Couch Trip

Gringo Oliver Stone gets all soft-eyed and mushy; Bogart and Brown are back in Blu

Nov 3, 2010 at 12:00 am

South of the Border
Cinema Libre Studio

It coulda-shoulda-woulda been a great doc ... if only it were directed by somebody else. It's not that Oliver Stone's truth-to-power anger isn't in the right place, it's that he's incapable of making a political film without undermining it with his own old-school lefty righteousness. Where Michael Moore's films are a blustery force of muckrucking editorializing, Stone simply fawns over the new Latin American left, going all moon-eyed for political leaders like Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. His brief interview with Raul Castro could be the least informative Q&A to ever appear in a political documentary.

Stone has good points to make — especially in his critique of the media's knee-jerk defense of American — especially, corporate American — interests and their shameless bias, ignorance and distortions against socialist-leaning ideas (Hello, FOX "News"). But he's so star-struck he misses the opportunity to ask any probing questions, not the least of which is how Chavez intends to foster long-term democracy in Venezuela when he's installed himself as the country's de facto president for life. It's a point former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner (who just died) voices in the film, without follow-up.

There's little doubt that something revolutionary (or "Bolivarian" as Stone declares) is going on in South America and, frankly, seeing truly indigenous political leaders rebel against the predatory practices of a wealthy ruling class and the imperialistic tendencies of multinational corporations is both heartening and fascinating. Unfortunately, Stone's self-satisfied fanboy agitprop offers little more than a nave tutorial on a topic that deserves so much more investigation. —Jeff Meyers

The Maltese Falcon
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Two of Humphrey Bogart's best and toughest films, both directed by John Huston, make their Blu-ray debuts in these extras-packed sets. The Maltese Falcon (from 1941) is a crime story bristling with snappy dialogue; The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1947) is about ruthless gold prospectors. Both are timeless classics. Best of all, HD bonuses include Bugs Bunny cartoons! —Michael Gallucci

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

It's never too early to feast on the middle chapter of Peanuts' holy trilogy. And now that it's finally on Blu-ray, we'll be watching in the weeks leading up to Turkey Day. Peppermint Patty is at her self-absorbed best, inviting herself and all of her pals to Charlie's house for Thanksgiving. The meal Snoopy whips up — pretzels, toast, jellybeans and popcorn — shows we're never too old for such a meal. —Michael Gallucci