Each Tuesday, Coming to the Small Screen will take a look at offbeat, newly released DVDs.
Let's start off with the most unexpected, first -- Flexing with Monty. The fact that Sally Kirkland is in the cast might have something to do with the fact that Hollywood heavyweights Sean Penn and Danny DeVito contributed comments for the film's poster. (Penn called it "wild and sensual" while DeVito said it was "off-the-wall hilarious.")
We're just going to call it "weird as shit." There's a well-used blow-up doll, a stuffed bear that's sexed-up by a cowboy in nothing but chaps and a hat, people in bird cages, lots of blood, and destructive psycho-sexual games. The late Trevor Goddard is Monty, an egotistical, arrogant body builder (he runs in a giant hamster wheel for exercise), Rudy Davis as Bertin is his teenaged gay brother, and Kirkland is the Catholic nun (yep, you read that right), who starts them on a devastating collision course. Think Ed Wood on acid.
Next there's a little twisted romance in Two for Three, a low-budget film by writer/director/producer Matt Nye. Two for Three has obvious roots -- the 1961 French flick Jules and Jim -- but in the end, it manages to stake out its own ground. With very little acting experience, the trio of lead characters Katherine (Caitlin Kinsella), James (Matt Weston), and Hank (Andrew Kane), are surprisingly watchable. The men are friends who, upon meeting the very attractive Katherine, decide to share her rather than fight over her. Katherine, finding each man meets a different need, agrees. When Hank brings a little cocaine to the mix, upping Katherine's interest, James is suddenly odd man out.
The seemingly perfect set-up has unforeseen consequences (hence the film's tag line: Feel Yourself Disintegrate). Despite a predictable comedic beginning, Two for Three picks up in the second act, growing darker and more complicated while building to a completely unexpected ending. The DVD includes a commentary by Nye and one of the producers.
Real-life politics and betrayal figure in writer/director Kari Skogland's Fifty Dead Men Walking. The film's suspense comes, in part, on the fact that the film is based on the real-life story of former IRA informant Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess). Recruited by the British to infiltrate the IRA, McGarland knows that if his cover is blown, he'll be tortured and killed. What he doesn't know is that when that time comes, the British don't plan to do anything about it. The audience, like McGarland, holds its breath through each encounter with his IRA counterparts, wondering if his cover can hold for one more day. Sir Ben Kingsley stars as Fergus, McGarland's British handler. (The film's title comes from McGarland's claim that his undercover work saved fifty men.)
Finally, art meets science meets philosophy in Between the Folds, filmmaker Vanessa Gould's offbeat and provocative documentary about origami. The ancient Japanese tradition of folding one piece of paper is reinvented and reinterpreted by big-brained people in a variety of arenas: scientists are exploring DNA, mathematicians are testing theories, and artists are pushing the boundaries of creativity, all by folding paper.
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