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4/7/2010

Film & Video

DVDs Nuts!
Don’t overlook these lesser-seen OW-approved titles

 

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans  This not-really-a-remake of Abel Ferrara’s seedy 1992 film stars Nicolas Cage as Terence McDonagh, a coke-snorting, hooker-banging Louisiana cop on the hunt for drug dealers … or something. The script by TV cop drama veteran William M. Finkelstein is standard procedural stuff, but the reason to see the movie is the way visionary director Werner Herzog shrugs off the notions of procedure entirely. Instead, Herzog focuses on Cage’s barbed-wire performance and the sleazy, lawless wildlife of post-Katrina New Orleans, even allowing the camera to get distracted by gators and reptiles for hilariously long sequences. This is trash filmmaking at its very best.

Beeswax  The perils of adulthood and the legalese that comes with small-business ownership – buyouts, divisions of labor, boards of directors – invade the typically insular, preening world of mumblecore in this pleasantly meandering turn from indie pioneer Andrew Bujalski. Jeannie and Amanda own a delightfully candy-colored vintage-clothing shop in (where else?) Austin, Texas, but Amanda is gone a lot and has checked out of the day-to-day operations. Jeannie, for reasons never made wholly clear, suspects Amanda’s going to sue her. She enlists the counsel of ex-boyfriend Merrill, who’s close to passing the bar exam and whose advice comes cheap and with tender sex as a value-added bonus. Kudos to Bujalski for allowing the tedium of entrepreneurship into his hipster-verse; I only wish his characters would toughen up a bit in response. Nobody wants to see their lawyer running their fingers through their own hair all the time.

Loins of Punjab Presents … Peppered with in-jokes at South Asians in the U.S., this film’s niche conceit concerns a desi-founded pork loin company in New Jersey that hosts a talent show for South Asians. Director Manish Acharya has plenty of fun playing off stereotypes and the film’s low-budget vibe and non-actor performances are offset by Jameel Khan, as the event’s super-slick promoter.

Pirate Radio Messy, overstuffed and, at times, aimless, Richard Curtis’ ode to the early, censored days of rock & roll nevertheless thrills with its chaotic spirit, much the same way Curtis’ other overstuffed mess did – **Love Actually**. Led by “the Count” (Philip Seymour Hoffman, doing Lester Bangs again), a group of misfits broadcast the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Zombies and more from a boat in international waters. When the UK government cracks down on the devil’s music, the pirates must decide if music is worth their freedom, and possibly their lives. Appropriately, the soundtrack is worth the price of rental alone.

The Yes Men Fix the World  If only we could somehow merge Michael Moore’s genial and visual expositional style with Mike Bonanno’s and Andy Bichlbaum’s (the titular Yes Men) uproarious yet suspenseful knack for elaborate pranks on corporations. Moore can’t pull off those stunts anymore – he’s too well known and, frankly, snide ­– but neither can the Yes Men hold our attention in between their ruses. This documentary is like a greatest-hits of the Yes Men’s pranks, the best of which is when they pretend to be Dow Chemical spokesmen and go on BBC to apologize for a chemical disaster in India 20 years ago and pledge $12 billion in reparations, causing Dow’s stock to plummet for a brief time. The flop sweat and trembling hands just moments before pulling it off is the stuff of genuine drama. Their “show” is stellar, but the “tell” could use some work.

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