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The Nines: Special Edition

Sony
Movie B+
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)

In this trippy 2007 film, Ryan Reynolds plays three characters in three segments that are both funny and mind-bending. The movie, from writer and first-time-feature director John August, gives Reynolds his best chance yet to show off his dramatic talents, and he manages to further the argument that those talents go beyond Van Wilder-type movies.

In the first segment, Reynolds plays an actor forced into house arrest after burning his home down and going on a crack binge. Next, he's a TV writer trying to get a pilot on TV while starring in a reality TV show about trying to get said pilot on TV. Finally, he's a video-game designer who breaks down on a canyon road with his wife (Melissa McCarthy) and child (Elle Fanning). All three of Reynolds' characters could be the same guy.

The Reynolds Three live in the same house in seemingly separate dimensions, and they all come into contact with McCarthy in different incarnations (including McCarthy playing herself in the reality TV show). Hope Davis also appears in the three segments as a nosy neighbor, an agent and a hiker--all characters that seem eerily connected.

The film is about Hollywood, acting, God, video games and the universe, not in any particular order. By the film's end, I didn't necessarily follow or get exactly what had happened, but I don't think that's important. This is one of those movies where everybody will have varying interpretations of what it has to say. I just love movies like that.

Special Features: Two commentaries: One features August and Reynolds, the other August and McCarthy; they're both well worth your time. Deleted scenes, alternate endings, short films and the helpful Summing up the Nines making-of featurette are all well-done and entertaining.


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Blu-Ray)

Warner Home Video
Movie A
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

It was a tough battle for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar this year, with Javier Bardem eventually getting the gold for his sadistic killer in No Country for Old Men. I loved that performance, but Casey Affleck was my pick for his portrayal of the man who took out Jesse James. Affleck's depiction of hero worship with murderous consequences offered a new kind of creepy.

Whiny and ignorant yet somehow sympathetic in the strangest ways, Affleck's Ford managed to outdo Brad Pitt's great work as Jesse James. Writer-director Andrew Dominik managed to put together a credible period piece (shot beautifully by Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins) that also works as a modern-day examination of the perils of celebrity. This movie could almost be about the paparazzi-plagued Pitt himself, minus the shooting.

Every time Affleck speaks in this film, it's scary. Part of the creepiness comes from knowing that his overly affectionate and awestruck character will eventually murder his hero. I'm not giving anything away; that fact is revealed in the movie's title.

Affleck and Pitt aren't the only ones acting up a storm here. Paul Schneider, Sam Shepard and Sam Rockwell all deliver terrific work in this, the best Western since Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

Special Features: Its one and only feature, The Assassination of Jesse James: Death of an Outlaw, is a good one. The stars and makers of the film recount the history of Jesse James and Robert Ford in an informative production. The documentary goes into more depth about James' legend, and how he became a sort of superhero after his death, while Ford met with nothing but disgrace and an eventual demise at an assassin's hand.


Dedication

The Weinstein Company
Movie B
Special Features F
DVD Geek Factor 5.75 (out of 10)

Children's-book writer Henry Roth (Billy Crudup) must acclimate to new artist Lucy (Mandy Moore) after his partner (Tom Wilkinson) dies suddenly. Henry is an unspeakable yet somewhat lovable bastard who warms up to Lucy, and they wind up in a romance that threatens the working relationship.

This has the makings of a shallow, run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, but first-time director Justin Theroux goes all art-film with the silly story, making it work on many levels. Theroux, a great actor in his own right (see Mulholland Dr. ), gets typically good work out of Crudup and Wilkinson, while capturing Moore's best work to date. The movie has a gritty style, with an excellent soundtrack featuring Deerhoof--not the sort of stuff you'd expect from a typical Hollywood love story.

Theroux could have a great future as a director. Hopefully, he'll get to direct something a little more daring down the road, perhaps one of his own works. This film is an example of the director and talent far outshining the script and premise.

Special Features: You'll get nothing and like it! That's too bad, because it would've been fun to hear Theroux talking about the experience. I doubt the Weinsteins will finance a special edition in the future. This one barely got a theatrical release.

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