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'Six Wives' truly a mess of a film

Date: 10/25/2010

Oct. 25, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

This week's DVD review column features a truly great film and a truly awful one.

The Six Wives of Henry Lefay

I would have loved to have been on the set of this "comedy" about love and family and witnessed the moment when the cast and crew realized just how bad this film would be.

Or didn't they have a clue?

"Six Wives" stars Tim Allen as a flamboyant electronics storeowner who is a ladies man. He has been married six times and actually becomes engaged to the next wife before he divorces his current one.

He is irresponsible and a lousy dad to his grown daughter -- in other words, a laugh riot!

When he is killed in an accident while in Mexico, the women in his life gather together to mourn their loss and fight with one another. The fact that Henry isn't dead -- don't scold me, the revelation is on the back of the DVD box -- only adds to the hilarity.

Now aside from the fact that I can't see Tim Allen as a stud muffin, attracting beautiful women half his age, this film is a mess. That's a shame as it does have some very good actors in it who clearly are flailing about trying to do something that either approaches humor or drama.

The script is so bad and clearly the director was oblivious to its shortcomings. Not a moment of this film rings true as a comedy or a drama.

Pass this one up when you see it at the Red Box.

Red Cliff

I know sitting through a two-part, five-hour Chinese movie with subtitles is a big order for some of you, but "Red Cliff" is such a spectacle and is so well written and visualized, that I can't imagine how hardcore film fan would turn away from the prospect of watching this film.

My only regret is that I didn't get to see it in a theater on a huge screen.

"Red Cliff" marks the return to China of John Woo, the Hong Kong director who rose to worldwide prominence with films such as "Hard Boiled" and "The Killer." With the return of Hong Kong to the Communist Chinese in 1999, Woo came to Hollywood where he had success with films such as "Broken Arrow," "Mission Impossible Two" and others.

"Red Cliff" recounts a true incident in ancient China when the Han Dynasty tried to unite the country under its rule by eliminating the kingdoms ruled by warlords. The film tells of the events leading up to the climactic battle at Red Cliff in southern China.

Woo understands an epic war film is only truly successful if there are characters about whom people can relate. We have Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) the ambitious Han chancellor leading the war; Sun Quan, the reluctant king trying to live within his father's legacy (Chang Chen) and his viceroy, the accomplished warrior and farmer Zhou Lou (Tony Leung); and the pragmatic strategist Xhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), among others.

The large cast does a great job and Woo, directing battle scenes with hundreds of extras, always makes sure the audiences doesn't get lost in the action. Woo cleverly uses actual and computer animation to complete the recreation of the battles including an amazing naval sequence on the Yangtze River.

The extras on the DVD are also amazing with a behind the scenes look at this very demanding production. Woo fought summer rain, collapsing sets and rugged terrain to get his amazing movie.

Although I admit my bias -- I'm a huge Chinese film fan -- this is the kind of movie that deserves your discovery.

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