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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Criterion Collection
Movie A
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)

This is such a beautiful movie. Director Wes Anderson's films inhabit his own strange universe, and Aquatic is his creative best to date. Bill Murray, as a droll Jacques Cousteau-type, is such a terrific actor that he is simply taken for granted. His character here, the disenchanted yet somehow fiery Steve Zissou, is just another milestone in his terrific career. His performance didn't get the kind of recognition it deserved, probably because Murray's laid-back brilliance in dramatic roles is about the furthest thing away from showboating that can be found at your local cinema. The story allows Anderson to create a bizarre oceanic trip full of pirates, Speedos and fictional sea creatures accompanied by Portuguese renditions of Bowie songs. In supporting roles, Willem Dafoe has never been funnier as a grouchy German crew member of Zissou's ship. His low self-esteem and rivalry with Owen Wilson, Zissou's possible long-lost son, is always hilarious. Anderson, like Scorsese and Tarantino, treats every shot, every frame, like a work of art. The presentation is all his own, qualifying him as one of the more unique directors working today.

Special Features: Well, it's time to sing the praises of Criterion again. Since Rushmore, Criterion Collection has been handling all of Anderson's work, and this two-disc DVD continues the tradition of highly entertaining packages. Documentaries, including a short by one of the film's interns, are a great watch, as are the deleted scenes (one where Dafoe is on fire would've provided the film with another big laugh). Anderson's commentary was recorded while at a bar, and the ambient noise is a bit distracting.

Spaceballs: Collector's Edition

Movie D
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 3 (out of 10)

I have always hated this movie. Mel Brooks started a terrific downhill slide after his very funny Hitchcock spoof, High Anxiety (1977). History of the World: Part I (Please Mel, never make a Part II) showed the guy had lost his touch a bit without Gene Wilder around. Spaceballs cemented Brooks' status as a director in decline. Subsequent films such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Life Stinks and Dracula: Dead and Loving It poured liquid metal on that cement, and shored up his suckage real good.

I think the thing that bothered me the most about this was John Candy as half-man, half-dog Barf. Watching Candy in a stupid dog outfit delivering unfunny dialogue was just depressing. Constant bad jokes with the stupid tail, and the cheesy makeup came off as an insult to a great talent. Hollywood often screwed up with Candy, but this was his career low point, as far as I'm concerned, and I've seen Going Berserk. Justice came the same year as Spaceballs (1987), when Candy got his greatest film role (that of traveling salesman in Planes, Trains and Automobiles) in a movie worthy of him. Sadly, the quality of his films steadily declined afterwards.

There really isn't anything very funny in this film, although Rick Moranis does deliver a couple of near gems as Dark Helmet ("What's the matter Colonel Sanders ... chicken?"). In retrospect, Bill Pullman is so bad as Lone Starr that it's a wonder he ever got work again. Joan Rivers, who voiced a C-3PO-like robot, provides her usual stale humor, and Dick Van Patten doesn't exactly set the world on fire as a mopey king.

Brooks threw too many ideas into this thing, and close to 90 percent of them don't work. (Will somebody please explain the presence of bears and clowns on a spaceship in the film's final moments?) The Alien spoof is funny, but that's the movie's sole big laugh, and it's in the final 10 minutes.

Special Features: Actually, the supplements are OK, as opposed to the miserably bad movie. Brooks provides a commentary that is self-deprecating, to say the least. He seems well aware that much in the movie did not work, and it's fun to hear him go off subject and talk about Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn. Some documentaries and a section on the film's many mistakes round out the two-disc package.

Meet the Fockers

Universal Studios
Movie D-
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 1.5 (out of 10)

OK, so that's two movies that I hate this week. Meet the Parents was a fun film about a psycho terrorizing his future son-in-law, within the realms of reality. In this one, the De Niro character turns into a hard-boiled criminal, and we have to endure Ben Stiller at his comic worst. Don't get me wrong; Stiller has genius in him, but not in strictly-for-the-paycheck movies like this one. Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand could've been interesting additions had the film possessed something along the lines of a real script. It's pretty cool to see Streisand in a comedy again, even if that comedy is shit. It's just a lot of scenes with Stiller falling down or being humiliated. No fun whatsoever.

Special Features: Director's commentary, some behind the scenes stuff with that stupid cat, and some insight into directing a baby in film. God, I hate this movie.

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