No ReservationsNo Reservations on Blu-ray

It looks like a romantic comedy and it acts like one - and it has all the ingredients (pardon the recipe pun). Yet No Reservations is definitely NOT a romantic comedy.

A movie has to be funny to be a comedy - or at least a successful comedy. And No Reservations is not funny. It doesn't even try to be.

And that's okay. Instead of being funny it's sweet. Oh, sure, it's predictable. You know what's going to happen, you watch it happen, and when it does happen, you're glad it happened.

It's that kind of flick.

Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as Kate, a master chef at a classy New York restaurant whose kitchen is her life. When the film opens, she's expecting a visit from her sister and her young niece and is reluctantly getting ready to take some time off to be with them.

Then her life is changed forever. Her sister is killed, leaving her as guardian to the young Zoe (Abigail Breslin) - a responsibility for which she is patently unqualified and not nearly ready. But she does her best, to her credit, even though there are bumps along the road, just as one might expect there to be.

Her professional life is changed forever, too, when in her absence her boss hires a new sous chef (Aaron Eckhart) to work with her. He's a free spirited opera-loving guy who, not surprisingly, is the perfect foil to the far-too-anal Kate. And naturally, she hates his guts and wants him gone, if not filleted.

But thanks to some gentle matchmaking on Zoe's part, the two start coming together socially and, eventually, professionally.

Will they fall in love? Will they all live happily ever after? Will there be a crisis that tears them apart before they get back together eventually?

Well of course. But it works. No Reservations is an enjoyable, lighthearted movie that features good chemistry between the stars and good performances all around. It's a tad hokey, but it's good hokiness and makes for an enjoyable 104 minutes in the home theater. So have No Reservations about buying or renting it.

The Blu-ray disc's 1080p picture is good, if a tad soft. Colors are bright and rich and there's good depth - and if you wanted to see every line on Zeta-Jones' face, this is your vehicle.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it's okay.

Extras include an episode of "Emeril Live" as two of the film's three stars (Zeta-Jones isn't in it) cook recipes from the film. And there's also "Unwrapped", in which host Marc Summers visits the movie set.

No Reservations, from Warner Home Entertainment
104 min. 1080p widescreen (2.4:1), Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Bob Balaban
Produced by Kerry Heysen, Sergio Aguero,
Written by Carol Fuchs, directed by Scott Hicks

The Brave One

The Brave One on Blu-ray

Is she really brave, or was she seduced by the dark side of the force?

Or is she just lame?

Jodie Foster is radio personality Erica Bain, whose life-changing event happens when she and her fiancee David (Naveen Andrews) are attacked in Central Park by a gang of thugs. David is killed, snatched from the comatose Erica's life while she isn't even aware and leaving a gaping hole in her life.

Needless to say, such a traumatic event leaves her an emotional wreck. Her physical wounds heal quickly (too quickly, it seems), but the emotional scars go deep and she now lives in fear in a city in which she had felt previously to be safe. So she buys an illegal gun and, shortly after (and conveniently, for the story's purpose) witnesses the murder of a convenience store worker. Trapped inside the store with the perpetrator, she decides to defend herself.

She could have stuck around and been cleared for what was obviously self defense, despite a few messy questions about where she got the gun, but she runs. And she gets away.

Perhaps because of the ease with which she escaped or perhaps because of the rush the experience gave her (we never really learn which) a new hero has been born, a vigilante who mows down bad guys the way the cops seem to think they'd like to if they weren't bound by a higher calling.

From then on, Erica seems to be a crime magnet. She's riding the subway, minding her own business, when a couple of bad guys hassle fellow passengers and then come after her. Bang! Another pair bites the dust, this time more efficiently thanks to her improving aim. And later she's wandering around (looking for trouble, perhaps?) and comes across a pimp who's keeping a young girl prisoner. Next thing you know, Bang! Another dead bad guy.

The cops are on the case, including one especially warm-hearted one named Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard), who gets drawn into a professional relationship with Erica via her radio show - a relationship that eventually becomes personal. There are no flies on this guy, and eventually he puts two and two together and starts to suspect that his new best buddy may be the perp.

It culminates in an ending that's quite unbelievable considering all of Mercer's words and actions throughout the film, and we'd be willing to bet that if Erica were a male the ending would be completely different from how things wrap up here. But such is the movie industry these days.

The movie's interesting and intriguing, but it never really feels "right."

From the opening scenes showing Erica and David's romance, which is just too "aw shucks" for an actress as accomplished as Foster, to Erica's too-rapid decline into vigilantism and to the really unbelievable ending, her character changes so quickly and in such a contrived way that you really have trouble buying it. And the net of intrigue she's drawing around herself never seems to get that tight even as the cops are finally figuring her out. Foster deserves better. On the other hand, since she's also one of the executive producers, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order.

And except for the murder of a professional thug Mercer really wants to see brought to justice (and the final bloodbath that's really what the whole thing was about), Erica's acts of mayhem are as much coincidental - and acts of self defense, as they are audience-cheerin' rootin' tootin' romps of ultra-violence. Erica could have easily let herself be brought to justice and been confident of acquittal.

Still, the performances are good, as are the production values. All they lacked was a script and, as it has been said, "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage." And it ain't on the stage here.

The Warner Blu-ray disc is good. The 1080p picture looks very nice, though since so much of the movie happens in the dark you'll want a nice dark room to enhance the black levels of your monitor.

Kudos to Warners for giving the choice of audio tracks: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and regular Dolby Digital 5.1. Audio quality, especially on the TrueHD track, is very good, with good use of the surround channels, where director Neil Jordan seems to have stuck some ominous, low frequency sound effects, perhaps to make us forget about the plot.

Extras include "I Walk the City," a "making of" feature, as well as some additional scenes.

The Brave One, from Warner Home Entertainment
122 min. 1080p widescreen (2.4:1), Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, Nicky Katt, Mary Steenburgen
Produced by Joel Silver, Susan Downey
Written by Roderick Taylor & Bruce A. Taylor and Cynthia Mort, directed by Neil Jordan

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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