The Disc Jockey 

No good comes from this Hood; Head-On and Nobody Knows arrive on DVD

Given the current mini-Renaissance afoot in zombie cinema, it isn't that out of the ordinary to expect something unique from a title like Hood of the Living Dead.
Given the current mini-Renaissance afoot in zombie cinema, it isn't that out of the ordinary to expect something unique from a title like Hood of the Living Dead. It is a zombie film that takes place in Oakland, California, dealing with a primarily black and Latino cast, and it does feature some political thought. Namely: white folks don't care; drugs are bad for the community; white girls are corrupting the souls of black men; people with senses of racial entitlement are going to get their asses eaten by the undead; some neighbors just ignore it when you shoot something seven or eight times in the driveway; and 911 is a joke, if you're calling about zombies. Unfortunately, these political perspectives are merely stated as text, as abruptly shoehorned in as the Wayans brothers' recursive "Message!" in Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood. Oakland is the neighborhood that central character Ricky (Carl Washington, from the clown-on-a-killing-spree-in-the-hood classic Killjoy) wants to escape, taking his younger brother Jermaine with him. Unfortunately, Ricky's sense of moral absolutism sets in motion a chain of events that leaves Jermaine dead from a drive-by shooting. Did I mention that Ricky is a brilliant research scientist who works in a lab that has one computer, two mice and three beakers? Because he is, and he and his buddy/coworker Scott are working for The Man, developing a serum to regenerate ailing and dead cells. Ricky injects Jermaine with some of the untested regenerate formula, and before you know it, you've got four or five zombies, frothing at the face. There's very little gore, violence, or suspense. The three or four funny lines all come within the first eight minutes. (When a lab supervisor asks Scott what he's doing, he replies, “Having a little breakfast; reading about Cuba.”) After that, it’s all ceaseless, witless profanity. Worse, the writer-director Quiroz Brothers never deliver on the promise of their title (or even their key art). The image of dozens of minority zombies rising up against gangbangers and drug dealers and ineffectual police would be incredibly potent and deliciously subversive. Instead, Hood’s boring gangsta zombies just avenge old scores while getting some of whatever gets in their way. Image Entertainment's DVD presents the film in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks like most shot-on-video efforts. There are many compression artifacts and the colors are inconsistent. The 2-channel audio track comes alive only for the occasional hip-hop cut on the soundtrack, while the dialogue is regrettably audible. Ten minutes of outtakes show the players had some fun making the film, which is most likely the only fun that will be had in association with Hood of The Living Dead. —Jason Shawhan New in stores Nobody Knows (MGM, $29.95) A quietly devastating film based on a Japanese scandal, “The Affair of the Four Abandoned Children of Nishi-Sugamo,” in which four children were left alone by their mother to raise themselves in a cramped apartment. The gifted director, Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life), understands the initial appeal of the situation—it’s a kid’s dream to do nothing but play video games and drink soda every day. But with a documentarian’s eye and a humanist’s concern, Kore-eda watches as the kids’ idyll succumbs to entropy: the trash piles up, the bills go unpaid, and soon the 14-year-old son is begging discarded sushi for his starving siblings. The final freeze-frame calls to mind another movie about neglected youth in crisis, The 400 Blows—that’s the company in which Kore-eda’s beautiful film belongs. Extras: none, the sorry bastards. Head-On (Strand, $24.99) The perfect date movie for everyone who’s ever pondered the Buzzcocks’ immortal question: ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with? A twitching downed wire of a movie, writer-director Fatih Akin’s amour fou demolition derby starts as a scuzzed-out variation on that screwball staple, the comedy of romantic pursuit: as a way out of her smothering Turkish-German family, a suicidal woman (Sibel Kekilli, in a star-making performance) proposes a sexless marriage of convenience to a surly, scraggly German Turk (Birol Unel) she meets in a psych ward. The result would be pure sitcom if the characters ever acted out of plot convenience, but the impulsive, self-destructive leads yank the movie out of its predictable orbit. You’d have to go back to Jonathan Demme’s whirligig Something Wild to find a film that shifted gears so nimbly from farce to violence to heartbreak, with only the periodic bleating of a Turkish wedding band to warn of dangerous curves ahead. When the movie’s over, you feel like you’ve been somewhere. Extras: outtakes, deleted scenes and a featurette. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (Paramount, $29.99) If you can’t wait until Monday for Martin Scorsese’s two-part, three-hour Dylan documentary to air locally on NPT—and frankly, we can’t—pick up the disc, which includes bonus full-length performances of briefly glimpsed songs such as “Girl of the North Country” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Extras: an unused promotional spot for “Positively 4th Street” (good luck promoting that one), a clip of Dylan in a hotel room at work on “I Can’t Leave Her Behind.” Naked (Criterion, $39.95) Mike Leigh’s raw, scathing black comedy about sex, homelessness, class distinction and violence in contemporary London, powered by David Thewlis’s electrifying performance as a furiously articulate thug making the rounds in an edgy nightworld. Extras: an audio commentary with Leigh, Thewlis and the late Katrin Cartlidge (recorded for the 1994 laserdisc); Leigh’s 1987 film “The Short and Curlies” with Thewlis; an appreciation by filmmaker Neil LaBute; a half-hour interview with Leigh conducted by novelist Will Self.

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