Couch Trip

Sep 23, 2009 at 12:00 am

In a Dream 

Documentaries about eccentric artists tend to write themselves, only foundering when the documentarian doesn't have the best access to, or rapport with, his subject. Being the subject's son, Jeremiah Zagar has no problems in this revealing film about his father, Philadelphia mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. Isaiah's public works are themselves worth a movie: at their best, stunning glass-and-paint tapestries spilling across buildings and alleyways; at their oddest, garbage rearranged into vague semblances of art. But it's the artist's personal life, fractured mental state and history of real or perceived abuse that makes In a Dream such a juicy portrait of domestic discontent — and makes the artist seem a bit like the Daniel Johnston of South Philly. Isaiah leaves his faithful wife and muse, Julia, for a young assistant, all while dealing with their son Ezekial's stints in rehab and his own unchecked mental disorders. Names like Isaiah, Ezekial and Jeremiah almost guarantee a drama of biblical proportions, and, even considering the family connection, this is a shockingly candid film. Who can forget Isaiah discussing how he coddles his own shit, as beautiful to him as a flower in bloom? —John Thomason

Important Things with Demetri Martin: Season One
Comedy Central 

Deleted scenes and commentary beef up the first seven episodes of comedian Martin's bizarre sketch and variety program. Each show explores a single theme — like power or brains — with cartoons, prop comedy and music. Pals like David Cross drop by, but it's Martin's weird takes on life that bring the funny. —Michael Galluci 

The Office: Season Five

We still wish they'd drop the whole Jim-Pam romance (the British one worked because they didn't get together until after the show ended), but the show's cast became one of television's tightest during its fifth season — even with boss Michael at a rival paper company. Blu-ray bonuses include more than three hours of deleted scenes and four hilarious webisodes. —Michael Galluci

Magnolia Home Entertainment 

How can you recommend this movie? Well, secretly you hope there isn't some angry mob waiting for you as you walk to your car because you've duped them into watching a "must-see" that they completely hated. Dark parking garages behind newspapers are not a place for hackneyed critics. But you have to go with your gut about a film — mob mentality be damned. 

Shuttle at first appears to be nothing more than your standard chicks-abducted flick. Jules (Cameron Goodman) and Mel (Peyton List) are the two hotties stuck at the nameless airport after a weekend getaway. It's late at night, pouring rain, and Mel's luggage is lost. A shuttle driver (played by the alternately creepy and kind Tony Curran) offers them all a lift home at a reasonable price. When the driver takes a detour into a decrepit and faceless industrial neighborhood, you know the night's headed into real darkness.

Much of what ensues you see coming: the bickering, the crying, the botched escapes, and a villain who's never down no matter how many times he's punched, kicked or stabbed. But Shuttle has more going on below its by-the-numbers surface. Writer-director Edward Anderson leaves an odd trail of breadcrumbs for his audience, seemingly random things you dismissed while screaming for the chicks, "Just run! Forget about your damn friends!" The finale's as exploitative and gut-wrenching as it is logical and surprising. 

Granted, there's been a slew of recent bad movies (Turistas and Wolf Creek) resembling Shuttle that aren't nearly as compelling or well-written. Kudos to Anderson for making one that actually motivates you to go back and re-evaluate what you've seen. If you're in want of a mindless torture film, you'll be let down. So see Shuttle. In the meantime, this crit will avoid dark parking garages. — Paul Knoll