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EW review: Hilarious 'Sideways' extras

Stars crack each other up on gut-busting DVD commentary

By Ty Burr
Entertainment Weekly

Alexander Payne
Paul Giamatti

(Entertainment Weekly) -- Who expected a sequel to "Sideways"? That's like a two-for-one deal on a 1974 Richebourg.

Nevertheless, Alexander Payne's acclaimed comic ode to wine, women and the little lies -- all right, massive whoppers -- that sustain men comes complete with a gut-busting commentary track that may as well be titled "Sideways 2."

On it, actors Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church let rip with the simple joy of cracking each other up. ''You're the Underwood Deviled Ham guy of incredulity in this scene,'' kvells Church to his costar at one point, to which Giamatti replies thoughtfully, ''You're right ... I am the Underwood Deviled Ham man.''

Other subjects covered include Giamatti's ''perky man-breasts'' (''You do have mancans.'' ''It's my gift to America''), the fact that the house where the Giant Naked Guy lives was previously a meth lab and the set designer hardly changed a thing and the true meaning of ''Frass Canyon'' (it's not pretty).

The film, as ever, is a distressingly funny symphony of male jerkery -- ''a picture laden with canards,'' as Professor Church reminds us -- that gets you to sympathize with these lost boys against all common sense. (Invite your own buddies over for some pinot and a screening and count how many times they flinch.)

A handful of deleted scenes show how Payne deftly kept the film from going completely over to the dark side, but there's one keeper: Church's Jack waxing outrageously lubricious about Virginia Madsen's Maya. As Giamatti notes to his costar in the commentary, ''Well done, sir.'' Indeed.

EW Grade: A

'Fade to Black'

Reviewed by David Browne

More than just another show, Jay-Z's rap-star-studded gig at Madison Square Garden in November 2003 was also his alleged retirement from live performance. Likewise, the beautifully shot documentary of the event, "Fade to Black," is more than just another concert film.

In between cameos both electrifying (girlfriend Beyonce, who dances as much as she sings) and amusing (R. Kelly, before he and Jay-Z became nemeses) are fascinating scenes from the making of "The Black Album." See tough customer Jay-Z shop for beats from Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and other producers, and watch them gulp as he rejects one track after another.

Extras: The ''Story Behind Fade to Black'' doc is mostly a series of gushy testimonials to Jay-Z's greatness from music-biz insiders. Skip instead to the one deleted scene: Under pressure to finish the album on deadline, various associates stress out and scream at one another. Thankfully, no weapons are pulled.

EW Grade: B+


Reviewed by Tom Russo

Jennifer Garner came back from the dead for this? When last we saw the steely she-ninja, in "Daredevil," she was being skewered by Colin Farrell.

Although nominally publicized as a spin-off, "Elektra" doesn't care nearly as much about tapping Marvel Comics mythology as its predecessor did. Veteran "X-Files" director Rob Bowman instead makes this one a generic action vehicle, spiced up with such novel effects as a ninja expiring in a noxious vapor cloud and a mystical tattooed villain with literally killer ink.

Extras: The moment fanboys have been waiting for: a deleted cameo by "Daredevil" Ben Affleck (cut presumably to avoid more Ben-and-Jen marketing stickiness) is a fleeting throw-away. The faithful may feel cheated by Garner's ''presentation'' at the comics biz's San Diego megaconvention -- not a personal appearance but a standard clip reel dispatched from the Vancouver set. But take heart: An assortment of brief production featurettes offer abundant replays of that fabulous red bustier in action.

EW Grade: D+

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