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The Pride of the Yankees: 65th Anniversary Edition

Movie D+
Special Features F
DVD Geek Factor 0 (out of 10--the first zero ever!)

Baseball season has begun, and I thought it would be fun to revisit one of my childhood favorites, The Pride of the Yankees, starring Gary Cooper as baseball great Lou Gehrig. I picked up the brand-spanking-new 65th anniversary DVD and headed home for some good, wholesome, old-timey fun.

Man, I hated this movie! I don't know what the hell I was thinking when I was young, but I was one stupid kid. Cooper's "aw shucks" approach to the role is embarrassing and tiresome within the first few minutes, and it all goes downhill from there. There's a bunch of unnecessary fictional crap thrown in to spruce things up, and there are even some ridiculous song-and-dance numbers thrown in to put the spotlight on MGM up-and-comers at the time.

Teresa Wright is awful as Mrs. Gehrig, overdoing every moment handed to her. The movie seems like one of those Hollywood transitional films, right around the time that moviemakers started getting a little more serious and a little less hokey.

The best thing about the movie would be Babe Ruth playing himself. He's a lousy actor, and his older age was showing, but it's still cool to see him in something other than a baseball-game newsreel. Ruth's health was deteriorating during filming, and you can see that his uniform is drenched with sweat after he legs out a home run.

I no longer like this film. I know it's a classic, but I really don't care. I'm sick and tired of walking on eggshells with the classics, like I have to respect them or something because they're old and fragile. This movie sucks balls. I don't care if I get kicked out of the annual Hoity-Toidy Movie Critics Cotillion for saying so, either.

Actually, that would blow. The pastries are usually quite awesome.

Special Features: Duped! The only thing new about this disc is a spiffy cardboard cover. The disc within is the exact same disc that came out a few years ago, with the exact same "keep case." There are no special features. MGM should be ashamed of themselves for this crap.

Stranger Than Fiction

Movie B+
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

Will Ferrell proves he can do more than his hilarious goofball routine in this inventive and quirky film from Marc Forster, the excellent director of Finding Neverland. Ferrell plays a man who wakes up one morning to discover his life is being narrated by a voice, and the narrator speaks of his impending death.

The film is a great twist on the whole notion of storytelling. Emma Thompson gets her best role in years as the voice who happens to be an author of novels where all of the protagonists are doomed. Dustin Hoffman contributes mightily as a literary expert who insists that Ferrell's character should allow himself to die, because the book he is the subject of is so damned good. Maggie Gyllenhaal is her usual great self as a cantankerous baker and eventual love interest.

This is a very unique work, and a nice change of pace for Ferrell, whose past "reputable" efforts bombed (Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, Winter Passing). Now, if producers would only get off their butts and make the long-rumored A Confederacy of Dunces with Ferrell as Ignatius. Actually, that project has been dead for a long time. Sad.

Special Features: A bit lackluster. Some deleted scenes, outtakes and making-of stuff that fail to ignite interest.

Casino Royale

Movie B+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 6.75 (out of 10)

I've never been a big Bond fan in the past, so I was more than willing to accept change from this franchise. It got a big one with Daniel Craig stepping into the iconic role, taking the film legend in a more grounded, darker direction. The movie still has its share of implausible action, but it allows Bond to be a real guy, and Craig stands along Sean Connery and, yes, Pierce Brosnan as the best Bonds.

Special Features: This one got a quick release, yet producers managed to include some decent features in the two-disc edition, including many minutes of behind-the-scenes accounts of Craig's preparation for the role.

Harsh Times

The Weinstein Company
Movie B+
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

Here's one that snuck under the radar last year. Christian Bale gets another psychopath role as a soldier returning from a mysterious mission who is having a tough time getting a job with the Los Angeles Police Department. In between tests and interviews, he conducts a life of crime that escalates from mild theft to full-blown violence. Freddy Rodriguez (Grindhouse) is significantly good as Bale's partner, becoming increasingly wary of his friend's actions. From Bale, we get yet another fierce, fearless performance from one of the best actors on the scene today.

Special Features: Deleted scenes that are interesting, and a commentary from director David Ayer.

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