December 9, 2003
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
We've got some crazy mixed-up love stories this week, starting off with a retelling of the now-classic Arthur Schnitzler story "La Ronde." Peter Mattei's debut feature Love in the Time of Money (2002) [Rent] sports quite a cast: Carol Kane, Steve Buscemi, Rosario Dawson and more.
Then, fresh from the festival circuit - and France, home of the crazy mixed-up love story with a farcical twist - comes Confusion of Genders (2000) [Rent]. While the New York Times would like to have seen an even greater farce quotient, the paper of record did allow that the film "offers the pleasure of watching attractive bodies in various states of undress entangling and disentangling in a tormented erotic roundelay." Sometimes, you really don't need much more.
It ain't Hook: Damion Dietz's retelling of the Peter Pan story, Neverland (2003) [Rent] won raves from more than a few critics (at least those who were able to catch it), but fell through the cracks. Now's your chance to catch up with it.
For years, Robert Duvall has had a passion for tango, but a dancing Duvall is not an easy sell in Hollywood. And so, he has written, directed and co-produced Assassination Tango (2003) [Rent] himself; and is in nearly every scene to boot. It's got crime and intrigue, a love story, Argentine atmo, and of course, plenty of tango.
The Battle of Shaker Heights (2003) [Rent!], this year's winner of HBO's Project Greenlight sweepstakes, is now available for your evaluation.
But for true bad movie deliciousness, you want, you need, you gotta have Gigli (2003) [Rent]. Keep in mind, this wasn't just Bennifer's boo-boo. Al Pacino's here. So is Christopher Walken. This movie calls for popcorn and a bunch of smartass friends over for a MST3K session to end all MST3K sessions.
Two light-hearted comedies from Hong Kong: Good Times, Bed Times (2003) [Rent] and the talkier Truth or Dare - 6th Floor Rear Flat (2003) [Rent!].
The Princess Blade (2003) [Rent] is a live action picture based on the comic by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura. Dave Kehr put it this way: The film "is not quite good enough to jump out of the pack of Asian swordplay movies but is too well crafted to sink into utter anonymity."
In 1995, Agnes Varda, veteran of the French New Wave who most recently wowed us with The Gleaners and I (2001), followed up her fictional feature Jacquot (1991), based on the life of her late husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy, with a more straight-forward documentary, The World of Jacques Demy [Rent]. Here, she speaks with Anouk Aimee, who starred in Demy's first film, Lola (1961) [Rent] and with Catherine Deneuve, Jeanne Moreau, Dominique Sanda, Michel Piccoli and others who worked with or knew him. Demy is most known for his ode to the Hollywood musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), but we're very pleased to see Lola, which Jonathan Rosenbaum has called "in some ways his best feature," and Bay of Angels (1963) [Rent], with Jeanne Moreau, now available on DVD as well.
Maggie Gyllenhaal stars with where-the-hell-has-he-been Anthony Michael Hall and John Heard and Marisa Berenson walk in on a debut feature from Jeremy Stein, The Photographer (2000) [Rent].
John Cassavetes left us too soon, but he also left us a talented and promising director in his son, Nick. Here, he directs his mother, the incomparable Gena Rowlands, and a cast that includes Marisa Tomei and Gerard Depardieu in Unhook the Stars (1997) [Rent], a film the Austin Chronicle calls "an emotionally exhilarating ensemble piece, with each character fully realized and fleshed out."
Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard, both engaging actors, both certainly pleasant to gaze upon, play a couple struggling to save their farm from the big bad banks in Country (1984) [Rent].
The Looking Glass War (1969) [Rent] isn't exactly a jewel in Anthony Hopkins's crown, but if you're in the mood for a John Le Carre spy story, go for it.
While the world huffs and puffs in frustration at the infuriating lack of Marx Brothers movies on DVD, we now have... well, it's something. Clips, mostly, from those movies and some television as well. Not a very good purchase, but an excellent rental: The Marx Brothers Collection on Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent] and 5 [Rent].
"The Three Stooges were more than three noses in search of pliers," TV Guide wrote recently. "They were serious, madcap, Oscar-nominated craftsmen." Well, soitenly. Here comes the collection on Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent] and 5 [Rent].
"One of the unknown greats of the [silent] era," J. Hoberman has called him: "His lush morbid melodramas are distinguished by a feverish psychological intensity." And now on DVD, Mad Love - The Films of Evgeni Bauer (1921) [Rent!].
Speaking of silents, Milestone offers us the opportunity to catch up with a French classic, André Antoine's La Terre (1921) [Rent!] and Lois Weber's The Blot (1921) [Rent!].
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, Cut Up - The Films of Grant Munro [Rent!]. And who is Grant Munro you may well ask? From the mid-40s through the early 70s, he worked diligently with the Animation Unit of the National Film Board of Canada, producing "some of the most significant hand-drawn and pixilated animation ever made" and "brought a wicked wit and sublime grace to the art," as the Museum of Modern Art put it on the occasion of its recent Munro retrospective.
ACTION, SCIENCE-FICTION and HORROR
One of the most elaborate DVD packages ever, the Alien Quadrilogy weighs in with nine discs in all: new video and audio transfers, additional footage, bonus material galore. What GreenCiner's say about Ridley Scott's 1979 original horror classic [Rent; rent the bonus disc]: MLouv: "Definitely my favorite sci-fi movie, hands down." Postmod: "Taps into a instinctive human revulsion. And it's sooo good." Emomovieluver: "When it comes to monsters on the loose, this horror/sci fi hybrid is one of the best." And then there's James Cameron's Aliens [Rent; rent the bonus disc], David Fincher's Alien 3 [Rent; rent the bonus disc], Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien Resurrection (1997) [Rent; rent the bonus disc] and the Quadrilogy bonus disc [Rent].
Hot on the heels of our new Exploitation primer comes an 8-disc collection of "shockumentaries" from Gualtiero Jacopetti, a former journalist, and Franco Prosperi, a naturalist. The first film they made together was Mondo Cane (1962) [Rent], the film widely credited with coining the term applied to flicks throughout the 60s and 70s that promised to reveal human depravity - but oddly enough, beauty as well - in ways you wouldn't see anywhere else. A sequel (1964) [Rent] and Women of the World (1963) [Rent] followed, and then, a radical shift: Africa Addio (1966 [Rent; rent the Director's Cut]) aims for a greater shock impact and Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971 [Rent; rent the Director's Cut]) rails against slavery by claiming to show how relentlessly violent the pre-Civil War South was. The package is rounded off with a new doc, The Godfathers of Mondo (2003) [Rent].
As if all that weren't exploitive enough, we've also just added to the catalog four discs from the (in)famous Faces of Death series launched by 1978 film [Rent] and followed by more footage of purportedly genuine death in Volumes II [Rent], III [Rent] and IV [Rent].
Have yourself a merry little Joss Whedon festival this holiday season. Right along with Season Five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2000 - 2001) [Rent!] comes his sci-fi western series, Firefly [Rent].
A new addition to our fast-growing selection of Hong Kong Action movies: Women on the Run (1993) [Rent].
DOCUMENTARIES and MUSIC
Joining the many cinematic treatments of the life and work of Donatien Alphonse François, otherwise known as the Marquis de Sade, comes this soberly historic account from Benoit Jacquot, entitled simply, Sade (2002) [Rent].
In 1981, Claude Lelouch brought together an international cast, centered on James Caan and Geraldine Chaplin, to tell a grand, sweeping story, Les Uns Et Les Autres [Rent], and you'd better be in the mood for it once you begin; it's nearly 3 hours long. Also in this week in Lelouch's 1974 And Now My Love (1974) [Rent], based on a clever Oscar-nominated screenplay which sees lovers barrelling through their lives to meet for the first time at the end of the movie.
Thumbs up from the London Observer for My Life on Ice (2002) [Rent]: "The cast is excellent, especially Ariane Ascaride, one of the most sparkling figures in European cinema."
Run 2 U (2003) [Rent] pulls talents from Korea and Japan together to tell the story of a complex love triangle.
Certainly one of the most powerful and controversial docs in recent years is the Oscar-nominated Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997) [Rent]. "This methodical indictment of the United States Government's siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex.," wrote the New York Times, "has awful lessons to teach about governmental hubris and how a deliberate failure to communicate can have catastrophic consequences."
"It's no simple task to sum up the Billy Nayer Show," the San Francisco Bay Guardian once wrote: "This virtuostic foursome, headed by the dapper, verging on psychotic Cory McAbee, presents not mere songs but dark and fascinating narratives." The Billy Nayer Show: The Early Years [Rent] features the first short films and bootlegged video performances, all of them formerly chased after with cultish devotion and now viewable on DVD.
Back to the New Releases Archive.
Several anime series pick up and carry on next week, including the wonderfully titled All Purpose Cultural Cat Nuku Nuku (Vol. 2 [Rent]).
Plus: Corrector Yui (Vol. 3: Out of Sync [Rent]), Heat Guy J (Vol. 3: Sins of the City [Rent]), Super Gals! (Vol. 3: Ran Loves Shibuya! [Rent]), Master Keaton (Vol. 4: Blood &Bullets [Rent]), Neo Ranga (Vol. 6: The Search for Paradise [Rent]), Saiyuki (Vol. 6: Demon Rising [Rent]) and the first volume [Rent] of the second season of Orphen (1998).