(Mongrel Media, 2005), D: Deepa Mehta, w/ Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray. Rating:NNNN
The third film in Deepa Mehta's Indian trilogy, Water deals with the situation of Hindu widows in the 1930s. Nationalist followers of Gandhi are on the rise, and people are questioning a system that gives widows the option of being burned with their dead husbands or being cloistered in poverty for the rest of their lives.
It's a dark and touching film, with strong central performances by Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas and Sarala, a Sri Lankan child actor who plays Chuyia, the central character. The DVD transfer does full justice to Giles Nuttgens's exquisite cinematography; visually, the film is as much his as it is Mehta's. The director's commentary is extremely informative, offering substantial insight into her working methods.
Extras Director's commentary, alternate version shot in English, behind-the-scenes featurette, original electronic press kit, Scanning The Movies episode, theatrical trailer, deleted scenes. Hindi, French soundtracks. DTS soundtrack. English subtitles.
(Universal, 2005) D: Ben Younger, w/ Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg. Rating: NNN
Never underestimate Meryl Streep in a comic part. As a Jewish psychologist who's spending half her time encouraging a freshly divorced patient (Uma Thurman) to explore her new relationship with a younger man (Bryan Greenberg) and the other half discouraging her son from dating an older divorced Gentile, Streep makes Prime worth watching just for the moment when she begins to realize her patient is dating her son. It's a symphonic arrangement of distraction and denial. Otherwise, the film's a not bad urban romantic comedy.
Someone should tell Universal marketing that people like to pick up a DVD package and see what's in it. Neither Prime nor the new release of Jarhead makes any mention of the filmmaker commentaries. Of course, in the case of Prime, that's just as well. Director Ben Younger and producer Jennifer Todd sound like they've done a month of junkets and have nothing left to say.
Extras Director/producer commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, cast featurette. English, French soundtracks. English captions, French and Spanish subtitles.
(Anchor Bay, 1998) D: Robert Meyer Burnett, w/ Eric McCormack, Rafer Weigel, William Shatner. Rating: NNNN
Free Enterprise is an odd cult movie about two adult Star Trek geeks working in Hollywood who get to meet their hero, William Shatner. To their dismay, they realize that he's just as messed up as everyone else, with an overlay of megalomania that has him aspiring to do a musical version of Julius Caesar with all parts played by William Shatner except Calpurnia, which he thinks would be good for his old T.J. Hooker co-star, Heather Locklear. You don't have to be a Star Trek geek to enjoy the film - I'm not - but it probably enhances the experience.
An adult comedy about male friendship and the dangers of love, Free Enterprise stars a pre-Will And Grace Eric McCormack (he was auditioning for the series during production), and you can see the finicky Will in embryo as well as the actor's crack comic timing.
Anchor Bay sometimes seems like the Criterion of cult movies, and this two-disc special edition is loaded. To be fair, if you listen to the filmmaker commentary, you don't really need to watch the making-of documentary, though it has some funny outtakes. Extras Informative albeit appropriately geeky commentary by writer/producer/director team of
Robert Meyer Burnett and Mark Altman, a very funny commentary by the director and the three male stars, 70-minute making-of doc, deleted scenes, screen tests, No Tears For Caesar music video, 20-page booklet.
(Fox, 1945) D: Otto Preminger, w/ Dana Andrews, Alice Faye, Linda Darnell. Rating: NNNN
No Way Out
(Fox, 1950) D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, w/ Sidney Poitier, Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell. Rating: NNNN
Fox is an odd studio to run a noir series. Aside from Otto Preminger and Henry Hathaway (Kiss Of Death), they have to reach for some fairly marginal titles on the "is it noir or ain't it?" scale.
Fallen Angel is the fourth and last of Fox's Preminger noirs; it's the film he made after Laura, with many of the same crew, including composer David Raksin and cinematographer Joseph LaShelle, who won an Oscar for the earlier film. Preminger stalwart Dana Andrews plays a drifter and con man who rolls into a small town and falls for a sultry waitress (Linda Darnell, oh my) while wooing a respectable middle-class woman (Alice Faye).
Preminger's noirs are moody psychological studies rather than crime melodramas, and Fallen Angel is no exception. It relies on Andrews's ambiguous minimalism and a sumptuous moving camera style - much appreciated by scholarly commentator Eddie Muller.
No Way Out is more social melodrama than noir. Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz was slumming between his Oscar winners A Letter To Three Wives and All About Eve.
Fox was getting Oscar nominations with its mild racial dramas in this period: Gentleman's Agreement suggested that we should be more tolerant of Jews like Gregory Peck, and Pinky proposed that "passing" for white was a dishonest thing to do, even with its transparently Caucasian star, Jeanne Crain. Compared to those two, No Way Out is a Molotov cocktail.
Sidney Poitier, in his screen debut, stars as a young doctor working in the emergency room when the cops bring in a virulent racist, played by Richard Widmark at his most psychotically giddy. The relentlessly inflammatory language is still shocking, as is the all-American race riot.
Extras Scholarly commentaries, theatrical trailers, promotional and stills galleries, newsreels for No Way Out. Spanish and English subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, March 14
Good Night, And Good Luck
(Sony, 2005) George Clooney's Oscar-nominated homage to legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow, with a career-best performance by David Strathairn.
A History Of Violence
(Alliance Atlantis, 2005) David Cronenberg deconstructs the morality of the American action movie, but it's way more fun than that description suggests. William Hurt's brief appearance at the film's climax is the cherry on an unsettling sundae.
The Prize Winner Of Defiance Ohio
(DreamWorks, 2005) Julianne Moore supports her 10 kids by winning jingle contests in the face of her husband's alcohol-related employment issues. A comedy. firstname.lastname@example.org
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb