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Meatballs: Special Edition

SONY
MOVIE D+
SPECIAL FEATURES C
DVD GEEK FACTOR 3 (OUT OF 10)

I never really liked this one. Yes, it's Bill Murray's debut as a feature-film leading man, and he has a few shining moments, but this effort from director Ivan Reitman is quite the mess. The granddaddy of all summer camp movies--it preceded Friday the 13th by a year--it had as many clunkers as jokes, with a cast of "fresh faces" who really couldn't act.

Murray plays Tripper, a camp director who doesn't play by the rules. The plot is nothing but a setup for Murray to go off with improvisations, none of them all that memorable. Tripper's mentoring of young Rudy (Chris Makepeace) is actually quite charming, the only part of the film that feels genuine. Makepeace went on to star in the great My Bodyguard, which made Matt Dillon a star.

Some film stereotypes got their start with this one--the nerd with taped glasses, the fat/horny guy and the incompetent head counselor. The film birthed three sequels, accounting for some of the very worst films produced in the history of modern cinema.

If you are looking for a good summer camp movie, rent Wet Hot American Summer, a film that spoofed stuff like Meatballs and is actually funny. Murray went on to see much better days, as did Reitman. The two re-teamed for Stripes (which wasn't very good) and Ghost Busters (which was great). As for this film, I'm sorry I wasted my time watching it again.

SPECIAL FEATURES: It's no surprise that the elusive Murray refused to participate in the documentary look back at the film. He's far too cool for such an endeavor. Reitman provides a rather droll commentary.


The Best of Chappelle's Show Uncensored: Top 25 Sketches

COMEDY CENTRAL
SHOW A
SPECIAL FEATURES C-
DVD GEEK FACTOR 6.5 (OUT OF 10)

If you have no interest in purchasing all of the Chappelle's Show DVDs, but want some Dave laughs on disc, this is a great one to have. It features the top 25 sketches, all of them hilarious, along with the entire show of "Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories" involving Rick James.

Sketches like the blind white supremacist, Dave's jury duty, the crackhead and Roots are all included. Also here is the genius "A Night With Wayne Brady" sketch, where Dave takes one in the leg courtesy of Wayne. It's nasty comedy at its best.

Chappelle hasn't done anything since walking off the show during its third season. After Comedy Central chose to air the abysmal material he taped before quitting, it's highly unlikely that Chappelle will revisit the show on that channel. After cashing in on DVD sales, it's also unlikely he's in a rush to really do anything.

If there's a glaring omission, I would say they should've included "Turn My Headphones Up!" They could have left off "New Tupac Song," and nothing from the aborted third season needed to be included.

If you are a Chappelle fan, this disc is handy, because you won't have to pop in DVD after DVD to find the sketches you like. It's a decent collection, and one that reminds just how damn funny this show was.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The before-mentioned Rick James stuff actually acts as a supplement to the 25 sketches. There are also some bloopers, and that's it.


Black Snake Moan

PARAMOUNT HOME VIDEO
MOVIE B
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 6.75 (OUT OF 10)

Writer-director Craig Brewer concocts a funny and dark Southern-fried kidnapping fable with this film, a showcase for Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson. Ricci plays the town nymph, having trouble coping after her boyfriend (Justin Timberlake) has left to join the military. Jackson plays a retired blues musician who discovers her unconscious on his property, and he chains her to his house. He plans to show her the evil of her ways and straighten her out.

So, yeah, that's a rather controversial setup. Brewer and friends manage to make it surprisingly light and funny, considering the dark premise. The relationship between the Ricci and Jackson characters is surprisingly sweet in the end, and Timberlake turns in a decent performance as an insecure type. The film is flavored with some great blues music, and it's filmed beautifully. Ricci, spending much of the film in underwear and chains, has never looked better on screen.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Good God, I didn't know Kim Richards, star of Escape to Witch Mountain (and Meatballs Part II), played Ricci's mom in the movie. That's one of the factoids revealed in the making-of documentary, a thorough look at Brewer's process. He also provides a commentary and some deleted scenes. Actually, there are many deleted scenes, some quite good, with Brewer offering commentary for these as well. An especially good deleted scene would be a flashback scene, shot in black and white, where the characters played by Ricci and Timberlake first meet in a bathroom at a kegger. While there is no real place for it in the movie, seeing it after the movie provides cool background for the characters.

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