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Home movies

by Philip Martin | April 9, 2010 at 2:15 a.m.

— Recent DVD releases:

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (R, 121 minutes) Werner Herzog’s utterly superfluous variation on Abel Ferrara’s much more serious (and powerful) 1992 NC-17 film Bad Lieutenant, which gave us a spookily committed Harvey Keitel as the title character, a wounded, feral creature trying to recover purchase on his soul. Here we simply have Nicolas Cage acting endearingly goofy in a movie that knowingly swings from gritty film noir to postmodern freak circus. It’s a B movie worth seeing, but there are times the weirdness seems forced and the only thing that feels authentic is the suggestion that Cage might be more than a little mad. Grade: 86

Dirt! The Movie (unrated, 86 minutes) Well made if standard issue eco-documentary inspired by William Bryant Logan’s somewhat breathless book, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth. The film picks up Logan’s enthusiastic, generous tone as it edifies and ultimately cautions: Dirt is dying too, darn it.

Grade: 82

Dolan’s Cadillac (R, 88 minutes) Christian Slater is vicious gangster Jimmy Dolan; Wes Bentley and Emmanuelle Vaugier are the happy every couple who run afoul of him in this standard revenge action story that’s based on a Stephen King short story. It’s a misfire, but the problem rests mainly in the ham-fisted script. Plenty of people will probably get sucked into watching this on cable, but it’s hardly worth adding to the Netflix queue.

Grade: 76

Finn on the Fly (PG, 100 minutes) Slightly creepy low-budget Canadian comedy about a middle-school misfit (Matthew Knight) who comes home one day to find his faithful, Frisbee chasing dog Finn has morphed into a naked man (Ryan Belleville). It has something to do with the mad scientist next door (Ana Gasteyer).

Grade: 78

The Lord of the Rings (PG, 1978 animated version, 132 minutes) While this week’s big news may be the Blu-ray release of the boxed set of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the smart money is holding out for the individual collector’s editions (which will probably be out well before Christmas). In any case, I’ve always had a soft spot for the work of animator Ralph Bakshi, and even if his roto scoped take on the Hobbit tale disappointed me when it was released (full disclosure: I grok not Tolkien), in retrospect it feels like an elegant, appropriately sized adaptation - with some beautiful animation work.

Grade: 85

Taxidermia (not rated, 91 minutes) Surreal, grotesque and bitterly funny 2005 Hungarian art horror film is likely to disappoint anyone who picks it up hoping for a simple gorefest. Gyorgy Palfi’s movie is at least partly a political allegory, and it aspires not to cult status as a torture porn totem but to the highest cinematic art. (It’s not that, but give it points for trying.) While it’s often tough to look at, Palfi sees with an amazing, unflinching eye. Grade: 86

War Eagle, Arkansas (PG-13, 98 minutes) A sweet scrapbook of late adolescent friendship, the locally produced War Eagle, Arkansas is a tough, well-executed piece of independent film making rooted in the specific circumstances of credible human characters. It requires no special dispensation. It’s about the realistic friendship between socially inept but athletically gifted Enoch (Luke Grimes) and wheelchair-bound Sam “Wheels” Macon (Dan Mc-Cabe), a profanely witty free spirit with cerebral palsy.

This core relationship is strained when Enoch is presented with opportunities unavailable to Wheels. First he gets - with his friend’s help - a girlfriend in Abby (Misti Traya). Later, the prospect of a baseball scholarship looms.

Setting the film in the idyllic rural community of War Eagle was a smart move - we can understand why Enoch loves the place and why Wheels feels trapped by it. Enoch’s ultimate choice isn’t conventional and may leave a portion of the audience dissatisfied, but it feels emotionally true.

Grade: 88

MovieStyle, Pages 37 on 04/09/2010

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