After a couple weeks of dire DVD choices from the doldrums of early '07 (Hannibal Rising, Norbit...), there's finally something or two worth renting. And a whole lot more that's probably not. The fun-time theme of this week? Government, baby, government.
Chris Cooper scares me. He scared me as a stern-hearted suburbanite in American Beauty, he scared me as an orchid-obsessed maniac in Adaptation, and he scared me as a George W. Bush of sorts in Silver City. He even scared me as the supposedly kindhearted trainer in Seabiscuit. I thought Tobey was toast. There's something about that distrusting gaze, that subtle drawl, those accentuated facial features that could have in fact been painted on by Cover Girl. Yes, he's an intimidating dude, and there couldn't have possibly been a better choice to play infamous double agent Robert Hanssen in Billy Ray's taut follow-up to Shattered Glass. That's because the story plays out through the eyes of FBI rookie Eric O'Neil (Ryan Phillipe), who like me, appears deathly afraid of Chris Cooper. O'Neil is tasked to pose as Hanssen's new assistant but instead monitor his every move as the bureau builds a case charging him with the major-most security breach in U.S. history. Hanssen is a walking contradiction – a devout Christian who dabbles in porn, a high-ranking agent who sells intel to the Russians – and the brilliance in Cooper's performance is that he's not only entirely convincing, but he's impossible to nail down, even after the credits roll. He's the most exciting thing to watch for in what's undoubtedly one of Hollywood's smartest films of the year.
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An Unreasonable Man
The views of many folks on Ralph Nader soured after the 2000 election. He became an easy, trendy target to blame not only for Gore's loss, but for all that would follow. Like Iraq. Shoot, even Jimmy Carter was talking smack! But Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan's documentary makes some pretty damn convincing arguments that Nader has simply (and unfairly) been made a scapegoat, and perhaps remains the most steadfast figure in the public arena in his determination to take on what he sees as a corrupt two-party system. The film, of course, is undeniably pro-Nader, but still gives some of his harshest critics get plenty of face time... and they are still PISSED. (Then there are those strong supporters who turned against him: Michael Moore's before-and-after comments on Nader are particularly bemusing.) It's a revealing, career-spanning look at the ambiguously asexual "consumer crusader" who revolutionized safety in automobiles -- or as he calls them, "psychosexual dreamboats" -- before becoming the face of the Green Party. (The film's major fault is that it mostly avoids Nader's '03 fallout with the party.) But anyone remotely interested in the legacy of Nader – love 'em or hate 'em or blame 'em for the world's woes – will find a lot to contemplate here.
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