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May 3, 2005


  • The Chorus (2004). From To Sir With Love to Dead Poets Society, audiences have always embraced tales of teachers who sweep into a classroom and, with their own passion, inspire their students to turn their lives around. It's practically a genre unto itself. And if so, there's a special sub-genre set aside for music teachers (see, for example, Mr. Holland's Opus). Christophe Barratier's version of the tale was the box office hit in France last year and was nominated for an Oscar (in the Foreign Language category, naturally). If you're into this genre, you can't miss this one. [Rent]

  • National Treasure (2004). "Well, now, here's an unexpected concoction," wrote Scott Andrews for FilmFocus UK. "The crash-bang action movie formula of Jerry Bruckheimer slaved to a family-friendly Disney adventure pic. And what do you know, it works an absolute treat." Of course, not everyone agrees. Several critics were more than happy to sharpen their knives on this one. But Andrews sticks to his guns: "When you think of some of the tawdry exploitative dross that Hollywood has foisted on unsuspecting parents under the guise of 'family' entertainment, it's a joy to find a film that is exciting, suspenseful and spectacular and that you really can take kids to without worrying that there'll be a Temple of Doom-style heart-removal scene in there somewhere. Okay, there's one scary bit with a frozen skeleton at the start, but that's pure Scooby-Doo." With Nicolas Cage. [Rent]

  • The Phantom of the Opera (2004). It was inevitable that Andrew Lloyd Webber would eventually see one of his most successful musicals make it to the big screen, and this is the movie he wanted. After all, he worked with director Joel Schumacher on the screenplay and vigorously made all the PR rounds leading up to its release. Fans responded, detractors stayed away. [Rent] Bonus disc. [Rent]

  • Les Vampires (1915). A reissue of Louis Feuillade's classic serial that, once seen, is somehow never forgotten. In his essay accompanying Slant's selection of the serial as one of its "100 Essential Films," Ed Gonzalez explains that Feuillade was something of a turn-of-the-century cross between Spielberg, Dickens and Stephen King. Feuillade saw himself as an anti-intellectual, popular entertainer, and yet, within Les Vampires is a "Machiavellian reflection of a complacent bourgeois order on the brink of collapse [that] makes this realist masterwork a precursor to the surrealist cinema of Luis Buñuel, who, incidentally, was a great fan of Feuillade's film." [Rent]

  • The Big Red One (1980). Anyone surprised to find a 25-year-old film on several critics' best-of-2004 lists a few months ago may not have been aware that Sam Fuller's war classic hadn't ever really been seen as it was intended to be seen before last year. "Richard Schickel's invaluable new version isn't a restoration of any previous cut," wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum when he put it right at the top of his list, "but a recasting and extension of the available material that draws on Fuller's screenplay and notes, making more of his expressive range apparent - in the subplots and interludes and in the performance of Lee Marvin, one of his finest. Moving from realism to surrealism, parable to allegory, comedy to tragedy, Fuller is concerned above all with what combat felt like and what sort of sense could be made of it. A lifetime of reflection clearly went into this project." [Rent] Bonus disc. [Rent]

  • Suds (1920). "Cinematographer Charles Rosher used expressionistic lighting to help convey the powerful emotions in the working class melodrama," notes Milestone, introducing this Jack Dillon film. "Half Broken Blossoms, half Chaplin comedy - Suds is one of Mary Pickford's finest and most modern films." When it was first released, audiences found the ending too dark, so two more endings were shot. This Milestone release features not only all three endings but also Birth of a Legend, a 1966 half-hour documentary on Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. [Rent]

  • Through the Back Door (1922). Milestone brings out another rare Mary Pickford feature. Here, she plays an unwanted child and, well, it says quite a lot that Milestone is also including on the disc Pickford's performance in the 1914 version of Cinderella. [Rent]


  • Microcosmos (1996). A doc about bugs? You bet. But this multiple award-winner is also much more. "The movie is a work of art and whimsy as much as one of science," Roger Ebert has written. "If a camera could somehow be transported to another planet, in order to photograph alien life forms, would the result be any more astonishing than these invasions into the private lives of snails and bees, mantises and beetles, spiders and flies? Where did these forms come from? These legs - two, four, six, a thousand? Eyes like bombardier's turrets? Giant pincers? Honeyed secretions?... There is no other film like it. If the movies allow us to see places we have not visited and people we do not know, then Microcosmos dramatically extends the range of our vision, allowing us to see the world of the creatures who most completely and enduringly inhabit the Earth." [Rent]

  • Go Further (2003). Road trip! Woody Harrelson takes off for a 1700-mile trek along the Pacific coast, doc-maker Ron Mann in tow. The New York Times calls the result "an agreeably shaggy portrait of a thriving subculture." [Rent]

  • Knight Errant (1974). "Jimmy Wang Yu (star of Master of the Flying Guillotine) plays a cab-driver in Taiwan who seems to spend most of his time getting into fights which his Dad has to bail him out of," wrote IMDb user geek3866 a couple of years ago, offering to those us for whom this actioner had somehow slipped through the cracks a first tantalizing glimpse. "This movie is equal parts Jackie Chan and Ed Wood in it's execution and inspiration.... Check it out if you like old school 70s martial arts mayhem." [Rent]

  • Boys Over Flowers. Volume 11: Open Your Heart (1996). "I am addicted to this series," proclaims MrBunBun. "If you love shoujo anime, especially the melodrama, then this is it. It is sometimes so over-the-top you may want to laugh (actually, we did, but it was good-natured) but that only adds to the enjoyment, and sometimes I seriously don't know if the producers meant parts as satire. If you are familiar with (shoujo) anime you will most likely become a huge fan. This is in the drama/relationship vein with lots of silliness - in every episode there is a new surprise and significant story/character advancement. Very engrossing." [Rent]

  • Gantz. Volume 4: Terminal Dispatch. The blood-red series continues. [Rent]

  • Tokyo Underground. Volume 2: Irruption (2002). That "Gale Force Wind" attack could come in handy. [Rent]

  • The Daichis: Earth's Defense Family. Volume 3: Pay Day. A very different sort of family sitcom. [Rent]
  • Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.

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