July 20, 2004:
ON THEIR WAY FROM THE THEATERS
Crimson Gold (2003). The best movie of last year according to Jonathan Rosenbaum? Well, it was a tie, actually. Between 25th Hour and this one: "Both films have stayed with me because of the worlds they open up," he wrote in January. "[Jafar] Panahi's neorealist film, the less show-offy of the two, benefits hugely from the singular presence and deadpan delivery of Hossain Emadeddin in the lead role; he's a nonprofessional, very much like the character he plays, though it's disquieting to learn that, unlike his character, he's a paranoid schizophrenic. There's also [Abbas] Kiarostami's brilliantly suggestive script, which is quite unlike anything else he's written and is marred only slightly by one of his obligatory sages turning up gratuitously near the beginning. This script makes the film richer, as a portrait of contemporary Tehran and in its dramatic structure, than Kiarostami's own most recent feature, 10. And there's Panahi's highly purposeful, no-frills direction, which keeps the story firmly in focus without making it unduly didactic or psychological." [Rent]
Bus 174 (2003). Another tense drama from afar, but this time, not all that far: Rio de Janeiro. June 12, 2000. A young man sets out to rob passengers on a bus and ends up taking them hostage. It isn't long before the police and the TV crews show up and millions of Brazilians are watching the story unfold live. In the New York Times, AO Scott wrote of this multi-award-winning doc that it's "so wrenching and so absorbing that you can easily lose sight of the sophistication of its techniques." J Hoberman conquers in the Voice: "Brilliant filmmaking." [Rent]
Starsky and Hutch (2004). Yes, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson star, but as Elvis Mitchell wrote in the New York Times, "The movie belongs, completely and utterly, to Snoop Dogg." Note that more episodes from the original TV series arrive this week as well (scroll down). [Rent]
The Big Bounce (2004). Hey, look, it's Owen Wilson again! George Armitage directs this adaptation of Elmore Leonard's first crime novel, written in 1969 and set in Tiki Lounge Era Hawaii. You might want to compare and contrast it with the original. [Rent]
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004). So what we have here is basically the same idea that was at the core of the mightily popular original, but with a change of setting. We've moved from the Catskills, ca. 1963, to Havana on the eve of revolution in 1958. Will Castro throw a monkey wrench into this romance? What do you think? [Rent]
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004). Disney's constructed just the vehicle for Lindsay Lohan as she segues from girly roles to teenie roles on her way to perky young lady roles. [Rent]
The Human Stain (2003). Reviews have been decidedly mixed for Robert Benton's adaptation of Philip Roth's novel, both of which have sparked fresh debates about an often overlooked aspect of racial politics in America. In the New York Times, A.O. Scott called it "an honorable B+ term paper of a movie." Some have questioned the casting of both Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman in their respective roles. But as for the characters themselves, Roger Ebert found that "both of these journeys" is precisely what makes The Human Stain "ambitious and fascinating." [Rent]
From Criterion comes a trio of films Jean Renoir made late in his career, "three delirious films, infatuated with the past, love, and artifice," as Criterion describes them: The Golden Coach (1953) [Rent], French CanCan (1955) [Rent] and Elena and Her Men (1956) [Rent]. "Awash in jubilant Technicolor, each film interweaves public display and private feelings through the talents of three immortal film icons - Anna Magnani, Jean Gabin, and Ingrid Bergman."
Port of Shadows (1938). Criterion's also releasing the first collaboration between screenwriter Jacques Prevert and Marcel Carné, the team that gave us Children of Paradise. This landmark of what would come to be known as "poetic realism," associated with French films of the period, stars Jean Gabin. [Rent]
Early Summer (1951). Another spectacular Criterion release. "Yasujiro Ozu's signature low angle camera strikes a delicate, harmonious balance in Early Summer, and echoes the dichotomy of contemporary Japan: tradition versus modernization, selfishness versus altruism, respect for elders versus independence," writes Aquerello at his wonderful site, Strictly Film School: "A spare, beautifully realized story of profound, yet fundamentally human emotions." [Rent]
Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Conspiracy (1978). Kinji Fukasaku directs Toshiro Mifune, Sonny Chiba and Hiroyuki Sanada in a historical drama depicting the succession crisis following the death of the second Tokugawa Shogun in the early 17th century. Kung Fu Cinema: "Combining the stately intrigue, romance, and scope of past classics with the visceral action that modern audiences demand, Shogun's Samurai is a supremely entertaining film.... The scale and visual splendor of the production is stunning while a gripping, fictionalized account of political conflict in 17th century Japan delivers the knock out blow." [Rent]
PTU (2003). A re-release of Johnnie To's fresh take on the Hong Kong gangster flick. As he told Sean Axmaker in our interview earlier this year, what he's aiming for here are "characters that are more realistic and flawed. It's what makes them human." [Rent]
Sex and the Beauties (2004). Wong Jing reimagines Sex and the City, only this time, of course, the city is Hong Kong. [Rent]
People I Know (2002). Upon its release, the film had a hard time living up to its reputation; it'd been pulled from the release schedule in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 because, as rumor had it, its depiction of New York wasn't exactly flattering. When it finally saw the light of a projector, reviews varied, but just about everyone was impressed by Al Pacino's portrayal of a publicist. Rich Cline, for example, writing for Film Threat: "This is a pure Pacino tour-de-force... a meaty performance, and we never get tired of watching him for a second. Meanwhile, the people around him are just as interesting: [Kim] Basinger shines in a rare intelligent role; [Tea] Leoni is energetic and rather frightening; and as the three power-mad goers, [Ryan] O'Neal, [Richard] Schiff and [Bill] Nunn are terrifically entertaining, especially when they get together at the end." [Rent].
Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do (2001). A documentary from Hong Kong that includes footage of Bruce Lee demonstrating and teaching the martial arts style he developed. [Rent]
Pulse (Kaïro, 2002). Kiyoshi Kurosawa directs "a compelling, haunting and insightful portrait of disconnection, loneliness and the impersonal nature of technology," writes Acquarello at Strictly Film School. Adds Edward Crouse in the Voice, "It's doubtful that anyone alive could make a mouse's right-click or a modem gargle more unsettling." [Rent]
As Justin Peters wrote in the Washington Monthly recently, "Every era has its hotbeds of cultural innovation, its gathering points where original thinkers and brilliant minds assemble and produce high-caliber works of art - London's Bloomsbury, Paris' Montmartre, New York's Greenwich Village. My candidate for the modern day Left Bank is the corner of Williams Street and 12th Street in downtown Atlanta, Ga., where you'll find a decrepit-looking old warehouse." That's where the block of cartoons known collectively as Adult Swim is produced and this week sees the release of several hours' worth of Atlanta's finest: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Vol. 2 (2000), discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent], and Sealab 2021: Season One (2000), discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
K Street (2003). You've got to hand it to George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh for tackling more than the obvious - like, say, Ocean's 12. They'll also give a remake of an all but secularly sacred Tarkovsky a whirl or try a completely new sort of reality show. Had Washington not been so afraid of them, this experiment might have lasted longer. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2. [Rent]
Millennium. The Complete First Season (1996-1997). From X-Files creator Chris Carter. The look of this show was the star, though. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent], 5 [Rent] and 6 [Rent].
Combat!. Season 1: Campaign 1 (1962 - 1963). Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent]. The series includes episodes directed by Robert Altman and Burt Kennedy and the discs feature commentary by Altman. Naturally, you'll want to follow with more episodes directed by Altman, Richard Donner and Ted Post: Combat!: - Season 1: Campaign 2 (1962 - 1963). Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent].
Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) [Rent]. The title just about says it all, but not quite. This week also sees the release of Thunderbird 6 (1968). [Rent].
Soap The Complete Second Season (1978 - 1979). Vintage parody. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
Starsky and Hutch. The Complete Second Season (1976 - 1977). A Five Disc Set. [Rent]
Rahxephon: The Motion Picture (2004). Animation Insider: "A unique re-telling of the popular mecha anime series, RahXephon: The Motion Picture is the fascinating story of a society torn apart by undisclosed morals, and of a boy trying to find humanity despite nearly losing it every battle." [Rent]
Blue Gender - The Warrior (2004). Another feature based on a popular series phreakpiercer for one deems "definitely good." [Rent]
Azumanga Daioh Vol. 3: Rivals! (2002). "Quite possibly, one of the best animes ever," says alibash, "even though it has almost zero substance. It's like 26 episodes of lighthearted lovable fluff, goes down tasty!" [Rent]
Zoids: Chaotic Century Vol. 3: Rematch (2002). The battle rages on. [Rent]
Beyblade: G Revolution (2004). Vol. 1: Beginning of the End? [Rent] and Vol. 2: The Revolution Begins! [Rent]. And so, the third season launches.
Pokemon Advanced. Vol. 1: A Ruin with a View (1998) [Rent] and Vol. 2: Tree's a Crowd (2004) [Rent].
Take a peek at highlights of titles arriving later on this summer and fall.
And don't forget to check out the New Releases that are already here.
While you're at it, you might want to browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.