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Big Fan





(OUT OF 10)

Comedian Patton Oswalt makes a surprisingly effective dramatic turn as Paul, an impassioned New York Giants fan who gets a little too close to his favorite player. He follows QB Quantrelle Bishop (Jonathan Hamm) to a strip club, tries to say hello, reveals a little too much about his fanhood and gets his ass royally kicked.

While most folks would see this as grounds for a lawsuit, Paul is just worried that his team will now lose when the QB is suspended after the beating.

See, Paul is a major fan. He's the guy who calls into sports talk shows and defiantly defends his team. He's the guy who can't afford to attend football games, yet tailgates in the parking lot and watches on the tube. In short, he's a little out of his mind.

The movie has drawn comparisons to Taxi Driver, but I don't think it has too much in common with that film. Taxi Driver was pure bleakness, while this one is just a little pathetic and sad.

Director Robert D. Siegel gives the film a sly, dark comic tilt that gives Oswalt enough room to be funny while still delivering a strong dramatic performance. The delusional Paul is heartbreaking in many ways, a well-meaning guy who almost destroys the thing he loves most due to being overly enthusiastic. The ever-reliable Kevin Corrigan is awesome, as usual, as his best friend and fellow fan.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Outtakes and a Q&A with Siegel and Oswalt.

Magnolia (Blu-ray)





I called this one of the best movies I'd ever seen when I first saw it, and I still stand by that statement. Director Paul Thomas Anderson did stuff in this movie that dropped my jaw to the floor, and the performances are simply incredible in this sprawling epic of overlapping character stories in California.

The film features Tom Cruise in one of his very best performances as Frank T.J. Mackey, an empowerment seminar guy who might be described as slightly misogynistic. Jason Robards matches his excellence as his father, trying to make amends from his deathbed (Robards was genuinely sick during filming, and this was his penultimate performance). I still think Julianne Moore's drugstore breakdown is her best work ever put to screen.

The movie also features greats like William H. Macy as a former child whiz kid, John C. Reilly as a sensitive cop and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a male caregiver trying to assist Robards' character in his last days. The scene where Cruise loses it when talking to Robards is a true heart puncher.

I was loving this movie all the way through, and when those frogs started to rain, it became firmly planted in my all-time favorites. Getting to see it 10 years later in high definition is a major treat. And Aimee Mann's soundtrack remains phenomenal.

Anderson doesn't make a lot of movies, but the ones he makes are among the best of the last 13 years. There Will Be Blood stands as major proof of that.

And let it be said that Cruise, regardless of your feelings for him, is a fine actor and should have an Oscar on his mantel for this one.

SPECIAL FEATURES: An excellent video diary chronicling the making of the film, and the entire T.J. Mackey seminar.

The Hurt Locker





Jeremy Renner is fantastic as a bomb squad soldier in Iraq who drives his fellow squad members nuts with his unorthodox ways.

Equal parts war film and action picture, director Kathryn Bigelow delivers a taut action drama that definitely has an adverse effect on the old blood pressure at times.

Equally good is Anthony Mackie as Renner's partner, one of those performances that propels a picture but gets little notice. This was thought to be the frontrunner for the upcoming Oscars, but Avatar is messing with its chances after beating it out for Best Director and Picture at the Golden Globes.

In the end, I see the movie as one of last year's better action pictures, but it didn't necessarily strike me as an important film. I love the way Bigelow assembles a scene, and the cinematography, sound and editing are top notch. But, as war movies go, I wouldn't put this up with the likes of the greats like Platoon and Saving Private Ryan. It's almost there, but not quite.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Kathryn Bigelow delivers one of her always great commentaries. Seriously ... I also just watched the commentary for her Near Dark DVD; the lady is just captivating.

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