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NEW RELEASES - December 20 HIGHLIGHTS

FRESH FROM THE THEATERS

Serenity (2005).

"It probably isn't fair to Joss Whedon's Serenity to say that this unassuming science-fiction adventure is superior in almost every respect to George Lucas's aggressively more ambitious Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," wrote Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "But who cares about fair when there is fun to be had? Scene for scene, Serenity is more engaging and certainly better written and acted than any of Mr. Lucas's recent screen entertainments. Mr. Whedon isn't aiming to conquer the pop-culture universe with a branded mythology; he just wants us to hitch a ride to a galaxy far, far away and have a good time."

The Brothers Grimm (2005).

Everyone's rooting for Terry Gilliam. The director's raucous imagination never seems to go unpunished by those who step forth to pay him to realize it. If it weren't for an unprecedented campaign launched by critics, we'd never have seen Brazil, and of course, we still haven't seen his version of the Don Quixote tale.

Gilliam and the Brothers Grimm seemed like a perfect match, but Gilliam and the Weinsteins, well, probably weren't. Nonetheless, no one misses the mark as interestingly as Terry Gilliam, despite all odds.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005).

In the early 70s, churches were horrified that Christians and lay folk alike were getting their Sunday school lessons on demonology from one of the most popular horror movies of all time, The Exorcist. 30 years later, Christians are making their own popular exorcism movies.

You have to hand it to director Scott Derrickson, though. He knows what he's about: "In my opinion, the horror genre is a perfect genre for Christians to be involved with," he told Christianity Today this summer. "To me, this genre deals more overtly with the supernatural than any other genre, it tackles issues of good and evil more than any other genre, it distinguishes and articulates the essence of good and evil better than any other genre, and my feeling is that a lot of Christians are wary of this genre simply because it's unpleasant. The genre is not about making you feel good, it is about making you face your fears. And in my experience, that's something that a lot of Christians don't want to do."

Four Brothers (2005).

John Singleton directs Mark Wahlberg, Garrett Hedlund, Tyrese Gibson and Andre Benjamin in "a shrewd hybrid of traditional western and modern blaxploitation movies," as Stephen Holden put it in the New York Times, "with vintage Motown hits supplying pungent nostalgic whiffs from the Shaft and Superfly era while undercurrents of hip-hop keep it up to date."

The Great Raid Director's Cut (2005).

"Here is a war movie that understands how wars are actually fought," wrote Roger Ebert this summer. "The Great Raid is perhaps more timely now than it would have been a few years ago, when 'smart bombs' and a couple of weeks of warfare were supposed to solve the Iraq situation. Now that we are involved in a lengthy and bloody ground war there, it is good to have a film that is not about entertainment for action fans, but about how wars are won with great difficulty, risk, and cost."

Bonus disc.

FOREIGN

Vodka Lemon (2003).

"A confident [Hiner] Saleem mirrors and reveals the beauty and perseverance of life in the mundane and absurd, and as such his film is really reminiscent of the works of Aki Kaurismäki and Emir Kusturica," wrote Ed Gonzalez in Slant. "Anyone who can powerfully evoke the ecstasy of lovemaking with a shot of gently falling snow is a talent to watch."

Zaman: The Man From the Reeds (2003).

"This simple tale has a dramatic backstory," noted Laura Clifford when she caught it at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 2003. "Director Amer Alwan left Iraq in 1983 to study filmmaking in Paris. He returned in January 2003 to shoot this film on digital video, the export of film from Iraq being forbidden at the time. Facing censorship and the loss of five videotapes which were confiscated, Alwan nonetheless was able to bring this fable, the first Iraqi film to be seen internationally in fifteen years, to the screen.... This moving tale is simple, containing images of startling beauty like the play of light that falls into Zaman and Najma's hut through its woven walls."

CLASSICS

Seven Men From Now (1956).

"In the mid-1950s, director Budd Boetticher and actor Randolph Scott teamed up for a series of finely etched, elegiac westerns which count among the greatest glories of American cinema of the time." That's how the New York Film Festival announced the screening of the newly restored Seven Men From Now in 2000, now finally out on DVD.

Be sure to read Sean Axmaker's excellent interview with the late director.

DRAMA

November (2003).

Courteney Cox stars in Greg Harrison's second feature (his first was Groove), a thriller and a puzzler.

Ice Men (2004).

"A buddy movie wrapped inside a gay flick around a situation comedy of testosterone manners," wrote Lewis Whittington for Culture Vulture.

ANIME

Jubei-Chan 2 Volume 4: Unification (2005).

"The true heir to Ninja Scroll," proclaims Carlo Santos at the Anime News Network, "the Jubei-chan franchise, which is a far more convincing adventure than Ninja Resurrection ever was, and we're talking about a show that has schoolgirls. Jubei-Chan 2 continues the proud tradition of the first series, juxtaposing slick swordfights and nonstop gags to form an oddly entertaining mix."

Click on to see what's Coming Soon.

You also might want to browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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© 2006 All Media Guide, LLC. Portions of content provided by All Movie Guide®, a trademark of All Media Guide, LLC.