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View From The Couch


CHARADE (1963). One of the best Hitchcock films that Hitchcock never got around to making, this delightful mystery-cum-romance sparkles with all the vigor of freshly uncorked champagne. Clearly a product of the early 60s -- if the playful opening credits designed by Maurice Binder don't tip you off, the lush score by Henry Mancini certainly will -- this casts luminous Audrey Hepburn as a sheltered woman who's constantly being terrorized by sinister cronies of her late husband. A mysterious playboy (Cary Grant) keeps popping up to lend his support, but is he really a hero or a villain? Director Stanley Donen gets the most out of Peter Stone's scintillating screenplay, and the supporting cast is headed by a trio of stars-in-the-making: Walter Matthau, James Coburn and George Kennedy. This was ineptly remade by Jonathan Demme as The Truth About Charlie (2002), with an out-of-his-league Mark Wahlberg cast in the Grant role! Extras on this Criterion DVD, a reissue of an earlier, out-of-print edition, include audio commentary by Donen and Stone, career highlights of both men, and the theatrical trailer.
Movie: 1/2

THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940). An indisputable American classic, John Ford's adaptation of John Steinbeck's great novel is, like To Kill a Mockingbird and too few others, one of those rare motion pictures that perfectly captures the essence of its source material without compromising it in any way. Director John Ford (winning the second of his four Oscars) and scripter Nunnally Johnson pull no punches in relating the saga of the Joad family, poor Okie farmers who head to California hoping to find work after their own land is decimated by drought and taken away by heartless banks and corporations. Beautifully photographed by Citizen Kane's Gregg Toland and packed with memorable dialogue (Tom Joad's climactic "I'll be there" speech still stirs the soul), this features career-best performances by Henry Fonda (as Tom), Jane Darwell (winning the Supporting Actress Oscar for her Ma Joad) and John Carradine (as the philosophical ex-preacher Casy). DVD extras include the A&E Biography episode on 20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck, newsreels from 1934 covering the drought, and footage of President Franklin Roosevelt praising the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE (2003). Diane Keaton has had her share of meaty roles during the past three decades, but not since her Oscar-winning turn in Annie Hall has she been as luminous as in this holiday hit. She's smashing as Erica Barry, a successful playwright not particularly fond of her daughter's (Amanda Peet) new boyfriend, a 63-year-old bachelor (Jack Nicholson) who only dates women under 30. But eventually the pair find themselves overcoming their initial antagonism, leading to a rocky romance that's further complicated by his womanizing ways and her burgeoning relationship with a boyish doctor (Keanu Reeves, never more appealing). For most of its length, this emerges as one of the premiere romantic comedies of recent years; unfortunately, the movie tacks on an unsatisfactory ending that's a betrayal of what preceded it. The film's not crippled by this late-inning error, but it does signal writer-director Nancy Meyers' reluctance to stick with what would have been a less predictable -- but more ballsy -- fadeout. DVD extras include audio commentary by Keaton, Nicholson and Meyers, one deleted scene, and a generous amount of trailers.
Extras: 1/2

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