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February 24, 2004


  • Camp (2003). Welcome to Camp Ovation, the summer musical theater workshop. "The sight of these perky, self-described freaks cheerily chirping a tortured love ballad as if it were '99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall' is the first of many drop-dead funny jokes that regularly punctuate Camp," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times: "A crude but irresistibly effervescent movie cut from the same sequined cloth as Fame, Camp couldn't be better timed to ride the coattails of Chicago to cult popularity." [Rent]

  • My Life Without Me (2003). Sarah Polley heads a fine cast (Mark Ruffalo, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry and Amanda Plummer) in the story of a wife and mother who's just learned she has a very short time to live. Directed with grace by Isabel Coixet and produced by the Almodóvar brothers. [Rent]

  • Matchstick Men (2003). Here's a film that stars Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage and the underused Sam Rockwell and directed by Ridley Scott no less, and yet the film, according to Anthony Lane in the New Yorker, belongs to Alison Lohman, who plays Cage's 14-year-old daughter. She is, writes Lane, "so easy and unaffected that she makes the surrounding players look like freaks. Scott, normally so adept at leaping from one genre to the next, seems torn between the suspense of the con and the gentler demands of a parental love story; Lohman alone is bold enough not to notice the difference." [Rent]

  • Pieces of April (2003). It's Thanksgiving and here come the parents, played with comic vigor by Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Platt. Besides the wonderful cast, "the usual tensions are compounded by the facts that April can't cook and Joy is dying of cancer, both given strangely equal weight in this comedy by novelist, screenwriter, and first time director Peter Hedges," writes Cynthia Fuchs in PopMatters: "Such strangeness is the film's strong suit, along with cinematographer Tami Reiker's sharp use of the digital video camera." [Rent]

  • The Missing (2003). Ron Howard directs Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones in an unusual western with undeniably suspenseful sequences that nevertheless, all in all, has scored decidedly mixed reviews. There are echoes of John Ford's The Searchers, yes, but Howard and Blanchett strive to show that pioneer women could be just as steely and tough when their families were stake. [Rent]

  • Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. 2003 was a big, loud and brash year for Robert Rodriguez. He unleashed Once Upon a Time in Mexico and this one within months of each other. Well, this one was pretty much panned across the board, but what do kids care what the critics say. Think of it as a ride, not a movie. Sights along the way include cameos by just about everyone who appeared in the first two Spy Kids films. [Rent]

  • Salvatore Giuliano (1961). Criterion releases one of Francesco Rosi's best films. When the eponymous Sicilian bandit is found shot dead, the press swarms the corpse and the small town to dig up the true about one of Italy's most wanted criminals. Besides the usual (for Criterion, that is) high-quality transfer and scholarly audio commentary, special features include Il cineasta e il labirinto, a 55-minute doc on Rosi, a more recent conversation with the director, written tributes by Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola and newsreel footage related to the actual events the film is based on. Discs 1 and 2. [Rent]

  • The foreign section kicks off with a bang: two new releases of films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Martha (1973) [Rent] is Jonathan Rosenbaum's favorite Fassbinder feature, a film he calls "a horrific black comedy - a devastating view of bourgeois marriage rendered in a delirious baroque style" and a "provocation with genuine bite - though the manner often suggests a parody of a 50s Douglas Sirk melodrama." In a Year With 13 Moons (1978) [Rent] is one of Fassbinder's most fiercely personal films, which is saying quite a lot. Dark, fragmented yet gripping as well.

  • Two from Palestinian director Michel Khleifi: Fertile Memory (1980) [Rent] examines the lives of Palestinians via interviews with two Arab women while Wedding in Galilee (1987) is a feature shot in Israel. Again, Jonathan Rosenbaum: "Beautifully filmed and edited... Eschewing propaganda for an in-depth portrait, this is a fluid and lovely film that speaks volumes about Palestinian life." [Rent]

  • Oblomov (1980). The ultimate couch potato film, based on the classic novel by Nikita Mikhalkov. [Rent]

  • Zatoichi. The ultimate Zatoichi and one of the greatest samurai action films of all time. [Rent]

  • Halfaouine: Boy of the Terraces (1995). The first film by Tunisian film critic Férid Boughedir, a tale of a 13-year-old boy in Tunis. [Rent]

  • Kitsch (2003). Polish satire of the film biz. [Rent]

  • Keiko En Peligro (1990). If E.T. were a killer whale who landed in Mexico, his story might go something like this. [Rent]

  • La Venganza de Gabino Berrera (1967). A tale of murder and revenge. [Rent]

  • Salvajes (2003). A complex love story set in Valencia. [Rent]

  • The Chase (1966). Arthur Penn directs Marlon Brando and Robert Redford in a story by Horton Foote adapted by Lillian Hellman. If those credentials don't grab you, how about this line from Channel 4's review: "Brando plays the sheriff in a Texas town where, by the tale's end, everyone is exposed as a racist, drunk, womanizer, killer or sadist - and sometimes all five." [Rent]

  • Richard III (1955). This Criterion release of the classic that finds Laurence Olivier in serious need of a horse features commentary by playwright and stage director Russell Lees and John Wilders, former Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and a 1966 BBC television interview with Olivier conducted by Kenneth Tynan. Not to mention performances in the film itself by the likes of Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud and a young Claire Bloom. [Rent]

  • Wrong Arm of the Law (1963). Delightful Ealing-style comedy with Peter Sellers as criminal mastermind Pearly Gates. [Rent]

  • Angel on my Shoulder (1946). Paul Muni makes a deal with the Devil (Claude Rains). [Rent]

  • Across the Bridge (1957). With Rod Steiger; based on a novel by Graham Greene. [Rent]

  • Till the Clouds Roll By (1946). A musical biopic loosely based on the life of Jerome Kern and featuring some of the best of his songs. With Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Lena Horne. [Rent]

  • Hamlet (1990). Mel Gibson has been spending so much time struggling to manage the controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ (and presumably trying to get his father to shut up) we tend to forget that he is, first and foremost, an actor. And a brave one to boot. When director Franco Zeffirelli cast Gibson in the role of roles, there were snickers along the lines of "Mad Max in tights," but Gibson - with the help of an outstanding supporting cast that includes Glen Close, Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm, Alan Bates and so on and so forth - surprised everyone by pulling it off so well his performance surely helped him round up financing for his own period drama. [Rent]

  • Two from James Ivory: Quartet (1981) [Rent], based on the novel by Jean Rhys and featuring Isabelle Adjani, Alan Bates and Maggie Smith, and Maurice (1987) [Rent], with a young Hugh Grant as Clive, a Cambridge undergrad who falls for Maurice (James Wilby). Based on the novel by EM Forster.

  • Charley Bowers (2002). Surreal and hilarious animations and shorts from the 20s, 30s and 40s by a recently rediscovered wildly imaginative mind. [Rent]

  • Teddy Bears' Picnic (2002). Harry Shearer writes, produces, directs and heads up the talented ensemble cast. [Rent]

  • Just One of the Guys (1985). Gender-bending teen sex comedy from director Lisa Gottlieb. [Rent]

  • Kitchen Party (1997). It's Scott Speedman again, this time drinking and joking with friends in this indie comedy. [Rent]

  • Vera Galupe-Borszkh in Recital (2003). Drag queen Ira Siff cuts loose. [Rent]

  • Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills (1994). And she's played by none other than Beverly D'Angelo. [Rent]

  • Emmanuelle in Rio (2003). She does get around, doesn't she. [Rent]

  • Exotic Time Machine (1998). [Rent]

  • Naked Weapon (2002). "No stranger to sleaze, Wong Jing (producer of the highly recommended 1992 classic Naked Killer) delivers the best Women in Prison movie, and maybe exploitation movie period, in ages," writes Patrick Macias in our Hong Kong Action primer. [Rent]

  • Scarlet Pimpernel (1982). 142 minutes of grand swashbuckling. [Rent]

  • Foolproof (2003). A Canadian caper with $20 million at stake. The Montreal Mirror praises the "tight ensemble of actors who bring [director William Phillips's] heist games to life." [Rent]

  • Super Badass (1998). A candy-colored ultraviolent indie. [Rent]

  • Top Fighter/Second Strike (1994 / 1997). A double feature of relatively obscure Jackie Chan flicks. [Rent]

  • Dueling Dragon Fists. Three kung fu action flicks, one disc. [Rent]

  • Sudden Fury (1997). Gangsters in Britain, roughing each other up. [Rent]
  • Click on to see more February 24, 2004 New Releases: Anime, Action, TV and more...

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