March '06




All Reviews by Jason Aaron

Lady and the Tramp

It’s always worth celebrating when one of Disney’s all-time animated classics gets the special edition DVD treatment. Such is the case with 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, now available in a two-disc 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition.

While the characters of Lady, the prim and proper cocker spaniel, and Tramp, rough and tumble mongrel, have never attained the iconic status of other Disney characters, Lady and the Tramp is nevertheless the most endearing love story that the studio has ever produced. It was also perhaps the most personal film for Walt Disney, as the small town setting was inspired by his childhood home of Marceline, MO.

Among the DVD’s special features, you’ll find the usual Disney assortment of games for the kiddies, including a Dog Trivia board game and a Virtual Puppy DVD-ROM feature. More interesting though is the Making Of documentary “Lady’s Pedigree,” which actually digs deeper than the usual self-congratulatory fluff you get from Disney.

Bravo to them here for setting the record straight regarding the genesis of the original story that led to Lady and the Tramp. Animator Joe Grant had never officially received credit for first drafting the story of Lady, inspired by his own pet Springer Spaniel, nearly 20 years before the film’s release. (G) Rating: 5

Walk the Line

Though Joaquin Phoenix does give a great performance as the young Johnny Cash, Walk the Line is not a great movie.

Director James Mangold’s (Cop Land, Girl Interrupted) well-meaning biopic traces the beginning of Cash’s legendary career during the glory days of Memphis rockabilly, his typical rock and roll struggle with addiction and his longtime love affair with country music artist June Carter. In addition to Phoenix, who had gigantic shoes to fill in trying to mimic one of the most unmistakable voices in music history, Reese Witherspoon also gives a great performance (shockingly so, if you only knew her from those mind numbing Legally Blonde films).

The film as a whole, however, doesn’t do justice to either performance. Like many biopics, Walk the Line tries to tie events together too neatly and comes off feeling forced. There’s also an overabundance of melodramatic dialogue, like June Carter’s frustrated declaration, “You can’t walk no line,” which the film would have us believe inspired the writing of the title song.

As the showcase for a couple of young actors, Walk the Line is a must-see film. But as a true visceral representation of the life of Johnny Cash, one of the most daring and fascinating figures in music history, Walk the Line is, as Cash himself might have said, “Only fair to middlin, I reckon.” (PG-13) Rating: 3

A History of Violence

Don’t ask me why this film has received so much lofty praise from critics. Granted, it’s great to see director David Cronenberg get the attention he deserves after over 30 years worth of daring films. But why for this effort?

Sure, A History of Violence is an entertaining crime drama and action film, but you’ll have to really plumb the depths to get any sort of deeper meaning from the film, which was based on a graphic novel by writer John Wagner (co-creator of Judge Dredd) and artist Vince Locke.

Viggo Mortensen (of Lord of the Rings fame) plays the owner of a small-town diner, who may or may not be a former mob triggerman with a notorious knack for murder. While Mortensen and Maria Bello, as his wife, both play everything straight, co-stars Ed Harris and William Hurt seem to have wandered in from a different film as their portrayals of mob heavies are over the top and darkly comic. Throw in a couple of gratuitous gross-out shots and a mildly disturbing sex scene on some stairs, and you’ve got a real head-scratcher of a film.

Though definitely worth seeing, A History of Violence isn’t close to being one of Cronenberg’s best. For that honor, check out 1996’s Crash or 1988’s Dead Ringers. (R) Rating: 3

Grey’s Anatomy

Medical dramas and cop shows, with their emphasis on style over substance and procedure over character development, all leave me feeling bored. The new hit Grey’s Anatomy is a glaring exception as it’s able to deftly intertwine the development of young surgical interns with the more sensational details of their chosen profession.

Caught up in their lives, you’ll feel their glee at getting to “scrub in” on surgical procedures — the more bizarre the better, like pulling nails from a man’s head or removing a 60 pound tumor. Like great shows from the past, the cast here seems to be touched by fate.

The rather offbeat mix includes a former teen heartthrob (Patrick Dempsey, whose break out role was 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love), a couple of indie film vets (Sandra Oh from Sideways and frequent Spike Lee collaborator Isaiah Washington) and some fresh-faced newcomers (like Ellen Pompeo, who plays the lead, Dr. Meredith Grey).

The fast-paced life of the surgical intern easily lends itself to the type of quick-witted banter and emotional roller coaster rides that make the show so engrossing. If only there were more like this. (NR) Rating: 4

Jason Aaron can be contacted at


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