DVD of the Week
Not that there was anything wrong with Pierce Brosnan, but Daniel Craig makes a granite-hard James Bond (and those are just his pecs). The 007 franchise has finally gotten in sync with a post-Bourne Identity world. Fortunately, one thing has stayed the same: Eva Green's Bond girl Vesper Lynd makes tongues wag. Extras include featurettes on Craig, the stunts and Bond girls in general.
Cameron Diaz swaps houses with British single girl Kate Winslet and soon wishes she hadn't. Because while Winslet has a whale of a time being wooed by a low-key Jack Black in a fairytale Los Angeles, Diaz is trapped in an insufferable affair with perma-grinning Jude Law in a fantasy Britain. Writer-director Nancy Meyers (Something's Gotta Give) is the Spielberg of romantic trifles, and even she can't do much with Law.
Believe it or not, a movie that opens with a man trying to fellate himself can also be one of the best of the year. Hedwig and the Angry Inch creator John Cameron Mitchell accomplishes a rare feat in making onscreen sex titillating and as much an expression of his characters' inner lives as their Woody Allen-esque dialogue. In post 9/11 New Yawk, he convenes a cast of unknowns who learn that if you free your ass, your mind will follow.
Christian Bale is an Iraq War vet suffering with a terminal inability to find a job in the chemical DMZ of the L.A. basin. So he spends his days driving around with buddy Freddy Rodriguez, seeking an outlet for his inner rage in booze, weed and the old ultra-violence. The directorial debut of Training Day scribe David Ayer is rambling mess. But while what it has to say about the inner workings of an amped-up American male isn't pretty, it's still riveting.
In 1990 this love-after-death weepie with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore had audiences everywhere discovering an affinity for pottery. Sixteen years on, it still manages to work due to the attractiveness of its two leads and a great comic turn from Whoopi Goldberg as a fake medium. The extras aren't that special, though - commentary from the writer and director and three unnecessary documentaries.
Before Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima, one of the finest looks at World War II from the Japanese perspective was Kon Ichikawa's harrowing 1959 classic. Defeated in the Phillippines, the surviving Nippon soldiers are left scrambling to get off a devastated island. A tubercular soldier bears witness as man turns against man and cannibalism sets in. War is hell, remember? Criterion's extras include an interview with Ichikawa.
The week's most mind-bending release is Alain Resnais' lost 1963 masterwork, where editing and angst weave past and present together. And what a past - Muriel (French screen goddess Delphine Seyrig) confronts an old lover while her son tries to exorcise the memory of the girl he killed during the Algerian War. As a treatise on war and remembrance, it hasn't aged a day.
As the head of a missing persons team, Anthony LaPaglia appears to be having more fun than Criminal Minds' Mandy Patinkin, can act a little better than CSI's William Peterson and doesn't have to wear sunglasses like David Caruso. The season opens with the gang trying to find a missing bus of school kids and gets better from there. Includes additional scenes.
After Three's Company's ménage a trois, there was nowhere for TV sitcoms to go but down. So why not have two wild and ker-azy guys dress up as women so they can bust into a low-rent apartment complex? Those two guys were Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, and the world was never quite the same. Well, it was for Scolari. But the two real-life pals have genuine chemistry, and the dopey premise has (shaved) legs. All 19 episodes from the 1980 season on 3 discs.
Ears were briefly focused on Rio's ghettos earlier this decade when critics discovered the delights of baile funk. Riding the City of God bandwagon, this doc profiles one of the favela acts that made it big: AfroReggae. It's an inspiring tale. Unlike American counterparts like N.W.A., they pumped money and talent back into their 'hood. The directors pump in plenty of jazzy color, but there's barely enough real-life gangsta drama for half a Behind the Music.
Both wise man and wiseass, the 23-year-old Bob Dylan was a radically charismatic performer when D.A. Pennebaker documented his 1965 romp through Britain. The curly-haired singer is insightful and fearless, commanding a small entourage with quip after quip. Dissing acolytes such as Donovan, mocking "straight" journalists with bratty queries and incisive barbs, writing poems on the typewriter while Joan Baez sings his newest songs back to him -- Dylan generates an odd mix of moods here. He plays for the camera while falling victim to its inescapable intimacy. Whether he's messing with a Hank Williams tune or shooing adoring fans from the hood of his car, he's gripping. This new box set version of the classic roc doc comes with a nifty little photo flipbook of the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" placard video, and a bound folio of the "script." Extra audio tracks, too.