IT'S A MYSTERY to me why M. Night Shyamalan's fourth straight supernatural thriller (on disc Jan. 11) wound up on so many critics' worst-of-2004 lists, but not one that I care to solve. The dude's a polarizer. Unbreakable was likewise unpopular for its inflated self-importance and here-we-go-again twist, yet the man's ability to repeatedly concoct and execute singularly original, thought-provoking everyday horror concepts is strangely unheralded.
That said, I almost signed up with the haters after enduring The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan (also just out on DVD), the Sci-Fi Channel's now-infamous red herring Village making-of documentary. Prior to Buried Secret's airing, the network boasted that it had unearthed big-time skeletons in the "reclusive" filmmaker's closet. The reality: In the spirit of Shyamalan's narrative MO, the leak was a hoax. OK, good joke, but it doesn't justify the ensuing puff piece, which takes two interminable, unfunny hours to winkingly postulate that Shyamalan is "connected" to the spirit world.
As for the actual Village DVD, Bryce Dallas Howard doesn't exactly take major steps to debunk the stereotype of starlets as airheads by reading aloud from her unintentionally hilarious on-set diary. (First-day advice from William Hurt: "Cherish this. Live this.") As usual, there's no Shyamalan commentary; luckily, also as usual, he includes a hilarious teenage-era home movie, starring himself as Indiana Jones in a satirical suburban take on Raiders of the Lost Ark. How appropriate, since The Terminal may keep The Village company on those worst-of lists. Good thing for Shyamalan his adventures have eclipsed Spielberg's, if only in terms of fan anticipation.
ALSO OUT recently: John Sayles' less-than-subtle Bush satire, Silver City; the fairly contemptible Mel Gibson–produced Paparazzi; the lame comedies Touch of Pink and Without a Paddle; plus reissues of Luc Besson's Leon and The Fifth Element, both with new extras. Billy Bob Thornton is good as usual in Friday Night Lights, while Halle Berry's Catwoman and Julianne Moore's The Forgotten won't help their careers. Other new titles include Cellular, Rosenstrasse, The Cookout, and the atmospheric 1954 French gangster picture Touchez Pas au Grisbi with Jean Gabin.