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DVD Reviews For 9/21: A Walk On The Wild Side With Al Pacino

by Peter Sobczynski

No time for glib comments--have you seen the amount of new DVD's out this week? Well, if you haven't, you've certainly come to the right place.

Over the years, there have been any number of movies whose releases were marked by some great controversy or public outcry regarding their content. More often or not, these tend to be the films that push the boundaries when it comes to sexuality (“Last Tango in Paris,” “Henry & June”), violence (pick the gory horror film of your choice) or some combination of the two. In most cases, the furor dies down within a couple of weeks after the film is released as people move on to the next thing and when you sit down to check out one of these once-scandalous films a few years or even a few weeks down the line, the only thing that most viewers are likely to be shocked about is the fact that such now-benign titles could have possibly inspired such outrage once upon a time. In some cases, however, the film in question touches such primal nerves that they maintain their power to startle and offend years after the initial squabbles have long since faded from memory. One such film is William Friedkin’s 1980 cop thriller “Cruising,” a film that aroused such anger in its day for its depiction of the gay subculture of the time that protestors didn’t wait until it was released to voice their outrage but picketed the production while it was still filming on the streets of New York. Seen today, 27 years down the line, the film still manages to pack a punch today for its eyebrow-raising content and the fact that there was a time when a major studio would willingly finance and release something this seamy and controversial.

Inspired by a 1970 novel by Gerald Walker and a real-life murder-extortion case that occurred in the New York gay scene, the film opens up with three grim scenes of physical and emotional violence–the discovery of a severed arm floating in the Hudson River, a pair of flamboyantly gay men being rousted and harassed by a pair of slimy cops and a sequence in which a man picks up an unknown leather-clad man in a gay bar who will brutally stab him to death later that night in his apartment. It appears that there may be a serial killer preying on members of the gay community’s hardcore S&M underground and so the police decide to send ambitious young police officer Steve Burns (Al Pacino) to pose as a gay man and go undercover in the hopes of capturing him. Isolated both from his fellow officers, for whom the idea of capturing a murderer preying on homosexuals would presumably be a low priority, and from his new surroundings, Steve slowly begins to learn the intricate rules and details of the subculture in order to put himself out there as bait. As he delves further and further into the case, the experience overwhelms him and as the bodies pile up and his pursuit continues, it begins to affect both his personal life, much to the consternation of girlfriend Karen Allen, and professional life to such a degree that he begins to question who he really is.

At the time, “Cruising” was lambasted by critics and audiences for its admittedly sordid depiction of the gay underground and for its ambiguous narrative, especially the deliberate inconclusive final scenes. Seen today, however, it comes across both as a fascinating time capsule of a long-ago era–Friedkin shot in real locations in a manner that lends the film a documentary-like sense of realism–and a bold experiment in non-narrative filmmaking in which the mundane details of the story are not nearly as important as creating and sustaining an almost suffocating sense of dread and unease that puts us right into the shoes of our hero as he tries to navigate his new surroundings. This is tense, emotionally-fraught filmmaking at its finest and while it may well be too strong for some viewers, those who can handle the stronger stuff will be rewarded with the kind of intense cinematic experience that even the hardiest viewers will find difficult to shake.

Although it would have been easy enough for Warner Home Video to either consign “Cruising” to an especially dusty shelf in their vault or give it a low-profile, bare-bones release, they apparently recognized that the film’s reputation has grown in stature over the years among those who see it as an influence on the later mood-driven films of Michael Mann and David Fincher and among those who admire it for depicting an aspect of the gay lifestyle that Hollywood has otherwise ignored completely or played solely for laughs. As a result, they have given the film a modest special edition with a handful of extras that stress quality over quantity. Friedkin contributes an audio commentary and while he does occasionally lapse into simply describing the events that we are seeing on the screen, he does get into the details of the making of the film and the effects that he was going for and the result is one of the better commentaries that he has delivered. He also pops up again in a two-part documentary, directed by Laurent Bouzreau, that covers both the making of the film and the intense controversy surrounding its production and release. Although a highly informative work that will fascinate fans of the film, this doc is marred by the absence of Pacino or any of the protestors from the interview portions. Finally, there is the original trailer, a tense and jittery teaser that does a pretty good job of conveying the mood of the entire film. All in all, it is a nice special edition for a film deserving of a reappraisal and if it sells well, maybe it will inspire Friedkin to put together a decent DVD of “Sorcerer,” his other misunderstood and underrated masterpiece, so that it can get the recognition it deserves.

Written and directed by William Friedkin. Starring Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Karen Allen, Richard Cox, Don Scardino and Joe Spinell. 1980. Rated R. 102 minutes. A Warner Home Video release. $19.98.


ALLIGATOR (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $14.98): With the single exception of Joe Dante’s classic “Piranha,” this cheerfully cheapo 1980 horror film was the best of all the “Jaws” rip-offs. (Perhaps not coincidentally, both were written by John Sayles, who used his screenwriting fees to help finance “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” his directorial debut.) Using the urban myth involving baby alligators growing to monstrous sizes in city sewers after being flushed down the toilet when they grow too big to serve as pets as a springboard, this little gem finds B-movie stalwart Robert Forster doing battle with just such a creature when it bursts out of the sewer and begins wreaking havoc on the streets of Chicago. In the two highlights, the monster first crashes a pirate-themed birthday party (woe to the tyke forced to walk the plank into the swimming pool) and then hits a mob wedding where it essentially eats a car. Although just having a decent copy would have been enough, the DVD also includes a commentary track from the cast and an interview with Sayles.

ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS/MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98): In order to tie in with the publicity surrounding the upcoming “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” Universal offers up this double-feature of royalty-based cinema–the former is the acclaimed 1969 account of the thousand-day reign of Anne Boleyn (Genevieve Bujold), the second wife of Henry VIII (Richard Burton) whose time as the most powerful woman in England ended with her inability to produce a male heir. The latter is a 1972 film about Mary Stuart (Vanessa Redgrave), who served as Queen of Scotland from when she was six days old until the age of 23, when she was usurped by her cousin (and the Queen of England), Elizabeth Tudor (Glenda Jackson).

BEYOND THE GATES (Fox Home Entertainment. $27.98): If you sort of liked “Hotel Rwanda” but wished that the makers could have figured out a way to recount the story of the 1994 genocide in a way that would feature more white people, this 2006 drama should be right up you alley–it is pretty much the same thing as that earlier film, except that it features John Hurt and Hugh Dancy as the leads.

BLOODRAYNE 2: DELIVERANCE (Toucan Cove. $26.99): What could be better (or worse) than a brand-new film from Uwe Boll, the auteur of such modern-day camp classics as “House of the Dead,” “Alone in the Dark” and the original “Bloodrayne”? How about an Uwe Boll film that even he has decreed worthy of only a direct-to-video release? In this sequel to his botched adaptation of the sexy vampiric videogame, our half-human/half-bloodsucker heroine (Natassia Malthe, replacing Kristanna Loken) finds herself in the Old West and joins up with Pat Garrett (Michael Pare) to hunt down Billy the Kid (Zack Ward), who, in a bit of information that Sam Peckinpah mysteriously left out of “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid,” is actually a vampire bent on world domination. I assume that even with such enticements as a commentary from Boll himself and a copy of the original “Bloodrayne 2" PC game, most of the saner readers out there will cheerfully pass up the chance to sit through what sounds like a rehash of the less-than-immortal “Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula”–for the rest of us, however, this could be another must-see messterpiece from Boll and even if it isn’t, it should tide us over until his demented take on “Postal” hits theaters.

THE BOSS OF IT ALL (IFC Films. $24.95): Although such previous films as “Dancer in the Dark,” “Dogville” and “Manderlay” weren’t exactly indicative of a light, fun touch, Danish director Lars Von Trier decided to go the farcical route with this comedy about a dopey actor hired to portray the non-existent owner of a company as part of a scheme by the secret real owner to screw his partners in a business deal.

BOSTON LEGAL–SEASON 3 (Fox Home Entertainment. $59.98): In this latest collection of episodes from David E. Kelly’s overwrought legal drama, James Spader acts snarky, William Shatner chews every available bit of scenery, Candice Bergen delivers the exact same performance that she did for years on “Murphy Brown” and the rest of the cast members valiantly fight against all odds to get some screen time for themselves.

BROTHERS AND SISTERS–THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Touchstone Home Entertainment. $59.99): Fans of this popular ABC soap opera–in which an extended family deals with Republicans, Iraq, infidelity, homosexuality, death and Rob Lowe running for public office, will no doubt be eager to pick up this collection of its first Emmy-winning season for the deleted scenes, audio commmentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes and even a previously unaired episode that was originally meant to follow the pilot until it was decided that it slowed the story down too much. Alas, the one extra that those fans would probably most like to see–the original pilot for the show that was recast and revamped (with Betty Buckley playing the role that would eventually earn Sally Field an Emmy) after it tested poorly–is nowhere to be found here.

THE CATHERINE DENEUVE COLLECTION (Wellspring Entertainment. $59.99): This box set collects four latter-day titles from one of the world’s most famous and celebrated screen icons–“Place Vendome” (1998), Leos Carax’s brilliant 1999 melodrama “Pola X,” a 2003 miniseries adaptation of “Dangerous Liasons” and Arnaud Desplechin’s acclaimed 2004 comedy-drama “Kings and Queen.”

COMMANDO–DIRECTOR’S CUT (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.98): In one of the ridiculously over-the-top action extravaganzas that made him a superstar in the 1980's, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a retired commando who goes on a one-man rampage (okay, he gets some help from stewardess Rae Dawn Chong) when an evil dictator kidnaps his daughter (Alyssa Milano). This director’s cut is about five minutes longer than the original version but it will take an expert on the film–which I am not–to explain the differences between the two.

THE CONDEMNED (Lionsgate Home Entertainment. $28.98): Sort of the spiritual contemporary heir to the likes of “Commando,” this WWE-funded extravaganza stars Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones as two of a group of prisoners from around the world who are taken to a deserted island and ordered to fight to the death as part of a pay-per-view extravaganza. Little more than a sillier version of “Battle Royale,” this bloodbath did about as well at the box-office as such previous WWE productions as “See No Evil” and “The Marine” and it quickly disappeared from theaters when it was released this spring.

CRAZY LOVE (MTI Releasing. $24.95): In this romantic drama, a seemingly successful and happy woman (Reiko Aylesworth) has a nervous breakdown and while recuperating in an institution, she meets and falls in love with a fellow patient (Bruno Campos). Warning–Meat Loaf makes an appearance as well.

DAVID GILMOUR: REMEMBER THAT NIGHT–LIVE FROM THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL (Sony Home Entertainment. $24.98): The Pink Floyd guitarist goes his own way in this 2-disc set that features Gilmour performing 23 songs, a mix of Floyd standards and his own solo material, with a band including fellow Floyd member Rick Wright and such guests as David Crosby, Graham Nash and David Bowie.

THE DEAD ONE (Echo Bridge. $26.99): Starlet despoiler Wilmer Valderrama stars in what appears to be a cheesy “Crow” knock-off in which he plays a zombie in search of human sacrifices for the demonic Aztec gods that control him–wouldn’t you know it, their next choice for a sacrificial lamb is his former girlfriend.

DELIVERANCE–DELUXE EDITION (Warner Home Video. $19.95): After suffering for years with the decidedly lackluster original release, fans of John Boorman’s harrowing 1972 adventure drama will be thrilled to discover that the film–a work that has far more going for it than two infamous iconic scenes involving banjos and male rape (though not at the same time)–has finally been given the special edition that it has long deserved that includes a commentary from Boorman and a four-part documentary on the making of the film and its subsequent impact that includes interviews with Boorman and the cast members. If this disc sells enough copies, maybe it will inspire some kind soul at Warner Home Video to give us a long-overdue special edition of Boorman’s brilliant and sadly misunderstood 1977 masterpiece “Exorcist II: The Heretic” that includes the three-hour version that is rumored to be sitting somewhere in their vaults.

DORM OF THE DEAD (Under the Bed Films. $14.95): Alas, this is not a penetrating documentary on that dorm room at the end of the hall where the burnouts sit around and talk about going to Alpine Valley and how when the moon came out, it was like Jerry willed it. Instead, it is the presumably less terrifying tale of a clash between a couple of snobby co-eds and a couple of goth girls gets ugly (but not too ugly) when their college campus is suddenly stricken with an outbreak of zombies.

FAMILY GUY–VOLUME 5 (Fox Home Entertainment. $39.98):In this latest offering of episodes from the always-outrageous and occasionally funny Fox animated series–never mind, I have to spend the next six minutes in a death struggle with a guy in a chicken suit.

FINAL DRAFT (The Weinstein Company. $19.95): Alas, this is the long-awaited film adaptation of the popular software program. Instead, this is a direct-to-video horror film about a struggling screenwriter who locks himself up in his apartment in order to finish his latest screenplay without any distractions, only to find the line between reality and fiction becoming blurred and spotted with blood. Warning–this film features both maniacal clowns and James Van Der Beek.

FLASHDANCE (Paramount Home Video. $19.99):You would think that this 1983 musical blockbuster–the first film to really bring the MTV aesthetic to the big screen–would be as woefully dated today as the ripped-sweatshirt fashion craze that it inspired. Strangely enough, it still holds up pretty well today thanks to its cheerfully silly plot and the extraordinarily winning lead performance from then-unknown Jennifer Beals. This collector’s edition includes a number of featurettes on the making of the film and its impact on popular culture and a six-song CD sampler of the best-known tunes from the soundtrack. (By the way, did you know that the hit “Maniac” was originally written for the ultra-gory 1980 slasher film of the same name?)

THE FLYING SCOTSMAN (MGM Home Entertainment. $27.98): Proving that there is more to the world of competitive cycling than Lance Armstrong and doping scandals, this 2006 film tells the inspiring true story of Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree (Johnny Lee Miller), an amateur who overcame struggles with mental illness to become a champion rider on a bicycle he built himself out of bits of scrap metal.

GHOST WHISPERER–THE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $72.99):Another 22 episodes of the exceptionally goofy supernatural series in which Jennifer Love Hewitt uses her paranormal abilities to guide restless spirits to the other side, aid them in communicating with loved ones who are still alive and give everyone she encounters the nagging sensation that they may have overinflated their tires. Among the bonus features included here are a “Jennifer Love Hewitt Speed Painting Video” and a set of collectable tarot cards.:

GRINDHOUSE PRESENTS DEATH PROOF (The Weinstein Company. $29.95): Okay, so maybe Quentin Tarantino’s half of “Grindhouse” (which is being split in two for DVD in an effort to make back some of the money it lost in its theatrical release) didn’t quite follow the traditional grindhouse aesthetic that he and co-director Robert Rodriguez claimed they were adhering to–if any sleazo producer had been handed this film to distribute, they would have ordered him to cut out the opening half-hour of talking and get right to the good stuff. That said, this high-octane action-horror hybrid–a mad slasher film in which the weapon is a tricked-out stunt car instead of a butcher knife–was still a hugely entertaining B-movie extravaganza with a climactic chase scene that has already gone into film history. This is the longer European version that premiered last spring at Cannes and while most of the additional footage either adds nothing to the proceedings (such as a weird interlude involving the search for an Italian “Vogue” in a mini-mart) or actually screw things up (we are granted an earlier glimpse of Kurt Russell’s malevolent Stuntman Mike character that reduces the power and ambiguity of what used to be our first clear look at him) but once you get a load of the famously “missing” lap dance performed by Vanessa Ferlito, all other complaints are likely to fall by the wayside.

INSATIABLE (Velocity/Thinkfilm. $27.98): Alas, this is not the infamous 1980 Marilyn Chambers comeback vehicle of the same name. Instead, this is some direct-to-video vampire nonsense in which Boy (Sean Patrick Flannery) meets Girl (Charlotte Ayanna), Boy falls in love with Girl even though he knows that she is a bloodsucker and Boy tries to prevent Girl from killing again by locking her in a basement instead of killing her.

ITALIAN GIALLO COLLECTION (VCI Entertainment. $29.99): This box set collects three classic examples of the Italian horror-thriller subgenre–Mario Bava’s brilliant 1964 effort “Blood and Black Lace” (considered by many to be the first true giallo film and the first real mad slasher film), Dario Argento’s thrilling 1969 debut “The Bird With The Crystal Plumage” (which remains the most narratively coherent work of his entire career) and Antonio Bido’s 1977 effort “Watch Me When I Kill.” For fans of the genre, all three of these titles are worth picking up but since the set is a repackaging of previously released DVD’s, it is more than likely that most fans of the genre already own them. (Also, while this edition of “The Bird With the Crystal Plumage” is okay, it pales before the special edition put out a couple of years ago by Blue Underground.)

JOHN CANDY COMEDY FAVORITES (Universal Home Entertainment. $19.98): Of the three movies included in this set dedicate to the late, great funnyman, two of them–“Uncle Buck” and “The Great Outdoors” are a.) films that have been previously released on DVD and b.) not particularly funny. The new-to-DVD film is 1983's little-seen “Going Berserk,” a goofy romp in which Candy plays an ordinary schnook who is kidnapped by a cult and brainwashed into killing his future father-in-law, a congressman, with inevitably wacky results. The closest thing, outside of the immortal “Strange Brew,” to a big-screen version of “SCTV” (at one point, I understand, it was to have featured the entire show’s entire cast but that was eventually cut down to Candy, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty) and while it is never quite hits the heights of that show, it does have enough big laughs (such as the theme song and a sequence in which Candy is handcuffed to. . . never mind) to make it worth checking out.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS–THE COMPLETE SERIES (Warner Home Video. $26.98): Essentially “Scooby-Doo” with a better beat and no pesky dog, this Saturday-morning perennial featured a trio of cutely cat-suited rockers who traveled from town to town to solve mysteries and play their special brand of well-scrubbed, non-threatening pop music, usually in that order. Trivia bit #1: Two of the character voices were supplied by Jackie Joseph, best known to B-movie fanatics as Audrey from the original version of “Little Shop of Horrors,” and the then-unknown Cheryl Ladd. Trivia bit #2: As a wee lad, I was apparently so taken with the show that I named my pet dog Josie in tribute.

LUCKY YOU (Warner Home Video. $28.98): Although the multiple release date changes and its eventual dumping into theaters on the same weekend as the opening of “Spider-Man 3" would seem to suggest that this film from the usually reliable Curtis Hanson was some kind of disaster, it was actually a pretty good film that deserved better than it got from its distributor. Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore are winning as, respectively, a degenerate gambler and a sweet-natured lounge singer falling in love amidst the drama of the World Series of Poker, Robert Duvall is great as Bana’s hard-hearted father and there is even a nifty new Bob Dylan tune on the soundtrack for good measure.

MASTERS OF HORROR: SOUNDS LIKE/THE WASHINGTONIANS (Starz/Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. $14.98 each): In these latest installments from the Showtime horror anthology, Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”) gives us a tale of a man who is blessed/cursed with the power of supersensitive hearing and Peter Medak (“The Ruling Class”) offers up a story in which a family inherits a house full of historical artifacts and discover to their horror that George Washington had an intriguing method of fending off hunger while spending the winter at Valley Forge.

ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (The Criterion Collection. $39.95):Although not a box-office success when it was originally released in 1964, this space-age twist on the classic tale has gathered a cult following over the years (comprised mostly of people who saw it for the first time when they were little kids) and those people will no doubt be happy to see the film get its long-overdue DVD release in an edition that ports over all the extras from Criterion’s celebrated (and long out-of-print) laserdisc version from about a decade ago. Warning–this film does contain a brief appearance from Adam West.

THE ROGER CORMAN COLLECTION (MGM Home Entertainment. $39.98): The legendary B-movie auteur, known as much for giving big breaks to struggling talents who would go on to enormous success later on (including Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, Francis Coppola, Ron Howard and Jack Nicholson, to name only five) as for his own highly entertaining directorial forays, gets his due with a box set collecting previously-released editions of some of his best-known films: 1959's “A Bucket Of Blood” (a wild black comedy in which would-be beatnik Dick Miller, in his finest performance, sort-of-accidentally kills people, including a narc played by Bert Convy, covers them in plaster and passes them off as works of art–a film that, strangely enough, is a personal favorite of my mother), 1962's “The Premature Burial” (an Edgar Allen Poe adaptation in which Ray Milland obsession with the fear of being buried alive comes hideously true), 1963's “X–The Man With the X-Ray Eyes” (in which Milland invents a serum that allows him to see through anything and everything–alas, this power slowly begins to drive him mad as a result) and “The Young Racers” (a European-lensed racing saga for which Francis Ford Coppola served as Corman’s assistant–he repaid the favor by allowing Coppola to use some of the sets and actors in order to make the low-budget horror classic “Dementia 13"), 1966's “The Wild Angels” (the first of Corman’s string of biker films–this one with a screenplay co-written by Peter Bogdanovich and a cast including Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd), 1967's “The Trip” (Corman’s first venture into drug-related cinema–he even took personally took an LSD trip in order to know what he would be filming–featuring a screenplay from Jack Nicholson and a cast including Fonda, Dern and Dennis Hopper), 1970's “Bloody Mama” (a “Bonnie & Clyde” knockoff featuring Shelly Winters as the notorious Ma Barker and Bruce Dern and Robert De Niro as her sons/partners in crime) and 1972's “Gas-s-s-s” (a bizarre satire in which everyone over the age of 25 is killed off by a mysterious and lethal gas and everyone under the age of 25 gets to rule the world for themselves–after studio recutting, Corman abandoned directing for producing and would return to the director’s chair until 1990's “Frankenstein Unbound”).

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER–30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Paramount Home Video. $19.99): Disco may be dead as–well, as disco–but this landmark 1977 film is still as fresh, vibrant and alive as ever, thanks mostly to the iconic and star-making performance from John Travolta and to a story that transcends its period trappings by examining the thoughts and emotions that all teens find themselves caught up in, regardless of the time period. This disc contains a commentary from director John Badham, a six-part documentary on the lasting impact of the film and its top-selling soundtrack and even a short dance tutorial.

THE THREEPENNY OPERA (The Criterion Collection. $39.95): The most famous collaboration of composer Kurt Weill and writer Bertolt Brecht inspired not one, but two screen adaptations from German filmmaker G.W. Pabst in 1931–the well-known German-language version and a fairly rare one filmed in French. Both versions are included in this set, along with a historical commentary, archival interviews and a documentary tracing the project’s journey from stage to screen.

TROY–DIRECTOR’S CUT (Warner Home Video. $39.95): Perhaps inspired by the acclaim that Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” received when it was re-released in an extended version that corrected most of the flaws of the original theatrical release, Wolfgang Petersen has expanded his misfired 2004 take on “The Illiad” by more adding on an additional 30 minutes of running time to a film that was already pushing three hours in its original form. The only trouble is that the flaws in Scott’s film were the kind that could be improved with a different edit while the ones here are so deeply ingrained in the material–such as the miscasting of Brad Pitt as Achilles, Orlando Bloom as Paris and the fatally bland Diane Kruger as Helen–that they cannot be overcome by adding on more footage. Of course, if you are a die-hard fan of the film–such people presumably exist or this four-disc set certainly wouldn’t–I guess that this edition is probably the way to go.

U2–POPMART LIVE FROM MEXICO CITY (Island Records. $29.98): Apparently realizing that they couldn’t be a real rock band until they did at least one grotesquely overscaled and artistically puny concert tour (a la David Bowie and that Glass Spider nonsense), U2 made fools of themselves in 1997 with the weak album “Pop” and a ridiculously extravagant concert tour that left most fans confused. If you actually want to relive those days, this disc presents an entire show as well as a couple of behind-the-scenes documentaries and a few bonus musical moments.

UPRIGHT CITIZENS BRIGADE–THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON/THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Video. $26.99 each): Originally produced for Comedy Central, these two DVD sets collect the first two seasons of the acclaimed sketch comedy show featuring Matt Walsh, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and a pre-“SNL” Amy Poehler saying and doing the kind of off-the-wall things that will cause some to laugh uproariously and cause others to scratch their heads in utter confusion.

THE VALET (Sony Home Entertainment. $29.95): Francis Veber’s hit comedy, in which a slick billionaire (Daniel Auteuil) who enlists the help of a nebbish car-park (Gad Elmaleh) to prevent his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) from discovering the existence of his mistress (Alice Taglionoi), has about everything you could possibly want from a contemporary farce–it is slickly made, perfectly paced, written without an ounce of narrative flab to be had and contains a number of excellent performances. There is only one minor flaw–it just isn’t very funny. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

THE VICTIM (Tartan Home Video. $19.95):In this decidedly nasty Thai horror film, a young actress is hired by the police to help them reenact the murder of a beauty queen by playing the role of the victim–alas, every time she does it, she begins to experience the same pain and terror that the actual victim did in real life.

WALL STREET–20th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Fox Home Entertainment. $19.98): Although not one of Oliver Stone’s better films by any means, mostly because of Charlie Sheen’s unconvincing turn as a young financial wheeler-dealer sucked into the world of insider trading, the galvanizing central performance from Michael Douglas as powerful broker Gordon Gekko (“Greed is good!”) is still enough to make it worth watching. This 20th anniversary edition carries over Stone’s commentary from the previous release and adds on a new documentary about the film and its legacy as well as a collection of deleted scenes.

WE ARE MARSHALL (Warner Home Video. $28.98): After earning millions of dollars and much critical scorn with the “Charlie’s Angels” movies, the auteur known as McG decided to demonstrate his artistic chops with this true-life tale about the efforts of a small West Virginia college town to bounce back from tragedy after a devastating plane crash that virtually wiped out the school’s football team. Alas, it didn’t quite work–partly because McG handles the delicate dramatic material with the same lack of subtlety and finesse that he brought to his previous films and partly because of Matthew McConaughey’s exceedingly off-putting performance as the ambitious coach hired to rebuild the team–and as a result, only those of you who are compelled to sit through each and every inspirational sports melodrama that comes along.

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originally posted: 09/21/07 08:51:02
last updated: 09/21/07 14:31:33
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