January 20, 2004
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Derrida (2002). Directors Kirby Dick (Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist) and Amy Ziering Kofman, a former student of Jacques Derrida's at Yale, pull off the seemingly impossible, an engaging film about a pomo philosopher. The New York Times calls the doc "adoring and adorable," while the LA Times writes, "And the great pleasure of Derrida, an absolutely first-rate documentary about his life and thought that is the cinematic equivalent of a mind-expanding drug, is how invigorating and refreshing it is to be in the presence of such a powerful, agile intellect." [Rent]
As if that weren't enough of a surprise, how about Spellbound (2003)? The doc about spelling bees, of all things, rattled so many critics in 2003 many of them placed it on their year-end top ten lists. "As good old-fashioned drama goes, it doesn't get much better," writes the Austin Chronicle. [Rent]
The Secret Lives of Dentists (2003). In our interview with director Alan Rudolph, he recalled one of the immediate reactions to a screening at the San Francisco Film Festival: "'Wow, what a different kind of movie.' ... So I asked, 'What was weird about it?' And they said, 'It's so much like real life, real behavior' - this person had a couple of kids and said he really knew that world.... So one of the most unique things on screen in American movies today is everyday behavior." [Rent]
Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003). In his follow-up to El Mariachi and Desparado, Robert Rodriguez takes Antonio Banderas to explosive extremes, but really, it's all about Johnny Depp in the end, isn't it. [Rent]
Cabin Fever (2003). After years of teen horror parodies, the genre needed reviving. Eli Roth tries his hand at it - to mixed reviews, as Ed Gonzalez notes in his rave in Slant: "A hit at last year's Toronto Film Festival, Eli Roth's Cabin Fever has been dismissed by some as a mere Evil Dead knock-off. But this is a specious claim considering that one of the film's many pleasures is how it manages to transcend its many shout-outs." [Rent]
Open Range (2003). Kevin Costner rides out in search of the true American western. Film Threat's Kevin Carr's reaction hasn't been all that uncommon: "I kept thinking, 'Just what we need. Another long-winded western by falling star Kevin Costner.'... However, as the film started to move along, I found myself liking it. As things built to the climax, I found myself liking it a lot. By the end, I was thinking this is probably one of the best westerns made since Kevin Costner first hopped on a horse in Silverado. [Rent]
Marci X (2003) [Rent]. With Lisa Kudrow, directed by Richard Benjamin.
In Jet Lag (2003), Jean Reno is an exhausted celebrity chef and Juliette Binoche is an all-done-up beautician. They don't know each other yet, but both end up stranded at Charles De Gaulle Airport - the weather, an air traffic controllers strike, one thing after another, basically - and they keep running into each other. Guess what happens. But this is Reno and Binoche here, both clearly enjoying a break their usual fare. [Rent]
Evenhand (2003). An indie from Sundance. Writes Film Threat's Merle Bertrand: "What makes Evenhand such a powerful cop movie, as well as a moving and affecting human drama, is that it illuminates the life of a patrol cop in ways rarely seen on network television or Hollywood in general. Evenhand simply represents the best of what independent film has to offer." [Rent]
The Rules of the Game (1939). The masterpiece from Jean Renoir. Named the third greatest film of all time in the Sight & Sound critics's top ten poll of 2002. This Criterion edition features a new high-definition digital transfer, a video essay on the film and its reconstruction, interviews with Renoir's son, Alain, who was an assistant cameraman on the film, with set designer Max Douy, all the scholarly audio and written commentary your hungry mind can stand, some of it read by Peter Bogdanovich, and course, more. The full-blown Criterion treatment, in other words. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
Intimacy (2001). Patrice Chereau's intense and explicit exploration of an anonymous sexual relationship. Winner of the Golden Bear in Berlin. [Rent]
Children of the Century (1999). Directed by Diane Kurys. Juliette Binoche plays 19th century novelist George Sand, caught up in a ferocious love affair with poet and playwright Alfred de Musset. [Rent].
Spacked Out (2000) [Rent]. "More than any other director working today," writes Subway Cinema, "[Lawrence Ah Mon] brings the ecstasy and misery of the blue collar world on-screen without trivializing his characters or trumpeting his own self-importance."
Not one, not two, but three from Suzuki Seijun: Underworld Beauty (1958) [Rent], Kanto Wanderer (1963) [Rent] and Tattooed Life (1965) [Rent]. Writes Stephen Teo in Senses of Cinema: "Today, it is easy to see how Suzuki, rather than Godard or Oshima, is clearly the progenitor of such contemporary directors as Wong Kar-wai, Sabu, John Woo, and Jim Jarmusch. Suzuki's calculated B-movie renditions of yakuza thrillers put him in the company of Samuel Fuller, the one Western director most often invoked upon mention of Suzuki's name. But Suzuki, as a stylist of Japano-trash, could also be compared to Mario Bava, the great stylist of Eurotrash. Indeed, Suzuki may be compared with any of the great mavericks who subvert the studio system by personally reinventing or restructuring popular conventions of cinema, and mostly getting away with it (think of Welles, think of Corman, think of Melville)."
The Way We Laughed (2001). Working class drama from Italy set in 1950s Turin. [Rent]
Yana's Friends (1999). This Israeli film about a romance set against the backdrop of Gulf War I is now seeing a re-release. [Rent]
Manny & Lo (1996). With Scarlett Johansson. "An understated movie that, in turns, is funny and heart-breaking and uplifting," wrote the Austin Chronicle when the film was released, "Manny & Lo is a work that burrows under your skin and makes you impatient for the next project from first-time feature filmmaker Lisa Krueger. [Rent]
Secret Society (2002). Won raves by pleading for tolerance without ever slipping into sappiness. [Rent]
Two with Sidney Poitier: In Pressure Point (1962) [Rent], he tries to stop Bobby Darin from using lipstick to play tic-tac-toe on women's backs, while For Love of Ivy (1968) is lighter fare [Rent].
Virgil Bliss (2002). Going straight was never easy. [Rent]
Everybody's All-American (1988). With Jessica Lange and Dennis Quaid. [Rent]
Way Past Cool (2000). Presented by Norman Lear and Milos Forman. [Rent]
Trespass (1992). Like most other Walter Hill films, this one goes underappreciated by almost everyone. [Rent]
Manic (2001). With Don Cheadle. [Rent]
Protection (2001) [Rent].
Yuri Nosenko: Double Agent (1986). With Tommy Lee Jones. [Rent].
Repo Man (1984). The cult comedy sees a re-release. "Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp..." With Tommy Lee Jones.
Bill Maher: Victory Begins at Home (2003). What he really thinks. [Rent].
Overnight Delivery (1996). Pre-Legally Blonde Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd team up in this romantic comedy. [Rent]
Biloxi Blues (1988). A bittersweet comedy from Neil Simon, directed by Mike Nichols, starring Matthew Broderick and featuring another under-the-skin performance from Christopher Walken. [Rent]
Da Hip Hop Witch (2000). This mockumentary's finally getting an official release. A parody of The Blair Witch Project, Eminem and kids encounter the scary witch of the title. [Rent].
Chump Change (2000). An indie send-up of Hollywood. [Rent]
Complete Weird Cartoons (1914 - 1945). History goes down easy when you're laughing. [Rent].
Fubar. Play it loud. [Rent]
MXP: Most Xtreme Primate (2002). Who can resist a snow-shredding chimp? [Rent].
Lobster Man From Mars (1990). Sort of a sci-fi Producers. [Rent].
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