Malick and Kubrick Are Ready for Christmas

American Silent Horror Collection

Kino, $49.95

Four silent horror films with excellent extras make this a great box for that special someone who adores being bored silly; hey, it's getting harder to watch feature-length silent movies these days. But those who can handle the slow pace and cheesy soundtracks will witness some wonderful moments. Best of the set is The Penalty, which wouldn't be a horror movie at all if the gangster played by Lon Chaney had legs. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde shines in its famous transformation scenes (and a short parody from Stan Laurel), and two films from Paul Leni round out the pack with expressionistic flair. The bonus documentary celebrating the genre is actually better with the sound turned off, thus rendering it a horror montage minus the "spooky" narration from Rod Steiger. JORDAN HARPER

Days of Heaven

Criterion, $39.95

If you saw Terrence Malick's 1978 film in revival houses last year, the difference between it and Criterion's revelatory new transfer is the difference between a yellowed photograph of your long-dead great-grandparents and suddenly seeing them in the next room. Is this mere tech-geekery? Not when you're discussing one of the most ravishing films ever made, shot by a cinematographer going blind (Néstor Almendros, supplemented by Haskell Wexler) in the fixing-to-die brilliance of sunset's magic hour. Like all of Malick's work, it polarizes viewers: Either you'll shrug off the plot—a tilted turn-of-the-century triangle involving Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, and Sam Shepard, as witnessed by a poetically disaffected teen—or you'll find the details of prairie desolation and biblical reckoning rhapsodic and transporting. Seeing this on TV isn't ideal, but Criterion's disc just might be. JIM RIDLEY

Directors Series: Stanley Kubrick

Warner, $79.98

Most of the old Kubrick DVDs were crap: full-screen editions with poor pictures and virtually no special features. This set makes up for them with 2001, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut (hey, who farted?), all looking great and with enough extras to shut up the most voluble of film nerds. The best commentaries—none by the very dead Kubrick—include a Full Metal Jacket cast track and a charming Clockwork conversation with Malcolm McDowell. Among the other stellar bonuses: the full-length doc A Life in Pictures, a brief glimpse of Kubrick's unmade films, the FX doc on 2001, and a look at the controversy caused by Clockwork. Taken together, they prove beyond doubt that Kubrick was a genius. Also a humongous prick. JORDAN HARPER

Mr. Brooks

MGM, $29.98

In the making-of doc, the filmmakers admit their motivation for a movie about a man addicted to killing: "We wanted to change our image," says co-writer Raynold Gideon, responsible for Stand By Me and Jungle 2 Jungle with co-writer Bruce A. Evans, who also directed Mr. Brooks. Fair enough. But different doesn't mean better: What could have been great—Kevin Costner as a serial killer goaded into it by his imaginary pal, a giddy William Hurt—is merely so-so, a squandered opportunity that takes itself more seriously than the material deserves. Costner's good, but he's only great when allowed to sport that wicked grin. And there are two major flaws here: Dane Cook as the acolyte, and Demi Moore as the wealthy cop chasing Costner's Brooks and an even more deranged, well, supervillain. Alas, she also accounts for most of the deleted scenes; shoulda been more. ROBERT WILONSKY

You Kill Me

Genius, $19.95

Funny thing seeing Philip Baker Hall in You Kill Me, as he's already played the role of a drunken hit man's boss in The Matador, to which this feels like a slapshtick-noir sequel. It's also the photo-negative of Sexy Beast: Once more Ben Kingsley plays a killer killer, only now he's too drunk to think straight or shoot straight or even stay awake—hence, his banishment to San Francisco, where he gets a gig tending to corpses. Téa Leoni, landing her best part in ages, is the reluctant girlfriend who takes to her beau's profession; Luke Wilson is the tollbooth attendant and AA sponsor, and he hasn't been this good since, oh, Bottle Rocket. This is dark comedy played for big laughs. But it works, down to the commentary track that plays like an AA confessional—genius, going in for the kill like that. ROBERT WILONSKY

OTHER RELEASES

The locally made monster spoof Creatures From the Pink Lagoon lays even more camp on B-movie conventions. Toxic waste and EPA indifference are the subjects of the documentary Libby, Montana, while DNA evidence rights a miscarriage of justice in The Trials of Darryl Hunt. Richard Gere and Alfred Molina are pretty effective in the life-inspired The Hoax. With winter nearing, there's a four-pack of Warren Miller ski movies called No Boundaries. J.Lo and Marc Anthony star in the musical biopic El Cantante. Timothy Spall is the best thing about Pierrepoint—The Last Hangman (seen at SIFF '06). For hardcore art-house aficionados, there's the five-disc collection The Cinema of Peter Watkins. Pick of the week: the complete My So-Called Life, the TV series that spawned an insatiable (and oft-disappointed) legion of Claire Danes fans.

dvd@seattleweekly.com

 
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