July 27, 2004
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Hellboy (2004). "What do you say about the character Hellboy?" asks loucyphre at his site, Horror Express. "He stands a couple feet taller than anyone, smokes a cigar and fights the good fight. He has a dry wit and loves nothing more than to take on the baddies one on one. Best of all, the first time we see him as an adult, he's listening to Tom Waits' 'Heartattack and Vine'.... The film hits all the right notes. It comes in swinging and doesn't overstay its welcome by a single second. Hellboy is an amazingly good time." Adds ColonelKong in our discussion of the movie: "I'd say that it's Guillermo Del Toro's best English-language film so far, but I still think that The Devil's Backbone is still my favorite of all of his films.... I really think that Guillermo Del Toro is one our leading masters of dark fantasy, and he's one of the filmmakers whose new films I look foward to seeing the most." [Rent] Bonus Disc. [Rent]
The Whole Ten Yards (2004). Peter Lowry in Film Threat: "Regardless of whether or not it was necessary, I decided to check out the sequel since I was one of the few people who actually had a lot of fun watching the original film titled The Whole Nine Yards... Overall, The Whole Ten Yards is nowhere near as good as the first film [but if] youÕre one of those people who absolutely loved Nine Yards then there is a good chance you might enjoy this. [Rent]
This week sees the release of three films by Claude Chabrol. The best of his films, writes Richard Armstrong in Senses of Cinema, "belong in a pantheon alongside vintage Lang and Hitchcock." The choice of those two names isn't coincidental. As Jonathan Rosenbaum has written, "The standard critical line about Chabrol is that he's a Hitchcockian, with a mise en scene periodically grounded in subjective camera angles. I can't deny this facet of his work, but an equally important influence, by Chabrol's own testimony, is Fritz Lang, whose hallmark as a filmmaker is a certain abstract objectivity, and it is in the play between Hitchcock's subjectivity and Lang's objectivity that Chabrol's best work usually takes shape." Masques (1987) [Rent] is a crowd-pleasing thriller with a formidable turn from Phillippe Noiret. Story of Women (1988) [Rent] "transcends social commentary with pathos and humanity in this deeply disturbing story of imperfect people driven by circumstance into committing desperate acts," writes Acquarello at his exquisite site, Strictly Film School. La Ceremonie (1996) [Rent] features an amazing cast - Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Bonnaire and Jacqueline Bisset - in an icy adaptation of Ruth Rendell's A Judgement in Stone. "I've seen 33 of his 46 features," wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum in 1997, "but nothing in over a quarter of a century that's quite as good."
The Celebration (1998). At long last, the re-release of Thomas Vinterberg's Jury Prize-winner at Cannes, the very first film in the celebrated yet short-lived Dogme 95 movement. In Images, David Ng calls it "a rare film whose technical mastery equals its narrative virtuosity. We can appreciate it for its visual style alone. Or we can admire it as a character study. Or perhaps we can praise it for both because the insinuating camera is our gateway to understanding this sad, self-deluded family... The primitive savagery of Dogme 95's visual style combined with the restrained civility of 's family gives this film its powerful irony." [Rent]
La Balance (1982). Dave Kehr, back in his Chicago Reader days: Bob Swaim, an American-born director working in France, has crafted a superior policier from a blend of ragged realism and romantic archetypes.... The film was a huge box-office success in France, apparently because of the suppleness with which it transplants American action stylings to a Parisian milieu; it did surprisingly well over here, too." But this will be the first time it appears on video in its original version (that is, as supposed to the dubbed-only version). [Rent]
Blue Spring (2001). John Kostka at Monsters at Play is just wild about this story of gangs at a Japanese high school: "It's a wonderful, powerful, shocking, tragic, poetic, spellbinding movie." [Rent]
Tomie: Forbidden Fruit (2002). The fourth and final film of the series, also featured on Ayato's Asian Horror list. [Rent]
High Art (1998). Lisa Cholodenko's debut. AKrizman notes that she's an "impressively thoughtful writer; her characters are multi-dimensional and cliche-free... Cholodenko proves to be a very promising talent." Of this one, PopcornQ writes, "The erotic tension begins building when straight girl Syd (Radha Mitchell) stumbles into the apartment of her upstairs neighbor to fix a leaky bathtub pipe. The neighbor, a blase photographer called Lucy Berliner (Ally Sheedy), turns out to have had a big photography career in the '80s and an even bigger drug problem." All in all, a "masterful lesbo junkie pic." [Rent]
Denied (2004). Troy loves Merrick, but Merrick doesn't seem to care. [Rent]
Ned Kelly (1970). How about Mick Jagger instead of Heath Ledger as the Australian outlaw? "Tony Richardson's film is typically Richardson," writes Wade Major in Boxoffice, "stylistically inventive but sometimes difficult with excellent performances. Jagger, in particular, is quite good, though after all these years it's hard to imagine him ever having been that young." [Rent]
Thanks to the terrific success of The Singing Detective on DVD, BBC Worldwide is rolling out more releases of teleplays by the brilliant Dennis Potter. And we begin with the Depression-era musical Pennies From Heaven (1978). Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent]. This is the first time the series starring Bob Hoskins and Cheryl Campbell has been released in the US on video. Writes one IMDb user, "I remember seeing this on TV... I was changing channels, and here were these women, tap dancing on a coffin, lip-syncing, 'I'll be glad when you're dead, you rascal you.' I was hooked." Warner is making a smart move, releasing the Herbert Ross version the same week. His Pennies From Heaven (1981) [Rent] undeservedly fell through the cracks when it was released theatrically, despite its rain-washed glow, sparkling musical numbers, its star, Steve Martin, a strong performance from Bernadette Peters and a show-stopping dance number from Christopher Walken we wouldn't see the likes of again until Spike Jonze asked him to star in the Fatboy Slim video "Weapon of Choice."
In the Soup (1992). Some look back on indie film of the early 90s and confuse this one with Living in Oblivion. Easy to do. Both star Steve Buscemi as a struggling filmmaker whose attempts to gain some sort of control over both his art and his life are the source of the humor. Both films have budgets just barely above any Buscemi's characters could hope for. But that's where the similarities stop. While Oblivion staged its gags on the set, Soup is all about trying to get as far as an actual shoot in the first place. Buscemi's Adolpho has a 500-page screenplay entitled Unconditional Surrender. Joe, played with maximum crustiness by Seymore Cassel has a few ideas as to how they might round up $250K to finance the picture. A few dangerous ideas. [Rent]
Entrails of a Virgin (1986) [Rent] and its immediate sequel, Entrails of a Beautiful Woman (1986) [Rent]. Tom Mes describes the first of the pair of Japanese cult flicks thusly in Midnight Eye, and it surely goes for both: "Despite the best efforts of author Jack Hunter to intellectualise this one with phrases like 'a bleak, muted document of sexual hysteria with hallucinatory montages' (in Eros In Hell , 1998 - published by Creation Books), what we have here is a piece of unadulterated über-exploitation."
Vamps 2: Blood Sisters (2004). They're strippers, they're vampires, they're blood sisters. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
In the Mirror of Maya Deren (2003). Martina Kudlacek's documentary on the legendary avant filmmaker. J. Hoberman in the Village Voice: "Annotating excerpts from the movies with oral history, Kudlacek's film is a well-wrought introduction not just to Deren but an under-leveraged chunk of the art world. Perhaps Julianna Margulies, an actress who resembles the filmmaker, will be inspired to do for Maya what Salma Hayek did for Frida Kahlo." [Rent]
V. The Complete TV Series (1984). An estimated 65 million Americans were glued to their screens when this tale of a visit to the planet from otherworldly beings first aired. Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent] and 3 [Rent].
The Tune (1992). Bill Plympton's animated feature. "Yes, it's silly movie about a guy who has 47 minutes to write a song... but I love every second of it," says gisellebill. "'...my love for you... is equal to... a big cow MOOOO? ... nah.'" [Rent]
Malice@doll (2000). Computer graphics and traditional cel animation are mixed and matched to tell the story of a time when humans are but mere memories in the minds of the cyborgs designed to serve and pleasure them. [Rent]
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Vol. 1 (2002). From the animators at Production IG comes a new series based on the landmark manga by Shirow Masamune, directed by Kenji Kamiyama and with music by Yoko Kanno. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent]
Knight Hunters Eternity. Vol. 1: New Blood (2004). Strange goings on at the elite Koua Academy. Along comes a new transfer student, Sena Isumi, who stalks evil at night as part of the Weiss assassin group... [Rent]
Stratos 4. Flight 01: Blast Off (2004). At some point in the future, there are just too many damn comets out there. Who you gonna call? Cosmic Crisis Management, of course. [Rent]
Comic Party Vol. 4: The Final Page (2003). The popular series comes to a close. [Rent]
NaNa 7 of 7. Vol 1: The Luckiest Number (2002). What if the seven dwarves were cute little girls? [Rent]
BASToF Syndrome. Vol. 3: Riddle's Interventions (2004). "Quite an intriguing storyline, and you can never go wrong with giant mecha in near-apocalyptic situations," says Newstead3886 of the first volume. [Rent]
Big O II Vol. 4: Aggressive Negotiations (2004). "The style of the show, a hyper-exaggerated noir/batman melange, definitely grows on you," says Calafragious. "All in all, a great late-nite show." [Rent]
.hack//Legend of the Twilight. Vol. 2: Enter the Nightmare (2004). "Not nearly as good as the .hack/sign series," admits drseid, "but still a good show worthy of attention. This one is much more light-hearted, cute and less deep story-wise than .hack/sign." [Rent]
Demon Lord Dante Vol. 2: Dante Rages (2002). God seals you in ice for 2000 years, you'd be raging, too. [Rent]
Galaxy Angel Vol. 3: Stranded Without Dessert (2004). "They're all just so darn cute!" exclaims jross3. [Rent]
Heat Guy J Vol. 7: Revolutions (2002). "Excellent," writes dh22 of the first volume. [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals.