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Moody crime drama about missing child, Freedomland, comes to home video (hannigan mention)

John Mckay

Monday 29 May 2006, by Webmaster

(CP) - There’s just something wrong with the story the distraught mother is telling police about how her vehicle was carjacked, with her four-year-old boy asleep in the back seat.

Set in a New Jersey suburb in 1999, Freedomland (Sony) stars Samuel L. Jackson as the sympathetic but suspicious detective and Julianne Moore as the mother.

The story plays out under an ominous shadow. The viewer senses this isn’t going to turn out well. Is she lying? If so, why? Who is she protecting? Did she kill her own child?

Meanwhile, her story that a black man from the local projects did the jacking ratchets up neighbourhood racial tensions to the boiling point, and police detective Lorenzo Council (Jackson) must cool things while trying to solve the case.

The title refers to a notorious but long-closed children’s asylum, where clues lead investigators on a failed bid to find the body amid the ruins. Director Joe Roth and the screenwriter deserve credit for delivering a finale that isn’t quite what the audience expects.

Edie Falco (Mrs. Soprano) is nearly unrecognizable in a potent supporting performance as the head of a team of researchers-cum-vigilantes, comprised of other mothers who have had a disappearing-child experience.

It’s a dark but compelling drama that may not have enough action for many viewers. The DVD release contains no extras but the disc offers both widescreen and pan-scan versions.

Date Movie (Fox) - By now, everyone knows the drill for this genre. Take as many movie parodies as possible, slap them together, and keep things moving so quickly the audience doesn’t realize it isn’t really all that funny.

The ads boast that two of the six writers of the Scary Movie franchise are involved here, which may account for the fact there are only one-third as many laughs. One welcome relief is Alyson Hannigan, the band camp girl from the American Pie films, who offers a blend of cute and slapstick, especially in the now-obligatory fat-suit opening.

Her search for her Prince Charming takes her on a journey through just about every mushy romantic-comedy title of recent years, from My Big Fat Greek Wedding to The Wedding Planner to Wedding Crashers. Plus a few oddball choices, like Napoleon Dynamite, Kill Bill and even King Kong.

If this one doesn’t exactly provide a rib tickler every 60 seconds, at least one could have fun identifying and counting all the send-ups. The DVD does offer one interesting extra, something that just may catch on for overworked and understimulated video reviewers. There’s an option called The Quickie, which is basically the entire movie cut down to 6 1/2 minutes. Saves a lot of grief!

John Wayne: An American Icon (Universal) - This collection of Duke titles from the 1940s and ’50s are mostly routine black-white films but one stands out - The Conquerer from 1955.

Without a doubt, it’s one of the most laughable scripts ever filmed and contains one of Hollywood’s most famous bits of miscasting: John Wayne as Genghis Khan.

"Mongol dog!" Tartar princess Susan Hayward hisses as her caravan is pounced on and she is abducted by, before eventually falling in love with, the Asian-eyed Wayne (who admitted treating the role just like any other western).

This one is so bad, it’s worth prepping a batch of popcorn and laughing along with the corny dialogue. Legend has it that many of those involved, including Wayne, Hayward and director Dick Powell, perished from cancer because the location shooting took place too close to the Nevada A-bomb test sites.

Others in the boxed set include:

 Seven Sinners (1940) in which Wayne is partnered with Marlene Dietrich in the story of a romance between a handsome naval officer and a cabaret singer.

 The Shepherd of the Hills (1941) with Wayne as an Ozark moonshiner. Directed by Henry Hathaway.

Pittsburgh (1942). Wayne and Dietrich again. He and Randolph Scott play coal miners who take on the ruthless steel industry.

Jet Pilot (1957). Long missing as, like The Conqueror, one of those Howard Hughes-produced disasters. A version of Ninotchka with Wayne as a fighter pilot intrigued by Janet Leigh as a defecting Soviet counterpart accused of being a spy.

Also new: Strings (Warner); Shadows In the Sun (Alliance Atlantis); Whole New Thing (ThinkFilm); Hank Williams First Nation (Maple); Miracle at Sage Creek (Screen Media); Dead Broke (Polychrome); This is Daniel Cook at the Zoo (Kaboom); Hip Hop for Kids: Pop! Lock! And Break! (Jumping Fish); Platoon (20th Anniversary Edition) (Sony); Riddick Trilogy (Franchise Collection), Smokey and the Bandit (Special Edition) (Universal).

Some recent titles:

A number of interesting box sets of stars and directors have been released in recent weeks.

One is the Mel Brooks Collection, eight titles, although most fans agree the two best parody westerns and horror movies respectively: Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

The others are mostly misfires, although not without some redeeming comedy value. They include: High Anxiety, History of the World Part 1, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Silent Movie, To Be or Not to Be and The Twelve Chairs. There are some extras on titles that were already there in previous issues, but nothing new.

Meanwhile, Brooks collaborator Gene Wilder has three of his own 1970s comedies out in new Fox DVD issues: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The World’s Greatest Lover and Silver Streak.

Also from Fox comes the Laurel and Hardy Gift Set, three titles, not from their golden silent era, and not even including such sound-era classics as Saps at Sea, Sons of the Desert or March of the Wooden Soldiers (aka Babes in Toyland). But there are three titles from the 1940s that’ll do: The Big Noise, Great Guns and Jitterbugs. Plus a half-hour documentary, Revenge of Sons of the Desert, about a fan club of devout followers of the famed comedy duo.

Three blond queens of early cinema get their own boxed sets, although they couldn’t be more different from one another. No extras in this so-called Glamour Collection from Universal, but the new transfers are pleasantly crisp and they are packaged in snappy-looking translucent sleeves.

The Marlene Dietrich set includes Morocco, Blonde Venus, The Devil Is a Woman, The Flame of New Orleans and Golden Earrings. Screwball comedy star Carole Lombard arrives in Man of the World, We’re Not Dressing, Hands Across the Table, Love Before Breakfast, The Princess Comes Across and True Confessions. And, finally, that irrepressible vamp Mae West stars in Night After Night, I’m No Angel, Goin’ to Town, Go West Young Man and My Little Chickadee, the latter in which she is paired famously with W.C. Fields.

And more TV on DVD:

NCIS - Season one (Paramount) - June 6; The Best of Saturday Night Live Five Pack (Maple) - June 6; JAG First season (Paramount) - July 25; Medium - First season (Paramount) - June 13; Dharma & Greg - First season (Fox) - June 13; That Girl - Season one (Fox) - May 30; The Wild, Wild West - 40th anniversary collector’s edition (Paramount) - June 6; Walker: Texas Ranger - First season (Paramount) - June 13; Rollergirls - Season one (A&E) - May 30; Weeds - Season one (Maple) - July 4; Here Come the Bridges - First season (Sony) - May 16; Slings & Arrows - Season 1 (Paradox) - June 6.