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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 14, 2006

Redford, Lopez terrific in 'An Unfinished Life'

By Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press

You get a second chance to see Becca Gardner, Jennifer Lopez and Robert Redford in "An Unfinished Life," on DVD shelves this week.

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Let us now take up the cause of the discarded and abandoned.

While attempting to decipher the politics of Hollywood and filmmaking is often a thankless challenge, there are reasons some worthy films are barely released, with little studio support.

As for last fall's "An Unfinished Life" (Miramax), the problem was politics. Disney was retaking the reins of its art-film subsidiary Miramax from its founders and had little interest in the films that remained on the shelf lacking Oscar potential.

Never mind that this drama from an A-list director, Lasse Hallstrom, with Robert Redford giving a truly terrific performance as an embittered rancher reunited with his estranged ex-daughter-law (Jennifer Lopez) and the grandchild he never knew, was an exceptionally moving and well-made film. It simply wasn't a priority. The DVD offers a second chance, and the movie stands proud.

When Columbia gave the green light to a remake of "Fun With Dick and Jane" (Columbia-TriStar), starring Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni as middle-class marrieds who take up bank robbery, it must have seemed like a safe bet. The obvious plan was to retool the 1977 original as a satirical reaction to the corporate greed of the Enron debacle.

But as often happens, the original idea was diluted until it lost much of its comic bite. Is it a great comedy? No. But it's a far more respectful way to spend an evening than with Columbia's most recent theatrical release, the thoroughly rancid "Benchwarmers."

Then there's "Wolf Creek" (Weinstein), a violent yet compelling thriller based on a mystery that fascinated Australia a few years back, when two women were tortured and murdered on a backpacking adventure to the tourist destination of the title. The lad they hooked up with on the road ... well, I'll save some details for those who get the DVD, which features some informative commentary from the director and cast.

"Wolf Creek" is inspired by '70s films like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Hills Have Eyes," but while the recent remakes of those films had their titles to use as a marketing hook, "Wolf Creek" got caught in the gore gap too bloody for most megaplex customers, and too smart for the hard-core horror fans.

It will raise more chill bumps on DVD.

'MISSION' WITH MORE

Few would contend that the films in "The Laurel and Hardy Collection" (Fox) are among the legendary comedy duo's best.

Still, this nicely packaged three-disc set marks the DVD debut of 1941's "Great Guns," a film described in the commentary as an effort to latch on to the success of the "Abbott & Costello" Army comedy "Buck Privates"; 1943's musical "Jitterbugs," which has some very funny bits and songs by Vivian Blaine; and 1944's "The Big Noise," often described as the duo's nadir but still passably fun.

With "Mission: Impossible 3," the first big summer movie coming out of the gate early next month, we see the inevitable "Mission: Impossible Special Edition" (Paramount).

The original DVD had no extras except the trailer, so this is a respectable marketing ploy.

The film is supplemented with a 12-minute retrospective, featurettes on stunt work and special effects, and a 9-minute tribute to star Tom Cruise, which features clips of memorable performances, excluding his infamous Oprah couch crawl. (There's also a collector's edition with the original and the sequel.)

FAMILY PICK

"Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin" (Walt Disney): A special-edition DVD sequel to "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh." It sends Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) and the rest of the gang on a hunt for Christopher, who they believe is lost somewhere in a woods full of scary monsters.

Details: rated G; some of the scenes could disturb very young children. Original movie: 1 hour, 10 minutes.