January 25, 2005
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004). When Jonathan Marlow and Craig Phillips interviewed filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky back in the summer of 2003, we had our first hint that Monster was not going to be your typical rockumentary. Instead, as David Edelstein noted in Slate, it's about much more. "It's about a youth culture that makes all aging graceless, a therapeutic culture that makes all aggression suspect, and a capitalist culture that makes the potential collapse of a zillion-dollar enterprise like Metallica the stuff of high drama.... [T]he band's implosion and reassembly makes for one of the most marvelous rock documentaries of all time." [Rent]. Bonus disc [Rent].
When Will I Be Loved (2004). Boy, does director James Toback know how to split the critics. "Maybe it's the creepy way in which his camera spends the entire opening credits sequence leering at a nude Neve Campbell showering," grumbled Film Threat. "But something in Toback's approach to the subject of sex, somehow both lecherous and detached, makes it tough to get a handle on the film." On the contrary, countered Roger Ebert, arguing the film "is like a jazz solo that touches familiar themes on its way to a triumphant and unexpected conclusion.... In scenes of flawless timing, logic and execution, Vera [Campbell] improvises in a fluid situation and perhaps even surprises herself at where she ends up. The third act of this movie is spellbinding in the way Vera distributes justice and revenge and adapts to the unexpected and creates, spontaneously and in the moment, a checkmate." [Rent]
Mean Creek (2003). "In his feature debut, writer/director [Jacob Aaron] Estes has crafted, out of the ugly stuff of revenge and misdirected violence and misplaced blame, a remarkably compassionate picture," wrote Kimberley Jones in the Austin Chronicle last September. [Rent]
Alien vs. Predator (2004). Remember how you decided to skip it and wait for the DVD? Well, here it is. [Rent]
Since Otar Left (2003). "A refreshingly optimistic, humorous, captivating, and deeply humanist portrait of perseverance and family, the film centers on three generations of women," wrote Acquarello at his site, Strictly Film School, when he caught it at the New York Film Festival in 2003. This "beautifully understated and affectionate film" is the debut feature from Julie Bertucelli, who learned her craft as an assistant director for Tavernier and Kieslowski. [Rent]
The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003). Here's a film that, as Mark Kermode noted this summer in the Observer, "reminds us just how surprising, involving and downright entertaining factual filmmaking can be.... Anyone unmoved by the peculiar wonder of these animals and their devoted Mongolian minders needs to have their hearts overhauled forthwith. The superbly unobtrusive photography captures both the eerie beauty of the landscape, and the intimate bond between man, beast and spirits. A wonderfully winning oddity." [Rent]
Doppelganger (2003). "Kiyoshi Kurosawa's gleeful exploration of duality is by far his funniest film yet, full of the doses of humor it needs amidst all the dark allegory," wrote Craig Phillips when he caught it at the San Francisco Film Festival earlier this year. "The fun in this story about identity comes from trying to detect which version of the self we're dealing with in each scene as the story moves along - it's obvious at first, but it becomes increasingly, disturbingly difficult to tell. The evil twin scenario has certainly been done many times before, and the use of allegory in a horror film is not a new concept either, but what raises this above, say Multiplicity or Brian DePalma's Raising Cain, for instance (not that this film doesn't occasionally play like a Japanese version of a heyday-era DePalma genre subversion exercise), is Kiyoshi's deadpan touch and comic timing." [Rent]
Poison for the Fairies (1986). A dash of fantasy, a pinch of psychological thriller, a healthy dose of horror, this multi-award-winner from Mexico set in the mid-60s tells the tale of two girls who set out to bring down mysterious evil forces. [Rent]
The Best Way to Walk (1976). "Claude Miller's most important work is today stronger than it was in 1976," insists one IMDb user. "It's a must, the French cinema at its more ambitious, at its deepest, at its best." [Rent]
Anatomy of Hell (2004). "Catherine Breillat is working in a space that is all her own," noted johnnyclock in a recent review of Fat Girl. J. Hoberman, writing in the Village Voice in October, expands on that observation: "Anatomy of Hell has been reviled as misogynist, homophobic, sadistic (as opposed to Sadean), pretentious, embarrassing, and just plain yucky. Business as usual - by her enemies ye shall know her." And Hoberman is no enemy: "In her latest feature, sexual provocatrix Catherine Breillat turns a philosophical speculum on gender relations to perverse (and perversely elegant) effect." In case you think you're going through another one of those deja vu things, yes, this release was announced earlier, then got delayed. But it's for real this time. [Rent]
Sexmission (1984). An outlandish sex farce set in a post-apocalyptic future. No, really. From Poland, where it was quite a hit. [Rent]
From Warner Brothers comes an outstanding collection from an era when the studio had forged and was perfecting its own signature style: hard and fast stories, straight from the streets. Harsh, gritty, stripped-down sets. Ferocious performances. And now, thanks to fresh transfers, these six classics look sharper and livelier than they have in decades. The discs also feature commentary by Robert Sklar, author of Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies.
- Little Caesar (1930). At the dawn of the talkies era came this lean, mean story featuring Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. It is, as Tim Dirks notes at his Greatest Films site, "generally considered the prototype of future gangster films... a straight-forward, blunt narrative, yet its hard-hitting gritty realism gripped audiences." [Rent]
- The Public Enemy (1931). "James Cagney didn't merely become a star, he established himself as an icon in Public Enemy," writes Joe Leydon in his book, Movies You Must See. "With showboating displays of mannerisms that would forever define his screen persona - the frighteningly ambiguous smile, the insolent curl of his lip, the staccato delivery of dialogue, the chronic hitching of his pants with clenched fists - he gives a performance at once theatrically stylized and persuasively naturalistic." And yes, this is the one with the grapefruit. [Rent]
- The Petrified Forest (1936). Humphrey Bogart was billed fourth on the marquees, but he steals the picture with his portrayal as the brutal killer, Duke Mantee. The leads: Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. [Rent]
- Angels With Dirty Faces (1938). Michael Curtiz directs Cagney and Pat O'Brien in an absolutely classic melodrama about two childhood friends who choose opposite paths in life, culminating in a lesson about "a different kind of courage." [Rent]
- The Roaring Twenties (1939). Raoul Walsh directs Cagney, Bogart and Priscilla Lane in a sweeping social history of a decade of extremes: jazz, the Prohibition, the Great Crash and the Depression, it's all here, driven by a love story set to some of the most popular songs of the era: "Melancholy Baby," "It Had to Be You"... [Rent]
- White Heat (1949). Once again, ten years on, Raoul Walsh directs and Cagney stars. "A flaming farewell to the 30s gangster picture," notes TV Guide, "scripted like a Greek tragedy on speed." In the New York Times, Dave Kehr calls the film the "culmination of the Warners gangster tradition, and perhaps of James Cagney's own career." [Rent]
Gone (2002). Suppose the Rapture's real? You know, when all the Christians disappear and everyone else is due for some post-apocalyptic horror. Here, three lawyers left behind try to figure out just what the hey is going on. [Rent]
Victory / The Wicked Darling (1919). A Lon Chaney double feature headed by his first major feature, Victory, directed by Maurice Tourneur (father of Jacques) and based on Joseph Conrad's novel set in the South Seas. Tod Browning directs Darling, the curiosity of the pair, in which Chaney plays a thief who forces an innocent woman into a life of crime. [Rent]
Guinea Pig: Mermaid in a Manhole / He Never Dies (1988 / 1986). Two disturbing entries from the Japanese Guinea Pig series. The first notoriously convinced Charlie Sheen that what he'd just seen was an actual snuff film. He even got the FBI to investigate; the results: No, just a stomach-churning fake. Even so, some, like Midnight Eye's Tom Mes, see certain redeeming values. Yes, it's "a perverted fairy tale, but one which exists to celebrate the spiritual connections which can exist between two people. It celebrates love and devotion, between two human beings, but also between the artist and his art and between the artist and his muse. Throwing in comments on environmental pollution and a Cronenberg-esque fascination for disease and the frailty of the human body (also an important factor in his two earlier Guinea Pig outings), Hideshi Hino has created an absorbing and fascinating study of obsession and deep-rooted devotion." Mondo Digital calls the second a "goofball comedy... whose title sums up the entire conceit." [Rent]
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Volume 4. "This series is well illustrated and cerebral," writes jlave1. "What it lacks in action it makes up for in cleverness." [Rent]
Marmalade Boy. Ultimate Scrapbook. Volume 3. "Soap opera fans rejoice," writes drseid. "Finally, we can see what a soap should be like! Fast pacing works great here, and leaves you going crazy with wonder as to what is going to happen next!" Adds EmpressStephanie: "This has to be one of the best romance animes of all time." Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
Flame of Recca. Volume 2: Secrets of the Hokage. "Well you have Naruto, Rurouni Kenshin and quite a few others, but I think this series has something that also makes it quite good, charming, exciting and suspenseful like those other two I have mentioned," writes JLind. "This is a really kick-butt show." [Rent]
Shura no Toki. Volume 2. The further adventures of a young master and his bodyguard. [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.