December 30, 2003
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Well, actually, this one didn't play in just a whole lot of theaters, but it has been a festival favorite: Beyond Re-Animator (2003) [Rent]. The adventures (and gruesome experiments) of Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) continue. "It has everything a great horror/slasher movie has to have," writes Hollywood Bitchslap. "Yeah, it's silly, but then who cares? This film makes no bones about it. It doesn't go for drama, mystery, or action. Pass the potion please, it's time to have some fun."
Critics split over the Polish brothers' Northfork (2003), another foray into Lynchian territory, only this time with snow. Everyone agrees it's beautiful to look at, but only, oh, one out of two viewers hold that it all adds up to a great film. [Rent]
American Wedding (2003) [Rent]. One for the guilty pleasure section of your queue, because you desperately needed closure for this series. Favorite critic's quote: "As with the first two American Pie flicks, this is the kind of movie you see again 10 years later and wonder why you liked it back when you were young and dumb."
S.W.A.T. (2003) is a slam-bang remake of the original TV series (which we also have coming) and makes for some fun, mindless action. For those who like to watch... things blow up and crash. [Rent]
The Order (2003).
Brian Helgeland's got an unusual resume. He wrote the screenplay for LA Confidential and directed A Knight's Tale, but has also had a hand in stinkers like The Postman. This time, he sends Heath Ledger into the dark and murky depths of religious faith gone haywire.
So Close (2003) [Rent]. Kick-ass action director Cory Yuen brings us one of the most anticipated HK titles in some time. As Charles Taylor wrote in Salon, next to So Close, "nearly every Hollywood thriller of the summer looks like an elementary-school project thrown together the Sunday night before it was due." And with Shu Qi, Zhao Wei and Karen Mok commandeering this "girl fu" movie, the new Charlie's Angels looks pretty wimpy by comparison.
"The critics are full of it!" John Waters recently exclaimed in Artforum, placing Woody Allen's latest, Anything Else (2003) on his top ten of 2003 list. [Rent]
Equal parts Truffaut and Jeunet, Cédric Klapisch's L'Auberge Espagnole (2003) features Audrey Tautou as the girlfriend Xavier leaves behind for a year of study in Barcelona, where he winds up in an apartment shared with a European smorgasbord of characters. [Rent]
The BBC's period piece I Capture The Castle (2003) is both a coming-of-age and clash-of-cultures story. A 17-year-old English girl isn't wild about living in a big empty castle; then one day, two American brothers arrive... Quietly told, this film won quite respectable reviews if not a broad audience. Number 4 on Cinecultist's top ten of year. [Rent]
The Sammo Hung-staged action sequences in The Medallion (2003) are all they should be but most agree Jackie Chan still hasn't quite hit upon the perfect merger of Hong Kong Action and international Hollywood appeal. [Rent]
Indie favorites: Teknolust (2002) [Rent], Morvern Callar (2002) [Rent] and Melvin Goes To Dinner (2003) [Rent].
Worthy mainstream fare: Freaky Friday (2003) [Rent] and Seabiscuit (2003) [Rent].
Final Cut (1998) [Rent]. Well, it's a helluva cast: Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Sadie Frost. As for what it's about, Sight and Sound writes, "The propensity of cocaine to turn people into careless, hedonistic, hatefully self-regarding rat-bastards is one of the key themes." The magazine goes on to suggest rather unkindly that the film itself might be a result of a serious binge on the white powder.
Cowboys and Angels (2000) [Rent]. "Well cast and blessed with solid photography that takes good advantage of its desolate, rugged setting, the film unfolds at a casual pace which fits its stranded characters," writes Film Threat. "Even more important, it carries its tongue-in-cheek premise through to an almost perfect conclusion."
Cananea (1977) [Rent]. A true tale about strikes that led to the Mexican Revolution.
The Last Game (2002) [Rent]. High school football drama.
Pie in the Sky (1996) [Rent]. A love story featuring John Goodman, Anne Heche and Christine Lahti.
Blue Hill Avenue (2001) [Rent]. "A demanding, intelligent film of considerable complexity," writes the LA Times.
Mulletville (2002) [Rent]. Hit indie film written and directed by Tony Leahy, who stars as a filmmaker returning to his hometown to document its Trans am, beer and mullet culture.
Two disturbing documentaries from IFC focus on the two great horrors of the 20th century, the Holocaust and the threat of nuclear annihilation. My Knees Were Jumping (1996) was the first doc to draw attention to the Kindertransport, the operation that shuttled Jewish children from Germany to Great Britain in 1938 and 1939 [Rent]. Radio Bikini (1987) records the insanity of the above-ground atom bomb tests in the Bikini Atoll immediately after WWII; and ruin still felt by the Marshall Islanders in 1987 [Rent].
The Alamo (2003). The History Channel preps you for the blockbuster set to open in April. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
ACTION, SCIENCE-FICTION and HORROR
Hells Angels On Wheels (1967). Jack Nicholson. 1967. Need we say more? [Rent]
A strange change of pace for horror maven Jesus (aka Jess) Franco, Virgin Report (1971) goes around the world and through history to look at sex: medieval convents, exotic wedding night rituals, adolescent experimentation, and more. [Rent]
Leprechaun: Back 2 Da Hood (2003) [Rent]. We've also recently stocked up on the first five films in the Leprechaun series: 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent] and 5 [Rent].
Vicious (2003) [Rent]. Scary monsters and Tom Savini.
Blood (2000) [Rent]. "One of the most vivid and remarkable overhauls of the vampire myth conducted in recent years," writes The SF, Horror and Fantasy Review. Featuring Dogme favorite Adrian Rawlins.
Danger Man (1965) [Rent disc 1; rent disc 2]. Patrick McGoohan fans, rejoice! The Prisoner star's earlier, gritty secret agent series is now available on DVD. "A messy job, that's when they usually call on me," he tells us, and, unlike James Bond, there's less high-tech gadgetry and more complexity. Great fun for any Anglophile, and with a wonderfully jazzy score to boot.
The first season of Wiseguy (1987). Charismatic Ken Wahl and the memorable Ray Sharkey starred in TV's vastly underappreciated undercover cop drama. (Kevin Spacey showed up in later episodes.) Discs: 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent].
The hilarious HBO series Sex and the City's Fifth Season (2002) includes Miranda's pregnancy, Carrie's book signing with an alien dog and even Amy Sedaris! Discs: 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
The Secret Service (1969) [Rent disc 1; rent disc 2]. If you liked Thunderbirds, you'll dig this "marionation" series from its creator, Gerry Anderson (who called it his "most charming series").
Chespirito (1970 - 1985). The best sketches from the popular Latin American variety program. Vol. 1 [Rent] and Vol. 2 [Rent].
At long last, Emir Kusterica is making his way to DVD. Things start off quite logically with his most widely seen film (and Cannes award-winner), Underground (1995) [Rent]. "Not by a long shot is this similar to anything else you've seen lately," wrote Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle, "unless you've been to a few Buñuel, Peckinpah, and Raimi films simultaneously."
Teachers (1993) is a stunning sleeper from China. [Rent]
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