February 1, 2005
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Ray (2004). So Jamie Foxx just picked up a Golden Globe for his phenomenal performance as the legendary Ray Charles and he may well be on his way to an Oscar. We'll see soon enough. Meantime, it's all about the music. [Rent]
Vanity Fair (2004). Mira Nair's adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel isn't an update but, rather, a geographical shift, with much of the attention focused on the color-drenched exoticism of Britain's colonies at the time. "Her eyes snapping like tiny firecrackers and jutting her chin," wrote Stephen Holden in the New York Times, "Reese Witherspoon makes an appealingly crafty Becky Sharp." [Rent]
Shall We Dance? (2004). The delightful 1995 Japanese original was quite a hit as far as art-house imports go, and we'll get to it in a moment, but this one's is not that film. It is, instead, the perhaps inevitable remake starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez; the entire enterprise is lifted a notch or two by the performance of Susan Sarandon as The Wife. [Rent]
Mr. 3000 (2005). Nearly everyone gets a kick out of watching Bernie Mac, but for Armond White, the irascible yet always stimulating critic for the New York Press, "Mr. 3000 is such a robust comedy that when you realize it also has depth, it nearly becomes an embarrassment of riches." [Rent]
The Grudge (2004). Takashi Shimizu's somewhat Americanized remake (albeit set in Tokyo) of his own original is produced by Sam Raimi and stars Sarah Michelle Gellar. Some argue some of the mystery's been lost in the transition; others appreciate that a few logical loose ends have been tied up. [Rent]
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004). Yes, it's all about the look. But what a look! By now, you'll know that a grand, modernist world, an alternate New York City of 1939, has been conjured in Kerry Conran's computers and that Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie get to act up a storm in there when the giant robots come. Last September, Sean Axmaker interviewed Conran to find out how it was done and about the movies that inspired him. [Rent]
She Hate Me (2004). Usually, when it comes to a movie like this one, the polite thing to say about it is, "It split the critics." In this case, that would even be technically true; but the split would put the vast majority of critics on the thumbs-down side of the aisle, leaving defenders of Spike Lee's latest few in number but staunchly determined. Among them: Roger Ebert, Film Threat and Jason Whyte of eFilmCritic.com, who wrote, "This is a busy and endlessly creative motion picture that picks at politics, corporations, family, sexuality and even at the mob.... [I]t is a completely challenging piece of cinema, consistently entertaining with fine acting and many of Lee's trademarks; from his edits to Terence Blanchard's score, [Lee] remains a filmmaker that's alive and interesting in an age of cinema that wants to go the other way." [Rent]
Shall We Dance? (1995). Director Masayuki Suo knows how to please a crowd without crossing the line into schmaltz. And scoop up several Japanese equivalents of the Oscars as well. Though it's hard to avoid comparisons with Strictly Ballroom, as Ruthe Stein wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, Shall We Dance? "is up to something more subtle and elegant. The pace is slow, annoyingly so at the beginning, but stick with it. Like a skilled partner, it's worth following." [Rent]
Sympathy for the Underdog (1971). A stylish, hard-boiled crime drama from Kenji Fukasaku. The disc features an interview with Fukasaku biographer Yamane Sadao and an essay by Patrick Macias. [Rent]
La Commare Secca (1962). "The first full realization of a legendary talent," as Criterion itself calls this feature from the then-young Bernardo Bertolucci; based on a story by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Criterion's presenting a fresh transfer, of course, but also a fresh interview with Bertolucci and an essay by David Thomson. [Rent]
Two from Jules Dassin: Thieves Highway (1949 [Rent]), "a vastly under-recognized noir" (25 Frames) and Night and the City (1950 [Rent]), in which Dassin "uses the alleys, slums, and factories of London to full advantage to create a world where outsiders like Fabian [Richard Widmark] don't stand a chance," wrote the Austin Chronicle in 1999. "In keeping with the traditions of the genre, no one really possesses a moral high ground in the story; the people who want Fabian eliminated and want his little house of cards knocked down are no better a set of losers than he is himself.... Widmark, riding a career high that would continue for several more years, turns in a great performance with his hyena giggle and nervous energy."
Secrets & Lies (1996). Widely recognized as one of Mike Leigh's most accessible and moving stories, Secrets won the Golden Palm in Cannes, where Brenda Blethyn was recognized as best actress as well, was nominated for four Oscars, won three Baftas and the list just goes on and on. "It's odd that it takes a movie like this, which minimizes stylistic intrusions and allows the cast and story to propel themselves to a charged, conciliatory conclusion, to remind us how good filmmaking can be," wrote the Onion AV Club's Keith Phipps. [Rent]
Wonderfalls (2004). The complete, short-lived series. "Not just another sassy-girl-finds-herself-in-supernatural-circumstances series. Or rather it is, but in the most delightful way," wrote the Village Voice moments before it was cancelled. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
Sealab 2021. Season 2. The Cartoon Network's amusingly absurd remix of ye olde Hanna Barbara series, Sealab 2020, featuring the voice of Erik Estrada, continues. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
Peacemaker. Volume 3: Gunning for Trouble (2005). The description sounds promising: "Strange winds are blowing through Kyoto. A boisterous man sporting a gun, a cowboy hat, and a vocabulary full of foreign phrases breezes into town. Meanwhile, rumors are afoot about a fallen lord, a powerful mystic and their chaotic game that could threaten the capital..." [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.