"The Passion of the Christ," "South Park: The Passion of the Jew," "Freaks," and "The Ladykillers"

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The Passion of the Christ

20th Century Fox
Movie A
Special Features The Geek Shall Inherit Nothing!
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

Jesus gets his ass kicked ... Roman-style! Director Mel Gibson is certifiably nuts, and the pope is full of crap for saying this film "shows how it was," as if he had a ringside seat to the crucifixion. Sure, Jesus called the pope and told him, "Hey, pope, Gibson's cat of nine tails scene is dead on! It hurt like a bastard, and I bled 50 gallons all over the place!" All of this aside, Gibson has made quite the remarkable movie, visually elegant and emotionally powerful (even though James DiGiovanna, in his own controversial yet award-winning way, hated it). James Caviezel does the J-Man proud in a performance that deserves year-end recognition. The crucifixion of Christ has always been depicted so cleanly in the past, when the truth is that Christ--and many before and after him--probably died very gory, painful, humiliating deaths. This film, regardless of religious belief, stands as a tremendous testament to a man fulfilling his promises and completing his mission, despite many obstacles put in his way. It's a film about the violence inherent in man's nature, and the ridiculous punishments man has inflicted upon one another for simply having the courage to state one's beliefs and take a stand.


South Park: The Passion of the Jew

Paramount
Show A
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor: 0 If you have Tivo or DVR (out of 10)

Let's get back to how insane Gibson is: Trey Parker and Matt Stone use their clever little cartoon to skewer Gibson and the ridiculous hysteria that surrounds his film. Cartman uses the alleged anti-Semitism in The Passion as a means to start a Nazi revival, while Stan goes to Gibson's house to demand his money back, because the film sucked. Jewish Kyle is destroyed by the film and demands that the Jews apologize for the crucifixion. If you thought The Passion was controversial, check this out. Gibson is depicted as a Daffy Duck lunatic who wants his nipples squeezed and smears his poo everywhere. While I love his movie, I can't help but think Gibson's public comments (and his father's hateful remarks) are the stuff of insanity. An insane person can make a good movie, and Gibson did just that. On the other hand, brilliant satirists can rip that insane person a new one, and Parker and Stone have done this with much success.

Special Features: Two bonus episodes, including one where Cartman starts a Christian rock band. All of the shows are good, but you don't need this DVD if you have a decent video recorder. No other special features are to be found.


Freaks

Warner Brothers
Movie B+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

I still can't believe this movie was ever made. In 1932, director Tod Browning (the Bela Lugosi Dracula) used real circus side-show performers in this horror film about a greedy trapeze performer (Olga Baclanova) marrying a midget (Harry Earles) for his money. When the circus performers discover her evil intentions, they inflict an unthinkable punishment. The film, due to its controversy, was pulled out of theaters during its initial run, and it remained in hiding for decades. Finally arriving on DVD, it is remarkable how gritty, honest and morbid it was for its time. Browning's choice to use real handicapped performers instead of makeup stunned the world, but the truth of the matter is that most of them deliver remarkable performances. Even Schlitze the micro cephalic (often cruelly called "pinhead") is stunning to watch, clearly enjoying himself and blurting out incomprehensible lines. The films final sequence, where the performers hunt down the trapeze artist and turn her into a chicken lady, is creepy as all hell. No film historian should go without seeing this. It's one of the strangest movies ever made.

Special Features: Freaks: Sideshow Cinema clocks in with about a half-hour more running time than the actual feature. It's an engaging look back at the film, including biographies on all of the "freaks."


The Ladykillers

Touchstone
Movie A
Special Features D+
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

This film was not treated well by the critics, but yours truly loved it to death. Tom Hanks gets a chance to go nuts in the role of Professor G.H. Dorr, Southern gentleman and conniving thief. This remake of the Alec Guinness' classic feels original, because the Coen Brothers (sharing a director's credit for the first time) remain the most unique of filmmakers. The laughs are all genuine, and the film is, shot for shot, a thing of beauty.

Special Features: Unfortunately, Coen brother discs continue to be underwhelming. The film looks great, and it's a must-own, but the features are sparse. Some outtakes of Marlon Wayans getting slapped, and a documentary on the making of the fake instruments are a couple of the few, unexciting extras.

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