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Home Video Releases for October 2000
Compiled by Eddie Cockrell, 07 October 2000
Written by Eddie Cockrell, Gregory Avery

Nitrate Online explores a sampling of the most noteworthy, provocative and satisfying video and/or DVD releases for the month of October 2000 (give or take a few weeks). Titles are followed by original country and year of release, as well as release date (if known). Street dates change constantly and often differ from format to format, so check with your favorite click or brick supplier for up-to-date information.


American Beauty - The Awards Edition

USA (2000) - Released 10/24
review by Gregory Avery

Yes, it does get better on subsequent viewings. The DVD format should bring out the best qualities in Conrad Hall's cinematography, as well as afford a chance to have another look at Kevin Spacey's Oscar-winning portrayal as a middle-age, middle-class family man whose attempts to break out of the rut he has fallen into create reverberations in the lives of everyone around him: wife (Annette Bening, whose "I'm going to sell this house today!" scene is a classic), disaffected daughter (Thora Birch, who should have been up for an Oscar), and neighbors (including Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper and Alison Janney). Prediction: Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, co-produced by the same company (Dreamworks SKG) that produced Beauty, will be referred to as "this year's American Beauty." (Which means that American Beauty can also be referred to as "last year's Almost Famous"?). The reported three-and-a-half hours of extras on the DVD include production notes; a theatrical trailer; audio commentary with director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Alan Ball; production storyboard with accompanying commentary from Mendes and Hall; and the production featurette American Beauty: Look Closer.


American Pimp

USA (2000) - Released 10/17
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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Sixteen players preen and promote their trade in American Pimp, the busily mischievous but often uncomfortably blunt feature-length documentary from Albert and Allen Hughes (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents). With names like Bishop Don Magic Juan, Fillmore Slim and Rosebudd (inevitably, thereís a clip from Citizen Kane), these entrepreneurs explain their lives and justify their existences in mostly boisterous and aggressive tones. Nothing wrong with that, except for the movieís cumulative effect of greed and brutality run amuck: it seems that the brothers Hughes, for all their historical and sociological referencing (including the blues tradition, blaxploitation pictures and Nevadaís legalized prostitution), apparently kind of admire this world. Thus, assertions like one mack daddyís claim to be performing a public service because one of his stable is thus off of welfare and anotherís dramatic story of trying to encroach on the Los Angeles "track" (short for street; thereís a lot of pimp jargon in the movie) plays less like ignorant boasting and more like heroic achievement. When the siblings screened the film for a packed house at the Czech Republicís Karlovy Vary Film Festival this past summer, the reaction was a mixture of enthusiasm and wonder. Domestic audiences are likely to feel much of the latter, with the level of the former depending entirely on individual levels of tolerance. The DVD edition of American Pimp features an onstage discussion between the directors and New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell, conducted at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.


Bossa Nova

Brazil (2000) - Released 10/3
review by Eddie Cockrell

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In many ways the most difficult of films to pull of properly, the mainstream romantic sex comedy often ends up looking forced and perfunctory, the exact opposite of the light, breezy, mildly erotic tone filmmakers have in mind. Virtually ignored during itís admittedly low-profile stateside release, the engaging Bossa Nova announces a return to his native Brazil and comic form for director Bruno Barreto, whose Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands was an arthouse hit in the states some twenty-two years ago, eventually garnering a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film. After an opening credits sequence that plays like a widescreen tourist promotion for Rio de Janeiro, Amy Irving is introduced as Mary Ann, a former flight attendant and widow who has spent the two years since her husband's accidental drowning in a kind of emotional stasis while working as a language instructor ("in English, please!" seems to be the motto of her company). Meeting distinguished yet distracted lawyer Pedro Paulo (Antonio Fagundes) on an elevator, Mary Ann is soon drawn on to a whirling merry-go-round of passions and pratfalls. Her fellow riders include student Nadine (Drica Moraes), who is carrying on an internet romance with the unseen Gary, a long-haired Soho artist; Pedro Paulo's tailor father Juan (Alberto de Mendoza), who is in danger of losing his business in a messy divorce; determined law intern Sharon (Giovanna Antonelli); Pedro Paulo's lovesick brother Roberto (Pedro Cardoso); libidinous soccer star Acacio (Alexandre Borges) and his manager Gordo (Sergio Loroza); and Pedro Paulo's soon-to-be-ex-wife Tania (Debora Block), who has left him and is living with a Chinese Tai-Chi-Chuan instructor, Wan-Kim-Lau (Kazuo Matsui). Things come to a comic boil when Pedro Paulo meets client Trevor (Stephen Tobolowsky) at the airport, and the balding, eccentric American turns out to be an unwitting catalyst for resolution of the tangled relationships. As the presskit so breezily puts it: "Tania wants to win back the love of Pedro Paulo, who in turn loves Mary Ann, but thinks she loves Trevor. Nadine finally meets her virtual love. Roberto loves Sharon, who loves Acacio, who had a crush on Mary Ann, who rediscovers love with Pedro Paulo." Got that? . In a roundabout career with his share of triumphs (Carried Away) and stumbles (One Tough Cop), Bossa Nova pulls off a deft comic coup and is a fine kind of homecoming. The DVD edition is set to street in early January 2001.


The Filth and the Fury

United Kingdom (2000) - Released 10/10
review by Eddie Cockrell

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"I wanted to pull God out of my chest," someone says during the course of the thirty-six-minute documentary Un-Defining Punk thatís a featured bonus of The Filth and the Furyís DVD edition, and thatís as good a definition as any of the late 1970s movement known as punk rock (perhaps somewhat florid, but those who love the music love the music). Director Julien Temple was an up close and personal observer of the trend, having made a feature starring the Sex Pistols called The Great RockíníRoll Swindle that one critical wag called "the Citizen Kane of rockíníroll movies." For this anecdotal and visually subversive history of the band and the scene, Temple conducts interviews with the surviving members of the group (all amusingly shaded from view like in some reality TV show) that collectively chart their brief but tumultuous history. Thereís the influence of hustling manager Malcolm McLaren (roundly hated by all), the notorious incident where demonically beady-eyed lead singer Johnny Rotten cursed on British television, the absurd bidding war that found the quartet signed to and fired from labels for which they never recorded, and, in the bandís darkest chapter, the strange and tragic story of doomed bass "player" Sid Vicious and his exploitative girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Itís all here for the aging punker and neophyte alike, making The Filth and the Fury a movie both irreverent and invaluable.


Frequency 

USA (2000) - Released 10/31
review by Gregory Avery

Or, there are worse things than getting a baseball in the headlight of your Mercedes: the rueful note on which this engaging---and, for 9/10ths of the way, surprisingly well-executed---fantasy involving what happens when a Queens firefighter (Dennis Quaid, in an excellent performance) makes contact, via his ham radio set, with his grown son (Jim Caviezel) 30 years in the future. The story, written by Toby Emmerich and directed by Gregory Hoblit, touches upon everything from how father-son relationships turn into man-to-man ones, how reality can shift with the blink of an eye, and the poignancy of getting second chances. Only when the film tries to hit one out of the ball park, so to speak, near the end does things trip up a bit. With a strong supporting cast that includes Andre Braugher (who does a great job pulling off a tricky scene near the end where his character becomes convinced about what is happening) and the beautiful Elizabeth Mitchell. The video is priced to rent, while the DVD edition has no additional features.


Keeping the Faith

USA (2000) - Released 10/17
review by Gregory Avery  

Perfectly enjoyable romantic lark in which two childhood friends, a Catholic priest (Edward Norton, who also directed the film) and a Jewish rabbi (Ben Stiller), get thrown for a loop when they meet their other childhood friend, a very-grown-up business consultant (Jenna Elfman), for the first time in years. Very funny in parts, very easy to take as a whole, and the performers have plenty of room to work around in and develop aspects of their characters that would have been either skipped-over or ignored in other films. And, yes, this would probably make a very good "date" film (although you'll both be laughing with the film). The VHS tape is priced for the rental market, and the DVD includes Nortonís commentary, an audio track from producer Stuart Blumbert, over twenty minutes of deleted footage and even an eight-minute gag reel.


Love and Basketball

USA (2000) - Released 10/10
review by Eddie Cockrell

In 1981, from adjoining houses in the Baldwin Hills section of Los Angeles, two children meet and form a bond for life. Quincy McCall is the arrogantly confident son of a pro basketball star who meets his match in Monica Wright, who tells him "Iím gonna be the first girl in the NBA" and has the moves to back up the boast. As the two move from being rivals to lovers, their high school, college and pro careers take distinctly different paths and each must re-examine their priorities with family, relationships and the game they both love. An intimate journey of personal achievement with the emotional sweep of an American epic, Love and Basketball features a strong leading performance from Omar Epps as Quincy and heralds the arrival of a new star in Sanaa Lathan as the focused, vulnerable, iconic Monica. Debuting writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who made time for college athletics as she earned a degree from UCLAís film school, has made a remarkably assured, technically dazzling, unabashedly old-fashioned sports romance that grapples with the hot-button issues of the day (gender equity, education vs. professional opportunity, paternity suits) while more than living up to the first part of its title. The DVD edition of Love and Basketball features deleted scenes and bloopers; three commentaries; storyboards; a music video; and two original documentaries, The Rise of Female Athletes and The Portrayal of African-American Women by the American Media.


Pitch Black

Australia/USA (2000) - Released 10/10
review by Eddie Cockrell

After crashing spectacularly on an arid desert planet, a mismatched group must pull together to thwart a terrifyingly bloodthirsty life form that stalks their dwindling number during an extremely rare eclipse of all three suns. Pitch Black was made in Australia, which goes a long way towards explaining its odd mood thatís part Alien, part Road Warrior. Co-writer and director David Twohy (who wrote Waterworld and directed The Arrival) displays a forceful and confident visual style that understands the power of suggestion over the kind of booga-booga cheap thrills found in so many similar exercises. The cast is relatively unknown but uniformly fine, with musclebound hunk Vin Diesel (Private Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan) having the most malicious fun as a seemingly indestructible convict who must gain the groupís trust before he can help them out. Radha Mitchell (High Art) has some good moments as the reluctant leader, and B-movie fans will recognize both the name and face of Cole Hauser, estranged son of cheapie mainstay Wings Hauser. Along with Supernova, Pitch Black is the yearís major genre surprise, a hard-nosed, no-nonsense actioner thatís bound to end up being a lot of peopleís annual guilty pleasure. Three minutes of snipped gore is all that distinguishes the unrated from the rated DVD versions, each of which also sports production notes, a "Making-Of" featurette and Twohyís commentary track.


Shanghai Noon

USA (2000) - Released 10/10
review by Eddie Cockrell  

"Man, you sure can fight," Owen Wilsonís raffish outlaw tells Jackie Chanís, well, Jackie Chan during the course of the action starís latest vehicle to make it to home video, the Ďway post-modern western Shanghai Noon. Sent with a small band of fellow Forbidden City guards to rescue duped princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) from the paws of leering heavies in the old, wild west, Chan survives and triumphs through his usual dazzling blend of pluck and luck. In addition to the extensive fight scenes that with each passing project showcase Jackieís split-second timing above his extreme risks, the script (by Lethal Weapon 4 scribes Miles Millar and Alfred Gough) has some very funny material in it, from the duoís real namesóno spoilers hereóto Wilsonís zonked out assessments of their constant predicaments. Chunks of Randy Edelmanís score sounds suspiciously like the Blazing Saddles theme, which on second blush isnít all that inappropriate. The DVD edition features commentary tracks by Chan, Wilson and director Tom Dey, as well as deleted footage, a music video and threeócount Ďem, threeóproduction featurettes.


U-571

USA (2000) - Released 10/5
review by Eddie Cockrell 

Howard Hawks would be proud: U-571 is a big, brawny, rat-a-tat sociopolitical action adventure in the mold of the prominent director from Hollywoodís Golden Age (see Dawn Patrol, Only Angels Have Wings and Rio Bravo). Refreshingly old-fashioned in its credo of "do your job," the movie follows a daring World War II raid on a German U-boat in the Atlantic Ocean by a group of American seamen in search of the Enigma coding machine, which the Nazis were using to rule the shipping lanes. So breakneck is the pace and so seamless the special effects that thereís no time to question the common sense of the heroics involved. Like in Das Boot, the tension is ratcheted up by the claustrophobia of the submarine interiors (unexpectedly poignant in the wake of the Russian Kursk disaster). Following up on the promise of Breakdown, director Jonathan Mostow cements his reputation as a shrewd orchestrator of action sequences; as a bonus, his crisp direction of Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel and the rest of the all-male cast proves that heís got skill with ensembles as well. Universalís superlative special edition DVD features a boatload of extras, including Mostowís commentary, cast and crew interviews, a production featurette and information on the real-life British operation that lead to the capturing of the Enigma.


Beyond the A List


American Virgin

USA (1999) - Released 10/3
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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In their race to provide America with the most titillating adult film experience, Joey Quinn (Bob Hoskins) pulls ahead of established porn director Ronny Bartolotti (Robert Loggia) by enlisting the latterís daughter Katrina (Mena Suvari) to lose her virginity during a pay-per-view television event that viewers can experience interactively via some sort of body suit apparatus. One of those satirical social comedies that sounds a lot more scathing than it actually is, American Virgin (aka Live Virgin, which is what it was called before Mena Suvari achieved fame in her next movie, American Beauty, as a character of similar sensual surliness) is constructed by writer-director Jean-Pierre Marois as one of those cheerfully hyperactive screwball comedies that Hollywood used to be so good at. Unfortunately, the film seems to think its social barbs are fresh and new, when in fact this kind of self-ironic media spoofery is by now as tired as its subject (Sally Kellermanís Sally Jesse Raphael-ish talk-show host is the lone exception; why doesnít the original Hot Lips Houlihan in Robert Altmanís big-screen version of M*A*S*H make more movies?). And Maroisí leering tone does nothing to sharpen the satire, suggesting that maybeójust maybeóAmerican Virgin might actually have been intended as a serious indictment of a media gone amok. Now thatís really scary. The DVD edition features a commentary by Marois and the usual complement of trailers and subtitling options. One final plea: could we have a moratorium on movies with "American" in the title for awhile? Please?


Careful

Canada (1992) - Released 10/17
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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In the small mountain town of Tolzbad, the villagers live in mortal fear that any loud or sudden noise will bring an avalanche down on their heads. As a kind of ripple effect, the good people of the town have developed a series of rituals and folk wisdom directives as arcane as they are elaborate. Above all, they must be Careful. Welcome to the prodigiously inventive world of Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, whose earlier art-house triumph Tales from the Gimli Hospital is reviewed in the 2000 Fright Film Festival elsewhere on the Nitrate Online site. In direct contrast to that filmís black and white aesthetic, Careful is filmed in a saturated color process reminiscent of the primitive color experiments of the 1920s and 1930s. Combined with his trademark embracing of both the primitive B-movie aesthetic and the visual constructs of German Expressionism, Careful looks and plays with a kind of otherworld nostalgic modernity, residing in a universe where everything is somehow both bracingly exotic and reassuringly familiar. In addition to a commentary track by Maddin and writer George Toles, Kino on Videoís fine DVD pressing of this Zeitgeist Films release (in the USA) has the added bonus of Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight, an hour-long documentary on the filmmaker and his unique vision (in fact, many attendees of the recent twenty-fifth anniversary Toronto film festival thought his commissioned five-minute short The Heart of the World the best single work in the program). Recommended for the adventurous and historically informed moviegoer.


Earth

India (1999) - Released 10/10
review by Eddie Cockrell 

The second film in the so-called "elements" trilogy that began with the controversial Fire (1996), Toronto-based filmmaker Deepa Mehtaís Earth is based on Baspsi Sidhwaís novel "Cracking India." As that title indicates, the film is set against the abrupt and subsequently turbulent splitting of the Indian sub-continent by the British in 1947 (the event is known as "Partition"). In Lahore, eight-year-old Lenny (Maia Sethna), afflicted with polio, watches as her nanny, or "Ayah,"  Shanta (Nandita Das), juggles two men. Shanta loves Muslim masseur Hasan (Rahul Khanna) and likes Dil, aka "Ice Candy Man" (Aamir Khan). As the young girl observes the interactions, she learns hard lessons about religion, culture and society. Earth is very good at exploring the volatility of different cultures and religions freed from outside control. Currently available exclusively as a priced-to-rent videocassette, New Yorker Videoís transfer preserves the lush production values of the film; as with the majority of titles from the distributor, Earth is letterboxed to preserve the original aspect ratio (cinematographer Giles Nuttgen, whoíd worked with Mehta before, went on to shoot John Travoltaís Battlefield Earth). After enduring some cuts to Earth for Indian release and a banning in Pakistan altogether (Fireís frank discussion of lesbianism also created controversy), Mehta is currently at work on the final film in the trilogy, Water.


From Russia With Love

United Kingdom (1964) - Released 10/17
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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"The Cold War in Europe will not remain cold very much longer," gloats SPECTRE agent and former SMERSH operative Rosa Klebb (cabaret singer Lotte Lenya) to "homicidal paranoiac" Red Grant (Robert Shaw, still a dozen years removed from Jaws) in the red-hot From Russia with Love, one of the seven titles in the third and final James Bond box set from MGM and among the handful of truly great films in that franchise. The second Bond film (following Dr. No), this is the one that emphasizes geopolitical skullduggery over gadgets (itís the first Bond film featuring Desmond Llewelyn as Q) and has among the best casts ever put together for a 007 adventure. The high point? Undoubtedly the brutal fistfight between Bond and Grant on the Orient Express, after which Conneryís first impulse is to straighten his tie. The DVD edition features John Corkís thirty-four-minute documentary "Inside From Russia With Love" (narrated by "Avengers" star Patrick Macnee), a profile of co-producer Harry Saltzman, animated storyboard sequences, various trailers and promo spots and among the snazziest menu graphics around. As has been reported recently, MGMís profits have jumped considerably, even though the only film they released commercially in the third quarter of the year was that dreadful Richard Gere-Winona Ryder melodrama Autumn in New York. The increase has a lot to do with the quality of their DVD releases, which include This is Spinal Tap, Supernova and the trio of boxed Bonds. Note to other studios that cut corners: consumers are paying attention to DVD quality beyond the packaging, which means that proper restoration of the image and value-added extras are of the utmost importance (see Toy Story, below).


Get Carter

United Kingdom (1971) - Released 10/3
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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In early 1970s Newcastle, local boy-turned-gangster Jack Carter (Sir Michael Caine) is back from London to settle the score with a racketeering kingpin (playwright John Osborne) and the lowlifes who murdered his brother and ensnared his niece (or is she?) in their amateur pornography ring. "Get Carter before he gets you," intones the steely-voiced narrator in the accompanying trailer, and, as with Dirty Harry (released in America the same year), Get Carter is the story of one manís remorseless, inevitable justice in the face of corruption and set against the backdrop of some fashion choices at once hideous and pretty cool. Caine, seen reading Raymond Chandlerís "Farewell, My Lovely" in an early scene, pitches his Carter perfectly as a dead-eyed angel of death, while the direction of Mike Hodges (who had an improbable but welcome art-house hit in 1999 with Croupier) relies a bit much on telephoto lensesóall the rage in the early 1970sóbut gives the film the terse clockwork precision of, well, a Chandler book. Clean if not particularly crisp, with a bit of dirt in a late reel, the Warner Bros. DVD edition features audio commentary from Hodges and cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky (whose bleak Newcastle chills to the bone), as well as a catchy jazz riff from composer Roy Budd. "Good God," someone says, laying eyes on the dapper Carter; the killerís rejoinderó"is he?"ócaptures perfectly the mood of this tough, taught little thriller. Oh, and Sylvester Stalloneís recent remake? Skip it, and find copies of Point Blank, The Long Good Friday (the Criterion edition will do), Stormy Monday (also set in Newcastle) and The Limey instead, all of which owe a debt of steely cool to Get Carter.


The Harder They Come

Jamaica (1973) - Released 10/31
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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Down-and-out would-be musician Ivanhoe Martin (Jimmy Cliff) records the killer song of the title, only to be cheated out of the profits by a ruthless producer in Kingston, who pays him but $20 for the tune. Finding some success selling ganja, his ruthless killing of some policemen transform him into a folk hero and sends the song to the top of the charts. Many Americans can pinpoint their awareness of reggae music to the popular and enduring soundtrack to the 1973 Jamaican film The Harder They Come, which remains to this day among the best single-disc introductions to the music ever assembled. Now comes a new DVD edition of the movie, remastered from the original 16mm camera negative and digitally cleansed of dirt and debris under the supervision of producer-director Perry Henzell (rumored to be working on a sequel) and released under the Criterion Collection banner. There are religious, political and class criticisms along the way for those who seek them, yet the movie as a whole retains a raw enthusiasm because of the music, which includes songs by Toots and the Maytals ("Pressure Drop"), Desmond Dekker ("Shanty Town") and Cliff himself, whose trio of tunes includes "Many Rivers to Cross" and "You Can Get It If You Really Want." Fans will want to own the CD soundtrack as well as the film, given the mono sound mix that contributes to the movieís outlaw power. The disc features audio commentary by Henzell and Cliff; an exclusive video interview with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell; illustrated bio-discographies on the soundtrack artists; and an invaluable English subtitle option that helps immensely with the filmís island patois.


Jurassic Park

USA (1993) - Released 10/10

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The Lost World

USA (1997) - Released 10/10
review by Gregory Avery 

The Big Ones of 1993 and 1997, and nobody had seen anything like them. Michael Crichton's novel, about a theme park featuring genetically recreated, and very much live, dinosaurs, was artfully paired down for Steven Spielberg's screen version, but it was the digitally-created, and completely convincing, dinosaurs that knocked everyone for a loop (the first time this now-standard motion picture FX method had been used to such great extent), along with the newly-created DTS sound system, which created both hair-raising effects as well as crystal-clarity for one of the most memorable scenes in recent films: the slight thump, accompanying the shot of water in a glass being slightly disturbed, that heralded the first appearance of the most terrifying dinosaur in the film. Oh, yeah, there are some actors in the film, as well: Sam Neill (who holds his own very nicely), Laura Dern (who seems overwhelmed, and I don't blame her), Jeff Goldblum (who's smooth "chaos theory" character made a second appearance in The Lost World), Martin Ferrero (whose character comes to a memorable end), and Richard Attenborough (whose character, the creator of the theme park project, has been changed from the James Stewart-like venerable-old-soul in the novel into a sort-of reprisal of Scottish comedian Harry Lauder). Also, this was the first of Spielberg's extraordinary one-two punch for 1993: Jurassic Park was released in theaters in May, then, in December, his film version of Schindler's List premiered. The rest is history. There are numerous DVD editions of both movies with various extras.


A Place Called Chiapas

USA (1998) - Released 10/10
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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In a far southern region of Mexico, the Zapatista National Liberation Army and their charismatic leader, Subcomandante Marcos (who poses for photojournalists with enthusiasm), play a nervous game of cat-and-mouse with 30,000 Mexican troops in the mid-1990s. While her first-person narration is vocally tremulous, Canadian filmmaker Nettie Wild is to be commended for making such an obviously dangerous journey and telling such an absorbing story. Photographed over a period of eight months in remote jungle terrain, this saga of what one journalist called "the first post-modern revolution" is both harrowing and absurdist. Tellingly, the film won the Canadian Genie (their version of the Oscar) for Best Documentary, as well as the equivalent prize from the International Documentary Association and the Los Angeles International Film Festivalís audience award. A Place Called Chiapas is well worth seeing, but may require some effort to obtain: the VHS tape is priced for rental, with no DVD release scheduled. The best bet is to check with your local brick and mortar rental shop and hope for the best.


Show Me Love
aka F*cking Amal

Sweden (1998) - Released 10/10
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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In the small Swedish town of Amal (dismissed by one character via the oath of the original title), intensely introspective young Agnes (Rebecca Liljeberg) has a crush on headstrong Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom), the wildest and most popular girl in school. After a series of misunderstandings that begin on Agnesí 16th birthday, Elin begins to realize that she likes Agnes more than her doofus boyfriend. Remember the thrill of being 16 and heading out into the night with a friend or friends, unsure of where events would lead, which party youíd crash and who would end up with whom? Novelist-turned-filmmaker Lukas Moodysson does, and it is this feeling of hesitant yet intoxicating freedom, combined with the unmannered veracity of his cast, that makes Show Me Love shine. A bigger hit than Titanic when the two went head-to-head at the Swedish box office, the film won a string of international festival awards and is ringing proof that subtitles donít need to stand in the way of universal understanding. By turns cruel and tender, Show Me Love suffers only from an overreliance on the dangerously dated Dogme 95 handheld visual approach, yet is still an object lesson to Hollywood filmmakers wishing to tackle similar themes.  Strand Releasingís bare-bones DVD edition not only doesnít have any extras, it doesnít even have a booklet. No matter: the company deserves praise for bringing one of the most heart-warming, inspirational and just plain funny relationship comedies in a good long while to American audiences.


Wounds

Rane, Serbia (1998) - Released 10/17
review by Eddie Cockrell 

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Social satire has long been the province of filmmakers from eastern Europe, but seldom has the wit been as bloody and bitter as the recent crop of films from Yugoslavia, which feature prominently among them Srdjan Dragojevicís Pretty Village, Pretty Flame. In his follow-up to that important work, Wounds, Dragojevic follows the brutal early 1990s criminal adventures of two enthusiastic young hoodlums, narrator Pinki (Dusan Pekic) and Kraut (Milan Maric). Kind of a Serbian spin on Martin Scorseseís GoodFellas, the movie follows the tutelage of the boys by comically insane two-bit criminal Dickie (Dragan Bjelogrlic). Seeking to unseat the local hoodlums featured on the tabloid TV show "Asphalt Pulse," Pinki and Kraut become amoral killing machines in a country wracked by divisiveness and civil war. Wounds is peopled with prominent actors from the region, including Miki Manojlovic as Pinkiís politically fickle father and current heartthrob Nikola Kojo as Pepper, one of the TV criminals. Featured at numerous film festivals upon its initial release, Wounds (named for a grisly pact entered into by the boys) won the Bronze Horse in Stockholm and the international criticsí prize in Thessaloniki. The DVD edition from First Run Features is a very clean full-frame transfer that highlights the filmís uncommonly high production values and Dragojevicís penchant for often uncomfortably intimate close-up work. Other titles of interest from this era and region include Emir Kusturicaís Underground and Black Cat, White Cat, as well as Goran Paskaljevicís monumental Cabaret Balkan (aka The Powder Keg). At once desperate and focused, the incendiary brilliance of these films comes from the righteous anger of their makers, who yearn for a better world in the midst of unrelenting chaos and grief and know that laughter can often be the best medicine.


Box Set Corner:

An occasional exploration of DVDís higher end


Toy Story: The Ultimate Toy Bo

USA (1986-1999) - Released 10/17
review by Eddie Cockrell 

"This DVD is awesome; waitíll you see it," enthuses Toy Storyís jolly creator, director John Lasseter, during the live action connecting sequences featuring him and the band of merry men and women who created this deserving franchise, and heís right: a late arrival at the DVD party, Disney has jumped into the forefront of classy and value-added box sets with Toy Story: The Ultimate Toy Box. Clocking in at a whopping nine hours and six minutes, this three-disc collection features the eighty-minute Toy Story (1995) on disc one and the ninety-two-minute Toy Story 2 (1999) on the second disc. While each of these discs has a full complement of extras (audio commentary, production featurettes and the like), they also have content that sets them apart from the norm. Early Pixar shorts such as the Oscar-winning Tin Toy and Luxo Jr. are here, as are those famous Toy Story outtakes, a multi-language reel demonstrating what the film looked and sounded like in 30 different countries, the dozens of exclusive interstitials created for ABCís Saturday morning slate and even a sneak peek at the next Pixar opus, Monsters, Inc. But the real revelation of the box for fans of the films who are also interested in the process is disc three. The supplemental features cover all phases of the production, from early-years story gestation (did you know Buzz Lightyear was originally named Lunar Larry?) through the relatively last-minute decision to release Toy Story 2 commercially instead of straight-to-video (!!!). Thereís moreómuch moreóand as a real bonus to the consumer the extras are detailed on the outside of the packaging. "We sweat the details," Lasseter chirps brightly deep in disc three, and he ainít kiddiní: making these movies mustíve been a high-risk enterprise, but Toy Story: The Ultimate Toy Box makes it look like nothing but fun.


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