Capturing a family's disturbing, riveting story
Seattle Times video writer
"Capturing the Friedmans" (HBO, unrated): The Oscar-nominated documentary also won its category in the Seattle Film Critics Awards. A hammy family with omnipresent video cameras chronicles its own disintegration as the well-loved dad gets busted for mail-order kiddie porn. The investigation leads to an avalanche of molestation charges against the man and one of his teen sons who helped him teach a computer class. How guilty were they? Were they railroaded by aggressive fuzz and shady witnesses? Interviews and documents call it all into question. Disturbing, sad and riveting.
But "documentary" may be a misnomer, according to child-abuse experts who point out that director Andrew Jarecki intentionally omitted lots of damning evidence against the Friedmans to maintain a "Rashomon"-like film with no clear judgments — and effectively acting as son Jesse Friedman's advocate. Among other things, Jesse gave a tearful confession on a 1989 Geraldo Rivera show. And, now free after doing time, he's reportedly using this DVD in a motion to overturn his conviction. To make an entertaining movie, Jarecki never answers the "How guilty" question.
A second disc of fascinating extras includes a tense scene at the film's premiere, when the judge in the case tells the audience that the filmmakers left out facts. A parent of one of the alleged victims recounts a phone call asking if he wanted to "partake in possibly seeing that Mr. Friedman had an accident." And after years of arguments, cruelty, tragedy and estrangement, the mother tells an audience, "I think we're a great family. I really do."
"Thirteen" (Fox, R): A nice girl (Evan Rachel Wood) starts hanging out with her school's popular hot chick, then gets her tongue pierced, starts shoplifting, doing drugs, getting promiscuous and nose-diving her grades, all to the chagrin of her exceedingly cool, recovering-addict mom (Holly Hunter). Strong performances, no schmaltz. Not as jarring as Larry Clark's "Kids," but man, did I feel old, out of touch, and did I mention the vasectomy?
Because Klingons could kill your son, too ... "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country — Special Collectors Edition" (Paramount, 1991, PG) was the last movie with the whole original cast, and the last worth the corbomite to blow it to hell. Erudite director Nicholas Meyer (who helped make "II" and "IV" favorites) says creator Gene Roddenberry hated the premise, because he envisioned a boring "Trek" future without conflict, let alone bigotry. But in an edgy (for them) allegory of the fall of the Soviet Union, Kirk hates the Klingons for his loss, then gets sent with McCoy to a prison planet when their chancellor gets assassinated after a booze-soaked peace summit.
Meanwhile, Spock and Vulcan protégé Kim Cattrall try to solve the murder mystery. It's hard to see Cattrall in Vulcan drag after "Sex and the City" without expecting her to state the logic of fornication or something.
Anyhow, the double-disc set's wealth of extras includes Meyer's commentary and a tribute to the late DeForest "Bones" Kelly.
An evil child drives "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea" (Image, 1976, R). From the Yukio Mishima novel, it's a prime example of weird, risky, grown-up '70s filmmaking not cynically calculated to wring out every cent possible. A member of a sadistic gang of kids who only call each other by number, the boy spies on his widowed mom (Sarah Miles) and the manly sailor (Kiris Kristofferson) she falls for. Racy sex for the time, and a creepy ending nearly in the same class as the one in "The Wicker Man."
Disney rolls out another treasure trove with "Alice in Wonderland — The Masterpiece Edition" (1951, G): The frenetic cartoon of Lewis Carroll's classic stands up refreshingly well as a surreal, funny, musical head trip — with no tiresome Message. Games, sing-alongs, an old Mickey cartoon, a newly added Cheshire Cat song and vintage TV shows are included.
"Le Divorce" (Fox, PG-13): A dull, pointless misfire from culture darlings Merchant-Ivory — who must have been looking for an excuse for a Paris junket. Kate Hudson arrives there to visit pregnant sister Naomi Watts just as her husband leaves her; his new mistress's crazy husband (Matthew Modine) stalks them; the weasel's aristo-in-laws try to glom the girls' family heirloom painting; and Hudson has an affair with older-man Thierry Lhermitte. The message I drew from all this: Pregnancy starts trouble. Anyhow, trust me: You will not care.
"House of the Dead" (Artisan, R): Based on the zombie-shooting arcade game, it makes "Resident Evil" look like high art.
A crusty captain named Kirk (Jurgen Prochnow) takes a group of young people to a Puget Sound island for a rave. They find, shoot and get chomped on by the athletic undead. Putrid.
"Comic Book — the Movie" (Miramax, PG-13): A paunchy, bearded Mark Hamill, completely freed from any cool of "Star Wars," directs and stars in a low-rent mockumentary set at a real comic convention. Clever fake history for faux character Commander Courage, and a few star cameos. All but hard-core geeks should treat it like kryptonite.
"Radio" (Columbia Tristar, PG): Let's see, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a "mentally challenged" guy befriended by high-school football coach Ed Harris, becomes the team mascot and touches the lives of those around him with a lesson of kindness or something. I'm sorry. I just couldn't face it.
Unrated TV: From Columbia, "Dilbert — The Complete Series" and "The Critic — Complete Series"; "Friends" season six (Warner); from A&E, Gerry Anderson's "Terrahawks — The Complete Series."
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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