Southern Melodrama Meets Japanese Ghosts

Our Very Own

Miramax, $29.99

"New!" shouts the sticker on the shrink-wrap of this two-year-old, small-town-in-'78-set melodramedy. It stars Allison Janney as a Shelbyville, Tenn., mama stuck with a drunken sumbitch hubby (Keith Carradine) and a restless son (played by Jason Ritter, John's amiable kiddo). It was written and directed by Shelbyville's own Cameron Watson, who steers the proceedings with the steady if occasionally clammy hand of a man celebrating the hometown he probably hated as a kid but couldn't wait to memorialize as a grown-up. It's all over the place, but it's got a scrappy, sincere, let's-put-on-a-show vibe (literally, it's near the end). And, in the end, Janney is absolutely superb as the bottle rocket of rage just waiting for Carradine to light the fuse; swell also is Cheryl Hines, once more cast as the shoulder upon which lean the teetering and tottering. ROBERT WILONSKY

The Taste of Tea

Viz, $24.98

The first 20 minutes of The Taste of Tea are crammed with images both surreal and hilarious: A boy chases a train that launches into the air, leaving him with a hole in his head; then another boy takes a dump on a giant egg in a forest, causing the ghost of a murdered yakuza to haunt him. It's the beginning of a true masterpiece. And while the film has problems living up to those first wonderful moments, it's still one of the better Japanese comedies for Westerners since 1986's Tampopo. Directed by Katsuhito Ishii (who created the animation for Kill Bill), the movie is seeded with brilliant imagery throughout. Unfortunately, the formless story of an arty family living in the country runs about 40 minutes too long. The same could be said of the second disc's 90-minute making-of doc. JORDAN HARPER

Welcome to the Grindhouse

BCI Eclipse, $12.98

As we now know, the term "grindhouse" didn't register with mass audiences nearly as strongly as it did with Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and about 60 posters on Ain't It Cool News. Thank goodness no one knew this five months ago, or all these sweet repackages of vintage '70s and '80s sleaze—such as these handy twofers of old-school 42nd Street rotgut—wouldn't be hitting the streets now. One of them offers the drive-in nirvana of 1974's The Teacher alongside the amazing 1975 Fellini-in-the-Everglades softcore romp Pick-up. The other pairs the depraved Spanish sex-goats-and-Satan boobathon Black Candles with the grimy giallo Evil Eye, each packed with nudity, nihilism, and cheapo surrealism. Bonus points for "Our Feature Presentation" cards and red-band trailers promising the likes of Sister Street Fighter. JIM RIDLEY

Other Releases

Parents will find the kiddie enchantment film The Last Mimsy good for 97 minutes of baby-sitting, and Billy Bob Thornton proves surprisingly safe for families in The Astronaut Farmer. Danish hunk Mads Mikkelsen (the bad guy in Casino Royale) continues to impress in After the Wedding. The indie prairie romance Sweet Land, set in Minnesota just after World War I, deserves to pick up a home-video following. From HBO, Ricky Gervais stars in the second series of Extras (with cameos by Ian McKellen, David Bowie, Orlando Bloom, and even Robert De Niro). Some of the old MST3K gang is behind The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark, a new series of B-movie takedowns. Cult musician Roky Erickson is profiled in the doc You're Gonna Miss Me. From Criterion, the great Woman in the Dunes is boxed with two other features by Hiroshi Teshigahara. And, shit you not, there's a kid flick called Thunderpants, about a boy with magical powers of flatulence. PG rated, no less.

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