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New Releases: 'The House I Live In' takes a passionate look at war on drugs

January 12, 2013|By Noel Murray
  • Larry Cearly in a scene from the documentary "The House I Live In."
Larry Cearly in a scene from the documentary "The House I Live In." (Abramorama )

The House I Live In

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 15

Eugene Jarecki's incendiary documentary "The House I Live In" takes a look at the history of America's war on drugs and considers how it's influenced the state of the nation's prisons, finances and families. Jarecki traveled the country and talked with dealers, convicts, cops, jailers and grieving mothers, prompted by his relationship with an old friend whose son was destroyed by drugs. Jarecki's approach can be too diffuse and too personal at times, but for the most part, "The House I Live In" connects its anecdotes to hard data, showing how the drug war has become a self-sustaining business, where the government seizes money from dealers and uses it to buy more prison beds, thus necessitating more arrests. Whether or not viewers agree with Jarecki's conclusions, it's hard to deny his passion as he argues that the drug war has never been about drugs but about controlling the underclass.

To Rome With Love

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 15

The warm box office reception of Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" carried over to its follow-up, "To Rome With Love," which weaves together four lightly comic stories of romance and fame, starring Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page and Roberto Benigni, among others. Critics were less kind, with many dismissing the film as another Allen pastiche of vaudeville patter and '60s European art movies (this time heavy on the Fellini). But while it's far from Allen's tightest endeavor — even by the slack standards of his last two decades — on the whole it's an enjoyable, eventful little Roman holiday.

OSCARS 2013: Complete list | Snubs & surprises | Ballot | Oscar WatchTimeline

The Tin Drum

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Unlike the previous Criterion DVD of Volker Schlöndorff's Cannes- and Oscar-winning 1979 film "The Tin Drum," the new DVD and Blu-ray offer lengthy interviews that consider how Schlöndorff adapted Günter Grass' absurdist allegorical novel about a boy who protests the nationalist fervor of his German elders by refusing to grow any bigger — rather than dwelling on the controversy over the movie's more provocative scenes. The presence of a young-looking character in decidedly adult situations led to "The Tin Drum" being banned briefly in some cities, but cooler heads eventually prevailed, and Criterion's shift in focus for the new editions may be a welcome sign that people are ready to go back to considering the film first and foremost as a superb literary adaptation and an accomplished example of the '70s German New Wave.

Wake in Fright

Image/Drafthouse, $27.97; Blu-ray, $29.97

The 1971 Australian suspense film "Wake in Fright" was a Cannes-approved critical favorite that all but disappeared from public view after its initial release, until the negative was discovered and restored in the mid-'00s. Now available on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time (complete with featurettes about the film's long journey back, and a commentary track by director Ted Kotcheff), "Wake in Fright" more than lives up to its reputation, telling a twisty story about a teacher stranded in a violent Outback mining town that gets darker and stranger by the day. Picture a classic "Twilight Zone" episode enhanced by "anything goes" Ozploitation gaminess — that's what makes "Wake in Fright" a classic, now getting its belated due.

And…

Detropia

Docurama, $29.95

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 15

Farewell, My Queen

E1/Cohen, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 15

The Other Dream Team

Lionsgate, $24.98

The Possession

Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 15

Taken 2

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD beginning Jan. 15

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