DVDs of the Week

The name is Borat, James Borat

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Fox, $29.99

Most likely, this'll be the biggest DVD release of all time, at least among those in possession of beer, bongs, or, well, beer bongs. Whether it's as transgressive as film critics would have you believe is highly debatable, if for no other reason than the movie feels tamer on the small screen, more like the old HBO show—big, broad laughs—than sociopolitical criticism made for the cineplex. But the bonuses are the draw here, and most of the DVD extras—the "censored footage," henh—have surfaced on YouTube in shorter versions, among them the scenes in the West Virginia dog pound ("Attack the Jew!"), at the doctor's office ("I have had gonorrhea many times"), and on a Dallas street corner, where a police officer tells Borat he don't high-five nobody. A Baywatch parody falls flat, but the biggest giggle on the entire disc may come when you try to watch the movie using the Hebrew-language option. ROBERT WILONSKY

Casino Royale

Sony, $28.96

James Bond gets a stirring shake-up in the best—yeah, Goldfinger fans, the best—film in the series' 44-year history. Daniel Craig's 007 has more going on above the neck and below the waist than even Sean Connery's did. He's a genuinely compelling character—a bruised, fallible, cold-blooded bastard whose mixed triumph is to lose his one sliver of human feeling. As directed with renewed vigor and a splash of Cold War–vintage gloss by Martin Campbell, the 21st "official" Bond movie upgrades the moribund franchise in every way: The stakes are higher, the script sharper, the action scenes tougher and more dynamic than anything since From Russia With Love. And Eva Green, overqualified as arm candy, sets a new gold standard for Bond girls. Skip the second disc of blah featurettes and head straight for the tingly chill of Craig's blue-eyed glare. JIM RIDLEY

Harsh Times

Genius, $28.95

Here's another entry in that peculiar subgenre of films that suggests simply driving around L.A. is enough to drive a man insane. Harsh Times was written, produced, and directed by David Ayers, who wrote the last memorable entry in the genre, Training Day. And like Training Day, Harsh Times is saved by one monstrous and masterful performance. This time it's Christian Bale who gets to show off his psychotic side, in a role that contains plenty of slow burns and boiling over. Bale plays a veteran who's supposed to be out looking for work (with Six Feet Under's Freddy Rodriguez, also good), but who quickly chooses drugs, sex, and increasingly violent crime. It's all pretty implausible and rather formless, but compelling enough to spend an afternoon with. JORDAN HARPER


ThinkFilm, $27.98

Shortbus may be the first film that can be described as both "heartwarming" and "semen-flecked." The brainchild of John Cameron Mitchell, the creator-star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it follows the intersecting lives of assorted New Yorkers as they attempt to make sense of physical and spiritual love. Yes, there is explicit sex, and yes, it's a bit of a gimmick. But Mitchell is far too gifted to let this be the train wreck it easily could've been. He gets truly naked performances from his actors, even when they're clothed—sex here, happily, is a subject and not merely a payoff. Too bad the rousing closing number, which takes the place of actual resolution for the characters' problems, reminds us that Mitchell is capable of far greater films than this one. None of the actors here have the presence Mitchell had in Hedwig, even with their hoo-has hanging out. JORDAN HARPER

Other Releases

Just in time for Easter: The Nativity Story stars that Whale Rider girl, Keisha Castle-Hughes, now all grown up and preggers (in real life, too). Somewhat apropos of the current Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, currently in theaters, there's a new documentary called Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. (Fall? What fall?) Though our Nathan Lee dismissed it as "Africa propped up once more as a colorful yet wrenching backdrop to the stupid story of boring white people whose sham heroics are thrown into greater relief by surrounding them with noble and/or vicious Africans," Blood Diamond did earn two Oscar noms (for Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou), so you can decide at home if it's overrated or underrated. HBO's Addiction series is all over cable, and most of it is now simultaneously on DVD, too. Ashley Judd removes some dust from her acting career in Come Early Morning. Eragon is for desperate fantasy fanboys only—though that won't prevent a sequel, unfortunately. Better bets are the Oscar-nominated Iraq war documentary My Country, My Country and Criterion's reissue of Jules Dassin's The Naked City (1948), a semifictional, semidocumentary portrait of N.Y.C. and its denizens that earned Oscars for its editing and black-and-white cinematography.


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