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NEW RELEASES - November 22 HIGHLIGHTS

FRESH FROM THE THEATERS

Kings and Queen (2004).

The latest from Arnaud Desplechin (of whom Sarasota Film Festival Director of Programming Tom Hall has written in indieWIRE, "There is not a more important filmmaker working today") is "a welter of narrative complication and piercing drama shot through with a rich vein of absurdist humor," wrote Manohla Dargis in the New York Times.

9 Songs (2004).

What won't Michael Winterbottom try? Running out of genres, he's taken to inventing his own lately, most recently adapting Tristram Shandy (and quite successfully, too, by all accounts so far). That film is going to be anything but simple, but 9 Songs? Simplicity defined: Nine songs. And in between, a British man and an American woman go at it. Explicitly, no holds barred - but not exactly erotically, either. Simply.

"Both structuralist and transgressive in the time-honored manner of avant-garde cinema, the film isn't ostentatiously postmod, but is instead focused, like a New Wave idyll, on the intimate hang time and private buzz of contemporary sex-love," wrote Michael Atkinson for a Village Voice cover package on the film.

War of the Worlds (2005).

Few critics this summer denied that Steven Spielberg's craftsmanship is on full display in his version of H.G. Wells's classic (and dark, dark, dark) shocker. But more than a few raised a couple of questions: Has he invented a sort of 9/11 porn? And is that ending for real? Or is it a parody?

Then there was the whole Tom Cruise hoopla all summer long, of course. For all the genuine thrills of this movie, about the only one coming out of it smelling like a rose is the eerily sharp Dakota Fanning.

CLASSICS

King Kong (1933).

"Whatever happened to Fay Wray / That delicate satin draped frame..."

If it took Peter Jackson and his 200-plus million dollar remake to spur the first-ever release of this amazing classic on DVD - in a two-disc special edition, no less - so be it.

"What can one say about King Kong?" begins Richard Schieb at the SF, Horror and Fantasy Review. "It is perhaps the greatest of all fantasy films, it is certainly the greatest monster movie ever made. It is a template upon which almost all giant monster movies from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) to Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954) and Jurassic Park (1993) base themselves to some extent or another."

And more than 60 years on, it's still as stunning as ever.

Bonus disc.

Tales of Hoffmann (1951).

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger turn the Archers' ballet-opera adaptation of Offenbach's opera about the German Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffmann and his stories into a unique work of their own. "An unusual, magical, cinematically brilliant movie," notes the Edinburgh University Film Society.

Again, Criterion packs its disc with irresistible features: Audio commentary by Martin Scorsese and music historian Bruce Eder; a video interview with George A. Romero; The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a short musical film directed by Powell and more.

FOREIGN

Black Girl / Borum Sarret (1966 and 1963).

Facets describes the intriguing disc: "Two films from 'the greatest of all African filmmakers' (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Film Comment). Black Girl (1966, 60 mins.), Ousmane Sembene's first feature-length film, is a major statement against the lingering culture of colonialism... Borom Sarret (1963, 20 mins.) follows a horse-cart driver in Dakar struggling through the day and witnessing the immense gulf between the poor and the bourgeoisie. 'The most seminal work of African cinema' (Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia). Both films in French with English subtitles."

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002).

And so begins Park Chan-wook's "Revenge Trilogy." It was the centerpiece of the triptych, 2004's Oldboy, that hit these shores (and Cannes) first and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance that's still wowing audiences on the festival circuit. This first entry "accomplishes a miraculous feat by being harrowing and humane in equal measure," writes James Crawford in the Village Voice.

Ran (1985).

"Kurosawa's final masterpiece is a massive reworking of King Lear and a spectacular visual feast," writes Eoliano. "While not as visceral as his adaptation of Macbeth, Throne of Blood, Ran has an epic sweep and an emotionalism all its own."

Eoliano goes on to note that this Criterion two-disc edition is chock full of offerings: "Special features include Chris Marker's documentary A.K., a documentary on the making of the film, Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, a new video interview with Tatsuya Nakadai, and Image: Kurosawa's Continuity, a video reconstruction of Ran through Kurosawa's paintings and sketches."

Bonus disc.

DOCUMENTARY

Ross McElwee Collection (1980 - 2003).

Six films from the renowned documentarian on five discs, and four of them have never before been released on DVD. Facets breaks 'em down: "Charleen (1980, 60 mins.) and Backyard (1984, 40 mins.) are early films that introduce McElwee's idiosyncratic blend of personal and universal elements. Sherman's March (1986, 155 mins.), the director's breakthrough film, retraces the route of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman while simultaneously offering a tour of McElwee's romantic history. Bright Leaves (2003, 107 mins.) is a tour-de-force look at addiction, family legacy, cultural myth and the movies. Time Indefinite (1993, 117 mins.) is an unofficial sequel to Sherman's March, in which the documentarian chronicles his wobbly marriage to Marilyn Levene. Finally, Six O'Clock News (1997, 103 mins.) features interviews with victims of natural disasters who have achieved an odd form of cultural cachet."

Don't miss Sean Axmaker's fascinating and wide-ranging talk with McElwee, an interview conducted just this summer.

Disc 2.

Disc 3.

Disc 4.

Disc 5.

ANIME

Samurai Champloo Volume 6 (2005).

"This is from Shinichiro Watanabe, also responsible for the wildly popular Cowboy Bebop," notes ahogue. "Far as I can tell, you won't go wrong watching something with his name on it. It's just good fun, really."

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig Volume 2 (2005).

It's getting a little confusing, all these different versions that have sprung from the original 1996 landmark anime, Ghost in the Shell, but if you're keeping track, you'll not want to miss this latest chapter.

ANIMATION

Aeon Flux (1995).

Like King Kong, here's another revival on DVD timed to the release of a remake, this time a live action version starring Charlize Theron. Its status as a classic pales next to the big ape, of course, but it's a classic nonetheless, introducing many in the MTV generation to a style of animation they'd go on to explore in real anime.

Disc 2.

Disc 3.

Polar Express (2004).

Smart of Robert Zemeckis and company to hold the DVD release of last year's Christmas movie to this year's Christmas season. If you can get over the oddly wooden complexion and movements of the GCI humanoids, the musical numbers are a delight, and of course, your kids'll love Tom Hanks.

Bonus disc.

Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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