Digital Breakdown: Simmering ‘Aces’ 

The thing about edgy ensemble comedy/action flicks is that they rarely live up to the hype, given their star power, or rarely have a good plot. "Smokin’ Aces" is an example. Starring Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta and singer Alicia Keys in her movie debut, the film is about a drugged-out Mafia turncoat who enlists low-life hitmen and thugs to try to kill him for a supposed million-dollar reward.

It isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t all that great, either. As far as Keys’ acting goes — don’t quit your day job, Alicia. Yet the DVD, with an alternate ending, more than 18 minutes of cut scenes and outtakes, three featurettes and two audio commentaries, isn’t bad.

Price: $29.98.

Rent or buy: Rent.


You won’t find better acting than in "The Last King of Scotland." Forest Whitaker delivers an unflinching, awesome performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. It’s easy to see why he won the Oscar for his unforgettable portrayal of the unstoppable political figure.

The movie presents a true message of power corrupting absolutely, and perhaps a look at how to deal with foreign countries. The DVD has great stuff, including an audio commentary from the director, deleted scenes, a documentary on the real-life Amin and two featurettes.

Price: $29.98

Rent or buy: Buy.


At first glance, "Freedom Writers" could be written offas a rip-off of "Dangerous Minds" or a poor man’s "Stand and Deliver." Yet it’s a surprisingly decent film about underprivileged children and a teacher who gives them a chance.

It’s actually as much about the students as it is about the teacher. Hilary Swank is there to give it star power and credibility, but the story is told through the students’ perspectives. Three featurettes and deleted scenes accompany the film on the DVD.

Price: $29.98.

Rent or buy: A good rental.


"Notes on a Scandal" is not an ordinary thriller — it gets more twisted and depraved as it goes along. With awesome performances from Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, the story centers around the uneasy (to say the least) relationship between two British schoolteachers and the unhealthy fascination that Dench’s character has for Blanchett’s.

Superbly acted and deviously delightful, the film keeps you guessing and squirming in your seat throughout. The DVD includes four featurettes, director commentary and "Webisodes" from the film’s Web site.

Price: $29.99.

Rent or buy: Buy.


While the first season of HBO’s mock late night talk show is also being released, "Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show" includes 23 best-of episodes of the show — but that’s not all. This DVD also includes eight hours of supplemental material: nine interviews with guests from the show, a documentary, five new audio commentaries and a ton of deleted scenes.

Price: $49.99.

Rent or buy: Buy.

Also released on DVD Tuesday: "Venture Brothers — Season Two," "The Marsh," "Spider-Man2.1 — Extended Cut," "George Lopez — The Complete First and Second Seasons," "Masters of Horror — Family," "The Chocolate War," "MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge Season Two," "Happy Days: Season Two," "Laverne & Shirley: Season Two," "Mork & Mindy: Season Two" and "Alien Invasion Arizona."

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
Pin It

Speaking of Entertainment

More by Staff Report

Latest in Other Arts

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation