December 28, 2004
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004). The long-awaited sequel to Momoru Oshii's groundbreaking original. "You can call me fanboy," wrote J. Hoberman in the Village Voice recently, "but this is the best anime I've ever seen." Introducing his interview with the director, Sean Axmaker wrote, "The little details - the quality of light, the movement of shadows across faces, the rustle of clothing as it strains against moving bodies - that give his work a poetic realism unique to his vision are even more in evidence in his latest film. But behind the technology are his characters, vividly realized and painstakingly placed within a social framework. Humanity - in all its possible definitions - remains at the heart of Oshii's work and his vision." [Rent]
Code 46 (2004). Michael Winterbottom seems to have decided to make at least one film in every existing genre and maybe even invent a genre or two on his own. His foray into science fiction has frankly been met with mixed reviews but many critics echo Peter Brunette's observation in indieWIRE: "Its errors must finally be forgiven. For it's the responsibility of science fiction, above all, to make us rethink the future (and, in the process, of course, the present), and Code 46 carries out this task in a grand and often immensely powerful way." [Rent]
Open Water (2003). Rarely have we seen a little indie thriller split critics so evenly and so severely. The tale of a couple of divers left on their own out in the middle of the ocean will evidently either utterly rattle your cage or leave you cold and dry. What else can we say? You won't know which camp you'll fall into yourself until you dip a toe in. [Rent]
Intimate Strangers (2004). Anna heads to her first appointment with a psychiatrist. Arrives and begins speaking. But the man behind the desk is so thrown off he can't bring himself to tell her she's entered the wrong office; he's a tax advisor. When will he tell her? Will he tell her? And since she has to find out one way or the other, how will she react? Lovely premise, isn't it. Best of all, director Patrice Leconte not only maintains a gentle tension throughout, he never pushes too hard, either. Sandrine Bonnaire teeters adroitly between vulnerability and control while Fabrice Luchini, immediately sympathetic as a man just now coming to terms with loneliness (he's only recently broken up with a lover), never slips into the merely pathetic. Don't miss this one or our interview with Leconte, either. [Rent]
Garden State (2004). Young Zach Braff wrote, directed and starred in this debut feature, definitely setting himself for an ugly fall if it'd all gone sour. It didn't. In fact, with an overt nod to The Graduate, he's clearly struck a nerve with his intended audience, his fellow twenty-somethings, who've made Garden State a slow-burning hit as it rolled out coast-to-coast. Fans who can't get enough congregate at his blog, where they've been anticipating this release practically all year. [Rent]
Lana's Rain (2004). A "harsh but moving drama" (Chicago Reader) about a brother and sister who immigrate to America and promptly run up against the rough-and-tumble realities of life in Chicago once your savings are gone. [Rent]
Anchorman (2004). At last, a comedy set in the 70s that isn't a rehash of a 70s TV show. Unless, of course, you'd like to trace director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell's anything-goes take on local news back to The Mary Tyler Moore Show's Ted Baxter. Regardless, as Salon put it, "Ferrell is an exceedingly likeable comic actor." [Rent]
Wimbledon (2004). Nothing like the playful attentions of Kirstin Dunst to get Paul Bettany's game going. [Rent]
Wicker Park (2004). Josh Hartnett obsesses over an old girlfriend, which somehow leads him to a new one who seems like she might know something about the old one... and so on. [Rent]
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004). "One of the best action films I've ever seen," says bloodytaco. [Rent]
Twilight Samurai (2002). Yoji Yamada's 77th feature is his first venture into the samurai genre. Not exactly a household name over here, the 71-year-old director is famous in Japan for his series of films, 48 in all, featuring Tora-san, a wandering modern-day adventurer. "That Yamada's film was actually nominated for an Oscar earlier this year shouldn't be held against it," quipped Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice earlier this year. "Even the Academy's import-selecting body can trip on its own Ferrari every now and then and elect something subtle, grown-up, and nourishingly wise." [Rent]
Daughters of the Sun (2000). As in the Afghan film, Osama, Daughters follows the travails of a young woman, this time around in Iran, who must disguise herself as a male to get done what needs to be done. Laura Sinagra in the Village Voice: "First-time director Maryam Shahriar approximates Kiarostami's long-take style but also relies on precise, horrific events to move the narrative forward." [Rent]
Takashi Miike just won't let up, will he? This week sees the release of two more wild ones: In Yakuza Demon (2003 [Rent]), it's back down deep into the underworld where a boss in trouble is lucky to have two underlings who'll do all they can to protect him. Andromedia (1998 [Rent]) is Miike's J-pop flick, teaming girl group Speed and boy band Da Pump in what Dennis Lim, writing in the Village Voice has called "an effervescent riff on memory and virtualness... Any film nuts enough to cast wild-man cinematographer Chris Doyle as a shorts-clad villain is its own kind of must-see."
Rubber's Lover (1997 [Rent]). "Tweaking the frenzied cinematic style seen in his Pinocchio 964 (1997 [Rent]), director [Shozin] Fukui offers another serving of fluid-soaked dementia," writes Mondo Digital: "Along the way the viewer is treated to plenty of fetishistic groping, the scariest man in a speedo ever committed to film, jets of oil-black blood, and enough swirling camerawork to make Irreversible look sedate in comparison."
Wilber Wants to Kill Himself (2002). Yes, he does. But he's not the only fully fleshed-out character in this story. "It works like a charm," writes talltale. "Directed, written, edited, composed (and more) by Danes, but acted by Scots and set in Scotland, Wilber... is a drama/comedy/romance about love and death.... Threatening to become unbearably sentimental (given the stormy story), it holds a steady course and thanks to a sterling cast and director Lone Scherfig (Italian for Beginners) arrives home a winner." [Rent]
The Intended (2002). "A taut noirish thriller that unfolds in a fever of firelit ambience," wrote Joshua Land in the Village Voice just this June when this post-Dogme effort from Kristian Levring arrived on our shores. Land also found it another argument in favor of the "notion that the Dogme movement might produce greater films posthumously than in life." [Rent]
Made in Estonia (2003). The former Soviet satellite comes to grips with the strange demands of capitalism. [Rent]
Nine Good Teeth. Director Alex Halpern creates a loving portrait of his 104-year-old Italian-American grandmother, Mary Mirabito Livornese Cavaliere, affectionately know to her family as Nana. "A first-rate documentary," declares indieWIRE. "This glorious encounter with an unforgettable soul will have you embracing life and pooh-poohing fear of your own demise." Adds Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times, "Halpern's embracing yet penetrating film, with its lyrical collages of archival footage giving it a vibrant flow, is above all a celebration of a life that has been lived to its fullest." [Rent]
Axis of Evil (2004). It's a talking head doc, but fortunately, the subject's an interesting one: an exhibition curated in the hopes of "shedding light on the myths of evil and its doers through the philatelic art of the postage stamp and literature," as arts organizer Jim Swanson puts it. Participants include Bernardine Dohrn, Daniel Ellsberg, Martha C. Nussbaum, Gerhard Schutte, and Howard Zinn. [Rent]
Sister Helen (2002). We introduced this winner of the Director's Award for Best Documentary at Sundance earlier, but what can we say, its release got delayed. Once again, then, this film focuses on a nun like no other. "New York has never had a shortage of colorful characters, but even in this city of eccentrics, Sister Helen Travis is a standout," wrote Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "A Benedictine nun who runs a shelter for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx, she is no saintly, frail Mother Teresa, but a swaggering, foul-mouthed, murderously sarcastic woman of 69." [Rent]
A Short Film About John Bolton (2003). Neil Gaiman's Journal is one of those permanent links you'll find in the right-hand column at GreenCine Daily. Simply because he's an extraordinarily prolific writer and filmmaker who likes to stay engaged with his audience on as personal a level as possible and as frequently as possible. Plus, the man's work has something under-the-skin provocative about it, and so, when Gaiman feels the same magnetic pull towards another artist, in this case, of course, John Bolton, it's got to arouse your curiosity. [Rent]
ACTION and ADVENTURE
Gargoyle (2004). Good thing we're getting an Intelligence Czar. The CIA sends agents to Romania and they're unprepared for evil gargoyles? [Rent]
Sex and the City. Season 6. Part 2 (2004). Here they are, the episodes that arrested a nation back in February so that it could say its long goodbye. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
Samurai X: Reflection (2004). Director's Cut. The UK's DVD Times sets the scene: "Fifteen years after the events portrayed in the Rurouni Kenshin television series, Kaoru and Kenshin are married and have a teenage son named Kenji who is off learning swordsmanship from Kenshin's old master, Seijuro. Kaoru falls ill and starts to recollect her many memories of her husband - from their initial meeting on through to the conclusion of the Kyoto arc. There are many, many flashbacks, and more than a few of these touch upon concerns on her part for how Kenshin feels towards her compared to his feelings for his first 'wife', Tomoe." [Rent]
Twelve Kingdoms. Volume 9: Atonement (2004); roadwarrior's take on the series: "Take Fushigi Yugi, remove most of the humor and most of the bishounen, add some fantastic variations on classical mythic creatures, improve the artwork, and streeeetch out the plot.... If you can hang on, I believe you will be rewarded with what is ultimately a satisfying tale with plenty of suspense, drama, action, and its share of tragic as well as comedic moments." [Rent]
Inu Yasha. The Movie. 2: The Castle Beyond the Looking Glass (2004). Another full-length feature, which'll surely be welcomed by the many, many GCers who love the series. [Rent]
Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum: 04 (1995). The series of re-releases continues with better audio and video quality, as NLee explains. [Rent]
Tsukihime, Lunar Legend. Volume 2: Lunar Dance (2004). GCers are rating the first volume over 8 out of 10. [Rent]
Yu Yu Hakusho. Would you believe... Volume 28: Three Kingdoms (2004). The series rolls on and GCers keep rating it quite well. [Rent]
Tenchi Muyo! GXP. Volume 8: Past, Present and Future (2004). "A really funny show," says naranjablanca. [Rent]
Wedding Peach. Volume 8: Black Heart (1995). "Wedding Peach is by the creators of Sailor Moon, and is a very similar magical girl series - but this one has two outfit changes per character per show!" exclaims OtakuNYC. [Rent]
Gad Guard. Volume 4: Collections (2004). "The animation is well done by Gonzo Digimation, which seems to be singlehandedly proving how cool computer animation can be," notes Calafragious. [Rent]
Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still. Volume 2 (1992). Daisaku and Giant Robo have a ship called Greta Garbo? Definitely a point in their favor. [Rent]
Spiral. Volume 2: Disarming Fate (2004). Further adventures of Ayumu Narumi. [Rent]
Seraphim Call (2004). A dozen or so young ladies, each bearing her own special wish in her own little blessed little heart, meet up at Acropolis Tower. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.