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Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Second Season





(OUT OF 10)

The excellent second season of this outstanding comedy about a New Zealand folk duo got itself nominated for a Best Comedy Series Emmy this year, and it deserves that nomination. Jemaine Clement also nailed down a nom for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, and it's a shame that Bret McKenzie, his partner in crime, didn't get the same.

On top of the always-hilarious adventures, each episode contains great music, with some of it as catchy as it is funny. The first episode of the second season featured the boys firing Murray (Rhys Darby) and taking over management duties themselves. Murray gets to perform an astounding opera number, while the boys put together a successful jingle for women's toothpaste. Needless to say, it kicked off the season on a high note.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A documentary, some deleted scenes and amusing outtakes.






(OUT OF 10)

Actress Kate Beckinsale gets the straight-to-video treatment again with Fragments (formerly Winged Creatures), a jumbled ensemble piece in which producers secured great performers, but forgot to supply them with a decent script. Beckinsale's Nothing but the Truth suffered the same DVD fate, but this one's plight is a little more shocking, considering the list of people involved.

Beckinsale, Dakota Fanning, Forest Whitaker, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Jennifer Hudson, Guy Pearce and Jackie Earl Haley all labor away in this sloppy story about a diner shooting and its aftermath. Beckinsale plays a waitress who witnesses the tragedy and then clings to a handsome doctor (Pearce) for support. Hers is just the first in a long line of unfocused, unrealistic characters that make the movie often hard to watch.

Academy Award-winner Whitaker gets to play the sad-faced guy saddled with both a gambling problem and cancer. He does a terrible drunk act that stands as one of the low points of his career. Haley fares best of all in a small role as the father of a boy (Josh Hutcherson) who refuses to speak after the incident. At least Haley doesn't embarrass himself.

Worst is Fanning, playing another witness of the shooting incident who starts talking like a religious prophet and demanding that everybody pray with her in the aftermath. Fanning is capable of good work, but more often than not, her acting just screams, "I'm acting!" When she overacts, she makes movies rather uncomfortable.

The movie has a lot of subplots, which means the performers get shortchanged. I would've liked to have seen more of the Haley character, but he's forced into the background. I'm thinking there might be a three-hour cut of this thing somewhere. If it exists, I don't want to see it.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director Rowan Woods provides a commentary.

Sunshine Cleaning





(OUT OF 10)

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are terrific as sisters who start a crime-scene-cleanup business while knowing little about the trade they are entering. This dark comedy stumbles a bit at times, but the two actresses are so solid that any inconsistencies can be tolerated. Plus, Alan Arkin plays their dad, and his presence is never a bad thing.

Rose (Adams), a former head cheerleader in her high school days, has fallen on hard times. She's a single mom, carrying on an affair with Mac, a married cop (Steve Zahn), and working as a cleaning lady. When Mac discovers that people who clean up crime scenes make a ton of dough, he tells Rose, and a business is born.

Enter Norah (Blunt), who makes Rose's life look like Easy Street. She's never found a way to cope with the death of her mother; she works dead-end jobs, smokes a lot of pot and always lets her sister down. She begrudgingly agrees to go along with her sister's business venture, and soon finds herself scraping brains off of walls and illegally dumping soiled mattresses in dumpsters.

Whenever the story focuses on Adams and Blunt, it works; ditto the subplot with Adams and the reliable Zahn. But a side story involving Mary Lynn Rajskub as the daughter of a dead mother who the two sisters clean up after is a waste of time.

The movie also manages to be funny, and considering the subject matter, that's no small feat. A scene in which Adams is attending a baby shower and must explain to her former classmates the details of her job is one of the best things that Adams has done. She and Blunt make all of their scenes together work; they are very believable as sisters. Arkin has a few good laughs as a hapless man trying to peddle canned popcorn and shrimp to make a quick buck. Overall, this is definitely worth a rental.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary and an interesting interview with a couple of women who actually own a business similar to the one depicted.

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