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Paramount's November '05 Releases

The Honeymooners (November 18/05)

Even if one were willing to overlook the fact that The Honeymooners is virtually nothing like the show that supposedly inspired it, the film would still come off as an unnaturally prolonged, second-rate UPN sitcom. The most obvious problem here is the casting of Cedric the Entertainer as Ralph Kramden, as the actor doesn't possess an ounce of charisma or screen presence (the fact that he delivers an uncomfortably broad performance certainly doesn't help matters). And though one could almost picture the film's storyline - which revolves around a get-rich-quick scheme devised by Ralph and best pal Ed Norton (Mike Epps) - popping up on the Jackie Gleason series, the inclusion of several far-from-subtle dramatic interludes (including the dreaded fake-breakup) - along with the repeated emphasis on over-the-top bits of physical comedy - transforms The Honeymooners into a thoroughly grating experience (this is despite surprisingly effective work by Eric Stoltz and John Leguizamo, both of whom briefly inject some much-needed life into the proceedings).

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Warning Shot (November 19/05)

Warning Shot casts David Janssen as Sgt. Tom Valens, a 10-year veteran of the police force who finds himself in hot water after fatally shooting a prominent doctor. When said doctor's gun (which we see during the altercation) is nowhere to be found, Valens is charged with murder and indefinitely suspended from duty - forcing the cop to embark upon a surreptitious investigation to clear his name. With the proliferation of crime-solving shows such as Law and Order and CSI, a film like Warning Shot can't help but come off as antiquated and tedious - particularly given the unreasonably slow-pace and director Buzz Kulik's reliance on '60s-era flourishes (a problem that's compounded by Jerry Goldsmith's jazzy yet undeniably dated score). Much of the film revolves around the minutia of Valens' day-to-day efforts to prove that the shooting was justified, although - interestingly enough - the identity of the central villain should come as no surprise to those that have seen Clint Eastwood's Blood Work. And though Janssen delivers an expectedly sturdy performance, the bottom line is that Warning Shot just hasn't aged all that well (this is despite the efforts of an exceedingly eclectic supporting cast, which is peppered with familiar faces such as Carroll O'Connor, Joan Collins, and Steve Allen).

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The War of the Worlds (November 20/05)

Though it's generally ranked as a pivotal '50s sci-fi flick, there's just no getting around the fact that The War of the Worlds has aged terribly in the years since it's 1953 release; moments that presumably elicited fear among audiences now come off as over-the-top and silly. Screenwriter Barre Lyndon substitutes a lot of dull chatter for actual character development, which makes it virtually impossible to maintain any level of emotional involvement with these people. This is particularly true of the film's central figure (played by Gene Barry), a typically stolid scientist who acts very serious and makes overblown proclamations such as, "if they're mortal, they must have mortal weaknesses!" And while the special effects are kind of impressive given the film's age, they don't really hold up all that well - though, admittedly, that's the least of The War of the Worlds' problems (the conclusion is especially ludicrous). Add to that a surprisingly slow-paced buildup, and you've got a so-called "classic" that couldn't possibly be more overrated.

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About the DVDs: Though Warning Shot doesn't come with any bonus features, Paramount Pictures presents both The Honeymooners and The War of the Worlds with a copious amount of supplemental materials (including commentary tracks, featurettes, deleted scenes, etc). It is worth noting, however, that The Honeymooners has been edited from a PG-13 to a PG rating for this release, and the film is presented in full-screen only.
© David Nusair