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Crash: The Complete First Season (NR)

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment / Release: Sept. 15

I loathed the film Crash — not the David Cronenberg mechanized-sex masterpiece, but the Paul Haggis dreck that won a best picture Oscar purely on the basis of liberal white guilt. It was treacly melodrama with overwrought performances to boot. So when I got the Starz spinoff series in the mail, I can honestly say I was not looking forward to it. At all. But I gave it a chance, and as the pilot episode's cynicism dripped off me, I found out the series Crash is a well-plotted, highly engrossing drama, with different Angelinos' lives criss-crossing and intersecting, all without Haggis' annoying gated-community ignorance. Think the TV show Heroes, only instead of powers, the characters (played by Dennis Hopper, Moran Atias, Luis Chavez and others) have powerfully engaging backgrounds and personalities. It feels good to be surprised every now and then. — Louis Fowler


Sleep Dealer (PG-13)

Maya Home Entertainment

Made on the cheap as compared to Hollywood flicks, this thrillingly original and heartfelt Mexican film is a truly human story about the impact of technology on individuals and on society. Director Alex Rivera (who co-wrote the script with David Riker) envisions an entirely plausible near-future in which Internet telepresence — plug your head into a computer in the border town of Tijuana, and you can operate a construction robot in Los Angeles — has resulted in virtual immigration and a new era of not-so-virtual imperialism. Powerfully imagined, nicely performed and demanding to be heeded, this is a startling and important look at the dangers and promises of the future from an angle most North American audiences won't have been exposed to before. If you liked the new perspective on the genre offered by District 9, you'll welcome this one, too. — MaryAnn Johanson


Screwballs (R)

Severin Films

OK, so Porky's and Fast Times at Ridgemont High made a ton of money in the early '80s, kicking off the beloved era of the horny-teen sex comedy. Recognizing the hot new trend, schlockmeister extraordinaire Roger Corman wasted no time in producing his own low-budget rip-off, the delightfully tawdry and ribald Screwballs. The plot? A group of kids make a pact to see the boobs of the rightfully named Purity Busch (Linda Speciale) by homecoming, with sexy hijinks ensuing, of course. What makes Screwballs so different from other films of this ilk? It offers a strangely non-American feel. Corman produced the movie in Canada with Europeans behind the camera, delivering an otherworldly Benny Hill-esque comedy; you get the feeling they're making fun of the whole genre that America spawned, but audiences are none the wiser. Pretty sneaky, sis! — Louis Fowler

Second Skin (NR)

Liberation Entertainment

Have you ever seen the documentary Trekkies, about Star Trek fandom subcultures? For the longest time that was the best peep-show look into the bizarre and often sad world of pop-culture obsessives and how they interact with one another and the outside world. Sorry, Trekkies, but you've been bested by Second Skin! Alternately fascinating and depressing, Skin delves into the world of online role-playing gamers, which can involve a lot of Mountain Dew and ignoring your pregnant girlfriend, if you're lucky enough to have one. Even worse is the guy who spends so much time playing EverQuest that he has to go into rehab, only to emerge to find his life an empty shell and his bank account penniless. Yes, it's all very entertaining but also extremely educational: I'll be damned if I ever pick up one of these online role-playing games! — Louis Fowler

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