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Cinderella Man (PG-13) Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko. Cinderella Man tells the based-on-truth story (well, sorta) of the fall and rise of Depression-era fighter James J. Braddock. The Ron Howard film is impeccably cast and beautifully shot. The script manages to relate the stirring tale without resorting to cheap sentiment and the musical score is equally schmaltz-free. The screenplay is straightforward — there are no subplots here and Braddock is not a complicated man — and the film runs two hours and 24 minutes, which might have been a big problem, were it not for the remarkable Russell Crowe, who takes the thin story and fattens it up with his own larger-than-life presence. FYI: In the film, legendary boxer Max Baer behaves quite callously over that fact that one of his opponents died as the result of fighting him. In real life, Baer was devastated by the tragedy. Asked about the inaccurate depiction, Ron Howard’s spokeswoman said, “The script was written from the point of view of the Braddock family. To them, Max Baer was a real threat. Ron felt that was how the character needed to be drafted.” 144 minutes. DVD INFO: Two separately packaged DVDs are available: One preserves the film in the anamorphic widescreen format, while the other hacks off nearly a third of the picture for the fullscreen (aka pan & scan) version. Shop carefully. Both versions include audio commentary with director Howard; audio commentary with writer Akiva Goldsman; audio commentary with writer Cliff Hollingsworth; deleted scenes with commentary by Howard; “The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man”; “The Man, The Movie, The Legend: A Filmmaking Journey”; “For the Record: A History in Boxing”; “Ringside Seats”; plus “Jim Braddock: The Friends & Family Behind The Legend.” A Collector’s Edition, with even more extras, is also available.
The Dukes of Hazzard (PG-13 or NR) Johnny Knoxville, Seann Willian Scott, Jessica Simpson, M.C. Gainey, Burt Reynolds. Based on the hit television series that ran from 1979-’85. Set in present day, the story follows the adventures of “good old boy” cousins, Bo (Scott) and Luke (Knoxville) Duke, who, with the help of their eye-catching cousin Daisy (Simpson) and moonshine running Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson), try and save the family farm from being destroyed by Hazzard County’s corrupt commissioner Boss Hogg (Reynolds). Their efforts constantly find the “Duke Boys” eluding authorities in “The General Lee,” their famed 1969 orange Dodge Charger. 103 minutes. DVD INFO: Two separately packaged unrated DVDs are available (a fullscreen PG-13 version is also on sale): One preserves the film in the anamorphic widescreen format, while the other hacks off nearly a third of the picture for the fullscreen (aka pan & scan) version. Shop carefully. Both unrated versions include footage never shown in theaters; two sets of additional scenes: unrated and “PG-13”; the featurettes “Daisy Dukes: The Short Short Shorts” (learn how they made the shorts so short and how to make your own), “The General Lee Lives” (a close look at the beloved car), “How to Launch a Muscle Car 175 feet in 4 Seconds” (how they pulled off such a large scale car jumping stunt); two gag reels: unrated and “PG-13”; Jessica Simpson’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” music video; plus “The Hazards of Dukes,” behind-the-scenes look.
Fantastic Four (PG-13) Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans. Nothing special here in the big screen adaptation of the 45-year-old Marvel comic book series about a squabbling, but loving group of celebrity superheroes. TV vets Jessica Alba (Dark Angel), Michael Chiklis (The Shield) and Julian McMahon (Charmed, Nip/Tuck) are the cast members you may have heard of. The film screws around with the basic story (Dr. Doom goes into space with Reed Richards and company and gets superpowers the same time they do) and wastes most of its running time on a tepid origin story. A few special effects stand out, but the overall look (and tone) of the film is chintzy. 123 minutes. DVD INFO: Two separately packaged DVDs are available: One preserves the film in the anamorphic widescreen format, while the other hacks off nearly a third of the picture for the fullscreen (aka pan & scan) version. Shop carefully. Both versions include audio commentary by the cast; three deleted scenes; “The Fantastic Tour,” exclusive behind-the-scenes home video hosted by the entire cast; “Making of Fantastic Four”; “Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session & Making a Scene”; music videos: “Everything Burns,” “Come On Come In,” “Music”; inside look at X-Men 3, hosted by producer Avi Arad. —EJO
Ladies in Lavender (PG-13) Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Daniel Bruhl, Miriam Margolyes. Based on a short story by William J. Locke. Two spinster sisters, Ursula and Janet (Dench and Smith), live in an old house by the sea in 1930s Cornwall, England. Their pleasant but uneventful routine of beach walks, reading, sewing and tea time is interrupted when Andreas, a handsome young Polish violinist (Bruhl), washes ashore, barely alive. The girls nurse him back to health and for the never-married Ursula it’s a case of first love far too late in life. She helps him overcome the language barrier, only to possibly lose him to a younger woman, the gorgeous visiting artist (Natasha McElhone) who recognizes his musical talent and is in a situation to help him. 104 minutes. DVD INFO: Includes “Ladies in Lavender A “Fairy Tale” Featurette.”
Star Wars — Clone Wars: Volume 2 (NR) Corey Burton, Anthony Daniels, John Di Maggio, Nick Jameson, Tom Kane. Immediately after the events of Star Wars — Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the Clone Wars continue. Second group of episodes from the Emmy-winning animated “microseries.” 64 minutes. DVD INFO: Includes audio commentary by Genndy Tartakovsky and his band of artists; “Connecting the Dots” featurette takes you inside the creative process used to link Clone Wars to Revenge of the Sith; plus trailers and a game demo.
ALSO ON DVD Clever music shot Down Under in BEN FOLDS AND WASO LIVE IN PERTH, top-notch Scottish rock in FRANZ FERDINAND: LIVE, incredible athleticism trumps pretentiousness in CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION, marital felonies abound in FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (the 1977 original starring George Segal and Jane Fonda) and François Truffaut’s second feature film gets the deluxe treatment in SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER: THE CRITERION EDITION, as does René Clément’s film about the loss of innocence, FORBIDDEN GAMES: THE CRITERION EDITION.
TV on DVD 24: SEASON 4, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND: SEASON 5, FOOTBALLERS WIVES: SEASON 2, FULL HOUSE: SEASONS 1 AND 2, GREEN ACRES: SEASON 3, LAW AND ORDER: SEASON 4, M*A*S*H*: SEASON 9, MACGYVER: SEASON 4, MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: SEASON 1, MURDER SHE WROTE: SEASON 2, NEWLYWEDS — NICK AND JESSICA: FINAL SEASON, ROCK STAR — INXS, THE ROCKFORD FILES: SEASON 1, ROSEANNE: SEASON 2, THE WEST WING: SEASON 5, JACKASS: THE BOXED SET, JACKASS: VOLUME 1, ADVENTURES OF SPIN AND MARTY — THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB, DISNEY RARITIES — CELEBRATED SHORTS: 1920s-1960s, AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE: VOLUME 4, BATMAN — ANIMATED SERIES: VOLUME 4, SUPERMAN — ANIMATED SERIES: VOLUME 2, GARGOYLES: SEASON 2 VOLUME 1, HE-MAN AND SHE-RA: A XMAS SPECIAL, SAVED BY THE BELL — THE NEW CLASS: SEASONS 6 AND 7, THUNDERCATS: SEASON 1, VOLUME 2. NOTE: Some studios have the nerve to market box sets of TV series containing episodes that were trimmed down by several minutes each for airing in syndication. Before laying down your money, make sure the box set includes the words “original and uncut.”