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Killing Spree 

Val Kilmer takes a talented turn at portraying porn king John Holmes.

WONDERLAND

Lions Gate
Movie: B
Special Features: B+
Geek Factor: 6

John "Johnny Wadd" Holmes had to be one of the more messed-up individuals to ever walk the planet, and Val Kilmer does a decent job of illustrating that in this interesting film from director James Cox (ironic name for this film's director, actually). Holmes, equipped with a 13-inch unit that made him the king of the porn industry, suffered a major downfall that led to his alleged involvement in a quadruple homicide and an eventual AIDS-related death. This film picks up after his porn heyday, where he's hanging around a drug den later to become famous as the location for the Wonderland Murders. While never convicted of any crime, some authority figures believe that Holmes took part in the massacre, perhaps even swinging a pipe to deliver a death blow to one of the victims. Kilmer does a nice job depicting the addicted, desperate personality that Holmes had become, and Kate Bosworth is equally good as Holmes's underage girlfriend, Dawn. Eric Bogosian goes a little too over the top as Eric Nash, the crime lord believed to be responsible for orchestrating the Wonderland Murders. Paul Thomas Anderson sort of stole this story for Boogie Nights, a far more enjoyable film than this one. That's OK, because a good crime drama about multiple homicides should be the stuff of nightmares, and there are times during this production that qualify as just that.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A limited-edition version of this DVD includes a second disc dedicated to Wadd, a documentary on the late porn star that covers his life from childhood to death. It's not the best of films. Strangely, they sometimes use clips from Holmes's porn career to accentuate true life events, and that just feels wrong. All versions of the DVD include shocking Wonderland crime-scene footage that is quite grotesque, a commentary by director Cox and deleted scenes. Lots of stuff.


MY FAIR LADY

Warner Bros.
Movie: A+
Special Features: B+
Geek Factor: 9

When I was a kid, I had a crush on Audrey Hepburn because of My Fair Lady, the Lerner and Loewe musical based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. My seventh-grade English teacher had us read the play, watch the film and then write an additional act for the play. My extension of the story had Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins in a lousy marriage and Colonel Pickering getting killed on the Titanic. Since I first saw My Fair Lady and fell in love with Audrey, it's been restored to its original beauty. Warner Brothers released a decent DVD in 1998, and they are following up that release with a two-disc, 40-year anniversary edition that contains the wonderful 1994 restoration of the picture and sound. It's no secret to fans of the film that Hepburn's singing was dubbed by another voice. This two-disc set includes footage of Hepburn actually singing the tunes "Loverly" and "Show Me." She sounds wonderful, and it's a shame that her voice wasn't allowed to be the one of record. No, she's doesn't have Marnie Nixon's beautiful soprano voice, but the kick of hearing Hepburn singing is a great joy that the film should've had. It's still a great musical, and Hepburn shines, but she should've taken home an Oscar for this movie (seemingly everyone else in the film did). Had she been allowed to sing, she might've done just that.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Lots of stuff from the initial DVD release is retained, including a making-of documentary. There's some great footage of the film's premiere, with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Rock Hudson showing up for the unveiling. God, this disc makes me miss Hepburn. The above-mentioned alternate Hepburn tracks justify this purchase.


RUNAWAY JURY

20th Century Fox
Movie: C+
Special Features: B+
Geek Factor: 5

Here's a film that had me going for a large chunk of its running time, but it lost me in the end. John Cusack plays a man on jury duty who has bad intentions. Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, former roommates during their stage-acting days, show up in a film together for the first time. Hoffman plays a prosecuting attorney putting a gun manufacturer on trial, while Hackman plays a sleazy jury advisor. Hoffman and Hackman only share one scene together, but it's dynamite. Cusack is his usual great self, but the script (based on the John Grisham novel) makes a leap in the final act that sabotages the movie. Still, there are some great performers in this film, and it's worth watching for the opportunity to see them together. Just turn the movie off for the final 15 minutes.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Now, the special features are another story. While Hoffman and Hackman only spend a few minutes on screen together in the film, the DVD contains some awesome footage of the two men rehearsing, and dissecting, their scene together. It's fun to watch them reminisce about their acting school days and to hear Hoffman scoff at the notion of their big first time screen meeting ("It's just two old guys talking in a bathroom!"). Deleted scenes, a director's commentary and a making-of featurette are also included.

More by Bob Grimm

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