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Don McKay (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Writer-director Jake Goldberger scored a decent cast for his feature debut. Oscar nominees Thomas Haden Church, Elisabeth Shue and Melissa Leo joined M. Emmet Walsh to head up the impressive cast that even included the ever-reliable Keith David.

Too bad Goldberger's script is a severe mess, and his directorial style is duller than a steak knife that's been used to cut wood and plaster for 10 years.

Church plays the title character, a depressed janitor who gets a mysterious letter from his ex-high school girlfriend, Sonny (Shue), beckoning him to come back to their hometown for a visit. When he arrives, he discovers Sonny is critically ill and has been pining for him for the 25 years since high school. She wants to spend her dying days with him, and Don doesn't have anything else to do, so he goes along with her fantasy.

Leo plays Sonny's mysterious nurse, while James Rebhorn plays her doctor—a man who is clearly faking it. The plot is basically a farfetched mystery that becomes unintentionally funny by the film's final frames due to its utter preposterousness.

Goldberger doesn't seem to know what to do with his script; the movie's tone is all over the place. There are times when Shue and Leo don't seem to know whether they are in a mystery/thriller or a dark comedy.

Shue is especially bad here. She is capable of good work, but you wouldn't know it while watching her try to drum up emotions in this catastrophe.

Church, who is also capable of good things, is frightfully boring in a movie that drags and then tries to convince you that it is really clever. It's not.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There's an audio commentary from Goldberger and some deleted scenes. Also available on standard DVD.

Green Zone (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Matt Damon re-teams with director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum), who utilizes his trademark handheld-camera style—which is a bust this time out.

The film tells a fictional story based partially on real events, as Damon plays a soldier during the Iraq war who discovers the whole weapons-of-mass-destruction thing might have been a ruse. The story could have been interesting had Greengrass allowed the viewer's eye to fixate on what was going on for more than a few frames. The film is often so jumpy that it can only be deemed sloppy.

Damon is good here, acting his ass off in a film that is not worthy of his efforts. Greg Kinnear does his best with the silly role of a Pentagon official who doesn't like smart soldiers.

The movie could've been compelling, but not in the hands of a director whose visual style is akin to a spastic colon.

SPECIAL FEATURES: While the movie isn't very good, it is cool to see Damon and Greengrass talking about it as part of Universal's "U-Control" Blu-ray special feature. You also get picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes footage, and deleted scenes. This is a Blu-ray on which the special features almost justify a purchase. The film is also available on standard DVD (which, of course, doesn't feature "U-Control).

Darkman (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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This film's arrival on Blu-ray gave me a reason to watch it for the first time in many years. I remember thinking Darkman was a technical marvel upon its original release, and some of the stunts are indeed spectacular. However, the effects haven't aged particularly well, although the film is still fun to watch.

Liam Neeson delivers his most unhinged performance as a scientist, trying to invent artificial skin, who gets blown to smithereens. He survives, badly scarred, and starts using his artificial skin to create masks of himself—along with masks of the jerks who almost killed him. He uses these masks in an elaborate scheme to seek revenge and continue a love affair with the beautiful Frances McDormand.

The catch: The skin dissolves after 99 minutes if it is exposed to the light. So he must remain, for the most part, in the dark. Therefore ... HE IS DARKMAN!

This was director Sam Raimi's first studio film after the independent marvel that was Evil Dead II. He had a bigger budget, but he was still a bug-nuts director who specialized in frantic action and over-the-top performances. He gets Neeson to go crazy, and it's fun to watch.

Neeson was basically a nobody when he beat out the likes of Gary Oldman and Bill Paxton for the role. Bruce Campbell was Raimi's first choice, but the studio wouldn't let Raimi cast him. He does make a cameo, though, along with John Landis and Jenny Agutter of American Werewolf in London fame.

This is more for the Evil Dead Raimi fan than the Spider-Man Raimi fan. The sequence in which Darkman is hanging from a helicopter is still a marvel.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get nuthin!

More by Bob Grimm


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