DECEPTION (2008). It's hard to believe a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor, two impossibly charismatic actors, could be so dull, but the evidence is right here. McGregor stars as Jonathan McQuarry, a meek accountant who has no fun until a lawyer named Wyatt Bose (Jackman) swoops down like a slumming deus ex machina and introduces his new pal to the pleasures of pot, nightclubs and mixed doubles tennis matches. Just before Wyatt leaves town for a business trip, he "accidentally" switches cell phones with Jonathan; soon, the virginal numbers cruncher is receiving calls during which sexy female voices merely whisper, "Are you free tonight?" Passing himself off as Wyatt, Jonathan soon discovers an anonymous sex club in which the members all turn out to be Wall Street movers and shakers. Before long, though, he realizes he's the victim of a major – wait, let me check the title again – deception. Since this is a costly studio project subject to MPAA approval (and we know what those prudes think about s-e-x), viewers looking for some steamy stimulation will soon discover they're not getting Shortbus as much as they're getting the short end of the stick. Indeed, the sex club turns out to be so irrelevant to the plot than the characters might as well have belonged to the Wine of the Month Club or Oprah's Book Club instead. Ultimately, the movie packs less erotic heat than even Horton Hears a Who! or Young@Heart. This wouldn't matter if the mystery was in any way compelling, but there are no surprises to be found anywhere along the way to its laughable finale. It's best if Jackman sticks with the X-Men and leaves the XXX to others.
DVD extras include audio commentary by director Marcel Langenegger; an 18-minute making-of featurette; two deleted scenes; and an alternate ending.
THE GODFATHER: THE COPPOLA RESTORATION (1972-1990). Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy has already been released on DVD in a handsome box set back in 2001, yet this new collection isn't just a rehash of that previous package. True, all the old bonuses are included here on a supplemental disc, but Paramount Home Entertainment has also graciously included a second supplemental disc with new material. I'll avoid writing that this is an offer owners of the 2001 set can't refuse, since, truth be told, the new bonuses aren't as stellar as the older crop and don't substantially add to the appreciation of Coppola's trilogy. But if you don't already own these titles in some form on DVD, this one's worth grabbing. The films themselves need no introduction. The Godfather (1972) immediately emerged as a cultural milestone; The Godfather Part II (1974) is lauded in some circles as being superior to its predecessor; and The Godfather Part III (1990) is worthwhile yet seriously flawed (namely, the wretched performance by Sofia Coppola in a role that had been earmarked for Winona Ryder until exhaustion forced her to bail). The first two films earned Best Picture Oscars, with the original also winning for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Marlon Brando; the icon delivers a cheeky (in more ways than one) performance as Don Vito Corleone, though the award clearly should have gone to the real star, Al Pacino (relegated to the Best Supporting Actor category, where he competed against co-stars James Caan and Robert Duvall). Part II earned a total of six statues, including Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro as the young Don Corleone.
Extras carried over from the 2001 set include several making-of pieces; 34 additional scenes; filmmaker profiles; and an interactive family tree. Extras among the new bonuses include a feature on the first picture's troubled production, with new interviews with Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and others; a discussion of the post-production process; and – by far the most worthless extra – young Hollywood hunks and starlets discussing the movie on the red carpet at what appears to be the premiere of Cloverfield. Each individual film also includes audio commentary by Coppola.
The Godfather: ****
The Godfather Part II: ****
The Godfather Part III: **1/2
IRON MAN (2008). Given their general status as popcorn flicks heavier on the decadent calories than on the nutritional value, I'm always pleasantly surprised at how much care is taken in the casting of superheroes in franchise flicks. With Iron Man, the suits-that-be settled on an actor who turned out to be both unexpected and just right: Robert Downey Jr. is excellent in the film, and it owes much of its substantial success to him. Centering on the Marvel Comics character created back in 1963, Iron Man shows how swaggering, self-centered inventor and industrialist Tony Stark (Downey), the U.S. military's chief supplier of weapons of mass destruction, transforms into an armored superhero dedicated to fighting for peace (this is an even more liberal-minded superhero film than Batman Begins). Stark's difficulties while perfecting his Iron Man persona provide the movie with many of its most amusing moments, as do the interludes between Stark and his faithful right-hand woman Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Indeed, the expository material is so engaging that the climactic battle between Iron Man and a villain known as Iron Monger comes as a massive letdown: After adding such a personal touch to the proceedings – even in earlier scenes involving CGI work – director Jon Favreau turns in a chaotic action climax that could have been lifted from any soulless Jerry Bruckheimer endeavor. Still, even this last-inning letdown can't tarnish Iron Man's overall appeal. Just as Tony Stark needs a device to keep his heart pumping, Iron Man requires Downey's presence to keep the heart of this franchise alive.