Trafic * * * ½ (out of four), 1971, '72 in the USA, Criterion, unrated, $40 Drivers congest highways, while many of their cars inevitably end up as twisted scrap. The final "Monsieur Hulot" comedy from France's Jacques Tati couldn't possibly be more topical.
Back story: Meanwhile, technology-baffled auto designer Hulot journeys futilely to an Amsterdam auto show with a state-of-the-art camper that actually does cook your dinner when not serving as a portable shower. As in the best of the later Jerry Lewis movies, Tati uses stationary camera placement while utter chaos unfolds within the frame.
Extras, extras: A two-part documentary on Hulot's development over the years; written essay; vintage TV segments on the comic approach of Tati, whose career output was limited because of funding woes and a painstaking work ethic to rival Stanley Kubrick's.
Daniel * * * 1/2, 1983, Paramount/Legend, R, no extras, $15
Among the rarest of "Reds"-type birds: a major studio release that enthusiastically portrays America's Old Left, though in this particular story, gloom naturally trumps the enthusiasm.
Back story: Inspired by the controversial 1953 execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for allegedly passing atomic bomb secrets to the Soviets, Sidney Lumet's movie of E.L. Doctorow's fictionalized "The Book of Daniel" (screenplay by the author), deals primarily with the effect of family notoriety on children. One offspring (Amanda Plummer) is institutionalized, while the other (Timothy Hutton) is a less obvious head case prone to caustic outbursts. With powerful childhood flashbacks, an ill-received movie that Lumet regards as one of his best has weathered a quarter-century well, in part because there aren't many like it.
The Bank Job * * *, 2008, Lionsgate, R, $35
The subject is 1971's London/Baker Street robbery of a Lloyds Bank — for which the government, some allege, quickly forbade news coverage. The movie speculates why.
Back story: Roger Donaldson can be a capable director with simpatico material (see 1987's "No Way Out" or "Thirteen Days" for two standouts). This time, he fashions an above-average heist pic, despite lock-jawed Jason Statham as his lead. For felonious motivation, there's cheeky Saffron Burrows beckoning Statham and his uncommonly motley crew to tunnel into the Lloyds vault. For suspense, there's underground drilling — and what about that safety deposit box with orgy photos of a royal family member?
Extras, extras: Featurettes; deleted/extended scenes; commentary by Donaldson, Burrows and composer J. Peter Robinson. ALSO ON DVD
Mon Oncle Antoine * * *, 1971, '72, in USA, Criterion, unrated, $40
Often topping critics' polls to determine the best Canadian film of all time, actor/director Claude Jutra's mostly placid portrayal of male adolescence is set in a rural Quebec general store/funeral parlor long before teen attention spans could be soothed by electronics. So how does Benoit (Jacques Gagnon) occupy himself? Well, there's a comely peer also being raised by his aunt and uncle, plus the spied-upon sight of the notary's wife trying on seductive bedware in the changing room. There also is life's natural disillusionment to contend with: auntie is fooling around with an employee (played by Jutra), and uncle is such a lush that he even screws up one of his burials. Very easy to take but hardly of "best" caliber.
Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns * 1/2, 2008, Lionsgate, PG-13, $30
Turning 50 next month, Angela Bassett looks two decades younger, so she's a better bet than viewers to survive this movie. Mom to a jock son who looks roughly her age as well as two younger daughters, Chicagoan Bassett visits Georgia kin for a will reading, taking up with a long-in-debt Mr. Right who somehow has thousands to burn. Perry's bizarre screen mish-mashes of drama and burlesque had been improving, but it's apt that this one has a character named Leroy Brown because it's bad … bad. In a cameo, Perry shoehorns in his familiar female Madea character, but even in Euripides' Medea, he'd still find a way to get himself into drag.
•Sleepwalking (* *; 2008, Anchor Bay, R, $30): A monotonal bummer with a notable cast. A loser (Charlize Theron, who also co-produced) leaves a daughter (AnnaSophia Robb) with a brother/uncle (Nick Stahl, again looking in need of three weeks at the health farm). Nothing untoward happens, but there's misery enough when the latter two end up at the ranch of his father (Dennis Hopper, rivaling his "Blue Velvet" nastiness). Woody Harrelson rounds out a cast that makes you wonder how so many names can be corralled for a movie that will be automatically DOA.
•Framed (* *; 1975, Legend/Paramount, R, $15): Next to the pre-"Dirty Harry" Don Siegel, Phil Karlson was Hollywood's best director of low-budget toughies, though this career swan song doesn't offer much support for that assertion. After 1973's brutal vigilante hit Walking Tall, Karlson and Joe Don Baker reteamed for this expose of rampant political corruption in a Southern burg.
Due Tuesday: New Criterion editions of Akira Kurosawa's High and Low and Carl Dreyer's Vampyr; Jack Webb's cult Pete Kelly's Blues; counting cards in 21