I’m Not There: Two-Disc Collector’s Edition (R, 2007, Weinstein Co.)
The line separating celebration from alienation often is pretty fine in projects built around fan service, and it’s positively threadbare in “I’m Not There,” which ostensibly is a biopic about Bob Dylan. If you don’t know a thing or two about who that is, know this: “There” won’t wait for you to catch up. A grand total of six actors (Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Ben Whishaw) play Dylan … except they don’t. Rather, they portray, under different names, slices of Dylan’s kaleidoscopic life, evoking every significant era up to and including present day. Or something like that. “There” is thick with allegory, with stories mixing together portions of Dylan’s life and various characters and scenes from his music. The more you know about the man, the more fun you’ll have sifting through the trove of nudges and winks that were made specially for you. Everyone else, good luck. Shot both in color and in black and white, with stories not necessarily intertwining on any level but one steeped in fan service, “There” almost certainly will confuse and put off casual viewers who know more about the film’s award haul than the man who inspired it. Anyone with a serious phobia of art films will find every last fear realized with this one.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, deleted/extended/alternate scenes, outtakes, audition footage, director interview, soundtrack feature, photo gallery, premiere footage, Dylan reference library, song-only selections, lyrics language track.
Dans Paris (NR, 2006, IFC Films)
Paul (Romain Duris), freshly separated from his spouse (Joana Preiss), is seriously depressed. So he moves back into his dad’s (Guy Marchand) run-down apartment, where his underachieving brother Jonathan (Louis Garrel) already stays. After a half-hour or so of introductory paragraphs, this is where we are, and the rest of “Dans Paris” follows the boys during a day in their lives as Christmas looms around the corner. Given everybody’s respective circumstances and pasts, as well as the setting and somewhat talky nature in general of the film, opportunities abound for “Paris” to bring its audience down using any number of techniques. Happily, it never takes the bait, instead painting a surprising picture of almost uncompromising hope even when its characters can’t quite muster the energy to do the same. The balance and chemistry between Paul and Jonathan, troubled though they each may be, carries “Paris” when all else would appear to fail. And while no one will ever confuse this one for a comedy, the borderline comedic vibe that wafts through the whole thing is pretty unmistakable. In an era of self-described comedies that often leave viewers hopelessly depressed, that’s a pretty nice change of pace.
Extras: Deleted scene, short film “Rendex-Vous with Louis.”
Bella (PG-13, 2006, Lions Gate)
We all have days where we’re more annoyed by the sorrows of others than sympathetic toward them. So if you want to see “Bella” and are feeling a bit salty, best to sleep on it. “Bella” focuses on two keystone events in the life of world-renowned soccer star Jose (Eduardo Verástegui). Both start small, but both change his life forever. That’s prime movie material, and “Bella” shows infinite promise after an insightful but fairly even-keeled glimpse into the present-day lives of Jose and Nina (Tammy Blanchard), who is enduring a right turn of her own as the film begins. Before long, though, “Bella” rips off the faucet and unleashes the waterworks. The same even-keeled characters suddenly let fly weepy monologues of deeds done wrong and lives gone awry, and suddenly “Bella” is doing a lot more telling than showing. Whether the cast has sufficiently engaged your imagination before this happens likely will provide the key to whether “Bella” holds it the rest of the way. That it even has a chance is a testament to how good the rest of its parts are: Most films that sink this deeply into tear-jerking would stand no chance. Credit goes to a story that, while occasionally cloying, redeems itself just enough to deliver a satisfying payoff at the end.
Extras: Director commentary, two behind-the-scenes features, music video.
I Really Hate My Job (NR, 2007, Magnolia)
The title says it all: Abbie (Neve Campbell), a waitress at a small restaurant, really does hate her job. Worse, she’s turning 30 today, stuck at work, and surrounded by four other women (Shirley Henderson, Alexandra Maria Lara, Anna Maxwell Martin and Oana Pellea) who have all picked this day to have respective nervous breakdowns. Cramming five meltdowns inside the span of 90 minutes is a dangerous undertaking for any film, and “Job” itself often feels like it’s teetering on the brink of total disaster. Most particularly, “Job” cracks up in the kitchen, where Henderson, who often beautifully toes the line between infectious and obnoxious, completely obliterates it here. But the good news about a film about five equally cracked-up people is that it’s never too long before one leaves the picture and another enters, and “Job” is pretty good at passing the baton just as it appears ready to burst. When all else fails, the story turns back to Abbie, who goes wire to wire as “Job’s” most enjoyable — and honest — character. When she finally loses her mind, it’s a train wreck, but for all the right and intended reasons.
Extra: Photo gallery.
Moola (PG-13, 2007, Allumination Filmworks)
The description on the back of “Moola’s” DVD case is one of those excessively cute, pun-laden pitches that makes you fear for the product inside. Sure enough, “Moola” — about a glowstick company that finds itself in danger of collapse until an unlikely savior steps in with the deal of a lifetime — falls prone to an early infection of that cuteness that sometimes damages independent, character-driven comedies beyond repair. Fortunately, the plot is just weird enough to incite curiosity about where this production is headed. That buys “Moola” some time, and it’s during that time that its entirely ordinary but strangely compelling lead protagonist, Steve (William “Ethan from ‘Lost'” Mapother), sinks his hooks in. By the time “Moola” wraps, Steve’s journey feels surprisingly (if trivially) epic, and the inane plot that kept the ball rolling plays second fiddle to a unassumingly thoughtful and inexplicably satisfying character study. “Moola” does suffer from side story overload, thanks in part to a cast of mostly bland supporting characters and an obnoxious sidekick (Daniel Baldwin) who himself might have been compelling were it not for Baldwin’s horrendous hamming. Had Steve been allowed to work alone and take charge of more scenes, we might be talking about a film that’s surprisingly great instead of merely surprisingly good.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes feature.
Delirious (NR, 2006, PeaceArch/Genius)
Recall films about the paparazzi, and it’s very likely the first to come to mind is the extremely regrettable “Paparazzi.” If you bore witness to one of the worst movies of the 21st century and would like to forever change that little piece of word association, maybe “Delirious” — which positions the scum of Hollywood as a mere soulless anti-hero (Steve Buscemi as Les) rather than the cartoony villain “Paparazzi” puked out — might be able to help. It sure seems that way at first, anyway: Les is simultaneously a miserable and strangely likeable character, and his dismal existence and hollow ambitions speak volumes about the industry in which he operates. Unfortunately, “Delirious” also is about Toby (Michael Pitt), a homeless wannabe actor who, after finding an unlikely mentor in Les, finds himself in a series of similarly unbelievable events shortly thereafter. The film shifts its attention onto Toby, the plot meanders and bites off more than it can chew, and a series of contrivances reduces poor Les to … a cartoony villain. Oops. “Delirious” isn’t fractionally as awful during its worst minute as “Paparazzi” is during its best, but it still leaves us right back where we started. Given the promising start, it’s arguably more disappointing this time around.
Extras: Director commentary, behind-the-scenes feature, music video.