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DVD Reviews for 10/2: Some Filth, Little Wisdom
by Peter Sobczynski

Wait a second--”Like a Virgin” is 25 years old? How is that possible? Well, while I go off and begin feeling incredibly old, please enjoy a column filled with monsters, aliens, music and murder. Appropriately enough, it even begins with a collection of previews of coming attractions.

NEW AND NOTABLE

42nd STREET FOREVER 5: ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE EDITION (Synapse Entertainment. $19.95): What better way to celebrate this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas (especially if you weren’t able to attend) than with this collection of trashy genre movie trailers compiled by Tim League, the owner of the legendary Alamo Drafthouse theater and the creator of Fantastic Fest, and programmers Lars Nilsen and Zack Carlson? The trailers, a collection ranging from kung-fu epics like “Mad Monkey Kung-Fu” and the insane-looking “Lucky Seven” to sleazy sexploitation like “Stacy” and “Caged Virgins” to kiddie matinee classics such as “The Magic Christmas Tree” and “Pinocchio’s Birthday Party,” are so wildly entertaining that you will immediately want to see the full-length versions of each and every one of them (even though I suspect that wouldn’t be the greatest idea in most cases) and just when you think it can’t get any more awesome, they toss in the teaser trailer for the immortal “Megaforce.” And for those of you with no idea of what the Alamo Drafthouse is in the first place, the DVD also includes a half-hour documentary on the place that will make every film fanatic wish for at least a second that they lived in Texas themselves.

AWAY WE GO (Universal Home Entertainment. $29.98): In this road movie from director Sam Mendes, a rootless couple (John Krazinski and Maya Rudolph) expecting their first child set off on a cross-country journey to visit old friends and loved ones in the hopes of finding a suitable place to settle down. Although the screenplay by acclaimed alt-lit couple Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida is sometime a little too clichéd and condescending for its own good, the film is still pretty charming, touching and entertaining thanks to the nice central performances from Krazinski and Rudolph and the surprisingly light touch displayed by the usually heavy-handed Mendes.


CELEBRATION (Warner Bros. Records. $28.99): What better way to celebrate Madonna’s quarter-century reign as one of the most significant pop icons of our time than with this two-disc set compiling 47 of the music videos that she made from that time, a collection ranging from her “Burning Up” debut to the current “Celebration” and including such landmarks as the puberty-inducing “Like a Virgin,” controversial works like “What It Feels Like For A Girl” and “Justify My Love” and the unquestioned masterpieces “Like A Prayer,” “Express Yourself” and “Ray of Light”? One could quibble that this set isn’t quite as complete as it could have been (the absence of “Bad Girl” is especially notable) and the lack of a Blu-ray version is especially puzzling but for anyone interested in Madonna, the evolution of the music video or contemporary popular culture, this set is a must and for everyone else, watching it will serve as a reminder that “True Blue” may well be the most utterly perfect pop tune of our time. This week also sees the release of Madonna’s directorial debut, “Filth and Wisdom” (IFC Films. $19.98) but even her most dedicated fans will find it nearly impossible to sit through this incoherent comedy-drama about three mismatched roommates (including Gogol Bordello lead singer Eugene Hutz) trying to make it in a cold, cruel and depraved world--despite the promise of the title, the film is sadly lacking in both filth and wisdom.

FERMAT’S ROOM (MPI Home Video. $19.98): In what can only be described as a weirdo fusion of “Pi,” “Cube” and “Saw,” this Spanish thriller finds four math geniuses trapped in a room that has been booby-trapped with walls that are slowly collapsing together and the only thing that can stop them from being squished is to answer a series of brainteasers being sent to them via computer. Yeah, it is pretty much as stupid as it sounds, never more so than during the absurd finale in which the person responsible for everything tries to explain it all. In other words, this is the one that will probably get the big-budget American remake before too long.

THE HILLS RUN RED (Warner Home Video. $19.98): Co written by noted splatter-punk author David J. Schow, this direct-to-video item tells the story of a film student whose search for a copy of a long-lost horror film that was supposedly destroyed (along with its cast and director) reveals that its killer--a creepy mutilator known as “Baby Face”--may not have be fictional after all.





MANAGEMENT (Image Entertainment. $27.98): In this somnambulistic romantic comedy that briefly appeared on movie screens last spring, Steve Zahn plays a laid-back and slightly creepy motel night manager with a deep and overwhelming lust for women of exceptional blandness. Needless to say, his dreams come true one night when businesswoman Jennifer Aniston checks in one night and becomes the baby dull of his dreams.


MANSON: 40 YEARS LATER (A&E Home Entertainment. $19.95): What better way to commemorate Roman Polanski’s recent return to the headlines than with this new A&E documentary about the man whose followers brutally slaughtered his wife and unborn child four decades earlier? Even better, it also includes dramatic re-enactments of some key events for good measure. If you have no working knowledge of Mason and his atrocities, this film may have some value but others are likely to find it to be a rehash of familiar material that is further cheapened by the use of those tacky re-enactments.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (Paramount Home Video. $29.99): Although this animated comedy about an elite and top-secret force of government-raised monsters (voiced by the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen and Hugh Laurie) charged with saving the world from an alien attack isn’t completely worthless--it has some funny moments here and there as well as a couple of nice homages to classic sci-fi titles. However, it lacks that final burst inspiration needed to transform it from an amiable-but-forgettable time-waster into the classic that it could have been.


THE NEW YORK RIPPER: SPECIAL EDITION (Blue Underground. $19.95): In a film that would prove to be ridiculously gory and sleazy even by the standards of grindhouse cinema, this 1982 effort from Italian cult director Lucio Fulci follows an over-the-hill cop and a psychoanalyst as they desperately try to track down a maniac who has been slicing up young women with a razor. Lacking the surreal splendor of his more fantastical efforts like “Zombie” and “The Beyond,” this film is perhaps most memorable for Fulci’s demented decision to have his killer spend the entire time talking in, of all things, a voice surprisingly similar to the one used by Donald Duck.


NIGHTMARE (MPI Home Video. $24.98): After a one-night stand, a film student and a struggling actress wake up the next morning with no memories of what transpired the night before and a video camera pointed at the bed. Alas, instead of poorly-shot hanky-panky, the tape in the machine reveals itself to be a snuff film featuring them as the killers. Did they do it or are they helplessly trapped in a sub-Lynchian hell of murder and madness. Well, I’m not saying anything but if you want to find out for yourself, this film from debuting writer/director Dylan Blank is done well enough to keep viewers relatively interested throughout.

NOT YOUR TYPICAL BIGFOOT MOVIE (Oscilloscope. $26.99): As the title suggests, this is not just another movie exploring the history and mythology behind the legendary Sasquatch. Instead, it is an intriguing look at a couple of Ohio-based friends who have dedicated their lives to tracking down and proving the existence of the creature and the scorn that their efforts have inspired over the years from fellow Bigfoot researchers.



PRINCESS (Palisades Tartan): After the mysterious death of his estranged porn-star sister, a missionary returns home to care for his five-year-old niece. When he discovers that pornographic material featuring Sis is still on the market, he goes on a violent rampage of revenge against those who he feels both exploited her and led to her death. Even more perverse than it sounds (like the anime segment in “Kill Bill,” this is a film that simply could not have been made and released into theaters if it had been shot in live-action with real actors), this effort from Anders Morgenthaler isn’t totally successful–once the premise is set up, it just becomes one grisly execution after another–but it has some flashes of dark humor and is certainly never boring.

SHRINK (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $27.98): The idea of Kevin Spacey playing a high-priced Hollywood psychiatrist who finds himself growing increasingly detached from both his professional and personal lives following the suicide of his wife a year earlier sounds like it could serve as the basis for an intriguing movie--unfortunately, this is not that movie. Instead, it is a tedious and rambling work following the lives of a number of disparate people--a slightly over-the-hill actress (Saffron Burrows), a top movie star (an unbilled Robin Williams), a hyperactive agent (Dallas Roberts), a writer with nothing to say (Mark Webber) and a troubled teenager (Keke Palmer)--who are all connected to the increasingly disconnected and pot-addled shrink as they muddle through their lives looking for some degree of happiness. Clearly, director Jonas Pate is striving to make the kind of sprawling multi-character narrative that the late Robert Altman used to pull off so effortlessly throughout his career. However, he is let down by an incredibly trite screenplay that is so overloaded with extraneous characters, needless subplots and unbelievable coincidences that the few good things about it (such as the performance from the always-underrated Burrows and the nice byplay that develops between Spacey and Palmer) get buried under an avalanche of trite clichés, shallow ennui, dead dogs, tearful epiphanies and joints soaked in embalming fluid. On the other hand, it also provides conclusive proof that Robert Loggia is indeed still alive, so at least it has that going for it.

STEPFATHER 2 (Synapse Entertainment. $19.95): What better way to celebrate the presumably pointless remake of one of the very best horror movies of the 1980’s than with the DVD debut of the original film’s equally unnecessary and largely forgotten 1989 sequel. Returning to the role of a psycho who marries into broken families in the hopes of finding a “Leave It to Beaver”-like paradise and slaughters them when the messiness of real life seeps in, Terry O’Quinn is still the epitome of mild-mannered monstrosity but unlike the uncommonly intelligent original (which is finally hitting DVD in a couple of weeks), he is let down by a screenplay that is nothing more than a dull rehash of what happened the first time around.

TRAFFIK: 20th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Acorn Media. $39.99): What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the landmark British miniseries showing the impact of the international drug trade through the eyes of several people who are affected by it in different ways than by watching this 20th anniversary edition containing the full six-part series (including the extended version of the final episode) and interviews with writer Simon Moore and producer Brian Eastman. While it is a different beast than Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning 2000 remake, it remains a remarkably gripping and incisive look at the war on drugs that never descends into simply playing lip service to the problem and, depressingly, it still remains startlingly relevant today. Other TV-related DVD releases on shelves this week include “Ax Men: The Complete Season 2” (A&E Home Video. $39.95), “CSI NY: The Complete Fifth Season” (CBS DVD. $71.41), “Cagney & Lacey: The Menopause Years” (S’more Entertainment. $39.95), “How I Met Your Mother: Season Four” (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98), “Kings: The Complete Series” (Universal Home Entertainment. $54.98), “Life on Mars: The Complete Series” (ABC Video. $39.99), “Midsomer Murders--Volume 13” (Acorn Media. $49.99), “The Patty Duke Show--Season One” (Shout! Factory. $44.99) and “The Unit: Season Four” (Fox Home Entertainment. $59.98).




ALSO ON



THE DARK CRYSTAL (Sony Home Entertainment. $27.95)

FACING THE GIANTS (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95)

FIREPROOF (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95)



HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (MPI Home Video. $29.98)

LABYRINTH (Sony Home Entertainment. $27.95)



SNAKES ON A PLANE (New Line Home Entertainment. $28.99)

{b]THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE {i](New Line Home Entertainment. $28.99)


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2836
originally posted: 10/01/09 13:32:58
last updated: 10/01/09 13:44:43
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