One of the bigger Oscar snubs this year would have to be Gwyneth Paltrow, who deserved a nomination for what amounts to career-best work in this demanding and wholly involving film. Paltrow plays Catherine, the daughter of a once-brilliant mathematician (Anthony Hopkins) who loses his mind and dies a tragic death. Catherine aspires to be a mathematician as well, but fears that she could have more than that in common with her father.
Paltrow, teamed again with Shakespeare in Love director John Madden, must call upon every emotion for her work as Catherine, one of the more demanding performances at the movies last year. The film didn't generate much interest upon its release, so it wasn't any big surprise that Paltrow failed to get a nomination. Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal are terrific in their supporting roles.
Special Features: A decent documentary on the transition of Proof from stage to screen. Madden provides commentary for the film and deleted scenes.
This story about Korean soldiers in Vietnam combating ghostly forces looks great and has some moments of ominous beauty, but the story is one hard mother to follow. When a command post receives radio transmissions from a squadron believed to be dead, a new squadron is sent to R-Point, an abandoned French mansion, to see what's going on.
As it turns out, the place is haunted, providing inspiration for some great images. In one instance, ghost soldiers, dead indeed but not see-through, walk on patrol and disappear into a field of tall grass. The familiar J-horror visual of a ghost woman, blue lit, is also present, although this ghost doesn't have black eyes or creepy hair hiding her face.
The main problem here is that the movie doesn't have a coherent payoff. It's fairly long, and it would've benefited from a more substantial finale. As it is, it's a pretty decent workout in atmospherics, but not the total freakout it could've been. There are some rumors of an American remake.
Special Features: The film transfer looks great; the director's commentary sheds a little light on the goings-on; and there are some decent behind-the-scenes docs. Once again, Tartan Video does some nice work, even if the film isn't quite up to snuff.
This one is worth watching, if only for the sights and sounds of a clearly messed up Courtney Love adamantly claiming her sobriety. Stripperella gets her due as many comedians, some good (Sarah Silverman) and some lame (Andy Dick), proceed to embarrass the hell out of her. Tommy Lee is present, so that means lots of dick jokes, some of them actually quite creative ("Tommy's dick is so big it has an elbow!"). One of the evening's most ingenious moments would be when Bea Arthur (who takes quite the shellacking in her own right) reads verbatim from one of Anderson's raunchy novels. Arthur's straight-faced reading of Anderson's horrible prose is a beautiful thing. Jimmy Kimmel hosts and does a pretty good job of it, but the presence of an unfunny Andy Dick (He massages Anderson's breasts ... hilarious!) and a musical performance by Tommy Lee (Yikes!) keep the show from being a must-see.
Special Features: Some stupid red-carpet statements and bland rehearsal footage. A nice feature would've been the entire Eddie Griffin speech, which is severely edited for the actual show (probably for good reason, but it still would've been cool to see it).
This was one of last year's better family films, and nobody went to see it. Perhaps the name made it look like just another samurai film, but it is actually another story from the creator of Jumanji and The Polar Express. Those films were blockbusters, and director Jon Favreau's movie is easily the best of the three, so naturally, it tanked.
Two brothers find an old board game in their basement while their dad is away. They start playing; their house is launched into deep space, and the fun ensues, including encounters with crazed robots and menacing, lizard-like aliens.
Great performances come from the young actors playing the brothers (Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo), Tim Robbins as the dad, Kristen Stewart as the big sister and Dax Shepard as a helpful astronaut. Favreau made the decision to incorporate old-school special effects with CGI to create something that looked retro and modern at the same time. Good choice. Too bad it bombed. Hopefully it will find some life on home video. It's not likely, because it faces formidable competition from the likes of Bambi II and Golden Girls: Season Four.
Special Features: Many well done featurettes, including an in-depth look at the special-effects work of Stan Winston. Favreau sits down with producer Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from A Christmas Story) for a good commentary.