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Saturday Night Live: The Best of Steve Martin

Lions Gate
Show A-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

I'm surprised it took the powers that be this long to give Steve Martin his due in the "Best of SNL" series. Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken and other classic hosts got their anthologies before the great Steve Martin. This collection gathers some decent stuff, from his arrow-through-the-head, banjo-playing days, to his comedic-statesman recent years.

The classic Theodoric of York sketches remain my favorites, and I was extremely pleased to finally have "What the Hell Is That?" with Bill Murray in my collection. There are a couple of sketches on here that I would've thrown back, along with some glaring omissions. (Where's Toonces the Driving Cat?) There's also the memorable Let's Get Small/Happy Feet monologue, and the monologue where Steve steals Bill Murray's watch. Happily, King Tut is on here, and that's worth the price of the DVD right there. Unless, of course, you hate Steve Martin, in which case you should avoid this collection altogether.

On top of all the Martin coolness, the disc contains the sketch he did with Dana Carvey playing Mickey Rooney. Beautiful.

Special Features: There are some extra sketches, including a visit to the Platinum Lounge with Alec Baldwin. There's an unaired sketch where Martin beats the shit out of Chris Farley, and a skit from one of his NBC specials.

Charlotte's Web

Paramount Home Video
Movie A+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)

This one clocked in at No. 3 on my 2006 year's best-film list, just behind The Fountain and The Departed. I don't think any movie made me smile more last year, as wondrous memories of the great book and classic cartoon came flooding back. Julia Roberts was perfection as Charlotte the spider, understandably yucky to look at in the beginning but beautiful by film's end. Casting Steve Buscemi as Templeton the rat seems like destiny.

The story of Wilbur the pig and his life on the farm trying to avoid the slaughterhouse will swear you off bacon for a while. You'll probably integrate it back into your diet, starting with artificial bacon bits on your salad, and then perhaps a strip or two of the real deal with your eggs. BLTs and all-you-can-eat bacon buffets will probably be restored within a year of viewing. That's my estimate.

Dakota Fanning actually does something strange here: She acts like a kid. The little actress used to scare the crap out of me, but after this and War of the Worlds, I'm warming up to her. She's a great choice for Fern. The film's mixture of live animals and CGI is a step up from that other classic talking-pig movie. And hats off to Sarah McLachlan for her heartwarming song contribution "Ordinary Miracle." It plays over the end credits, which are animated in the spirit of the classic book's memorable cover.

All in all, it's one of the better family films of recent years, and a nice living tribute to the book's author, E.B. White. I wasn't too sure this project would be a success, but the creative team knocked it out of the park and did something worthy of the source material.

Special Features: Two commentaries, deleted scenes, gag reels, music videos and a slew of segments on the creation of the film. A deleted scene reveals that Jennifer Garner was supposed to play a dog. Her scenes were cut, because they couldn't train the canine.

Masters of Horror:Pro-Life

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Movie D
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 2.5 (out of 10)

John Carpenter is one of my favorite horror directors, but this messy installment of the excellent Showtime series is a pockmark on his career.

A mysterious woman is picked up on a road by some passers-by who almost run her over. She's conveniently brought to an abortion clinic, where they discover she is pregnant when they take her sweater off. And this girl isn't only pregnant; she's pregnant Rosemary's Baby style.

Her pro-life father (a bored Ron Perlman) shows up at the gates and eventually storms through, guns a-blazing, trying to protect the child in God's name. Then Satan shows up looking for his kid, who looks an awful lot like the spider-with-a-human-head monster from Carpenter's The Thing.

As for the political ramifications of this film, lets just say it is in very bad taste, and leave it at that. The acting is awful, although Greg Nicotero's makeup and special effects are quite good. The devil monster, essentially a guy in a rubber suit, looks pretty damn sweet, all things considered, and some of the gunshot gore is quite effective.

Still, Carpenter is way off his game here, with heavy-handed statements and laborious pacing. His son Cody provides the dull, repetitive soundtrack, and he's partially to blame for the pacing problems.

Special Features: The usual goodness for a Masters of Horror disc. Carpenter gives a commentary, and there's a decent look at the making of the film, including more details on the cool rubber monster suit.

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