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Tony Curtis, RIP. Sweet Smell of Success Trailer.

Tony Curtis, who sadly just passed away, and Burt Lancaster, offered what may have been their very finest performances in Sweet Smell of Success. Click on for a trailer.Click on for a trailer.

 

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Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson 
Rating (out of 5): ***

The great Japanese director Nagisa Oshima is known for shaking up the quiet, stately Japanese cinema of the 1960s with his stories of youth, social realism, social critique, and even a bit of surrealism. His most notable titles from this period are arguably Boy (1969) and The Ceremony (1971), though none of his early films is well known in the West. Instead, Oshima is best known here for his pair of 1970s erotic arthouse hits, In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and Empire of Passion (1978). Though these movies put Oshima on the world map, many early fans consider them a diversion from Oshima's true talent.

This leads us to Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), Oshima's follow-up to Empire of Passion, newly released via Criterion Collection. With the world's attention, he turned to this international production, based on an autobiographical novel by Afrikaner Laurens van der Post, throwing English and Japanese talents into the same ring. It's an odd film, drawing comparisons to The Bridge on the River Kwai due to its setting, but much more intimate in scale. It's relentlessly grim, constantly off-balance, occasionally moving, and often striking. (Oshima co-wrote the screenplay with the former English film critic Paul Mayersberg, who also wrote The Man Who Fell to Earth.)

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Afterschool

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****½

 Afterschool -- the not quite new film by Antonio Campos that made its New York debut two years ago at the 2008 NY Film Festival, after playing Cannes and then moving on to Berlin -- begins with a scene that brings to mind the finale of Olivier Assayas' Demonlover. As you might expect from something that startling, the movie takes off into a narrative that addresses the subjects of kids, adults, teachers, school and society in general - always with a camera seemingly present. It's not pretty.

In fact, it's been awhile since I've seen anything that depressed me as much as this film. This is not because of its quality level, for Campos has achieved something difficult and demanding on his end and ours: making a movie about the next generation that is slow, often very quiet, and runs the risk of alienating its audience. That it will not put off thoughtful adults is due to Campos' technical skill and his careful planning of what happens and when -- and how the insular little world that the writer/director captures reacts to the event at the center of the movie.

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New and Coming Releases: September 21, 2010.

   

Today's list of new DVDs is short but sweet. Jump inside for some of the cool titles out today, and coming soon.

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(Untitled)

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Rating (out of 5): ***½

 (Untitled) sends up the pretensions of the art world, which seems an easy target, but while there are quite a few comical moments, director/writer Jonathan Parker (Bartleby) doesn't take the low road. [I like what Roger Ebert wrote: "It's easy to take cheap shots at conceptual art. '(Untitled)' doesn't do that. It takes expensive shots."] Character-driven, Parker's script (with Catherine DiNapoli) seems a slightly snarkier cousin to Jonathan Ames' HBO series Bored to Death, both New York-set and full of identifiable, flawed characters who are gently ribbed but not deeply mocked. In fact (Untitled) seems to take more delight in criticizing critics - portrayed here as rude and unfeeling - than in skewering artists.

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My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson 
Rating (out of 5): ***½

 

If you thought Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was an odd duck, just wait until you see this. Produced by David Lynch and directed by Herzog, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done plays like an unholy offspring of both maverick outsiders, filled with unsettling, dreamlike moments, but also plenty of dark laughs. It's apparently based on the story of a real-life killer, but the movie is about a disturbed man, Brad McCullum (Michael Shannon), who still lives with his creepy mother (Grace Zabriskie, a veteran of many David Lynch projects).

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New and Coming Releases: September 14, 2010.

   

 

From quite a few excellent US Indies to the big budget Prince of Persia, there's some good stuff out this week. And more coming soon!

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Videocracy

 

Reviewer: Erin Donovan
Rating (out of 5): ***½

At the center of Videocracy, Erik Gandini's snapshot of Italy's celebrity-obsessed popular culture, is Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi, a millionaire turned television mogul turned billionaire turned Prime Minister, is an untouchable figure who has become the revered and reviled focal point for Italy's perception of itself. (See Michael Moore's Roger & Me for a different version on a similar theme.) Berlusconi made his fortune by buying up 90% of Italy's television networks and churning out cheap programming that was high on nudity, silliness and spectacle.

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Lord of the Rings Blu-ray DVD Giveaway!

 

LOTR_BD.jpgThere may be one ring, to rule them all, but there have been many editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD -- but now that Peter Jackson's award winning saga is out on Blu-ray the exitement can begin all over again. The new discs are loaded with extras and most importantly, in high-def! And now, thanks to the generosity of GreenCine and Warner Brothers Home Video, you have the chance to win this excellent prize package in our LOTR Blu-ray giveaway:

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New and Coming Releases: September 7, 2010.

  

A few sleepers n' gems in today's quiet (typical of post-Labor Day) DVD releases; some great titles are coming soon, too!

Continue Reading New and Coming Releases: September 7, 2010.

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