September 7, 2004:
ON THEIR WAY FROM THE THEATERS
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring (2004). Kim Ki-Duk, the Christian who turned many a stomach with his beautiful but wrenching The Isle, has made a Buddhist film. And the result? "[D]ecadently gorgeous, and its cyclical construction is fearsomely neat," writes Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice. "But Kim's tone has an ancient simplicity, something like the fundamental eloquence of a silent film or an enduring children's book. And his images have a surrealist integrity: the swimming frog dragging a stone, the monk painting sutras with a mewling cat's tail, the prodigal monk chopping through a frozen waterfall, the Magritte-like woman masked by a scarf arriving to abandon a baby, that same infant crawling across the ice searching for his mother. Far from a maxim-expounding sermon, the film is a fresh spring of irrational visual pleasure." [Rent]
The United States of Leland (2004). "Director Matthew Ryan Hoge has created a tight little drama here, made up of several of intersecting stories and characters," writes Film Threat's Eric Campos. "He's also assembled an incredible cast with Ryan Gosling (The Slaughter Rule) as Leland and Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights) as Pearl.... The United States of Leland is thoroughly entertaining and will possibly get you thinking about certain choices you've made in your life." [Rent]
Punisher (2004). Ever since Schwarzenegger got himself a real job and Sly Stone got... old, Hollywood's been looking for another irony-free hunka hero. Vin Diesel and The Rock have been floated as possibilities, but the reception's been lukewarm at best. So is it going to be Thomas Jane? Here, he's Frank Castle, revenge surrogate, in a fairly dark adaptation of the original comic. At the very least, John Travolta is nearly always more fun to watch when he's the bad guy.
Soul Plane (2004). In the New York Times, Stephen Holden remarks that this "hectic farce, which pushes every envelope, is so broad and relentlessly raunchy that it makes a spoof like Airplane seem as demure as a vintage drawing-room comedy." Now, see, for a lot of people that's going to be a good thing. And to think that this is the Unrated version... Add Snoop Dogg and a soundtrack from The RZA, serve with the appropriate refreshments, and you've got yourself an evening. [Rent]
The Ladykillers (2004). "Not a great Coen Bros movie and rather lightweight, but I enjoyed it quite a bit," says ColonelKong. "Roger Deakins's cinemtography and Dennis Gassner's production design were great as always, I liked all the performances, but my favorite character was probably Tzi Ma's Viet Cong General." Adds underdog: "I giggled quite often and thought it had a nice sense of Gothic Southern dark humor and atmosphere. It doesn't hold a candle to the original, no, but for what it is, quite likeably zany." [Rent]
Jersey Girl (2004). In a recent interview for DVD Talk, Kevin Smith said he didn't exactly blame "the Bennifer effect" for this film's flopping at the box office, though that had to have been a factor. Plus, few were expecting a sentimental love story from Kevin Smith. But he still "love[s] that film to death, man," and adds, "I feel that once it hits video, it'll find its audience and people will dig it in a way that nobody dug it theatrically." [Rent]
In the last Sight and Sound poll, the wildly famous one conducted every ten years, Hitchcock tied with Orson Welles in the top spot on the critics' "Top Ten Directors" list. Interestingly, he came in at Number 5 in the directors list, but that's not too shabby, either. And yet, whether on TV or even at repertory theaters, it's oddly hard to catch many of Hitchcock's films other than Psycho, The Birds or a handful of other "standards." Here's our chance to see seven works from one of his stronger periods, the 40s and early 50s.
Foreign Correspondent (1940). Hitchcock's second American film after Rebecca is a more slimmed down affair, a wartime spy thriller that issues a direct plea to the US not to let the lights go out in Europe. [Rent]
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941). A romantic comedy - that's right, the master of suspense could do romantic comedy - with Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard. [Rent]
Suspicion (1941). A love story shot brilliantly through with overtly Freudian angst. With a chillingly charming Cary Grant and Rebecca's Joan Fontaine. [Rent]
Stage Fright (1950). A small-scale thriller Hitchcock made after returning to England briefly. It's a bit odd seeing the then-35 year old Jane Wyman play an undergrad, but it's absolutely marvelous seeing Marlene Dietrich cast as precisely who she was: a glamorous actress. [Rent]
I Confess (1953). Here's a premise so promising you wouldn't want it to fall into any hands other than Hitchcock's: A priest (Montgomery Clift) hears a murderer's confession and is then framed for the crime himself. [Rent]
Dial M for Murder (1954). Never mind that this was originally Hitch's foray into the gimmickry of 3D; it's actually a tight little adapation of a play, all taking place in one apartment where a husband (Ray Milland) plots to murder his wife (Grace Kelly). [Rent]
The Wrong Man (1956). Often regarded as one of Hitchcock's bleakest, most sombre films, The Wrong Man is has a near-documentary feel and is based on a true case of an ordinary guy - family, job, the works - falsely accused of a crime. Features a fine, understated performance from Henry Fonda. [Rent]
Graveyard of Honor (1975). Probably the most notable of a series of explorations of the Japanese underworld Kinji Fukasaku filmed in the mid-70s. "These films shared a suitably chaotic storyline in which the lines between good and evil are blurred to the point of non-existence," writes Tom Mes in Midnight Eye. "In order to realistically portray lives ruled by violence, Fukasaku filled his films to the brim with corruption, murder, drug addiction, rape and police brutality. Together with the erratic visuals he had by this time perfected, they formed an explosive and hard-hitting mix - a cinema that was brutal and totally alive." [Rent].
Woman Sesame Oil Maker (1992). At the Beijing Film Academy, director Xie Fei mentored the likes of Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou. Not only did Woman win the Golden Bear in Berlin in 1993, it garnered lavish praise from critics as well, including Hal Hinson at the Washington Post: "Xie has filled the movie with moments of intoxicating beauty, such as the one in which Xiang rows by moonlight across the lake to rendezvous with her longtime lover.... Overall, the film is a flawless accomplishment - one that ultimately carries its characters to the limits of despair.... Xie's film may be one of intense pessimism, but it has the virtue of providing its own antidote." [Rent]
Don't Die Without Telling Me Where You're Going (1995). "One of the most important movies in my life," Eliseo Subiela told Jonathan Marlow in our interview last year. "My life was a different life up to that movie, and from that movie on, it was another life because doing this film, Don't Die Without Telling Me Where You're Going, I almost died making it. Truly. So it is a film that I remember with a lot of emotion." [Rent]
Gebürtig (2002). Vienna. The past catches up with a Jewish immigrant from New York and a German journalist. The tense drama is based on Robert Schindel's novel. [Rent]
Wattstax (1973). "It sounds like a hoax," snorts Kelefa Sanneh in the Village Voice. "Schlitz beer helps finance a soul music concert to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the 1965 Watts riots, and the director of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) makes a fiery black-nationalist movie about it." But of course, it was no hoax, and for many, the film will be a startling rediscovery. After all, writes Gary Morris in Bright Lights, "If the sight of a pre-South Park Isaac Hayes in a chain-mail vest singing 'God Is on Our Side' isn't enticement enough, how about a middle-aged Rufus Thomas in pink knickers and white vinyl boots presiding over 100,000 fans doing the funky chicken?" Toss in comic cutaways to Richard Pryor hitting his stride, footage of the riots and activists' appeals and what you have a film that's as much a historical milestone as it is a concert movie. [Rent].
HONG KONG ACTION and HORROR COMEDIES
The Iron Fisted Monk (1976). Sammo Hung directs himself as a renegade Shaolin on a vigilante mission. [Rent]
Knockabout (1979). A potent mix of comedy and action. With Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung. [Rent]
The Battle Creek Brawl (1980). Jackie Chan and José Ferrer, together at last! A flashback back to the 20s featuring Jackie's first starring role in an American production. [Rent]
The Postman Fights Back (1981). Ronny Yu's sweeping epic features Chow Yun-Fat, Lueng Kar-Yan and Cherie Chung. [Rent]
Mr. Vampire (1985). "One of the best hopping vampire movies," proclaims JWallis. And what is a hopping vampire movie? Check out Ian Whitney's primer, "Horror, Humor and Hopping in Hong Kong." [Rent]
The Sentinel (1977). "Boasting a jawdropping cast and a plot that combines almost every successful '70s horror trend into one tight little package, The Sentinel is one of those films that either makes viewers ill or scares the bejeezus out of them," claims Mondo Digital. "Thanks to director Michael Winner, the exploitation angle is pumped up to an uncomfortable degree, particularly in the use of real life freaks mixed in with Dick Smith's unsettling make up effects for the jittery finale. Sort of like a Sidney Sheldon novel gone straight to hell, The Sentinel definitely isn't great cinema, but it can do quite a number on you just the same. Besides, any movie with Beverly D'Angelo and Sylvia Miles as topless cannibal lesbians in leotards can't be all bad." Keep an eye out, too, for these two young fellas: Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken. [Rent]
Alias. Season 3 (2003). Scoring some pretty upscale ratings around here for a TV series. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent], 5 [Rent] and 6 [Rent].
Kaena: The Prophesy (2004). France's first full-length 3D animated feature sports the voices of Kirsten Dunst as the heroine on a quest and Anjelica Huston as Queen of the Selenites. [Rent]
Boys Over Flowers. Volume 7: Sleepless Night (1997). "This is in the drama/relationship vein with lots of silliness -- in every episode there is a new surprise and significant story/character advancement," says . "Very engrossing." [Rent]
Urusei Yatsura. Movie 3: Remember My Love (1985). GreenCiners' ratings for the first two movies are averaging around 8 right now. [Rent]
Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi. Volume 2: Bond (2003). Follow the continuing adventures of Kaoru and Aoi. [Rent]
R.O.D. The TV Series. Volume 2: The Undercover Student (2003). Nenene breaks her writer's block and the words finally start pouring. [Rent]
Gad Guard. Volume 2: Corruption (2003). "There's nothing new about Gadguard, nor does there need to be," says Calafragious. "We have seen a number of more 'mature' Giant Robot anime in recent years, which attempted to treat the robot as a metaphor for the existential condition of its driver, or some such darn thing. What all those shows lack is the uncomplicated, passionate adolescent love between the robot and its pilot, which was always the driving force behind this genre. Well, that love reappears in Gadguard and it's very refreshing.... I look forward to more of this show." [Rent]
Take a peek at highlights of titles arriving later on this 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.