March 29, 2005
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Vera Drake (2004). Winner of the Golden Lion and the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival and nominated for three major Academy Awards - Best Actress (and many felt that Imelda Staunton truly deserved to win), Best Director and Best Original Screenplay - this drama set in the England of the 1950s is one of Mike Leigh's most broadly appealing films in years (and for a good shot of fun, check out the diary Leigh kept while the Vera Drake team swooped in and out of LA a few weeks ago). The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, in fact, deems it Leigh's "masterpiece: that is, his masterpiece so far, because at 61 years old, he shows every sign of entering a glorious late period of artistry and power." [Rent]
Closer (2004). "Patrick Marber's play is brought to vivid, bitter life by Mike Nichols in his finest film in years," wrote Craig Phillips in his best-of-2004 list. "The whole ensemble's fine but it's Natalie Portman who really closes the deal. Like Dogville, it often felt more like an exercise about (or a game of) human behavior than something real, but the writing remains as sharp as ever." Besides Portman, Clive Owen was nominated for an Oscar and the other two players in this criss-crossing quartet are, of course, Julia Roberts and Jude Law. [Rent]
Pearls of the Deep (1965). A unique and invaluable collection of short films by five stalwarts of the Czech New Wave - Jirí Menzel, Véra Chytilová, Jaromil Jires, Jan Nemec and Evald Schorm - all based on stories by Bohumil Hrabal, a writer renowned for his penchant for the bizarre and surreal. [Rent]
Kagemusha (1980). Criterion releases, for the first time in its full-length version and sporting a restored, hi-def digital transfer, what Dave Kehr calls "a dark, perverse samurai film from Akira Kurosawa... Something large and abstract is stirring here, though the film's ultimate implications are chilling." The two-disc package features audio commentary by Stephen Prince, author of The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa, a 40-minute doc on the film's making, interviews with Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas and more. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003). Twitch is a site we enjoy keeping an eye on, particularly for its discerning enthusiasm for Asian cinema. Here's what Todd, who runs the place, had to say recently about this one: "A Tale of Two Sisters refuses to fit neatly into any genre, though it is most commonly referred to as a horror film, and it is all the stronger for that. Director Kim [Jee-woon] obviously values ambiguity as a tool to keep the audience guessing, by refusing to follow a neat pattern he forces you out of any sense of easy familiarity and keeps the world of the film tilting and roiling in unexpected directions. This is a film that rewards multiple viewings thanks to the range of possible interpretations and the wealth of small details, unnoticed on first viewing, that will push you in one direction or another as you slowly pick them up." [Rent]
Koma (2004). Speaking of Asian horror, here's what Hong Kong Digital has to say about this one: "Pairing the very talented and photogenic leads of The Eye [Angelica Lee] and Inner Senses [Karena Lam] under the direction of Lo Chi-leung (who helmed the latter picture) gave Koma an enticing promotional hook but, happily, there is a terrific film to go along with the hype." [Rent]
Blue Vinyl (2002). For About.com, Tim Stopper wrote of this Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema Audience Award-winner: "With its mix of humor and gravity, accessibility and education, conciseness and common sense, this film has what it takes to move an audience... to positive change and to viewing the world, particularly the world of vinyl, in a new way. With the hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year on brain-numbing, high budget pictures without an ounce of purpose or honest humanity to them, looking back on this film will give me hope that there are people doing important, real, and truthful things with the medium of film." [Rent]
Samurai Champloo. Volume 2 (2004). "If you've ever asked yourself, 'Gee, I wonder what a hip-hop samurai anime would look like?' then Samurai Champloo is your answer," writes the Anime News Network. "This gleefully irreverent action series goes all-out to be the hippest and baddest anime title of them all. But what else would one expect from Shinichiro Watanabe, the creative whiz responsible for Cowboy Bebop?" [Rent]
Peacemaker. Volume 4: A Path to Destruction (2005). Ratings for the previous three volumes are averaging well above 7 out of 10. [Rent]
Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars. Volume 1: Altered Perceptions. A tale of aliens and humans, starships and spies, and friends who are often more than they appear. [Rent]
Otogi Zoshi. Volume 1: Legend of the Magatama (2005). The first five of the thirteen episodes that comprise the first narrative arc of the series, which is set in the Heian period in Japan; once we make our way through these, the second arc, set in contemporary Tokyo, takes hold. [Rent]
Midori Days. Volume 1: A Helping Hand (2005). Ok, this is odd: Seija's invincible right hand turns into a girl. That's right: His hand becomes a girl. [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.