|FRESH FROM THE THEATERS|
King Kong (2005).
Peter Jackson's spectacular remake of the 1933 original hardly needs an introduction - unless, of course, you slept through the second half of 2005. Nonetheless, let it be said again that, besides the splendid recreation of Depression-era New York and the breathless action of the final two thirds of the film, Naomi Watts (as the Beauty) and Andy Serkis (as the Beast) bring fresh, engaging life to one of the greatest love stories ever told.
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005).
Its Oscars map its merits well: Art Direction, Cinematography and Costume Design. This is the sort of literary adaptation Miramax used to excel at, only this time it comes from the house of DreamWorks and features a stunning cast: Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li and Ken Watanabe.
Marc Forster directs Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling and Naomi Watts in a sometimes enthralling, sometimes just outright bizarre exploration of our accepted notions of time and space.
Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005).
Surely one of the oddest pairings of a director and a star since, well, Curtis Hanson and Eminem for 8 Mile, Get Rich or Die Tryin' is 50 Cent's own story, helmed by Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan.
The Children Are Watching Us (1944).
"A marvel of complex visual and emotional scope, and its surface is no less simple than the fabulous shells of Shoeshine and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," writes Slant's Ed Gonzalez of this classic from Vittorio De Sica. This Criterion disc features video interviews with star Luciano De Ambrosis and De Sica scholar Callisto Cosulich.
Related reading: Our Italian Neo-Realism primer.
Murmur of the Heart (1971).
The first of three films by Louis Malle to come out from Criterion this week and "a fabulous treat for anyone who enjoys the movies" (Desson Howe, Washington Post), Murmur of the Heart is presented here in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with a fresh transfer supervised by cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich.
Lacombe Lucien (1974).
Criterion's second Louis Malle film released this week is, as the UK's Channel 4 puts it, "Superior, challenging filmmaking from Louis Malle about a simple farmhand who finds himself working for the Gestapo and falling for the daughter of a Jewish tailor."
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987).
"Louis Malle's autobiographical account of life in occupied France is a compelling, provocative, and heartfelt examination of personal and national identity," writes Acquarello at his excellent site, Strictly Film School. One of Malle's better-known and better-loved films, it completes Criterion's trilogy of the late filmmaker's work released this week.
Fight Back to School (1991).
"Fight Back to School is Stephen Chow's superior variation on Hiding Out, a 1987 Hollywood comedy starring Jon Cryer, who played a young adult forced to return to high school, engage in teen hijinks, and end up in a battle with criminals. But that is about where the similarities end," notes Mark Pollard at Kung Fu Cinema. "Chow's version features more ridiculous humor, action, and of course, kung fu. It was also popular enough to spawn two sequels."
Dumbland (late 90s).
David Lynch describes Dumbland as "a crude, stupid, violent, absurd series." You might attribute such a comment to modesty on the part of the director if you didn't suspect that he knows it's precisely the sort of bait we're likely to chomp down on. Hard.
I Love Your Work (2004).
"Imagine that you've stayed up late watching a triple bill of Federico Fellini's 8 ½, Woody Allen's Stardust Memories and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, scarfed down too much Thai takeout and had a fight with your significant other. Going to bed in this condition, you might have a dream that resembles Adam Goldberg's tragicomedy, I Love Your Work," suggests Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times. "Considering its obvious influences, which might have resulted in a hodgepodge of styles, and the self-indulgence of the protagonist, the film probably shouldn't work as well as it does."
Featuring Giovanni Ribisi, Franka Potente, Christina Ricci and cameos from the likes of Vince Vaughn and Elvis Costello.
Bettie Page: Dark Angel (2004).
Before The Notorious Bettie Page, heading to theaters later this spring, there was Nico B.'s Bettie Page: Dark Angel, a partially fictionalized account of the 50s-era pin-up legend.
"With a gentle touch, TransGeneration profiles four college students undergoing a shift from one gender to another," writes Robert Koehler in Variety.
Ah! My Goddess Volume 4: We've Got Tonight (1993).
"Kosuke Fujishima's much-beloved long-running manga about a decent young man who wishes for - and gets - a real goddess as a girlfriend sees its third anime incarnation in this new TV series," writes Theron "Key" Martin for the Anime News Network. "Long-time fans of Fujishima's work will love this series for how faithful it remains to the manga, while newcomers will find a light-hearted and enchanting take on anime romantic comedies."
Madlax Volume 7: Reality (2004).
Writes Fellini8pt5 in his list of "Anime series by Koichi Mashimo": "The second in a 'trilogy featuring pistol-packing babes,' according to March's NewType USA interview with Mashimo. Where Noir is serious, Madlax is seriously fun."
Samurai 7 Volume 5: Empire in Flux (2004).
"To the uninitiated, Samurai 7 may end up being this year's surprise title," wrote Sean Broestl last year for the Anime News Network. "Not because the quality is any kind of surprise, but because the show is more multifaceted than it lets on."
The Best of Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979).
"A forthright, irreverent, tart, often controversial and extremely funny sketch show that made the biggest splash in the genre since the heady days of Monty Python's Flying Circus and neatly bridged the gap between the zany mania of the 1970s and the anarchic cynicism of the 'alternative' comedy of the 1980s," writes the BBC of one of its greatest hits. The series was also a breakthrough for Rowan Atkinson.