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It's films like these that often divides personal opinion about what valid cinema really is ... is it just meant to blindly entertain the masses or provide thought-provoking human sociological viewpoints about the world around us?  In the case of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, it depends on who you talk to.

In terms of girl-power, you can say that the original 1970s TV series was way ahead of its time by providing strong female role models (and I do mean models) who could save the day better than any James Bond incarnate. Or if you just liked oggling at women who had less meat on them than a Chicken McNugget then this show also provided that in spades.

The tradition continued with the much-delayed yet inevitable movie franchise, but the original film split audiences right down the middle particularly with its unbelievable gravity-defying kung fu sequences. Now personally I'm against this practice when it is completely overdone as people are usually left hanging in mid-air for no logical reason, but if used less obviously then it doesn't nearly feel like the crutch that it is. Thankfully the creators have decided to tone it down somewhat in this sequel so that we may possibly get a better grounding in "reality" for want of a better word.

Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle
I wasn't even half-interested in the first movie when it came out as the storyline seemed too convoluted for its own good as well as the average IQ of its audience. But in many ways I feel that this sequel is superior to the original although I still have no idea as to why. The stunts and action sequences are just as over the top with the rather unlikely opening setup where everyone is clambering inside a falling helicopter and starting it up just in time to avert a fatal crash-landing. However the acting is on par with its relatively seasoned cast lineup and the continually improbable investigative techniques of CSI plotting its way throughout the feature are a welcome addition. The comedy occasionally falls a bit flat with tired jokes such as the Black Irish ones to make Bernie Mac pass as the genuine four-leaf-clovered article. Editing too seems a bit rushed with not much time dedicated to tweaking a few frames here and there.

In the end though, the slick production values pretty much outweigh the deficiencies inherent in what is basically a chick-flick for the blokes. There is definitely more fun to be had inside the running time here where it simply concentrates on moving the "plot" along so we can turn on the action straight away. There are just as many sendups of our favourite movies and TV shows to pick from in this sequel (over 40 at last count) such as Terminator 2, Silence Of The Lambs and The Blues Brothers to mention but a few. And unlike the TV series, the three original Angels have not been replaced (although there’s a slight hint to the possibility as Dylan contemplates staying with Charlie Townsend's Investigation Agency forever) and they come along with a few returning characters to experience more of the same abuse.

Movie
Starting things off in the heart of Mongolia, a kidnapped US Marshall named Ray Carter (Robert Patrick) is being dealt with by his captors as his precious titanium ring is taken from him before the Angels trio manage to liberate him. Not realising the importance of this little detail at the time, it is revealed later on that another one of its kind was stolen from another diplomat (Bruce Willis in an unrecognisable cameo) who was killed along with his entourage. Put these rings together and they are able to decrypt each other thereby revealing the identities of every person who resides under the Witness Protection System, otherwise known as HALO (which was also the working title for this sequel, wouldn't ya know it?)

After a few of these informants turn up dead, it is up to Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore) and Alex Munday (Lucy Lui) to retrieve these rings before the list can be sold off to various high-paying criminal masterminds. Following a lead at the beach they bump into ex-Angel Madison Lee (Demi Moore), soon after meeting up with arch-nemesis Thin Man (Crispin Glover from the first movie) and Dylan's Irish ex-boyfriend Seamus O'Grady (Justin Theroux). However, all is not what it appears to be as Dylan's past in particular has serious ramifications to the mission they are pursuing.

Sooner or later the girls finally work out that Madison Lee is heading the Bad Nuts department and it will take all of the Angels' courage and charisma to see that evil is given a wicked makeover.

Comic relief is served up in various doses with performances by the new Bosley (Bernie Mac), Mother Superior (Carrie Fisher) and Alex's father Mr Munday (John Cleese, also watch his hilarious reaction when initially told of his daughter's association with Charlie). Natalie's boyfriend Pete (Luke Wilson) and Alex's in-betweener Jason (Matt LeBlanc) make a return from the original movie to prove that guys can be dumb blondes too, if only in their heads. And to top it all off there is yet another cameo by Jaclyn Smith from the TV series itself that sets Dylan back on the path that rocks.

Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle
Video
I thought Sony was meant to be the king of quality in the DVD world? Now whether this movie was being produced in the quickest time possible, the first thing you'll notice is the appreciable (but unappreciated) amount of grain on display. I'd suspect that maybe this was a creative choice to give it an old-time feeling to the adventure onscreen.

The colour scheme is vibrant, so vibrant in fact that the saturation levels almost leave you blinded. The unfortunate by-product of this is that the occasional low-level noise rears its ugly head, I noticed this in particular with the deep blues coming off of the Angels' nun habits and in much of the Pussycat Dolls strip sequence. The transfer exhibits probably the brightest light level I've ever seen on a DVD and this makes the contrast suffer at times but the black levels are relatively good. Again, this could have been a conscious decision by the director to give it an unreal feeling to the proceedings - about the only thing missing here is the Happy Birthday banner to go with all the colourful balloons and streamers.

To its credit the image is quite detailed although not perfectly sharp, the nighttime scenes also exhibiting a better shadow detail than its daytime cousin. There is no dirt or dust present on the print and the complete lack of digital blockiness still holds up against the grain present.

Audio
The solitary DD 5.1 English soundtrack is quite good but not nearly on par with other blockbusters of its kind. The soundmix is just as vibrant as the visuals they support although it's not entirely without fault.

Dialogue is generally well generated although a few throwaway phrases tend to get lost in the shuffle of sound effects and musical numbers, so the obligatory subtitles may come into play here occasionally. The back speakers get a good workout with effective split-surround support for the front end at all times but there's not much ambience to be heard even in the action-less moments.

The subwoofer channel is given token usage at best compared to the potential that other movies have demonstrated in the past, although it still keep things moving along in the sequences full of vehicles from the Dam and Monster Truck Rally especially. The reproduction of the music is also first class with the mainly early 1990s-based songs in the soundtrack; this being an almost creepy realisation that this decade has become as "retro" today just as disco was back in the 1980s.

Extras
The supplemental material is surprisingly expansive and no doubt every last drop has been squeezed out to fit everything onto this DVD. There are plenty of menus to navigate through but you can pretty much seek out what it is you'd be looking for easily. Some people would prefer that stuff like this be contained within one entire documentary, but if there weren't any chapter breaks available then I'd rather have it sectioned off and labeled. The director McG takes us on a whirlwind multimedia event that is not all that irritating to venture through this time around. We are given some entertaining insights into the often mundane jobs of location scouting, preparation of scenes and filming in general. With this material you will have a good understanding of the pressures involved in the making of any movie.

Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle
There are two audio commentaries available, the first is with director McG and the second from the three scriptwriters. The Director's Commentary houses a Telestrator moving-graphic in the vein of that developed in Men In Black whereby McG uses an electronic pen to point out various things in the movie - this is helpful in some ways but not really exciting. McG's comments however are quite informative and interesting to say the least as he spews out many of his personal interests along with the many technical goings-on that occurred whilst filming. The Writers' Commentary from the three main scribers are equally as entertaining to listen to - they take pride in the work they have contributed towards production as well as acknowledging how paper thin the film ultimately is to the easily impressionable. As before, I can see that there is actually a storyline to be discovered amongst the debris that the girls leave behind, so kudos to the efforts of the scriptwriters to give us situations and characters that I care about for once.

There is also a Angel-Vision Trivia Track running alongside the movie which is kind of fascinating to those who aren't huge fans of the TV show or movies in general, unfortunately the presentation is mega-blocky. I have seen much better displays of such information from the Legally Blonde DVD so I'm surprised that this couldn't have been anti-aliased in the same way, it makes for difficult reading sometimes. It also comes up with Charlie's Speaker Box to allow you to “Follow The White Rabbit” into some more entertaining two-minute snippets of behind-the-scenes material for each relevant scene.

There are also eight featurettes that surprisingly pack in a lot of information for the running time given. They have all the bases covered for the making of the movie, most only running for five to ten minutes in length with the longest one clocking in at almost twenty minutes. All are presented in a 4:3 display.

Firstly there is a look at the famed dance group Pussycat Dolls (5 mins) of which this entourage apparently opens up Johnny Depp's infamous nightclub The Viper Room on their days off. The closest resemblance you can have with these gorgeous critters would be to that of the dancers in Moulin Rouge whereby classy and sexy meet head on. The girls trained the Angels trio to perform their routines almost flawlessly for this sequel (you can still see their slight hesitations as they grind away though).

Next is Rolling With The Punches (6 mins) which showcases the rather complex art of wire-fu headed by Cheung-Yan Yuen, brother of The Matrix's Yuen Woo-Ping. You will appreciate the difficulties involved with setting up and eventually executing each move required. There isn't much informative instruction here that you can glean from if you are attempting to send your little brother into the great unknown for your own home videos, so all you wannabe stunt persons look elsewhere.

Then there is XXX-treme Angels (9 mins) that shows us the real stories behind the cool dirtbike stunts. McG actually knew these professionals and had wanted to hire them to immortalise their skills on film; they basically live for creating even more astounding jumps everyday for competition purposes. It's also amusing to note that since there are no female equivalents to this sport so some of the guys had to double for the Angels themselves. It is touted that the sequences we see here were not enhanced in any way, although it has to be obvious that a few of them are CGI-created people spinning around the place.

Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle
The longest one of these videographies is the imaginitively titled Full Throttle (18 mins) which ends up feeling too long compared to the other shorter vignettes, but you probably won't find a better showcase of exotic cars than in this one - if you weren't a car-lover beforehand then you sure will be after watching this. Taking after McG's fascination, if not obsession, with all things that go "vroooom!" we are treated to a walk through vehicle history with sports cars from the 1950s right up until today. There is also an interesting look at the Monster Trucks showing some of the tricks of the trade to get these beasts up and running with their modified tractor wheels.

For the aesthetically minded (and gifted) out there comes Designing Angels (7 mins) which takes a look at not only the set and production design but also the lighting requirements of everything including the actors themselves. "If every frame isn't special then why are we doing it"; McG figures that if you are going to have fun with the characters then take that same philosophy to the backgrounds they inhabit as well. His other healthy obsession with classic movies brings him to filming some of the most famous spots in Los Angeles in as many camera styles as possible.

And in what is probably the longest title ever given to a DVD featurette, There's No Such Thing As A Short Shot, Just An Overworked Producer (9 mins) talks about the much-ignored role of producer from the audience's point of view. Personally, it's hard for me to fathom what a producer ever does other than authorise the final film product but this person is always involved every step of the way from conception to completion. Executive Producer Patrick Cowley helps to demystify the often stressful tasks of bringing everything down to a final dollar number for the budget at hand and still end up with the relative vision desired onscreen. The main problem with any film is the magic word "logistics" whereby people's time has to be organised to maximise their usefulness whilst filming - this includes the actors, caterers, grips, camera people, lighting crew, location availability etc. After seeing this, I don't envy the guy.

And just for a bit of international flavour (if only in the wording), Angels Makeover: Hansen Dam shows us the CGI requirements of transforming an ordinary-looking dam into a powerhouse extraordinaire of a dam. Boring you may say, well, maybe if computer pixels aren't your thing. This sequence was never intended to appear in the opening credits but enough of it had been generated for the film's trailer therefore it would have been a huge disappointment not to see it in the final version when you paid for your ticket ... the same goes for that scene in Twister where the rogue wheel suddenly comes straight towards camera (I can tell you I was pretty ticked off when that didn't show up in the movie either).

Now for anyone currently into the metro-sexual craze at the moment from the Queer Eye TV series, Dream Duds (4 mins) shows us an abbreviated collation of sketch designs to the final outfits finally shown in the film. It would have been great to hear about what possessed the creators to sew up some of the clothes that the actors wear and how they were actually made, so I'm disappointed that we couldn't get something like the video found on the X-Men 2 DVD ... not that I'm really into that kind of thing anyway.

Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle
The Cameo-graphy hosts a range of actors names in which you read a few short lines about their past exploits and watch a short clip of them in this movie - it's handy for referencing those brief "blink and you'll miss 'em shots" but little else than that. The Full Throttle Jukebox (11 songs) is different because we hear from McG and the soundtrack guy about what music they felt was needed for particular scenes, it then shows a bit of that sequence with the music playing. The Music Video: Feel Good Time by Pink has Agent Pink operating on her own terms to recover the titanium rings in the movie.

Next we come to the extremely brief Filmographies of the director, writers and main actors. Finally there is a varied assortment of Trailers for Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle (usually a DVD never provides the related promos of the movie it houses), Anger Management (Adam Sandler / Jack Nicholson comedy), Bad Boys II (black stars / white director blow-em-up sequel), Mona Lisa Smile (Julia Roberts period piece), So Close (a decent-looking Hong Kong actioner) and S.W.A.T. (which is more like a teaser).

But wait, there's more ... after much trial and error through the menu system I managed to track down eight easter eggs. If there's any more than this then I'd be surprised since I spent a whole night on it.

Overall
There are actually two versions of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle available separately on R1 DVD, the Theatrical and Unrated cuts, the latter of which only has a few seconds more of footage installed and is obviously more violent than that seen in the cinemas. Since this R2 DVD is rated UK-12 then I'd say this is the regular theatrical version without the key scene of Dylan spitting blood and the removal of a headbutt towards the same Angel (both exist in R4). From what I've seen, I can't see how it can get any more physically promiscuous or abusive without attracting the dreaded American R rating as well.

If bubble-gum flavoured movies are your priority then you will undoubtably have already picked up a copy of this sequel to sit alongside its veritable twin. Better still you can now pick up a double-pack with both of these movies and all the extras for not much more than this one alone. Some of you may be disappointed with the video quality just as I was, but the passion is there from everyone involved in the creation of both the film and the supplemental material herein - I guarantee you though that you will not be able to find every one of these video snippets in just one sitting. Oh, and if the ME-2 movie spoof wasn't meant as a passing reference to Albert Einstein, then it certainly is now.


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