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Let It Rain

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

We look to the films of Agnès Jaoui -- The Taste of Others, Look at Me, and now Let It Rain (Parlez-moi de la pluie) -- for a kind of confirmation: the suggestion that life, however harried and bizarre, is full of marvelous little things, moments sad or sweet and often funny that quietly resonate. There are plenty of these moments in the writer/director/actress' new film. The husband in bed at the end of the day, feeling abandoned because his wife is reading; the French-Algerian young man who has decided to make a documentary and now must endure round-after-round of eyebrow-raising from the "French"; there's even a scene of characters getting high on pot that manages, against all odds, to break new ground.

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New and Coming Releases: December 21-28, 2010.



Holiday times are always quiet time when it comes to DVD releases, but still some great stuff out this week and next. We'll be adding more here soon. 


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somewhereposter Somewhere won the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture at the 2010 Venice International Film Festival. From Academy Award-winning writer/director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette), Somewhere is a witty, moving, and empathetic look into the orbit of actor Johnny Marco (played by Stephen Dorff). Filmed entirely on location, Somewhere reunites the writer/director with Lost in Translation editor Sarah Flack and production designer Anne Ross. Stacey Battat (Broken English) is the costume designer, and Harris Savides (Elephant) is the director of photography, on Somewhere. " "Original and smartly funny with top performances," says Empire Magazine. And now you have a chance to win a cool Somewhere prize package thanks to a giveaway sponsored by GreenCine and Focus Features.

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Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***

Doing away with conventional exposition is a tricky business but Lisandro Alonso gets away with it fairly well in his 2008 film Liverpool, just now making its DVD debut via Kino Home Video. It's one thing to ignore exposition when you have a main character who is relatively open and sociable. When you have an extreme loner, as is the case with Alonso's "hero" Farrel (played by Juan Fernandez, in real life a snowplow operator), this makes connecting with the movie much more difficult. And yet I believe the director/co-writer (with Salvador Roselli) manages even this challenge better than might be expected.

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Exit Through the Gift Shop

Reviewer: Steve Dollar
Rating (out of 5): ***½

Whether you take it at face value or gradually get the feeing that you're watching an art-world answer to This Is Spinal Tap, the much yakked-about Exit Through the Gift Shop is a knowingly subversive commentary on subversive art - and one of the year's best screen comedies, intentional (which I fully believe it is) or otherwise (a little too good to be true).

Pulling a meta-Warhol move, the pseudonymynous UK street artist Banksy, now an international art celebrity, introduces a putative documentary about his work by turning the tables. Banksy, a silhouette in a hoodie whose voice is altered by distortion, tells us about a Los Angeles-based, French filmmaker who proposed making a movie about him, but instead it's Banksy who has made a film about the other guy: Thierry Guetta, a thrift shop owner turned obsessive video shooter of guerrilla street artists. Guetta, who is - or portrays - a classic sort of wacky Frenchman, becomes a funhouse double of what Banksy, and his LA pal Shepard Fairey, represent.

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New and Coming Releases: December 14, 2010.


The last big DVD releasing day of the year and it's a doozy! Including several of the year's best documentaries, an underappreciated toon comedy, indie comedy, an acclaimed crime flick, and a lot more. All this and some titles coming soon is here in our own gift shop.

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Mademoiselle Chambon

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****

The exquisite French film Mademoiselle Chambon has been co-adapted (with Florence Vignon, from the novel by Eric Holder) and directed by Stéphane Brizé, who a few years ago, gave us the quietly entrancing Not Here to Be Loved [sadly not yet on DVD in the US]. Brizé now offers an ever better, though just as quietly entrancing, film -- this time using two of France's best actors at the very top of their form: Vincent Lindon (Friday Night) and Sandrine Kiberlain (Apres Vous). A film with minimal dialog, but never obviously so, it relies on the in-the-moment response of the two actors, who are simply marvelous at expressing their inner selves while appearing to camouflage their feelings.

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The Misfortunates

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

Ah, family -- what a goldmine of fodder for our future creative life! If only we can get through the trying times of growing up. A sentiment that comes to mind as you view the new Belgian film The Misfortunates, the bleak but often quite funny and sometimes very moving look at a hard-scrabble childhood among a family of wastrels.

How life becomes art (and how and why a young boy grows into his older, not-so-happy self) is given wonderful specificity by director/co-writer (with Christophe Dirickx) Felix Van Groeningen, from the novel by Dimitri Verhulst. We can see with surprising clarity not only how art is created (and expanded upon) from life but also how difficult it is to become something other than the child we were. Older? Yes. Different, better? Not so much.

The Misfortunates is set in a low-end town in the Flanders region of the country, which tends, I suspect, toward Belgian's Dutch character rather than its French. The family at hand is pretty much a disaster, though certainly an interesting one. Our hero, the thirteen-year-old Gunther has a father who's a drunk, uncles who each have their self-made cross to bear, and a grandma who can only be called an enabler. The boy, clearly smart, is not doing well own in school, even with the administration trying, against all odds, to take his side.

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

Within America’s conversation about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan much criticism has been lobbed at journalists who reported from warzones while being embedded with the troops. Critics say a reporter’s chief concern should be objectivity which would (understandably) be comprised when sharing life and death situations on a daily basis. Proponents say it provides an invaluable view of war from the ground-eye perspective of the troops. I tend to fall in the latter category, and feel it’s a far more damning statement about the predicament of journalism that any one reporters’ work is expected (by editors or readers) to be all things to all people.

Restrepo [official site], the collaborative effort between author Sebastian Junger (who also penned the bestseller The Perfect Storm) and photographer Tim Hetherington, depicts five months (over the course of a year) spent at an outpost in the Korengal Valley, the most violent front in the Afghanistan war. The film -- which opened the Sundance film festival earlier this year and picked up the Grand Jury Prize --builds its story with on-the-ground footage as the soldiers inch along the valley, picking off Taliban members and trying to convince locals not to accept the $5/day payment to fight the United States on the Taliban’s behalf.

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New and Coming Releases: Nov 30, 2010.


Post-Thanksgiving releasing day is often quiet but there are some excellent titles out on DVD this week, including a doc that animation history geeks have to see, a most unusual Viking epic, several romances, family fare and more.

Continue Reading New and Coming Releases: Nov 30, 2010.

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