The Glass House – By Peter J. Hannah

Glass House starts with a fairly routine premise, sports the stylish, almost clinical look of the typical “”Danger Right Under Your Nose”” thriller, yet never crosses the threshold into the realm of predictability. While far from original, it does side-step plot holes that I thought would inevitably swallow up the entire production. Instead it arrives, somewhat jostled – but intact to its inevitable conclusion.

And it’s delivered safely by young Leelee Sobieski, a bona fide star on the rise. Earlier roles in “”Here On Earth,”” “”Never Been Kissed”” and Stanley Kubrick’s “”Eyes Wide Shut”” have had the angelic beauty braving cancer, geekdom and a libidinous Tom Cruise, in that order. “”House”” allows her to let her board-straight hair down and act like a teenager, quite possibly for the first time in her professional career. Ruby Baker (Sobieski) could be the model teenager. Her life revolves around her girlfriends, she sneaks cigarettes while cruising the Strip, she loathes her meddlesome younger brother, Rhett (Trevor Morgan), and she has the type of parents (Rita Wilson, Michael O’Keefe) that are too casual and understanding to be true. Her world is put on hold, though, when Ruby returns home one evening to learn that her parents were killed in a car accident after celebrating their 10th anniversary.The Bakers’ will stipulates that Ruby and Rhett are to live with Terry and Erin Glass (Stellan Skarsgard, Diane Lane), the family’s longtime neighbors who have since moved to a plush Pacific hideaway in Malibu. Not parents themselves, the Glasses successfully attempt to buy Rhett’s love with Nintendo and flashy gizmos throughout the house. Ruby, however, is slow to warm to her new guardians, and with good reason. The suspicious couple barely disguise the fact the they’re withholding secrets. Erin sports a heroine chic glaze to her eyes that she credits to Diabetes, and Terry’s rarely without a short glass filled with vodka on ice. Ruby digs a little below the couple’s surface, and uncovers enough clues to assume the Glasses may have been responsible for her parents’ deaths and are now after the children’s $4 million inheritance.Like any decent thriller, “”House”” keeps its cards close to its vest as long as it can. Terry and Erin’s abnormal behavior is explained with flimsy, but feasible, reasoning, and Ruby’s various attempts to solicit help from outside parties are foiled, though not through any clever devices. However, a running subplot and countless references to Shakespeare’s “”Hamlet”” continuously remind us that something, indeed, is rotten in the state of the Glass house before the film drops its veil and gives way to being a straight-shooting revenge drama.TV director Daniel Sackheim relies heavily on old-fashioned tricks to conjure up a commotion and establish mood. It rains more in this film than it has in southern California this entire year. When not doctoring the picture’s pitch, Sackheim slings strangely perverse material at us. We’re treated to PG-13-testing shots of Leelee in her bra and bikini as she swims at 3 a.m., all so lecherous Terry can ogle her as only a foster father can. It’s strange, not because the film tries to get its attractive lead into skimpy outfits, but because Sobieski allows it. Having already established herself as a talented, classy actress, this just seems like a minor step backwards. Most of “”House”” feels silly. When the long-lost uncle (Chris Noth) introduces himself at the parents’ funeral, you know he’ll turn up later, but when Ruby finally calls him for help, he’s out of the country. And the gifted Lane, who’s itching for that breakout role, does very little with the chemically-dependent money whore Erin, a character that could have been a carnival ride of emotions for the right actress. Still, “”House”” holds your interest, thanks to Wesley Strick’s surprising screenplay, which earns points for avoiding what I originally thought to be obvious foreshadowings and unavoidable cliches. One thing I couldn’t get over, though, was the blatant corporate product placements. Perhaps doubting Sobieski’s ability to open her own film, “”House”” obviously took on some sponsors to guarantee a little up-front cash. So when Terry drives his silver Jaguar while under the influence of Kettle One vodka (his drink of choice), you can be sure Ruby is going to e-mail somebody about it from her IBM laptop. Shameless. Grade: C-

(Not) Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

As a result of the tragic events that unfolded in New York on Tuesday, several upcoming Hollywood productions were postponed, altered or canceled. Here’s a short list of the moves Hollywood made after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center:

– Teaser trailer for Sony’s “”Spider-Man,”” which features the hero stringing bank robbers up on a web between the Twin Towers, has been pulled from theaters and the Web. USA Today reports that the filmmakers also will airbrush the buildings out of the final film.- Tim Allen’s comedy “”Big Trouble”” has been rescheduled for 2002, based on a subplot involving a character who sneaks a bomb onto an airplane.- “”Collateral Damage,”” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest about a fireman who loses his wife and son in a terrorist attack, has been postponed indefinitely. – Ed Burns’ (“”She’s The One””) romantic comedy, “”Sidewalks of New York,”” reportedly has been moved back from September until November.- An upcoming Jackie Chan film, “”Nosebleed,”” is being altered as a result of the attack. The original concept involved Chan as a window washer at the Trade Center who foils a terrorist’s plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty. The plot will be re-worked.The television industry also made some major moves as a result of the attack. The Emmy’s, scheduled for Sunday night, have been postponed. And Thursday morning, NBC announced that they will delay the launch of their Fall Television schedule, and urged the other networks to so the same.– Sean O’Connell

Hardball – By Sean O’Connell

“”Hardball”” might have been a decent movie, if it wasn’t so racially insensitive, monotonous, stale, insulting and completely predictable. In the spirit of the film’s cliched screenplay, I’ll try and describe this mess using as many baseball catchphrases as possible.

For starters, author Daniel Coyle lobs a sure-fire screenplay based on his nonfiction novel,

Hannibal: Special Edition – By Sean O’Connell

At the conclusion of Jonathan Demme’s benchmark thriller “”The Silence of the Lambs,”” Dr. Hannibal “”The Cannibal”” Lecter hangs up the phone on Special Agent Clarice Starling to, as he so eloquently put it, have an old friend for dinner. It’s a delicious, open-ended conclusion that invites us to fill in our own blanks, as this vicious killer we’ve just spent two hours digesting walks freely into the sunset, like a post-modern cowboy who’s managed to outwit the law once again. Where would he go? What would he do? Who would he eat? Unfortunately, “”Hannibal”” answers many of those questions, robbing Lecter of some of his mystery in an effort to ring a sequel out of a Hollywood classic.

We learn, though not immediately, that Lecter has established a life for himself in Italy, drawing on his extensive knowledge of classic art to earn status points with the local intelligente. Indeed, Lecter lives a somewhat civilized life amidst the ruins of Florence, undetected (though he brazenly sports no disguise) and quite content.Until Mason Verger (Gary Oldman, unable to act under a pound of makeup), the horribly disfigured sole survivor of a Lecter attack, concocts an elaborate plan to lure the good doctor out of (gasp!) retirement, a plan that involves Lecter’s prized pupil, FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore).””Hannibal”” works from Thomas Harris’ beach read of a novel, but feels incomplete right off the bat, since both Jodie Foster and Demme passed on this second helping replaced by Moore and “”Gladiator”” director Ridley Scott. The changes, and Harris’ book itself, completely alter the story’s focus off of the pressed up heroine (Starling) and onto the shoulders of the vicious killer (Lecter). It’s awkward, as we, the audience, are now asked to relate with a relentlessly cold cannibal, instead of the vulnerable pursuer. Scott’s flashy style and scratchy camera effects also differ from Demme’s assured approach. Starling’s character barely misses a step in the transition between actresses. While I would have preferred Foster for continuity’s sake, Moore makes the most with what’s really a minor supporting role. What prevents “”Hannibal”” from being a great movie is Harris’ material, which felt so half-hearted as a book that the emotion, or lack of it, carries over onto the screen, no matter what Hopkins, Moore and Scott try. For the film’s first quarter, the Italy-based Lecter appears as terrifying as a grandparent vacationing off the coast of Tampa, Florida. Verger’s “”ingenious”” plot to nab Lecter disintegrates in the film’s first lackluster finale, which just sets up a drawn out dance between the cannibal and the agent that’s gruesome, unfulfilling and bound to pick your brain for days. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the return of Hannibal Lecter. Modern cinema has yet to produce a more sinister villain. But either dream up something for him to do the next time you drag him out of his resting place or leave him be.Grade: CTHE EXTRAS“”Hannibal”” lacks; MGM’s 2-disc “”Hannibal”” DVD does not. The studio’s disc is a classic example of a production that planned for the DVD release back during the planning stages of the film itself. The extensive five-part feature “”Breaking the Silence”” proves that, which begins with the film’s casting scandals (Foster’s in…Foster’s out…Demme’s interested…Demme’s not touching it) to it’s inevitable marketing challenges. One particularly interesting feature documents the film’s bi-coastal industry screenings in NY and LA, following audiences into theaters and actually recording their reactions to various scenes. It actually makes you feel like an insider as you sit comfortably on your couch.Producers Dino and Martha De Laurentiis, Hopkins, Moore and the cast all contribute to the extras via lengthy featurettes, but it’s Scott who pours out his soul to viewers in a number of additional sequences. The director provides a feature-length commentary, breaks down the opening fish market raid into a multi-angle analysis, proctors over almost 10 additional scenes, including an alternate ending that barely differs from the original, and narrates an in-depth look at the art of storyboarding. His above-and-beyond approach to the DVD earns the disc a final grade of…Grade: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCEThomas Harris waited ten years to revisit the atrocious Lecter, and then rushed through an inadequate novel that soften the character and turns him into more of a figurine than a figure to fear. “”Hannibal”” stays loyal to the book until the end, where it makes up some blunders of its own. The film can’t compare to the original “”Lambs,”” but it’s clear Scott never tried to. He struck out and created his own film, which falls flat on its own face. The two-disc DVD, however, is a good buy for the extras. Technically, they dissect the art of moviemaking, even if the movie they study is less than spectacular.Final Grade: C+By Sean O’ConnellSept. 12, 2001

Memento – By Sean O’Connell

Writer/director Christopher Nolan’s exhilarating modern noir tells the story, in reverse order, of a man plagued by short-term memory loss who must overcome his own illness in order to solve who murdered his wife.

Working from a series of Polaroid pictures with notes scratched into them, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce, “”L.A. Confidential””) follows clues tattooed on his body that he hopes point him to his wife’s killer. Considering the fact that he can not remember facts much longer than 15 minutes, Leonard must rely on strangers – like the ardent Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) or the suspicious Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss, “”The Matrix””) – to assist him on his mission. The problem is he’s never really sure whether or not these people are trying to help him or exploit him to achieve their own sinister objectives. And, thanks to the film’s reversionary style, neither are we. Nolan’s noir takes bold leaps on multiple levels, from characterization, tone and mood to plot development. The director’s brilliant attention to narrative structure serves as the glue that holds the whole project together, forcing us to pay close attention and learn several things in advance, only to find out their importance minutes later. Pearce gives an admirably vacant portrayal of a man driven by hatred, but incapable of ever completing his task. And “”Memento”” even advances its original theory when it suggests that Leonard may have already enacted his revenge, but just doesn’t remember it. Such a gorgeous twist can only work in a thriller wound as tightly as this. Unlike its tangled counterpart, “”The Usual Suspects,”” Nolan’s “”Memento”” lacks that revealing conclusion that wraps everything up in a neat little package. Instead, the film’s climax, which leaves you somewhere in the middle of the narrative, only unearths more questions, guaranteeing that you’ll be discussing this one long after you’ve popped the disc out of your player. A Sundance smash, “”Memento”” has yet to be challenged for the title, “”Best Film of 2001.””Grade: ATHE EXTRASOne wold hope for a few more revelation on the “”Memento”” DVD. You don’t get them here, but the disc, packaged by Columbia TriStar, is entertaining none the less. Anyone who checked out the film’s website, (it’s memento backwards), will recognize the documents enclosed in the film’s first feature. They further the story, taking up where the events of the film’s intro leave off and offering a bit more insight and detail about Leonard’s plight. There is also a tattoo gallery that examines the markings made on Leonard’s body, including both actual pictures and artist’s sketches. Though Nolan doesn’t provide a running commentary (I was anxious to see how he was going to approach that one), the DVD does include an interview “”N.Y. Times”” critic Elvis Mitchell conducted with the director for the Independent Film Channel. There are also director and cast biographies, as well as a trailer for Nolan first film, “”Following.”” But anyone looking for in-depth answers to “”Memento””‘s puzzles won’t find them within. Nolan instead challenges you to conjure them up yourself, and I have to thank him for that.Grade: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCEMy first viewing on “”Memento,”” in a crowded theater, was interrupted by the lady sitting behind me, who pestered her husband for two straight hours to explain what was going on. He couldn’t, and neither could I, but we both wanted her to stop talking. I appreciated being able to watch it again, at my own pace, and you will, too. It’s the type of movie that requires multiple viewings, unlocking pieces to its mystery with each new viewing, but also creating more possibilities along the way. Was Leonard successful? We may never know.Final Grade: A-

Rock Star – By Sean O’Connell

Have you ever worshipped a band? Members of the KISS Army might know what I’m talking about, but few others will. I’m not talking about buying all of the band’s albums, or requesting their songs on the radio, or even hanging a poster or two on your wall, because that’s not enough.I’m talking about pledging your undying love for a band. Emulating each member, not by copying their wardrobe but by mastering their on-stage body movements or distinguishable dance steps. I’m talking about drinking in each recorded note of every imported B-side, even if it’s part of the soundtrack for that crappy Freddie Prinze Jr. movie.

When you go to a party, regardless of whose house it’s in, you walk over to the stereo and slap in the tape of your favorite band for all to hear. In time, as delusional as it sounds, you might even consider yourself a distant member of said musical act. Have you ever worshipped a band that much? Because Chris Coles has, and “”Rock Star”” tells his extraordinary story.Pittsburgh-based Steel Dragons tribute band Blood Pollution has an ace up their sleeve. Front man Chris Coles (Mark Wahlberg), a mild-mannered copy machine technician, possess extraordinary pipes and an uncanny ability to replicate the vocal stylings of Dragons singer Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng). But Coles’ slavish devotion to Dragons contributes to his perfectionism, and his strict stage demands push his bandmates too far. Fed up, they unanimously vote to replace him with a rival band’s lead singer, sending Chris back to his dead-end day job. Thankfully, Chris isn’t out of the music business long. Professional groupies Nina and Samantha play a video tape of Blood Pollution’s last show for the members of Steel Dragon themselves, and they invite Chris to L.A. to audition to replace Beers, who has fallen out of favor with the band. Setting up one of the film’s finest scenes, Chris and his girlfriend/manager Emily (Jennifer Aniston) arrive at the mansion-based headquarters of Steel Dragons where Chris gets to meet his heroes and roll the dice on fulfilling his rock and roll dreams.Chris passes the initial test, but his trial by fire has just begun. Before long, the rigors of the job he thought he wanted take its toll on the admittedly-superficial life he led, and Chris realizes that the hours he wasted fantasizing about being someone else never gave him any time to establish his own personality. Can “”Rock Star”” actually be asking us to feel bad for the heavy metal hero who fills his days with enough pills, booze and groupies to gag Ozzy in his tracks? Initially, yes, but midway through, under the guiding hand of knowledgeable director Stephen Herek (who helmed similar fare in “”Mr. Holland’s Opus””), “”Rock Star”” begins to peel away the cliched elements of the touring saga and reach for genuine emotions. Of course, the film never strays too far. Touching mentoring speeches are shared backstage and on tour buses, but they’re delivered by bloated road managers (Timothy Spall) and haggard drummers (Jason Bonham) hooked up to dialysis machines.Herek knows exactly how this story ends, but he takes his time getting there. Instead of chopping up his scenes into unrecognizable pulp, Herek allows them build to refreshingly satisfactory climaxes. There’s also a clever sense of cyclical irony established as the film progresses that is unexpected but appreciated. When necessary, the director even reduces the film’s ballsy pop metal soundtrack to a whisper, allowing crucial bits of dialogue between the leads to be heard and savored. It’s a credit to John Stockwell’s able script, because the soundtrack does indeed grind, perfectly capturing everything beautiful and cheesy about hair metal and lending a sense of credibility and sarcasm. AC/DC, a band that also replaced their original singer with a sound-alike, is cranked on more than one occasion.The secret, though, is Wahlberg, who continues to draw on his versatility and range, shedding the albatross of his hip-hop background and establishing himself as a genuine leading man. In one scene, when he and Aniston’s Emily arrive at Steel Dragons’ mansion and gawk at the band’s assorted memorabilia, Wahlberg’s eyes are engulfed with glee, but he buckles it under a belt of composure, like a kid fidgeting at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning who can see the back tire of a shiny new bicycle from his vantage point. His raw enthusiasm and fanatical devotion make him the ultimate tour guide to this enthusiastic romp through a world that is becoming all too familiar to us after films like “”Almost Famous”” and “”This Is Spinal Tap”” but still has enough material to pack a concert hall to the rafters.Grade: B+By Sean O’ConnellSept. 7, 2001

Dramatica Pro, The Ultimate Writer’s Companion, by Michelle Alexandria

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book and came away scratching your head, thinking “that screenplay sucked. I could have written something better.” Come on, be honest, of course you have. You have ideas, I have ideas – hell we all have ideas. Story ideas are a dime a dozen, what separates writers from wannabes is the ability to actually sit down and create a fully realized, three-dimensional tale, that is so riveting that the reader can’t put it down until the words “The End” appear.

You think that these writers must be genius’ to be able weave such tales: that the hands of god have cosmically touched these writers. Well if you thought that, you would be wrong. The dirty little secret in Hollywood is that a large chunk of today’s hot screenwriters use a fascinating piece of software called “”Dramatica Pro.””

“Dramatica Pro” is a software package that its developers, Screenplay Systems, Inc. call “The Ultimate Writer’s Companion.” This software package steps you through the entire process of outlining a story. It does this by handholding you through the entire process of brainstorming your story. The Dramatica Query System (DQS) presents you with numerous questions relating to your story. You have several different ways you can proceed, you can either use the system’s quick start query engine which will help you create your story outline by asking you 12 “Essential” questions about your plot, characters, and story points – if you go through this short little guide you will be well on your way to creating your first story in less than a day.

Most writing tools would just stop there, but Dramatica goes to extremes with it’s full blown “story form” path. If you select this option be ready to really think about your story. The full DQS will ask you well over 400 questions related to your story, characters, themes. Going through this process will let you outline your story and think about every conceivable variation or potential plot dynamic.If you run into the dreaded 2nd act problem, there’s a unique feature called “spin the wheel” which will randomly shuffle some of your earlier responses. So for instance if you originally wanted your main character to be the silent stoic type who remains rigid throughout the story, the system will randomly change some of your choices, which may unlock new possibilities for you. As you go through your story, you can print out a hundred different reports for your story. Including complete psychological profiles of your characters, one-page treatments, and more.

This is the part where I have to tell you that Dramatica is more than a simple software package, it’s a whole new way of thinking about the actual process of creating a story. It takes you beyond the simple three-act structure, and delves into new themes and new ways of thinking about how to create fully realized three-dimensional characters. The Dramatica story process is broken out into five separate areas: The Story Mind, The Objective Storyline, The Main Character Storyline, The Obstacle Character, and The Subjective Storyline.

To help understand and guide you through this new system of writing, Dramatica Pro comes with outlines to over 100 films, including “Star Wars,” “The God Father,” “Rebel Without A Cause,” and more. So if you find you are stuck at certain questions, the program gives you detailed explanations, definitions and links to examples. For instance, if you don’t know what the system means when it asks you “is the outcome your story a success or a failure,” you click on the definitions tab and it’ll give you a clear definition of what it’s looking for after reading that, you can click the story example tab and you will get 10 examples, i.e. “the Rebel Alliance destroys the death star at the end of the movie.”

Once Dramatica Pro is done prompting, nudging, and guiding you through this extensive and overly detailed process your story outline is complete and ready to go. When you are done, you can view all your reports and output it into it’s companion product Screenwriter 2000 which is yet another writing tool, that allows writers to type industry standard Screenplays without worrying about the proper script format.

Dramatica Pro is an example of a program that works too well. It is a pretty addictive program, but at the end of the day, you still have to go out and physically write your script or novel. At certain points doing all the prompting and handholding, you get to the point where you are like shut up already, just let me write my story. My other criticism is, in it’s own way the program is very “rigid” in how it goes about the story creating process. The package is also lacking in one very basic area – there’s no spelling or grammar checker.

After playing with the program for several months, I found it to be both a tremendous help and a useless tool at the same time. If you are like me and don’t really believe in outlining your stories, and would rather stare at a blank page, put on a good CD and just go “to town,” then Dramatica will not be the program for you. But if you are like the other 80 or 90 percent of the writers out there who like to outline, research, plan, and plot out everything to it’s very last possible detail, then “Dramatica Pro” is the must have tool.

Final Grade A

Reviewed by Michelle Alexandria

ReplayTV Review Update, by Michelle Alexandria

ReplayTV is set to take the world by storm. In the first of our new ongoing series, “”The Future of Home Entertainment.”” We take a look at the next wave of VCR’s or what Anthony Wood, Founder of Replay Networks and the President of Product Development, called “”Personal Television Systems.””

Instead of fumbling around trying to find a blank tape to record your favorite soap or entertainment programs these new machines record television on built in hard drives. These new PTS’s are essentially tapeless VCR’s that allow consumers greater flexibility and ease of recording.In a recent telephone interview with Anthony Wood, the founder of Replay Networks the makers of ReplayTV, “”The idea for ReplayTV actually came to me about 10 years ago. I used to watch a television show called ‘Star Trek – The Next Generation. For some reason, I was never able to watch my favorite show on a consistent basis. Either I would get home late from work, or my wife would record over the tape, or it just wouldn’t work. There were about 10 reasons why the VCR just wouldn’t work. So, I started thinking there has to be a better way of doing this.””At the time hard drives were too small and expensive, it wasn’t until a few years ago that hard drives would become big enough and the prices dropped enough to make the idea a reality. Once the idea became feasible, Mr. Wood, had to create a business model, “”Our model is based on licensing the service and sponsorships, and not the hardware itself.””Mr. Wood who created one of the most popular web development tools ever, Dreamweaver, started the company with his own money. The original team consisted of the software programmers who helped create Dreamweaver. According to Mr. Wood, ReplayTV created their own hardware and software for the Replay service and system. If you buy into the marketing hype these machines will change everything you ever thought about watching television by giving you more control over what you watch. These systems allow you to pause live TV and take that phone call from the obnoxious relative who has a knack for calling you right before Buffy is about to slay that mean old Vampire. Not only that, if you forget to set your PTS and you come home later than you thought, you no longer have to worry about missing the first

Joe Dirt – By Peter J. Hannah

We all miss Chris Farley, the late comedian and SNL vet who left this world before his time. By the looks of “”Joe Dirt,”” though, there’s no other person on the face of the planet who misses Farley more than his one-time best friend, David Spade.

In his roughly five-year run on “”Saturday Night Live,”” Spade was best known for his “”Hollywood Minute”” commentaries and jaded, aloof characters like his annoying secretary or the stewardess who can’t wait to dismiss an airplane full of passengers. He never really cultivated a successful recurring character, however, which gave him the freedom to avoid the trappings of an “”SNL”” feature film and come up with something completely creative and different.Instead, Spade gives us Joe Dirt, a mullet-sporting redneck who was abandoned by his parents at the age of 8 while vacationing at the Grand Canyon. Young Dirt, whose mullet is actually a wig that was glued to his head when he was born without a piece of his skull – believe me, it’s just not worth explaining – has dedicated his life to finding his real parents. His quest takes him across the country by way of Louisiana, New York City, Silvertown, Idaho (where he meets the girl of his dreams) and finally, to Hollywood. It’s here that we first meet up with Joe, who’s working as a janitor at a radio station and pouring his story out on-air for condescending syndicated talk show host, Zander Kelly (Dennis Miller).When gifted comedians Spade and Farley collaborated on “”Tommy Boy”” and its inadequate follow-up, “”Black Sheep,”” they carefully bounced razor sharp jokes off of each other with an unparalleled zest, mostly at the expense of Farley’s insecurities. Left to his own devices, though, Spade fails to milk even 90 minutes worth of jokes out of a premise ripe with potential. Redneck jokes are far too easy, especially when you’ve cast the Emperor of White Trashdom, Kid Rock, in the role of Dirt’s arch-enemy, Robby. But the laughs just never come.””Dirt”” even establishes the right tone initially, begging the audience to sympathize with Joe by making him look like an unsuspecting victim of cruel fate. When Joe is bullied by his co-workers, they come off looking wicked and Joe the hero. This approach is all to familiar from Adam Sandler’s body of work (especially “”The Waterboy”” and “”Happy Gilmore””) and it’s no surprise that “”Dirt”” was produced by Sandler’s company, Happy Madison.If only Sandler could have contributed some jokes. “”Dirt”” makes Sandler’s film’s look like “”Some Like It Hot.”” Maybe next time, Spade’s buddy can contribute a witty joke or two instead of piles of cash to front this type of mess.Grade: D-THE EXTRASYou might think that the extras would feature a joke or two that wound up on the cutting room floor, but even these are bland and humorless. The only funny thing is how many extras are included to further analyze this bomb. There are two feature length commentaries for the film, one from director Dennie Gordon (“”Dawson’s Creek””) and one from Spade, himself. I spun Spade’s commentary, hoping to get a little bit of insight into what drove him to create such a horribly unfunny character. Unfortunately, the commentary track was no help. Spade spends 90 minutes laughing at his own jokes, or explaining why things were re-shot or edited to come up with funnier lines. He even admits once or twice that the outcome flopped. I did learn that Spade had to cut to get a PG-13 rating, which may explain a lot. Remember, I said “”explain,”” not “”excuse.””Aside from the commentaries, there is a four minute Bloopers Reel, Deleted Scenes and Alternates Scenes that offer an optional director’s commentary (but don’t add to the film at all), filmographies for the primary cast members, animated menus, and a link to the film’s website. Much like the film, all the extras are boring and tedious. Don’t waste your time.Grade: DOVERALL EXPERIENCELord only knows why “”Joe Dirt”” was ever produced. At least if he had been a former SNL character, and had enjoyed a modicum of success, it might have made some sense to spin Dirt into a longer feature. As it is, “”Dirt”” is just a horrible movie with a DVD that’s far too comprehensive considering the source material. It just doesn’t deserve the time and effort that went into producing it, let alone the time it would take you to watch it. I swear on a stack of “”Lost & Found”” discs, you need to stay far away from this one.Final Grade: D-

My Best Friend’s Wedding – By Peter J. Hannah

As lovers, sports reporter Michael (Dermot Mulroney) and food critic Julianne (Julia Roberts) made perfect friends, which Hollywood logic reminds us rarely works in a relationship. So they split but remained close, even going so far as to agree that if neither of them were married by the time they turned 28, they’d marry each other.

Days before Michael’s 28th birthday, however, he informs Julianne that he’s met someone else – the perfect someone else (Cameron Diaz) – and they’re getting married, which throws open the doors to Julianne’s true feelings for Michael and kick starts this comedy of errors into high gear. If nothing else, “”Wedding”” does introduce us to a new side of Julia. As Julianne, the characteristically pleasing star schemes, scams and connives her way towards her own selfish goals. It’s a difficult task, making the pride of mainstream America as despicable as the script calls for her to be, and also as agreeable as the studio rightfully demands she be, script be damned. After all, who wants to see Julia the heartbreaker, or Julia the home-wrecker? Ultimately, it’s a job director P.J. Hogan just can’t complete, and the film splits fairly evenly under the weight of its own casting dilemma. It doesn’t help that Diaz, as the other woman in Michael’s life, is so personable and winning in a role that could easily have been buried under Julia’s fiery mane, or flamed out by the sparkle from Julia’s brilliant smile. It also doesn’t help that Rupert Everett, as gay editor George, the “”woman”” in Julianne’s life, interjects at key moments to remind this foul temptress that what she’s plotting is wrong. And lord knows that, by the aforementioned Hollywood logic, Julia can never be wrong. Those plot lines are reserved for the likes of Sandra Bullock. Despite its casting guffaw, “”Wedding”” does produce periodic bright spots, though most are provided by Diaz and Everett in splendid supporting turns. Hogan proves he can spin an original aura from this domesticated material, which he achieves by alternately lighting his leads in the softest of glows and turning them loose in a Chicago that only exists in the films of old. In fact, all of “”Wedding”” possesses the distinct feel of a classic film, right down to the impromptu group sing-along, though it immediately dates itself by using the kitchy Dionne Warwick single, “”Say a Little Prayer.”” How is it that spectacularly cheesy sequences like the restaurant-based musical number, or even the public bathroom confessional (you’ll see), are perfectly acceptable for the good of the plot, but I just can’t stomach seeing Roberts performing yet another pratfall for no good reason? Either she’s Princess Grace or she’s Lucille Ball, folks. It’s almost impossible to have both.Grade: CTHE EXTRASColumbia continues their long line of impressive collector’s edition discs for it’s catalogue of crowd-favorite titles. Officially dubbed a “”Special Edition,”” the “”Wedding”” DVD does earn its title, presenting fans of the film enough extras to warrant adding it to their collection.Utilizing the wedding album motif, the DVD presents a few original features, including a making of entitled “”Unveiled,”” and a short piece on wedding do’s and don’ts. The HBO “”Making Of”” featurette is also included, as is a photo album of shots from the finished product. Wanna-be Karaoke fans who desperately model themselves after the bashfully tone deaf Diaz can also jump right to the “”Say a Little Prayer”” sequence and sing along.Finally, the “”Wedding”” disc leaps over to your CD-ROM player, where you can participate in a “”Who’s the one for me?”” quiz, that also uses slides from the movie. The featurettes are fluffy, but fun, and the quiz is entertaining. If you’re into this type of thing, you’ll enjoy the extras.Grade: B-OVERALL EXPERIENCEWhile not one of her finest, “”My Best Friend’s Wedding”” ranks up there with Roberts’ most successful films, though I have a hard time figuring out why. She gets the rug stolen right out from under her feet by the delightful Everett (who couldn’t do the same in Madonna’s “”The Next Best Thing”” for some reason) and a bubbly Diaz. Still, Julia has an undeniable fan base, and they should clamor to this disc like cows to the barn in a thunderstorm. Lucky for them they will not be disappointed.Final Grade: C

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – By Sean O’Connell

Drugs enhance the viewing of children’s movies. It’s true. “”Matilda”” works much better on methamphetamines. “”Pippi Longstocking”” is purely poetic on Percocet. And don’t even get me started on “”Dr. Seuss’ The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.”” In the history of mentally-stimulating films, though, none has so blatantly displayed as strong a co-dependence on illegal substances and still appealed to children as much as “”Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.””

The finest chocolate in the land is produced by one Mr. Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), an eccentric, abstruse aristocrat who has hidden the delectable secrets to his chocolatey-goodness in a shroud of mystery behind the gates of his factory. That is, until now. Wonka cooks up a delicious contest, and the five lucky children from the four corners of the globe who manage to find a Wonka Bar containing a golden ticket inside the wrapper will be invited on a tour of his magical shop. It doesn’t take long for the children to materialize. There’s overweight glutton Augustus Gloop, spoiled Veruca Salt, selfish Violet Beauregard and self-centered Mike Teevee (an aptly prophetic name). The fifth and final ticket belongs to Charlie (Peter Ostrum), a kind-hearted boy from a impoverished family who wants more than anything to peek behind Wonka’s curtains and experience what he’s told is a “”world of pure imagination.””And experience it, he does. In fact, all of the children and their guests get more than they bargained for but exactly what they deserve in Wonka’s fun-house. Rivers of chocolate, gas-inducing cocktails, geese that lay golden eggs and psychedelic boat rides await this tour, though only one will survive (oh, how very Mark Burnett of me) and learn the real motivation behind Wonka’s hidden agenda.Sprung from the pages of Roald Dahl’s imaginative children’s book, “”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,”” Mel Stuart’s “”Wonka”” stands the test of time and continues to appeal to children of all ages, races and generations simply because the realm of imagination is never exclusive. It’s benevolent messages of charity and kindness stand tall, though Wilder’s Wonka, throughout the film’s first 90 minutes, may be the most horrific, grotesque bearer of such good tidings ever filmed. His solemn reactions to the children’s antics when presented with the freedom of the factory are beautifully delivered, allowing the kids to hang themselves with their own vices. Wilder’s performance mesmerizes, which says a mouthful when you notice that he has to compete in every frame with Art Director Harper Goff’s sensational set design. An explosion of colors and candy, Goff’s decorations lift Dahl’s visions directly off of the page, twisting the limitations of our physical world to create a land that was, until then, reserved for the expanding minds of children. A world, you could argue, that was created purely on imagination. Grade: ATHE EXTRASIt’s 2001, the 30th anniversary of “”Willy Wonka,”” and Warner Bros. has gone to great lengths to honor what has become a defining children’s classic. The “”Wonka”” disc goes as far back as 1971 and also revisits the film 30 years later with several cast members and crew to show why this creative feature means so much so many years later.Thirty years after they disappeared into the bowels of Wonka’s factory, the Wonka kids return to provide an engaging feature-length commentary. Now adults, the actors also pop up in the film’s updated documentary, “”Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”” Trust me, you’d hardly recognize them. But they, as well as the film’s director and producers, all have clever anecdotes and fond memories of the production to share. It’s also here that we learn that the film’s title, which originally focused on Charlie’s character, was switched to “”Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”” to coincide with the launch of a new candy bar from Quaker Oats. Apparently, even imagination can be bought for the right price.As a simple blast from the past, the studio also has included an extremely short feature from 1971 with production shots and sequences. It’s interesting, but ends before it ever gets going. And lest we forget, “”Wonka”” is indeed a musical, and the DVD singles out four musical numbers that you can sing along to in a retro-psychedelic Karaoke format. It’s very fitting for the film in question.Grade: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCE“”Wonka”” is one of those movies you never grow tired of watching, as there’s always something new to see. I’d like to say it’s ahead of its time, but it’s almost impossible to categorize it in any time frame. It’s timeless, priceless, and flawless. A golden ticket of cinema to savor for years and years.Final Grade: A

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