March 8, 2005
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Stage Beauty (2004). "Noted theater director Richard Eyre's second movie," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon, "is an entertainment as billowy as a Shakespearean nurse's sail-shaped hat. The picture glows with ideas - it charms us into thinking, instead of poking a stick at us as if we were a badger in a hole (the image that always comes to mind when I hear the term 'thought-provoking'). And it's deeply perceptive about what good actors do, without resorting to theatrical platitudes." With Billy Crudup and Claire Danes. [Rent]
Ladder 49 (2004). Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta star in a film that's next to impossible to avoid comparing to Backdraft. "It's predictable stuff," admits Philip French in the Observer, "but decent and moving, and Phoenix is the perfect name for a firefighter." [Rent]
Stella Dallas (1937). "Grand [King] Vidor soap opera, boasting a brilliant [Barbara] Stanwyck performance." We feel strange, quoting from TV Guide, but, blast it all, their reviews are pretty good: "She's a tough cookie, a bit of a shrew and a grasping woman who snares Boles, a well-born young man whose family lost its old money when his father committed suicide." Kind of nabs you, doesn't it? Plus, they know their film history: "Despite unforgettable work in a slew of other films, Stanwyck was quoted as saying that this was the best acting she'd ever done and it remained her favorite role." [Rent]
Come and Get It (1936). Directed by Howard Hawks, but only because producer Sam Goldwyn had him replace William Wyler. Hawks insisted on sharing the credit with Wyler. Good stuff, but how's the movie? "It's a minor Hawks, to be sure," notes the UK's Channel 4, "but the fine performances from [Frances] Farmer, [Walter] Brennan and [Joel] McCrea are what make it." [Rent]
Dead End (1937). William Wyler was permitted to finish directing this Lillian Hellman adaptation of Pulitzer-winner Sidney Kingsley's Broadway play. Movie Magazine International offers another bit of enlightening trivia: "Wyler wanted to film the picture on the sidewalks of New York, but [producer Sam] Goldwyn [again], like so many Hollywood producers, insisted that his Oscar-winning art director (Richard Day, 1896-1972) could transform the back lot into an East Side neighborhood. Well, you never forget it's a set, but what a set, filled with nooks & crannies & back alleys & dark stairs & a sharp contrast between the poverty line & the exterior of a luxury apartment building." With Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea and Humphrey Bogart.
Barbary Coast (1935). "A wide-open San Francisco, circa 1890, is the background for one of Howard Hawks's intelligent love triangles," wrote Dave Kehr when he was still at the Chicago Reader. "A boisterous film with a serious undertone provided by Hawks's preoccupation with the moral compromise necessary for survival." With Edward G. Robinson. [Rent]
Incident at Blood Pass (1970). Toshiro Mifune and Shintaro Katsu face off in what might be seen as a counterpart to Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo. Bursting with furious swordplay and unexpected plot twists, this film marks Toshiro Mifune's last performance as Yojimbo and would be the last film directed by Hiroshi Inagaki. [Rent]
Bright Future (2003). A re-release of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "minor masterpiece," as Sean Axmaker called it when he caught it in Vancouver in late 2003. "It's no horror film, though there are ghosts (here, a specter becomes a nod of affirmation) and a serene school of fresh water jellyfish floating through the Tokyo canals, ghostly underwater angels of gossamer delicacy and a deadly sting." Adds lizzoqops: "Tandanobu Asano is mesmerizing, as usual. I had to watch this twice, as the photography and style overwhelmed the story for me the first time." Be sure to catch up with Jonathan Marlow's interview with the director as well. [Rent]
Dolls (2002). Kamera calls it Takeshi Kitano's "quietest and most accomplished film so far." At the same time, though: "In a recent Guardian interview, Kitano said that this is his most violent film so far, although he didn't set out with this intention. He didn't mean physical violence, but rather the pain that we do to ourselves when we take the wrong path in life. All the characters in the movie take decisions that changed their lives forever that was not forseeable, but afterwards you can't go back. Be careful what you wish for." [Rent]
Icemaker (2003). Not knowing much about this one, we headed over to the ever-faithful IMDb. Hm, no published reviews. Ah, but there is a user comment: "I got a hold of a screener for this film and was expecting a stupid silly movie and okay it was stupid and it was silly but I couldn't stop thinking about the premise of making celebrities into diamonds. You know someone's going to start doing this stuff for real." Oh, my. [Rent]
Paranoia Agent. Volume 3: Serial Psychosis (2005). "You won't find a much creepier villain than a grinning kid on roller blades who wields a baseball bat bent dog-legged from smacking people," notes Shaky in his review of the first volume of Satoshi Kon's outstanding series. "The animation is high-quality, and the voice acting and sound work are excellent... The real achievement, however, is in the writing and pacing." [Rent]
Boys Over Flowers. Volume 10: Love Triangle From Hell! (1996). "So good!!" exclaims EmpressStephanie. "This anime differs from regular romance anime because it's very erm... violent... but not in the big robots dueling swordsman way. The only thing I didn't like about it was the animation but the plot is so good it doesn't even matter." [Rent]
Gantz. Volume 2: Kill or Be Killed (2005). It's been a while since a new anime series dared to be this violent. [Rent]
A Tree of Palme (2002). "Director Takashi Nakamura's most recent feature offers a dazzling allegorical science-fantasy tale rich in entertainment value and meaning," writes FPS Magazine. "Having considerable experience doing animation work for, most notably, Hayao Miyazaki (specifically art production and design for Nausicaä), and having worked on Akira, Neo-Tokyo and Dagger of Kamui and having helmed Catnapped (among others), Nakamura's latest effort noticeably shows the artistic influence of the towering talent of Miyazaki yet retains a distinctness of its own.... A Tree of Palme features spectacular visuals and subtexts involving personal maturation, the meaning of humanity, and the benefits of learning to live in harmony with a complex environment, but they never interfere with the movie's entertainment value.... Enhanced by a haunting, atmospheric score, this film, so rich in content, with its own style despite its homages, blossoms in the minds and hearts of its viewers and deserves to flourish in the anime field and to propagate in the wider world." Now, that is a glowing review. [Rent]
Initial D. Battle 10: Team Emperor (1998). GreenCiners' favorite racing anime series (just check those reviews for the first volume!) picks up speed. [Rent]
Urusei Yatsura. TV Series (1983). Here's a series that, as hneline1 writes, is "charming in the same sense that Mork and Mindy or Gilligan's Island is charming." And here come three discs all at once: 17 [Rent], 18 [Rent] and 19 [Rent].
Koi Kaze. Volume 1: The Reunion (2005). A mature drama that pulls at the heartstrings. [Rent]
Chrono Crusade. Volume 4: The Devil to Pay (2005). Ratings are running way above 8 on the previous volumes. [Rent]
Cyberteam in Akihabara. Volume 3: Cyber History (2005). The battle heats up. [Rent]
Gravion Zwei. Volume 1: Eye of the Storm (2005). We kid you not, it says right here on the box: "Effeminate Heroes! Giant Fighting Robots! Gravity-defying Breasts!" Extra points for truth in advertising. [Rent]
Project Arms 2nd Chapter. Volume 4: A Soldier's Pride (2005). The sequel continues. [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.