February 17, 2004
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Stone Reader (2003) is the story of an obsessive search for the author of one long-out-of-print, 600-page novel, The Stones of Summer. As the doc was being made, it seemed that only the filmmaker had ever read the book, but the film aroused such interest the novel is now back in print. J. Hoberman of The Village Voice raved: "I've never seen a movie that paid more heartfelt tribute to the power of artistic invention." [Rent]
Stoked: Rise and Fall of Gator (2003) [Rent]: Tracing the sad story of the former skateboard champion whose life took a very wrong turn. "Excels as both a tragedy and a celebration of skateboarding," wrote the SF Chron's Peter Hartlaub, "showing how mass marketing legitimized the sport while fueling Gator's demise."
Dummy (2003) [Rent]: Weird little comedy starring a pre-Pianist Adrian Brody. Slant Magazine: "Director Greg Pritikin never beats his audience over the head with the film's metaphors or 'find your voice' wind-down, successfully quelling all potential melodramas with random acts of the absurd."
Runaway Jury (2003) [Rent]: A fantastic cast (Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Jeremy Piven, Rachel Weisz) lifts this John Grisham courtroom suspenser out of the ordinary.
Masked and Anonymous (2003): Former Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm writer Larry Charles directed this fascinating if messy Bob Dylan vehicle, and sure rounded up a stellar cast. Rambling rock star self-indulgence, or future cult favorite? You decide. [Rent]
Don't Tempt Me (2003) [Rent]: Victoria Abril and Penélope Cruz? Say no more.
Mambo Italiano (2003) [Rent]: Hey Mambo! Roger Ebert dubbed this "My Big Fat Gay Wedding" but the SF Chron's Carla Meyer thought it "has enough funny moments to save it." Paul Sorvino lends it a touch of class and authenticity, too.
We'll damn Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003) with very faint praise: it's better than most David Spade flicks. And we've heard the extras on the disc -- including amusing commentary tracks and the music video featuring 32 one-time child stars -- are better than the movie. [Rent]
Blow-Up [Rent]: Antonioni's hypnotic metaphysical mystery, now on DVD in a ravishing new print, caused an international sensation in 1966. Roger Ebert, who claims the film colored his first years as a film critic, recently revisited it "in a shot-by-shot analysis. Freed from the hype and fashion, it emerges as a great film, if not the one we thought we were seeing at the time."
Tunes of Glory (Criterion) [Rent]: In his 1960 New York Times review, Bosley Crowther wrote, "this is a picture that gets around, at last, to saying some things about military traditions that haven't been said so aptly and eloquently for years. It is also a film in which tradition itself is magnificently observed in acting that does full justice to the highest standards of an ancient British craft and merits all the honors it has already received." Alec Guinness and John Mills star.
One of the rare times Woody Allen acted in a film he didn't write or direct, The Front (1976) is even rarer for being more of a drama than a comedy. And he's actually quite good, as a man fronting for blacklisted writers in the 1950s - and Zero Mostel adds a note of poignancy - in one of the better films about that dark era in American history. [Rent]
Don't Ask, Don't Tell (2002) [Rent] : Fans of What's Up Tiger Lily and Mystery Science Theater will probably dig this lavender-tinged redubbing of the terrible 1950's sci-fi Killers from Space. "We are the men who make you gay," the alien leader now boasts. Don't ask, just laugh.
Nina Takes a Lover [Rent]: This lovely 1994 indie, shot in San Francisco, starred Laura San Giacomo and Paul Rhys. Critic David Armstrong wrote: "An assured first feature about romantic intrigue and life's ultimate mystery: knowing another person. Well-acted..." It's definitely worth a look.
We're No Angels [Rent]: 1989 remake of a Bogart film, Neil Jordan's first American production, "is a nicely paced comedy of errors," says TimeOut for Film. "DeNiro's gift for pantomime is a non-stop bombardment of mugging on the silent screen scale. Very entertaining."
National Lampoon's Mr. Wong (2003) [Rent]: Animated shorts built a sizeable cult following on the Web. They're rude, crude, probably offensive... and, devotees think, funny, too.
Knowing Richard Black (2003) [Rent]: Cutting indie docudrama directed by Jon Marc Sandifer, who began his career working for Spike Lee and Quincy Jones.
American Gun (2002) [Rent]: James Coburn's final film is "a tone poem documenting the final, wintery ride of an irreplaceably magnificent bastard," writes the Portland Mercury.
Permanent Record (1988): Neglected little high school suicide drama finally sees a DVD release. Roger Ebert praised the film's (rare) depiction of teenagers that are "intelligent, thoughtful and articulate." He called it "one of [that] year's best films, and one reason for its power is that it clearly knows what it wants to do, and how to do it." All of the performances, even Keanu Reeves, shine in this sleeper, one of our picks of the week. [Rent]
Mau Mau Sex Sex: This fun doc about an underappreciated part of film history is now being re-released; read more about it in our interview with the film's producers. [Rent]
Pentagon Papers [Rent]: Well-done (and timely) drama based on the story of Daniel Ellsberg, the Harvard Law graduate and ex-Marine who leaked the Papers in 1971, revealing the truth behind the war in Vietnam.
Dinosaur Planet: When the whole planet was one big Jurassic park... [Rent]
We're proud to bring you The White Dove (1960), an incredibly atmospheric, experimental film by Frantisek Vlácil which helped usher in a Czech New Wave in the 60s. [Rent]
Blackboards The first film to hit DVD from young Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf, based on the screenplay written by her father, Mohsen, won the Jury Prize at Cannes and the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Fest in 2000. [Rent]
KM.0 (Kilometer Zero): "A sweet-hearted tale of blind dates and innocent bystanders who meet up and (mis)match off in a series of mistaken identities," says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Sean Axmaker. "Km. 0 is no more or less than it appears to be: a paean to the benevolent fate we'd like to believe watches over us. The bouncy, bright tune that drives the dancing credits also sets the toe-tapping tone: lighthearted, hopeful, harmless fun, with a little continental attitude." [Rent]
Le Corbeau (The Raven) (Criterion) [Rent]: Made during the Nazi Occupation of France (1943), Henri-Georges Clouzot's bitter, brilliant film was attacked from all sides. Now it's justly considered a classic, by one of France's most noir of directors.
The Damned [Rent]: Luchino Visconti's 1969 film on the rise of Nazism as reflected within a German industrialist family in the 1930s is "as operatic and overblown as you'd expect, often to extremely impressive effect" says TimeOut for Film.
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2000, adapted from an H.E. Bates short story of the 1930s, Under The Sun "makes a virtue of its own simplicity. But don't be fooled. That simplicity is mere cover. You're kept wondering about the outcome until the very end." (Desson Howe, Washington Post) [Rent]
Skin of Man, Heart of Beast (2002) [Rent]: "This debut feature from director Hélène Angel is notable, even remarkable, for its mesmeric address to the viewer, exerting an Ancient Mariner grip from the opening frames." - The Guardian (UK)
Fu Bo (2003) [Rent]: A gritty, indie film from China? Shot on video, Fu Bo conveys three different stories about people surrounded by death and loneliness, centered around a forensic mystery.
My Dream Girl (2003) [Rent]: This romantic comedy from Hong Kong is full of music.
City of God was just nominated for four Oscars, a fairly astonishing feat for an edgy film from Brazil, and made a ton of best of 2003 lists. Unfortunately for us home viewers, all the awards mean the film's getting another theatrical release, and thus it's DVD release is being postponed until June 8. But you can still throw it in your queue: [Rent]
Shiver (2003): An eerie, even Hitchcockian murder mystery from Hong Kong. [Rent]
Dracula's Curse (2004). With Patrick Bergin and Giancarlo Giannini. [Rent]
Nightmare in Blood (1978) is a "is a goofy horror film nerd's dream movie. Inside jokes abound," says eFilm Critic. [Rent]
S.I.C.K. (2004): A crazy killer clown is on the loose in the woods and... clowns can be scary enough but, a crazy killer clown? [Rent]
Tomie: Replay (2000): Japanese supernatural horror film is almost as creepy as the first film. Adapted from a manga. [Rent]
Show Me a Story: Aw, Beatrix Potter, what's not to love. Perfect for a pre-Easter festival. [Rent]
RACY & EROTIC
Naughty Fairy Tales. [Rent]
Bob & Rose (2003) [Rent disc 1 and disc 2] is a warm and even touching British comedy drama about a gay man who surprises himself when he falls for a woman. From the creator of Queer As Folk.
Roswell Season 1 (1999): Disc 1 [Rent],
, Disc 2 [Rent], Disc 3 [Rent], Disc 4 [Rent], Disc 5 [Rent], and Disc 6 [Rent].
Second Coming (2003): Highly regarded and ambitious British miniseries makes for compelling viewing. [Rent]
The Hunger: Twisted Spells (1999 - 2000). [Rent]
Witch Hunter Robin Vol. 3: Inquisition: Stylistically beautiful anime returns, with Robin's "normal" life about to end. The series is "dark and mysterious in a way that compares well to Wolf's Rain," says Pgraydon. [Rent]
Angelic Layer Vol. 4. "Battle dolls duel but their owners show good sportsmanship and perserverance in the end. Suitable for Kindergarten and up," says HOngchua. [Rent]
Full Metal Panic! Mission 07 (2003). [Rent]
Kiddy Grade: Vol. 1: The Peacekeepers (2002). [Rent]
Ninja Scroll: The Series - Vol. 2 (2003). [Rent]
Saiyuki Vol. 8: The Soldiers of Destiny. [Rent]
Slayers: Gorgeous [Rent]: Fourth film based on the popular series isn't groundbreaking but has a solid story that should please fans.
Yu Yu Hakusho: The Seven. [Rent]
Yukikaze Vol. 1: Disc 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
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