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'Black Snake Moan' gets lost by the wayside

Samuel Jackson as Lazarus in "Black Snake Moan."
By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor

Controversy reigns supreme in this week's DVD column.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

Yes, this highly publicized documentary, that was originally broadcasted, during Easter season is now on DVD in a 105-minute cut.

I didn't make a point of watching the Discovery Channel broadcast largely because of what I thought was a tasteless ploy to belittle the meaning of Easter by implying the resurrection of Christ was myth rather than reality.

The publicity did little to help this thoughtful and fairly balanced film. The premise is that in one family tomb discovered in Jerusalem in 1980 there were ossuaries (bone boxes) for a family whose members included Jesus son of Joseph, Maria (Mary), Mariamene (Mary Magdalene), Joseph, Matthew and Judah, son of Jesus. Could these be the resting places for Jesus and his mother? Why is Mary Magdalene there? Were they indeed married?

At first glance this film fits within the veritable cottage industry concerning questioning the life of Jesus thanks to "The Da Vinci Code." It is not sensationalistic in its approach. There are no conspiracies instead there is an interpretation of a group of artifacts.

A very interesting film, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" should stir up conversation among those people interested in revisionist history.

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Reno 911: The Complete Fourth Season Uncensored!

Oh those wacky fake Reno, Nevada, deputy sheriffs! After four seasons this largely improvised comedy still walks on the edge. A parody of "Cops," a camera crew follows the exploits of a group of Reno police as they blunder through what they think as crime fighting.

There are some great shows in this collection such as the one in which a Hooters-style restaurant decides to sponsor the Sheriff's Department and make everyone wear pink hot pants. Another favorite episode guest starred Paul Reubens as a citizen patrol member who out-smarts the Reno deputies.

Extras include profiles on each officer that were assembled for this collection.

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Black Snake Moan

Halle Berry received an Oscar for her sexually charged performance in "Monster's Ball," but I doubt Christina Ricci will even get a nomination for her role in "Black Snake Moan."

Why? Both films were art house movies that deal with redemption and forgiveness. Both films have scenes in which the lead actress is nude. Both films have an "artiness" about them: the black of white photography of "Monster's Ball" and the fable-like quality of the "Black Snake Moan" script.

"Monster's Ball" was a minor hit and got Ms. Berry an Oscar. "Black Snake Moan" was hustled quickly in and out of theaters and will not be the subject of an Oscar campaign.

I blame it on the chains. For some reason, Paramount decided that emphasizing the chain that Samuel L. Jackson's character Lazarus uses to confine Rae (Ricci). The result was an advertising campaign built around images that made the film look some sort of soft-core porn.

While not completely successful, the film is a very interesting look at three broken people. Lazarus is trying to deal with his wife leaving him for his brother. Rae and Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) are a young couple trying to support each other. Ronnie suffers from anxiety attacks while Rae was sexually abused as a child and is wildly promiscuous.

The three characters collide when Ronnie leaves for a hitch in the Army. Rae gets high, is raped, beaten and abandoned. She is found by Lazarus who attempts to change her. Because she wanders while hallucinating, Lazarus chains her to his radiator.

But the film is about more than just that scandalous image.

Director and writer Craig Brewer had a hit with "Hustle and Flow," and while I can not thoroughly recommend this film it can be a hard film to watch at time as it swiches gears from realism to fable it does provide a very interesting two hours.

And by the way, I liked it far more than "Monster's Ball."

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