Knight at HOME at the Movies
A Terrific Trio of Titles for Memorial Day Weekend

Any three day weekend offers numerous leisure time activities and for many those include movie watching.  The summer
blockbuster season is upon us, first
M:I:3 and Poseidon, then The Da Vinci Code, and now X Men: The Last Stand.  But not
everyone’s looking for blockbuster, action-type entertainment or eager to brave the crowds at the Cineplex.  Here are
three non-blockbuster DVD recommendations worth staying home for:
Felicity Huffman was robbed of that Oscar and once you see Transamerica, in which
Huffman plays Bree, a transgendered female you’ll agree.  The film, basically a road
picture in which Bree accepts the challenge of connection with a teenage son she never
knew she had, has its share of laughs and pathos.  
Writer-director Duncan Tucker’s
episodic story is sort of an update of
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – only in this
version the mom is transgendered and the son is a teenage gay hustler.  

Transamerica opened a lot of eyes about the conflicts inherent in this little
examined aspect of our culture.  The disc, a Weinstein Company release, (which
features a holographic box cover that shows Huffman as her glam, real life self and in
character as Bree), comes with a nice, chatty commentator by Tucker, a conversation
between Tucker and Huffman and between Tucker and Kevin Zegers, who plays the gay
teenager.  A featurette on Dolly Parton’s Oscar nominated song “Travelin’ Thru” (also
Oscar robbed) and the video itself are also included.  Though I don't think Parton
deserved the Oscar (nor did that stupid "Pimp" song -- the song from
Crash did), it's
still mighty catchy.

Next up is
The White Countess, which was released a month back on DVD from
Sony Pictures.  This final collaboration between gay life partners James Ivory and
Ismail Merchant, renowned for their meticulous productions like
Howard’s End, Maurice
A Room With A View, is not as bracing as those movies but has plenty to offer
nonetheless.  Set in Shanghai in 1936, it features Natasha Richardson as a down on
her luck Russian countess, stuck supporting her dreadful relatives (played by her real
life mother Vanessa and aunt Lynn Redgrave).  She falls in love with Ralph Fiennes
who plays Jackson, a blind diplomat who opens one of those
Cabaret-Casablanca type
nightclubs where the elite meet as bombs drop outside and the war rages on outside
the windows.  

The film runs close to 2 ½ hours and, in true Merchant-Ivory fashion, takes it time
laying out the story.  Beautifully shot and acted, I found this old fashioned romance
not unlike a leisurely Masterpiece Theatre episode or the original version of
with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.  Extras include a commentary track by
Ivory and Richardson, making of featurettes, and a brief tribute to Merchant, who died
shortly before the film was released last fall.  Garbo would have given her eyeteeth for
the part of the Countess.

A final recommendation this week is Walt Disney Video’s 2-disc release of
Stalker – the Complete Series.  Following the route of dozens of television shows
these days,
Night Stalker, a remake of the original Dan “Dark Shadows” Curtis’ late 70s
series, didn’t last long on ABC last fall after a highly rated debut.  It fell so fast that it
was yanked midway through a two-part episode (is that a TV first?).  Luckily, that – and
the rest of the unaired episodes – is included.  Hottie Stuart Townsend, memorable as
Lestat in
Queen of the Damned and paired with real life love Charlize Theron in Head in
the Clouds, does a good job as Seattle-based reporter Carl Kolchak, who has a knack
for finding stories with a supernatural bent.  Kolchak is given a competing female
reporter, the comely Perri (Gabrielle Union) who always starts out as a skeptic and ends
up believing in Kolchak’s amazing intuition (this is one series where male intuition was
front and center).  The episodes feature the usual assortment of vampires, mummies,
series killers, and ghosts, but Townsend has a nice intensity that probably could have
kept the show going if ABC had given it more airtime.  My favorite episode features the
actress who plays the crazy French woman on “Lost” in a plotline that involves a woman
who must kill to remain young (a variation of sorts on The Hunger).  A nice, late night
diversion with plenty of atmosphere.