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James L. Brooks
Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn, Mark Linn-Baker, Lenny Venito, Molly Price
Writing Credits:
James L. Brooks

After being cut from the USA softball team and feeling a bit past her prime, Lisa finds herself evaluating her life and in the middle of a love triangle, as a corporate guy in crisis competes with her current, baseball-playing beau.

Box Office:
$120 million.
Opening Weekend
$7.484 million on 2483 screens.
Domestic Gross
$30.212 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 3/22/2011

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director James L. Brooks and Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski
• Scene-Specific Commentary with Writer/Director James L. Brooks and Actor Owen Wilson
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Blooper Reel
• “Extra Innings” Featurette


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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How Do You Know (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 17, 2011)

Every four to seven years, James L. Brooks emerges to direct a new film. Best known for notable 80s flicks Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News - as well as his executive producer role on The Simpsons - Brooks came back in 2010 for How Do You Know, his first directorial effort since 2004’s Spanglish, itself Brooks’ only flick since 1997.

Due to her age, softball player Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) gets cut from the US national team. This leaves her somewhat adrift, as softball’s all she’s ever known. Somewhat against her better judgment, she launches a relationship with all-star MLB relief pitcher Matty Reynolds (Owen Wilson); he’s a serious womanizer, but she appreciates his honesty and gives the fling a try.

Earlier, Lisa’d heard from financial advisor George Madison (Paul Rudd); a common friend (Teyonah Parris) gave her number to him as a potential set-up. However, he’s seriously involved with college professor Terry (Shelley Conn), so he calls her simply so she won’t wonder why he never contacted her.

That appears to be that, but George’s life soon changes in a radical manner. The Department of Justice subpoenas him as part of a security fraud investigation, and that hubbub leads Terry to dump him – or at least put their relationship on serious hold.

On the advice of his secretary, George decides to call Lisa again. They get together for dinner, an event that goes poorly – well, from Lisa’s perspective, at least. She thinks he’s a stressed-out nut, while he feels oddly smitten by her.

From Lisa’s view, that’s that, and she moves on. Lisa decides to see Matty again, and this gets serious enough for them to live together. That situation collapses when Lisa bumps into George and brings him by the now-shared apartment for a chat. Matty thinks of the condo as “his place”, and that attitude prompts Lisa to hit the road. George takes this as his chance to connect with Lisa, and the movie officially becomes a love triangle.

A pretty dull love triangle at that. One certainly can’t find fault with the cast, however. Indeed, if you wanted to find a virtually ideal set of actors for a film like this, the triad of Witherspoon, Rudd and Wilson would qualify.

And all seem quite likable and charming here, with a particular nod toward Wilson. He’s easily stuck with the weakest character of the bunch, as Matty is little more than a one-dimensional horny jock. While Wilson doesn’t really give him more depth than that, he manages to capitalize on the role’s comedic potential. The vast majority of the film’s laughs come from Wilson’s earnest take on the part. Both Rudd and Witherspoon add consistently pleasant performances as well, and we even get Jack Nicholson in a modest role as George’s father.

So what goes wrong? The script, for one. Brooks doesn’t seem to edit himself well, so a simple love triangle ends up as a bloated semi-mess. Sure, the flick comes with plot complications, most of which connect to George’s legal issues, but at its heart, Know is just a simple love triangle. Why does Brooks need to muck it up with extraneous nonsense and force the movie to run too long?

I don’t know, but it doesn’t work. Granted, Brooks has had problems with excessive length in the past, and this was the case with the film’s most obvious relative: Broadcast News. That one also followed a love triangle, and it also needed editing.

Still, News was smart stuff compared to the limp Know. While I wasn’t wild about News, but it gave us a more involving take on its subject. Know comes across as Brooks’ attempt to revisit the same territory but it lacks much real sense of purpose; it’s like Brooks figured he needed a hit and thought another flick ala News would do the trick.

This means the movie feels like Cruise Control Brooks. The dialogue lacks zip, and the story meanders. It doesn’t help that Know features an utterly inevitable ending; I won’t spill the beans, but if you can’t figure out which guy will win Lisa’s heart, you don’t understand how movies work.

Brooks also likes to devote five minutes to a simple concept that could be expressed much more efficiently. This means many tedious chats and even a preposterous hospital sequence that involves George’s secretary and her newborn son; contrived and borderline pointless, this segment just slows down an already pokey plot.

A good cast can add a lot to a movie, but they can’t totally save it. No matter how hard the leads try, they can’t overcome the inherent drag found in How Do You Know. What could be a lively romantic comedy ends up as a chore to watch.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

How Do You Know appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given the restrictions of SD-DVD, the film looked pretty good.

For the most part, sharpness looked nice. At times, wider shots tended to be a little soft, but those examples weren’t terribly intrusive. Much of the film appeared pretty accurate and concise. No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained minor. Source flaws also failed to create problems.

In terms of colors, Know tended to stay with a natural palette. Hues took on a light golden tone at times, but that stylistic choice didn’t overwhelm. Instead, the colors appeared pretty clear and concise. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows showed good delineation. Overall, this was a pleasing presentation.

I thought that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Know seemed fine but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most comedies, the movie featured a limited soundfield that strongly favored the forward channels. It showed nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides.

Panning was decent, and the surrounds usually kicked in basic reinforcement. A few scenes opened up better, though, like at a game or in a thunderstorm. However, most of the movie stayed with limited imaging.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music was perfectly fine, as the score and songs showed positive dimensionality. This track was good enough for a “B-“ but didn’t particularly impress.

A few extras fill out the disc. We open with an audio commentary from writer/director James L. Brooks and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski; producer Julie Ansell and co-editor Tracy Wadmore-Smith also join the chat around the movie’s halfway mark. All sit together for a running, screen-specific look at cinematography and visuals, cast, characters and performances, script/story issues, sets and locations, pacing and tone, editing and cut scenes, music, and other areas.

Even with four participants, this is Brooks’ baby, as he dominates. I’m not even sure Kaminski’s there for the whole track, as he says little along the way, and the women don’t contribute much when they enter.

Not that Brooks himself delivers a whole lot. Along the way, we do learn some interesting notes about the film, but quite a lot of dead air emerges, and the track tends to move slowly. Though the commentary isn’t a waste of time, it’s too pokey to be a good one, and it disappoints.

In addition, we get a scene-specific commentary from Brooks and actor Owen Wilson. Both sit together to chat for 32 minutes, 52 seconds about Wilson’s character, wardrobe and performance, some script areas, and other topics.

Even in an edited format, the track still drags and suffers from more than a few empty spots. I like Wilson’s insights, and his rapport with Brooks makes this an occasionally amusing piece. Nonetheless, like the prior full-length commentary, it doesn’t move especially well, so It can become a bit of a chore.

Four Deleted Scenes run a total of six minutes, 35 seconds. We find “Lisa’s Childhood” (2:46), “Stair Hopping” (1:03), “Anxiety Attack” (1:36) and “Annie & George” (1:10). The first shows Lisa’s relentless determination and the roots of her adult character. “Hopping” depicts Lisa’s training, while “Attack” extends part of the disastrous initial date between Lisa and George. Finally, “Annie” gives us a bit more between George and his secretary.

Of all four, only “Childhood” might’ve provided interesting content. It certainly sets up the character well and adds some good information, though I suspect it would’ve slowed down an already sluggish flick. As for the others, they’re minor additions without any particular value.

We can view the scenes with or without commentary from Brooks. He doesn’t tell us why he cut the sequences, and he barely lets us know anything about them at all. For instance, during “Childhood”, Brooks tells us the names of a couple actors and that’s it. You can skip this commentary, as Brooks relates virtually no useful information.

A Blooper Reel goes for one minute, 57 seconds. It shows a pretty standard compilation of goofs and giggles. Nothing extraordinary materializes.

Finally, a featurette entitled Extra Innings lasts 15 minutes, three seconds. It includes notes from Brooks, Wilson, producers Laurence Mark, Paula Weinstein and Julie Ansell, Philadelphia extras casting Diane Heery, and actors Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Lovieanne Jung, Amanda Freed, and Kathryn Hahn. “Innings” discusses the movie’s origins and development, research and training, cast and performances, story and characters, and Brooks’ impact on the production.

This is a general promotional featurette, but it’s not bad by those standards, especially when we hear from the softball players about those issues. Though you shouldn’t expect much from it, “Innings” is better than average for its genre.

Since James L. Brooks takes so long between movies, you’d think he’d have enough time to tighten his scripts. Alas, How Do You Know wastes an excellent cast as it delivers a slow, monotonous experience. The DVD gives us pretty good picture, adequate audio, and an inconsistent but occasionally useful set of supplements. Though the actors make Know watchable, they can’t overcome its inherent dullness.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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