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Small Screen | Lee, Lumet, and “Zidane” and “Kunstler” Biodocs Come Home

Small Screen | Lee, Lumet, and "Zidane" and "Kunstler" Biodocs Come Home

Two films from some of the world’s most prominent living directors debut today on the Criterion Collection. Ang Lee’s “Ride with the Devil” package will include commentaries from Lee and screenwriter, James Schamus, and others who worked on the film. On DVD Talk, Thomas Spurlin says, “[Lee’s] depiction of Missouri’s Civil War certainly exists as the director’s most overlooked piece of work, a competently directed and energetic trek through the lives of the South’s Bushwhackers. There’s no getting around the fact that a few elements weigh down the picture, most prevalently pacing issues, but his composure in presenting the thought around allegiance and honor in a time where the country’s torn apart might surprise with its authenticity and capability to make one think.” Sidney Lumet’s 1960 “The Fugitive Kind,” a Tennessee Williams adaptation starring Marlon Brando, also hits the Criterion Collection this week. The two-disc compilation also includes three Williams plays Lumet staged for TV. A short doc on the production code and Williams places the film in its historical context. There is also a video interview with Lumet, shot earlier this year. Speaking of the new release, DVD Verdict’s Tom Becker says, “This is an impressive set that makes up in density what it lacks in volume. ‘The Fugitive Kind’ might not be to every taste, but it’s a moody, well-made, adult film that boasts strong performances and the kind of writing they just don’t do anymore.”

Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” fantastic portrayal of a traveling theater company comes home this week. The film, infamous for being the last film Heath Ledger worked on before his death, did not wow most of our critics, earning a C+ on criticWIRE. Nancy Meyers’s “It’s Complicated,” another film that did worse than expected with the critics, debuts on home video today. The film, which stars Meryl Streep and Oscar hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, centers around Streep’s character’s affair with her ex-husband, played by Baldwin.

Three docs popular with audiences also head to DVD today. Of Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon’s “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait,” which gets a Blu-Ray release today, The New York TimesManohla Dargis says, “after 90 absorbing minutes watching him walking and running across a field in ‘Zidane,’ dripping and pouring sweat, inscrutably staring into space and the breathing, cheering wall of humanity circling him, and leaping and twisting into the air to guide the ball toward victory, he will seem more expressively human, less of an aesthetic conceit and more of a man, than he does at the start of this self-described ’21st Century Portrait.'” “William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” (criticWIRE rating: B-), a portrait of the renegade lawyer directed by his daughters, Emily and Sarah Kunstler, gets a release today. Speaking of the sisters, Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman says, “they don’t shy away from their father’s showboating ego, or his eagerness to take on any client (e.g., El Sayyid Nosair, assassin of Israeli firebrand Meir Kahane), the more infamous the better. Yet his pluck and chutzpah shine through.” Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News says the film, “doesn’t pretend to be unbiased, but it nonetheless has an unblinking view of its subject. They must have learned a thing or two from dad.”

“‘The End Of Poverty?’ alternates between static footage of bloodless talking heads and interviews with the exploited Third World masses, all of whom agree that living in dire poverty and being exploited by capitalist parasites sucks.” writes The A.V. Club‘s Nathan Rabin. Agreeing that the film has a lofty goal, the Arizona Republic‘s Kerry Lengel says it “is surprisingly effective in constructing its alternative narrative, because it links the arguments of its talking-head academics with real-world perspectives from the fields, the mines and the streets of the Third World.”

Also available available for home viewing this week, Steve Jacobs’s J.M. Coetzee adaptation, John Malkovich-starrer “Disgrace;” Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Northern Ireland drama “Five Minutes of Heaven;” and Robert Townsend’s “Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy.”

Bryce Renninger, an indieWIRE contributor in the New York office, is also the shorts programmer for Newfest and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Studies at Rutgers University. He can be reached via Twitter.

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