May 18, 2004:
Before Stonewall (1984). "Yes, kids, there was a time when gay bars didn't have windows, trannies weren't a staple of daytime TV, and leather queens didn't shop the local Safeway in full squeaky regalia," remarks Gary Morris, who's written our Queer Cinema primer, in his own superb film journal, Bright Lights. "This 1986 documentary is still the best resource of its kind, covering vast cultural acreage in its attempt to mine a history that remains to some extent underground." [Rent]
Girlhood (2003). "Liz Garbus's documentary about two girls behind bars in Maryland combines a compassionate eye with a sense of drama you would expect from fiction," writes Leslie Blake for Offoffoff.com. Winner of the Best Documentary Award in Atlanta and the Audience Award at SXSW in Austin. [Rent]
Life of Buddha (2003). Recently screened at the Tel Aviv International Documentary Festival where it was described as not so much a religious film as an attempt to "retrace the life and doctrine of the Buddha by visiting the places that were significant to him. [Director Martin] Meissonnier interviews historians, scientists and archeologists, and finds sources of scientific authority for the legends and stories that his followers have relayed by word of mouth for centuries. He tries to determine whether the BuddhaÕs intention was to create a spiritual movement or a philosophical doctrine. All this against a backdrop of breathtaking views of India." [Rent]
Saudade do futuro (2000). "As the fifth-largest city in the world, São Paulo may seem too large and diverse to encapsulate in roughly 90 minutes of documentary film, but director César Paes comes impressively close," writes Tasha Robinson for the Onion AV Club. "The result could be more informative, but it could hardly be more effective. His subjects' joy, sorrow, frustration, and humor speak volumes." [Rent]
Ant Farm Video (1970 - 2003). Art and comedy collide in these video works from the collective founded by Doug Michels and Chip Lord. [Rent]
Alien 51 (2004). A straight-to-video opus starring "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss. Two directors, evidently; always an interesting sign. [Rent]
ACTION and ADVENTURE
Enter the Dragon (1973). A two-disc Special Edition of Bruce Lee's last film. Patrick Macias writes in our Hong Kong Action primer: "Simply by being himself, Bruce Lee brought the warrior spirit of old into the present day - and without any of the weapons that had been fundamental to the 'wuxia' genre." As for this classic, tboot writes: "Enter the Dragon deserves to be snickered and hooted at, as much for its clunky direction (by hack Robert Clouse, who went on to set back Jackie Chan's US career by 10 years in The Big Brawl), as for its turtlenecks and waterbeds. But then there's Bruce Lee, who wipes the floor with everybody else on screen even when he's standing still. He practically vibrates with sinewy sexuality, his body like a laser ready to reduce a roomful of people to a pile of neat, steaming slices of meat." "It made me realize that 'dumb action movies' could still be fascinating in the right hands," says mjeanes. "One of Bruce Lee's best, second only to The Chinese Connection for me," adds Tuna. [Rent] Bonus Disc [Rent].
We have quite a few Zatoichi fans here at GC who'll be more than pleased to see episodes 12, 13 and 15 of the incomparable series arriving. "Essential viewing for any fans of samurai movies," writes ColonelKong of the first one and, as Shaky says, "Some of the films rely on you knowing what happened in previous movies to understand what's going on, so you might want to start back at the beginning." Which makes us all the more grateful to JHeneghan for whipping up his handy list, lining them all up in the proper order. The latest additions: Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965). [Rent], Zatoichi's Vengeance (1966). [Rent] and Zatoichi's Cane Sword (1967). [Rent]
Everyone is Kung Fu Fighting: Reloaded (2003). If you enjoyed the first collection of spoofs, here's more. [Rent]
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Special Extended Edition (1966). 18 previously cut minutes have been restored to Sergio Leone's classic starring Clint Eastwood. Not only does the film now come in just one minute under three hours, the disc is also packed with three docs, two featurettes and audio commentary by Richard Schickel. "This has to be one of the most artistic and operatic movies ever made, but it doesn't get boring or pretentious. Leone builds up tension and uses music like no other in this film," says JJKazmer. [Rent]
Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). A re-release. Again, JJKazmer: "This is really Eastwood's best western between the Leone trilogy and Unforgiven." "Eastwood shows us the old West as the ruthless place it really was," adds Craig Phillips in our Westerns primer. [Rent]
Wyatt Earp (1994). In 1985, Lawrence Kasdan made Silverado, which wasn't a parody exactly - it simply revived a lot of the conventions of the western and had great fun with them. Nearly ten years later, Kasdan returned to the genre to make a movie over three hours long, and unfortunately, forgot to bring along the fun. He did remember to hire excellent actors, though: Dennis Quaid Kevin Costner Gene Hackman Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
Cahill: United States Marshall (1973). This late in the game, John Wayne was giving his gunslinging characters a bit more human depth. [Rent]
The West Wing. The Complete Second Season (2000). Prime election year viewing. "Though not as good as the first season, it's still a strong show with that much-appeciated clever dialogue," says enemyfan. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent].
Sex and the City. Season 6, Part 1 (2003). That is, the first half of the landmark series' final year. You may well fall into one of two categories: Either you skipped it because you were sick of the media blitz but now you're curious, or you read every last one of those "What Sex and the City Says About Us Here and Now" articles and can't wait to watch it all over again. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness (2003). "Helen Mirren is so real in this, it's scary," says lizzoqops of the first film in the series. "Strong and flawed, a great heroine." [Rent]
Smallville: Season 2 (2002). "When this show started, I was prepared for it to be a disaster like Birds of Prey or the charmless Dark Angel. It turned out to be a fun, smartly written series with a gung-ho momentum," says hamano. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent], 5 [Rent] and 6 [Rent].
Farscape. Season 4 (2003). "The best character-driven sci-fi show ever," says zarran67. Volumes 7 [Rent] and 8 [Rent]
Star Trek: Voyager. Season 2 (1995 - 1996). All 26 episodes. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent], 5 [Rent], 6 [Rent] and 7 [Rent].
Speed Racer Collector's Edition, Vol. 2 (1960s). "Speed Racer has a special place in my heart as one of the first cartoons I loved in my early childhood," writes hneline1 of the first collection. And if you, too, have wondered if it's worth seeing again, "yes, I think so and I highly recommend it. If you haven't watched Speed Racer before, well, it's old and it just doesn't stand up to modern anime in terms of technique, plot, characterizations, dialog or music.... Yet, you may want to watch a few episodes as part of animation history." [Rent]
WALT DISNEY TREASURES
Saint Seiya. Vol. 6: Silver Assassins (1986). The classic 80s-era series continues. "Saint Seiya stands out as a good show with an actual storyline, likable characters and a rocking theme song with a good bit of Greek mythology thrown in," writes OKhan1. [Rent]
Robotech Remastered: Macross Collection 3 (1985). Furthering our dizzying adventures down Memory Lane, Anime Tourist writes: "Often compared to Star Trek and Star Wars, Robotech is a uniquely addictive and complex intergalactic drama drawn across generations, spinning together hard-hitting mecha action and richly developed characters over the course of three acts: The Macross Saga; Robotech Masters; and New Generation." The remasters are fresh digital transfers with previously cut scenes restored. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
Steam Detectives. Vol. 6: Case Six (2003). "Anime fans tend to be split down the middle when it comes to the detective genre," notes the Anime News Network. "The list of series that follow a boy genius as he solves crimes with his spunky friends is endless.... Basically, either you like that sort of thing, or you don't." If you do, in this series, "Narutaki, his large-chested nurse and their big clunky robot fight crime, solve the mystery and uncover the mastermind behind it all in nearly every episode.... That's not to say that the show is devoid of charm.... There's plenty in here to keep any serious mystery junkie happy for a long time." [Rent]
Kino's Journey. Vol. 3: Warning! Curves (2003). "Although I haven't seen the entire series, I've seen enough to know this will be a unique and interesting ride," says JFleming. [Rent]
Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden: Summer Special (2002). "A very cool series," says JLind. [Rent]
Dragon Ball Z: Cell Games - The Games Begin (2001). [Rent]
Sonic X. Vol. 2: The Chaos Factor (2003). [Rent]
What's arriving here is essentially the third wave of titles in a series that began in December 2001, with the second wave hitting in December 2002. Disney has rather cleverly collected classic animated shorts, not-so-classic TV series and other odds and ends in smart-looking tin cases. This year's selection:
- Chronological Donald (1934 - 1941). Vol. 1. The cranky duck's appeared in more cartoons than any other Disney character. Here are all his star performances, from "Donald and Pluto" in 1936 to "Chef Donald" in 1941, plus an excerpt from the 1934 short "The Wise Little Hen" where Donald made his first appearance. Introductions by film historian Leonard Matlin. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
- Mickey Mouse in Living Color: Vol. 2 (1939 - 1995). A follow-up, naturally, to Mickey Mouse in Black & White. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
- Walt Disney On the Front Lines (1941 - 1945). Probably the most historically interesting of the four volumes (Disney seems to think so, too; they're producing this disc in greater numbers than the others). Training, educational and outright propaganda shorts for the Armed Forces during World War II, plus the full-length feature Victory Through Air Power. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent]
- Tomorrowland. After the war, Walt took the company into the Space Age, focusing on Disney World in Florida and its EPCOT Center. Besides a feature on those plans, there are four episodes of Disneyland TV: "Man in Space," "Man and the Moon," "Mars and Beyond" and "Our Friend the Atom." No, really. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
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