Engines Running Hot

Grand Prix

(Warner Bros.)

John Frankenheimer, as underrated as he was brilliant, made a racing picture in 1966 that's yet to be topped 40 years later. James Garner suffered through the director's churlish demands (which Frankenheimer reveals and owns up to in archival footage on one of the documentaries here) to provide the cool heart at the center of this overheated epic about women and cars and the men who like to ride 'em both. The story is damned near as captivating as the racing, but the movie's remembered for its you-are-there realism and not for the love triangle that turns, more or less, into an octagon. One problem with this double-disc set is that the movie itself bleeds over onto the bonus-features disc (what is this, 1998?). Otherwise, buckle up. — Robert Wilonsky

30 Days: Season One

(Fox)

Morgan Spurlock's reality show — a sorta highbrow cross of Survivor, Wife Swap, and Fear Factor — has nothing but the best of intentions. Problem is, it's less about the people at the heart of the setups (the mom forced to drink-drank-drunk in front of her college kid, the homophobe shacking up with a gay guy in San Francisco) than about Spurlock himself, who, ambition and intentions aside, shows up more often than not to remind us how ignorant and petty and fortunate we are. He's got a point: You can't watch the episode in which Spurlock and his girlfriend live (just barely) on minimum wage without feeling the pangs of rage and guilt. But it all feels like one enormous lecture dolled up as a stunt — the proselytizing of the Oscar nominee trying to prove he's more than yesterday's fast food. — Wilonsky

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

(HBO)

Beware all art that makes you feel clever for liking it — it's the surest way not to notice a filmmaker who has nothing to say. Like Adaptation but far better, Michael Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy treats its failure as a story as though it were a badge of honor, but after all the smirking, you're left feeling empty. "Based" on a famously unreadable 18th-century novel, the film switches between the meta musings of the title character and the meta-meta adventures of star Steve Coogan and the filmmakers. It's charming, but so what? The novel inspired writer Samuel Johnson to say "nothing odd will do long," and as always, he's right. You get the feeling these actors could be just as funny sitting around goofing off, without all the posturing. In fact, the commentary track with Coogan and co-star Rob Brydon (which, if you're keeping track, is meta-meta-meta) is more entertaining than the film itself. — Jordan Harper

Homecoming

(Anchor Bay)

Rarely has a filmmaker been so heavy-handed with his metaphors as Joe Dante (Gremlins) is with this entry in Showtime's Masters of Horror series. After a right-wing blowhard tells a grieving mother that her son would support the war if he came back from the dead, zombie veterans begin to rise just in time for the presidential election. It takes real guts to make a film like this — not for its political stance but for its willingness to make a serious statement via the discount gore of made-for-cable horror. Less than a year old, Homecoming already feels as dated as a John Kerry bumper sticker, but it's still a gas to see the zombies line up at the polls. — Harper

 
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