Chancer: Series 1 (Acorn)
Available solely in the U.K. for years, this is a small-time release featuring a modestly big-time star at the get-go of his career: Clive Owen, looking all of 12 years old and 73 pounds, is a sacked investment banker who winds up in the employ of a family of fancy-schmancy carmakers. The series was typical soap-dish stuff: loads of screwing over and screwing around as Owen sneered, leered, pouted, and shouted his way through a show that now looks less like a launching pad than a time-killer attached to a paycheck. It's fun in spots and dull in plenty of others, with theme music seemingly lifted from Miami Vice. It's also nice to see Leslie Howard, recently Peter O'Toole's best bud in Venus; how is it even crap British TV seems noble in the hands of such dynamite pros? --Robert Wilonsky
Welcome to the Grindhouse (BCI Eclipse)
As we now know, the term "grindhouse" didn't register with mass audiences nearly as strongly as it did with Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and about 60 posters on Ain't It Cool News. Thank goodness no one knew this five months ago, or all these sweet repackages of vintage '70s and '80s sleaze -- such as these handy twofers of old-school 42nd Street rotgut -- wouldn't be hitting the streets now. One of them offers the drive-in nirvana of 1974's The Teacher alongside the amazing 1975 Fellini-in-the-Everglades softcore romp, Pick-up. The other pairs the depraved Spanish sex-goats-and-Satan boobathon Black Candles with the grimy giallo Evil Eye, each packed with nudity, nihilism, and cheapo surrealism. Bonus points for "Our Feature Presentation" cards and red-band trailers promising the likes of Sister Street Fighter. --Jim Ridley
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Our Very Own (Miramax)
"New!" shouts the sticker on the shrinkwrap of this two-year-old, small-town-in-'78-set melodramedy. It stars Allison Janney as a Shelbyville, Tennessee mama stuck with a drunken sumbitch hubby (Keith Carradine) and a restless son (played by Jason Ritter, John's amiable kiddo). It was written and directed by Shelbyville's own Cameron Watson, who steers the proceedings with the steady if occasionally clammy hand of a man celebrating the hometown he probably hated as a kid, but couldn't wait to memorialize as a grown-up. It's all over the place, but it's got a scrappy, sincere, let's-put-on-a-show vibe (literally, it's near the end). And, in the end, Janney is absolutely superb as the bottle rocket of rage just waiting for Carradine to light the fuse; swell also is Cheryl Hines, once more cast as the shoulder upon which the teetering and tottering lean. --R.W.
The Taste of Tea (Viz Pictures)
The first 20 minutes of The Taste of Tea are crammed with images both surreal and hilarious: A boy chases a train that launches into the air, leaving him with a hole in his head; then another boy takes a dump on a giant egg in a forest, causing the ghost of a murdered yakuza to haunt him. It's the beginning of a true masterpiece. And while the film has problems living up to those first wonderful moments, it's still one of the best Japanese comedies for Westerners since 1986's Tampopo. Directed by Katsuhito Ishii (who created the animation for Kill Bill), the movie is seeded with brilliant imagery throughout. Unfortunately, the formless story of an arty family living in the country runs about 40 minutes too long. The same could be said of the second disc's 90-minute making of doc. --Jordan Harper