- Will Ferrell, seen here at the start of Chapter 3. Or was it 5?
Try this, should you be inclined to rent this downer from writer-director Adam Rapp: Skip from chapter to chapter and see whether they all don't begin with exactly the same image, accompanied by exactly the same sound. There is always someone (usually Zooey Deschanel as a would-be actress or Ed Harris as her decrepit writer pop) hanging their head or staring off into the fog of depression, and always there rings the same minor-chord guitar riff, indicating that this is the work of a serious indie filmmaker out to make you laugh just a little and cry just a little and feel a whole lot, man, for these broken-down fucks who've got nothing to give except tons of grief. And Will Ferrell's here too, being funny -- but, ya know, not really, since this is serious shit, bro. -- Robert Wilonsky
Napoleon Dynamite: Like, the Best Special Edition Ever! (Fox)
"Overrated" doesn't begin to describe the furor over a film whose only moment of real brilliance comes in the opening credits, which are written on food. Napoleon Dynamite's portrait of the painfully geeky is audaciously unique, but it has become a cultural force only by being so dang quotable. But kids are still buying "Vote for Pedro" T-shirts, so here's another special edition. Along with the loads of features available on other versions (to dig any deeper, future editions will have to resort to out-of-focus shots and the blank ends of reels), this one offers even more outtakes and a goofy commentary track with the lesser stars of the film, who are clearly amazed by how the movie was received. As well they should be. -- Jordan Harper
The Seventh Continent (Kino)
Austrian director Michael Haneke has had quite an autumn-years run with Code Unknown, The Piano Teacher, Time of the Wolf, and Caché -- his visual vocabulary and thematic fuel have matured substantially from his first decade's work, which tended toward stunt transgression. But not entirely: His first feature, The Seventh Continent (1989), is a droll, methodical, deeply discomfiting portrait of inexplicable nuclear-family auto-destruction. Based upon a real incident, Haneke's movie watches soberly as a father, mother, and young daughter systematically empty out their lives and prepare for a self-involved date with the grave. That no explanation is offered is both Haneke's point and a method for being true to the characters' reality, but nothing prepares us for the property decimation, filicide, and bitter poisoning. Included is a new interview with the rather jovial and amused Haneke. -- Michael Atkinson
The Producers (Universal)
For some of us, the notion of sitting through a movie based on a play based on a movie seems a bit too meta to stomach. But a reluctant viewing of Susan Stroman's adaptation proves not so much disappointing as negligible; it tries so hard, but offers all the spark of a forced smile. Perhaps that's to be expected as Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane offer their last gasp at this material, which they probably know better than their own names; everything feels as spontaneous as a State of the Union Address. The whole production has a dipped-in-amber vibe about it -- as though it's preserving something immortal without allowing it to breathe, and so it sits and sings and smirks without ever coming to life. -- Wilonsky