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Romance and Cigarettes

Sony Pictures
Movie B+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 6.75 (out of 10)

Actor John Turturro, who likes to dabble in directing, makes his most impressive film yet with this totally insane and visually pleasing musical. This is a film in which you get to see James Gandolfini singing along to Engelbert Humperdinck's on "Lonely As a Man Without Love," and it's far cooler than it sounds.

Gandolfini plays Nick Murder, a lowly construction worker married to Kitty (Susan Sarandon, letting it all hang out) and conducting an affair with raven-haired Lula (Kate Winslet). The film takes a normal, mundane suburban life into bizarre territory. The film is, in many ways, a musical, because characters often suddenly start singing old pop standards. Turturro is clearly a director not interested in conventionality, and his film is nutty.

In some of the strangest casting you will ever see, Nick's daughters are played by Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker and Aida Turturro. Aida Turturro and Parker are, respectively, one and two years younger than Gandolfini, yet the casting fits the oddball spirit of the movie. Gandolfini, Aida Turturro and Steve Buscemi constitute a rather nifty Sopranos reunion.

The film also features the underrated Bobby Cannavale as Moore's pompadour-wearing love interest, and Christopher Walken pretty much being Christopher Walken (a good thing). The musical numbers are staged in everyday settings; garbage collectors sing and dance with Nick, and Kitty belts out a gospel track while attending church.

This is one of those films that is quite difficult to describe on paper. I recommend you see it for yourself. You'll witness a director who isn't willing to settle for normalcy: Turturro is one crazy creator.

Special Features: John Turturro delivers a great commentary and film introduction. The deleted scenes are worth watching.


Monty Python's Life of Brian: The Immaculate Edition (Blu-Ray)

Sony
Movie A
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 10 (out of 10)

One of the funniest movies ever made has never looked better, getting a nice, polished print far superior to the murky mess that had been making the rounds in home video over the years.

Monty Python's blistering attack on religion and government was so ahead of its time, it still outshines any modern attempt at the same subject. This will always stand as one of the more daring films ever produced, and we got it thanks to George Harrison and his checkbook. Thanks, George!

Director/Python Terry Jones peaked with this project, as did John Cleese, Michael Palin and Eric Idle. The only one who didn't peak was Terry Gilliam, who went on to direct plenty of masterworks.

Special Features: They include an excellent hour-long documentary, commentaries and a blessed studio reading of the script in 1977, by all the Pythons. The script-reading segment is bliss.


King of California

First Look
Movie B
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6.75 (out of 10)

It had been a while since Michael Douglas got a great role. The last one had been in Traffic, eight years ago. That changed with this loopy modern day treasure-hunt film that gives Douglas a chance to go off dramatically and comically.

As Charlie, the eccentric father newly released from a mental-health facility, Douglas gets a chance to spread his wings a bit. It helps the movie that his daughter, Miranda, is played by Evan Rachel Wood. Miranda has gotten by while Dad was away by dropping out of school and working at McDonald's. When Dad gets out, he has a plan to find buried treasure underneath a major supermarket.

The premise is goofy, but director Mike Cahill makes it all work, thanks in large part to his casting decisions. Douglas and Wood make Charlie and Miranda as believable as they are crazy. Douglas almost seems to be using Charlie Manson as a bit of inspiration, with a rambling speech pattern and a gnarly beard.

By the time Douglas gets into his scuba gear and goes diving for Spanish gold, the film has established itself as wonderful, quirky fun. It's good to see a pro like Douglas getting a chance to strut his stuff again. He has been forgiven for You, Me and Dupree.

Special Features: The making-of documentary is weak, but Cahill's commentary is decent.


Aqua Teen Hunger Force: 5

Warner Home Video
Show A-
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

More of the same animated greatness from Master Shake, Meatwad and Frylock. It's all nonsense, but hilarious nonsense at that. Their Jersey adventures never cease to amaze. The animation is crappy, and the production value is abysmal, yet there are few things funnier on TV.

Special Features: Great stuff, including ATHF responding to critics of their 2007 movie, a live Space Ghost premiering the movie, and porn star Tera Patrick eating a hot dog! There's also the supremely moving music video "I Like Your Booty but I'm Not Gay" featuring Cameo and a horny squirrel. Finally, there's "The Worst Game Ever," and it definitely lives up to that name.

More by Bob Grimm

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