Life and death. Love and loss. Preadolescent sexual stirrings. Sounds like heavy stuff, no? In director Lasse Hallström's hands, this story of 12-year-old Ingemar Johansson and his mother's terminal illness is told with a light touch, balancing tragedy with a cast of eccentric characters that helps Ingemar cope with his tumultuous life. The film is tender and very funny, but Hallström doesn't let its goofy sense of humor dull its emotional impact.
This film was first released on DVD in 1999, in a full-frame format and without bonus material. Criterion's new version offers a high-definition transfer from a 35mm interpositive and presents the film in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The soundtrack is in Swedish (no English-dubbed track is available), but the subtitles are easy to read, and the Dolby Stereo soundtrack is clean, if not especially rich.
Director's commentary would have been nice, but instead there's a video interview with Hallström, shot in 2002, in which he discusses the making of this film. The disc also contains Hallström's first feature, a made-for-Swedish-TV movie about singles looking for love#&151;or at least a girl to go home with#&151;in 1970s Stockholm. Parents, both films contain full-frontal nudity (those Swedes!). It's very brief in My Life, but you may want to send the kids to bed before you watch the other one.#&151;Drew Hardin
DVD: 8 Mile#&151;Universal
What can I say about Eminem? Whether you love him or hate him, you must admit that he's an outstanding wordsmith. 8 Mile not only demonstrates this through both its content and its soundtrack, but it also provides insight into the origins of this skill, as the film is very loosely based on Eminem's own experiences as a poor white kid trying to get noticed in the predominately African-American world of hip-hop. One sure-fire way to get people's attention is to win a rap battle, which is the lyrical equivalent of a boxing match. 8 Mile is slow and meandering at times, but Eminem brings an undeniable intensity and honesty to the role that helps sustain interest.
Given the film's subject matter, it should come as no surprise that the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtracks have a lot of energy, particularly in the nether regions. Dialogue is easily discernible, but surround use is limited. The 2.35:1 anamorphic video has excellent detail and black levels, but don't expect much flash or color. The only highlight of the otherwise-cookie-cutter extras package is the behind-the-scenes rap-battle footage, in which director Curtis Hanson holds a contest to select a few of the film's extras to participate in rap battles with the star. It's both revealing and humorous.
I wouldn't call this a must-own DVD (although I'm sure Eminem's many fans would disagree), but it's certainly an interesting way to gain insight into the man everyone loves to talk about.#&151;Adrienne Maxwell