Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (DreamWorks, 2004) D: Adam McKay, w/ Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell. Rating: NNN
Here's a switch - the commentary is better than the movie. Director Adam McKay and star/co-writer Will Ferrell riff on dirty words, ludicrous future projects - anything but the movie. They bicker, fight with drop-in visitors and co-stars who haven't been invited to the commentary. The highlight is soul singer Lou Rawls, an invited guest who has nothing to do with the movie and no idea why he's there.
McKay and Ferrell build a lively verbal rhythm and some occasionally hilarious improvisations, giving us a good look at comic minds at play. God knows what happened when they went to work on this film.
There's not much point to parodying 1970s TV news, particularly when so many contemporary newscasters out there are just begging for it. The story - Christina Applegate is the first woman journalist in a boys' club newsroom - just lies there flaccid, an excuse for the set pieces.
Ferrell and McKay are Saturday Night Live veterans, and Anchorman, shot in a bland, 70s television style, shows it. The slapstick comedy seems underdeveloped; compare Ferrell's turn on jazz flute with Val Kilmer's rendition of Tutti Frutti in Top Secret.
There are some good lines, but the actors' one-note performances don't really do them justice. Ferrell seems to think Ron Burgundy is a good character, but he's mostly just shtick.
Extras McKay/Ferrell commentary, bloopers, deleted scenes, ESPN audition and MTV Music Awards interview with Ferrell as Burgundy, making-of featurette, Afternoon Delight music video, cast and crew bios, production notes. English, French versions, English, French, Spanish subtitles. 5.1 sound.
Paparazzi (Fox, 2004) D: Paul Abascal, w/ Cole Hauser, Dennis Farina, Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin. Rating: NN
As a standard revenge flick, Paparazzi ranks somewhere below the original Death Wish, meaning it's nothing special but has a few good moments.
A Hollywood star sets out to murder the harassing paparazzi who've inadvertently put his child in a coma. But Cole Hauser lacks the intensity of Charles Bronson in his prime. We're supposed to believe Hauser's character is enraged, but he seems barely annoyed.
Most of the fun comes via veterans Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan) and Daniel Baldwin (Homicide: Life On The Street) hamming it up as the lead villains. And they are villains. Paparazzi wants to be an exposé of its subject; the tricks and gadgets we see are authentic. But the photographers are caricatures, all heavy-breathing malice and bad clothes.
Hauser's A-list movie star is just as fake. Given that we live in the age of paparazzi, he's just not believable. And the whole thing has an unwholesome feel, in effect asking us to root for the rich against the poor.
The DVD extras are poor: first-time director Paul Abascal's commentary is highly uninformative, and the making-of featurette is mostly eye candy.
Extras Director commentary, making-of and stunts featurettes, deleted scenes, wide-screen and full-screen versions, trailer. English, French, Spanish versions, subtitles in English and Spanish. Dolby 5.1 and surround sound.
Wicker Park (MGM, 2004) D: Paul McGuigan, w/ Josh Hartnett, Rose Byrne, Matthew Lillard, Diane Kruger. Rating: NNN
Wicker Park could have been a good movie. Its original incarnation, the 1996 French feature L'Appartement, won a best first feature César for writer/director Gilles Mimouni. But in the hands of Paul McGuigan it just peters away to nothing.
McGuigan always had style, and Wicker Park, his fourth feature, uses a shifting, floating split screen with mirrors and distorting lenses, all drenched in eerie pop.
Somebody is trying to prevent young Matthew from reconnecting with his girlfriend, who disappeared two years ago, and she could be in trouble. The mood is ominous, and the plot seems to point strongly in one direction but then fails to deliver. The grand climax has no tension; if he misses her at the airport, he still knows how to find her. They've got phones. These were vital in the buildup but are suddenly forgotten in the clinch.
Star Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down) is competent, but has nothing to do but yearn romantically while onscreen alone, hunting in places where the girl isn't. He's supposed to be abandoning his promising career and upcoming marriage, but the movie throws that away without so much as a backwards glance. The three-N rating is for mood alone.
Extras Extremely dull commentary by McGuigan and Hartnett (who appear to need antidepressants), deleted scenes, bloopers, music video, photo gallery, soundtrack spot, original theatrical trailer. English version in 5.1 sound. French version, English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Millennium, The Complete Second Season (Fox, 1997) created by Chris Carter, w/ Lance Henriksen, Megan Gallagher. Rating: NNNN
Millennium isn't an easy series to like. Its hard to watch it without comparing it to The X Files and noticing that it's not quite as entertaining. Yet some of the reasons why that's true are exactly what makes Millennium good.
Fox Mulder has his Scully and his wonky sense of humour. Frank Black has no one - his wife and child are more his hope for happiness than real intimates - and he's pretty much down all the time. And that's the core of Millennium, a spiritual horror story that says, "This is who we are. We are opposed to supernatural/sci-fiction that says, 'The truth is out there. '"
Loneliness, desperation and dread are the show's stock in trade. It helps a lot that Lance Henriksen as the anguished criminal profiler is an engaging actor with the perfect face for the part. But it's still heavy sledding.
Realizing this, the creators crafted a few comic episodes that lighten the tone while leaving the essential world view intact. Somehow Satan Got Behind Me is a gem reminiscent of a good Twilight Zone episode: four demons in a donut shop recount their recent exploits.
The Mikado episode incorporates the Internet in a way that ratchets up the tension. A slasher does his work on a webcam site; he could be anywhere, and the clock's ticking. It's interesting to compare the crime-fighting activities of the fictional Millennium Group with their real-life counterpart, the Academy Group, who served as consultants on the series and discuss their work in the extras.
EXTRAS Commentaries on only two episodes, one by writer Michael R. Perry and one by director Thomas J. Wright; excellent making-of documentary that skips the mechanics of production to focus on development of characters and ideas; Academy Group featurette on bizarre true crime and detection methods. English, Spanish, French versions; English and Spanish subtitles. Dolby surround sound.
Coming Tuesday, January 11
The Fifth Element (Sony, 1997) Bruce Willis runs amusingly amok in a wonky story set in a wonkier future. Wide-screen superbit edition with extras on stars, aliens and the visuals.
Leon, The Professional (Sony, 1994) Jean Reno and Gary Oldman play in the tale of a childlike hit man and a wise little girl. Two-disc wide-screen special edition with extras including cast reunion, career view of Reno.
Silver City (Sony, 2004) John Sayles is always concerned with realpolitik. Here, he goes the thriller route in a plot about a rising politician and a corpse.
The Village (Disney, 2004) This was counted as one of M. Night Shyamalan's misses but deserves a second look for its atmosphere.
Andrew Dowler is a long-time Toronto film writer and former programmer at Showcase.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb