Half-way through Diggers you may come to the realization that this is a story going nowhere. There isn’t any driving motivation, epiphany, or outside dramatic event that will radically change the lives of the film's main characters. But at nearly the next moment, you'll realize that you don’t much care. What is here, while not particularly original or multi-layered, is a very pleasant way to pass ninety minutes.

Notes on a Scandal

Dench’s Barbara is a perfectly realized character. A lifetime of loneliness (she is the stereotypical cat-lady) has made her so desperate for connection that she doesn’t recognize her own obsessive behavior as unusual. That obsession, mixed with loneliness and a genuine dislike for most people, make her dangerous to anyone who makes the mistake of letting her get to close. It’s a masterful performance.

The Last King of Scotland

Whitaker’s performance as Amin is the driving force for the movie. He presents a completely unpredictable but ultimately fascinating person. Unfortunately, while McAvoy does well as Nicholas, he doesn’t command the screen like Whitaker and you keep waiting for Amin to return. Nicholas is actually the more prominent character, everything is seen through his eyes, but when Amin is not present the movie is a pretty standard thriller of a man trying to escape from a villain. This villain just happens to be a real dictator rather than a fictional super-villain.

The Nativity Story

The producers clearly hope that this movie will become a Christmas classic, reminding the faithful of the “true meaning” of the holiday. It may generate a regular showing on television simply because it stands alone as a feature film telling focusing on this momentous event. Plus, there are a few divine moments that are staged well. But when put together, the few well staged moments and good performances can’t overcome the staid tone.

Eragon (Two-Disc Special Edition)

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to substitute the names Luke, Obi Wan, Leia, Han, and Darth Vader for those listed above and call Eragon a Jedi rather than a Dragon Rider. You have to wonder why George Lucas didn’t immediately call his lawyers. Heck, even the joke about Vader killing off one of his commanders and then telling another fearful man “congratulations, you’ve been promoted” is ripped-off lock, stock and barrel in the film. What doesn’t come out of the Lucas archives reeks of Tolkien.

Casino Royale (Two-Disc Special Edition)

After four pretty well received Bond films with Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig was hired amid much fanfare and trepidation (“He’s blonde!” “He can’t drive a stick!”), Craig is asked to play Bond as a “blunt instrument” (as MI6 head M (Judy Dench) derisively refers to him.) Reliant more on brute strength, iron nerves, and boundless energy than gadgets and sophistication, this Bond doesn’t always make the right decision.

Revenge of the Nerds (Panty Raid Edition)

The movie doesn’t always work to the height of Animal House, but watching it in 2006 is in some ways a real time warp. In 1984 teen comedies it was pretty acceptable to set up some very broad stereotypes. The gay guy is, as Homer Simpson would say, Faaaaaa-laaaaaaa-mmming. One of the nerds is named Poindexter. Most have coke bottle glasses with tape in the middle. The one Asian character wouldn’t be out of place in one those WWII era Bugs Bunny shorts.

Farce of the Penguins

After sitting through the movie itself, the last thing any person would want to do is subject themselves to any of the extras on this disc. Bob Saget provides a commentary track that includes such nuggets as "that ice looks like an anus." He does say a few funny things, but like the movie itself, you don't want to sit through 80 minutes of boorish torture for two minutes of laughs.

Flushed Away

Because of the advantages of 3-D animation, the number of chase and action sequences is much higher than is typically seen in an Aardman feature. Fortunately, they are done with the same wit and attention to detail that infects the entire project. The movie never lags, which is the curse of many family-films, as though the viewer were too stupid to get the moral unless it is belabored over in lengthy pace-killing scenes.

The Departed (Two-Disc Special Edition)

The cat and mouse game played by the two leads under the eye of Nicholson and using cell phones as a key plot point is masterful and in Scorsese's assured hands, scenes pop off the screen with tension. He also uses classic rock songs in his trademark manner, impressively setting time, place, or mood. However, his use of "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" a ferocious song by the celtic punk band The Dropkick Murphys during the title card sequence (following an 18 minute prologue) really kicks the movie into high gear and is a brilliant choice.

Flyboys: Collector's Edition

The flying scenes are actually pretty well done, saving this movie from complete disaster. Using a combination of CGI and miniatures, the scenes never look really fake and will appeal to 14 year old boys and the 14 year old boy inside of anyone. Unfortunately, Director Tony Bill hasn't made a feature film since 1993 and his ensuing time in television has given too much of cliché ridden visual and pacing style.

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time

On the very low standards of direct-to-DVD sequels, this movie isn't as awful as some. The plot is somewhat inventive and there is a healthy dose of humor. Some characters, primarily the Prince, the King, and Anastasia, go through personality transformations in the year between the original movie and the events of this feature. Anastasia also goes through a vocal transformation, since her musical ineptness is a comic point in the original, but she has a nice vocal number in the sequel.

Lady in the Water

Although expanded to feature-film length, the core story still comes across as something flimsy and half-formed, as though it was being made up on the fly by someone nightly in their daughter's bedroom. Plot holes and barely understood characters are the rule of the day and try as he might, Shyamalan the director can't make a go of what Shyamalan the writer has given him.

The Guardian

Costner strikes the right note of gruff and compassion in the Coast Guard's "A" school, and Kutcher is better than expected when required to drop the smart-ass act and come out with his own deep driving secret. Their relationship comes off as more natural than some in this type of movie, but it's at the service of a story that can almost be laid out by the viewer five minutes after the DVD is put in the player.

Gridiron Gang

Gridiron Gang is the story of a drunken pool cleaner who takes a ragged team of misfits and turns them into near-champion ballplayers with the help of a girl pitcher and a.......Wait, that's not right. It's actually the story of a former pro-football player thrown into prison leading a ragged team of misfit prisoners against the guards.......Dang, that's not right either.

The Black Dahlia

I think it is time for Brian De Palma to give up on directing and just become a cameraman. His recent slate of films ending with the just released on DVD The Black Dahlia have two shared characteristics, wonderful cinematography and confusing hole-filled plots. For whatever reason De Palma seems unable to combine some beautifully composed shots with a coherent story and good performances.

Air Buddies

Moving away from the typical Air Bud sports related story, this direct to DVD feature simply rips off the key plot elements of the far superior Disney animated feature One Hundred and One Dalmatians. In fact, the pups run through a drive-in where the movie is playing on the big screen, as if the filmmakers are saying "yeah, we're ripping off a better movie, what are you going to do about it?"

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Unrated Edition)

Making a satire about NASCAR would seem to be like shooting fish in a barrel. A small barrel.....with a very big gun. Director and co-writer Adam McKay brings out a huge gun, Will Ferrell, to do what most of us do every week: make fun of the millions of people who worship men in fire-proof unitards shilling for almost every consumer product in existence while driving very, very fast without the benefit of door handles that work.

Little Miss Sunshine

The family heads from Albuquerque to California in a yellow VW van so Olive can compete in the titular pageant. Like a left turn when you have your right signal blinking, the movie then veers away from the expected and becomes a comic road movie, with some of the best dialogue and acting of the year. All six leads deserve recognition in the upcoming awards season, but Kinnear really stands out as a man who divides the world into two camps, winners and losers, and does what he can to make sure his family is in the right camp.

A Christmas Story (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Ralphie lies to his parents and teachers, abandons his friends to avoid getting himself in trouble, curses, and covets. You know, just like what you and I did when we were his age. None of this is mean spirited, it's just a real nostalgia, rather than being the overly cloying sentimental pap you'll see on the Hallmark Channel this year. Remember, this movie ends with a duck getting its head chopped off, I don't think Rob Lowe's latest holiday offering will try that.

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