DVD reviews: “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Pride and Glory,” “RocknRolla,” “Lakeview Terrace,” “The Beiderbecke Affair”

Menage a trois

Woody Allen plays with a ménage a trois in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” the filmmaker’s most enjoyable romance movie in years. A big reason is his knack for casting the perfect women.
Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall play best friends — one free-spirited and happily single (Johansson), the other conservative, repressed and betrothed — vacationing in Spain.

Both become smitten with a passionate Spanish painter portrayed with whatever the Spanish word for chutzpah is by Javier Bardem.
Penelope Cruz deservedly is up for a supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of the painter’s volatile ex-wife. Sharply written by Allen, the film uses Barcelona’s beauty to complement the storytelling. Also on Blu-ray.

Extras: None.
Crime and punishment
A conflicted family of cops drives “Pride and Glory,” a tale of corruption and murder buoyed by its ensemble: Edward Norton as a haunted good detective, Noah Emmerich (in the film’s most memorable portrayal) as his police-inspector brother, Jon Voigt as their department-commander dad and Colin Farrell as their cop brother-in-law.

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DVD reviews: ‘The Express’ scores, ‘Max Payne’ plotzes, ‘City of Ember’ sails, `Saw V’ sickens

Touchdown!

Just in time for the Super Bowl, “The Express” charges onto the field, inspiration under its arm, to remind us about Ernie Davis, the Syracuse University running back who became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy.

Influenced by pro football Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown, his predecessor at Syracuse and on the Cleveland Browns, Davis (Rob Brown) entered the predominantly white college on the lip of the civil rights movement and scored with his talent and determination — it sounds hokey but it’s true — against bigoted teams and players.

His clashes and evolving friendship with Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid) proved vital for both of them.
“The Express,” Davis’ nickname, offers another take on themes delivered in sports films such as “Remember the Titans,” which is more emotionally involving, and b-ball’s “Glory Road,” which isn’t.

The biopic works by showing Davis’ growth as a socially conscious man as well as a player and by minimizing sentimentality while creating a strong sense of place and time. The game sequences are exciting and realistic (see the extra on shooting them) and Gary Fleder’s taut direction keeps scenes moving quickly. Also on Blu-ray.
Extras: Short on the real Davis, shooting the games, Davis’ legacy; making-of piece; deleted scenes; filmmaker’s commentary.
‘Max’ is a pain
“Max Payne” is instantly forgettable murk based on a popular video game that must have been created by unsettling people with bleak lives.

The film’s plastered with surreal, spooky images and slabs of unpleasantness in a noirish New York City filled with angry people you’d never invite over for dinner.
Mark Wahlberg, in his nothing-will-ever-make-me-smile-again mode, plays Max, a maverick DEA agent, out to avenge the murders of his wife and child as, at the same time, he investigates a series of murders. Also on Blu-ray.
Extras: Unrated extended cut of film; digital copy; animated graphic novel with insights into the killing of Payne’s family and his quest from vengeance; making-of doc.
Slick ‘City’
“The Goonies” meets “Dark City” in “City of Ember,” a captivating futuristic saga aimed at tweens but likely to appeal to older fans of fantasy as well.

On a post-apocalyptic Earth, the remaining population lives in a dying underground city of flickering lights and little food, prompting two industrious teens to scurry to find the secret behind their city and a way out before darkness covers everything.

Based on a young adult novel, the film’s a satisfyingly offbeat and exciting diversion with plenty of movement, plucky heroes, strong visuals and a decent script. Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement”), Tim Robbins and Bill Murray star. Extras: None.
Seeing ‘Saw’
I sacrificed 1 hour, 32 minutes of my life to see “Saw V” and I still don’t get the appeal of series.

It’s built around sadism, gore, and Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that usually end with a severed head or limb.

People are kidnapped, tortured and sentenced to die unless they perform ghastly acts that usually result in the demise of another captive and, or, the loss of a limb.

“Saw V” comes to you littered with body parts and drenched in blood.
The film resurrects Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), the sadistic executioner seen in flashback as his protégé, a homicide cop (Costas Mandylor) under suspicion by a colleague, continues the torture “games” with five tainted captives connected by an evil deed.

Grim, gruesome, pointless. On Blu-ray, too.
Extras: Commentaries; shorts on the torture traps; piece on editing a trap.
Also on DVD
“Amusement”: In an anthology of related vignettes, a killer stalks three women friends because of something nasty that happened in their childhood.
“President Barack Obama: The Man and His Journey”: The expected deluge begins with this documentary about the 44th president’s run for office and his election in the context of the country’s history; Blair Underwood narrates.
“Boogeyman 3”: The Boogeyman kills coeds; can’t he ever hunt greedy corporate execs?
“Charlie & Me”: When a 12-year-old’s grandfather/best friend gets a terminal diagnosis, the two fill his remaining days teaching each other how to live life to the fullest; with Tom Bosley and Jordy Benattar.
“Center Stage: Turn It Up”: Hockey player-turned-dancer helps street dancer achieve dream of training at renowned ballet academy; with Rachele Brooke Smith.
“The Deal”: William H. Macy and Meg Ryan star in a screwball romantic comedy about a fading producer who restarts his career with a series of studio deals involving his nephew’s slick script; also on Blu-ray.
“Election” on Blu-ray: Matthew Broderick’s stiff schoolteacher clashes with Reese Witherspoon’s go-getter candidate for student body prez in Alexander Payne’s sharp dark comedy.
“The End of America”: Doc about the threat to democracy created by the Bush administration.
“Henry Poole is Here”: When a neighbor sees a holy image in a stain on the wall of his tiny house, it upsets a self-pitying man’s plans to sulk in peace in this fable about love; with Luke Wilson; also on Blu-ray.
“Igor”: Animated shenanigans in a city of mad scientists and wicked gadgets; also on Blu-ray.
“National Lampoon’s Stoned Age”: Inventive cave man tries to influence tribe, win girl, defeat enemy; with Ali Larter.
“Repo! The Genetic Opera”: In the near future, an epidemic of organ failures sparks a biotech company to sell organs, then hunt recipients if they can’t pay; rock opera with Alexa Vega, Sarah Brightman, Paris Hilton, Anthony Head; also on Blu-ray.
“Taxi Blues”: Jewish saxophone player becomes friends with Russian cabbie he stiffed; in Russian with subtitles.
“Tribute: Stanley Tookie Williams”: Docu about the Crips co-founder, Nobel Prize nominee and children’s book author executed at San Quentin in 2005.
TV on DVD

“The Adventures of Walker & Ping Ping”

“Children of the Stones” (engrossing 1970s British sci-fi series about a creepy English village where everyone’s happy)

“Chris rock: Kill the Messenger” (single-disc and three-disc versions)

“The Complete Powerpuff Girls Anniversary Collector’s Set” (six discs, 78 episodes)

“ The Girls of Little House on the Prairie: Country School & Prairie Friends”

“The Great Polar Bear Adventure” (live-action family friendly film)

“Jurassic Fight Club: The Complete Season One”

; “The Last Detective” (lightweight British series about decent, determined detective Dangerous Davis)

“Little Britain”

“Monsterquest: The Complete Season Two”

“Moonlight: The Complete Series”

“My Three Sons: Season One, Vol. Two”

“This American Life: The Second Season.”

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Win Oscar, Live Longer

Better than gold

A snippet in the Jan. 11 edition of Parade mentions a “controversial study” that claims Academy Award winners lived 3.9 years longer than performers who don’t get that recognition.

Then it trots out a more recent analysis putting the so-called “longevity bonus” at – perhaps – only one year.

May have an effect on nominees who miss out on the gold at this year’s Feb. 22 ceremony.

I can see it now: Instead of, “We’re all winners and I’m just happy to be nominated,” we’ll get, “Damn, and I don’t even get to live a year longer.”

Maybe being nominated means getting an extra month.

The Parade item says researchers have found that longer life goes with higher social status – and being nominated trumps not being nominated, being an extra and being an audience member.

Maybe getting a front-row seat means getting an extra few days. It should.

The article also noted that winning a Nobel Prize gives you about two more years of life than nominees.

As if losing the prize weren’t bad enough on it’s own; now you get outlived by the competition.

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DVD reviews: “Appaloosa,” “Mirrors,” “Swing Vote”

Needs some giddyup

There must have been a lot of moseying in the Old West.

According to “Appaloosa,” a Western based on a Robert B. Parker novel, cowboys sat around gathering dust, occasionally spouting short sentences and, less frequently, firing guns or rifles.

Directed and co-written by Ed Harris, who also stars, the old-fashioned, 1880s-era film comes light on movement, heavy on detail. Period costumes and sets are authentic, a filmmaker notes in the extras, and they look it.

But you don’t go to a movie to see old photos, furniture and fancy guns; that’s what museums are for.

In the “Appaloosa” museum show, harried townsfolk pay a laconic marshal-for-hire and his equally laconic but smarter deputy (Harris and Viggo Mortensen, both of whom look born to sit) to clean up the town and arrest the dastardly rancher/robber (Jeremy Irons) who gunned down the sheriff and his deputies.
Renee Zellweger adds a little pout as a widow who can’t be without a man, and the more powerful, the better, although any will do in a pinch.

The few action sequences are strong. The rest is mostly static, but it’s mighty handsome static. Also on Blu-ray.
Extras: Filmmakers’ commentary; doc on casting and character; short on the town of Appaloosa and its historical accuracy (interesting segment addresses personality of each building and character it represents); deleted scenes; “Return to the Western” short.

Bad luck


“Mirrors,” mirrors on the walls clutter this eerie but discombobulated horror film, offering seven hours of bad memories to anyone who wades through it.

Kiefer Sutherland delivers a more volatile version of his Jack Bauer persona from “24,” playing an ex-cop who works as a night security guard in a burned-out department store packed with big mirrors and long shadows.

In the opening shot, his frightened predecessor watches as his reflection cuts its throat with a shard of broken mirror; the guard’s neck slices apart at the same time, releasing  the first of many gushes of blood.

The mirrors also work their dark magic on the ex-cop, already a basket case when he took the job. Naturally, his estranged wife (Paula Patton) thinks he’s looney tunes when he tells her about the spooky goings-on and starts painting over the mirrors in her house.

Good chills but grim to the max. Disc includes theatrical and uncut versions. Also on Blu-ray.

Extras: An alternate ending helps explain the film’s finale. Also: a look at mirror myths and mythology; making-of short; deleted scenes. More on Blu-ray.

Doofus picks prez

Kevin Costner plays a beer-swilling, newly jobless, low-IQ slacker who acts more like a child than his brainy 12-year-old (Madeline Carroll, whose portrayal almost makes this worth renting) in “Swing Vote.”

Costner’s severely grating, apolitical, small-town character gets the bulk of the screen time as he tries to decide how to cast the deciding vote for president in the dim-witted comedy.

Hard to care much when the main character’s so off-putting.

The story paints him namby-pambying between the sweet-talking incumbent Republican president (Kelsey Grammer) and his Democratic opponent (Dennis Hopper) as they try to buddy up to him and woo his vote with false promises.

The Walt Disney ending’s touching in a faux-Frank Capra, proud-to-be-an-ordinary-guy kind of way. But the journey plays like the Winchester Mystery House. Also on Blu-ray.

Extras: Behind-the-scenes feature; deleted and extended scenes; commentary.
Also on DVD


“All Roads Lead Home”: A troubled girl (Vivienne Cardone) helps heal her fractured family when she’s sent to her grandfather’s (Peter Boyle, in his final film role) working farm and tries to save animals set to go under the knife because they can’t produce.

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961): Mod New York party girl Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) looks for love in all the wrong places; based on Truman Capote bestseller; on two discs with new extras.

“Brideshead Revisited”: Ambitious young artist (Matthew Goode) yearns for aristocratic best friend’s (Ben Whishaw) lifestyle, family mansion and pretty sister (Hayley Atwell) in 1920s England; based on Evelyn Waugh novel; with Emma Thompson.
“Bustin’ Down the Door”: Edward Norton narrates surfing doc set mostly in Hawaii in 1975.
“Funny Face” (1957): Bookish saleswoman (Audrey Hepburn) lets suave fashion photog (Fred Astaire) play Svengali and turn her into a supermodel; on two discs with new extras.
“Humboldt Country”: Stranded in marijuana central, a disillusioned med student gets his second wind after hanging with a family of pot farmers; with Jeremy Strong and Fairuza Balk, Brad Dourif, Peter Bogdanovich.
“My Best Friend’s Girl”: Dumped by his girlfriend (Kate Hudson), a desperate shnook (Jason Biggs) hires his “rebound specialist” best bud (Dane Cook) to take her out and behave so poorly she’ll want doofus back. Always works. Always.
“My Bloody Valentine: Special Edition” (1981): Fun-lovers bite dust during a Valentine’s Day dance held on the anniversary and site of a mine tragedy; released to coincide with the 3-D remake.
“Patti Smith: Dream of Life”: Documentary about the legendary musician, singer, poet and artist filmed over 11 years.
“Ring of Death”: A disgraced former cop (Johnny Messner) agrees to go undercover as an inmate to find the cause of a rash of prison deaths. Think “Fight Club” behind bars.
“Shut Up and Shoot”: A producer convinces the star of his top-rated movie to kill his five producing partners and film the murders for reasons that don’t make a lick of  sense in the dark satire; with Silvio Pollio, Gary Busey and Tom Sizemore.

“Supercop”: Undercover cops (Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh) infiltrate a drug ring.

“Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys”: Family matriarchs and best friends (Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates), women from different social strata take a road trip to figure out what to do about their adulterous, conniving children.

“Without a Paddle: Nature’s Calling”: Two best pals and “a wacky Brit” go into the wilderness to search for a woman’s missing granddaughter; is made-for-video comedy comes with a cameo by Jerry Rice (who may regret it); also on Blu-ray.

“Yeti”: Hungry hairy beast stalks plane-crash survivors in Himalayas; Carly Pope stars.

TV on DVD


“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Chipettes” (six animated adventures)

“Ben 10 Alien Force – Vol. 2”

“Dallas: The Complete Tenth Season” (three discs, 29 shows)

“The Lost Gods” (ancient civilizations)

“Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America” (six-hour doc on three discs)

“Matlock: Season Two”; “NatureTech” (on nature and tech)

“Walker, Texas Ranger: The Sixth Season.”

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Hitchcockian “Transsiberian” reviewed

Suspense on a train in the snow with murder

“Hitchcockian” is an odd word, when you think about it.

OK, that’s over.

Others have compared “Transsiberian” to one of Hitchcock’s suspense thrillers, more for its tone, I imagine, than for its similarity to “Strangers on a Train”; both involve strangers meeting on a train and murder, but that’s about it.

Emily Mortimer, the reason to see “Transsiberian,” and her good-natured, church-going, train-loving husband Woody Harrelson, decide to take the train back to Moscow after participating in a

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DVD reviews: “Hancock,” “Meet Dave,” “Fred Claus”

Had high hopes for “Hancock,” the Will Smith popcorn movie about a curmudgeonly superhero with a drinking problem. So much for expectations.
“Hancock: The Two-Disc Unrated Special Edition” gives you a choice of watching the theatrical version or the unrated rendition, which contains 10 additional minutes. Figuring the story would seem more coherent with the additives, I chose the latter.
Not sure it made much difference. “Hancock’s” drastic tonal shifts still hiccup loudly. The title character (Smith) is self-indulgent, insensitive and abrasive during most of the story, and, as such, he’s not much fun to watch — although some of the special effects are cool. (Toss that beached whale, baby.)
Because the public’s fed up with him, Hancock agrees to let a cheery consultant (the always-solid Jason Bateman) work on his PR, despite criticism by the guy’s beautiful wife (Charlize Theron). Sound concept, sloppy execution.
The film contains one surprise whose evolution might have made a good story on its own. Coming as it does midway into the comedy wannabe, it jars, dropping the picture on its numb skull and letting it flail. Also, in the what-were-they-thinking category, shots of intense, graphic violence explode before the eyes of the couple’s young son near the end, raising more issues than they resolve. (Is he in shock, or just dumbfounded by the turn of events?) The film delivers a couple of funny moments and is also on Blu-ray.
Extras: Digital copy; docs on stunts, sets, behind the scenes, making the movie, more.
He walks funny
“Meet Dave,” a one-joke comedy that generates plenty of laughs, especially from kids, is Eddie Murphy’s best film in a while.
Murphy plays two roles, somber mini-captain of spaceship crew of mini-aliens, and the spaceship — designed to look like a human who resembles the captain.
Most of the humor comes from Murphy-as-spaceship trying to act human and fit in. If you remember Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” routine, you’ll have an idea of Murphy’s shtick. His handshake routine owes everything to Harpo Marx. But his attempts to blend with shoppers at a Gap outlet using what he thinks is a natural smile and a human greeting (“Welcome to the Gap”) are all his own, and they grow creepier with each repetition.
He and his crew are after a missing small metal ball created to drain Earth’s oceans, providing the salt necessary for the aliens’ planet to survive. Not that it matters. The laughs come from Murphy’s well-timed gags, and hits outnumber misses. Schmaltz leaks from the captain’s falling for a widow (the ubiquitous Elizabeth Banks) and, as the spaceship, bonding with her young son. Kids won’t mind. Also on Blu-ray.
Extras: So-so gag reel and featurette on DVD, more on Blu-ray.
Not awful
In “Fred Claus,” Santa’s resentful, screw-up older brother Fred (Vince Vaughn) hops a reindeer flight to the North Pole after agreeing to work for his saintly sib (Paul Giamatti emoting with watery eyes) to pay a debt and earn a grubstake. Self-involved like Hancock, the lanky slacker hampers Santa’s chances to keep Christmas on schedule by messing with the elves’ assembly line and playing into the hands of a sneaky efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) eager to stamp “Closed” on Santa’s shop.
Santa’s snowy town looks like a kid’s fantasy and the elf-populated toy factory could delight any age. But, unless you’re a Vaughn fan, you’ll probably find Fred’s act a turn-off, though not as much as Hancock’s. The film delivers a cute bit about a Siblings Anonymous group (check out the longer versions in the extras). Although “Fred” could use more wit, the writing’s serviceable and there’s an amusing sequence with Ludicris as an elf, acting as toy-shop DJ. Elizabeth Banks again pops up, this time as Santa’s time-management specialist. She doesn’t do much but it’s nice to see her. The requisite sentimental holiday ending works well enough to make this a good pick for kids. Also on Blu-ray.
Extras: widescreen and full-screen versions on same disc; commentary; additional scenes include surprisingly violent renditions of sequences that made the final cut.
Also on DVD
“BachelorMan: God’s Gift to Women Edition”: Perennial bachelor/ladies man dispenses tips to other male singles, then falls for his mysterious new neighbor; with David DeLuise, Missi Pyle.
“Beautiful Ohio”: Family drama centers on two brothers trying to adjust to life in the rapidly changing ’70s; based on an Ethan Canin short story.
“Becket” on Blu-ray: Excellent 1964 drama, with powerful portrayals by Peter O’Toole as Henry II and Richard Burton as Thomas Becket, Henry’s good friend and the man who defies him after Henry makes Becket the Archibishop of Canterbury.
“Columbia Best Pictures Collection”: Includes “It Happened One Night,” “From Here to Eternity,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “On the Waterfront,” Lawrence of Arabia,” Gandhi,” more; on 14 discs.
“Conjurer”: Concerned photographer and mournful wife move into haunted farmhouse.
“Daryl Hall and John Oates: Live at the Troubadour”: You’re not alone in asking why.
“Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Collector’s Edition”: Entertaining doc about the man considered the father of gonzo journalism.
“Misty”: Brother and sister capture, tame and train wild mare in the 1961 version of “Misty of Chicoteague”; with David Ladd, Anne Seymour, Cicely Tyson.
“The Nutty Professor”: Animated sequel with awkward boy taking his grandfather’s secret potion; with voices by Jerry Lewis and Drake Bell.
“Orthodox Stance”: Documentary about a 24-year-old Orthodox Jewish pro boxer.
“The Ron Howard Spotlight Collection”: “Backdraft,” “Apollo 13,” “Cinderella Man,” “A Beautiful Mind.”
“Sounder”: African-American sharecropper family struggles through adversity during the Depression in this Oscar-nominated 1972 film; with Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield.
“Space Chimps”: Animated simian astronauts are sent on a one-way space trip to a faraway planet run by an evil dictator; animated high jinks ensue; also on Blu-ray.
“Treasury of 20 Storybook Classics”: “Bear Snores On …,” “Diary of a Spider,” more.
TV on DVD
Arctic Exposure With Nigel Marven”; “Band of Brothers” on Blu-ray; “Beverly Hills 90210: The Sixth Season”; “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All”; “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.: The Final Season”; “The Mod Squad: The Second Season, Vol. 1”; “24: Redemption.”
Reach Barry Caine at bcaine@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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Baseball movies on deck

Like other sports, when it comes to baseball there’s the reality and there’s the myth.

The reality covers the game, the players, the business, the scandals, other history and such.

The myth sees players as larger-than-life celebrities, with plays and players immortalized in books, movies and personal anecdotes that grow more elaborate over time.

Perhaps the movie that best celebrates baseball as myth is “The Natural,” recently released on DVD in a fleshed-out version that gives the Robert Redford character more of a back story.

Based on the classic Bernard Malamud book, the film frames the story as the Arthurian legend, with Redford as the legendary king and his bat as Excalibur.

“Field of Dreams” celebrates love of the game and the way baseball connects fathers of sons – and the mythology.

Other movies, such as the William Bendix version of “The Babe Ruth Story,” put so much gloss on the athlete and the story surrounding him that the final product is often more fiction than fact.

Baseball movies that emphasize the truth more than wishful thinking: “Eight Men Out,” about the Black Sox Scandal; “Cobb,” a look at the legendary Ty Cobb (played by Tommy Lee Jones) with all his warts intact; “The Rookie,” with Dennis Quaid as Jim Morris, out of the minors 12 years teaching chemistry and coaching his Texas high school team with he gives the majors a last, late-in-life shot (very cool film); “Fear Strikes Out,” with Anthony Perkins as former troubled Cleveland Indians outfielder Jimmy Piersall Story; “Pride of the Yankees,” with Gary Cooper as ALS-stricken Lou Gehrig; and “The Jackie Robinson Story,” starring the real Robinson.

Many fictional films capture enough of the flavor of the game to qualify as perennials.

Among them: “Major League,” the quintessential baseball comedy for Cleveland natives such as myself; “Bull Durham,”‘ by “Cobb” director Ron Shelton, about life in the minor leagues; “Bingo Long’s Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings,” about the Negro Leagues based on fact; “A League of Their Own,” about the women’s league developed during World War II; “Bang the Drum Slowly,” a Robert De Niro heartbreaker about best-buddy pros on a fictional team; “For Love of the Game,” with Kevin Costner as an aging pitcher looking back at his life the night he finally gets his chance to throw in the bigs; “The Bad News Bears,” first version, about life in Little League; and “Fever Pitch,” comedy about an obsessed Boston fan.

Other fictional comedies that are just plain fun include “Angels in the Outfield” and its update, and “It Happens Every Spring,” with Ray Milland as a chemistry teacher who invents a substance that makes baseballs avoid wood (bats) – and uses it to become a star pitcher.

I’m sure I’m leaving out plenty. Feel free to add your favorites in the “Post a comment” area below.

I’d love to see what I missed.

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Action: Relationship novel laced with movie tidbits

I probably won’t finish “Don’t Make a Scene,” a fairly recent novel by Valerie Block, author of “Was It Something I Said?”

It’s just not talking to me now, but it may talk to you, given the subject matter: relationships and movies and movie trivia, as they punctuate the life of Diane Kurasik, single, soon to be 40 and manager of a Greenwich Village revival house.

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“Gone Baby Gone” & Mental Popcorn & Sex

Hard to say if “Gone Baby Gone” will have legs.

Ben Affleck’s impressive directorial debut has smarts.

Like “Mystic River,” the film is based on a Dennis Lehane novel; meaning, you can expect a complex story with well-crafted characters and you won’t be disappointed.

Ben’s younger brother Casey scores a breakthrough role as a Boston-born private detective who, with his girlfriend-partner, investigates the abduction of a little girl from her apartment.

One of the wonderful byproducts of the situation is the kind of ethical dilemma that keeps people mulling about it for days, even weeks, after they’ve seen the film.

Short digression: If you like chewing over situations where you have to make a choice and neither option appeals, and no matter what you do you will lose something, find a copy of “Ethics (and Other Liabilities: Trying to live right in an amoral world,” a collection of Harry Stein Esquire essays collected in hardback in 1982 and published in paperback sometime after; they’re still timely and fun, easy, provocative reads.

Each reader-friendly piece – “The Curse of Right and Wrong,” “The Neighbor’s Life,” “To Breed or Not to Breed,” “Living with Lies,” 27 in all – is yet another example of what I call “mental popcorn.”

Mental popcorn is some idea that’s fun to think about, discuss, debate. And, in the case of Stein’s examples, it’s also fun to read.

That sort of mental popcorn heats up “Gone Baby Gone.” To identify it would give too much away, and that’s not right.

What is right, because it occurs to me, is to look at an ethical dilemma in a real-life down-and-dirty situation.

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DVD reviews: ‘I’m Not There,’ ‘Over Her Dead Body,’ ‘Romance Collection,’ ‘Teeth’

Another reason to worship at the altar of Cate Blanchett: She nails Bob Dylan with her Oscar-nominated portrayal of the icon in “I’m Not There,” Todd Haynes’ impressionistic portrait of the artist as a self-indulgent enigma.
In all, Haynes casts six actors, including Heath Ledger, Christian Bale and Richard Gere, as Dylan, each representing a different aspect of the performer; outlaw, poet, dreamer/liar, iconoclast, egotistical brat. Some (Ledger’s and Blanchett’s) work is better than others. All are edgy. Blanchett’s, shot in black and white, also serves as a kind of homage to Fellini, with its stylistic, black-and-white cinematography and Fellini-esque portraits. Which is fine, except that the style often distracts from the substance, such as it is.
The film comes in at a few lyrics over two hours but it feels longer. Suggestion: Watch the segments that work for you and fast-forward through the rest. On the plus side, the soundtrack’s packed with great Dylan songs.
Extras: Filmmaker’s commentary; song selections and on-screen song lyrics; deleted scenes; alternate/extended scenes (worth a look); auditions; chat with Haynes; shorts on soundtrack, premiere; Ledger tribute; more.

Supernaturally bad
Just realized I made a typo: Meant to type “Over Her Dead Body”; instead I typed, “Over Her Dead Comedy.” Gotta love that subconscious. Eva Longoria Parker is an expressionless stunner as the ghost of Paul Rudd’s fiancée, killed by an ice angel on their wedding day (morbid but amusing) in this comedy wannabe. Longoria Parker acts bitchy and looks good, but that’s all there is. Rudd again plays a nice guy well, which may be the limit of his range. He’s quick with a quip, though, and he does seem like a nice guy.
Lake Bell gives her all as a psychic/caterer who tries to help Rudd move on with his life, falls for him, then must deal with his interfering ex – the psychic’s the only one who can see her. Other than animals. Did I mention the writing’s terrible? Jason Biggs plays the psychic’s ostensibly gay best pal.
Extras: Nothing. Just as well.

Mom’s Day special
OK, some moms would probably prefer the “Die Hard” set. But more most likely mirror my friend, who would go nuts over “The Romance Collection: Special Edition.” Among the titles is Colin Firth version of “Pride and Prejudice,” which my friend says she’s seen it 17 times (not an exaggeration). She has a thing for Firth. Two other female friends also claim Firth’s their heart’s desire. I don’t get it. But then, that film and this collection don’t target my gender (although “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” an adventure classic with Richard E. Grant, and the lusty “Tom Jones,” with Max Beesley and Samantha Morton, can be seen as cross-gender).
The rest of the set consists of “Emma” with Kate Beckinsale; “Victoria & Albert” with Nigel Hawthorn; “Jane Eyre” with Deborah Findlay and Ciaran Hinds; “Ivanhoe” with Steven Waddington and Hinds; and “Lorna Doone” with Martin Clunes and Amelia Warner.
Extras: Cast bios and filmographies; author bios and biblios; making-of short on Firth’s “Pride.”

Sex is dangerous
A young woman is born with mutated teeth between her legs in “Teeth,” a darkly humorous horror film that can be construed as a women’s-empowerment metaphor, a pro-celibacy parable or a men-are-cads reminder.
Inspired by the vagina dentata myth, the film stars Jess Weixler as an innocent teen cursed with, and frightened by, the teeth thing. The film’s compelling between the gory snap-bite-and-sever sequences, but could use some sharpening.
Extras: Thoughtful commentary by writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein; making-of short; deleted scenes.

Also on DVD
“Ace of Hearts”: A detective (Dean Cain) and his teenage daughter (Britt McKillip) try to prove his German Shepherd partner in the K-9 unit is a good dog ­— yes you are — and innocent of hurting a suspect.
“Bella”: After his career comes crashing down, a hotshot soccer star (Eduardo Verastegui) and a struggling waitress (Tammy Blanchard) connect via the daily special: an act of kindness.
“The Business of Being Born”: Rikki Lake documentary offers insights into childbirth.
“Dans Paris”: After a bad breakup, a man sulks back to Paris, moves in with his divorced dad and testosterone-driven brother, and, with help from women, gets happy again; in French with subtitles.
“David Beckham: Life of an Icon”: Gooaaaaallllll!
“Delirious”: Comedy with Steve Buscemi as an ambitious, low-rent celeb photographer who becomes jealous of a homeless man (Michael Pitt) he hires as an apprentice when the latter sparks with a female pop star.
“First Sunday”: Caper comedy with Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan as petty crooks out to rob a church to pay a debt so one (Cube) can keep his son.
“Frontier(s) Unrated Director’s Cut: Four young fugitives hide out in an inn that harbors an evil family cult and tunnels filled with subhuman cannibals; in French; buy it now.
“Gamers”: Comedy about four slackers who deal with life by trying to break the world record for playing a role-playing game; with John Heard, Beverly D’Angelo, William Katt, Kelly LeBrock.
“Hiya, Kids!! A ‘50s Saturday Morning”: Complete episodes of 21 pioneer, black-and-white kids shows on two discs inclue “Howdy Doody,” “Andy’s Gang,” “Kukla, Fran and Ollie,” “The Cisco Kid.”
“The Hottie & the Nottie”: Paris Hilton stars (not a misprint) is a comedy about a hottie (guess who) who refuses to give her suitor a tumble until he finds a beau for her not-hot girlfriend (Christine Lakin).
“P.S. I Love You”: Letters from her late husband (Gerard Butler) help a woman (Hilary Swank) cope with his death and get on with her life.
“Senior Skip Day”: Geek throws bash at his house to make up for ruining high school senior’s skip day; raunchy comedy with Tara Reid.
“Shiva Rea: Flow Yoga for Beginners”: Tips your mom never gave you on movement and breathing.
“Steel City”: Two brothers react differently to their father’s incarceration; with America Ferrera.
Reach Barry Caine at bcaine@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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