Diamonds in the Rough

 Blood Diamond (Warner Bros.)

Ed Zwick's Blood Diamond, about the civil war over diamonds that devastated Sierra Leone in the late 1990s, plays like a guilt-ridden Jerry Bruckheimer movie. It's little more than action-adventure pulp drenched in someone else's blood -- which it tries to wash off by proselytizing to the audience about the evils of the diamond trade. That it had to use two famous white faces, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, to tell its story only makes it that much more inessential. Djimon Hounsou is great, but he's rendered a supporting character in his own movie. Far better than the film itself is the disc-two documentary, in which Sierra Leone journalist Sorious Samura chronicles the horrific images -- rotting corpses, severed limbs, starving children -- and the prepubescent soldiers who pay the highest of prices for the so-called "conflict diamonds." -- Robert Wilonsky

The Bridesmaid

Blood Diamond: Hollywood's pitch for cubic zirconium.
Blood Diamond: Hollywood's pitch for cubic zirconium.

(First Run) Claude Chabrol has made more than 50 films in his 76 years, but still he's best known as "the French Hitchcock." It may be useful shorthand, but it's also lazy. This story of a man who falls for his sister's bridesmaid (Benot Magimel and Laura Smet, both excellent), who eventually asks him to prove his love in a very unpleasant way, owes as much to steamy film noir and the novels of James M. Cain and Jim Thompson as it does to a certain fat Englishman. Of course, all these big names are also a roundabout way of saying that The Bridesmaid is a very good movie. It unfolds at a stately pace that some may find maddening, but once it gets rolling, it's a wonderful mass of psychosexual amorality and suspense. Twenty minutes in, and you're hooked. It's practically Chabrollian. -- Jordan Harper

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall

of the Slasher Film

(THINKFilm) Going to Pieces, a made-for-cable documentary based on Adam Rockoff's book of the same name, gouges deeper into its subject than your average low-budget doc would, covering everything from the gory antics of Paris' Grand Guignol theater to the recent works of Rob Zombie. And it's not afraid to get its hands dirty: The many interviews with horror luminaries are broken up with plenty of piercings, stabbings, and beheadings. Even if you're not crazy about Sleepaway Camp or Prom Night, you may find interest in the earnest discussion of teen murders and marketing. The film's also great for middle-aged uncles to share with budding horror fans: "In the good old days, there was none of this torture garbage -- they just chopped their heads off!" -- Harper

Michael Shayne Mysteries

(Fox) This boxed set, consisting of four '40s films starring writer Davis Dresser's long-forgotten private dick, is probably two years too late. After all, while hawking the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005, writer-director Shane Black insisted that his own smart-ass film (starring Robert Downey Jr. as the accidental private eye) sprang from Dresser's character, the wisecracking deadbeat Shayne. As played by Lloyd Nolan, Shayne comes across as a guy who's in on the same joke as the audience: that this is all a big flim-flam sham -- whodunit nonsense shot on a studio back lot. The first movie (Michael Shayne, Private Eye -- the only one based on an actual Dresser book) is the best, but the others aren't without their considerable charms -- which is to say, Lloyd Nolan. -- Wilonsky

 
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