The Prestige (Disney, 2006) D: Christopher Nolan, w/ Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson. Rating: NNNN
I caught up with the prestige on a plane, and even on a tiny screen with crappy sound, it still works as a portrait of malignant obsession and an elaborately constructed puzzle.
Unlike The Illusionist, the second time through The Prestige you can admire the care with which Christopher Nolan and his co-writer brother Jonathan Nolan have laid in all the clues and hints that lead to the conclusion.
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are the duelling magicians, Michael Caine the wise old designer of magical contraptions, Scarlett Johansson the woman who comes between them, and David Bowie shows up in a marvellous bit of stunt casting as Nikola Tesla.
The DVD extras are not terribly impressive. There's no commentary - and Nolan does good commentaries - and the promise on the sticker of an in-depth interview with Nolan is not really fulfilled by a fairly standard making-of documentary, unless it's an Easter egg I've yet to discover.
EXTRAS Twenty-minute making-of, art and design gallery. English, French and Spanish audio. French and Spanish subtitles.
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing (Weinstein Company/Alliance Atlantis, 2006) D: Barbara Koppel and Cecilia Peck, w/ the Dixie Chicks. Rating: NNN
There's a wonderful small irony in the packaging of Barbara Koppel and Cecilia Peck's documentary on the free-speech travails of the Dixie Chicks that followed their criticism of President Bush during a UK concert.
The poster for the film uses their Entertainment Weekly cover, in which they posed nude with various slogans and insults painted on their bodies. But the image on the DVD has been altered. For one thing, they're no longer nude but wrapped in digitally applied towels, and at least one of the slogans has been altered. "Dixie Sluts," which was written on Emily Robinson, has become "Dixie Bimbos."
The doc spends a lot of time hanging backstage with the Chicks, and in these sequences, the most interesting material involves the Chicks' people's desperate attempts to control the situation.
My favourite is the publicist at the aforementioned EW shoot going through the roof at the slogan painting. "You're giving too much credit to the American public. They're not that smart." Well, not the country music fans, anyway.
The Dixie Chicks are the Salman Rushdie of American pop music. They say something that leads to boycotts and death threats, and I'm suddenly supposed to like their work? As someone who hasn't liked much country music since the death of Patsy Cline, I can appreciate their predicament, but I'm not going to start buying their albums.
EXTRAS Theatrical trailer. English and Spanish subtitles.
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie (Alliance Atlantis, 2006) D: Mike Clattenburg, w/ Jean Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells, Mike Smith. Rating: NNN
I want to like trailer park boys: The Movie, but it's not funny enough to engender love - it's like a really long episode of the show that someone's tried to soften to sell to American cable.
Ricky wants to get back with his wife, who's taken up stripping as a career; the bad guys are trying to get them kicked out of the trailer park; and the boys are trying to figure out a way to maintain their criminal careers without going back to jail. This is difficult because, as anyone who's seen the show can tell you, they're not the smartest criminals around.
The three-N rating is more for the well-constructed DVD than for the film itself. In the making-of, the boys stay in character and are actually funnier improvising with the documentary crew than they are in the scripted material in the film.
Director Mike Clattenburg gives continual shout-outs to the work done by executive producer Ivan Reitman on the feature until it starts to sound like blame. Given how toothless Reitman's comedy sensibility is, the generally gutless tone of TPB: The Movie may well be Reitman's fault.
EXTRAS Director's commentary, alternate takes and deleted scenes, making-of featurette, music video. English and French audio and subtitles.
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! - The Complete Fourth Season (CBS/Paramount, 2006) D: Star Price, w/ Penn Jillette, Teller. Rating: NNN
The explosion of cable stations with an insatiable hunger for programming has led to a lot of oddities (Dog The Bounty Hunter?), and this is one of them. It's a way for Penn Jillette to construct what are basically rants on things that piss him off or intrigue him.
If you like the Jillette persona, which is basically "the loudest guy in the room," then the show is fun, and there are actually some politically astute insights here, particularly in the episodes on the reconstruction of Ground Zero, the Boy Scouts and sexual abstinence.
This is a renter rather than a keeper. To see Penn & Teller at their best, catch their Vegas show at the Rio.
Coming Tuesday, February 27
Bob Dylan - Don't Look Back (A&E, 1967)
Two-disc special edition, including commentary from director D.A. Pennebaker and a new retrospective film drawn from the hours of Dylan tours and backstage footage not used in the original film.
Stranger Than Fiction (Sony, 2006)
Emma Thompson spends her days imagining ways to kill Will Ferrell. Interesting choice. I spend my days imagining ways to kill Adam Sandler.
Alexander - The Final Cut (Warner, 2004)
Apparently, Oliver Stone is making another attempt to recoup the costs of Alexander.
The Heart Of The Game (Alliance Atlantis, 2005)
Excellent sports documentary on girls' high school basketball.