Capote

Sony, $28.95

Philip Seymour Hoffman finally has his Oscar, and now we can all breathe easier. After his somewhat overly tortured, chewed-fingernail-baroque turns in

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Capote, Derailed, and A History of Violence

Capote

Sony, $28.95

Philip Seymour Hoffman finally has his Oscar, and now we can all breathe easier. After his somewhat overly tortured, chewed-fingernail-baroque turns in Owning Mahowny, Love Liza, and Flawless, now he can go find bigger paydays with Tom Cruise. (He teams with his former Magnolia costar in May's summer opener Mission: Impossible III.) Still, Truman Capote was no less the prima donna, so maybe the actor's transformation into a tiny, lisping, gay alcoholic writer wasn't quite such a stretch after all. In his commentary with director Bennett Miller, Hoffman suggests Capote had the trick of taking off his glasses to seem more vulnerable in critical situations (i.e., getting his exclusive story from condemned killer Perry Smith). "He would almost turn into a child in front of people," says Hoffman, who later adds, "I think Capote genuinely was sorry . . . and was still lying to [Smith]."

Miller's other commentary, with superb cinematographer Adam Kimmel, is also illuminating (and with less celebrity logrolling), and it provides further opportunity to admire the expert cutting of editor Christopher Tellefsen. The making-of featurette includes Capote biographer Gerald Clarke, plus TV clips of the writer that make Hoffmann's impersonation all the more astonishing. Too brief are additional comments from screenwriter Dan Futterman and co-stars Catherine Keener and Chris Cooper; the latter recalls the Clutter family murder from his Midwestern boyhood (his grandmother actually met Capote during his Kansas research).

Everyone complains about the cold while shooting in Winnipeg. Says Miller of his star, "Phil works better when he's miserable." In which sense Capote's downfall suits him perfectly. BRIAN MILLER

Derailed

Weinstein, $28.98

Three deleted scenes for this blackmail/double-cross drama provide unnecessary clutter, like much of the movie itself. In one excision, Clive Owen's wife admits she had an affair, which he brushes off without emotion. Derailed certainly doesn't need any more such bizarre and ludicrous twists; it does fine on its own being devoid of any cinematic quality.

In the making-of featurette, director Mikael Hafstorm compares Owen's character to the paradigmatic Hitchcockian hero whose ordinary life falls into disarray. Or a "Kafka nightmare," according to Owen, who, despite being regularly beaten to a pulp, just doesn't inspire much sympathy. (Jennifer Aniston doesn't do much better; in one scene after another, she slips from femme fatale to quirky Rachel to selfish, smug businesswoman to pathetic damsel in distress.) It's sad that such a promising actor as Owen, who shone in Closer and Sin City, made such an unfortunate career choice here. Oh, wait, he appeared in The Pink Panther, too. Well, as long as he doesn't keep compounding his mistakes, like his Derailed character, there's hope. KELLIE HWANG

A History of Violence

New Line, $28.98

Director David Cronenberg has done deeper, much weirder work than this pulpy, graphic-novel-based revenge tale. As he says on the commentary, it's "as close to an in-house studio movie as I would ever have done." Why'd he do it? "This is mainstream," he explains, "but it has some disturbing undercurrents." In a way, it's even more subversive than his more overtly psycho stories (like The Fly or Naked Lunch). The hero (Viggo Mortensen) is an utterly nondescript milquetoast who heroically leaps into action to save the patrons of his small-town diner from homicidal hoodlums passing through their ordinary town. Eat hot lead, thugs! He gets his picture in the paper. But contrary to all Hollywood precedent, violence has consequences. Our hero's heroism decays, and moral rot claims his wife (Maria Bello) and teenage son (Ashton Holmes). A scar-faced goon (Ed Harris) accuses the hero of being some mysterious gangster doppelgänger, and soon he's standing in the cold shadow of über-hoodlum William Hurt (in his best role in years, abetted by a nonpareil cast).

Despite fine mayhem scenes, there's a bloodless intellectualism to the proceedings— which makes the remarkably philosophical DVD extras all the more fascinating. The multiple making-of documentaries and commentaries by Cronenberg and others offer way more insight than most DVDs do into how each scene, character, and theme was crafted. The eight-part Acts of Violence minidoc gives privileged glimpses into the conceptualizing, staging, rehearsal, improvisation, and effects work in the film's key scenes—even Bello and Mortensen's painstakingly developed quasi-rape sequence, which most stars and directors wouldn't share with you. Cronenberg, a former professor, lectures insightfully on what he needs in a star: "I need a kind of eccentricity, or something that's just off, more typical of a character actor, and yet still has leading-man presence and charisma."

Everybody's comments, nicely edited together, illuminate, but Cronenberg is the cinema instructor of your dreams. Make that nightmares. TIM APPELO

Other Releases

Fox offers a box set of old Shirley Temple flicks, and Warner does the same for Busby Berkeley. Chicken Little is ready to baby-sit your kids. Sports fans may dig Remember the Titans and the docs Year of the Yao, A League of Ordinary Gentlemen (about pro bowlers), and Through the Fire (ESPN's answer to Hoop Dreams). Three of Hearts celebrates a three-way marriage. The slight Aussie indie Oyster Farmer has beautiful locations. Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus examines the music of the South. Also look for Jarhead, the fourth Harry Potter movie, Pride & Prejudice, Everything Is Illuminated, Good Night, and Good Luck, The Dying Gaul, Memoirs of a Geisha, and another excellent Julianne Moore performance in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

dvd@seattleweekly.com

 
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