I'm not Santa. I don't want you on my lap. But if you'll back slowly away from the mistletoe, we can peek into our festive bag of new DVDs. They're not Christmas movies, because...
I’m not Santa. I don’t want you on my lap.
But if you’ll back slowly away from the mistletoe, we can peek into our festive bag of new DVDs. They’re not Christmas movies, because you can see “It’s a Wonderful Life” only so many times before you want to jump into that river with an anvil.
But for this long holiday weekend, with all the relatives piled on top of each other in your house, there are DVDs for everybody here — and besides, it’s all in how you wrap ’em.
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The best things come in small packages:
Two little films are so superior to the week’s big studio releases that it’s like comparing diamond earrings with a bag of Costco popcorn.
“Napoleon Dynamite” (Fox, PG) made me laugh until my throat hurt and I had to wear an ascot. Supremely nerdy Nappy-D (Jon Heder) is an Idaho high-schooler with a red afro, big glasses and an open-mouthed comatose look. He hoards tots (tater tots) in his pants pockets. His sweet skills include drawing “ligers.” When his grandma takes a dune-buggying spill and breaks her coccyx, slick Uncle Rico moves in with Napoleon and his unemployed older brother, Kip — who’s in an Internet romance with a handful of woman named LaFawnduh. Meanwhile, Napoleon must enlist his other skills to help his new, equally comatose, full-mustached best friend, Pedro, run for class prez against the most perfect, popular girl alive.
The DVD includes writer-director Jared Hess’ original short “Peluca,” with Heder, their audio commentary on it and the main feature, deleted scenes and a featurette on the wedding epilogue — which was added while the film was still in theaters because of its popularity groundswell. A long shelf life will come from the dead-on retro sense (exemplified by the “Pegasus Xing” sign on Napoleon’s bedroom door) and such quotable lines as “I caught you a delicious bass,” “I see you’re drinking one percent milk. Is that because you think you’re fat?” and “Do the chickens have large talons?” It’s also worth noting that the funniest movie since “Bad Santa” has almost no profanity or sex.
“Stander” (Columbia Tristar, R): After squandering his star momentum in “Dreamcatcher” and “The Punisher,” Tom Jane starred in what should have been an instant crime classic — if anyone had seen it in a theater. It’s based on the true story of a South African police detective whose mental wiring gets fried from the white-on-black horrors of a riot. So he commits a series of robberies so brazen that he becomes a celebrity, to the extreme embarrassment of the legions of cops hunting him.
(My wish list: Every movie on DVD about a real person should include a documentary that tells how much is true.)
Nobody wants the giblets:
“Shaun of the Dead” (Universal, R): The “rom-zom-com” that appealed to civilians who weren’t necessarily cult geeks. Also the best horror comedy I’ve seen since “The Horse Whisperer.” (That was a horror-comedy, right?) English slacker Shaun (Simon Pegg) is perfectly happy to shuffle to the convenience store with a hangover, head to the electronics store where he works, then spend evenings at the pub with his worthless but funny pal (Nick Frost), day after day. But Shaun’s girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) sickens of his zombielike routine, and he’s got to win her back as a real epidemic of carnivorous undead erupts. A rare balance of funny, scary and even touching.
The DVD is loaded with extras that cult buffs devour, including Pegg’s video diary, outtakes and extended scenes, and a great one called “Plot Holes,” in which questions such as “What happened to Shaun when he ran off?” are answered with the aid of sequential art.
(My wish list: Now let’s see Pegg and director Edgar Wright’s TV sitcom, “Spaced,” on DVD.)
Regifting is still tacky:
“The Manchurian Candidate” (Universal, R): Director Jonathan Demme’s remake is watchable once; John Frankenheimer’s original is an enduring work of brilliance. Didn’t Demme learn anything from his awful remake of “Charade”? Denzel Washington takes over for Sinatra as the nightmare-tortured vet who knows something’s wrong with his ex-comrade Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), now a political candidate. Updates — relevant to Halliburton, for instance — keep it interesting, and Meryl Streep chews it up as Shaw’s sinister mom. But jeez, they even screw up the Shocking Kiss.
And everyone’s bent out of shape about toy guns:
“King Arthur” (Touchstone, PG-13 and unrated editions) will make you think twice about toy swords. More “Braveheart” than “Camelot,” the director’s cut of Ron Popeil’s — I mean Antoine Fuqua’s — ultra-violent epic claims to be “the untold true story that inspired the legend.” But I don’t know about scantily clad, blue-painted female warriors like Guinevere (Keira Knightley). I kept wondering, Isn’t she cold? A young Arthur (Clive Owen) reluctantly enlists his Wild-Bunchy knights in one last mission before they’re released from the oppressive Roman Empire, while the brutal and numerically superior Saxons (led by snarlin’ Stellan Skarsgård) chase them down.
The lump of coal in your stocking:
“Thunderbirds” (Universal, PG): The live-action feature based on Gerry Anderson’s old “Supermarionation” series about a family of adventurers who rescue people with their cool vehicles. But they don’t get to do much, because most of the Tracy family (led by patriarch Bill Paxton) gets trapped in space by The Hood (Ben Kingsley), leaving the youngest Tracy brother and his two friends to rescue them. A complete rip-off from director and “Star Trek” alum Jonathan Frakes.
Don we now our gay apparel:
“De-Lovely” (MGM, PG-13): Dying legendary songwriter Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) looks back on scenes from his life and complicated marriage to The Most Understanding Woman in the World (Ashley Judd), who looked the other way during his same-sex dalliances. Contemporary stars Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette and others perform his classics. Kline and Judd are worthy, but not the tired storytelling device. And call me a lowbrow, but I can never think of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” without adding that Benny Hill comma before “love.”
Remember, it’s never a good idea to give pets for Christmas:
“Two Brothers” (Universal, PG): Sure, tigers are cute when they’re kittens, but didn’t you learn anything from Roy Horn?
“Anacondas — The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” (Columbia, PG-13): Because audiences were clamoring for a sequel to the 1997 J-Lo original.
And now the cherished activity that families share during the holidays — watching TV:
“The 4400” (Paramount, unrated); “Star Trek Voyager — The Complete Seventh Season” (Paramount, unrated); and “The Simpsons — The Complete Fifth Season” (Fox, unrated).
And for everyone’s New Year’s resolution:
“Carmen Electra’s Aerobic Striptease” and “Carmen Electra’s Fit to Strip” (Paramount, unrated). It’s for exercise, honey. Everybody’s doing it. Honest.
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or firstname.lastname@example.org