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Burning desires

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai
Palm Pictures

When call girl Sachiko Hanai gets shot in the head — and survives — her life is irrevocably altered. While this would be a poignant jump start for a drama about treating every day as a golden gift, director Meike Mitsuru has altogether different plans for the cute, death-escaping Sachiko. Those plans involve a sexual obsession with Noam Chomsky, a magical G-spot-finding dildo that happens to be an exact replica of George W. Bush's index finger and a bout of psycho-erotic espionage that's far too insane to even begin to be arousing, let alone explicable. Recklessly fun, explosively colorful and intensely, abusively edited, The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai is a revision of a comparatively straightforward Japanese "pink" film (read: porno) called Horny Home Tutor: Teacher's Love Juice. The folks at Palm have thoughtfully included the original on this DVD version, along with trailers, a documentary about pink films and a short on the making of Sachiko Hanai. —Jason Ferguson

 

Fire Serpent
Lionsgate

"Fire is not alive, Jake!"

"Uh, fire is too alive!"

OK, so Jake the firefighter doesn't actually say that last bit to the snooty female federal agent brought in to investigate a spate of mysterious blazes. But he should've since these smartass brushfires appear to have a higher IQ than anyone in this movie. Caused by a solar flare crashing to earth, this fire serpent is constantly looking for new human hosts to temporarily inhabit just so it can shoot flames outta their eyes and cause more fires! Hot dang indeed! Of course, none of this makes any scientific sense, but, hey, what can you expect from a Sci-Fi Channel movie that credits William Shatner as "creator"? Robert Beltran, a Star Trek Voyager vet with the (circa 1967) Jim Kirk toupee plays the role Shat would've if he didn't have to suck in so much gut: a senior agent-turned-religious-nut who believes the creature is somehow God's way of smiting us for the Burning Man festival. Regardless, it's worth watching this flame retarded movie, if only to see one-time Emergency! heartthrob Randolph Mantooth reunited with raging infernos. —Serene Dominic

 

The Dead Girl
First Look Home Entertainment

The Dead Girl isn't your sunny Hollywood stroll through family dysfunction. There are no quirky matriarchs lovingly tending to a brood of bickering siblings and no stalwart fathers with endless patience who give unwavering support during times of crisis. The Dead Girl's writer/director, Karen Moncrieff, knows familial ties are rarely so neat. She does some dark emotional excavation with five interlocking stories of women who all feel the aftermath of one girl's grizzly demise. An isolated woman who only exists as a caretaker to her abusive mother discovers a dead girl's body. Her discovery leads her to confront her own "victim" status. Her metamorphosis starts a ripple-like effect where people both directly and indirectly find their life changed by this one death. A grad student finds closure regarding her missing sister's 15-year disappearance despite her mother who can't stop searching. A long-suffering wife struggles to do right when she finds the dead girl linked to her husband's secretive ways. The mother of the dead girl mourns her loss and stumbles upon a way to make amends for time lost. Coming full circle, we see how the dead girl's frenzied last day inadvertently led to her murder. Comparisons to Babel and Short Cuts are inevitable, but The Dead Girl isn't about happenstance or serendipity, and each stark vignette stands on its own. These are perfect singular portraits of women at pivotal moments in their lives. Montcrieff's film is clean and precise without any adornment or extraneous subplots. There is a sense of immediacy that makes the subject matter feel even bleaker and more desperate. Without the stellar cast, The Dead Girl could have been just a maudlin facsimile of those beat-down women we snicker at on Dr. Phil. Toni Collette, Marcia Gay Harden, Kerry Washington, Mary Beth Hurt and Brittany Murphy (to name a few) all give astonishingly poignant performances. The Dead Girl is a rare example of how the cinematic representation of women can have integrity and relevance. —Paul Knoll

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