Heroes: Season 1

Loyal readers should not be surprised that I would like this series.  After all, it has to do with superheroes.  But not the type you would typically find in comic books.

Heroes is done in the vein of Unbreakable, where ordinary people discover they have powers.  Tim Kring does a great job of setting up a universe within our existing world where it seems logical and possible for these things to happen.

The box set has the entire first season, plus the original pilot that was never aired.

My advice: If you are not watching the show now, get caught up with this set and then get caught up with the second season.

The Rat Pack

Joey Bishop’s passing this week influenced my choice for a DVD that you might have seen originally, but have forgotten about.

In the 90’s, HBO decided to start making movies instead of just showing them.  In 1998, HBO released The Rat Pack.  This was a movie that highlighted the height of popularity of Sinatra and his crew, as well his association with JFK and the mob.  After its release, there was a lot of controversy that it painted Sinatra in a bad light and that it was sensational.  It is unfortunate that the movie was caught up in all of this, because it was a much deeper film than that.

The Rat Pack can be seen as really three stories: the pressures of Sinatra, the racism that Sammy Davis, Jr., faced, and the election of JFK and how that impacted the young president’s actions.  Each story is blended well and given the right amount of room to flourish.

As with most movies I like, casting plays a big key here.  The men playing Sinatra, Martin, and Davis were born to play these roles.  Don Cheadle won a Golden Globe for his performance as Sammy Davis, Jr., and I have to say that it is because of this role that I look for him in other films.  Ray Liotta was simply perfect in displaying the range of emotions and demons that tormented Sinatra; the only role he might have been better in was in Goodfellas.  Joe Mantegna made it seem as if Deano had come back to life (Side Note: soon after this movie, there was talk of having Joe do a bio-pic of Dean Martin — too bad it never happened).  William Peterson played a President before running to Vegas to play a CSI detective.

Unfortunately, the DVD has no extras to speak of — Maybe HBO will do something special next year for a tenth anniversary release.

My advice: Do not put off seeing this movie.  The music will take you back, and the stories will keep you engaged.  Curl up with your favorite dame and spend an evening with The Rat Pack…

Undercover Brother

Ever since James Bond hit the silver screen in Dr. No, Hollywood has done its best to try to capitalize on the movie-going public’s interest in secret agent movies.  These efforts have ranged from the dramatic to the action flick to the parodies.  In the 70’s, cinema goers were treated to a new genre of movies generally referred to as Blacksploitation.  These movies helped set up some of the stereotypes that still occur in movies today.

The late 80’s and 90’s brought us the efforts of the Wayan Brothers, most notably I’m Gonna Get You Sucka!  While their films achieved cult status, box office success was not easily gained.  Instead, the public preferred to embrace those efforts on the small screen by making In Living Color a big hit, launching the career of Jim Carrey, among others.

Then Austin Powers hit.

Mike Meyers seemed to figure out how to make the parody of secret agent films work so that it could be a commercial success.  Previous parodies had removed all humanity from the main character; Mike Meyers found a way to bring it back.

Which brings us to Undercover Brother.

I got to see this as a sneak preview when it came out in 2002 and I loved it from the first image.  A friend I was with enjoyed looking around and seeing the “white folk” laugh about a half-beat after the “black folk,” as if waiting to see if it was ok.  I ended up seeing this a couple of more times in the theater and felt it was more of a success than Minority Report, out at the same time.   So, this was an easy purchase when it came out on DVD.

This is one of those movies that needed to have the planets aligned to work: the right director, cast, and story.  I can not say enough about the cast.  Eddie Griffin does a good job of balancing the cool spy/action hero with someone all can identify with.  The supporting cast is even better — Dave Chapelle before his Comedy Central deal; Chi McBride as the Chief; Chris Kattan in the only role I have ever enjoyed him in; and probably the best casting of all: Neil Patrick Harris as the intern.  This movie laid the groundwork for him to appear in Harold and Kumar, which then led to How I Met Your Mother.  While we knew him as Doogie, we never appreciated his comic timing until this movie.

The story is simple: Keep The Man from perpetuating black stereotypes and promote brotherhood for all.  Of course this allows for some interesting setups mirroring real-life, such as the debate of Colin Powell running for President.  Denise Richards is more believable in this movie than in the actual Bond flick she was in, and Billy Dee Williams does well as the General.

The DVD has the following extras:

  • 5.1 Dolby and DTS surround sound
  • Outtakes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Snoop Dogg’s video
  • The original short films that inspired the movie
  • Audio commentaries
  • A way to navigate to certain scenes with musical highlights.

My advice: Spend a couple of hours with Undercover Brother and enjoy the laughs.  This movie will please you, no matter what color you think you are…