To Each Theron
Aeon Flux (Paramount)
Many things about this surreal sci-fi flick defy explanation, but nothing more so than the mystery of how it got made in the first place. On paper, it's an archetypal setup for a bomb: a mostly forgotten cartoon, notable for its visual style and incomprehensibility, revived as a live-action vehicle for an actress (Charlize Theron) with no proven action chops. Sure enough, Aeon Flux is not particularly good, but it's also not that bad; the elaborate sets and action scenes dole out enough eye candy to pass an afternoon. Just don't pay any mind to the plot. Byzantine and pretentious, the dystopian intrigue isn't worth the intellectual energy required to untangle it. Just enjoy the spandexed Theron as she snaps necks, crawls up walls, and makes things go boom. Then watch the making-of extras, and be awed by just how many people it took to make this thing. -- Jordan Harper
The Robert Altman Collection (Fox)
What a baffling quartet it is that makes up this boxed set, chiefly because it includes Quintet, the 1979 post-apocalyptic fiasco that ranks as the great director's most misguided effort. This Paul Newman movie about a game to the death is Altman's Zardoz, with the chest hair obscured by medieval Halloween costumes. Also here, with teeny and shallow mini-docs, are his two other late-'70s offerings: the underrated A Wedding and the undercooked A Perfect Couple. All three wither in the giant shadow of M*A*S*H, offered here as an emasculated single disc. There are other Altmans in need of digital liberation . . . HealtH, Beyond Therapy, and Streamers; that's a finer trio than this unholy trinity being propped up by a masterpiece. -- Robert Wilonsky
Bazaar Bizarre: The Strange Case of Serial Killer Bob Berdella (Pathfinder)
Bob Berdella was pretty ordinary, as serial killers go: a homely sexual sadist and closeted homosexual, who tortured and killed drifters and hustlers around his hometown of Kansas City. But this documentary (named after Berdella's swap-meet store) is anything but formulaic. Hosted with hard-boiled wit by author James Ellroy, it explores the case with the lurid glee of the tawdriest true-crime paperback. It's a whirlwind mix of interviews, misguided musical numbers, and staged depictions of the crimes. Filmed on Super-8 (the creepiest film stock) with no sound, the vile recreations are far from the sanitized snuffs on Court TV. They may prove too much for some viewers, but really, shouldn't you feel horrible after watching a movie about a mass murderer? -- J.H.
Crackheads Gone Wild (Xtreme)
You know when you see a kid do something cute, then you realize he's not actually cute, but just aping something he saw on TV? Crackheads do that too -- at least, that's the idea you get from Crackheads Gone Wild, in which real-life addicts mix movie-of-the-week self-pity with wacky crackhead antics. It's all shabby and sad, and you'll feel guilty for laughing, but you'll laugh anyway. It might be when one 'head sobs out her life story while another marches behind her, playing his crack pipe like a trombone. Or when the couple in the alley don't bother to stop humping to take their crack break. Or during the tour of the crackhouse bathroom. But you won't learn a thing here, unless you were under the impression that crack life was fabulous. -- J.H.
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