Deliver Us From Evil
NNNNN (Maple, 2006) D: Amy Berg. Rating: ; DVD package:NNNN
A chilling, emotionally devastating documentary on clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Filmmaker Amy Berg bagged an actual abuser, Oliver O'Grady, who was imprisoned, served his time and now lives in Ireland a free man while his victims still rattle around northern California.
O'Grady, now in his early 60s, is a charmer and almost sympathetic until you remember that he raped children of both sexes, repeatedly, over three decades. Berg has gotten up close and personal with the victims, and their testimony is a shattering reminder of what lies behind the abstract legalese we hear when these cases are discussed.
None of O'Grady's superiors, who knew exactly why they had to move him from parish to parish, agreed to be interviewed for the film. Wonder why. In terms of filmmaking, I'd have voted for this over An Inconvenient Truth for the documentary Oscar.
Extras Very strong filmmaker's commentary, alternate ending and deleted scenes. English and Spanish subtitles.
Catch And Release
(Sony, 2006) D: Susannah Grant, w/ Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith. Rating: NN ; DVD package: NNN
While doing some tidying up re cently, I played the Susannah Grant/Kevin Smith commentary track included here, and it was so entertaining that I decided to watch the movie, Well, that was a mistake.
Catch And Release is a mismatched romantic comedy featuring Jennifer Garner as young woman whose fiancé dies on the eve of her wedding. Then she hooks up with his best friend, an unusually sleazy Timothy Olyphant. The best love scene is between Smith and Juliette Lewis, which is even scarier to watch than it is to think about.
Not recommended except to Smith completists (he's actually quite good) and fans of commentaries that show the filmmakers in complete denial. At one point, cinematographer John Lindley notes that "Jennifer (Garner) looks so great that she can take this kind of lighting," and I'm thinking, "At this moment, Jennifer (Garner) looks like a skull with glued on gummi lips."
Extras Director/actor and director/cinematographer commentaries. English and French audio and subtitles.
(Equinoxe/Warner, 2006) D: David Moreau, Xavier Palud, w/ Olivia Bonamy, Michaël Cohen. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: N
Art-house horror. You can tell because the heroes/victims are French intellectuals, a couple living in Romania, where he's writing and she's teaching, and their attackers are near-feral local kids. I suspect the filmmakers think their audience is Us, when the natural audience for horror movies looks a lot more like Them.
Well done, but almost too tasteful; directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud lack Alexandre Aja's (High Tension) penchant for the cheap thrills of horror. Warner picked this up from Quebec distributor Equinoxe, and what we've got is a French version and an English dubbed version, which isn't bad. But along with no extras and no subtitled version, there's a problem.
Ils ends with a bit of text, an added sting in the film's tail. If you can't read French, you're out of luck.
Extras None. French and dubbed English audio.
The Guns Of Navarone: Collector's Edition
(Sony, 1961) D: J. Lee Thompson, w/ Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, David Niven. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NNNN
Back in 1961, the Guns of Navarone was the last word in big studio action movies, a second world war story about what would become a cliché: a team of specialists behind enemy lines on a mission that would change the outcome of the war.
Gregory Peck is hired to lead the team because "you speak German like a German, Greek like a Greek and you're the greatest mountain climber in the world." He's a lethal version of Edmund Hillary, though when he opens his mouth he speaks German and Greek like someone reading a phonetic transcription off cue cards.
Those used to the pacing of the modern big action movie may find this one a little slow. Okay, they may find it a lot slow - things were paced more deliberately 45 years ago.
There's obviously still money in The Guns Of Navarone. This is the third DVD edition, and they still haven't solved the darkness problem. Guns was always a very dark film, but there's a difference between dark in a dark movie theatre and dark in your living room. Since most of the night scenes were shot day for night, they could bring up the brightness a bit - keep it dark but give us a little more visibility.
The Collector's Edition has all the stuff from the 2000 Special Edition, adding some new featurettes and a new commentary by film historian Steven Rubin. In the "irresistible ironic gesture" department, I end my last DVD column with a review of the first film I ever saw in a theatre. I was seven at the time.
Extras Director commentary, historical commentary, contemporary and modern making-of, restoration and historical promotional featurettes. Original four-channel stereo soundtrack.
Coming Tuesday, May 15
Madly pretentious art film by the director of Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky), wherein Hugh Jackman plays a modern medical reseacher, a conquistador and a futuristic Buddhist monk living in a snow globe with a magic tree. Rachel Weisz is his wife, Queen Isabella and the tree, sort of.
(New Line/Alliance Atlantis, 2006)
Guillermo del Toro's Oscar-winning fantasy gets the two-disc special-edition treatment. Deserves it.
Army Of Shadows
Jean-Pierre Melville's extraordinary portrait of the French Resistance, simultaneously heroic and trapped in stasis.
Stomp The Yard
A young rebel expert at L.A.'s street moves brings the noise and the funk to the step team at a Southern university - which sounds a lot like that one about the young drummer who brings his funkified rhythms to a traditional marching band.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb