FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Unknown Pleasures (2003). Two Village Voice critics placed 33-year-old director Jia Zhangke's film in the Number Two spot on their best-of-2003 lists. Dennis Lim sees the influence of Robert Bresson and Hou Hsiao-hsien while J Hoberman writes, "This DV-shot tale of disaffected youth is a coolly formalist reinvention of neorealism that - both distanced and immediate - gives documentary the shape of fiction and fiction the authority of doc." [Rent]
21 Grams (2003). While Alejandro González Iñárritu's film as a whole, what with its disjointed narrative and all, is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it experience, no one's arguing that Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts don't turn in jaw-dropping performances. If Penn weren't up for Mystic River, he'd surely have been nominated for Best Actor Oscar for this one instead. Del Toro and Watts, though, were both nominated for their supporting roles. [Rent]
demonlover (2003). More than two dozen critics cast votes for Olivier Assayas's latest as Best Film in 2003 in the Village Voice's annual poll. Voice critic J Hoberman had mixed feelings, though, albeit interestingly mixed; the film, he writes, "oscillates between the gratingly stylish and the hilariously self-reflexive, mainly suggesting a nastier version of Irma Vep." There are rumors that an unrated version will be released on DVD later this year, but the date of that possible release hasn't been confirmed yet. If and when an unrated version is released, we will be replacing our R-Rated copies with Unrated ones. Apparently, there isn't a whole lot of difference between the two versions in the first place; a bit of the hentai that pops up gets fogged over in the R-Rated version, but that's about it." [Rent]
Levity (2003). Helluva cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Kirsten Dunst and Holly Hunter. Even so, the critics weren't wild about this one, though AO Scott did note in the New York Times: "The muted colors of the wintry urban atmosphere are nicely captured by the cinematographer, Roger Deakins, who shot Mr. Thornton in indelible black and white in Joel and Ethan Coen's Man Who Wasn't There." [Rent]
Veronica Guerin (2003). Cate Blanchett plays the Irish journalist who exposed a Dublin drug ring and paid for it with her life in 1996. That's not giving anything away; that's how the movie opens. Praising the film, and particularly Blanchett's performance, the Observer's Philip French notes that it's "directed by Joel Schumacher at his least mannered [and] produced with uncharacteristic restraint by the leading action movie producer, Jerry Bruckheimer." [Rent]
Dr. Seuss' The Cat in The Hat (2003). Undoubtedly the stinker of last holiday season, but you know what? It was a hit. Kids loved it and went to see it again and again. Maybe you've got kids. [Rent]
Onibaba (1964). Criterion re-releases this classic of Japanese horror. "Kaneto Shindo presents a harrowing and provocative examination of godlessness, amorality, and barbarism in Onibaba," writes Acquarello at Strictly Film School: "Using spare, pantheistic landscapes, high contrast, chiaroscuro imagery, unnerving, environmental sounds, and frenetic tribal rhythms (composed by Hikari Hayashi) that evoke a sense of primitivism, Shindo illustrates the manifestation of the corruption of the human soul as a perversion of natural order." [Rent]
Scenes From a Marriage (1973). This is the first time Ingmar Bergman's entire six-part mini-series has been presented on video in the US. Leave it to Criterion. Extras include an interview with the director and a new interview with the outstanding performers, Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
Dangerous Liaisons (2003). Choderlos de Laclos's 18th century novel has been adapted for the stage and screen in countless ways; this French miniseries is only the most recent and sparkles with Catherine Deneuve, Rupert Everett and Nastassja Kinski, all wearing costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
25 Watts (2001). "In following three lackadaisically ordinary high school compadres on a lazy Saturday in Montevideo, [directors Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll] slowly and slyly capture the specific rhythms of their own place and the general anomie of youth headed nowhere, very slowly," writes Mark Peranson in indieWIRE: "As much as I despise this kind of characterization, 25 Watts is the kind of film that wins you over with its good nature and its charm." [Rent]
Under the Skin of the City (2003). From taboo-breaking female Iranian director Bani-Etemad, a "generational melodrama [that] observes a blue-collar dynastic collapse worthy of Lillian Hellman, but stays steadfastly fixed on the quotidian of Tehran life." (Village Voice) [Rent]
The Most Terrible Time in My Life (1994). Remember that bit in Mystery Train? "Elvis... Carl Perkins... Elvis... Carl Perkins... Elvis... Carl Perkins... Elvis..." The male half of that conversation, the Carl Perkins fan, was played by Masatoshi Nagase, and here, in this Japanese comedy that borrows heavily from American detective movies, he's Maiku Hama, a character whose name will remind you of Mickey Spillane's lead private eye. Reviewing the film, Dave Kehr writes in the New York Times, "Its outstanding feature is the soft-edged, black-and-white wide-screen images contributed by Yuichi Nagata. They almost perfectly recapture the look of Japanese underworld films of the 1950's and 60's, like Mikio Naruse's When a Woman Ascends the Stairs and Akira Kurosawa's High and Low." [Rent]
Erotic Trap (1969). From the mildly notorious French director Jean-Francois Davy, who saw the Brits occasionally ban a film or two of his in the 70s. [Rent]
Firefly Dreams (2001). "The arguably slight premise of the story is embellished by the touching interplay between newcomer Maho Ukai, and the 85 year-old Yoshie Minami," writes Jaspar Sharp in Midnight Eye: "Similarly noteworthy is the beautiful photography of the Horaicho region in the Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, bringing a seductive calmness to the screen as it evokes its rural idyll, and... depicts a side of Japan seldom seen by foreigners." [Rent]
Faustina (1994). Dorota Segda, who portrays Sister Faustina, is a widely admired actress not only in Poland but throughout eastern Europe. [Rent]
H.M. Deserters (1986). An irreverent wartime comedy all the more remarkable for being made before 1989. [Rent]
My American Grandson (1991). A retired mainland teacher learns to cope with his spoiled American-born grandson - and vice versa. [Rent]
Queen of the Underworld (1991). An "outrageously trashy gangster saga," enthuses Hong Kong Digital: "An instant guilty pleasure for those who relish HK cinema at its most sordid." [Rent]
Brides of Christ (1991). An Australian miniseries about young women deciding to become nuns and, according to Aussie-based Moviehole, "It has, over time, built up a standing as one of the country's pinnacle moments in mini-series television, not only for its unyielding script and prevailing storytelling - but as an early vehicle for more a star on the rise. Among them a young Russell Crowe, an even younger but no less endowed Naomi Watts, and another who would go far in both TV and film, Lisa Hensley." Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
The Dream Catcher (1999). Two boys yearning to become men, out on the road. "The scenes in which the characters poignantly press their noses to the glass of an adult self-sufficiency that seems as unreachable as the stars, will put a lump in your throat," writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. [Rent]
Anna (1987). Sally Kirkland was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. [Rent]
Dreamkeeper (2003). This mini-series "speaks to everyone who cares to listen about the resilience and gentle spirit of Native American Peoples," writes an IMDb user. [Rent]
The Commitments (1991). Yes, we've had this for a while, but this is a Special Edition. If you've never seen this, do catch it; we dare you to sit still through these earnest versions of some of the great soul tunes. Discs 1 [Rent]and 2 [Rent].
Wire in the Blood: Justice Painted Blind (2003). The latest in the series. "Though Wire in the Blood was made for television, don't be fooled," warns DVD Talk: "It is no cozy British murder mystery where all the violence happens off screen.ÊThis is an intense adult drama." [Rent]
Girls Will Be Girls (2003). "All three actors are incredible in their roles as these catty females," enthuses Eric Campos in Film Threat: "You also have the mad doctor set design to chew on with its vibrant colors and outlandish décor. This movie is like a big piece of candy with definitely some of the most bizarre nudity you will ever see at the chewy center." [Rent]
Wrong Is Right (1981). "An almost prophetic comedy about political spin and the internecine battles between various intelligence agencies in the US," notes Britain's Channel 4. [Rent]
Men Suddenly In Black (2003). A well-received parody of Infernal Affairs. Quite a unique site, by the way. [Rent]
City of SARS. A comedy, oddly enough, about the variety of ways people have dealt with the come-n-go epidemic. [Rent]
And God Created Woman (1987). "Is this movie worth seeing?" Roger Ebert asks in his review of this remake that shares little with the original other than its title and director. "Sort of," Ebert goes on, answering his own question. You heard the man. [Rent]
Baby The Rain Must Fall (1965). Here's a team for you: Lee Remick and Steve McQueen. Robert Mulligan directs, Alan J Pakula produces. Screenplay by Horton Foote, score by Elmer Bernstein. [Rent]
While we wait for the Steve Martin version (it won't be long), we can catch the original Cheaper By The Dozen (1950). [Rent] and its sequel, Belles On Their Toes (1952) [Rent].
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965). One of those mid-60s all-star pretty-to-look-at extravaganzas. Pure popcorn. [Rent]
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