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Monday, Apr 16, 2007


Jackpot! Finally, a week where any one of the seven selected titles would make a fine addition to your own personal DVD collection. These situations are rare, so they demand celebrating. Better yet, there are several other titles – Overlord: Criterion Collection, Freedom Writers, The History Boys – that have their positives and negatives as well. Sure, some are better than others, with one offering in particular clearly meant as fodder for a future sequel release (say, around 4 May???), but with previous Tuesdays providing a paltry selection of acceptable, let alone good releases, you won’t hear SE&L complaining. In fact, picking the disc to highlight was a difficult if not next to impossible process. In the end, it came down to interest and popularity over art and added content. Still, you won’t be disappointed with any of the digital presentations available on 17, April, beginning with:


Spider-Man 2.1


Okay, it’s an obvious cash grab, a chance for Sony to milk the fanbase out of a few more bucks before they role out Part 3 the first weekend in May. Still, even with its cynical status as a marketing ploy, you can’t deny the power in Sam Raimi’s perfectly balanced comic book adventure yarn. Alfred Molina is an excellent Dr. Octopus, bringing the right amount of horror and humor to his villainous role. Similarly, the rest of the cast continue to push the boundaries of their characters’ core, including Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, a young man having a hard time dealing with his newfound import. Granted, this new DVD fleshes out the fight scenes, adding bits and pieces here and there to warrant the revamp. And we do get a couple of conversations that help explain away some of the movie’s more muddled motivations. While purists may balk at this non-directorial cut, and completists will plotz at the wealth of new added content, this remains an unnecessary double dip of a really great fantasy film.

Other Titles of Interest


Brute Force: The Criterion Collection


It’s time for another installment of moral men behind bars as the preservation experts over at C2 give this 1947 melodrama a thorough DVD workout. Director Jules Dassin, who would go on to helm the unusual noir Naked City and the truck driving thriller Thieves’ Highway, does a similarly startling job here, giving a young Burt Lancaster the fascinating role of a concerned convict up against a corrupt guard.

La Haine: The Criterion Collection


Race and its overriding social issues is not just an American quandary. In 1995, young filmmaker Matthieu Kassovitz decided to illustrate the strife and unrest growing in the French suburbs via a story of police brutality and friendship avenged. Playing like a documentary, thanks in part of the director’s decision to film cinema verite style, what we end up with is a universal statement on human intolerance and dignity destroyed.

The Last King of Scotland


Forest Whittaker took home his first Oscar for this portrayal of Ugandan madman Idi Amin in what is otherwise a very average motion picture. But no matter the flaws in the dramatization and fictionalization of the main character, a Scottish doctor who soon becomes Amin’s private physician and confidant – there is no denying Whittaker’s powerhouse performance. It will stand as a personal triumph long after the film itself has fallen out of favor.

Notes on a Scandal


It sounds like a tawdry tabloid tale – a young teacher seduces one of her male students. To make matters worse, a dowdy old spinster discovers the tryst and blackmails the naïve instructor. Of course, motives are never exactly what they seem, and with Judy Dench and Cate Blachette in the leads, what could become clichéd ends up playing as very powerful and rather personal. Not given enough respect come Awards time, DVD provides the perfect opportunity to catch up with this tripwire title.

Smokin’ Aces


Stylized action has its advocates. Both Quentin Tarantino and his Hong Kong counterpart, John Woo, have fashioned an entire career out of making violence and gunplay seem practically poetic. Now Narc‘s Joe Carnahan wants to try his hand at over the top mayhem, and the results are rather mixed. He gets the firefights and attitude right, but somewhere in between his affinity for stunt casting and a lack of clear characterization, a potentially great film finds itself marginalized.


And Now for Something Completely Different
True Confessions


The reteaming of Godfather aces Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall seemed like a match made in movie heaven. Fresh off his work in Raging Bull, and still carrying a bit of weight, Mr. Method decided to take on the role of a corrupt priest trying to hide a horrible murder from his detective brother – the aforementioned Corleone counselari. Using bits of the famed Black Dahlia murder, and lots of distinctive LA period set pieces, director Ulu Grosbard laid on the atmosphere in thick, moody slices. It was quite a chance of pace for the famed Hollywood rebel, a man whose previous films had been experimental and almost neo-realistic in style. Some found the pacing slow and the plot overly complicated. But with fine work from the stars, and a single sequence of awful implied violence, this anti-noir became a minor masterwork.

 


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Monday, Apr 16, 2007
by John Dorschner [McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)]

MIAMI - The Pulitzer Prize, the American newspaper industry’s highest honor, was awarded Monday to Debbie Cenziper of The Miami Herald for House of Lies, a riveting series on widespread problems in Miami-Dade County’s public housing agency.


Winning in the category of local reporting, Cenziper led a team that wrote more than 30 articles in the 2006 series, which revealed developers took millions of dollars in taxpayer money to build affordable housing for the poor, but failed to deliver, leaving thousands without their promised homes.


The series led to massive changes in the county housing agency and the arrest of three developers.


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Monday, Apr 16, 2007
by David Saltonstall [New York Daily News (MCT)]

NEW YORK - The New York Daily News’ Editorial Board won the Pulitzer Prize Monday for its groundbreaking series of editorials, “9-11: The Forgotten Victims,” which documented the growing medical fallout from the World Trade Center attacks.


In riveting, persuasive prose, the five-month series established how breathing the atomized air of the World Trade Center after 9-11 had sickened more than 12,000 emergency responders, at least five of them fatally.


The series also forced all levels of government to reexamine their initial medical response to the attacks, and in many cases react with a range of new benefits and services for rescuers, volunteers or their surviving family members.


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Monday, Apr 16, 2007
by PopMatters Staff
LEEROY STAGGER [Photo: Sarah Rhude]

LEEROY STAGGER [Photo: Sarah Rhude]


Leeroy Stagger & The Sinking Hearts
Depression River [MP3]
     


Where I Live [MP3]
     


Satellite [MP3]
     


Parts & Labor
Fractured Skies [MP3]
     


Lifesavas
Gutterfly [MP3]
     


Casper and the Cookies
Sid from Central Park [MP3]
     


Part Chimp
New Cross [MP3]
     



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Monday, Apr 16, 2007

The flap over radio icon Don Imus’ “nappy-headed hos” comment didn’t just cost the man his job but also started up a dialog about race and (in)appropriate language.  As with any time in a controversial issue like this, there was a lot of breast-beating and idiotic punditry along with some sage thoughts.


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