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April 19, 2005


  • House of Flying Daggers (2004). Zhang Yimou follows the critical and box office success of his first venture into the martial arts genre, Hero, with another - the difference being that this one's propelled by a love story. "Hero and Flying Daggers are actually two sides of the same thing," Zhang Yimou told Markus Tschiedert in our interview. "Hero works on the concepts and philosophy of martial arts in a more formalistic way, whereas Flying Daggers is intimate and personal and it treats the interior, what happens inside the minds of people. So one is very broad, very abstract, very high in the sky, and the other is down-to-earth, deep in the hearts." [Rent]

  • Birth (2004). Few would have predicted that Jonathan Glazer would follow his stylish gangster romp, Sexy Beast, with a "suave and brooding gothic tale" (A.O. Scott of the New York Times) of (possible) reincarnation and enduring love co-written with Milo Addica (Monster's Ball) and long-time Buñuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière. Scott: "It takes a perfectly ordinary urban moment - a jog through Central Park in wintertime - and turns it into a visual and aural overture for the film's layered and shifting moods." With Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall. [Rent]

  • Primer (2004). Proof that the indie dream, with all its glorious clichés, can still be turned into a true-life legend. Shane Carruth, your basic humble software engineer toiling away in Dallas, taught himself everything he needed to know to write, direct, perform in, shoot, edit and score a full-length feature for a grand total of $7000 - and then proceed to wow audiences and critics with his tale of four guys sort of like him who accidentally build what amounts to a time machine. To top it all off, after winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, he insists on turning down studio offers unless they'll allow him to go on shooting his own stories. What a guy. [Rent]

  • Meet the Fockers (2004). Who knew this would be so very huge at the box office - or that Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand would seem to be having so very much fun playing Ben Stiller's eccentric parents. [Rent]

  • Genealogies of a Crime (1997). When the excellent online film journal Rouge devoted a special issue to Raúl Ruiz some time back, Maximilian Le Cain wrote of this film that it "can be viewed as an elaborate game with the conventions of film noir that pushes the fatalism of that genre to new and revealing limits: it is explicitly narrative itself that has taken the place of destiny, storytelling owning up for its own cruelties rather than disguising itself in a concept of fate. Yet, however playful Ruiz's films become, the sense of omnipotent, vampiric events constantly displacing and feeding off helpless, disorientated characters creates a powerful undertow of profound unease. There can very few cinematic creations in which human freedom and self-determination count for as little as they do in the Ruizian universe." With Catherine Deneuve and Michel Piccoli. [Rent]
  • Stratosphere Girl (2004). Debuting at last year's Berlin Film Festival, M.X. Oberg's blend of European storytelling and Japanese anime centers on Angela who's got a passion for drawing manga that takes her, naturally, to Tokyo. It's there that her drawings take on an eerie life, turning violent and plunging Angela into a world of cruelty and murder. [Rent]

  • The Courtesans of Bombay (1983). Ruth Prawer Jhabvava, known most for the screenplays she's written for director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, is here credited along with both Merchant and Ivory as a director - and that's your first sign that this is not the usual Merchant-Ivory fare. It is, in fact, something of a documentary, laced here and there with staged scenes, about prostitution in India. [Rent]

  • In Custody (1994). Another Merchant-Ivory production, but this time there's just one director: Ismail Merchant. Based on the novel by Anita Desai, who adapted it with Shahrukh Husain. [Rent]

  • Devils on the Doorstep (2000). Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, Jiang Wen's "grimly amusing antiwar film," as Stephen Holden put it in the New York Times, is set in the final days of WWII in a small village that's been occupied by the Japanese for years. "The black-and-white film, directed by the actor best known for his portrayal of Gong Li's lover in Red Sorghum," continues Holden, "belongs to that rarefied breed of antiwar movie that adopts a lofty satirical distance from its characters' plight. By turns farcical and horrifying, it scrupulously avoids plucking heartstrings to portray the soldiers and peasants alike as paranoid fools buffeted by the shifting winds of war.... While acknowledging that war is hell, it goes further to suggest it is ludicrous." [Rent]

  • But Forever in My Mind (1999). "A quality horny-Italian-teen frolic." Can't beat that for a blurb, and it comes from Village Voice film editor Dennis Lim to boot. Since there's more room here than on a movie poster, let's add: "Unmistakably related to Show Me Love and New Waterford Girl, But Forever bears the hallmark of a serious-minded teen comedy - it gently mocks but never condescends." [Rent]

  • An Awfully Big Adventure (1994). Just because it's directed by Mike Newell and stars Hugh Grant doesn't mean it's going to be a barrel of laughs. This drama, which also features the very fine Alan Rickman and Georgina Cates, was, in fact, made before Four Weddings and a Funeral but was naturally sent across the Pond following that comedy's success. Unfair to everyone involved. Based in Beryl Bainbridge's probably at least semi-autobiographical novel, this is darker stuff and worth taking seriously on its own terms. [Rent]

    "If you're a fan of samurai cinema, then this trilogy belongs on your 'must see' list," writes Mike Bracken of

    This outlandish set of 70s-era sex-n-violence flicks is based on the classic manga by Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub) and stars Shintaro Katsu (Zatoichi). The films, accompanied by quotes from Hanzo "The Razor" Itami:

  • Sword of Justice (1972). "Our duty is to protect the good and apprehend the bad!" [Rent]

  • The Snare (1973). "If it's in the name of the law... then I'll go where the clues take me! The Commissioner can kiss my ass!" [Rent]

  • Who's Got the Gold? (1975). "I've always wanted to do it with a ghost, at least once." [Rent]

    A series of fresh releases featuring the swashiest buckler of them all, Errol Flynn, highlights one of Hollywood's classic teams, Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. They made a total of eight films together for Warner Brothers (well, nine counting Thank Your Lucky Stars [1943] but they didn't have any scenes together), and fortunately, this selection features both the very first and the last. "Flynn remains the shining example of the actor of limited range who can do one thing well enough to become a star," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "As long as he was cast in roles that allowed him to show off his boundless energy and joie de vivre, Flynn commanded the screen with a presence matched by few other performers in the history of the medium."

  • Captain Blood (1935). "Set the standard for future Flynn-de Havilland pairings," notes Reel Classics. "Flynn never achieved the same co-star chemistry apart from her as he did in his films with de Havilland." For a little historical (and political) context, see Julian Savage's piece in Senses of Cinema, "The Role of the Pirate in Captain Blood: Buccaneering as Transgressive Political Action in the Swashbuckling Film?" [Rent]

  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). Classic screen pair or not, it's clear from the outset for whom Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland had to make way on this picture. "[Bette] Davis gives one of her finest performances as the English monarch in [Michael] Curtiz's lavish costume drama focusing on her infamous relationship with Essex," writes the UK's Channel 4, and you'd imagine they'd know. "Truly splendid stuff." [Rent]

  • Dodge City (1939). Once again, Michael Curtiz directs Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, but here, they truly are the stars. "An entertaining early Technicolor western," wrote Dave Kehr when he was still with the Chicago Reader, "directed with routine skill by Michael Curtiz - whose main personal touch here lies in setting the action scenes at night." [Rent]

  • Sea Hawk (1940). Says right here in our handy TV Guide: "First class, rousing adventure with the inimitable Flynn swashing away, aided by top Curtiz direction and bracing [Erich Wolfgang] Korngold score. Everything else clicks, too: the cinematography of Sol Polito, terrific Warners production values and a cast of character actors hard to match in any era." No wonder they give it five out of five stars. No Olivia in this one, though it did rack up four Oscar nominations. [Rent]

  • They Died With Their Boots On (1941). Here it's Raoul Walsh directing Flynn as General Custer and Olivia de Havilland as his wife, Elizabeth. [Rent]
  • TV

  • Dynasty. Season 1 (1981). Everybody: "U don't have 2 watch Dynasty / 2 have an attitude..." But we're here to tell you it helps. Anyone planning a hostile takeover can always take a few lessons from Alexis. What's more, historians will never completely comprehend the shoulder-padded Reagan era unless they watch every episode of this show. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent].

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum: 07. "For years, fans of EVA have been complaining about the murky images found in the original 8-disc set," wrote NLee when 01 was released. "Now, GAINAX/ADV finally decided to do it right... I can attest that the Platinum edition gives significantly sharper and more contrasy images." [Rent]

  • Fighting Spirit (Hajime no Ippo). Volume 5: Forward! Forward!. Ratings for previous volumes are ranging from the high-7s to the mid-9s. No small feat. [Rent]

  • R.O.D.. The TV Series. Volume 6: The End of a Dream. "A very dynamic series with some interesting characters," says JHeneghan. "A good extension to the R.O.D. OVA." [Rent]

  • Yu Yu Hakusho. Volume 30: The Three Kings: King Urameshi. We're building up here to a tournament that'll determine who's the next ruler of the Demon World. [Rent]

  • Wandaba Style. Volume 3: Idol Invasion. More silly fun as the girls from Mix Juice try to figure out how to get back to Earth after performing live on the Moon. [Rent]

  • Maburaho. Volume 1: Bewitched and Bewildered. Kazuki Shikimori is sort of like a Japanese Harry Potter - but not really. For example, he can do magic - but only eight times before he turns to dust. On the other hand, the women attracted to him dress a lot more provocatively than Hermione ever has. [Rent]

  • Case Closed. Case 5, Volume 1: The Truth About Revenge. "With an episodic format, a whodunit narrative and a diminutive hero, Case Closed may have more in common with Donald J. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown than the main character's idol Sherlock Holmes," writes L.M. Tokiwa for the Anime News Network. "But with so many similarities to the popular children's mystery series, it's no wonder Case Closed has become a hit. What the show may lack in music, art, or continuous plot, it more than makes up for in pure investigative fun." [Rent]

  • Cyberteam in Akihabara. Volume 4: Cyber Rebirth. Uh oh... here comes Anima Mundi and her mercilessly powerful Black Diva! [Rent]

  • Kyo Kara Maoh!. Volume 1. Remember that scene in Trainspotting when Mark dives into a toilet and swims around in there to the music of Brian Eno? Well, imagine he'd discovered a whole 'nother world down there, a world sort of like medieval Europe. That's how things get started for Yuri Shibuya in this series. [Rent]
  • Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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