- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Some may argue that convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos’ murderous tale of woe already has been done to death, via a 1992 TV movie and a pair of documentaries. Yet debuting writer-director Patty Jenkins’ dramatized take on the topic, Monster (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment, $26.95), packs a devastating wallop in its own right. It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

Once you get past her much-publicized weight gain and extreme facial makeup, you have to give glamour gal Charlize Theron major credit for the Oscar-winning acting chops she displays here. Her portrayal of Wuornos as a seething dreamer whose razor-edged emotional pendulum swings from obsessive love to sudden lethal rage leaves the viewer fairly begging for mercy.

Auteur Jenkins’ perceptive, soulful, straightforward narrative picks up career highway hooker Aileen at one of her life’s many low points, with money scarce and self-esteem nonexistent. Aileen’s first shooting is basically in self-defense, but she discovers that mortal act unexpectedly satisfying — at least as much as the money she steals from her “victim” — and killing quickly becomes a way of life.

Christina Ricci also turns in strong work here as Selby, Aileen’s shy lesbian lover and reluctant confidante, and old pros Bruce Dern and Scott Wilson shine in supporting performances.

Miss Jenkins expertly captures central Florida’s sultry, seedy milieu and nails many an unpleasant truth about the country’s closeted caste system, most achingly rendered during uneducated Aileen’s humiliating bids to secure gainful employment. While light on DVD extras, “Monster” emerges as an often harsh but deeply powerful experience.

Phantom recently spoke with Miss Jenkins about the need for Miss Theron’s radical makeover.

“People treat what they consider to be an unattractive woman very differently than they do an attractive one,” she says. “I didn’t want to do this in that Hollywood way of contradicting everything about the character with the way the actress looks. Still,” she admits, “I was shocked the first time I saw Charlize, with the teeth and the contact lenses, at how unbelievably far we’d come.”

Anyone doubting the accuracy of that transformation should also view Nick Broomfield’s shattering documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, available singly ($19.95) or in a two-pack with “Monster” ($39.95 total).

The ‘A’ list

In a lighter vein, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment introduces the “tween” heist caper Catch That Kid ($27.98) this week. Dreamworks Entertainment aims for a slightly older crowd with the road romp Eurotrip ($26.99), and Miramax Home Entertainment looks for laughs with My Baby’s Daddy ($29.99), with Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson and Michael Imperioli.

Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment releases the dance drama The Company, arriving with two featurettes, extended dance sequences and an audio commentary by director Robert Altman and star Neve Campbell. The label goes the direct-to-DVD route with the sci-fi sequel Starship Troopers 2, also landing this week in an extras-packed edition. The discs are tagged at $26.98 each.

Paramount Home Video piles on the extras in Paycheck ($29.99), John Woo’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi short story, starring Ben Affleck. Extras include two commentary tracks, featurettes and extended and deleted scenes.

Tele-video

Two old-school action series make their digital debuts this week via Warner Home Video: Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete First Season and Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman: The Complete First Season (both three-DVD sets, $39.98 each), with bonuses ranging from select audio commentaries to behind-the-scenes featurettes.

In a more contemporary vein, the label presents Smallville: The Complete Second Season ($59.98) in a six-disc set with a full raft of extras, including commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

Shout Factory returns to the ‘80s with the Soleil Moon Frye showcase Punky Brewster: Season One ($34.98), a four-disc set offering all 23 episodes, cast and crew interviews, and episodes from the animated spinoff series “It’s Punky Brewster.”

Collectors’ corner

MGM Home Entertainment releases James Clavell’s compelling 1971 war fable “The Last Valley,” set in the 17th century and starring Michael Caine and Omar Sharif, along with Sam Peckinpah’s solid 1972 rodeo-circuit character study Junior Bonner, with Robert Preston and Steve McQueen as a close-knit father-son tandem ($14.98 each).

Wolfgang Peterson’s 1981 World War II German submarine classic Das Boot (Columbia/TriStar, $39.95) resurfaces in a fresh double-disc edition featuring the original 293-minute uncut version along with a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Has the gang war movie The Warriors been released on DVD?

J. Salinas, via e-mail

Walter Hill’s 1979 film rumbled onto DVD last December and is available online from Movies Unlimited (moviesunlimited.com, $11.99), among other outlets.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002 or e-mail us at: phanmedia@aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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