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Paul Williams Still Alive (DVD)





(OUT OF 10)

Paul Williams was one of the entertainment heroes of my youth (along with Ernest Borgnine). The little singer-songwriter was everywhere: awards shows, The Love Boat, Muppets, Bugsy Malone, etc.

And then, in seemingly one day, the dude mostly disappeared. I'd see him getting a songwriting credit here and there but, for the most part, he seemed to have gone away.

It makes sense that director Stephen Kessler, also a Williams fan, would think he was dead. Upon finding out that Paul Williams was still alive, he set out to meet him, and eventually made this highly enjoyable film.

It turns out Williams was just fighting some chemical dependency demons. Also, with the death of variety shows and weekly television shows relying on guest stars (The Love Boat, Fantasy Island), there just weren't many places for Williams to show his face on the boob tube anymore.

Kessler takes his camera along on a small Paul Williams tour and visits him at his house. What makes this movie so much fun is how Williams interacts with Kessler. Sometimes he's friendly; sometimes he's a little nasty. All in all, he's a great sport in this movie, and shows that he can laugh at himself and take criticism like a champ.

Strange thing about Williams is, he almost looks younger as an older man. He certainly doesn't look his age (72), and that long hair has been replaced by a short, spiky hairdo that looks cool. His singing voice remains distinctive and cuddly. Nobody sounds like Williams, and nobody ever will.

Good to see that Williams is clean and sober, and nice to find that interest in him remains healthy. Hey, this is the guy who wrote "The Rainbow Connection," "Evergreen" and "We've Only Just Begun," for God's sake. It's about time we showed him some respect here in the relatively new millennium.

By the way, if you have never seen Bugsy Malone, the musical gangster movie parody with an all-youth cast including Scott Baio and Jodie Foster, seek out the Blu-ray. It's an overlooked classic.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There's some additional Paul Williams concert footage, and that's a good thing, but the disc could've used some more stuff.

To Rome With Love (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

The Woody Allen world tour continues. First, he hung around New York a lot. Then London, followed by Barcelona, and Paris. Now, Allen takes his weary, played out, hackneyed charms to Rome and makes one of the world's most majestic cities appear boring.

This one has Allen in bizarre mode, recycling a lot of his own jokes and themes, and co-starring for the first time since Scoop.

Allen plays an American tourist visiting the city to meet his daughter's boyfriend. He discovers that his soon-to-be son-in-law's father (Fabio Armiliato) has an incredible singing voice, with a catch: he can only sing in the shower. This is a direct steal from the Flintstones episode where Barney Rubble could only sing while taking a bath. Allen is clearly running out of tricks.

Alec Baldwin is on hand as an architect who visits a younger architect (Jesse Eisenberg in full Woody mode) as he meets and falls in love with his wife's best friend (Ellen Page). Baldwin's character mentors the Eisenberg character as if he is witnessing something that happened to him as a younger man, or something like that. It's a writing gimmick that fails miserably.

Of course, there's a whore in this movie (Woody can't write a movie without a hooker, it seems) and she's played by Penelope Cruz. Her subplot involves her being mistaken for a young man's fiancée, and the sex jokes ensue. Another subplot involves Roberto Benigni as a normal guy who finds fame for no reason. This is supposed to be Allen's commentary on how undeserving people become famous. His observations in regard to this are lame. The whole movie is lame.

SPECIAL FEATURES: One, minuscule special feature with cast interviews, so the features suck, too.

The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Part two of this adaptation of Frank Miller's classic graphic novel has lots of Joker and Superman. For fans of the novel, this makes for a fine interpretation of Miller's work, even if it isn't the live-action adaptation you (well ... I) wanted.

Because it is PG-13, it isn't nearly as dark and nasty as the novel. But the David Endocrine massacre does happen (Sadly, Endocrine doesn't sound or look like David Letterman, as he did in the novel), and Superman's battle with a nuclear missile is very well done.

The two animated movies serving Miller's classic opus are faithful, but not total copies. The Joker's end is brutally depicted in this one, and it's the moment that best captures that Miller vibe.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a look at the upcoming Superman: Unbound.

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