Border Radio and Other New Releases

From L.A. punks to Thai kickboxers.

Border Radio

Criterion, $39.95

The first feature from Allison Anders, Kurt Voss, and Dean Lent was meant to play as film noir—a post-heist pic starring an existential loner figuring shit out while on the lam. Only after the UCLA trio began populating their black-and-white SoCal so-long-goodbye with L.A. punks—Chris D. of the Flesh Eaters as Our Hero, X's John Doe as dickweed Dean, Blaster Dave Alvin as . . . uh . . . Dave—did they rethink their project. The result is less a moving picture than a series of beautifully composed snapshots of a scene that vanished pretty much while the movie was being made. It's a deadpan mess that plays like French new-wave cinema caught up in American new-wave music. Don't watch for plot; listen instead to the rock talk and punk pluck that keep things moving. ROBERT WILONSKY

Catch a Fire

Focus, $29.98

In his commentary for the underrated, undervalued Catch a Fire, director Phillip Noyce discusses the inspiration: witnessing the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. He wanted to comprehend "the terrorist's mind," so he found a story that accomplishes such a difficult thing: the true-life tale of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke, wonderfully sympathetic), a hardworking South African accused by the secret police of bombing a power plant. Chamusso's brutalized by thugs in the employ of Col. Nic Voss (Tim Robbins, way scary); they pound on him till the victim feels no choice but to become victimizer. The movie (accompanied here by three useless deleted scenes) works as more than modern-day metaphor, though; it's a rare South African story not told through the white man's perspective, which makes it valuable enough. ROBERT WILONSKY

Farce of the Penguins

ThinkFilm, $19.99

This oughta be a slam-dunk. Penguins? Funny-looking if culturally oversaturated. Bob Saget? Funny and dirty, as proved by his turn in The Aristocrats. Animals having sex? Hi-larious, each and every time. So it's too bad this March of the Penguins spoof feels a little lacking. Oh, it has some big laughs—how could it not, with characters voiced by Lewis Black, Gilbert Gottfried, Jason Alexander, and Samuel L. Jackson? Problem is, writer-director Saget—who also plays a penguin searching for true love—spends too much time developing the straight-man plot to hang the jokes on. (OK, maybe "straight" is the wrong word, given that a major twist involves Black's character having anal sex with Saget's beloved.) But the linear plot should have been scrapped to make room for more weirdness and stock footage of animals humping. Oh, that animal humping! JORDAN HARPER

May 6th

Koch Lorber, $24.95

May 6th has what the cynical among us would call a "hook": This tale about the murder of a real-life Dutch politician had just wrapped up when director Theo van Gogh was real-life murdered by an Islamic extremist. The frisson produced by this collision of events makes this movie a must-see in some circles. Fortunately for those not into complete ghoulishness, this frantic conspiracy thriller is worth watching without its morbid pedigree. It follows a paparazzo who happens to be nearby when prime minister candidate Pim Fortuyn (a friend of van Gogh's) is gunned down. American viewers may have a hard time unraveling the conspiracy and Dutch politics at the same time, but it's worth a try. The documentary about van Gogh's murder gives an even deeper view into Amsterdam culture and politics, despite the obvious ax grinding that powers it. JORDAN HARPER

The Protector

Genius, $29.95

Thailand's Tony Jaa has made clear his plan to take Jackie Chan's crown as the king of Holy crap, did he just do that?! He's about halfway there. Though Jaa is devoid of Chan's charisma, his hyperathletic kickboxing style will make your jaw drop; here's a movie to watch like porno, with one hand on the fast-forward button (and the other on the popcorn, thank you very much). The four-minute, single-shot fight scene is worth the rental, as are several others—most notably the one where Jaa fights motorcyclists and the one where he goes on a bone-breaking spree. There's even more in the deleted scenes, or you could watch the international version that's on the second disc (not recommended). The docs are worth watching as well, mostly to learn that, yes indeed, he really is doing that. JORDAN HARPER

Other Releases

Justice is served in the wrenching DNA- evidence-exoneration doc After Innocence, though the filmmaking isn't so accomplished as the courtroom proceedings and science. Saw III continues that bloody franchise's march through Roman numerals. A great actor usually cast in less-great movies, Robert Mitchum gets the gift box treatment from Warner Bros.; best among the six-pack is probably Sydney Pollack's The Yakuza (1974). Erstwhile indie darling Victor Nuñez's Coastlines is worth a rainy-day rental. Though not so compelling as his Letters From Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers only elevates him closer to the John Ford–level pantheon of American directors. Reputation already secure, Alfred Hitchcock is represented by some early silents (including the wonderful Rich and Strange), reissued by Lionsgate. Overlooked in the present awards season, Charlotte Rampling stars in Heading South, by Laurent Cantet, whose stock only keeps rising as a director. Our pick of the week:Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep. E

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