DVDs In Brief: October 19, 2011

DVDs In Brief: October 19, 2011

After flopping commercially with the stellar cult favorites Zero Effect, The TV Set, and Walk Hard, director Jake Kasdan finally scored a big commercial hit with Bad Teacher (Sony), a ribald, hard-R-rated comedy distinguished by Cameron Diaz’s fearlessly committed performance as a proudly amoral gold-digger who sets her sights on exquisitely milquetoast new co-worker Justin Timberlake. It’s just too bad the filmmakers couldn’t think of anything for love interest Jason Segel to do beyond standing on the sidelines looking/being adorable…

Actor Michael Rapaport made an unexpectedly moving directorial debut with Beats Rhymes & Life (Sony), a documentary about the unraveling of A Tribe Called Quest that delves deeply into the love-hate relationship between demanding perfectionist frontman Q-Tip and overwhelmed sidekick Phife. The result is a hip-hop answer to Some Kind Of Monster, as well as one of the most penetrating, poignant explorations of the ecstasy and agony of collaboration since Topsy-Turvy

Red State (Lionsgate) made headlines when writer-director Kevin Smith used the film’s Sundance première to “auction” the film to himself so he could distribute it independently. The film itself is as audacious as Smith’s strategy; it’s a button-pushing, unclassifiable, ripped-from-the-headlines horror melodrama about a Fred Phelps-like figure (Michael Parks) who brings a little taste of hell to a trio of horny teenagers out for a wild night with would-be swinger Melissa Leo. To its credit, Red State is unlike anything Smith has ever done or probably will do again, a scuzzy potboiler with an unmistakable grindhouse feel…

Director Cameron Crowe knew the members of Pearl Jam before they were Pearl Jam, and cast lead singer Eddie Vedder in his misbegotten but winning 1992 film Singles. Crowe calls on that history—and his own history as a precocious rock journalist—for Pearl Jam Twenty (Sony), a warm, engaging appreciation of the band that mixes performance footage with reminiscences. Most compelling are the reflections on how the band maintained its credibility after achieving runaway mainstream success and waging a public battle against Ticketmaster…

The documentary Page One: Inside The New York Times (Magnolia) tries to tell about a dozen stories at once, tracking the paper’s day-to-day operations, its various hardships and scandals, and its efforts to find a new vitality (and viability) in an age where the printed word has become increasingly obsolete. The film wisely sets up camp at the newly created Media desk, and gets the ideal tour guide in David Carr, an old-school journalist who defends the paper in oft- colorful language. A confrontation between Carr and a Vice editor over the latter’s criticism of the Times’ Liberia coverage is worth the price of admission alone.

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