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Maple Pictures' February '07 Releases

Man About Town (February 8/07)

It's not difficult to see why Man About Town is premiering on home video in North America, as the film - though rife with familiar faces (including Ben Affleck and John Cleese) - generally comes off as an overwrought and flat-out dull effort. Affleck plays Jack Giamoro, a high-powered agent whose comfortable life is threatened after his wife (Rebecca Romijn's Nina) has an affair and a sleazy reporter (Bai Ling's Barbi) sets out to destroy him. Filmmaker Mike Binder initially infuses Man About Town with a low-key, slow-moving sort of vibe that is - initially - fairly compelling, with Affleck's surprisingly decent performance going a long way towards keeping things interesting. But Binder's reliance on increasingly melodramatic elements effectively negates the film's few positive attributes, something that's exemplified by the unbelievably misguided subplot revolving around Ling's character. Her efforts to take down Jack generally come off as heavy-handed and mean-spirited, and ultimately lend the proceedings a distinctly unpleasant atmosphere. That Man About Town bears more than a passing resemblance to the thematically similar (and vastly superior) Jerry Maguire only cements its status as an entirely superfluous piece of work.

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The Mistress of Spices (January 9/07)

Though The Mistress of Spices has clearly been designed to function as a fairy tale, the film abandons logic and plausibility to such a degree that it quickly becomes impossible to overlook the more fantastical elements within Gurinder Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges' screenplay. The emphasis on mystical matters - a vibe reflected in Berges' ethereal, sumptuous direction - effectively prevents the film's few positive attributes from taking hold, with the end result an intermittently intriguing piece of work that's ultimately just too silly to ever take seriously. Aishwarya Rai stars as Tilo, a so-called "mistress of spices" who has made it her life's work to match specific spices with the appropriate person - though her orderly existence is thrown into disarray after a handsome stranger (Dylan McDermott) walks into her store. It's a fairly standard setup that's been augmented with a whole host of quirky details - including the arbitrary rules that Tilo must abide by (ie she's not allowed to leave her store) - and there's little doubt that the film would've benefited from a more down-to-earth approach. The inclusion of increasingly preposterous plot devices by Chadha and Berges - ie Tilo, in addition to her ongoing dialogue with her spices, seems to possess a Dead Zone-esque ability to see into the future of anybody she comes in contact with - is nothing short of lamentable, and one can't help but wish that the filmmakers had spent more time developing the budding relationship between Rai and McDermott's respective characters (that McDermott delivers a thoroughly charismatic performance certainly doesn't hurt).

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About the DVDs: Maple Pictures presents both films with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and although The Mistress of Spices' only bonus feature is a trailer, Man About Town comes equipped with two featurettes, deleted scenes, bloopers, and trailers. It's also worth noting that The Mistress of Spices DVD does not include either subtitles or closed-captions, which makes it almost impossible to understand all of the film's dialogue (most of the performers have accents of varying thickness).
© David Nusair