Arrested Development: Season Three
The final collection of AD discs feels sadly incomplete; only 13 episodes this time, the result of Fox's inability to attract viewers to one of TV's greatest comedies and the network's unwillingness to give it a full farewell. But none of that diminishes the quality of the show about the world's most dysfunctional family. And if the third season didn't have the consistency of the second, it had more extreme highs—the Charlize Theron shot as the spy who wasn't exactly what she appeared to be, Justine Bateman as the hooker with a thing for Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman, her real-life bro), the Iraq adios full of Saddam Hussein look-alikes. No show was more perfectly acted or perfectly pitched or, well, perfect. ROBERT WILONSKY
Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales
Like Ozu's consideration of the seasons and Kieslowski's meditation on the Commandments, Rohmer's famous anti-romance cycle comes into its own when viewed as a single work, something possible now more than ever with this all-inclusive Criterion box. My Night at Maud's (1969) remains, to all eyes, the masterpiece in the middle—Rohmerians do not need to be told, but for others, begin with this snowy eclogue pitting righteous piety against bohemian freedom, in a Clermont-Ferrand bedroom warmed by a single vivacious woman (who is not but is but isn't really, in Rohmer's world, the hero's best shot at happiness). The project's tapestry—knitting itself together purely via pattern and theme—stretches from the utterly lovely short The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963) to Love in the Afternoon (1972) (in the U.S., Chloe in the Afternoon). Don't be misled: These magical, yackety films are not parables of moral struggle, but episodes of egotistic and romantic folly, missiles of fond social critique aimed at the French man, in all his self-analytical jerkiness. The set is muscular with the right kinds of extras: five additional Rohmer shorts, ranging from 1951 to 1999; scores of interviews, old and new, and Rohmer- directed TV episodes; a separate booklet of essays; and a volume of Rohmer's original short stories, reissued by Penguin. MICHAEL ATKINSON
Lucky Number Slevin
The late '90s wave of Tarantino wanna-bes has finally ebbed; for that reason, LNS (or L#S, if you insist) is probably a little more enjoyable than it deserves to be. It's also marvelously well suited to DVD, since the intricate plotting requires a mental rewind to fathom how and why Josh Hartnett goes from being a startled, broken-nosed rube with a towel around his waist to an agent of Yojimbo-style vengeance. He's helped considerably in his scheme against rival gangsters Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley by a gnomic Bruce Willis, who, a decade ago, starred in Last Man Standing—a more direct remake of Yojimbo (see also A Fistful of Dollars at your next trip to Scarecrow, or Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest as the ur-text in this genre).
For the wallpaper alone, this film is worth renting. Scottish director Paul McGuigan (Gangster No. 1) coats the interior of every apartment with a '70s array of paisley prints, floral wallscapes that make Lucy Liu seem to be standing in Southern Provence, and glistening Frank Stella-esque geometric patterns that turn every hallway into a dizzying portal into the unknown. Only we're Alice down the rabbit hole; Hartnett just seems to be confused and off balance as first Freeman's thugs, then Kingsley's goons, drag him into rival assassination plans. Why match this trippy (over)design scheme to what appears a hard-boiled criminal tale? On his commentary, McGuigan cops to a love of fellow visual fetishist Wong Kar-wai, a director who never plays conventions entirely straight.
That's why—when characters start riffing on 007 movies, North by Northwest, and Al Capp's cartoon Shmoo character—the Tarantinized pop culture digressions are easily forgiven. Liu is so charming as the screwball neighbor who keeps barging into Hartnett's apartment, and he's so guileless (at first) and abashed, that L#S's larkishness wins out. It's very much a writer's picture, indulgently chatty, and screenwriter Jason Smilovic joins Hartnett and Liu to gab on a second commentary (frankly stitched together from different sessions), in which he talks about "the authenticity of the lie." Really, though, it's more fun to hear Hartnett and Liu batting it about. The movie is a breakthrough for her as a comedienne. As our Tim Appelo wrote in his original review, she's "flirtatious, bubbly, teasing, inclined to sit in people's laps even when they're standing up." On the commentary, teasing Hartnett about his sweater, she says, "You don't have the guts for argyle? A man in argyle will get a woman any time."
Memo to myself: Buy more argyle sweaters. BRIAN MILLER
District B13 was, flat-out, no lie, the best action film of the summer (watch it on the biggest TV you can drag into your apartment). From TV, look for season two of Lost, six of Roseanne, six of Oz, and four of The Bob Newhart Show. The marvelous Chiwetel Ejiofor goes transvestite and does his own singing in Kinky Boots. New to disc is the 1981 Rocky Horror sequel, Shock Treatment, a let-down to all but the most cultish of the Rocky cult The Iranian fable Iron Island casts that nation in microcosm aboard a rusty old ship with a questionable captain. More explicitly political is Our Brand Is Crisis, in which American consultants try to manage a Bolivian campaign. The Azusa Street Project documents the rise of the evangelical movement in pre-WWI Los Angeles. If you can't get enough of Park Chanwook's bloody brand of South Korean cinema, give Lady Vengeance a look. If you want to spend a substantial portion of your paycheck, Criterion does its usual magic with reissues of Seven Samurai, Brazil (including Terry Gilliam commentary), Fellini's Armacord, and Jacques Tati's Playtime. Finally, after the dutiful but dull World Trade Center, Paul Greengrass' searing 9/11 movie United 93 is both sadly timely and still one of the best movies of the year.