nautical nonsense and sponge buddies (2002, Nickelodeon), dir. Jay Lender. Rating: NN
This DVD offers 10 episodes of the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants, which is apparently popular with college students and small children not bothered by the utter lack of internal logic in these stories of a relentlessly cheerful sponge and his friends. Why do they have fire on the floor of the ocean, for example? It's not exactly Ren And Stimpy, or even Dexter's Laboratory on the laugh scale.
EXTRAS: Violent Femmes clip, Backstage Pants "behind the scenes" features, assorted "making of" features.
Big-screen rating: N/A
romeo + juliet: special edition (1996, Fox), dir. Baz Luhrmann w/ Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes. Rating: NNN
Context changes everything. In the wake of Moulin Rouge!, Baz Luhrmann's demented adaptation of Romeo And Juliet doesn't look so bad.
I've never objected to his modernization. The art direction and modern devices are much more cleverly used here than in Ian McKellen's Richard III. What R+J really suffers from is a surfeit of actors who can't read Shakespeare's dialogue to save their SAG cards and who use hysteria as default mode in their acting.
But then, they're just mirroring the director's visual style. Luhrmann rarely seems happy unless the camera is spinning on a gimbel while dropping 60 feet into the middle of an incoherent dance number. Fans who've not gone digital might note that the special-edition VHS of Moulin Rouge!, incorporating some of the DVD's extras, hits stores this week.
EXTRAS: Commentary track with Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, cinematographer Don McAlpine and screenwriter Craig Pearce; three "behind the scenes" featurettes with Luhrmann, McAlpine and Martin; music videos for Young Hearts Run Free and Kissing You; DVD-ROM screenplay bonus; theatrical and television trailers, French dubbed version; English and Spanish subtitles.
Big-screen rating: R + J explodes all over the screen, a masterful display of cinematic insolence. (IR)
zoolander (2001, Paramount), dir. Ben Stiller w/ Stiller, Owen Wilson. Rating: NNN
Stiller's parodic look at the fashion business, based on a character he and his writers created for the VH1 Fashion Awards, is astonishingly uneven. (Why do apparently sane people think Will Ferrell is funny?) But there are some giddy comic highs as Stiller sinks into the voluptuous stupidity of Derek Zoolander, male model. (In the outtakes, one can see the intelligence jump back into Stiller's eyes whenever he breaks character.)
The addition of Owen Wilson's goofball charm as a competing model, Milla Jovovich seemingly auditioning to play Natasha in Rocky And Bullwinkle, some authentically outré art direction and some great cameos (Winona Ryder! David Bowie! Vince Vaughn!) make it a good rent.
Stiller's commentary track, with his co-writers John Hamburg and Drake Sather, is self-deprecatingly funny and shows once again that when people think a movie is underwritten, it usually isn't.
EXTRAS: Director and screenwriter commentary track, extended scenes, deleted scenes, outtakes, original Zoolander sketches from the VH1 Fashion Awards, Start The Commotion music video by the Wiseguys, alternate end credit sequence, trailer and promos, English and French versions, English subtitles.
Big-screen rating: Stiller's male modelling satire is hilarious, if only in spurts. (CB)
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