February 22, 2005
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
I ♥ Huckabees (2004). David O. Russell's most outlandish - and star-studded - outing yet. The tagline reads "an existential comedy," and Russell means it. Unsurprisingly, reviews have been mixed - even paragraphs within the same review have been mixed. A prime example: Slate's David Edelstein calls the film "an unmitigated disaster," and yet concedes that it is also "a rambunctious intellectual ensemble farce... a breathlessly original - almost free-associational - work that seamlessly mixes high and low comedy, that makes sport of its characters' narcissistic contortions, and yet treats their existential confusion with civilized respect. Russell is a manically inventive writer-director - maybe the most fearless talent of his generation." Whatever you end up thinking of it - and you may find yourself of two or more minds as well - this film is an event and is not to be missed. [Rent]. Bonus disc [Rent].
We begin with a package that was announced as early as 2003, then again a few months later, and then, all news from that corner fell quiet. But at long last, Disney's collection of three landmark and influential animated features from the incomparable Hayao Miyazaki is here, and for each film, there's a bonus disc loaded with extras.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). "A study in contrasts, a case of medieval windmill-dwelling meets post-nuclear fallout," wrote David Levinson for The Lumière Review. "Naturally, water is sparse and clean air almost non-existent. But Miyazaki has more important things on his mind than dwelling in misanthro-chic. He's more interested in the sight of nature swarming technology, punctuating the general flow of machine decay and gas mask-strapped faces with dense forest-havens. Meanwhile, the two come to meet in the intoxicating opening scene, where the eponymous protag shields herself from pin drops of snow." [Rent] (Bonus disc [Rent])
Porco Rosso (1992). Often considered one of Miyazaki's oddest films, if not the oddest, Porco Rosso focuses on a World War I flying ace who happens to be a pig. "A fantasy tale that's lyrical to the point of being naive. That's not meant in a negative way, mind you," adds Tom Mes in the Midnight Eye. "In fact it's praise. Naiveté is after all a legitimate tool with which the artist can express himself. And express himself Miyazaki does. Triumphantly so. What seems like a story of romantic escapism becomes an enthralling, endearing and mesmerising piece of animation cinema thanks to a man who is a master at both his art and his craft." [Rent](Bonus disc [Rent])
The Cat Returns (2002). Technically, this is not a Miyazaki film since he served as executive producer and handed the directorial reins to Hiroyuki Morita. But it differs from the films Miyazaki is most known for in other ways as well. There is no epic sweep here; instead, Cat is a more modest yet undeniably charming entertainment. It's here, too, that you see Miyazaki's love for "an imagined Europe," as Margaret Talbot described it in an interview she did about her profile of the director for the New Yorker. As a child, she continued, "he loved fantasy literature in the European, and especially British, tradition, so that colored a lot of his own vision. He also loved European painting: Chagall and Bosch are influences he has cited." [Rent] (Bonus disc [Rent]).
A Snake of June (2002). From cult director Shinya Tsukamoto comes a film which "recycles the love triangle premise of his earlier films Gemini and Tokyo Fist, but dispenses with the horror/fantasy overtones of the former and the bloodspurting brutality of the latter," wrote Midnight Eye's Tom Mes in 2002. "This is the story of a couple first and foremost, not a genre film that happens to have a couple as its subject... Despite doing away with the genre-based surface that has been the most eye-catching element of the director's previous work, stylistically this is instantly recognisable as a Tsukamoto film. Shot in blue-tinted monochrome, the images are as beautiful and the photography and editing as intense as any of his earlier efforts." [Rent]
Whispering Corridors (1998). A Korean ghost story, set in a high school with just a splash of gore here and there, Corridors was popular enough to spawn two sequels. [Rent]
Sex is Comedy (2002). We've been seeing a virtual deluge of releases of films by Catherine Breillat over the past several weeks, and in the case of Breillat in particular, this is extremely fortunate because her work in the late 90s and early 00s has, to varying degrees, all been cooked up in the same lab, so to speak. This is especially true of Sex is Comedy, which is clearly inspired by the filming of one difficult scene in Fat Girl, recently released by Criterion. No one in Sex ever says, "Some day, we're going to look back on all this and laugh," but you get the idea. [Rent]
Down by Love (2003). Announced earlier, this delayed release is now on its way for real. 4.5 out of 5 stars from filmcritic.com for this formalist study of a psychologically teetering young woman directed by Hungarian cinematographer Tamás Sas. Bent Clouds, too, finds a bit here to compare with Polanski's Repulsion and adds that the film is "as formally challenging as Lars Von Trier's Dogville and is as inspired." [Rent]
Man on the Tracks (1956). It was only a few months ago that Andrew James Horton, in our primer on Polish Cinema, was decrying the lack films by Andrej Munk and Jerzy Kawalerowicz on DVD. "Munk is a particularly painful omission, giving the world two key films: Man on the Tracks (Czlowiek na torze, 1956), which explores multiple perspectives of reality (a decidedly anti-Stalinist concept in its time) much as Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) does, and The Passenger (Pasazerka, 1963)." The first of these, at least, is on its way. [Rent]
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945). Elia Kazan's directorial debut is an "engrossing family saga," writes the UK's Channel 4, "a bit like the first two reels of Angela's Ashes, but without the grotesque prurience or sentimentality." [Rent]
The House is Black (1963). A highly unusual documentary with fictional elements and striking black-and-white cinematography, House is set in a leper colony on an island in the Middle East. [Rent]
The American Astronaut (2001). "If meta-folk-rock idiosyncrat/renaissance artificer Cory McAbee has anything to say about it, irony is not dead - it's merely lost in the stars," wrote Michael Atkinson in the Village Voice. "McAbee's The American Astronaut is, at any rate, a lovely little wedge of garage-band silliness, a movie Guy Maddin might've doodled out during a lunch break, if Maddin were a narcissistic showman and weren't so interested in archival tarnish. The frontman and brains powering the cultishly revered quartet the Billy Nayer Show, McAbee is an unlikely underground superstar." [Rent]
Texhnolyze. Volume 6: Death & Serenity (2003). "Interesting story, themes, imagery, and music," wrote Ayato of the first volume. "It's in the same vein of animes like Boogiepop Phantom and Lain. If you like either of those shows then you will most likely love this as well. [Rent]
R.O.D.: The TV Series. Volume 5: The Darkest Hour (2004). "A very dynamic series with some interesting characters," says JHeneghan. [Rent]
Twelve Kingdoms. Volume 10: Reverie (2005). "If you can hang on, I believe you will be rewarded with what is ultimately a satisfying tale with plenty of suspense, drama, action, and its share of tragic as well as comedic moments," says roadwarrior. [Rent]
Inu Yasha. Volume 27: Brothers in Arms (1996). "Inu-Yasha is a half dog demon and half human boy, with a serious attitude," explains Fangs. "Kagome is a human girl from modern day Japan, who gets transported back in time." A favorite among GreenCiners. [Rent]
Tsukihime, Lunar Legend. Volume 3: Nocturnal Fate (2005). The mysteries deepen. [Rent]
Overman King Gainer. Volume 1: Yapan's Exodus (2005). Introducing a series of adventures in the Siberian Domepolis. [Rent]
Yu Yu Hakusho. Volume 29: Bandits and Kings (2005). "An easy entertainment," says butterflydreaming. [Rent]
Dragon Drive. Volume 6: Emerging Evil (2002). Armed with Dragonite, it's off to fight RI-ON once again. [Rent]
Shaman King. Volume 3: Pai Long Attacks (2005). The first two volumes are scoring ratings well above eight out of ten. [Rent]
Shrine of the Morning Mist. Volume 2 (2005). In Episodes 11 through 18, summer comes to a close and a new school year - and a new priestess club - begins. [Rent]
Popotan. Volume 2: Enigma (2005). More secrets revealed! [Rent]
Gad Guard. Volume 5: Acquaintances (2005). "This simple, charming, well-made show is fun in ways that more complicated and 'difficult' anime sometimes lack," says Calafragious. [Rent]
Magical Meow Meow Taruto. Volume 1: A Magic Cat (2005). Ah, another cat-girl! [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.