Welcome to the seventh installment of the Chewer Reviewer.  This week we got reviews from Saul Sudin, Al Schwartz, And SSG Vincent C. Milucci, USA, Ret.  Enjoy!  – Jeremy

by Saul Sudin

STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $59.98
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 989 minutes
Gag Ree

The Pitch

It’s like ER, but more portable.

The Humans

Michael (Stargate: Atlantis) Beach, Coby (The Game) Bell, Bobby (Snakes on a Plane) Cannavale, Amy (Law & Order: Trial By Jury) Carlson, Eddie (Baywatch Nights) Cibrian, Molly (Bionic Woman) Price, Kim (24) Raver, Anthony (Tropic Thunder) Ruivivar, Skipp (Oz) Sudduth, Jason (Zodiac) Wiles

Created by: Edward Allen (Criminal Minds) Bernero & John (ER) Wells

The Nutshell

Follow the adventures of several fictional 55th Precinct New York City Police, Firemen and Paramedics as they handle the “third watch”, the afternoon shift of 3-11 PM. Typical days include saving kids, mourning kids, dealing with personal issues, ending up in the hospital, and tackling the typical issue of the week in a cliché ridden style that hasn’t evolved on television in 30 years.

Third Watch‘s opening credit sequence and theme music brought to you by the movie Go.

The Lowdown

The Second Season of Third Watch opens with an episode that deals with a rich man being kidnapped and buried alive, a mute homeless child, a gut shot fireman, a wandering geriatric woman and the adoption of a cockatoo. Yet I cannot say it was a pulse pounding 42 minutes. The tone and style is almost identical to John Wells’ previous show, ER, and comparisons couldn’t help but be drawn as the episodes went on. I would venture to say that Michael Beach’s character is almost identical to that of Eriq La Salle’s on ER.

“You’ll see! One day I’ll be the cop! And we’ll have vampires living among us! And then we’ll fight demon women… and shapeshifters!”

I had never seen an episode of Third Watch before this review, but the premise is simple enough to follow and at no point did I feel like I was missing something. The episodes contained herein represent the 2000 – 2001 season, and while it is strange to see how life was being portrayed here in a pre-9/11 New York City, it never truly became fascinating. The main issue with the series seems to be that the day to day adventures of these 10 NYC public servants is presented in a way not unlike what we have seen time and time again with a “story of the week” formula and wooden emotional moments. The show apparently ran for six healthy seasons and had a solid following so my only guess is that it really hit a stride after September 11th, considering the subject matter of the show and that it was already on for two whole seasons prior. A little research shows that they won a Peabody award for an episode that addressed the crisis by being taken from the accounts of public servants on the scene on that day.

“No one’s looking…go ahead and whiz on it.”

Halfway through the season, Bobby Cannavale’s character “Bobby” (what a stretch) is killed by his junkie childhood best friend, played by a guest starring Rick (Band of Brothers, Fringe) Acevedo. Flashbacks are involved, as are Bobby debating his life in a boxing ring with his father who left him as a child. Carla from Scrubs is the woman who mourns him. Apparently Cannavale wanted to be released from the show due to a lack of storylines, and I can’t blame him. The cast is bursting at the seams with 10 regulars, all of whom are vying for air time, and all of whom get shortchanged in the long run. What strikes me odd is the necessity of having 4 policemen and 4 paramedics as main characters, while we only follow 2 firemen, one of whom is introduced as a new character early in the season. If anything, I would have whittled it down to a tight 6, with two in each category. You can either try to be realistic and take on the entire precinct as characters, or just show us individual snippets. By going the in between route, no one wins.

“I love you, man” “I know.” “I’m… dying….”

The widely regarded best episode of the entire series and winner of a Humanitus Award is “After Hours”, which comes about a third through this season. It deals with our entire cast of characters buddying up in small groups and pairs after work to just blow off steam from a particularly hard day dealing with a car full of drunken teenagers that all blew up on prom night. The episode is kind of a let down and while it did hold my attention more than its peers, it still left me unimpressed. Slowly over the course of the night each of the groups encounter other teens that, in the climax of the episode, are imagined as the teens who drunk and BBQ-ed. It all ends in a heartfelt reuniting of all our stars on the beach at Coney Island to make a bonfire and watch the sun rise. Now, as a New Yorker, I feel there are some essential things that need to be pointed out here. One, they get from Manhattan to the southern tip of Brooklyn at an ungodly quick pace. The second is that one character remarks when they arrive at the beach “we better find some wood to make the bonfire”. The next time we see them, they are enjoying said fire. However, where the hell does one find firewood at Coney Island? My only guess is they disassembled The Cyclone roller coaster, because there aren’t any trees for miles. It’s gaps in logic like this that separates the TV-NYC from the real NYC and ultimately is a failing of the show across the board to me. Like one board member mentioned of True Blood as the south from a New Yorker’s POV, so too Third Watch is NYC from a Hollywood POV.

“Man, I need a drink. Maybe that bar from The 25th Hour is open.”

A Gag Reel is the only special feature and plays like the type of thing that was put together for an end of season party by some cast and crew. Lots of flubbed lines and some dance on set, it’s nothing to write home about.

The Package

The compression of the video is very bad, and the image often looks like it was softened by a motion smoothing TV. Otherwise, production quality is typical of a weekly drama from the early 2000’s. All six discs come housed in an extra large snapper case with swinging plastic disc holders that allow each its own convenient access. A booklet lets you know what episodes are on which disc, with brief synopses. Artwork and box size is typical for WB season collections like The West Wing or ER.

OVERALL 3.0 out of 10

By Al Schwartz

STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $26.99
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
Gag Reel

The Humans
Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Parker “AIRRAIDFRESHMAN” Posey, Amber Tamblyn, Jane Lynch, Seth Meyers.

The Pitch

Sonia Sotomayor makes her presence on the Supreme Court immediately felt in a 5-4 decision ruling that California Affirmative Action law requires production of an arrested-development comedy for ladies.      
The Nutshell

Spring Breakdown tells the story of a trio of friends in their 30s who make an implausible stab at recreating their college years.  Our protagonist (Posey) is a put upon professional whose striking good looks are at constant, mostly losing, war with her utter blandness of character. She is drug into the absurd plot by her fast-talking friend (Poehler), whose desperation to relive the past leads her to completely lose sight of what’s truly important.  They are joined by a clownish sidekick (Dratch) who is on the precipice of an unhappy marriage and goes off the deep end at the first taste of collegiate debauchery.  If this sounds familiar, it’s because you saw it 5 years ago when it enjoyed a limited release under the title Old School.

You want a big black dick joke, don’t you reader?  You can see it hanging there,
right in front of you, just out of reach.  You can practically taste
it.  You really don’t want your co-workers or family to find out, but now it’s
literally all you can think of.  Even if it’s awful, you just need
to experience it, to get it out of your system so you can go back to
a normal life.  To, however briefly, touch the filthy underside of
what “society” says it is wrong to want.  Well, I’m sorry, dear
reader.  As much as it pains me to see you in distress, this is one
writer who always takes the high road.

The Lowdown

While the above Pitch is really just an educated guess, the movie honestly feels like everyone down to the key grips and best boys was only participating under court order.  There are plenty of ladies involved that are genuinely talented and funny, and in Posey’s case eminently boofable, but they are utterly wasted down to the last X chromosome.

It’s a very very long story, but siffuce to say Cynthia could not fucking wait for menopause.

Amy Poehler exists in a strange limbo where she’s not hot enough to be a traditional romcom lead, but not nearly dumpy enough to pull off “too ugly for a blind guy to date” (a joke done recently and better by 30 Rock, whose inclusion is odd considering how much of the cast has been on that show). Posey at least manages not to embarass herself, but only because she is being failed so blatantly by the script at every turn.  Rachel Dratch is capable of writing jokes whose existence do not cry out for an investigation by Human Rights Watch, but you wouldn’t know it from here.

But the waste of talent doesn’t stop with the leads.  In a set-up that stretches comedic plausibility like a naked singularity stretches the laws of space and time, the hysterical Jane Lynch portrays walking-punchline Sarah Palin and manages not to produce a single laugh.  Amber Tamblyn, playing her hopeless nerd of a daughter, is so bland that even a physics-based analogy would drastically oversell the level of charm on display.  Poehler’s Weekend Update partner Seth Meyers shows up, but his character is just a combo of two more “30 Rock did it better” jokes (barely closeted ‘mo marries simpleton and d-bag abbreviates his spoken words, for those keeping score). The lead villain is a shallow, skanky vamp who could have done great or horrible work for all I know, since all I could see was the lips she had transplanted from the she-gremlin in The New Batch.

One of these is an overblown caricature of everything that is wrong and predatory about modern women.  The other is in a fun, entertaining movie.

The only person who seems to be enjoying themself in the slightest is Missi Pyle as the drunken, slutty owner of the local hotel, who came to Spring Break 15 years ago and never left.  She doesn’t have much to do, but stands out just for being the only one in the bloated cast (really, there’s a huge glut of characters and subplots for for a film that feels drawn out at 80 minutes) who remotely commits to the proceedings.  Colorful supporting characters like her would be bursting from the seams in the Apatowverse comedies this one is styled after, but having the one just serves to accentuate how boring everyone else is.   

Spring Breakdown isn’t worth your time even/especially if you’re a fan of the talent.  Like a real trip to South Padre, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the sooner everyone forgets about it, the better for all parties involved.

The Package

The cover art, menus, and look of the film are as flat and uninspired as the writing and performances, but the commentary with Writer/star Rachel Dratch and writer/director Ryan Shiraki actually manages to supercede them in utter banality.  It’s almost interesting in a clinical sense, simply for being the limpest, least enthusiastic thing ever recorded outside of an insurance deposition. There’s a very marked lack of pride in anything on the screen, but they won’t ever commit to actually ripping on the movie. Which is understandable, really, given that no one involved has a career and fortune secure enough to lay into one of their biggest productions on its special features. And the movie isn’t overtly bad enough to warrant the full MST3K treatment anyway, I’m just saying that anything would be preferable to what we get, which is a parade of boredom broken by moments of genuine embarrassment.  There’s also a gag reel, but if you’re going to watch that, then why in composted Christ did I bother with any of this?

OVERALL 3.0 Out of Who Gives A Damn Anyway

By SSG Vincent C. Milucci, USA, Ret.

STUDIO: Sony Pictures
MSRP: $14.94
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

The Pitch

“Let’s take an interesting true crime story, do a complete 180, and make a dull Lifetime Movie Of The Week about it!”
The Humans

Director: – Peter Medak
Starring: – Matthew Modine, Mena Suvari, Marcia Gay Harden, Johnathon Schaech, assorted meatbags under contract to Lifetime

The Nutshell

A re-imaging of the infamous Ted Binion Vegas Murder Case… which kind of wasn’t murder, but more grand larceny… sort of.

The Lowdown

I’m not going to sugarcoat my impressions of the film I watched. Nor will I attempt to dissuade any CHUDlings from viewing it themselves, should they so choose…
With that in mind, I submit this for your perusal… strap in, kids.
Since I entered the Chewer Reviewer rather late, I was sent a film called Sex And Lies In Sin City by famed auteur Peter Medak (Zorro, The Gay Blade). I though to myself… “Ok, decent director. There’s a woman in shadow grinding on the cover… sounds like a winner!”. If I knew then what I knew now…
As all of us are movie-goers, renters, watchers, etc… it stands to reason that some, if not all of us are familiar with Lifetime Movies… yes, THAT Lifetime. This film is but a stem of that infamous stalk. And it shows. I’m not going to go into the particulars of the plot, since any decent criminal investigative website can tell you anything you need to know about the case itself… and can tell you with much more detail and accuracy. What I can tell you is that this film is about as entertaining as an IRS audit. Except an IRS audit does not make you long for the 90 minutes you can never get back.
 As always, Lifetime continues its’ proud tradition of hiring only the best B and C listers… but not with this film. Matthew Modine (Cutthroat Island) earns top billing as Vegas high roller and bon vivant Ted Binion. With his horribly affected Texas drawl, (think Madonna during the Guy Ritchie years!) he chews through unsuspecting and innocent scenery with all the subtlety of a 6 year old weaning off Ritalin. Modine shines, however, during the flashback scenes of his overdose. I’ll put his heroin-addicted ass against all cinema junkies, bar none! There is no shame in his game.

“What happens in Vegas… who am I kidding? What the fuck happened to my career?”

Mena Suvari (I can’t remember anything she was in…) is another story altogether. Listless, dull, blonde… rather like Cameron Diaz Light. She wanders through the role of Sandy Murphy like one of George Romero’s finest. I’d find other adjectives to describe her performance, but I’d be wasting my time and yours.

“Don’t look all pissy because they have no decent Indian food here! Pretentious bitch…”

Johnathon Schaech (How To Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog) steps up his game a bit. I’ve always thought of him as your basic “utility infielder” type of actor. Talented, but never found his niche. He may just have found it at Lifetime, and more’s the pity… but he brings a few comic notes to his role as Rick Tabish.
Last and certainly least, is Marcia Gay Harden (She’s Too Young) as Becky Binion, sister to the aforementioned junkie Ted Binion. She brings all of the vitriol and hate she wielded as Mrs. Carmody in The Mist, yet she does it like Modine via the horrible affected accent. Her interactions with Suvari during the courtroom scenes were the stuff of legend… and by legend, I mean unrefined, weapons-grade shit.

“Why did I quit porn?”

There are no special features attached, save for some trailers of Rescue Me which were the best part of this disc.
CHUDlings, I cannot lie to you. This was a hard movie to watch. Especially after all of the wonderful movies you people have turned me on to, over the last year I’ve been among you.

Sorry, but this is about as “sexy & sinful” as Lifetime allows.

The Package

There are no special features save for some DVD previews… of better films and shows than this one!!!

OVERALL 0.5 out of 10