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Inside Man

Universal Studios
Movie C+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 5.95 (out of 10)

Director Spike Lee got himself some long-deserved commercial respect for this action-thriller involving a Manhattan bank heist. His craftsmanship as a director is on full display here, and he shows himself as being very capable of handling the genre. The only thing keeping this from being one of his better films is the script, and since he had no hand in that, blame for the movie's ultimate ridiculousness rests on other shoulders (mainly, screenwriter Russell Gewirtz).

Denzel Washington plays Det. Keith Frazier, who finds himself up against a strange bank robber (Clive Owen, mostly behind a mask) who doesn't do anything in an up-front way. There are all sorts of twists and turns, and by the film's end, it's all a little too much to take. Jodie Foster shows up in a thankless role as a sort of under-the-radar negotiator, while Christopher Plummer plays a bank owner with many dark secrets in his safe-deposit box.

As stated before, the script, especially the ending, is a letdown--the ending is too far-fetched. Still, Lee makes a good-looking movie, which acts as a sort of homage to great '70s flicks like Dog Day Afternoon.

Special Features: This is one of those times where the features are better than the movie. The making-of documentary has an interview with Lee, along with footage of the cast first getting together for a reading of the script. Some deleted scenes that should've been deleted, a Lee commentary and a supplement with Lee and Washington discussing all of their collaborations are also included. It's a great thing watching Lee and Washington discuss their craft. They also talk about their profession in general (Washington actually discusses the infamous "tear" shot from Glory). Spike did his commentary on his 49th birthday, which was also the night of the film's premiere, so he's in a good mood. He reveals some fun facts, including that he has a softball team on every film he makes. Inside Man cast beat The Sopranos 52-3. Lee says the team "beat them like an African drum." It's always a pleasure to hear Lee talk about his films, even when they aren't spectacular. He reveals that he gave Washington ("We all know he was robbed of an Oscar for Malcolm X!" Spike declares) the choice of playing the detective or the robber. Washington opted for the detective, one of the reasons being he wouldn't have to wear a mask. Lee also advises that if you should ever find yourself around Christopher Plummer, don't ever mention The Sound of Music.


The Brak Show, Vol. 2

Warner Bros.
Show B+
Special Features Nada
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

Brak the alien returns for a second and final season, this time with a new voice-actress as his mother (she has a distracting British accent). The Leave It to Beaver format remains intact, and plots include a bizarre episode where Brak has an obsessed friend who starts his own Brak show (former quarterback Jim Plunkett guest stars). If you like Space Ghost and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, you most certainly have a soft spot for Brak. It's just about the strangest cartoon ever put to film.

Special Features: For special features, you'll have to purchase Vol. 1, which came out a couple of years ago. They must've depleted the vaults with that one and had nothing left for this DVD. It's a shame, because there's still plenty of Cartoon Planet programming that can be released with Brak, and I'm still waiting for the Space Ghost Christmas special with Brak. I have way too much spare time.


Awesome: I ... Shot That

Velocity/Thinkfilm
Movie B-
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

For this experimental concert film, the Beastie Boys handed out cameras to their audience and let them shoot a show in Manhattan. Then, an editor had the unenviable task of splicing pieces of the audience's footage together into a cohesive concert experience.

Considering how terrible this could've been, the results are actually not that bad. Yes, it can be hard on the eyes at times, but most professionally shot concert videos are a pain in the ass to watch anyway (shaky camera, flashy editing, etc.). The Beasties were in good form for this concert, and the filming technique certainly gives the sense of an audience-perspective experience.

Tracks include "Sure Shot," "Intergalactic" and "Sabotage." This venture is the definitive example of "for fans only" and some lucky ones will, as the Beasties hoped, be able to take it in and say, "Awesome ... I fucking shot that!"

Special Features: A double-disc offering that is loaded--and nuts. There's a rather cordial and fun commentary with the band, and something called "Detour Mode" with hidden features. A Day in the Life of Nathanial Hornblower is a short film featuring the great David Cross acting weird. That's just some of disc one, with disc two containing a strange TV pilot.

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