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American Gangster (R)
Universal Home Entertainment

I skipped this much-ballyhooed epic in theaters and now, after finishing a viewing on DVD, I believe I made a wise choice. Completely overrated, the overblown American Gangster follows the life of crime boss Frank Lucas, who floods the streets of Harlem with high-grade heroin while good-cop Richie Roberts heads up the anti-drug task force that takes him down. Clocking in at over three hours (90 minutes of which could easily have been excised), it's not a movie as much as it is an exercise in Denzel Washington overacting at every opportunity and Russell Crowe straining to be "earnest" and failing with every line. The two-disc special edition adds 18 more minutes to the movie (yeah!), as well as feature-length "making of" docs that I didn't even attempt. Louis Fowler


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Walker (R)
Criterion Collection

Punk director Alex Cox best known for Repo Man and Sid and Nancy directed this unappreciated, anachronistic masterpiece in 1987, where it's been languishing since. It's based on the true story of William Walker (Ed Harris), a 19th-century soldier of fortune who invaded Nicaragua with 57 men and named himself president in the name of manifest destiny. Over time, he becomes madly corrupt and leads his men to fiery deaths. Undoubtedly Cox's most gorgeous film, it's an epic that gets so surreal helicopters and copies of Newsweek show up that it's easy to see why people didn't get it. Think Peckinpah by way of Jodorowsky an acid Western, if you will. As always, Criterion succeeds in presenting this as the treasure it is, with intensely packed special features. Louis Fowler


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Tragic Ceremony (NR)
Dark Sky Films

If there's one thing the 1970s Italian film industry was good at, it was making films (especially horror films) seem better than they really were. After sexy print advertising campaigns promised "shocks" and masterfully cut trailers provided mucho atmosphere, the films themselves often proved letdowns. Such is the case with Tragic Ceremony, a long-bootlegged title finally out legitimately on Dark Sky Films. A group of super clean-cut hippies, who drive a sweet dune buggy, discover a villa filled with Satanic goings-on that they get murderously mixed-up in or do they? High on style but lacking sense or substance, Tragic Ceremony is a tragic shame, offering nothing but boredom on its sacrificial altar. Still, it's better than many horror flicks out there today. Louis Fowler
  • American Gangster, Walker, Tragic Ceremony.

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