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Matthew McConaughey Collection

Paramount // PG-13 // January 23, 2007
List Price: $44.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted February 25, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Paramount has repackaged three recent Matthew McConaughey hits - one moderately decent comedy, one underrated slice of action adventure fun, and one horrible waste of space - for their simply titled "The Matthew McConaughey DVD Collection." The box set includes "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," "Sahara," and "Failure to Launch." The discs are identical to the previous individual DVD releases; the only difference is the use of slim cases this time out, with a cardboard slipcover holding it all together. Included in this review are links to previous reviews of the individual releases.

To avoid repetition in the video/audio spots, I'll note here that the transfers on all three discs are as sharp and solid as you'd expect from recent efforts, and that the soundtracks are all plenty fine - the actioner is fuller than the romcoms, of course, but each movie gets the audio that it deserves. Within the reviews themselves, I'll simply list the specs.

"How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003)

I did not have much hope for "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," which looked at first glance to be yet another none-too-bright romantic comedy about two goobers who Fall In Love When They Least Expect It. And while the film sticks fairly close to the formula, it still manages to work; whether by smarts or by sheer luck, here's a film that manages to fix many of the problems with its genre. (Considering how daft many of the scenes are, I'm guessing it's sheer luck.)

Kate Hudson stars as Andie Anderson, writer for a women's magazine and specialist of gal-friendly "how to" columns ("How To Talk Your Way Out of a Ticket," for example). When one of her co-workers is dumped, Andie's handed her latest assignment: do all the mistakes her friends do that wind up wrecking a relationship. Or, as the title lets us know, "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."

Meanwhile, cocky advertising whiz Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey) is so convinced of his knowledge of the opposite sex - and is so desperate to land a very important diamond account - that he makes a bet that he can make any woman fall in love with him in - you guessed it - ten days. And the woman selected to be his target is Andie. The two plans collide, and comedy ensues.

Right there, one romantic comedy problem is fixed. In many pictures (*cough* see below *cough*), we're asked to be OK with a lead character's lying, so much so that when the non-liar finds out about the liar's schemes, we're supposed to hope all will be forgiven. In "10 Days," however, both parties are at fault, so when the movie asks us to root for them to get together, neither one is more or less guilty than the other, and the balance makes it all work out.

Another problem solved is the notion that characters in romantic comedies must be morons who only to wise up to their (or the other lead's) emotions in the final scenes. Here, Andie and Ben are so busy with their own schemes that they don't have time to be idiots.

It also helps that Andie and Ben make such a good couple. In many romances, you wouldn't want to spend any time with the leads, as they're stupid, irritating, or just plain dull. But here, Hudson and McConaughey not only look good together, their characters are likable enough and compatible enough that you not only hope they get together, you wouldn't mind inviting them over for a barbeque.

This is important, since the screenwriters realize that while their double-bet premise was good for plenty of laughs, it's not enough to last a full two hours. And so for the second hour of the film, Andie and Ben become an actual couple, all games aside. These scenes, before the plot kicks back in and forces them to reveal their secrets and have fights and all that formula crap that doesn't really work, have a pleasant sweetness that's never forced. In one bit that has the two heading off to Staten Island to meet Ben's family, the movie becomes all smiles.

After this, it's back to moments straight out of the ol' Romantic Comedy Handbook. Fights, regret over letting the other go, and yet another race against time in order for one to confess love to the other. There are zero surprises here, and it's a bit of a let down to see a film that's so funny and charming fizzle into standard final act junk. (It also makes no sense that these two would be angry when the truth is revealed; since both are liars, wouldn't there be some equal appreciation of their individual mind games?)

There are many other problems with this film, most of which involve a terrible subplot that finds two of Ben's co-workers (Michael Michele and Shalom Harlow) hoping to sabotage the bet in order to get the account for themselves. Not only are these characters played by two models-turned-actresses who couldn't act their way out of a grade school President's Day pageant, but the whole plot device feels like an easy out for the writers, a wrench they can throw in the works whenever they run out of fresh ideas for the story. And is it just me, or is advertising executive the go-to career for romantic comedy characters when the writers can't think of anything better?

That said, "10 Days" is still a delight. Hudson shows a real knack for comedy, and watching her Andie go from sweetheart to "a crack-enhanced Kathie Lee Gifford" makes for some great laughs. McConaughey, meanwhile, lets his own laid-back charisma carry him through, and it's enough to keep us watching. The two work well together in both the comic scheming and romantic halves of the story, and their chemistry is more than enough to lift this movie out of the formula gutter. "10 Days" may be predictable, but it's still quite entertaining.

The DVD

Video & Audio


Anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1). Dolby 5.1 and 2.0, plus a French 2.0 dub. Optional English and French subtitles.

Extras

Director Donald Petrie provides a decent but rather bland commentary track.

"Mapping Out the Perfect Movie" is a collection of cast and crew interviews divided into various topics, ranging from characters to the writers to the location director. It's pretty much a passable making-of that's been chopped up in an obnoxious manner; there's no "play all" feature, and having bite-sized bits of information instead of a fuller featurette gets tiresome too quickly.

Five deleted scenes (with optional Petrie commentary) are interesting but unessential.

"Mapping Out the Perfect Location" is an interactive tour of the movie's Manhattan scenes. Click on a location and you get a quickie featurette on that scene.

Rounding out the set is a music video for Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You" and a set of previews (which also play as the disc loads if you choose not to skip them).

All bonus material is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame with movie clips (including the deleted scenes) properly letterboxed.

Other reviews: Aaron Beierle (DVD video).

"Sahara" (2005)

Comparisons to Indiana Jones are flying left and right, but Dirk Pitt leans more to the James Bond end of the action hero spectrum. Pitt is the star of a long-running series of adventure novels from Clive Cussler - if the name isn't familiar to you, just picture those books your dad likes to read, those oversized thrillers that fill shelf space next to the Tom Clancy stuff. Despite a heavy list of credits, Cussler has only seen one of his books turned into a movie: 1980's "Raise the Titanic," which was so ill-received by the author that he has since put off Hollywood.

Now comes movie number two. "Sahara," one of seventeen Pitt adventures ("Titanic" was another), has been made into a big budget popcorn extravaganza, with apparent hopes to turn the hero into the star of the next big action franchise. It turns out Cussler was equally disapproving of this adaptation attempt (to the point of lawsuit, according to the rumor mill), due to all the extreme changes and such, but Cussler fans should relax. Even if "Sahara" the movie shows little resemblance to "Sahara" the book, it still manages to work on its own merits. And that's gotta count for something, right?

Cast in the leading role is Matthew McConaughey, with Steve Zahn in tow as Dirk's sidekick Al Giordino. They're treasure hunters of sorts, on the hunt for a lost ironclad ship from the Civil War, a ship, Dirk believes, that found its way across the Atlantic and into the rivers of Africa. Meanwhile, WHO rep Eva Rojas (Penélope Cruz) is searching for the source of a mysterious disease that's set to become an epidemic.

The plot here is less a streamlined story and more just an excuse to rocket our heroes from set piece to set piece. By the time we get to the part about the evil magnate and his top secret energy plant that may poison the planet's water supply, we're left wondering if we're still watching the same movie that had Pitt and Company digging up clues related to a rare Confederate gold coin.

And yet, that's part of the film's charm. We honestly don't know where the story will take us next. It's so gleeful in its attempts to thrill that the issues of a slapdash script seem incidental. All we want is to see McConaughey, Cruz, and Zahn crack wise as they dodge bullets and leap out of the path of fireballs. If you were to request a popcorn movie that has more than its share of everything, "Sahara" would surely make the short list.

Luckily, its version of "everything" is of the good variety. Director Breck Eisner (yes, he's Michael's son) shows a solid knack for composing lighthearted action scenes that fly with ease. With the help of McConaughey and Zahn, both of whom bring a much welcome whip-smart comic timing to the picture, Eisner maintains a sense of gee-whiz fun throughout.

Which brings us back to Indiana Jones. Most critics are looking at the desert settings, the interplay with "the natives," and the swashbuckling nature of Pitt's actions, and they're jumping to immediate Indy comparisons. But that only holds to a point; by the time the bigger picture is revealed, I couldn't help thinking of 007 instead. "Sahara" has the basic features of a typical Bond flick: a slowly unraveling mystery, ever-changing exotic locales, a chance to save the world, over-the-top villains, a sexy heroine, big stunts and bigger explosions. Pitt's boss, Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy), could even stand in for M.

Granted, it's not a carbon copy (I doubt it would be as fun if it were). My Bond comparisons only go to show that Dirk Pitt is more than just some Indiana Jones wannabe. He's a little bit of every action hero (heck, why not throw Jack Ryan into the mix?), but he's also a character all his own. This is Cussler's creation, and even if the movie shows little of the guy we met in the books, he's still enough of his own man to stand out.

The DVD

Video & Audio


Anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1). Dolby 5.1 and 2.0, plus a French 2.0 dub. Optional Ensligh and Spanish subtitles.

Extras

Two commentary tracks: one with Breck Eisner, another with Eisner and McConaughey. I always prefer group commentaries over solo efforts, although Eisner's separate track, while dry, has enough quality information to be worth a quick spin.

"Across the Sands of Sahara" (15:00) is an EPK-style making-of with just enough tidbits sprinkled throughout to make up for its he-was-great-to-work-with repetition.

"Visualizing Sahara" (20:06) discusses, obviously, the look of the movie. It's more in-depth than the previous featurette, although it's still a bit too light to truly satisfy.

The "Cast and Crew Wrap Film" (9:45) is your goofy gag reel collection of outtakes and such. It earns its giggles, even if it is a bit too long.

Four deleted/alternate scenes are offered, with optional commentary from Eisner and McConaughey. All are enjoyable enough for a peek.

The disc rounds out with a set of previews; they also play as the disc loads - as does the now-tiresome anti-piracy PSA. All are skippable.

The deleted scenes are presented in anamorphic widescreen. All other extras are shown in 1.33:1 full frame with movie clips properly letterboxed.

Other reviews: Jeffrey Robinson (theatrical); Todd Douglass Jr. (DVD video); Adam Tyner (HD-DVD); Joshua Zyber (Blu-ray).

"Failure to Launch" (2006)

How aptly titled: "Failure to Launch" is out of gas, stalled on the pad, dead on arrival. It's a romantic comedy so horrible that you actively root for the relationship to crash. Neither convincing nor charming, the film plays like an abandoned Adam Sandler project clumsily retooled for the chick flick crowd.

I name check Sandler because "Failure to Launch" has far more Happy Madison elements than I would have expected: a former pro athlete (in this case it's Terry Bradshaw) brought in for supporting funnyman duties; male rear nudity used for cheap comic effect; ultra-wacky parents, including a mother played by Kathy Bates (a stretch, I know, as Bates appeared in only one Sandler film, but still); pointless subplots that go nowhere. Mix with this substandard romcom clichés: a relationship founded on deceit; leads with impossibly perfect jobs and plenty of free time to spend impossibly perfect time off with friends; a convoluted finale in which the leads reconcile while others cheer them on from afar; pointless subplots that go nowhere.

The premise: Trip (Matthew McConaughey) is the perfect guy - great looks, great job, great pals. He also still lives with his parents (Bates and Bradshaw), which puts off the ladies. Enter Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), who runs a business in which parents hire her to date their sons, having them fall so much in love that they finally move out, wherein one supposes she breaks up with them. Trip's parents hire Paula for such a service, but wouldn't you know it, she ends up falling in love with the guy for real.

Never mind that the entire plot revolves around sexless prostitution paid for by parents too gutless to deal with their idiot sons. Never mind that we're expected to believe that there's so much demand to be had for such a service in the first place. Never mind that the movie features characters with names like "Trip," "Kit," "Ace," and "Demo." Even without all this, "Failure to Launch" is a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid movie.

Screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember make their feature debut here after years of writing sitcoms, and it shows - this one's a lousy sitcom in movie form, complete with best-bud characters named "Demo" and "Ace" (played by the guy from "Alias" and the guy from "Gigli"). Scenes are clunky set-ups to clunkier punch lines, all overplayed. One scene has Trip getting bitten by a squirrel, another has Ace performing CPR on a bird. When the writers run out of ideas, they just have the character go play paintball for a while, which is as dull as it sounds.

Meanwhile, we have Zooey Deschanel, looking irritated at the very idea of having to be a movie this asinine. She plays Paula's sassy/bitchy roommate, and there's an entire subplot about how she wants to kill the mockingbird who chirps outside her bedroom window, resulting in various asides in which she buys a rifle. Her character's presence is the sort that could only make sense to a couple of sitcom writers trying to fill time. (Side thought: imagine just how horrid a movie must become before it removes all the allure from Zooey Deschanel.)

And just when you're tired of the comedy, in comes the drama. Astle and Ember attempt to give the Trip character the weight of a tragic backstory (a girlfriend who died years ago), but it doesn't work, coming off with too much desperation, a strained effort to tug at heartstrings.

To his credit, McConaughey does fine with his role, as he's aptly cast once again as the easy-going slacker. He handles the goofier slapstick moments as easily as he does the charming ones. (Parker, meanwhile, stumbles over every punch line, delivering an uneven, miserable performance.) But consider the casting: McConaughey may be the best choice for such a role in terms of box office draw, but watch how director Tom Dey ("Shanghai Noon," "Showtime") fills similar roles. Paula's other clients are supergeeks and megalosers, including Patton Oswalt in a cameo as a "Star Wars"-obsessed slob. This tells us that the movie thinks all guys living at home are big fat nerds... unless, of course, we need one to be the star of our movie, and then they're hunks. (Side thought: imagine just how horrid a movie must become before it removes all the funny from Patton Oswalt.)

Dey does such a miserable job staging the comedy (heightened by some of the shoddiest editing to ever make it into a major motion picture) that every minute of the film just hangs there, limp as can be. By the time we get to the finale - in which (and oh, how I wish I were making this up) a kidnapped Trip and Paula must confront each other while friends, family, and strangers look on via webcam! - we're worn out by the complete idiocy of it all. "Failure to Launch" is a stupid movie about stupid people doing stupid things, adding a shot of Terry Bradshaw's ass for good measure. It's everything wrong with bad romantic comedies, all rolled into one easy-to-hate package.

The DVD

Video & Audio


Anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1). Dolby 5.1 and 2.0, with a French 5.1 dub. Optional English and Spanish subtitles.

Extras

More EPK silliness on this disc, as "Casting Off: The Making of Failure to Launch" (11:41) offers nothing beyond the usual forgettable press kit fluff.

"The Failure to Launch Phenomenon" (11:22) interviews a collection of still-at-home guys (no women, though), and it turns out we really don't care what they - or experts who have researched the topic - have to say about anything.

"Dating in the New Millennium" (6:56) has more "experts" (read: magazine editors and online matchmakers) discussing how dating is tricky. How informative!

McConaughey and Bradshaw interview each other in "Moviefone.com Unscripted with Matthew and Terry" (13:38), which, despite being one of those pointless online promotional gimmicks, has enough fun moments to work.

In "The Failure to Launch Contest" (5:58), co-stars Braldye Cooper and Justin Bartha get stuck interviewing the still-at-home finalists in a MySpace contest that offered six months of free rent to the lucky winner (loser?).

The disc wraps up with the movie's theatrical trailer, plus a batch of previews. The previews (plus, once again, that annoying anti-piracy PSA) also play as the disc loads; again, you can skip over them.

All bonus material is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, with movie clips properly letterboxed.

Other reviews: Brian Orndorf (theatrical); Scott Weinberg (DVD video); Aaron Beierle (DVD video).

Final Thoughts

Two out of three may not be bad, but here's the thing: if you like these movies, chances are you already purchased the earlier releases. And if Paramount had offered this set at a lower price (as Fox and Universal have done with their repacks), then maybe it'd be worth it for those playing catch-up. As it is, however, for the forty-some bucks you'd pay for this box set, you could buy the two decent movies on their own and still have a little left over for lunch. In fact, if you're a sharp enough shopper, you could probably find all three discs for the same price or less. Skip It, and hunt down the individual discs instead.

Note: the "movie review" portions in this review have previously appeared elsewhere online. However, all three films were revisited for the purpose of this review, and my opinions of all three films remain the same.
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