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Something's Gotta Give

Columbia Tristar
Movie Grade A-
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

What a pleasure it is to watch this adorable film. You know you're dealing with something special when Diane Keaton manages to outshine a cast that includes Jack Nicholson in top form. Fully deserving of her Oscar nomination, Keaton is luminous as a playwright forced to deal with a boorish houseguest (Nicholson) after he suffers a heart attack while trying to score with her daughter (Amanda Peet). Keaton and Nicholson qualify as one of the great romantic comedy match-ups. These two are beautiful together, to put it quite simply. They are very funny, moving and even heartbreaking while delivering writer-director Nancy Meyers' splendid script. Throw in the terrific Frances McDormand as Keaton's sister and a sweetheart performance by Keanu Reeves as a young doctor hot for Keaton, and you have a historic ensemble cast. Keaton's crying montage, an extended opera of emotional highs and lows, is perhaps the greatest moment of her career.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Paydirt! This features separate audio commentaries by both Nicholson and Keaton, who sit down with their director to deliver focused observations on the film. Keaton, who only contributes a short but valuable segment, is just adorable to listen to as she criticizes herself, much to the dismay of Meyers. Nicholson is candid and hilarious, chatting about his goiters, boners and naked ass while constantly referring to Meyers as "Chief." Nicholson and Keaton are accomplished directors, so what they have to say about this film enriches and completes the movie experience. Every word of the commentaries is worth a listen, so don't ignore them.


The Singing Detective

Paramount
Movie Grade B-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 2.5 (out of 10)

While the film is flawed, Robert Downey Jr. does some of his best work as a writer suffering from debilitating psoriasis, fantasizing himself into one of his detective stories. Director Keith Gordon incorporates strange musical sequences into these fantasies, and some of them work, thanks to Downey's infectious enthusiasm. While the story lags in parts, Downey frequently saves things with an honest, often frightening performance as an embittered man prone to rage. The film was critically panned, but it's far from bad. Also worth noting is an unrecognizable Mel Gibson, wearing a bald cap, as Downey's unorthodox psychiatrist looking to force the fiery skinned author out of his shell. The film is clumsy in spots, with Gordon having a hard time with some of the fantasy elements. Downey Jr. and Gibson make it worthwhile.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director Keith Gordon provides a commentary that instantly shines a light on those "clumsy" fantasy flaws: The film noir fantasy sequences that felt a little incomplete on first watch are intentionally "unfinished" because they are inside the Downey character's head. OK, that clears things up a little bit.


21 Grams

Universal
Movie Grade A+
Special Features None
DVD Geek Factor 4 (out of 10)

Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro should've both taken home Oscars for this one. As a heart-transplant patient conflicted with the guilt because someone had to die in order for him to live, Penn far outshines his fine award-winning work in Mystic River. Del Toro already has an Oscar for Traffic, but that shouldn't have prevented him from taking home an award for his supporting work as an ex-con trying to cope with the consequences of a fatal car accident. Naomi Watts rounds out the cast with work that garnered her first Oscar nomination, something she richly deserved. Told out of order, it's an amazing feat of editing and direction that has received many comparisons to Memento. After The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, this was last year's best picture.

SPECIAL FEATURES: I've heard tales of a "making-of" documentary, but I couldn't find it on my screener-copy disc. That's fine, because the film is well-worth the purchase.


R.E.M.: Perfect Square

Warner Reprise Video
Concert C+
Special Features C
DVD Geek Factor 2 (out of 10)

I love R.E.M., but this concert DVD, taken from a 2003 performance in Germany, failed to draw me in. Showcasing 23 songs from their expansive career, it just doesn't capture lead singer Michael Stipe on the best of days. Seeming a little hoarse and bored, he fails to captivate as I've seen him do in the past. While lesser known songs like "Walk Unafraid" and "Permanent Vacation" have some life, hit tracks like "Losing My Religion" and "The One I Love" sound as if the band would rather be backstage snacking. A hurried, quick edit and swooping camera presentation seems inappropriate for the band, but that's exactly how the show is presented. Disappointing.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The documentary "A Stirling Performance" chronicles a performance in Stirling Castle, Scotland in 1999. Not the most exciting rock-band documentary.

More by Bob Grimm

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