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DVD Reviews for 3/30: Build Your Own Grindhouse (Sticky Floors And Raincoats Not Included)
by Peter Sobczynski

In which your ailing critic rises from his sickbed (okay, sicksofa) to offer detailed glimpses at sleazy trailers, mad slashers, scuzzy cowboys, singing penguins, junkie students, dystopian futures, auteurist impersonators and even throws in a look at Black Emanuelles box for good measure.

Since this column only appears on-line and not subject to the demands of a print deadline, I generally try to schedule the bulk of the writing for the column for the Wednesday and Thursday prior to its weekly Friday publication with the main review usually being save for last. There is no real reason for this other than the fact that Wednesdays and Thursdays tend to be lighter in terms of movie screenings and this allows me a little more time to pull everything together into the kind of hard-hitting column that you briefly skim before heading over to YouTube to try to find that Beyonce-Shakira video. The flaw in this system is that if something major comes up on Wednesday and/or Thursday–say a massive head cold that has left virtually every orifice above the neckline oozing at least one icky fluid–it doesn’t leave me with much time to scramble together much of anything for you, dear reader.

What I am trying to say, in my inimitable fashion, is that, thanks to just such a head cold, I have once again blown it and I have failed to supply a main review for this weeks column and I don’t even have a wad of alluring photos of a scantily-clad Sherilyn Fenn to offer as compensation. However, I am currently ingesting enough green-death Nyquill to either cure myself quickly or land me in a room in the Detox Mansion next door to whichever pop tartlet is currently suffering from “exhaustion.” All I can do is promise that I will have a real column for you next week and if you are good, perhaps even more alluring photos of a scantily-clad Sherilyn Fenn.


42nd STREET FOREVER: XXX-TREME (Synapse Films. $29.95): While the first two compilations of old grindhouse trailers from the good folks at Synapse covered any number of genres, you should pretty much be able to figure out the focus of this set from the title alone. If you can’t, believe me when I tell you that this DVD is definitely not for you.

ANOTHER SKY (Facets Video. $24.95): A proper young Englishwoman falls under the seductive spell of Morocco when she arrives in the country to serve as the paid companion of a wealthy expatriate. Inspired by the life and work of author Paul Bowles (who memorably wrote about the country in “The Sheltering Sky”), this 1955 film was the only directorial effort from screenwriter/film critic Gavin Lambert.

BLACK EMANUELLE’S BOX (Severin Films. $69.95): In classic exploitation fashion, the worldwide popularity of the Sylvia Kristel “Emmanuelle” films inspired knock-off artists to attempt to cash in by creating their own series of skin flicks simply by having the main character (Laura Gemser, who ironically appeared in the legitimate “Emmanuelle 2" in the massage parlor sequence) drop one ‘M’ from her name along with her clothes. This ingeniously titled set collects three of those films–1976's “Emanuelle In Bangkok” (in which our heroine uncovers political secrets, among other things, while on assignment in the Orient), 1977's “Sister Emanuelle” (in which Emanuelle decides to shed one kind of habit for another, equally sheddable, type) and 1977's “Emanuelle Around the World” (in which she exposes a white slavery ring and I think you can probably fill in the inevitable comment by this point)–along with a CD compilation of the highlights of the Eurosleaze musical scores.

CANDY (Velocity/Thinkfilm. $27.95): Although this Australian drama about a couple of kids who get caught up in the insidious world of drug abuse doesn’t really offer viewers anything new on the subject, it is nevertheless worth catching thanks to the impressive performances by Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish as the junkies in question and Geoffrey Rush as their mentor.

CHILDREN OF MEN (Universal Home Video. $29.98): Despite being deemed the best film of 2006 by a number of critics (including yours truly), Alfonso Cuaron’s dark and dazzling vision of the not-too-distant future–a world teetering on the brink of collapse thanks to worldwide infertility–was largely overlooked in theaters and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski’s awe-inspiring contributions inexplicably failed to win the Best Cinematography Oscar that many assumed to be a mortal lock. If you saw it in theaters, you will want to check out this DVD for the bonus feature explaining how some of the more astonishing sequences were filmed. If you didn’t see it in theaters, now is your chance to finally catch up with an instant classic.

COLOR ME KUBRICK (Magnolia Video. $29.98): In what may well be the most flamboyantly over-the-top performance of his entire career (and that is saying a lot), John Malkovich is a jaw-dropping delight in this virtual one-man show about the strange true-life case of Alan Conway, a oddball British con man who bilked countless people out of free meals, drinks and petty cash by claiming to be the famous (and famously reclusive) filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Written and directed by a pair of former Kubrick associates, the film is jam-packed with allusions and in-joke references to Kubrick’s work that should make it a must-see for his fans.

CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER (Sony Home Entertainment. $28.95): Although undeniably beautiful to look at (and not just because the gorgeous Gong Li parades around in an endless series of cleavage-enhancing gowns), Zhang Yimou’s latest stab at the martial arts genre (following “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”) was a ridiculous stew of bizarre battle scenes and soap opera hysterics that left Li and co-star Chow Yun-Fat stranded amidst the admittedly gorgeous scenery.

EARLY BERGMAN (The Criterion Collection. $69.95): To kick off their new Eclipse imprint–a line dedicated to the lesser-known films of well-known filmmakers–the folks at Criterion offer up a set of five early works from Swedish master Ingmar Bergman; “Torment” (1944), “Crisis” (1946), “Port of Call” (1948), “Thirst” (1949) and “To Joy” (1949).

THE ERROL FLYNN COLLECTION VOL.2 (Warner Home Video. $49.98): The legendary movie star gets the box set treatment a second time from the folks at Warner Brothers. This set includes five films–“The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1936), “The Dawn Patrol” (1938), “Dive Bomber” (1941), “Gentleman Jim” (1942) and “The Adventures of Don Juan” (1948)–along with a slew of bonus cartoons and short subjects including “Shoot Yourself Some Golf,” a 1942 short in which the then-married Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman are seen taking some golf lessons from pro Jimmy Thomson.

FUNNY MONEY (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $26.98): Even though I am fully aware that Chevy Chase has been in more than his share of bad movies over the years, there is still a part of me that wishes that he could find a vehicle worthy of his talents that would remind us all of why we found him funny in the first place. That said, I have the sneaking suspicion that this direct-to-video comedy–a Romanian-lensed farce in which he plays a nebbishy accountant who accidentally takes possession of a suitcase containing a million dollar in mob money–is probably not that vehicle.

HAPPY FEET (Warner Home Video. $28.98): The great George Miller, the man behind the “Mad Max” and “Babe” films, finally received a long-overdue Oscar last month for this charming, though sometimes dark, fable about a penguin who is ostracized from his clan because of his inability to sing and who winds up saving them thanks to his ability to tap-dance. Surprisingly, there aren’t many extras on this disc (which suggests that a more loaded version may be on the way) but among them is the classic Merrie Melodies cartoon “I Love to Singa,” another classic bit of animation about a bird who chooses to express himself in a decidedly unusual manner

JOHN PRINE: LIVE ON SOUNDSTAGE (Shout Factory! $19.95): In this 1980 performance, filmed for the acclaimed PBS music series, cult favorite Prine offers up a selection of 13 songs (including such signature tunes as “Angel From Montgomery” and “Hello In There”) and takes us on a guided tour of his hometown of Maywood, Illinois.

KEOMA (Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $24.98): In this late (1976) entry in the spaghetti western genre, half-breed Franco Nero returns home from the Civil War to find it dominated by a gang of thugs that include his three half-brothers. As you can probably, many rounds of ammunition are fired, many gallons of blood are spilled and many lines of dialogue are lost thanks to the dubbing.

MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN: VOLUME ONE (Sony Home Entertainment. $29.95): Although this deadpan spoof of soap operas from Norman Lear became a cult sensation when it premiered in 1975, I have no idea how this stew of serial killers, infidelity, impotence and waxy yellow buildup will play to contemporary audiences. It might still be worth picking up this set (comprising the first 25 of 325 total episodes cranked out between 1975 and 1977) because doing so might mean that we are that much closer to the long-overdue release of the spin-off “Fernwood 2-Night,” a hysterical parody of local talk shows starring Martin Mull and the invaluable Fred Willard.

MIDSOMER MURDERS–SET 8 (Acorn Media. $39.99): The latest collection of episodes from the popular British television mystery series that follows a pair of dedicated detectives (John Nettles and Daniel Casey) as they try to solve the latest murders to occur in a seemingly idyllic community–this time, the crimes revolve around shady real estate deals (“The Maid In Splendour”), pagan activities (“The Straw Woman”) and dark secrets that come to life during a Christmas gathering (“Ghosts of Christmas Past”). Those of you who are planning on catching the hilarious “Hot Fuzz” when it opens next month might want to check this out since Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg were clearly inspired by its combination of quirky characters, bucolic settings and bizarro killings.

ROMAN (Echo Bridge. $19.99): A few years ago, writer-director Lucky McKee and actress Angela Bettis electrified horror buffs (at least the ones lucky enough to catch it) with the haunting and strangely touching “May,” a story of a lonely misfit whose efforts to reach out to others have grim consequences for all involved. With this film, the two have switched jobs as Bettis directs McKee (who also penned the screenplay) in another tale of a misfit loner whose fixation on a neighbor (Kristen Bell) has grim consequences for all involved. Not quite as powerful as “May”–few horror movies in recent years are–but it does serve as an intriguing variation on the themes of that earlier work.

SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS (Lionsgate Home Video. $19.99): No, this isn’t that desperately unfunny Billy Bob Thornton-Jon Heder exercise in futility that quickly came and went last fall. This is the 1960 British semi-classic that inspired it–a frequently hilarious goof in which meek Ian Carmichael takes a strange class in assertiveness training from teacher Alistair Sim so that he can win the girl of his dreams from the clutches of the slimy Terry-Thomas.

SLEEPERS (Acorn Media. $39.99): No, this isn’t that terrible Barry Levinson film version of that “true” (i.e. false) Lorenzo Carcaterra story about former juvenile delinquents getting revenge on their former oppressors. This is the very entertaining 1991 British miniseries about a pair of Russian sleeper spies in London who have so thoroughly assimilated to their surroundings over the past 25 years that they no longer consider themselves Russian–this becomes a problem when the KGB begins to investigate their whereabouts in order to bring them back home at any cost.

THE TEMPEST (Sony Home Entertainment. $14.95): No, this isn’t. . . wait, actually it is a screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s final play, a modern-take from writer-director Paul Mazursky featuring an eclectic cast including John Cassavetes, Gene Rowlands, Susan Sarandon Raul Julia and Molly Ringwald (in her big-screen debut). Purists may howl at some of the liberties that Mazursky has taken with the material (and high-school students trying to short-cut through a reading assignment should give it a pass if they value their GPA’s) but it is a quirky charmer with nice performances all around.

TURISTAS (Fox Home Entertainment. $29.99): In this especially blatant and uninspired rip-off of “Saw” and “Hostel,” a bunch of hot young idiots backpacking through South America find themselves the target of a elaborate illegal organ harvesting ring. Not even the considerable sight of Melissa George and Olivia Wilde in bikinis skimpier than the screenplay is enough to make this worth watching for anyone other than the most undiscerning of gorehounds.

VAN WILDER 2: THE RISE OF TAJ (MGM Home Video. $29.99): I know that I saw this extremely tenuous sequel to the minor 2002 comedy hit during its brief theatrical run last December–I was killing time between screenings of “The Lives of Others” and “The Good Shepard”–but I’ll be damned if I can remember a single thing about it and to be quite honest, I think I’d like to keep it that way.

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originally posted: 03/30/07 15:18:42
last updated: 03/31/07 00:22:55
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