November 16, 2004
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
The Saddest Music in the World (2004). "The funniest musical of the decade - the 1930s, that is," quipped J. Hoberman in the Village Voice, where director Guy Maddin himself kept a running journal of this film's making. But leave it to Hoberman to describe it (at least as far as that's possible): "100 minutes of demented vaudeville and murky montage, spasmodic violence and even splatter... shot in a deliberately anachronist style - tinted black-and-white with color inserts, gauzy glamour, halated backlighting... As Maddin films go, The Saddest Music is relatively easy to follow and yet, given its convoluted narrative connections, it resists synopsis... [A] contribution to the imaginary history of our times." [Rent]
Elf (2003). Will Ferrell does Christmas. But seriously. This is one of his lightest, most high-spirited efforts; so much so that Slate proclaimed it, in all sincerity, "irony-free fun for the whole family." [Rent]
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004). The slow-burning success of Pitch Black provided David N. Twohy the opportunity to make this sequel - and a lot more money to make it with, too. Vin Diesel is back, and he's joined this time by the very regal Judi Dench. [Rent]
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (2003). Mike Hodges, director of the cult favorite Croupier and the original Get Carter, returns with a solid cast - Clive Owen, Charlotte Rampling, Jonathan Rhys-Myers and Malcolm McDowell - for what New York Times critic A.O. Scott calls "a fine stylistic showpiece." [Rent]
Fanny and Alexander (1982). For some, this is one of the only films by Ingmar Bergman they can bear to watch a second time. Granted, there are passages of bleak, wintry angst here, but they are masterfully balanced out by others bursting with life in all its robust fullness. In a sense, this film is to Bergman what Amarcord is to Fellini. Loosely autobiographical and far more forgiving of the cold cruel world than you'd expect. Nominated for six Oscars, it won four. On DVD at last, this package is another Criterion extravaganza, featuring the theatrical version, the original five-hour television version (never before released on home video in the US), Bergman's own making-of documentary, interviews and more. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent] and 5 [Rent].
Flavors (2003). "First time directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK proved a point with their feature Flavors," wrote indieWIRE. "With a very limited budget they managed to create a truly unique comedy that weaves several storylines together, following the lives of interconnected Indo-Americans on both coasts. In the spirit of The Joy Luck Club, the directors provide a satirical yet revealing glimpse into a culture most Americans know very little about." [Rent]
Lakshya (2004). "Schoolboy Indian nationalism is the keynote of this gung-ho war epic starring stately Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan as commanding officer Colonel Sunil Damle," wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian. "Unpretentious and enjoyable." [Rent] Bonus disc. [Rent]
Short Cuts (1993). "Never thought anyone could bring Raymond Carver's distinct short stories to film, and I'm still not sure, but [Robert] Altman made a game effort, intertwining multiple stories in often brilliant fashion," writes underdog. Once again, the cast is staggeringly rich and varied, and once again, Altman conjures a world for them to seek out their own niche in and inhabit. And once again, a Criterion edition comes loaded with extras - docs, interviews, the works. [Rent] Bonus disc. [Rent]
Legong, Dance of the Virgins (1935). This cinematic curiosity is a simple and tragic love story filmed on location in Bali. "The movie is similar to F.W. Murnau and Robert Flaherty's Tabu (1931) - filmed in Tahiti - but less noble and more exciting," writes Jeffrey Anderson at Combustible Celluloid. [Rent]
Hebrew Hammer (2002). The tropes of 70s-era blaxploitation flicks have been revived before for comic purposes. But never quite like this. Adam Goldberg is Mordechai Jefferson Carver - so watch it! [Rent]
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969). Historians have often marvelled at how the mid and late 60s, a period of social upheaval and radical political engagement, so quickly gave way to Me Decade, a period of woo-woo self-realization and macrame wall hangings. A few clues might be found in Paul Mazursky's comedy of uncertain manners depicting two very different married couples, Bob (Robert Culp) and Carol (Natalie Wood) and Ted (Elliott Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon), struggling to adjust to the quaking shifts in mores all around them. [Rent]
No Vacancy (1999). Christina Ricci will be the most recognizable name attached to this indie comedy. It never saw a full-fledged theatrical release, but if the IMDb user comments are anything to go by - two unabashed raves and one thumb down... well, that seems about right for a film shot through with offbeat humor. [Rent]
National Lampoon's Holiday Reunion (2004). The holiday is Thanksgiving, by the way. [Rent]
Promises (2001). Seven kids, three of them Palestinians, four of them Israelis, all live within 20 minutes of each other. The filmmakers try to get them to spend some time together, and eventually succeed, sparking a slight and very tenuous flame of hope. This eye-opening doc originally aired on PBS, was nominated for an Oscar and won two Emmys. [Rent]
Battle Beyond the Sun / Star Pilot (1963 / 1965). Just as the Net makes it possible for the world to dredge up your old school photos from your high school annual, so the advent of video, and now, DVD keeps the first exercises of future great directors in circulation. 40 years ago, Francis Ford Coppola was hired by Roger Corman to reshape a Soviet sci-fi flick he'd bought and Battle is the result. Star Pilot makes for an interesting match-up with this gesture of cinematic detente; originally known as 2+5: Mission Hydra, it's a visual martini, complete with lounge music and served Italian style. [Rent]
ACTION and ADVENTURE
Queen Kong / Kong Island (1976 / 1968). As Peter Jackson's remake of the original 1933 classic King Kong lumbers toward its theatrical release next year, expect to see more DVD releases of just about anything with Kong's name on it in the meantime. Queen Kong is a remake itself, albeit one that comes nowhere near taking itself seriously. Kong Island is, by all accounts, even sillier. [Rent]
The Office Special (2003). "It's perfect," Nancy Franklin wrote in the New Yorker recently about this smashing British sitcom-mockumentary. "Some people like it so much that they can't watch it. That's how good it is." In this special, the filmmakers recording the goings on in, you know, the office, return three years on to see things have - and haven't - changed. [Rent]
Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1986). Truly, one of Saturday morning television's finest half-hours. As Dave Itzkoff recently described it in the New York Times, Paul Reubens's wildly imaginative creation "was a vibrant and relentlessly inventive half-hour that was equal parts dollies and Dali, whose every frame was crammed with pop art, vintage toys and talking furniture." Volume 1: Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3[Rent], 4 [Rent] and 5 [Rent]. Volume 2: Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent] and 5 [Rent].
Smallville. Season 3 (2003). "When this show started, I was prepared for it to be a disaster like Birds of Prey or the charmless Dark Angel," writes hamano. "It turned out to be a fun, smartly written series with a gung-ho momentum. Rent it!" You heard the man. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent], 5 [Rent] and 6 [Rent].
Dokkoida?!. Volume 2: Mega Mania Attack (2004). "Hyper characters, no thinking required, and super charged energy?" asks Bamboo Dong at Anime News Network. "Hell, yes." [Rent]
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie (2004). If you (or your kids) are a fan of the series, you pretty much know what to expect - more of the same, but on a slightly grander scale. [Rent]
KIDS OF ALL AGES
A Wrinkle in Time (2003). Madeleine L'Engle's Newberry Award-winning novel of interplanetary time travel is brought to the small screen by Disney. Featuring Kate Nelligan and Alfre Woodard. [Rent]
Eloise at Christmastime (2003). Based on Kay Thompson's beloved book. [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.