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NEW RELEASES

February 3, 2004

FRESH FROM THE THEATERS

As it happens, Numbers 4 and 5 on underdog's "GreenCine's Best of 2003" list have both arrived on the same day. And they are, respectively, with Craig's comments:

  • American Splendor (2003). "One of the year's most creative films, it was also one of the more memorable and pitch-perfect. Underrated character actor Paul Giamatti shines as Harvey Pekar. Weaving documentary with the fictionalized feature requires a magic balancing act to pull off, but it does. Hysterically funny, but also gentle and moving." And the screenplay's just been nominated for an Oscar. [Rent]
  • Lost in Translation (2003). "Sofia Coppola's film makes up for what it lacks in plot with atmosphere, intelligence, and performance - particularly Bill Murray's sad-faced actor in an existential crisis. He seems to have found a new calling, less the wild man of his youth, and more Monsieur Hulot-with-an-edge." Nominated for four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor. [Rent]
  • Also fresh:

  • Secondhand Lions (2003). Haley Joel Osment learns out to spend quality time with grumpy old men, namely, his Texan uncles Robert Duvall and Michael Caine. [Rent]

  • Under the Tuscan Sun (2003). Just the flick to warm up these cold winter nights. Roger Ebert concurs: "What redeems the film is its successful escapism and [Diane] Lane's performance." [Rent]

  • The Fighting Temptations (2003). More bouncy fun, albeit of a different sort, and this time with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce Knowles. Interesting observation from AO Scott in the New York Times: "A generation or two ago, a movie like this would have built a bridge from the church to the dance hall, arguing, against the narrow-mindedly devout, for the value of godless, good-time music. While The Fighting Temptations preserves the stereotype of the uptight religious hypocrite (LaTanya Richardson), who steamrollers over her brother, the weak-willed pastor played by Wendell Pierce), it is more interested in justifying the Lord's music than the Devil's, in showing believers a good time while proving to skeptics that Christian music can be cool." [Rent]

  • My Boss's Daughter (2003). For hardcore Aston Kutcher fans only. But we know you're out there. [Rent]

  • Eve of Destruction (2003). Straight to DVD, actually. Distributors and theater owners probably weren't much in the mood for trying to pull audiences in to see a biological attack on New York City. [Rent]
  • CULT

  • Allegro Non Troppo (1979). Directed by Bruno Bozzetto. An Italian countercultural answer to Fantasia. Writes Jonathan Rosenbaum: "It's not only a hilarious send-up of Disney's excesses but a splendid cartoon feature in its own right - funny and imaginative and lively." [Rent]

  • Maitresse (1976). Barbet Schroeder directs a young Gérard Depardieu in a film so upfront in its treatment of the deliciously and/or horrifingly (take your pick) decadent sexual lifestyles of the affluent French that the film was banned in several countries. In 1976, mind you, well after the supposed sexual revolution. "A fascinating look into the game of duality, the shattering of expectations and gender roles, and discovering the base elements of love even in the most unorthodox of realities," writes DVD Talk. Criterion presents a richly colorful print on a disc that includes an interview with Schroeder. [Rent]

  • Vanishing Point (1971). Nitrate Online pegs it: it's an "existential chase movie." What's more, "any movie that features both Dean Jagger and Charlotte Rampling in cameos as a grizzled prospector and comely hitchhiker - guess which is which - demands a certain amount of respect." [Rent]
  • FOREIGN

  • Chi-hwa-seon (2002). Korean drama directed by Kwon-Taek Im, "the prolific grand old man of South Korean cinema," as AO Scott calls him in the New York Times. In this biopic of Jang Seung-Ub, a 19th-century painter known by the pseudonym Ohwon, "Mr. Im's own aesthetic command is evident in the movie's wealth of beautiful, perfectly framed images of nature -- shots so full of passion and perception that they could almost be paintings themselves." [Rent]

  • Cyclo (1995). From Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya). Says the Austin Chronicle: "Bizarre, arresting, and wholly original, Cyclo is like nothing you've ever seen before, except perhaps in uneasy slumbers." [Rent]

  • The Diary of a Country Priest (1950). Slowly, too slowly for many, the work of Robert Bresson edges onto DVD. In this one, "Bresson creates a visually spare and deeply moving film on faith, alienation, and perseverance," writes Acquarello in Strictly Film School: "Using minimal dialogue, introspective journal entries, and isolated long and medium shots, Bresson presents the harsh reality and inherently misunderstood existence of a man of faith in a secular world, where altruism and unyielding devotion are viewed with cynicism and distrust.... But inevitably, the final image of an isolated cross encapsulates the life of the nameless priest: a symbol of profound suffering, alienation, and human cruelty - yet ultimately, transcendent." [Rent]
  • COMEDIES

  • The Gods Must Be Crazy (1984) [Rent] and The Gods Must Be Crazy II (1990) [Rent]. Surely the most entertaining anti-littering film ever made.

  • Bon Voyage! (1962). An American family overseas, a la European Vacation. With Fred MacMurray and Jane Wyman. [Rent]

  • Down Periscope (1996). With Kelsey Grammer. [Rent]

  • Evil Alien Conquerors (2003). Chris Matheson, who wrote Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, directs. [Rent]

  • Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1963). [Rent]
  • DRAMA

  • Welcome To Sarajevo (1997). The ferociously political conscience Michael Winterbottom would bring fully to the fore in In This World rages here already in a tale of a journalist caught up in the Bosnian war. "[Winterbottom] has brilliantly crafted a chaotic digest that weaves through sniper fire and the burnt-out alleyways of a war-torn city with all the vigor of Salvador or Under Fire," writes Film Threat: "The result is crisp, brutal and utterly inspirational." [Rent]

  • Selma, Lord, Selma (1999). It's high time we saw more of Charles Burnett's films on DVD. This one's a TV docudrama made for the Disney channel, but it's a step towards getting more daring Burnett features out in the future. [Rent]

  • Black Widow (1986). Bob Rafelson directs Theresa Russell and Debra Winger. [Rent]

  • Crimes of the Heart (1986). Bruce Beresford directs a stellar cast: Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton and Jessica Lange. [Rent]

  • Rain Man (1988). Special Edition. When people snicker at Oscar-baiting performances, Dustin Hoffman's here as the autistic Raymond is certainly a prime example. But really, when was the last time you saw it? Hoffman is phenomenal, there's no denying it. [Rent]

  • Nell (1994). And this, of course, was Jodie Foster's Rain Man. [Rent]

  • Go Tell It On The Mountain (1985). With Paul Winfield and Alfre Woodard. [Rent]

  • Gettysburg (1993). [Rent]

  • Cheaters (2000). With Jeff Daniels. [Rent]

  • Judgment in Berlin (1988). With Martin Sheen and Sean Penn. [Rent]

  • Ruby Bridges (1999). [Rent]

  • Sin (2003). With Ving Rhames and Gary Oldman. [Rent]

  • The Thorn Birds (1983). Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
  • CLASSICS

  • Grand Hotel (1932). At long last, the first title featuring Greta Garbo is out on DVD. The rest of the cast is nothing to sneeze at, either: Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, John and Lionel Barrymore. [Rent]

  • Gaslight (1944). George Cukor directs Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, who won an Oscar for her performance. [Rent]

  • Great Ziegfeld (1936). William Powell, Myrna Loy, Fanny Brice, Ray Bolger, Luise Rainer and more. [Rent]

  • Black Pirate (1926). Swashbuckin' Douglas Fairbanks in an early Technicolor adventure. [Rent]

  • Mrs. Miniver (1942). William Wyler's classic drama. Six Oscars in all. [Rent]

  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). With Charles Laughton and Clark Gable. [Rent]

  • My Fair Lady (1964). George Cukor. Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. "This is my favorite Audrey flick," says hneline1: "Watch her transform from a foul-mouthed flower girl to a stunning princess." [Rent]

  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). [Rent]

  • Diary of Anne Frank (1959). Directed by George Stevens. [Rent]

  • Follow Me, Boys! (1966). A classic comedy with Fred MacMurray. [Rent]

  • X-15 (1962). Richard Donner directs Charles Bronson, James Gregory and Mary Tyler Moore. [Rent]
  • Click on to see more February 3, 2004 New Releases: Anime, docs, TV and more...

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