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"Gone Baby Gone" got snubbed by the Oscars.
Had there been any justice, "Gone Baby Gone," Ben Affleck's taut directorial debut, shoulda been a contenduh for best picture. For one thing, it has the year's most thought-provoking ending.
Then there's the way Affleck drenches his film in a tough Boston, working-class atmosphere that complements the edgy saga based on Dennis Lehane's novel. Affleck made the right move casting his younger brother Casey as a private eye who, with his girlfriend/partner (Michelle Monaghan), works with reluctant police officers to find a missing child.
A supporting actor nominee for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," Casey Affleck hits the daily double as a shrewd, hardened but compassionate shamus still living in the neighborhood where he, the girl's family and some of the suspects grew up. Supporting players Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman and Amy Madigan also excel. Oscar-nominated Amy Ryan stands out as the girl's low-rent single mom.
Extras: An alternate ending adds a few lines of narration to the last scene, which works best without them; extended opening; audio commentary; more.
Jane, Jane, Jane
Last week, it was "The Jane Austen Book Club"; this week, "Becoming Jane." What's next: "Calamity Jane" (in which the author moons over Wild Bill Hickock)? In "Becoming Jane," whose lugubrious storytelling is difficult to sit through, Anne Hathaway harnesses her natural comedic tendencies, letting loose only in snippets of wit as she
plays Jane experiencing love, life and class troubles that lay the groundwork for "Pride and Prejudice." (The story's fiction but based on fact.)
Hathaway brings spunk and soulfulness to the well-dressed film. "Atonement's" James McAvoy plays Tom Lefroy, the rascally, wastrel attorney with whom Jane becomes smitten -- to the consternation of her hardscrabble mother (Julie Walters), who wants Jane to marry for money.
Extras: A who-is-Jane Austen piece; pop-up facts and footnotes; deleted scenes; commentary.
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart play adversarial chefs in "No Reservations," the year's most predictable romantic comedy -- of sorts. Based on Germany's "Mostly Martha," the film focuses mostly on Zeta-Jones' workaholic character and her trying times with her gloomy niece (Abigail Breslin), whom she inherits when the child's parents die in a car crash.
Her character gets pushed to the limit when she returns from a brief leave to find the gregarious sous chef Eckhart hired to help in the upscale restaurant. Eckhart is the film's bright light. Zeta-Jones creates a believable stick-in-the-mud. The food scenes are the movie's most delectable. The dialogue needs seasoning. Still, the picture's OK for Valentine's Day viewing.
Extras: A Food Network episode of "Unwrapped."
I'm from Venus. You?
Widowed sci-fi writer John Cusack adopts a young boy in "Martian Child," a sometimes touching tale that rides well on the chemistry between Cusack and Bobby Coleman as the 7-year-old title character, an orphan who isolates himself by insisting he's from Mars. Naturally, the emotionally damaged child appeals to the emotionally damaged adult -- Freud 101. Gradually they build trust and learn lessons. Though oozy with syrup in spots, the picture plays better than you expect.
Extras: Nice pieces on the real "Martian Child" (subject of a story by the real boy's father, David Gerrold -- who created "Star Trek's" Tribbles) and Coleman's casting; commentary; deleted scenes.
Also on DVD
"The Amateur": Residents of a small town work with the community to realize their dream of making an adult film; with Jeff Bridges, Ted Danson, Lauren Graham.
"Blue State": Deciding to honor his vow to move to Canada if Bush won in 2004, an activist (Breckin Meyer) finds a quirky hitchhiker (Anna Paquin) to join him in this coming-of-age comedy.
The Charlie Chan Collection -- Volume Four: "Charlie Chan in Honolulu," "... in Reno," "... in the City of Darkness" and "... at Treasure Island."
"Dirty Laundry": In a kind of low-budget "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins," the culture-clash comedy takes a successful New York writer back to his Southern roots after a 10-year absence; with Loretta Devine, Rockmond Dunbar and Jenifer Lewis.
"Furnace -- Unrated": Supernatural creepiness with Tom Sizemore, Ja Rule and Danny Trejo in a prison where bloody suicides are the norm after an old wing is unsealed.
"The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun": Documentary about an aging Danish bachelor who teams with a Russian nun to transform a rundown castle into a Russian Orthodox monastery.
"Royal Tramp 1 & 2": Hong Kong star Stephen Chow drives 1990s martial-arts comedies about the adventures of a con man who fights, loves and saves a dynasty.
"Snow Buddies": Live-action Disney comedy about puppies in snow.
"Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married": Perry drops the drag for this look at four couples who examine their relationships during a Colorado getaway.
"We Own the Night": One detective's son becomes a cop (Mark Wahlberg), the other (Joaquin Phoenix) hangs with mobsters in this crime thriller.
Reach Barry Caine at email@example.com or 925-952-5029.