Sunday, January 30, 2011

January '11 New/Classic Discs


What’s the Matter with Kansas? (Tallgrass Productions) - Based on Thomas Frank’s best-selling book that incisively explores how one of the most liberal areas of the country became a reliable bastion of conservatism, Laura Cohen and Joe Winston’s valuable documentary allows Kansans to speak for themselves regardless of their political leanings. While most of the people in the film are unabashedly religiously conservative (and conservatively religious), there are a few tree-huggers left, and the filmmakers allow all of them to present their cases without any interference or editorializing. Still, there are moments—notably when an 18-year-old Young Republican pontificates about the “Christian” Founding Fathers—when one wished the directors were less balanced. This superb look at why the Tea Party movement has gained such a foothold in a short time should be seen by anyone interested in the direction of American politics. Extras include commentary by and Q&A with Frank, Cohen and Winston, and deleted/extended scenes.

Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders—Best Games of the 2010 Season (Warners) each present full-game broadcasts of three of each team‘s biggest wins during this past season; the two thrillers that make up Chabrol (First Run), Merci pour le chocolat and The Bridesmaid, are marked by tremendous lead performances by Chabrol fave Isabelle Huppert and sizzling newcomer Laura Smet, respectively (best extra: on-set Bridesmaid documentary); End of the World (Mill Creek Entertainment) comprises 24 documentaries (over 37 hours’ worth!) that cover myriad conspiracy theories and unexplained phenomena surrounding the supposed apocalypse in 2012; Gaspar Noe’s latest provocation, Enter the Void (IFC), contains his usual astonishing visuals, but at 161 minutes is about an hour too long (best extra: deleted scenes); the French romantic comedy Heartbreaker (IFC) fails to sizzle thanks to little chemistry between Roman Duris and Vanessa Paradis; The Hessen Conspiracy (Anchor Bay), a routine post-WWII thriller about pilfered Nazi treasure, also sees few sparks between stars Billy Zane and Lyne Renee; Kathleen Madigan—Gone Madigan (Image Blu-ray) is a live concert shot in Manhattan of the Arkansas comedienne whom Lewis Black calls “the funniest comic in America” (best extra: backstage interview); The Lena Baker Story (Barnholtz Entertainment), a heartbreaking dramatization about the only woman to be executed by electrocution in Georgia, features an intense portrayal by Tichina Arnold (lone extra: making-of featurette); the by-the-numbers chiller Psychosis (e one) wastes a game Charisma Carpenter as a writer haunted by the new house she and her husband moves into (best extra: making-of featurette); the multi-disc Ronald Reagan Centennial Collection (Warners) consists of eight of our former president’s best (and not-so-best) movies, led by Knute Rockne All-American and Kings Row (best extra: documentary Warner at War); Santa Sangre (Severin), the 1989 hallucinatory drama by Alejandro Jodorowsky, is, like all his films (El Topo, The Holy Mountain), a love-it-or-hate-it experience: I hated it, but your mileage may certainly vary (best extra: two-hour making-of documentary); although it’s been overshadowed by Hotel Rwanda, Roger Spottiswoode’s docudrama Shake Hands with the Devil (e one) does a credible job showing the devastation wrought on Rwanda in the 1990s as seen through the eyes of the UN peacekeeping force’s Lt. Roméo Dallaire (best extra: Dallaire interview); the turgid romantic comedy White Wedding (Image Blu-ray) works best as an eye-opening travelogue through parts of South Africa we rarely see in movies.

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