Sunday, September 17, 2006

United 93 and DVDs Released Sept. 5

$1.10 to the first person who responds correctly to this question: What is the significance of Sept. 5 to me?
How soon is too soon for 9/11 movies?

Most reviewers of United 93 (Universal, $29.98) thought that the fact-based drama, directed by Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) didn’t at all arrive too soon after the 2001 terrorist attack. Filmgoers apparently agreed, with the $15 million movie notching worldwide box office receipts of $55 million.

Greengrass’s film is one of the most emotionally moving and disturbing movies of the year, really bringing viewers front and center on the 9/11 attack, and lifting the veil, so to speak, on some of the backstage action -- the confusion and chaos generated by the unprecedented atrocities, and the various breakdowns in communication.

And, really, although it doesn't come with any transparent political point of view, "United 93" does provide a pretty obvious answer to the question so many are asking, particularly on the fifth anniversary of 9/11: Why are we at war? Because there are people in this world so twisted in their thinking that they're willing and able to carry out acts of mass genocide in the name of some kind of divine mission. And only a concerted effort to keep those kind of people from succeeding will prevent that kind of attack from again happening on our shores. Is that so difficult to grasp?

"United 93" begins with a focus on the four terrorists who brought down the plane, and then shifts its attention to the passengers killed in the tragedy. Overt heroics are deemphasized by the filmmaker, who wisely chose to hire a cast of unknowns and to focus on the desperation and emotional horror surrounding the event.

Greengrass is heard on the audio commentary, and the DVD extras also include a documentary, “United 93: The Families and the Film,” and memorial pages.


Three more classic films benefit from the deluxe Criterion Collection treatment, complete with pristine transfers, insightful audio commentaries and scholarly essays – Fellini’s “Amarcord” ($39.95), his twisted valentine to his hometown of Rimini, released in 1974; Kurosawa’s 1954 masterpiece “Seven Samurai” ($49.95); and Terry Gilliam’s 1985 retro-futuristic odyssey “Brazil” ($29.95).

Also newly available from Criterion is Jacques Tati’s 1967 “Playtime” ($39.95).


“Kinky Boots” (Miramax, $29.99), boasting a title that Pedro Almodovar must want for his very own, stars Nigerian-born standout Chiwetel Ejiofor (“Dirty Pretty Things”) as Lola, a flamboyant, singing drag queen. Lola’s need for better boots results in a new line of business for Price and Son Shoes, a failing operation run by Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton), who develops a successful line of men’s fetish footwear.

An audio commentary with director Julian Jarrold and stars Edgerton, Ejiofor and Sarah-Jane Potts is among the DVD extras, which also include deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes features.


The problem with biopics is that they too often offer lasting, only partially accurate portraits of their subjects. That holds true for Bela Lugosi, the “Dracula” star whose downbeat last days were immortalized in “Ed Wood,” starring Martin Landau as the Hungarian-born actor.

Lugosi fans seeking a comprehensive view of his work might appreciate “The Bela Lugosi Box: 15 Frightful Films” (Passport, $19.98), cover the titular actor’s appearances from the Silent Film era through his practically unwatchable films with Wood, including 1953’s laughable “Glen or Glenda?” and 1959’s much-abused “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

The collection also features 1932’s “White Zombie,” 1941’s “The Devil Bat,” 1943’s “The Ape Man” and a clip-filled documentary hosted by Christopher Lee, another screen Dracula.


This week’s Blu-ray releases: “Blazing Saddles,” “Firewall,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Lethal Weapon.”


Also released this week:
Ace Ventura: Deluxe Double Feature
Commander in Chief: The Inaugural Edition, Part 2
Fantastic Four
The Flintstones: The Complete Sixth Season
Heart of Darkness: The Vietnam War Chronicles 1945-75
House of the Damned
Lost: Season 2 – Extended Experience
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
Oz: The Complete Sixth Season
The Three Musketeers (BBC)

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