(Universal, 2006) D: Paul Greengrass, w/ Ben Sliney, Denny Dillon. Rating: NNNNN
Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday), a docudrama specialist, takes on the final plane to be hijacked on September 11, 2001, in United 93.
As Greengrass notes in his DVD commentary, because of its delayed takeoff, by the time United 93 was hijacked, the first planes had already hit the World Trade Center and the third was approaching the Pentagon, so the passengers on United 93 knew what they were facing.
Greengrass structures the film chronologically: the prelude to takeoff, the confusion on the ground as the hijackings begin, and then the final act, the most conventional of the three.
In the 40-minute middle segment, the strongest, some people who were there on the day (Ben Sliney, the head of air traffic control, for example) play themselves. It's clear that no one was more shocked by the events than those who actually run the systems we once used without worrying about how the planes fly.
EXTRAS A first-rate director commentary (Greengrass is someone who thinks a lot about what he's doing and why); United 93: The Families And The Film, an hour-long documentary on the filmmakers' relationships with the families of the characters. English, French and Spanish soundtracks and subtitles.
(Magnolia/Alliance Atlantis, 2004) D: Pierre Morel, w/ Cyril Raffaelli, Davie Belle. Rating: NNN
In 2010, Paris has run into an Escape From New York scenario. One of the outlying banlieues has gotten so bad that they've walled it off and thrown away the key. A bomb's gone missing, so a tough cop's (Cyril Raffaelli) sent in to find it, with help from a good-hearted outlaw (David Belle) to go against the evil guys who are running things. But darker forces are at work, as they usually are in these things.
This is one of those Luc Besson-produced action pictures partly pitched at the American market (The Transporter, Unleashed) and better than most, in part because Pierre Morel's direction respects the integrity of the heroes' martial arts moves and in part because Belle, one of the inventors of Parkour, an athletic urban game that involves moving around and through obstacles like buildings, is great fun to watch. The DVD's nothing special, with a short making-of and some outtakes, but the movie is definitely worth a rent.
EXTRAS Making-of featurette, extended fight scenes, outtakes. English, French soundtracks and subtitles.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show/Shock Treatment
(20th Century Fox, 1975/1981) D: Jim Sharman, w/ Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon/Richard O'Brien, Jessica Harper. Rating: NNNN/NN
Fox has restored its 2000 dvd 25th Anniversary Edition of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to the catalogue, while offering the first-ever DVD version of its sequel, the rather less successful Shock Treatment, which now gets its own 25th Anniversary Edition.
Restoring the original is a terrific idea. This set has a lovely transfer and a highly informative commentary by Richard O'Brien and Pat Quinn, who play Riff-Raff and Magenta. O'Brien also wrote the original play, and those are Quinn's lips in the opening song.
As for the Special Edition of Shock Treatment, it's more a case of thanks, but no thanks.
It's interesting to hear the creators shuffle to reposition the film as an anticipatory parody of reality television, but it really doesn't work.
Watching Rocky Horror again for the first time in over a decade, it struck me that it may be the only truly successful rock and roll musical, and that Tim Curry's performance is astonishingly subtle for a man playing an over-the-top drag queen.
EXTRAS Rocky Horror: writer/actor commentary, optional UK cut, "theatrical experience" of the midnight cult movie showings, interview excerpts from Behind The Music, deleted scenes, outtakes. English and Spanish subtitles. Shock Treatment: commentary from the presidents of the Shock Treatment Fan Club, making-of documentary, score featurette, theatrical trailer. English and Spanish soundtracks. English, Spanish, French subtitles.
(20th Century Fox, 1968) D: Noel Black, w/ Anthony Perkins, Tuesday Weld, Rating: NNNN
A very striking film for its era, Pretty Poison stars Tony Perkins, less than a decade after Psycho, as a troubled young man with a vivid sense of fantasy who arrives in a small town and falls for Tuesday Weld's cheerleader. He claims his life is a breakneck series of challenges and that he's escaped because he's working for the CIA. He may or may not believe this. She does, and when things get a little homicidal, she tops him. Not terribly shocking today, but hugely influential. (Not many people saw it, but a lot of future filmmakers did.)
Director Noel Black got superb work from his cast. Check the unexpectedly nasty edge he gets from Beverly Garland as Weld's mom. He spent close to 30 years directing television after making this film. He deserved better.
Coming Tuesday, September 12
Film Noir: The Dark Side Of Hollywood
(Kino, 1945-1950) Kino gathers up a bargain pack of its film noir titles, including Anthony Mann's early classic, Railroaded, and Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die.
Murder A La Mod/ The Moving Finger
(Something Weird/Paradox, 1968/1963) Murder A La Mod is an early Brian De Palma so seldom screened that most people have never heard of it. But it's coming out on DVD along with The Moving Finger, about Greenwich Village lowlifes.
(20th Century Fox, 1977-1985) The good news is that George Lucas is authorizing this release of the original Star Wars films. The bad news: claiming that the original elements no longer exist, Fox gives us rips of the old laser discs, so they aren't even anamorphic transfers. I'd suggest waiting for the high-def restorations that we know are coming, but there's no sucker like a Star Wars fan.
The Festival Collection: Documentaries
(Mongrel Media) Eight new titles in Mongrel's Festival collection, including the coffee documentary Black Gold and Black Sun, the story of Hugues de Montalembert's recovery from blindness. Available exclusively at Blockbuster. email@example.com
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb