INTOLERABLE CRUELTYUniversal Studios
Special Features: C-
Geek Factor: 6
The Coen brothers and George Clooney reunite (after O Brother, Where Art Thou?) for this funny-enough riff on divorce and all the evils associated with it. Clooney plays Miles Massey, a world-renowned divorce attorney who has created a prenuptial agreement so impenetrable that Harvard Law spends an entire semester studying it. When Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta Jones) finds herself completely shut out of her husband's assets after her divorce proceedings, thanks to Massey, she sets out to turn the tables and ruin the man who left her penniless. The Coens are treading in material that has been done to death and feels a bit dated (the project was passed around Hollywood for many years), but their incredible filmmaking style, along with terrific camerawork by Roger Deakins, makes it worthwhile. Clooney clearly has the time of his life working with the Coens; his work in both of their team-ups is his strongest and most confident as a film actor. Keep an eye out for The Ladykillers in March, which has the Coens teaming with Tom Hanks!
SPECIAL FEATURES: The Coens (with the exception of the decent Special Edition Fargo) are notorious for doing DVDs that don't offer much along the lines of special features. This one has no commentary (the Coens have never done one for DVD) and sparse additional curios. A "director approved" outtake reel has a few funny moments of Clooney clowning around on the set, and there's a seemingly endless segment called "Rex Rexroth's Home Movie" that shows a continuous loop of stock, black-and-white train footage (Rexroth uses trains for sexual stimulation in the film). It's a general rule of thumb: You don't buy Coen DVDs for the special features; you buy them for the film.
PETER GABRIEL: GROWING UP LIVEGeffen
Special Features: B-
Geek Factor: 7
The best concert I have ever attended starred Peter Gabriel, live in New Jersey during his 1986 tour supporting So. Gabriel took to the road seven years later to support Us, but then took a full 10 years off from major touring. In 2002, he hit the road with Growing Up Live, a tour in support of his first album in 10 years, Up. While I did see the show, and it might not have managed the majesty of his mid-'80 heyday, it was still something to behold. This lush DVD package captures the terrific program that Gabriel managed to put together, with every song receiving a special staging. Classics like Sledgehammer and Here Comes the Flood are coupled with newbies like Growing Up, a number that has Gabriel rolling around the stage in a huge hamster ball. (The night I attended in San Jose, Gabriel was knocking over musical equipment and nearly running over members of his band.) For Downside Up, Gabriel hangs upside down with daughter and backing vocalist Melanie, biking around a circular track while singing. Visually and aurally amazing, Gabriel has always been one of rock's greatest showmen. This DVD captures that brilliance. Also new to DVD: Secret World Live, chronicling Gabriel's '93 tour.
SPECIAL FEATURES: High marks to the packaging for this one, which comes in a three-fold featuring two photo albums. Supplements include The Story of Growing Up, a behind the scenes look at the intense work needed to stage such a show, and Tony Levin's Tour Photographs, offerings from Gabriel's excellent guitarist.
THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTSColumbia TriStar
Special Features: C+
Geek Factor: 4
While actor Campbell Scott got a lot of notice for the overrated Roger Dodger, his career-best work in this film went virtually unnoticed. As a paranoid dentist justifiably concerned about his wife's adulterous ways, Scott is excellent. Hope Davis, also great in last year's American Splendor, is perfection as Scott's cheating wife, and someone (Director Alan Rudolph) finally gives Denis Leary a role deserving of his talents. As Scott's imaginary friend/alter ego, Leary gets a nice opportunity to show his dramatic side. This film stands as proof that Leary is one of film's greater under-the-radar talents. Watch out for the film's Vomit Opera, where the entire cast comes down with the mother of all stomach viruses. If you don't like onscreen puking, you might have to rule this one out.
SPECIAL FEATURES: OK, it's time to quit it with the blooper reels. Like the Intolerable Cruelty disc reviewed above, this disc features a bunch of moments where cast members screw up, and we're supposed to laugh. If you didn't get enough vomit in the film, there are plenty of vomit outtakes contained here to satisfy you. The deleted scenes should've been deleted, unless you had your heart set on seeing Denis Leary giving Campbell Scott a bath. The audio commentary by director Alan Rudolph and Scott is a good one, although it would've been cool if Leary chimed in.