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M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

20th Century Fox Home Video
Movie B-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

When the M*A*S*H finale originally aired, there was a lot of somewhat negative reaction to it. Director Alan Alda did away with the laugh track and actually made a movie about his Hawkeye Pierce having a nervous breakdown during the final days of the Korean War. Critics seemed insulted that Alda got grim with the finale of his sitcom, even though it was set in a war.

Watching it again, 24 years later, I was struck by how bad M*A*S*H had become in its final episodes, but I was also impressed with Alda's attempt at something important. The one-liners had gotten stale; subplots involving Jamie Farr's Klinger and David Ogden Stiers' Winchester were awful; Loretta Swit's Hot Lips had gotten far too cleaned up for a mobile Army nurse. I also noticed that Mike Farrell (B.J.) was probably one of the worst actors to ever get a network TV job.

Still, it was a noble attempt by Alda to do something different, and an interesting finale. M*A*S*H was far past its prime (it really did peak in the second season when McLean Stevenson and Wayne Rogers were in the cast), and the dark turn was an interesting one. The final show was devoid of laughter, but it probably shouldn't have been. It was a failed experiment, but an intriguing one.

Special Features: This is a three-disc set with a bunch of documentaries. One of those happens to be the 30th anniversary reunion special in 2002, with a large part of the cast showing up for the festivities. (Good God, they're really old!) It also has some bloopers and trivia, good stuff for those who liked the show.

The Fountain

Warner Home Video
Movie A+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

I picked this as last year's best film, and I like it more with each passing day. Darren Aronofsky made a masterpiece that went largely unnoticed by the public, but I think it will be regarded as a classic in future years.

Some readers might recall that this was originally intended as a big-budget science-fiction film starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Aronofsky went to Australia, where sets were being built, and things were looking good. Then Pitt dropped out; Warner Bros. got cold feet, and the project was put on hold. The sets, including gigantic temples, were taken down and auctioned off. Things were bleak.

The troubles turned out to be a blessing. Aronofsky rewrote the film and made it for half the original budget. The result is more intimate and emotional than your average big-budget sci-fi picture.

In the role originally intended for Pitt, Hugh Jackman is incredible as a present-day doctor, a Spanish conquistador in the past, and a future astronaut of sorts. The doctor is looking for a cure for aging and a way to save the life of his wife (Rachel Weisz), while the conquistador and astronaut have encounters and involvement with the Fountain of Youth and Tree of Life. It really is quite hard to explain the movie's plot, because it encompasses so much. Just see it and discover what it's all about.

One of my picks for last year's worst Oscar snubs would be Jackman not getting at least a nomination for Best Actor. This isn't just the most powerful performance he's ever delivered; it is one of the best I've ever seen.

Special Features: When I first read the DVD cover, I was sort of bummed to discover that the only supplement was a multi-part featurette on the making of the film--no Aronofsky commentary, no deleted scenes, no bloopers of Jackman goofing around with a chimp. As it turns out, the featurette is quite good, touching upon all facets of the production, including the aborted Australian efforts--it's a great documentary about a great film. Perhaps Aronofsky will do a commentary for some future edition.


Movie B-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

Mel Gibson (aka Asshole) has made another visually captivating film, as aesthetically beautiful as his The Passion of the Christ. This film also continues to prove the notion that the guy is stone-cold nuts.

No doubt, the man makes great-looking movies. If you are into horror films, you might find yourself appreciating the crazy gore that goes down in this Mayan adventure. There are human sacrifices, including a point-of-view sequence where some poor slob gets his still-beating heart torn from his chest. My favorite moment of gratuitous violence would be the scene where a panther rips some dude's face off. We get a close-up, with the man's jaw getting visibly mangled in the animal's mouth. Fun!

A sequence where a diseased child speaks in slow, ominous tones is just about the scariest child performance I've ever seen. Leave it to Gibson to get that on film.

Special Features: Yes, there's a full Gibson commentary! I love listening to this nut rationally discuss his insane movies. Like the latest Passion DVD, this one has great behind-the-scenes stuff, illuminating just how huge a project this really was.

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