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NEW RELEASES - December 6 HIGHLIGHTS

FRESH FROM THE THEATERS

The Ninth Day (2004).

If you've seen Downfall, chances are you asked yourself, Who in the world is that ghoulish fellow playing Goebbels? It's Ulrich Matthes and by now he knows his Nazi-era history. Here, he plays a true-life priest sent to Dachau, where the Nazis popped a brutal moral quandary on him. Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) directs.

"Schlöndorff, born in 1939, kicked off the New German Cinema back in 1966 with his sinister adaptation of Robert Musil's novel Young Törless," David Denby reminds us in the New Yorker. "The German movement has long since declined, but Schlöndorff seems to have survived intact. He has specialized in political films (The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, Circle of Deceit, Legend of Rita) and literary adaptations (of Proust and Günter Grass, among others). Some of his movies have been didactic and heavy-footed, but not The Ninth Day. This film is powerful, concise, fully sustained."

Cinderella Man (2005).

The director has a crowd-pleasing record and few would complain about the cast: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti. Yet Ron Howard's retelling of the true Depression-era story of a boxer's attempt at a comeback didn't draw much of a crowd to be pleased, and in fact, it was this film that sparked the summer-long debate over whether or not Hollywood was in the throes of the Great Box Office Slump of 2005.

However that turns out, maybe this film will find its audience on DVD.

Fantastic Four (2005).

It's just been confirmed that there's a sequel in the works, so if you let this one pass you by when it was in theaters, now's the time to catch up.

FOREIGN

Forbidden Games (1952).

Depicting the ravages of war through the eyes of children, René Clément's Forbidden Games "is a bittersweet film that shows the devastation of war by touching an emotional cord, without the visual carnage," writes acquarello at Strictly Film School. "Intensely personal, emotionally devastating, and truly unforgettable."

The Criterion disc features a collection of new and archival interviews with Clément and actress Brigitte Fossey.

Shoot the Piano Player (1960).

"An offbeat crime film that was quiet, romantic, personal and audacious, people weren't sure what to make of it at the time, but its cinematic literacy and cheekiness would inspire future filmmakers (the pulp fiction origins of the story and the inept crooks surely must have inspired Tarantino, among others)," writes Craig Phillips in our French New Wave primer.

This new Criterion package is, naturally, bursting with extras.

Ladies in Lavender (2004).

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, sisters at last.

"Personally, I'd run a mile from Ladies in Lavender if it were the kind of movie its trailer wants us to think it is," wrote Stephanie Zacharek in Salon this spring. "But the movie itself, sensitively but sturdily made, with an ear attuned to the most delicate notes of the story, is the sort of small, independent-minded picture that so much of American indie cinema strives, and often fails, to give us. It's a conventional picture, but it feels so deeply alive that it's practically a novelty."

W Django! (1972).

This vintage spaghetti western finds Django out for revenge after his wife has been raped and killed.

Berlinguer I Love You (1977).

Giuseppe Bertolucci directs a young Roberto Benigni in his debut screen role.

COMEDY

Sane Man (1989).

"Bill Hicks was one of the rare links to the time when comedy was a weapon and the comedian the scourge of the status quo," the Los Angeles Times wrote recently.

Sane Man, taped live at the Laugh Stop in Austin in 1989, finds the late comedian at his ferocious prime.

Fun With Dick and Jane (1977).

The remake with Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni will be in theaters just in time for Christmas; meantime, here's the fun original with George Segal and Jane Fonda.

MUSIC

Kraftwerk: Minimum-Maximum

Decades ago, a couple of bicycling enthusiasts in the vast industrial regions of what was then West Germany founded what is easily one of the top five most influential bands in all of pop history: Kraftwerk. Here, they perform such landmark works as "Autobahn," "Radioactivity" and "Trans Europe Express."

ANIMATION

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 4 (2000).

"Don't listen to the critics, ATHF is an excellent and very funny show," says krisalm.

"Just rent them," adds Suphan, "you'll be glad you did. I can't explain it. I won't try."

Disc 2.

Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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