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NEW RELEASES

December 14, 2004

FRESH FROM THE THEATERS

  • Collateral (2004). Los Angeles at night has been the setting for many a film noir, but it's never looked quite like this before, in part because Michael Mann is discovering things digital video can do it's never done before. As far as that goes, we haven't seen Tom Cruise quite like this before, either - graying and bad, bad, bad. A terrific turn, too, from this year's rising star, Jamie Foxx. [Rent] Bonus disc. [Rent]

  • The Door in the Floor (2004). Tod Williams directs Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger in what is essentially the first third of John Irving's novel, A Widow for One Year and, according to A.O. Scott in the New York Times, the result is "surely the best movie yet made from Mr. Irving's fiction. It may even belong in the rarefied company of movies that are better than the books on which they are based. And above all, Jeff Bridges offers perhaps the wittiest and richest piece of screen acting by an American man so far this year." [Rent]

  • We Don't Live Here Anymore (2003). Another literary adaptation, this time from stories by Andre Dubus; and, like Door in the Floor, another story driven by the tantallizing temptations of adultery. Even if the subject leaves you cold (because, you know, you're dead or something), the film provides an opportunity to watch four excellent actors sink their chops into some solid material: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts. [Rent]

  • I, Robot (2004). Two words: Will. Smith. Other than that, what we have here, of course, is a stylish update of the story by Isaac Asimov, the style courtesy of director Alex Proyas. [Rent]

  • This So-Called Disaster (2003). J. Hoberman put it best in the Village Voice: "The backstage drama is one of the oldest clichés in show business, but veteran trickster Michael Almereyda - he of the video-on-video Ethan Hawke Hamlet - successfully dusts it off in This So-Called Disaster. Almereyda's behind-the-scenes documentary of Sam Shepard directing his play The Late Henry Moss is both resonant and skillfully devious." The cast isn't too shabby, either: Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Cheech Marin, Nick Nolte and more. [Rent]

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). The triumphant conclusion of Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic swept up all eleven Oscars it was nominated for. This summer we wrote: "What fun it'll be to get another look at this one again. Legolas swooping down the trunk of that three-story elephant, the incredible devolution of Smeagol, Sam telling Frodo, 'I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you.' All those remarkable, well-earned moments. And the great thing about seeing it on DVD, of course, is that you can choose which of the half a dozen or so goodbye scenes to actually watch." And now, with the Extended Edition, you can choose to watch hours more of new scenes, behind-the-scenes and before-and-after the scenes material, too. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent].

  • Blessed (2004). Speaking of Smeagol. Or Golem, whatever. Andy Serkis plays another scary sort in this tale of biotech gone evil alongside Heather Graham and James Purefoy. [Rent]

  • The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004). If you've ever wondered what happens in the happily-ever-after, here you go. [Rent]
  • THE YAKUZA PAPERS

    Yes, we've announced the imminent arrival of Kinji Fukasaku's gangbusting series, The Yakuza Papers, before; but Home Vision Entertainment really is ready now, and introduces the set: "Premiering a year after The Godfather, The Yakuza Papers also broke box-office records and spawned sequels, but, in contrast, took a ruthlessly de-romanticized view of the underworld. Based on an actual gang boss' memoirs, The Yakuza Papers plunges the audience into a gritty, brutal, violent newsreel of a three-decade struggle for power of Shakespearean complexity, a nihilistic epic unlike any other."

    • Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1973). "Inarguably the most important yakuza film, or giri-ninjo, of the 1970s," writes K.H. Brown for Kinocite. [Rent]

    • Deadly Fight in Hiroshima (1973). The first sequel, upping the blood, violence and revenge quotient. [Rent]

    • Proxy War (1973). Things kick off with the killing of the head of Hiroshima's most powerful yakuza family - in broad daylight. [Rent]

    • Police Tactics (1974). In this entry, the cops sweep in and crack down. Hard. [Rent]

    • Final Episode (1974). Can the families go legit? Is there hope for a "Tensei Coalition"? [Rent]

    • Bonus disc. A big bundle of extras, featuring Friedkin on Fukasaku; an interview with translator Linda Hoaglund; Kantoku, a group discussion; JitsurokuL Reinventing the Yakuza Genre; Boryoku: Fukasaku and the Art of Violence; and the Yakuza Papers Family Tree, a comprehensive story guide. [Rent]

    Glenn Erickson, the DVD Savant, recently noted at DVD Talk how Fukasaku radically altered the concept of the Yakuza in Japan: "The previous romantic notion of loyalty is a sham from the start.... The rituals are all there, even though Fukasaku doesn't dwell on them: Thugs attach themselves to clans almost in marriage, supposedly waiving all other ties of loyalty. But most of the soldiers and almost all of the bosses ignore the Yakuza code while working whatever Machiavellian schemes are available to them. Gang personnel are treated as expendable assets. Bosses wheedle and talk about honor, while their wives whine on about nobility and make promises nobody intends to keep. If that's not the story of the modern business world, nothing is."

    FOREIGN

  • Kitchen Stories (2003). A wry comedy from Norwegian director Bent Hamer that, as Elvis Mitchell wrote in the New York Times, "points as straight and true as a compass fixed on magnetic north. It has the tingly, dry shock of a snootful of sub-zero air. The material, a comic melodrama about conformity, is so minimal that it makes the understatement of a New Yorker cartoon play like the frenetic SpongeBob Squarepants." And yes, that's a good thing. [Rent]

  • Time of the Wolf (2003). Once again, Michael Haneke directs Isabelle Huppert, but this is no Piano Teacher. If anything Haneke's vision has grown even darker. As Peter Bradshaw wrote in the Guardian, "Each new film from Michael Haneke feels like another turn of the screw; his movies are wound-searchingly, bone-scrapingly real: extreme cinema without anaesthetic.... This is not an escapist sci-fi vision of the 'future'; it's a tactlessly horrible here and now.... None of this looks like what might happen, but what will happen." [Rent]

  • Paris, Texas (1983). First: Helluva title, isn't it? Anyway, this winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes finds nearly everyone involved at or near the height of their powers. One of Wim Wenders's great themes is the dialogue - cultural and mythical, eager yet often mangled - between Europe and America. There's a deep yearning for reconciliation of many shades and colors in this story penned by Sam Shepard. Harry Dean Stanton gives a haunting performance, Ry Cooder's soundtrack evokes bleak vistas and Nastassja Kinski reminds us why Europe pinned so much hope on her rising star before she slipped away for so many years. This release is a welcome but melancholy reunion. [Rent]
  • DRAMA

  • Paris (2003). It'd be just another thriller spiked with gunshots and corruption if it weren't for the always-intriguing Bai Ling. Though there is that original music by John Cale as well. [Rent]

  • 200 American (2003). In this rough and ready indie, a New York ad exec is recovering - though not too well - from a recent break-up with his boyfriend of three years. Perhaps hiring an Australian escort will help? Complications ensue. [Rent]
  • COMEDY

  • Anything But Love (2002). Elizabeth Zimmer in the Voice: "If this is such a cheesy, derivative movie, why did I watch it twice with such delight? Possibly because at its center it's profoundly authentic, and because the star turn by Andrew McCarthy, a moody, mercurial characterization, saves it from fairy-tale bathos." [Rent]

  • My Wife Maurice (2002). A shrill, farcical sex comedy from France. [Rent]

  • Silver Streak (1976). People tend to remember this one for two things: That train spectacularly crashing through the wall of a station and the pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor (and this is indeed probably the best of the comedies they starred in together). But what most tend to forget is that there's a trio at work here, with a charming Jill Clayburgh contributing a solid share of the fun. [Rent]
  • DOCUMENTARY

  • Googoosh: Iran's Daughter (2000). To say that life for a female pop star in a country that's undergone so many social and political changes over the past several decades would, of course, be an understatement. Even at points in her career when she's been "silenced," Googoosh has outsold all other Persian pop acts several times over. This impressionist documentary traces her amazing life. [Rent]

  • Hiding and Seeking (2003). Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky's doc traces Daum's search for the Polish couple who hid his father-in-law during the German occupation. Joshua Land made an interesting observation in the Voice: "While this story largely revolves around long-ago events, many of its most striking moments involve modern technology - computers play an important role - and the film reaches its emotional climax with a trans-Atlantic cell phone call, suggesting the ways the digital age has altered our relationship to our own pasts." [Rent]

  • Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion (2003). "Tom Peosay neatly avoids the obvious pitfalls," wrote Tasha Robinson in the Onion AV Club; "his documentary lays out Tibetan history and current issues in a direct and organized fashion, pushing the obvious buttons while maintaining a melancholy sense of restraint and dignity." Narrated by Martin Sheen. [Rent]
  • ANIME

  • Wolf's Rain. Volume 4: Recollections (2004). "A story about pretty wolves that turn into equally pretty boys," writes AFleming. "Beautifully animated. I feel I must warn potential watchers to expect to cry." [Rent]

  • Requiem from the Darkness. Volume 2: Human Atrocity (2004). "Suffice it to say, this is not the anime for you to watch if you've missed your Prozac dose, or you think that Sailor Moon is the epitome of what all anime should be!" warns BrettJB. "It is very dark." [Rent]

  • Fighting Spirit (Hajime no Ippo). Volume 3: Test of Endurance (2004). The first two volumes have been receiving very high ratings around here. [Rent]

  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. Volume 4: Desert Warfare [Rent]; and Volume 5: Archangel's Flight [Rent] (2004). Need a quick guide to the series? Bahamut's got an excellent reference list for you.

  • Sister Princess. Volume 2: Sibling Rivalry (2004). Four new episodes, appearing only on DVD. [Rent]

  • New Fist of the North Star. Volume 3: When a Man Carries Sorrow (2004). "If you are at all a fan of the original TV show (or even the movie), you'll either love what's been done to the story, or you'll hate it," writes roadwarrior. "Part of the charm of the original was the choppy, gritty (some said awful) mid-1980's animation that left the goriest details to your imagination. Not so here. When Hokuto Shin Ken strikes a power point, we get to see it all (and that might be a bit more than some viewers want). Also, we have CGI scenes that, standing alone, are quite exceptional." [Rent]

  • Get Backers. Volume 3: Into the Limitless Fortress (2004). The further adventures of Ginji and Ban. [Rent]

  • Gokusen. Volume 2: Kumiko's Way (2004). Will she be able to keep her double life a secret? [Rent]

  • Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea. Volume 1 (2004). Robots, dragons, brilliant girls in short skirts. You know, the usual. [Rent]

  • Kaze No Yojimbo. Volume 5: Deadly Feud (2004). Your fellow GCers are rating previous volumes at around 8 and 9. [Rent]

  • Eiken (2004). The Zashono Academy sounds like any other, really. Half-naked co-eds coated in yogurt riding waterslides... yep. [Rent]

  • The Daichis: Earth's Defense Family. Volume 1: Dysfunctional Heroes (2004). Before the Incredibles, there were the Daichis. [Rent]

  • Shrine of the Morning Mist. Volume 1: Asagari no Miko (2004). Your basic high school Shinto princess picks up a few tips in the magic arts from the local priestesses. [Rent]

  • Mezzo: Shell 2 (2004). Times get tough for the DSA team. Four fresh episodes. [Rent]

  • Last Exile. Volume 7: Sealed Move (2004). "I've watched the first 4 discs thus far and I really like this series," writes jeffsui. [Rent]

  • Angel Tales. Volume 4: Sweet New Life (2004). This is it, the final volume. [Rent]

  • Dragon Ball GT. Volume 4: Conviction (2004). Still rolling. [Rent]
  • Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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