February 6, 2009 in Features

‘Bees’ offers fresh look at familiar story

By The Spokesman-Review
Fox Searchlight photo

Fox Searchlight
(Full-size photo)

‘The Secret Life of Bees’


From the trailers it seemed as if director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s attempt to adapt Sue Monk Kidd’s novel about early 1960s South Carolina was just another Hollywoodized issue film. And issues the film certainly deals with: Running away from her abusive father (Paul Bettany), a 14-year-old white girl (Dakota Fanning) finds solace amid a family of black beekeepers (Queen Latifah, et al). But Prince-Bythewood’s skillful direction gives an original feel to what otherwise is a familiar story. DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes cast and crew commentaries, making-of featurettes. (1:50; rated PG-13 for some violence, thematic material)

‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’


Firmly in the “Juno” genre, this teen anthem follows two New York high-schoolers (Michael Cera, Kat Dennings) as they meet cute, then spend a night looking for a drunk girl, finding an underground band’s secret concert site and falling in love. Not as cute as “Juno” – and certainly missing the presence of Ellen Page – Peter Sollett’s film is still enjoyable in the same general way as that 2007 hit. DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes cast and crew commentaries, making-of featurettes, faux cast interviews. (1:29; rated PG-13 for crude behavior, language, mature thematic material, sexuality, teen drinking)

‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’


Even when he settles for crotch humor, Kevin Smith (“Clerks”) can’t help but be funny. Here he tells the story of the title characters, roommates/best pals played by Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, who try to raise rent money by recruiting a crew to make a porn film (and who hasn’t done that at least once?). Like most of Smith’s efforts, “Zack and Miri” is profane, full of nudity and filthy jokes … and it’s simply hilarious. DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes making-of featurettes, deleted scenes. (1:41; rated R for dialogue, graphic nudity, pervasive language, strong crude sexual content)

‘Bottle Shock’


Using a real event as the basis for his story, director Randall Miller (“Nobel Son”) explores what happens when a British wine snob (Alan Rickman) invites a group of California vintners to come to Paris and compete in a 1976 blind tasting competition. The results, as we now know, shook the winemaking world and gave California wine its heightened reputation. Authenticity, though, tends to get lost in Miller’s penchant for preciousness. DVD includes cast and crew commentaries, making-of featurettes, deleted scenes. (1:50; rated PG-13 for a scene of drug use, brief strong language, some sexual content)

‘Sex Drive’


Working as a sort of cross between “Superbad” and “Clerks,” this Sean Anders film follows the plight of a trademark regular guy (Josh Zuckerman). Posing as an online stud, he borrows the muscle car of his sensitivity-challenged brother (James Marsden) and drives across the state to meet up with his online dream date. Derivative of better films, “Sex Drive” offers little more than a few yuks and a predictable, though improbable, happy ending. DVD, which is available on Blu-ray, includes making-of featurettes, adlibs, outtakes. (1:48; rated R for language, nudity, some drug and alcohol use, strong crude content, strong sexual content – all involving teens)

Also available: “Black Swarm,” “Depth Charge,” “Gym Teacher: The Movie,” “Killer Movie,” “Nite Tales,” “Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom,” “Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous,” “The Tenth Circle”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email