NEW IN STORES:
The Buccaneers (NR) Carla Gugino, Mira Sorvino, Alison Elliott, Rya Kihlstedt. Lavish five-part BBC miniseries based on Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel about young American women moving through the labyrinthine social world of 1870s England. Deemed nouveau riche and shunned by elitist New York society, sisters Nan and Virginia St. George (Gugino and Elliott), along with their friends Lizzy Elmsworth (Kihlstedt) and Conchita Closson (Sorvino), try their luck in London. The girls’ New World spontaneity and impertinence constitute nothing less than a social invasion of Old World society and they soon find themselves courted by a coterie of fascinated admirers. But as the old and new worlds come to clash, something has to give. Four hours, 48 minutes. DVD INFO: Includes interviews with the cast and crew as well as social background to the story.
Breakfast on Pluto (R) Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Stephen Rea, Ruth Negga, Laurence Kinlan, Gavin Friday, Bryan Ferry. Filmmaker Neil Jordan visits turf similar to that trod in his celebrated The Crying Game and introduces a character reminiscent of that film’s otherworldly beauty, Dil, who captured the hearts of the two male leads. But this time the focus is not on the captivated men but on the beauty with the otherworldly quality. The film is a biography and adventure story with quirks galore that somehow manages to be both gritty and dreamlike. Cillian Murphy of 28 Days Later and Red Eye is wonderful as Patrick “Kitten” Braden, a sweet, wistful young man who realizes early on that he is drawn to the clothing of women and the company of men. Throughout his colorful travels, Patrick suffers, but never succumbs, always remaining true to himself. 135 minutes. DVD INFO: Includes commentary by director Neil Jordan and actor Cillian Murphy; plus the featurette “Behind the Scenes of Breakfast on Pluto.” —EJO
The Complete Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report): Criterion Collection (NR) Akim Tamiroff, Gregoire Aslan, Patricia Medina, Jack Watling, Orson Welles. Orson Welles’ Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. “Confidential Report”) is one of cinema’s great mysteries. How did a globetrotting narrative of espionage, amnesia and backstabbing come to be itself marked by these qualities? In the film, small-time American smuggler Guy van Stratten is hired by elusive billionaire Gregory Arkadin to investigate the tycoon’s past. What follows is a dizzying descent into the Cold War landscape of a Europe trying to erase its history. In making the 1955 film, Welles was ultimately banned from the editing room by producer Louis Dolivet. As a result, many versions exist, none of them definitive. The Criterion Collection collects the many faces of Mr. Arkadin into one box for the first time — from the story’s beginnings in radio to the novel published under Welles’ name to an all-new “comprehensive version” of the film. 98-105 minutes. DVD INFO: The three-disc set includes Mr. Arkadin: The Corinth Version, 1955, 99 minutes; Confidential Report, 1955, 98 minutes; Mr. Arkadin: The Comprehensive Version, 2006, 105 minutes; audio commentary by scholars Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore on the Corinth Version; interviews with Orson Welles biographer Simon Callow, star Robert Arden, radio producer Harry Alan Towers, director Peter Bogdonovich and film archivists Stephan Droessler and Claude Bertemes; three half-hour episodes of the radio program The Lives of Harry Lime, upon which the film is based; the new featurette “On the Comprehensive Version”; outtakes, rushes and alternate scenes from the film; an extensive stills gallery; a 36-page booklet with essays on the film and its different versions; plus Mr. Arkadin, the novel, with a new preface by Robert Polito and a booklet featuring J. Hoberman; Rosenbaum, historian Francois Thomas and Droessler on the three versions.
Hostel (NR) Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, Jana Kaderabkova. Grisly horror. Two adventurous American college buddies, Paxton (Hernandez) and Josh (Richardson), backpack through Europe eager to make quintessentially hazy travel memories with new friend Oli (Gudjonsson), an Icelander they’ve met along the way. Paxton and Josh are eventually lured by a fellow traveler to what’s described as a nirvana for American backpackers — a particular hostel in an out-of-the-way Slovakian town stocked with Eastern European women as desperate as they are gorgeous. The two friends arrive and easily connect with a pair of exotic beauties. Too easily. Initially distracted by the good time they’re having, the two Americans quickly find themselves trapped in an increasingly sinister situation that they will discover is as wide and as deep as the darkest, sickest recess of human nature itself — if they survive. 95 minutes. DVD INFO: The Widescreen Unrated Edition (the theatrical release was rated R) offers four audio commentary tracks (which seems a tad excessive to me) including director Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino and Harry Knowles from “Ain’t It Cool News”; the behind-the-scenes featurette “Hostel Dissected”; plus the multi-angle interactive feature “Kill the Car!”
Mortuary (R) Denise Crosby, Dan Byrd, Stephanie Patton, Alexandra Adi. Horror from director Tobe Hooper (the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The Doyle family moves to rural California to start a new life; perhaps a strange choice because their new life takes on the form of running the long abandoned Fowler Brothers Funeral Home. The locals fear the place, and there are whispers around town that the land the home lies on is haunted. The Doyle family will soon discover that something lurks beneath the soil — something that raises rotten corpses from their long forgotten graves and feeds on death itself. 93 minutes. DVD INFO: Includes the behind-the-scenes featurette “Inside the Graveyard.”
Mrs. Henderson Presents (R) Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Kelly Reilly, Christopher Guest, William Young. Laura Henderson (Dench), one of England’s most prominent and eccentric society figures, founded the historic Windmill Theatre in London in the years before World War II. Legendary for her “nude revue” musical extravaganzas, Mrs. Henderson and her tenacious theater manager (Hoskins) were determined to win back audiences flocking to see the new “talking pictures.” Based on a true story, this comedy takes a behind-the-scenes look at a forgotten world of music, glamour and girls. Cameo by Christopher Guest. Directed by Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things, High Fidelity). 130 minutes. DVD INFO: Two separately packaged DVDs are available: One preserves the film in the anamorphic widescreen format, while the other hacks off nearly a third of the picture for the fullscreen (aka pan & scan) version. Shop carefully. Both versions include audio commentary by director Frears and a making-of featurette.
Natural City (R) Ji-tae Yu, Jae-un Lee, Rin Seo, Jeong Eun-Pyo. Korean sci-fi tale set in the year 2080. Following a battle that nearly destroyed everything, a city has been rebuilt. This city is technologically advanced, and has become dependent on the cyborgs that its people created. Similar in many ways to humans, the cyborgs gradually begin to rebel against their makers. Torn between his secret love for a cyborg and his duty to his fellow humans, a man known as R must make a world-shattering choice. 113 minutes. DVD INFO: Includes the featurette “The Story of Natural City”; deleted scenes; and cast interviews.
On HD-DVD SERENITY, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA: SPECIAL EDITION, MILLION DOLLAR BABY and THE LAST SAMURAI.
TV on DVD DOOGIE HOWSER MD: SEASON 4, REMINGTON STEELE: SEASON 3, THE SENTINEL: SEASON 1 and THUNDERCATS: SEASON 2. NOTE: Some studios have the nerve to market box sets of TV series containing episodes that were trimmed down by several minutes each for airing in syndication. Before laying down your money, make sure the box set includes the words “original and uncut.”