Digging in the Dirt

Jan 4, 2006 at 4:00 am
Broken Flowers (Universal Home Entertainment)

Bill Murray, who long ago swapped manic kineticism for melancholy deadpan, is once more mired in a middle-aged funk; what else is new? As Don Johnston, an aging lothario whose latest young girlfriend is walking out as the audience is just settling in, Murray's on a reluctant quest to find the ex-girlfriend whose penned-on-pink-paper missive informs him he's a daddy and has been for years. Along the way he sleeps with Sharon Stone, eats with Frances Conroy, walks with Jessica Lange, and ducks from Tilda Swinton . . . and finds no answers, except that he's got nothing to show for his wealthy, miserable life. The movie's sweet and terribly sad; the closest Don comes to having a moment with an old girlfriend is when he cuddles up to her soggy tombstone. Murray's doing doleful in his sleep now -- sometimes it actually looks like he's dozing -- but that's Jim Jarmusch's thing, offering up tiny, wry chuckles with the poker face of the Serious Artist. Alas, no commentary here, just some pointless outtakes and the short "Farmhouse," in which Jarmusch offers a few observations over what sounds like a transistor radio. -- Robert Wilonsky

The Valachi Papers (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

This 1972 gangster pic, starring Charles Bronson as the real-life chauffeur for the mob whose congressional testimony led to the Peter Maas book that led to the movie, is at once thrilling and leaden. With its flashback narration, it plays a little like a precursor to GoodFellas, but it has none of that movie's zip; Terence Young directs for the small screen, if that. Bronson's good as the movie's guilty conscience, but the rest of the cast look and sound like extras from Goombah Central Casting; no t'anks, see? -- Wilonsky

The Mob Box (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

This collection of moldy oldies -- Bugsy, Snatch, and Donnie Brasco, only the latter two bearing any extras -- is schizophrenic at best and just plain cynical at worst; who, precisely, digs both the frenetic cartoon-comedy of Snatch and the turgid melodrama of Bugsy? (Snatch is also out this week in another crass marketing ploy: The "deluxe edition" offers the same double-disc goodies as 2001's "special edition," only now you get playing cards and a poker-game dealer button; as they say in the movie, "Whoops.") The only notable add-on to this box is the short 1992 doc The American Gangster, a previously unavailable intro to bad men, filled with old newsreel footage and the narration of Dennis Farina, who won't shut up. -- Wilonsky

Cloud 9 (Fox)

Burt Reynolds has made worse movies than this; after seeing this direct-to-Beta debacle, I just wish I could remember what they are. At least he puts his all into what's clearly one more paycheck gig for the old pro (prostitute, not professional); no one tries harder with less than the former Cosmo pinup, who long ago pissed away his cred (and Boogie Nights comeback) by taking icky jobs like this one, in which he plays a broke-ass moocher who assembles a handful of strippers (including Angie Everhart) to play beach volleyball against the likes of Gabrielle Reece. Also ducking their heads in the sand are D.L. Hughley and Paul Rodriguez, the former as a chauffeur who's also Reynolds' foster son and the latter as a Hispanic nursery owner pretending to be an Asian nursery owner. Bonus: Cloud 9 was directed by Harry Basil, whose last offering starred Matthew Modine and a monkey. -- Wilonsky

Cloud 9