Today's DVDs & Blu-rays: Starbuck, Ginger & Rosa, Teenaged Zombies and More
We start off today's review with the French-Canadian comedy Starbuck. Patrick Huard stars David, a middle-aged well-meaning oaf who just found out he's about to be a father. What he doesn't know is that it won't be for the first time, it'll be the 534th. As a young man, David was an active sperm-donor known as Starbuck (cleverly named after a Canadian bull that reportedly sired thousands of off-spring). Twenty-something years after his donations, more than 100 of the children he fathered file a class-action suit demanding his identity be released. Afraid his kids might be losers like him, but hopeful that they aren't, David sets about tracking them down and becomes a sort of guardian angel to them. Knowing his prim girlfriend would be scandalized if he was revealed as the notorious Starbuck, he struggles to keep his past from mucking up his future.
Directed by Ken Scott, Starbuck is being reworked American style as Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn in the lead, set for a Thanksgiving release.
There's something really creepy about wheat fields. Maybe it's Children of the Corn flashbacks or a bit of Wizard of Oz-phobia, but it seems any story that features crop fields ends badly (except, of course, for Field of Dreams). Baran bo Oda's The Silence features wheat fields. And dead girls. And killers. And a town filled with secrets. (Never a good combo.) The film chronicles the story of Pia and Sinikka, two girls who go missing. There's 23 years between the crimes, but the second abduction is so similar to the first, police officials can't help but wonder if it's by the same criminal. Chuck Wilson, of our sister paper Village Voice, called The Silence "a taut, beautifully acted thriller." We agree, especially with the "beautifully acted" part. The families, suspects and officials all fall apart in one way or another as the second investigations goes on. The Silence thrills not because of the action scenes and gore, but because between action scenes there's a fair amount of psychological tension and well-acted drama. This is director Baran bo Oda's debut and it's a prodigious one.
Sally Potter's drama Ginger & Rosa is elevated by the excellent acting chops of Elle Fanning (yes, she's Dakota's sister). The story meanders a bit, following too many plotlines, but Fanning's performance grounds the film. As teenagers Ginger (Fanning) and Rosa (competently played by Alice Englert) are inseparable but as they move into adulthood, they grow apart. Ginger gets involved in political protests (it's the time of the Cuban missile crisis) and Rosa gets ... pregnant, by a much older man.
Think Shawn of the Dead meets Breakfast Club meets The Faculty and you have a good idea of what to expect with Detention of the Dead. There's nothing exactly new in Detention - a group of misfit high school kids band together to fight a zombie invasion. We've seen it before, but Detention, while not altogether fresh, is certainly funny and worth a look. The film's tag line is When There's No Room Left in Hell, the Dead go to Detention. The film is snarky, even smart in some ways; it deserves a much better tag line.
From the vaults comes The Jack Benny Program: The Lost Episodes, starring the radio and television comedy pioneer and his fabulously famous friends. The three-disc release is loaded with restored episodes unseen since their original broadcasts in the late 1950s and early 1960s and bonus material. Comedy cohorts Red Skelton, Don Rickles, George Burns, Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, Dick Van Dyke and Jack Paar all appear in skits with Benny. Glamorous guests include Frank Sinatra, Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson. Tough guys John Wayne and Gary Copper drop in; and former President Harry S. Truman and the evangelist Reverend Billy Graham make appearances (though not on the same night). Benny, a put-upon Everyman, had a dry sense of humor. He also had a black, sassy but subservient sidekick, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. It's would be highly un-PC these days but some 60 years ago they were an extremely popular comedy duo.