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The Jerk: 26th Anniversary Edition

Universal Home Video
Movie B+
Special Features F
DVD Geek Factor 3 (out of 10)

OK, so it hasn't aged that well. Even so, this is still one of Steve Martin's funniest comedies, one where he allowed himself to be completely moronic in a hilarious way.

Martin plays Navin R. Johnson, raised by an African-American family ("You mean I'm gonna stay this color?") and on a mission to go into the world and be somebody. His dream comes true when a little gizmo he invents on a whim (Opti-Grab: a device to keep glasses from falling off) nets him "two hundred and fifty big ones."

Directed by Carl Reiner, the movie is Martin's only true ode to his wild-and-crazy-guy persona from the '70s. He went right from this into Pennies From Heaven and a more serious brand of comedy.

Memorable bits include a sniper trying to blow Martin away ("He hates these cans!"), Mrs. Nussbaum's stolen credit card and Martin's heart wrenching rendition of "I'm Picking Out a Thermos for You!" Shithead the dog lives on in celluloid. (It's always sad watching older movies, knowing that there's no chance the dog is still frolicking and at play in somebody's backyard.)

One of Martin's next films is a remake of The Pink Panther, a sacrilegious project that has been postponed from its summer release. The prospects for this one are so bad that Martin might have to consider making The Jerk 2 after The Pink Panther is unleashed on the public.

Special Features: Absolutely terrible. It's the 26th anniversary of this film, and all we get is a trailer, some crap about singing along to "You Belong to Me" and a continuation of the cat-juggling joke.


Made in Sheffield: The Birth of Electronic Pop

Plexifilm
Movie B
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

This tells the story of the Sheffield, England music scene after the rise and fall of punk rock and electronic music saw its heyday. Bands like the Human League, ABC, and Cabaret Voltaire started making funny noises on makeshift synthesizers, and the rest was history. Filmmaker Eve Wood interviews many of the principle players in the scene, including Jarvis Cocker of the now (sadly) defunct Pulp.

For those who couldn't get enough of "Don't You Want Me Baby?" this is a fine education on how the scene came to pass. Archival footage of the Human League before they hit it big and ABC on Top of the Pops make this a fun and educational viewing experience.

Makes one wonder what Jarvis Cocker has been doing the past few years. Turns out he did a small musical project called Relaxed Muscle, and he makes an appearance in the upcoming Harry Potter movie.

Special Features: Extended interviews with the likes of Cocker add to the experience for those who care.


Moog

Plexifilm
Movie B
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

Another Plexifilm documentary, this one dealing with the story of Robert Moog, creator of innovative electronic instruments that helped change the face of popular music. Moog participates willingly in the film, going into great detail on how his ideas came to fruition. He even takes the camera crew into his garden for a lesson on peppers.

The likes of Keith Emerson are seen in performance, and Yes' Rick Wakeman stops by to praise Moog's inventions and make a scarily misogynistic comment about his wives, past and present (in jest, of course).

Special Features: Deleted scenes, some additional musician performances and a kick-ass Schaeffer Beer commercial.


Cry-Baby: Director's Cut

Universal Home Video
Movie B+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

I'm not the biggest John Waters fan, but he managed to win me over, momentarily, with this demented riff on juvenile-delinquent films like Rebel Without a Cause. Johnny Depp, in his first headlining big-screen role, stars as a teenage rebel named Cry Baby, receiving his name for his uncanny ability to squirt a solitary tear on cue.

The film is an oddball mixture of bizarre Waters comedy and music, with Depp and Amy Locane doing reputable lip-synching. The supporting cast includes Patty Hearst as an ignorant yet cheerful mother, Traci Lords as a misguided young woman, Iggy Pop as somebody remarkably like Iggy Pop, and Willem Dafoe as an evil prison guard.

The film's funniest bit would be a direct nod to Rebel where Depp challenges the film's villain to a round of chicken, where cars drive towards one another until somebody turns away. The catch is that the challengers ride atop the cars while somebody else drives.

The director's cut is definitely better than the original, restoring some great scenes and a few F-bombs to get it an unrated status. Avoid crap like Pecker, A Dirty Shame and Cecil B. DeMented. This is John Waters' best piece of work. If anything, see it for a particularly hideous female character named Hatchet Face. She is quite memorable.

Special Features: Waters delivers a commentary, and there are deleted scenes involving vomit. There's also a documentary featuring interviews with the cast.

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