mulholland drive (2001, USA), dir. David Lynch w/ Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring. Rating: NNNNN
Mulholland Drive is one of the strangest movies ever released by a major studio, and the DVD issue cries out for extras, which Lynch declines to provide. No commentary track. No "guide to the film." No interview on the making of the film. No chapter stops. Take the film in one mind-bending 150-minute serving or not at all. It's hard to tell if Lynch is being pure or simply perverse. Or, knowing Lynch, possibly both. Having seen Mulholland Drive five times, I can tell you that this is a movie best seen without interruptions, so unplug the phone and keep your hands off the remote. Still the best film of 2001, one that will be watched and discussed long after the collective works of, oh, Ron Howard are forgotten.
EXTRAS:Theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, English and French dubbed version, English and French subtitles.
the man who wasn't there (2001, USA), dir. Joel Coen w/ Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand. Rating: NNNNN
Billy Bob Thornton is the title character in the film that completes the Coens' unofficial trilogy of hard-boiled tributes: Miller's Crossing (Dashiell Hammett), The Big Lebowski (Raymond Chandler) and The Man Who Wasn't There (James M. Cain).
The Coens are referential to a fault, but they also tend to reference out of affection. You don't, at this late date, get cinematographer Roger Deakins to do a stunning black-and-white film noir unless you deeply love the style, and the script fully indulges Ethan Coen's fondness for arcane slang and ancient hipster mannerism.
Thornton plays a small-town barber who suggests that his wife (McDormand) is having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini). The film hatches one of those James M. Cain adultery-murder jobs where everything goes wrong -- people die unexpectedly and the wrong people are arrested -- leading to a jaw-dropping appearance by Tony Shalhoub as a DA who uses Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as the cornerstone of his defence. Stunning transfer.
EXTRAS: Commentary by the Coens and Thornton, theatrical trailers, making-of featurette, deleted scenes, Roger Deakins interview, English and Spanish dubbed versions, English and Spanish subtitles.
lenny (1974, MGM/Us), dir. Bob Fosse w/ Dustin Hoffman, Valerie Perrine. Rating: NNN
One of the landmark films of the mid-70s, Lenny is also a big-studio piece of liberal fuzzy thinking, hamstrung forever by the casting of Dustin Hoffman as scabrous comic Lenny Bruce. Hoffman works hard, but he's likeable and he wants to be liked, and as Pauline Kael put it, Lenny Bruce was defiantly not nice. What makes Lenny worthwhile is Fosse's bone-deep understanding and love for the backstage atmosphere of the darkest edges of show business, and the brilliance of Bruce Surtees's black-and-white cinematography -- the whole thing could have been shot with Weegee's Leica. Oh, and the young Valerie Perrine as Honey Bruce.
EXTRAS: Just the original theatrical trailer. Were the rights to some actual Lenny Bruce performance footage just too expensive?
behind enemy lines (2001, Fox), dir. John Moore w/ Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman. Rating: NNN
It's appalling to use the Srebenica massacre as the basis for a big Hollywood action movie. But Behind Enemy Lines, with excellent jet fighter sequences, is a good renter. Owen Wilson stars as an American pilot shot down over Bosnia and pursued by Serb militia because he has photographed evidence of the massacre. Gene Hackman is the American commander hamstrung by UN bureaucrats. First-time director Moore overdoes camera tricks I thought Tony Scott had copyrighted on Enemy Of The State, but is helped immensely by the casting of Wilson, whose amiable presence is not what one expects in big action movies.
Anybody interested in the hypocrisy of the American film rating system will want to compare the extended scenes with the ones that wound up in the film. Most of the cuts were made to get the film down to a PG-13 from an R rating.
EXTRAS: Two commentary tracks, one with the producers, the other with director Moore and editor Martin Smith, extended and deleted scenes with commentary, short making-of featurette, English and Spanish dubbed versions, English subtitles.
Also this weekAlso this week
Iron Will Boy meets dogs, enters the Iditarod.
Asoka Epic Indian adventure movie. Not the one with the big cricket match.
= Critics' Pick NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact NNNN = very good NNN = worth a peek NN = Mediocre N = Bomb No rating indicates no screening copy