A roundup of the current best and rest in DVD. In this installment: Kubrick Triple Feature (Full Metal Jacket/A Clockwork Orange/2001: A Space Odyssey), Straight Time, The Yakuza, Lust for Life, Body Heat.

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Kubrick Triple Feature (Warner Bros, $29.95)
“We are all children of Stanley Kubrick,” says Martin Scorsese; watch Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey, cheaply assembled by Warner Bros, and see three reasons why. A riveting and moving condemnation of the Vietnam War, Full Metal Jacket rates alongside Kubrick’s Paths of Glory and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Redux as one of the greatest anti-war films. Adapting Vietnam vet Gustav Hasford’s novel The Short- Timers, Kubrick tells his two-act narrative innovatively. The first act tells of a group of grunts in a marine boot camp led by the ferocious drill instructor Hartman (the terrific Lee Ermey, who did this job for real during the war). Hartman’s goal is to dehumanise the men, to turn them into conscienceless killing machines; his method consists of horrendous, appallingly funny physical and psychological abuse. Private Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio), an unfortunate, obese klutz, becomes his main target. In the second act, the grunts go to Vietnam to fight. The focus is on Private Joker (Matthew Modine), Pyle’s only friend, who is writing for a military newspaper. The horror, insanity and senselessness of the war are clear; Joker becomes revolted by the system. In one of Full Metal Jacket’s two pivotal scenes, D’Onofrio’s manic Pyle evokes Alex in A Clockwork Orange; there are a number of allusions to Kubrick’s consummate body of work here; most fitting given it’s his last masterpiece. Triple Feature new to DVD. (optional English subtitles; 3-disc set).

Blood Diamond: Leo DiCaprio packs a mean Afrikaans accent and a terrific, complex, witty character in this diamond-hard actioner. Girl With a Pearl Earring’s Eduardo Serra’s cinematography is ravishing. The politics are commendable, too, albeit it almost goes kumbaya at the end. The West Wing—The Complete Season 6: Wouldn’t it be nice... the rose-tinted vision of American politics keeps the faith. Jed is Jed, the dialogue is (coke) snappy and even the Republican contenda (Alan Alda) seems like a good man. Girls of the Playboy Mansion: Boring. And shouldn’t the inside lowdown of the Heff-house rate more than M?—Alexander Bisley

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Straight Time (Warner Bros, $9.95)
Belying their bargain bin status, Warner Bros’ latest back catalogue reissues – vintage steals at $9.95 apiece (in comparison, the equivalent DVDs list for US$14.95 on Amazon.com) – come equipped with special features you’d expect to pay much more for. The retail philosophy of ‘marking up’ to present the illusion of quality might be lost on the studio, but who’s complaining? In Straight Time, Dustin Hoffman plays a career criminal with a great double act: so convincing (or deceiving?) is he initially as a hard-luck con determined to lead a life of normality, that you root for him despite the best efforts of a sleaze-bag parole officer (M. Emmet Walsh) to sabotage his earnest reform. Soon, he’s back in the slammer on a bullshit violation; once freed, it’s fuck it to going straight, and the film’s doomed trajectory sets in. Together with Harry Dean Stanton and the baby-faced naivety of Theresa Russell in tow, Hoffman sets about breaking, entering and scoring. Ulu Grosbard, whose ceaseless eye captures everything that breaths and moves, delivers the same impeccable direction seen in True Confessions and Georgia, while in a minor claim to fame, can declare his film’s key heist sequence as a reference point for that bank robbery scene in Heat. New to DVD. (optional English subtitles; commentary by Dustin Hoffman and Ulu Grosbard; vintage featurette).

The Yakuza (Warner Bros, $9.95)
Flying in the face of crude foreign excursions like Black Rain and The Last Samurai, The Yakuza throws every preconceived notion of Hollywood’s cultural ignorance out the window with a distilled, cautious – but nevertheless, electrifying – handle on the volatile austerity of Japan’s criminal underground. A far cry from the eccentric and sadistic hoodlums that populate Takashi Miike and Kinji Fukasaku’s yakuza gangbangs, Sydney Pollack’s thriller carries a ceremonial authenticity, and a mindful respect for the codes of honour and loyalty that recall the best samurai pictures, and in turn American westerns. The Yakuza, of course, remain a mysterious entity despite being the subject of numerous movies. Justifiably, then, that this depiction considers itself a neo-noir, where the iconography of shadowy recesses and post-war scepticism is warped into the clandestine mystique of a ritualised, organized crime world. Robert Mitchum, displaying sensitivity for the Japanese tradition and an aptitude for the local dialect, is matched in charisma by the great Ken Takakura, who recently thawed his tough exterior in Zhang Yimou’s Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles. The pair, each burdened with a moral debt to one another, embroil themselves in a yakuza conflict, and we get some terrific action sequences as a result: blending firearms and swordplay, they’re as violent and tersely stylised as a Takeshi Kitano film. Elsewhere, Paul Schrader and Robert Towne scripted; Schrader would go on write Taxi Driver, before renewing his fascination with Japan by directing the superb Mishma. New to DVD. (optional English subtitles; commentary by Sydney Pollack; vintage featurette).

Also available for pocket change from the Warner Bros. archives: Lust For Life, a typically rotund studio biopic with Kirk Douglas as the tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh. Douglas’ lusty performance is committed (teeth gritting ‘n’ all), but rather excitable and over-the-top, and feels outmoded when contrasted against future portrayals in Robert Altman’s Vincent and Theo (Tim Roth) and Maurice Pialat’s sublime and unsurpassed Van Gogh (Jacques Dutronc). Vincente Minnelli’s rendition of the oft-told story has its best moments when Anthony Quinn is on-screen; he plays Paul Gauguin, and there’s potent chemistry with Douglas whenever an argument erupts over brush strokes, textured skylines, and various other creative differences.

Lawrence Kasden’s Body Heat also sweats great chemistry: William Hurt and Kathleen Turner’s fatal attraction literally perspires before us, so much so that film’s the lens seems constantly fogged in soft focus by the humidity of their affair. Taking the Double Indemnity conceit and running with it, this manages to forge an individuality all of its own by substituting the black and white paranoia of classic film noir for a stifling climate that literally gets under the skin. The four aforementioned DVDs all come supplemented with either audio commentaries, vintage featurettes, or both – at less than the price of a movie ticket, the consumer benefits of a high NZ dollar indeed.—Tim Wong