"Slim pickings" is the best way to describe this week's releases. Isn't anyone planning to stay home and watch DVDs?
Joaquin Phoenix can't decide between Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw. Directed by James Gray, this suffocating drama is dark, thoughtful, and "more true to real human existence than most of the dreck that comes out of Hollywood studios," wrote Kim Voynar. I wasn't quite as impressed by it as she was, but it's still my top pick in a slow week. Also on Blu-ray. Rent it.
Wrestler John Cena stars in Renny Harlin's latest train wreck (as I described it in my review), a sober drama that resolutely refuses to embrace its loonier plot elements (fire engine smashing through New Orleans, an out-of-control street car). Aidan Gillen (The Wire) provides one of the few pleasures as an exceptionally-nasty master criminal. Also on Blu-ray. The "Extreme Cut" adds less than three minutes of footage. Skip it.
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li
I was hoping against hope that this might provide some cheesy fun, but Nick Schager slammed that door shut: "Fighting sequences are dreadfully lethargic ... their choreography is of a dull, unimaginative sort." Not even Kristin Kreuk can save this one. Also on Blu-ray. Skip it.
Also out: Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience.
After the jump: "Indies on DVD" provides several good rental choices, a landmark film by Spike Lee hits Blu-ray, and a long-dismissed effort by director Hal Ashby gets dusted off.
Featuring separate segments directed by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-ho. "Each offers fresh and unique creations that twist recognizable themes," wrote Cinematical's Monika Bartyzel, "but they are not exactly clips that merge into a cohesive look at the Japanese city. Instead, they seem much more like three random films that just happen to take place in Tokyo."
RIP: A Remix Manifesto
The documentary by Brett Gaylor "studies the paradoxes of copyright law and its discontents," noted Eric Kohn at indieWIRE, "but mainly it's a celebration of remix culture in the twenty-first century."
Directed by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, the doc provides a "riveting glimpse of an impromptu New Orleans tent community established in the backyard of the disarming, unsinkable local fixture Ms. Pearl," according to S.T. VanAirsdale at The Reeler.
Nick Oceano's bio-pic of the groundbreaking Pedro Zamora, AIDS activist and cast member of MTV's The Real World. Screenplay by Dustin Lance Black (Milk).
The Education of Charlie Banks
Directorial debut of musician Fred Durst, with Jesse Eisenberg, Eva Amurri, and Jason Ritter.
Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary
A firecracker thrown into a tinderbox, Spike Lee's third feature fearlessly tackled racial issues, producing a compelling piece of filmmaking. Do the Right Thing stands the test of time as rousing provocation, asking unsettling questions that remain unanswered.
The 20th Anniversary edition from Universal builds upon a previous release by Criterion, adding a new audio commentary and documentary by Lee. Includes deleted and extended scenes, behind the scenes footage, interviews, and press conference footage from the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.
Michael Radford's diamond heist flick, starring Demi Moore and Michael Caine.
Lookin' to Get Out (Extended Version)
A fresh look at Hal Ashby's 1982 gambling comedy with Jon Voight and Burt Young, re-edited by the maverick director. Many scenes have been altered and this version is 15 minutes longer than the theatrical release version, which was taken away from the director by the studio.
"While it would be nice to report that a lost masterpiece has been reclaimed," commented Dave Kehr in the New York Times, "it would be more accurate to say that this mildly enjoyable, frequently cloying comedy now moves at a leisurely pace that is slightly more conducive to its charms."