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APRIL 25 HIGHLIGHTS

ON THEIR WAY FROM THE THEATERS

Match Point (2005).

May 2005, Cannes, the premiere, and the shock was palpable. "My head is still spinning," wrote A.O. Scott in one of the early experiments with blogging at the New York Times. "A truly shocking thing happened this morning. I saw a really good Woody Allen movie."

Though there would be dissenters, for the most part, the plaudits would continue to pour in throughout the film's slow roll-out on through the year. Scarlett Johansson would be nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Woody for Best Original Screenplay.

See, too, John Esther's interview with Emily Mortimer.

Shopgirl (2005).

"Steve Martin is an intelligent man. I do not know this for a fact but I can presume as much from his work," wrote Jonathan Marlow when he caught Shopgirl at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October, proceeding to call it "one of the best American films of the year, mining the same territory as Lost in Translation to much better effect... It is imperative... that you see this movie."

With Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman.

Casanova (2005).

2005 turned out to be quite a year for Heath Ledger; having showed us his capacity for tragedy in Brokeback Mountain, here, in Casanova, he reminds us he can be a pretty fun fellow, too.

"Wholly enjoyable," declared Salon's Stephanie Zacharek. "This is a carefully constructed work of unrepentant silliness - and I thought so well before Jeremy Irons flounced onto the scene as the uptight inquisitor Pucci, wearing a black leather cape lined in ecclesiastical purple. Yum!"

Lovely soundtrack, too, by the way.

Aeon Flux (2005).

A "funky techno-futurist thriller" (The Guardian) based on the animated series starring Charlize Theron and... Frances McDormand?

"You can almost be hypnotized by the visuals here," writes talltale. "It'll find its true audience on DVD."

CLASSIC

The Passenger (1975).

"Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger, that cinematic Rip Van Winkle, is stirring from its rest." So begins a wonderful piece by Robert Koehler in Cinema Scope. "Only such a mysterious film deserves such mysterious treatment: out of nowhere, sometime in the middle of the 80s, it was gone; now, out of nowhere, it's back."

Just a bit more: "The worst temptation with Antonioni is to immediately leap into analysis without pause... But the radicality of The Passenger - the strangest film he has ever made, and he's made some strange ones - demands pause. Some critics stumble all over themselves with it, pounding their point into a wall that has just moved. (See the film twice, and you see two films. See it a third, and you see a third. And so it goes.)"

With, of course, Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider.

Classic Musicals From the Dream Factory (1946 - 1955).

What a package! Features:

Ziegfeld Follies (1946), with Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Fanny Brice, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and more. Extras: Ziegfeld Follies: An Embarrassment of Riches, the short The Luckiest Guy in the World and two classic MGM cartoons, The Hick Chick and Solid Serenade and song outtakes.

Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), with June Allyson, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra and more. Extras: The featurette Till the Clouds Roll By: Real to Reel, the short, Glimpses of California, Tex Avery's cartoon, Henpecked Hobos and musical outtakes.

Three Little Words (1950), with Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, Debbie Reynolds and more. Extras: The featurette Three Little Words: It's All True, the short Roaming Through Michigan and Tex Avery's Ventriloquist Cat.

Summer Stock (1950), with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. Extras: The featurette Summer Stock: Get Happy!, the short Did'ja Know? and the cartoon The Cuckoo Clock.

It's Always Fair Weather (1955), with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. Extras: The featurette It's Always Fair Weather: Going Out on a High Note, two segments from the MGM Parade featuring Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly, two cartoons, Deputy Droopy and Good Will to Men, and loads of musical outtakes.

FOREIGN

The Intruder (2004).

A "decisive breakthrough," announced Dennis Lim in the Village Voice, calling The Intruder Claire Denis's "most poetic and primal film to date, as thrilling as it is initially baffling."

A few years ago, Craig Phillips and Jonathan Marlow spoke with Denis.

Elevator to the Gallows (1957).

"Cahiers du Cinéma once summarily dismissed Louis Malle, a fellow traveler of the nouvelle vague but never officially one of its members, as a director 'still in search of a "subject".'," notes Melissa Anderson in the Village Voice. "But it's precisely Malle's omnivorous appetite that makes his first feature, adapted from a policier, so delectable, one stuffed with many sumptuous sights and sounds: gorgeous nighttime shots of Paris lensed by Henri Decaë, Miles Davis's largely improvised score, the nail-biting breakout from the titular lift (rivaling the tension in Bresson's 1956 A Man Escaped, on which Malle assisted), and Jeanne Moreau, here in the role that would make her a star after 20 films in nine years."

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998).

"The movie is Spanish to the core," wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader, "including the incestuous undertones of the love story, and it's clearly a highly personal work ([director Julio] Medem, whose surname is a palindrome like [lovers'] Otto and Ana, dedicates it to his father). Part of what excites me about the film - apart from its fluid, poetic style - is the way it evokes the radical rhyme effects, temporal disjunctions, and crisscrossing destinies of Alain Resnais' first two features."

Which Medem addresses in his 2003 talk with Sean Axmaker: "The path I follow is not a linear path, it's sinuous, and I don't know where it's going to take me."

Fists in the Pocket (1965).

"Auspiciously (and with inevitable controversy) ushering a compelling introduction into the provocative, overarching themes of Marco Bellocchio's radical and uncompromising sociopolitical cinema," writes Acquarello at Strictly Film School, "Fists in the Pocket is an austere and harrowing portrait of amorality, alienation, complacency, and inertia."

On this disc, Criterion is including new video interviews with Bellocchio, actors Lou Castel and Paola Pitagora, and editor Silvano Agosti.

Heimat 2 (1965).

"Edgar Reitz took five years to make Heimat and another seven to make this follow-up," writes Gary Couzens for the UK's DVD Times. "You don't have to have seen the first serial, as all you need to know is set up in the opening fifteen minutes.... The Heimat cycle, which with Heimat 3 now totals fifty-two hours, is simply one of the greatest works ever made for television anywhere in the world."

Damnation (1988).

From the mid-career of Hungarian master Béla Tarr comes Damnation, most notable for its "immaculately sumptuous cinematography" (J. Hoberman in the Village Voice).

In March, Jay Keuhner spoke with Tarr about his widely admired 2000 film, Werckmeister Harmonies.

Incantato (2003).

Pupi Avati directs Neri Marcoré, Giancarlo Giannini and Vanessa Incontrada in "a funny, romantic drama" (Chicago Tribune) and a "poignant love story laced with tenderness and gentle humor." (Los Angeles Times)

DRAMA

Robert Altman Collection (1978, 1979).

Besides M*A*S*H, this collection features three films not yet seen on DVD by Robert Altman, who just received the Academy's equivalent of a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars ceremony in March: Quintet (1979), with Paul Newman; A Perfect Couple (1979), with Paul Dooley and Marta Heflin; and A Wedding (1978), one of those Altmanesque extravaganzas in which he took the challenge of Nashville - namely, bringing 24 characters to life in one story - and doubled it: 48 characters, all of them memorable, in a wonderfully entertaining, color-coordinated comedy featuring Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Geraldine Chaplin, Lillian Gish and more, more, more.

COMEDY

Penn & Teller: Off the Deep End (2005).

Featuring "Turning Ocean Water Into Drinking Water," "Moving Tan Lines," "Not-So-Classic Sleights of Hand Performed Underwater," "Teller-In-the-Water-Wearing-a-Straight-Jacket-Amongst-Hungry-Sharks" and "Disappearing Submarine" tricks.

Back in August, Jonathan Marlow spoke with Penn Jillette.

HORROR

The Guard From Underground (1992).

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's The Guard From Underground is "a slasher movie," notes Jim Harper straight up at the Flipside Movie Emporium. "That might sound a million miles from his recent horror films, the bleakly terrifying Cure (1997) and Pulse (2001), but all of Kurosawa's stylistic trademarks can be seen in the earlier film... Kurosawa's appreciation of Tobe Hooper is well-documented, and it's easy to spot in this film."

The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set (1971, 1972).

From NoShame come two thrilling gialli from Emilio Miraglia in a nifty box set. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave "features a cast of who's who in European cinema at the time," notes 10k Bullets.

And David Austin wrote recently at Cinema Strikes Back: "After you watch enough gialli, the little things that were so annoying in the beginning - the predictable storylines, the ludicrously unpredictable killers, the vapid characters, the bodycounts, the seemingly arbitrary double-crosses - become oddly charming through familiarity (much like avenge-your-master plotlines in kung fu films, or long-lost siblings in Bollywood films), and you can start to focus on the incidentals. The incidentals in a giallo being, of course, the 70s atmosphere, the clothes, the girls, the set-piece slayings, and the music. For all of these, you'd be hard pressed to find better than what's on display in The Red Queen Kills Seven Times."

CULT

The Paul Morrissey Collection (1968 - 1972).

"Much of the myth, if we can call it that, surrounding Paul Morrissey comes out of his early relationship with Andy Warhol's Factory and its glittering, damaged denizens," notes Gary Morris in Bright Lights Film Journal. "Morrissey's drive and ambition made it possible for him to rework the Warhol aesthetic evident in conceptually rich but unbearably dull experiments like Sleep and Empire into more accessible, coherent, and committed works like Trash, Heat, Mixed Blood, Blood for Dracula, and Women in Revolt. The 'great film achievements; of Warhol belong, for the most part, to Morrissey, who wrote, produced, and directed them while Warhol contributed no more than his name above the title."

This collection features three cult classics Morrissey made with Joe Dallesandro, Flesh (1968), Trash (1970) and Heat (1972).

Scorpion: Female Prisoner 701 Grudge Song (1973).

The fourth in the series beloved by Tarantino et al.

The Heroin Busters (1977).

A fully restored version of the Italian thriller featuring Fabio Testi and David Hemmings and a score by Goblin.

Director Enzo G. Castellari "knows action better than anybody!" exclaims Inzomniac.

The Big Racket (1976).

"Fast, gritty and violent," declares DVD Maniacs. "A superior example of the 70s Italian crime film."

The disc features audio commentary from director Enzo G. Castellari.

DOCUMENTARY

24 Hours on Craigslist (2004).

Who posts what on Craigslist and what happens when they do? Michael Ferris Gibson went to find out.

"Personalities motor the film," noted R. Emmet Sweeney in the Village Voice, "whether it's the sardonic Vietnam vet searching for a 270 lb. woman or the Ethel Merman impersonator seeking a bass player for his classic rock band."

I Exist (2004).

A groundbreaking documentary that gives voice to a group that has long remained silent out of shame and fear of ostracism: gay and lesbian Middle Easterners who live in here in the US.

Named best doc at the New York Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and winner of the audience award at the Turin International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Return to the Land of Wonders (2004).

Maysoon Pachachi returns to Iraq, her homeland, for the first time in 35 years. "She worries that her father, who was Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations and foreign minister in the 1960's, is being "used" by the occupying forces, and her anxieties lend the film an engaging intimacy," wrote Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times last summer. "Return to the Land of Wonders is an on-the-fly diary of events and impressions that offers insight into the challenges of extracting democracy from chaos."

The Oil Factor: Behind the War on Terror (2004).

Among the topics covered in this new doc from the husband-and-wife filmmaking team behind The Hidden Wars of Desert Storm: diminishing oil supplies, depleted uranium rounds in Afghanistan, the privatization of the occupation of Iraq, the list goes on. Among the interviewees on the left are Zbigniew Brzezinski and Noam Chomsky; on the right, Gary Schmitt, of the Project for the New American Century, and Paul Bremer.

The Letter (2003).

The mayor of Lewiston, Maine writes a letter asking the town's Somali refugees not to invite their friends and families, claiming municipal resources are "maxed out." Controversy breaks out, white supremacists from all over the country pour into the town to march, setting off calls for counter-marches among churches and human rights organizations.

"The Letter: An American Town & The 'Somali Invasion' captures the events of the day and the furor leading up to them, in a rapidly edited, emotionally draining blitz of soundbites and street fights," writes Noel Murray for the A.V. Club.

Until When... (2004).

An in-depth portrait of daily life spanning three generations, Until When... follows the personal stories of four Palestinian families living in Dheisheh Refugee Camp near Bethlehem.

Occupied Minds (2004).

Occupied Minds is the story of two journalists, Jamal Dajani, a Palestinian-American and David Michaelis, an Israeli, who journey to Jerusalem, their mutual birthplace, to explore new solutions and offer unique insights into the divisive Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

ANIME

Karas: The Prophecy (2005).

"The nonlinear storytelling, deeply mysterious plot and imagery that's chock full of beautiful water and light effects make each scene so fascinating it's almost impossible to tear yourself away," writes Newtype USA.

"Karas is anime the way God intended: a heady mix of incomprehensible plotting and visual spectacle," adds Pixelsurgeon. "It's probably not for anime newbies: there are easier routes into the world of Japanese animation, but for fans of the genre, Karas offers gun-blazing, sword-clashing action, grotesque demons and impressive visuals."

Gilgamesh Tablet 06: In the Soul Eclipse (2005).

"Gilgamesh is actually the third anime (not counting two recently licensed fansubs) in recent months I've added to my "To Buy" list," writes Battie, "and I'm extremely picky about what I want to own when it comes to anime, particularly with animes that aren't based largely on humor. It's definitely worth a watch."

Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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