Half-Naked White Girl Teaches Samuel L. Jackson to Play the Blues. And More!

Black Snake Moan

Paramount, $29.99

The best place to see Craig Brewer's mash-up of blood-boiling exploitation elements would've been a Mississippi drive-in circa 1972. His tale of a black bluesman (Samuel L. Jackson) who chains up a seething, scantily clad cracker nympho (Christina Ricci) would've had the lot under martial law by reel three. Since Americans like their blood-and-guts in public and their sex in private, hardly anyone saw it in theaters—but on DVD, folks are going to wear out their frame advances and pause buttons over Ricci's exhilaratingly carnal performance, the most fearsome display of erotic power in a mainstream Hollywood movie in ages. Bonus points for the unusually strong commentary and making-of featurettes, both greatly enlivened by Brewer's candor. JIM RIDLEY

Cult Camp Classics: Volumes 1–4

Warner Bros., $29.98

Hats off to Warner Bros. for repackaging this archival flotsam in inexpensive threefers under loose thematic headings. It takes true huckster savvy to sandwich 1972's Skyjacked—as flavorless an in-flight meal as they come—between 1967's damn-you-kids dud Hot Rods From Hell and 1957's Zero Hour! (the template for Airplane!), then sell the shebang as "Terrorized Travelers." Does it matter that there's not a movie here worthy of all three words in the heading? Probably not: Among the offerings are two bona fide auteurist artifacts (Howard Hawks' Land of the Pharaohs and Sergio Leone's The Colossus of Rhodes, for completists only), at least two hilarious celluloid catastrophes (the Joan Crawford caveman clunker Trog and the immortal Attack of the 50-Foot Woman), and Zsa Zsa Gabor in Queen of Outer Space. JIM RIDLEY

Darwin's Nightmare

Image, $26.99

Somewhere in Africa there is a happy, middle-class native family that has not been ravaged by AIDS, genocide, or cruel white interlopers. Somebody ought to make a documentary about them—at this point, that would be the shocking film. There's nothing surprising in Darwin's Nightmare, just more bleak evidence that Africa is galactically fucked. This time the blame goes to Nile perch, a huge and tasty fish that destroyed the ecosystem and shackles locals into its processing for a hungry global market. In the narratorless, roving style of the times, the camera travels everywhere from perch plants to prostitute parties, revealing some fresh hell at every turn. It's so very harrowing that you might ask whether anything is improved by spending an hour and a half depressing yourself. Once you start watching, it's very difficult to turn away—but if this isn't how you want to spend a Saturday night, that's OK. JORDAN HARPER

The Prisoner. Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair

Magnolia, $26.98

This documentary by the directors of Gunner Palace never made it to Seattle, and it functions like something of a postscript to that prior film. In one brief scene, some may recall, an English-speaking Iraqi who says he's a journalist is arrested by U.S. troops, disappears from camera, and we never see him again. Filmmakers Michael Tucker—an erstwhile Seattle resident—and Petra Epperlein discover his destination: Abu Ghraib, where Yunis Abbas was held for some eight months with two of his brothers. The Prisoner is essentially a long-form interview with Abbas speaking directly to the camera: He's wry, matter-of-fact, and generally unemotional about his ordeal. Arrested on a preposterous tip—an assassination plot against the visiting British prime minister—Abbas soon realizes the futility of telling his American interrogators what they don't want to hear. Logic no longer exists in his world. (These scenes, and others, are represented by stark, colorful comic-book panels, which strangely reinforce his Kafkaesque tale.) One guard, now out of uniform, adds his sympathetic voice, but the best that can be said of Abbas' captors is that he wasn't tortured. Think of it: Not torturing someone as our new standard of humane treatment. And just as worrisome—not only did our military never admit to arresting Abbas in error, record of his imprisonment has evidently been destroyed. How's he enjoying his freedom today? By working as a journalist in the most dangerous news-gathering zone in the world. BRIAN MILLER


Paramount, $29.99

A nation whose most viable action star may be Matt Damon is a nation in need, and there's no reason Mark Wahlberg isn't the answer. He can act, isn't too hard on the eyes, and could probably gouge one of them out with his thumb in a pinch. Shooter makes for a fun afternoon, but it isn't Wahlberg's Die Hard. Maybe that's because he's more adept at playing mouthy badasses than strong, silent types like Bobby Lee Swagger, the sniper hero who's framed for an assassination, then has to get all whoop-ass about it. The film lacks the intense gun fetishism that made the source book such a hoot, but Wahlberg and bumbling sidekick Michael Peña bust domes, peel caps, and pop noggins so much that the flying brains could be the basis for your next drinking game. And that's entertainment. JORDAN HARPER

Other Releases

File under "C" for curiosity: two vintage lesbian-exploitation flicks of the sort that once played Times Square for straight men in trench coats: That Tender Touch (1969) and Just the Two of Us (1975); Quentin Tarantino probably owns original prints of both. On the less lurid side, Puccini for Beginners is a more contemporary, tasteful take on same-sex romance. From TV, boomers who remember the '60s cartoon can now collect Batfink: The Complete Series. The week's big title is Blood Diamond, with the Oscar-nominated Leo DiCaprio. Working on half a shoestring, Andrew Bujalski created the sub-indie comedy Funny Ha Ha, well worth seeing on DVD. If 1408 has got you in a Stephen King frame of mind, MGM has boxed together Misery, Carrie, Needful Things, and The Dark Half. Rupert Grint, soon to be seen in next week's Harry Potter movie, stars in the somewhat winsome Britcom Driving Lessons.


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