August 26, 2009

Trouble the Water

Also this week: Polytechnique, Duplicity, Adventureland, thirtysomething, Life is Hot in Cracktown, Fierce Light

Highlight of the Week

Trouble the Water (E1) Forgoing a broad assessment of Hurricane Katrina — for that, watch Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke — this film views the calamitous event and its frustrating aftermath through the awestruck eyes of survivor Kimberly Roberts, whose amateur footage is made even more mesmerizing thanks to Michael Moore collaborators Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s directorial expertise. The outcome rates among the best docs of recent memory. Extras: outtakes, Q&A. 

Also Available

Polytechnique (Alliance) A hypnotic and beautifully abstract art film reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s Columbine-inspired Elephant, Denis Villeneuve’s stark, colourless dramatization of the 1989 massacre at Montreal’s École Polytechnique tactfully refrains from preaching about any method behind the madness. It just is. The results are mind-blowing. French-only extras: animated doc, extract from a letter by late journalist Pierre Bourgault.

Duplicity (Universal) Neither dramatically ham-fisted like his previous effort, Michael Clayton, nor popcorn-friendly like those Bourne flicks he scripted, Tony Gilroy’s latest is the pick of the litter. Owing to refined writing/direction and a strapping ensemble cast led by Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, everything gels with smart, sexy panache. Extras: commentary with Tony Gilroy and his editor/co-producer/brother John.

Adventureland (Maple) Greg Mottola follows his hugely lucrative Superbad with one of this year’s best retro coming-of-age fables (alongside the criminally underseen Lymelife). Unlike many early adult rom-coms, this one doesn’t forfeit intelligent angst for asinine humour, making for a nostalgia trip that’s simultaneously absurd and true to life. And Michael Cera’s got nothing on Jesse Eisenberg, so don’t even start. Extras: commentary, making-of, deleted scenes. 

thirtysomething: Season One (Shout! Factory) The yuppies-with-yuppie-problems series that started ’em all, the beloved ’80s series by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (later the co-creators of My So-Called Life) bests the majority of boomer dramas made in its wake. Extras: commentaries, conversation with Herskovitz and Zwick, featurettes. 

Life is Hot in Cracktown (Anchor Bay) If you enjoyed Combat Shock’s nihilistic charms, you’ll likely dig Buddy Giovinazzo’s bleakest of inner-city dramas, which is based on his own novel (one unmistakably influenced by Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn). With a cast featuring Lara Flynn Boyle and the RZA, the film follows a splintered narrative about an overworked father, a transsexual prostitute, a maniacal thug and a panhandling youth. Hilarity does not ensue. Extras: featurette, deleted scenes. 

Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action (E1) Spirituality and radical activism collide in Velcrow Ripper’s doc. The filmmaker, who previously won the TIFF Special Jury Prize for Scared Sacred, travels the globe to come upon activists and their various campaigns, including Darryl Hannah taking up residence in an almond tree in an effort to safeguard a South Central Los Angeles farm from demolition. Extras: additional scenes.