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Weinstein
Movie A
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)

One of last year's very best films. It features a powerful performance from Sam Riley as Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, who killed himself at the age of 23. The film is a moving portrayal of a very troubled man, as well as a tribute to how important of a band Joy Division actually was.

If you've seen actual footage of Curtis at work, you will be aware of just how good Riley is in this role. He's channeling Curtis in a way that is comparable to Denzel Washington's work as Malcolm X or Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash. This isn't one of those lip-synched performances; Riley does his own vocals, and he does Curtis proud. He also somehow manages to capture Curtis' dance moves, which are pretty much indescribable.

While this film was mostly overlooked during last year's awards season, I think time is going to treat it well. Not only does it get a place on last year's best list; I'd nominate it as one of history's best rock films. It is that good.

Shooting the film in black and white was a good move, giving the film a pseudo-documentary feel. The supporting cast, including Samantha Morton as Curtis' wife, Deborah, and Joe Anderson as Peter Hook is excellent.

What's best about this film is that it avoids portraying Curtis in a pathetic light. It's a moving portrait that stands as a great tribute to one of alternative rock's greatest pioneers.

Special Features: Director Anton Corbijn, who made his feature-film-directing debut with the pic, does an involving commentary. There's a making-of documentary, plus some actual Joy Division videos. The best of the features would be extended versions of Riley and the film's band performing Joy Division tunes like "Transmission."


Semi-Pro: 2 Disc Unrated "Let's Get Sweaty" Edition

New Line
Movie B
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

This loving ode to the American Basketball Association, the real-life '70s basketball league that dissolved with some of the teams joining the NBA, is a good vehicle for Will Ferrell. This one falls somewhere in the middle of the Ferrell pantheon of films: It's not as good as Talladega Nights or Old School, but it's much better than Kicking and Screaming.

Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, famous singer of "Love Me Sexy" and owner of the Flint Tropics, for which he also plays and coaches. When word comes down that his team is not planned to be part of the NBA merger, he challenges his fellow owners, and they accept: The four best teams will join the NBA, while the rest will dissolve into nothingness.

Ferrell is his usual goofball self. I especially liked a bit in which Jackie wears eyeliner during a televised game, suffering from major difficulties when it gets in his eyes. The film's best moment comes from a Tim Meadows appearance during which a comical game of Russian roulette has bloody consequences.

While Ferrell is surrounded by good actors (including Woody Harrelson as a washed-up player), this is pretty much Ferrell's show. It's good stuff, and if Ferrell's upcoming Step Brothers is as funny as the previews indicate, Ferrell is going to have himself a great year. Director Kent Alterman does a nice job of capturing the '70s, making this a rather effective period piece.

On a sad note, Rocky, the bear that Ferrell wrestles in this movie, killed his trainer earlier this year. Watching that scene is now an eerie thing.

Special Features: The disc features both the theatrical and "uncut and unrated" versions. "Uncut and unrated" means a few more dirty jokes and scenes that are thrown in for the sake of marketing, a standard ploy these days. There's some cool stuff in the documentaries, including a fun look at the actual ABA. Some of the deleted scenes are worthy of the film and would've worked just fine had they made the final edit. Thankfully, you also get the "Love Me Sexy" video.


There Will Be Blood (Blu-Ray)

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

Yes, I just reviewed this DVD in standard form a couple of months ago. I just wanted to use this space to declare that PARAMOUNT HAS OFFICIALLY SWITCHED TO BLU-RAY FOR THEIR HI-DEF RELEASES!!!

I know this is no big deal for those of you who have standard DVD and are in no rush to upgrade, but this is a big deal for those of us who have made the change and are hopelessly hooked. With the release of this movie and Cloverfield on Blu-Ray, Paramount has officially ended their boycott of the format. It's just another reminder that the war between HDVD and Blu-Ray is truly over.

Oh, yeah ... this is a great, great movie!

Special Features: I've upgraded special features to B- (from C+ with the standard DVD), because the picture and sound are awesome. The geek factor goes up a notch because of the disc's historical significance.

More by Bob Grimm

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