Yes, Nicole Kidman Acts Despite the Botox

American Gangster Universal, $29.98 Director Ridley Scott's take on the true-life tale of Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas didn't need to be 18 minutes longer in this "Unrated Extended Edition"; sounds more like a threat than a selling point, though the theatrical take's available here as well. The movie plays in either state like a cross between Superfly (or Scarface) and Munich, with Denzel Washington as the high-livin', mother-lovin' dope dealer and Russell Crowe as the rumpled super copper, ringleading other officers charged with taking down Lucas and his killer kinfolk. Occasionally thrilling but also TV-show familiar, American Gangster's a flashy procedural as tragic epic—and Scott's damned proud of his accomplishment, down to the detail of the period garb, as evidenced in the lengthy making-of starring the real-life Lucas as his own sorta-repentant self. ROBERT WILONSKY Excellent Cadavers First Run, $24.95 Here in America, the Mafia is dead in both fact and fiction: The Sopranos are finished, and RICO beat the New York boys like a goombah on a snitch. But in Palermo, it's the prosecutors who took the hit, as this poorly made but fascinating documentary illustrates. Covering the brave battles and tragic end of an anti-mob lawyer in Sicily, Excellent Cadavers is grim, full of grainy footage of streets strewn with corpses and interviews with marked men. Bad news is, the film's based on a book and narrated by its author, who reads with all the brio of Laurence Olivier (post-death). A note to journalists and documentary makers: Unless your name is Hunter S. Thompson, you aren't the story. Get out of the way and hire an old British guy to read the narration. JORDAN HARPER Lust, Caution Focus, $29.98 Ang Lee has always liked taking movie genres—say, kung fu flicks or Westerns—and turning them on their ear. Here he's tackled the erotic thriller, but those looking for Body Heat will be as disappointed as those who expected gunplay from Lee's Brokeback Mountain. Oh, there's sex all right—sex as graphic as anything your nephew can find on Google. (Prudes: There's also an R-rated version, in addition to the original NC-17 cut.) Slow but rarely dull, Lust, Caution revolves around political machinations in 1940s China. Western viewers might feel they're lacking context, especially as the line between good and bad grows ever more blurry. But at the center of the film is the relationship between Tony Leung and Tang Wei, whose sex scenes reveal what their lie-filled dialogue can't. JORDAN HARPER Margot at the Wedding Paramount, $29.99 Margot (Nicole Kidman, or someone who looks just like her) is a fiction writer whose tales are based, uncomfortably and unkindly, on the real-life family for whom she seems to care very little. Hence, sister Pauline's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) late discovery that Margot is a "monster"—late to her, not to the audience, which gets glimpses of her cruelty early and often. Noah Baumbach reunites the siblings in a gray, dreary Hamptons, where Pauline's about to marry sour slacker Malcolm (Jack Black, tamped-down and ill-tempered); Margot has in tow the son she's close to ruining, unless he makes his escape. Sharp, funny, and painful—that's Baumbach's signature of late, and it's writ large in this overlooked dramedy, absent extras except for a chat with the filmmaker and Jason Leigh, worth another glance. ROBERT WILONSKY OTHER RELEASES Angelina Jolie is half hottie, half CG harridan in Beowulf. Wes Anderson goes the Woody Allen route with The Darjeeling Limited—sans commentary, because that would, you know, compromise his artistic integrity. From TV, Ricky Gervais' final flame-out on Extras will tell you more about Hollywood than last Sunday's Oscar telecast. On which subject, thanks to Warner Bros. for dusting off some animation rarities in the oddly titled Academy Award® Animation Collection: 15 Winners–26 Nominees. If you ever played D&D in the Cowen Park ravine, the documentary Darkon is for you. Anthony Hopkins' very strange directorial debut, Slipstream, is a head trip of sorts from SIFF '07. No fan of Michael Jackson or Diana Ross should be without the reissued The Wiz (directed by Sidney Lumet of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, of all people). Becoming Jane (with Anne Hathaway as the future writer) will have some appeal to Jane Austen readers. Ben and Casey Affleck acquit themselves nicely, as director and star, respectively, in Gone Baby Gone. A documentary approach might've been better for Rendition, in which the War on Terror inconveniences poor, adorable Reese Witherspoon (how dare they?). If you love insult comedy the way we love insult comedy, check out Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project. There should be strong local interest in the SIFF doc Kurt Cobain: About a Son (based on the interviews and book by journalist Michael Azerrad). Also local, but more of a niche item, is the vanity DVD Chihuly in the Hotshop, which further glorifies the one-eyed glassblower (and includes a companion book). Bringing out Michael Clayton now may have helped with Academy voters, few of whom saw the underappreciated Great World of Sound. John Turturro's Romance & Cigarettes is a certified lip-synching oddity that may find an audience on DVD. If you don't own it already, MGM has dusted off the great Billy Wilder comedy The Apartment (with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine). And as usual, Criterion offers the good stuff (Godard's Pierrot le Fou) and the weird, political stuff (Alex Cox's Walker).

 
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