Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 5.5 (out of 10)
Here's a weird one you may've missed. A suburban teen drug dealer kills himself, leaving behind a pile of pills, an insane mom (a funny Glenn Close) and a disenchanted best friend, Dean (Jamie Bell, doing what is perhaps his best work yet). When some rough kids decide they want the pills or else, they kidnap a kid and hold him for ransom until Dean comes through with the drugs.
A dark, dark satire with a lot of insight, the film does a nice job conveying detachment between child and parent, and the general oddity that is suburbia. It has elements reminiscent of everything from Heathers to Edward Scissorhands, and director Arie Posin gets a little carried away at times. Still, he displays a decent command of the many bizarre threads running through this movie, and it winds up being a satisfying directorial debut.
Ralph Fiennes gets to have fun as the city's eccentric mayor with a dolphin fixation, and Rita Wilson is good as his crazed fiancée. William Fichtner, John Heard, Allison Janney, Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds) and Lou Taylor Pucci (Thumbsucker) round off one of 2005's best ensemble casts.
The title character is a fictional video-game creation, an appropriate symbol for detachment. He walks around with his detached head in his hand.
Special Features: Posin and writer Zac Stanford provide a rather droll commentary. In watching the making-of documentary, you get a true sense of just how many wonderful actors were attracted to this script. Some of the deleted scenes are well worth watching, giving characters more dimension. One odd feature: The film snippets playing on the DVD's menu make the picture look like a horror movie.
Red Eye Dreamworks
Special Features C-
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)
Director Wes Craven, after the debacle that was Cursed, delivered this decent thriller starring Rachel McAdams as an airline passenger seated next to a real nutbag (Cillian Murphy). McAdams and Murphy would work nicely in a romantic comedy, which is pretty much what this film is for its first act. When Murphy makes it clear what is actually going on, the film becomes a nice thriller in the air, allowing Murphy to show his creepy chops. Sure, it's totally implausible, but sleek direction and good performances make it worthwhile. McAdams is poised for greatness. Let's hope they don't make her the next Sandra Bullock.
Special Features: For nonstop hilarity, check out the gag reel, featuring bloopers and outtakes that'll leave you in stitches. (I'm kidding ... it's lame.) Craven gives a decent commentary, and there are two documentaries on the making of the movie.
Junebug Sony Pictures
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)
As you can see in this issue's cover story, I thought this was one of last year's very best films. Amy Adams is brilliant as an overly optimistic, newly pregnant housewife with a frighteningly ignorant husband (Benjamin McKenzie). When her new sister-in-law (Embeth Davidtz) makes a surprise visit, she is overjoyed.
Terrific performances all around, including Scott Wilson as the quiet and sullen dad and Davidtz as the visitor, a great role for an actress normally stuck in junk. McKenzie (The O.C. ) is quite memorable as the husband not quite ready for fatherhood. You ignored it when it played in theaters, so take advantage of the home-video craze sweeping the nation and watch this one. The best family drama of 2005.
Special Features: Some casting session footage shows Adams starting to hone her overly jubilant character. Adams and Davidtz provide a rather relaxing commentary.
Mysterious Skin TLA
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)
I missed this one in theaters, and it's no surprise that it wasn't playing on multiple screens at the local cineplex. A disturbing film about child molestation and its lasting effects, this one is not recommended for the faint of heart.
This bold film centers on Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a breakthrough performance), a street hustler with a sad past. He's connected in some way with another local kid (Brady Corbet) who has strange dreams about being abducted by a UFO. The two eventually meet up, and the mystery of their past is revealed.
Yes, the film is a bit gimmicky in spots, and not as mysterious as the title implies. But there's no denying the power of Gordon-Levitt's performance, an actor with a big future. Corbet is equally good as a shy kid who isn't sure what happened to him in his youth. Elisabeth Shue and Michelle Trachtenberg are excellent in supporting roles.
This one came out on DVD a few months ago, but I wanted to get the word out on it. It's NC-17, and it deserves that rating, so proceed with caution. Don't chase a viewing of Bambi 2 with this one. The kids would be traumatized.
Special Features: A decent actor and director commentary, with a videotaped Mysterious Skin book reading as its only other feature.