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NEW RELEASES - January 31 HIGHLIGHTS

FRESH FROM THE THEATERS

Corpse Bride (2005).

One of Tim Burton's loveliest films yet, the stop-motion animated Corpse Bride is far more than The Nightmare Before Christmas revisited.

A good deal of credit evidently goes to character designer Carlos Grangel. There's much, much more than nodding to Edward Gorey and Charles Addams going on here. None of the four parents, for example, even have to speak; their characters are simultaneously immediately recognizable and entirely new exaggerated forms of Dickensian figures. Then, anchoring the whole is the gorgeous production design, the village all but drained of color, not overly wrought at all yet still reminders of Burton's penchant for German Expressionism - while his Batman films drew from Metropolis, here we have the smaller, more intimate scale of Caligari to an extent, and Nosferatu, based, interestingly enough, on a Victorian-era tale set somewhere in far off eastern Europe.

In contrast, the underworld is lively, colorful and, as composer Danny Elfman told one interviewer, "There was, like, a link there to that kind of old jazz, and a little bit of a Max Fleischer, Betty Boop kind of influence."

The Legend of Zorro (2005).

Antonio Banderas returns to the role that played so very well in... 1998? Yes, it's been a while. Catherine Zeta-Jones is back as Elena, too, and all in all, it's "a lot of fun, if at times a trifle haphazard," wrote Philip French in the Observer.

FOREIGN

La Bataille du Rail (1945).

"[René] Clément's first feature film, La Bataille du rail, is both a characteristic and anomalous work in the director's career, pointing forward to the intimate detail of many of his best films while drawing on the distanced ethnography of his pre-war work in documentary," writes Adrian Danks in Senses of Cinema. "It is both a highly charged dramatic fiction, complete with an almost symphonic score, and a distanced, observational work, drawing upon the conventions of documentary and the heightened 'realism' of actual locations, the integration of documentary footage, the reconstruction of recent historical events (the actual 'battle of the railways' which raged in 1944), and the casting of non-professional actors. Several critics have made connections between Clément's groundbreaking film and the work of Italian neo-realists such as Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio de Sica."

Massacre in Rome (1973).

NoShame, the label that's been releasing lesser known Italian gems on DVD, scores again with this harsh tale of Nazi revenge on the citizens of Rome for an uprising in the waning days of the war. "This film greatest strength is its amazing cast which features Marcello Mastroianni playing a character that is in direct contrast to the type he normally does," writes Michael Den Boer at 10K Bullets. "The films editing is superb and George P. Cosmatos's direction is solid as he keeps things simple and never tries to over stylize things. Ennio Morricone provides yet another phenomenal score that is piercing in its tone as it hauntingly compliments the films often brutal images. Massacre in Rome takes a real event out of history and makes a compelling film that succeeds on very level."

Bonus disc.

The Desert of the Tartars (1976).

Once again, NoShame, once again, an amazing score by Ennio Morricone, and once again, an outstanding cast, this time led by Max von Sydow and Jacques Perrin.

CULT

Virgins From Hell (1987).

"Virgins from Hell kicks off in grand fashion with a veritable army of busty biker chicks in leather short-shorts whooping ass on a gambling parlor, tearing around on dirt bikes, and crashing through walls in battle jeeps adorned with skulls-and-crossbones. It's as good as it sounds," writes David Austin in Cinema Strikes Back of this sexploitation flick from Indonesia. "Most people probably won't need to know more than that to decide if this is the right movie for them."

The second disc is loaded with trailers and a doc on the Indonesian scene.

Bonus disc.

CLASSICS

The Good Earth (1937).

Today, the casting of Paul Muni and Luise Rainer (who won a second Oscar for her performance) as poor Chinese farmers might strike us a odd (though we've recently seen Chinese actresses portraying Japanese geishas), but once you get over it, this widely lauded adaptation of Pearl S. Buck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is pretty impressive - particularly the justifiably famous locust infestation scene. Karl Freund, too, won an Oscar for his cinematography.

DOCUMENTARY

Art City (1996).

Three outstanding docs from 1996 are re-released this week, each focusing on a different corner of the art world. In Art City: Making It in Manhattan, we pay visits to Louise Bourgeois, Brice Marden, Chuck Close and a dozen or so others who indeed have.

In Art City: Simplicity, we actually leave the big city to check in on artists working in places like Taos, the Pacific coast and a forest near Woodstock.

And in Art City: A Ruling Passion, we meet Ed Ruscha, Elizabeth Peyton, David Deutsch and others.

Simplicity.

Ruling Passion.

ANIME

Ah! My Goddess Volume 3: With or Without You (2005).

"For Ah! My Goddess fans, the show continues to be a real treat," wrote Zac Bertschy for the Anime News Network after catching the second volume. "It's a long-awaited proper adaptation of the manga, and for that, it should be applauded; the series had been adapted into a short OVA series many years ago and then into a movie, and neither of them really captured the full scope of the likable and now-iconic storyline. So far, the TV series seems to be the most faithful and appropriate adaptation yet. Fans should be pretty happy with it."

Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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