FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Yossi & Jagger (2003). The Israeli Defense Force was most definitely not pleased with Eytan Fox's feature depicting homosexual relationships all up and down various ranks in the army, but the comedy and drama very much appealed to Israeli audiences. Plus, the film's been a hit on the festival circuit and in select theaters, hopefully in one near you. "A zoom-happy little item, shot in handheld DV," notes J Hoberman in the Village Voice, adding that it has "a touching denouement and an effective postscript. At 71 minutes, the movie is scarcely more than an anecdote. But vivid as it is in establishing a specific milieu, its economy is its strength." [Rent]
House of Sand and Fog (2003). With a cast featuring Ben Kingsley (Oscar, '83), Jennifer Connelly (Oscar, '02) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (Oscar nominee, this year), you'd expect the acting to be as stellar as it is. But not to be overlooked are either the writing or the story itself. "Here is a film that seizes us with its first scene and never lets go," Roger Ebert wrote, "and we feel sympathy all the way through for everyone in it. To be sure, they sometimes do bad things, but the movie understands them and their flaws. Like great fiction, House of Sand and Fog sees into the hearts of its characters, and loves and pities them." [Rent]
Something's Gotta Give (2003). Very much a chick flick and proud of it - and why not? It's got Diane Keaton's Oscar-nominated performance at its center and Nancy Myers behind the camera. The San Francisco Chronicle called it "a comedy with hilarious moments, and yet with an essential seriousness at its core: Two people in the autumn of life find love... steers clear of sentiment and tells the story with directness and honesty." And Jack Nicholson flashes his bum. [Rent]
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). We didn't really need this remake, but producer Michael Bay gave it to us anyway. And you know, not all the reviews were bad. Some praised the look while Cynthis Fuchs at PopMatters wrote, " Yes, it's part of a resurgence of the genre - gross-out horror inflicted on young, mostly unknown bodies, less snappily ironic than the Scream movies, but no less deft in its dark comedy." [Rent]
Brother Bear (2003). Disney aimed this one fair and square at families and was rewarded with healthy box office returns and an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. [Rent] Bonus Disc [Rent].
Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made (1995). Not only is this a superb doc on the great American maverick director Sam Fuller and a winner of the international critics award in Berlin, it's also our first film on DVD from Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki, Aki's brother. Fuller returns to Brazil, to the set of an adventure film that never got made and answers Jim Jarmusch's questions along the way. "What keeps this fun and watchable is Fuller and Jarmusch holding forth for the camera and each other," Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote in the Chicago Reader, "but the settings and the Karaja Indians they visit hold plenty of fascination as well." [Rent]
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (2003). A cousin in spirit to cable's Mythbusters show, this irresistibly smug series features everyone's favorite skeptical magicians as they go on a fakery-exposing rampage. "Penn and Teller muster both intellectual rigor and righteous anger in exposing those who cash in on the gullibility of innocents," says Flak Magazine. "The theme of consequences gives Bullshit! its redeeming social value and provides moral cover for the guilty pleasure of watching a loser get taken by a skilled con man." Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
Off The Menu (1997). The first film from the team behind American Splendor, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, takes a look at a real Hollywood institution, Chasen's Restaurant. Great fun, but centering as it does around the eatery's closing, it's also a "bitter and bittersweet send-off... collect[ing] a week's worth of memories," wrote Scott Tobias in the Onion's AV Club. Oh, and the doc's chock full of celeb cameos. [Rent]
Jupiter's Wife (1994). One of the most empathetic documentaries about homelessness ever, Michel Negroponte's Sundance prizewinner traces the life of Maggie Cagan, a resident of NYC's Central Park. Claiming to be married to the Roman god Jupiter, Maggie also had a real history behind the delusional one, and the filmmaker dug up some surprising TV archival footage. The appeal of the film, wrote Walter Goodman in the New York Times, "is the way it allows its heroine to tell a profoundly sad story in her own high-spirited way." [Rent]
The Last Round: Chuvalo vs. Ali (2003). The 1966 face-off is legendary among boxing fans, but in its review, dvd/authority hastens to add that "filmmaker Joseph Blasioli has crafted a picture that not only warrants attention from boxing lovers, but anyone who appreciates an uplifting story or a great human interest piece." [Rent]
The American Nightmare (2000). As it turns out, critics reading allegories of Vietnam or 60s and 70s-era social unrest in films such as Last House on the Left, Shivers or George Romero's zombie trilogy haven't been totally off their rockers. Romero himself, along with Wes Craven, Cronenberg, Carpenter and all the rest say as much themselves in this highly rated doc combining cinematic and social history. [Rent]
Tibetan Refugee (2003). Renowned scholar of Buddhism (and Uma's dad) Robert Thurman tells the story of the Dalai Lama. [Rent]
Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War (2003). While we've had this one in stock for some time, March 30 marks the official nationwide release, so copies will be more readily available. This powerful doc, which unmasks the lies the Bush administration told to pave the way for the US invasion of Iraq, was the overwhelming winner of the "Truth to Power Award," one of the Alties Alternet readers voted on a few weeks ago. The editors noted: "As much as people loved Uncovered, many also marveled at the unique distribution methods the [director Robert] Greenwald team used to bring their indie doc to a wide audience. 'Important not only for its content, which history will confirm and current events already are, but for the [MoveOn.org] "underground" house party distribution method,' Mike Dixon wrote." Says Al Franken: "It's one thing for a President to lie about his sex life. It's another to lie about why we are sending our young men and women into battle." Adds Senator Edward Kennedy: "A devastating analysis of the abuses and distortions of intelligence used by the Bush Administration in making its case for the war in Iraq. If the American people and Congress had been told the whole truth, America would have never gone to war." And finally, Moby: "I don't see how anyone, Republican or Democrat could even think about voting for Bush after watching this documentary." [Rent]
Glenn Gould: On and Off the Record (2003). This disc collects two famous Canadian docs on the iconoclastic pianist, both made in 1959. Off the Record shows Gould as few had known him before - not as the enfant terrible of classical music but as a relaxed artist practicing at his lakeside cottage and theorizing with fellow musicians who come to visit. In On the Record, Gould is back in New York City to make a recording of Bach's Italian Concerto.
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1973). Nicely timed with the release of Tigrero (see above) comes this little known later work from Sam Fuller, made in Germany and a fairly bizarre film at that. While not up to the same level as, say, Pickup on South Street, it's a complex crime thriller; if you ignore the wooden acting, says Geoff Andrew of TimeOut, "its great attraction lies not only in the typically vigorous direction but in the madcap humor which turns the entire film into a parody of thuggish thrillers. Add to that the wicked movie references, and the startling, even surreal use of locations, and you have what is virtually a professional home movie that delights by its sheer sense of fun and absurdity." [Rent]
Ripley's Game (2002). An evidently troubled production kept this film from getting a well-deserved theatrical release. "A pity because [John] Malkovich is perfect as Tom Ripley, American expat, connoisseur and gentleman sociopath," writes Brendan Bernhard in the LA Weekly. "The great perversity of both the film and the novel on which it's based is the way in which they both suggest that murder is as easily accomplished as kicking a pigeon on an empty street... Malkovich's fey, fluttery voice has never been so perfectly suited to his material." [Rent]
Camera (2000). In 1996, Richard Martini shot Cannes Man, a loosely structured satire of the movie business most known for its several cameos by stars in town for the festival. With Camera, it's almost as if Martini set out to make not so much a sequel as a reason for carrying on in a similar vein, this time nabbing Jack Nicholson, Oliver Stone and others. The idea this time is to follow a camera from one owner to the next; the film is also notable for being officially certified Dogma #15. [Rent]
Love Goggles (1999). What's the title refer to? The condition of not being able to see past your own heart. This Jury Award winner at Hollywood Black Film Fest, spiffed up with intertitles, interviews and occasional narration, is a fun look at the way men and women (mis)behave with each other. [Rent]
No Turning Back (2001). A winner at the LA Indie Film Festival, this hard-hitting tale of an illegal immigrant also wins raves from Film Threat: "Jesus Nebot is unquestionably the glue that holds this film together. It's hard to have any sympathy for someone who runs over a small child and then deserts their responsibilities, but Nebot plays Pablo with such intensity not to mention compassion for his ultimate responsibility, his daughter, that we tend to sometimes overlook the error of his ways. This makes not only great acting, but also great directing by Nebot who shares credit with the also talented Julia Montejo." [Rent]
The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie (2003). Another television drama, this one featuring the Incredible Ms Gena Rowlands and, in a supporting role, James Caan. [Rent]
Horsey (2000). Tagline: "A gritty tale of love, ambition and addiction." [Rent]
Lip Service (2001). The rough and tumble friendship between Kat and Allison makes for a film that's "hip, smart, kooky, dark, intense, sexy, and creepy," according to the Apollo Guide. [Rent]
Look In My Shorts (2002). A collection of indie shorts ranging from just a few minutes to nearly half an hour, all dealing in one way or the other with everyone's favorite topic, sex. In 2002, the Silverlake Film Festival described the bunch as "Lyrical, methodical, musical, sexy and sometimes just plain silly." [Rent]
The Sunshine Boys (1975) [Rent] and Going In Style (1979) [Rent] feature George Burns in octogenarian comedies. Going in Style is a surprisingly well-crafted film considering its commercial underpinnings. As the old codgers robbing banks, the trio of veteran actors (Art Carney and Lee Strasberg alongside Burns) bring "a mischievous wit and a sense of subdued anger" in this "warm and entertaining story" (TimeOut Film Guide). The Sunshine Boys, based on the play by Neil Simon, is a bit more maudlin, but Burns performance is no less engaging; he and Walter Matthau are the main reasons to see the film, though Richard Benjamin puts in a fine turn as Matthau's nephew, the poor guy who strains to get the men to reteam and perform their old vaudville act for a TV special.
The Late Show (1977). A really delightfully understated gem with Art Carney and Lily Tomlin and directed by Robert Benton. In the Chicago Reader, Dave Kehr called it "not just another genre rehash, but a genuinely ingratiating 1977 private-eye update... A small film of small but real virtues, easily overrated and eminently enjoyable." [Rent]
The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975). Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft head up the cast in this angst-ridden Neil Simon comedy. (And look fast for a then-unknown Sly Stallone.) [Rent]
The Damn! Show (2003). Yucko the Clown heads up a crew that heads out into the world to find a way to offend each and every one of us. As Steve Martin once said, comedy is not pretty. [Rent]
La Habanera (1937). The last film Detlef Sierk made in Germany before he changed his name to Douglas Sirk is essentially a vehicle for Zarah Leander, a talented actress who was an immense star in Nazi Germany... which is why not all that many people know about her now. "Kitschy fun," admits Jonathan Rosenbaum. [Rent]
Liliom (1934). Fritz Lang's adaptation of a Hungarian classic better known to Americans as the musical Carousel. In his biography of Lang, Patrick McGilligan writes, "The carnival and outdoor scenes, filmed on soundstages, are a feast for the senses, fluidly staged and photographed. The knife fight, for which the soundtrack goes abruptly silent, is one of those rituals of death that the director staged, in film after film, with the intricacy of a dance routine." [Rent]
Mister Roberts (1955). The beloved classic gets a re-release as a Special Edition with extra features. [Rent]
Time Without Pity (1957). Joseph Losey directs this thriller which pits Michael Redgrave against Leo McKern. [Rent]
Classic Comedy Triple Features. Volume 1 [Rent]: The Milky Way, The General and College. Volume 2 [Rent]: St. Benny the Dip, Behave Yourself and Topper Returns.
Lyrical Nitrate & The Forbidden Quest (1990 / 1993). The idea behind Netherlands Film Museum programmer Peter Delpeut's 50-minute compilation is somewhat reminiscent of Decasia, only the focus here is on the beauty of what's preserved on old nitrate film stock rather than the beauty of its decay. " A lot of gorgeous stuff is on view here," remarks Jonathan Rosenbaum, "some of it black and white, some of it tinted, and a little of it, believe it or not, in full or partial color." Rather amazing, considering most of the footage was shot between 1905 and 1915. With The Forbidden Quest, Delpeut took the idea a step further, creating a hybrid of fiction and documentary by cutting together footage from the same period of an expedition to Antartica and then giving it shape as a ghost story by having the journey's only survivor tell the tale in 1940s. [Rent]
Silencio Roto (2001). "Basque director Montxo Armendáriz's vivid period drama about a small town's divided loyalties in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. That brutal conflict set the tone for many of the 20th century's moral struggles, pitting youthful idealism against ruthless determinism and inflicting (for the first time in the history of modern warfare) massive civilian casualties.... There's a lush beauty to Armendáriz's clear-eyed vision of crushed hopes and lives shattered by politics." (Leslie Camhi, the Village Voice) [Rent]
Seventh Heaven (1997). You rarely know what to expect from director Benoit Jacquot, and while this one puzzled more than a few critics, most agree that the imagery is rich and the characters are a lot more interesting than most populating most Hollywood fare. But does it all add up? You decide. [Rent]
La Truite (1982). Joseph Losey directs Isabelle Huppert and Jeanne Moreau in this romantic comedy. [Rent]
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