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Lewis Blows His Top 

Week of October 5, 2006

Lewis Black: Red, White & Screwed (HBO)

Like many other Daily Show success stories, Lewis Black is a comedian made for these times; his facial contortions and verbal tics are expressions of the Bush-era phrase "outrage overload." But unlike other big names in political stand-up right now (David Cross, Bill Maher), Lewis isn't smug and smirking -- he's yelling his goddamn head off. He's also very good at his craft, and Red, White & Screwed is full of big laughs. Unfortunately, our culture moves so quickly that Black's takes on Terri Schiavo and Dick Cheney shooting that guy in the face felt dated long before this performance was committed to DVD. On the plus side: His views on abortion and evolution will feel just as fresh in 20 years. -- Jordan Harper

Kama-Sutra: The Secrets to the Art of Love 3-D (Koch)

This has got to be the only sex guide in the world with a picture of John Cleese inside the box. Sure, it's an ad for another Koch DVD, but nobody ever mistook Monty Python alums for harbingers of carnal bliss. "Erotic" stuff like this is just the worst. It insists that sex isn't dirty, yet displays a prudish fear of anything spicier than a few bendy poses. Just about the first thing out of the narrator's mouth is that sex isn't "about fantasies of domination." Sez you. Some people think that sex isn't about bad new-age music and ridiculous dry-humping too. The folks behind Kama-Sutra may think they're on the outer rim of sexuality, but there's no rimming here. Just straight, simulated copulation with socially acceptable race-mixing (white male/Asian woman). And the 3-D perspective? About as sexy as cardboard glasses. -- Harper

X3: The Last Stand (Fox)

It's probably not a good sign for the main feature that the first thing worth checking out here is a sneak peek at the upcoming Simpsons movie. But sooner or later, you'll get to the third X-Men film, the weakest in the trinity. Brett Ratner ain't no Bryan Singer, who infused X-Men and X2 with unexpected humanity. Ratner's more about the action sequences, which leaves enormous gaps in the . . . whatchacallit . . . storytelling, not to mention sense-making. The ending leaves only an enormous question mark, which the three alternate versions contained here do little to straighten into an exclamation point. Indeed, all the extras -- trailers for lesser Marvel adaptations, a commentary track, some other scenes not worth the 10 minutes it takes to watch them -- suggest the movie itself was hardly much of a bonus. -- Robert Wilonsky

Thank You for Smoking (Fox)

As high-minded political satire, Jason Reitman's adaptation of the book by Chris Buckley is more pleasant than pungent. That was bound to be the result when first-timer Reitman decided to make the film more about the relationship between Big Tobacco spinmeister Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) and his son than Nick's relationship with cigarettes (you never see him smoking one, oddly). Which isn't to say that Reitman hasn't captured the spirit of the novel, but rather than make a movie about the high price of political prevarications, he's made one that begs for morality and conscience. He's the preacher interjecting laughs into the sermon, when Buckley asked only that you choke on the smoke. Might have been different had he kept in the 15 minutes' worth of deleted scenes, some of which are as dark as a lungful of the bad shit. -- Wilonsky

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