Since one of my resolutions, to the delight of family and friends, is to be more blunt, let's start with New Year's weekend viewing: Which DVDs are good to settle in with while...
Since one of my resolutions, to the delight of family and friends, is to be more blunt, let’s start with New Year’s weekend viewing: Which DVDs are good to settle in with while you’re recovering, and which will only aggravate your hangover?
“Open Water” (Lions Gate, R) will increase your feeling of dread but won’t turn your stomach. The microbudget shot-on-video thriller, about a scuba-diving couple left behind in a shark-infested ocean, delivers on its buzz in a way “The Blair Witch Project” didn’t. Writer-director Chris Kentis avoids gore, tapping into the fear Melville described in “Moby Dick” that drove the overboard cabin boy mad as much as the more overt one of getting snacked on.
The unsettling ending will stay with you, and in their audio commentary, stars Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis talk through it nicely. Kentis and his producer wife, Laura Lau, do another commentary; and footage of Kentis with a camera amid a swirling cloud of sharks shows nerves of steel.
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“Anchorman — The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (DreamWorks): You’re not seeing triple. There are three different versions: the theatrical one, an unrated one and the unrated one packaged with a full-length extra called “Wake Up Ron Burgundy” that incorporates the extra footage and a whole subplot not in the original. Equal parts hilarious and strenuous, it’s another comedy dipping into that ’70s well, this time with an asinine TV news guy (Will Ferrell) unhinged by the fruits of women’s lib: a new female anchor (Christina Applegate).
“Garden State” (Fox, R) will mellow you out. Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) directs, writes and stars in the comedy as a small-time actor (known for playing mentally impaired characters) who returns to New Jersey for his mom’s funeral. He gets a grip on himself as he goes off the meds that his psychologist dad (Ian Holm) has prescribed for decades, gets wasted with childhood friends (including oily Peter Sarsgaard) and falls for oddball Natalie Portman. The queasy ending doesn’t mar an above-average debut.
“Resident Evil: Apocalypse” (Columbia Tristar, R) could be a real head-pounder if you’re not a fan of the video game or slinky action chicks. Picking up where the 2002 original ended and moving from its underground complex out to a zombie-overrun Raccoon City, it pairs Alice (Milla Jovovich) with ex-cop Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory, who moves exactly like her game character). With new superhuman abilities from the sinister Umbrella Corporation’s experiments, Alice faces off against the giant mutant Nemesis. Fun trash, but cut your losses at the fluffy extras.
Argh, my head: “Code 46” (MGM, R): In the brave new world of the near future in China, investigator Tim Robbins illicitly falls for a passport counterfeiter (Samantha Morton) who has his same genetic makeup. Intriguing concepts, but turgid and arty-farty execution. At least you don’t have to listen to Robbins talk politics.
Talk about wasted: “Wimbledon” (Universal, PG-13): Likable stars Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst are squandered on bland romantic comedy about an aging Brit tennis pro whose game perks up when he meets an up-and-coming young female tennis star.
“Twilight Samurai” (Empire Pictures, unrated): The tale of a 19th-century petty samurai turned storehouse clerk (Hiroyuki Sanada from “The Last Samurai”) cleaned up at Japan’s Academy Awards and got nominated for best foreign language film in our own. Widowed, with two daughters, impoverished and grimy, he’s lost the taste for battle but gets pulled back in after confronting a childhood friend’s drunken ex-husband. Thoughtful, graceful, touching.
“The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition, Season 1” (Image, 1959, unrated): Here’s your comfort food. Remedying the scattershot previous releases, the episodes are all together, in chronological order and with a treasure trove of extras: interviews and commentaries with talent on many episodes, isolated music tracks, “TZ” radio shows, the original version of the pilot and lots more. I glommed onto the audio recordings of creator Rod Serling’s brutally self-deprecating lectures at Sherwood Oaks College from 1975 — the year he died. Just listen to that unmistakable voice saying, “Every now and then you write something that you think at the moment is quite adequate, and then many years later you suddenly realize you have given birth to a turd.”
Also from Image, the 1985 incarnation, “The Twilight Zone, Season 1.” Not in the original’s league, but with some worthy segments and an impressive roster of directors and writers. In commentaries for a couple of the best, “Shatterday” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” writer Harlan Ellison (also the series’ creative consultant) does his usual, very entertaining telling-it-like-it-is. He claims to have rescued the latter episode in the editing room from director “Alan Smithee,” whom he reveals as Oscar producer Gil Cates; and says that star Danny Kaye was a heartbreakingly selfish scene-stealer.
Other TV: “Sex and the City, Season 6, Part 2” (HBO, unrated), which has three different and even more disappointing series endings. “Sapphire and Steele” (A&E, 1979, unrated): the cheap-looking, extremely bizarre Brit cult show with post-“U.N.C.L.E” David McCallum and pre-“Ab Fab” Joanna Lumley as extraterrestrial agents sent to deal with time disruptions on Earth.
Also: Josh Hartnett in “Wicker Park” (MGM, PG-13), and “Un Chien Andalou” (Facets, 1929): Yeah, the eyeball one. Urk!
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or firstname.lastname@example.org