Blu-ray Review: The Hangover (2009)

Now Available to Own

Photo Slideshow

Read Our Interview with Ed Helms

Multiplying a traditional buddy comedy by two-- animals not included-- Old School director Todd Phillips introduces us to the fearless foursome of Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) who take their bachelor party celebration on the road.

Eschewing the paradigm of the Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church smash hit Sideways with Helms' Stu using their trip to the Wine Country as an excuse he delivers to his stereotypical “ball-busting” girlfriend, the men instead opt to “Viva Las Vegas.” This decision to "Viva" it up lasts less than twenty-four hours as a sentimental toast precedes a night on the town, wherein the four wake up the next day to experience not just the feeling evoked by the title of The Hangover but also “Amnesia Las Vegas.”

Realizing that the characters-- including the now missing-in-action Doug-- as well as the audience have literally no idea what happened the earlier evening, Todd Phillips' clever comedy that takes a full forty minutes to build up begins to throw clues at us faster than a Vegas dealer can fling the cards in a blackjack game.

Intriguingly, while the film that eventually garnered the Golden Globe as the Best Musical or Comedy Film of 2009 is amusing from the start, mostly due to the bizarre, seemingly improvised non sequiturs and alarming outbursts of Galifianakis' Alan, it's the rarest of comedies in that it not only grows far more hilarious as it continues, but also conquers the genre's tendency to go overboard into fake nostalgia or tonal shifts in the third act.

As San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick La Salle noted, it's best it you avoid the trailer if at all possible. Yet contrary to the standard Hollywood comedy fear that it's to prevent yourself from having all of the movie's jokes ruined, this time around you'll want to do so essentially because the film also works like a mystery.

Yet in Hangover terms, the mystery is one wherein the most thrilling surprise isn't in the final denouement but in the little reveals offered up along the way that continually lead our characters down the most unexpectedly hilarious and bizarre paths.

In fact, the more concrete the evidence and the more definitive the results of their inquiry surrounding what happened the previous night are, the less freewheeling, funny and creative the film is all-around. This I can attest to firsthand as I had the extra challenge of viewing the work for the first time on disc since I'd missed the press screening.

And although I was fortunate enough to have interviewed star Ed Helms in a round-table setting prior to its release, I knew just from our discussion that the movie depended on surprise, suspension of disbelief to such an extent that it would most likely necessitate a second screening, making me respect the film on another level completely.

While the wild comedy and terrific chemistry of the cast members riffing off one another is apparent from the first go-round, it was during the second spin that I was struck
by the novelty of mysterious set-up in the screenplay from Four Christmases scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Giving off the enviable feeling that you're watching something completely spontaneous, much credit is also due to the guidance of Todd Phillips who proved in the past that he knows funny and by this point has mastered it to the degree that you buy right into the ridiculousness of a baby in a closet, a tiger in a bathroom and a patrol car at the valet because of the nonchalant approach.

When I interviewed Helms, there were already whispers that The Hangover would be followed up by at least one sequel, yet being that it was releasing right after Warner Brothers' tremendous push for the largely disappointing Terminator: Salvation, nobody was certain how a summer R-rated comedy would do in a month other than August.

Now known as the most successful comedy of all time, raking in Matrix numbers of those who've purchased it on DVD and Blu-ray, the question has definitely shifted to the number of sequels that will be made. Of course, any sequel discussion also comes with obvious concern in whether or not we can buy the “Amnesia Las Vegas” approach twice and in a location other than the city wherein what happens there “stays" there, and if it will feel just as spontaneous when we're watching Stu, Phil, Alan, and Doug again and again.

Still, until then, The Hangover, which should've dispensed with the final “lost camera” end credit sequence of snapshots illustrating what happened with a tone that feels like Entourage went to the Bada-Bing, makes a great analysis worthy contemporary comedy in an era when we just don't have that many truly funny films.

Gorgeous lensing transfers well on the WB Blu-ray format and while the music and ambient sound is terrific, duplicating realistic sound in a variety of speaker set-ups, once again, the spoken dialogue capture and playback on disc is far too low. A hurdle for WB releases, this makes for an uneven sound balance that would've no doubt diminished slightly from the experience had it not been for the antics onscreen and questioning if your own laughter is the thing throwing the sound off track.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

TV on DVD: Cranford: The Collection -- Cranford (2007) and Return to Cranford (2009)

Now Available to Own

Photo Slideshow

Had Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth and Jane Bennet or Sense and Sensibility's Marianne and Elinor Dashwood not ended up wedded or betrothed at the end of Jane Austen's classic novels, chances are they would've become very good friends with the senior spinsters in PBS and BBC's adaptation of three books by Elizabeth Gaskell.

While undoubtedly one would've made the connection regardless, the original title in the enchantingly engrossing, lengthy miniseries that comprises the two-film Masterpiece Theatre Cranford: The Collection is particularly reminiscent of Jane Austen given the fact that the release date of the set coincides with the February 9 street-date for BBC and PBS's sunny collaboration of Emma starring Romola Garai.

Yet Cranford's female centric narrative that leads viewers into the heart of the eponymous and even-by-1840s standards old-fashioned British township also hearkens back to the darker realities of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and will also appeal to those who cherished Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series.

Starring Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins in richly complex portrayals of the surface level sweet and sour sisters of Matilda “Matty” and Deborah Jenkyns respectively, we quickly ascertain that-- much like our first impressions of their roles as merely two of several seemingly stereotypical little old ladies who run Cranford-- there's an unfathomable amount about the actresses, the characters, and the plot left to surprise us as it continues.

Just like contemporary Stars Hollow, Connecticut seemed like an immediately inviting, eccentric community on television's underrated Warner Brothers series Gilmore Girls, the fictitious Cranford is filled with residents who are always aware of the business of others, do not take to change very well, and fill their time with gossip, speculation, and of course, being there for one another whether it's in celebration or in times of bereavement.

Since change and gossip causes the most fun in both upsetting the status quo as well as providing the women of Cranford with the most entertaining form of plot, both installments are at their best when we're introduced to new visitors who arrive to shake things up, return from the past, or try to make a fresh start.

Such is the case many times over throughout the series, especially near the beginning wherein a number of new faces mingle with the old ones, despite the fact that they're all new to viewers, which assuredly makes us feel far more invested in their emotional journey than we would've had we just been given access to their sitting rooms if nothing had been altered.

For the strict Deborah and her younger sister Matty, their young acquaintance Mary Smith (Lisa Dillon) arrives to escape her stepmother's endless attempts to marry her off in the hopes of not just reconnecting with the women she holds dear but also get in touch with the community in which her mother had resided.

While Mary quickly acclimates to their customs of only lighting two candles at night and allowing just fifteen minutes for visitors only between Deborah's choice calling hours of twelve and three, the Jenkyns are in for another surprise when they receive a new neighbor.

Guilty of possessing “common” taste when his quarter of an hour visit reveals the his favorite author and novel are Charles Dickens and The Pickwick Papers respectively, Captain Brown (Jim Carter) and his two daughters nonetheless make a much smoother transition to Cranford than the talented but radically forward-thinking young doctor, Frank Harrison (Simon Woods).

With a fancy London education, experience working around Her Majesty the Queen, along with putting stock in such unorthodox techniques as using ice to bring down fevers and prepare patients and battlefield inspired surgery to save limbs, while his red coat signifies his status as an outsider in a sea of men who wear the proper black, his dashing good looks and sweet nature ultimately make him the most sought after Valentine in all of Cranford.

Despite the fact that his heart was captured by the lovely Sophy Hutton (Kimberly Nixon) upon first glance, a handful of Cranford women are assured by gossip and misunderstanding that they're the ones for whom he pines.Meanwhile, wealthy Lady Dutton's manservant Mr. Carter (Life on Mars star Philip Glenister) looks past class based prejudices to take the bright penniless Harry Gregson (Alex Etel) under his wing in the work's Dickensian homage.

Although on one hand it can be construed as a comedy of manners and character, at its heart, both Cranford and its Christmas modeled Return sequel which is equal to its predecessor in style and plot stand as captivating classics about missed opportunities, second chances, the intermingling of the past with the present, and the way humans can adapt to anything as long as we have family and or friends in our circle of support.

Packaged in a sturdy keepsake hardback book like case, which comes as a nicely unexpected surprise in a sea of flimsy recycle material boxes that place holes in the wrong locations of the case precisely where more plastic should be to protect, The Cranford Collection is also housed in its own outer box and deserves a place alongside the Austen adaptations in your collection.

And while they're nowhere near as depressing as some of Dickens' fare, Cranford is more realistic than my favorite Austen by daring to remind us a la Alcott and Bronte that even though they're comprised of ink printed on a page, the characters endeared to us as flesh and blood are mortal as death arrives unexpectedly and swiftly throughout its time-span of a little more than a year, sparing no one from supporting players to the principals.

Yet even though, like the passing of Beth in Little Women that still brings tears to my eyes even today, you'll be surprised by some of the turns of events, the success of Cranford is in its ability to make some of the losses quite poetic in terms of what happens to a young character in the second film, along with its refusal to abandon humor, warmth and heart even at the most unexpected of times when just two of the Jenkyns' candles prove to go a long way.

Based on Gaskell's Cranford, My Lady Ludlow and Mr. Harrison's Confessions, it's a grand achievement to blend all of the source material together for a cohesive miniseries that never feels too episodic.

Additionally, the acclaimed, award-winning series makes us want to set down the more popular British fare of Austen and Dickens for a moment to pick up some of Elizabeth Gaskell's work now that we've been exposed to it by the BBC, PBS and Warner Brothers. And of course, this wish goes hand in hand with imagining what it would've been like if the Dashwoods, the Bennets, and the Jenkyns sisters had somehow transcended time, space, and reality to share at least a quarter of an hour together from twelve to three in the afternoon.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.

DVD Review: Tennessee (2008)

Now Available to Own

Although the small but loyal audience of Wisegirls had already uncovered the truthful antithesis to the mainstream Glitter jokes, it wasn't until the success of director Lee Daniels' Precious that the rest of the film-going public finally discovered that "Yes, Virginia, Mariah Carey can act."

In what is most likely destined to be dubbed a companion piece to the award-winning Precious since Tennessee shares Lee Daniels (this time serving as producer) and star Mariah Carey in common, the best selling female artist of all time turns in another quietly powerful, entirely charismatic, and believable performance.

And while obviously, especially as an independent film in need of “something extra” to garner theatrical distribution and/or enough interest for its recent DVD release, the filmmakers didn't pass up the opportunity for Carey to croon a song written especially for the film, it nonetheless fits her role as the hard-working, goodhearted Krystal who's all but given up her dream to become a singer.

Essentially spending her life as an always on call waitress, all twenty-four hours of Krystal's day are spent serving others both at a local diner and then grocery shopping in order to prepare for her second job as the beck and call girl of her abusive, domineering, police officer husband.

While astute moviegoers have undoubtedly seen this all before or at least heard it if they're also fans of country western music, in the end it turns out to be Carey's Krystal that ratchets director Aaron Woodley's sophomore film from its 1940's “women's weepie” origins found in Russell Schaumburg's script.

Although her character on the page is far from a ray of sunshine as a battered wife isn't quite the Pollyanna or Mary Poppins that would immediately call to mind, surprisingly she serves film's unforced heart that elevates and alleviates the problems in the overly melodramatic and similarly self-consciously melancholic primary plot.

Walking the tightrope perilously between a Hallmark Hall of Fame or Lifetime Movie approach to homage to three hankie classics by Douglas Sirk, Tennessee centers on two grown brothers who have no choice but to return home to Knoxville, Tennessee fifteen years after fleeing their own abusive situation to gauge whether or not their domineering father could be a bone marrow match for the angelic looking, younger brother Ellis (Ethan Peck).

Having selflessly given up everything to protect his young brother and mother from the father whose favored evening entertainment seemed to be a few more hits than usual, the last thing that Carter (Adam Rothenberg) wants to do is head back to the one place that holds both the horrific and real memories of his past as well as his optimistic, bitterly imagined ones involving his old sweetheart and college football that he never realized.

While we all know precisely where the movie is headed, since the film's “spiritual” themes are spelled out all over the box just in case we had trouble deciphering all of the ways their literal journey is a metaphor for their own personal ones, once Krystal provides the getaway vehicle and invites herself along, the film becomes livelier.

Still, the ultimate message presented to us regarding the importance of letting go and moving on in terms of what happens to the characters may raise a few flags for sharp viewers in terms of the literal and figurative sacrifices that occur.

Likewise, despite the trio of excellent performers who play well off one another, their chemistry doesn't fly off the screen a la old Godard road movies, Cuaron's sexy Y Tu Mama Tambien or even as evidenced in Tom McCarthy's The Station Agent. However, this failing could be attributed to the simple fact that this particular road movie seems best suited to the smaller closed spaces of a television rather than the wide theatrical arena, which we see again and again via the indecision contained in the screenplay itself.

Namely, we're never quite sure exactly where Krystal fits in as initially we assume she's the makeshift mother figure recreating the journey the boys had taken fifteen years earlier when fleeing their TN home and then other times she's written and directed to be a flirtatious fixture for the guys. Wisely, they avoid the latter, which would've no doubt been the wrong move lest it give off a Love Story vibe that may have further irritated those really stricken with disease tired of exploitative plots that use sick characters as metaphors for redemption.

And while in the end, there's just not enough to the journey to make it very Precious nor make us think it will attract viewers in any format other than TV, at least Tennessee manages once more to prove to Carey's naysayers that "the girl can't help it." Simply put, Mariah Carey is a natural in the right role, even if in the case of Tennessee, both the singer and the audience aren't exactly certain just what this one was supposed to be.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.


Blu-ray Review: The Simpsons -- 20 Years: The Complete Twentieth Season (2008-2009)

Now Available to Own

Photo Slideshow

Essentially, our lives with Matt Groening's smash animated sitcom The Simpsons have been like a marriage in a Hollywood movie. We've had the honeymoon phase, the sickening newlywed stage, the temptation of flirting with other shows and then-- in some cases-- the divorce wherein we became committed to another hot, young, new series until we've realized that it just doesn't make us laugh like the program to which we return.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that 20th Century Fox is giving The Simpsons a 20th Anniversary Celebration befitting of a wedding anniversary. Except, instead of the event lasting one single night and captured on film by someone's wacky uncle trying out his new HD camcorder, for the first time in history, we're presented with Homer in high-definition.

Likewise, the first season to be delivered completely to audiences in high-definition in anticipation of the digital television switch and therefore the debut for the series in Blu-ray format, The Simpsons is still the same wacky full-screen program it always was. But nonetheless, with the Blu-ray set, you'll discover a vast difference in perspective as the outlines are sharper, characters nearly walk off the screen and there's an added depth to the artwork we've started to take for granted... like a cliched movie spouse.

Like choosing mono instead stereo on records transferred to CDs,
you can either play the episodes with the black vertical bars on both sides of your widescreen television to view it in its original format or expand with the full or zoom option to fill the screen. And while I prefer the original format when given the option, I was thrilled that Groening gave us much more to marvel over with hand-drawn animated character menus and a gorgeous Blu-ray box sleeve (protected by a slightly transparent white outer cover) that contains dozens of characters from the history of the series.

Although it's purposely cartoonish in its hand-drawn look, just one episode or two of The Simpsons is sure to make you nostalgic for the days when we didn't depend far too heavily on needless CGI, 3D or other gimmicks to lure people to tune into animation whether at home or in the theatre. And much like series that were inspired by The Simpsons such as Family Guy, we became hooked on the series not only due to its instantly recognizable, oddly envisioned world-- making it similar to SpongeBob SquarePants in that regard-- but because of the ingenious writing. Over the years, Simpsons scripts have tapped right into our culture, incorporating without depending upon spoofs for laughter, and delivering a wondrous result with the voice talent of individuals such as Simpsons MVP Hank Azaria who can bring any role that Groening dreams up to life.

From giving me the goal of adopting a Greyhound like Homer and Bart did with their first episode about "Santa's Little Helper" all the way up through the instantly repeat-worthy opener to this season, the humor mixed in with heart touches us in a way that most live action sitcoms just can't approach.

Yet despite the fact that it's broadcasting its 450th episode this very month, over the past two decades, The Simpsons has become the Saturday Night Live of half hour format TV comedy in terms of its tendency to move radically from low to high in content consistency. However while The Simpsons has suffered from repetition and amusing if not particularly memorable plot-lines and a really bad feature length film, in terms of enviable high to lowbrow use of homage and humor that hits every single demographic, it's Groening's show and not Lorne Michaels' that consistently redraws the box to think outside of so many times that it expands in size every single time an episode plays around the globe.

And thankfully in this particular season, there's more than enough hilarious creativity to go around as a ruckus on Saint Patrick's Day inspires Homer and religious sidekick neighbor Ned Flanders to become bounty hunters. Soon enough, they're so wrapped up in their job that Homer doesn't even realize that his wife, Marge has unknowingly begun putting her culinary skills to "adults-only" use by working in an erotic bakery.

Unlike other series that dedicate a majority of their humor to topics from popular magazines and entertainment news, The Simpsons is a show that's never been afraid to find inspiration in politics and twenty-four hour news networks. Moreover, it's incredibly fascinating that some episodes contain enough subtle commentaries to fill Comedy Central's hour long block of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report even though its parent news network of Fox is the channel mostly scrutinized and ridiculed for its right wing heavy faux “fair and balanced” approach.

Yet far from being preachy, they find the greatest comedy fodder in news-related areas including one of the show's famous Halloween themed "Treehouse of Horror" segments being devoted to a rigged voting booth error that keeps altering Homer's votes for now President Barack Obama for Senator John McCain. Further challenging us, "Treehouse" follows this up by going into riffs on contemporary shows like Mad Men, taking a daring spin when Homer is recruited to kill celebrities so that ad companies can use their likeness for free.

Still, throughout the twenty-one episodes included on two discs, silliness abounds. Bart trades places with a look alike from a rich family to discover the truism that he had it pretty good at home in their spin on Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, the family takes the long-suffering grandpa on a trip to Ireland, Bart gets hold of Denis Leary's cell phones and receives instant access to prank call bars around the world, and Lisa grows addicted to crosswords by Will Shortz in an episode that will make Wordplay fans proud.

Also evening out the madness with plots centering on the family unit as we flashback to Homer and Marge's decision to marry, Groening's ability to touch viewers is stronger than ever but the topics are similarly timelier than before as Flanders bails out the Simpson family when they lose their home by renting it back. Similarly, the series risks taboo subjects to both make a point and get you laughing at the same time via plot-lines involving terrorism and the irrational overwhelming fear of illegal immigration when Springfield, Illinois is flooded by Norwegians.

Referencing everything from Ayn Rand to The Transformers, the 2-disc set of 21 episodes that fits in one standard Blu-ray box also boasts an extra from Oscar nominee Morgan Spurlock. The season also includes the celebrity voices of Emily Blunt, Anne Hathaway, Brian Cuban, Ellen Page, Marv Albert, Jodie Foster, Dennis Leary, Joe Montana, the eleventh return for Kelsey Grammar, and of course, dozens of unexpected opportunities for Hank Azaria to crack us up.

In other words, the honeymoon for this show is far from over, thereby making The Simpsons one of those rare cases where it defies all of Hollywood's expectations by still going strong.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.


Blu-ray Review: The Green Berets (1968)

Now Available to Own

Photo Slideshow

Long before children in the '80s met the Mr. T version of The A-Team and decades before Generation Y anticipated the big screen remake, John “The Duke” Wayne commanded two Special Forces A-Teams in Hollywood's first depiction of American troops in Vietnam.

Obviously, Duke's right-wing political views were never hidden and in fact his statements were brought center stage when he and Howard Hawks created an anti-left-wing response picture to Fred Zinnemann's High Noon. Cleverly disguising a "message movie" as one of his most entertaining Warner Brothers Hollywood westerns, Rio Bravo was remade with Wayne twice, most notably via Duke's official comeback in Paramount's production of Hawks' and Wayne's El Dorado, although the works weren't nearly as well-received as Bravo.

An icon several times over, all Wayne had to do in preparation for his co-directorial effort with Ray Kellogg is write a letter to then-President Lyndon Johnson “to request military assistance,” to get the official seal of approval and enough explosives to stage his own war in Hollywood, which was captured in this work.

Yet, despite the fact that Wayne had been political before, this adaptation of Robin Moore's work is one that screams “Hollywood's first 'Nam picture” within the first ten minutes alone as an overtly in your face, pre-Reagan White House era style of an “us vs. them” movie.

Although Wayne obviously meant well,
sadly the balance between actual plot and propagandist speech-making is woefully uneven in this overly long 142 minute war saga. Yet to their credit, together he and Kellogg crafted some wonderfully spectacular battle sequences complete with multiple choppers in the air, explosions going off in the distance and more techniques that you can't help but imagine may have inspired some of the on-the-ground war movies to come.

Not particularly one of Duke's most repeat-friendly films, nonetheless The Green Berets is an undoubtedly historical one in its very essence for presenting (or rather selling) the war to ticket-buyers and beginning a legacy of remarkable films about the war in Vietnam like Apocalypse Now, Coming Home and The Deer Hunter a decade later that have likewise influenced our cinematic approaches to all war films that followed.

Crisply captured in Blu-ray complete with two vintage extras including a making-of-featurette and the original theatrical trailer, Warner Brothers' new release suffers at times from the studio's one HD Achilles's heel in transferring older fare. Namely, the sound is harder to navigate than the plot verses the propaganda, which is apparent in the pronounced audio imbalance as you'll move the volume from low to high like you're firing weaponry along with the Berets.

Overall, while fans of not just John Wayne but also Jim Hutton, TV's Dr. Richard Kimball (The Fugitive's David Janssen), and Star Trek's George Takei will be sure to enjoy revisiting this historical first, those who prefer Wayne's classic westerns and war movie buffs who don't want to be told what to think will want to stay away. Yet, thanks to President Lyndon Johnson and John Wayne's collaboration of firepower, some of the sequences showcased in high definition have been ratcheted up a few notches to explode off the screen and into your living rooms to nonetheless bravura effect.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.


DVD Review: The Keeper (2009)

Now Available to Own


Even when he's playing a fictional character, as a viewer, you're immediately aware that Steven Seagal just doesn't “do” retirement. Betrayed by his partner and left for dead, Seagal's character Rolland Sallinger isn't given the cheesy gold watch that Dennis Hopper's character ridiculed in Speed. No, it turns out during the recession, the gold watch given to Rolland for his twenty-five year commitment to protect and serve Los Angeles is mandated retirement instead.

Trying to wean himself off the painkillers he needs just to get through physical therapy, Rolland perseveres after all because he is Steven Seagal sans ponytail. And thankfully, the iconic man-in-black finds new employment working for an old colleague in Texas.

Given his extensive background, which his niece dutifully informs the audience has inspired countless cops to join the SWAT team, initially it seems that Rolland would be wasted playing babysitter to his wealthy friend's spoiled twenty-something daughter, Nikita.

However, we ascertain that Seagal's Rolland is exactly what the woman needs after a night visiting her two-timing bad boy boxer boyfriend at an upscale night club finds her driver shot. Fighting for her life, Nikita ditches her high heels to run down flights of stairs, jumping from one concrete landing to the next to avoid becoming a hostage of ruthless kidnappers working for her father's arch-enemy.

Realizing that her boyfriend may be tough in the ring but the first one willing to let Nikita take a dive in real life to protect himself and his own career, eventually the notorious party girl becomes closer and more cooperative with her new bodyguard whom she vaguely remembers knowing as a child.

Forever the stoic, soft-spoken, cool cucumber who'd rather break every bone in the body of a fresh clubber who put his hands where they didn't belong, while Seagal is still a commanding figure, you may find yourself smiling involuntarily at his odd delivery of urban L.A. street slang.

Although it would probably fit the character's background, he slips uneasily from street talk to Barry White like reassurance to the ladies that they'll be safe, which added an unintended level of amusement to what is surprisingly an entertaining straight-to-disc picture for one of our favorite '90s "guilty pleasure" heroes.

Of course, it'd be nice to see Seagal drop some of the cliches of his movies such as the laughably obvious T&A for male sake as garish silicone implants pop up onscreen from time-to-time for absolutely no reason other than try to titillate. Unfortunately, it's so ridiculous that instead of "turning on," it does the opposite because sex plays best when its subtle and not when we're being hit over the head with it in the form of rock hard plastic surgery.

Yet, despite the fact that he doesn't change things up structurally to the same degree that his fellow ass-kicking superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme did in JCVD by baring his soul, The Keeper is nonetheless a compelling genre film that opens with a bang and keeps you entertained throughout.

Despite this and from a storytelling standpoint, I still don't see the value of the bravura opener in terms of its relation to the rest of the movie. Basically it would've worked equally well if he were just a bodyguard for hire as "the cop who got shot angle" along with the character of his niece are abandoned completely when his feet hit Texan soil.

However, the movie still redeems itself as solid Saturday afternoon action fare that's destined to score with Seagal's core audience and possibly earn him some additional fans as well. Likewise, The Keeper garners bonus points by flirting with the idea that the film was Seagal's chance to remake The Bodyguard yet thankfully it avoids that plot trap by developing a tender, platonic relationship between Rolland and Nikita that would've been in the vein of True Grit if made as a western.

Delivering one of his most effective sleepers in years by once again becoming heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes fields including writing* and producing, the entertaining success of The Keeper makes you glad indeed that just like his fictional characters, the real Seagal has decided that he just doesn't "do" retirement as well.

* Note: Although Steven Seagal is uncredited for his writing contribution to The Keeper, the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Press Release dated November 9, 2009 cites his work in the area.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.