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A last chance for `Mimzy' to pull the old rabbit trick

July 08, 2007|Susan King

The Life After 1: New Line Cinema hasn't had much success recently with its family films, "Hoot," "How to Eat Fried Worms" and "The Nativity Story." That pattern continued with "The Last Mimzy," which arrives Tuesday on DVD. The sci-fi fantasy received mixed reviews and took in a tepid $21.5 million at the box office in March.

Chris O'Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn play young siblings who come across a container filled with strange objects. One of the items is a stuffed bunny that delivers messages to the little girl in a purr-like language. Rainn Wilson of "The Office" plays a science teacher; Timothy Hutton and Joely Richardson costar as the parents.

The film was co-written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of "Ghost," and directed by Robert Shaye, the founder and head of New Line. Shaye's last directorial effort, 1990's romantic comedy "Book of Love," also didn't set any box-office records.

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Mail-order brides in 'Sweet Land'

The Life After 2: Though it received limited release, the exquisite romantic drama "Sweet Land," which makes its digital debut Tuesday, was almost uniformly greeted with raves from the critics and won best first feature at the Film Independent Spirit Awards in February.

"Sweet Land," which marked the feature directorial debut of Minnesota-based writer-director Ali Selim, is set in rural Minnesota, circa 1920s.

Elizabeth Reaser, who played Jane Doe this past season on "Grey's Anatomy," received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her luminous performance as a mail-order bride from Germany, who comes to the Minnesota countryside to marry a taciturn Norwegian immigrant (Tim Guinee). Alan Cumming, who was one of the producers, John Heard, Lois Smith and Ned Beatty are also featured in this little gem.

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Surfin' safaris with Frankie & Annette

Back to the Beach: Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello were the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the sun-and-surf set back in the 1960s in a series of kitschy, fun beach movies produced and released by American International Pictures.

Not only did these films showcase the young heartthrobs and musical talent of the day, they also featured such veterans as Peter Lorre and Buster Keaton -- often, unfortunately, in silly roles that demeaned their talents.

This Tuesday, the "Frankie & Annette MGM Musical Collection," gets into the DVD swing. Featured on the disc are: 1963's "Beach Party," 1964's "Muscle Beach Party," 1965's "Beach Blanket Bingo" and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini," 1966's "Fireball 500" and 1967's "Thunder Alley," which doesn't even feature Avalon.

Though her female costars were clad in bikinis in these movies, Funicello wore bathing suits that covered her navel. The no-navel directive came from Walt Disney, who had made her a star on "The Mickey Mouse Club" and in several Disney family films.

Though Funicello readily complied with Disney, she was hassled on the "Beach Party" production for following "the boss' orders."

In her autobiography, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," Funicello said she told everyone on the set: "This is something I chose to do and will do."

In 1987, Avalon and Funicello reunited for the feature comedy "Back to the Beach."

-- Susan King

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