Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
(Focus/Alliance Atlantis, 2004) D: Michel Gondry, w/ Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet. Rating: NNNN
like most of charlie kaufman's screenplays (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is an elaborately constructed dramatic game that forces us into the hyperactive world view of the film's characters. In this story of a pair of ill-matched lovers (Carrey and Winslet) who reunite after using a special procedure to erase their memories of each other, Kaufman's found an audience-friendly emotional core for his construction. Get that Chinese puzzle box open and find the love story.
The stars and a supporting cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson give superb performances. Like all recent films from Kaufman scripts, it rewards multiple viewings. The commentary's rather cryptic and production-oriented, but the making-of has some interesting stuff, including Winslet's observation that her wild and out-of-control Clementine is actually the Jim Carrey character in the film.
EXTRAS Director/screenwriter commentary, Jim Carrey/Michel Gondry featurette, short making-of featurette, deleted scenes, Lacuna commercial. English and French versions, English captions, French subtitles.
In Living Color: Season Two
(20th Century Fox, 1992) Creator: Keenan Ivory Wayans, w/ Damon Wayans, Jim Carrey. Rating: NNNN
This may be the best season of in Living Color. The company had jelled, the writing was very solid and Keenan Ivory Wayans's ego hadn't blown up to the point where he tried to shoehorn himself into every single scene. And, of course, you get the occasional glimpse of the then unknown Jennifer Lopez shaking it as one of the Fly Girls. Due to its half-hour format and talent-packed cast, you can go a whole show without seeing certain people, so you don't get tired of anybody.
Since Damon Wayans has settled into the sitcom My Wife And Kids, it's worth remembering how wild and funny he was as a young comic: the most disgusting homeless person in history, Homey the Clown, the laser precision of his impressions. Put it this way - Damon Wayans was the funniest person on a show with Jim Carrey in the cast. Fox has packed 26 episodes onto four discs.
EXTRAS Selected scene commentary by writers Kim Bass and Buddy Sheffield, season two overview, character and appreciation featurettes. English captions, Spanish subtitles.
My New Gun
(Columbia/TriStar, 1992) D: Stacy Cochran, w/ Diane Lane, James LeGros. Rating: NNN
Directed by freshly minted Columbia grad Stacy Cochran, this is a small, precisely observed social comedy about a young homemaker (Diane Lane), her odd neighbour (James LeGros) and the gun her husband (Stephen Collins) brings into their home "for protection," though what they need to be protected from in their comfortably bland suburb is always in question. Lane and LeGros are wonderful, and Cochran plays their fundamental qualities - her emotional solidity and his psychological weightlessness - against each other to great comic effect. Barely released after a short run on the festival circuit, it's a film that deserves better. It offers a dramatic look at the American culture of fear and guns a good decade before Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine. The two would make an interesting double bill, come to think of it.
EXTRAS None, which is annoying. It's not like Cochran's doing much these days - she could have sat for a commentary on her best film, if Columbia had asked. English, Spanish subtitles
(Disney, 2004) D: John Lee Hancock, w/ Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid. Rating: NN
The Alamo was slated as a christmas release (it was also once scheduled as a Ron Howard film starring Russell Crowe) but was delayed because it "wasn't ready." Translation: studio recut, evidenced by the fact that while there is some director commentary on the deleted-scenes section of the DVD, the quite interesting commentary on the film is by the two historical consultants. Either Hancock declined to discuss the film or Disney didn't want the director spending two hours explaining what his version of the film looked like. The Alamo is a decently made, occasionally dull historical epic. The one thing that makes it worthwhile is the exquisitely judged performance of Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett, a man puzzled by the contradictions between his public mythology and private reality.
EXTRAS Historians' commentary, deleted scenes with commentary, promotional making-of featurettes. English, French versions, French, Spanish subtitles.
(Columbia/TriStar, 1979) D: Roman Polanski, w/ Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth. Rating: NNN
Aaaargh. sorry, had to say it. Roman Polanski's Tess is one of the most beautifully photographed films of the last 30 years. Cinematographers Geoffrey Unsworth, who died during production, and Ghislain Cloquet, who completed the film, won an Oscar for it. Columbia/TriStar's edition goes cheap, cramming a 170-minute feature and 70 minutes of extras onto a single disc. It achieves that by transferring the film using a lot of visual compression and doing the transfer at a low bit rate - less than 5 megabits per second for most of the film. The whole film is there, but there's a hellacious loss of detail in the darker parts of the screen - as in no detail in the shadows, where there was detail the first time around.
And Since Columbia is busy with things like multiple editions of Spider-Man and Resident Evil, you just know the studio won't do Tess again.
EXTRAS Hour-plus making-of retrospective documentary. English, French, Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, October 5
Fahrenheit 9/11 (Alliance Atlantis, 2004) It's the sort of movie that makes us angry that we aren't Americans so we can't vote against Bush.
Tanner 88 (Criterion/Morningstar, 1988) Robert Altman and Garry Trudeau collaborated on this legendary HBO mini-series that sets Altman regular Michael Murphy loose as a fictional presidential candidate on the real campaign trail. A very young Cynthia Nixon (Sex And The City) plays his daughter.
Aladdin: Platinum Edition (Disney, 1992) Robin Williams, back when he was funny, as the Genie. Two-disc edition, commentaries, deleted scenes.
The Hunger (Warner, 1982) No indication if there are any extras on this overdue piece of chic trash, like the unrated version of the Catherine Deneuve/Susan Sarandon lesbian scene.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb