‘Gone Baby Gone’ is good baby good
If there’d been any justice, “Gone Baby Gone,” Ben Affleck’s taut directorial debut, should’ve been a contenduh for best picture.
For one thing, it has the year’s most thought-provoking ending.
Then there’s the way Affleck bathes the film in a tough, Boston, working-class atmosphere that complements the edgy story based on “Mystic River” writer Dennis Lehane’s novel.
Affleck made all the right moves, beginning with believing Casey Affleck, his younger brother, could carry the movie. Casey does just that as a private investigator who, with his girlfriend/partner (Michelle Monaghan), works with reluctant police officers to locate a missing child.
The younger Affleck, who earned a supporting-actor nomination for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” hits the daily double with this go-round as a shrewd, hardened but compassionate shamus still living in the neighborhood where he, the missing girlâ€™s family and many of the suspects grew up.
The supporting cast Monaghan, Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman as cops and Amy Madigan (Harris’ wife) as the girl’s troubled aunt — also excel, but it’s Oscar-nominated Amy Ryan who is the real standout as the girl’s low-rent single mother.
Extras: An overly ballyhooed alternate ending consists of a couple lines of narration added to the last scene, which plays better without them; an extended opening gives a peek at the private-eye couple at work; audio commentary; a look at the pains taken to capture the flavors of the area; deleted scenes.
Jane, Jane, Jane
Thereâ€™s no escape: Last week, it was “The Jane Austen Book Club,” this week, “Becoming Jane. What’s next: “Calamity Jane” (in which Jane Austen moons over Wild Bill Hickock)?
In “Becoming Jane” — whose drawn-out storytelling grew difficult to sit through — Anne Hathaway harnesses her natural comedic tendencies, letting loose only in snippets of wit as she portrays the future author experiencing love, life and class troubles that lay the groundwork for her novel “Pride and Prejudice.” (The film’s fiction but based on fact.)
Hathaway, who takes some getting used to in the role, brings spunk and soulfulness to the well-dressed film. “Atonement”‘s James McAvoy, the heartthrob of the moment, plays Tom Lefroy, the rascally, wastrel attorney with whom Jane becomes smitten — to the consternation of her hardscrabble mother (scene-stealing Julie Walters).
Mom wants Jane to eschew affection and marry well, for Jane’s sake and for their family’s. All Jane must do is swallow her standards and say “yes” to the wealthy neighbor’s (Maggie Smith) stodgy son. The period’s rigidity drizzles through the story.
Extras: A who-is-Jane Austen piece with an authority from the “Jane Austen Book Club” extras; pop-up facts and footnotes; deleted scenes; audio commentary.
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart play adversarial chefs who eventually start cooking in “No Reservations,” the year’s most predictable romantic comedy-of-sorts.
Based on the German film “Mostly Martha,” the story focuses primarily on Zeta-Jones’ workaholic character and her relationship with her gloomy young niece (Abigail Breslin), whom she inherits when the child’s parents die in a car crash.
Clueless at mothering, Zeta-Jones’ character amps up the insecurity when she returns from a brief leave to find the handsome, gregarious sous chef Eckhart hired to help out in the upscale restaurant.
Eckhart is the film’s bright light. Zeta-Jones creates a believable, slow-to-warm, stick-in-the-mud. Breslin is Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”). The food scenes are the movie’s most delectable.
The dialogue needs seasoning, but despite the picture’s lame spots, it’s an OK pick for Valentine’s Day viewing.
Extras: A Food Network episode of “Unwrapped.”
I’m from Venus. You?
Widowed sci-fi writer John Cusack decides to adopt a child as a single man in “Martian Child,” a poignant, offbeat story that rides well on the chemistry between Cusack and Bobby Coleman as the 7-year-old title character, an orphan who isolates himself from others by insisting he’s from Mars.
Naturally, emotionally damaged child appeals to emotionally damaged adult — Freud 101. Gradually, they build trust and learn lessons.
Though oozy with syrup in parts, the movie plays better than you expect, in large part because of the casting. Joan Cusackplays the writer’s sister and Amanda Peet is his girlfriend.
Extras: Watchable ones covering the real “Martian Child” (subject of an acclaimed story by the real boy’s father, David Gerrold — who also wrote “Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles”) and Coleman’s casting and preparation (the director compares the boy to Kurt Cobain in terms of spontaneity and charisma); commentary; deleted scenes.
Also on DVD
“The Amateurâ€™â€™: Residents of a small town work with the community to realizyou expect, in large part because of the casting; with Jeff Bridges, Ted Danson, Lauren Graham.
“Blue Stateâ€™â€™: Deciding to honor his vow to move to Canada if Bush won the 2004 election, a young activist (Breckin Meyer) finds a quirky hitchhiker (Anna Paquin) to join him in this coming-of-age comedy.
“The Charlie Chan Collection â€“ Volume Four”: “Charlie Chan in Honolulu,â€™â€™ “â€¦in Reno,â€™â€™ “â€¦in The City of Darknessâ€™â€™ and “â€¦at Treasure Island.â€™â€™
“Dirty Laundryâ€™â€™: In a kind of lower-budget “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins,â€™â€™ the culture-clash comedy takes a successful New York writer back to his traditional Southern home after a 10-year absence; with Loretta Devine, Rockmond Dunbar and Jenifer Lewis.
“Furnace â€“ Unratedâ€™â€™: Supernatural creepiness with Tom Sizemore, Ja Rule and Danny Trejo in a prison where bloody suicides are the norm after an old wing is unsealed.
“Love Is My Religionâ€™â€™: Ziggy Marleyâ€™s 2006 concert in L.A.
“The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nunâ€™â€™: Documentary about an aging Danish bachelor who teams with a stubborn Russian nun to transform a rundown castle he donates into a Russian Orthodox monastery.
“Royal Tramp 1 & 2â€™â€™: Hong Kong star Stephen Chow powers 1990s martial-arts comedies about the adventures of a con man who fights, loves, and saves a dynasty.
“Snow Buddiesâ€™â€™: Live-action Disney comedy about puppies in snow.
“Tyler Perryâ€™s Why Did I Get Marriedâ€™â€™: Perry drops the drag for this look at four couples who examine their relationships during a Colorado getaway.
“We Own the Nightâ€™â€™: One of a detectiveâ€™s sons becomes a cop (Mark Wahlberg), the other (Joaquin Phoenix) hangs with mobsters in this crime thriller.
TV on DVD
“Blade: The Seriesâ€™â€™; “The Comedy Central Roast of Flavor Flav: Extended & Uncensoredâ€™â€™; “General Hospital: Night Shift, Season 1â€™â€™; “Girlfriends: The Third Seasonâ€™â€™; “Family Ties: The Third Seasonâ€™â€™; “Tell Me You Love Me: The Complete First Season.â€™â€™
March 11: â€œNo Country for Old Menâ€