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Wilmington on DVD: Blood, chills, and good cheap thrills
Masters of Horrow and a D.W. Griffith classic
on
Full of blood, chills, creep-outs, sardonic humor and good cheap thrills, a nice idea very well executed.
Full of blood, chills, creep-outs, sardonic humor and good cheap thrills, a nice idea very well executed.

PICK OF THE WEEK
True Heart Susie (A)
U.S.: D. W. Griffith, 1919, Image

What true cinephile doesn't have a soft spot for that immortal sweetie, Lillian Gish -- especially when she is being directed by the master movie lyricist D.W. Griffith? True Heart Susie is lesser known, but it's a wonderfully beguiling and poignant romance by Griffith at his most pastoral/lyrical, starring Gish at her most radiantly innocent.

Today, the director is known primarily for his mammoth thrill-packed epics The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (and for the inexcusable racism that disfigures spectacular depiction of the Civil War in Birth). But Susie shows both Griffith and Gish at their best: a witheringly lovely tale of a sweet young country girl who makes great sacrifices for her boyfriend (the charmer Bobby Harron) and is badly and sadly repaid.

Made the year before the big Griffith-Gish box-office hit Way Down East (1920), it's a better, more touching movie, if not as exciting. The outdoor rural scenes are Americana at its most indelibly affecting, and Gish, with her oh-so-soft eyes and childlike purity of feeling, really breaks your heart as you watch. With the Griffith-written short Hoodoo Ann (U.S.; Lloyd Ingraham, 1916), costarring Harron and Intolerance's Mae Marsh.


Offside (B+)
Iran; Jafar Panahi, 2007. Sony

In Iran, women are forbidden to attend soccer matches even if they're big soccer fans (supposedly to protect them from the bad language and behavior of the men). This riveting little comedy-drama from the marvelous, gutsy Jafar Panahi (The Circle), whose works are regularly banned in Iran, makes fun of that stupid law by treating its fictitious narrative with near cinema verite realism.

The actresses, playing female soccer fans trying to sneak into the stadium disguised as boys, are rounded up during an actual game and held prisoner by actors playing guards. The result is Panahi's most accessible and robustly entertaining film since 1995's The White Balloon: a fond picture of sports mania in a repressive society that both amuses and provokes. (In Farsi, with English subtitles.)

Extras: Interview with Panahi.


BOX SET PICK OF THE WEEK
Masters of Horror: Season One Box Set (B)
U.S.; various directors, 2007, Anchor Bay

A bevy of cult horror directors -- from Joe (Gremlins) Dante to John (Halloween) Carpenter, from Dario (Suspiria) Argento to Takashi (Ichi the Killer) Miike, from John (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) McNaughton to Tobe (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper and from Larry (It's Alive!) Cohen to ex-UW and Broom Street Theater phenom Stuart (Re-Animator) Gordon -- ply their gory craft for the recent Showtime TV series. Full of blood, chills, creep-outs, sardonic humor and good cheap thrills, a nice idea very well executed. (But where are Romero, Craven and Cronenberg? Not willing to slum it?)

Fans who picked up these shows in their individual releases, though, may feel a little miffed, since the box set is a relative bargain. Just remember: Next time, wait for those shocks.

Included: Haeckel's Tale (John McNaughton), Pick Me Up (Larry Cohen), Sick Girl (Lucky McKee), Fair Haired Child (William Malone), Cigarette Burns (John Carpenter), Deer Woman (John Landis), Homecoming (Joe Dante), Chocolate (Mick Garris), Jenifer (Dario Argento), Dance of the Dead (Tobe Hooper), Dreams in the Witch-House (Stuart Gordon), Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (Don Coscarelli), Imprint (Takashi Miike). Extras: Interviews, roundtable discussion, deleted scenes.


NEW RELEASES

Year of the Dog (B-)
U.S.; Mike White, 2007, Paramount
The dry, itchy humor and outsider sympathies of writer-director Mike White (writer-actor of Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl) here get strangely intense as he focuses on a bachelor woman (Molly Shannon, good job) who loses her beloved pooch, shatters and tumbles into a world of animal politics then puts her outside the law. Smartly written and well-acted, but, like its heroine, somewhat off-balance.

Red Road (C+)
U.K.; Andrea Arnold, 2006, Tartan
A Cannes Festival film from Lars von Trier's Zentropa about the vendetta of a security officer (Kate Dickie) against a man who's done something awful in her past. Lower-class Glasgow life observed with grim realism, raw sexuality and a touch of melodrama. Well-done, though it tended to get better notices than it deserved.

The Hurricane (B)
U.S.; Norman Jewison, 1999, Universal
Powerful acting by Denzel Washington as champ boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, keys this well-written and acted story of his life, before his violently controversial murder trial and conviction, and during the long struggle to prove his innocence. A solid movie with a good heart, costarring Dan Hedaya, Liev Schreiber, Deborah Kara Unger and David Paymer. (HD-DVD.)

Notting Hill (C+)
U.K.; Roger Michell, 1999, Universal
Smooth but overrated romantic comedy with Julia Roberts, essentially a long amorous fantasy about a chirpy London bookseller (Hugh Grant) romancing a gorgeous but alienated American movie star (Julia Roberts). Sure, sure -- and it wouldn't have worked any better in the '50s with Alec Guinness and Liz Taylor. Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) is a good writer, but this is his weakest, most opportunistic script. With Rhys Ifans. (HD-DVD.)

A Night at the Roxbury (Special Collector's Edition) (D)
U.S.; John Fortenberry, 1998, Paramount

The Goldberg Variations: Glenn Gould Plays Bach (A)
U.S.; Bruno Monsaingeon, 1981, Sony
Among the peaks of 20th-century recorded classical music were Gould's idiosyncratic but beautifully thought-out renditions of Bach's famous variations. This is a 1981 performance, accompanied by a snippet of talk with Gould, and it's a joy. Gould's physical antics and personality only add to the pleasure. Extras: Interview with Gould.

3:10 to Yuma: Special Edition (B)
U.S.; Delmer Daves, 1957, Sony
Based on a story by the young Elmore Leonard, this is another suspense western in the mode of High Noon, with Van Heflin as the upright rancher who hires on to escort a prisoner -- sexy affable outlaw boss Glenn Ford -- onto the 3:10 train to Yuma, despite Ford's relentless razzing and the quiet gathering of the gang all around them. A good '50s Western, notable as one of the negative inspirations for Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (the other was, of course, High Noon). Hawks underrated them. It's a good black-and-white western, despite a disgraceful ending. Currently made by Director James Mangold, with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Frankie Laine sings up a storm with the title ballad.

The Crocodile Dundee Triple Feature. (C)

The first "Crocodile" Dundee movie -- a fish-out-of-water romantic comedy with writer-star Paul Hogan as the affable tough Aussie, wooing Yank reporter Linda Kozlowski in the bush and the Big Apple -- was low-pressure, high-personality fun and a surprise international smash hit. The two "Crocs" that followed keep increasingly milking a dry kangaroo.

Includes:

Crocodile Dundee (B)
Aus.; Peter Faiman, 1986, Paramount

Crocodile Dundee II (C-)
U.S.-Aus.; John Cornell, 1988, Paramount

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (D)
U.S.-Aus.; Simon Wincer, 2001, Paramount


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