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Headsup: Mad Movies From Japan and More

There’s a slew of stuff that comes out all the time. People want you to buy it. Should you? I’ll try to help.

Executive Koala DVD cover art
The Rug Cop DVD cover art
The World Sinks Except Japan DVD cover art

Synapse has released three titles in their Minoru Kawasaki Collection. Who is Minoru Kawasaki? I knew of his work before I knew his name: since he’s the guy who brought you Calamari Wrestler, the…well, exactly what it sounds like: a squid who’s a professional wrestler. So you can appreciate the fact that his work is completely…you know, mental. Even if you can’t now, you will once we talk about these three titles. First up, the title Executive Koala is a bit of a giveaway: it’s the tale of a giant koala who’s suspected of murder. His boss is a giant rabbit. Oh, and there’s a giant frog who runs a store nearby. Other than that, things are fairly normal. You know, except for the whole slasher element. The DVD comes with making-of material. Then we have The Rug Cop, which is not a crime procedural set in Clive Barker‘s Weaveworld, it’s actually about a cop who uses his toupee as an offensive weapon. No, seriously. And the other cops he works with have additional equally silly traits. And this DVD actually has a decent array of stuff: a making-of featurette, press conference footage, and an extended introduction to the film. And lastly, there’s the best title I’ve heard in a long time: The World Sinks Except Japan. You know, these titles just get more self-explanatory as well roll along. Basically, all the land masses in the world–but Japan–sink. And so all the survivors are crowded onto the island of Japan, with plenty of crazed American immigrants on hand to present culture clashes and hijinks. This comes with a making-of, an intro, and an audio commentary. Should you buy them? Well, they’re not everybody’s cup of tea, to be sure. They are, after all, wacky Japanese movies and the DVDs revel in this. I think they’re worth watching at least by those who appreciate cult cinema or just films that are completely fucked in the head. So they’re worth a rental at the least. And at $22.49 (current price on Amazon), you might want to ensure they’ve got a rewatch factor before you buy. (Click here to buy Executive Koala on DVD from Amazon; Click here to buy Rug Cop on DVD from Amazon; Click here to buy World Sinks Except Japan on DVD from Amazon.)

Frost Nixon Interviews DVD cover art
American Teen DVD cover art
Burn After Reading DVD cover art

[ad#longpost]So Frost/Nixon is now on the screens and up for awards and whatnot and I’m regretting I didn’t see it on stage in New York when I had the chance. But Liberation Entertainment has got what they call The Original Watergate Interviews out on DVD. The first reaction is…the interviews only lasted eighty-eight minutes? But no, they’ve brought you some bits of the interview here, wherein Frost regained his footing. My second thought upon seeing this was that Michael Sheen looks a lot like Frost. This DVD comes with those interviews bits plus some retrospective interview bits with Frost from 2007. While it’s excellent to have this material on DVD, I’m wondering if this release isn’t to get it out in front of people for the interest that the movie will bring and a larger version with all four interview segments will be released later. That would be nice. And let’s get some more people than just Frost talking about this–this is a pretty significant interview about an important time in our country’s history. I’m hoping they put out the whole thing and then put in context for people like me, who were, you know, five when this happened. Hell, I wish they’d do that with a lot of historical footage. And not History Channel style either, I’m talking Criterion style. Anyway, do Americans need to see this? Certainly. Do they need to own it? Well, if they’re history teachers, sure. But a rental will probably do the trick. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

American Teen is the recent documentary that follows the lives of five archetypal teenagers in a town in Indiana as they move through their senior year of high school. There’s nothing like a bit of schadenfreude as you watch high schoolers today trying to cope, is there? That feeling that makes you say There But For The Grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Do I Not Go Again. Or in my case, I just sing the chorus of “Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac. If any of those responses is yours, I think you’ll be fine. If you wonder, “Why in the hell would I want to watch somebody going through something that I positively hated”? Then this probably isn’t your bag. This Paramount Vantage release doesn’t have a great deal of bonus bits going for it: interviews with the “cast” (although they’re really the subjects, right?), more time with Hannah, trailers and deleted scenes. I think the more entertaining version of this will be the 10th Anniversary when they all five get together for a cast commentary. No real reason to purchase, but you might find it an entertaining rental. For the time being, though, it’s an exclusive available only at Target.

Burn After Reading is a much needed turn from the Brothers Coen into laugh territory after the ultimate in not-laughing from last year, No Country For Old Men. That was one of those films where you felt numb partly because of the film and partly because these were the same people who brought you Raising Arizona for God’s sake. Anyway. This sick little ditty has a bit of an all-star cast going for it as Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand play employees at a health club who get a hold of a CD filled with info from an ex-CIA employee (Malkovich) and want to turn it into money. Hijinks, naturally, ensue. This DVD is out from Universal and comes with three short mostly forgettable extras, with some brief cast and crew interviews. For example, here’s a featurette about George Clooney doing his third film with the Coens. Forget that, let’s talk with Pitt and Malkovich, who are doing their first film with the Coens. I heard about Jeff Bridges having to adjust to their style on Lebowski, so that’s where I think the fun info is. And we get no commentary. So I think we’ve got a solid rental here, but unless you’re a Coen completist, wait for a better version. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Duchess DVD cover art
Roast of Bob Saget DVD cover art
Towelhead DVD cover art

Keira Knightley, who has quickly surpassed Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Go-To Period Costume Drama (and you know what, we’re okay with that), is back again in a different time period as Georgiana Spencer, The Duchess of Devonshire who not only wore very large wigs but was a socialite and active in politics and apparently knew how to party. I mean, you know, in a late 18th Century sense. Which is where the movie spends a lot of its time. This isn’t a docu, after all. You’ve also got Ralph Fiennes, taking time out from being the Noseless Lord of Evil. This Paramount release comes with a making-of, a featurette which gives you a focus on the bio by Amanda Foreman that was the basis for the film, and a costume featurette with the designer. To the verdict: well, I’m thinking that this might get a better version later down the line, but it might be a while coming. After all, there’s no sign of the ubermongo edition of There Will Be Blood I’m still looking for (as far as I can tell, anyway). So if you’re a costume drama junkie and hafta, then I won’t stand in your way. It’s $16.99 as I write this, so you make the call. But everybody else is fine with a rental, methinks. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Those who know about Bob Saget’s stand-up…well, you know. He’s remarkably…explicit, shall we say. And the fact that most of us grew up with him as host of America’s Funniest Home Videos and as the #1 dad in Full House…well, when you first get to know the real Bob…it’s rather shocking. And he adores it. What a strange, twisted, brilliant little man. And he was roasted to high hell in the uncensored and extended version of Comedy Central’s Roast of Bob Saget. Out from Paramount and Comedy Central, you get the full special, plus behind the scenes footage (about a minute’s worth), brief bits of an interview with Saget, and before and after interview bits with the participants. Do you need to own this? Well, unless you’re really into Saget, probably not…fun to watch once, sure. Replay value? Not much. Rental is probably plenty. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Towelhead is the second feature film from Alan Ball, the scribe who’s perhaps best known for creating Six Feet Under and True Blood–which people have turned into cults–and his directorial debut. Jasira is a thirteen-year-old Arab-American girl who’s dealing with coming of age, being an Arab-American in Texas during the first Gulf War, a terribly strict father, and a neighbor who’s creepily into her. So she’s got a lot of stuff going on, the majority of it unpleasant. The film, out from Warner Brothers, has its own feature as a pair of panel discussions on the film–one with Summer Bishil (Jasira) and the actor who plays her father and a rep from CAIR and the other with the author of the novel (Alicia Erian) plus a rep from the Sikh community. Probably good as a rental for most anyone who is interested, but be aware that there’s some disturbing stuff going on in the film so it’s not for everybody. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Everything You Know About CSS is Wrong book cover art
Ghost Town DVD cover art
Nip/Tuck Season Five, Part One DVD cover art

Everything You Know About CSS Is Wrong! is a bold title for this new Sitepoint publication. Everyone who’s seen this book on my desk asks “What’s CSS?” They’re cascading style sheets and unless you run a website you don’t need to know about them and you don’t want to know about them. But essentially they allow you to make changes to the overall look and feel of a site a lot easier than we used to have to do them. Basically with the upcoming IE8, we’re told, CSS will now work across most of the latest versions of browsers without a great deal of hackery. While the book has a great deal of good information and wants to demystify the CSS coding for those who may have only scratched the surface of it, I’m not sure that the title is very accurate and it seems a bit BOO-HAA in your face–the thing that the authors put forward is that CSS is seen as too difficult and that’s wrong, however if you already know CSS–what you already know isn’t necessarily wrong. Also, the book’s tone slips sometimes into that Annoying Cheery How-To Book Tone that drives you up the wall. I don’t want to be too harsh–website coding is pretty sparse as far as ha-ha humor goes, but still. I’m not excited about coding and while I might be intrigued by some of the notions about how I can better code my sites, it’s not rocking my socks off. All that being said, if you are new to CSS then this provides a great primer for how to get started and trust me if you know how to do it right to start off with you’ll be happier.

What if Topper were a total prick? That’s the question that seems to be asked in Ghost Town, out from Dreamworks. David Koepp directed and Koepp and John Kamps (who both scribed Zathura) scribed this–and yes, you might be saying: didn’t Koepp do Stir of Echoes too? Why yes, he did. And just like that film deserved better box office than it got, this comedy certainly did as well–although it’s hard to get butts in seats for anything that they can just as well watch at home on their big screen TV…but that’s another well-worn rant for another time. Anyway, Ricky Gervais plays a dentist who’s like the Steve Martin dentist from Little Shop‘s kinder younger brother. That is to say, he doesn’t like to torture people–he just doesn’t like people. After an “incident,” he gains the ability to see and interact with dead people. One very persistent dead person, played by Kinnear, wants Gervais’ character to intervene with his still living wife (played by Tea Leoni) with amusing results. The features are a commentary with Koepp and Gervais, a making-of, a gag reel and a featurette covering the ghost FX. Definitely worth a rental first, although Gervais completists will want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Nip/Tuck returns with another half-season on DVD: fourteen episodes across five discs. McNamara/Troy has moved to Los Angeles and quickly realize they need to up their game in order to get back on top, so they start consulting for a television show and doing other antics designed to one-up each other. Which I’m sure is an interesting parallel to moving the show to L.A. in the first place in an effort to freshen things up as they drive towards their final and next season. But more power to them, I guess. This set from Warner Brothers comes with a featurette about the transition, unaired scenes and a gag reel. As to purchasing or not, it’s $37.99 right now on Amazon, which is basically less than $3 an episode. So fans of the show will have to decide what their price tag is (or wait for it to go on sale). Looking at the TV schedule, I’m not sure they’re showing these episodes at present, so if you want to play catch up you’ll have to buy or rent. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)