Film » DVDish

Maybe too Hard

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Die Hard had it all -- even hair.
  • Die Hard had it all -- even hair.
Die Hard Collection (Fox)
You don't need to watch the included preview of Live Free or Die Hard to know it's going to blow; as this set proves, only odd-numbered Die Hards are any good. The first one, of course, is the perfect popcorn flick, and the bonus-disc extras here illustrate what can happen when talented filmmakers don't utterly loathe their audience. You can't say the same for Die Harder, the template for how a sequel can replicate all the key elements of its predecessor and still get everything wrong. Die Hard With a Vengeance (ow, these names!) brings back the fun, thanks to a heapin' helping of Samuel L. Jackson. But the next installment replaces pros like Jackson and Alan Rickman with the doof from those Mac vs. PC ads. So yeah, safe to say the trend will hold. -- Jordan Harper

WR: Mysteries of the Organism/Sweet Movie (Criterion)
Serbian Dusan Makavejev made himself a one-man liberation front against totalitarian oppression, sense-dulling propriety, and the dead ends of narrative moviemaking. These two messy, anarchic features, just released in incongruously tidy DVD editions, are his most concussive assaults. WR (made in 1971 and named for psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich) combats Stalinist stricture with sex, American rock and roll, and mockery of conventional storytelling; 1974's doubly scandalous Sweet Movie regresses society back to shitting, puking infantilism, dousing its beauty-queen heroine (Carole Laure) in excremental waterfalls of chocolate. Zigzagging maniacally from atrocity to slapstick, from documentary to sketch comedy, and from hardcore shagging to agitprop tomfoolery, these films are by turns hilarious, exhausting, bewildering, and appalling -- but there's never a single moment where you'll think I saw that coming. -- Jim Ridley

Big Nothing (First Look)
David Schwimmer -- name sounds familiar. Oh yeah, he was in some successful sitcom before he lost his way in movies released direct to DVD. The latest is this aptly titled comedy caper, low on comedy. Schwimmer's a failed writer who takes a gig in a computer call center, where he's paired with a guy who looks like Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), but sounds nothing like him, what with the Yank accent and all. The plot's skimpy and familiar: Two schmucks and a pretty young thing blackmail a porn-happy priest, and things go way awry. It's all awkwardly juiced up by director and co-writer Jean-Baptiste Andrea, who seems to think he's making a Guy Ritchie picture set in the wilds of Oregon. Also wasted: Mimi Rogers, Natascha McElhone, Jon Polito, and 90 minutes of your valuable time. -- Robert Wilonsky

Pacino: An Actor's Vision (Fox)
It's nice to be reminded that Al Pacino is an intelligent actor, after years of watching the man parody himself. These two features, based on plays and two documentaries (three of the four directed by Pacino), will renew your respect for the man. The best in the set, Looking for Richard, is a documentary on Richard III that mixes interviews and discussions with performances from Shakespeare's play. Chinese Coffee features great work from Pacino and Jerry Orbach, but also the inherent talkiness of play-to-film adaptations. The same can be said of the darkly funny The Local Stigmatic, complete with Pacino sporting a cockney accent. Babbleonia is a freewheeling discussion that reveals a few fascinating glimpses at the method to Pacino's madness. It's also inside-baseball enough to dull the stuffing out of casual fans. -- Harper

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