Shattered Glass (Lions Gate, 2003) D: Billy Ray, w/ Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny. Rating: NNNN
chuck lane is the man who discovered that Steven Glass, the rising star on his staff, was inclined to treat journalistic assignments as opportunities to show off his gift for fiction.
Playing Lane, Peter Sarsgaard deservedly received supporting-actor honours from the Toronto, San Francisco and Boston critics associations and from the Village Voice critics poll.
Sarsgaard’s performance is the embodiment of trust betrayed and resentment repressed, the perfect balance for Hayden Christensen’s moist-towel performance as Glass. Everything that made Christensen wrong to play the young Darth Vader makes him right for Glass.
This is a superbly structured drama about journalistic responsibility, and though the box doesn’t list it, there’s an extremely informative commentary with director Billy Ray and Lane.
EXTRAS Director/subject commentary, 60 Minutes interview with Steven Glass. English and Spanish subtitles.
Something’s Gotta Give (Columbia/TriStar, 2003) D: Nancy Meyers, w/ Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson. Rating: NNN
nancy meyers’s romantic fantasy features an Academy Award-nominated performance by Diane Keaton as a successful writer who finds herself nurturing a post-coronary Jack Nicholson in her beach house. At the same time, she’s being courted by Nicholson’s hot young doctor (Keanu Reeves).
Keaton is spectacularly good, reminding us how few American films bother using the resource of our older actresses.
Unfortunately, director Meyers falls in love with scenes, and the film has an overloaded narrative; 130 minutes is kind of long for a romantic comedy. The DVD is very light on extras. There are two commentaries, each with the director and one of her stars, though Keaton is so reticent that Meyers is inclined to refer to her in the third person when she’s sitting right there. Nicholson is more outgoing.
EXTRAS Director/star commentaries, theatrical trailer, set tour with Amanda Peet, deleted scene of Nicholson singing karaoke. English and French versions; English, French, Spanish subtitles.
The Rundown (Universal, 2003) D: Peter Berg, w/ The Rock, Seann William Scott. Rating: NNN
the rundown is a big, noisy action movie featuring Dwayne Johnson (I refuse to refer to an adult as “The Rock”) as a bounty hunter trying to drag Seann William Scott (American Pie’s Stifler) home from South America. Christopher Walken plays the megalomaniacal mine owner who wants them dead.
There’s some other stuff with rebels and a priceless artifact, but mostly it’s fights and chases, all set in a window-rattling 5.1 soundtrack. Johnson is much better in modern dress than as the Scorpion King, and Berg is moderately competent.
The treats on this DVD are Walken’s performance (it’s worth the rent to hear him call the mineworkers “umpalumpas”) and a very funny, occasionally factual commentary by the director and star. Oddly, these are not listed on the box; I was hunting around for a DTS soundtrack (there isn’t one) when I located them.
EXTRAS Director/star commentary, producers’ commentary, theatrical trailer, an assortment of featurettes on technical elements, outtakes, deleted scenes. English, French, Spanish versions and subtitles.
So Close To Paradise (First Run Features, 1998) D: Xiaoshuai Wang, w/ Tong Wang, Yu Shi. Rating: NNNN
from the director of beijing bicycle comes this long-banned urban crime drama about the dark side of Chinese system’s economic freedoms.
Two guys come to the city and fall into a world of loan sharks, prostitutes and petty crime. Then one of them kidnaps a nightclub singer who’s associated with a guy who ripped him off.
So Close To Paradise is less interesting for its gritty narrative than for its portrait of Beijing as crumbling urban hell. As with Beijing Bicycle, Wang is weak on narrative but uncanny with atmosphere, and it’s no surprise that the Chinese government banned this film.
EXTRAS Director interview, theatrical trailer. Mandarin with English subtitles.
Scoop (BFS Video, 1987) D: Gavin Millar, w/ Michael Maloney, Nicola Pagett. Rating: NNN
this granada television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s comic satire of English journalism loses something in its screen translation.
Waugh could use words like a scalpel, and on the page we’re not distracted by the elegance of the period recreation, which is largely unavoidable in this sort of high-end BritLit production.
Michael Maloney stars as Boot, the young writer of a nature column for The Beast who is inadvertently named foreign correspondent to cover an insurgency in Ishmaelia and discovers the absurdities of the job first-hand.
It’s astonishingly prescient, really, when we look at how pack journalism has evolved in recent years, and this production also gives us a look at two departed lions of English film and stage: Donald Pleasence as a choleric press lord and Denholm Elliott as his thoroughly cowed subordinate. Their scenes together make Scoop worth the rent.
EXTRAS Evelyn Waugh Biography and cast profiles (text).
Coming Tuesday, March 30
House Of Sand And Fog (Universal) Oscar winners Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley star as two people at war over a house. Some like it bleak.
The Late Show (Warner) Art Carney and Lily Tomlin star in this 1977 film about an aging PI and a flaky woman who's lost her cat. Robert Benton's directorial debut is an affectionate genre homage.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (New Line/Alliance) A two-disc special edition of a remake. Check the Blue Underground SE of the original film first.
The Final Countdown (Blue Underground) Amazingly, there's a market out there for a two-disc SE of this 1980 time travel oddity about a contemporary destroyer that finds itself off Hawaii on the eve of Pearl Harbor.
CSI: The Complete Third Season (Alliance Atlantis) Look, body parts! William L. Petersen and the gang figure out how those corpses got where they are.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb