WHOS MINDING THE STORE 19
It’s a battle between fact, fiction and the forgotten this week. A pair of excellent documentaries deconstruct their contentious subject matter while an Asian master battles an experimental icon for symbolic old school supremacy. Toss in a decent indie drama, a blood-drenched horror sequel, and an attempted return to action/adventure prominence by a couple of former A-listers and you’ve got the best that 23 January has to offer. To start things off, here is our clear SE&L Pick:
This Film is Not Yet Rated
It requires a certain amount of unbridled chutzpah to take on what is arguably the most powerful independent entity in all of show business, but that’s exactly what filmmaker Kirby Dick set out to do when he conceived this look behind the secret society known as the MPAA. The ratings board, supposedly ‘guiding parents in their concerns over film content’ has actually grown into a de facto censorship guild, mandating material changes to movies before providing their stamp of approval. What started out as an investigation to uncover the makeup of its membership soon became a kind of crusade – and it must have worked. New President Dan Glickman is vowing to revisit the whole G thru NC-17 dynamic, in direct response to Dick’s findings.
Other Titles of Interest
Kevin Costner tries to regain a little of his lost action hero sheen, and he brings Mr. Demi Moore (Ashton Kutcher) along for the derivative ride. Former frontline filmmaker Andrew Davis, he of The Fugitive fame, also tries to reclaim some critical consideration. He almost succeeds with this Coast Guard take on An Officer and a Gentleman.
How strange it is that yet another influential documentary arrives on DVD today. This mesmerizing and troubling look at Betty Fischer’s Youth Bible Camp called Kids on Fire actually resulted in the Christian indoctrination organization closing its doors. Between the near abusive brainwashing and the Crusades-like Go with God message, it’s not hard to see why.
A rousing installment of the unlikely fright franchise, this third exercise in excess dismisses most of the first film’s twisty plot points to focus, again, on cruelly clever killing devices. The results are far gorier than anything either previous episode provided. How this level of bloodshed got an “R” is something for Kirby Dick to explain.
In what many are calling a career defining turn, Secretary
/World Trade Center
star Maggie Gyllenhaal plays an ex-con trying to reconnect with her young daughter. With the cloud of drugs and abuse constantly shadowing her efforts, the story becomes more than a mere formulaic melodrama. Thanks to her performance, Gyllenhaal finds the truth inside her character’s torment.
Yojimbo/Sanjuro: The Criterion Collection
After the near definitive reissue last year of his Seven Samurai, another pair of auteur Akira Kurosawa’s feudal Japan epics get a second look. Previously available from the industry’s leading preservationists, these new versions get revamped tech specs and more of that sensational supplemental splendor that keeps Criterion on the cutting edge of definitive DVD packaging.
And Now for Something Completely Different
The Films of Kenneth Anger: Volume 1
Many may know him for his classic Tinsel Town take down, the Grand Guignol gossip Bible Hollywood Babylon. But there is actually more to Kenneth Anger than stories about sex and scandal. A former child star, he grew up in the glare of the industry, and made his first film at the age of nine. Considered one of the gods of underground, independent cinema (along with the Kuchar Brothers), his sensationally scandalous shorts have long been unavailable to the viewing public. Thanks to Fantoma, however, this first volume in a proposed set of Anger collections promises to open his avant-garde vision to a whole new generation of fans.