November 23, 2004
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Gozu (2003). "At this point, it's not so much the man's Fassbinder-squared pace that astonishes as the sheer deranging variety of his output," Dennis Lim wrote of Takashi Miike recently in the Village Voice. Naturally, the record is going to be at least somewhat hit-and-miss. But here's Lim's good news: "[T]he splendidly entertaining Gozu, a straight-to-video Japanese release that snuck into Cannes last year and has been leaving a trail of damp, crusty stains on the festival circuit since, is likely his most cunning and controlled work since the sex-panic Venus flytrap Audition." [Rent]
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). With Harry, Ron and Hermione venturing deeper into adolescence and Y Tu Mamá También-director Alfonso Cuarón behind the camera, this is easily the most engaging and enchanting entry in the series yet. [Rent]; Bonus Disc [Rent].
The Terminal (2004). Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks team up once again, this time to tell the tale of Viktor Navorski, stuck, as you've undoubtedly heard, at that microcosm of consumer bliss, an airport, specifically, JFK. "Mr. Spielberg and the screenwriters, Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson, emphasize freedom rather than constraint and focus on the lightness of Viktor's situation, rather than on its gravity," wrote New York Times critic A.O. Scott this summer. "What sounds like a scenario out of Kafka or Gogol turns into a benign fairy tale of solidarity and resilience." [Rent]
Sleepover (2004). "Basically Sixteen Candles for the new cell-phoned 'tween set," snarks Kris Wilton in the Village Voice. So, for your inner 'tween or the 'tween in the next room... [Rent]
L'Age d'Or (1930). It's a sequel of sorts. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali were commissioned to dream up a film in the same surrealist vein as their (in)famous short, "Un Chien Andelou." The upshot is that it was during the making of this film that their creative partnership went kaputt. Let's not even begin trying to describe "what happens"; instead, let's note that painter Max Ernst plays a role, that the disc features audio commentary by Robert Short, author of The Age of Gold: Surrealist Cinema, and then give to the floor to Slant's Ed Gonzalez: "[T]hough there is no denying the potency of his images, Buñuel was more a master theorist: a purveyor of anti-oppressive codes and signs. It's telling that he was fan of the Marquis de Sade's 'recipe for cultural revolution.'" [Rent]
Strayed (2003). "After two lesser efforts, auteur André Téchiné is back in top form," heralds Erica Abeel for indieWIRE. "Though it should be said that even lesser Techine is still ravishing.... Opening shivery perspectives on mysteries that lie beyond the camera's field of vision, Strayed is filmmaking as magic conjuring act. You'll want to see it more than once." [Rent]
Oasis (2002). "The pinnacle of modern Korean cinema," declares markhl. "A pair of wonderful performances by the two lead actors keeps us from distancing ourselves emotionally from the handicapped protagonists. A very human, imaginative portrayal of those usually hidden from society." Further, Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice: "Lee Chang-Dong's Oasis is, at first blush, one of those occasional miracles that approach leapingly scandalous material with a superhuman charity and somehow dodge charges of tastelessness. In the end, it's a daring heartbreaker." [Rent]
New Year Sacrifice (1956). Asia Weekly has included this one on its list of the top 100 Chinese films of all time. [Rent]
Springtime in a Small Town (2002). The town is in southern China, the springtime dates back to 1946, and the film marks Tian Zhuangzhuang's return to directing after ten years of producing and mentor younger filmmakers. "This is a sensual, haunting film, atmospheric and moving, full of melancholy and a subtle eroticism, and Tian draws beautifully nuanced performances from his unknown cast," wrote Philip Kemp in Sight and Sound. [Rent]
Inugami (2001). Writing in Midnight Eye, Robin Gatto asserts that Masato Harada's Inugami "is not just a film, it is an experiment in styles and whims by a director whose complex personality and background make him both honest and exigent in his art and overtly ambitious in his intentions.... Surfing on the last waning waves of the Asian psycho-horror boom, Inugami is probably the most visually impressive of them all." [Rent]
Zhou Yu's Train (2003). It's certainly beautiful to look at and the influence of Wong Kar-wai over Sun Zhou's wispy tale of longing and more longing is unmistakable. And of course, Gong Li and Tony Leung are always marvelous to watch. We'll leave it to you to decide whether there's more to it than that. [Rent]
La Vie Promise (2002). The extraordinary Isabelle Huppert plays a prostitute in Nice. "This amazing tour-de-force presents Huppert in a role which is equal parts abrasive and vulnerable, exasperating and pathetic, monstrous and saintly," wrote Phil Hall in Film Threat. "It is impossible to imagine another actress who could encompass the demands of her character and present this individual as a living/breathing creation who demands our attention and takes our breath away." [Rent]
Secret Things (2002). An erotic melodrama from Jean-Claude Brisseau. "The French cinema, thankfully, still has room for eccentrics, directors whose films compulsively pursue personal obsessions, whether or not they intersect with a wide public," wrote Dave Kehr in the New York Times earlier this year. "Viewers of Secret Things will find it impossible not to allow a snicker to occasionally escape, as the film's lurid plot unfolds into ever more preposterous developments. But there is no denying the force of Mr. Brisseau's bizarre imagination and the personal conviction he brings to it." [Rent]
The Cyclist (1987). A classic of the Iranian New Wave from Mohsen Makhmalbaf. At his invaluable site, Strictly Film School, Acquarello calls the film "a spare and deeply affecting portrait of human despair, exploitation and resilience." [Rent]
Sexual Dependency (2003). Just 24 last year, Bolivian director Rodrigo Bellot "sets out to indict machismo on two continents, from the forced frolics of spoiled rich kids in Bolivia to the homoerotic jock-play of drunken frat boys in upstate New York," writes Robert Keser in Bright Lights Film Journal. "Teen revelry is open 24 hours here, with a centerfold-ready cast of 15- to 17-year-olds burning pure adrenaline in crowded clubs, flashbulb-strobed fashion shows, and university theater stages. Sex, it turns out, is rather an ordeal." [Rent]
Tanner on Tanner (2004). When Robert Altman called Michael Murphy back in front of the camera to reprise his role as Jack Tanner, the Senator who ran for President in 1988 (and lost), most expected simply an updated political satire. Instead, with the focus on Tanner's daughter, played by Cynthia Nixon, and her attempts to make a documentary about that long lost campaign, it turns out Altman's sharpest barbs are aimed at our current media-driven mania for watching ourselves watching ourselves. [Rent].
Powwow Highway (1989). The great American indie road movie sees Philbert Bono (the always wonderful Gary Farmer), member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, and a friend, Buddy Red Bow (A. Martinez), setting out from Lame Deer, Montana, to Sante Fe, New Mexico, by way of the Dakotas. "The plot is not the point," observed Roger Ebert. "What Powwow Highway does best is to create two unforgettable characters and give them some time together." [Rent]
Married/Unmarried (2001). "Over six scenes featuring different combinations of characters, a portrait of [a] foursome's relationship is revealed in all its dimensions, most of which would bring out the cynic in Mary Poppins," according to the UK's Channel 4, which calls this British film "the anti-thesis of Love, Actually" and "a memorable piece of filmmaking." [Rent]
Stealing Sinatra (2003). This little caper starring David Arquette and William H. Macy originally appeared on cable and is based on a true story. In need of cash, a group of friends decides to kidnap Frank Sinatra, Jr. [Rent]
Gypsy 83 (2001). A pair of Goths set out to realize their dreams. "The nice thing about Gypsy 83 is that it feels just like an 80's coming-of-age comedy," wrote Del Harvey in Film Monthly. "It's got the right nuances, the right look, the right sounds. But in the later middle both Gypsy and Clive come face-to-face with their own sexuality, and for me it is this little twist which elevates Gypsy's rough-edged feel to something more than just another ode to self-discovery." [Rent]
The Jackhammer Massacre (2004). A psychopath on drugs does pretty much what you'd expect a psychopath on drugs to do: Run amok and slaughter innocents. [Rent]
Seinfeld. Seems there really was something about that "show about nothing" after all. It ran for a decade, practically redefining the sitcom for the 90s, and now, arrives as a walloping stack of DVDs. Seasons 1 & 2 (1990 / 1991). Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent]. Season 3 (1991 / 1992). Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent].
Azumanga Daioh. Volume 6: Graduation! (2002). "Like Seinfeld, this is also a show about 'nothing,'" writes roadwarrior, "but it succeeds because of the detail it goes into in uncovering and examining the quirks the girls reveal as they explore themselves and their relationships with each other through such innocuous plotlines as hiccups, petting a cat, winning a footrace, the origin of pigtails, et cetera. Those quirks get taken to the extreme, with often hilarious results." [Rent]
Aura Battler Dunbine. Volume 10: Terror From Byston Well (2004). It's "one of those shows that illustrate why I like anime so much," writes snooze. "Even a show with kind of weak animation by current standards tells a more kickass story than most American produced shows today."
Please Twins!. Volume 1: Three's Company (2004). A new series launches: Who's the real twin? [Rent]
Case Closed. Case 4, Volume 3: Like Old Times (2004). The shows so far are averaging 8 or so out of 10 on the ratings scale around here. [Rent]
Yu Yu Hakusho. Volume 27: The Three Kings: Tempting Fate (2004). "They're plenty of animes with guys with magic powers fighting against pure evil dudes who there is no way to get around fighting, but YYH takes it above and beyond," writes Cosplayer. [Rent]
Petite Princess Yucie. Volume 1: Princess Academy (2004). A 17-year-old trapped in a ten-year-old's body gets a shot at breaking the curse. [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.