SPECIAL FEATURES C
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 5.75
(OUT OF 10)
Ben Stiller takes a dramatic turn—and I like it when he does that. In writer-director Noah Baumbach's latest, he plays Roger Greenberg, a former musician in his early 40s housesitting for his brother in Los Angeles. Roger recently completed a stay at a mental facility, and he's a little on edge.
That doesn't stop him from starting a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with Florence (Greta Gerwig), his brother's assistant. Stiller gets to gnash his dramatic teeth quite a bit, and throws some rather authentic and fierce temper tantrums. The script isn't as good as his performance, but he and Gerwig make Greenberg worth watching.
Jennifer Jason Leigh co-stars as a somewhat anxious ex-girlfriend, and Rhys Ifans shows up as a former band member who tries his best to remain friends with the man who derailed his career.
It's another decent human study from Baumbach, and another reason to believe Stiller has greater things in store for him besides getting smacked in the face by monkeys or routinely insulted by Robert De Niro.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Some behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Night Train to Munich
SPECIAL FEATURES B-
DVD GEEK FACTOR 6.5
(OUT OF 10)
In some ways, this film from director Carol Reed hasn't aged very well. It was made in 1939, at the beginning of World War II, and its depiction of concentration camps and stereotypical Nazis is almost comical. It also boasts some rather paltry special effects—yet it was a daring piece of filmmaking for its time.
Margaret Lockwood plays the daughter of a Czech scientist who is sent to a concentration camp after her father escapes to England. (We know she's in a concentration camp because there's some barbed wire, and her hair is a little messed up.) Events lead to her escape, and she's assisted by a British agent (Rex Harrison) who must disguise himself as a Nazi officer in an attempt to get the father and daughter to safety.
Harrison employs the same wit and condescending attitude that he would use a quarter-century later when portraying Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. Reed allows comedy into the mix, and watching the movie is a trip: The world was falling apart while it was created, yet there's room for a few jokes about a set of golf clubs being left behind in Germany.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Film scholars discuss the historical significance of the film, including the interesting casting of Harrison as the male lead, and the timing of the movie. You also get a booklet containing an essay that pretty much does the same thing.
SPECIAL FEATURES A-
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 9
(OUT OF 10)
It was eight years ago when Al Pacino and Robin Williams squared off against each other in the second major film from an up-and-coming director named Christopher Nolan. Nolan had just delivered Memento, and expectations were high.
The result was epic, with Pacino and Williams delivering some of the best work they've ever put on-screen. In fact, neither of them has done much worth watching at the movies since working for Nolan (although Pacino has done some good stuff for HBO with Angels in America and his turn as Jack Kevorkian).
Pacino plays a Los Angeles detective sent to investigate the murder of a young woman in Alaska, and Hilary Swank plays the rookie who idolizes him. In Alaska, a reclusive author (Williams) uses some bad stuff in the Pacino character's past to blackmail the detective.
Williams is effectively sinister as the killer, while Pacino does a great job of depicting the side effects of a beaten man who can't sleep. Swank goes toe-to-toe with the old pros, and matches them every step of the way.
As for the Blu-ray version: The Alaskan landscape is a wonder to behold, and the technology makes the most of the crevices in Pacino's face. It's a great-looking movie, and a good disc to use to show off your home-entertainment system.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A bunch of commentaries, including a scene-specific commentary with Nolan during which you can watch the film's scenes in the order they were shot. Deleted scenes and making-of documentaries make this a packed disc.
In Bruges (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES C+
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 7.75
(OUT OF 10)
After a long wait, one of the better films of the last decade has finally made its way to Blu-ray. Colin Farrell took his career to another dimension by playing a depressed hitman forced to hang around in the title city. Ralph Fiennes is brilliant as the hot-tempered crime lord who has a problem with Farrell, and Brendan Gleeson is greatness as Farrell's partner.
The film didn't get much play in theaters, but it's gotten some love on DVD. Now that it's on Blu-ray, perhaps it will get another much-deserved boost.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes and a gag reel.