By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Black Snake Moan (Paramount)
The best place to see Craig Brewer's mash-up of blood-boiling exploitation elements would be a Mississippi drive-in circa 1972. His tale of a black bluesman (Samuel L. Jackson) who chains up a seething, scantily clad cracker nympho (Christina Ricci) would've had the lot under martial law by reel three. Since Americans like their blood-and-guts in public and their sex in private, hardly anyone saw it in theaters--but on DVD, folks are going to wear out their frame advances and pause buttons over Ricci's exhilaratingly carnal performance, the most fearsome display of erotic power in a mainstream Hollywood movie in ages. Bonus points for the unusually strong commentary and making-of featurettes, both greatly enlivened by Brewer's candor. --Jim Ridley
Darwin's Nightmare (Image)
Somewhere in Africa there is a happy middle-class native family that has not been ravaged by AIDS, genocide, or cruel white interlopers. Somebody ought to make a documentary about them--at this point, that would be the shocking film. There's nothing surprising in Darwin's Nightmare, just more bleak evidence that Africa is galactically fucked. This time the blame goes to Nile perch, a huge, tasty fish that destroyed the ecosystem and shackles locals into its processing for the global market. In the roving style of the times, the camera travels everywhere from perch plants to prostitute parties, revealing fresh hell at every turn. It's so very harrowing that you might ask whether anything is improved by spending an hour and a half depressing yourself. Once you start watching, it's difficult to turn away--but if this isn't how you want to spend a Saturday night, that's OK. --Jordan Harper
Cult Camp Classics: Volumes 1-4 (Warner Bros.)
Hats off to Warner Bros. for repackaging this archival flotsam in inexpensive threefers under loose thematic headings. It takes true huckster savvy to sandwich 1972's Skyjacked--as flavorless an in-flight meal as they come--between 1967's damn-you-kids dud Hot Rods From Hell and 1957's Zero Hour!(the template for Airplane!), then sell the shebang as "Terrorized Travelers." Does it matter that there's not a movie here worthy of all three words in the heading? Probably not: Among the offerings are two bona-fide auteurist artifacts (Howard Hawks' Land of the Pharaohs and Sergio Leone's The Colossus of Rhodes, for completists only), at least two hilarious celluloid catastrophes (the Joan Crawford caveman clunker Trog and the immortal Attack of the 50-Foot Woman), and Zsa Zsa Gabor in Queen of Outer Space. --J.R.
A nation whose most viable action star may be Matt Damon is a nation in need, and there's no reason Mark Wahlberg isn't the answer. He can act, isn't too hard on the eyes, and could probably gouge one of them out with his thumb in a pinch. Shooter makes for a fun afternoon, but it isn't Wahlberg's Die Hard. Maybe that's because he's more adept at playing mouthy badasses than strong, silent types like Bobby Lee Swagger, the sniper hero who's framed for an assassination, then has to get all whoop-ass about it. The film lacks the intense gun fetishism that made the source book such a hoot, but Wahlberg and bumbling sidekick Michael Peña bust domes, peel caps, and pop noggins so much that the flying brains could be the basis for your next drinking game. And that's entertainment. --J.H.