Anchor Bay, $16.98
Rarely has a filmmaker been so heavy-handed with his metaphors as Joe Dante (Gremlins) is with this entry in Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series. After a right-wing blowhard tells a grieving mother that her son would support the war if he came back from the dead, zombie veterans begin to rise just in time for the presidential election. It takes real guts to make a film like this—not for its political stance, but for its willingness to make a serious statement via the discount gore of made-for-cable horror. Less than a year old, Homecoming already feels as dated as a John Kerry bumper sticker, but it's still a gas to see the zombies line up at the polls. JORDAN HARPER
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
"Who says 'gazooms' besides you?" Val Kilmer wants an answer, and Shane Black can't really give him one. They're sharing the DVD commentary to Black's first job as a director (this after writing '80s actioners like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight), and "gazooms" (i.e., breasts) is just the kind of silly noir lingo that makes KKBB a disarmingly enjoyable treat. Nobody thinks they're making Chinatown here, certainly not Robert Downey Jr. as the movie's narrator-detective, and these three commentators take a suitably irreverent approach to the movie. Downey, for one, is quite happy to be trim, fit, and (for him) sober. "Even my left ear looks thin," he boasts of one close-up.
Kilmer, who has a reputation for sometimes acting Brando-level crazy (recall the two starred in The Island of Dr. Moreau together), also starts speaking in goofy voices like Brando used to do. "Why is Corey Haim in our movie?" he asks, apropos of nothing. (He isn't, for the record.) But, like Downey, he frets about his appearance—hair is a particular obsession of the two. And, again, weight: "I really don't have those bags beneath my eyes," claims Kilmer, who later explains how he's disguising an incipient double chin with hand gestures. More acting classes should include this stuff.
The pleasant three-guys-on-a-couch vibe includes the usual macho back patting, but there's also the teeniest bit of resentment detectable in their discussion of Michelle Monaghan and her getting to star in the third Mission Impossible movie with Tom Cruise. Or maybe it's just because she's young and beautiful while they're getting old. They'd be the first to admit it, of course, but it also gives them the freedom to say anything they damn well please. BRIAN MILLER
The Smiths Under Review: An Independent Critical Analysis
Sexy Intellectual, $19.95
This no-frills DVD is for die-hard fans of "Without a doubt the most important band of the 1980s" and "the ultimate icons of a genre that's come to be known as 'indie'", as the DVD's sleeve reads. While I might've pegged U2 or Sonic Youth to share the former category, and give the Pixies full reign over the latter, you can't tell fans of the Smiths that Moz and Marr have been an iota less influential than they would believe. The operative word to pair with "most important band" is British, as the Smiths did turn the sloppy-with-synths early '80s on its head in the United Kingdom, where their formation was almost a protest against the glamour and excess of Duran Duran and A Flock of Seagulls. For those not sated by 1992's The Complete Picture, a Reprise video collection that included some particularly embarrassing Top of the Pops performances, Under Review arrives in a package as austere as the Smiths' catalog.
Not that this disc is intended for the display shelves—buyers for Under Review know who they are, the general consensus being that newbies take their time with the audio oeuvre before delving into the über-dated visuals of the Smiths' live and videotaped career. "Neophytes are strongly urged to build up a proper reverence for the band before risking the DVD," a fan wrote about The Complete Picture, and that advice works here, too. An avalanche of trivia—including an extra titled "The Hardest Smiths Interactive Quiz in the World Ever"—will overwhelm casual listeners. Not to mention the sight of Morrissey dancing.
That latter spectacle is represented in clips of live shows and videos interspersed with talking-head histories of the band's landmark singles (although "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" is conspicuously absent). The heads include producer John Porter, Saint Morrissey author/Moz stalker Mark Simpson, and Factory Records' Tony Wilson, whose wry observations on why he didn't sign the Smiths are tinged with audible regret: "[Morrissey] announced he was going to be a pop star. . . . I almost laughed in his face." RACHEL SHIMP
Robert Towne took forever to adapt John Fante's Ask the Dust (with Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek), which at least looks great, though the love story doesn't add up to much. The Beastie Boys' fan-filmed concert doc Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! arrives, as do Final Destination 3 and a pair of Fox box sets honoring Will Rogers and Shirley Temple. Somewhat more esoteric is a two-pack of Peter Watkins' Academy Award–winning 1965 The War Game (which imagines a nuclear strike on Britain), and Culloden, also made for English television, which reprises an important 18th-century battle between Brits and Scots. For horror scholars, there's something called Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, which is all extras—including interviews with John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Clive Barker, Rob Zombie, etc.—and no movie.