NOTE: All the DVDs in this set are the same (aside from slimmer packaging) as the previous release of each title.
An old-fashioned comedy geared towards teens, "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!" didn't connect with audiences earlier this year, but this lightweight comedy deserved a bit more of a following. The picture is certainly no classic, but there's a few appealing performances, clever gags and occasional moments of sharply funny dialogue.
The picture stars Kate Bosworth ("Blue Crush") as Rosalee Futch, a small-town West Virginia cashier smitten with movie star Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel of TV's "Las Vegas"). When Hamilton's agents decide that his days of wine and women are over, they come up with a contest idea where one winner will be flown out to go on a date with the actor. Watching from the sidelines is her co-worker, Pete Monash (Topher Grace), who's never told Rosalee his feelings about her.
While the date goes well, there's something about the pure, West Virginia goodness of Rosalee that appeals to Tad, prompting him to purchase a place in her small town and spark a war between him and Pete over Rosalee. Standard romantic comedy fare, but played well.
The film's performances go a fairly long way in pushing the film past the fact that most will feel as if they've seen some variation of this story a thousand times. Grace (of "That 70's Show") amps up his usual delivery and timing, resulting in some terrifically funny moments - as Rosalee walks towards the plane, Pete yells, "Guard your carnal treasure!". Not the funniest line, but the awkward way that Grace spits it out is hilarious. I greatly enjoyed Bosworth in "Blue Crush", where she portrayed that character with a great deal of determination and heart. Here, her small town character is sweet and genuine, topped off with Bosworth's charm and smile. Duhamel, who's been god playing against James Caan on TV's "Las Vegas", offers a fine performance here. Gary Cole is funny in a limited role as Rosalee's dad, while Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes play Hamilton's agents.
The performances aren't bad, but there's a series of minor concerns that threaten to derail "Tad Hamilton" at times. The biggest issue is the the chemistry between Duhamel and Bosworth and Bosworth and Grace. Grace's performance, maybe wisely, seems less concerned with Bosworth's character and more with trying to hit every one of his lines out of the park. Duhamel and Bosworth's characters never seem to form that much of a connection or have any shared interests. Simply, I never really believed any of these characters were falling for one another out of any reason aside from the plot says that they should.
The film's pacing is somewhat lackluster, as director Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde") gets fine performances out of the actors, but keeps the pace slack and never builds much urgency. This is a rare romantic comedy where I wasn't entirely sure of who the female character would end up with, but that still didn't add any more tension to the proceedings.
"Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!" is a nice, sweet little movie with a few big laughs, fine performances and charm. The picture never quite lifts off into something too remarkable though, as characters could have been developed more and some script issues ironed out.
Feather-light and sugary enough (what other movie would give its main character a name as cutesy as Andie Anderson? - no offense to any Andie Andersons out there) to cause tooth decay, "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days" works only as well as it does thanks to the two lead performances. Despite the fact that I believe I called him one of the worst new actors once, twice - maybe several times - earlier in his career, Matthew McConaughey has recently begun to show considerable skill with both comedy and drama in films like "U-571" and the throwaway "Wedding Planner". Kate Hudson shined in "Almost Famous", and here she shows that she can superbly play the kind of edge-of-silliness comedic timing that her mother (Goldie Hawn) often played so well.
The film revolves around an absurd contrivance, although one might expect that from a screenplay that was somehow constructed out of a "how to" book on modern romance. Andie is the hot columnist at Composure magazine, an equally hot women's magazine that resembles one of countless magazines that one can find today. She's got a Masters degree and desires to write about things more important, but right now, Andie's focus is dating, romance and what to wear. Her latest column is regarding "How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days". In other words, how to try and act the way that will drive a guy away.
Meanwhile, Ben has bet his ad agency co-workers that he can make Andie fall in love with him within ten days. They spot each other across a crowded bar and set their sights on each other, each with their own motives.
For the next 10 days, Andie tries to do everything within her power to drive Ben away, while Ben tries to keep it together for the 10 days to win an account at his agency. Will they find out that each of them was bet regarding the other? Ooooh, gee, I dunno! Sarcasm aside, adding to the problem of predictability is the fact that "10 Days" is a good 15 minutes too long (there's no reason this should have clocked in at more than 100 minutes). There's no reason a romantic comedy like this needed to drag things out towards the two-hour mark.
But - I still did find aspects of the movie enjoyable. Hudson's timing is delightful and her performance - despite her character's actions - is adorable. Her delivery gets some surprisingly big laughs out of hokey material. McConaughey plays off her well, and the two have fine chemistry together. Bebe Neuwirth is also quite funny as Andie's editor. The movie occasionally takes Andie's quest to drive Ben away into edgy and imaginative (and potentially creepy and unstable) territory, too, but the movie takes a few steps back before it turns into a light version of "War of the Roses".
Despite the absurdity involved in the plot, once "10 Days" gets going, there's potential and two capable stars. However, the movie just doesn't take risks - when it seems like it may, it retreats. Overall, the movie isn't as good as it could have been, but without Hudson, I can imagine it being potentially a whole lot worse.
"What women want?" is the age-old question asked by many males. In director Nancy Meyers (the female version of director Chris Columbus)'s new picture, Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) doesn't have to ask - after an accident at home, he wakes up to find that he can hear what women are thinking. The film has a great concept and an even better cast, but it doesn't succeed with a capital S - it seems satisfied to simply get the job done for the most part.
Marshall is an exec at a Chicago ad agency and has a rather famous reputation as a ladie's man. He walks around the agency like he owns the place and thinks he's practically about to, but things don't go quite as planned. The agency is looking for a women's perspective and brings in Darcy Maguire(Helen Hunt), taken from another agency. On the first day, she sends around boxes of women's products for everyone to work with, and Nick decides that a little corporate sabotage is in order.
And yet, the film heads in other directions at times. Nick has a little romance with a beautiful coffee shop worker (Marisa Tomei) and has to learn to listen to his fifteen year old daughter (Ashley Johnson). Not to mention, his ex-wife (Lauren Holly) also enters into the proccedings. Although Nick uses his new gift in negative ways at times, some of the time he finds out that the opinions of him from the women in his life aren't what he thinks they are.
It works as well as it does thanks to Gibson. He's always been an edgy comedian even in action fare like "Lethal Weapon"; here, he also does well with the sappier dramatic elements of the story. Hunt also hits the right marks as Darcy - the two don't have the most incredible chemistry, but they're really good together in several scenes. Several supporting performances are enjoyable, such as Mark Fuerstein as Gibson's co-worker and Judy Greer (who was also great in "The Wedding Planner") as the office secretary.
This is a film that could use one big thing: editing. There's a lot of scenes that either go on too long or aren't neccessary at all - they take away from the moments that are successful. I believe director Kevin Smith (and probably a lot of other folks) said in one of his commentary tracks that comedies should be "90 minutes, 100 tops." Although I don't think "What Women Want" could be taken down to 90, taking it all down to around 105 from 126 would have made the film much tighter. This problem is nothing new with Meyers, who also made a remake of "Parent Trap" that was good, but draged on at over two hours. Technically, the film also looks great, with wonderful cinematography by Dean Cundey ("Jurassic Park", "Apollo 13") and production design by Jon Hutman("Coyote Ugly").
I don't want to sound too negative about "What Women Want". I liked the cast and thought the performances were quite good; it's just that several fixes could have taken the film good to great.
A misfire from "Freaky Friday" director Mark Waters, "Just Like Heaven" certainly stands out as the low point of star Reese Witherspoon's 2005. The film, which was based upon the novel by Marc Levy, stars Witherspoon as Elizabeth, a doctor who, after a nearly day-long shift that sees her getting the promotion she wanted, gets in a tragic car accident on her way to a blind date.
Later, she appears in her incredibly expensive-looking apartment only to find David (Marc Ruffalo) living in her apartment. Not aware that she's well, not alive anymore, she's rather pissed to find someone else in her apartment. David, who has just lost his wife and is trying to find comfort in alcohol, first thinks that he's just seeing things and then starts to realize that he's got a spirit on his hands who won't leave the premises.
Of course, while the two originally start off irritated with one another, they finally realize that they can help one another (she doesn't realize who he is) and eventually, that they have feelings for one another. Their "assistant" in finding out more about who Elizabeth was is Darryl (Jon Heder, of "Napoleon Dynamite" fame), a semi-psychic who works in a bookstore. Before finding Darryl, the movie offers up a painfully unfunny montage of David trying to find a way to rid his guest that includes ghostbusters.
This is disappointing stuff from the pairing of screenwriters Peter Tolan (TV's "The Job" and "Rescue Me" and Leslie Dixon ("Freaky Friday"). It's one of those movies that thinks it's funny, but not only is it not funny, it's often sad and occasionally the attempts at mixing drama and comedy are uncomfortable, especially considering how somber the second half becomes. The movie may have worked better had the script just decided whether it wanted to be funny or serious, because it doesn't work in this attempt at both.
Worse yet would be the soundtrack, which spells out the situations for us, as if we didn't already understand what was going on (great songs, but geez, every song follows the on-screen action.) While Witherspoon does fairly well with the material, Ruffalo doesn't appear nearly as comfortable here as he was with Jennifer Garner in "13 Going on 30". The supporting performances, including Heder (who appears and then finally pops up again late in the pic) and Donal Logue as David's friend, fare somewhat better.
Overall, this is largely predictable fare, with an awkward blend of comedy and drama. The picture's comedy doesn't work, but the drama manages a couple of moments. Still, a few moments here-and-there certainly aren't enough to make this a satisfying 90 minutes.
Last - and least - is "Forces of Nature", a dismal 1999 effort from writer Marc Lawrence and director Bronwen Hughes. The film stars Ben Affleck as Ben Holmes, a man about to get married to girlfriend Bridget (Maura Tierney). On his way to Georgia to the wedding, Ben's plane has an accident during take-off at JFK and in the scramble to find alternate transit, he ends up catching a ride with Sarah (Sandra Bullock), a free spirit who gradually hooks his interest as they make their way from New York City to Georgia, encountering a few obstacles along the way. There's also ridiculous scenes of Ben trying to open up and become a bit more free-spirited himself, such as one absurd bit on top of a train.
"Planes, Trains and Automobiles" remains one of the gold standards in the road trip genre, and "Forces" simply can't match it. Bullock and Affleck don't share much chemistry with one another, and Affleck looks uncomfortable in the role. With the lack of chemistry between the two, it's hard to see why Affleck's character could get caught up in Bullock's to the degree he does, especially with his wedding on the horizon. The situations the duo get caught up in on the way aren't interesting, and by the time a hurricane is ready to wipe out the wedding, I was wishing the storm would take the characters with it.
VIDEO: "How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days" is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is only a little above-average, which is surprising, given Paramount's recent track record. Sharpness and detail are only fair, but that's likely due to John Bailey's warm, soft, rom-com cinematography.
The picture does suffer from a tad of edge enhancement, but the main problem I noticed was a surprising amount of print flaws. While nothing too serious, I expect a recently released film to look nearly spotless. "10 Days", on the other hand, had several scenes that showed some noticable specks and marks on the print used. Compression artifacts were not spotted.
Colors remained bright and warm throughout, with nice saturation. Black level seemed a tad weak, while flesh tones looked generally natural. Overall, a decent presentation, but I was expecting somewhat better.
Dreamworks presents "Tad Hamilton" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is simply satisfactory; while aspects of the film look great, I was a little surprised to see some noticable issues. For a movie that was only recently released in theaters, I wasn't expecting to see some noticable specks/marks on the print in a few scenes. Some minor edge enhancement and compression artifacts were also spotted.
Sharpness and detail in the image often seemed quite good, although some interior scenes could look slightly soft. The film's bright, vivid color palette looked fine, however, appearing well-saturated and vibrant, with no smearing or other issues. Black level looked solid.
Dreamworks presents "Just Like Heaven" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality's one main flaw is that some moments early and late in the picture show colors that appear mildly oversaturated. The image remained a tad on the soft side throughout, but I'll guess that this was the intended look of the movie. Detail still remained pleasing, despite the touch of softness that was on display throughout much of the flick.
Otherwise, the presentation remained solid, with no shimmering and only a couple of very brief moments where artifacts were visible. The print, as one should expect from a new release, is in tip-top shape, with no dirt or wear. Overall, this was a respectable presentation; fine, but not really noteworthy in any way.
Paramount offers up a very nice 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer for "What Women Want"; although it's not without a couple of little flaws, most of the film looked terrific. Sharpness and detail are very consistent throughout the picture, whether in dim interiors or the bright city streets. Whether or not scenes were well-defined was not the problem, as the film looked pleasantly crisp. Some scenes had a nice depth to the image.
The problems, on the other hand, were relatively minor. Just a little handful of flaws that kept the film from looking fantastic. Print flaws were fairly minimal - I noticed a couple of minor speckles throughout the picture, but certainly nothing major. Edge enhancement wasn't noticed, but there were a couple of little traces of pixelation.
Colors looked superbly rendered throughout the movie, from the warm colors of the advertising office to the crisp, bright colors of some of the Chicago-filmed exteriors. Flesh-tones looked accurate and natural throughout, as well. Award-winning cinematographer Dean Cundey("Apollo 13")'s great effort on the film is presented wonderfully here in a very nice transfer from Paramount.
"Forces of Nature" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a lovely presentation, with crisp detail and little in the way of concerns, aside from some light edge enhancement and a couple of instances of artifacting. The elements appeared clean and clear, while colors looked rich and well-saturated.
SOUND: "What Women Want" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but like all comedies, there really isn't much to the audio proceedings. The majority of the sound stays in the front, and the film remains dialogue-driven. There are a few times when music enters into the scene itself that the surrounds fire up to re-inforce the tunes, but other than that, they stay largely quiet. Audio quality seemed excellent; the music was warm and clear and dialogue remained crisp, clear and easily understood. I'm not asking for fireworks from the sound of a film like "What Women Want", but some ambient sounds might have been appreciated. Still, a respectable presentation.
"Tad Hamilton"'s Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is rather ordinary - there's a stray sound effect from the surrounds once or twice, but the picture's focus is in the front speakers. The score does sound dynamic and full-bodied from the front speakers though, and dialogue remained clean.
"How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days" is presented by Paramount in Dolby Digital 5.1. As one might expect, this is a largely a "comedy" soundtrack; in other words, aside from a few instances here and there, things occur largely in the front speakers. The film does offer a few instances of decent surround use - for example, there's plenty of ambience at a basketball game that takes place in the surrounds - but other than that, this is mostly dialogue-driven fare. Audio quality was fine, as dialogue remained natural and clean.
"Just Like Heaven"'s Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is strictly ordinary, which is expected given the film's genre. Surrounds do get some slight use for ambience and reinforcement of the soundtrack, but are mostly silent. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue, music and effects.
"Forces" boasts a fine 5.1 presentation, putting the surrounds to use on occasion for some mild ambience and sound effects. Audio quality was fine, as dialogue remained natural and clean and sound effects seemed crisp and clear.
WHAT WOMEN WANT:
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Nancy Meyers and production designer Jon Hutman. It's a pretty decent track, informative and occasionally moderately interesting as the two discuss the behind-the-scenes goings on for many scenes in the movie. Both are rather low-key though, and the track has a fair amount of silence where the two aren't chatting as well as a couple of "read-alonging" moments where they discuss what's happening in the film at that moment. A decent commentary, but one that may not hold the interest of most listeners.
Trailers: Two theatrical trailers, both in Dolby 2.0.
Making Of: This is a 16 minute "making-of" documentary. It's mainly promotional, but the interviews are fun and entertaining. There's a few too many clips inserted, but there's also a good deal of behind-the-scenes footage that shows the cast and crew having a bit of fun.
Interviews: I was a bit nervous heading into another set of interviews included by Paramount for this, their latest disc. Although I like the idea of putting these interviews on disc, they always end up being "working with ... was so much fun", "they were soooo wonderful on the set", "I wouldn't want to work with anyone else". Thankfully, the interviews about "What Women Want" during this 12 minute segment do bring a bit more to the table, as Meyers and cast discuss the characters and story in-depth, including some fairly interesting analysis by Meyers.
JUST LIKE HEAVEN:
Firstly, we get gag reel that manages to get more laughs than the movie does. We also get commentary from director Mark Waters, cinematographer Daryn Okuda and editor Bruce Green; a couple of brief featurettes ("Making Of" and "Meet the Cast"), 4 deleted scenes (including an alternate ending that's so abrupt it's almost funny) and previews for other titles.
HOW TO LOSE A GUY in 10 DAYS:
Extras include a commentary from director Donald Petrie, as well as short featurettes on both the film's locations and many members of both the cast and crew. 5 deleted scenes w/commentary from director Donald Petrie and previews for "The Core", "Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life" and the "Indiana Jones DVD Trilogy" round out the package.
WIN A DATE...
15 deleted scenes are the main supplement, and they include some business with Paris Hilton that was ultimately cut from the picture. We also get bios, production notes, sneak peek trailers for other Dreamworks titles and a moderately funny gag reel.
FORCES OF NATURE:
Deleted scenes, trailer, behind-the-scenes featurette and production notes.
Final Thoughts: "How To Lose a Guy", "What Women Want" and "Win a Date" are decent or reasonably good romantic comedies, but "Just Like Heaven" and "Forces of Nature" are dismal. However, fans of the 5 films offered who haven't picked them up yet will find them here for a reasonable price, as - despite the $50 retail price, the set is available online for around $34.99.