|FRESH FROM THE THEATERS|
The Best of Youth (2003).
Placing it at the top of his best-of-05 list in the New York Times, A.O. Scott called this six-hour made-for-Italian-TV drama tracing the diverging fates of two brothers from the 1960s through to the near-present "an intellectual as well as an emotional feast, with dozens of superb performances."
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005).
"Animation by hand and from the heart (you can literally see Aardman animators' fingerprints on some of the clay characters). Whimsical and hilarious, with perfectly realized set pieces," wrote Craig Phillips, placing Wallace and Gromit's first feature-length adventure at number ten on his year-end best-of-05 list. "Gromit is as real to me as Kong, at 1/1000 the budget. Cracking good."
The long-awaited collaboration between writer Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean came and went too quickly in the theaters, but here's your second chance to catch it. Read Jonathan Marlow's interview with McKean to discover how he created MirrorMask's dazzling and utterly unique look and feel.
The Call of Cthulhu (2005).
Twitch calls it "a loving homage to the [H.P. Lovecraft's] work, a direct adaptation of the original story short as a black and white silent, holding as tightly as possible to the techniques that would have been employed when the story was originally written in 1926. And it works fantastically well."
Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986).
Filmed in 1986 at a Maryland concert arena parking lot before a Judas Priest show, Heavy Metal Parking Lot is an unvarnished anthropological study of American metalheads in their mid-80s glory. Virtually unknown to mainstream audiences for two decades, the doc was a VHS bootleg favorite among musicians, movie stars and cult-video fanatics worldwide. This limited-edition DVD includes a pristine digital-video transfer of the original uncut 16-minute film, plus over two hours of exclusive new stuff.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988).
Philip Kaufman's sensuous adaptation of Milan Kundera's novel set against the upheaval of the Prague Spring of 1968 returns to DVD in a special two-disc edition with a doc on the film's making and audio commentary featuring Kaufman, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, editing maestro Walter Murch and Lena Olin, who, of course, plays Tomas's (Daniel Day-Lewis) mistress, even after he's married to Tereza (Juliette Binoche).
The idea: Three short films by three acknowledged masters in the three wildly divergent fields they've claimed for themselves, each addressing a single theme: Eros. Just about everyone agrees that Wong Kar-wai's segment, The Hand, revisiting the atmo of In the Mood for Love and 2046, is the most successful.
Steven Soderbergh's Equilibrium is predictably heady and features the brilliant pairing of Robert Downey, Jr. and Alan Arkin.
Many critics were disappointed with Michelangelo Antonioni's segment, The Dangerous Thread of Things, but there are those who argue that time will prove its enduring power.
A State of Mind (2003).
"Offers a rare and often chilling glimpse into the culture of North Korea, the world's least visited country, which Nicholas D. Kristof recently described on the op-ed page of the New York Times as "the most bizarre... most regimented, militarized and oppressive country in the world,'" writes Dana Stevens in the same paper in August about this documentary tracing two young female athletes as they prepare for the utterly spectacular Great Games.
"The country's woes aren't papered over," notes Ed Park in the Village Voice. "An interview with [one of the girl's] mom about the severe famine in the 90s is touted as the first such account given to a Westerner - but one leaves the film with the Twilight Zone sense that the place isn't quite the hellhole prior reports have suggested."
The 1972 Oscar-winning doc tells the story of a boy preacher who's lost his faith but still goes out on the revival circuit - for the money. "The film exposes something else now," wrote Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Observer recently, "something about the innocence of that world compared to the Politics of God that dominate the contemporary evangelical world - indeed, the rest of the world as well."
Samurai 7 Volume 4: The Battle for Kanna(2004).
"Wrapped in a brooding, stylized cover, Samurai 7 screams hard-boiled samurai action," writes Sean Broestl for the Anime News Network. "But beneath the cool exterior is a show that is trying hard to conceal the fact that it knows how to smile, even laugh at times. To the uninitiated, Samurai 7 may end up being this year's surprise title. Not because the quality is any kind of surprise, but because the show is more multifaceted than it lets on."
Inu Yasha Volume 38: Battle on the Sacred Island (2005).
Yes, we're up to Volume 38 now. If you haven't before, is it worth diving in? "Please watch at least 6 episodes (in a row, an order of sorts) of InuYasha before you judge it," advises ivygirl. "It is an awesome anime, and it will grow on you. I promise."
Madlax Volume 6: Sacrifice (2004).
"The second in a 'trilogy featuring pistol-packing babes,' according to March's NewType USA interview with [Koichi] Mashimo," notes Fellini8pt5 in a helpfully annotated list of the director's work. "Where Noir is serious, Madlax is seriously fun."