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NEW RELEASES - December 13 HIGHLIGHTS

FRESH FROM THE THEATERS

The Baxter (2005).

"Michael Showalter's directorial debut is an immodestly refreshing crash course in modesty," wrote Ed Park in the Village Voice. "The Baxter has a high huggability quotient, but the points of the central love triangle are pricklier than one might expect."

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).

"What's distinctive about this male sex comedy is that it's sort of a woman's picture," wrote David Edelstein in Slate. "[T]his is a woman's fantasy of meeting a cute but nonaggressive guy's guy with a richly developed interior life who still needs emotional breaking-in, a guy who can save a gal as she saves him."

And he went on to single out a particular performance: "Catherine Keener was the cat's pajamas on first viewing, but a second confirms that she's also the bee's knees. Her combination of womanly earthiness and ethereal loopiness is unique in modern American cinema - and super-sexy."

Bad News Bears (2005).

"Is there a movie role Billy Bob Thornton can't pull off?" Manohla Dargis asked in the New York Times. What's more, "[Director Richard] Linklater guides his story forward as smoothly as he did School of Rock. Filled with small, cute kids and large, goofy laughs and buoyed by fine supporting work from Greg Kinnear and Marcia Gay Harden, the director's latest effort won't rock your movie world, but the fact that he manages to keep the freak flag flying in the face of our culture of triumphalism is a thing of beauty."

The Island (2005).

Boy, was Michael Bay upset when audiences didn't swarm to The Island this summer. But not half as much as some studio execs who suggested that, well, maybe Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson just aren't sexy enough to draw a crowd. Hello?

The real reason for the poor performance at the box office might be this: The Island doesn't look like a movie you want to spend ticket, popcorn and parking money on. Instead, it looks like a fun, possibly even silly actioner with surefire effects, a potentially engaging premise and, yes, a couple of sexy leads. In other words, perfect for a relaxing evening at home.

FOREIGN

Naked Among Wolves (1963).

In a profile of Frank Beyer for Senses of Cinema, Leonie Naughton notes that this "anti-fascist" film made for the DEFA studios (basically UFA during the years of the German Democratic Republic) "has been acclaimed for its 'indelibly written characters,' and has invited 'positive comparison to Schindler's List in its ability to portray the triumph of human spirit.'"

Three Dancing Slaves (2004).

There are story problems here, no doubt about it, but as Gabriel Shanks writes at Modern Fabulosity, "it's a homoerotic haven, for one...especially for those with a penchant for Bel Ami boys, metrosexual posturing and European sensibilities. It's beautifully shot (cinematographer Jean-Max Bernard's work ranks among the year's best), extremely well-acted, and especially engrossing in its last hour. And lest we forget it's most defining attribute... it's French."

DRAMA

The Beautiful Country (2004).

"The idea for the film came from Terence Malick, a good solid start in my book," wrote David Hudson when he caught The Beautiful Country in Berlin early last year. "Malick also wrote the original draft of the screenplay and, after seeing Aberdeen, decided that Hans Petter Moland was just the director who could bring the epic journey of a young Vietnamese man from his homeland to America to the screen - for a mere $5 million. Though Moland likes to joke that if you want to make a film set in the Far East and the States, the obvious thing to do is call in a Norwegian, straight across the board, Malick was absolutely right."

Crooked Hearts (1991).

Follow the ups and downs of a dysfunctional family with Vincent D'Onofrio, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Juliette Lewis, Peter Coyote as the father and Noah Wyle as the youngest brother.

DOCUMENTARY

Long Way Round (2004).

Road trip! But not just any road trip. Actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman fulfill a life-long dream, motorcycling through Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Alaska on their way to New York. The series of episodes runs nearly seven hours in all, but by all accounts, it's irresistible viewing.

CLASSICS

The Five Pennies (1959).

Danny Kaye plays jazz trumpeter Red Nichols; the true story takes a back seat, though, to the candy-colored look and the terrific musical numbers.

ANIME

Stellvia Volume 8: Foundation VIII (2005).

"Highly recommended for sci-fi and school based coming-of-age anime fans," says drseid.

Click on to see what's Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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