Your Government at Work

Nov 23, 2005 at 4:00 am
Punishment Park (New Yorker Video)

This 1971 movie from director Peter Watkins could have been made yesterday, which is no doubt why it finally sees video release long after accruing cult status. Born of the filmmaker's outrage over the Kent State killings, the war in Vietnam, and other abominations of the era, Punishment Park resonates like some brand-new thing in the shadow of the Patriot Act. The story's chillingly simple: The U.S. government has all but eradicated civil liberties and has allowed cops to round up dissidents (writers, war protesters, folks who attend poetry readings) and take them out to a Southern California park for secret tribunals, where they're summarily convicted of treason. Then they're set loose in the desert for a perverse game of Capture the (American) Flag, given a two-hour jump on cops, and promised that if they make it to their destination, they'll be freed -- which they, and we, know is a sham. The disc's essential extras include the filmmaker's own 28-minute intro, but the movie's terrifying enough without the explanations. -- Robert Wilonsky

Aeon Flux: The Complete

Animated Collection (MTV/Paramount)

Aeon Flux, MTV's gun-totin', scantily clad assassin from the future, was a pure exercise of immense hyperkinetic style over substance. The 10 22-minute episodes on this collection's first two discs look great: all animated sex and violence, with a strange sci-fi sheen. It's too bad the story lines are mush. Much better are the early, wordless Liquid Television shorts included on the third disc, each one ending (or beginning) with Aeon's death; they're far more satisfying than the later episodes' full courses of eye candy. The documentaries and numerous commentaries by creator Peter Chung are for hardcore fans only. -- Jordan Harper

Ozzfest 10th Anniversary (Clear Channel)

The title's a little misleading -- this isn't a 10-year retrospective, but the DVD companion to the 2005 tour, with a few reflections along the way, including Sharon Osbourne congratulating herself for originating this headbanging antidote to Lollapalooza. Thankfully, there's a "Performances Only" feature that allows you to skip the talking and stick with the bands, who mostly give off some high-energy tunes (the accompanying CD features most of these). You'll see Jada Pinkett-Smith's band, Wicked Wisdom, get flipped off and booed (as politely as she brushes it off, the reaction hints that Ozzfest is hardly as diverse as its organizers claim), and you'll see lackluster performances from Rob Zombie (stick to movies, Rob!). But Black Sabbath is irresistible, despite Ozzy's desperate begging for cheers. Bonus features include a typically incoherent interview with the Ozzman and a hilarious anecdote from Zakk Wylde about Ozzy's last hospital stay. -- Luke Y. Thompson

The Best & Worst of American Idol: Seasons 1-4 (Capital Enterprises)

This three-disc collection, including an oxymoronically titled bonus disc featuring Bo Bice's homecoming and an interview with Paula Abdul, consists of moments fans will covet: There's Kelly Clarkson's audition, and there's William Hung, she-bangin' it through the Ricky Martin . . . uh . . . classic? And there's everything in between: two renditions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by clowns who learned the lyrics tomorrow, assorted other creeps and schmucks trying to impress (or at least threaten) the judges, and the eventual winners from each season. The set is docked at least one star for including the "audition" of Christopher Noll, who turned out to be MTV comedian Chris Wylde pulling a fast one. But if you miss Vonzelle and Fantasia, this collection is for you. -- Wilonsky