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Tootsie: 25th Anniversary Edition

Movie A+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

One of the great acting feats in cinema history is contained herein. Dustin Hoffman plays a woman so convincingly that he makes you forget about the existence of the actor playing her.

Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, an unemployed actor in New York who takes things a bit too far when his agent (a superb Sydney Pollack, who also directed) declares that nobody will hire him. He dresses up as a woman, calls his alter ego Dorothy and gets a job on a soap opera. This causes all sorts of complications.

My favorite moments are the times when Hoffman resorts to his normal voice while in Dorothy makeup, such as when he hails a taxi or groans, "This is a nightmare." Pollack, who usually directs dramatic films, managed to equally achieve hilarity and dramatic tension. The film contains broad comedy, but it is remarkably grounded for a movie with such a crazy premise.

The film actually represents a turning point in Bill Murray's career, who agreed to appear uncredited so that he would not confuse fans who would think they were seeing a typical Murray movie.

When Hoffman shares his final scene with Jessica Lange, having revealed that he was masquerading as a woman, we actually miss Dorothy. That's how good of an actor this man is.

Tootsie trivia note: My first job out of college was at the National Video Center in Manhattan, which figures prominently in the movie. I worked in the tape library, and it was the WORST JOB EVER. I saw somebody lying dead after they got shot near the entrance--the same place where Lange signs autographs in the film.

That is your useless info for the day.

Special Features: An awesome documentary about the film features Hoffman, Pollack and Lange. Hoffman actually wells up during his interview as he describes the difficulties of playing a woman. The story behind Hoffman persuading Pollack to play his agent is classic. Deleted scenes are fun to see.

Across the Universe (Blu-Ray)

Warner Home Video
Movie A
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 8.75 (out of 10)

I had a lot of fun with this one. Director Julie Taymor did a nice job of creating a narrative with the music of the Beatles. While the plot--about a group of young adults dealing with the tumultuous '60s--might not be profound, it's incredible how much the film makes sense using various Beatles tracks.

The likes of Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess not only did their own singing, but (the director claims) they did nearly 80 percent of it live. That means what we are seeing and hearing on screen is often happening on the set, and was not manufactured in the studio.

There are some great cameos here, including Bono as Dr. Robert, who delivers "I Am the Walrus" in a way that is unmistakably Bono. (He does the "Bono rocking" dance move!) There's also Eddie Izzard delivering a particularly bizarre rendition of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." Joe Cocker is perfect as a trio of men singing "Come Together."

I guess the best compliment I can give this movie is that it made me very happy while watching it. It's incredibly inventive; Taymor is a director with tremendous visual gifts.

Special Features: Taymor does a great commentary, revealing a lot of stuff that was below the surface. I especially liked her bit about Bono's reluctance to do a Western accent. There's also plenty of behind-the-scenes stuff and extended musical scenes that prove this movie was meant for a longer running time.

Rocket Science

Movie A-
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

This film snuck under my radar last year. Nervous high school student Hal Hefner (Reece Thompson) can barely get two words out without stammering, and he has a fierce problem with public speaking. A fast-talking debate-team member (Anna Kendrick), for mysterious reasons, recruits him for her team, and the oddness begins.

This is a great teen-angst comedy, but don't let those words categorize the film, because it pretty much defies categorization. If I were to compare it to other movies, I would choose Rushmore--but, really, this movie is one of a kind.

Thompson delivers one of last year's great breakthrough performances. He offers an interesting mixture of shyness and defiance, giving his character a realistic progression within the scope of the film. His problems aren't solved by the movie's end, but he seems to be on his way toward some sort of success. Kendrick is a revelation as well, managing to talk at top speeds while making total sense.

The film offers up some nice surprises, including a couple of scenes with Jonah Hill in the school library. Writer-director Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound) has a gift for capturing the absurdity of high school love and competition. He's somebody to watch in the future.

Special Features: There's nothing other than a short making-of documentary. We'll have to wait for a special edition to get a commentary or something.

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