The Pusher trilogy and more

All the Danish hoodlums you can handle.

Pusher Trilogy

Magnolia, $39.98

More of a quadrilogy, actually, this big box of Danish thugs also contains an 80-minute documentary about how Nicolas Winding Refn got roped back in, Godfather III–style, to sequelizing his 1996 breakthrough. The original Pusher branded him "the Danish Scorsese," as explains the companion doc, The Gambler. Eight years later, Refn and his filmmaking partner are bankrupt, owing 5.5 million kroner to their creditors after the catastrophe that was Fear X. (You can also find that debacle, Refn's attempt at Wisconsin noir starring John Turturro, on DVD; after viewing The Gambler, you'll want to.)

Hardly resembling the hoodlums of his skanky Copenhagen underworld, the polite, stressed-out writer/director wears dorky glasses and downs copious amounts of Alka-Seltzer. He's more schlemiel than Scorsese, and it's hard to imagine any American director allowing the DVD bonus crew such intimate access into his own home—where Refn has a wife and baby. Living off her maternity leave benefits (this is Europe, all right), he frets: "I feel a complete failure artistically." Planning new Pusher installments for Christmas and Easter, with the scripts not written and no financing in place, he reasons, "It's the only way to repay my debts. I'm in a vicious cycle."

The parallels between life and art are pretty obvious to anyone who caught the Pusher trifecta at SIFF this spring: They're all about debts and restitution, as one botched drug deal leads to a loan shark to finance another score and, eventually, payback in blood. In one scenario, a panicked dealer mistakes a knock on the door for the cops and flushes his heroin down the commode. "Do I get my money back?" he asks the wholesaler, who just smiles without answering such an idiotic question. But in Pusher III, that wholesaler gets caught in the same cycle when he doesn't know how to unload an errantly delivered shipment of Ecstasy, forcing a business partnership with some very nasty Albanians.

Most famous among the trilogy's recurring faces is Mads Mikkelsen (suave nemesis to Daniel Craig in Casino Royale), here a shaven-headed goon with "Respect" tattooed on the back of his pasty-white noggin. (Good thing he had someone else handle the spelling.) A minor enforcer in Pusher who gets cracked in the skull with a baseball bat, he becomes the memory-addled center of Pusher II, in debt to his father and owing money to the whore who just bore him a son.

Watch The Gambler after the first Pusher lends the next two films extra urgency. Like his protagonists, Refn's attempts to extricate himself from a risky business—all they know, really—only dig him in deeper. A postscript informs us he's still making movies and, yes, still in debt. BRIAN MILLER

The Da Vinci Code

Sony, $29.96

"Over 90 minutes of extras," boasts the sticker on this double-disc "special edition." Well, sure, if your idea of an "extra" is a series of puff-piece infomercials that regurgitate the same footage over and over while adding press-kit interviews with Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Dan Brown, and everyone else who made a mint off this sourball. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself whether you want the movie and only the movie, which wound up a limp, break-even adaptation of an overwrought book about the kin of Christ. Watching the movie again only prompts nagging questions about Hanks' greasy haircut and Paul Bettany's contact lenses. The book wasn't this boring, was it? Remind me to ask my mom. ROBERT WILONSKY

Strangers With Candy

Lionsgate, $27.98

Even cutting-edge comedy groups have the damnedest time turning their show into movies; for every Monty Python, there's a Kids in the Hall and a Mr. Show. As for Strangers With Candy, even Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, and Stephen Colbert can't pull off a Python. A prequel to the series in which Sedaris played an aging ex-con who goes back to high school, the movie isn't bad—it's just not any better than picking any three TV episodes you could watch back to back to back. Sedaris is a rubber-faced comedy goddess, and Colbert, as a religious and closeted biology teacher, milks big laughs out of every scene he's in. But only the cameos from folks like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Matthew Broderick improve upon the show. JORDAN HARPER

Other Releases

Peter Jackson has somehow stuffed 13 minutes back into King Kong, because last year we were all thinking, "Gee, Peter, three hours of this is just too short." Plus two discs of extras, God help us. More box-worthy is the whole damn Six Feet Under, 24 discs of quality television with nary a monkey in sight. Not so great are seasons six of The Golden Girls, five of Alias, and five of Home Improvement (although all are 100 percent guaranteed monkey-free). Edward Burns continues slinking off indie radar with The Groomsmen. Two old Roger Corman quickies star industry titans of today: The Cry Baby Killer (with Jack Nicholson) and Grand Theft Auto (with Ron Howard). Close behind Borat are both seasons of Da Ali G Show, which contains Bruno, the $42 million character to be the basis of his next provocation-slash-movie. Also look for Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Accepted, The Fallen Idol, Forbidden Planet, the complete Get Smart TV series, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, a lesser collection of Paul Newman titles (including The Left-Handed Gun), and a nice new Criterion edition of The Double Life of Véronique.

dvd@seattleweekly.com

 
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