Kid Stuff for Parents
Wonder Showzen: Season One (MTV)
On the surface, the way this MTV2 puppetfest explores adult concepts through a kiddie-show format seems fresh as a Nantucket limerick. But Wonder Showzen's execution is so bold and frankly hilarious that it feels wholly new. Whether it's exploring diversity with a forbidden homosexual love between an Arab numeral and a Jewish letter, or depicting an anthropomorphic Bible bonging a beer through a glory hole, Wonder Showzen works hard to be the most transgressive show on basic cable. But there are also so many little moments of social commentary here that you'll probably miss half of them the first time through. The obligatory extras include outtakes of a puppet alleging police brutality and "Story Time With Flavor Flav." Same old, same old.
Bettie Page: Dark Angel (Cult Epics)
In the decades since her cheesecake heyday, Bettie Page has become an icon of somewhat damaged sexuality. That Page's real life was positively wholesome compared to that of Marilyn Monroe is an irony only vaguely explored by this biopic, re-released with added features in advance of The Notorious Bettie Page's date with theaters. Page was a model upon whom any prop looked good, and her stand-in here, porn star Paige Richards, looks the part and poses with aplomb, which is all that's required. Dark Angel is most notable for its attempt to authentically recreate several Page bondage films that have been destroyed. Those searching for nudity -- not a small piece of the Page market -- must turn to the special features; but even those tame shots will leave you with the odd realization that the golden days of bondage porn are far behind us.
Dumbland (Subversive Cinema)
Give David Lynch the technology (in this case, Flash animation) to control every aspect of a film, and rest assured, you'll get something weird. But you wouldn't expect this many fart jokes. These shaky black-and-white shorts are chock-full of the absurdity, violence, and middle-class parody that make up half the Lynch formula. Unfortunately missing is the half in which Lynch makes all these ugly things beautiful; you know -- the half that makes him an artist. Here it's all id, shouting and crashing and bleeding and farting. Really, a tremendous amount of farting. As with his other attempts at comedy (say, his "Angriest Dog in the World" comic), Lynch is least funny when he's trying to be. You might chuckle at any one of these cartoons, but watch all eight and you'll contemplate murder.
King Kong (Universal)
Right about now, we ought to be heralding the DVD release of an expanded King Kong. Too bad that's the version Peter Jackson already released in theaters instead, leaving it up to you to edit your own shorter, better version using the "chapter select" feature. There's a brilliant action movie and a wonderfully realized giant ape here, but also a deadly dull first act, too many characters, and a running time that's too damn long, which kept Kong from being the all-out blockbuster it could have been. This might be the most thoroughly documented picture in history; seemingly every aspect of the filmmaking process was recorded, and much of it already has shown up on the web and in last year's prerelease DVD. Everything here is well assembled and informative, but really, who's clamoring for more Kong at this point?
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