DVD Spotlight

(Originally appeared on GreenCine Daily)


THE<br />
ROAD director John Hillcoat (with Viggo Mortensen)

No stranger to mining lyricism from bleak landscapes, The Propositiondirector John Hillcoat(here working with screenwriter Joe Penhall) has poignantly visualized the burnt-out, grey wasteland of The Road —the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, author of No Country for Old Men.

Blog entry 05/26/2010 - 2:38pm

From acclaimed writer Nick Hornby (About A Boy, High Fidelity) comes this inspired coming-of-age film Rolling Stone magazine calls "a miracle of a movie." When Jenny (Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Carey Mulligan), a bright young school girl who longs for adulthood, meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a dashing older man, he introduces her to his vibrant world of glamorous friends, chic jazz clubs and her own sexual awakening. Will she let this affair ruin her dreams of attending Oxford, as her headmistress (Emma Thompson) fears? This captivating film sparkles with the wit, charm and style of 1960s Britain. Among other things, the DVD features commentary with director Lone Scherfig and actors Mulligan and Sarsgaard. And now thanks to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and GreenCine, we're having a DVD giveaway for An Education!

Blog entry 04/05/2010 - 10:59am

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Werner Herzog's nutzoid psychodrama-cum-policier Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (about which we spoke with Herzog last fall) stumbles to DVD next Tuesday, April 6—and GreenCine has 3 free copies to give away! There are two ways you can enter to win, social media style:

Blog entry 03/31/2010 - 9:47am

(This review originally appeared on GreenCine Daily as part of Sundance coverage.)


Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
2008, 92 minutes, United Kingdom

Ferraris are meant to accelerate from 0 to 60mph within seconds, not movies. But someone forgot to tell that to Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (The Pusher Trilogy, Fear X) regarding this powerful and rigorously stylish tragicomedy, which builds to a primal scream during a bravura opening sequence (revamping Oldboy's one-man-army hallway scroll with mosh-pit intimacy), then maintains the intensity, with bleak humor and unexpected pathos, for an hour and a half. Based on the sensational milestones in the "career" of Britain's most violent prisoner, Charles Bronson (née Michael Gordon Peterson; named after the Death Wish star by a bareknuckle boxing promoter), the film breezes through the middle-class upbringing of a man who -- in 1974, at the age of 19 -- botched an armed robbery and was given seven years in the slammer, a sentence that has since been lengthened several times over based upon his penchant for starting prison fights and large-scale riots. In reality, he has lived 30 of the last 34 years in solitary confinement.

Blog entry 02/08/2010 - 5:30pm

by James Van Maanen


Chris and Don: A Love Story

2009 was a decent year for finding good gay-themed films on DVD. While Milk might seem a shoo-in for the list, I would suggest instead renting the original documentary about Harvey Milk, which is superior to the Van Sant film in almost every way (except budget). My choices this year include one very fine lesbian movie; I wish there were more in this vein to recommend. Some of these are more subtle than others in the manner in which they address their gay themes, but each is worth seeing and thinking about. I’ve chosen my top 12, not on the basis of whether the main characters are gay, or whether the film in question is a "gay movie." Instead, I’ve tried to choose films in which gay characters and themes are used more richly and inventively.

Blog entry 01/05/2010 - 11:29am

By Jeffrey Anderson

Believe it or not, there were still some classics appearing for the first time on DVD in 2009, even though Blu-Ray continues to loom ever larger. Also, movies continue to be re-mastered and re-released on new DVDs, making up for the early flaws of the technology. Unfortunately, 3D hasn't quite been mastered in the home format just yet, but that's undoubtedly coming. The following is my list of the ten best DVDs of the year, plus 15 more runners-up for a total of 25. And most of them make great gifts too! Happy Holidays!

More inside!

1. The Samuel Fuller Collection (Sony Pictures Classics)
Sony follows up their great Budd Boetticher box set with this tribute to Samuel Fuller. The set is of course limited to films that Fuller made at Columbia, and it contains only two films he actually directed, but they're both masterworks: The Crimson Kimono and Underworld U.S.A. Additionally it contains four other films written or co-written by Fuller, and two of those (Shockproof and Scandal Sheet) are very much worth seeing. The various bonuses and interviews make it the DVD of the year.

Blog entry 12/31/2009 - 9:40am

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

How long can you play "adorable" before it curdles? I suspect each viewer will have his own limit.

For me, Charlyne Yi, whose adorable quotient is somewhere off the charts, hasn't come close to souring yet. From the first moments right through the finale of Paper Heart, the film that she stars in and has co-written (with director Nicholas Jasenovec), I just wanted to pull her to me, hug her ever so gently, tell her I love her and make everything aw-wight. Of course, she would run fleeing from this, as she probably would from most people's declarations. Which is part of her charm -- and believability. I am unfamiliar with her stand-up routine (we see a little of it in the film), but I venture to guess that this persona she shows us – sweet and innocent yet not that naïve – is so finely honed by now that's her schtick and her soul may have merged.

Blog entry 12/08/2009 - 12:15pm

Reviewer: Jonthan Poritsky
Rating (out of 5): ****

Even in an artform as ever-changing as cinema, the best films from what many consider one of Hollywood's strongest, richest periods -- the late 60s/early 70s -- still feel remarkably fresh. And it's not just the famous examples, from The Graduate to The Parallax View, Chinatown to The Godfather, it's some of the lesser but still important films from that period that make it such a deep and endlessly fascinating era to study. And in that group I'd add Michael Ritchie's Downhill Racer, which is now out in a sparkling new Criterion DVD. Featuring some of the most innovative sports photography for its day and remarkable performances from Gene Hackman and Robert Redford, it's a wonder that this film isn't more well known. Thankfully, Criterion has reminded us to give it another look.

On its surface, Downhill Racer is a simple story about a man whose only life goal is to win for the sake of winning. Redford plays David Chappellet, a Colorado-born farm boy who quickly rises through the ranks on the U.S. ski team. He is a man-child in many ways, dealing with his daddy issues while chasing after women without any regard for his own (or anyone else's) well being. But because Redford is Redford, he doesn't come off as a complete schmuck. Even as he takes the woman off the arm of one of his teammates, he is suave and genuine. Eyes deep enough to drown in, it's no wonder he has made generations swoon.

Blog entry 12/07/2009 - 8:14pm


Erick Zonca, JULIA

Directed by Erick Zonca
2008, 144 Minutes, In English and Spanish

How did The Dreamlife of Angels director Erick Zonca, working from a script he cowrote with Aude Py, think that the typically reserved, sophisticated Tilda Swinton could so convincingly step into the shoes of a despicable, loudmouthed floozy? An unhinged character study that drunkenly stumbles into an accidental thriller, Julia is shouldered as much by Zonca's instinctual filmmaking as it does on Swinton's intense, knock-out performance:

Julia, 40, is an alcoholic. She is a manipulative, unreliable, compulsive liar, all strung out beneath her still flamboyant exterior. Between shots of vodka and one-night stands, Julia gets by on nickel-and-dime jobs. Increasingly lonely, the only consideration she receives comes from her friend Mitch, who tries to help her. But she shrugs him off, as her alcohol-induced confusion daily reinforces her sense that life has dealt her a losing hand and that she is not to blame for the mess she has made of it. Glimpsing imminent perdition, and after a chance encounter with Elena, a Mexican woman, Julia convinces herself—as much in panic and despair as for financial gain—to commit a violent act. As the story unfolds, Julia's journey becomes a headlong flight on a collision course, but somehow she makes the choice of life over death.

Sitting down with Zonca (and a translator he barely needed) at the Magnolia offices, I drank up his every word on alcoholism, unlikeable characters, the Helmut Newton photo that stuck in his mind, why he's different from Ken Loach, and of course, Tilda Swinton—with whom I would also chat about Julia in that same room a week later.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Julia is now out on DVD.


Blog entry 08/18/2009 - 4:55pm



Directed by Henry Selick
2009, 100 minutes, U.S.A.

Review from Aaron Hillis; originally posted on GreenCine Daily on Feb 6, 2009, after a few initial negative reviews (fortunately many subsequent ones were far more positive -ed.)

Stop-motion animation wunderkind Henry Selick told me himself this week that he felt betrayed when studio honchos gave writer/producer Tim Burton an above-the-title credit for The Nightmare Before Christmas, which should be shared with Selick as it's his most durable directorial effort to date. But now the tables have turned with the wonderfully eccentric Coraline, as Selick is not only getting the lion's share of acclaim for his stereoscopic 3D adaptation of goth-hero Neil Gaiman's fantasy novella, but his dazzlingly meticulous production is so ahead of the industry curve that a couple critics have unfairly rejected the rest of the film for not being able to compare. It's obviously all subjective, that's the nature of our gig, but rather than reviewing a widely-released gem like Coraline, I'd only like to make a tiny case for why you should check out the most sophisticated and touching family film since Wall-E.


Blog entry 07/22/2009 - 8:40pm

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