This is a delicious contest of wits, brilliant acting and a surprisingly gripping narrative – no less dramatic even though the results are a foregone conclusion.
British journalist David Frost was deemed a lightweight and bet his future career on a blockbuster television special. Former president Richard Nixon wanted rehabilitation and gambled that Frost would lob him softballs.
As Nixon, Frank Langella is perfection. The character is generated from the inside out, not predicated on surface imitation or caricature. Frost is portrayed by Michael Sheen as a shallow playboy with a profound hollowness in his ambitious soul. The writing is so good, the acting so powerful that the film ventures into the territory of the classic history play.
DVD extras include commentary with director Ron Howard, deleted scenes, featurettes. (2:02; rated R for strong language)
As washed-up pro wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, Mickey Rourke embodies the same tragedy of ego that afflicts his character.
Rourke drags Randy’s steroid-inflated corpus from battle to battle with the painful perseverance of Liza Minnelli and the weariness of a stop-lossed Marine. Following what is probably the movie’s most gruesome sequence, Randy has a heart attack, and his long, slow denouement picks up reckless speed. As good as Rourke is, his performance constantly begs the question of whether the story would be worth telling without him.
Marisa Tomei, as Cassidy the pole dancer, delivers a courageous performance; both she and Randy exist in fairly shadowy worlds that thrive on youth, and both are aging out. But in the broader sense, Randy is another in a long line of American screen characters who are facing the inevitable and can’t ease their regrets.
DVD extras include featurettes, music video for Bruce Springsteen’s title song. (1:49; rated R for violence, vulgarity, drug use, nudity, sexuality)
This biopic about the life and death of the rapper Notorious B.I.G. feels like Biggie’s Wikipedia page reformatted for the big screen.
A young Christopher Wallace develops a fascination with the rhymes of Kurtis Blow and the flash of street hustlers. In high school, Wallace, played by 33-year-old newcomer Jamal “Gravy” Woolard, has grown up to become a drug dealer himself, raising the domestic pressure with his protective mother, Voletta (played by Angela Bassett).
Woolard, a Brooklyn rapper himself, is convincing behind the microphone, but he’s saddled with trite dialogue. As Biggie courts singer Faith Evans (Antonique Smith), she asks him, “Are you a bad guy trying to be good or a good guy trying to be bad?” It’s the million-dollar question “Notorious” fails to answer.
DVD extras: special edition contains rated and unrated versions; two feature-length commentaries; featurettes; deleted scenes. (1:40; rated R for pervasive foul language, strong sexuality including dialogue and nudity, and drug content)
Also available: “America Betrayed,” “Dallas: Season 11,” “How About You,” “Into the Blue 2: The Reef,” “Caprica,” “The Last Word,” “My Own Worst Enemy: The Complete Series”
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