DVD Traffic Report: January 22, 2008 – January 29, 2008

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4 by Agnes Varda (Criterion)

Among the most important female directors* in film history, Agnes Varda may best be remembered for crashing the boys’ club that was the Nouvelle Vague with Cleo from 5 to 7, her 1962 study in real-time anxiousness — the title character hangs around in Paris, awaiting the results of a cancer biopsy. But she was already on the scene in 1956, when she made La Pointe Courte, a film-school standby and an important precursor to the French New Wave. This boxed set collects both of those high-water marks along with Le Bonheur (1965), the well-regarded Vagabond (1985) and a full load of extras. I haven’t seen it myself, but it’s on my list.

* No, there aren’t many of them. Another good reason to investigate the great ones.

Buy it from Amazon.com: 4 by Agnès Varda (La Pointe Courte, Cléo from 5 to 7, Le bonheur, Vagabond) – Criterion Collection

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Sony)

How many times do you have to buy Life of Brian, anyway? If you already own a DVD version, this latest iteration — the “Immaculate Edition” — may be missable. But if you’re like me, you haven’t watched this since the Criterion laserdisc came out and need an upgrade. (You could also ask why you spent big money on a Criterion laserdisc that you would only play once, and why you would compound that fiscal error by sinking even more money into a DVD that you’re likely to only play once — but then you wouldn’t be like me.) My copy (Blu-ray) hasn’t arrived from Amazon.com yet, but it looks like this one contains the same five deleted scenes and the same twin commentary tracks as the Criterion version, which means I can thrill again to the sound of distinguished Python Terry Gilliam griping about how much better this film would have been if the group had let him direct. (He’s probably right, of course.) As Python goes, I honestly prefer the more madcap Holy Grail — but this one has the distinction of being perhaps the least offensive film ever to get a worldwide reputation for blasphemy. Here’s a recent interview with John Cleese on the subject.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Monty Python’s Life Of Brian – The Immaculate Edition or Monty Python’s Life Of Brian – Collector’s Edition [Blu-ray] (Note: Amazon.com says the Blu-ray version is two discs, but apparently it’s just one.)


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240_barn.jpgBarn of the Naked Dead (Legend House)

Why is this thing “of interest”?

  1. Great title.
  2. Director? Alan Rudolph.
  3. I like this Amazon.com review (by Daniel Jolley “darkgenius”):

I went into this film hoping for a touch of horror; after all, Barn of

the Naked Dead would seem to imply that there are going to be dead

people (apparently naked) involved. Well, a handful of people do die,

but we don’t get to see any kind of gory details of the kills, and,

strangely enough, there is no nudity whatsoever to be found here.

Normally, that would not be a problem, but the film title promises us

naked dead people and fails to deliver any skin whatsoever – that’s

just not right. There is a barn in the movie, though – I have to give

them credit for coming through with that promise.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Barn of the Naked Dead

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (New Line)

Sure, a documentary about Donkey Kong champions sounds excruciating, but this one got exceedingly generous reviews. Sez Maitland McDonagh (whom I trust on horror movies so why not on video-game documentaries?): “The

stranger-than-fiction cast of characters is fascinating, and their

high-stakes machinations are nothing short of mind-boggling.

Buy it from Amazon.com: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

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480_invasion-dvd.jpgThe Invasion (Warner)

Nicole Kidman is great casting for an Invasion

of the Body Snatchers remake as long as you’re writing a script around

the possibility that she’s an unfeeling alien visitor. Like so many

other things about The Invasion, it’s a near-miss — Kidman

plays an emotionally remote, human psychiatrist who blends in too well

with the increasingly unfeeling drones around her, victims of an alien

flu that transforms the DNA of infected people during R.E.M. sleep.

(The iconic pods from the earlier Body Snatchers movies have been

eliminated from the process.) It’s actually hard to tell what German

director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) intended to make of this,

because the studio ended up turning the project over to the Wachowski brothers for extensive reshoots. The result is a strange combo platter that bobbles the low-key tension of the three

earlier films in its rush to get to the action; it feels like it was

edited with a vacuum cleaner. But the action — including a generic car

chase and a scene in which Kidman punches a little kid — feels pasted in. A dollop of political satire doesn’t make up for the general tedium. (Review originally published in the White Plains Times.)

Buy it from Amazon.com: The Invasion or The Invasion [Blu-ray]

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