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March 15, 2005


  • The Incredibles (2004). "Movie for movie," as the Guardian put it last November, even before The Incredibles won two Oscars, including Best Animated Feature, Pixar is "the most successful studio of any kind in the history of cinema." Among the many reasons for this phenomenal success is, above all, a consistent dedication to its number one principle: The story always comes first. The entire family will always be more than happy to see any Pixar picture again and again, and anyone with kids will testify: They do. All that said, some have worried lately that Pixar was beginning to... well, not exactly fall into a rut, but maybe turn a little formulaic. Then along came the perfect director with the perfect story to stir things up at the perfect time: Brad Bird, director of one of the most lively and moving American animated features not made by Pixar, The Iron Giant, wanted to tell a tale about - no, not fish or toys or bugs - but ostracized "human" superheroes just as Pixar was perfecting its abilities to animate facial features, running and jumping and chewing and all those other crazy human things we do. The result is not only a monster hit, of course, but also Pixar's most mature feature yet (it'll even leave some of tiniest youngsters lost, frankly) with - besides the thrill-ride actions scenes, of course - a spectacular Bond-but-better production design and some top-notch voice work: Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible is probably Craig T. Nelson's best work ever, while Holly Hunter lends an almost startling sensuality to her Everysupermom character, Helen/Elastigirl, and then, of course, there's just about everyone's favorite: Bird's own Edna. [Rent]

  • Alfie (2004). With too many Jude Law films in a single year to compete with and a landmark original starring none other than Michael Caine, this updated remake never stood a chance. That's too bad, because if you don't take it too terribly seriously, there's a dash of light fun to be had. If you do take it seriously, though, here's an interesting exercise: Make a double feature of the original and remake, invite a bunch of friends over, a nice fair mix of men and women, make sure everyone's drink is fresh and: Discuss. [Rent]

  • What the Bleep Do We Know? (2004). One of the strangest hybrids to play multiplexes in years, this part doc, part fictional feature, part animated head trip has also been the subject of considerable speculation. A recent article in Salon argues that the film could "easily be interpreted as a full-blown infomercial for Ramtha," a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit supposedly being channeled by one of the talking heads in the documentary-like bits, Judy "JZ" Knight. [Rent]

  • Panic in the Streets (1950). Jonathan Rosenbaum has called it the "best and most neglected of Elia Kazan's early features," and it inspired a reverie from Adrian Danks in Senses of Cinema, where he tops that by calling it "probably" Kazan's "best," early or late: "One can sense a filmmaker finding his true calling, perhaps, tentatively encountering the techniques, style and working procedures (particularly to do with space and location) of many of his following films." [Rent]

  • Laura (1944). At long last, Otto Preminger's classic noir mystery returns to DVD. For AddisonDewitt, the real standout is the cinematography. He calls Laura "Otto Preminger's (and Rouben Mamoulian's) finest film which improves on Gene Tierney's appearance and effortlessly allows the story be told through great cast shots." [Rent]

  • Bells Are Ringing (1960). Vincente Minnelli directs Judy Holliday in, sadly, her last role and Dean Martin in what now might be seen as a colorful paean to a waning age of romantic musical farces. [Rent]

  • L'eclisse (1962). Revived at this year's Berlin Film Festival as part of its retrospective focusing on the great production designs of cinematic history (Rome had never served as such a stunning backdrop for urban alienation), Michelangelo Antonioni's contemplation of a doomed affair arrives in a typically robust Criterion package: a doc on the director, nearly an hour long; a video work disturbingly entitled The Sickness of Eros; audio commentary by Richard Peña; and more. [Rent]

  • Young Törless (1966). Volker Schlöndorff's debut feature is an adaptation of the great Robert Musil's landmark novel and "a brilliant psychological tale of man's inhumanity to man, an advocacy for pacifism illustrating the need for courage in the face of overwhelming odds," wrote Christopher Dietrich in Kinoeye. "A triumph of cinematic art, this poetic opus stands as an indictment of mankind itself." This Criterion release features an interview with the director as he reflects back on the film's impact nearly forty years on. [Rent]
  • Deep Crimson (1996). Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle on a disturbing feature from popular Mexican director Arturo Ripstein: "While essentially a remake of Leonard Kastle's cult classic The Honeymoon Killers, this stylish updating is bereft of the grainy, early-Seventies style of filmmaking that to my mind plagued the original and instead drenches itself in washes of golden, sepia-toned light, making it one of the most gorgeously lit and shot thrillers I've ever seen." [Rent]

  • The Sword of Doom (1966). Criterion releases a fresh transfer of Kihachi Okamoto's classic featuring new and improved English subtitles. "A very grim and violent film, even today," writes Mark Pollard at Kung Fu Cinema, "and it packs a wallop at the end. The camera work, music and acting are all exceptional which is not surprising since this is a Toho production in 1966, when chambara films were at their creative peak.... This is one swordplay film that is both narratively sophisticated and hemorrhaging martial violence at every turn and that's a winning combination." [Rent]

  • Young and Dangerous III (1997). A re-release of the third installment in a series that simply "gets stronger and more ambitious with each sequel," as the widely regarded writer on Chinese cinema, Shelly Kraicer, put it when it first appeared. [Rent]

  • Waydowntown (2000). Named best Canadian feature at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2000, this dark comedy featuring Don McKellar is "a smart, sardonic satire for that army of impeccably groomed yuppies you see each morning clacking grimly across the marble lobbies of their high-rise apartment buildings like troops of pod people leftover from Invasion of the Body Snatchers," wrote Stephen Holden in the New York Times back in 2002. "Where are they headed with their shiny briefcases, bleeping cellphones and perfectly polished shoes? Straight into a sterile hell, suggests the movie with a smug, knowing wink." [Rent]

  • Red Trousers: The Life of the Hong Kong Stuntmen (2003). Ok, here's the fun part: Go to the official site. Click on "Synopsis." Wait a moment... how's that for rappin', eh? Seriously, though, Andy Klein, one of America's earliest and most avid fans of Hong Kong action, calls this doc a "must-see." [Rent] Bonus disc. [Rent]

  • Cybuster. Volume 3: The Divine Crusaders (1999). Four action-packed episodes of giant robot goodness. [Rent]

  • The Five Star Stories (2005). More giant robots! [Rent]

  • Cromartie High School. Volume 1: Cromartian Rhapsody (2003). And you thought your high school was tough. Fortunately, this is a series with a winning sense of humor. [Rent]

  • Slam Dunk. Volumes 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent] (1993). At long last, a basketball anime series.

  • Wandaba Style. Volume 2: Warp Speed (2005). Who doesn't wanna be a star on the moon? [Rent]

  • Petite Princess Yucie. Volume 3: Love and Light (2002). Meanwhile, back at the Princess Academy... [Rent]

  • Nana 7 of 7. Volume 5: Eight is Enough (2005). Seven times cute plus one equals volume five. [Rent]

  • Dragonball Z: Great Saiyaman - Opening Ceremony (2005). You're either a fan or you're not. Fans, you know what to do. Click here: [Rent]

  • Gungrave. Volume 5: The Protector (2003). "I figured there would be a good amount of gun violence and somewhat decent animation," kohnfused1 wrote after seeing the first volume. "Surprise, surprise, the gun violence is there, but only for the first episode. What threw me off was the rich story and the character development for all of the cast. It's like watching a drama series, but for guys. That, and it has incredible animation, nothing was skimped on when making this thing." [Rent]
  • Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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