of himself we have never seen before and to see both of them open up so totally and honestly is remarkable. However, we've seen Crystal in so many things, including just dealing with the loss of the great Robin Williams that this show rings as true as anything he ever did.

Remarkable, it is highly recommended!

There are no extras.

Cedric Klapisch's Chinese Puzzle (2013) is the third of a comedy trilogy by the director with some of the same cast members returning each time. Remarkably, despite being handled by different distributors in the U.S., we have covered the previous releases and you can read more about them at these links on DVD:

The Spanish Apartment (aka L'Auberge Espagnole or The Spanish Inn/2002)


Russian Dolls (2005)


More years have passed this time around, but the gang has finally found the balance between a good screenplay and a good visual shoot. The stories of Xavier (Romain Duris), Isabelle (Cecile De France), Martine (Audrey Tautou) and William (Kevin Bishop) are continued in this amusing installment where Xavier has gone to New York City for work and more. It becomes an ongoing joke that everyone suddenly is joining him for all kinds of wacky reasons, but the cast is as good as they ever were and the side story of Isabelle juggling lesbian lovers while Xavier tries to get work against all odds via immigration rules are all totally believable.

Some may find an appropriate comparison to the Sunrise/Sunset film of Richard Linklater and that has validity, especially because those films are as inconsistent as these have been, yet better to have them awkwardly than not at all. You don't even need to see the pervious films to enjoy this one, but it adds to it.

Extras include a booklet inside the Blu-ray case, while the disc adds a Making Of featurette, Original Theatrical Trailer and Cast/Crew Interviews.

Martha Stephens & Aaron Katz co-directed Land Ho! (2014) is supposed to be a funny, slice-of-life (albeit older life) about two friends (Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson) who are ex-brother-in-laws getting together and out of nowhere, decide to leave far away for Iceland. The idea is that this is some kind of raw, honest road movie with the twist that they are old, don't care about much and will say anything. However, I never found it funny, more than a little flat, pretentious and really pointless in the end. I have seen better films out of Iceland, but am apparently in the minority in this respect.

Sony Pictures Classics wants this to be a road movie with a difference, but it is no match for earlier such successes of older men taking road trips like Paul Mazursky's Harry & Tonto with Art Carney or the underrated Jim Jarmusch film Broke Flowers with Bill Murray. See it for yourself, but don't be too tired or you might fall asleep.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by the co-stars and co-directors, Deleted Scenes and a Q&A L.A. Film Festival segment.

Daniel Cohen's Le Chef (2012) is the latest of many feature films on food, with just about all of them comedies. Not to be confused with John Favreau's film of nearly the same name, Jean Reno shows off his comic side to great effect as a three-star restaurant chef with a huge reputation facing some unexpected challenges just when he had it made. There are new competitors, brat cooks with limited talent that turn the whole industry cynical, co-owners who want him to use cheaper ingredients and a new molecular gastronomy trend that rings phony no matter what.

Fortunately, he has a big fan in the awkward, klutzy Jacky Bonnot (Michael Youn in a brilliant comic performance) who loves his work, is inspired by him and knows his history and recipes better than the veteran. Not able to hold down a paying job despite having a beautiful girlfriend (Raphaelle Agogue, who the camera just loves) he loves who is pregnant, but his food obsessions just will not stop. He meets his idol just in time, but can he save both of them from disaster when he is so much a disaster himself?

Yes, there are a few parts that are predictable, but like Mystic Pizza (1988, reviewed elsewhere on this site), this has more than enough charm to override those limits and the casting is dead on with all kinds of chemistry, funny moments and a smarter script than many of the films in the cycle have had. This is one of Reno's best films ever and Youn may be on his way to international superstardom if he can get more films like this. Bravo!

Extras include a booklet inside the Blu-ray case, while the disc adds a Blooper Reel, Original Theatrical Trailer, Two Chefs featurette and Deleted Scenes.

Our final two entries are independent relationship tales. Jeff Winner's Satellite (2006) is an older, HD-shot attempt to have a character study of the rise of a relationship as Kevin (Karl Geary) and Ro (Stephanie Szostak) trying to decide if to be together, do they need to cut off everything in their lives and just go away? Of course, this sounds crazy and is problematic because in real life, this is what one person might say to another to prove love or show some odd version of commitment, then getting the person in trouble (out of a job, loss of friends, acquaintances, a home, etc.), but not here.

Like so much else in the script, though the actors are not bad together, there is no ironic distance throughout and the result is that I never bought this in total or even in many of its parts. I liked a few moments, which kept me watching, but it plays more like a demo for a film that never got funded or thought out properly.

A Producer Interview and feature length audio commentary track are the extras.

Last but not least is Johnny Barbuzano's Shotgun Garfunkel (2013), from a TV producer made very quickly and cheaply in Johannesburg, South Africa about the relationships and lives of some young friends. The gimmick does not matter much, though this looks a little more expensive than hey say it costs, but not by much. If anything it not only cheaply duplicates the fast food film mentality we see in most Hollywood cheap comedies, but actually imitates such films eventually too much and that leaves it not feeling enough like a South African product that could take us at least a little somewhere different.

The cast is not bad, but this becomes repetitive and eventually implodes in the end, even when I also imitates similar films from the U.K. and Australia. That's a shame, because there is a better set of stories to apparently tell form the moments here that do work, but they get suffocated by the lack of originality. This will likely stay a curio for a while, though.

A Stills Gallery and Original Theatrical Trailer are the only extras.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Crystal is as good as an HD-stage recording is going to be, so good here that I hope we get a Blu-ray. Satellite, Shotgun and the Ho DVDs have the same presentations, but only Shotgun could compete, as the others are poor HD-shot transfers. Fortunately for Ho, its 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can show more detail and is a superior-enough transfer.

The best presentations here are the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Puzzle (shot in the 3-perf Super 35mm film format with ) and the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Chef (shot with an Arri Alexa Plus HD camera), both with some minor issues at times, but very nice and consistent throughout like so many Cohen Blu-rays of late. Puzzle has the slight edge, even with its manipulated split screen graphics, et al.

As far as sound goes, all three Blu-rays offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, but the one on Ho is inconsistent and sometimes even sounds monophonic, while Puzzle and Chef have very warm, pleasant, consistent soundfields throughout that makes them very pleasant to sit through. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Ho DVD is not as good and as weak as the surprisingly basic, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Satellite and Shotgun, which show their budget limits. That leaves the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Crystal easily the best of the DVD mixes.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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