DVD of the Week
There must be a lot of people out there who enjoy seeing people drown in pig entrails. It's the only way to account for the continued popularity of Jigsaw's sadistic games. The third piece of this puzzle is the first to prioritize plot as much as anguish. Jiggy is dying, so it's up to demented heir Shawnee Smith and a kidnapped doctor to keep the monster alive. Connoisseurs of steak tartar will love it. Sick bag not included.
The grizzled guru/green recruit scenario has been played out countless times, from An Officer and a Gentleman to Kill Bill. Enlisting grumpy Kevin Costner and puckish Ashton Kutcher in the Coast Guard is a dream set-up, and the dutiful string of clichés (yes, of course there's going to be a dramatic final rescue where Costner redeems himself!) benefits from the action of the perpetually stormy seas. With commentary, and a Coast Guard doc.
There was plenty of Oscar yadda when this Maggie Gyllenhaal melodrama limped in and out theatres, and the Secretary star certainly embraces the role. What actress wouldn't? She's a mom just out of stir, battling to pry her three-year-old away from her sister-in-law and kick heroin. The film's indie roots reside in the characters' refreshing complexity, and the white-hot Gyllenhaal leaves vapor trails across the screen.
Here's another overlooked movie that manages to reinvigorate tired clichés. Indie rocker Mark Duplass hopes to reconnect with his girlfriend on a road trip to deliver a La-Z-Boy to his dad. When his slacker brother joins the journey, the film morphs into a gentle comedy that hits plenty of marks in its depiction of twenty-something anxieties. A bed-headed Little Miss Sunshine without the sunshine, and all the better for it.
So how does a movie like Saw III, with its torture sequences, nudity, and sailor's lingo only merit an "R" in today's world? Kirby Dick wants to know. His belligerent documentary closely scrutinizes the ratings practices of the MPAA. So closely, in fact, that Dick hires detectives to root out the shadowy parents and officials who decide whether the otherwise harmless Clerks should get an NC-17 for language Dad uses all the time.
By this time last year, people were so sick of hearing about Brokeback Mountain's greatness that the Best Picture Oscar went to the inferior Crash instead. Away from the roar of huzzahs, Ang Lee's gay chaps flick is a subtle look at repressed emotions and thwarted lives. The wealth of extras on this edition continue to tout the movie's "importance," although composer Gustavo Santaolalla's meeting with Willie Nelson is a low-key affair.
In 1961's Yojimbo, the great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa gave Toshiro Mifune his finest role as a tiger-like samurai who "negotiates" between two warring bandit clans. The violent atmosphere inspired Clint Eastwood's spaghetti Westerns and every action hero to come. In the sequel, Mifune shows some naïve acolytes how it's done, parodying Yojimbo and his classic Seven Samurai in the process. Comes with two episodes of an insightful Japanese TV program on Kurosawa, commentary and essays.
Before he became a movie star, Mitchum spent time as a professional boxer, ditch-digger, and rail-rider. Hollywood didn't impress him much, and a 1948 pot bust cemented his "bad boy" reputation. But if his performances seemed tossed-off, a dramatic cunning lay behind those sleepy eyes. He's in good form in these six movies, including the kinky 1953 melodrama Angel Face, the lunatic Macao (edited by Howard Hughes!) and The Yakuza, an early effort from the screenwriter of Taxi Driver.
Horror fans who grew up before cable will adore this collection of four midnight movies, all starring Boris Karloff. At one end of the spectrum, 1958's Corridors of Blood oozes Victorian atmosphere, with Karloff as an opium-addicted physician tangled up with some body snatchers. At the other, First Man in Space could have been made in someone's backyard. All get the Criterion treatment, with commentaries, video interviews with surviving cast and crewmembers, trailers, radio spots, and essays.
The 1970s' answer to 7th Heaven lumbered into season four having perfected its winning combination of cracker-barrel inspiration and Depression-era nostalgia. Aspiring novelist John Boy gets a crack at the big time behind the pulpit and the movie camera, Grandpa spins some tall tales about his war years, and the family faces an apocalypse when their house burns down. There are 24 homespun episodes on five double-sided discs.
Who watches this aside from Conan O'Brien's writers? The answer came in Talladega Nights, when Ricky Bobby introduces his two sons as "Walker" and "Texas Ranger." The NASCAR set will find plenty to light up those lonely nights in the trailer, as Chuck Norris continues to take names and kick ass without once creasing his Stetson.
It didn't take long for Hollywood to get into this thing the kids called "rock 'n' roll." The Stomp the Yard's of their day, these two titles are packed with cool performances from Little Richard, Billy Haley & the Comets and the Treniers. The silly plots are disposable, although the knowing Rock Around the Clock cannily illustrates how show biz agents tired of the previously-popular mambo, and pounced on the sound that shook the world.