Black Snake Moan, An Unreasonable Man, Film School, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, Standing Still, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List: Season 1, ShooterBy billyok | Friday, June 29th, 2007
Black Snake Moan (R, 2006, Paramount Vantage)
You might have seen a commercial for “Black Snake Moan.” And you may have noticed that, in that commercial, a craggily Samuel L. Jackson had a bedraggled Christina Ricci literally leashed to his house by way of iron chain. And you might be wondering what that’s all about. It’s simple, really: “Moan” is, like many films before it, a tale of co-dependent redemption — one soul trying to save itself by saving another’s first. But “Moan” turns this theme on its ear by repackaging it as a snarling, muggy and somewhat sultry look at two people who are on opposite ends of the world but still holding hands at the brink. To say this movie won’t speak to everyone is some kind of understatement: This likely will be one of 2007′s most potent “love it or hate it” films. But for those to whom “Moan” speaks, it sings. Watch it with abstract eyes, and it might be one of the best you see all year. Justin Timberlake also stars.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, three behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes.
An Unreasonable Man (NR, 2006, Weinstein Company/IFC)
Hey look, it’s that guy who cost Al Gore that election in 2000! Actually, no it isn’t — and if you don’t believe this review or Ralph Nader himself, take it from a Gore supporter who did the hard math on Nader’s supposed spoiler job. “An Unreasonable Man” covers Nader’s run in fantastically compelling detail, in the process shaming both the powers that be who tried to shut him down and the two-faced American left that turned on him after 2000. More than that, though, the film serves as reminder of all the incredible, planet-altering things Nader did to catapult himself into such a position in the first place. While “Man” gives voice to both sides of the election issue and remains consistently evenhanded throughout, Nader’s body of work is hard to deny (unless you’re, say, anti-seatbelt). It’s also, beyond any contrived controversy, an inspiring lesson about the power of an outsider who isn’t afraid to remain an outsider.
Extras: Deleted scenes, a second disc with seven bonus features.
Film School: An IFC Original Docu-Series (NR, 2004, Docurama)
If you liked the idea of “On the Lot” but had no appetite for yet another faux-reality show that more closely resembles a gimmick-riddled game show, this far superior 2004 series might be more your taste. “Film School” follows a handful of New York University film students as they complete a highly exclusive 10-week class (and, ideally, come away with a finished film for their efforts). On the reality show scale, “School” scores a zero in terms of interference and producer contrivances. That’s a good thing. A 10-piece documentary about the perils of film creation is fascinating enough to stand on its own, and the students IFC chose to spotlight are far more interesting than most of the also-rans Fox’s show trotted out.
Contents: 10 episodes, no extras.
The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (NR, 1990, Shout Factory)
In case the two volumes of “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!” didn’t overwhelm you with top-shelf animated entertainment (and yes, that’s sarcasm), perhaps this third helping will finish the job. Piggybacked on top of the “Captain N” cartoon, “The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3″ more or less resumes where the previous Mario cartoons left off, only with the “Super Mario Bros. 3″ video game as its inspiration instead of “Super Mario Bros. 2.” That means everything from Bowser’s kids to the raccoon suit making an appearance. The episodes in which Mario (who sounds like Louie from “Taxi”) and Luigi (Barney Rubble, for some reason) travel to America to save Hollywood, the White House and Milli Vanilli? Harder to explain. As with Shout’s other video game cartoon compilations, “TAOSMB3″ gets a 10 for nostalgia and presentation and a generous six for actual show quality.
Contents: 26 cartoons, plus concept art galleries, jukebox, character profiles, two other mini-features.
Standing Still (R, 2005, Weinstein Company)
“Standing Still,” about a group of friends who reunite on the eve of a wedding between two of those friends, doesn’t exactly make the best of first impressions. At first, it resembles a weak episode of “Entourage” that features neither Turtle nor Johnny Drama and replaces Ari Gold with some lousy parallel-universe substitute. But once the fronting subsides and all the introductions are made, things turn around. “Still” comes equipped with a huge cast (Colin Hanks, Amy Adams, Menu Suvari, Jon Abrahams and several more star), but it manages to give just about everyone some meaningful face time. The surprising mix of humor, likeability and generally competent storytelling transforms a potential disaster into what feels like a mid-twentysomething version of “Can’t Hardly Wait.” If you liked that film’s mood and style, chances are high this one will leave you similarly satisfied.
Extras: Cast interview.
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List: Season 1 (NR, 2005, Bravo/Universal)
The opening episode of “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List” finds the celeb-baiting comedian acting very much like a pampered celebrity herself — which, despite her self-deprecating claims, she is. After delivering 44 minutes of Griffin trying to get lots of stuff for free despite having more money than roughly 95% of the planet’s population, there’s nowhere for “D-List” to go but up. And that, gradually, is where it goes. Griffin isn’t much more loveable after six episodes than she was after one, but “D-List” nonetheless is a fascinating and strangely entertaining look at the incredibly tiring amount of work that goes into Griffin’s overwhelmingly phony existence. If being famous is fun, it’s certainly news to this show.
Contents: Six episodes, plus a rather lengthy season two preview and Griffin’s stand-up special, “Kathy Griffin Is… Not Nicole Kidman.”
Shooter (R, 2007, Paramount)
Marine rifleman-turned-hermit Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) has no interest in serving the government again, but when a group of supposed government officials dangle the chance to prevent a possible presidential assassination, he bites. Too bad the group isn’t what it claims to be. “Shooter” eventually reveals itself to be another man-on-the-run film, albeit with sniper rifles instead of the usual pistols. It also reveals itself to be, after some rocky beginnings, pretty entertaining. It won’t tattoo itself to your consciousness the way “The Fugitive” or the “Bourne” series perhaps have, but it might make for an entertaining couple of hours if you don’t expect your mind to be blown. Not the world’s most glowing recommendation, but that’s the way it goes. Michael Peña, Kate Mara and Donny Glover also star.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes features.