Check out the virtual-reality ancestor of Avatar, Max Headroom.
Created a quarter-century ago on British television as a kind of performance-art MTV-style talking-head host, the stuttering, waxy-headed, virtual-reality persona Max Headroom was cursed when he arrived on American television. Futuristic, cynical, and innovative, the show Max Headroom was, of course, canceled halfway through its first season. This set includes the whole fourteen-episode arc, starring Matt Frewer as a rabble-rousing investigative TV reporter who suffers a motorcycle accident — and then downloads his mind into an avatar so he can keep doing his work. James Cameron might recognize that plot point (not that this show invented it) — and the show hit so many topics that sci-fi showrunners are still digging into, without this show’s high-energy sense of Cronenberg-ian media satire: brain-altering advertisements that could cause a person to explode; genetically- altered designer babies; identity thieves; corporations implant dreams in consumers’ minds; cops who crack down on kids that pirate educational programs; and media-savvy terrorists. No matter what, though, the show was doomed to fail: In 1987, it debuted mid-season against two shows you may remember — Dallas and Miami Vice.
Meet Michel Gondry’s family in The Thorn in the Heart.
This beautifully produced DVD is handmade auteur Michel Gondry’s intimate tribute to his aunt Suzette, a devoted, almost epically kind teacher who seemed to inspire everyone around her — Michel included — but who has always struggled most with her own, strange son. The film is meditative and quietly moving — and low on Gondry’s lo-fi pyrotechnics (though there’s one fabulous shot of Suzette’s schoolkids running around in green-screened “invisibility suits”).
Judge the Colin Farrell comeback tour for yourself in Triage.
Miami Vice and Alexander marked wicked lows for Farrell, and ever since he’s been struggling to rebuild his career with indie films (In Bruges) and supporting roles (Crazy Heart). Danis Tanovic’s PTSD drama about a war photographer did no business in theaters — but proves that Farrell, as an adrenaline junkie grappling with the ugliness of Kurdistan, still has the chops to be an A-list star again.
Start out your Terry Zwigoff double feature with Crumb.
It’s a Terry Zwigoff twofer this week, with new releases of his first film, Louie Bluie (about black string band player Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong) and Crumb, this definitively weird portrait of once-underground comics legend R. Crumb and his deeply strange family.
Chuckle along gently with Tina Fey and Steve Carell in Date Night.
A must-see for parents, if not anyone else: If you’re looking to save on the babysitter fee and spend a quiet, amiable night in, there’s probably no less objectionable way to spend it than watching the born-to-be-mild comedy Date Night (which seems ripped straight from the wholesome late-eighties) on your couch, while Tina Fey and Steve Carell pretend to get tied up in a wacky crime plot.
Also out this week: Louie Bluie; Death at a Funeral; Multiple Sarcasms; The Good Heart; Helen; The Joneses; My Name is Khan; Numb3rs: The Sixth Season; Tapped; Trauma: Season 1.