NEW RELEASES - January 10 HIGHLIGHTS
|FRESH FROM THE THEATERS|
The Constant Gardener (2005).
"[John] le Carré's truth-derived fiction is now an emotionally stirring, aesthetically thrilling film by the Oscar-nominated Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, in his follow-up to the cinematic breakthrough City of God," wrote N.P. Thompson in the introduction to his interview with the filmmaker back in August.
Already named the best film of 2005 by the London Critics' Circle and winner of the British Independent Film Award for best film, Gardener's stars are also being whispered about as potential Oscar nominees as well: Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz.
Red Eye (2005).
"Basically a piece of disposable entertainment, the resolutely 'B' movie Red Eye nonetheless may rank among the ten - maybe five - best American films of the year," writes talltale of Wes Craven's latest. "First moment to last, not a shot nor a line of dialog is wasted, and the barely 80 minutes (plus credits) running time is chock-a-block with thrills and surprise. Leads Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy are excellent."
Hustle & Flow (2004).
What a big, big splash Craig Brewer's film made when it hit Sundance in early 2005. "News hit several days ago that, after an energetic premiere, Hustle & Flow was picked up by Paramount for $9 million (although, after finagling, the grand total will probably be closer to $16 million)," reported Hannah Eaves at GreenCine Daily on January 27. "Its story revolves around a pimp who, after hearing a gospel song, attempts to turn his dream of becoming a rapper into reality. No doubt the buyers were influenced by the success of 8 Mile and are looking to market this to the urban crowd."
No doubt. And yet, to everyone's surprise, it didn't click with audiences during its theatrical run. Let's hope the film and its audience find each other now that it's out on DVD.
The Chumscrubber (2005).
An American suburban angst indie in the vein of Donnie Darko with a helluva cast: Jamie Bell in the lead, with Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes, John Heard and Carrie-Anne Moss... for starters.
"[Ingmar] Bergman's supposed final gasp moves back and forth from tender reconciliation to shocking brutality with such efficacy that it often seems like a film made during the great one's prime," wrote Michael Koresky in indieWIRE this summer. "[I]ts 10-part structure, swift and tumultuous, surveys the dramatic familial fallout of Scenes from a Marriage's Marianne [Liv Ullmann] and Johan [Erland Josephson] not as a sequel but as a furtive glimpse into intergenerational destruction and dysfunction. And by utilizing a particularly vivid hi-def video, Bergman here shows the vitality of the divisive medium; every close-up feels like a piercing x-ray, and the crispness of the digital image hides nothing."
Tony Takitani (2004).
Any movie-lover who's ever read any fiction by Haruki Murakami has surely wondered whether it would be at all possible to capture its evocative power on the screen. Jun Ichikawa is the first to try, and he's made a very smart decision: Let's start with a short story.
"Ichikawa's film is, in more ways than one, a model of economy," writes Dennis Lim in the Village Voice. "Languid, left-to-right tracking shots, one image wiping into the next, give the impression of a picture book's slowly turned pages. Ryuichi Sakamoto's spare, insinuating piano score conjures an atmosphere of dreamlike suspension, as does the low-key voice-over, which at times trails off, only to be picked up by the characters. Oneiric as it is, though, Tony Takitani conveys a powerfully tangible sense of loss and loneliness. In both concrete and existential terms, it's a film that dwells on what the dead leave behind and how the living carry on."
Kamikaze Girls (2004).
"Japanese idol culture certainly has its fair share of fans outside of Japan," notes Midnight Eye's Jasper Sharp. "This time round it's the ladies' turn, with two hot young J-Pop talents Kyoko Fukada and Anna Tsuchiya elevating kitsch to hitherto undreamt of levels in a pastel-hued, pop-cultural pot-pourri that comes at you fists flying like a self-conscious riposte to the fanboy idolatry of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill filtered through the doey-eyed aesthetic of a world far closer to home, the shojo manga (or girls' comic)."
The Bad Sleep Well (1960).
"This ingeniously noirish revenge story about big business has it all, corruption, murder and the incomparable [Toshiro] Mifune as the antagonist who exposes his higher-ups through a uniquely manipulative scheme," writes Eoliano in his excellent list devoted to Akira Kurosawa.
This Criterion disc features a 36-minute doc on the making of the film as well.
Chan Is Missing (1982).
To appreciate the feat Wayne Wang pulled off in making Chan Is Missing for a mere $22K, you have to remember that no one was talking about an indie film movement back in 1982. Most people had never heard of Jim Jarmusch; Spike Lee hadn't made She's Gotta Have It; nearly a decade would pass before Slacker appeared.
And when Chan slipped into a few theaters, Roger Ebert was there to catch it, calling it "a small, whimsical treasure of a film that gives us a real feeling for the people of San Francisco's Chinatown."
Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart (1985).
Wayne Wang followed up on Chan Is Missing three years later with Dim Sum, and once again, Roger Ebert held his thumb up high: "What is remarkable is the way Wang deals with this complex set of emotions, in a movie that is essentially a comedy. Some of the scenes in Dim Sum are as quietly funny as anything I've seen this year... The movie is not heavily plotted, and that's good; a heavy hand would spoil this fragile material."
The Girl from Monday (2005).
Here at GreenCine, you've been able to watch Hal Hartley's The Girl from Monday for about a month of Mondays now. But here it is, rolling out on an old-fashioned DVD as well.
"Flaky, funny and sexy," wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader. Be sure and catch Hannah Eaves and Jonathan Marlow's career-encompassing interview with Hartley, too.
Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge (2004).
"With a cool score by the Soulsavers, Stephen Marshall's nicely shot documentary is a three-week quest for someone in Iraq who can make sense of the place," wrote Bill Stamets in the Chicago Sun-Times when the film screened at the Chicago International Film Festival. Adam Nayman wrote for Eye Weekly, "Like the recently released Gunner Palace, the film features footage of US troops expressing their own candid opinions about the war, and - surprise! - they're somewhat less than gung-ho."
"To date, nowhere has the AIDS pandemic been more felt than in Sub-Saharan Africa, home to approximately 10 percent of the world population and to more than 70 percent of the planet's 40 million AIDS cases," writes Andrú Soares in the Alternative Film Guide. "Writer-director Darrell Roodt's Yesterday is set in this catastrophic scenario." Yesterday is also the name of the Zulu woman who has contracted HIV from her husband. Telling her story, Roodt captures both the stunning beauty of the setting and the humanity of the people fighting for survival there.
Saints and Sinners (2003).
"More chatty than pushy" (Noel Murray for the A.V. Club), Saints and Sinners tells the story of a Catholic gay couple seeking to get married in church - any church, as it turns out.
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973).
The highlight of the trio of Sam Peckinpah films being released this week, if only for the unique trio of a cast: James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson - and Bob Dylan. The little guy is so cute yelling out, "Beans!... Beans!..." while the guns blaze all around him.
The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970).
"Sam Peckinpah's The Ballad of Cable Hogue is a splendid example of the New Western," wrote Roger Ebert back in 1970 back when it was still new. "It's also a fine movie, a wonderfully comic tale we didn't quite expect from a director who seems more at home with violence than with humor." After all, Peckinpah's previous movie, The Wild Bunch, had appeared just one year earlier.
This one stars Jason Robards and Stella Stevens.
Ride the High Country (1962).
"Ride the High Country combines the swan song of actors Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott with director Sam Peckinpah's transition from TV to film Westerns," wrote Elizabeth Abele as part of Images Journal's "30 Great Westerns" special. "Though the film's production values have more in common with 50s television than Peckinpah's later films, McCrea and Scott's performances provide a solid capstone to their careers while Peckinpah demonstrates his ability to coax irony and pathos from a rather predictable 'end-of-an-era' Western plot."
Gankutsuou Chapter 2: The Count of Monte Cristo (2005).
"[W]ithout a doubt one of the finest anime series ever made and probably the best thing released this year," wrote Zac Bertschy for the Anime News Network in September. "Gankutsuou... successfully [marries] the long-standing anime tradition of being an over-the-top visual spectacle with the respectability and maturity of something you'd see on PBS. People like to say shows like Naruto are 'for adults' because there's blood and swearing; Gankutsuou is for adults in the same fashion that films like Elizabeth or The Lion in Winter are for adults. It's a mature story, told in a mature way."