Couch Trip

Apr 23, 2008 at 12:00 am

Blonde and Blonder
First Look Pictures

Forget about the tree falling in the forest — what good's making the world's worst movie if no one can sit through it?

You hate to bring personal proclivi-uh-titties into a DVD review, but does executive producer Pamela Anderson take even less care and consideration choosing movie scripts than she does hubbies? You can't annul a movie — although that'd make a hell of a DVD extra, as would an audio track where each gag that falls flat is marked with a thud and a groan. Pam has done cameos (and been funny) in enough of these movie spoofs of current flicks to know that you need ... I dunno ... writers, maybe, to pull off a Dumb and Dumber meets Legally Blonde comedy-combo. Instead, she and Denise Richards (yeah, right: old and older) appear as if they're trying improv and can't quite master it. In a scene too awful to have even been typed out, they get all girly and high-pitched about Anderson's farting pet turtle and about how miraculously "The Clapper" works. Even worse is the sinking feeling that the farting turtle might have been a later add-on. Through a series of missteps, the clumsy pair gets mistaken for a world-renowned female assassin (the way hotter Emmanuelle Vaugier) that no one's ever seen before, an implausible pre-Internet plot premise that has me thinking this could be an old unused Monkees script. God bless the supporting cast; they earn their daily crust making this enterprise seem as smooth and professional as it is unfunny. For them, it's probably just a blip on their résumé. For Anderson, it's just a sad reminder that the Mae West years are already encroaching and all there is to look forward to is senility, remarrying Rick Salomon and maybe remaking Sextette.
—Serene Dominic

Inecom Entertainment Company

Whether it's an oscillating fan or a refrigerator with matching dishwasher, they're the shiny promises of a life with less drudgery. And few home appliance manufacturers are as synonymous with the home as Westinghouse. Savvy kitsch collectors still hunt for durable and timeless Westinghouse devices today, online or at antique stores and markets. Sound boring? Well, it isn't. At least not in this new doc, which offers a rose-tinted but detailed look into life of George Westinghouse Jr., the inventor and industrialist whose accomplishments extend far beyond your granny's old roaster pan or her pastel-tinted mixer.

By age 19, in the mid-1860s, Westinghouse had his first patent for a rotary steam engine. Soon he had many patents for inventions that would revolutionize railroads and train safety. Then it was the manufacturing of these parts in Pennsylvania that started the Westinghouse juggernaut rolling. But unlike other manufacturing giants of his day, Westinghouse did the unthinkable — he valued his employees. He outfitted his factories with proper ventilation and sprinkler systems, ensured that his workers lived in well-built homes that they could buy or rent. Sure, director-writer Mark Brussler paints Westinghouse as one too good to be true. What? No personal demons or closeted skeletons? Apparently not; Brussler's doc eschews tabloid fodder in favor of the old-fashioned American struggle between good (the down-to-earth Westinghouse) and evil (the better-known Thomas Edison). The conflict — dubbed "Battle of the Currents" — saw each man trumpeting a different type of electrical current for household use. This rivalry involved Nikola Tesla, who joined Westinghouse after getting stiffed by Edison while working for General Electric in Europe. (The falling-out was referenced in 2006's The Prestige.) Edison, you'll note, was an energetic self-promoter; this doc features some rather startling footage of Edison at a prisoner's death in an electric chair. (Who says there's no such thing as bad publicity?)

But Westinghouse's alternating current system obviously won the day. And Westinghouse's products are still around today, though they aren't what they used to be — the name and logo are owned by CBS.

This doc features some great archival photos and film, as well an extended interview with William H. Terbo, the grandnephew and closest living relative of Nikola Tesla. Westinghouse shows a winning blend of education and nostalgia that ultimately succeeds because it reminds us that a corporate president can find success without placing profit margins above treating his employees well. —Paul Knoll

Right at Your Door
Lions Gate DVD

Upon seeing the guy in the biohazard suit in front of the Hollywood sign on the cover, I naturally thought this was gonna be a sympathetic look at film critics. But nah, it's about a series of dirty bombs rocking Los Angeles and the rest of the country — none of which have anything to do with Lindsay Lohan. These days, directors can press the post-9/11 panic button and let regurgitated fears carry the film, but first-time writer-director Chris Gorak jacks up the anxiety by restricting the doomsday scenario to suburban outskirts. And he pares it down to three main characters, a stay-at-home husband and musician (Rory Cochrane), his breadwinner wife (Mary McCormack), who's working in an area where the bombs go off, and the neighbor's gardener, who takes refuge in the couple's home, just in time to help out with the duct tape and protective tarp.

When the wife returns home that night, the couple is further mindfucked by a series of questions no Newlywed Game contestants have ever been forced to answer: Husbands, should you keep your wife out of the house after she's been contaminated? Do you tell your mother-in-law her daughter's out of harm's way or do you cry and hang up? Is it love or self-preservation if you're trying to get her medical help? Where's the most apocalyptic place you and your wife will say you've made whoopee? OK, there's no sex here, but plenty of guilt and remorse, plus a surprise twist at the end that even Chubby Checker wouldn't see coming — but Twilight Zone fans with an eye for unfair instant karma might. This nifty thriller took Grand Jury honors at the 2006 Sundance only to gross a whopping $64,000 at the box office. But now you can enjoy the paranoia at home with suitable provisions. The DVD extras include the scripts for a pair of alternative endings, neither of which include a hubby who gets a job and grows some balls. —Serene Dominic